Posted that Western Forest run I talked about earlier. It demonstrates a lot of basic concepts, and I'm happy with how it played out. I actually want to talk about a few concepts here while I'm at it.http://www.qcfdesign.com/wiki/DesktopDu ... ern_Forest
Popcorn xp versus Hard xp
In DTD, monsters aren't your enemies. They are actually resources that require investment to harvest. Less monsters on the map would make things harder, not easier.
The best kind of monster to have is what we call 'popcorn.' Popcorn monsters are weak monsters that are below your level that you can kill in one hit. They are xp resources that require zero investment to harvest. Your goal in the beginning to level as fast as possible while killing as few low level monsters as possible, so that you have lots of popcorn at the end.
Some monsters are never popcorn. Monsters from levels 7 and up are never popcorn unless you are doing something special. The reason I say this is that you usually start fighting the boss at around level 7. Once you begin that fight, it is too late to try to invest in hard xp. That means that any 7+ monsters will have to remain unharvested.
There are 3 7s, 3 8s, and 2 9s on every map. Getting as many of these guys as you can before the boss is very important.
Some popcorn is less useful than others. Goblins and Gorgons have annoying first strike powers that force you to pay resources even when you out level them. Low level ones are tolerable, but starting around level 5 or 6 the investment cost starts to get too high to harvest them in the middle of a bossfight. Give level 5 and 6 first strikers higher priority when playing in the midgame.
Some popcorn is "chewy." Goo blobs, meatmen, and midlevel zombies and dragons typically take 2 shots, even from higher level heroes. This is usually more manageable than first strikers, because cunning players can prep chewy monsters with a pre-emptive attack, leaving them softened for later harvesting.
The game is roughly balanced so that a vanilla hero with no items, boons, or powerups can take on an equal level monster at Normal difficultly if he craters all of his health into it. To win the game, you need to do better than this. As you acquire magic, items, powerups, and boons, you start to operate at a power level above your actual level. I call this "leverage." Your leverage grows as you explore. At the start, it's hard to even fight one level above yourself, but midway through you can handle monsters that are 2-5 levels higher than yourself.
Most classes start with some sort of innate leverage. The Fighter is an exception. He has no leverage at all (the one shot death protection doesn't count). Instead, he gets the Veteran power, the most powerful support ability in the game. If you can deal with the Fighter's lousy leverage in the beginning, he can use his xp-related powers to pull enormous amounts of resources out of thin air.
I'm hoping that these concepts will be useful to beginners, especially when coupled with this playthrough, where the ideas of popcorn and leverage were important parts of my gameplay.