New Players Guide

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Welcome to Desktop Dungeons! You've bought this magnificent game through the avenue of your choice, blazed through the tutorial, and... can't clear Dungeon: Venture Cave Venture Cave. Don't fret! Desktop dungeons is an incredibly complex game, with much to offer the human who masters its systems, but as a consequence has a very steep learning curve. The fact that you're here means you are willing to stick with it, though, and that is excellent! This page contains a basic explanation of the game's systems and strategies you can use to help ease you in to the game.

The single most important thing to know is that DD is a game about resource management. This is a game that punishes wasted resources. The second most important thing to understand is that everything is a resource. Items, health, mana, piety (you'll get to that later) and gold are not the only things you will want to manage. Exploration, experience, low-level enemies ("popcorn"), even your health is a resource to be managed!

If this sounds overwhelming, fear not! For most of the game, you only need to understand a small part of this to succeed, and things will come gradually.

You can read more advanced strategies there, or in the articles dedicated to each class, race and god.

The basics of the basics

7 basic rules to help you :

  • Try to kill monsters which are higher level than you. It will give you bonus experience, and you will need it.
  • Use glyphs (spells) with any character you play, regardless of the class name. The Class: Fighter Fighter is a better spellcaster than he is a "fighter". Not using glyphs will make it quite difficult to kill higher level enemies. Glyph: BURNDAYRAZ BURNDAYRAZ, a direct damage glyph, always spawns on every run.
  • Explore wisely: unexplored tiles or blackspace can be a valuable resource.
  • Monsters heal when you are exploring! So, unless you know that you can heal faster than they do, don't explore during a fight, and try to fully heal before your fight.
  • Leveling up will restore your health and mana. Killing low level monsters during a tough fight to refill both your health and mana is one of the cornerstones of DD play.
  • Prepare for your fights! Using glyphs like Glyph: BYSSEPS BYSSEPS or Glyph: ENDISWAL ENDISWAL and then exploring a few tiles before the fight will have you start it with a bonus and full health and mana.
  • Read the combat prediction. When hovering a monster the game predicts next blow result. It would be silly not to read that! It also predicts how many hits you will have to give to kill the monster. It is extremely useful...

Now, you can keep going for some more detailed advice

In-Dungeon Basics

Game Objective

Your objective is to kill the level 10 "boss monster" in the dungeon. If there are multiple such monsters, you must defeat all of them. They will drop trophies that you can sell.

Anything else in the game should be considered as resources to prepare the boss fight : unexplored space, glyphs, gold, shops, potions, gods but also monsters (they're XP powerups but they're tricky to pick up!). There are ways to turn even walls and bloodpools, that monsters leave behind when they die, into a weapon!

Gaining Levels

Consider monsters as "hard to pick up XP boosters" : killing them adds to your experience bar, and experience allows you to level up. Every level-up makes you stronger and refills you health and mana.

Knowing exactly what you get from a level-up is critical to a deeper understanding of the game, as proper timing of level-ups is crucial to your success in a dungeon run. The benefits of a level-up are:

  • +10 max HP
  • +5 base damage
  • A full health and mana bar refill
  • A wipe of any poison or mana burn effects on the player

And additionally:

  • An increase in your health regeneration rate
  • An increase in your Glyph: BURNDAYRAZ BURNDAYRAZ damage rate

And it also means that:

  • Every +20% damage increase is essentially +1 dmg per level.

Hunt for bonus XP!

First of all - if you're higher level than a monster you get first strike against it. This means that if you outlevel a monster, and have enough damage, you can kill it without expending any resources. You can (and should!) do this while you're fighting a different, tougher monster.

Killing higher-level monsters gives you bonus experience, and you will need it : if you stick to killing monsters who are same level as you, you're not likely to have enough xp to rise higher than level 4 or 5. And what's worse - you won't have any easy to pick up XP powerups to munch on for a refill while you fight the boss!

Since leveling up instantly refills your health and mana, you don't necessarily want to reach the highest possible level before you fight the boss. What you do want is to level up efficiently. If you get bonus XP from higher level kills, this will leave a lot of low level monsters on the board for you to refill with while you fight the boss or a high level monster.

You will also soon discover many other ways to get bonus XP, and you can read some technical details in the level article.

Mid fight level-up

Don't forget : your sole target is to kill the boss. Other monsters are (usually) not your enemies, but XP boosters that you need make the best use of to kill the boss.

For an easy mid-fight refill you can prepare for the fight making sure that you are within a few XP of leveling up before starting a fight with a tough monster or boss.

Then just fight the high level monster until you are out of mana and you can't take any more hits from it. Then, kill a lower-level monster to level up, refreshing your health and mana. Finally, use your refreshed resources to finish killing the monster. This technique is very simple, but is the pillar upon which high-level play is built on. Learn it. Love it. Master it.

Lower monsters are called "popcorn". You can read more about it. With enough bonus experience from higher level kills, you can have plenty of popcorn left to ding several times in a fight, not just once, and well played spellcasters can even ding through a boss fight starting at very, very low levels, even level 1.

Combat Strike Order

  • The higher level combatant strikes first. If the hero and monster are same level, then the monster goes first.
  • The first attacker deals damage to the opponent equal to its attack power.
  • The second attacker, if still alive, then deals damage to the opponent equal to its attack power.

Important things not covered by these bullets are strike order modifiers. A player with First Strike will strike first regardless of levels, unless the opposing monster also has first strike. A slowed player will always strike last in battle. First Strike and Slow cancel each other out.

You can read more in the strike order article

Mana and Spells

  • Mana is used for casting spells. You start with no spells, and must find the spell Glyphs in the dungeon. (Certain, later, classes start the game with a specific glyph in their inventory.)
  • In order to use the spell the glyph has to be in your inventory.
  • Casting a spell on a monster doesn't make the monster respond such as a melee attack would.
  • If you'd like to get rid of a Glyph you can convert it by dragging it into the teal-and-red conversion icon. This will give you 100 conversion points, and possibly a benefit depending upon your race. Humans get more attack power, Dwarves more health per level, elves more mana, etc.

Important thing to notice: max mana doesn't increase with levels. Everyone except the Elf (who can convert glyphs and items to boost his max mana) has to pick powerups, items and boons if they want to increase their max mana.

You always start with 10, and there are always 3 mana powerups in a dungeon. When you've found all of them, you'll be at 13. This lets you cast the guaranteed-spawn glyph Burndayraz twice in addition to your melee every time your bars are full. 13 max mana also means that if you drink a mana potion with the 1 remaining mana left you'll be at exactly 6 for one more Burndayraz.

Also, mana is restored at a rate of 1 point per tile.

Healing and Restoring Mana

  • As you explore the dungeon, you will restore depleted hit points and mana. The unexplored dungeon parts of a dungeon called exploration or blackspace is a depletable resource that heals you and restores your mana pool. Use it wisely.
  • For every tile of blackspace you uncover, you recover 1 mana point, and health equal to your level.
  • When you are poisoned, you will not gain health from exploring squares. Poison can be cured by drinking a health potion, a Fortitude Potion, using the HALPMEH glyph, or by gaining a level.
  • When you suffer from mana burn, you will not gain mana from exploring squares. Mana burn can be cured by drinking a mana potion, a Burn Salve or by gaining a level.
  • Whenever you gain a level, your health and mana are fully restored.

Monster Health Regeneration

  • As you explore the dungeon, wounded monsters regenerate health. They heal 1 health point per level per square uncovered. (A level 4 monster, will recover 4 health points each tile you uncover)
  • No other actions — including fighting other monsters and moving around parts of the map that you've already explored — will cause monsters to regenerate.

This is also extremely important : exploring the dungeon will both heal you and the monsters. Thus most higher level monsters heal quicker than you do. So, it's often not a very good idea to explore mid-fight to heal. There are other ways to get health during a fight such as potions or level-up.

You will soon discover that this rule is not always true and that you can regen-fight many monsters (such as meat man)) if you figure out how it's done and when it's done best. Regen fighting is a powerful tool, and used in small amounts it will improve your ability to kill monsters higher level than you.

Potions and Powerups

  • 3 each of the following items: Health Powerup, Mana Powerup, Attack Powerup, Health Potion and Mana Potion. A Thief will cause 4 of each to be created.
  • Basic Potions restore 40% of your Max Health/Mana, rounded down, except for Priest (Health Potion 100% effective, Thief(Health Potions also restore 20% Mana, and Mana potions also restore 20% health) and Bloodmage (Mana Potion 60% effective).
  • Don't hesitate to pick these up as soon as you see them! Their scaling effects are always added to your total as if you had them from the start.
  • Every Health Powerup gives you 1 Max Health per Level. Dwarf's Conversion works in the same way.
  • Every Attack Powerup gives you a +10% bonus added on top of your base damage, which can be viewed by hovering your mouse cursor on your character's attack icon near the portrait. The Human conversion bonus works the same way, and this way of boosting damage scales with levels. With just your natural base damage it amounts to +1 dmg per level for every +20%.
  • Every Mana Powerup gives you 1 Max Mana. Elf's conversion works the same way.

Gold and Items

  • You gain gold by finding it in piles in the dungeon.
  • If the Bazaar is unlocked, shops will spawn in the dungeon.
  • New items can be unlocked by completing quests or class challenges.

Conversion points

Converting objects will give you some bonus depending on your race. You can convert glyphs and potions from the floor, but you have to purchase items from the shops before you can convert them.

You can also convert stuff without minding the bonus if you really want some inventory space for other things.

  • Any glyph can be dragged to the conversion box for 100 conversion points at any point.
  • If you find or buy an item you're not going to use, or have found something better but don't have the space, drag it to the conversion box for its specified amount of conversion points.
  • If you fill up your conversion bar with extra points left over, they will carry over.
  • Your necessary amount of conversion points and bonus is determined by your race


Preparation is the choice of objects that you decide to carry with you before starting a dungeon.

  • You can choose to "finance" your adventurer by bringing preparations.
  • Preparations are a large variety of things that help your adventurer. Anything from making sure a particular altar will appear, to staring with a fireball glyph, to bringing a cool special potion into the fight.


  • Every adventurer has 6 inventory slots.
  • Each slot can either hold one large item or 5 small items.
  • Items like potions, charms and pendants are small space.
  • Most items, including glyphs, are large space items
  • Once an object is in your inventory, to only way to get rid of it is to convert it. It is then gone forever, so only pick up what you need or want to play around with immediately and leave other stuff around.

The last bit is important, as the dungeon floor is an extension of your inventory. You may not want to use a glyph or an item to fight regular monsters, but you'd like it for the boss fight - so you can convert a leveling tool when you're ready for the boss fight and pick up your boss fighting gear that you left on the ground.

Whether to pick something up, leave it on the ground (or in the shop) or convert it immediately also depends on your racial bonus. An Elf or an Orc might want to convert something early on, a halfling only wants to convert when they want to actually use a potion, and a Dwarf's conversion benefits don't really kick in at all before lvl 4-5 so they are in no rush to dump stuff.


There are no gods when you start the game. But you will soon unlock them. They are one of the most powerful features in the game.

  • Gods in Desktop Dungeons are like most gods in other roguelikes. They each have their own bonuses and penalties.
  • Different actions can have you either gain or lose piety (depending on the good)
  • Piety is used to purchase boons, which provide the player with benefits.
  • If your piety goes below 0 you invoke the god's punishment, which usually isn't good news...
  • If you have at least 50 piety, you can swap over to another god (convert). This halves your current piety. Some gods can be used strictly as a "piety farm" - they are easy to gain piety and small perks with before you swap into a more demanding god with a big lump of piety you farmed with the other god.
  • If you desecrate another god's altar for a hefty piety boost with your current god and pardons from the next three piety losses you would receive, but it immediately invokes the other god's punishment. Learning which punishments to avoid and which don't affect your (current) character in a very meaningful way is quite important for good god play, as it lets you rush powerful boons.
  • Gods are unlocked by completing the challenges in their subdungeon(s).
  • Once you unlock a god, they are put into the randomizer from which gods will spawn.
  • The number of altars that appear in a dungeon depends on the number of gods you have unlocked. You will begin with 1, and will end with 3.

Basic Hints

  • Always fight the highest level monster you can defeat. This requires doing some quick math to determine how the combat will play out before you engage and realize you're in over your head.
  • Exploring the dungeon is the main way you will regain health and mana, but it is a limited resource.
  • Potions are very useful to immediately gain health and mana, but you usually need many or all of them for the fight with the boss.
  • Keep in mind that wounded monsters gradually heal as you explore the dungeon. You can't just smack a monster, run and heal, and repeat. However, the regeneration will sometimes benefit you more than him...
  • Use your level ups for all they are worth, they cure bad status and return you to full HP / MP, so don't be afraid of being poisoned / manaburned by a monster if you'll level up after killing anyway
  • The first-strike spell is useful for finishing a monster off. It gets no retaliation shot if you use it for the killing blow.
  • The fireball spell is useful for softening monsters up before combat
  • Do not kill your adventurer unless you cannot escape, because they will keep their gold and sell off their loot. If you haven't won, always exit the dungeon via the stairs.

Kingdom Management

Finishing a Dungeon

  • When you exit a dungeon, through the main staircase or by taking the trophy, you will immediately send all of your gold into your vault. Then you sell off all your items, normal things for half-price and the trophy for full.
  • Your Kingdom Vault cannot exceed its limit, 400 gold at the start but progressive more as you upgrade your bank.


  • With all of the gold you will be racking up in your vault, you upgrade your kingdom.
  • There a 3 main things you can gain from upgrading a building.
  • You can gain a new class, and a monster.
  • You can gain a new race.
  • You can gain new preparations.
  • See buildings for more details.

The Adventuring Locker

  • One special type of preparation is the adventuring locker.
  • If you bring items out of a dungeon, you can drag them into a locker and pay 50 gold to "locker" it.
  • If your adventurer dies with the item, converts it, or destroys it in any way you can pay a 50 gold fee to "re-locker" it instead of looking around for it in shops.
  • Locker spaces are limited, so you may have to boot something out to put something in.