The Let's Play Archive


by TooMuchAbstraction

Part 25: Make like the Nautilus

Update 25: Make like the Nautilus

Last time, we found ourselves having to avoid a few fights, lacking the necessary mana supply and/or elemental damage types to deal with our foes. It's only going to get worse from here on out!

A few comments in the thread have expressed dismay at how pathetic spellcasting seems to be. I may have done an overly-good job of underselling it. Yes, spellcasters have major problems with killing things. However, at the same time, they get to avoid melee range, which is huge in Angband. Most monsters are only really threatening in melee, or derive a substantial portion of their damage from it. If they can't hit you, then you don't take damage.

Even if they do have nasty spells, though, you're still better off avoiding melee. The Angband AI is something like "If (1 in this monster's spell chance), cast a spell. Otherwise, if adjacent to player, attack in melee. Otherwise, move closer to the player." In other words, monsters don't cast spells more often when they aren't in melee range; they just waste their turns on getting closer.

Spells have several other advantages over other means of killing monsters: they never miss, they have very reliable damage (especially the lategame spells), and they are wholly gear-independent; all you need to max your damage-dealing potential is the right spellbooks and a high INT score.

Mages are never going to reach Doom Guy With A BFG levels of destructive potential, but they aren't weak. Well, aside from the whole "made out of tissue paper" issue.

Anyway, back to the game. First things first, we need a new level to explore.

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 700')

Next we need there to be something worth screenshotting on this level. There, uh, isn't. Oh well, more staircases await.

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 750')

Okay, this is worthwhile. We have a pack of Black Orcs here. A little maneuvering...


A line of blue shimmering light appears. 3 Black orcs cringe from the light! The Black orc flees in terror!

Ooh, nice. Black orcs have 66 damage on average and Spear of Light only deals 6d8 damage; we must have rolled favorably. Another Spear of Light kills two orcs and leaves one severely wounded...and meanwhile, the fourth orc, out of the line of fire, is still asleep

Oops, and that lone Black Orc to the east we detected earlier was part of a larger pack:

That's Ufthak of Cirith Ungol over there. We may be able to take him on. Should be fun to try, anyway!

Here we are, with a nice long corridor behind us. Conveniently, we have 3 Wands of Light with a total of 29 charges, so his escort should be no problem. Ufthak himself doesn't care about sunshine though. Killing the escorts nets us level 17 (97 HP, 35 SP).

Next, we draw out Ufthak into our Death Corridor with a Stinking Cloud:

Four lightning bolts later, several more escorts are dead and we can focus on the man himself.

Ufthak of Cirith Ungol grunts with pain. <x5>
You have 14 Scrolls titled "ma vito cestis" of Phase Door.

Repeat several times. Conveniently, one Phase Door lands us on the other side of some rubble, where we're safe to recharge mana; no need to dip into the Debility mushrooms!

Ufthak of Cirith Ungol cries out in pain. Ufthak of Cirith Ungol flees in terror!
Ufthak of Cirith Ungol cries out in pain.
Ufthak of Cirith Ungol screams in agony. Ufthak of Cirith Ungol flees in terror!
Ufthak of Cirith Ungol dies.

Nothing to it

And his drop is quite timely!

Not only do we need all four resistances; we also don't even have a shield yet. Now the only thing we really need to survive for quite some time is a source of See Invisible.

Oh ho, another ant nest! This time there's 30 Giant Silver Ants instead of just 1. We're higher level now and only get 108 experience per, but that's still a significant chunk of experience.

One problem: none of the ants next to the door can break down doors, let alone manipulate a doorknob We'll have to let them out.

You have picked the lock.

From here it's a simple matter to lure small groups around to the corridor for lightning boltage:

Ants all move erratically, which prevents them from finding their way through the door reliably, so we're easily able to recharge on mana between each "fight".

We hit level 18 (104 HP, 37 SP) and 19 (108 HP, 39 SP) and 20 (109 HP, 41 SP) before finally running out of ants. Phew! The Giant Silver Ants' acidic bite drops us a couple points' worth of AC, but nothing serious. Unfortunately there's no loot to be had. However, we can learn some new spells!

* Slow Monster: "Attempts to slow a single monster. Uniques are not affected." Slowing is a powerful status ailment, especially for melee characters, but as with most status ailments the problem is getting it to stick. I admit I've not experimented with this spell to see if it's any more reliable than Wands of Slow Monster. Said wands can be useful in the early game (and they do work on uniques, albeit not often), but this spell comes kind of late for that.

* Frost Ball: "Shoots a radius-2 frost ball." How concise. This deals 50 damage for us right now, which is pretty decent; if it weren't for the 42% failure rate it'd be a good crowd-control spell for dealing with ogres and the like. Stinking Cloud is pretty past its prime now, so we're short on good options for fighting groups.

We've done about enough here, I think. And we still have a Scroll of Deep Descent; why not use it?

Really read a Scroll titled "laego as avus" of Deep Descent?
The air around you starts to swirl...
The floor opens beneath you!
(to 1000')

This looks much more interesting. First off, that bug has got to go: it's a Neekerbreeker. Flavor text:

Believed to be an evil relative of the cricket, this creature gets its name from its incessant squeaking, which can best be described as "neek-breek, neek-breek". The noise can drive people frantic, and worse still, can be heard for quite some distance, alerting other monsters to your presence.

That's right, we have here a fast, explosively-breeding monster that can shriek for help. Dispatch with prejudice, or they'll start hasting each other and everything else in line-of-sight and you'll likely have to abandon the level.

Next, we have a Scroll of Magic Mapping, which I burn to reveal the local layout:

Looks like some kind of layout bug in the room to our east; odd.

Black orcs and snagas; easy meat. And a Fire Spirit, which somehow freezes and shatters when we hit it with an ice bolt. I don't know how you shatter flames, but I bet it looks awesome.

Okay, not a layout bug, just some awkward corridors. Mystery solved!

This is a big group. We can take out the Forest Trolls with our Wands of Light; they're no problem. The Paladin, Illusionist, Master Rogue, and Easterling Champion are more dangerous; individually they're pretty fragile but we don't want to fight more than one at a time. And we need to watch our HP, or all those White Wolves will swarm us.

Digging out the rubble exposes us to the Paladin and Illusionist, who thankfully have no ranged combat ability to speak of. We take them out, then retreat and rest up, only to be interrupted by the Forest Trolls:

Like lambs to the slaughter.

A line of shimmering blue light appears. You have 20 charges remaining. 3 Forest trolls cringe from the light!

Forest Trolls have 110 HP; it'll take awhile for a 6d8 wand to wear through that. But when it does, we hit level 21 (118 HP, 43 SP)! And one of them drops some Iron Shots of Flame -- very nice, but it brings up the other other issue that Mages have: weight constraints. We're currently carrying 102.8 pounds of stuff, between our inventory and equipment, and that puts us 12.9 pounds overweight:

Being overweight costs us speed; currently we're at -1 speed, so normal-speed monsters have about an 11% speed advantage on us. This is bad. When you desperately need to avoid taking damage, giving your enemies the occasional double-turn on you is exactly what you don't need.

We can probably ditch the armor aside from our shield; our AC is simply not going to be big enough to have much impact, and we should be avoiding melee anyway. But even with that, we have practically no spare weight capacity for carrying loot. This will get even worse shortly, since we'll need to carry backup spellbooks to ensure we can still cast spells even if some get burned up. In fact we should be doing that already, but I've been slacking.

For now, I ditch our Leather Scale Mail, getting us back into the safe zone, if only just. I want to keep the Iron Shots, since they'll do fantastic damage if we can find a decent sling; they'll get stashed in the home next time we're in town.

...and then we find a Scroll of Teleportation, and its half-pound weight (what are these things made out of, animal skin with the fur still on?) puts us over the top again Goodbye, Iron-Shod Boots.

And now for another one of the RNG's private little jokes. The green ? there is the Holy Book of Prayers [Ethereal Openings], the first dungeon prayer book. We want to be on the lookout for the dungeon spellbooks. This prayer book is useless to us. Mages don't pray to the gods! They are gods! Hubris is Bryson's middle name!

Bryson Hubris Danger. Danger isn't her middle name; it's her family name, as is true for all mages.

The Master Rogue from earlier stole some of our money and fled; we finally track him down and reclaim what's ours, with interest:

(It says "found lying on the floor", but the Rogue dropped it; I guess he picked it up at some point)

Rings of the Mouse are pretty much only useful to mages and maybe priests. I won't say no to a +3 stealth bonus! It can replace the Ring of Protection we were wearing. Of course, with that -10 to-damage, our melee damage is now 1d4 -6, so there's not much point in carrying our dagger either. More weight saving!

A chance to try out Frost Ball! And amazingly enough, it doesn't fail to cast!

The Warg howls in agony. The Warg howls in pain. 2 Wargs yelp feebly. The Warg writhes in agony. The Warg yelps in pain. 5 Wargs flee in terror!

That about does it for this floor. Time to move onwards. But first, a floor map, since we haven't done one of those in awhile.

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1050')

We're off to a roaring start, as I fail to keep a Giant Black Louse under containment:

Bryson is much better-equipped to deal with this than Freude, though, as the lice fall easily to Stinking Cloud. They only have 2HP apiece, so even if they're two tiles out from the center of the ball, it'll still kill them.

Later, we run into a Gelatinous Cube:

These guys are a pain in the ass for everyone to fight. Freude didn't want to deal with them because of their three acid touches per turn; Bryson hates them because they're immune to all elements. Phase Door and Magic Missile should put paid to one easily enough, except that we keep getting bounced next to other enemies and having to deal with them instead.

Seriously, we started in the north room, our first Phase Door took us to the south with a Skeleton Human and Dark Elven Mage, our second took us back north, and our third took us to where we are now. At least we hit level 22 off of a Fire Spirit (120 HP, 45 SP). To make matters worse, this Gelatinous Cube is slightly faster than usual; every 5 turns or so it gets a double move. Angband monsters have a slight variance in their speed, and this one got lucky.

Finally, after something like 30 Magic Missiles and far, far too many Phase Doors, the Cube goes splat. Its drop: several uselessly-heavy weapons (two bastard swords and a broad axe), a couple Potions of Infravision, and some Scrolls of Detect Treasure. Gee, thanks.

I lined up a beautiful Frost Ball here, and then flubbed the casting twice in a row. Stupid RNG! Oh well, with that little awakener out of the way, we retreat to the corridor and give these Cave Orcs a little shot of Vitamin D...eath.

This place is lame. Onwards!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1100')

The yellow h is Nar, the Dwarf; he's immune to fire and cold, but that still leaves Acid Bolt as a viable offense against him (and Magic Missile, of course). Should be fun.

Conveniently, he comes to us while we're recovering from fighting off the Wolves.

Five acid bolts later, he's half-dead and hasn't laid a hand on us yet. Though an extra Wolf has showed up and nibbled a bit.

We nail the Wolf with a Wand of Frost Bolts we found earlier and get back to acid-bolting Nar.

You failed to concentrate hard enough!
Nar, the Dwarf cries out in pain.
Nar, the Dwarf cries out feebly. Nar, the Dwarf flees in terror!

Just in time, too, as we're down to 2 SP. We have to resort to Magic Missile to deal the rest of the damage, but he dies, without ever even touching us. Behold the power of magic!

While we're nigh-totally out of mana, I should show something off:

Being low on mana doesn't make spellcasting impossible; it just makes it difficult and dangerous. Failure rates skyrocket as the difference between how much mana you need and how much you have increases. And if you do successfully cast the spell anyway, you run a serious risk of rendering yourself unconscious from overexertion, and possibly reducing your CON score.

Ideally, you'll have backup magical devices for when you run low on mana, but if you don't, for whatever reason, then you can always consign your fate to the RNG and attempt to cast a spell anyway. Ideally it should be an escape spell.

On a related note, Fire Bolt's base failure rate is down to 4% now. Acid Bolt is at 19%. Also our Magic Missile has gained 4 dice and now does 7d4 damage; Lightning Bolt has gone from 3d6 to 5d6. Such improvements aren't really enough to keep these spells competitive, but they're a hell of a lot better than nothing.

Nar drops a Battle Axe of Flame (2d8) (+9,+10). The combat info screen amuses me:

Just 20 STR to go to get to 1.1 blows/round!

Also in this vicinity is Wormtongue:

Let's go show him who the better mage is, aye?

Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman cries out in pain.
Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman cries out in pain.
Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman screams in agony. Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman flees in terror!
Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman tries to cast a spell, but fails.
Wormtongue, Agent of Saruman dies.

That's what you get for being a fragile mage-type that relies on his enemies not having effective ranged attacks! Honestly, we could have dropped Wormtongue far earlier with just Magic Missile and some Phase Door scrolls; access to Acid Bolt just sped up the process.

His drop? A Spear of Extra Attacks (1d6) (+6,+3) <+2>. Having 3 attacks per round is pretty tempting, but even if we remove our Ring of the Mouse we'd be doing only 20 damage/turn with it. Bryson's going to need to improve her stats before melee becomes truly viable.

The Light Hounds here would be a pain with their blinding breath attack, but elves like Bryson have innate resistance to light. Light Hounds are about 90% of the reason why you'd want light resistance so, uh, enjoy it while it's relevant

Next level!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1150')

We take out an Earth Spirit, and while we're resting up from that,

Something mumbles.

and suddenly we're out a third of our HP. And then these two jokers show up:

A Priest (who cast Cause Serious Wounds on us, hence the damage), and a Sabre-Toothed Tiger. We do not want to melee that guy. Sabre-Toothed Tigers are fast, have 150 HP, and have 4 1d10 attacks per round -- if he rolled well he could have dealt 80 damage to us between our turns. We only have 120 HP to begin with!

Fortunately we have some Potions of Speed, and Bryson will be learning Haste Self in three levels anyway, so I don't feel too bad about burning one here. With the speed advantage and some space courtesy of Phase Door, the tiger is easy pickings.

1150' doesn't really have anything to recommend it otherwise. Next!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1200')

Why yes, we're power-diving. Reason being that we're at about the same risk of instant death no matter where we are, and we've hit the point where we won't be gaining levels super-fast either. What we need to survive is better stats and better attack wands, and both of those are only available deeper in the dungeon.

Lots of guys around here; the main attraction is Brodda the Easterling, to our north. But we should take out the Mirkwood Spiders first.

In the three turns it takes for Lightning Bolt to kill the first one, it manages to deal nearly half our health in damage. That's an important breakpoint, as you may remember -- once half-dead, group monsters will chase you even if you're in a corridor. So that was close.

Right, now where were we? Brodda has no resistances and only 210 HP; he dies before even getting close to us. Many early uniques are only a threat in melee, which works for most classes since they don't really have effective ranged options yet. Mages are the primary exception, and can roll right over many earlygame uniques; the threatening ones are the ones that resist acid, fire, and cold.

Brodda's drop is a Light Crossbow of Extra Might (x4) (+15,+15). This is a nice bow. With some Bolts of Frost we found, each shot will be doing 93 damage against cold-resistant monsters, or 163 against non-resistant targets! This is most excellent; we have an alternate damage source besides spells!

Thanks, Brodda!

Next level!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1250')

1250' is boring, trust me on this. The only noteworthy event is a Green Glutton Ghost stealing one of our mushrooms. Next!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1300')

A Two-Headed Hydra just to our north, and Gorbag the Orc Captain with his escorts even further north. Gorbag's escorts are all light-vulnerable, so we should be able to kill them easily.

Four firebolts and a magic missile kill the hydra; we must have rolled well since they have 200 HP apiece. Then we run into a werebear (that black q) while trying to reach Gorbag and it damned near kills us. 4 strong attacks per round, and it has 325 HP; meanwhile, our AC is...uh, 26. Fortunately, Shoot 'n Scoot proves effective as always, once I pull my head out of my ass.

There we go. Not the greatest setup for hitting monsters with Spear of Light, but we'll make do. It helps that we're so stealthy that only a few monsters are awake at any time. We can actually camp out by the room entrance and rest to restore our SP without any of the orcs waking up.

Eventually, Gorbag wakes up and notices that half his escort is missing.

No resistances on him; commence the firebolting! We pull him back further, to the southern room, for better Shoot 'n Scooting:

He falls pretty quickly after that. His drop? A Spear (1d6) (+4,+5).

While searching for the stairs, I make a keymap to do "target nearest monster and cast Fire Bolt" to make dealing with a pack of White Wolves easier. I then promptly run us out of SP. Keymaps make casting spells a lot easier, sometimes too much so.

Anyway, stairs!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1350')

Clearing out a pack of adventurers, we find a Ring of Flames. In case you've forgotten what they do:

It's tempting to wear this as a kind of Rod of Fire Balls; the extra damage would be welcome. We'd lose +3 DEX / +3 Stealth from our Ring of the Mouse though...ehh, what the heck, why not?

Also, at this point I realize that we hit level 23 awhile back. This gets us 125 HP and 47 SP; more importantly, we got a new spell!

* Teleport Other: "Produces a bolt that teleports the first monster in its path up to 100 squares away." If you paid any attention whatsoever to Freude's playthrough, you'll know how awesome Teleport Other is. Unfortunately, it costs 12 mana and has a 50% failure rate right now, but eventually that won't be a problem any more.

Ugh, Colbrans. Fast golems, they cast lightning bolts every other turn (on average), and they have 520 HP. They are also, however, worth 1056 EXP for us right now, which in my book means it's open season. We'll just down a Potion of Speed first. Our Ring of Flames takes off a good 10% of its health as an opening salvo; we follow up with firebolts and wear it down before it can accomplish much beyond blowing up one of our Wands of Light. That's okay, they're starting to outlive their usefulness anyway.

We hit level 24 (125 HP, 49 SP). You might have noticed we're getting a flat 2 SP per level right now; we'll need to increase our INT to really get more. On the plus side, when we do improve our INT, the gains will be substantial.

One more level!

You enter a maze of down staircases. (to 1400')

Not an auspicious start; a Mature Gold Dragon and her brood are in the room with us. There's also a pack of ogres to the east and some Stone Trolls to the south. That Mature Gold Dragon is way out of her depth; she's native to 1800'. And worth 2250 EXP if we can kill her

I hit up her monster record and do some math: she has 440 HP, which means her sound breath should do 146 damage to us when we have full health; that's not survivable. However, her cast chance is 1 in 9, and she also can cast Confuse and Scare; thus, the odds of her breathing on her first turn are only 1 in 27. Plus we can lead off with the Ring of Flames, which should deal nearly 100 damage and thus reduce her breath damage by about 30...yeah, this should be totally doable!

Our first teleport takes us here:

This is just fine. We don't really want to light the room up and risk waking her children, so this angle lets us light up just a line of the room and still see her coming.

The Mature gold dragon grunts with pain. The Mature gold dragon claws you. The Mature gold dragon claws you. The Mature gold dragon bites you.

Whoops, minor miscalculation; like the Gelatinous Cube earlier, she's faster than a normal dragon would be. Her melee just took off a third of our HP. Phase Door time!

Stealth, don't fail me now!

The Mature gold dragon grunts with pain. The Mature gold dragon breathes sound. *** LOW HITPOINT WARNING! *** You have been stunned. 2 Baby gold dragons resist. 2 Baby gold dragons are unaffected! We now have 50 HP left. Good thing the dragon's half-dead or that would have hurt a lot more!

Problem. Normally at this point I would teleport away, but you know what stunning does? In addition to horribly nerfing your melee damage and putting you at potential risk of being knocked out, it ruins your failure rates:

We don't want to try to teleport like this. No, we'll just chug a Cure Critical Wounds potion and hope for the best. Fortunately, Cure Critical Wounds heals us to full, and the now-awake baby dragons don't have very powerful melee. And a lucky Phase Door takes us to the perfect position:

Perfect because Mommy will keep advancing straight towards us, on the illuminated strip we set up earlier. Yeah, with restored health, we can bolt the dragon down from here, no problem!

The Mature gold dragon cries out in pain. Something breathes. You are hit by noise! You have been stunned.

Shaddup, kids, I'm busy killing your mom!

The Mature gold dragon cries out feebly. The Mature gold dragon flees in terror!

The babies have flung themselves in our path! Can't hit Mommy with firebolts from this vantage. But we can use Frost Ball.

Welcome to level 25. You can learn 14 more spells. The Mature gold dragon dies.

and 131 HP, 51 SP! Plus new spells!

* Haste Self: "Hastes you (+10 speed) for a level-dependent duration." Speed is the God Stat in Angband; being able to bust out +10 speed at-will is huge. This is expensive and failure-prone right now, but pretty soon it'll be quite economical and we'll be casting it for every fight.

* Mass Sleep: "Attempts to put to sleep each monster within line of sight. Uniques and monsters that resist confusion are not affected." Totally useless.

That seems like a good place to end the update. Next time: more diving, and with any luck we'll find our first stat-gain potions!