Vampire (starting race in SLASH'EM)
SLASH'EM offers a new playable race, Vampire. Vampires are always chaotic and can play as a barbarian, ice mage, necromancer, rogue, or wizard. Vampires offer a very different play experience from the other races. According to the guidebook:
Vampires strike fear into the heart of many. Their super-human strength, notorious dexterity and resilience make them difficult to defeat while their almost hypnotic charm makes them dangerous opponents. Even their own Gods treat vampires with some distaste.
Vampires start with the following attributes:
- Unbreathing (immunity to gas, spore, choking, and drowning attacks)
- Flying (not to be confused with levitation)
- Level-drain resistance
Vampires can use the following techniques:
Vampires generally have superb stats, particularly their physical stats. The following table outlines their maximum (unaided) attribute levels.
For all of these advantages, vampires are set back by their difficulty in obtaining nutrition. They cannot eat food in the way that non-vampire adventurers can: the vampire's only source of sustenance is blood from fresh corpses, potions of blood, and of vampire blood. On the upside, they can eat a corpse and still sacrifice it (e. g. for altar farming). Also, like Doppelgangers, vampires are restricted in the two-weapon skill.
Vampires also start with a small penalty to luck and alignment, -1 and -5 respectively. This means that vampires should not wish or pray before turn 600, and will need to kill a few monsters to gain positive alignment.
The early game as a vampire is primarily about nutrition management. The vampire can only drink fresh blood for nourishment. There are five ways to gain nutrition as a vampire: draining the blood of freshly killed corpses (you have 3 turns before the blood coagulates and becomes useless), draining blood with the biting attack ("You feed on the lifeblood"), drinking potions of blood or vampire blood, #praying to fend off starvation, and polymorphing into a form that can eat. This means that for most of the early and midgame, the comestibles you find in the dungeon (food rations, tins, etc.) will be useless to you. Since nutrition drawn from sucking blood is much less than that gained by eating a corpse, avoiding starvation is the primary challenge for a vampire until you can get your hands on a ring of slow digestion, or get far enough into the game that 1) monsters take enough hits to kill that you can get several feedings from each, and 2) you can survive combat with such monsters.
Another significant challenge for vampires is gaining intrinsics. Vampires only have a 20% chance of gaining intrinsics from draining corpses; all corpses drained are subject to the 20% chance before any additional restrictions on gaining the intrinsic apply. For example, a vampire draining a newt corpse has a 20% chance of possibly gaining power, but then must also pass the 33% chance a newt corpse has of conveying extra power. It is possible to gain strength by draining giant corpses, but one must pass both the 20% test for being a Vampire as well as meeting the 25% chance SLASH'EM imposes on increasing strength. Combined with the vampire's inability to eat tins, the vampire's maximum strength of 19 will prove difficult to achieve without enhancement. More importantly, this makes critical and normally easily-obtained intrinsics such as fire resistance, cold resistance, sleep resistance, and telepathy much more difficult to acquire, and you will have to modify your playing style accordingly.
On the upside, you are exempt from the penalties of cannibalism, like cavemen. You will face no penalties for eating cats, dogs, and humans, whether in your normal form or polymorphed. (Vampires are way beyond that level of evil). Additionally there is an alignment bonus ("You feel evil and fiendish!") for draining the corpse of another vampire if you are still chaotic. In practice this is only possible with the corpse of a vampire bat.
Non-vampire players polymorphed into a vampire have the same restrictions on eating as a player vampire, but cannot commit cannibalism (unless they are normally a caveman or orc) - draining the corpse of a cat will still result in the normal penalties.
If your character would start with food rations, you will start with potions of vampire blood instead. These are obviously much more difficult to replenish and also have the disadvantages of being heavy and susceptible to boiling. Later in the game you will find these potions as well as potions of blood and vampire blood on enemy vampires. You can also turn fruit juice into diluted vampire blood using alchemy; you will need to spend one vampire blood potion as a reagent, so it's only worthwhile if you have a large stack of juice.
If you choose to play as a vampire, you will need a sensible nutrition-management strategy, which will likely include moving quickly, fighting weaponless, creating monsters, prayer, and if you can get your hands on it, a medical kit.
In the early game, the key to survival for the vampire is to keep moving deeper and deeper into the dungeon where you can find fresh victims to sate your hunger. Consequently, projects such as altar camping, retrieving stashes, farming, and returning to the Minetown temple for protection are much more risky, since going through too many empty levels brings with it the risk of starvation.
Vampires can draw sustenance from their bite attack against certain monsters. Note that since your to-hit ratios will improve as your level increases, and since you will be fighting monsters that take longer to kill, you will find yourself adding nutrition the more you fight. In order to mitigate this, vampires should plan to fight weak monsters hand-to-hand or with a weak weapon they are unskilled in (such as a knife) in order to get in as many bites as possible and thus maximize the nutrition they gain from every monster encounter. A vampire player should think of every monster she encounters as an essential source of food, and avoid killing large numbers of weak monsters at once via conflict, spells, wands, etc. Vampires should also avoid wearing rings unnecessarily.
Take advantage of the vampire's intrinsic regeneration to drain corpses before you finish a battle. Sleep magic is also extremely useful. Carnivore pets will be useful only for a very brief segment of the early game – they will eat corpses that you need to drain.
A wand of create monster or create horde should be saved as a food source for a vampire, especially once you have a decent artifact weapon. In a pinch, a couple of zaps will whip up a meal that can keep you from starving long enough to find that next throne room or leprechaun hall. A vampire spell caster who learns the spell create monster will be in a much better position to survive.
Prayer is essential to survival for most vampires, because at one point or another you are likely to start fainting without any safe nutrition nearby. Save prayer for this eventuality rather than wasting it on healing from combat ... much better to retreat and take advantage of your regeneration to heal. When you're in a pinch, however, the message "Your stomach feels content" is very calming. Unless you start with a ring of slow digestion, an atheist vampire is an extremely challenging conduct. Also, beware the vampire's starting alignment and luck penalty.
If you happen upon a medical kit (leather bag), you can perform the draw blood technique. This allows you to create a potion of vampire blood at the cost of an experience level and one phial from the kit. (Put the kit down and loot it to count your phials.) The level that is drained is not taken off in the same way that a monster's drain attack is: you will be set to the beginning of the counter of the previous level's experience points. This means you will need to regain the lost level by fighting or with a potion of full healing. Keep in mind two things with this technique: first, in the early game, levels generally come more quickly and are thus easier to replenish. Second, in the SLASH'EM late game, the difference between levels is always the same (50,000 XP). This technique can be a lifesaver if you are about to die and happen to have a medical kit (don't use it till you are in danger, as potions are heavy). A side benefit of this technique is keeping your level low, which due to the insanely tough monsters that appear at higher XP levels in SLASH'EM can be a lifesaver in the late early and early midgame.
If you receive an early wish, a medical kit is a popular choice for a vampire. Not only does it typically solve the nutrition problem, it also allows for the player to intentionally lower his level to easily run the protection racket without having to accumulate wealth and travel to mine town while level 1. It also is useful for generating said wealth as it is typically very expensive, depending on its contents.
A ring of slow digestion will help you out enormously, eliminating the need for strategy altogether. In fact, the combination of one of these rings with the 'life blood' draining passive attack (to gain nutrition), one could go the entire game without eating, and thus fill the requirements for the foodless, vegetarian, and vegan conducts. Beware of getting too satiated with the ring: you won't choke to death as you are unbreathing, but you will often become paralyzed while feeding on the life blood of a foe, allowing several hits while you recover. If you are up against a hard-hitter like a mumak or a leocrotta, this can be fatal. Alleviate this by carrying around a hunger-causing ring (conflict, regeneration, or even hunger) to switch to when you get satiated to bring your nutrition level back to normal.
Blood vs. lifeblood
There is a difference between "blood" and "lifeblood". "Blood" is what certain monsters have in their corpses, available for draining after they are killed. Draining blood will give you approximately 20% of the nutrition of eating the entire corpse. Additionally, blood can be poisonous, acidic, or hallucinogenic as the corpse would be. "Lifeblood", on the other hand, is the nutrition that is drained through the bite attack during combat and provides 2d6*6 nutrition (42 on average) on a successful drain. It is always safe to eat (never poisonous or acidic) and is extractable from anything with life force, even if it doesn't leave a corpse or contain blood (such as flaming spheres, elementals, and grid bugs, but not undead). Vampires will automatically disable their bite attack when fighting petrifying monsters if they are wielding a weapon, unlike vanilla.
By the late game the nutrition problem will mostly have resolved itself as you fight larger monsters with greater frequency. Hopefully you will also have access to a ring of slow digestion which you can equip permanently or intermittently to keep your hunger under control.
Since vampires do not breathe, they cannot choke. As with the amulet of magical breathing, overeating may cause you to vomit and lose nutrition. It is always safe to choose "Yes" when asked if you want to continue eating when already overstuffed. This is important because you will almost always be eating lifeblood when you are fighting as a vampire. If you are overstuffed you will not die, but are at risk of occasionally losing a few turns in the midst of battle to alarm when you "choke". ("You regain your composure.")
Since you will have a difficult time accumulating intrinsics as a vampire, getting oneself crowned is very useful. On the other hand, crowning will also increase prayer recovery time, which will put you at greater risk of starvation in the early and middle game. To accommodate the lack of intrinsics, magic-users may also want to make use of the new set of protection spells in SLASH'EM (endure heat, resist poison, etc.). These will be especially prized to the vampiric wizard, who can cast spells without hunger. Note that vampires are immune to magical instadeath attacks like the touch of death, but will also take double damage from Sunsword, e.g. in the hands of an Archon.
Flying is fun. Whereas levitation allows you to avoid traps, water and lava, but keeps you too high up to pick things up or otherwise interact with objects on the ground, flying gives you the best of both worlds. You will sail over traps and water and across the Plane of Air without having to mess around with boots, spells, or rings (or the SLASH'EM item, amulet of flying). This is particularly convenient in the endgame as you race for the starting staircase.
However, this also means you will need to avoid losing anything important in a pit. Since the vampire's flying ability is intrinsic there is no way to turn it off and descend. The only ways to retrieve an item trapped in a pit are to teleport it out with a wand, snag it with a bullwhip while levitating(!), or use the new fishing pole tool. Additionally, it is possible to dig downwards with a pick-axe and then descend with > and either hope the object falls or use autopickup to grab the item. You also may have a hard time getting things up out of water.
While in vanilla NetHack players polymorphed into vampires have to be extra careful around petrifying monsters, SLASH'EM's vampire's are intelligent enough to "turn off" their bite attack against such creatures. However, any other action which would stone a normal player (kicking a cockatrice without boots, attacking it bare-handed, etc) will obviously still stone a vampire. But attacking with gloved hands and no wielded weapon will stone you.
Vampires do have one additional difficulty around stoning monsters, though. Since they can only feed on fresh corpses, this makes lizard corpses all but useless: vampires cannot drain them if they are more than a few turns old. It is still worth it for them to carry one, if only for the protection they provide on the new moon. However, vampires will also need to find a potion of acid or spellbook of stone to flesh as a means to reverse stoning, or may simply wish to consider wearing an amulet versus stone. Note that the amulet, if it saves your life, will break the survivor semi-conduct, but will not be destroyed unless cursed.