Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

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Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby Sidestepper on Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:31 am

HILARIOUSLY OVERDUE EDIT: Many of the playthroughs can now be found on the wiki

There's a lot of discussion on these boards about advanced optimization, but not as much about fundamentals. So, as I find the time and inclination, I'll be posting some games of mine. I consider myself to be an advanced player, but definitely not an expert. You won't see anything brilliant in my games, but you will see something that's at least competent. I'm hoping that it will be a good learning experience for the new players.

I made a brand new profile for this run. I will not be doing any selective unlocking or hardcore scumming. I will avoid using the hard-to-reach preparations. The tools and techniques I will be using should be available to any beginner. After, all, that's the whole point of this exercise!

Before we begin, some key intermediate-level concepts:

1) Always fight the highest level monster possible. Avoid equal or lower level fights whenever possible.
2) Always fully expend your resources before leveling up
3) There are 2 9th monsters, 3 8th level monsters, and 4 7th level monsters. Its best to have killed all of the 9s and 8s before or during your 7th level, as well as many of the 7s as possible. This way, you can start fighting the boss from level 7, with all of the remaining monsters being 'popcorn.'

Some words I made up to save typing:

Catfight: A fight where the player kills a higher-level monster. A play off of 'experience catapult.'
Generals: A name I gave to the two 9th level monsters.
Captains: The three 8th level monsters
Lieutenants: The four 7th level monsters

My first run is against the Den of Danger as a Fighter with no preparations. I have not found any gods, and I don't even have shops yet. This is as basic as it gets.

The Fighter is probably the weakest class in the game. Except for Pit Fighter (which only works once), he has no tools that enable catfighting. If I don't fight a useful glyph or a pile of powerups early on, I may have get my first level up off of 1st level monsters. I'm willing to burn the first 1/3 of the map or so before resorting to this.

Here goes!

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Nice! Almost immediately, I find a 2nd level monster and the tools to beat him!



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Since I'm a Fighter, this ended up being just enough to reach level 2. I start hunting for 3s, and find one almost right away. I also find the boss and one of the generals. Very nice!


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After devouring the warlock, I strike out and hunt for another juicy 3, finding one of the captains along the way.


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And now for something a bit more advanced. I have the goat on the ropes. Killing it will level me up, but I still have some resources to spare.


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So I take a bite out of that meatman first. Always look for ways to unload your spare resources right before leveling up. From there, I kill the goat and the meatman (and in that order!)


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At this point, I already know that I'm going to finish the level off by catfighting with the other meatman-4, but I need to regenerate first.


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In doing so, I find PISORF, and well as a zombie-5, which will be a perfect target after I finish off the meatman.


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There's a lot going on in this picture. I've got the meatman down to where I can finish him off with a GETINDARE strike. But also, notice how I explored the area around the zombie? That was on purpose, and I made sure to do it BEFORE engaging the meatman. Do you know why I did that?


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Because I wanted to use my leftover mana to pre-damage the zombie, and PISORF requires careful positioning. From there, I level up off of the meatman, finish off the zombie, and then go hunting again. At this point, I've acquired enough powerups that I might be able to handle a 6th level monster. The cattier the fight, the better!


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A very nice bit of exploration. I find the fireball glyph, a goblin-6 that I can just barely take down, as well as the remaining general and one of the captains.


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After leveling up off of the goblin, I realize that I have the tools to take down the goat general. Catfighting from four levels below! Hell yes!


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From here, I realize that I can't kill the remaining general, but I can pick off those two captains. So that's exactly what I do!


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See how the goblin general has taken some damage? That's because I used my spare mana to fireball him before killing the goat captain. USE YOUR LEVEL UPS!

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At this point, both generals and two of the captains are dead, and I'm still only level 7. At this point, I will finish exploring the map and use the remaining monsters to refill my resources while fighting the boss. I may decide to pick off the those three lieutenants and then find and kill the last captain first. That will expend my level up, but will allow me to start the boss fight at level 8 and have all of the 'hard' experience already claimed.

I would have followed this to the conclusion but I had a Unity crash (my FIFTH one in a row, I might add). I have several level ups worth of easy experience on the board as well as all of my potions. The boss fight will be easy. This strong endgame was made possible by catfighting and using levelups instead of potions and exploration to recover resources. If I had access to shops or preparations, this would have been even easier.

If you found this helpful and would like to see more, let me know. I'm open to requests, but I'm only willing to do this for 'Hard' level dungeons and below. Viscous dungeons and some of the quests require intense scumming and would be a monster pain in the ass to annotate in this manner.
Last edited by Sidestepper on Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby TigerKnee on Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:25 am

Is "General/Captain/etc" actually easier to type out than "level 7s"? The former seems a lot more confusing.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby q 3 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:32 am

Do you mind if I add a few comments / tips with respect to your run? For example, right where you left off is actually a very good time to kill one of those level 7s. It won't level you up, because they're worth 8 xp and you need 9 for the next level, so you'll still have that level up refresh ready for the boss. It allows you to maximize the value of your exploration, giving you more XP while you finish viewing the map so that you're wasting fewer tiles, which in the long run puts you closer to another level up during the boss fight. The downside is that being too close to the next level can make exploration difficult, particularly on a claustrophobic map like Den of Danger - you might need to kill some popcorn to fully explore all the corridors, so you don't necessarily want to be too close to the next level up. The point isn't that there's one right or wrong approach there, but rather that optimal (or even merely above-average) play requires being aware of the trade-offs in even the seemingly simple choices you make.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby The Avatar on Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:53 am

Wow. I feel like a n00b. I play on Vicious so much that it's super hard to get high level kills. You make it seem so simple.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby Sidestepper on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:36 pm

tigerknee wrote:Is "General/Captain/etc" actually easier to type out than "level 7s"? The former seems a lot more confusing.


Yeah, you're probably right :mrgreen: Mid way through, I hit upon the convention of simply saying 9s, 8s, and 7s, which is much easier and less confusing.

q 3 wrote:Do you mind if I add a few comments / tips with respect to your run?


Not at all! Your discussion covers the exact dilemma I was weighing in my mind before the crash. I probably would have opted to go exploring, full resources notwithstanding, because I really wanted to kill the last 8 before leveling up. Like you pointed out, if the last 8 was behind a popcorn, I could actually LOSE resources by killing one of those 7s first, in spire of the saved tiles. Still, it's a close call, and if the boss fight looked like it was going to be hard, I might have opted to save the tiles instead.

8s and 9s require piles of resources to kill, and simply can't be harvested after you start in on the boss. 7s and 6s and usually be polished off with spare resources after exchanging blows with the boss, and everything else is popcorn. There are some subtleties to which popcorn you eat first (first strike and death gaze monsters get priority, for example)., and I wish I had a chance to demonstrate.

Avatar wrote:Wow. I feel like a n00b. I play on Vicious so much that it's super hard to get high level kills. You make it seem so simple.


No way dude. I consider you to be one of the experts. You and the other veterans here definitely play on a higher level than me. Like you said, vicious is an entirely different game.
Last edited by Sidestepper on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby xspeedballx on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:44 pm

Just to mirror that last note. Killing high level's is ridiculously easy on normal and hard, that vicious feels like a different game entirely most of the time. To the point of retraining priorities entirely when I attempt vicious dungeons(other than dragon isles)
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby q 3 on Sat Jan 28, 2012 4:13 pm

Sidestepper wrote:Image
In doing so, I find PISORF, and well as a zombie-5, which will be a perfect target after I finish off the meatman.


This situation right here is a good example of how tricky it can be to maximize your use of available resources. That PISORF glyph is great for spamming while you explore - in a dungeon with claustrophobic hallways, you can use it to push monsters that are blocking off passages out of the way to make later exploration easier. It's a lot easier with ENDISWAL or WEYTWUT (and the incidental effects of those glyphs are more useful in the long run) but once you figure out how to angle your shots you can clear out a lot of chokepoints with PISORF.

For example, that level 7 zombie in the center left; right now the only way you can push him is straight up, but if you move that level 1 wizard out of the way you can push him into the wall to the left, freeing up the passage to the north. Exploring that passage, if you can push a monster into the wall directly to the right of the level 8 wizard, you can then angle shot the same monster down and left twice (into the two layer wall on the dungeon border), and then push the level 8 wizard directly left, clearing out another short passage to explore. And you also open up empty tiles in that two layer wall, meaning you'll later be able to reveal the tiles on the very leftmost edge of the map; whenever you have a two layer wall like that, and you have ENDISWAL or PISORF, that's a good place to smash bricks because it adds to the number of tiles you can use for regeneration later (and since you know that those tiles just have walls, you don't need to explore there until you actually need the recovery).

On the other hand, it's quite possible that you could actually kill that level 5 zombie right now. +1 level kills are nice, but in the long run they aren't really that beneficial; you only get +2 bonus experience, whereas a +2 level kill nets a much bigger +6 bonus XP, and +3 or higher level kills get exponentially more rewarding. I'm only guessing on your stats, but I'm guessing from that stoneskin icon that you found ENDISWAL at some point? Add another layer so your phys resist is 40%; that means the zombie will hit you for 12, allowing you to strike twice (no resist on the second hit, so 12 + 20 = 32). Two hits and first strike grants a third, at 16 damage is 48. Assuming your base damage is 15, PISORF into those two walls will hit for 7 + 7 = 14. That's a total of 62 damage, just short of what we need. However, since you're a Human, a glyph conversion will add +2 to your damage (currently 15 + 10% = 16.5 round down to 16; another attack bonus will result in 15 + 20% = 18). PISORF twice for 14 damage, then convert PISORF and hit him three times for 54 damage, for a total of 68 damage and the zombie is dead.

Of course, whether or not you actually do that depends on whether you think having PISORF available later on will be more beneficial than a net +2 XP (since you'd lose the +2 XP from killing the level 4 meat man right now). If you also have ENDISWAL then PISORF probably isn't necessary to keep, but if PISORF is the only dungeon-clearing glyph you have at the moment then I'd probably hold on to it. But it's very helpful to be aware of your potential options, because maximizing the return you get on your resources is probably the single most important skill in DD, particularly in hard and vicious dungeons.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby Sidestepper on Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:08 pm

I did in fact find an ENDISWAL, but decided to quietly convert it early on. This more about wanting to keep my first playthrough simple than it was about optimal strategy ;) The combination of ENDISWAL and PISORF can be quite strong. By using the two in concert, I could have embedded that warlock into the wall on the left and then knocked him through the entire vertical length of the screen. Among other things.

I should also have used ENDISWAL to at least knock a few holes in those long, straight walls, and maybe perforate the border walls to expose more tiles.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby Sidestepper on Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:38 am

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to play. I finally got around to making another play-through, this time of the Shifting Passages. To keep things newbie-friendly, I chose a human sorcerer, which is a strong but simple class to play. For my preparations, I took only the 35 gold loan and the fireball magnet. I have not unlocked any gods or special quest items in this profile yet, so nothing too complicated will happen.

As a special restriction, I decided to convert any ENDISWAL or PISORFF glyphs on sight. These glyphs are very powerful in the maze-like environment of the Shifting Passages, because they let you bypass its special gimmick. I thought it would be best to play the dungeon on its own terms.

'Catfighting' is especially important in this dungeon, because the narrow halls and the blinking boss force you to fight almost every monster in the dungeon. You absolutely want to clear out the 9s and 8s while you still have level-ups available. You won't have enough potions to fight Evolovia and the 9s and 8s all in one level.

I don't present this as a perfect run, but it was a successful one. If you are new to the game, I hope you find this useful.

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I find a 2 right away. Between my melee attack, mana shield, two fireballs and the effects of burning, I see that I have enough firepower to bring him down to 1 hit point. From there, I should be able to win by regen fighting.

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No problem at all.

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It takes me a bit longer than I wanted to find another 2, but that's okay. The tiles 'wasted' on exploration uncovered lots of useful information. I've found the boss, the sub-boss, both 9s, one of the 8s, several power ups, two shops (containing a fine sword and the philosopher's stone), and the sub dungeon, as well as three glyphs.

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Wraiths are fine for finishing a level on, but terrible for starting. If I had found the wraith first, I would have waited to engage it until after I had located another 2. Never get mana burned unless you know you can negate the consequences.

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APHEELSIK and BLUDTOPOWA are an incredibly powerful combination if you have a lot of tiles left and enough mana cast APHEELSIK and BURDAYRAZ. Fortunately, I have all of those! While I could use this combination to go after that gorgon-9, at level 2 it would take way too many tiles to be worth it. Instead, I use the combo to kill a gorgon-4. I would have preferred going after a 5, but the the 5s available were wraiths, which are immune to poison, and now is the time to start preserving tiles.

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From here I decide to pick off that gorgon-9. It'll take about 50-60 tiles or so, but it's totally worth it.

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51 xp for one fight. Nice.

During the battle, I uncovered a WEYTWUT glyph. WEYTWUT is mostly used by melee characters to get first strikes. While that isn't going to help me much, it can also be used to de-fang gorgons for later harvesting, and improve the xp value of popcorn monsters. The problem is that it costs 8 mana a pop, and I need all the mana I can get to keep using my game-breaking fireball/poison/blood magic combo. I decide to let it lie for now.

At this point, realize that I can challenge Aequitas. He is a high-attack low-health boss, which is the perfect target for a fireball/poison combo.

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Success! Not having to deal with Aequitas during the endgame will be a big advantage, not to mention getting truckload of bonus xp.

The gold dropped by Aqueitas is important too. I can now safely buy things from the stores and still have enough left over to pick up the philosopher's stone. I end up buying a fine sword and a mana pendant. The pendant gives me enough mana to cast 2 fireballs for every one poison, significantly improving my efficiency. I should have done this earlier, but I'm still not used to sub-bosses dropping gold.

It's time to get the remaining level-9.

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Done. From here, it's a cakewalk. The most powerful monsters are all dead, and I still have several level-ups waiting for me. It's pointless trying to regen-fight a blinking boss, so I use the remaining black space to kill off the 8s and then convert APHEELSIK and BLUDTOPOWA.

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This is me right before attacking Evolvia. Notice that I am at the beginning of a new level, when normally you want to be right at the end of your current one. I had decided to clear the maze of potentially dangerous roadblocks (notice that the high-level gorgons are now all gone). In doing so, I used up so many resources that I decided it was best to just level up and start from there. In the end, I think it was a fair trade.

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After my first attack, Evolovia blinked to the farthest point possible, forcing me to fight almost the entire remaining dungeon to continue the battle. I was glad that I decided to clear out those gorgons first.

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In the end, I finished with enough resources left over to clear the dungeon and buy the philosopher's stone, meaning that I unlocked the Demonic Library, the Alchemist, and the Bank-3 all in one move.
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Re: Sidestepper's Newbie-Friendly Annotated Playthroughs

Postby The Avatar on Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:05 am

Nice run! I rarely play spell casters, unless it's an abusive gnome assassin, so I rarely get to use the BLUDTUPOWA, BURNDAYRAZ, and APHEELSIK combo. I think you should annotate a Vicious run, if you can beat one. I recommend Vampire if you have it, as it can Feeling Parched 3 out of 6 Vicious dungeons.
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