Tasonir's Melee Naga Guide
Warnings and Scope of this guide
This is not intended to be a guide for new players. It is assumed that you have already decided to worship Cheibriados - Cheibriados requires significant conducts in that you cannot walk at normal speed, or use any haste or speed weapons. This makes Cheibriados a challenge god - this guide is how to cope with the challenge and become as strong as possible; NOT to compare directly to a build with haste.
Much of the guide focuses on a hybrid character who follows Cheibriados. It is NOT necessary to play as Naga. It is NOT necessary to be melee! Ranged weapons work fine, casters are probably strongest - I am simply less fond of them. Remember this is a guide written by one person, and above all else, adapt it to your needs.
Melee Nagas of Cheibriados
Melee Nagas of Cheibriados are powerful fighters with high health, very strong AC by the mid game, and several useful intrinsics like poison spit, poison resistance, and see invisible. They pay for these benefits with slow movement; and cheibriados makes you twice as slow. In return you will gain very powerful god abilities and a passive +15 to all stats, which allows you to hybridize and fight very effectively if managed properly. Your extra slow movement speed will increase slouch damage, but is still worse than a flat 2.0 turn move speed on other Cheibriados races.
Most typical builds will want to end up in a medium armor such as fire or ice dragon armor, and learn a fairly wide range of the standard support spells: regeneration, blink/Cblink, repel/deflect missiles, transmutations if you are using unarmed, abjuration, etc. You obviously cannot learn haste, a significant drawback.
Cheibriados is a fairly straightforward god - you refuse haste and move slowly in exchange for +15 to all stats and powerful abilities. See the god page for more details on them. Due to the lack of speed a lot of players consider Cheibriados to be a weak god. Learning to deal with the conduct will take patience, and the early game can have some deaths which are extremely difficult to avoid. You will become slower before you become significantly stronger; but eventually it will smooth out.
Background and Weapon Choice
A main decision is what weapon/shield you will be using: I generally prefer using unarmed, shields, and statue form on melee Cheibriados worshippers. However statue form is weaker on nagas than on most races since you lose your scale mutation, which is 9 AC, and your naga barding. For nagas, blade hands is usually best, although statue form or necromutation can be used in extended if you have trouble with torment, but neither are needed to deal with torment if you are careful. Feel free to experiment with the background that suits you best; very little of this guide changes based on your background, just train your weapon skill instead of unarmed and the choice of shield vs two-handed weapon is up to you. Most weapon skills will tend towards 2H weapons, although nagas do have very strong stealth if you wished to go for a stabbing approach (Chei's +15 dex gives +45 stealth, after all).
Of weapon skills, polearms are generally favored for the innate reaching ability. No, hunters was not a mistake - they play fairly similar to melee except removing the need to move during combat entirely can make the early game smoother. Just train your launcher skill early on, and you can either stay with it all game long or hybridize into melee depending on how your game progresses.
In short, whatever you put in your hand slots can be made to work - Nagas have fairly flat aptitudes and work well with basically any weapon type. I personally love unarmed and transmutations, but do not feel forced into picking this style. It is extremely powerful, but comes at a cost of very high experience requirements to get it performing well.
Note that since Nagas are large, they have slightly lowered EV and they require less skill to learn to use shields without penalty. They can eliminate the penalty for bucklers at 3 levels in shields skill, for shields at 9 levels, and for large shields at 15. It is still important to train dodging and you will eventually be able to have high EV. See the Naga page for more details on the race.
Skill training is not that different from most characters, although hybrids tend to need a fair bit more experience and can be tougher as you’ll want to cast magic with your +15 int, while also training fighting skills.
Start with your weapon skill until either min delay, or a reasonable amount of skill for a ranged weapon. With Chei’s stat boosts, reaching min delay is typically possible at around 13-15 skill, making ranged weapons a very cheap investment and an excellent way to deal with the early game, provided that you have enough ammo to use them. Slings and bows tend to have more early ammunition. If you are using unarmed, around 10-15 skill before you branch into other skills is a good stopping point.
When you join Cheibriados, train invocations to ~10 for slouch to reach 1% fail, and then get some defenses started. Keep balancing your offensive skill with defenses and when you are comfortable train whatever magic schools you need for spells you have found. Avoid training magic schools for spells you haven’t found yet - you always need more damage and more dodging.
Around mid game get invocations to 14 for 1% fail step from time. When you have the time for it, raise fighting for the health - you can somewhat afford to delay this since nagas have +20% health, but more always helps. As you can see, hybrids can be very demanding on skill training order. Dodging is your best overall defense, but you will eventually want high armor as well, and shields if you are using them. Stealth and evocations can be reasonable options depending on what you have found, but are not required. Try to only train the least amount of skills that you can to survive until you’re through lair and orc at least.
While your damage may be primarily physical, support magic is an important part of any character who doesn't worship Trog; Cheibriados worshippers should use all the standard utility spells with an emphasis on blink and controlled blink if available. Common utility spells to look out for include repel/deflect missiles, regeneration, blink/controlled blink, control teleport,aura of abjuration, etc. Prior to version .18, phase shift and stoneskin are also recommended.
If you are using unarmed, blade hands is an excellent spell, although you can't also use a shield. Statue form is an all around useful form that can be used with melee or ranged weapons, including shields, and won't slow down your movement very much since you're nearly as slow as a statue already (2.8 vs 3.0). Keep in mind that the slow also applies to non-movement, so all your combat and potions etc are 50% slower too. Still, it is worth using if that's the setup you're interested in; the 50% reduction to torment is particularly useful in the extended game with high regeneration. If you do learn statue form, picking up several other earth spells is practically free: stone arrow or even iron shot can be affordable, LRD is single school, and if you have enough, shatter is also single school. It is unlikely you'll ever need that much firepower, though, and the massive noise generated can make it quite risky.
Watch out for wasting experience training too much armor skill/wearing medium armor if you intend to go statue form - it will be melded and not factor into your strength. It isn't necessarily a complete waste though, as you will not want to be slowed at all times.
At various phases in the game, you'll have different incentives to switch between working on AC and working on EV. Early game, avoid heavy armor because of your deformed body mutation. A +0 plate mail with 0 skill is generally bad even on d:1; but by the time you're in lair a +4 plate with 5-10 skill may be worth wearing. Early on it will be much easier to raise EV quickly through dodging because of the +15 dex; you should generally train dodging first and raise armor later on. When you can finally afford to train armor somewhat, a medium armor such as troll leather, ring mail, scale mail, or chain mail are reasonable options, generally if they have some enchantment.
It's perfectly fine to stay in light armor until you can find a dragon armor; if you are using unarmed combat, you especially need to stay in light (encumbrance 11 or lower, the lower the better) armor because heavy armor can slow unarmed attacks. If you do wear medium armor and use unarmed, training armor will reduce this penalty significantly, but don't neglect your offense. In .16, the delay for heavy armor on unarmed was made fixed rather than a random roll. You generally can wear up to scale mail with 0 penalty, but wearing something heavier will require high strength and some level of armor skill to bring the penalty back down to 0. In good news, it is in fact possible to wear very heavy armor like crystal plate armor and still have 0 penalty, with roughly 20+ armor skill and 35 or so strength (values approximate).
Aside from the body slot, nagas wear bardings instead of boots, which provide significantly more AC, with only a minor EV penalty. This is a large benefit, but they are much less common and you may not find one until the late game. If you are still having trouble finding one late game they can be commonly generated from scrolls of acquirement, so pick armor until you get one. This does make getting non-barding armor slots less likely, so beware if you have a barding you already like. Consider jewelry, rods, or wands. You cannot generate a wand of hasting, so you have a slightly better chance of getting a wand of heal wounds. It's still far from certain, however. Once you have a barding, training the armor skill becomes more valuable as it's four base ac will be boosted by armor skill like all other base ac.
With the +15 to all stats, you have all you need of the three. Dex will boost your EV slightly, int will help with casting and strength will raise your damage slightly. I generally go with int, but when you already have 30 of each, it isn't as critical as other builds. Strength increases your damage significantly, but you generally already have more than enough damage. It can be a decent option if you are wearing very heavy armor, though. Builds with a fair amount of spells should probably still default to int.
Make sure you are familiar with how to explore safely; this generally means autoexplore, but also using shift+ direction will stop as soon as a monster is noticed. Never take more than one manual step at a time - this is true for any character, but will be extremely deadly when worshipping Chei.
Use poison spit very frequently in the early game - macroing af. to a convenient key will make it easy to use and remember.
It is possible for mobs who just come into your LOS to notice you and then get 1-2 additional turns before your next turn. You may take two hits; this is uncommon and you should have plenty of health to absorb such damage, but make sure not to exaggerate the problem by moving several steps at a time. Auto-explore is much safer; like every character holding down movement keys is deadly. It's just three times as deadly with Chei!
While uncommon, there are times where you may wish to split up your constriction attack and melee attacks. If you are fighting something with high health that cannot be constricted, spare an attack to hit something smaller in order to constrict it. Then you can continue to melee the larger target while the small target will be constricted to death.
Wands of Invisibility and teleport are excellent escape options, especially when running is not possible. Raising stealth is also an effective way to prevent swarms of monsters from noticing you, and nagas have the highest aptitude in the game for it, +5.
Expect non-ranged monsters to move roughly 3 tiles each time you take a step; monsters who are 2 tiles away can be engaged by taking a step back, 4 tiles away can be walked towards, 3 tiles away you can move sideways or rest (resting will only burn 1 turn). It is always a viable choice to simply rest on the tile where you are and let them come to you. Casting buffs on yourself while you wait is a great way to kill time. Methods for closing to melee range against powerful ranged mobs:
Controlled blink to melee range. Probably the best choice and one you won't have for a very long time. When and if you finally do, use it. Temporal distortion. Fairly cheap, and instantaneous. This means that after you use it and the mobs have moved towards you, you still get to attack before they do.
Retreat around a nearby wall or door. Depending on how the dungeon layout is this may bring them all the way to melee or at least two to three tiles away.
Scroll of Fog. They'll have to come inside the fog to see you. Block their LOS with another mob. Most monsters won't shoot through other mobs and will follow the melee monster right along to you. Note that a few monsters are more than happy to roast their fellow dungeon dwellers, so this isn't universal. Dragons and demons in the late game are generally willing to shoot through each other, so this is more useful for Centaurs/Yaktaurs in the mid game.
Fight back with ranged attacks. Similar to resting for mobs that will come closer to you, you can just use a few turns attacking with spit poison, wands, slings, or throwing weapons. Against stronger mobs you'll probably only soften them up, but they'll get closer to you on any turns they don't use their ranged abilities and then they're faster to kill in range.
Sample Morgue Files
15 rune Statue Form Hybrid
This is the best example of the build, using my now preferred statue form as the main transmutation. Note that this game never generated a book of the warp so I had no controlled blink - it was not skipped intentionally. I also never found a cloak of preservation, which I would have worn instead. The berserk potion at the end was just to experiment with max health records, so I don't have Chei's boosted stats in the log file.
5 rune pure melee in Crystal Plate Mail
This build is recommended for people who have not won any games yet - you will avoid spellcasting and just focus on melee power. Statue form is not very important for the regular game, as you will rarely be tormented. Skip going to slime if you have never done it before, I included it in this run as I'm very familiar with the area. Remember you only need 3 runes to win!
7 Rune ranged combat (bows)
Ranged combat is very powerful in the early game, and an excellent way to start since the loss of constriction. Conserve ammunition with melee once you have time to develop it, but use ranged combat for anything dangerous. This can allow you to drop transmutations, which will free up a lot of experience for other skills.