Recently, I've been fascinated with the weird world of Qud. Fully realised in the game Caves of Qud, developed by the nice chaps & chapesses over at Freehold Games. I'd bounced off the game early in its development, because I seem to have a fear of open spaces in roguelikes. I see a full screen of open space no matter how it's elaborately decorated, and I see a screen, without tactical definition, without corridors or columns to use in my exploration and survival. However, I've been getting more and more excited about Qud as this year has rolled on, and particularly after watching the Roguelike Celebration 2017 on Twitch with all its refreshingly enthusiastic community, pomp and circumstance.
So, I thought I'd do a piece to open the front door and peak inside the rich and verbosely stunning world, and perhaps let some of the sunshine and the stink of slime moulds float in...
Since I've followed Qud for a number of years, I know it was inspired by the tabletop RPG Gamma World, amongst other things. Whilst I'm not familiar with that gaming system, I thought I'd seek out any commercial fiction centered around the setting, to get me in the mood.
I found this title "Red Sails in the Fallout" and it had some really good reviews, so I bagged it on audiobook and have been enjoying the exploits of these anthropormophic heroes, a mutant quoll scavenger called Xoota and a mutant lab rat scientist called Shaani.
In Qud, Water is everything.
I'm no expert in Qud, I'm just an explorer beginning the journey and want to help others get a toe-hold into this exotic but dangerous world. Gather your waterskins and torches and lets get crackin'.
1) Character Creation
Qud front loads the character creation with an overwhelming amount of choice and information. So to get you going without worrying too much about what is on offer, my advice would be go with something straight forward but interesting. I pick a Mutant, that is more physical in its mode of survival.
Horns, claws, thick fur, night vision, good hearing, a poisonous stinger and a skunk or squid like ability to exude sleeping gas out of its pores. I boost strength and toughness, and a little in agility, and try to minimise the negatives on my more mental attributes (intelligence, willpower and ego).
Lastly I pick a sub-type class as Marauder, which gets Axe proficiency, butchering, and a charge in ability - good with the Horns.
If you have come from Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS), I guess this would be a little like a Minotaur Beserker. But it's not really. Because I have a poision stinger and some sleeping gas. So I'm going to call this a Raker. And thus I name him "Rake".
Let's pretend this is sort of what I look like, but with a huge poisonous Stinger tail.
I think the hive-mind generated newbie advice is often to choose a True-kin human Paladin. They get a lot more bonuses and are possibly hardier. But who doesn't want a stinger or sleeping gas?
You get a limited number of mutation points, but you can take on some mutant defects to swell that pool a little more, so I chose Analgesia which gives you an extra 2 points, and means you can't quite determine your exact health state, but you have a general idea. I can live with that. I have horns!
Roll with what you fancy, but go steady on the fancier more mental mutations until you feel comfortable in the game. A good Raker will get you so far, so you feel like you've accomplished "something" before your demise. Whereas if you take on mechanism a little beyond your expertise, you might be looking at an early demoralising smack-down.
2) Welcome to Joppa, now indulge yourself a little
You enter the world of Qud in a peaceful place called Joppa. There's plenty to look around and see, some people to talk to. Just get your bearings.
Since you're new, and you start with very little.. it's time to be a bit naughty. Do a little light-fingery. Become a thief. Just to give you a leg up. A head start. A little boost.
There are three huts, with chests in. Explore them, open the doors, and make sure you CLOSE THE DOORS, before having a snoop through the contents of the chest.
You may find some useful items, or it may all be rubbish. With the door tightly shut, stuff the items into your backpack. You're going to do some questing for these kind folks, so you're sort of just helping yourself to an "advance" of the rewards you'll get later. Rake has horns. And gives off sleeping gas in excited moments. He can live with a little guilt.
Grabbing whatever you can should help out, especially if there are artifacts on offer.
With inventory bag bulging, lets take a moment to revel in the tile based glory. The two tone sprites do a good job of depicting the quirkiness of Qud, without going too far and spoiling the imaginative overlay you can bestow on the place and the peoples. If your sprite is white, you're ok. My analgesic health state says "Perfect". If it goes green, to yellow, to red, you're in trouble, you should FLEE! Simples.
Now lets bask in the other glory, if you're a little ASCII Curious. As you can see Qud does ASCII justice also. If you like your roguelikes as Rodney intended, then et voila.
3) Get some Quests
Time to talk to the town folk and see what you can do to help. The Red guard Mehmet will give you the Red Rock quest. This could be construed to be your starting quest. Accept it.
Next up. In the bottom left hand corner of Joppa, there is a merchant called Argyve, he will trade and identify stuff for you. But he also has an immediate quest to seek two Artifacts. You may have looted some artifacts from the chests (naughty Rake!), this would be an ideal time to make Argyve's day. Talk to him, and accept his Artifact quest. Give him an Artifact. You gain Experience!
If you have another artifact, do it again. He will award you with more Experience! You may level up! This is a rather fine bonus to your start in Qud. Extra hitpoints, skill points and a mutation point! Woohoo!
Talk to him one more time and he'll tell you of another Quest for the Copper Wire. You can help him build the Weirdwire Conduit. Accept the Quest.
In the top right hand corner of Joppa there will be a shrine to one of the worlds Sultans. Go visit it.
When you read the Shrine, you'll be bestowed with the knowledge of a sacred place for that Sultan and you'll get a quest to visit it.
Have a quick look-see of the Quests..
4) Check yourself
First things first we need to check yourself out. Make sure you are best suited to adventuring, before you set off into the wilds of Qud.
A quick squizz at your inventory, so you know what is in your backpack. Luckily the inventory is sectioned into categories for your convenience. Make sure you have food, water, torches (if needed) and possibly ammo if you have any ranged weaponry that needs it. Also keep an eye on weight, you can only carry so much.
Most important to your survival is your abilities. Make sure you know what they are, and that they are hot-keyed for ease of use.
Move the cursor down to the ability, hit Enter, and press a number. D1 my charge ability, is activated by pressing '1' on the keyboard. Important combat abilities slot in the low numbers, utility, buffs or escape skills slot higher up. Always know where your SPRINT skill is, I think the game defaults it to number '5' for you. Some abilities can be toggled on or off, like my butchering.
4c) Character Sheet (Attributes, Skills & Mutations)
This is important to check now and then, because it gives your base attributes and mutation levels along with any resistances and progression you may have made. This is where you check your Skill points accrued, any Attribute or Mutation points to spend.
Since we've levelled up, we can spend that Mutation point. Move the cursor over to the Mutation and hit Enter.
I arbitrarily decide, I want slightly better Horns. So I spend the point bringing Horns to a level 2 mutation with a 2d4 damage increment on the 20% proc. More gore damage the better when I charge at things. Boost whatever mutation you think will help you early on. Remember you're still a little vulnerable even though you think yourself a level 2 experienced master thief!
Since we have Skill points it may also be worth checking out the available skills to purchase and their costs for something to work towards when we earn more points.
This is your skill tree, with each main skill having specialisations and bonuses that often cost skill points and have certain attribute requirements (see items in red as being lacking, they can be skill point cost eg. 100sp, a prior skill in the heirarchy eg. Cleave, or a physical attribute eg. 23 Strength).
Since I'm a Raker, I'd like to boost my Axe skills by getting Cleave and then Charging Strike. So I need to collect some serious Skill Points 250sp to afford both. I have 70sp in the bank.
Have a quick butchers at what you are currently kitted out with. You can see all my equipment slots, and current protection and damage potential.
A quick rule of thumb cheat sheet (as far as I understand it):
Blue diamond = Armour Value (AV) - protection
Dim circle = Dodge Value (DV) - whether hit or not
Higher AV usually has a penalty to DV.
Cyan Right Arrow = Penetration Value (PV) - whether you penetrate
Red Heart = Damage (as dice 2d4 = 2x4-sided die rolled) - how much damage you do
PV is compared to enemy AV. If PV = AV you'll do 1xDamage, if higher you may do multiples.
My horns and stinger have high PV. Which is why I'm a Raker!
Make a mental note of who likes you. Dogs (and Goats because I'm horny - that come out wrong!). Green is like, Cyan is neutral and red is Hostile. The Children of Mamon REALLY don't like me.
5) Adventuring Time!
That time has finally come. If you slip off the Northern edge of Joppa, you will enter the world of Qud. At any point you can tap '-' (minus) and zoom out to the World Map. A colourful sight to behold. You stand just outside Joppa in the bottom left hand corner. The Red Rock mines are just North of your current position.
The World view is fixed, Qud's regions are mapped out, however each tile on this map can be several screens worth of procedurally generated landscape with a whole plethora of flora and fauna and other humanoids with which to interact positively or negatively.
Let us press '+' (plus) and zoom back in, to continue Northwards to Red Rock.
Wandering the lands you will stumble upon some strange creatures, some ambivalent to you passing through, some who are hostile to you and want to see you come to harm, or be their next meal. A handy tip is to always check an area with the 'Alt' key, hold it down to see only living entities and their intentions (green = not hostile, red = hostile). This one view alone with become invaluable in determining threats and finding your way out of overwhelmingly tricky situations.
Often its worth looking at the creatures and finding more about them, because information is power in the precarious pursuit of survival.
You pass a salty stretch of water, where a brooding rosepuff grows. You are amazed by the undulations of the spores into a rose plasma. Each plant or animal examined will often reveal their status, their difficulty and their relations with you. Who would want to disturb such a perfect example of mutated life in Qud, when it neither wishes you good nor harm?
Remember to check water pools, most are brackish and salty and of no value (unless there is a way to purify them of their salt content?), but you may stumble upon a fresh source of water, and indeed it is a necessity for life and survival but also in the World of Qud, fresh water is a currency with which to arm and kit yourself out with useful weapons and tools.
Be mindful of the scarcity of fresh water.
I continue Northwards. And make it to Red Rock! I finish one step in my Quest there. More Experience!
The glowcrows are attacking the feral dogs as we explore the area, which highlights that the world of Qud is a living breathing vicious place to be.
I start to explore the crimson sediment ruins, and I am chased off by a Horned Chameleon. I gird my loins and head down begin a charge at the creature!
He is tough, but he cannot withstand the mighty bulldozing a charging Raker can deliver! My horns gore the creature into an early grave! Leaving only a spattering of it's blood behind.
No sooner have I recovered that I am irritated by an Irritable Tortoise! I give him a taste of my Axe to irritate him further.
It bites me somewhat, nibbling me injured.
Instinctively I let loose a cloud of my sleeping gas, a musky smelling pheromone to ease it's irritation.
And when it drops asleep, I move away to assess the situation. The shelled monster nods in and out of consciousness.
And with that, I level up again! Getting stronger, more attribute, skill and mutation points to spend to hone my hairy frame into a Rakish force to be reckoned with!
I shall leave it there, with the Tortoise at peace, for now. With my Axe poised to end its irritability once and for all.
World of Qud has piqued your interest for the endless challenges and possibilities abound. A desperately cruel and radiated world full of mutations and factions of hate, but also a beautifully poetic living world, where you truly are a part of it, trying to survive as best you can, with only Darwin's help in understanding the selection pressures and the mutations you can mould yourself into.