Getting Starting in Dungeons of Dredmor

2011-08-03 by . 2 comments

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Robb recently asked a fairly simple question on the main site:

Good starting skills for Dungeons of Dredmor

What is a good set of skills for a newer player in Dungeons of Dredmor?

I dropped a quick answer down there detailing what I recommended as an “easy” build, but thought I’d use this opportunity to go in to a little bit more detail and discuss which skills do and don’t work well for a beginner, why, and what skills to look at next.

What are we looking for?

A new player, by simple virtue of being new, doesn’t fully understand the game mechanics. In a game like Dredmor, where the mechanics can be complicated and are often brutal, it is best for a new player to have the most streamlined experienced possible.

Once they’ve got the hang of the mechanics of the game, they can start to branch out into the more interesting abilities – those that add further mechanics to learn. It’s simply a case of not being overloaded at the start of the game. This means that a build that relies on magic is relatively difficult to start with as the player has to learn what spells do what and how to manage their magical power, so we’ll be looking at combat as a good starting point.

The other obvious factor is that whatever we select should also help the player as much as possible – a useless passive skill might not overload the player with mechanics to learn, but will also make the game harder for them by wasting a skill slot.

Constructing an “easy” build

So, an easy build is one that contains skills that are powerful or useful from level 1, don’t require a lot of prior knowledge to use and don’t require too much micromanagement. I think I can come up with something that meets these requirements.

First, every combat build needs a weapon. Ranged weapons require too much management of ammo etc, Staves don’t do enough damage (and we’d be wasting their magic buffs) and unarmed combat is just too difficult to start with.

Mace Skill

This leaves us with either the Sword, Axe or Mace skill. Now all are pretty equal as they do bonus damage in the same quantities at the same levels and have similar bonus effects and skills at higher levels. However, Maces have a small chance to knock-back your enemy when you hit them, which is very valuable because they can’t hit you back, so it makes a good starting choice. Just make sure you get this up to level 2 very early to get the knock-back effect.

Next, we want to accentuate the damage done by your weapons as best possible. There’s a few great skills to do this, and I recommend the following two:

Berserker Rage Skill

Berserker Rage is the first choice. It’s completely passive – so it doesn’t get in the way – and randomly provides temporary buffs when you hit enemies or get hit back (by randomly, I mean 25% of the time). It’s useful straight out the box, as the level 1 provides the “when you hit” buff, and you can add level 2 early on to get the “when you get hit” buff. Increase it to level 3 to add a further buff that works both ways, and all of these stack together, so it can really provide a hefty bonus if you’re lucky enough to get them active together.

Assassination Skill

Assassination is the second attack-boosting option and is another that’s entirely passive. As well as increasing your critical hit chance, this skill also provides occasional random boosts to your attacks.  Instead of buffing you, it directly adds damage to your attack and can stun your enemies or put them to sleep. Don’t worry about level 3 in this skill; it only adds another small random damage bonus – level 1 provides the stun and level 2 the sleep, and they are much more valuable.

That’s damage sorted, now we need to look at defence. There are two good passive options here, and I recommend them both for the easier build, although pay attention to my comments on what armour to take in the next section, else you risk wasting these.

Artful Dodger Skill

The Artful Dodger skill increases your Dodge Chance, meaning you will more often manage to entirely avoid incoming attacks – I’m sure you can see why that is useful. At level 2, this also provides the Knightly Leap ability, which lets you teleport like a chess knight (in a 2-by-3 L shape). This is pretty much the earliest and easiest fully controllable teleport that you can get and is great for retreating or grabbing the items you see on the tiny little islands.

Master of Arms Skill

Master of Arms provides a great compliment to Artful Dodger by boosting your Block Chance, meaning if you don’t manage to dodge an attack you still might block it and reduce the damage received. I recommend aiming for level 3 early on, as the Suit Up ability at level 2 is pretty handy when entering a fight, and level 3 boosts your health by five and includes a randomly activated buff (when you are hit) that greatly boosts health regeneration for a short while.

Not quite done with combat, as there’s one more general skill to add to the mix:

Perception Skill

I get the feeling that Perception is often overlooked because it is almost completely passive. But, it improves your Dodge Chance – so you get hit less – improves your Enemy Dodge Reduction score – so you hit them more – and improves both your sight range and ability to handle traps. This skill basically provides a general boost to your survivability. Each level provides a reasonable boost in stats, so drop a point here every so often, but do concentrate on the first levels in the more direct skills first.

With combat sorted, there’s one utility skill that I’d also recommend picking up.

Burglary Skill

The Burglary skill can be considered the games generic “rogue” skill, and is so useful that I use it in almost every build I play. First, the level 1 skill provides a never-ending supply of lock picks, which is massively useful, although you do have to remember to cast the ability every so often. The level 3 skill provides the Ninja Vanish ability which lets you turn invisible and at level 4 you get a teleport ability, both great for escaping trouble. And all along this path you receive bonuses to both see and disarm traps, which helps prevent little mishaps. Just don’t worry too much about level 5 at this stage, robbing shops can be fun, but is very liable to backfire on you.

So, there we have it. This build is mace wielding and combat-centric, but has so many passive boosts and buffs that it really is quite strong in combat from the start without being confusing, allowing the newbie player to make reasonable progress with little experience of the game – although please be aware that this isn’t the strongest build out there, but I think it is the strongest you can get while keeping it simple.

What equipment should I match with this?

Of course any build is useless if you just use that wooden club or sword that you start with, and learning what equipment is available is part of the fun of the game, but here’s some quick generalised advice.

Wield the strongest Mace you can get your hands on and get a shield as soon as possible. However, be careful to avoid those shields that lower your Dodge Chance by a lot. I’d recommend no more than a -2 deduction to this from your shield.

Also make sure to avoid armour that impedes your Dodge Chance by a lot, as some body armour can affect this score by a whopping -10, which can completely negate your dodging skills. Look for the Bronze or Aluminium armours, as they provide good protection without impeding dodge significantly. Alternatively, you could try and find a decent “rogue” style armour, they boost Dodge Chance but don’t provide quite as much Armour Absorption. Of course, if the choice is bad armour that cuts your dodge by a lot or naked, then choose the armour.

OK, I’m getting the hang of it, what other great skills should I be trying?

Here’s a few other skills that I consider to be quite strong while remaining quite “easy” to manage:

Viking Wizardry Skill

Viking Wizardry is a good starting magic choice for a combat-heavy player. The level 1 spell grants you increased damage output for five hits and the level 2 can be used tactically to block passages to aid escape. Levels 3 and 4 are a bit lacklustre, but the attack buff at 5 and spell at 6 are useful if you manage to get that far.

Archaeology Skill

Archaeology provides some trap avoidance, which is always handy, and starts you off with a fancy hat (that provides Critical Chance, Dodge Chance and Counter Chance bonuses, so is pretty good). Its level 2 ability lets you “sell” named artefacts for XP, while the level 3 lets you respec them, getting a whole new set of enchantments. This can make a rubbish ring that you don’t need into something awesome, but obviously the other way too, so caution is advised.

Dual Wielding Skill

Dual Wielding is a really good choice if you fancy doing a lot more damage. Wielding two of your favourite weapon (and doubling your damage output!) is very satisfying. You just have to watch out not to get hit as often without a shield to help block. As a side note, be aware that damage bonuses from weapon skills apply once to each weapon, so if you wield two maces, you will get the damage bonuses from the Maces skill doubled!

Swords Skill Axes Skill

Swords and Axes both deserve a good look too. They work in very similar but subtly different ways to Maces (and each other). Staves become the obvious choice if you start to look towards magic, and Unarmed is there if you fancy a bit of challenge (and do note you can wield two shields when unarmed!).

The following two require much more management, but are still definitely worth a look.

Smithing Skill

Smithing does requiring levelling up to at least level 4 very early in the game to be really useful, but the ability to construct yourself high quality armour and weapons early in the game shouldn’t be overlooked. You may find your inventory full of metal ingots, and the skill becomes less useful as you get deeper in to the dungeon, but this is worth a look.

Fungal Arts Skill

Fungal Arts has a level 1 ability that allows you to obtain a very large collection of free buffs and boosts, in the form of lots and lots of mushrooms. It’s pretty powerful, but also requires quite a bit of micromanagement (so much so that I personally don’t really like this skill) to keep obtaining then planting spores on enemies and collecting the mushrooms. The pay-off however, is large, and it’s quite viable to ignore the rest of this tree and concentrate your skill points elsewhere.


Skills are difficult to choose without prior knowledge because they stick with your character until death, and a bad selection can completely block any chance of success in a game that can be unexpectedly brutal at times. Hopefully, this build and other skills I’ve discussed here will give you the smoothest start possible in to the game.

However, once you’ve got the hang of things, try branching out and playing with as many different skills as possible – I haven’t even touched on ranged or magic builds here, let along the numerous interesting and strange combinations you can put together.

An interesting skill combination can reinvigorate the game by requiring a new set of tactics and provide a new challenge. So, please, don’t take this as the One Build™ that should be used at all times, otherwise you risk finding the game to be much less interesting than it really is and missing out on its full potential.


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  • BlueRaja says:

    The alt-text for the perception image says “Burglary Skill”

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