Octopode Wizard - Character Guide

by Ultraviolent4

Difficulty: Advanced
Full OpWz Playlist

Posted: March 8, 2018
Crawl Version: 0.21 + Trunk

Why play Octopode Wizard?

Octopode is one of the most popular and commonly-played species in Crawl for a reason: it's fun.

All armours except for hats and shields are useless to Octopodes but they can use 8 rings at once on their 8 tentacles. This makes for a unique Crawl experience and, if you can manage to get to the point where your character has 8 powerful artifact rings (all with +6 AC and Slaying, naturally), you'll have a strong character to do some 'poding with.

The Wizard background is quite a good one for the aspiring Octopode who wants to make the most of their generalist aptitudes. As a Wizard's starting spells are chock-full of utility, there is freedom to branch out into whichever direction(s) you (or the Dungeon) sees fit. That could be more utility spells, focused spell schools such as Conjurations, Hexes or Summonings, evocables, weapons or even gods.

All told, Octopode Wizard makes for an enjoyable and flexible (albeit challenging) Crawl experience.

Challenges to Consider

You're made of rubber

Octopodes are squishy. Literally and figuratively.

For starters, you're going to have -10% HP. That alone would be cause for concern but then consider that Octopodes can only use hats and shields as armour. Without most armours, your AC is going to be precipitously low and anything that hits you will HURT (focus on the pain - the only thing that's real).

If you frequently allow monsters to attack you, you're soon going to have a dead Octopode on your hands (or tentacles). Fortunately, the Wizard starting spells have many ways to keep enemies away and out of your personal space. Try not to be too reckless in your decision-making because any punishment is likely to be relatively severe.

Regardless of how = O P T I M A L = your gameplay is, bad situations can arise. For this reason, you should rate any usable source of AC extremely highly. Shields also become more valuable as a means of defence when you can't wear armour.

No set direction

Octopode Wizard is a combination that pairs a generalist species with a magic-leaning but utility-based background. The resulting lack of constraints might be a positive for experienced crawlers but newer players can struggle without direction. Perhaps the Dungeon will provide you with a series of early and related spellbooks but I wouldn't count on it.

From what I gather, a major difficulty with flexible characters seems to be in evaluating options and particularly so with spells. How do you decide which spells are worth branching out into new schools for? And when?

Unfortunately, I don't think there's a great shortcut here. Experience really is king. I can throw out some general maxims (Summon Lightning Spire is almost always worth it. If your offensive spells are providing sufficient killing-power, you don't need to add more offence. Try to have a form of single-target damage for singular dangerous enemies such as uniques and a means of dealing AoE damage to fight packs. Level 9 spells are usually always unnecessary for a 3-rune game.) but those don't help too much when you're weighing up two different spells. I'd really just encourage you to try out different spells and playstyles to see which ones you enjoy and are comfortable with.

If you really crave direction, one reliable way to focus your character is through god-choice. Kiku, for instance, will set you down the path of the dark arts and Vehumet will lead you towards Conjurations-based magic. More guidance on gods will follow.

Early Skilling

Get some early points in Stealth because Octopodes have a great aptitude for it (+4) and an innate stealth bonus. Stealth isn't only for stabbing - it's also a pseudo-defensive skill because it lets you avoid monsters who don't wake up or notice you. The experience required to take a +4 aptitude skill to 10 or so really isn't much but even 5 can pay dividends.

I like to train at least one defensive skill on my characters at all times. For an Octopode at the very start, that could be Dodging (for more EV) or Fighting (for more HP). As the game progresses, though, you'll need to train a fair amount of BOTH Dodging and Fighting.

As far spell skills go, you're going to want some Spellcasting for more MP and to create levels to learn your starting spells. The Spellcasting skill also helps slightly with your spell failure levels. Spellcasting is basically always valuable until 8-10 skill at which point you can assess whether you need more based on how heavily invested you are in magic, how high-level your spells are, if you're often running out of MP in fights, etc.

During the early game, your spell school skill training should basically follow your spell progression. Don't worry too much about spell power, just get them all castable.

Conjurations comes first at XL 1 with Magic Dart. At XL 2, I train Summonings first for Call Imp then a bit of Transolcations for Blink. Upon reaching XL 3, get Mephitic Cloud castable as soon as possible with Conjurations, Poison and Air. After that, Conjure Flame needs Conjurations and Fire Magic. Don't bother with Slow.

If you ever find a shield train it. Throw on a buckler immediately but a shield might require some training first so that the penalty doesn't completely destroy your ability to cast spells.

Once you've mastered all of the Wizard starting spells, your skilling depends on which direction your character goes in. Invocations? Evocations? A weapon?

Appropriate Gods

As seems to be the theme for this character combination, there's a lot of flexibility in god choice for an Octopode Wizard. I'm going to split these gods into 2 categories: those that work well if you want to focus almost entirely on magic and those that are generally strong gods who work well here.

Gods to focus on magic

Vehumet will push your character towards conjuration spells and will likely turn it into a blaster caster.

If you go this route, start thinking about escape if you're not going to blow up an enemy before it reaches you. Once things get on top of you with your -10% HP and near-zero AC, you will die very quickly and suddenly.

When playing Vehumet, I like to train more Spellcasting than usual to make sure I can learn the spells on offer.

Kiku will focus your game on the Necromancy school. This is nice for an Octopode because undead can create a buffer between enemies and you.

The Corpse Delivery ability has a very cheap piety cost so you can spam it (hopefully Kiku gives you access to Animate Skeleton or Animate Dead) for non-trivial fights.

At full piety Kiku can put the pain brand on a weapon for you. This works best on a fast-attacking weapon. I recommend a polearm (spear, trident or demon trident) because then you can attack while standing behind undead allies.

Sif Muna
Sif gives you spells from all schools so this might not be the best choice if you have an issue choosing which spells to use on a generalist character. If you are comfortable using a wide variety of spells, Sif will eventually give them all to you.

It's possible to be unlucky in the midgame if Sif decides to troll you by not gifting any great offensive options.

Generally strong gods for OpWz

Yred is my pick for strongest god in a 3-rune game and it's no different here. Make sure you train Invocations.

Much like with Kiku, undead allies allow you to stay away from enemies.

It's worth nothing that Yred doesn't allow you to use Statue Form which is a popular and viable way for Octopodes to raise their AC and HP.

Ru offers some excellent panic buttons in the form of Draw Out Power, Power Leap and Apocalypse.

While Ru doesn't provide any direct spellcasting help, Draw Out power restores MP to allow you to continue casting if you run out.

The aura effectively lowers your incoming damage. This is especially valuable on such a squishy character. At full piety, the aura will stop or redirect 15% of all damage.

Don't sacrifice a hand: shields are too valuable for an Octopode.

Nemelex cards (especially decks of summoning) can carry you through the midgame even if you haven't found any useful spell books.

Invocations is quite important for Nem followers because it plays a role (along with deck and piety level) in the strength of card effects.

Summoning decks can be decisive during difficult for an entire game and can help to keep enemies away from you.

At * of piety, Fedhas allows you to make mushroom followers. Those mushrooms will create a physical barrier which you can shoot spells through. Try to have at least 4 with you at all times until the later stages of the game.

With some Invocations training, Oklob plants make short work of most enemies. They are especially valuable in branch endings.

Don't stress if your piety is stuck low. Your goal is to win, not to build piety.

A polearm (even with little or no skill) will allow you to melee attack from behind mushrooms.

General Approach to the Run

In the early Dungeon, try to use your stealth to avoid dangerous uniques and packs and to fight enemies one at a time. Rather than charging into fights, you can ping enemies from a full-screen away with Magic Dart. Once they start chasing you, retreat towards safety so that new monsters don't turn up then shoot them down.

Constriction absolutely owns at the beginning of the game. Once a monster is constricted, the damage will be applied on additional turns so long as you don't move from the tile you're standing on. This means it's possible to melee an enemy to constrict them and then cast spells while cashing in on the "free" constriction damage. Whether it's wise to being standing in melee with something is a question left to the reader but often you have little choice in the early game because many of the dangerous enemies are faster than you (jackal packs, leopard geckos and adders are some notable examples).

XL 2 gives access to Blink and Call Imp. Call Imp is the more pressing one to learn and get under control because it's an offensive spell while Blink is a defensive skill. Most imps will be Crimson Imps but if you roll one of the rarer ones (White Imp is usually the best) it will be able to handle most threats in the early game. Don't learn Slow: it's a waste of spell levels.

At XL 3 you can learn both Mephitic Cloud and Conjure Flame. Both are extremely useful but I usually prefer to master Mephitic Cloud first. The reason for that is a number of dangerous early monsters (Orc Wizards and Priests and Centuars) are ranged and will happily smite/shoot you across fire.

Once you do get Conjure Flame, you can block hallways with fire. Monsters will be given the choice of stepping into the fire (if can keep them in it, they will quickly die) or waiting on the other side while you pepper them with magical darts.

Try to keep an open mind to where your character should end up. The floor god works in mysterious ways.

Stay on the lookout for a buckler or a shield. As much as I like large shields, 25 skill is a huge investment and, almost certainly, out of reach. Until you get close to 25 Shields skill, the penalty will play havoc with your ability to successfully cast your spells.

With all the different ways you could play an Octopode Wizard, it's kind of hard to say which 3rd rune your character should do. I will say that it's likely you have some destructive magic. If that's true, the Slime Pits is a solid choice.

Other Notes, Tips and Tricks

  • You can abuse an Octopode's ability to enter deep water. If an enemy can't follow, you can hit them with spells or polearms. If an enemy chases you to the edge of the water, it's possible to confuse and drown them with Mephitic Cloud.
  • If you know theres a dangerous fight around a corner, you can cast Call Imp until you get a strong imp then engage.
  • A spear will allow you to attack enemies from behind imps and conjured flames even once you run out of mana.
  • As excited as you might be to acquire jewellery as soon as you find a scroll of acquirement, it would be prudent to at least reconsider. Jewellery acquirement is often underwhelming early on because it's likely to give you a relatively unexciting ring you haven't come across yet. Who knows, maybe you've always wanted a ring of resist corrosion... Armour acquirement can only give you a shield or a hat and both can be very valuable to an Octopode who has neither. Book acquirement is a strong choice if you're looking for additional magic firepower.

About the Author:
Ultraviolent4 loves Beogh, round numbers and helping noobs. In case you haven't noticed, he runs this site. You can find Ultraviolent4's DCSS Let's Plays on YouTube.