Buddy23Lee's Minotaur Staff-Madness guide
A melee-focused minotaur, you might ask, who needs a guide for that? Isn’t it just as straightforward as 'heavy weapon + heavy armor = point him at a monster and smash'?
Maybe so, but a one-dimensional minotaur will perish in the dungeon with almost as much regularity as any other character. There are, however, a number of particular ways in which this monstrous species can be played (and, what I would contend as optimized). In this guide we sample but one, somewhat peculiar example.
Although the minotaur fighter is probably the most no-fuss, tried-and-true character build, this strategy uses a gladiator background instead. No, this is not just because he gets to start with a cool, easily enchantable hat, or even a basic throwing skill to help round you out a bit. No, the primary reason for selecting the gladiator is to have access to a quarterstaff as a starting weapon.
Now, I know what you’re thinking; that piece of wood lacks any fun cleaving, piercing, or smashing implements affixed to it, so why even bother? As you’ll see, we’ll eventually develop this simple broomstick into arguably the most capable weapon one can wield in the dungeon crawl universe.
The overarching strategy here is that you’ll ideally be wielding a different version of weapon for each phase of the game: a quarterstaff for the early game, a lajatang for the mid-game, and a staff of earth for the late game. Obviously, you are somewhat at the mercy of the dungeon item generator as to whether or not you can pull this off, but most often this progression will be achievable.
Finally, if you're left wondering why a staff of earth and not some other type, remember that the minotaur’s least-worst magic aptitude is earth magic, making it slightly easier to learn. Also, as rightly pointed out in the weapon choice article, the staff of earth deals non-resistible physical damage, allowing no monster to be particularly immune to your onslaught. This is all the more relevant in the end game, when you’ll actually be using it.
First and foremost, focus all your effort on your ‘staves’ skill; you’re only going to need it to reach level 14. With the minotaur’s great aptitude for it, this is generally achievable fairly early on. Once it reaches 14, turn it off, as we’ll need that experience to go elsewhere.
Turn off your ‘throwing’ skill right away too, at least for now. It starts out high enough for what we’ll need it for.
Although you’re generally going to pursue progressively heavier armors, you’ll want to focus both your ‘armor’ and ‘dodging’ skills right from the beginning.
Also, make sure you don’t learn any ‘evocations’ for now. This may sound silly but it will affect which acquirements you’ll get later in the game.
As a staff user, you’re probably going to want to put a fair amount of your stat increases into dexterity as, especially with the lajatang, dexterity is a boon to its use. Don’t worry though, your minotaur will likely gain some of these increases automatically. Try to keep strength and dexterity stats somewhat proportional (what proportion?) with one another.
As a powerful, melee-savvy species wielding a strong, early-game weapon, you will be a terror to all the unfortunate dungeon denizens you encounter. All that might stop you early on is an ill-timed Sigmund or pack of orcs. Once you’ve started acquiring some levels and better armor however, even these will be at your mercy. Speaking of Sigmund, save your throwing nets for such uniques and early orc warriors. You’ll get some surprising mileage of out these, even farther into the game.
Your god selection won’t matter much for this build, so select whomever makes sense to you. The only consideration you may want to account for is how much skill investment you’ll need to put into things like invocations to make your god practical. In this sense, a god like Makhleb is a little less choice than normal, whereas Okawaru may be more so. Don’t pick Nemelex for now, as again we still want to hold off on those evocations for a while.
Also, as was wisely pointed out, you probably don't want to pick Trog for this build, as he'll take exception to your dabbling in magic, even as much as you will never actually use it.
Transition to the lajatang
Barring a very nice quarterstaff find, hopefully by or during the mid-game you make the transition to a lajatang. You may be gifted one by Okawaru. You may strip one off a dead unique, such as Agnes. You may get one from an unidentified scroll of acquirement (the odds are good). Or you may just find one lying around. Whatever the means, now is a good time to wield one. Just like your quarterstaff, its maximum speed is achieved at ‘staves’ skill level 14, so no need to train any extra for it.
Speaking of scrolls of acquirement, once you’d identified them, and unlike normal, you’ll want to save them for later. There are also two other items you want to be on the lookout for, fairly unusual to the minotaur: a staff of earth and any spellbooks which contain low to mid-level earth magic spells. The first of these is fairly unlikely unless you’re lucky. If you do find a staff of earth, obviously save it. In that case, you can even go ahead and start training ‘evocations’ if you’d like, but don’t worry about wielding it just yet. That’s where the spellbook comes in.
Once you find a spell book with not-too-ridiculously-high-level earth spells, go stake out somewhere safe and memorize one. You’ll likely have to strip naked (at least of body armor) and possibly even wear a ring of wizardry or intelligence to accomplish this. Those otherwise useless potions of brilliance work brilliantly for this task, as well.
As soon as you’ve memorized one, put your armor back on and go back to the normal method of slaughter. The only difference now is the experience you’d normally be putting into your weapon skill, you’re now going to be focusing into earth magic. I know, it seems really silly at the moment, but eventually it will pay its dividends.
Things to acquire and save:
In sum, once you've maxed out your staves skill, memorize an earth spell and start training your earth magic skill in lieu of that staves skill. Don’t worry about ever, ever casting that spell. Being naked, using wizardry items, and drinking potions of brilliance will all help you memorize otherwise impossibly difficult spells.
Having a highly-enchanted randart or speed-branded lajatang is a potentially ascension-worthy item, particularly if you are going for a simple 3-rune win. However, if you do want to collect some difficult runes or even just max out your characters awesome damage potential, consider making the switch to the staff of earth. Admittedly, you’ll need to gain decent levels of both earth magic and evocations to pull it off but gaining that experience takes more time than difficulty to achieve. Since you probably have by now a pretty decent lajatang and are looking at me skeptically about this switch, consider that your staff of earth will eventually exceed your lajatang in damage, no matter how enchanted it is. The staff is likely already is more accurate and (unless your lajatang has the speed brand) slightly faster. Also, you will get the use of your shield slot to equip a buckler or shield which can make up for any benefits you might lose by not having an artifact weapon, and gaining 5 levels in shields is quick and easy for a minotaur.
Wait, you still don’t have a staff of earth? If you reach level 6+ earth magic skill and you still don’t have one, it’s time to consider using those scrolls of acquirement. I’m not gunna lie, this strategy is not guaranteed, but it may be your only option available. Usually I wait until earth magic 6, or even 8, and sometimes even 10. It just depends how many scrolls you are willing to burn through if you happen to be unlucky. Keep in mind, depending on the greatness of your lajatang, you’re likely not going to be actually using your staff of earth until your earth magic and evocations are around level 10 anyway, so try not to get too impatient.
Although a level 10 evocations and earth magic skill will produce results comparable to a nice lajatang, once they both hit 20 the damage is considerable higher. If you manage to get 27 in both, you’ll get a whopping 50+ of extra damage on your hardest hits.
Remember, if you are going for a quick 3-rune win, all this staff of earth work might be superfluous if you have a really nice lajatang. However, this build is great for an extended game, especially as you raise your earth magic and evocations to high levels.
By the time you ascend, your skills might well look something like this
- Fighting -> 27
- Staves -> 14
- Throwing ->2
- Armor-> 27
- Dodging -> 27
- Shields ->10
- Invocations ->3
- Evocations-> 20
- Earth magic ->22
- If you reach earth magic level 6 (the higher the better) and still haven’t randomly found a staff of earth, consider reading a scroll of acquirement. Remember that you have at best a 50% chance of receiving one, although having identified staves of other kinds should, in theory, increase your chances.
- Once you have an earth staff in you possession, begin training your evocations so it eventually gains some parity with your earth magic skill. Keep training both as high as possible.
- Once your evocations and earth magic hit about level 10, consider wielding the staff of earth. If you do, wear a nice buckler or shield with it and start training a shields skill as well. Remember, you only need 5 levels for a buckler and 15 for a shield to negate the penalty.
- If you need extra experience before heading to the Realm of Zot, consider wandering the abyss for a while. At level 3 and lower, you can look for the rune and also gain a steady stream of experience.
The next time you want a melee-based character with a little twist, consider this type of build. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the amount of damage your oddly-armed minotaur will inflict! To be clear, this is not the end-all, be-all of minotaur gladiators, but I have successfully used this build to surface with the orb, and I’m confident it can work for other players as well.