Lawman's Skald guide

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Version 0.10: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.


This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised. Read at your own risk and alter to fit your play style as necessary!


Notes on This Guide

This guide covers only the character-specific aspects: use it along with Walkthrough for a general walkthrough of the game. The Skald, as a class, has undergone heavy revisions from .6 to .10. In the past, Merfolk Crusaders (now defunct) could play as fighters with heavy hitting magical support spells. Now, the class plays more like the standard 'nimble assassin.'

In the late game, a Skald has the potential to be an exceptionally versatile character, with well-developed support magics and strong fighting skills. However, starting Skalds have the typical weakness of a 'jack-of-all-trades' character: having to develop both fighting and magic abilities, they excel at neither.

The focus of this guide is the common skald build--in most cases, a strong fighter early in the game, later moving into a combination spellcaster/fighter/TSO invoker. Players with more effective skald builds are encouraged to add their own ideas.

Core Races

In theory, any race built for fighting will make a good Skald. Skalds need Evasion (to cast magic), a solid weapon skill (as this will be your primary offense), and decent spellcasting or charms skills. However, as Skalds are poor at combat AND magic in the early game, a heavily combat-oriented race will help you survive to midgame.

Kobold

Kobolds make decent skalds for the same reasons that halflings make good skalds. Players looking for variety can try them instead of halflings, but overall, this is the weaker of the two choices. The spell skills (spellcasting, charms, summoning, and trasnlocations) are roughly equal for the two, and any benefit from combat is nullified by the Kobald's lower HP. Their carnivore status will help with spell hunger early in the game, but your spells are too low level to be much of an issue. Furthermore, Kobalds have less flexibility in ranged weapon selection early on--but late game, they can easily transition into Long Blades by crosstraining. Late in the game, Kobalds are inferior because of fewer meat chunks available and lower dex. Still, either race is better than merfolk.

An effective KoSk variant is to transition early on into worshiping Kiku; her gifts of corpses will provide a reliable source of food late game. A weapon of pain, or the the Excruciating Wounds spell will make you an unstoppable powerhouse against LIVING opponents.

Halfling

As a sneaky stabber race, halflings make competent skalds. Though saddled with a -2 spellcasting and -1 fighting aptitude, Halflings, have high dodging (and are a small race!), decent charms skills, and gain levels at the same rate as humans. Halflings can supplement their excellent Skald melee game with their more traditional (and superior) use of ranged combat skills. Early games will be easier with your high dex and versatile combat tools; late games can transition into long blades and a variety of other builds. Halflings also enjoy limited innate mutation resistance and slow digestion 1, which will prove useful for long trips into the corpse-less and mutagenic end-game branches.

High Elf

High elves are probably the other classic skald species, enjoying specialized yet still well-rounded aptitudes, excellent stats, large mana pools, and the ability to also easily branch out from the traditional skald spell schools and into the elemental schools and conjurations. It is not out of the question for a High Elf Skald to have mastered the usual skald spellset and then go and have Tornado ready for assaulting Vaults:8. However, High Elves are even more fragile then Halflings, and players will find the early game considerably more challenging. With their magical aptitude, High Elf Skalds will have an easier time branching out into magic. In doing so, they will have access to a wider array of magic-based gods in the late game.

Merfolk

Merfolk have an incredible +4 polearm attribute, and also +1 charms. They are powerful fighters, with great fighting and dodging aptitudes who also level fairly quickly. A solid choice for a high health, high evasion skald. This is the race the below spell chart was based upon.

Vampire

Vampires while generally known for excelling mainly as superlative enchanters (+4 hexes apt!) and as spellcasters that can effectively ignore (and abuse) their lack of a real food clock, also make for competent skalds once players adjust to their unique playstyle. Vampires are excellent users of blade weapons and gain a passive bonus to unarmed combat (they always start with at least one level in it as well) from their trademark fangs. Prospective VpSks can profitably worship Okawaru like the others or take up the banner of other gods like Mahkleb (who gives you a way to heal while bloodless and powerful summons invocations) or Kiku (who will quickly give you both the powerful necromancy books and a near infinite supply of corpses to sate your thirst for fresh blood!) and who remain useful throughout a normal run and for 15 rune attempts.

Skills strategy

Early Game

  • Turn off all magical abilities except charms. THIS INCLUDES SPELLCASTING. Prioritizing your support spells over your only offensive ability--fighting--is a quick way to die. The only reason you should ever train spellcasting is to unlock more spell slots. And in the early game, leveling up will achieve the same goals. Train charms until you can cast your starting spells with a high degree of success. Spellcasting should only be increased by one or two levels, which is all that is needed to memorize your starting spells.
  • You should only train spellcasting further once you find a spellbook with useful spells. When this happens, focus Spellcasting until you can memorize them, then turn it off again.
  • Focus your primary weapon, train fighting and dodging. Turn everything else off.

Mid-game

  • Short blades will begin to show their weakness around D15 or so; try and transition into long blades before this time.
  • Successful skalds stop training Charms and instead develop other magic skills, such as: summoning, translocations, invocations, and evocations. As soon as you can cast your starting spellbook reliably, switch from charms to the other spells you find.
  • Develop your armour and shields skills only when you find decent equipment.
  • Do NOT train your ranged weapons skill up to level 8. With level 8 skill, Okawaru will start gifting ranged ammo in addition to weapons and armour. You will need ammo far less than other items.
  • Do not invest heavily (or at all) into stealth or stabbing, as both skills will be nullified when you begin worshiping TSO.

Late Game

  • Train translocation as a replacement for charms until you can cast Controlled Blink reliably.
  • If you're switching to TSO, train invocations and summoning.
  • If you find powerful rods, train evocations.
  • Train Traps & Door to around 10 before tackling end-game areas like Hell or Pandemonium.

Fighting Strategy

This section is currently under development. Users are encouraged to give input.

You should use semi-controlled blink (the Blink spell in conjunction with teleport control, or Controlled Blink in late game no-teleport levels) to get away from immediate danger, and then walk away after casting Swiftness and Flight.

Item Strategy

Early Game Items

Although you should not deviate from your primary weapon skill as your main tool, you should pick up and use every single item you can find. This includes any ranged weapons, wands, potions, scrolls, and so forth. After IDing items using the standard strategy, use every single one of them before going into melee range with any opponent who is the least bit dangerous. Soften your targets up with thrown weapons and--if you're lucky--wands; use those scrolls of fear, potions of might, and so forth. Later on you can choose items you are putting skill ranks in; right now, just use everything.

Weapons

Unless you find a branded weapon for each of your starting spells, keep one un-branded weapon with you at all times. Try and find a high-damage weapon that spawns with a decent enchantment with the goal of enchanting it up to a high level later in the game. Don't enchant any weapons you find past +4,+4. Save those scrolls for when you abandon Okawaru, when you can take an inventory and pick your best weapons to boost. It's a good idea to have an unbranded ranged launcher, as well. This will let you weaken targets with enchanted ammo before they get too close.

Be extremely careful reading un-ID'ed scrolls when wielding your favorite weapons: nothing will ruin your +4,+4 saber like accidentally permanently infusing it with the vanilla vorpal brand.

Permanently branded weapons will be superior to enchanted weapons in that using them saves you having to cast MP on them. But having one vanilla +9,+9 quickblade later in the game is a lot easier to achieve than having a +9,+9 weapon of each brand type.

Keep one additional high-damage weapon (this includes any of your branded weapons) that you can enchant to high level when you need TSO to bless something.

Jewelry

Anything that boosts your escape options is a plus. Notably, a ring of teleport control turns Blink into a cheaper version of Controlled Blink; an amulet of rage is great all around; an amulet of faith will increase Okawaru god gifts (drop it when you pick up TSO).

Staves

Items that reduce spell hunger will help you later in the game, but are only marginally useful for your low-level spells and too rare to rely on in the early game.

Spell Strategy

This section is currently under development. Users are encouraged to give input.

Here are the spell statistics of the top ranking Merfolk Skald, evilmike:

Spell cast Castings
Regeneration 322
Shroud of Golubria 203
Poison Weapon 29
Repel Missiles 307
Fire Brand 6
Freezing Aura 42
Control Teleport 8
Haste 79
Swiftness 73
Blink 11
Flight 36
Apportation 10
Phase Shift 20
Controlled Blink 20
Abjuration 82
Recall 66
Cure Poison 8
Dispersal 1


From your starting spellbook: Eventually, you should learn every spell. However, Shroud of Golubria and Regeneration should be learned immediately. Then learn Fire Brand--poison weapon is much more useful, but the rare poison immune enemy is much more dangerous. Next, learn Poison Weapon, then Repel Missiles, then Freezing Aura. Regen+Shroud/Repel Missiles will be your primary spell combo for most of the early game.

Mid-game Spells: By the time you reach dungeon level 15, you should be learning Control Teleport, Haste, Swiftness, Blink, and Flight. Of these, Haste and Swiftness are by far the most useful and should be cast often. Apportation will also be helpful in situations where you will have to flee rather than fight.

Late game spells: From around dungeon level 25 onwards, you should learn Phase Shift, Controlled Blink, Abjuration, and Recall. The summoning spells are the priority here, essential for dealing with summoned hordes. Phase Shift will be a much needed upgrade from Shroud of Golubria. After this, Dispersal and Cure Poison are... apparently helpful.

Mass Abjuration should be a goal for this build, late game, but may be impractical with the skill set. Deflect Missiles would be useful but is probably too difficult to learn. Users are encouraged to give their opinion.

Stat Strategy

Since you're casting spells, you should increase intelligence every time.

Game Plan

Early game

When you find the Temple, the simplest strategy is to worship Okawaru: his weapon/armor gifts are awesome and Heroism is also good.

Establish a stash in the Lair as soon as you find it.

Middle Game

Do not attempt the Snake Pit without a reliable means to escape constriction; small races are particularly vulnerable to this attack.

Try to have semi-controlled blink before doing any branch end. Once you have semi-controlled blink, Haste and ideally Deflect Missiles, take over the Vestibule of Hell and establish a stash there. Make sure you enter it with all buffs cast.

While doing The Vaults, you should use the XP and Okawaru piety to train Invocations to skill 8-12 (10 is a good target).

Before starting the Crypt, it's a good idea switch from Okawaru to The Shining One. Okawaru will then surround you with hostile giants from time to time: when it happens, just cast Blink and either semi-controlled blink away or cast Repel Missiles/Deflect Missiles, Swiftness and Flight and walk away; you'll have to defeat or avoid them, but by the time you go back to the original level they will have spread and you should be able to fight them one by one.

Doing the Crypt, your piety with The Shining One should hopefully reach the maximum value (don't use any ability until that): at that point, grab the best weapon you found (probably in Orc or Hall of Blades), bless it at the altar and use up all your enchant weapon scrolls on it. Sacrifice evil weapons and/or explore Tartarus if you need more TSO piety. You should always use this weapon in the Hells and Pandemonium.

End Game

Train Controlled Blink before doing the final levels of the Hells if possible.

When fighting the lords of Hell and Pandemonium, and in Zot:5, keep Swiftness, Flight, Deflect Missiles, Ozocubu's Armour and Divine Shield active, summon a few divine warriors to fight along with you and cast Haste on them, and also Haste yourself when you meet enemies.

Don't fight any mummy in Tomb unless absolutely necessary, and instead summon a divine warrior (don't forget to Haste him) to kill the most powerful mummy in sight; if it is a mummy priest or greater mummy, stay at maximum range to run away in case of repeated torment, and cast Abjuration in case the mummy summons anything. Make sure to Haste yourself and summon at least one hasted divine warrior before taking any staircases and take the mummies back up the stairs one by one. Also make sure to fight sphinxes with a lot of magic resistance gear on, so you don't get paralyzed.