Many years ago I had a crazy idea to get a 15-rune win with all 27 species and all kinds of skill and god combinations. I tend to take long breaks in between runs, so this “quest” has continued through many versions of the game. It’s been a year or two hiatus, but I’ve been back at it and have picked up 15 rune win #15. Below is a document of the journey and a trip through Dungeon Crawl’s past versions.
Win #1: DrWz of Vehumet Power Ranking: 12th
The run that started it all. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I ended up drawing a yellow draconian, which was a pretty neutral result. I remember I rushed firestorm and made heavy use of a staff of energy. I ranked him 10 not bc he was a bad build, but more so because it was my first serious foray into the extended game and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was inflicted with “must kill everything disease” which resulted in a pretty nail-biting firestorm duel with Cerebrov. I also remember not training any dodging… This guy’s high hit points pulled him through. You could also still learn haste as a spell at the time which definitely helped. Not my best run, but it was a win and taught me a lot.
Win #2: MfHu of [Oka to Shining One to Zin) Power Ranking 5th
Pretty standard run for melee character. Merfolk have great aptitudes. Picked up controlled blink and haste spells in the late game. Okawaru was great in the beginning for skill boosts and better gear. Saved the crypt for my switch over to the shining one. Enchanted my bardiche with holy wrath. Switched over to Zin (Zin quickly became my favorite of the good gods). All pretty standard stuff. You can find strategy guides for these types of characters all over. A good, strong, reliable character build.
Win #3: MuWz of [Ash to Sif Muna] Power Ranking 15th
Mummies suck. Like seriously suck. I thought not having a hunger clock and being immune to torment would be cool. It wasn’t. It sucked. I easily died 50+ times getting this character through, but I’m too damn bull-headed to have given up on it. Luckily, most of those deaths came very quickly, so it wasn’t a total time-suck. One thing this run did teach me was the value of Ashenzari as a god. The skill boosts were absolutely critical to finally getting this bum off the ground and into the end game where his intrinsics could come into play (although honestly, just play a regular character and learn lichform). Ashenzari is now one of my favorite gods for starting a spell caster. You have to learn to save up all your scrolls of remove curse to curse gear (and not be afraid to wear already cursed gear). Since you’re a caster, getting your skills up fast is usually much more important than having phenomenal gear anyway. One downside though is that you won’t be gifted any spells, so you have to be flexible and hope you can find or buy some good ones. Regardless, this mummy focused in earth magic and taught me to love the shatter spell. [Note: with the ashenzari rework most of this advice is outdated]
Win #4: OgHu of Makhleb Power Ranking 9th
Talk about a glass cannon at the beginning. All that power but no defense. Used every resource and very cautious play at first. Then I found some dragon armor. After that, this guy quickly became an absolute beast. Picked up some of the same skills as usual, although I think by this run or the next the haste spell was removed. I was super psyched to get a branded giant spiked club (the most powerful weapon in the game I think). Stupid game refused to give me a single scroll of brand weapon, so I had to use a normal giant spiked club! Oh well, I bashed everything’s face in anyway. I ranked him lower due to his weakness at the beginning, but don’t be fooled. He turns into a monster once properly armored. Also, it was fun getting health for killing things with Makhleb, as he was very good at killing things.
Win #5: CeHu of [Oka to Shining One to Zin] Power Ranking 4th
This run was incredibly similar to the Merfolk run, but instead of using melee I was shooting a bow. Centaurs are built for ranged warfare, and their speed makes kiting everything very easy. I used the exact same approach god-wise. I gave this character the edge over the Merfolk Power Ranking-wise bc the sheer amount of kiting made this run relatively simple. Overall though, they were very similar power-wise.
Win #6: HoFi of Qazlal Power Ranking 2nd
This guy was awesome and so much fun to play! Hill Orc aptitudes are made for this character. Great weapon and armor, great Invocations. I completely ignored spell casting and just loaded him up with golden dragon armor and focused on Qazlal firepower. Before I made this run, I read somewhere that Qazlal is tough to worship bc basically every monster on the floor will hear you and come storming towards you. Don’t buy it! This guy laughed in the face of the hoards and just obliterated anything that came his way. If there got to be too many enemies, upheaval would knock them down. If it was a huge hoard of enemies, disaster area would wipe them out. Anything else got the executioner’s axe. His only real weakness was that I had no torment protection for him. So wiping out a huge group of enemies in the tomb actually pummeled him quite a bit. This was also my first character I took into a ziggurat. Made it to the last floor and then ran into a tomb theme, so I had to bail.
Win #7: NaWr of Che Power Ranking 3rd
Polar opposite of the last character. As with all nagas, he started off weak due to his super slow movement. The translocation spells helped him survive the beginning. Then I found him a bow and started worshiping che. Not much longer, he became downright deadly. Basically just peppered enemies with arrows, controlled blink to a safe distance, then peppered them again. Che’s stat gains made the hybrid build easy, and slouch would decimate any large groups of enemies. Completely different build type, but also incredibly powerful. Also my first to fully complete a ziggurat.
Win #8: DeWz of Ashenzari Power Ranking 10th
I really thought I would enjoy this run more than I did. For one, deep elves are just too squishy for my tastes. Two, I wanted to use ice magic since I hadn’t focused on that before. I also wanted to stick with Ashenzari all the way through. The game never gave me glaciate, which was very disappointing. I also couldn’t find a staff of energy. I ended up having to switch over to earth spells and of course picked up lich form. I ended up just stealing most of the pandemonium and hell runes. Not surprisingly he had a lot of offensive firepower, but he always seemed just a few bad rng’s away from a stupid death, so I ended up playing him pretty conservatively. Some people would probably enjoy this build a lot more, but to me it was just so-so.
RIP Samwise HaAk of Lugonu
Poor Samwise. I wanted to do ranged character that started with slings and then moved to crossbows as I haven’t used those yet. I also wanted a new god in Lugonu. He picked up all 15 runes and then I went into Zot 5 with waaayy too much confidence. Yeah, it happened. A stupid death. Got surrounded by orbs of fire and some other nasties. Went to the abyss twice, but both times coming back immediately got mauled. Kept teleporting into even worse situations. Those stories you read about how Zot 5 can kill you even at the end of a 15 rune run? They’re totally true. Ignorant overconfidence is, was, and will always be the mostly deadly thing in the dungeon!
Win #9: DsFi of Uskayaw Power Ranking 7th
Melee builds definitely tend to be my strong suit. So to keep it fresh I tried out Uskayaw. Definitely some different playstyle. I went with axes to build up the piety quickly, and picked the usual translocations. Also focused heavily in necromancy, and got all those top spells up and running too. Ironically, I didn’t really use Usk’s active abilities all that much. I typically just waited until he puts everyone to sleep and pain bonds everyone. Occasionally a situation would arise in which I would use the grand finale insta-kill. It was definitely a different experience, but a very fun build. The Demon Spawn mutations were also interesting, and I actually ended up getting a bunch of helpful regular mutations along the way as well. I don’t think it’s quite as strong as the “Oka to Good gods” build, but definitely was good for some variety.
Win #10: VpEn of Kikubaaqudgha Power Ranking 13th
Let me start by saying I’m not a fan of stabbing builds and didn’t really know what I was doing. This run was also after they originally simplified vampires some but not before they super simplified them a second time. After several splats in the early game, I quickly realized that you can’t rely on stealth for stabs. I then focused on hexes and did much better. However, turns out hexes stink in the extended game. I got a couple of characters that far and then they fell apart, which is a double whammy bc you burn a lot of time just to get to that point. After several combinations I figured out a plan for the extended game that worked. I worshipped kiku as soon as possible and did hexes in the early game while training some necromancy on the side. I also trained long swords exclusively as opposed to short swords (weird I know). This simultaneously gave me some levels in short swords and I was able to kill most stuff with stabs anyway. So while I started as a hexing stabber, by the time I got to the extended game I easily transitioned into a longsword-wielding necromancer that made full use of kiku’s summon corpses and raising the dead. It was basically a complete swap of character strategies midway through the game. It worked rather well except for Cerbrov’s Pan level and in Gehenna, as the zombies couldn’t hold up to all the fire attacks. Also, this guy got mutated… bad. He was a crawling, yelling, drippy mess when he finally escaped the dungeon with the orb. All that being said, this run crossed off vampires, worshipping kiku, specializing in enchantments, specializing in stabbing, and specializing in the raising the dead aspect of necromancy off my to-do list. I’m sure there are people that could have done this much better than me, so don’t look to this as a strategy guide. Stabbers just aren’t my cup of tea.
Win #11 OpTm [Yredelemnul to The Shining One]: Power Ranking 6th
Oh the octopodes… For some reason I was very excited to make a run with one of these. I also had never done transmutations, and the octopode’s 8 rings (which don’t get melded during a transmutation) seemed uniquely suited for the job. This character obviously sucks very badly in the early game, and I was also trying to use some new gods like the Wu Jian Counsel and Ru. After some early splats, I switched over to Yredelemnul, as his easy undead summoning and drain life are very powerful in the early game. Definitely helped cover for the weakness of the octopode early on. I relied on sticks to snakes and ice form early, and then really took off upon learning dragon form and statue form in the late/extended game. At that point, my weak little octopode turned into an absolute monster and I switched over to The Shining One. I mistakenly said my ogre with the giant spiked club had the strongest physical attacks in the game. I believe the club does 31 damage fully enchanted, and with a brand will probably do around 40 or so. To my knowledge, Dragon form with full unarmed combat does 65 base damage plus claws 3, plus a bite attack, plus a tail slap! What a beast!! I also ended up with around 20 or so armour and 20 plus evasion after all the artifact rings, so he wasn’t so terribly squishy in the end as I thought he would be. I ended up ranking him 6th because of his horribly slow start, but he was my deadliest endgame physical attacker by far and I had a blast with him.
Win #12 BaIE of Sif Muna: Power Ranking #1
This guy turned out to be everything I was hoping my deep elf would be. This was also just after they updated a huge chunk of the spells. So I got to try out all the new ice spells, which I enjoyed much more than the old ones. Frozen ramparts and summon ice beast were clutch in the early game, and ozocubu’s refrigeration (which sif granted me with the first spell book) dominated the mid game. For the late game, I had absolute zero, tornado, controlled blink, necromutation (and also some ozo’s refrigeration yet too). Honestly, I’ve never had such an easy time in the late game. All the “bosses” were completely trivialized by absolute zero, and Sif muna, an amulet with mp regeneration, and a staff of energy damn near gave me unlimited mp. I even found boots of running to negate the barachi’s movement penalty. This guy and my orc of Qazlal were equally deadly, but unlike my orc, my barachi had no weakness against torment and/or mummy curses. He hardly even got touched in the end game until some later Ziggurat floors. Thus, he proudly steps into the #1 slot for my most powerful build! [Note: Absolute Zero was WAY overpowered. Not surprised they nerfed it to Maxwell’s Capacitive Coupling, which is still incredibly powerful]
Win #13 MiBe of Trog: Power Ranking 8th
Stone-cold killer. The hardest thing about this guy in the early game is learning that you can’t go berserk and kill EVERYTHING. Learning the limits of berserk led to an early splat or two, and then it was on to a gore-splattered slaughter fest through the early and mid-game. I was worried going into it that I would have to switch away from trog for extended as the lack of spells and torment resistance would likely catch up with him. However, I trained up crossbows for some ranged attacks and swapped back and forth between that and melee. I enjoyed a surprisingly easy stroll through pandemonium and the hells. Then I hit the tomb; where no torment resistance finally caught up to him. Unlike the Hill Orc of Qazlal, I didn’t have disaster area to wipe out huge groups of mummies and just couldn’t kill them fast enough. I ended up using all my scrolls of blinking and consumables and just stole the rune. Luckily the run before then was easy enough so I had the resources to pull it off. This would have been one of my strongest builds, but I have to dock him for falling apart in the tomb. Overall though, definitely a fun and powerful character to play with.
Win #14 HaHu of [Nemelex Xobeh to The Shining One]: Power Ranking 11th
This was basically a rerun of my previous halfling (slings to crossbows) but with a different god. Also, this was right after they eliminated food and the controlled blink spell. Losing food was nice, as with the exception of a couple species it was just more of a hassle than a legitimate concern. Controlled blink, on the other hand, was my favorite spell and will be sorely missed! I picked it up with every character that could learn spells, as with two uses you basically are out of any danger (plus melee characters could teleport into battle and it was perfect for stealing runes). It will be especially missed for my archers, as continually blinking to a safe distance and peppering things with arrows was incredibly lethal. I still ended up giving this character translocation spells, but the ones remaining (while definitely useful) are a pale imitation. Adding further to my dismay, I actually first ran a halfing with Gogaz Ym Sagoz. He made it all the way to the hells before splatting, thus becoming my second halfing to splat late in the endgame. Damn halflings! Gogaz has to be one of my least favorite gods, as it feels like most of the time you are basically playing godless. The shops I “purchased” were unhelpful, petitioning for potions was okay but underpowered, and bribing a branch was so expensive I had to use it sparingly. I’ll come back to him with another character for completion’s sake, but will definitely switch out before the end game. Regardless, coming back to the winning run, I went with Nemelex and had a confident run through the midgame. I considered staying with Nemelex through the endgame, but with two halfing splats in extended fresh in my mind, I switched to The Shining One to ensure I could cross them off my list. Consequently, this particular halfling actually ended up being pretty strong, but I’m still docking him as he was my third serious attempt.
Win #15 TeSu of Sif Muna: Power Ranking 14th
Ahh, the run that almost killed me. I’ve done every skill but summoning, so naturally that was up. I really, really wanted to run a hybrid melee/summoner. I discovered that summons work great up until extended, as I splatted two runs in hell. Summoning just can’t take things out quick enough in extended and hiding behind summons doesn’t work very well when almost everything can smite, torment, cast hellfire, and stinking abjure. Then I took a year or two break and came back at it. This time I tried switching from Sif Muna to the Shining One for extended and doing a strategy swap to a pure melee character (kind of like I did with my vampire). I ended up with another splat in pandemonium and one in the tomb (stupid zot trap paralyzed me). Tengu are just a little too fragile and all the levels sunken into summoning didn’t really do much to help. With some luck I may have been able to make this work, but 4 extended game splats takes a lot out of you. I’d much rather die early and start over than invest all that time only to lose it with the end in sight. Seriously, I named my eventual winning character “Hopeless” because I was starting to think I’d never get one through. Finally giving in, I started with summoning and then transitioned to air magic instead of melee (and picked up the usual necromancy buffs) and finished the run in just two tries. Even so, in my winning run I almost died to a pan lord and also in Dis. I seriously might have lost it if I did. This run is either a testament to my stubbornness or stupidity, I’m not sure which. Sometimes you just need to take the easier path. The build I ended with was relatively strong, but for all the agonizing fails along the way I’m ranking this one only ahead of the putrid mummy character.
If you’re actually still reading this, bless your heart! I’ve now gotten 15 rune wins with every skill, so I feel as though I’ve mostly completed what I set out to do. There obviously are some species and god combinations I haven’t won with yet, so there are still some new things to try. However, in terms of build strategies I’ll probably stick with build types that I do best.
Another note, the game certainly has gotten more difficult over time. I still remember the days you could cast haste, deflect missiles, and controlled blink (man I miss controlled blink) over and over. Not to mention the vault 5 was more closed off, you could stair dance in the tomb, and the hells weren’t quite so nasty (seriously, they just made them even harder in .30). You also had staffs of energy where you could safely recoup magic points and wands of healing. Getting these 15 rune wins seems to be getting more challenging (and possibly rewarding) as time goes on, particularly if you branch off the beaten path with regards to builds. I can’t imagine what new ways they’ll come up with to murder us in the future!
Happy Zot Hunting everyone!