This walkthrough charts the progress of a melee fighter wearing heavy armour who worships Trog, Okawaru or The Shining One. If you have ascended using a different type of character, feel free to enhance this guide according to your experience. The progression order should apply to most characters.
This page only covers the general strategy of the game. For specific topics and tactics, see the related pages. The following are good reads for beginners:
For generic character building strategy see:
After you win the game, consider writing a character guide for your combination.
You can also look at published wins on public servers for more hints.
- Character selection
- Early game (approx. D:1 - D:9)
- Early branches (order may vary)
- Middle dungeon (approx. D:10 - D:18)
- Middle branches
- The Lair, L7-8
- Orcish Mines, L4
- The Swamp, L1-4 - may wish to delay if you cannot swim or fly
- The Shoals L1-4 - may wish to delay if you cannot swim or fly
- The Snake Pits L1-4 - may wish to delay if you lack poison resistance
- The Spider's Nest L1-4 - may wish to delay if you lack poison resistance
- Elven Halls L1-2 - should get you some accessories and books
- The Vaults L1-4
- The Crypt L1-4
- Hall of Blades - may provide you with a decent weapon, if you don't already have one
- Lower dungeon (approx. D:19 - D:27)
- Branch endings, either for loot or a rune (order may vary, delay if you have teleportitis)
- The Realm of Zot L1-4
- The Realm of Zot L5 - don't pick up the Orb of Zot yet
- Bonus branches (optional, order may vary, some characters may find any of these very hard)
- The Slime Pits
- The Vestibule of Hell - an excellent place for your late-game stash
- The Iron City of Dis
- The Abyss - explore until you get the rune: this can take a long time
- The Tomb - delay if you have teleportitis
- Pandemonium - remember to bring extra food and plenty of resistances
- Ziggurat (a portal can be found by wandering Pandemonium, if you haven't found one elsewhere) - only go here if you want the challenge or need more supplies or equipment; ziggurats are extremely difficult
- Pick up the Orb of Zot, run to Level 1, and escape!
Note that while race selection is locked in and significantly affects the whole game, the background/weapon selection only determines starting equipment,and skills, but doesn't affect the game in any other way (i.e you can develop any skills you choose). Also, initial god selection (if applicable) can be changed, but you will incur penance, which may be deadly if you are not powerful enough yet.
If you're new to Crawl, you'll have to experiment until you find a race/background combination that works for you. See Background and race combinations for beginners for guidance.
Don't forget to read the strategy guide for your character combination, if available. The available guides are listed earlier in this article.
At the start of the game, start descending through the dungeon. Sometimes you'll need to skip levels and take the first stairs down as soon as possible, without further exploration, if they appear too risky. Uniques (especially Sigmund and Grinder), player ghosts, ogres, and bands of gnolls or orcs all pose a significant threat on the first few levels. You may be able to isolate the most dangerous monsters and kill them from afar, or by using any tricks at your disposal -- wands, spells, branded throwing weapons. etc. -- but remember, you're under no obligation to kill the monsters now. Remember, you get more powerful over the course of the game. The uniques and other "local bullies" don't.
Once you find the Temple, pick a god if you haven't yet (and aren't a demigod). If you're playing a character with low Strength you may want to establish a temporary stash here if your carrying capacity is almost maxed out; characters with high Strength, and therefore a higher carrying capacity, can often delay until they reach the Lair. If the particular god you want isn't in the Temple (perhaps you got the "corrupted temple"), you can find it in the main dungeon. If you're looking to convert to one of the more unusual gods (i.e. Beogh, Lugonu, or Jiyva), then you may have to wait until later to convert.
Then, continue exploring the dungeon until you find the entrances to the Orcish Mines and the Lair. Even though they are generally discovered in that order, most players will find it easier to clear the Lair first. These branches are not just digressions; clearing them is a major part of the game, and you will get significant resources from each. But, speaking of digressions...
Throughout the game, you will find various portals to optional levels. If a portal demands a price, ignore it for now. Many of the portals are timed, so if you wish to enter them at all, you must do so quickly. Portal levels have different themes, and each has characteristic types of monsters and other threats. First, look up the portal, and consider whether you're equipped to deal with it. Some of these are obvious; to mention some later portals, it's fire resistance for the Volcano, cold resistance for the Ice Cave, or extra food for the Labyrinth. If the portal plays to your weak points, just skip it! (That is what "optional" means, after all.) Likewise, if the "guards" around the portal are too tough for you, you probably didn't want to go inside anyway. If the portal's timer runs out before you're ready to go in, well, that's life in the dungeon.
If you do decide to venture in, take a moment before doing so to set up your resistances and then clear out your inventory of anything you surely won't need for this portal -- you don't want to have all of your scrolls burned and your potions shattered. Once you're in, take stock of the situation, and explore carefully. Keep track of the exit portals (there's always at least one handy). If you're overmatched, take what you've got so far (if anything) and skedaddle -- whatever's around the next bend surely isn't worth getting killed! If you step in and immediately face an "oh, sh*t" situation, RUN, because it's not going to get easier!
Most likely, the first portal you find will be the Sewer, which is good practice for your general strategy here. The sewer features lots of water, and mostly weak monsters, but there will be poisonous snakes, and the end of the sewer can have nastier monsters. Merfolk, Octopodes, Tengu, or grey Draconians may be able to reach some extra treasure because of their ability to cross deep water. The second is likely to be the Ossuary, with lots of zombies and/or mummies, and occasionally more exotic undead. Both are highly variable, with many possible maps and a range of hazard levels. The Bailey may show up a bit later -- this one needs distance attacks, defense against missiles, and a fair dose of raw killing power.
While most of the individual branches are more-or-less optional, you do need to clear several of them to get your runes and win the game. Often when you first reach a branch entrance, you will not be strong enough to deal with the inhabitants, so you'll have to gather experience and equipment in the main dungeon, then come back later. When you do venture in, you should normally clear all but the last level. These "branch endings", especially those with runes, are much more dangerous than the rest of their branch! It's wiser to leave them be until you've gotten more powerful and are ready to take them on. Note that runes are not needed for anything until you are ready to enter the Realm of Zot.
It is generally safe to clear the all but the last level of the Lair when you find it. The first 3-4 levels are not too much of a challenge. You'll find packs of rats, various fast-moving poisonous snakes, frogs and assorted other beasts. (Watch out for spiny frogs, an early threat.) As you go deeper, sheep and yaks will occasionally be joined by death yaks, elephants, and sometimes even dire elephants. The occasional hydra will rear its heads, so make sure you have a means to deal with it. Establish your stash on L2; only beasts spawn on this level, and they can't pick up items. If you start having trouble with the beasts, return to the main dungeon (or other branches) for a while, rinse and repeat. Watch out for the occasional fire-breather such as a lindwurm, fire drake, or even a mottled dragon. If you're confident in your abilities, you may consider clearing Lair:8; however, be prepared to leave in a hurry, as Lair:8 always has a dangerous vault that you may not be able to handle.
Despite the entrance appearing earlier, the Orcish Mines are tougher than the Lair. While bands of plain orcs don't pose much difficulty, orc warriors (nasty), orc knights (nastier), and orc warlords (deadly) may appear as you go deeper, punctuated by various ogre types and trolls. On the mystical side, you'll see plenty of orc wizards who can turn invisible, orc priests who can smite you from afar for serious damage, and even orc sorcerers summoning demons. To add insult to injury, levels are often split into multiple paths, with some parts being unreachable unless you use a scroll of magic mapping and dig your way to them. You'll find the entrance to the Elven Halls on the lower levels, but don't go in yet, as the elves are much tougher than the orcs. As noted above, don't even touch the last level unless you're really "sweeping all before you" (and then watch out for orc warlords and orc high priests). You may also find a big ogre vault on Orc:4 -- if so, this will be your introduction to ogre mages!
After you've explored the majority of the early branches, continue to explore the main dungeon, but take it slow. Monster difficulty will start to ramp up noticeably. You'll find the entrances to the Vaults and Hell before too long. When you begin to feel uncomfortable with how dangerous the dungeon's monsters are, it's time to backtrack a bit and clear the branches you've passed over so far, especially finishing the Orcish Mines and Lair.
Assuming you have poison resistance by now and a way to kill hydras (spells, flaming weapons or non-bladed weapons), the Swamp should be your first target... if it exists (Only one of Swamp and Shoals will appear in any game). Be careful to only fight from solid ground unless your character does well in shallow water or can fly (if you're surprised while wading through shallow water, retreat to dry land, then turn and fight). If you lack poison resistance, you may either get a swamp dragon hide in the swamp, or do the Elven Halls L1-2 first and hope to find equipment there.
If your game has generated the Shoals instead, the first few floors can be cleared now, so long as you're careful. Again, fight from solid ground or while flying to avoid incurring penalties. A source of flight is much more important in the Shoals than it is in the Swamp, as the Shoals have large patches of shallow water that you must traverse between areas of dry land. The shifting tides may even confine you to an island; if that happens, either fly to the next island or wait for the tides to shift. Expect to have to deal with foes such as merfolk bands, snapping turtles, harpies, and possibly even a kraken.
Afterwards, you can clear the first four floors of the Snake Pit or the Spider's Nest (again, assuming you have poison resistance). The Snake Pit is populated by snakes and hordes of nagas; a large portion of their damage comes from poisoning you, but you'll also face a few heavy melee threats such as anacondas or naga warriors. The Spider's nest has swarms of fast-moving spiders that can quickly inflict severe poisoning, so poison resistance is almost mandatory. Decent AC is also recommended, as many spiders hit about as hard as yaks.
If you lack poison resistance or a means of flight, clearing the first two floors of the Elven Halls may provide you with one or both of them. The Halls feature many dangerous deep elven casters, especially on the third and final floor, so avoid going there for now. Even while exploring the upper floors, try to have high magic resistance to avoid getting banished. On the physical side, there are also deep elves who love to pelt you from afar with their bows. Repel Missiles or Deflect Missiles are of great use here, if you have them.
As you explore these areas, you may find additional portals to places like the Volcano, Ice Cave, or Labyrinth. Should you find one, prepare yourself adequately before entering (i.e. fire resistance for the Volcano, extra food for the Labyrinth, etc.)
The Slime Pits are much more dangerous than any of the other branches found so far, and require quite a lot of preparation before you can clear them with any semblance of safety.
Do not descend to any of the branch endings yet!
The Vaults (L1-4) are next. The primary threats here are mostly physical ones, so having a decent set of armour helps. Plate armour or better is generally enough to be able to fight your way through without too much trouble. Again, the fifth and final floor of the Vaults is extremely dangerous; do not enter it yet.
If you're in need of a good weapon, you can clear the Hall of Blades. If you choose to do so, try to equip yourself to defend against the weapon brands: life protection is quite necessary to prevent or reduce draining. Look for a good branded weapon if necessary, and a weapon of holy wrath for the Crypt. Note that weapons of distortion may banish you to the Abyss, both when they hit you and when you unwield them, so be cautious with any that you find.
You can then explore the Crypt, which is a great source of piety with The Shining One. If you worship another god and plan to switch later to The Shining One, you may want to delay clearing the Crypt (although you may also use the Abyss for this purpose). Dispel Undead and the Necromancy to back it will make the Crypt almost trivial. You'll find an entrance to the Tomb somewhere along the way, but DO NOT ENTER IT. The Tomb is one of the most dangerous places in the entire game, even for end-game characters.
You should now be ready to the take the bottom floors of the various branches you've come across so far. If you're uncertain of your ability to do so, finish exploring the main dungeon first, though you won't be able to open the gate to the Realm of Zot yet. These "branch endings" are significantly different from the preceding levels, with non-random layouts and a high concentration of powerful monsters. They should be played carefully: explore in a circular fashion from the upstairs, ready to retreat at the first sign of danger, and try to pull individual monsters back to you instead of fighting large packs. See the individual branch pages for needed preparation and strategy. You will need high magic resistance for Elven Halls, poison resistance for the Snake Pit and Spider's Nest, a way to fly for the Shoals and Swamp, and electricity resistance and high AC for the Vaults.
Lower dungeon and Zot
After you have your first three runes, finish exploring the main dungeon, if you haven't already done so.
At this point, you may wish to stop relying on scrolls and potions, since many monsters will have fire/cold/sticky flame attacks that destroy them. If you continue relying on them, be very careful and wear an amulet of conservation or cloak of preservation.
Once you've cleared the main dungeon, go unlock the portal to the Realm of Zot. You should be able to clear the first four levels: they are similar to the Elven Halls and feature lots of narrow corridors inhabited by draconians instead of elves. Remember to put on an amulet of resist corrosion to deal with yellow draconians, a source of electricity resistance for black draconians, and lots of fire resistance for orbs of fire. You may also consider clearing the outer portion of Zot:5 -- as long as you don't go near the orb chamber, the threats you face will be primarily on the same level as the first four Zot floors.
After clearing the majority of the Realm of Zot, you may choose to do a few of the optional branches. Their difficulty varies based on your character, but they provide plenty of experience, loot, and more runes. Note that you risk getting mutated in these branches, so if you already have good gear and experience, are low on potions of cure mutation, and don't plan on randomly teleporting in Zot:5, you may wish to clear that first. You may also delay some of these if you lack sufficient gear for them (such as corrosion resistance for the Slime Pits or high-power spells for the Tomb).
You may find a portal to a Wizard Laboratory while exploring late-game areas. These areas vary greatly in what sorts of threats you may face; look up whatever laboratory you find yourself in before proceeding.
The Slime Pits are the easiest, but only enter if you have an amulet of resist mutation (or the mutation resistance mutation), an amulet of resist corrosion, and mostly corrosion-proof gear (i.e. artifacts, +4 or better armour, dwarven gear, or crystal plate armour). Clear the last level extremely carefully, avoiding the structure in the center until you've cleared everything else. Kill the royal jelly, but be careful since it spawns more jellies when damaged. After you've killed the royal jelly, you can get the loot and the rune by digging, teleporting, or Passwalling through the walls of the loot chambers. Alternately, you can convert to Jiyva, which will turn all the monsters in this branch neutral toward you and eventually unlock the rune vaults. Just be prepared to deal with your former god's wrath and hungry jellies eating your items.
The Abyss contains another rune, but you'll have to spend a lot of time wandering through the chaotic, demon-infested realm in order to find it. Bring extra food and mutation resistance, as well as any other resistances you'll need to deal with the various demons and cosmic horrors you'll find during your explorations. On the upside, you can find almost any item in the Abyss, so it's a good place to find additional equipment or supplies you're running low on. It's also a good place to build piety with The Shining One, if you've already cleared the Crypt or have burned through some of your piety in other locations. In order to find the rune, you'll have to descend to at least Abyss:3.
You can also enter the Vestibule of Hell, kill Geryon, and evoke his horn to open the Hells. Once you've done that, consider moving your stash to the Vestibule, as it makes an excellent stash location for the end-game.
Hell's four branches each require particular resistances and contain fiends to torment you. Again, life protection is a must, and sustain abilities is recommended. Every branch has loot and a rune at the end. You can also get the Sceptre of Asmodeus and the Staff of Dispater here. Note that you will very likely be cast into the Abyss at least once. It's recommended you read their respective pages and prepare carefully, as some of the most dangerous monsters in Crawl are found in these branches.
The Tomb, filled with mummies, is one of the most dangerous branches in the game. These cast death curses when killed (including torment for priests and greater mummies), but the real problem are mummy priests and greater mummies, who can both torment *and* smite you, resulting in a quick death; this can be mitigated with torment resistance or immunity. Kikubaaqudgha provides protection from mummy curses at high piety, so his worshippers should have relatively little difficulty. Alternately, if you are a summoner or a follower of a god who grants summoning invocations (The Shining One is perfect here), you can let your summons handle the mummies, though you'll need to proceed carefully. Life protection is a must to reduce harm from torment. The Tomb contains loot at the very end and a rune. If you have teleportitis and lack torment resistance, avoid it. Some players may be able to survive this branch anyway, but it's quite risky.
If you do have teleportitis, no means to cure it, and don't plan to randomly teleport in Zot:5 or can still become stronger, you may want to do Pandemonium or the Abyss first in hopes of finding a potion of cure mutation (or enough potions of mutation to randomly remove it). You could even attempt a Ziggurat, although that can be very dangerous. If you don't want all the runes, you may also consider converting to Zin and building piety with donations to use his Cure All Mutations ability.
It's recommended you read Zot:5 for more details on the level itself and the strategies for clearing it. In any case, this is the time to clear out the Orb chamber in preparation for your ascension.
You can now take the Orb and ascend for a multi-rune, but not "complete" win... or you can leave the Orb in place and prepare for Pandemonium. Make sure you bring plenty of food, and the recommended equipment/resistances described on that page.
When entering a new Pandemonium level, check for a message indicating the presence of a powerful demon lord. If such a message appears, this is your one chance to kill the demon lord and grab the rune (in Cerebov's level, make sure you get the loot from his castle, too). Otherwise, explore and take the first portal you find to a new Pandemonium level. If you stumble across a randomly-named demon, kill him and see if there is a demonic rune. If you've killed Mnoleg, Gloorx Vloq, Lom Lobon and Cerebov and still have no demonic rune, continue through Pandemonium until you find one. You will find food in Pandemonium, but wearing a ring of sustenance, playing an undead character, or traveling in lichform will make Pandemonium farming easier, especially if you use lots of skills that cause hunger.
After all this, or in case you stumble upon a portal to one while roaming Pandemonium, you can raid one or more Ziggurats. Note that this can be extremely dangerous and the loot will be virtually useless since you can already kill everything in the game anyway. If you haven't found a portal to a Ziggurat yet, you may be able to create one using a legendary deck of changes or a legendary deck of dungeons. Failing that, just wander around Pandemonium until you find one.
Finishing a Ziggurat is extremely hard: the later levels may be full of multiple Pan lords who haste themselves and summon tormenting and smiting demons, and there may be no safe strategy for it with your current character. Nonetheless, it is possible to fully clear them. Of course, you may also opt to enter one earlier (having found or made a portal) to get some of the loot in the upper floors, which are often quite survivable.
Once you have done all that, find an exit from Pandemonium; while exits to the Dungeon are safer to use, exits through the Abyss are far more common. If you want the abyssal rune and haven't found it yet, wander around the Abyss until you find it. At this point, you can search for a portal back to the dungeon and make your way back to Zot:5.
So, when you've finished ransacking every place you wish, just proceed to Zot:5 and claim the Orb of Zot! To save yourself a bit of distance, consider using Apportation to drag the Orb over to the nearest staircase (though this will take a while and make tons of noise, which is why you should clear out the Orb chamber first). Be warned that from the time you pick up the Orb, all portals in the dungeon will close, sealing off Hell and the other netherworlds. Furthermore, you will be under -cTele (that is, no teleport control anywhere) from this point on.
To finish the game, simply book it towards D:1. Make use of the game's autotravel feature (Ctrl+G), which will automatically calculate the shortest route to your destination. Your priority now is speed: use every method of speeding yourself up available to you, whether it's haste, Swiftness, digging yourself a shortcut, or anything else. Make use of any potions, scrolls, or wands that can help you travel more quickly, and don't worry about magical contamination; it doesn't matter if you exit the Dungeon as a half-blind, deformed, mutant vegan so long as you've escaped safely.
Occasionally residents of Pandemonium will appear to block your path, including Pandemonium lords. If you can get around them, do so. If they block your path completely, only fight if you can clear a path within a few turns; otherwise, dig yourself a new path or take another route. Though you'll be under permanent -cTele, you can still make a semi-controlled blink by using a scroll of blinking or Controlled Blink; a random teleport, whether from a scroll or wand, can also get you free of a blockade. Only stop to heal if you're in danger of dying, and use any means of healing quickly that remain at your disposal. Just travel as quickly and efficiently as possible, avoid getting pinned down, and you should escape without too much trouble.