There are many choices to make during character creation - so many that it may seem overwhelming. Luckily, while the game is quite hard, it doesn't really ask its players to perform heavy min-maxing. How you build your character can strongly influence how the game plays, but most any build is viable. Below is an in-depth guide on how your decisions will influence your game experience.
Your first major decision is whether you want to play as a mutant or a normal human ("true kin"). Mutants have the advantage of special powers which can include flame-shooting hands, mutant regeneration, and the ability to have a second head. True kin, on the other hand, have the advantage of better stats, better stat growth, and much better starting equipment. It's advised that people new to the game play as true kin until they've learned the basics, since mutants tend to die very quickly under a new player's control.
Here you should be introduced to the game's six attributes - Strength, Agility, Toughness, Intelligence, Willpower, and Ego. In addition to what the game tells you, attributes are required to learn certain skills. Each attribute comes with its own vague, almost cryptic description. All attributes (with the possible exception of Willpower) are very useful for survival, so it is generally a bad idea to neglect any one of them. On the other hand, it is often useful to specialize in one or more attributes. As a rule of thumb, give at least 3 attribute points to each attribute and aim to get one or more attributes at 20+. For general survivability, you will want above average scores (no less than 18) in Toughness and either Strength or Agility.
Below are some of the known specifics of how these attributes affect your character. If you wish to keep up some mystery about how exactly attributes work, or just don't care about the nitty-gritty details, feel free to skip this part and just use the in-game descriptions - you don't really need to know all this to do well.
- Carrying capacity is 15 * Strength. That means each level of strength gives you an additional 15 pounds of carrying capacity.
- A level 1 character's max hp is the same as its toughness. Leveling up increases your max hp by a random amount, but the average amount it goes up by will be proportional to your toughness. That means double toughness leads to twice as much of an increase to max hp. Your toughness influence on previous max hp increases is retroactive, so a character starting with high toughness will, on average, have the same max hp as someone of equal level who gradually built up to the high toughness. Basically, you don't have to worry about how far in the past you increased your toughness.
- At 11 intelligence, mutants earn 50 skill points and true kin earn 70 skill points upon leveling up. Skill points can be used to buy skills to improve your character. Each point you are above 11 intelligence will increase how many skill points you earn on level-up by 4 (ex: a 12 intelligence mutant nets 54 skill points upon level-up). Just like with toughness and max hp, intelligence's influence on skill points is retroactive - your total earned skill points will act like you had your current intelligence during all previous level-ups. Oddly, 10 intelligence gives exactly the same number of skill points as 11 intelligence. Usually it's not worth getting a very high intelligence, but it can also be a pretty bad stat to neglect.
- Each level of willpower will modify the cooldown of your activated abilities by 5% of the ability's base cooldown, down to a minimum of roughly 20% of the base amount or a minimum cooldown of 5 rounds. The cooldown is 100% at 16 willpower, and then higher or lower depending on how much lower or higher than 16 your willpower is. Some mutations like light manipulation don't recharge faster with higher willpower.
- Willpower also affects mental defense MA. Very few enemies target mental defense, but if it is very low, a powerful Seeker of the Sightless Way may sunder mind you for 50+ damage. Do not combine low willpower with moderate or low toughness.
You may also notice a number in parentheses next to each of your attributes. This number is your attribute's modifier value. A modifier value increases whenever your attribute increases to an even number, meaning that your modifier only improves every other time your attribute improves. This makes one's modifier and its benefits grow more slowly. Below are some of the known ways modifiers affect your character:
- Your strength modifier affects penetration value (PV), which determines how likely your attacks are to harmlessly bounce off your enemy's armor. If your PV is much better than your enemy's armor, then you hit multiple times with the same attack, so high PV can be very powerful! Your effective PV in combat is your weapon's PV plus your own intrinsic PV, up to a maximum of whatever your weapon's maximum effective PV is. The equation for your intrinsic PV is 4 + Strength Modifier, so each point of modifier is worth 1 PV. You can see your weapon's effective PV and maximum PV in-game next to the weapon's name in your inventory, just to the right of an "→" arrow.
- Each point in your toughness and willpower modifiers makes you heal 2 more health every 100 turns. The exact formula for health regeneration is 20 + 2 * (Willpower Modifier + Toughness Modifier) health per 100 turns. At 16 willpower and 16 toughness, this is 20 health every 100 turns.
- See Trading mechanics for how ego affects trading prices. The most important things to keep in mind are that low ego makes things crazy expensive, and that increasing ego gives diminishing returns with respect to improving prices.
- If you're a mutant, then your mental mutations' effective levels will increase whenever your ego modifier increases. At an ego modifier of 1, their effective levels go up by 1, at ego modifier 2 they go up by 2, etc. This makes ego extremely powerful in the hands of a mental mutant. However, since a mutation's level is capped by your character level, new mutants always have effective mental mutation levels of 1 until they level up. This means leveling up is quite important in the very early game for high-ego mental mutants. Physical mutations are not affected by ego, so characters without mental mutations have little use for ego aside from trading purposes.
Select Arcology & Caste (True Kin only)Edit
There are twelve castes, each belonging to one of three arcologies. The caste you choose gives you a bonus to one or more attributes, as well as granting some skills and guaranteed equipment. Strategically, it is conventional wisdom to choose a caste whose bonuses and skills corresponds to your already highest attributes. If your Strength is already pumped to the max, you probably won't go wrong with a Praetorian or Child of the Hearth. Also, pay attention to which skills each caste grants, and pick one with skills you would like to try out.
For novice players, some (debatable) suggestions/pointers:
- Priest of all Moons: Having the skill Butchery (or Harvestry) means you'll never go hungry. Axe proficiency favors a high score in Strength. Try to start with Strength at 21 or more, and aim to learn Dismembering after a few level ups.
- Eunuch: These are knife and pistol experts. Maximize Agility to get at the interesting skills (if you go the route of short blades, your first long term goal is Pointed circle).
- Praetorian: Knights in shining armor, they start with good equipment.
- Child of the Wheel: Made for dual wielding. You should try to buy a floating glowsphere as soon as possible to get both hands free.
- Heat and cold resistance are both very useful, but by the time they're important you should be able to get equipment that increases your resistances. Heat resistance tends to become important a bit earlier, but neither should be overlooked. There are currently no known ways to increase bleed resistance with equipment, and bleeding out can pose a very serious risk to your character, but only a few enemies cause bleed and many of them can be easily avoided by a cautious player.
- Harvestry and Masterful Harvestry are extremely valuable, since they can be used to harvest witchwood bark from witchwood trees. Each piece of bark heals 25-40 hp instantly (often more than a player's starting health), but also has a chance of inflicting temporary confusion. It is very often worth the risk of confusion, especially since you can eat multiple pieces of bark in one turn for a massive health refill.
- I don't know if Consuls are any good, but I can give you some advice on how to make them better than they otherwise would be. Consuls start with Proselytize, which allows them to recruit one enemy creature to assist in combat. Scrap-clad hermits, hide-sheathed hermits, and eyeless crabs all make excellent allies due to their high armor values. Eyeless crabs are also quite strong offensively, but the player can't equip them with most weapons and armor. Proselytize tends to fail more often than the mutant ability Beguile, but with some persistence you may eventually succeed in recruiting enemies that are pretty strong for your level. Consuls also start with a force bracelet, which expends battery power to maintain a nigh-impenetrable forcefield around the player character. The problem is that it expends the battery power pretty fast.
- Praetorians, Children of the Hearth, and to a lesser degree Artifex and Children of the Deep start with pretty good armor. Praetorians also start with a desert rifle.
Pick Mutations (Mutants only)Edit
Here players are given the ability to spend 12 mutation points on various mutations. Generally, better mutations cost more mutation points to get, but not always. Players may also get defects which will make them weaker in some way, but also increase the amount of mutation points the player can spend. This is where a lot of character customization comes in - do you want to be a four-armed shelled amphibian that drowns his enemies in bullets, or a narcoleptic master of space and time? Perhaps a little of each, or something else entirely. Experimentation is key here, but that doesn't mean you have to jump in blind. Below is a general introduction to mutations.
Early-game powers ("panic buttons")
The early game is often one of the toughest segments of a playthrough. For that reason, even seasoned players may want to invest in something that'll give them an edge early on, even if that edge will wear down and be replaced later on. Then again, some abilities are good for early and late-game use. Here are some abilities that can give you a good push at the start: Flaming Hands, Freezing Hands, Pyrokinesis, Cryokinesis, Electrical Generation, Light Manipulation, Quills. Mutations with a more defensive panic button include Phasing, Force bubble, and Teleportation. Taking at least one of these should help you survive long enough to experiment with other mutations until you find the build you want.
The above mentioned mutations all cost 4 or 5 mutation points. For a "panic button" that costs only 3, consider Force Wall, combined with missiles and running away as a strategy. Other mutations at 3 points include a plethora of useful powers. Finally, if you have 1 mutation point to spare, Night vision is a fantastic power for any character to have, especially multiwielding melee fighters.
You can get defects: adverse mutations that give you extra points to spend on the good ones. Defects are always a hassle at best, at worst deadly, and feel free to play a character without any defects. When you get them, you are probably counting the points you need to buy some other mutation. Depending on how many points you need, here are some defects to consider:
At 2 points, most defects are quite livable. Albino in particular doesn't do much. Unfortunately for espers, the exception to this rule is the mental defect Socially Repugnant, which will frankly make your life much more difficult.
At 3 points, you're going to feel it. Pretty harmless options include Ravenous and Amphibious (but they require precautions: if you are Ravenous, get the Butchery skill; if you are Amphibious, you want a high Ego and maybe the Snakeoiler skill, to barter). Also worth considering is Spontaneous Combustion (carry salt water to pour on yourself). If you are playing an esper and need a mental defect, again you're out or luck. Amnesia is just plain annoying, and Evil Twin is an (admittedly fun) way of playing Russian Roulette. Blinking Tic may be your best bet.
At 4 points, it's bad all over. All of these defects are potentially deadly, so you will have to be extra careful. The physical defects at this level will just make your life a constant pain in the rectal area. Attacks against you will be more deadly, and you will be less capable of retreat. The mental defect Narcolepsy is perhaps actually the easiest to cope with. Most of the times you fall asleep, you are just exploring, or your current enemy gets one free hit against you, which shouldn't be a catastrophe if you are playing carefully, resting up between battles and not getting below green/yellow health. Please note that one time in a thousand, Narcolepsy will get you accidentally mauled to death by a slumberling or equimax, but that's just something you'd have to accept for taking an expensive defect.
Physical vs Mental (Morphotypes)
Mutations are generally split into two categories: physical and mental. Physical mutations tend to give you buffs, play with your equipment slots (either by adding some or giving some benefit at the cost of removing one), and/or give you a special attack. Mental mutations, on the other hand, can be all over the place - debuffing enemies, giving strategic defensive advantages, attacking from a distance, and a whole host of weirdness. As you level up in-game, you'll be given the opportunity to choose between getting new mutations or improving your existing ones. How far you can improve your mutations is capped by your character's level - at level 2, a mutation's max level is 2, and from there the mutation's max level goes up every other time your character levels up. This is the only way physical mutations can be improved, meaning characters that emphasize physical mutations should generally have fewer mutations. This is in contrast with mental mutations, which improve as your ego increases. This means players who emphasize mental mutations may want a wider array of different powers, as long as they have a high score in ego. This makes Ego the essential attribute for anyone relying on mental mutations.
You can lock into only physical or only mental mutations with the Chimera or Esper mutations under Morphotypes at the cost of 1 mutation point. Since characters that emphasize mental mutations tend to purchase more mutations, the choice to lock in can be a big one for mental mutation lovers. However, mental mutants might want to opt out of Esper so they can take a physical disadvantage - physical defects like Amphibious should barely affect you past the very early game, while all mental disadvantages noticeably hurt. There is also a morphotype called Unstable genome. Picking it doesn't start you out with any mutation, but lets you pick a free mutation at a random point later in the game. If you are just starting out, you can safely ignore this. After playing a few times, you can try it out, and you will see for yourself what makes it so great.
One enormous risk to watch out for is the anti-synergy. Some combinations of abilities improve each other when combined. Others make each other worse. A great example of this is Temporal Fugue plus Disintegration. Temporal Fugue creates computer-controlled temporal clone of your character to help in a tough fight. Disintegration lets you cause massive damage in one turn to everything around you. Do not get both of those abilities together. Your temporal clones will use disintegration while right next to you and bring you from full health to death in a single turn. In general, avoid mixing Temporal Fugue with area-of-effect attacks.
Select Calling (Mutants only)Edit
Again, go with a calling whose bonuses and skill sets correspond to your attributes.
- Apostle: Apostles start with a bonus to Ego, making them excellent espers. They also start with the skill Proselytize, which can be a life saver in the beginning.
- Arconauts start with 6-8 Canned Mystery Meat. Each one heals 100 health immediately upon use. That's a lot of health. They also start with a pocketed vest (which would be garbage if it didn't sell well), 2-4 artifacts, and a short bow and 6-12 arrows. Their naturally high Agility suits them well with short blades and missiles, but they can also become capable tinkers if played with above average Intelligence.
- Gunslingers start with two revolvers and 45-65 lead slugs. You'll want to buy all the bullets you can, and use a bow and arrows to take down easier enemies.
- Marauders start with the third best armor of all callings, which isn't saying much.
- Nomads start with the second best armor of all callings. Their recycling suit is heavy, but it offers okay early-game armor. The fact the suit also recycles water is a bonus. Their toughness bonus makes them a good choice for physical mutants.
- Tinkers start with 3-4 artifacts. I have no idea if they're guaranteed to be any good. To start building stuff, you need to acquire schematics (which can be bought from certain NPCs), and to disassemble bits of scrap.
- Wardens are melee fighters, and start with nearly-decent armor, which puts them ahead of all the other callings which all start with terrible armor.
- Water merchants start with lots of water and a merchant's token. Merchant's tokens currently don't do much beyond selling for a ton of water. Water merchants are less bothered than other callings by the physical defect Amphibian.
- Watervine farmers start with 2-6 pieces of witchwood bark and the ability to quickly get more, by applying the Haversting skill to witchwood trees in the wild. Witchwood bark heals for 25-40 health, but can also inflict temporary confusion. They also start with an iron vinereaper, which is a pretty bad axe-type weapon, and a farmers token which does nothing but sell for a ton of water.
Playing the early gameEdit
Great, you have your character, you're in the starting town of Joppa, but now what? Should you immediately jump on the first quest you see, grind up a few levels, buy equipment? And what quests should you do, where should you grind for levels, what stats and skills should you go for upon leveling up, and what equipment should you buy? As before, there's some freedom here. I'll highlight some options and their strengths and weaknesses, as well as a few tricks to lower the rather high probability you die. I will not cover any of the cool secrets that may or may not be available in the early game - you'll have to find those through experimentation or looking them up elsewhere.
Learn the ControlsEdit
Press Esc, choose Key Mapping, and at least skim all the ways you can interact with the world CoQ. You can always return to this screen as a reference if you forget anything. Some of the more important actions here are (c)hat, (l)ook, (g)et, (o)pen (which closes doors when they're already open), the Move Up and Move Down hotkeys, the Status keys, and the Force Attack keys. If you wish to trade with someone, you must first (c)hat with them and then press tab. (l)ook can be incredibly useful for determining when an enemy is way too strong for you, or has equipment like a grenade to watch out for. The Move Up and Move Down keys are used for traveling up and down stairs, and if the player is outside, to move in and out of the overworld map. The Force Attack keys will force your character to try to melee attack in the corresponding direction, even if it normally wouldn't. This can be used to attack friendly creatures or destroy walls, trees, and boulders. Rarely, you'll need to do this to progress up or down a staircase. Since the game won't spend a turn attacking a space where there is nothing to hit, this can also be used to locate and attack an enemy quickly while under the confusion status ailment. You can also use Force Attack to kill young ivories for a small boost to your exp.
There are four quests initially available in the town of Joppa. The two most important ones can be started by talking with Argyve, who resides in the west-most house, and Mehmet, who can be found standing outside near the bottom-middle of the screen. A slightly hidden quest can be found by looking at the statue in the north-east part of town with the 'l' key and then pressing enter. Accepting this hidden quest reveals a new "sultan" location on your overworld map populated with a random selection of creatures. At the bottom of this new location will be a randomly-generated special sultan item, which can have all sorts of strange bonuses when used. If the location is nearby, then consider visiting it once you have a recoiler - going without a recoiler can result in being stuck wandering underground. The last one, which you should put off for now, is given by the zealot of the Six Day Stilt. The zealot just wants you to meet his buddies in a town far to the north.
Focus on Argyve and Mehmet for now. Argyve, the lovable kook, is looking for two artifacts from before the mutant apocalypse. Why does he want them? None of your business, that's why! What's really nice about this task is that you might be able to complete it without leaving town. Turns out that quest gives enough exp to bring you to level 2 before a single turn of combat. Since he doesn't care what the artifact is, it's best to give him the worst and least valuable ones you can find, especially if it's just some junk you found lying around Joppa. You should try to identify the artifacts with the 'examine' option on your inventory screen before giving them to Argyve - you may accidentally break them if you fail, but Argyve will still accept broken artifacts. Once you've given him two artifacts, he'll want you to explore a semi-distant area to the east called "the rust wells" in search of 200 feet of copper wire. Don't go there until you've at least checked out the shop in Joppa, else you'll likely die.
Mehmet's quest asks you to visit the much closer caves of Red Rock to the north. Red Rock's convenient proximity makes it a popular choice for first cave of the game, but there are good arguments to go rust wells first. The first few floors of the rust wells' caves tend to be easier than Red Rock, and there's enough wire in these levels to never need to go deep. You may even want to go out and collect the wire before Argyve asks for it. However, you'll need to keep your distance from qudzus in the rust wells - these strange plants love to rust armor of adjacent adventurers. With all this said, Red Rock as the first cave is perfectly doable. Just watch out for the killer baboons that sometimes guard the entrance to Red Rock!
Chances are, you're going to do some good work for the town of Joppa. So why not compensate yourself in advance for all that good work? In various houses, you'll find chests with various goodies that presumably belong to Joppa's residents. Three of these chests are completely unguarded. Just close the door to the house you're "reappropriating" from with the (o)pen key before pilfering, lest you risk being killed on the very first screen of the game. One type of loot to look out for is the artifact, which you may recall Argyve wants. Artifacts are pretty much any piece of "advanced" technology that's survived the mutant apocalypse and can range in usefulness from nigh-impenetrable forcefield bracelet to simple folding chairs. Most objects that qualify as artifacts will appear unidentified - the game may display them as weird artifact, small tube, strange tubes, small box, and possibly more.
Another loot to look out for is the all-important armor-improving equipment. Look for any equipment that can improve your Armor Value (AV). You can find an equipment's AV in your inventory screen to the right of a blue ◆ shape. Usually, the best armor for AV gives you penalties to your Dodge Value (DV), which is the number to the right of the grey 'open circle' symbol. Also nice are any ranged weapons you find, especially when they're guns. Regardless of your build, hitting from a distance is quite valuable. If you find a glowsphere, use that in place of torches to illuminate your surroundings - glowspheres provide more light and are never used up.
You can find Tam's store in the east-most building. Talk to him with the 'c' key, and then press tab to start trading. On the left side of the trade screen should be Tam's goods, and on the right should be yours. You can read the description of an item on this screen by highlighting it and pressing either the tab or 'l' key. If you want to add one of your items to the trade offer, highlight it and press +. You can remove it with -. The same thing can be done to add or remove Tam's items from the trade offer. For items that come in stacks of many (such as bullets), you can instead use spacebar to add or remove all of them from the trade offer. Any difference in values between what he's put up for offer and what you've put up for offer will be paid in the post-apocalypse's currency: drams of fresh water. Many traders can also identify, repair, recharge your equipment at a small price - press '?' to see the buttons for those options.
As before, what you want is armor with high AV, a good gun, and possibly some artifacts. Don't be scared to spend your last dram of water on good armor - unless you have the Socially Repugnant defect or very low ego, it shouldn't be too hard to sell something before you die of thirst. Most artifacts are not worth buying, which means you'll want some way to identify them before buying them. You could splurge on identifying artifacts, but chances are you're poor and want a more frugal method. At the bottom right of the screen, right above where it says "[Tab Look]", the game tells you how much your inventory will weigh if you accept the offer as it stands. If nothing is on offer, it's just the weight of your current inventory. If you add one of Tam's items to the offer, that number will increase by however much the added item weighs. This can be used to determine how much an unidentified artifact weighs. If a weird artifact weighs 1 lb, then it's probably a grenade. Grenades are expensive and unlikely to be very worthwhile. If it weighs more than that, it may be a gun. Guns are (usually) very worthwhile. Try to learn the weights of your favorite guns. If there aren't any guns, consider buying a bow - they're cheap and not too weak. Even if you can't find a gun yet, you're probably going to want one later. Tam doesn't stock much ammo, so unless you want to wait for him to restock in the future, you probably want to buy him out of most ammo. You may want to skip out on boomrose arrows if he has any, though - they're a bit expensive.
Melee Weapons (the basics)Edit
In the very early game, your weapon choice isn't likely to matter much; you should just use the highest quality weapons you can find. But in preparation for later, here's some info on weapons. There are 4 basic kinds of melee weapons - short blades, long blades, axes, and cudgels. Each weapon category has its own skill tree, which you may want to check out on your own. Generally, short blades are meant for agile characters, long blades serve a variety of strategic purposes, axes allow you to literally tear your enemies to pieces, and cudgels let you stun and daze. Long blades have the highest raw damage rating, followed by short blades, axes, and finally cudgels. However, long and short blades are also the least reliable weapons when facing a heavily armored enemy. Just as your attacks can miss and cause no damage, your weapons have a chance to harmlessly bounce off an enemy's armor without leaving a dent. Weapons with higher penetration values (PV) are better able to get around an enemy's armor and to actually inflict damage. Cudgels have the highest penetration values, followed by axes, and finally all blades. You can see a weapon's skill type by (l)ooking at it in your inventory or equipment screen. Note that some enemies are very bad to fight with melee weapons - you will want to fight these enemies some other way.
Melee Weapons (the numbers)Edit
You probably don't need to read this section. If you (l)ook at a weapon in your inventory, you should notice lots of numbers. The numbers near the weird symbols are used by the game to determine how much damage you deal with each hit, and your penetration value (your chance of penetrating an enemy's armor, which is necessary to cause any damage). Your weapon's damage numbers should be displayed as something like this: ♥2d4. The game takes the second number, in this case 4, and rolls a die from 1 to that number. In this case, the die might roll a 1, 2, 3, or 4. The amount of times it rolls a die is the first number, in this case 2. Thus in this example it would roll a number from 1-4, and then another number from 1-4. It then adds up all the numbers it rolls, and that's the damage you deal if you get a good hit in. Your weapon's penetration value should look something like this: →1/6. Here the first number is your effective penetration value - this number determines whether or not you get past an enemy's armor. As you increase your strength modifier (go up to an even strength stat), your effective penetration value with most weapons should also increase. However, each weapon has a maximum penetration value which you cannot surpass with any amount of strength. This maximum penetration value is the second number after the arrow, which in this example is 6.
General Combat TricksEdit
Combat is really hard in Caves of Qud when you don't know what you're doing. Lots of different enemies pose lots of unique threats, so you'll need many strategies to get far. Strategies that work well for one enemy will get you killed if used on another, so always approach a new enemy with extreme caution. Even so, there are some universal tricks that will serve you well almost anywhere.
- The sprinting skill is your friend, especially if you're a mutant. If you find yourself in a fight you can't win, sprint away to safety. The teleport mutation is also a great way to embrace your inner coward.
- Maintain an escape route and avoid getting surrounded. When going deep underground, don't let anything hostile get between you and the stairs up. When exploring the overworld, hug the edges of the screen so enemies can't come at you from the hugged edge.
- Always have at least one backup plan. The plan could be healing items, a free teleport, or even something as simple as the sprint skill. This might mean waiting for an ability's cooldown before exploring an unfamiliar area. The game comes with special wait commands you can find by pressing Esc in-game and then selecting Key Mapping.
- A simple trick when facing a new opponent is to (l)ook at them and let the game tell you if it thinks you have a shot. However, view this with suspicion - very dangerous enemies may be listed as easy if, say, their real strength is in sheer numbers or having lots of grenades (or, heaven forbid, both!).
- (l)ooking will also display some enemies' special abilities. Especially weird and unique abilities tend to be hidden from you.
- Similarly you may want to (l)ook at an enemy's equipment, which also shows any explosives they may have equipped. Be especially wary when you don't recognize their equipment.
- (r)esting between battles is essential. It fully restores your heath, and will mostly cool down all your timers for skills and mutations. If your character @ is yellow after a fight, never hesitate to rest up before exploring further.
Level grinding (optional)Edit
Caves of Qud does not require any level grinding, at least not in the early game. That said, new players may still wish to gain some levels before embarking on their first quest. If you explore the swamps close to Joppa, you'll mostly find glowfish, glowpads, and the occasional alligator. Glowfish and glowpads are easy experience and make quite the filling meal to boot. Alligators can be deadly at the start of your game, so you may wish to lead any you find toward Joppa so that one of its residents can kill the alligator for you. The area just outside of the swamps is much more difficult, so don't venture too far if you're trying to play ultra-safe.
Spending skill pointsEdit
You finally leveled up and got some skill points. But what skills should you spend those points on? Unfortunately I haven't written this section yet, so you'll have to either wait or figure that out on your own! For now, I will say that sprinting is really good. Other than that, get some weapon skills (if you have Agility, missiles and short blades; if you have Strength, axes and clubs). And if your Ego is high enough, definitely consider buying Proselytize - it's a fun skill with especially great power early on, though be warned that proselytized creatures are not always smart.
Spending mutation pointsEdit
Mutants get 1 mutation point each time they level up. These can either be used to raise existing mutations, or saved to buy more random mutations later on. If you have physical mutations, it is generally wise to spend mutation points raising them. If you rely on mental mutations and have a high Ego attribute, your mutations will automatically level up, so you are better off saving your points to buy new powers.
Uncommon encounter - Fungus PatchEdit
What's this? You've found a room full of mushrooms. Those can be quite good... for players who are equipped to deal with them. There are two main attractions in most fungus patches - weeps and azurepuffs/goldpuffs. Every weep generates an unlimited supply of a randomly chosen type of liquid, making them ideal for stocking up on the rare and valuable ones. When a fungus patch contains a weep, its liquid's color determines the color of the fungi in its general area. Vivid red mushrooms warn of a lava weep, while white fungus suggests a gel or salt weep, and so on. Some of the most valuable weeps to stumble upon are those emitting fresh water, wine, honey, and cider. Freshwater has obvious value. Wine, and to a lesser degree cider and honey, are worth considerably more than freshwater on a per-dram basis. Honey also has some medicinal benefits - mainly, it boosts your disease resistance which helps prevent illness and fungal infection. Certain liquids such as lava and acid don't lend themselves to being carried. Well, not unless you can find a strong enough container. Lava's especially valuable if you manage to get it.
Puffs are a bit more dangerous than weeps - anything that walks up to a puff will soon become covered in spores. After being exposed to spores, chances are good that the spores will eventually colonize a random body part and become quite difficult to remove. This chance can be reduced by eating honey and/or yuckwheat. A colonized body part cannot equip anything, which is quite bad if that body part's the one you hold your weapons with. Each strain of puff also provides a benefit upon colonization, making them a potentially great way to get value from equipment slots you find yourself not using. While puffs are stationary and easy to avoid, their patches are often full of infected versions of normal enemies. Some infected enemies will act like mobile, sword-wielding puffs, releasing infectious spores mid-combat just to make your life miserable. You can determine if an enemy can infect you by looking at it with the (l)ook command, but in general it's just a good idea to avoid fungus patches with combat.
Rare encounter - Knight TemplarEdit
The slightly-less-early gameEdit
Finally, you've solved the problem of Red Rock and gotten Argyve his copper wire. Perhaps you've recovered a Sultan item to boot. At this point, the game should make it pretty obvious it wants you to head to Grit Gate. You could go to the Six Day Stilt instead, but Grit Gate's on the way so why would you go there first? But there's a third path you can take - the town of Kyakukya. Below I'll describe normal Grit Gate strategy, and then explain a somewhat more advanced path that takes advantage of Kyakukya.
The next quest Argyve gives you should be to visit the lovely underground town of Grit Gate. When you head to Grit Gate, feel free to bring some good items for bartering - the town has much better shops than those found in Joppa, so you'll usually want some major cash to spend. Unfortunately, the underground town is... underground. And guarded by cave floors filled with enemies. Luckily, it's also guarded by waydroids, which, assuming you bring the droid scrambler, will help you out instead of trying and likely succeeding in murdering you. You may wish to bring the droid scrambler on your first few playthroughs, but be aware that this will rob you of a lot of experience points. Unscrambled waydroids give you lots of experience, and enemies killed by scrambled waydroids net you no experience. A more advanced strategy is to leave the scrambler in Joppa and murder absolutely everything yourself as you delve into Grit Gate proper. That's a bit harder to do, but not hard at all if you take a slight detour to the beautifully-named town of Kyakukya. Taking a detour at Kyakukya is very dangerous for those who have never visited it before, so your first few runs should not take this detour. The goatfolk enemies who inhabit the surrounding neighborhood are no joke, especially when you have no experience dealing with them.
The Kyakukya detourEdit
Kyakukya can be found on the world map due east of Red Rock, right below part of River Svy. Aside from the incredibly dangerous goatfolk that occupy the surrounding wilderness, Kyakukya is a quiet and quaint little village. Like Grit Gate, Kyakukya has a pretty decent trader. Yurl the sentient cucumber vine and full-time trader can be found at the north-west side of Kyakukya. He should help you load up on ammo, and there's a chance he'll have something really nice like a floating glowsphere or a better gun. You should also visit Mayor Nuntu in the large house on the south-west side of town - if you trade with him, he'll sell you a quite valuable book. The book, titled Corpus Choliy, will teach you what random assortment of liquids and corpses you'll need to cure yourself of otherwise-permanent illnesses you may encounter later in the game. Such ailments include the mushroom symbiotes mentioned earlier, but unless the ingredients for removing a symbiote are all easy to come by, you probably don't want to invest in fungi quite yet. You can also start a new quest by talking to Warden Indrix, who's found either in front of Mayor Nuntu's house or just wandering randomly. So long as you don't ask him why he's a pariah, he'll happily ask you to murder his brother. You can complete this quest while you're here, but it'll be pretty tough.
All this said, the real reason to visit Kyakukya early is a man named Svenlainard. Sven can be found in the middle of town, hidden among the trees. He's a trader just like Yurl, but he's not really worth trading with. The true power of Svenlainard lies in his swords Caslainard and Polluxus. There are a few semi-ethical ways to get those swords off of him. If you have 17 intelligence and strength, then you can easily take them with the Dueling Stance + Swipe long blade skills. If your agility is very high (at least 23), then you can buy and use the Disarming Shot pistol skill, but that's much less reliable. Mutants also get the option of using the Domination mutation to take over his body and make him drop them, although his mental defenses are so good that even strong espers may have trouble dominating him. If you have the Confusion mutation or flash bang grenades, these can be used to temporarily lower his mental defenses. These methods are likely to make him and anyone else who sees become hostile, but they'll eventually forgive you if you stay out of Kyakukya for long enough. If you don't have access to any of these methods, you can always just murder him. To avoid angering the whole town, you should first clear the screen below town of enemies, and then try to lure him into fighting you there. You can easily get him to follow you by attacking him somewhere only he can see you, like hidden in the conveniently-nearby trees. Be aware that the fight may not exactly be easy. Depending on whether or not his swords have batteries, they will be able to electrocute you for a lot of damage. Fighting him from further away risks being hit with his sniper rifle. Treat him like a boss fight, and bring healing items like salve injectors and witchwood bark. Also consider using grenades on him, but don't grenade him when his health is low or else you might destroy his equipment. Once he's dead, though, you can take his swords and pretty much slice through everything in your path for a good while. Do make sure their batteries aren't low on charge - without power, the swords are merely pretty good. One downside of the swords is that they make you feel like an immortal god. Do not be fooled - the game will resume kicking your butt in new and interesting ways soon enough.
If you can get to the town of Grit Gate, then congratulations - you're no longer a beginner! Finally you can abandon this guide and explore the game on your own. There's much I've avoided spoiling for you here, so enjoy the discovery and inevitable deaths!