The early game is arguably the most difficult and frustrating part of ADOM. Characters have limited equipment and resources available to them; they may have cripplingly poor stats; they lack important intrinsics and resistances; they may have dismal health regeneration if they lack the healing skill; sickness, starvation, out-of-depth monsters, and traps can all be lethal even to experienced players. The Terinyo area and its immediate surroundings result in a huge majority of character deaths, and, to many experienced players, surviving these early stages is tantamount to winning the game. This section briefly outlines a number of strategies that can significantly alleviate some of the early-game difficulties, and minimize the risks of early deaths.
Character Creation Edit
Early-game survival typically starts at the character creation screen. A well-rolled character will have a massive advantage surviving the initial stages over one that is chosen poorly. In particular, players who are not opposed to roll scumming can maximize their chances at success, although judicious thought into character creation even of a randomly generated character can still provide some advantage.
Starsign Choice Edit
One of the best starsigns is Candle. Candle starsign provides added regeneration of 2 health per 20 turns; by comparison, a healing skill at 100 provides 1 health per 8 turns. This regeneration bonus is very significant, and particularly useful for PCs without a starting healing skill, or races with very poor natural regeneration (ie. all elves), but even race/class combinations with healing and reasonable regeneration will still benefit from this starsign. In addition to the added healing bonus, characters with this starsign also receive an extra talent, which can also improve survival prospects significantly. Deities are also friendlier to Candle-borns, which may entitle the PC to an extra prayer or two before they need to visit an altar to refresh their piety.
A second choice for starsign is Raven, which provides the player with increased speed at least. Speed allows the player to act faster and, importantly, flee (or hit and run) from a significant majority of foes in the early game. Raven PCs who perform the quest to receive the rune-covered trident receive it at level 16 rather than 36; except for PCs who are quite lucky with crowning or pre-crowning, this is almost certain to be a significant upgrade to the player's weapon. The star sign is also supposed to increase companion strength, though some testing seems to have suggested that this doesn't actually influence the starting companions of Bards or Farmers, nor does it affect Necromancers' slaves.
As of 1.2.0, a very strong third choice of starsign is Tree. +5 Wi and +2 To helps immensely with getting the Immune to Pain talent by level 9, which is often hard on low Wi PCs, and the +2 To will give extra HP and also ensures ease of access to Iron Skin. +1 PV is great in the early game, especially if playing a PC that starts with 0 to 3 PV.
None of the other starsigns are likely to have a significant effect on survival, since most of the remaining effects are rather minor and cosmetic in comparison to these three. Note that this includes caster-oriented starsigns such as Salamander and Wand. While extra PP, cheaper spells, or easier book learning are all nice effects for casters to have, they don't appreciably affect long-term survival.
Class and Race Edit
Some classes are easier to play than others in ADOM. No attempt whatsoever was made to have any sort of "balance" between the classes that may be seen in more modern games; hence, choosing a class with better survival prospects will naturally result in an easier game. Classes that are particularly desirable are those who start with an early ranged attack or those that start with respectable PV, or, ideally, both. Such classes include Archers, Wizards, Priests, Paladins, and Fighters, among others.
Racial choice is an equally important consideration. While many players choose their race exclusively to complement deficiencies in their class' skillset, it is important to consider the starting equipment and stats that each race adds. Dwarves, for example, do not add many skills of particular value (although they do give detect traps, which is a fairly useful skill), but tend to have excellent starting equipment and quite high starting Toughness. Drakelings are a favoured choice among many players as well since their skillset includes two valuable skills (alertness and food preservation), plus they have an early ranged attack (acid spit) and reasonable Toughness. While Drakelings have rather miserable starting gear for many classes, for a class like a Wizard (who always has miserable starting gear), the advantage of Toughness and acid spit is not to be overlooked.
The question system in character creation can be used to skew a PC's stats toward a particular outcome. This effect is fairly small, but, if the player knows what they are doing, they may choose answers that are likely to increase their survival stats. In practice, the questions seem to be able to benefit learning the most, which may be beneficial for marginal casters or marginally literate PCs.
Starting talent choice can provide a small but vital advantage in the early game. Generally, the preferred talents to maximize survival one of the following options: the PV line, the speed line, or (in some cases) the Heir line. The PV line (for characters with decent Toughness), namely Hardy, Tough Skin, Iron Skin, Immune to Pain and Steel Skin (and Mithril Skin for Dwarves). Combined, these talents provide +3 health and 5 effective PV (8 for Dwarves), which is essentially equivalent to wearing an invulnerable suit of elven chain mail. PCs do require a Toughness of at least 15 to really take advantage of this line, however. The HP line — Hardy, Very Hardy, Extremely Hardy — is of particular use to Mist Elves, though at the start of the game it is rare for them to have enough Toughness for Very Hardy and practically impossible to have enough for Extremely Hardy.
The speed line (Long Stride, Quick, Very Quick, Greased Lightning) allows the PC to generally escape most dangerous monsters early on, use hit-and-run tactics with their missile weapons, and occasionally get an extra attack against slower foes. While Coward speed bonus is also useful for fleeing or hit-and-run, being low on health in the early game leaves the PC very vulnerable to traps, lucky hits from missile weapons, etc.
Several classes benefit greatly from their Heir gifts:
- Bards receive a pair of blessed seven league boots which provides high mobility and synergy with ranged attacks.
- Farmers, Merchants and Healers receive high-quality body armor to replace their mediocre starting set.
- Thieves and Assassins receive high-end weapons which, especially for Thieves, can still be viable in the late game.
Some players value the Treasure Hunter talent quite highly, and often feel obliged to acquire this talent as soon as possible. Without wading into the Treasure Hunter Debate surrounding the effectiveness of this talent in general, players wishing to pursue this talent line are probably best picking Alert as one starting talent, and choosing Miser and Treasure Hunter at later levels, such as levels 9 and 12, respectively, and using any other starting talents plus the levels 3 and 6 talents to augment their early survival prospects.
Places to Avoid Edit
Small Cave and Unremarkable Dungeon Edit
The Small Cave and Unremarkable Dungeon are dangerous areas for new players to visit. The former has a fairly high monster generation rate, and the monsters tend to be, on average, stronger than other areas even if the PC is at level 1, and the monsters will level rapidly as the PC levels. While it is advisable for players to visit the SMC at level 1 in order to spawn a set of weak monsters, searching for a distant stairs or the waterproof blanket are risky propositions for vulnerable PCs. The Unremarkable Dungeon has a much higher danger level than most of the other dungeons surrounding Terinyo, raising the risk that the player might encounter an game-ending vortex, ghul, or summoner.
Note that more experienced players may choose the Small Cave / Unremarkable Dungeon route at the beginning of the game since due to its unusually high danger level, it can generate better items than the other starting dungeons; this often makes characters that make it through the caves better prepared for the other early game challenges. Even experienced players can expect to lead many characters to premature deaths due to the many risks involved, though.
The Puppy Cave Edit
There are several notable dangers to entering the Puppy Cave early in the game. The second level features an ant nest, which can prove troublesome to PCs who have limited damage prospects or PV, since soldier ants can be quite formidable en masse. The fifth level has a dangerous cavernous level, with all the associated dangers of open spaces and high monster generation rate. Finally, the sixth level features a lesser vault, which is especially dangerous if it is a mixed vault, since it could contain levelled vortices or other dangerous creatures such as mimics and werewolf lords. There is some advantage to visiting the Puppy Cave somewhat early, however, namely that the Village Dungeon, Druid Dungeon, and Infinite Dungeon have no prospects of generating herbs, whereas the Puppy Cave (as well as the Unremarkable Dungeon) do.
Lawenilothehl is often worthwhile to visit somewhat early in the game to acquire the Pick pockets skill, start the Kill Jharod quest, and visit the Black Market in hopes of finding (or at least identifying) a bit of gear; however, the town is home to Outlaw leaders and Assassins that can easily kill most level 1 PCs. Players should consider fleeing the town if they encounter one of these unprepared.
General Strategies Edit
Getting Stronger Edit
One of the most efficient ways to improve early survival is to gain a few levels quickly. Levelling generally increases health, provides more talents, and may provide a useful class power. The safest location to level early is probably the Infinite Dungeon, since undesirable monsters can be easily eliminated by respawning the floor. The early levels of the Village/Druid dungeons are also reasonable locations for levelling, as is the starter dungeon near the entrance to the Drakalor Chain.
The longterm survival prospects of nearly any character are greatly enhanced once the PC has acquired a supply of herbs. Most importantly, morgia root can be used (even cursed) to raise the PC's toughness up a bit; Toughness can be raised up to about 25 for PCs with high Toughness potential, though (as of v. 1.2.0) PCs with low potentials may have problems raising such with herbs. Successful Toughness boosts from herbs will provide added PV and dramatically increase the PC's health in any case. Herbs will unfortunately not spawn in the infinite dungeon, or Druid/Village Dungeon, so players searching for early herbs will need to search a slightly more dangerous area (with the notable exception of farmers). Herbs may also provide a source of healing, treatment of poison and sickness, and a food source, all of which are great benefits early in the game.
Becoming Armored Edit
As has been alluded to previously, PV is extremely important in surviving the early game. A PC with a PV of 5 will take significantly less damage than one with a PV of 1 or 0. Players should take any opportunity to raise their PV, even it if means the risk of equipping cursed gear as long as, on balance, the item is likely to provide PV. That is, equipping a set of clothes is likely not worth the risk, since clothes have typical stats of [+0,+0]; however, a player starting with clothes should probably equip a leather armor, since this item has average stats of [+0,+2]. Virtually all body armor except clothes have some PV, so it is normally worthwhile to equip any piece of armor that is of a strong class than your current gear (eg. a player with leather armor [0,+2] should probably equip an unidentified studded leather, since this armor is likely to be [-1,+3]). DV is less important in the early game, so it is generally worthwhile to sacrifice DV for increased PV. An exception may be made for robes of any sort, as they generally only provide one point of PV and may end up blocking the body armor slot for later-found better armors. Robes with stats as good as [0, +4] and the "of Carrying" suffix have been observed in the early game, however.
Players that do not start out with any kind of decent armor, i. e. merely clothes or a robe, should consider taking up true berserking. The damage bonus of true berserking, even with a measly scalpel, supported by the stellar to-hit, will one-hit-kill most creatures with great regularity on the early levels, greatly improving survivability. This is especially helpful for Healers, who have easily replenishable high HP scores, but generally start with zero PV armor and have a normally dreary damage output - true berserking fixes the latter until the former problem is solved.
Teleportation and Speed Edit
There often comes a time in ADOM where the player will encounter a monster that is too strong for their PC to handle, and need to make a quick escape. In such instances, having a PC who is fast is a great advantage. Most monsters have a speed of around 100, so even one or two extra points of speed can make the difference between a successful escape and death. PCs that are badly injured (HP must be less than 33% of max) may also switch to coward tactics to take advantage of the coward speed bonus, which allows them to move ~20% faster than normal. Teleportation, through spells, wands, or scrolls, can also be used as an escape mechanism. Only a very few monsters in the game are capable of chasing a teleporting PC, and even these will normally take a turn or two to catch up, so teleportation is an excellent survival tool even if it is uncontrolled. Note that teleportation is disabled in certain areas of the game, including all elemental temples and the cat lord's level, and the spell can be quite expensive to cast particularly in late game levels.
Dirty Tricks Edit
Whilst so-called scumming tactics that previously existed in the game are either impossible or more difficult for PCs to do in ADOM versions later than 1.1.1, there are some ways that PCs with sufficient ranged attacks can get quite a lot of early experience.
Raiding the bug temple is a way to gain numerous levels for Archers; characters with bolt spells can also try this, but since the bugs have some degree of magic resistance this is not a risk free strategy. Hotzenplotz, shopkeepers and the Old barbarian also provide respectable experience for beginning players, although all of these battles are very difficult without the right resources.
PCs in pursuit of valuable resources early in the game, and who start with a potion of invisibility or spellbook of invisibility, can attempt to steal items from the Black Market. PCs who start with teleportation, and don't mind a hostile shopkeeper in Lawenilothehl, can also rob the Black Market with impunity.
Monsters to Avoid Edit
The main threats to weak PCs early on are poison, sickness, paralysis, and instant death. Poisonous monsters such as pit vipers, assassins, and spiders are best dealt with from a distance (or fled from) until poison resistance can be obtained by eating a spider corpse. Otherwise, even a single hit from one of these monsters could spell an agonizing death for the PC.
Keep in mind that First Aid can be used to regain HP lost to poison.
Sickness is similarly nasty due to the immense stat drains that it causes, as well as the inability to efficiently regenerate hit points (or regenerate at all above 50%), and can cause instant death to unlucky PCs. Its duration is also quite substantial. The threat of sickness in the early game can be minimized with high PV, since most of the creatures that cause early sickness are actually fairly weak (eg. rats, carrion crawlers). Eating kobold corpses sickens, so that is not a good idea either. For both poison and sickness, having Jharod nearby can save the PC's life.
Paralyzing monsters in the early game are most notably ghuls and mimics, although floating eyes and gelatinous cubes can cause paralysis if attacked in melee as well. Any monster that paralyzes is best dealt with using ranged attacks until sufficient PV is attained. If it is necessary to fight one of these in melee, Defensive, Very Defensive, or Coward tactics are recommended.
Finally, instant death in the early game typically results from either facing a monster that is much too strong for the PC, a vortex, or an unlucky trap. The first of these can be easily avoided simply by not entering areas that are overly dangerous until the PC is sufficiently levelled and avoiding vaults and tension rooms, as well as not attacking NPCs such as Hotzenplotz or Munxip. Early vortices are unlikely to be found until deep in the Village Dungeon or Druid Dungeon, but can be seen in higher levels of the Puppy Cave, or in most of the Unremarkable Dungeon. Vortices cannot see in darkness or see invisible, and players who do not have either of these capabilities may wish to flee the level if they get the "You hear a distant wind" message. Traps are essentially random and unavoidable; however, PCs with high toughness or those who have pursued the Hardy/Very Hardy talents may be more likely to survive. Having an appropriate resistance handy in the form of rings will also save lives - remember that wooden rings are always rings of fire resistance, for instance.
The Healing Skill Edit
PCs who do not start with the Healing skill or the Candle starsign will be essentially obliged to pursue the Save Yrrigs/Kill Jharod quest line. Of these, Kill Jharod is probably safer, since the PC doesn't have to dive as deep into the Village Dungeon or allow Yrrigs to chase them back up. Kill Jharod also gives the PC a much higher starting Healing score. The disadvantage is that Jharod will not be available for emergency healing later in the game; also, it is a significantly chaotic route.
Newer players often have difficulty finding enough food to survive early on in ADOM. Possible ways of mitigating this problem are as follows:
- Don't play a Troll (as they have extra food consumption)
- Ensure you spend as little time as possible Burdened, Strained, or worse
- Play a Monk — they have lowered food consumption (though they have particular difficulties surviving against monsters in the early game)
- If available, train the Food preservation skill
- Take advantage of Munxip's food shop in Terinyo