The Animated Forest is located between level 13-15 of the Caverns of Chaos, below a level that will have two down staircases: one to the Animated Forest, the other to the Dwarven Halls. Note that players wishing to complete Thrundarr's second quest must get the quest before descending to the Animated Forest if they don't want to forfeit the reward (and end up having to do another random monster quest for zero reward).
The Animated Forest consists of a large room, approximately the size of the Big Room, that is mostly filled with animated trees. The majority of the trees will be generated non-hostile, but a small minority will be hostile and will harass the PC as (s)he traverses the forest. Crossing the forest is largely an exercise in patience; the PC cannot switch positions with the trees, and there are so many trees that gaps between them open only rarely. Dungeon features are virtually non-existent on this level, although ant hives or bee hives are occasionally present. A surge of power is also possible on the level — in this case, the guardian won't be too hard to spot (except for the very rare case that it's an animated tree).
The top-middle of the Animated Forest has stairs leading into the Fungal Caves.
The animated trees in the forest will commonly drop logs when killed, which can be useful for fletchery and bridge building. Sources of fire and lightning damage will anger the animated forest, with the exception of: lit torches, flaming weapons, weapons of lightning, offensive alchemy, Fire Bolt, wand of fire, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Ball, and the elemental storm Elementalist power. Angering the forest in this manner will make all of the trees currently on the level hostile, greatly impeding passage through the forest. Even with a high effectivity Fireball it's impossible to kill the trees faster than they respawn. However, trees spawn only out of line of sight, so in theory a character with multiple torches, high perception, and Farsight could kill all of the trees.
A popular scumming strategy in version 1.1.1 and earlier versions was to lure the banshee from her level — while the PC has plugged his ears with beeswax — to the forest and have her kill the rapidly replicating trees over and over, creating humongous amounts of loot. The only danger in this method is that the banshee will accumulate experience from these trees very quickly and eventually become a truly deadly opponent (whereas she is rather tame compared to the PC's power at the time she is found).
As of version 1.2.0 plants are immune to the banshee's wail, as one of many anti-scumming measures implemented. Plants are also immune to mindcraft; which came in useful for scattering trees with Confusion Wave in earlier versions of the game.
It is still possible to generate massive amounts of loot by using multiple pets (this example used 6+ well-trained giant boars) to kill trees. Of course, this requires more time and effort to set up than the old banshee method.
Common Strategies for Crossing the Forest
- Plain Fighting. This is a rather undesirable option. The trees are very strong and sturdy and will increase in strength due to the KPL system, and the room cannot be cleared as new trees are created almost instantly.
- Dual-wielding shields. This prevents the player from accidentally attacking non-hostile trees, and provides extra DV/PV to reduce damage from the occasional hostile tree. Note that in 1.2.0, no spells can be cast while dual wielding shields — including those used for healing or teleportation.
- Invisibility. The trees cannot see invisible, so this (preferably combined with dual-wielding shields) generally makes progress much quicker, since even hostile trees will occasionally move and allow the PC to progress through the forest. However, potions will likely have not enough duration, and invisibility items such as the cloak of invisibility will consume food much more quickly (then again, if the PC is invisible it's safe to stop for a lunch right in the middle of the forest).
- Darkness. The trees cannot see in darkness, so it is possible to blanket the entire level in darkness and fight through the trees with minimal risk. In theory, panicked trees will be able to hit you if cornered, but it's hard to corner anything in a wide open space. It does take a lot of time to go through the entire level this way. This is an even less viable strategy in 1.2.0, since even monsters that lack the ability to see in darkness will still try to attack.
- Digging. There's just enough space behind the eastern and northern walls that can be dug out to create a clear passageway around the forest. Close it off using wands of door creation and avoid killing any trees henceforth, to minimize the risk of trees showing up inside the hallway.
- Taking the Dwarven Halls route instead. If the forest appears impenetrable, the PC may wish to try crossing the Dwarven Halls instead. Keep in mind that PCs that are too weak to safely cross the Animated Forest don't have great chances to survive a fight in the Dwarven Halls, but at least they have space to run. This is a good idea if the PC does not have the equipment to safely handle crossing the forest (either high DV/PV or an invisibility item, preferably both), but has scrolls of magic mapping.
- Teleportation. Controlled teleportation will greatly shorten the time spent to cross the forest. The down stairs (11 up from the up stairs, 4 right from the far left) are usually free on the first turn; PCs attempting to teleport there should have as much speed as possible, to prevent a tree from moving there first. After this it might be more prudent to teleport from empty spot to empty spot until a staircase is in sight.
An advanced strategy for high-level archers, arrowstorming is a legitimate looting method that still works well as of r69.
Bow specialization is probably mandatory, as crossbow bolts and other wooden missiles likely cannot be produced in sufficient quantities. Rocks, while numerous enough, are far too heavy.
Required preparations for arrowstorming include obtaining several wands of door creation (totaling 14+ charges), at least five fletchery sets, a hatchet, the Strength of Atlas spell at a sustainable level, high Perception and Dexterity, a maximized Fletchery skill, strong armor and shield and a powerful bow — Sun's Messenger is ideal.
Torches (preferably everburning), the Farsight spell, an invisibility source, high luck, blessed necklaces of the eye, rings of damage/slaying/regeneration, blessed scrolls of uncursing and identify, potions of holy water, blessed seven-league boots and a girdle of giant strength also come in very handy.
The archer should also maximize their visual zone using Farsight, multiple torches (in both the tool and weapon slots — the latter also helps in dealing with stray trees up close), high Perception and a blessed necklace of the eye as available. 8+ squares of vision radius is critical, and much more would be very preferable.
The archer should also have sufficient range on their weapon to shoot at anything they can see.
It will be necessary to first to craft very large stacks of arrows in the wilderness using fletchery sets and hatchet-produced logs (the latter preferably blessed with holy water). A stack of 1000 or more arrows would not be excessive, if it can be obtained. The further your character can see, the more arrows they will need.
After exhausting the fletchery sets, remove any curses to create the largest stack possible (almost certainly uncursed +0 arrows), and place it in the missile slot.
Store the remaining arrows in a secure location somewhere, along with any other unneeded equipment — you need an inventory as empty as possible for hauling around logs and loot.
Upon arriving at the animated forest, determine the furthest point west the character can stand where they can still see the floor at both the northeast and southeast corners of the room. The "H" command is helpful in this regard. Once this location is determined, note the furthest points west on the north and south walls the character can see from it. A rectangle of vision is thereby established extending west from the entire eastern end of the room.
Proceed to slaughter every tree in that rectangle by holding down the "t" key until all are dead. Usefully, nearby hostile trees will always be targeted before indifferent ones. Start out slowly to make sure that the character survives the first few dozen turns. Have an escape method available should the forest begin to overwhelm you.
If your character is sufficiently powerful, the rate of deforestation will quickly exceed the trees' movement rate, and after a few moments no tree will be able to come close enough to attack. At this point, a small heavy object can be used (if desired) to weigh down the "t" key.
Once the trees in the area are dead, immediately start building a wall of closed doors at the western edge of the visual zone. If you have visual range to spare, it may be helpful to place the wall several squares to the east of this edge, allowing freer movement inside the zone while still keeping the entire area in sight.
Do not stop to pick up treasure until the wall is complete, except to get it out of the way so that doors can be constructed. It is okay if some trees come back into the zone during this time — you can easily kill them once the wall is complete.
Once the wall is created, no tree west of it can cross, as trees neither open doors nor break them down.
No tree can be spawned east of the wall anywhere the character can see at any given moment, and any spawned outside the archer's visual range while the character is away from the center will be far away and low in number, allowing the archer to dispatch them with ease.
This allows the player the critical ability to pick up all of the loot on the floor quickly and without interference from the forest. Logs should be piled up in an out-of-the-way spot, so as not to overwhelm the character's carrying capacity.
Once the character has cleared the protected space, they can open one or more doors and wait as the trees flood back into the room, then slaughter the trees in the same manner, close the doors and collect all the loot again.
This process can be repeated for as long as the archer has a large quantity of arrows available, and can be extended should they happen to find more fletchery sets along the way, which for archers are less uncommon. Raw materials for making more arrows will obviously not be a problem.
Additional walls can also be built if desired, provided the character has enough wands of door creation — it takes 14 charges to build one vertical wall across the level. Theoretically the entire forest can eventually be sectioned off, allowing the character to simply harvest once section after another perpetually instead of having to wait for a single section to refill.
Animated trees — roughly up to 85% of the floor will be inhabited by them. Other monsters might be found in the forest when the PC first enters, though these are quickly killed off by the non-hostile trees.
Thrundarr's second quest is to find out what lies beyond the forest, either by crossing it or taking the route through the Dwarven Halls.