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Version 0.30: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.

Specialization is a choice to invest XP in a few specific skills, rather than attempting to learn many skills at once. It is often essential, at least in one form or another.

Useful Info

More skill level means that skill is more powerful. Weapons will hit harder, attack faster, and be more accurate. Spells will be more powerful and less likely to fail. Note that end-game weapons and spells usually require a lot of skill investment. Defensive skills will make your character more durable.

Specializing is easy. Press the m key to access your Skills screen and see all the skills you currently know. Pressing the key associated with a skill will toggle its training Off (dark grey), On (light gray), or Focus it (white) causing more experience to be allotted.

By default it will use Automatic Mode, which automatically adjusts experience division between skills based on use. You can also press / and swap to Manual Mode, for more control. In Manual Mode, experience is divided evenly between enabled skills, with Focus doubling a skill's percentage.


In Crawl, the goal of the skill system is "to get the most benefit out of your XP as possible". Sounds simple, and it really is. Specialization is a tool used to achieve this goal. So, there isn't a true Pros and Cons with specialization - more so Pros and Caveats.


1. Specializing in a skill typically leads to less "wasted" XP.

Usually, but not always, "wasting the least XP" is an efficient method of skill training.

Let's say you could either have {6 Polearms, 6 Conjurations, 6 Ranged Weapons} or {10 <one skill>}. The former may sound more appealing, as you can take advantage of 3 skills at once. However...

  • A. This can lead to skill waste directly. If you blast things with Conjurations before enemies get into melee range, then Polearms and Ranged Weapons skill aren't doing much. If you are wearing heavy armour, to make your melee more effective, then Conjurations skill isn't doing anything (it is very difficult to cast in plate armour!).
  • B. There's more than three skills in Crawl. For example, a Polearms user could go {8 Polearms, 5 Armour, 5 Shields}, and a caster could go {8 Conjurations, 6 Dodging, 2 Spellcasting}. Both will be more effective than the original 6/6/6 distribution, which invests no XP into defenses.
  • C. Investing in a skill you're already good at gives a more immediate benefit. A Polearms-based Fighter may need 4 levels of Conjurations before they can cast their first spell. Before you reach 4 Conjurations, you aren't getting much from that skill. Meanwhile, having 4 more levels of Polearms would help for a longer period of time.
This point is most important in the earlygame, and becomes less important as you progress. Judge whether a skill would help in the short- or medium- term.

This is not to dissuade "hybrid" builds entirely, but to put them into perspective. (See the next point for more details)

2. There exists skill thresholds, and specializing allows you to reach these thresholds faster.

The game has a few skill thresholds:

  • For weapons and destructive spells, this is when you can "comfortably kill things at <a certain level>".
  • For casting in general, this is when a spell goes from "unreliably castable" to "castable".
  • For defensive skills, this is when you receive the next point of AC / EV / SH.

Training skills too liberally will delay the threshold. E.g. going for {6 Polearms, 6 Conjurations, 6 Ranged Weapons} may prevent you from 'comfortably' killing things at all.

In other words, having one reliable way of killing things is better than 3 unreliable ways of killing things. If you want to go for a "hybrid" build, it is best to train one skill to a competent level, and then the next.

Of course, when things are 'competent' or 'comfortable' is very arbitrary - it depends on both the character and the player.


1. Higher levels of a skill are more expensive. / The first few levels of a skill are cheap.

For each level of a skill, the next level is more expensive. Is it really worth the XP to train from 25 Fighting -> 27 Fighting? No matter how much you value extra HP, the benefit of 2 Fighting is small. It can be wiser to invest into Armour, Dodging, etc., which could all give you more benefit.

This concept isn't exclusive to the late game. For instance, training 14 <weapon skill> to reach mindelay may not be the wisest choice. You could, as an example, get {10 Weapon, 8 Fighting, 8 Armour} instead, which would be a stronger investment.

Other examples:

  • Early on, you could invest a few levels into Evocations or Throwing. After all, 3 levels of Evocations can be more beneficial than 1 level of a weapon skill. This ultimately depends on character build, and what wands you have found (Evocations won't help you without a wand!).
  • If you are in heavy armour for the entire game, then Dodging skill might not seem appealing. But it's often worth it to train a few levels into Dodging, since they are so cheap. For the same reasons, light armour characters should consider investing a few levels into Armour skill.
2. "Avoiding wasted experience" is not always the most beneficial method of skill training.

Poison Magic is perhaps the best example of this. Spells like Olgreb's Toxic Radiance are great in the early game. But as enemy HP increases, and as more enemies have rPois, poison starts to wane. If you then find a great weapon and wear heavy armour, then you'd have "wasted" all that Poison Magic training.

Yet, this doesn't change that melee is (could be) the most beneficial thing you could train right now. Plus, all that Poison Magic wasn't useless - it got you past a good chunk of the game. And if you decide to stay in light armour, then OTR and other poison spells can remain useful.

Even in this example, you should be following the guideline of "train a killing skill until you can comfortably kill things, then train other things". At a certain point, you don't need to invest any more XP into Poison, and can afford to train other skills. At this point, you would train defenses and/or an alternate killing skill.

2A. You need some way to deal with orbs of fire.

Orbs of fire are immune to fire and electricity, resistant to cold, great at dealing with non-rF+ summons, and have high AC.

You don't need to kill everything in Crawl; you can walk up to the orb of Zot, apport it, and get out without killing a single orb of fire. But there are other lategame enemies that will be immune or heavily resistant to certain elements; hell knights for fire, titans for electricity etc.

For casters, Conjurations is a good bet. Many schools have Conjurations spells to take advantage of. Later on, you can branch out to other schools with the Conjurations training. Both Orb of Destruction and Iron Shot deal non-elemental damage, which can be resisted only by AC. Or, if you have enough magical aptitude, then you can cast level 9 spells, which can all pierce through resistances in some manner.

For weapon users, this is much less of a general problem, since orbs aren't especially resistant towards physical attacks.


As you have full control over your skilling, it's best to specialize selectively. What does this mean for your character?

  • For melee and ranged characters, it means focusing most, if not all, of your experience on one weapon at first. Unless you find an absolutely amazing weapon, once you specialize, you shouldn't switch weapon class. Afterwards, you can start investing in defensive skills, Invocations, Throwing, etc.
There are two main skill breakpoints associated with weapons.
  • The first is when you can attack at 1.0 delay. This prevents a regular-speed enemy from hitting you twice in 1 turn. Death yaks become much scarier when they can deal 60 damage instead of 30 damage per turn.
  • The second is the minimum delay of a weapon. After training to mindelay, you cannot attack faster by training weapon skill. Thus, investing more into said weapon skill will give you less benefit. It can still be valuable to train a skill past mindelay for the damage bonus, however.
  • For casters, it means getting your main killing spells reliably castable (<= 10% failure) as soon as possible. Whether it be Stone Arrow or Ensorcelled Hibernation, you will want to kill before you get close to being killed. Additional levels might be required to make the spell actually good at that task. Then, for as long as you're able, you should stick with those schools. Focusing on Conjurations in particular allows for a lot more flexibility.
    • Some characters, especially those not worshipping a spell gifting god, might not find an lategame worthy spell of their school. Make sure that your currently useful spells are reliable, then dedicate everything else, somewhere else. Wait until after the Orcish Mines before doing this -- a book shop might just provide you with a spell. Alternatively, you can bide your time by investing in defense skills that will always be useful, swapping to melee if you don't find a great spell.
    • Poison Magic is a big exception. The school might be good at the beginning, but does not scale well into the late game. Therefore, a caster may decide to invest a few, about 10 at most, points into the school to cast Olgreb's Toxic Radiance easily. Venom Mages and plain old Conjurers alike should get their killing schools up, then decide to switch into or out of Poison.


  • Prior to 0.9, experience was gathered and spent gradually as you performed actions related to each Skill. It was much harder to avoid unintentionally training certain things.
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