Escaping from (and avoiding) trouble

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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 spiralled 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.

Options when in immediate danger

The following are varying escape options, roughly in order of how common they are

  • Teleport, which is however delayed and may be risky. This can be combined by other means, such as blink or better controlled blink, then healing until teleport kicks in.
  • Potion of heal wounds/Wand of heal wounds, which will heal but only around 25 HP. Many monsters can deal more damage than that in one turn. Wands are lighter and more durable, but unreliable if you're confused.
  • Potion of curing, only heals for a few HP but removes most negative status effects, which may be critical to escape.
  • Scroll of blinking/controlled blink, which (on teleport-controllable levels) can allow you to instantly blink to any visible square. Causes magic contamination.
  • Uncontrolled blink, which moves you to a random visible square. Beware of spell/evocation failure! Can make the situation worse; generally, only try it if you can do so several times in a row.
  • Scroll of fear might help you to break free if you are surrounded. Even if it does not work on all monsters, it might be enough to create an escape route.
  • Speed, possibly from potion of haste, wand of hasting, Haste spell, Swiftness spell. This will let you run away but you will be subject to ranged attacks in the mean time. The wand of hasting and Haste spell cause contamination. You can combine it with a scroll of fog to not be the target of pursuing monsters.
  • Berserk, which will haste you and add 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! It can be used either to kill the monsters or run away. To run away or if you are not sure about the outcome, only use when near stairs.
  • Spider Form speeds up most races (although spriggans actually get slower), improves evasion greatly so ranged attacks are more likely to miss, plus you can cling to walls for escaping over lava or deep water.
  • Lugonu's banishment. This will save your life immediately but reduce your max HP.
  • Borgnjor's Revivification spell. This will fully heal you but reduce your max HP.
  • Zin's sanctuary. This will protect you but prevents attacking. Combine with another method to get away.
  • Elyvilon's healing powers. They are much more powerful than even a wand of healing, but use piety and a lot of food.
  • Death's Door spell. This will make you invulnerable but leave you with very little HP. Tradeoff like berserk, but you can act and you are much more likely to die if it expires in a dangerous place.
  • Paralyze/confuse/slow/fear at the enemy. This will be effective in the early game, but in the late game, most dangerous monsters will resist them. Outside of the early game, it's best to act on yourself.

Magic - Useful Escape Spells


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.

It is also useful to remember that Lugonu grants you the ability to 'Bend space around yourself' which is effectively the blink spell.

Mephitic Cloud

Mephitic cloud is very effective for keeping most low-level creatures from pursuing or harming you. Creatures with poison resistance are immune to its effects, and creatures with 100+ HP tend to shrug its effects off as well.

If you are poison resistant or are wearing an amulet of clarity, you can use it anywhere without fear of affecting yourself. Even if you're not poison resistant, mephitic cloud can be used against an adjacent enemy in most cases (aim at the *):

.........  .........
...###...  ....###..
...#*#...  ....#*#..
...##Y...  ....Y##..
....@....  ....@....
.........  .........

By targeting diagonally beyond the yak, you can catch it in the cloud radius without catching yourself.

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.

Conjure Flame

Conjure flame is very, very situational. At best, it's irreplaceable. At worst, it's a waste of slots and of the turns spent casting it. 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).


Cheap at twice the price. Note that levitation, which handily is present right alongside it in the Book of Air, doubles its effect. Levitation or Flight used to double its effect.


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.

Slow, Confuse, and Enslavement

These take a big investment in Hexes to be worth the turns and MP it takes to cast them. Worthwhile only if you can do that, or are already doing so (Enchanters).


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!

The best spell for defensive purposes is Summon Butterflies. It instantly surrounds you with a two-tile thick layer of butterflies that interfere with your enemies' travel and ranged attacks.


Whether you use melee or magic, don't forget your decks of cards! Even an unidentified one can occasionally be the least risk*expense solution for a problem. Note: this should be a last resort for those not following Nemelex, as a shuffle or Damnation card can be much worse than whatever is threatening you.

Escaping Trouble

Monsters with a slow weapon

At first you can use the rule-of-thumb "hard-hitting = slow" (or refer to the weapon page and check its speed); later you can fine-tune this perception based on your own knowledge of weapon speeds. Monsters are affected by these just like you are, so it can happen that they take significantly more than 100% of a round to take a swing. Thus if you're lucky and if you judged right, you can take a quick action (like a weapon swap) while giving that e.g. halberd-wielding gnoll a chance to swing, then step back, and open up that vital one space of distance on the next turn, so you can flee up a staircase unfollowed. It helps to be relatively close to the stairs by this point, so you can be fairly sure that nothing else will come up during the trip. Don't be too close, though, as sometimes this method can take a couple of tries.

Note that clubs qualify -- just barely -- as weapons slow enough for this trick.

Weird stairs continuum

As of b26, it was possible to use the weapon-speed trick even against fast-weapon monsters by heading upstairs, some of the time. I never got a hang of what made the difference. Not sure it still applies in Stone Soup either.

Traffic control

With some maneuvering, you can sometimes influence which monster is next to you, so you're adjacent to a rat, and not an orc warrior. It's hard to explain; just practice. In some cases, you can even do this while pillar dancing (see below).

Pillar dancing

"The escape without having to escape." Sadly, pillar dancing is still powerful and often even necessary in Crawl, though both facts apply only in the early game. Find a "circular" path to follow, trying to make a wise compromise/choice between closeness of the path's start to where you are, its unobservability, and escape routes in case something wanders in in the opposite direction (which tends to conflict with unobservability), and ring around that rosie.

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.")

Zapping and pillar dancing

The best way to zap down a monster with a wand or a spell that is not stopped by hitting the monster (e.g. wand of lightning) is to zap at it at the corner of a pillar with a wall behind the monster. Due to reflection the monster can be hit at least two times. The Multizap page has information on how best to to double and triple zap enemies.

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!

Some monsters can even be fully abandoned this way at little resource cost: imps and phantoms. 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.

Triple visitation

Triple visitation means entering a level by all three staircases before you start exploring it in earnest. This is only really worth the tedium on the first few levels (or if the three down stairs are close together), but it can be a lifesaver. That way, if you get into trouble far from where you last entered the level, you may see a closer staircase to retreat to than your staircase of last entry. 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, swift, or invisible adventurers.

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 reenter the level from another place.


(This relates to the last item, and sort of segues into the next section.) Just because it's generally advantageous to clear a level completely before descending -- see "leading things upstairs" above -- doesn't mean it's universally the right way to go. Sigmund is the classic example here. If you use auto-exploration -- which you should -- then you can block off "trouble here!" areas using excludes: visit the level map, cursor to the epicentre of the trouble, and hit 'e', making sure you are really on the level map. Hit 'e' while cursored-onto an exclude to cycle among three exclude sizes. (In older versions than Stone Soup 0.5, use 'Ctrl-x' and 'x' instead of 'e'.)

Use your abilities

This is an obvious one that's normally forgotten. Are you a berserker? A berserk rage gives you speed, which is just as useful for clearing the 5 or 6 squares to the stairs as anything else. Worship Okawaru? Use your heroism and finesse powers, and try to kill that monster before it kills you. Got any artifact weapons or armour? Check to see if any of them have invokable teleport or blink abilities - a sling that lets you blink is often an incredibly useful artifact, as it takes one turn to equip and then one turn to blink, rapidly getting you out of melee and giving you enough time to teleport. Using bows? Arrows of dispersal can send an enemy just far enough away for you to finish it or flee from it.

It's astonishing how many characters worshipping Cheibriados forget to use Slouch or Step from Time when they're in trouble. Use it or lose it.

Keeping out of trouble

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

Engaging ranged attackers around corners

Ranged attackers will merrily follow you around a corner where you can merrily melee them - the idea being that rather than them being 10 squares away, each one of which gives them a chance to fire at you, you take two steps to hide in a corridor nearby, wait for them to appear, then take a step or two to reach them - thus drastically reducing the number of turns they get to fire at you before you reach melee distance.

Engaging fast monsters by retreating

Doing this will keep them from getting a free hit.

Softening things up

On the first few levels, collect darts, slings, and throwables (nets, javelins, daggers, spears and hand axes), even if you don't plan to go with them in the long run (and indeed, you usually shouldn't). Turn off the relevant skills when they reach level 1 if you must, but soften the tough things up! Note that often an early retreat followed by re-approach from another staircase will be precisely what makes this feasible.

Don't get surrounded

Duh, but it still bears mentioning. Especially important against packs of fast enemies. Don't forget the ability of your wands of digging and disintegration to create a corridor for you on the fly!

Retreat towards the known

It's often tactically tempting, because of the enemy's angle of approach, to flee "into the black." Try to resist the urge, and retreat towards a known area, even at the cost of taking a free hit or two. Retreating towards a known staircase or escape hatch is also wise, especially one in a tight corridor if you're being chased by multiple enemies - only enemies on squares directly next to you can go down stairs with you, so in a tight corridor only one of a group of monsters can follow you down a flight of stairs.

Also, if you are fighting a quick enemy, fight the urge to chase after them into an unexplored area if they flee. If you can spare a hit or two from an enemy you know will run (usually non-intelligent foes), maneuvering yourself into a position that will cause them to run into known areas is useful.

Fight as far from the black as is feasible

This is a corollary to the previous rule. Just as you should flee through known areas, don't advance upon unknown areas to start a fight. As you are exploring new territory, new enemies will appear 'out of the black'. Let them notice you and move into known territory, instead of automatically moving forward to attack. You don't know what's behind them, and are running the risk of getting swarmed and overwhelmed if your new foe has undetected friends.

The farther back from the black you are when the fight starts, the fewer surprises you must wrestle. You really want to avoid both the 800 lb gorilla and the attrition battle.

The 800 lb gorilla is the overwhelming out of depth monster who wanders over as you are beating up his little rat buddy. You might have seen the gorilla in normal exploration and decided to slink away without waking him up. But if you pick a fight next door to his lair, you will probably wake up the gorilla without ever knowing he was there. Assume Godzilla lurks in each unknown square, and you'll keep yourself much safer.

The attrition battle is the fight that just doesn't end. A steady stream of monsters keep jumping into the fight, so you don't get a chance to rest and replenish your fighting capabilities. There's nothing more agonizing than dying to an 'easy' monster who came upon you in an depleted state.

So it's smart to lead new opponents away from the black before engaging. Be doubly smart. Always head directly towards the the nearest stairwell when choosing your path. If you find yourself facing either a gorilla or a losing attrition fight, you are already heading in the right direction.

Noise is never your friend

There are two places where noise happens. The first is where you are standing when you launch a noisy attack. The second is your target's location, as the attack hits home and/or the enemy shouts, roars or squeaks.

It's not enough to consider just where YOU are when the fight starts. To avoid adding additional monsters to a fight, you want your target far away from the black, too.

When launching noisy ranged attacks, try to do so near a corner where you can duck out of sight. You would greatly prefer that new monsters attracted to the scene are standing around, thinking "I thought I heard something, but apparently I was mistaken." Much better than new monsters saying, "Oh, it was that fellow over there who disturbed my sleep, I'm rather cross with him."

Specialize before you generalize

It's often said, but untrue in the long run, that Crawl penalizes generalists. It *is* true in the opening, though. 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 killing power; this will make that problem less frequent. Turn skills off to this end if you must... though don't forget to turn them back on again once your engine's running, if they're useful in the long run -- e.g. dodging and stealth for a conjurer.

Learn to use marginal tools to non-marginal effect

Scrolls of fear and scroll of immolation are often pooh-poohed, yet they can save your life. Don't toss them until you're sailing smoothly! A situation solved with one of these means you've saved an instance of your simpler-to-use tools for later. You may likewise be tempted to ignore resistible wands or wands of random effects, and the same goes here, but even more strongly; these are on the contrary useful until well into the mid-game. Afterwards, much less so; all the more reason to burn them early, so you're not left with depleted stocks of top-tier wands (and scroll/potion stocks) and unused resistibles right when the latter start being useless.

Explore only when at safe levels of HP and MP, even if it costs food

One of the most important lessons in becoming a good novice Crawler is learning to conserve resources. One of the most important lessons in becoming an intermediate Crawler is learning to "waste" resources. Start with food: Burn food to keep your hit points (HPs) and magic points (MPs) at safe levels before exploring new areas.

So what's a safe level for HP? Using extreme caution, always rest until you get to full HP before exploring.

If you find you are too impatient to heal completely before exploring, at least follow some simple guidelines. By default, the game colors your HP stat to give you simple advice. "Green is pretty safe, but don't explore or pick a new fight in yellow status, and leave combat and start running for safety at red." However, the game thinks below 50% HP is yellow, and below 25% is red. In practice, most players will be happier with yellow at 75% (or higher), and red at 50% (or higher). Edit your .rc file appropriately, and never explore unless your HP stat is colored green.

Note that the quickest way to trade HP for food is via regeneration, as long as you aren't tied to a crippling food clock. If your build is not heavy AC, a simple troll hide turned into troll leather armour is the most reliable way to obtain regeneration. A ring of sustenance or an amulet of the gourmand can make constant regeneration viable even for races with major food concerns.

Of course, having HP without MP is tantamount to suicide for many classes: A wizard without MP is generally a pretty crappy melee fighter. Again, the game thinks MP levels are unsafe at a pretty low level. Update your .rc to warn you when MP drops below 50% (or more), and never explore unless your MP level is also green.

Play online and engage in ##crawl IRC

If your game's online ( or and you're on chat, it's usually no problem to find someone experienced who's in the mood to advise you when you're in a tight spot.

Using corners on large pillars

Even when you don't have corridors at your disposal, you still may have *corners*, a.k.a. corridors lite. Consider the lowly octagon-level bigpillar:


Not only will fighting in this position give you a free round of fighting only one of the yaks in this example at a time, but also the mechanics of monster movement are such that you can repeat this once for every corner of the bigpillar until you're down to one-on-one.

Keep your buffs on

You won't have time to cast Repel Missiles when that centaur appears out of nowhere -- keep it on in the first place. Keeping levitation on (or better still, flying) will keep you from falling into shafts.