Desolation of Salt

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Version 0.21: This article may not be up to date for the latest stable release of Crawl.
The Desolation was once ruled by the divines Sheza and Sargol. After the dread twins were cast down, the good gods reduced their former realm to salt, that such a terrible cult would never rise again. Amidst the ruins, only the last cultists of the dead gods, their heretical constructs, and the guardians of the cult's legendary treasure yet remain.
A seemingly endless, flat plain, wracked by blinding salt-storms. Anyone venturing across it would be lost beyond all hope in short order.

The Desolation of Salt (or simply Desolation) is a mini-branch reached via a timed portal which may generate in the Vaults or Elven Halls, signaled by the sound of "a distant wind." The Desolation is designed around packs of weak constructs accompanied by a variety of support-focused allies, as well as using cloud concealment over wall cover.

Layout

The layout of the Desolation is very simple, consisting of a large, open plain, largely devoid of structures save for the small, heavily guarded treasure vaults scattered around the centralized entrance and exit points. In lieu of permanent cover, there are large, shifting clouds of salt that block line of sight but also conceal you from bands of foes, functioning as "virtual terrain" in an otherwise open level.

Useful Traits

Monsters

Exclusive to the Desolation are a number of constructs and their human allies. While these enemies are each fairly weak, as a pack, they generate a massive of volume of attacks that can rapidly whittle your health down to dangerously low levels. Combined with the general of lack of substantial cover to funnel enemies through, fighting the inhabitants of the Desolation can prove dangerous to the unprepared. Besides the risk of getting surrounded and overwhelmed, each unit brings its own troubles:

8 Saltling.png Saltling - Fast and plentiful, saltlings are common targets for ally buffs and can rapidly surround unfortunate players.

8 Peacekeeper.png Peacekeeper - Swift and resilient, peacekeepers buff allied constructs and Throw Barbs, leaving immobilized players open to enemy onslaught.

8 Crystal guardian.png Crystal guardian - Durable sentinels with potent elemental ranged attacks.

p Servant of whispers.png Servant of whispers - These robed figures strike down interlopers with Lightning Bolts, and can cast Still Winds, temporarily stripping away all cloud cover and shutting down cloud-based spells.

p Ragged hierophant.png Ragged hierophant - Although weak on their own, they can soak up damage directed toward allies, and blast construct-surrounded foes with Resonance Strike.

p Imperial myrmidon.png Imperial myrmidon - These arcane fighters strip away magic resistance with their melee strikes, rendering their foes vulnerable to Agony and debilitating hexes.

L Halazid warlock.png Halazid warlock - Dreadful undead summoners, capable of casting Shadow Creatures or sacrificing allies for a burst of massive negative energy damage.

p Ironbrand convoker.png Ironbrand convoker - Infuriating support casters which recall and buff enemy units.

S Guardian serpent.png Guardian serpent - Although not terribly dangerous on their own, these sentinels can encircle you with nearby allies.

Strategy

The name of the game here is stealth. The Desolation lacks useful bottlenecks, and while racing into the clouds might seem like an easy way to lose pursuers (especially for fast characters), be aware that as soon as you run into a servant of whispers, that cover vanishes and you've suddenly attracted a lot of attention. Even worse, a peacekeeper's barbs make retreat an extremely painful proposition. It's better by far to avoid getting into those situations in the first place.

While few enemies here are especially dangerous on their own, most of them have mechanics that make them much deadlier in groups. As such, engaging them individually goes a long way to staying alive here. Saltlings should be one of your first concerns. These misshapen lumps serve as capable tanks when buffed, dishing out surprising damage and preventing you from reaching the serious threats beyond. Fortunately, they also fail to make noise when injured; if you can draw their attention with a quiet spell or ranged attack from the edge of your line of sight, they'll charge into melee with you without awakening their allies. Use this tactic to clear them out first, circling around known packs and leaving the dangerous foes for last.

The myrmidons are likely the most dangerous single units present here, though crystal guardians and servants of whispers can dish out heavy elemental damage as well. Far worse are the ironbrand convokers, guardian serpents, and halazid warlocks, any of which can bring heavy reinforcements on top of you no matter how cautiously you avoid being social. Sound doesn't travel far here, so if need be, don't be afraid to unleash the heavy firepower to bring these guys down quickly. Earth Magic specialists shine here, as the many constructs you face serve wonderfully as targets for Lee's Rapid Deconstruction, and nothing here enjoys Shatter. Finally, if faced with an especially bad situation, reading a scroll of teleport can be a lifesaver, especially once you've already cleared out the smaller foes outside of the more heavily guarded treasure vaults.

History

The Desolation of Salt was added in 0.19