Post Friday, 18th January 2019, 07:16

YAVP: 5-rune Faerie Dragon of TSO, first trip to Tartarus
Faerie Dragons are meant to be a novice's spellcasting species, with some inherent defences and a 1 MP discount on spell costs. I have some wins with more or less magic in, but thought I'd give them a spin; it took me four attempts (one of which was an early escape-in-disgust), so very definitely easier than 41 attempts at DE.

I went TSO not so much out of obvious utility as because I'm still not repeating gods and there aren't many left, but at times - especially in the late game - the topups of HP and MP were helpful; particularly I was almost disappointed to see no curse skulls in Crypt, since a TSO-ite with Ignition is very well positioned to blow them up.

Divine Shield saw a little use as a way to help break into dangerous places, and while I didn't use many Divine Warriors, they did help me polish off Mennas, the point in the game I was closest to dying. Cleansing Flame was the real disappointment; I don't think, even when used on undead, it ever provided the same yield as just spending the MP on spells did. As such, I resisted the enormous selection of amulets of faith the game threw at me.

I did not get off to a glorious start - having started 3 FDWn in a row with no spells, I forgot to check if I had any this time; I had started with Flame Tongue and Conjure Flame in the library, which would have been ideal for the early dungeon. I didn't notice until D:4, and as such was not amused to start the game with a blowgun, a princely two curare needles, and 5 Summonings my only significant skill.

Sigmund nearly got me on D:2 but I managed to reset the fight and then nailed him with one of the curare needles, so I guess those needles paid their way after all.

On D:4 I joined Elyvilon (planning either to stick with Ely or switch to TSO) and found a book of Callings. I said some rude words, but after all I had survived D:1-3 anyway and this was a pretty handy find with my starting lump of Summonings; I took spammals and Flame Tongue, and would take Conjure Flame soon.

I was nearly collected by a MDFi ghost on D:6 but drank my only heal wounds and managed to finish it off; I'd also find the +0 cloak of Too Many Cooks {rElec rC- Regen+ Int+5} which I'd use for much of the game, covering over the rC hole in order to keep spells castable.

I went into a bailey on D:8 which got pretty horrible; there was an orc warlord there I had no way to kill at all. (I suppose if I'd noticed I'd had Throw Flame at the start, I might have saved some of my curare.) I danced around for a while, even learning Call Canine Familiar in an attempt to overcome it - nearly all my Canine Familiar casts are in this bailey - but eventually I just scooped up the stuff and fled, having burned a chunk of consumables to no end. I also had another MDFi ghost to tangle with here, but this wasn't too dangerous, just needed a lot of resets to get lucky and beat it.

To the Lair! Here I found several books, and learned Meph Cloud (very helpful in the Lair stage) and Blink (which of course I'd use all game, but was most amusing later when I'd blink away from something and lob another IOOD at it until it was fed up). Then I got Sticky Flame and Throw Flame, a tremendous relief - until now if something couldn't be mephed or nibbled to death in Conjure Flame, I couldn't do much about it, but you can mess almost anything in Lair up with Sticky Flame. On Lair:6 I'd take Fireball, more or less turning me into a FE with Meph Cloud.

I got the Lair ending with the anaconda that releases a set of elephants, but didn't even have to teleport out of there, just danced around them with Blink and boiled them in the pool.

Orc:2 caused me some trouble owing to a rock-hard MDBe ghost (there may be a pattern here) combined with Donald and the usual selection of orcish nuisances, but I managed to hide the ghost away in a corner somewhere and do my shopping.

I stuck my head into Spider, which I thought would be easier, but immediately got crawled all over and retreated; I went to Shoals which theoretically should be OK if you fly and can boil enemies alive, but it got pretty hairy in a couple of places - when wind drakes knocked me away from my line of retreat, and the usual problem where you polish off Ilsuiw but all her escorts are still pounding on you. More than once I had to fly to the edge of the map and hide, but I muddled through, and after clearing Shoals:1-3 I went back to Spider, which then was OK, and I cleared that to Spider:3.

Now I had the unenviable choice between being drained by ghost moths on Spider:4 or the usual horribleness of Shoals:4. Spider:4 is in my experience easier to retreat from because there's a single room of bastards you can teleport out of, rather than a whole level of miscellaneous horrors like Shoals:4. After an abortive attempt at Spider:4 I bought an amulet of guardian spirit; I am pretty sure this saved my life more than once.

I also had Ignition in the library, which in my limited experience is excellent in some Spider endings, and seemed like it might just be coming online with wizardry and brilliance. (It's a pity there's no way short of wizmode to test spell failure chances with brilliance.)

Actually, as it turned out, I got the Spider ending with death scarabs, spectral spiders, and zombies, all of which TSO would kindly top up my MP for killing, and which Ignition mopped up beautifully. I did have to teleport away from a ghost moth & emperor scorpion combo, but what else are scrolls of teleportation for?

The Shoals ending was also quite manageable - easier than Shoals:3. I went to Elf next; it seemed like Ignition would be a useful tool against hordes of individually flimsy deep elves, and it was - I had more trouble with fire-resistant dancing weapons than anything else here. However, I got Abyssed by a deep elf demonologist on E:3, but made it out soon enough.

To the Vaults! But almost immediately to a Desolation of Salt. Now, I've never died in a Desolation (albeit this was only my 4th trip to one), but I've never had a happy fun time either; it usually starts fine but the noise being made means everything's arriving at the centre of the map and before you know where you are you're teleporting about trying to land somewhere safe. I was down to 16/148 HP at one point, and used scrolls of fear followed by ambrosia to refill HP and MP more than once. I did, however, get some artifacts I'd use for the rest of the game, particularly a handy swap for rElec and rPois.

To the Vaults! This got a bit sticky in places, mostly down to the usual problem of being bad at spellcasters so blazing off MP in all directions then getting caught after the MP run dry. I learned Iskenderun's Battlesphere, which I used quite a bit - in particular against weak stuff FD can pop out a battlesphere then use Flame Tongue to get barrages out of the battlesphere for free - and IOOD, which became my usual option against inconveniently fire-resistant beasties. (In particular, I'd had terrible trouble with a fire giant on the Depths entrance in D:15 who I was eventually reduced to Mephing repeatedly until it fell in some lava. I'd had IMB since E:3, but after getting IOOD just used IMB to fill in the turn after launching an IOOD).

Because I was struggling in V, when the Crypt turned up on V:2 I ducked in. This was no real problem apart from an unusually large number of nasty mummies on C:3, but also gave me Ozo's Armour which I could get decent spellpower on with only a modest investment of XP, and also a demon whip from one of Margery's escorts I'd turn into a sacred scourge.

After Crypt I bought some consumables, nuking the inconvenient ghost on Orc:2, then ran into Mennas on V:3. This was where I came closest to dying in the late game, at 5 HP from 163 at one point - I got a couple of decent IOOD / Fireball combos in, but never the stacked damage from Igniting multiple monsters that might have killed him, and of course once the silence kicks in he can just crawl all over you with his speed and excellent melee. After a few rounds of this and some wasted consumables I decided I'd had enough (a decision I should have made some time beforehand, the lack of which could easily have killed me) and went off to Depths, via the Hall of Blades (easy with IOOD and IMB).

Depths was OK; I got the slightly gimmicky dig-for-victory transporter vault on U:4, which I cleared by teleporting out of it once the monsters were loose, standing on the exit side blowing raspberries at them, then rushing around to the entrance to get in without a huge reception committee - once that's done, you can start blowing them up with Ignition and IOOD as normal.

I returned to V:3 and disposed of Mennas by dropping a scroll of summoning and a Divine Warrior on him to stop him closing, then hammering away at him with Ignition - the single-target damage is lousy, but you can cast it into your allies and he can't dodge or block it.

V:5 was easy: I just stairdanced it and used Ignition and/or IOOD on everything that turned up, taking care not to let MP get so low that a vault warden could lock down the stairs when I was too dry to kill it. I figured if something did go wrong I could teleport, knowing that most of the monsters on the level had headed to the middle to see what all the noise was; and I had some potions of magic for emergencies.

I had a very peculiar V:5; three quadrants with shops, one of which had 8 shops (albeit half food shops). I got the demon whip to +9 with purchases here and blessed it; silly me, the Shining One adds +2 to the chosen weapon, but not above +9. If I'd known that I could have had the scourge earlier, and got my morningstar to +9 earlier. Furthermore, the fourth quadrant had a bunch of gold - why the shopkeepers don't just go and scoop the stuff up themselves, I don't know.

I loaded up on consumables here to replace the supplies depleted by Mennas and other difficulties. I acquired a book, really hoping that Firestorm would turn up, but to no avail; it never did. My next stop was Slime, learning Summon Lightning Spire to put in the way of shining eyes.

Slime was extremely easy - all those hordes of slime creatures are prize Ignition fodder and other stuff went down easily enough to a mix of IOODs, Fireballs, and standing next to conveniently flammable slime creatures. I learned Bolt of Fire on Slime:3 which I should have done ages ago (I got it on C:3) as a powerful attack for single targets. However, maddeningly, I'd get subdued magic from a shining eye that immediately got off a malmutate when I descended the stairs; with every spell at 1% failure anyway, I didn't need that.

The Royal Jelly might be custom-made for Ignition; the more jellies it spits out, the more you damage it each cast, and the easier it is to mop up the jellies it spits out. 3 casts polished it off leaving 5 jellies to be blown up by a 4th cast; I Sticky Flamed and meleed the sole surviving acid blob, mostly just for a change.

I got the brooch of Shielding here, which I puzzled over for a bit before using. Guardian spirit had certainly saved me before, but an extra 8 SH would also improve my defences; maybe less, but it would do so without eating my MP, and with it, a +2 buckler, and FD's inherent SH I should get reasonable benefit from reflection. (Abstractly I know it's not that great, but if Crawl has a greater joy than a lich blowing itself up with its own LCS, I don't know what it is; and I could blink away from melee, but not ranged attacks.)

I mutrouletted out subdued magic - of course, if I was going to do this I should have done it before the rest of Slime - and got Str-2, rPois, Int+2, rugged brown scales. Not bad, but the Str-2 was a nuisance; my melee was weak enough as it was.

I quite fancied trying for an extra rune. I thought Abyss would be horrible on this character - dry on mana, cornered, dead - and I'd just been getting some Pan runes. I thought of the Hell branches; I wouldn't be able to hurt much in Gehenna and would be hard put to come up with resistances for Cocytus. I didn't fancy the giant sacks of HP in Dis - on reflection, I may have underestimated just how hard IOOD was hitting by now - but it seemed like most of Tartarus would be manageable. I was a bit nervous about this because it seemed like this might be a really prolonged exercise in getting killed by Ereshkigal, and maybe I should just go and try and win.

I cleared the Vestibule without too much trouble - as ever, Ignition made summons a burden to the summoner, both Geryon and Murray; I had more trouble getting the horde of hell knights to either come next to the stairs to be murdered individually, or to wander far enough away to be blown up efficiently by IOODs. Plugging down through Tartarus was a pain with tormentors and Tzitzis and other nuisances popping up, but the layout makes it fairly feasible to explore a bit around the gateways and find stairs down while keeping an easy line of retreat out of the place.

I got the tar_old layout; I didn't peek in the .des file, but after magic mapping it I was pretty sure I knew where Ereshkigal lived. I dug into a corner of her room, stepped in, and immediately hell effects dropped a bunch of monsters around me including a hellion and a tormentor. I dropped an Ignition and a Tzitzi stepped into view; time to go, I thought, and come back and tackle probably-Ereshkigal without all this stuff. I read a teleport and she promptly stepped into view, confirming my supposition this was her house; however, I kept Igniting and at the point the teleport kicked in I'd cleared most of it and got her "moderately wounded", with 183/193 HP and 44/59 MP thanks to TSO top-ups, so I found myself wondering if I'd just teleported away from victory. Of course, she could have dropped a silence any time.

I got back into her house, but this time she did drop a silence immediately. I decided my best plan was to kite her out, punt IOODs back at her when outside the silence, lose her with a teleport (if that didn't kill her), and try and ninja the rune. All very well until she tormented me and her summons smote me and then it turned into "let's drink haste and try and live long enough to get out of the silence to teleport away". This worked... leaving me in Ereshkigal's house on 1/4 HP (albeit full MP) with a Tzitzi. It unsportingly dodged several bolts of fire, but eventually I killed it. I grabbed the rune and was just scooping up the gold in the little rune room when a reaper came in... followed by Ereshkigal, who'd apparently made a beeline back for her rune. I was still at half HP, so teleported again, landing near an exit gateway, which I escaped through.

Bought all the consumables on my shopping list, and off to Zot. I learned Iron Shot, to replace IMB as something to do between IOODs on the fire resistant; I was still getting some mileage out of fire magic, but IOOD - Iron Shot was what I used on every Orb Guardian, OOF, and ancient lich I saw. I forget who first mentioned to me that IOOD is great for OOFs because much of their resilence comes from their all-round resistances which don't help against IOOD, but I owe them a debt.

I didn't clear Zot this time - I normally do, but I didn't feel the need, something I'd regret on the orbrun when forced to go up an uncleared set of stairs. Z:5 was mostly fine except when getting into the lung; an OOF turned up just behind an electric golem, and while I nailed the OOF I was then at 140 HP and low MP and slowed by a death cob; then a second electric golem turned up and all of a sudden I was at 70 HP, no MP, and a Killer Klown was joining the party. I obviously relaxed my concentration after killing the OOF and didn't take the other threats seriously.

I read a scroll of summoning and hid behind the summons, then drank an ambrosia to top up HP and MP while they fought it out. This worked fine - by the time the ambrosia was done, only the Killer Klown was even alive. The rest of the path to the Orb was routine, although I had got berserkitis off the collection of OOFs I'd met. Slightly optimistically, I figured if I did end up in melee I could live with going berserk; I was berserked once by a moth of wrath, but this mutation never troubled me.

As soon as I grabbed the Orb another OOF turned up; I blew that up, but as I was rounding the corner in the lung a very fast panlord showed up. I couldn't outrun it, so I was fighting it out when a Tzitzi appeared; I decided to teleport (risky with an uncleared lung, but better to do it while I still had HP and MP). Somewhat confusedly, I then read holy word and blew up the Tzitzi with magic. This dropped me back in the lung I was trying to leave. I tried to recharge for a bit, but as more monsters arrived I decided I'd keep teleporting (with nearly-full HP) until I arrived somewhere useful. The next teleport landed me near the stairs, and off I went.

The only other serious fight I had was with a panlord on Depths:5, but they were a summoner and not fire resistant, so after getting an IOOD in the face went down to the usual Ignition spam.
Ascension reports with too many words since 2016.

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