R.Daland's Draconian of Ashenzari 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This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised.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!


Draconians are an optimal -- perhaps the optimal -- species to play as a melee/mage hybrid. This character guide assumes a Wizard background with Ashenzari as a god choice.

Pros/Cons of the Draconian

 * Pros
   ** High survivability in the early game
   ** Likely to acquire a freebie ranged attach in the breath weapon
   ** No major aptitude penalties
   ** Intrinsic AC that increases as you level
 * Cons
   ** Unable to use body armor slot
   ** Level slowly

For most species/backgrounds, a hybrid strategy involves playing a pure melee character or pure mage through the early game, and branching out later. With draconians, you can play a hybrid strategy throughout the game. For example, if a Deep Elf mage runs across a jackal pack in Dungeon 1 or 2, they may run out of spell points and be forced to run. But after a Draconian Wizard has killed half the pack with Magic Dart, they usually have enough combat toughness to wipe out the remainder of the pack. This is a perfect instance of the more general theme of playing a Draconian: use magic to kill or weaken enemies at range; when the magic runs out or the enemies are vulnerable, swoop in and clean up the remnants with melee/stabbing.


Early game

I prefer the Wizard background because it gives you three indispensable spells -- Magic Dart, Blink, and Mephitic Cloud. It is entirely possible to use Magic Dart as you primary offensive ranged attack up through the end of the Lair. Blink is essential for escaping from uniques that are currently too tough (especially Grinder and Sigmund). Mephitic Cloud is ridiculously overpowered, simultaneously rendering enemies almost incapable of attacking you and vulnerable to stabbing. Thus, your early game should focus on acquiring these spells and getting the miscast rate down under 10 percent.

As soon as the game begins, turn off all skills, and focus Spellcasting and Conjurations. Conjurations is necessary to increase the damage output of Magic Dart -- the average damage rises quickly until Conjurations reaches somewhere between 7 and 10. An underappreciated fact is that Spellcasting increases spell power just as much as Conjurations (because overall spell power is determined from the average of Spellcasting and other relevant schools). Spellcasting will help you get precious memorization points earlier, and increases your pool of magic points. Focussing Spellcasting early will help you be ready to cast Mephitic Cloud as soon as you reach level 3 and are able to memorize it.

When you do get Mephitic Cloud, it is worth it to focus Air and Poison magic until they reach maybe 3 or 4. This is a cheaper way to boost the spell power of Mephitic Cloud than by getting the same number of levels in Conjurations or Spellcasting (since skills cost more exponentially more XP to level up). Also, it is possible you will branch into Poison or Air magic later, and having a couple of levels now will make it easier to cast your first offensive spell when you're ready (e.g. Poisonous Cloud, Freezing Cloud, Airstrike). In the meantime, cast it whenever you are near a group of enemies and start stabbing. The ability to stab is the primary reason that a short blade is preferred for this build. So if you do go this route, at some point when you have the training to spare, you will want to turn on Short Blades and Stealth, and get them up to maybe 8. With Ashenzari's skill boosts, that will be sufficient to one-shot hydras -- not bad for a hybrid!

Until you have Blink and Mephitic Cloud memorized and down to under 10 percent failure rate, try to only engage weak enemies (kobolds, goblins, hobgoblins; try not to engage snakes and worker ants since they move quickly and can poison you). It is usually possible to achieve this by the end of Dungeon:2, and sometimes even by the end of Dungeon:1, if the random number generator is feeling especially favorable. In the meantime, grab the first weapon you see (usually a club) and look for short or long blades. Though Draconians are superficially appealing for Unarmed Combat, your damage output is higher with a weapon at the very beginning. Do not train your weapon however -- you want to wait until later to develop a particular weapon skill. If a dagger or nicely enchanted Short Blade comes your way, you might want to use that for the time being -- Stabbing will become a viable option in the mid-game, and Short Blades offer a favorable hit:delay ratio when they are untrained. An especially attractive option is to grab a venom-branded weapon -- though ineffective on undead and demons, multiple poisonings plus kiting can take down almost everything you will encounter in the early game, as long as you can dodge or absorb the hits it takes to get your lethal dosage into the enemy.

If you have extra spell levels, also memorize Conjure Flame. Weak, intelligent enemies will not cross it unless berserked or confused. A wonderfully cowardly tactic is to cast Cloud of Flame, stand on the far side, and pelt the enemy with Magic Darts. Non-sapient enemies (including zombies and skeletons) will ignore the flame, and walk straight onto the tile. Thus, if you plant yourself adjacent to cloud, on the opposite side of these enemies, they will essentially self-immolate. The only things to watch out for are enemies with ranged attacks (orc priests, centaurs) and powerful uniques who care more about killing you than getting roasted themselves. Even Sigmund will fall after 4-5 turns on a cloud of flame, but in the earliest levels, even 2-3 hits from Sigmund's scythe can fell the overconfident adventurer.

A wonderful variation on this tactic is to lure a powerful enemy or unique into a corrider with at least 3 spaces between you and the enemy. Then insulate yourself with a Cloud of Flame, and then fire off a Mephitic Cloud. All but the most powerful enemies will become confused within 2 turns; with any luck they will stumble into the cloud of flame. You can hasten their death by casting additional clouds of flame after the mephitic cloud dissipates. This tactic is a bit expensive in magic points and hunger level, so it is only worth using against strong enemies that you can't take down otherwise (such as Sigmund).

Once these spells are at the appropriate failure rate, it is really a matter of just putting one foot in front of the other. By the time you reach Dungeon:10, you will likely have hit four milestones:

 * reached level 7 and found out your color
 * found the entrance to the Lair
 * found the entrance to the Orcish Mines
 * found the Ecumenical Temple, and/or an altar to Ashenzari

Although numerous god choices are possible, this guide assumes you will take Ashenzari. A key benefit of Ashenzari is the passive mapping ability. The ability to detect thin/thick walls is nice, but where this ability really shines is in the ability to detect nearby monsters. If you know that you are about to walk into a hoard, you can rest up, cast/wand any buffs (e.g. invisibility), and be ready to fire off a Mephitic Cloud in the most advantageous spot. A second benefit of Ashenzari is the skill boost. Once you have found some decent rings and amulets, you can curse them onto yourself, and Ashenzari will start boosting your skills. The skill boost is big enough that very meager amounts of training can result in effective character development. For example, with an unboosted skill of around 4 in Stealth and ****** in piety, the effective Stealth is around 8, making sneaking and Stabbing a viable option in the Lair.

Note that to build piety with Ashenzari, it is important to curse as many things onto yourself as possible. You always want to save at least one scroll of Remove Curse in case you need to swap out some piece of equipment for an emergency, but in the long run it will be much better for you to just pick the best stuff you have and curse it on. At most, you should leave your weapon uncursed (e.g. maybe you need to switch to a long sword of freezing for the occasional crimson imp). You do not lose piety when you uncurse a piece of equipment and put another one on, so if you find something enough better to make the switch, just switch and re-curse.

Once your Spellcasting and Conjurations have reached around 10, you will want to train defensive skills. Definitely focus Dodging, and get it up to at least 10, preferably 12, and possibly 15 if you won't wear a buckler. If you get a buckler, you should train Shields up to at least 5; this is a very minimal cost in training and can pay off substantially in adding a layer of protection, especially against ranged attacks. A major selling point of Draconians is that it is not very painful to get up to decent in all three kinds of defense -- AC comes automatically with leveling, training is cheap for a buckler, and Dodgin/Evasion up to 10-12 is relatively inexpensive. This kind of 3-point defense is sufficient for all but large hordes of medium-strength monsters (e.g. green rat packs) and relatively strong uniques.

Of course, after you reach level 7, you want to make good use of your breath weapon. An especially wonderful outcome is if you happen to get Green Draconian. Effectively, this gives you a bolt version of Mephitic Cloud, giving you even more options for confusing enemies; on top of that, the breath weapon actually damages enemies.

It is not recommended to take on Lair:7-8 until you have found some additional means of offence. Typically, I find a second book somewhere around Dungeon:7, which contains one or more offensive spells. An especially nice find is a Book of Conjurations containing Iskenderun's Mystic Blast and Iskenderun's Battlesphere. Either or both of these spells amp up the punch-through power of your magical ranged attack, enabling you to take down a Spiny Frog or many-headed hydra with as few as 3-4 shots. Other especially dangerous creatures in the Lair include griffons and komodo dragons; these cannot do ranged damage, but have very strong melee attacks and high HD, so they are more resistant to Mephitic Cloud, and can inflict a lot of damage if they get close. One of many reasons why Blink is a good friend to have. Alternatively, you can begin to branch into magic. Personally, I am a huge fan of Throw Icicle (whose physical damage cannot be resisted even by cold-resistant creatures), Sticky Flame (which can take down hydras with 1-2 applications, exposing you to their attacks for only 1-2 turns), and Airstrike (smite-targeted, the only defense is strong armor; though the damage is pretty low unless you get Air up towards 10).

Similarly, it is not recommended to take on Orc:4 until you have a stronger offence than just Mephitic Cloud and Magic Dart. The more powerful orcs (sorcerors, warlords, knights, and even warriors) will resist being confused by Mephitic Cloud for several turns -- quite enough to turn an undercautious Draconian to pulp. Even worse, orcs usually travel in gangs, and sometimes have as many as 3 orc priests, who can smite you for up to 25 damage a pop. And they like to smite if you're not in melee range. The best way to handle orc hordes is first of all to not encounter them at all, and second to lure off the weaker members before engaging stronger ones, one at a time. If you do find yourself facing multiple orc priests, and no corner to hide from their smiting, fire off Mephitic Clouds in turn until both are confused. Confused priests do not smite, and in Crawl, deadness follows fast on the heels of confusedness.

With the loot from Orc:4, the shops in the Orcish mines, and the Lair, you should have yourself a decent weapon, decent jewelry, decent armor, and a supply of helpful wands and potions. Ashenzari

Mid-game

This section is still under development.

Late game

This section is still under development.


Things to be especially wary of

This section is still under development.

Miscellaneous tips

This section is still under development.


--R.daland (talk) 08:10, 26 October 2014 (CET)