Majang's Gargoyle Wizard of Vehumet Guide
It seemed too good to be true when 0.13 introduced the Gargoyle – there never has been a character remotely as survivable as this one. And all of this you get in exchange for – almost nothing! Sure, the HP are somewhat low, but otherwise the Gargoyle brings along formidable stats for melee fighting and decent offensive magic. Indeed the Gargoyle is the first character that got me to a 15-rune victory. The Gargoyle Wizard even let me clear out my first Ziggurat together with the 15 runes.
Poison immunity, electricity resistance, rN+, torment resistance and immunity to rotting eliminate or at least soften some of the most pesky threats a player must face during the game, on top of the mid-game ability to fly permanently. Then add the amazing AC and GDR bonus, and you have a character that, if carefully played, can handle all situations the game throws at you. Having all these resistances allows you to pile on other resistances and lots of INT, without any headaches about choosing which slink in your armour you have to leave open to your enemies’ attacks.
Gargoyles’ base stats allow you to go for the big offensive spells – as a wizard you start out with 18 intelligence, and none of the other stats below 8. That means that you can pour every stat increase into further intelligence, which will get you (together with the uncontrolled stat increases) around or even above 30 by the time you reach XL 27. Add then the odd INT brands on armour or jewellery, and you have high-powered end-game spells with little or no hunger cost. But this does not leave you a glass cannon, such as Deep Elves or Spriggans – you do all this with AC way above 40, even wearing a large shield, with obscenely high SH rates!
As an illustration, you may want to look at Majang's Gargoyle Wizard of Vehumet Diary for a somewhat unlucky specimen of this build, which in spite of very poor equipment made it beyond Zot:5, even clearing out Cocytus before getting killed in Dis:7.
Basic strategy outline
You start out as a pure caster, switching off almost all skills until your Magic Dart reaches #### power. This should happen pretty soon, and then you start your transformation into a versatile hybrid fighter/caster. While you develop your Conjurations, Fire Magic and Air Magic skills (yes, Air Magic, in spite of Gargoyle’s apparent weakness here), you also get your defensive skills up, and pick a weapon category. My weapon of choice would be an air or fire elemental magical staff, as these are one-handed and do not interfere with a shield. Until you find one, you may want to use a two-handed quarterstaff without a shield, or use Maces & Flails which cross-train with staves.
During the mid-to-late game, when you already have decent melee and defensive skills, you again start focusing on your attack magic skills, until you get Fire Storm online, and not much later Tornado. When these two spells work for you (Vehumet will help considerably with that), you can tackle any branch of the game, with a few equipment changes here or there.
But let’s look into all these factors in detail!
Details of this character
Wizard is not a recommended background for gargoyles. You probably have a safer early game by going straight for a Fire Elementalist: the advantage would be guaranteed access early on to Sticky Flame and Fireball. As wizard you’ll have to do without these spells for longer than you might care for. On the plus side you have considerably more intelligence, and also spells to deal with these pesky crimson imps, to which Fire Elementalists don’t really have an answer. Hopefully luck or Vehumet will fill your spell gaps soon. The wizard spell book also contains Mephitic Cloud, which has the double benefit of making your early game a lot more survivable, and of getting you access to the Air Magic spell school, which will become quite important for you.
Here, too, there are other options, or at least one other option, Cheibriados. His amazing stat bonuses make you extremely powerful after a very short time. The downside to this deity is not so much the speed penalty, but the lack of MP restoration and the lack of guaranteed access to Fire Storm and even Tornado, the two spells around which your end-game revolves. In case these don’t materialize before you enter places like Zot:5 or Vaults:5, your irresistible melee capacity may compensate for this somewhat, but I still prefer to be able to rely on the late-game nukes when I need them.
Outside of Chei, Vehumet would be the only god I’d consider for the character. His spell gifts (you are likely to get Fire Storm and/or Tornado as his final spell gifts), coupled with his MP restoration and spell aid abilities, make him the logical choice for a gargoyle wizard. Since you can add each stat increase exclusively to intelligence, you will not need Chei’s stat boosts to reach the intelligence levels you need to cast the high-end spells.
As a gargoyle wizard, you will probably dispose of most of your enemies by attack spells, but once in a while you may find it useful to swing a weapon to do this. Gargoyle’s weapon of choice is a mace, whip or flail, but you also have a good aptitude for staves. You may find a quarterstaff long before you find your first buckler, and that may already give you the opportunity to train the Staves skill. But you really hope to find a staff of fire or a staff of air. Since you are training these two spell schools throughout the game, and to pretty high levels, and you are training evocations, the originally timid +5,+5 staff turns into a devastating weapon with its additional elemental damage output. Train a few levels of Staves (up to 12), and you can swing your staff as nimbly as Gandalf in The Return of the King. It may be worth trying to get a staff through a scroll of acquirement; even if it is not an elemental staff, it will be something useful, such as a staff of energy or wizardry. If you have trained some levels of Maces & Flails, however, the scroll may provide you with some rather useless rods.
If you find a buckler early on, and don’t have the one-handed staff you need, you can settle for a good mace, flail, morningstar, or (if you're lucky) eveningstar, and train the appropriate skill. This then cross-trains with staves when you can finally switch.
You have a good shields aptitude, and it would be a pity to let this go to waste. When you find a buckler, use it! You will need a skill of 5 to use it without penalty, but don’t stop there! With a skill of 15, you can use a regular shield, but even much earlier the penalty will not stop you from using any of your spells, until you get to the level 9 spells. I usually go all the way to using large shields, but you may find some amazing artefact smaller shield, and that may be a good reason to save you the experience investment needed for using large shields.
The most useful main body armor for you is probably the mottled dragon armour. It barely affects your spell casting, but gives you 12 AC when fully enchanted. A swamp dragon armour is comparable in AC, but its brand is useless to you. Fire or ice dragon armour have useful brands, but they require you to invest quite a lot into Armour skill before you can use them comfortably. Anything beyond that will be too heavy for you. In any case, the mottled dragon armor will give you a whopping 42 % GDR. You may still want to train some Armour skill levels for it, but can stop at about 6 or so. Unfortunately, it may be quite a while before you find a mottled dragon hide (in one game I did not find a single one until the end), so any other light armor will have to do until this happy moment. If you are lucky, you’ll find some nice artefact leather armour or ring mail. Don’t throw them away just because they may be negatively enchanted – with your massive AC boost you can afford to let go of a few points here, if it gives you some nice intrinsics instead.
Spells to learn
From the starting spell book you learn Repel Missiles, Conjure Flame and Mephitic Cloud. These will get you into the Fire and Air Magic spell schools, and provide you with the firepower to make it through the game until Vehumet gifts you more potent Conjurations spells. Mephitic Cloud is particularly useful against ogres and orc priests, who can otherwise be serious threats for you. You will want to get Fire and Air spells as soon as possible, particularly Airstrike, Sticky Flame and Fireball. With this under your belt, you will make it through the Lair, the Orcish Mines, and the two Lair side branches. Although you have a very good aptitude for Earth Magic, you should leave this alone until much later. One of your keys to success later on is the Tornado, which in combination with Fire Storm clears out any concentration of bad guys, including the worst of the Hells, Pandemonium, and the Ziggurats. Shatter just isn’t half as useful, and Lehudib's Crystal Spear only hits single targets at a very high cost. You can actually get LCS later on with pretty low skill investment, once Conjurations and Spellcasting are maxed out (but that will be very late in the game).
Other useful spells: Blink (already in your starting spell book), Apportation, Bolt of Fire, Orb of Destruction (you will need this against dangerous uniques such as Boris, Mara or Norris), and Regeneration. Later on you may want to replace Repel Missiles with Deflect Missiles.
In the beginning, your starting spells are rather pathetic, and you need to work particularly at Conjurations and Spellcasting to make them more powerful. When your Magic Dart reaches #### in spell power, you need to branch out broadly to train all the following skills: Fighting (maybe initially up to 6 before switching it off again), your melee weapon skill to what it takes to reach minimum delay for your weapon of choice (12 for a staff), Armour (up to 6 if you are aiming for a mottled dragon armor), Dodging (initially up to 10 or so), Fire Magic and Air Magic (never switch those off), and Evocations (up to 10 initially). Don’t ever train Stealth (you won’t be stealthy, forget it), and leave all non-elemental magic skills except Conjurations switched off. What you need here, you get through your Spellcasting skill.
Once you have cleared out the Lair, the Orcish Mines and the other Lair branches, it is again time to focus on your magic skills. Switch off all the support skills (except if you still have to train some Armour or Shield skill to eliminate casting penalties), and focus on Spellcasting, Conjurations, Fire Magic and Air Magic until you can cast Fire Storm and Tornado with good reliability. Use enhancer staves or jewellery, and if you have to, drink potions of brilliance before a big fight.
In the end-game, you may max out some of your skills. Train Fighting, Armour, Shields and Dodging instead – these will all increase your survivability in the late game branches. The most important of them will be Fighting, as the HP increase will help you against the irresistible damage of late-game hellfire. If you are so inclined, you may also want to dip into Necromancy to use some of those spells. I like to then go into Earth Magic, giving me other options to make some pan lords keel over.
What can kill you
As long as you do not attract too many enemies at once, you should be pretty safe in almost all situations. But there are some monsters which can be lethal even for you gargoyle: In the beginning those are orc priests, whose smite attacks don’t care about your armour protection. A few of those encountered at the same time can kill you fast. Use Mephitic Cloud against them, then run. Confused orc priests don’t smite! Later on you need to fear the following: unseen horrors are fast and eat quickly through your armour - try to find a source for see invisible before you get too deep into the dungeon; uniques (Wiglaf, Mara, Norris, and their likes) can easily overpower you. Monsters with Earth Magic spells such as Shatter or Lee's Rapid Deconstruction find a particularly soft target in you. Kill them fast! And finally, hellfire can burn through your HP in no time at all. When you see hellfire-capable monsters, prioritize them quickly, as you have no protection whatsoever against them, except killing them before they kill you.
Your torment resistance, and your immunity against rotting allow you to spend more time in the hells than other characters. You may want to explore all the levels to collect the experience. But you do need a ring of sustain attributes, or you may end up with stat zero in very inopportune places.
And you may also want to avoid getting yourself into the Abyss, unless you are really, really strong. I would not volunteer to go there before I'm ready to enter the Realm of Zot. That place is just too unpredictable, particularly for casters, who may find themselves surrounded by foes and out of energy, with nowhere to go.