Escaping from (and avoiding) trouble

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Version 0.21: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

Introduction

Sometimes you can't win a fight, and the best thing to do is to run. Knowing how to escape from a deadly situation (such as an unexpected monster wandering into view when you're low on HP, or a situation that has spiraled out of control (such as an enemy caster summoning a large number of deadly demons) is a vital skill to survival in Dungeon Crawl.

Crawl offers a number of escape options, as well as means of healing, disabling monsters, and many other things which just might save your life.

Options when in immediate danger

The following are varying escape options, roughly in order of how common they are

  • Teleport: after a short delay of a few turns, translocates you to a random habitable square on the same level. It is risky when done in mostly unexplored levels, so only use it if you think your situation can't get much worse. (Dying is always the worst. If you think you will die, always try to escape.) This can be combined with other means of escape, such as the Blink spell or, even better, Controlled Blink or a scroll of blinking, then healing until teleport kicks in.
  • Potion of heal wounds: Heals approximately 25 HP. In the early game, is a significant boost, but in the end-game, you will likely be receiving more than 25 damage in a single turn.
  • Potion of curing: heals a few HP and removes most negative status effects, removal of which may be critical to escape. Confusion is a notable example of such an effect.
  • Scroll of blinking/Controlled Blink: allows you to instantly translocate yourself to any visible square (barring locations rendered inaccessible by transparent walls). This causes minor magical contamination, preventing extremely frequent use. The high-level spell may miscast, but the reliable, easily-found scroll never does.
  • Uncontrolled Blink: instantly translocates you to a randomly blink-accessible square within LOS. This can easily make the situation worse (imagine blinking from the edge of an orc pack to the center). In general, only use this if you can reliably make use of it several times in a row. Beware of miscasts/evocation failure.
  • Scroll of fear: might help you if you are surrounded. It does not work on all monsters, but still could be enough to allow an escape route.
  • Scroll of fog: might help you cut line of sight to monsters that attack you from range.
  • Speed (from potion of haste, Swiftness spell): allows you to run away, though you will be susceptible to ranged attacks until you break LOS/leave the level. Hasting oneself causes magical contamination. Speed boost have nice synergy with scrolls of fog, allowing you to quickly break LOS.
  • Berserk: hastes (and strengthens) you and add 50% temporary HP... but when it runs out, you will be slowed instead, and you won't be able to berserk again for a while! Mostly useful for killing things (thus precluding the need to escape in the first place) or sprinting to stairs. (Do not use berserk as a poor man's swiftness! The slowness will last much longer than the quickness, and is only useful for short sprints - generally to the stairs.)
  • Lugonu's Enter the Abyss: removes you from any situation immediately, leaving all pursuing monsters behind, but reduces your HP. Keep in mind that you will then be in the Abyss, so it still might not "save your life".
  • Borgnjor's Revivification: fully heals you but reduces your max HP.
  • Zin's Sanctuary: protects you from nearly all attacks, but prevents attacking yourself. Combine with another method to get away.
  • Elyvilon's healing powers: more powerful than potions of heal wounds, but use piety and a lot of food.
  • Cheibriados' Step from Time: Moves you to nowhere and lets time pass. During that time, monsters wander away and may even forget about you.
  • Nemelex worshippers may draw upon their decks of escape.
  • Death's Door: makes you invulnerable but will leave you with very little HP. This tradeoff is similar to berserking, but you can act and you are much more likely to die if it expires in a dangerous place. Note that after the spell's effect expires, you won't be able to cast it again for several turns.
  • Paralyze/confuse/slow/fear (applied to enemies): effective in the early game, but in the late game, most dangerous monsters will resist them. Outside of the early game, it's best to act on yourself.

Magic - Useful Escape Spells

Blink

Blinking can also be used to give you time to teleport: blink, activate a teleport and then start running away -- even if the monsters are faster than you, they can only gain one square a turn if you're running, giving teleport time to kick in.

It is also useful to remember that Lugonu grants you the ability to 'Bend space around yourself' which is effectively the blink spell.

Mephitic Cloud

Mephitic cloud is very effective for keeping most low-level creatures from pursuing or harming you. Creatures with poison resistance are immune to its effects, and creatures with 100+ HP tend to shrug its effects off as well.

If you are poison resistant or have a source of clarity, you can use it anywhere without fear of affecting yourself. Even if you're not poison resistant, mephitic cloud can be used against an adjacent enemy in most cases (aim at the *):

.........  .........
...###...  ....###..
...#*#...  ....#*#..
...##Y...  ....Y##..
....@....  ....@....
.........  .........

By targeting diagonally beyond the yak, you can catch it in the cloud without affecting yourself.

Also note that risking self-confusion is sometimes worth it. If worse comes to worst, you can always drink a potion of curing (which you might have been wanting to do anyway). Most enemies can't, and even humanoids are unlikely to be carrying more than one potion.

Conjure Flame

Conjure flame is situational. Experiment with it and get a feel for it and when (if ever) you wish to invest in it. Understanding who fears flame and who doesn't is important here. Practice when you're not in a crisis. It works best when you can hold a stupid enemy in the flame, by either meleeing them yourself, blocking them with servants (or their buddies), or confusing them in tight quarters (so they repeatedly wander through the cloud).

Swiftness

Reduces your movement delay for a short time before slowing you, usually enough to get you to the stairs.

Passwall

A spell people love to underestimate (though for good reason -- it looks at first glance to be a crap spell). If you notice your trouble early enough, though, and you've mapped out your area beforehand (deep dwarves!) and found a 1-thickness wall to pass through towards safety, this is like a controlled teleport, thousands of turns before you could cast controlled teleport.

Slow and Confuse

These take a big investment in Hexes to be worth the turns and MP it takes to cast them. Worthwhile only if you can do that, or are already doing so (Enchanters).

Summoning

Several summoning spells are great for defensive purposes even if they're useless for offense. You can exchange places with allies automatically, but an enemy will have to fight through or walk around them to get to you. This means that even a lowly rat can open up that vital one-square space for a stair escape!

The best spell for defensive purposes is Summon Butterflies. It instantly surrounds you with butterflies (numbers increasing with spellpower) that interfere with your enemies' travel and ranged attacks.

Escaping Trouble

Run early

Once you've learned from experience that a certain monster type or monster-pack type is dangerous, run before it gets into melee, and re-enter the level from another place.

Pillar dancing

If you find yourself in melee range with a monster of normal speed in the early dungeon when you're at your weakest, you can regenerate health and magic in an emergency by leading the monster around a pillar for a while. Be aware that monster movement has a random element, which might allow the monster to hit or close on you at some point. Other monsters might also become aware of you, so choose your spot carefully!

Poison and pillar dancing

Keep on the lookout for a way to poison your enemies early on, even if it's a weapon you know you will not be using in the long term. In just a few turns of melee, or even none (blowguns), you can cause enough poisoning to kill that nasty foe. (Go for one level of "even sicker"; renew if the enemy "seems more healthy.")

Leading them up

Just because heading up staircases while followed is not a full escape doesn't mean it's not useful. Dealing with a nasty on a "cleared" level is much less troublesome than on one where your escape routes will often lead into unexplored territory, or wake up monsters lurking within it who can leap out to block your retreat. And teleporting on an unexplored level, that can be nasty!

Some monsters can even be fully abandoned this way at little resource cost: imps and phantoms. You may want to lead them two levels up instead of one, so they're not in the way in case you need to lead something else up afterwards. Can be tedious, though.

Triple visitation

Triple visitation means entering a level by all three staircases before you start exploring it in earnest. This is only really worth the tedium on the first few levels (or if the three down stairs are close together), but it can be a lifesaver. That way, if you get into trouble far from where you last entered the level, you may see a closer staircase to retreat to than your staircase of last entry. On the other hand, whenever you go down stairs there is a risk of being put adjacent to a very dangerous creature, making this technique best for stealthy, swift, or invisible adventurers.

Bypass

Just because it's generally advantageous to clear a level completely before descending doesn't mean it's universally the right way to go. Encountering Sigmund or a particulary nasty pack of orcs on the first few levels of the dungeon are good examples. You can always come back later when you have the necessary equipment and experience to deal with them.

Use your abilities

When you're facing an emergency situation, slow down. Stop and think about every item and ability at your disposal. Often times players forget to use their spells, god abilities or even consumables when it matters the most. You can even save your game, ask for advice from other players and come back later!

Keeping out of trouble

The best way to survive a troublesome predicament is keeping out of trouble in the first place. Let's see...

Don't move towards enemies

Instead of running into the unknown, where more dangerous monsters might be waiting for you, let enemies come to you and use those turns to reposition youself more advantageously or to soften up the enemy. Orcs are a case in point: a single orc might seem like an easy kill, but then when you get close to it you realize there were two orc priests in the dark just waiting to smite your ass.

Explore only when at full health

Unless you're going for a high score, you win nothing by exploring at anything less than full HP and MP. Always rest up, there's plenty of food in the dungeon so you don't need to fear starvation.

By pressing the 5 key, you can rest till your HP or MP are full again.

Engaging ranged attackers around corners

Ranged attackers will follow you around a corner where you can melee them - rather than them being several squares away, each one of which gives them a chance to fire at you, you take two steps to hide in a corridor nearby, wait for them to appear, then take a step or two to reach them - thus drastically reducing the number of turns they get to fire at you before you reach melee distance.

Engaging fast monsters by stepping away from them

Doing this will keep them from getting a free hit, or in the case of bats, ending their turn away from you.

Softening things up

On the first few levels, collect stones and other throwables, even if you don't plan to go with them in the long run. Hunting slings coupled with sling bullets are especially lethal even at zero skill. You should also be liberal with most wands you find: even a wand of random effects can be very useful with some luck. Just keep a set of stairs nearby in case you accidentally haste or berserk a monster with it.

Don't get surrounded

Getting surrounded is never a good idea, no matter how big of an axe you're wielding. Retreat to a corridor or create your own with a wand of digging.

Retreat towards the known

It's often tactically tempting, because of the enemy's angle of approach, to flee "into the black." Try to resist the urge, and retreat towards a known area, even at the cost of taking a free hit or two. Retreating towards a known staircase or escape hatch is also wise, especially one in a tight corridor if you're being chased by multiple enemies - only enemies on squares directly next to you can go up or down stairs with you, so in a tight corridor only one of a group of monsters can follow you.

Noise is never your friend

Try to always be aware of the noise you're generating, keeping a close eye on the noise meter. The less noise you make, the less likely you're going to be drawing in too many monsters at once.

Specialize before you generalize

It's often said, but untrue in the long run, that Crawl penalizes generalists. It is true in the opening, though. Make sure that your skills of choice have power to spare before investing in any others. Many troublesome situations are simply due to not having enough killing power; this will make that problem less frequent. Turn skills off to this end if you must... though don't forget to turn them back on again once your engine's running, if they're useful in the long run -- e.g. dodging and stealth for a conjurer.

Learn to use marginal tools to non-marginal effect

Scrolls of fear and scroll of immolation are often pooh-poohed, yet they can save your life. Don't toss them until you're sailing smoothly! A situation solved with one of these means you've saved an instance of your simpler-to-use tools for later. You may likewise be tempted to ignore resistible wands or wands of random effects, and the same goes here, but even more strongly; these are on the contrary useful until well into the mid-game. Afterwards, much less so; all the more reason to burn them early, so you're not left with depleted stocks of top-tier wands (and scroll/potion stocks) and unused resistibles right when the latter start being useless.

Using corners on large pillars

Even when you don't have corridors at your disposal, you still may have corners, which can help you split up packs and fight one enemy at a time. For example, the following 3x3 pillar with two yaks. The yaks want to fight together, so when you turn a corner the one further out gets left behind, leaving you fighting only one yak.

...@..
.XXXY.
.XXXY.	
.XXX..	
......

You can repeat this for every corner of the pillar until the pack is reduced to just one yak.