Essential builds

A hidden pattern in .23

The rules

Starting with the species, maximize the STRENGTH of each build. Strength means winrate at higher difficulty, achieved by reducing monster XP earned. One could sacrifice skill to simulate this. Target difficulty is 50% winrate assuming elite play. This does NOT mean minimizing strength to just enough to win at current difficulty and then maximizing reliability. Rather, it means maximizing strength with some unreliability as an acceptable tradeoff. Otherwise gods such as Xom are strictly bad at the current difficulty level for elite players, due to occasional unavoidable deaths. Roguelikes cannot be balanced for a 100% survival rate; it violates the spirit of the genre.

Use each species only once. Use all gods and backgrounds. Not all gods must be starting gods. Starting god can be changed, but changing immediately doesn't count as using the god. For example, Jiyva usually isn't available until the Slime entrance, thus can't be a starting god.

Hypothesis tested is that .23 is balanced except for lacking a difficulty setting, and that the maximally differentiated set of builds is also the strongest. An emergent order driven by decentralized meritocratic development culminated in .23, via a process of removing redundancies and adding differentiated elements. Much like how a biological ecosystem develops with species evolving to fit niches.

To be clear, my position is not that .23 is optimal Crawl, but that .23 is the last version that was a net improvement.


  • Zin's Door or ZDoor - Zin Dungeon Orc, Ely Lair, (Zin Dungeon Orc), (Ely Snake)

  • ELaZ - Ely Dungeon Lair, Zin Dungeon Orc, (Ely Snake)

  • FedMid - Fedhas Poison Water thru Depths at latest, skipping Slime Crypt Vestibule

  • ZSlAb - Zin Slime Depths Abyss Zot

  • JSlab - Jiyva Slime Depths Abyss (Zot)

  • TSOEZ - TSO Extended, Zin ascend.

  • GG+F - (ZDoor or ELaz) -> FedMid -> ZSlab TSOEZ

() = optional, often dependent on rPois and Flight early, or Statue Form and Necromutation late.
'|' = or.


The overview: Zin for multi-threat sapients and mutation, Ely for low-HP and rPois, TSO for Torment, Fedhas for Water and Poison, Gozag for equipment, Kiku for spells, food and rTorm.

TSO gives effective rTorm via rN+++ and regen on undead and demonic kills and permitting Statue Form, which can be farmed from Abyss with Zin. Kiku gives rTorm directly and via Necronomicon Necromutation, making them Extended equivalents for holy and evil respectively.


HOFi (axe) ELair -> Beogh -> ZSlab TSOEZ
Smite makes right.

MiBe (axe) -> ZSlab TSOEZ
Anger management.

MfSk (spear) ELair -> FedMid -> JSlab -> Zin Usk
Siren's prong, shifter's stab, diver's dance.

GrEE TSO -> ELair -> Fedmid -> ZSlab -> TSO
Cathedral crusader, stonemason's mace.

DrWr (spear) Hep (knight) -> JSlab -> Makhleb No GDR, breathe from afar.

HaHu (sling) ZDoor FedMid ZSlab TSOEZ
David and Jehovah, sling till it's ovah.

TrCK (mace) -> Dith -> JSlab -> Kiku
Trolol roll.

GhAs Yred -> Kiku
An army travels in its stomach.

HuGl (qstaff) ZDoor FedMid ZSlab TSOEZ
Paladin druid, normal and good.

KoFE Kiku -> ELair -> FedMid -> JSlab -> Zin Sif
Firecracker dragon rat, you gonna eat that?

DsAK (falchion) -> (Kiku) -> Nemelex
Invo freak, gambler deep.

CeMo (spear) Oka -> JSlab -> Qaz
Chiron's arrow swarm, chimera in form, riders on the storm.

SpAM (sling) Kiku -> ELair -> Fedmid -> JSlab -> Gozag
People farmer, lucky charmer, fauna harmer.

TeAE Goz -> Veh -> Kiku
Thunderbird psychopomp seeks souls, shinies, eyes.

DEWz Kiku -> ELair -> Fedmid -> JSlab -> Zin Sif
Drow sorceress, barely dressed, slinging spells without stress. Briefly plays a nun, I guess? Decides it's more fun wearing less.

OgNe Oka -> Lug -> Makhleb
Necromantic abomination, in demonic conversation, heralds warp to snivilization.

DDAr ELair -> Kiku -> Makhleb
Fall of the dwarves; they delved too deep.

GnWn GG+F or Oka -> ZSlab -> Sif
Jackal of all trades, master of fun.

VSIE Kiku -> Veh -> Jslab -> Dith -> Ru
Deadly Nightshade, Purple Death

VpEn Wu Jian -> Jslab -> Kiku
Ninja vampire lord of night

No greater weapon to shape your destiny

FoEE GG+F or Nemelex -> Lug -> Zin Uskayaw
Stasis and chance, abyssal ants line dance

NaVM Chei
Slow venom, silent serpent, eternal orobouros.

OpVM GG+F -> Ash -> Chei
Undersea arcane emissary, bound enlightened statuary

FeCj Ely FedMid | Wu Jian -> JSlab -> Ely Sif -> Xom
Itty kitty, Cheshire slime, Bastiat, chaos cat.

BaSu Ash -> Ru
Enlightened lotus, omni croak.

MuWz Kiku -> Gozag -> Ash -> Sif
Magic never dies; Pharoah's fortune thrives.