Escaping from (and avoiding) trouble

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This article contains advice from other players, which may be subjective, outdated, inaccurate or ill-advised. Take advice as you see fit, and read at your own risk!
Version 0.28: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

Introduction

Sometimes you can't win a fight, and the best thing to do is to run. Knowing how to escape from a deadly situation (such as an unexpected monster wandering into view when you're low on HP, or a situation that has spiraled out of control (such as an enemy caster summoning a large number of deadly demons) is a vital skill to survival in Dungeon Crawl.

Crawl offers a number of escape options, as well as means of healing, disabling monsters, and many other things which just might save your life.

Avoiding trouble

The best way to survive a troublesome predicament is keeping out of trouble in the first place. Let's see...

Don't move towards enemies

Instead of running into the unknown, where more monsters might be waiting for you, let enemies come to you. Use those turns to reposition yourself or to soften up the enemy. Orcs are a case in point: a single orc might seem like an easy kill, but then when you get close to it you realize there were two orc priests in the dark just waiting to smite your ass.

Retreat towards the known

It's often tempting to flee "into the black" directly away from your enemy. Try to resist the urge, and retreat towards a known area, even at the cost of taking a free hit or two. Retreat towards a known staircase or escape hatch, especially if you're being chased by multiple enemies. Only enemies on squares directly next to you can go up or down stairs with you. Make sure your escape route is safe; you don't want to be running away only to come across even stronger enemies.

Explore only when at full health

Unless you're going for a high score, or face a timed portal, you win nothing by exploring at anything less than full HP and MP. Always rest up; the Zot clock is extremely lenient. By pressing the 5 key, you can rest till your HP or MP are full again.

Use Tactical Positioning

The layout of the dungeon, combined with line of sight management, can be used to your advantage. For example, you can lead enemies into corridors in order to fight them one by one. That way, you avoid taking 8 hits at once! No matter how big your axe is, its still a perilous situation to find yourself in.

Even when you don't have corridors at your disposal, you still may have corners. For example, the following 3x3 pillar with two yaks. The yaks want to fight together, so when you turn a corner the one further out gets left behind, leaving you fighting only one yak.

...@..
.XXXY.
.XXXY.	
.XXX..	
......

You can repeat this for every corner of the pillar until the pack is reduced to just one yak.

Ranged attackers will follow you around a corner where you can melee them. You could give them several turns to fire at you by going closer. Or, you can take 2 turns to duck behind a corner, wait for them to come for you, then step up to attack in melee.

Softening things up

On the first few levels, collect stones, darts, and other throwables - even if you don't plan to go with them in the long run. Hunting slings coupled with sling bullets are especially lethal, even at zero skill. You should also be liberal with most wands you find: even a wand of flame can be very useful.

Noise is rarely your friend

Try to always be aware of the noise you're generating, keeping a close eye on the noise meter. The less noise you make, the less likely you're going to be drawing in too many monsters at once. But noise in an advantageous position, like a corridor, can lure in packs of monsters into relative safety.

Bypass

Just because it's often advantageous to completely clear a level before descending doesn't mean it's universally so. Encountering Sigmund or a particularly nasty pack of orcs on the first few levels of the dungeon are good examples. You can always come back later when you have the necessary equipment and experience to deal with them.

Triple visitation

Triple visitation means entering a level by all three staircases before you start exploring it in earnest. It can be a lifesaver, but quite tedious. If you get into trouble, you may see a closer staircase to retreat to. On the other hand, whenever you go down stairs, there is a risk of being put adjacent to a very dangerous creature, making this technique best for stealthy or swift adventurers.

Specialize before you generalize

Make sure that your skills of choice have power to spare before investing in any others. Many troublesome situations are simply due to not having enough. Don't forget to turn non-killing back on again once your engine's running, if they're useful -- e.g. dodging and stealth for a conjurer.

Options when in immediate danger

While its best to prevent danger, sometimes it is unavoidable. Whenever you get shafted, or see an out of depth monster, or a dangerous pack of monsters just after finishing a fight, you can find help with various escape options:

These are just some of the more useful, immediate tools at your disposal. Many more items might solve lethal situations. For example, a potion of might may handle just give you the damage you need to handle a dangerous enemy. However, the Might status is not likely to help you when you are at low HP -- though it might as well be a last resort.

Potions (q)

  • Potion of berserk rage: hastes (and strengthens) you and adds 50% temporary HP... but when it runs out, you will be slowed instead, and you won't be able to berserk again for a while! Mostly useful for killing things (thus precluding the need to escape in the first place) or sprinting to the stairs a few tiles away. Do not use berserk as a poor man's swiftness! You will be slowed much longer than the berserk will last.
  • Potion of curing: heals a few HP and removes poison and confusion, which may be critical to end.
  • Potion of haste: allows you to run away, though you will be susceptible to ranged attacks until you break LOS/leave the level. Speed boost have nice synergy with scrolls of fog, allowing you to quickly break LOS. Also allows for kiting tactics.
  • Potion of heal wounds: Heals approximately 25 HP. In the early game, it is a significant boost, but slowly loses effectiveness throughout the game.

Scrolls (r)

  • Scroll of fog: might help you cut line of sight to monsters that attack you from range. This can range from making a Centaur get into your melee range, to preventing an Ice Fiend from tormenting you during the orb run.
  • Scroll of fear: helps in warding off packs or threats. It checks willpower, so may not be successful against all monsters, but it may give you enough leeway to escape.
  • Scroll of silence: Prevent enemies (and you!) from casting both spells and godly abilities. Make sure to check them (xv) to make sure that silence can actually effect them! Very risky, but eases up many threats (such as Nikola or deep elves).
  • Scroll of teleportation: after a short delay of a few turns, translocates you to a random habitable square on the same level. This can be combined with other means of escape, such as the Blink spell or, even better, Controlled Blink or a scroll of blinking, then healing until teleport kicks in. Teleport early; if not to survive the delay, to survive if you get into another dangerous position (or even right next to where you were!). Beware of teleporting in unexplored levels, or where there is a dangerous vault (such as Elf:3 or the end of a rune branch).
  • Scroll of blinking: allows you to instantly translocate yourself to any visible square (barring locations rendered inaccessible by transparent walls). Extremely powerful, but not infallible.

Quiver (Q)

Includes wands (V) and throwables (F) (and all the above).

  • Uncontrolled Blink: instantly translocates you to a randomly blink-accessible square within line of sight. This can easily make the situation worse: imagine blinking from the edge of an orc pack to the center. But consider blinking from the center of an orc pack to the edge. LOS management is critical - for example, you can use a scroll of fog in conjunction so you can't see tiles near the enemy. Even stepping into a hallway can help your chances. In general, only use this if you can comfortably live several uses.
  • Paralysis/polymorph/Slow: very effective in the early game, where few enemies can resist. Outside of the early game or formicids, it's best to act early or on yourself. Sources include wands, curare darts, and the Hexes school of magic.
  • Wand of iceblast, Lightning Rod: Attacks that can't miss, be shrugged off, or disabled. You run the risk of rolling low, but enemies with low HP will likely die.
  • Throwing net: Traps an enemy in a net, forcing them to waste turns breaking free. Even though spellcasters can still cast in a net, they often won't; monsters tend to "move" rather than cast.

Gods (a)

As you should expect, many abilities are simply unavailable if you aren't worshipping the god in question.

  • Zin's Sanctuary: protects you from nearly every attack, and scares away monsters. Combine it with other escape options, with healing, or use it near the stairs.
  • Lugonu's Enter the Abyss: removes you from any situation immediately, leaving all pursuing monsters behind, but costs both HP and all of your MP. Keep in mind that you will then be in the Abyss, so it still might not "save your life".
  • Elyvilon's healing powers: more powerful than potions of heal wounds, but are limited by piety.
  • Cheibriados' Step from Time: Moves you to nowhere and lets time pass. During that time, monsters wander away and may even forget about you.
  • Dithmenos' Shadow Step: Half damage, invisibility, and a few resistances.
  • Nemelex worshippers may draw upon their decks of escape. The tomb card can block any enemy not already close to you, the cloud card can act like a scroll of fog, and the elixir card can heal you. Combine with Triple Draw or Draw Four in order to get the most success.
  • Ru: all the abilities can be used in dicey situations; two are more obvious (Draw Out Power is a heal, Power Leap opens up a gap). Apocalypse is very loud, but deals massive damage and gives statuses to anything still alive.

Many gods also have offensive abilities that can help in tough battles. It's better to use Okawaru's Heroism and Finesse than a scroll of blinking!

Escape Spells (z)

Translocations

Translocations are designed in order to manipulate movement. Most of them can be used to solve some dicey situations, though some more than others.

  • Blink: Blinking can also be used to give you time to teleport: blink, activate a teleport and then start running away -- even if the monsters are faster than you, they can only gain one square a turn if you're running, giving teleport time to kick in. Has a cooldown unless at max power.
  • Passage of Golubria: Creates two portals, one targeted, and another just beside you. Limited to open enough areas, and at low spellpower, short distances. But even a single tile gap will let you reliably get away from monsters to climb the stairs. This spell can also teleport monsters, assuming they are willing to get into the portal.
  • Iskenderun's Mystic Blast / Dispersal: Both spells will force enemies away. IMB deals damage, is a much more reasonable level, but has a chance to fail based on size. Meanwhile, Dispersal, if you succeed a willpower check, will cause a full teleport, but will always at least create a few tiles of distance.

Other Movement Spells

  • Swiftness: Reduces your movement delay for a short time before slowing you, usually enough to get you to the stairs.
  • Passwall: A spell people love to underestimate (though for good reason -- it looks at first glance to be a crap spell). If you notice your trouble early enough, though, and you've mapped out your area beforehand (deep dwarves!) and found a 1-thickness wall to pass through towards safety, this is like a controlled teleport, thousands of turns before you could cast controlled teleport.

Disabling Tactics

  • Conjure Flame: Conjure flame is situational. Experiment with it and get a feel for it and when (if ever) you wish to invest in it. Understanding who fears flame and who doesn't is important here. Practice when you're not in a crisis. It works best when you can hold a stupid enemy in the flame, by either meleeing them yourself, blocking them with servants (or their buddies), or confusing them in tight quarters (so they repeatedly wander through the cloud). And make sure to use it quite early; it takes 2 turns to activate.
  • Hexes: Hex spells like Slow, Ensorcelled Hibernation, and Confusing Touch take a large skill investment to be worth the turns and MP. A good option for Enchanters, who already use these spells for their day to day killing. Most of these allow a clean escape, and clean stabs.
  • Mephitic Cloud: Confuses foes, which is very effective when it works. Creature with poison resistance or clarity are immune; monsters with 100+ HP will also often resist. Even without immunity, Mephitic cloud can be used against an adjacent enemy in most cases (aim at the *):
.........  .........
...###...  ....###..
...#*#...  ....#*#..
...##Y...  ....Y##..
....@....  ....@....
.........  .........

Also note that risking self-confusion is sometimes worth it. If worse comes to worst, you can always drink a potion of curing (which you might have been wanting to do anyway). Most enemies can't, and even humanoids are unlikely to be carrying more than one potion.

Other

  • Summoning: Several summoning spells are great for defensive purposes even if they're useless for offense. You can exchange places with allies automatically, but an enemy will have to fight through or walk around them to get to you. This means that even a lowly rat can open up that vital one-square space for a stair escape! Prior to its removal, Summon Butterflies was a very useful distraction spell, creating multiple targets for only a level 1 spell.
  • Death's Door and Borgnjor's Revivification: high level, emergency Necromancy spells. Death's Door makes you invulnerable for a short time, but will leave you with very little HP. Borgnjor's Revivification restores your health to the maximum; at the cost of permanent maximum HP. Use these when you know you have to; and have the Necromancy to spare.

Escaping Trouble

Run early

Once you've learned from experience that a certain monster type or monster-pack type is dangerous, run before it gets into melee, and re-enter the level from another place.

Pillar dancing

If you find yourself in melee range with a monster of normal speed in the early dungeon when you're at your weakest, you can regenerate health and magic in an emergency by leading the monster around a pillar for a while. Be aware that monster movement has a random element, which might allow the monster to hit or close on you at some point. Other monsters might also become aware of you, so choose your spot carefully!

Poison and pillar dancing

Keep on the lookout for a way to poison your enemies early on, even if it's a weapon you know you will not be using in the long term. In just a few turns of melee, or even none (blowguns), you can cause enough poisoning to kill that nasty foe. (Go for one level of "even sicker"; renew if the enemy "seems more healthy.")

Leading them up

Just because heading up staircases while followed is not a full escape doesn't mean it's not useful. Dealing with a nasty on a "cleared" level is much less troublesome than on one where your escape routes will often lead into unexplored territory, or wake up monsters lurking within it who can leap out to block your retreat. And teleporting on an unexplored level, that can be nasty!

Enemies with Blink can be fully abandoned this way at little resource cost, though they most have been removed from the early Dungeon. You may want to lead them two levels up instead of one, so they're not in the way in case you need to lead something else up afterwards. Can be tedious, though.

Use your abilities

When you're facing an emergency situation, slow down. Stop and think about every item and ability at your disposal. Often times players forget to use their spells, god abilities or even consumables when it matters the most. You can even save your game, ask for advice from other players and come back later!

Learn to use marginal tools to non-marginal effect

Items like the scroll of noise or scroll of immolation are often pooh-poohed, yet they can save your life. Don't toss them until you're sailing smoothly... or even at all! A situation solved with one of these means you've saved an instance of your more universal tools for later. You may likewise be tempted to ignore resistible wands, but the same applies. And because wands lose their potency late game: all the more reason to burn them early.

Engaging fast monsters by stepping away from them

Doing this will keep them from getting a free hit, or in the case of bats, ending their turn away from you.

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