The Early Game
When you first start your new game of POWDER, you'll want to decide which route to go. Barbarian is simple and so I won't get into that here, but the standard build aside from that is some version of a fighter/mage (or rogue, cleric, etc).
Take into account what you want to do with the character, because which class you choose will only affect your starting gear during your first level or two. If you want to be skill-heavy, choose H'ruth and hope for spellbooks later (after you have abandoned the class). If you want to be magic-heavy, choose Belweir. If you want a balance, choose any of the other deities.
Diet in the Early Game
In the early game, there are a few corpses you want to avoid. Here they are (and why):
- Ice Snake: While Cold Resistance is nice, the potential to pick up Vulnerable to Fire is dangerous.
- Fire Snake and Fire Beetle: Same as above, but reverse the resistance and vulnerabilities.
- Green Snake: Game Over unless you've got a cure, or an item granting Poison Resistance. Ditto for Scorpions, a bit later.
There are also a handful of corpses that you should eat:
- Grid Bug: You could pick up Shock Resistance (which is invaluable against other grid bugs considering the danger they present) without the drawback of a vulnerability like the above critters.
- Brown Slug: You might at first think this is a bad idea because of the damage it can do to you. However, you can pick up Acid Resistance without a lasting side-effect. Just be sure to do it when you aren't in the presence of enemies and when you have more than 10 HP.
- Bat (any sort): Can grant Quick.
- Imp: A bit later in the game, these offer Fire Resistance and/or See Invisible.
- Kobold Mage: Your first Mana bonuses, if you can take them.
Other early-game corpses that are safe to eat but should not be a priority:
- Giant Rat
In the early game there are a handful of spells you'll want, and a handful you won't.
- Heal: This can be a life-saver for obvious reasons. However, unless you're trying to follow Pax, don't overdo it with this spell or any other healing spell--doing so is forbidden by both H'ruth and Tlosh, and if you lean too heavily on this spell, they'll lean back.
- Cure Poison: You'll need this when you start seeing more monsters with poisonous attacks.
- Flash: This is a good starting spell. It deals a fair amount of damage to early-game critters and has the side effect of making them a little less deadly. Keep in mind that it won't work at all on the already-blind Headless.
- Chilling Touch: Another good early combat spell. Slowing a foe can be invaluable. Keep in mind that it won't work on Ice Snakes but that it will be quite effective against Fire Snakes and Fire Beetles. Also, it can let you escape something that's too mean for you! Even if you don't like the other cold spells, this one is worthwhile.
- Detect Curse: This can allow you to safely test a helm or amulet, or anything really -- just don't equip the evil stuff, or read evil scrolls. Also helps with sorting your inventory.
- Light: Useful for seeing what's coming, but there's Detect Curse (and Identify) in the same book.
- Preserve: Lets you save up corpses for when you're hungry or need a resistance pronto. Starting fights with neutrals will annoy Pax, but not nearly as much as eating too many corpses on the spot. And needing to kill things after you get hungry is risky, especially if you're still beat up from the last fight. Bonus feature: protects you from petrification!
- Teleport: A good escape spell, and gives access to a couple of different vaults. The advanced versions are lots of fun too....
- Dig: Useful in all sorts of ways, and when you start the mazes with dungeon level 6, not having it becomes a pain in the butt.
- Force Bolt: This spell is just okay. It deals a small amount of damage and in the scheme of turns is "free", but it has a large mana cost. On the other hand, it lets you make lots of missiles, by smashing boulders into rocks and trees into arrows. Alas, the only trees you'll see early are in Forest Mazes, which have lots of dangerous bats.) For your first spell, you're better off with with Teleport or Preserve.
- Force Wall: The "upgrade version", however, is a potential powerhouse, able to strike multiple targets multiple times. If you can use it in a long, narrow corridor it goes further and will strike a single target several times.
- Spark -- occasionally useful when you get mobbed, but not a reliable killer. On the other hand, it can charge Lightning Rapiers!
- Magic Missile: Low damage (3-4 points per hit, same as a rock), and can be hazardous to yourself. However, it's required for most of the bolt-type spells, and if you have Reflective, it's a lot safer.
- Regenerate: Not a terrible spell per se, but not a great one either. Since you can learn Heal from the same book, I'd choose Heal. On the flip side, Regeneration takes less up-front mana, which is good when you're starting out.
- Slow Poison: Same argument with respect to Cure Poison, but the mana costs make this one a bit more plausible as a stepping stone.
Spells to Avoid
- Acid Splash: Some of the higher acid spells are nice, and this is certainly a damage powerhouse, but the chance to lose a good item just isn't worth it.
- Poison Item: Unless you have Endure Hunger or Butchery, you don't want to use this at all. If you do, you still may want to avoid it because it will offend Pax a great deal. If you get the chance early enough, you might want to learn and use it once, to ID and create Poison Potions. Then you can Forget it and learn something safer....
- Raise Undead: Honestly, unless you're building a necromancer character, this spell just isn't worth the Pax-hate. (Anything you can kill early on will be pretty wimpy as a Zombie or Skeleton -- barely useful as a distraction.)
- Down the road, Ghastify might be more helpful, especially if you are lucky enough to hit a good unique creature.
- Summon Familiar: You're unlikely to be able to protect and groom your bat until you've picked up a few more spells. And if it dies, you hurt.
- Direct Wind: Basically useless except as a prerequisite.
There are a handful of skills that can be very helpful in the early game. Any skill is good, but the best choices are:
- Weapon skills: Whether it's size or attack style, a weapon skill is a good start. Start with whatever weapons and skillbooks you've got, but if that leaves you with choices, pick the first you can of: Pointed Attacks, Medium Weapons, Blunt Attacks, Large Weapons. This order gives you the most options as you pick up weapons later, except that it's better to go for large weapons than low-damage small weapons. Also, you'll have decent odds of getting a double-skilled weapon early.
- Armour skills: Body Armour if you have the chance, even as a first skill if weapons don't work out.
- Charge: A good first skill if you can't get a skill for your weapon, or Body Armour.
- Endure Hunger: Don't take this for your very first skill, as you probably won't get hungry until after you've picked up your next level, if not two. After that, it's probably the single best early-game skill, and a game-changer at any level. Intentionally drop down to starving and then only eat strictly-beneficial corpses. This will keep a lot of Pax's hate off of you! Besides letting you hide out as long as you need to recover, this also allows unlimited use of the Rings of Regeneration and Invisibility.
- Dodge: A flat 10% chance to avoid an attack might be just what you needed.
- Evade Traps: Lets you get past inconveniently placed holes and teleporters.
Mostly, you'll just be picking up everything you find. See Identification for some hints on figuring out what some of it does, but don't be in too much of a hurry. For potions and wands, you'll need a few "scrap" items to test on, and for scrolls, you probably want a near-full backpack for your first Scroll of Identify. A few items are key, and you'll want to identify them ASAP:
- Speed Boots: Makes a huge difference in what monsters you can deal with, and avoids many non-survivable situations.
- Jump Boots: Second choice to speed boots.
- Helm of Warning: You really want to know they're coming....
- Rings: Along with Fur-Lined Boots, these are your main source for resistances, so you'll want to figure them out early.
- Keep an eye out for Dress Code items, especially "blue suit" and "iron suit" pieces. Save up Empty Bottles and Water for eventual holy-water production.
- Potions can mostly be tested as soon as you have suitable items to dip. If you start seeing Scorpions or Cockatrices, it's time to catch up with your testing, at least until you've found the Cure and Acid potions.
Monsters & Rooms
There are a few special rooms and creatures that show up in the early game which need to be avoided or taken with care:
- For your first two or three levels, even ordinary and Large Bats are dangerous, but at least they don't attack unless provoked. However, the Forest Maze contains a unique Vampire Bat, which will eat you for lunch if it gets a clear shot at you! (And it's faster than you are....) This is the only forest you'll see at low levels, so if you open a door and see forest, just shut the door and go somewhere else.
- It's not a wise idea to attack Floating Eyes in the early game either. Their paralysing hit-back attack can be lethal if you don't have a lot of health. They too are neutral unless provoked.
- The Blue Dragon Lair is another potential killer. Happily, it's easily recognized by its "hideout" room and the pattern of secret doors. Or hearing those noisy blue dragons....
- Crypts need to be approached with care. While the huge Crypt #1 is mostly a good thing (mastery of speed dances will let you easily clean out the zombies), several of the others involve Ghasts, which are easily lethal to any character without Speed Boots (or Quick). Naturally, you do not want to let a Lich out of his closet!
- Haunted Isles are another dangerous "feature" -- you want to stay out of sight of those ghosts, so they don't freeze their way off the island!
- The various kobold lairs, too -- even if the outer rooms only had plain kobolds, the inner rooms usually contain "special" sorts who can clobber beginning characters.
- Even without special rooms, certain monsters may show up when you're just not ready yet: Vampire Bats, Scorpions, Ghasts, and even Cockatrices are all major trouble if you don't have a speed boost, and dangerous even if you do. (Admittedly, the appearance of cockatrices is really a sign that you're moving into the midgame.)
- If an insanely powerful monster shows up at low levels, it's probably a Chameleon. If you can get away from and avoid it (while staying on the same level), it will eventually revert, on a 1/1000 chance per turn.
- Unchanged chameleons should be killed ASAP before they do turn into something nasty. Locking them in a room can help, but they may change into something that can open doors.