This page explains general strategies and tricks to solve dungeons. But of course, every game is different, so there is no single strategy to guarantee a win. Moreover this advice is intended for intermediate players; true veterans may have to discard familiar strategies to reach new heights.
If you are new DD, you might want to read the New Players Guide first.
Important note : The word "wisely" or similar ideas are often used. It might lead you to believe that a wrong decision will doom your character. Ok, this will sometimes be the case, but you will be amazed how resourceful your hero can be. So don't take that word too seriously. Keep playing even if you think that you screwed your run, and you might discover that true power lies beyond your mistakes!
Dungeon exploration can be divided into four phases, each with their own challenges:
- Preparation: You are not in the dungeon yet, but you still have strategic choices to make. Which class/race/preparation will the best, or the most enjoyable?
- Scouting: Your first few steps in the dungeon, when you are getting a feeling of the place. You are doing more exploration than monster fighting.
- Build-up: When you start building up your character and stacking resources for the final fight. This is really the place where the game is won or lost.
- Boss fight: Unleash all your might to defeat the nasty boss (or bosses) in a flurry of deadly blows, powerful mana and yummy potions.
Don't over-think it though; every single dungeon can be won by any class and without any preparations, although some combination are certainly easier than others.
Main article : Race
There are two ways to go about race selection: Picking a strategy in advance, or keeping open to whatever the dungeon presents. You should probably pick your race considering the boss (if you know what it will be), but Halflings and Gnomes are almost always helpful.
The races can be sorted into two groups:
- Those giving a permanent bonus: Human, Orc, Dwarf. Convert early, and you'll get the benefit of the race for the whole game.
- Those providing resources: Dwarf, Gnome and Goblin. Convert late, for a powerful spike during boss fight, or during build-up to defeat high level monsters and trigger juicy XP bonuses.
A user proposed a while ago different character builds. But that classification is somewhat simplistic and probably a relic of the old alpha version. It is not really used nowadays.
Another classification, still very limited compared to range of possibilities, could be:
- Striker: characters who deal high damage, but won't be able to survive many hits
- Tank: characters who will be able to tank much damage
- Caster: characters relying on heavy use of glyphs to deal damage
- Regen-fighter: characters able to heal faster than the monsters. They may mix various strategies (high damage, glyphs, resistance...)
However, don't take this classification too seriously; the same character will often change its playstyle as the dungeon unfolds. It will depend on the items, glyphs and gods you find and how close you are to the boss fight.
Gold and kingdom
Remember that preparations will cost you gold. So if your vault is near empty, you might want to go as purist.
You can also seek the IN DEMAND trophy, take the bet on boss preparation, and score 1050 gold off the boss kill.
Prior to unlocking IN DEMAND trophies, Transmutation Seals can be used on boss trophies to convert them to their full gold value. Again, the "Bet on the Boss" preparation increases the cash gained.
Later in the game, PQI and flaming dungeons will also provide opportunities to make more gold.
Levels 1 to 3. It's rarely possible to kill monsters of significantly higher level at this stage, but it can be useful to do some quick scouting around the dungeon and find what Gods and Glyphs are available, as well as what Boss spawned (if in a random boss dungeon).
The length of scouting depends on your play style, but also on the dungeon. Some players might kill few monsters before they have cleared 25% of the map, and thus have more choice for early Build-Up, while others might try to level-up as soon as possible to avoid wasting black space. Even though it's possible to fully explore Hobbler's Hold before fighting any monster and still win, for most dungeons, don't over explore though in scouting phase. Black space is a valuable resource.
Scouting mana investment
While scouting, you probably will have plenty of mana left. Instead of wasting it, WONAFYT is another useful glyph at this stage, enabling you to prepare a nice salted popcorn bowl. Each summoned monster will grant 1 bonus XP, but could also be the occasion for a mid-fight level-up. Summoning brings monsters to you, helping to preserve black space, and is even more efficient if you have a balanced dagger.
Levels 3 to 7. It's possible to kill monsters of significantly higher level during this phase (to generate more XP by using the level-up steamroll and the experience catapult). The goal is to create the appropriate conditions for the final boss(es) fight(s):
- Plenty of resources remaining for the boss fight (piety, conversion points, popcorn, potions...)
- Attaining sufficient level and being one kill away from leveling up
- Accumulating boons from gods
- Useful items
The build-up phase is highly significant, as it requires maximizing XP gain, minimizing resource usage, and choosing an appropriate strategy. It's worthwhile to note that while dungeon exploration is itself technically a limited resource, it is often desirable or even necessary to exhaust all dungeon exploration during this phase to maximize XP gain, unless intending to use a APHEELSIK glyph or regen tactics to defeat the boss(es). In dungeons where there are multiple bosses, it can be helpful though, to leave some black space for regeneration between those fights.
When reaching level 6 to 7, it's often beneficial to have explored most if not all of the dungeon, and begin creating an "XP farm." By weakening several lower level monsters to within a single hit from death, they can be finished later to gain XP for further level steamrolling. Note, it is less useful or even dangerous to leave creatures with the First Strike ability weakened as a part of an XP farm, as they will still deal damage to you when you come back to finish them off.
Main article : Exploration
Always remember that during build-up, black space is your main resource. Black space is mana and health. You will transform that health and mana into damage, experience, objects, etc. for the final fights.
So don't be shy in exploration, but explore wisely. (Easier said than done, no?)
As said before, if you don't expect to regen fight, you might want to fully explore the map before the final boss fight to collect all remaining power ups and reveal all monsters.
The hunt for bonus XP
Main article : Level
One of your main goals in build-up phase is to gain enough experience to reach a high enough level to conduct the boss fight, and to create a nice popcorn bowl (for mid-fight level-up). However, if you stick to killing same-level monsters, you will never manage to rise higher than level 5, and will exhaust all potential popcorn. So you need to get bonus XP.
The main source of bonus XP is killing monsters which have a higher level than you. The wider the difference, the bigger the bonus. But there are other tools to get bonus XP:
- IMAWAL which after being cast on a monster will award you a 50% XP bonus on your next kill. This works best if your next kill will award you a lot of XP. Also, note that the XP of the monster you petrified is lost, so prefer low level monsters, monsters which you won't kill (too tough), plants, or the occasional no XP monsters you might encounter.
- Slowing monsters for a tiny 1 bonus XP (still useful when cast extensively)
- Items such as the balanced dagger
- The fighter class and goblin race also are helpful to gain levels with less XP
- Some gods will also give you boons helping to gain levels or bonus XP, such as the Glowing Guardian, Tikki Tooki or Jehora Jeheyu.
Also, note that when choosing a higher level monster to kill (level +2 or +3), you might discover that killing it will cause you to level up. But you might be able to slip in another bonus XP kill (level +1 or +2) before leveling, thus optimizing XP bonuses. However, that will be one popcorn less. So it's up to you to decide which is the most important...
Main article : Popcorn
It often is useful to recover health and mana during a boss fight. If you don't want to regen-fight or use potions, one way is to have a mid-fight level-up. The easiest way is to start the fight with your XP one (easy) kill from level-up.
But if you wish to get 2 level-ups during the fight (level steamroll), you will need a lot of weak monsters to kill during your boss fight. That group of low level monsters is called a popcorn bowl. Leaving a lot of popcorn requires you to gain XP fast, leaving many monsters alive. One technique is to perform an experience catapult (killing a monster with an major difference in level, which makes you gain multiple levels at once):
- For example, a level 1 hero killing a level 9 monster gets 81 experience, and will suddenly catapult to level 6.
- A level 2 hero killing the same level 9 monster gets "only" 65 experience, and will wind up at level 5.
Of course, this works better if you do it a low level.
In the search for bonus XP (or simply gathering XP without exploring too much), you will have to choose your next target wisely.
- When possible try to go for the highest level monster.
- Only start fights that you will win: carefully read the combat prediction and check your resources before starting the fight.
- Pay attention to the monster's traits and make sure you know the consequences it will have. Hitting a life-steal and blinking monster when there is still a lot of black space left might not be the best move as you will probably have to start the fight all over again.
- If you are preparing a popcorn bowl, check that the monsters you are leaving actually are good popcorn. For example, cursing or death-gaze monsters might be dangerous as popcorn. So it might better to kill them before starting the boss fight.
- Don't be too scared of debuffs. For example, being mana burned or poisoned just before leveling up is really not a problem (as it will be cleared on level-up). Maybe 1 or 2 weakening or corrosion debuffs might not be such a big deal in exchange for critical XP (especially if you can get it cleared).
- Really pay attention to your god, especially when you can't afford losing XP. Some gods like you killing some monster types: (Taurog loves it when you kill spellcasters, and the Glowing Guardian undead), but others hate when you kill the wrong target (Dracul does not like when you kill undead, and Mystera Annur when you kill spellcasters)
There is one important rule when taking items: they occupy room in your inventory, and the only way to get rid of them is to convert them. It may be detrimental to fill your inventory with objects you don't need now, or to be obliged to convert an item too early to make room for another powerful artefact...
So think twice before picking something up, and think twice too before converting an object.
In the same way, spend you gold wisely in the shops.
Single-use glyphs are a special case of inventory management. If you know early on in the game that you will be worshiping Taurog, you can still get limited use from some glyphs. The effects of CYDSTEPP, BYSSEPS, and GETINDARE will persist after you convert them, and those effects activating will not anger Taurog (or Binlor, for that matter), so it can be very beneficial to pick up and activate these glyphs (especially CYDSTEPP for non-Fighters), before beginning worship, then convert them afterwards for piety and the racial effect.
LEMMISI is another situation where you might want to convert early, once you've done enough exploration with it.
Main article : gods
Gods are among the most powerful features in game, granting powerful boons. Actually, a good god understanding is one of the keys to successful vicious dungeon runs. But they might be scary as they will dislike some of you actions, or even punish you if your piety gets below 0.
They are not equal; some will interact better with some classes (you'll get more information in the class pages), some will be more efficient if you worship them early (Glowing Guardian or Jehora Jeheyu), some can be worshiped or converted to in late game (Dracul or the Earthmother), some hate when you kill some monster types which might be important in your dungeon.
So the trick is to understand what they could do for you, when is the right time to worship them, but also keep in mind that you are not obliged to always do what they wish you to do if you have enough piety in stock. Remember also that if you have more than 50 piety points, you can convert from one god to another (if there is more than 1 altar in your dungeon), which might entirely change your play style but also open new opportunities. Note that you will keep the traits the god offered you when converting.
If you urgently need some piety, other altars can be desecrated. The punishment for it might be costly, but it sometimes is extremely useful.
Here is short review of existing gods:
- Binlor Ironshield: Binlor is a god of resistance, resistance erosion and might. It is mainly fueled from wall destruction. It will help you tank huge damage and increase your attack. When used correctly, the knockback effect granted by the stone fist might be incredibly useful.
- Dracul: The dark god which helps you heal from blood pools and weak monsters. You'll hit stronger, but loose max resistance and max health.
- The Earthmother: An extremely powerful god, but which will clutter the map with plants. Used properly, you can get a huge amount of piety from her, transforming it into mana, multiple corrosion layers, first strike or resistance.
- Glowing Guardian: A good god to worship early for XP bonuses and health and mana regeneration in late game. It will clutter your inventory though.
- Jehora Jeheyu: A very strange god. His boons can be very powerful, but will deplete your potions so they must be used carefully. Piety gain is random; if you get lucky, he can give you inordinate amounts of piety. However, punishments are also at random! Try to get the Petition boon to end his punishments as soon as possible.
- Mystera Annur: The god to improve your glyph casting.
- Taurog: Taurog is good for melee fighters but will clutter your inventory with powerful objects. An easy to use god, which will provide you useful death protections in the late game.
- Tikki Tooki: Good choice as a later game deity, as he enjoys you slaying lower level monsters, but a big no for tanks. He loves money, and will help you hitting tough monsters.
- The Pactmaker: A different kind of deity who can be worshiped at the same time as other goods.
Levels 7 to 10. At this point, dungeon exploration likely stops (unless you're using a poison glyph against a boss or can out regen them), and the battle begins. It can be useful at this point to be almost at the next level, allowing the player to use the level-up steamroll to instantly heal to full health and mana, possibly even multiple times during the fight.
The ideal position to be in when starting a boss battle is at Level 7 with 34 / 35 experience, with proper runes, and all health / mana potions remaining, and an exp farm containing 96 experience worth of monsters (enough for level 10) although this is very hard to do. The first phase of the boss battle involves the player using all available health and mana points (but not potions) against the boss before killing weakened monsters to gain a level. This phase ends when the player no longer has enough weakened non-boss creatures to gain another level, or has reached level 10.
Phase two of the boss battle involves the player using other available resources (health & mana potions, etc.) to defeat the boss. This is sometimes called to spike the boss.
In dungeons with two bosses, it can often be effective to kill the "hard hitting" boss with magic attacks during phase one, as they usually have lower max health. This allows the player to save as many health and mana potions as possible for the "tank" boss, who generally doesn't retaliate as powerfully.
First Strike Finisher
First strike will often allow you to kill a monster you couldn't otherwise beat. Cast it just before the final blow, and the monster gets no retaliation hit.
- Keep in mind that you still take a retaliation hit if the monster has first strike as well.
Read more in the Strike Order article
Hitting a monster with fireball before combat will often reduce the number of hits it takes to kill it. Can be used with first strike to take on otherwise dangerous foes without taking any damage.
If you have enough attack to do more damage in one hit than your enemy is able to regenerate in the time it takes you to regenerate the damage that he does with a single hit, you can heal between attacks and still be able to have a net effect of his health decreasing. Be careful however, that it might be very exploration consuming.
- A way to determine if you are able to damage your foe quicker that he would heal, is to compare the number of tiles you would need to recover from one of his strikes (damaged caused his attack / health you recover per explored tiles), and the number of tiles he would need to recover from one of your strikes (damaged caused by your attack / health he recovers per tile you explore). If you need less tiles than he does, you will heal quicker. Don't forget to take your spells in account !
- Even if you heal slower than the enemy does, sometimes exploring one or a few blocks mid-battle can regenerate your HP/MP for additional hit/spell so that you can deal enough damage to kill the enemy.
Attacking an enemy and then poisoning it and exploring (or using the LEMMISI glyph) allows you to take on enemies that would otherwise outlast you in a fight. If attacking with magic you can use this technique to beat a foe that would otherwise kill you with one hit.
- This technique relies on either of two abilities. You can last as long as you can survive a single hit, so if your HP or resistance are as high as possible, you will be able to outlast harder hits.
With very few experience needed to gain the next level, you can fight a tough monster, and then when you can't fight any more, kill a low-level monster in order to level up. This will restore your health and mana without healing the tough monster. You can then go back to killing the tougher monster with full strength. It is possible to level up more than once during a single fight. This usually requires the player utilizing the "Experience Catapult" strategy first (see below) so that he has a lot of low-level monsters to kill. Nonetheless, keeping track of how many experience you can get from the available monsters is always a wise thing to do.
It often seems more efficient to fight only one monster at a time, entirely devoting your mana and health bar to this fight. But in some cases, it is actually much more efficient to fight two or more monsters at a time. Popcorn for mid fight level up is an example, but more are listed in the Brawling article.
Power builds and other odd tricks
This section lists particularly powerful builds tricks and niche strategies, which -honestly- no sane person could have imagined. The fact that they have been developed tells a lot about DD Community's fading sanity.
Level 1 Boss fight
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The Acid Caster is a build designed to kill the boss as a level 1 character by stacking layers of corrosion on the boss before a massive fireball chain. Gnome Wizard is best since he gets both cheaper fireballs and the ability to carry all his utility glyphs, but you can also do it as a Gnome Sorcerer or Gnome Bloodmage for their improved mana potions. Prep The Earthmother and cast IMAWAL on every enemy who is not in your way to build piety. Purchase 6 or so levels of the Greenblood boon just before fighting the boss or whenever your piety becomes full, and do not take Entanglement in this phase (the bonus XP is still given when you petrify enemies, and your goal is to not level up). This is much easier with the WEYTWUT and/or ENDISWAL glyphs, and on open levels.
Explore the whole level before beginning the boss fight, and use all your mana potions and piety (for clearance--you can generate plants cheaply with Entanglement once you're done petrifying enemies) to fling fireballs at the boss until it dies. Helpful items include Crystal Ball, Keg of Mana, Dragon Soul, or anything else that gets you extra mana. The Extra Glyph preparation may be useful for an extra shot at valuable utility glyphs.
The Punchomancer is any character that spams PISORF until both bosses die, but is pulled off the best with an Orc Wizard. Prep Binlor Ironshield, Crystal Ball, Extra Mana, Black Market, Sword, and anything else that looks appealing. Worship Binlor to get PISORF, level up a bit to get some damage, convert everything you see for even more damage, then position the bosses next to each other and cast PISORF until they both die. Refill your mana bar with midfight level-ups, potions, and the Crystal Ball as necessary.