Psiweapon's Melee/Evocations Gargoyle guide

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This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised.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!
Version 0.13: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.
Version 0.14: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.


Psiweapon's Melee/Evocations Gargoyle Guide v1.5

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

The character concept is building a heavily armored melee character with support from evokables that plays to the species' strengths and focuses on a small set of skills, thus allowing the player to train them to higher levels. The goal is attaining victory with 3-5 runes. Even though spellcasting is recommended for any player that doesn't follow Trog, the magic-hating God of Frenzy, and this build can benefit from it as thoroughly as any other, so far I'll be letting it fall outside the scope of this guide, for a very particular and narrow reason explained in the rods section. Feel free to experiment with spellcasting if you follow Okawaru, just bear in mind that heavy armor and spellcasting don't mix well.

This guide is made with 0.14 trunk and 0.13 stable in mind. Whenever I find a meaningful difference between versions I'll try to make it clear.

As of October 2014, this is already 2-3 versions behind trunk. I'm also not the goodest player around by any stretch. Take anything here with a pinch, a fistful or even a truckload of salt. Most of the stuff listed here is still good for newer versions, even if in broader strokes. If you can spot all the bad advice, you're a much better player than I am and this guide is obviously not made for you. Go play a MuCK or DEBe for personal empowerment or something.

Long story short: The "advice" and "version" warning templates up there on the top of the page ARE THERE FOR A REASON.


Starting Package

Species

Gargoyles, even with their low HP, have several key intrinsics that make the game much easier:

Gargoyles...

...cannot be poisoned.
...have one innate pip of negative energy resistance.
...have innate electric resistance.
...take less damage from Torment (although you won't see this much in a 3-5 rune game)
...can survive without breathing (no engulfing damage)
...are immune to petrification.
...can fly indefinitely after XL 14
...have an intrinsic AC boost that raises with level, reaching +20 AC at XL 27.

These advantages make several insidious enemies much less threatening:

  • Basilisks and Catoblepae in the lair effectively become plain melee enemies because you can't be petrified.
  • Water elementals and other enemies with an "engulf" attack don't do damage over time, since you are unbreathing.
  • Electric attacks won't haunt you with nightmares. They're still dangerous, though.
  • The Snake Pit, the Spider Nest and the Swamp become much easier as a whole when you're poison immune.
  • the Swamp and the Shoals are much more easily navigated through when you can fly at will.

...All of which are key in grabbing your first two runes.

The weaknesses are 20% less HP than average, and vulnerability to Lee's Rapid Deconstruction and Shatter. The first means that whatever attacks manage to get through your defenses (not an easy task) will hurt a lot unless you have ungodly Fighting skill. The second means that anything that can cast earth magic (deep troll earth mages, Jorgrun, maybe some others) must be killed ASAP, with extreme prejudice.

Background

The chosen background should be a Gargoyle Fighter that uses maces&flails and shields, or a Gargoyle Gladiator that uses staves - Staves?! Yeah, staves.The Fighter uses shields and as such relies much more on defenses, while the gladiator is more resourceful early on and gives access to a quarterstaff right away. Choose a fighter if you plan to use shields, if you plan to use two-handers go with the gladiator.

Fighter strengths and weaknesses:

+Better starting armour
+Access to shields from the start
+Better defenses overall.
+Earlier and more frequent weapon upgrades
-Worse damage output overall (one-handed weapons)
-More broad skillset
-Worse potential for ranged weaponry support (shield and ranged don't mix well save for throwing)

Gladiator strengths and weaknesses:

+Access to a quarterstaff from the start
+Starting throwing nets (really come in handy)
+Better potential for ranged weaponry support (if you don't use a shield)
+Better damage output overall (two-handed weapons only)
+More focused skillset (unless you train throwing)
-Worse starting armour
-No shields
-Worse defenses overall
-Later core weapon upgrades (quarterstaff -> branded quartestaff -> lajatang)

Skills

Fighter skills

-Fighting -Maces and flails, branching to axes if you find cool axes. -Armour -Shields -Invocations -Evocations

Gladiator skills

-Fighting -Staves, branching into maces and flails if you find cool two-handed maces, or alternatively into polearms. -Armour -Invocations -Evocations

Gargoyles have aptitudes of +1 for all those skills except for Evocations which is at +0, so they should level up nicely.

Skill training

At first focus exclusively on your weapon skill of choice until it reaches a comfortable effectiveness. Then you can turn it off for a while and focus on one defensive skill or two. Start pumping evocations as much as you want as soon as you get your hands on nice evokables (see the items section). Start training invocations when you join Okawaru, level it up to 7 or 8 and then forget about it.

Your weapon skill of choice should be your most trained skill, followed by your two main defensive skills (probably fighting and armour). Everything else comes after, exact priority is up to you.

Fighting is pretty important for a Gargoyle since they have much less HP than other melee-oriented characters, so it should be one of your top skills.

Evocations is your gateway to magic utility, and also to several powerful nukes which just happen to take inventory slots. The lethality and ease of use of most if not all evokables raise with your skill, so you should give it more priority as you find or acquire better evokables. You should not train Spellcasting or Magic Schools at all if you want to eventually acquire rods, more on this on the evokables section.

Armor will let you accumulate a crapton of AC, if you go with shields on top of that, your toon will effectively be Made of Iron, except against some really mean threats such as Smiting, LRD, Airstrike, Shatter, Orbs of Destruction, Lehudib's Crystal Spear and Hellfire, which are universally scary threats. Shields help against some of them (orbs of destruction, crystal spears) but are by no means a guarantee.

Religion

The god of choice is Okawaru, but skill training is very similar to a Berserker, so you could probably substitute Okawaru for Trog and in all likelihood have a good time, but I can't give advice on that.

Okawaru gives Heroism (5 pt increase on all combat skills on demand) early and Finesse (attacks take half as long) much much later. Around the same time that you get access to Finesse, he will start showering you with gifts, most of which will be useless, but some of them will be cool. He gifts weapons, armor and ammunition, usually of below-acquirement quality. If you happen to train ranged weapon skills (throwing, crossbows, slings, whatever) Okawaru will not only gift you an appropriate weapon from time to time, he will also shower you with ammunition.

Okawaru's powers get a very reasonable fail rate at around 8 invocations skill, so there's no reason to train it further. Even 7 might do.

In 0.13, Okawaru dislikes your allies dying, which makes summoning evokables not worth using except as a last resort.

In 0.14, Okawaru doesn't mind about that anymore, which makes summoning evokables quite helpful.

In both versions, Okawaru HATES it if you kill or even attack your allies, so make sure not to trigger any fireworks with your summons nearby, and stay put if you get confused with allies adjacent.

Items

Items make or break this sort of character, since you will be doing exactly zero spellcasting, and Okawaru only abilities are two combat boosts.

Weapons

Fighter Weapons

If you go through the Fighter route, your weapon should be some sort of one-handed mace or flail, or maybe an axe if you find better axes than maces. Here are some examples of nice weapons:

+Whip of Electrocution
+Flail of Draining (draining does not work on demons, the undead, and some other monsters)
+Broad axe of mostly anything
+Demon whips of mostly anything
+Eveningstars :3

Gladiator Weapons

If you go through the Gladiator route, your weapon should be a branded quarterstaff with hopes of upgrading to a branded lajatang:

+Quarterstaff of Speed
+Quarterstaff of Freezing
+Quarterstaff of Chaos
+Lajatang of anything, really, lajatangs are devastating weapons.

Vampiric Weapons

They make your character much more survivable, the problem is that wielding them incurs a steep hunger cost, and they can only be wielded as long as you have full satiation or better (you can get hungry with them in your hands with no problem though) and as such they make using rods much more fiddly. Still, if the base weapon is good enough (A vampiric broad axe for fighters or a vampiric lajatang for gladiators) it's worth the occasional trouble. Make sure to carry a good enough secondary weapon to fall back to in case you find yourself unable to wield your vampiric main in the middle of a fight.

Crazy Yiuf's Quarterstaff of Chaos

Chaos weapons have inherent risks, but I've found that this particular weapon, if the unique Crazy Yiuf is generated, makes for a great main weapon until you find a branded lajatang if you're going with staves. It will act as a different random brand each attack, or maybe even confuse, slow or petrify your enemy, but it also has some drawbacks:

-Sometimes it will heal the moster you strike. :/
-Sometimes it will BERSERK the monster you strike :(
-Sometimes it will HASTE the monster you strike :C
-Sometimes it will make the monster invisible :S
-Sometimes it will SHAFT you (inevitably send you 2-3 floors downwards) (ouch)
-Sometimes, if you are standing on a staircase, will move it to under the monter you just attacked. WTF?!

...and it can do even weirder and nastier stuff, but the chances of them actually happening before you find a lajatang are astronomically low.

If those outcomes terrify you, then by all means don't use it. If you are giving it a try for the first time, try it on weak enemies only for a while, so you get a feel of how it works. Don't use it on hydras or dragons unless you are feeling cocky or have a death wish.

Somehow, it's much more reliable than it sounds. If a monster is dangerous, sometimes it's a good idea to switch to another weapon; other times you'll be forced to flee from a berserk enemy, but in general the drawbacks are manageable, and if you find Crazy Yiuf early (Dungeon 3-5) you'll have in your hands a pretty powerful weapon until you finish the Lair or so.

Ranged Weaponry

Using a sling with sling bullets to soften enemies up before engaging in melee tends to be very useful in the early game. Blowguns work wonders against all kinds of invertebrates, especially the slow ones you can kite; and curare needles (poison, slowness and breath timeout) are useful against uniques.

If you don't use a shield, you will have an easier time with bows and crossbows, but javelins are less fiddly and require less skill investment.

Armour

You should wear whatever available armour that provides the most AC. The only reason to wear a second-best armour in terms of AC is if it provides some sort of resistance that's crucial at the moment, or maybe if it's an artifact with slaying, stat bonuses, or evokable blink.

One particularly controversial armor item is the Golden Dragon Armor. It is extremely heavy, has a ton of AC, and provides three pips of resistances: Poison, Fire and Cold. Poison is redundant on a gargoyle, but the other two can be quite useful if you're trying to become resistant to everything - in fact, a gargoyle wearing GDA is at least slightly resistant to nearly everything. Why is it so controversial then? Because it really is EXTREMELY heavy, hampering your evasion and spellcasting a lot, and because usually it only appears quite late in the game, right before the Realm of Zot or in the Realm of Zot already.

Okawaru will sometimes gift you armor after you hit five piety stars. Most of his gifts will be crap, but sometimes they'll be decent. Properties to be on the lookout for are evokable blink, stat bonuses, slaying bonuses (bonuses to accuracy and/or damage) and see invisible if you don't have any other source.

If you're going with shields, use the most protective shield available unless you have another one that gives a good resistance. Bear in mind that large shields work better with higher skill and strength, and bucklers are probably not worth the effort.

One particularly controversial shield ego is Reflection. Reflection shields send blocked attacks back where they came from, with some fiddly requirements such as still having enough range left to reach their origin and blah blah. Some players disregard it, but in my eyes something that makes monsters damage or even kill themselves is welcome. If you use it, do remember that it only reflects attacks that can be blocked with a shield to begin with: It won't block bolt spells, for instance; but it will block crossbow bolts, arrows, and any other sort of shield-blockable projectiles. With good shield skills, yaktaur packs will literally commit mass suicide.

Evokables

These items will eventually be your big guns and even reinforcements.

Wands

Wands are small magic guns that shoot all sorts of weird projectiles and effects. Some wands are not of much use beyond the early game and also pretty common, so you should feel free to use them liberally: Magic darts, flame, frost, slowing, paralysis.

Other offensive wands can see use throughout the game, so you should reserve their use for more critical moments or simply when they would net you a big advantage: fire, cold and lightning. Wand of draining is similar, but it does nothing against demons, undead, or anything else that's immune to negative energy. Wands of fire and cold mimic the Bolt of Fire and Bolt of Cold spells, respectively, and they will only hit up to 3 enemies in a row. They can be dodged but not blocked (if there are 4 enemies in a row and the 2nd enemy dodges it, it can hit the fourth monster). Bolts of lightning can hit any number of enemies up to its maximum range, but it makes a LOT of noise.

Then there are wands so good that even the game will list them in yellow text in your inventory: invisibility, haste, teleport and heal wounds. These are meant to save your life or give you a critical combat advantage.

Equipment with evokable abilities

Some jewelry and artifacts come with evokable abilities. The common evokable abilities for rings are Teleport, Invisibility, and Teleport Control. On amulets, you have Berserk. All of these evokable abilities come with moderate-to-heavy drawbacks:

Teleport: Random destination, delay between activating and actually teleporting, randomly teleports you from time to time if you're wearing it. Invisibility: Sizeable hunger cost, magic contamination. Teleport control: Requires a separate source of teleportation, increases the teleportation delay, controlled teleports cause contamination. Berserk: Large hunger cost, post-berserk slowness and exhaustion, character can pass out for some turns after berserking, magic contamination. Flight: Pretty self-explanatory. Lets you go over deep water or lava for a duration, also lets you avoid shallow water penalties. Unless you find it before XL14, it's totally redundant for a gargoyle.

I'm listing these abilities here because their ease of use increases dramatically with evocations skill. All the above evokable abilities can also be found randomly on artifacts. Since most of them incur magic contamination, it's a good idea to avoid using them twice in a row.

A very good evokable ability that appears only on artifacts is Evokable Blink. This allows you to instantly teleport to a random square within your sight. Hard to find but superior on every aspect to the spell version.

Rods

If wands are magic guns, rods are the big cannons. As in big, glowing, ominously humming particle cannons. Rods mimic more advanced spells (and in some cases have unique effects) and a good selection of rods can let you obliterate some threats too nasty to melee. With good evocations skill, they're pretty damn powerful.

Rods have their own MP reservoir, which recharges at a rate determined by their enchantment and your evocations skill. Rods can be replenished and permanently enchanted further with Scrolls of Recharging. To use them you must first wield them.

One particular rod that is much better than it sounds is the Rod of Inaccuracy: It fires off a high-damage, low-accuracy piercing bolt for only 3 MP. This is a godsend against big, tough, lumbering enemies such as hydras, dragons or giants. If there are several of them, you have all the reasons to use this rod, but feel free to whip it out to zorch a lonely hydra in two or three shots.

DISCLAIMER: The Rod of Inaccuracy is aptly named, for it IS inaccurate. Sometimes that 7-headed hydra will be feeling lucky and dodge all the shots, so have a backup plan. Which is always a good idea in any case.

Some rods, such as the Rod of the Swarm, the Rod of Demonology (recently changed into the Rod of Shadows) bring in reinforcements. These are pretty good too, mostly useful to cover a retreat or to avoid being swarmed by a lot of enemies.

the Rod Acquirement Trick

AKA "The reason why this guide badadvicingly assumes zero spellcasting" DUN-DUN-DUUUUUUUUUNNN

If you have not trained the Spellcasting skill, or any magic school, but are good at evocations, you're practically guaranteed to get one rod per acquirement scroll.

How?

When reading a scroll of acquirement, if meeting the above requirements, select the Staff option. Enjoy your new rod, unless you've just been extremely unlucky.

Why?

This would usually give you a general spellcasting staff (staff of power or staff of energy) if spellcasting is your highest magic skill, or a school staff (staff of death, staff of air, staff of fire, etc.) if a particular magic school is your highest magic skill. If those skills are non-existent and evocations is high, the acquirement magic will throw a rod at you. I assume this is in place so that particular option doesn't become useless for Trogites and other comparatively illiterate characters.

What for?

To have an above average number of rods. Since Okawaru will eventually gift you some useful weapons and armor, acquirement in those categories isn't as needed (it's still better than Okawaru's gifts) and acquiring books doesn't fit the build at all... but yet another attack rod means you will have powerful ranged support at your disposal nearly always.

TL;DR: To abuse rods, actually.

Elemental Evokers

Elemental evokers are misc items that store a single charge, and when depleted they recharge slowly over time if they're sitting in your inventory. Each of them launches a pretty powerful attack of the corresponding element, and summons a bunch of friendly elementals to boot. As always, their lethality is tied to your evocations skill.

WARNING: Up to 0.13, Okawaru dislikes your allies dying, so know that those elementals will eventually make you incur a piety hit. They're still useful.

Lamp of Fire

Launches several streams of fire roughly in the direction you aimed it, which leave lasting fire clouds on their wake. Easily the most devastating of the lot. Best used in a tight place where enemies can't get out of the clouds of fire. Fire elementals to boot.

Phial of Floods

Shoots a single, high-pressure jet of water where you aimed it, which does high damage on impact and creates a temporary pool of water. Summons water elementals.

Fan of Gales

Blows all surrounding creatures away from you, and brings backup in the form of air elementals. Not as devastating as others, but the "get away from me" utility can be a lifesaver.

Rock of Tremors

Shakes the dungeon all around you, raining debris on monsters near walls and probably destroying several squares of walls in the process. Best used in tight places. Summons earth elementals.

the Disc of Storms

The Disc of Storms is a devastating, unreliable, borderline suicidal miscellaneous evokable of phenomenal cosmic power.

It indiscriminately shoots all sorts of electrical fireworks all around you, from feeble to devastating. Don't even think of using this with a character without electrical resistance - fortunately, for gargoyles it's innate. The most impressive thing that comes out of it are electrical balls of lightning that explode on contact for in a BIG area of effect of great electrical damage.

You can use it as many times as you want, but to properly fire off it needs to succeed in three evocations-based checks, so depending on your skill, it'll fail quite often. Keep trying, it will eventually work.

WARNING: This items carries a great risk of damage to the user, so only use it at full or near full HP, and never with walls adjacent, or all the lightning will explode in your face. It's best used with a crowd of monsters very near and walls at a medium distance.

the Lantern of Shadows

This item is a bit weird. It is based on evocations, but it needs to be wielded to be useful. When wielded, it reduces your line of sight by two squares (and the monsters' too since line of sight in crawl is always reciprocal), nullifies any sort of stealth you might have, and starts summoning friendly shadows. Higher evocations skill means more shadows more often. These friends are quite useful to cover a retreat or to mob a particular enemy you don't want to get close and personal with.

WARNING: up to 0.13, Okawaru dislikes your allies dying, so you shouldn't use this item AT ALL, because all these shadows are going to eat up your piety like nobody's business.

Credits