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Old August 9, 2015, 14:14   #1
the Invisible Stalker
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[FA] Guide for thralls

One of FA's most interesting innovations is thrall mode. This is a birth option. The details depend on the other birth options, but I'll concentrate here on thralls on the (default) standard wilderness map. Those begin in the wilderness, at the equivalent of dungeon level 58, at the top of a staircase leading to level 60 of a dungeon. They are at character level 1 and have almost no equipment or consumables. This sounds like a recipe for instadeath, and it mostly is. It is, however, quite possible to win in thrall mode. More importantly, it is fun.

I wrote that you begin with almost no stuff, which is true, but what you have is important. Crucially, you start with an amulet which gives telepathy. It's hard to overstate how important that is for a character who, initially, can't kill anything and can be killed by almost everything. You also start with a staff of detection and a stack of 25 scrolls of identify. And, for emergencies, you have five scrolls of destruction. Also, since you are very deep, there is a lot of very nice stuff lying around waiting for you to collect it.

I'll assume below that you aren't playing ironman. There was once an ironman thrall competition. There were no game winners, although there was of course a comp winner, Psi, and a character run by HallucinationMushroom who made it all the way down to dungeon level 95. I suspect Ironman thrall is winnable, but it requires more patience and skill than I possess, so I've never even attempted it. I therefore won't offer advice on that.

One other choice you face right at the start is whether to play with connected or disconnected stairs. Unlike O, from which it descends, FA has this as a birth option. The optimal strategy is very different in the two cases. I strongly prefer disconnected stairs.

Going up or down a staircase uses up no game turns and consumes no food. With connected stairs there is therefore no penalty, at least inside the game, for going up or down immediately if you don't like what you see. Dungeon, or wilderness, levels are an infinite resource. Anything which can be generated eventually will be generated if you wait long enough. In theory then you can just decide what items you want and stair scum until they appear just at your feet in a bit of the dungeon where nothing bad can happen to you in the short time it takes to grab them. Want to be character level 50? No problem. You don't even need to kill anything. You just need to wait for 60 potions of experience to appear. It will require 1200 game turns at your starting speed, plus some extra turns spent grabbing and identifying potions until you find your first potion of experience.

Once your character is level 50, stat maxed, and has the exact equipment and consumables you want you just go down to level 100 and kill Morgoth. So if you are patient enough you can win with a ridiculously low turn count and essentially no risk. Of course if you apply this strategy exactly as outlined above it's likely that the universe will reach thermal equilibrium before you win. You certainly will. At some point before that you will probably get bored. I don't like games with such a marked trade-off between optimal and interesting play, so I play with disconnected stairs.

So from now on I am assuming that you are playing non-ironman in standard wilderness with disconnected stairs. I think there are two viable strategies, but I've only ever really tried one of them. The strategy I haven't tried is to level up very quickly, get some really nice stuff, and head off to kill Morgoth without visiting a town. The advantage would be a really low turn count. The disadvantages are too obvious even to be worth listing.

What I normally do is try to make it alive to Gondolin and then worry about what to do from there. Gondolin has shops where you can buy scrolls of teleport level, potions of cure critical wounds, and other life-saving items. If I find some nice stuff on the way, great. If I can get an easy kill and level up, great. But the goal is to arrive alive.

Your choice of race and class will have quite a noticeable effect on your odds of surviving the trip to Gondolin. Three points of stealth will roughly halve the chance of waking a monster. Consulting raceclas.txt, a dwarf paladin starts with 6 stealth. A dark-elf rogue stars with 18. The former can be expected to wake approximately 16 times more monsters. In reality the difference is even starker, since the unlight specialty, which can boost your stealth by up to 6, is available to rogues but not paladins. Unless you are extremely patient I don't recommend playing race/class combinations with less than 13 initial stealth.

Of course a low probability of waking monsters isn't of much help against monsters which are already awake. What about hounds, vortices, death quasits, and others? In the wilderness those sleep at night! So if you can survive until nightfall you can hope not to be bothered too much by them. I usually make a quick dash for the stairs to wilderness level 56 and rest until game turn 10000, when the first night begins. Or rather I try to. Most characters don't survive their first day, but at that stage I've invested less than a minute of time in them and restarting is easy. I rest at the top of the stairs, before going down, because monsters are sleeping or awake based on whether it was night or day when you entered the level.

ESP is great, but you should always use your staff of detection. Things are a bit more complicated if you are playing the extended wilderness map, since you then won't have enough charges to detect the whole route to Gondolin, but with the standard map you should not run out. Detection will alert you to monsters which are not detected by telepathy and will give you earlier warning of those which are. It will also alert you to interesting items which are near enough your route to be worth a detour. Also, it will detect traps. Most traps at these levels are capable of killing a first level character. Some traps, like teleport traps and possibly trap doors, can save a character who has run out of other escape options. Detection will also detect stairs, but you can usually guess the location of stairs anyway. They are generally to be found at the end of paths.

Levelling up en route is not essential, but it's nice if you can do it. Among other things, it will increase your hitpoints, and spell points for non-warriors, beyond their initial, pathetic, values. Your first kill is very important, because the experience you get for a monster is inversely proportional to your character level. If I've under the source correctly, a vrock, for example is worth 49000 experience points for a first level character. That will get you to level 26. The same vrock is worth only 24500 points for a level 2 character, and will therefore only get you to level level 23. There is therefore some advantage to waiting for a good target for your first kill.

But how can you possibly kill anything? At first you can't. You need to find some stuff. Speed combined with a nice melee weapon could in principle allow you to kill something by the "hack and back" method, but your best bet is wands. Rods are also possible, but you can only expect to get one attack against any given monster.

Once you find a wand with a powerful attack you need to look for a victim. Anfauglith is desert, and sand blocks line of sight, so you are unlikely to find a suitable target until you reach the Fen of Serech. The main exception are stationary monsters with no ranged attacks sitting on paths. You may not find a good wand or a good target. That's fine. I still consider arriving in Gondolin at all a success, even if I'm still level 1.

So wands are particularly worth a detour to grab and identify. Rods and staves are less so. Dragon scale mail is obviously worth a detour, and is occasionally to be found at these depths. Other armour is possibly of interest, but not worth taking a risk for. Weapons are not much worth bothering with at this stage, since you are unlikely to able to melee anything. If you have selling enabled you may be able to get some money for particularly nice ones, but weight considerations will probably prevent you from carrying more than one or two. Scrolls and potions are worth examining if they're on your route. Books, especially dungeon books, are obviously of great interest if your character class can use them. If selling is enabled then other classes' books are a nice source of cash.

It's very likely that you will find yourself in serious trouble at some point. Destruction is your main way of dealing with things you can't outrun, but you only have five scrolls, so you can't afford to waste them. They have a radius of 15, so you want to try to take out not only the particular monster that's pursuing you but also as many other nearby dangerous monsters as you can.

After you arrive in Gondolin you should move house. This will accomplish two things. It will give you a home, where you can store stuff. Your home will appear on your next visit to town. Also, it will enable you to start using scrolls of word of recall. Prior to this, those simply won't work. You should also buy yourself some consumables and possibly some equipment. The details will depend on your character class and the state in which you arrive.

From here on you have a number of options. The most cautious is to continue moving to shallower depths and essentially become a standard starting character with an amulet of telepathy. The most adventurous is to head back to Anfauglith and try to collect more of those valuable items you noticed lying around everywhere, except now hopefully you have enough escapes to be more confident of survival. An intermediate option is to hang around in the plains near Gondolin.

But you don't have to choose. FA has multiple recall points. You can set up to four of them, not counting your home town. So you could have one which you gradually move back to Anfauglith 58, where you started, and another which you move towards shallower depths, where there are useful consumables you can gather without undue risk, and a further two in other towns, where you can buy stuff which is not in stock in your home town. Or you could make your way to Amon Rudh, the first of the dungeons. Some classes fare better in the dungeons than in the wilderness and some may prefer to stick to the dungeons during the daytime, when the hounds are about in the wilderness.

I hope this is enough to get you started if you are new to thrall mode, and may even contain some useful ideas for people who've already tried it. If you are an experienced thrall please feel free to add you own suggestions or corrections below.
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Old August 11, 2015, 08:21   #2
wobbly
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Ok I had quite a few goes at this & while I'm far from an expert I did pick up some tricks. But first a question, are you meant to be using a light or not with the FA unlight specialty? Anyway a few things:

A dwarf rogue (my 1 successful trip to town) is good. Ignore the bad stealth, you have RBlind & fast move in rubble.

Druids/Rangers & Ents want to head to the forest for the stealth bonus. The Beorning Druid I was playing was short on stealth but did eventually make it that far. A green elf druid should have an easier time & an ent rogue should be great if it can get there.

You often have to use a destruction straight of for hounds/vortexs, aim for a spot that allows you the freedom to rest till nightfall.

Look for wands/staffs. Dungeon Maping, Teleport, Speed, Tele-other are all winners.

If you don't want to run through the centre of the map you can tack along the edge between the 2 maps to switch sides, switching maps when you need. Rest as long as you can before changing maps to recharge the rod of sense surroundings.

Always detect if possible before moving in to rubble squares. I lost a lots of characters to acid jellies lurking on the other side.
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Old August 11, 2015, 09:55   #3
the Invisible Stalker
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To get much out of Unlight you need to have your light slot unoccupied. I usually play artifactless, so that's not much of a sacrifice. It's more of one if you play with artifacts. In either case there's the opportunity cost of the specialty you could have taken instead. For rogues I like Extra Trap and for necromancers I like Soul Siphon, but I generally take Unlight instead if I'm playing a thrall. I find the stealth boost to be worth it. Note that you get more stealth at night, which is yet another reason to wait for night for your run to Gondolin.
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Old August 11, 2015, 10:03   #4
the Invisible Stalker
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One clarification. The stealth numbers in raceclas.txt don't really correspond to the ones displayed in the character information. I don't know if it's just a fixed offset or if the transformation is more complicated, but the numbers in the guide above are based on raceclas.txt.
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Old August 19, 2015, 10:05   #5
the Invisible Stalker
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wobbly View Post
Druids/Rangers & Ents want to head to the forest for the stealth bonus. The Beorning Druid I was playing was short on stealth but did eventually make it that far. A green elf druid should have an easier time & an ent rogue should be great if it can get there.
Thanks for the tip. I just tried an Ent Assassin and made it to Menegroth on my first attempt. Unlight makes a big difference. The downside is that I have terrible INT because of the Ent's -4 "bonus". Before that I tried some Ent priests, but the lack of stealth made them quite tedious. I generally died well before reaching the nearest forest. Unfortunately all classes which get Unlight as a specialty also have INT as their spell stat.
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Old August 19, 2015, 10:57   #6
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I found the Ent druids bad stealth not such a problem if you can get blink early and get it to work for you. Enemies get less perception checks if you teleport instead of walk, but of course blink is random. It's about knowing when any direction is a good direction or having the SPs to blink until you land right.

I grabbed blink early by iding by use a rod. I hugged the north & eastern map edges, blinking when dead ended. The plains map has trees. They show up with detect life & you can blink till you land near 1 then rest in the trees.

Edit: on the ent rogue does the bad casting stat matter? You've got great strength & con for a warrior rogue.
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Old August 19, 2015, 13:31   #7
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Some clarification on any blink direction is a good direction. You spot a sleeping hostile. Do you:

Retreat (backwards)
Run the gauntlet (forwards)
Flank (sideways)
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Old August 21, 2015, 13:23   #8
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So I got an ent warrior to town & it seems to take a bit of luck but is certainly do-able. One thing I notice when playing this low stealth is to pay extra attention to monster speed. If it's fast and has passwall it'll cost a destruct. If it's slow and you've kept your distance you can out maneuver it. (Fury helps here). I think a petty dwarf warrior may be ok (tough but ok..) as you move faster through rubble. Just need to work out how strong I need to get to hunt carrion crawler nests.

Edit: I might be over optimistic about the petty dwarf. It's going badly so far.

Last edited by wobbly; August 21, 2015 at 20:16.
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