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 animated trees in the forest will commonly drop logs when killed, which can be useful for fletchery and bridge building. Using fire, which the trees are especially vulnerable to, or lightning of any kind (with the exception of offensive alchemy) is not recommended in the Animated Forest, since this will make all of the trees currently on the level hostile, greatly impeding passage through the level. Even with a high effectivity Fireball it's quite 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 whilst 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.
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.