Yep, it’s been an extremely long time since the original article asking for character submissions, but I’m here now, so let’s get this show on the road.
I’ll try to make this report informative, though I stress that I’m nowhere near a master at this game, maybe not even mediocre. I do have a basic understanding of how many things work, so I’ll be able to impart some knowledge. Just don’t expect any gamebreaking strategies.
Stuff in italics is me telling you things about the game. All of the screenshots can be enlarged to a readable size by clicking on them. This is highly recommended as the smaller screens don’t show much.
The dungeon stank. Inck should have known this would be a bad idea. Desperate times lead to desperate measures, however, and this would be his last chance. Foreclosure had forced him out of his burrow in Dinkyton, while the debts he’d accumulated with every pipeweed dealer in the Shire were greater than decades of petty thievery could rectify.
He’d heard a rumour about a centaur necromancer living in the woods, a being of considerable wealth and power. The creature was called Irving, and the whispers Inck heard from beneath the floorboards of human pubs told of the centaur’s desire to possess a certain magical Orb. The Orb of Zot, it was said, would allow Irving to grow an extra pair of arms to match his four equine legs. Inck suspected that the mad old horse-man just wanted to play a diabolical game of Twister with himself. It sounded crazy, so it was surely the truth.
A short meeting in the woods, a hastily drawn contract, and a quick cart ride later, Inck found himself in the dungeon.
He was in. There was no turning back till he had the Orb.
Even for a Halfling, Inck was a runt. But for his beard and malignant countenance, he could be mistaken for a deformed human child, hunched and bandy-legged. His size and ugliness had caused him to be picked on at school. Evading the bullies and visiting revenge on them with small, sharp objects trained skills that would serve him well in the future:
The pack Inck took on this quest included a sharp dagger (2+ damage, 2+ to hit), a blowgun with 10 poison and 3 curare needles, and a loaf of bread. He wore his favourite robe and cloak, both a carefully cultivated dark grey from years of crawling in dark places. This would be a quick job, he hoped, and taking more would leave less room for all the delicious treasure he was going to find.
Skills train at different rates depending on how well suited a race is to the craft. For instance, Halflings are a dab hand at Short Blades, Throwing, and Stealth. For simplicity’s sake, think of it as a bit like Oblivion where using a skill will level it up, rather than the Fallout style of choosing what to upgrade upon levelling.
The Short Blades skill covers everything from a butter knife to a sabre. These are common weapons to find early in the dungeons—frequently with brands, which are magical properties like fire, poison, electricity and so on—but their lack of damage can be something of a hindrance later in the game. For the moment, though, they suit Inck perfectly as his Stabbing skill confers the greatest bonus to daggers. Stabbing basically generates a critical hit on unaware or sleeping monsters and will go a long way to making Inck more effective in combat. It’s also one of the things sneaky Halflings are better at than most.
Throwing is what you’d expect, though it also covers use of the blowgun and cross-trains with Slings. The blowgun is a particularly powerful tool against most of the creatures Inck will encounter at the start of the dungeon. Poison needles simply poison enemies, with the poisoning effect stacking if Inck manages to pincushion his target. Curare needles are deadly: coated in an asphyxiating poison that slows even the toughest enemies down significantly. Unfortunately, we only start with 3 curare needles and they are rather rare in the dungeon, so they’ll only come out in dire circumstances*.
Stealth determines how likely it is for a monster to notice Inck when he’s in its line of sight. Pretty obvious, really.
*Dire circumstances are guaranteed in Crawl.
The clop of hooves slamming down on the trap door was a reminder that Irving was waiting impatiently for his new arms. Inck turned and let his gimlet eyes adjust to the dim light of the dungeon. There were eight ugly statues arrayed around the room, all of a bald, seemingly hydrocephalitic man. Perhaps they were the likeness of the irresponsible designer of the dungeon, the Mad Count Linley Henzell. He hurried past, eager to escape their vacant stares.
The first level of the dungeon was a warren of small square rooms and long corridors. Inck investigated it all, always on the lookout for loot. Unfortunately, there was little of note in any of the rooms, and rats this size of ale kegs yielded nothing but their carcasses as he killed them in their sleep. An occasional goblin or hobgoblin (the difference being that a hobgoblin is larger in size, owing to the way they gobble Hobnobs) spiced things up occasionally. Inck was wily, though, and his leathery feet made little sound on the hard flagstones as he scampered up to slit their throats. The few times he was noticed, he was easily able to evade slow clubs and blunt knives before retaliating, his dagger punching small holes in their greasy bodies. He may not have had the strength to wield an axe or a hammer, but Inck had always found that sticking foes with the pointy end led to results.
The first level of the Dungeon didn’t contain any surprises. Occasionally Crawl will spawn Out of Depth (hereafter OOD) monsters on the earlier levels, which can be pretty bad news, especially for a weakling like Inck.
The second level was no more menacing the first, and the halfling grew in confidence, somehow feeling healthier, faster, and stronger than he ever had in the outside world. Perhaps there was something to this dungeon crawling business. He was also discovering lurid hued potions and smelly scrolls, just lying on the ground! Clearly the stupid monsters didn’t know their value.
Inc levelled up a couple of times clearing out the second floor. Every three levels, you can choose what attribute (strength, dexterity, intelligence) to improve, in addition to bonuses where you don’t get a choice, based on the race of your character. Halfings, for example, have a dexterity increase every 5 levels—a nice bonus considering almost all of their strong skills rely on being nimble.
This wasn’t so bad, Inck thought, as he spied the handle of a blade underneath a slain jackal. He gripped the pommel and drew it out. He tried to wipe the dagger clean on the beast’s fur, but the ichor stuck to it like treacle on a butterknife. It was time to use one of the scrolls he’d picked up. The writing on the bits of ancient parchment was legible to Inck, but he didn’t have a clue what it meant. All he knew was that he’d have to read them and see what happened.
Identifying items is one of the most important parts of Crawl. Scrolls of identify are, while not rare, not nearly common enough to be used to identify every mysterious object you pick up. The other way to identify things is to actually use or wear them, though this won’t always work. When Inck finds something interesting to identify I’ll make note of it. Figuring out what an item will do, particularly a potion, can be a dangerous guessing game without a scroll of Identify. Unknown potions can be especially inconvenient, as we’ll probably see.
The diminutive assassin crowed with delight as the scroll revealed a magically poisoned dagger. Truly, this was his kind of weapon. His little pink tongue darted out between his bearded lips to taste the enchantment. It smelled like a minotaur’s jockstrap soaked in Naga venom—perfect. It reminded him of something. He smiled and said: “You’re my Putrid Penetrator.”
A branded weapon that he has skill in is a brilliant find at this stage. I’ve gone whole games without finding something this good, with my character generally dying as a result. Thank you, Random Number Generator (RNG). Poison is a useful brand early in the game, as most enemies can’t resist it yet. The 2+ to both accuracy and damage is another boon.
Inck scampered around the rest of the level, looking for foes to meet with the Putrid Penetrator. A kobold, a goblin, and a snake looked up in surprise when he leapt out of a corridor, waving his knife about his head so that droplets of poison splashed the walls. He stabbed the kobold first, then, as it vomited, jabbed the other two, alternating between each enemy. The kobold died first, being the most sickened, while the weakened snake and goblin fell to his blade.
Damage from poison stacks from each successful hit, too.
The area cleared, Inck descended the stairs to the next level, a confident swagger in his bow legged step.
His grubby Halfling ears pricked up when he reached the bottom of the stairs. There was danger here. The swagger turned to a shuffling crouch as he ventured into the gloom. Discordant whistling emanated from a corridor nearby—not a goblin or a kobold—and Inck approached the sound, dagger at the ready. He crouched near the corner and poked his head out. A large man, handsome and clad in distasteful turquoise armour, leaned against the wall. Inck hissed silently and drew back. He remember this guy: another adventurer, a glory hunter. He’d once kicked Inck as he slept in the street, mistaking the dirty Halfling for a cur.
Terence is the first unique enemy we’ve encountered. He’s reasonably dangerous, though most characters would be able to fight him at this stage and win. Still, Inck isn’t exactly sturdy and Terence occasionally carries a wand, which could have a dangerous effect like paralysis or a big lightning bolt.
It was time to use the blowgun. With great care, Inck fished a precious curare dart from his belt, slid it into the tube, and aimed…
Come back next week for the exciting continuation (or conclusion) of Inck’s adventure!