Originally written: March 7, 2016
Welcome back to the Crawl Legends series, a time to remember the ancient heroes who conquered the dungeons of Zot in chaotic and remarkable ways. Last time, we spoke of one of the least experienced, weakest characters to ever run away with the Orb, 78291 the Infuser. Today, we will take a different path. We will speak of Rob, the Avatar, a hero who conquered the dungeon in a way unlike any before or since.
There exists an unspoken contract in gaming between hero and monster. It goes something like this: The monsters will all unite to kill the hero. They act collectively, without regard for their own lives, utterly without mercy. They are out for blood. That is their side of the contract. The hero, in turn, does not have to feel guilty as he carves through the endless horde, building a pile of corpses the size of a mountain, on the way to his goal. It is familiar, it is comfortable, and nobody even considers that there may be another way.
Nobody, that is, except Rob. He entered the dungeon on a different path. A path of peace. A path of mercy. A path in which he would not have to kill a single monster.
Well, okay, one monster. But only one! But we'll get to that later.
Early Dungeon and the Lair
Like the question of what to do when you're surrounded by monsters that you're not allowing yourself to hit.
Even the neutral ones. They'll still attack if you're in their way! It's just… you can't hit back.
And the challenge of running out of food. Healing takes a lot out of a dwarf, and a pacifist quickly runs short on corpses to chop up and eat. Hovering near starving, as you'll see, was a core part of Rob's dungeon experience.
You may be wondering why we call him Rob when all the screenshots say “by.” Well, by was the name of one account of the player Rob. And let's be honest, Rob sounds a lot better than by. Let us move on.
Through ingenuity and a hefty helping of luck, the problems of being surrounded and food usually worked themselves out. Sometimes the monsters would kill each other for him, other times he would have to teleport or wait for them to move out of his way. But it wasn't so bad, all things considered.
No, what was bad was running into monsters he couldn't pacify. As a rule of thumb, J monsters (slimes, jellies, and so forth), most undead creatures, and artificial constructs could not be calmed. Like the jellies above.
So, well, Rob simply had to drag them up a dungeon level, park them there, and heroically run like mad.
As I said, this hunger thing was a recurring theme. One of his most frequent ways to counteract it was as ironic as it was effective: He would pacify a monster or two, at which point the other monsters would view it as just another obstacle for killing the player. If either was in the other's way… well, one would end up dead.
Which was great news for Rob, since more monsters meant more corpses to eat!
Yes, that's right. The way to avoid killing monsters is to turn them against their friends, then eat the bodies of the slain. Still—probably more heroic than killing them yourself?
...did we cover the jellies?
You may be sensing some themes here. The first ten dungeon levels were a grueling gauntlet of the same few problems, repeated ad infinitum. Enough to break any lesser dwarf. But not Rob. No, Rob was in it for the long shot, no matter how hungry he got.
Even if it meant wandering through a labyrinth as his hunger slowly ate away at him.
And wandering, and wandering...
Until he finally reached the minotaur, hungry but not defeated. And so it continued.
You'll remember that hp loss really wasn't his major concern. That did not mean it was no threat at all. This was one of several moments where Rob was put into uncomfortably low-health situations.
Healing, wands, and teleportation can go a long way, though, so he got out of that situation okay (if hungry).
If you thought things would get simpler as he dove from the dungeon into the Lair of Beasts… well, perhaps not so much. Starvation continued to loom at every corner, and his food supply was becoming sparse.
Fortunately, the god of dungeon generation was on his side, as he found a magical bazaar.
Followed shortly by a bee's nest, full of angry little food generators and plenty of honeycombs.
And a food shop, back in the days before it was decided that beasts could not run shops and they were removed from the Lair.
Speaking of removals, he reached the tenth and final level of the Lair of Beasts without anything too terrible happening. Most everything in the Lair could be pacified, and through clever maneuvering and encouraging monsters to kill each other, Rob created enough corpses to feed himself without actually killing anything.
Soon enough, he was back diving deeper into the dungeon. Business as usual, and things were going well. Remarkably well. It's easy for things like this to be lost in condensing, but by the point we've reached, Rob had cleared a total of 21 levels of Crawl without killing a single monster. By this point, it was already an incredible, difficult, exhausting feat. Flipping through a single screenshot every few levels makes it hard to convey that in full. It was no time for him to rest, though, because things were about to get even more exhausting.
Remember jellies? Slime creatures, similarly, cannot be pacified. Unlike jellies, though, they are strong fighters in their own right. And they travel in groups. Rob's only option when he met them here was to run. Unfortunately for him, this first meeting would be far from the last.
Meeting this group of undead was a similar moment. The fast skeletons, like wyverns, could prove especially troublesome since they moved faster than him and would not follow him up stairs. Patiently, carefully, like any good hero, he pacified Josephine and watched her turn against her own skeletons. It was the right thing to do.
Skeletal warriors and other intelligent undead, fortunately for Rob, were more receptive to his overtures.
As he delved deeper, most monsters were of little concern. Rob had a remarkable knack, though, for finding more slime creatures. Like this fellow.
And this gentleman.
One of them was kind enough to kill a cyclops for him, though, providing an extra boost of food.
This chap took a liking to him, as well.
This fellow, too. It was almost like they were pets as they followed him faithfully through the dungeon. For a dwarf determined to show his regard for all life, though, they were more like crazed stalkers, nature's punishment for breaking his adventurer's contract.
These blokes were ready to have a word with him as well.
Another major challenge a pure pacifist faces is that healing monsters simply produces less experience than killing them. Each pacified monster provides only half experience, meaning that the deeper Rob dove into the dungeon, the more underlevelled he was to face what came at him. Since what was coming for these dungeon levels seemed mostly to be slime creatures, though, that was less of a concern than it could have been.
The dance became quite elaborate, though, as he wandered from one slime creature to another. This ring of teleportation was one of his main tools, providing him a chance to leave them behind without wasting precious scrolls or potions.
He would need it. Many times.
Yes, this room came right after his epic escape from dozens of slime creatures. No, the zombies in there could not be pacified. Yes, it was as funny and as frustrating as it looks here.
Fortunately, Rob could always rely on his more fortunate monster friends to kill his less fortunate monster friends for him.
Rob would sometimes get quite elaborate in his quest to introduce monsters to each other.
He carried this frog around an entire level...
until finally he found a hippogriff for it to play with. This was all preliminary stuff, though. Having successfully danced with slime creatures, played with frogs, and done all sorts of not-killing-monsters-like-a-self-respecting-hero, Rob was prepared to hunt for runes.
The Serpentine Rune
...or maybe not so prepared. This fight with Margery was probably the closest he came to dying in the game. Margery is described as “a lithe spellcaster in service to the powers of Hell.” She wanders around with a retinue of hell knights and necromancers and casts devastating fire magic. Here, she simply would not be pacified, no matter what method he used, and things got dicey for a bit.
Teleportation saved the day again, though, and he continued his journey around the Snake Pit.
Back then, by the way, you could find duplicate portal vaults in the dungeon, meaning that he had the experience, foreign to modern players, of finding several bazaars. Another popped up here.
The nagas themselves were usually not much of a threat, especially when he turned them against each other for food.
In fact, compared to the rest of the dungeon, grabbing this rune was positively normal.
Just pacify the monsters, let them run upstairs, rinse, and repeat. For a brief, shining moment, the varied forces of the dungeon complied with Rob's desire not to fight them.
To the victor, the spoils. Rob collected his first rune, untainted by the blood of a single Naga.
In a joyful triumph for the forces of good, he even converted Margery on his way out.
By this point in the game, Rob's food worries—by far the greatest hurdle in a fully pacifist adventure—were just about over. The Hive, pictured here, provided a good source of insurance: two levels filled to the brim with killer bees and honeycombs.
That didn't mean he was about to throw caution to the winds, though. Near-starvation was still a common sight, especially as he was convincing countless bees to let him take their food without killing him.
This is one of the prettiest sights a pacifist can see. This point marked the first time in the adventure that Rob could truly breathe easy. The rest would not be simple, but with this food, there was no longer a question of if it would be possible. He had cleared the hurdle.
As a celebration of things quite sensibly removed and a reminder against too strong of nostalgia for what once was, here is a picture of Rob in a secret room that could only be reached by searching around while hovering over deep water until a hidden door appeared. Rest in peace, Hive.
From there, it was on to the Vaults. Exploring them was much like exploring the rest of the dungeon in those days. For Rob, that meant…
More slime creatures.
Lots and lots of slime creatures.
Everything else, again, was reasonably straightforward to handle.
By the time he reached his second labyrinth (yes, that was also a thing back then), he could explore it at his leisure.
If you are bored of seeing picture after picture of slime creatures, imagine what Rob was feeling in this moment. Every slime creature chase scene from here on out was pretty much the same, though, so this recounting will contain no more. Just imagine a dozen slime creatures between each picture and you won't be too far off.
Rob had more important things on his mind, though. He dove quickly through all seven levels of the Elven Halls.
Yes, in the good old days, this rune-less side branch of the dungeon was longer than every branch but the Lair is in modern Crawl. Truly, it was a strange dungeon. Elves and dwarves get along just fine, though, so Rob pacified the entire elven halls with ease.
But wait, the astute reader might be wondering. Why did Rob choose the order he did as he went through the dungeon. Here he has been clearing the Vaults and the Elven Halls and the dungeon and even a couple of labyrinths, but what happened to getting another rune? Are there not two runes of comparable difficulty buried within the Lair? Rob cleared the Snake Pit with ease. What happened to the other one?
That is a good question. This story actually omitted an earlier part, as Rob entered, then exited the other sub-branch of the Lair that contained a vital rune.
After all, I did promise to cut out more slime creature chases.
But it could not be ignored forever, and at this point, it was time for Rob to re-enter the branch that would bring him more misery and test his resolve more than anywhere else in the dungeon.
Yes, he was going back into the swamp.
The Remaining Runes
The dungeon, it should be clear from this picture, is not pleased when a pacifist refuses to do the slime creature dance. In a moment of poetic irony, Rob's decision to polymorph a slime creature that was chasing him around the final level of the Swamp turned into his second-closest brush with death in the entire dungeon.
He got away, though, so let's focus on the Swamp as a whole. It is a watery, mucky hole full entirely of a pacifist's least favorite things: Slime creatures (which we've covered extensively), giant mosquitoes (insects. Can't pacify them.), swamp worms (mindless. They just want to kill you), insubstantial wisps (guess if they can be pacified?), and more fun friends.
It was not a good time.
To make matters worse, when Rob reached the end he discovered not the customary room full of easily-pacified hydras and dragons that characterizes the swamp. No. He got undead.
Lots and lots and lots of undead. It got so bad, so crowded, that he had no choice but to teleport away and retreat.
Of course, retreat in the swamp meant that Rob had a cluster of friends tailing your every move. It was then, as he retreated in frustration from a rune that should have been his, as he ran from yet more mosquitoes, that a great tragedy occurred.
Without any sort of warning, a bat suddenly flew directly into his path.
In the blink of an eye: Bam. Dead bat.
So, utterly humiliated, having been chased around a miserable swamp by a horde of heartless monsters, apathetic towards his goals and his god, having been forced into an ignominious retreat while swatting away mosquitoes that he would not let himself kill, and having inadvertently broken the conduct he had imposed upon himself for the past nine hours, Rob left the Swamp in shame.
And instead, he went to collect the Silver Rune from the Vaults.
The monsters here were much more receptive to his overtures, and things were nice again.
Rob explored the final level of Vaults, traditionally one of the hardest in the game, without significant threat and without incident until he found the silver rune.
And you know what that meant for him.
Back into the swamp.
Third rune in hand, he bid a surely bitter farewell to the swamp, and went to go grab the orb and win.
...or rather, if it was a normal game, that's what would have happened. To break narrative for a moment: This is the first time I honestly was at a loss for what he was thinking in the game. He had forced his way through three runes without killing a single monster, was working through what looked like a frankly miserable dungeon, and suddenly he wanted more of it? It was startling. Looking at it impartially, I don't know for sure what his strategy with the Tomb was, but it may be that he simply considered himself underlevelled and under-equipped for Zot. Whatever the reason, pacifying the denizens of the Tomb was well within his capabilities, and this part was frankly gentle compared to some of the rest of the game.
Yes, by this point Rob had become such a powerful messenger of peace that ancient mummies, tasked to guard a treasure-filled tomb, freely abandoned their post and walked away when he asked politely.
And so Rob the Avatar collected his fourth and final rune almost unopposed.
The priceless treasures buried in the Tomb of the Ancients were his.
Onward to the Orb
Detour out of the way, he continued his legendary march down through the Realm of Zot.
Draconians and dragons alike bowed to his wishes of peace. Indeed, victory was within his grasp as he reached deeper and deeper.
After thirteen long hours of exploration, the prize was in sight.
What would a run be without a trip to the Abyss? A draconian shifter sent him there from Zot:5, creating a pleasant detour.
But the Abyss wasn't about to trouble one such as Rob. He escaped without incident and continued into the Orb chamber.
Pop quiz: What does a pacifist with a divine mandate do when faced with an orb of fire, the most ferocious enemy in the dungeon of Zot, a construct that certainly will not accept peace as an answer?
Drag it up a dungeon level and park it there, of course.
That truly was the last real obstacle. From there, it was a simple matter of getting past a tentacled monstrosity that did not understand the concept of personal space,
calming the Orb Guardians with the assurance that the Orb would be in the right hands,
and escaping. Rob had achieved what he set out to do.
But wait. One last thing. You know how most adventurers have to deal with demons and pandemonium lords chasing them up through the dungeon as they leave with the orb?
Rob got slime creatures.
That's it for this time. Rob was a remarkable player, and this is one of the few true one-of-a-kind feats in Crawl. So much has changed that there is not even a remotely comparable way to win a current game of Crawl. This quest came at the perfect moment in time and was executed with a remarkable degree of skill, precision, and patience.
The bat he killed should be honoured for its sacrifice.
If you want to check out Rob's morgue file for the game, you can go here.
Thanks for reading! More Legends of Crawl stories are in the works. Until then, happy Crawling.
About the Author:
demonblade (or: Blade-) is a writer and (mostly retired) Crawl veteran who spent his glory days, such as they were, cheerfully scumming MuCKs, setting obscure Dungeon Sprint speed records, and getting ##crawl to save his hide in tight spots. He wrote several well-received chronicles of Crawl legends, then faded away with a promise to return with another story within months. Several years on, that promise seems suspect, but those who know where to look can still find him lurking around and taking notes on the new legends.