Mid Game Character Building

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Version 0.29: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

Characters in the midgame will have found a god, but have not entered the two rune-containing Lair branches yet. From now on, your skills no longer reflect your background, but rather reflect your general strategy, species, and god choice.

Armour Focused

While nearly all players should consider some spells (barring Trog-lodytes), melee focused players tend to wear heavier armor, and will be stuck to casting low level spells as a result.

Weapon

Your weapon school should still be, by far, your most important skill. As stated in the early-game section, your goal is to reach minimum delay for your weapon. Viewable by selecting the weapon in the inventory, the minimum delay is 0.5 to 0.7 auts, taking between 8 to 24 levels. Raising your weapon skill beyond mindelay will still raise damage and accuracy, though it will no longer increases swing speed. Its unlikely for you to reach it in a timely manner for especially big weapons, such as giant clubs or triple swords, but you should keep training.

Warriors need to make a choice: how many hands will you dedicate? Two-handed weapons deal more damage... but take more investment and restrict your shield slot. Of course, you still need a reasonable delay to even consider a two-hander (or a big shield).

Range

Melee fighters have a big weakness -- they have to fight in melee. Diverting some experience into ranged weaponry can help even things out. Throwing is an obvious choice; it doesn't require you to wield another weapon and isn't slowed by heavy armour. Ten (10) skill is useful to get the penetrating javelins to 1.0 delay. Okawaru can supply you with a surplus of throwing weapons, while the Shoals generates many merfolk javelineers to relinquish ammo from.

Evocations is an interesting skill to train. Ranged attacks are best for enemies that are sketchy to fight honourably; and are what wands are best for. Even a wand of polymorph can neuter that scary orc warlord or unique! Anywhere from 5-12 skill into Evocations is often viable, especially if you generate the Swamp.

Defense

Fighting still remains the most important defensive skill. HP is the only defense that can't be ignored, while the actual skill also boosts your combat prowess. Fighting is one of your most important skills, period -- especially once you've finished training up your weapon.

Your other defensive skills: Armour, Dodging, and Shields, are simply less important. But still very useful. Armour should be above 10. Dodging might not be very useful to someone wearing a sluggish plate armour, but a few levels will be very cheap in comparison to your main skills. Shields, if you are wearing one, is also useful to train. Around 10+ for a kite shield or 15+ for a tower shield will suffice.

Spells

With such heavy armour, high level spells are simply out of the question. Instead, look at the various utility spells in your arsenal. From Translocations like Blink, to Necromancy via Animate Dead, there are plenty of useful non-damaging spells. Getting these spells castable in heavy armour should be a tertiary focus, unless you plan to move to a lighter armour like fire dragon scales.

Range Focused

Players wearing light armour tend to be using ranged weapons or are spell-focused.

Weapons

Casters tend to use weapons to clean up lesser foes and deal with resisting enemies. Just as common, especially by the mid-game, is to use no weapon at all! Casters using weapons should not pour lots of experience into their weapon skill.

However, one nice application is to invest in 12 Staves skill to get a matching magical staff up to mindelay. These deal respectable damage, with their damage scaling off your magic. Needless to say, don't do this if you're struggling at all with spells or defense.

Hexers also want some Short Blades skill in order to improve their stabbing. Mindelay (10-14 skill) is enough.

Ranged weapons fundamentally skill just like melee. Get to your mindelay, though since you have range, reaching 1.0 delay isn't as big as a factor.

Spellcasting

Spellcasting itself is a useful skill, though doesn't have the greatest impact for actually casting spells.

If you go into the skills menu (m) and cycle with (!), you can look at skill costs. Compared to other skills, Spellcasting only improves casting by a rate of 1/4. But if Spellcasting is (less than) 1/4 as expensive as a desired spell school, its worth it.

Characters running out of MP, should, of course, invest a couple more points into this skill. Once you get into level 5-6 spells, you can defintely afford to invest 10+ levels into this skill. The same applies for spell levels; though, make sure you really need this new spell, and can't just forget something with a scroll of amnesia.

Spell Schools

You want to have your magical "engine" up and running as soon as possible. A reliable, heavily damaging, level 5-6 spell that can power through the Lair branches and Vaults, at the very least. Spells like Lee's Rapid Deconstruction and Lightning Bolt fit the bill; Iron Shot and Orb of Destruction remain effective in the halls of Zot. Make sure these spells can be cast reliably (<10% failure).

Unlike melee, spellpower remains fairly important for keeping spells competitive, so don't neglect to train even further. With a high aptitude (or when worshipping Vehumet), training even more skill will let you cast even higher level spells.

Defense

Defense is useful. Getting a nuclear spell up and running is more useful.

Once you get those spells ready, though, even spellcasters should invest in Fighting. This becomes more important after the Lair branches, when you start facing more ranged attacks and conjurations. You can leave Fighting trained the entire game, or just leave it in the upper teens. The same strategem also applies to Dodging, but with less levels - 8-10 will be useful.

Most players will want a buckler (though most ranged weapons are 2-handed), and thus should choose to put a little (4) skill to offset some of the penalties. Upgrading to a larger shield is defintely possible, though always keep your main spell at a reliable casting rate. Ten (to 15) skill for a kite shield is probably enough; you don't want to put five more levels just to offset 2 EV. Magic training can improve failure rates even with insufficent Shields skill.

Auxiliary

Spells like Blink and Passage of Golubria are very useful, especially to a squishy caster. Sublimation of Blood relies a lot on spellpower (i.e, a high Necromancy) to be effective, but will restore MP in a pinch.

Evocations is less important than with a melee character, though still very helpful for dealing with tough enemies. A few levels is all you need for this task. Plus, a magical staff or an orb of energy both benefit a lot from this skill.

For offensive casters, stealth is only marginally useful. Many spells are loud, for one. And if you can obliterate your enemies from afar, who needs to hide? It's often easy to just run from a scary unique, as long as you have distance. Stealth does little to help your gameplan, though does let you avoid encounters more easily.

For Hexers, or species with unusally high Stealth aptitude (Naga, Octopode...), Stealth is probably worth investing more into. Stealth improves stab damage. Many weaker species happen to have good stealth, and for them, avoiding ranged enemies is more important.

Invocations

No matter if you are a brawler or a caster, you'll most likely have picked a god. Of course, some gods require more Inovcations than others.

  • Gods like Nemelex, Elyvilon, and Fedhas scale well with the Invocations skill, and their divine abilities can be used plenty of times. For them, Invocations can almost be treated like another (lesser!) weapon skill. Kiku replaces Invocations with Necromancy, so worshippers fall in the same boat.
  • Gods like Okawaru and Cheibriados do rely on Invocations, but more so to cast high-level abilities (Finesse / Duel and Slouch / Step from Time, respectively) than to boost damaging power. Get those abilities up and running in a timely manner, then don't worry about it. When training Invo, treat it like an auxiliary skill.
  • Finally, gods like Trog, Vehumet, and Gozag don't care about your Invocations. Just keep on working on your melee, magic, or greed, respectively.

Footnote

From the midgame onwards, exact skilling thresholds start to matter a lot less. It's ok to train many different skills at once, as long as you'd benefit in some way.

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