Majang's Tengu Wizard Failure

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This page is a Diary of a Crawler, the journal of an individual character. This page probably contains spoilers.
Version 0.15: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

This diary is written as an attempt to provide a hopefully successful example of a high level blaster worshiping The Shining One, according to the guide provided here. The only difference to the setup described there is that here I start out as a Wizard, as it will give me a slight bonus on intelligence, and a tengu has a good hand with the spells of the wizard starting spell book. I have chosen a tengu as the species for this background, because I have never played one successfully so far, but I think that it should be possible to get a tengu off the ground with some luck. There is a lot I like about a tengu, particularly its great aptitudes, but also the ability of permanent flight, now granted at level 14. It comes at the price of extreme fragility, so I have to play carefully to keep my long neck out of trouble. In fact, it took me quite a few attempts to get this diary beyond the first few dungeon floors. A tengu really cannot take much abuse.

The lowly beginning

Finding myself as a new creature in the dungeon, I first survey my situation. My strength is at 7. Random stat increases will almost certainly add to this, so I won’t have to invest anything here. My dexterity begins at a respectable 12, which leaves me to invest every single non-random stat increase into intelligence, which comes from a strong base of 18. So, at experience level 27 I will have at least 27 innate intelligence points, and hopefully some more. Add to this some artificial intelligence (jewelery and artifact armour), and I should be comfortably in the mid-thirties by the time I start throwing around level 9 spells. Getting there is the problem at hand.

Right now it looks rather unlikely: My only spell, magic dart, has an alarming failure rate of 12 %, and a measly #... spell power. If I survive this and the next few levels, this will change soon, as I have a whopping conjurations aptitude of +3, although saddled by a somewhat sobering -1 for spellcasting. I will have to keep that one focused throughout the game. Well, my conjurations skill will take care of itself, and I only have these two skills active for now, switching everything else off. Later on I will want to train fighting, which comes with an aptitude of 0. Everything else relevant for me looks green: fire magic at +1, air magic at +3 (wow again!), each melee weapon, dodging, armour and evocations at +1. Shields again is only at 0, and invocations at -1, but although I plan to follow TSO later on, I will probably not train it much.

Getting started is always exciting. This very first hobgoblin that turns the corner now could very well be my undoing. He isn’t, and I take a club out of his cold, dead hands. Having a weapon, any weapon, in my hands makes me feel much less naked. I soon replace the club with a mace I find on the floor. For now it will do to protect my 10 meager hit points. I add to that an early buckler; that does not help with my spell success rate, but may protect me from some pot shots. And it will allow me to train shields as soon as I want to. For now, I only bring it up to 1 level to avoid the casting penalties. Another find is a ring of protection from magic, which isn’t at all bad this early in the game. I’d also fancy a ring of poison resistance, to be honest.

I hit Dungeon floor 2 (D2) without reaching experience level 3 (XL 3), which I find disappointing. But killing an adder completes the level, and I am ready to learn Conjure Flame, Mephitic Cloud and Repel Missiles. This spell is now a lot more user-friendly than in the old days, where you tediously had to recast it every few turns. And I’m now studying fire magic and air magic.

Other finds on D2 are an amulet of stasis, and a ring of fire, the latter being much more useful to me than the former. It will increase the duration of my conjured flames considerably, and that can be life-saving. I also take an antimagic dagger off a goblin. Not that I ever want to use it, but I certainly don’t want anyone else using it against me, so I take it into safekeeping.

The by far best find on this level, however, is a very early altar to Vehumet. This increases my chances drastically to survive the early game, because he will hopefully start gifting me more powerful spells before I meet more powerful monsters. In the hope of some good spell gifts, for now I hold off learning blink, the last useful spell from my starting spell book. I want to have my spell levels ready when I need them.

Vehumet’s apprentice

I get down to D3 very far on my way to XL 5. I round this off by killing an orc and another adder, and now I have access to flight when I need it! Although, it is sometimes better not to be flying at all than to have tengu’s temporary flight, because you cannot extend this one, which is bad news when you are far away from land and read that you start losing your buoyancy. I will not use this ability to explore uncharted water-caves, for example.

A few dead orcs later Vehumet already starts gifting. His first gift is freeze, which I politely decline.

Upon hitting D4 I have not encountered a single unique, but my XP is rising steadily because of countless worms and some bands of orcs and gnolls. I get into that floor almost at XL 7, which is not bad at all. Blork the orc, however, greets me down at the stairs. I almost have him down when I start getting surrounded by smaller fry, and I prudently retreat up the stairs. I meet Blork again conveniently close to a large body of deep water, an irresistible situation for applying mephitic cloud, and again, it does not fail to work.

Vehumet’s next gift is sting. I don’t plan on training any Poison Magic, but then again, in the early game this spell is quite useful and very low cost. I take it for now. Later on I will hopefully have lots of poison themed books that I can tear apart to forget this one. I try it out on an ogre, but honestly, what really brings him down is my trusty combination of mephitic cloud and a well-placed fire-column. But the good news is that as early as D4 I have maxed out the spell power of magic dart, which means it is now time to graduate from the elementaries of magic and branch out into other areas. I now start training fighting, maces & flails, armour, dodging, shields and evocations, on top of the four magic subjects I do anyway. That gives a measly 9% experience for each of the minor subjects, and only 18 for my single major spellcasting. Growth in knowledge will be slow, therefore, and I will not become a superhero anytime soon.

The entrance to the Temple is also on D4, but with my allegiance to Vehumet already settled so early, I just go down to see what’s there, which is almost every altar missing so far. The only god I have not encountered yet is The Shining One, which is good news, as it means that I will later not have to go all the way down to D4 to convert to him. In the old days I would have established a small stash in the Temple, but with item weight limitations done, I don’t see the point and just leave behind this antimagic dagger. I do try out my highest quantity scroll, which is a teleportation scroll. Good to have that one identified in a safe environment. The other scrolls I will only read when it is necessary to map out an area.

Down on D5 I boldly try wearing another amulet, which is quite risky, since I don’t want to identify an amulet of faith that way, and I also don’t know whether I have a scroll of remove curse yet. But I get away with it, as it is an amulet of resist mutation. Not very useful right now, but I have lost too many games already because I did not find it at all. By now I have also identified four wands, the best of which is a wand of cold, which I will probably keep active and recharged until I (hopefully) ascend with the Orb.

Sigmund comes my way, but too late to be much danger to me. He succumbs to mephitic cloud and a generous application of sting. He actually manages to get out of his confusion and turn invisible, but by that time he is so toxic that he just dies unseen. As a reward for disposing of this unseemly character I find the Book of Flames lying on the floor. This is a game-changing find, as even Vehumet couldn’t have gifted me all these spells so quickly. Good that I have some levels left! For now I learn flame tongue, which I much prefer to magic dart, and sticky flame, which is a great way to deal with ogres and other big baddies, as long as I can outfly them. It also is a good workaround against invisibles. One more spell level, and I can learn fireball, which will take me all the way to the end game.

Natasha is the first victim of my new spells, followed immediately by Crazy Yiuf, who is kind enough to leave me with a marvelous +2 cloak of poison resistance. Can things become much better? Now mephitic cloud is even more useful to me, as I can apply it to foes standing right next to me. Yiuf’s quarterstaff of chaos, though, I let pass, as I usually find that it is more trouble than helpful. I kill Natasha twice more to put her out of her misery, and move on to D6.

Here I take stock. I am half through XL 8, and my STR is still at 7, my INT at an awesome 22, and my DEX also glued to 12. This means that every stat increase so far went into INT, even the uncontrolled ones. Not bad! My AC, however, is still alarmingly low at 5, bolstered by 4 SH, which sounds worse than it is if you are not used playing version 0.15. My skills are mostly still rather low, with spellcasting the highest at 6, but it will soon be overtaken by both conjurations and air magic. Having poison resistance now has also agreeably extended my diet so that I will starve less often. I found another good wand of fireball, and I feel generally confident that I am well prepared for what is to come.

On level 6 I finally find the altar of TSO and take note of that fact. I’m also ready to learn fireball, which is still at a high failure rate of 38%. Next I have to kill Menkaure, who manages to get my HP far down tormenting me. Then Vehumet tempts me by offering me Stone Arrow, which is a very useful spell, already at 10 % failure rate. But I am not yet ready for earth spells, so I let it pass. A few fights later, involving a bunch of orc priests, Vehumet awards me my third star, and fireball drops down to 9% failure rate. Now I’m blazing. If just my magic capacity were a little higher. 25 is barely enough for five fireballs.

D7 greets me with a napping Eustachio. I wake him up to a fireball, followed up with mephitic cloud. I manage to kill him before slipping back up the stairs to avoid his many reinforcements. Returning, I find myself next to Dowan, who dies fast, and doesn’t seem to have Duvessa in attendance. I can just hear her screaming, that’s all. First I have to kill a hungry ghost before she shows up. She definitely is pissed, does not respond at all to my mephitic cloud and almost kills me going berserk. I have to drink a potion of heal wounds (conveniently used to that effect earlier by another monster) to survive. I need to be careful – this game is going too well to lose it to some foolhardy action. If I can survive a little bit longer, this is going to be a winner.

I take a nice +2 robe off Dowan, and then I manage to get myself in trouble anyway. I pick up this ring from the ground and put it on, a cursed ring of teleportation. I still don’t know whether I have any scrolls of remove curse, so I start reading. All sorts of stuff, like a scroll of recharging (charging my wand of cold), a scroll of noise – this can take longer, so I better go upstairs into already explored area. A scroll of fog, a scroll of amnesia (which I use to forget sting again), a scroll of magic mapping (such a waste in an already explored place!), a scroll of holy word, a scroll of fear. Out of scrolls. Let’s face it, this ring is still glued to my finger, and I have to live with it. But wait! I still have this amulet of stasis. Now it is useful, after all. Back to D7.

More fights get me Vehumet’s next gift, Iskenderun's Mystic Blast. Not a bad spell, but I’m hoping for better, such as airstrike. This level has a lot of stuff lying around – some wands, a Book of Ice, a Book of Death, a Book of the Dragon. That must have been Dowan’s library, it seems. Bolt of fire is certainly a very good find for me, and something else that Vehumet does not have to give me.

Entering D8 I’m already at XL 10. Quite nice! Now to find the entrance to the Lair. While I look around, Vehumet offers my Ignite Poison, a spell I like to use in the Spider's Nest or Snake Pit. But it is also fine to do those without it, so again I save my spell levels for something better. Joseph appears and starts pelting me with his sling. My first fireball at him is a miscast, but a few more bring him down. Good that I have repel missiles!

I step into an alarm trap, and all of a sudden I have hosts of killer bees and a wyvern on my heels. The bees’ sting slips past my poison resistance, but I get up the stairs again and sit the matter out. The next to show his ugly face is Grum with his band of wolves. But they present no problem to me. A cyclops, though scary, makes it to my list of victims.

I’m now slowly getting problems with a full pack. It is time that I find the Lair, or I have to unload some stuff at the temple. Instead, for now I decide to identify two potions, and they are a potion of poison and a potion of mutation. Good riddance! A transparent robe has been thrown across my path. I take it for now, but it is as likely to be really bad as it is to be awesome. And I still don’t have anything to remove curses, so I just admire it for now, without wearing it. And I’m not sure I want to wear something transparent anyway. Isn’t that like the emperor’s new clothes?

D8 does not contain the entrance to the Lair, so I dive deeper. There I find a pair of gloves (cursed, as I find out wearing it), and a staff of energy. Another very helpful item just lying around on the dungeon floor! But for now my evocations are still far too low to make it useful. At least it can eliminate the hunger cost for my highest level spells.

I can’t ignore my full pack much longer, and therefore grudgingly return to the temple, where I drop all books and a few lesser wands. Returning to D9, I notice that I have to fight a lot of Lair-themed monsters: yaks, hippogriffs, a basilisk – I hope that this means I’m getting closer to my goal. But no, I have to get even deeper to find the Lair.

D10 is a Vaults-like layout. Opening the first door gets me touchily close to two hill giants, whose clubs I find rather intimidating. Still, they get fried in my fireballs, or slowly eaten out by my sticky flame. More exploration on this floor reveals the entrance to the Orcish Mines, but still no sign of the Lair! But wait, this entrance to the mines suddenly jumps at me, and grinds me down to 15 HP before I overpower it. These mimics often catch me off-guard. This fight brought me across the 12 XL threshold. Was I ever that high up before reaching the Lair? I can’t remember. Now I’m only two levels away from permanent flight. Shields is now above 5, so I stop training it. Armour will reach level six soon, and there I will also stop for a while.

On level 11, a fight with a manticore, immediately followed by a water moccasin, again demonstrates to me how frail I am. Just a blow away from a sudden stop to the game! I need to find myself some armour. And the opponents get more and more dangerous down here. A troll, a komodo dragon with its fierce bite, and a gargoyle, hurling Stone Arrows at me – this is not a very comfortable phase of the game! While engaging the gargoyle, Vehumet offers me another earth spell, Lee's Rapid Deconstruction. Just the right thing to bring this stony feller down! But then I check out the failure rate – 67%. No, better not. My wand of disintegration does the trick for now. At least I now find my long expected scroll of remove curse, and can get rid of the ring of teleportation. I finally decide to use a scroll of identification on my artifact robe. It is indeed cursed, but otherwise quite useful: +2 AC, +2 STR and +4 DEX. Certainly an improvement to what I am wearing now (a plain +2 robe), but still not adding any armour to my low supplies. I put it on.

Liberating the Lair

On this floor, as had to be, I finally find the entrance to the Lair. On entering, I switch off the training of armour, and this brings my other skills to 11% experience each (except for spellcasting, which remains at the double allotment of 22%). That feels a little bit better. My fire spells are now at 6# spell power, and that is not too shabby on entering the Lair. My spellcasting skill is above 9, with air and conjurations not far behind. My fire magic, of course, grows a bit slower, but for now that does not concern me. My fighting skill is just above 5, and that is not where I want it to be. Higher fighting means more HP, and the 68 I have of those are a matter of concern to me. Now I will meet whole flocks of yaks, and more manticores and komodos, not to speak of these terrible blink frogs. On the plus side, within the first few Lair floors I should gain permanent flight (if I live long enough), and that will add to my movement speed. I should then be able to outrun yaks to fight them in safer places.

The first few encounters go well. Mostly I attribute this to my renewed use mephitic cloud, which is still of tremendous value in the Lair. But then I read a scroll I find lying around, and it happens to be a scroll of torment. Good that just now no monster is around to exploit this! Also in some corner I find a slicing-branded +7 artifact cutlass, which provides see invisible. I’m not really into short blades, but with this enchantment it is a good weapon, and I can certainly use see invisible before I convert to TSO.

The second level of the Lair (L2) is the floor on which I will establish my stash. It is about time, because once more all my inventory slots are full. I rarely have found so much stuff before coming here. But first I need to establish my ownership of this place. My first hydra, five-headed, goes down after only three fireballs, which is encouraging. Another hydra, this time eight-headed, finds its demise in exactly the same way. I may still survive this place! Next I see a heavily runed pair of boots, but I need to leave it alone, since I am a tengu, and we don’t wear boots.

My first scroll of acquirement gets read, and surveying my immediate needs, I decide for armour, hoping for a nice light dragon armour. But these scrolls rarely give me what I’m hoping for. It’s just a +1 cloak of darkness, and I’m not going to trade that for my +2 cloak of poison resistance, no way!

Now, after a variety of fights, nobody is left to challenge my claim to this place, and I establish my stash in a spacious and central area of the map. I need to then collect all the things that did not fit into my inventory while fighting through L2, among others a Book of the Warp and another scroll of magic mapping. Next I have to do a milk-run to the temple to fetch what I left behind there. As a final matter of housekeeping, I learn bolt of fire, which is now at 7% failure, and head off to the next floor, already at XL 13.

L3 turns out to be almost devoid of inhabitants, which makes for an easy conquest, but deprives me of what I need most: experience. My counter almost didn’t move at all towards XL 14, my coveted milestone level. L4 is not much better, but at least it has the following noteworthy things to report: Erica, the entrance to the Shoals, a staff of air (a very good find for me!), a ring of wizardry (not much use right now, because all my failure rates are currently very low), and an island behind a lava lake which is teeming with four lindwürmern. I soften them up with mephitic cloud and finish them off with bolt of fire and fireball. No problem here. I also find a +1 leather armour of cold resistance, which does not increase my AC, but at least provides some GDR plus a very welcome ego. I take it and wear it. A second ring of fire brings my fire spells up to 7# spell power, at the price of leaving me one pip cold susceptible, in spite of my new armour. My experience, however, is still a long way off XL 14.

L5 has a reception committee of countless orange rats, wolfs and a boring beetle. These all will give great experience, but please not all at once! I try another downstairs, which provides a clear coast. Much to my surprise these orange rats prove to be gratifyingly edible, at least with poison resistance. A scroll of brand weapon turns my humble +1 mace into a horrendous vampiric battle implement. Should I use it? For now I decide not to. Instead, I’m using my staff of air, which by now is a respectable melee weapon, my air magic being at 10, and my evocations at 7. I keep training maces & flails, as this also (under the new crosstraining system of 0.15) directly benefits my staves skill. My current 7 levels of maces & flails right now translate into 4.3 staves, which means that I use my staff with a delay of just 1.0. Not entirely bad. Later on, when I have more experience to spare, I will train the remaining levels of staves to get to minimum delay, but that is no priority right now.

Clearing out a bear cave on L6 nets me three potions of porridge, plus the offer of ball lightning through Vehumet. Currently I have 8 spell levels left, and I’m hoping for orb of destruction (OOD), so I let it pass for now, although with permanent flight ball lightning will become attractive, as long as I don’t forget to carry my staff of air for the electricity resistance. In any case, my super-charged fire-magic works better than any melee weapon, killing yaks and elephants reliably on the second shot with fireball or bolt of fire. And there are plenty of those on L6, which gets me finally across the XL 14 line – from now on I’m permanently airborne, with a nice boost to EV and speed. I can use it. Being at it, I can’t resist Vehumet’s temptation and learn ball lightning anyway. It is already at 3% failure rate, so completely ready to go. One other remark on L6: It contains the entrance to the Spider's Nest, so my branches are now determined for me.

On entering L7 I learn that there is an Ice Cave in there. So far I did not get any optional branches, so I should welcome the experience. But I should change at least one ring of fire for the ring of protection from cold that I found some time ago. That still leaves me with 6#, and one level of cold resistance. I don’t even have to burn a map to find the cave. It is the Ice Cave layout where you have to jump from one area to another by entering teleporting tiles. Doing this gets me right between two ice statues which engulf me in a big ice cloud. Now it is a chicken game. I see my health going down while I first melt one, then the other statue with fireballs. I win, but there is not much HP left when I fly out of the cloud. The very nice thing about 0.15 is that all of my potions survive this encounter. In the old days I would have left them outside the cave. Here they are a nice life insurance. There is not much loot, but interesting items: a crystal ball of energy, which is always welcome, although I do not tend much to use it. Certainly not with my current evocations level. Even more tempting is the Robe of Folly, which gives me +3 AC, the archmagi ego, and fully +5 INT, but at the hefty price of MR-- and recursing. I don’t even have MR+ yet, so this robe could indeed be an item of reckless folly, but its other characteristics are irresistible, and having conquered the ice cave for now, I can hopefully do with some cold vulnerability. Maybe I am a complete idiot, but I’ll do it. I end up with 29 INT, Fire spells at 8#, but on the other side C--, and absolutely no protection from magic. We’ll see. As long as enchanters and ice casters don’t get the first shot at me, they should be dead before they can hit me. Let’s hope I see ice dragons in time to retreat and change...

Exploring further, I encounter my first pack of death yaks, which earns me my next Vehumet gift, force lance. I don’t care much for this spell and ignore it.

The last level of the Lair has the layout with the central keep full of twisted passages and rooms teeming with increasingly powerful monsters. As usual, I start clearing everything outside that keep. Doing that, I encounter the lake of dragons, and see two mottled dragons at first glance. They are napping, and I retreat to change, because there is bound to be an ice dragon around. One mottled dragon wakes up and follows me. One shot from my wand of cold, and a swing of my staff bring him down. He leaves a corpse, but butchering it gives no hide. Too bad. I now burn a scroll of remove curse to undo my robe of folly, to replace it with my cold resistance armour. See if I can get the other dragon’s hide. Yes! He dies in exactly the same spot as his mate, and I have his hide. Turning this into a proper armour will give me something to win this game with. I just haven't found a scroll of enchant armour yet.

There is a third mottled dragon in there, and a fully grown fire dragon, but no ice dragon. The rest are just lesser drakes which are easily dealt with (resulting in Poison Arrow as another offer by Vehumet that I better ignore). But just the prospect of meeting an ice dragon scared me sufficiently to now stay clear of the robe of folly and stick to my C+ armour. Eventually I will have to let go of one of my rings of fire, and then it will be time for either the mottled dragon armour, or even for the robe of folly.

The only other noteworthy thing outside the central keep is a little vault containing the entrance to the Slime Pits. It will be a while before I find my way in there. Now to the keep. On the way there I try out another scroll, which is indeed a scroll of enchant armour. Trying on my new dragon armour, it gets my AC immediately from 9 up to 12, and I can enchant it six times over. For now I stick with it.

The inside of the keep is predictably lively. Death yaks, a catoblepas, more hydras and elephants, and all always on top of each other make it quite an experience to explore. But Vehumet’s MP restoration does an amazing job in this environment, and once I do run out of power, my speed gets me out of trouble. Again, only two things in the loot, but what things! A Book of the Sky, and my first artifact ring! The book is priceless to me. Having Tornado already secured, it could mean that Vehumet will offer me Lehudib's Crystal Spear in his last batch of gifts, and I would quite appreciate that. And I also appreciate having access to Deflect Missiles, which I will certainly learn before flying into the Shoals. The ring, however, turns out to be contaminated, and it offers only MR+, DEX +2 and Slay -2. I leave it right here.

I leave the Lair back to the Dungeon with XL 15, 25 INT, 12 DEX and 8 STR. Both my spellcasting and conjurations skills are now at 12, and air magic closely behind. Fire magic has not quite reached 10 yet, but is boosted by two rings of fire (for now). I have permanent flight, and am considerably more powerful than on entering the Lair. All my other trained skills (fighting, dodging, maces & flails and evocations) are now at 8, which also gives me much confidence. Time to find the entrance to the Orcish Mines.

Orcs' and elves' bane

On D12 I have a close shave with a white ugly thing, which hits me in one turn down to 17 HP. I blink away in panic, and just about manage to kill it before it melees me again. That’s it. One ring of fire needs to be replaced by my ring of C+. It is painful to see your spells go down from 8# to 7#, but dying a one-shot death is even more painful. I am now at F+ with no C resistance, but also no vulnerability. That should do for now.

Some unseen monster hits me, but I have brought my artifact cutlass along for this very situation. Sure enough, an unseen horror has been sneaking up on me. Sticky flame ensures a very sticky end. Round the corner I come to an area full of treasure guarded by a silver statue. What do I have to bring this down? The statue itself is surrounded by a protective layer of plants, so I can’t get at it easily. Fireballs, even with both rings of fire on, don’t do much at all. The statue starts summoning demons, and I pay my respects and flutter away. I guess I do need OOD to approach it next time. For now I will give this area a wide berth.

Otherwise, D12 is full of all kinds of orcs, and some hill giants. I find or loot an amulet of warding and a staff of power. And there is the entrance to the Orcish Mines. I’m going in.

One of the first orcs to fall on Orc 1 drops a +1 whip of flaming. I will use that for a while and see how it does. As usual, there is not much to write home about the first three levels of the Orcish Mines. You just grind yourself through wave after wave of mostly low-level orcs and goblins, peppered with an occasional ogre or troll. After finishing the Lair, there is not much experience to be gained here, in spite of the masses of enemies who die like flies. And you barely break a sweat in all this senseless killing.

Next gift of Vehumet, while sanitizing Orc 2: Delayed Fireball, which I learn and cast right away. Orc 3 does provide a little bit of a distraction by announcing a volcano. The entrance is almost in sight of where I enter the level, so again I can save a map for other purposes. Here, of course, my two rings of fire provide an advantage; the whip of flame, however, I replace again with my staff of air.

The only entrance to the main area of the volcano forces me to trigger an alarm trap. This sets hosts of centaurs, elfs and orcs on my track, which I all dispose of safely in my one-tile entrance corridor. A +3 F+ leather armour dropped by one of these guys brings me up to F+++, just the right level of protection in this place. The loot is distributed over three little vaults like you see them in the upper reaches of Gehenna.

Orc 4 has a central keep, and I try to grind down an army of orc warriors and orc knights with fireballs and bolts of fire. I kill many, but this time Vehumet can’t keep up with my consumption of MP, while orc priests smite me from all sides. I retreat and escape upstairs with only 18 HP. I guess I need to be more careful next time I go down.

In the following fight for the possession of the keep Vehumet comes up with his final gifts: Fire Storm, Glaciate and Chain Lightning. Well, not the Crystal Spear I was hoping for, but at least Vehumet took note of the fact that I already have access to Tornado.

The four shops at the end of the keep don’t have anything worth buying. I do buy an artifact ringmail, but once more get disappointed by its mediocricy. No AC enchantment, and N+ and MR+. There is a bookshop, but the best it has is a Necronomicon, which won’t do me any good when worshiping TSO, and a book of the Tempests. All the spells I want from in there I already have from other books, like the book of the sky. So I can save my funds for more worthy occasions. Well, I do buy a few scrolls which might come in handy later.

I usually follow up my conquest of the orcs with an initial visit to the first two floors of the Elven Halls. Elfs are significantly more dangerous than orcs, but they also give a lot more experience. And they often have some interesting stuff lying around (or initially on them), like enchanted bucklers. Let’s give it a try. Just my first fight down the stairs brings me up to XL 16, with another welcome random stat increase for my intelligence. Up to now all but one went into INT, and this one was bringing my STR up to 8, which I needed anyway. No reason to complain here, so far.

E1 is an example of the new layout with rectangular rooms boxed one into another, and another, and so on. It allows a controlled conquest, but sometimes results in very long ways to get from one spot to another one not more than three tiles away. This is all the more insulting, as some of the walls are transparent, and you can see stuff or monsters that you will only reach much later.

Trusty old fireball, augmented by the occasional bolt of fire, does most of the job here. Elves are actually not resistant to poison at all, so mephitic cloud is also very effective.

E2 also has a new endearing layout, with polygonal chambers connected by narrow straight or diagonal passages, with an occasional great hall in between. Whoever designed the new elven maps, I believe did a very nice job.

Nikola is standing right next to me after I turn a corner. Usually I wet myself when I meet him, but this time I am flying and resistant to electricity. Let’s see how resistant he is! I let fly, and the resulting volley of balls of lightning does him a lot more harm than me. Serves you right! But it takes another four turns to end his mad presence in this game, and the infernal noise has called in a lot of elves, while I am low on both HP and MP. I drink a potion of heal wounds and get to work with my staff of air. While examining Nikola’s belongings (junk) I only now notice that I must have picked up an artifact ring from a killed deep elf knight some time earlier. It gets identified as giving +2 AC, +2 STR, and +4 INT. Quite a nice piece of jewelery for me! Trading it for my ring of C+ will make me susceptible to cold, however. Is it time to remove my second ring of fire for a while? Indeed it gets my fire spell power down to 6# if I do this, so once more I bite the bullet of running around with one pip of C-. My C+ ring is always close at hand. I now have 15 AC, and that doesn’t sound so bad anymore for a tengu. Not anywhere close to what I have when playing a gargoyle, though. It is just now time to learn Deflect Missiles, so that in conjunction with my good EV I can avoid most ranged cold attacks.

Agnes meets me next in a narrow passage. Knowing how difficult she is to hit with anything, I apply sticky flame and then use ball lightning again. It works against her, but almost as well against me. I nearly blow myself up this time.

Attacking the Shoals

Having cleared E2 (without finding my enchanted buckler), I make my way back to the stash in the Lair. Not much to drop here, but I need to learn deflect missiles before taking on my next project, the Shoals, the inhabitants of which tend to throw pointed objects at me. I also read a scroll of amnesia to forget repel missiles, which frees up enough spell levels to learn airstrike, which is most useful against harpies, particularly at my 7# spell power! I also decide that my evocations and dodging skills are high enough (10) to switch them off for now. I’m now only training fighting (I won’t switch that off, ever, until the program does), maces & flails, and my four magical skills, which should give me sufficient returns to have at least Tornado ready fairly soon. It already started its slow crawl from 100% failure rate to 99%. Fire storm, by the way, too.

For a permanently flying and nimble character like me, the Shoals should be fun. But I also remember that the only time I ever got a tengu this far it perished in the Shoals. Then, again, it was an unlucky encounter with Boris or Saint Roka or some such, if I remember correctly. Let’s hope that won’t happen now.

Being airborne allows me to give the perimeter a thorough sweep at each Shoals level, and I always begin that way, so that I don’t miss anything. By the time I’m finished I’m always hungry and need to go to the unexplored center to create some chunks. This involves me in all kinds of fights until the level is cleared.

Some cataclysmic event must have happened in Shoals 1 before my arrival. It is almost devoid of population. Only when I think I have explored all, a few fauns show up, slinging stones at me. That’s it. I move on, puzzled.

On Shoals 2 I find a high-level book lying around. Unfortunately, it can’t be a Book of Annihilations, as by now this one would auto-identify, given my high levels in conjurations and spellcasting. So I read a scroll of identification to see that it is a Grand Grimoire. To me this is one of the most useless books of the game, but I’m sure there must be some people who like to play with summons that require lots of micromanagement, tend to stand in the way and eat up your experience. To you I’m dedicating this book which unfortunately drops out of my hand over deep water. “You hear a splash.” Ooops.

Otherwise, Shoals 2, too, is eerily empty. Where is everybody? Does it mean that when I put my foot down in Shoals 3 (I won’t really, since I’m flying), all the world is going to attack me at once? I guess there is only one way to find out. Well, my reception is very lively indeed, with more opposition on the first screen than almost on the whole two previous levels together. I fight my way through the hordes of attackers towards an unidentified amulet. Faith is already out of the way, so I bravely try it to get pleasantly surprised by an amulet of the gourmand. This is probably my favourite non-artifact amulet in the game, the one I always want to wear. It is just that sometimes I have to wear others, sadly. Now let’s snack on all the various merfolk and harpies I just killed.

Going through the pickings of Shoals 3 I find another amulet. Since I am wearing the gourmand right now, I’m not inclined to take it off, and read a scroll of identify instead. This is just as well, because this is the cursed amulet of inaccuracy. You hear another splash.

Shoals 4 is the place where all the folks from the other levels must have gone to. I am surrounded from the beginning. A siren has me mesmerised (so I can’t go back up the stairs I'm still standing on), and a water elemental engulfs me, so that I can’t cast. This is the thing that doesn’t happen when I play gargoyles. Someone manages to confuse me, and it takes two potions of curing to get out of it. At least now I can use my wand of teleportation to get away. While waiting for the teleport, I inefficiently try to knock this elemental with my staff, but it is not impressed. Countless fauns and merfolk and manticores and who knows what throw everything they have at me.

You feel strangely unstable.

Your skill with magical items lets you calculate the power of this device...

This wand has 1 charge left.

Your lungs strain for air!

The water elemental hits you. The faun shoots a stone. You block the stone.

The siren chants a haunting song.

The faun shoots a sling bullet. The sling bullet misses you.

The sling bullet completely misses the merfolk.

You hear a splash.

The merfolk impaler completely misses you.

With effort, you pull free of the water engulfing you.

You gasp with relief as air once again reaches your lungs.

A manticore comes into view.

The merfolk hits you from afar with a trident!

You block the water elemental's attack. The satyr shoots an arrow. The arrow hits you!!


The faun shoots a sling bullet. The sling bullet barely misses you. The mermaid misses you.

The merfolk hits you from afar with a trident!

You die...

You could see a siren, a merfolk impaler, a satyr, 4 merfolk, a faun, 2 manticores, a water elemental and a mermaid.


Not a bad game at all, until I had this terrible insertion into Shoals 4. The combination of engulfing, prolonged confusion and mesmerisation was just too much for me. I wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent this, but I don’t see what. I did not have any potions of heal wounds which would have helped me to sit out the wait for the teleport. Maybe I could have brought down that siren with my wand of cold, which was well charged. That could have saved me, but not necessarily. In the end, that is one of the things that makes this game so fascinating: No matter how well things go, you are never invincible.

Lessons learned: Tengu is a very powerful species, if it survives long enough to overcome its starting weaknesses. But a Gargoyle, though not as brilliant, has a lot more survivability, and it would have survived this fatal situation (being immune to engulfing). I don’t know how many tengus I have already brought to the midgame just to die in a situation for which it is not prepared, which is all the more frustrating when everything else looks so hopeful.

It is quite a pity that I did not make it into the late game. I would have liked to give an illustration of the benefit of the basic caster strategy of switching religions from Vehumet to TSO. Maybe some other time.