- 1 Stocking Hagnks
- 2 Pulls
- 3 Consumables strategy
- 4 Gear
- 5 Familiars and Skills
The first thing you need to do is prep the ascension. If you’re anything like me when I started ascending, exactly what to stock is something of a mystery. Sure, you know you’ll need equipment, food, and the NS items, but what specifically? And what else? Luckily for you lots of people have thought through this problem and made lists, one of which is here. If you use mafia (which I recommend), there’s even a stocking script available here (note that it contains some expensive things, you can edit those out, or tell mafia not to purchase anything worth over a few k).
You’ll notice that the kinds of things on the list/script are consumables, gear, and some weird stuff (who uses a clockwork pirate head?). All of those things will be explained in the next section on pull strategy.
Pulls are what separates HC from SC (well, besides being able to break Ronin). You get 20 per day, and how you use them is what separates a terrible from a good from a great ascender. So, how should you use them?
In general you want to pull things that either save or generate turns. Different people have different yardsticks for when a pull is "worth it", but I find it easier to just go with your gut versus calculating it all out. For instance, is a bartender-in-a-box worth it? If you have Inigo's then it doesn't save you anything, if you don't it could save a considerable number of turns, but only if you're crafting booze in-run. Whether it's a good pull depends heavily on your conditions.
A good yardstick for measuring whether or not a pull is "worth it" is comparing it to a clover or a lunchbox. This only really works for pulls that are directly generating turns or stats, but that's a good number of pulls. The clover generates about 300 stats for 1 turn, and the lunchbox gives you about 25 turns. When discussing potential consumable or stat pulls, speed ascenders usually compare to those metrics. The final metric would be "turns saved", but there's no real hard and fast rule saying "4 turns saved is the minimum" or anything like that. You can simply figure out how many turns your different choices will save, and pull the ones that save the most turns. Those are the three basic types of pulls: generating stats, generating turns, and saving turns. Balancing them against each other is the entirety of pull strategy.
Another example is outfits, there are at least 4 outfits you’ll want over the course of an ascension (harem, mining, pirate, war). Which do you farm and which do you pull? Because the drop rates on these are so low, you want to pull as many as possible. But if you’re just starting out and are pulling lots of food, you might not have room. Which do you give up first? There’s no hard and fast rules, you have to draw your own lines and decide which is more useful to your situation. (Admittedly with the advent of the He-Boulder this is a lot less of an issue with these specific outfits, since you simply ray them. But the general point still stands.)
Unfortunately there’s no magic list of 80 items you should always pull in a 4-day run (or even 60 in a 3-day run), you have to make your own decisions. An example 4-day pull list is available here. Experience is the best teacher, start from there and build your own list.
Looking through that list you’ll see that a lot of it taken up with quest items. The aforementioned outfits, ore for the trapzor, NS items, MacGuffin items, those items will be saving you turns. These items are annoying to farm for some reason or another (not getting stats while you do it, low drop rate, the monster has a low appearance rate, etc), so pulling them to save yourself that time is immensely helpful. What’s the general dividing line between a good pull candidate and a poor one? The ones listed are a good start and are items I always pull, but some of the spare pulls are for items that just won’t drop. Harem stuff, Orc Chasm scrolls, Spooky-Gro fertilizer, items like those that you typically get but sometimes don’t. After a few runs you’ll begin to develop an intuition for what makes a good pull, but the important thing is not to be overwhelmed with the seemingly infinite options. Just pull what feels right. You’ll probably make some mistakes, but that’s how you learn.
The rest of the list is consumables and gear, both of which are discussed in detail later.
Since all ascensions begin with 5 pork gems and you can also sell Crimbo Tree gifts, it is no longer necessary to begin runs by pulling a high autosell item. However, if you are very low skill, you may wish to purchase skills from your guild trainer in-run.
Oh, why do I pull a clockwork pirate skull? Untinker it to get an eyepatch and a clockwork sphere, which can be made into a clockwork maid trivially under a muscle sign. One pull gives an outfit item and at least 16 turns in a 3-day run. If you have a Zombie pineal gland, you can make a Ninja pirate zombie robot head instead, since it gives you a few additional items that you can pulverize or autosell. The pineal gland is reusable, so it is just a one-time cost.
KoL is built so that turns are the precious limiting factor. So how do you generate them? That’s a tricky question and varies based on experience and budget. Let’s look at some cases now.
The easiest thing to do as a beginner is to pull a bunch of turncount-generating consumables and try to break Ronin in 4 or 5 days. You don’t need to do this, but it’s simple and effective.
If you go this route you’re definitely going to want Hi meins and SHCs for the later days of the ascension, as well as not-a-pipes or glimmering roc feathers throughout. Pick the Hi mein and SHC that gives the correct mainstat substats, you will gain several stat points from your consumables, and every point is important. You’ll also want to pick your nightcap (the one you overdrink with), personally I use the corpse drinks, as they’re cheap, have high adv/drunk and 6 drunk, and only need to be level 5 in order to use (whereas other good ones are either ridiculously expensive (TPS drinks) or prohibitively high-level (Jar of squeeze, although it could be used after day 1)). And you can’t forget a milk of magnesium, at least until you can make it yourself.
The difficulty here is that this is a lot of pulls per day: 3 meins, 1 milk, 3-4 SHCs, 3 spleen, and 1 nightcap for 11-12 pulls, over half your daily pulls. This constrains you in other ways. Plus figuring out how to whittle down turncount is part of the fun of ascension. I’d recommend running this route initially, at least until you’re comfortable enough with your game plan to start ascending in <900 turns.
So what do you eat when you’re trying to ascend fast? Some of the food is expensive and you don’t want to pull regularly, things like Uncle Crimbo's Rations and bunch of bananas (for bungle in the jungles). Fortunately, the bulk of your food is key lime pies, which are quite cheap. You always want to eat the Legend key lime pies (to avoid the Daily Dungeon and getting a wand), but the star and digital key lime pies are useful as well. A fast run will want to avoid unnecessary places as much as possible, so definitely eat the star ones. The digital is trickier, and I’ll talk about that in the Spooky Putty section (if you don’t have a putty and go this way just eat enough to get your pixels).
We’ve got your stomach covered, but you still have to pull those pies. Where you reduce pulls is the booze and spleen items. Spleen you can make yourself if you own a spleen familiar (which will be discussed in detail later), and drinks you can make yourself once you perm SHC and AC. However, because booze ingredients are hard to come by, you’re forced to either pull the pre-made booze, or pull/ray a hippy outfit to use the store.
Depending on how you do it (and luck) you might now be using as few as 6 total pulls on consumables, and only on Key Lime Pies (3 legend pies, 3 star), which is a huge improvement from 12 per day.
With the bonestar's destruction over Valhalla, everything changed. Now there are three options for consumables on every run (you can also opt to not take a consumable, but at 1 karma/run you may as well). Astral consumables are unlike other consumables in that their turns generated and stats given increase with level. The exact formulas are available on their respective pages, but they all cap at level 11 and I'll assume you wait until then to use them. They are:
- Astral hot dog: You get 3 per ascension, 3 fullness. Low adv/fullness compared to the others (22 total, 7.33/full), but very high stat gains (198 total, 66/full). Useful if turngen isn't an issue, saves ~2 powerleveling turns each, equivalent to a clover pull. Generates ~32 turns over Key Lime Pies, saves ~6 turns through stats.
- Astral pilsner: 6 per ascension, 1 fullness. High adv/full and no variance (exactly level turns, for 11 at level 11), but low stats (average is level as well). Useful for higher-turncount runs. Generates 42 turns over SHC, saves ~0 turns through stats.
- Astral energy drink: 3 per ascension, 8 fullness. The very high fullness on these is a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it means they can generate a lot of turns, curse because you can't actually get all of them at the max level without pulls. On a 3-day run hitting level 11 on day 2 is pretty easy, so you can have them all at max level, but you'll need to pull a mojo filter at some point. The adventure gain isn't spaded, but it's around 4 turns/full (32 total). Generates ~64 turns over feathers at the cost of a pull, saves 0 through stats.
As you can see which of these you choose will depend on your goals, pilsners should be the most common, hot dogs least common.
Running on a budget is considerably more difficult that running without one. Even if you’re willing to shell out ~100k per run on consumables, without good gear (which we’ll talk about later) you’re likely to be totally stuck on day 1, sitting at level 3, unable to eat, drink, or spleen, just because you couldn’t gain the substats (not being able to run ML, fewer stats/fight from gear, etc). There are some ways around this. The glimmering phoenix feather provides 6 substats/turn for 20 turns, the same as a 36-lb volleyball or several pieces of Mr. Gear. The Crimbo Nostalgia effect from a can of franks 'n' beans or a bottle of peppermint schnapps provides 5 substats/turn for 50 turns, and while the Uncle Crimbo's Rations that speed runners pull are quite expensive, the individual components aren’t as bad. While those will cost you some day 1 pulls, they provide massive stat gain and have no level requirement, which is quite useful if you have trouble hitting those early benchmarks.
Other than that the diet is largely the same. ACs could be substituted for SHCs, Chow meins or the burrito family (Insanely spicy bean burrito, Insanely spicy enchanted bean burrito, and Insanely spicy jumping bean burrito) for Hi meins. You could even perm the crafting skills (Advanced Saucecrafting, Pastamastery, Advanced Cocktailcrafting, and their level-15 improvements) and make food in-run, essentially playing Softcore like hardcore with pulls for quest items. There are people who play that way and consistently run 4 days and under 800 turns.
This subject is a bit out of place here, but there’s nowhere better to address so here it shall stay. Should you get Liver of Steel (increases drunk limit from 15 to 20)? If you’re doing the strategy of breaking Ronin, then yes. If you’re not, then no (at least, not in SCNP). It basically comes down to whether or not you’ll need the extra turns it provides to finish, and if the ~30 turns it costs to get will be recouped later. I got liver on all my early runs, and no longer do. If you’re not sure about hitting your daycount goal without it, then get it. If not, then don’t. That’s about all the help I can be here.
Run Planning Sheet
Part of my run planning sheet is a consumption calculator, that gives you an estimate of how many turns a meal plan will generate. You list the items you're going to eat, the average adventure gain (including ode if you have it, not including it if you don’t, and not including milk), and how much organ it takes, if any (rollover and maids obviously don't take any). Then you can specify on which days you'll be using milk, and it'll calculate that for you (approximately, for some foods it will be off).
A few notes:
- It's not the easiest thing to use, I assume everyone using it is somewhat competent with spreadsheets.
- I didn't feel like making separate pages for the 4 and 5 day run tools (since I won't actually use either of them), so if you're doing a 4-day just leave day 5 blank (or delete it, watevs).
- Follow the instructions for use on the front page.
This is a useful tool to easily see if your planned diet will get you the turns you’ll need, but is by no means necessary to use.
This the list of gear that is generally the best for its slot.
- Jewel-eyed wizard hat: regenerates MP, reduces MP cost of skills, and increases buff duration. Now typically pulled for the buff-increasing and not worn, on lazier runs can make things easier.
- Crown of thrones: Now the best ascension hat, for detailed use see this page
- Ice pick: Another form of the Ice Sickle, gives +15% items. Note that having Xenomorph in the CoT also provides +15% items.
- Flaming pink shirt: +15% items. Decent pull, but not great. Helpful if you don't have much +item.
- Goth kid t-shirt: +5 ML. You'll almost always get it from the Castle, useful if you don't have anything else in the slot.
- Hipposkin poncho: +10 ML. You can always get a hipposkin from the trapper, if you have Inigo's and Armorcraftiness you can craft it for free.
- Moonthril Cuirass: A copy of the Grimacite gown, but that disappears after an ascension, letting ascenders use the gown who might not otherwise be able to. Be cautious, the high ML boost may hurt more than it helps, if you're unable to handle it.
- Ice sickle: +15 ML means 3.75 stats/combat. Fights are harder, but with a basic skillset not much harder. Best ascension weapon.
- Haiku katana: A good choice for your first few ascensions, its special skills make life easier (summer siesta is auto-hit, and spring raindrop gives back HP and MP).
- Flaming juggler's balls: Another form of the Flaming shirt, these are good for moxie classes without an auto-hit attack (such as shieldbutt).
- Pilgrim shield: +3 stats/combat, HP regen, and +HP make this an excellent ascension offhand. Also enables use of shieldbutt, the best combat skill.
- Bag o' Tricks: Extra spell damage, +items, MP regen, and 20-60 turns of 3 different buffs. A useful pull if you don't have a pilgrim shield, especially with a spell-slinging skillset. Worth considering as a pull for the buffs alone on longer (>2-day) runs.
- Crimboff: These are the gifts from Crimbo 2007. They give 15-25 mainstat once per day and +2 mainstat/combat. Strictly speaking they're the optimal offhands, but they're generally a pain to use. Make sure to pull the right one.
- Operation Patriot Shield:+3 stats/combat, and various increases depending on your class, the ability to stun an enemy by throwing your shield, giving your next attack an instant critical, and HP/MP +20. Preferable over a Pilgrim Shield in most cases, just be aware that shieldbutts will do less damage with the OPS.
- Greatest American Pants: The Navel Ring replacement. They share a runaway counter, so the most useful feature of the Navel Ring is replicated. In addition they give some skills, the most useful of which are Super Vision, which gives +25% items for 20 turns, and Super Skill, which causes all combat skills/spells to cost 0 MP for 5 turns. Super Skill is great for easily leveling the bander, simply cast Flavour of Magic to tune pasta spells (works best in spookyraven or the friars), then cast Stuffed Mortar Shell a bunch. You should be able to level the bander to 20 lbs in <10 turns.
- Stinky cheese diaper: This IotM is interesting in how it charges up. Wear the diaper when not wearing the GAP to charge it up for 100 combats, use the Stinky cheese eye when you need +item/meat, use its banishing skill Give Your Opponent the Stinkeye as needed.
- Bounty-hunting pants: +15% items. Decent pull if you're short on +item and doing longer daycounts.
- Liar's pants: Another form of the Flaming shirt, +5 all stats, and hot damage, good for taking out physically-resistant monsters.
- Spooky Putty leotard: +15% meat, can be useful in some areas.
- Boss bat britches: Setting the MCD to 4 makes these drop, worth doing if you don’t pull pants. Wear them until you pull the mining gear, those pants are a bit better.
- Brimstone Boxers: A Pantsless personal recommendation, "The additional +moxie makes survival that much easier (saving meat on healing and allowing more Vcrisis) and allows moxie classes earlier access to the bedroom. The +init means more chances to pickpocket as a moxie class (especially if running high +ML) and more chances to get the jump in general, again helping with survival."
- Juju Mojo Mask: +2 stats, and summons gods that can do a lot of stuff. See here for more
- V for Vivala mask: +1-3 stats/combat, +30% muscle, Creepy Grin, extra crits, and combat effects on criticals make this a very powerful accessory. See the VCrisis section for more.
- Navel ring of navel gazing: The big draw here is Omphaloskepsis, the intrinsic that allows you 3 free runaways per day, plus a (90-successful) percent chance after that, down to 20%. Also -1 MP to use skills, and 50% of enemy attacks miss. The last is very helpful for low-skill. Strictly speaking obsoleted for speed by the Greatest American Pants, but great for lazy play.
- Loathing Legion necktie: 4 stats/turn make this a good pull. Also gives +4 adv/day (moondial), free untinkering (screwdriver, good for non-Knoll paths), and more. See here for a complete list.
- Stinky cheese eye: Good for when you need +item/meat (gives +20% to both when fully charged), use its banishing skill Give Your Opponent the Stinkeye as needed.
- C.A.R.N.I.V.O.R.E. button: +15 ML means 3.75 stats/combat. Once you can run ML these guys are your best friend.
- Stainless steel scarf: The draw here is the +20 ML, the problem is it equips a lot later than the carnivore (30 myst versus 10). I wouldn’t pull it, but useful if you did a HC lead-in as a Sauceror.
- Mr. Accessory Jr.: +25% items is pretty useful, can be donated for in-run, saving a pull or two (I’ve done that trick several times).
- Jekyllin hide belt: Varies with moon, but usually more +item than a Jr.
- Ring of conflict: -5% combats is quite useful.
- Monster bait: +5% combats is also useful, until you get the +combat skills permed.
- Little box of fireworks: +5 lbs, sometimes wins initiative or delevels or deals damage, and gives +12.5% item and +1.5 stats. Quite good all-around, but slightly worse than the feast.
- Moveable feast: +5 lbs, +1 familiar experience/combat, and gives a +10 lb buff for 20 combats to 5 different familiars per day. This can be used for 2 extra bander runaways per day, gives ~20% item drops with a hound (~30% counting the 5 lbs it gives), gives ~17% items on a normal fairy (~25% counting its 5 lbs), and the extra experience makes up for switching familiars more frequently. Hard to compare, but generally considered better than the LBoF for softcore ascension.
As mentioned above, gear is now available in every softcore run. The cost is 10 karma per piece. A full list is available here, but I'll discuss the most generally useful (I'll only mention the relevant bonuses, they do other things as well).
In softcore the two most useful pieces are the astral belt (+20 ML accessory) and the astral shirt (+3 stats shirt). Generally speaking the belt is more useful. However, given the proliferation of +stat accessories and the relative rarity of +stat shirts, it's conceivable that the shirt could be better for your circumstances.
There are a couple of other pieces that are worthy of mention, the astral mask (20% item accessory) and the astral pet sweater (+10 lbs fam equip). Generally speaking these are easily replaceable with items already being pulled (stinky cheese, moveable feast) or items made in-run (sugar shield, Jr's if you donate) so they won't be useful often. However, it's conceivable that your circumstances could make them better than the gear above, so they are worthy of mention.
Finally, there are some other items that could be useful for budgetcore or very low-skill runs (astral shield). I'll leave it up to you to figure out when the rest are good.
VIP Lounge Items
- Clan VIP Lounge key: For want of a better place I'll put this here. In a clan with a pool table (if you need such a clan see here) the VIP Lounge key gives you access to a A Relaxing Hot Tub that can, five times per day, fully heal you and remove all negative status effects. Use it after getting accidentally beaten up, or to get rid of annoying affects like Temporary Amnesia or the The Arid, Extra-Dry Desert effects.
- A Pool Table: This can give you three buffs per day. I typically get Billiards Belligerence once for an extra bander runaway, and Mental A-cue-ity twice for the MP. Hustlin' can also be useful for the +item, choose them based on your needs.
- A Looking Glass: Once a day will give you a "DRINK ME" potion, which allows you to adventure in The Rabbit Hole. The only ascension-relevant thing down here is A Mad Tea Party, where you get one buff per day depending on the number of non-whitespace characters in your hat (a list is available here). A number of these buffs you're virtually guaranteed to have access to, including the 40% meat (use for the nuns, from the filthy knitted dread sack), +10 Moxie (for earlier bedroom access, from the ice pick or snorkel), as well as others. Get one based on what you'll need, but those two are going to be the most common uses, I believe.
One note, you might be tempted to get the +20 ML from the pail, but the turn cost of getting the pail is quite high, and this is only beneficial on very long runs (for instance in HCO). The same goes for Baron von Ratsworth's tophat, those extra stats look very good, but they're not worth the cost of hunting him down unless you have a very long (~23-turn) tavern.
Really rich stuff
- Grimacite gown: +0-50 ML, based on moons. Used for very fast ascension.
- Hockey stick of furious angry rage: +30 ML, used for very fast ascension.
On a Budget
As with diet, your gear on a budget is going to be significantly worse than it is with a large bankroll. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to slow you down too much. Unfortunately, it gets a bit more complicated, since you have to wrestle with stat requirements. If you're interested in budgetcore, check out the budgetcore compendium thread on the KoL forums.
AFH has been experimenting with this lately, and produced two logs, (here and here). They both used the Toy mercenary pretty heavily. According to one runner (So Very Invisible), “I didn't do anything groundbreaking. Get noodles early, toy mercs when they can still kill in two hits, Chronic Indigestion for any spookies you encounter, then hobble through until you can get a viable class-based combat rhythm.” Catatonicmonkey also has a log with commentary and cost analysis here (registration required) that could be elucidating, although it made heavy use of the bandersnatch.
As I mentioned in the budget consumables section, low-skill budgetcore can play a lot like easier HC. For this reason, you might want to consider a few HC ascensions to pick up the crafting skills and some rewards. Brimstone gear can seriously help, as the full set gives +60% all stats, +64 ML, items, and meat, and the gear has bonuses so good you’re basically invincible. Spending a few months in a bad moon loop picking up some good skills (even a SC player needs to do HC lead-ins if they’re serious) and grabbing this gear might be a great idea (if you’re interested, see the Hogs of Destiny BM guide.
Because budgetcore runs will usually be longer (5 days until you can get a decent number of skills), this frees up more pulls to work with. By the time noodles and mercenaries starts to break down, a lot of windows will open up in terms of good gear, especially with the addition of the sea content. Plus with Armorcraftiness and Super-Advanced Meatsmithing you can make additional weapons in-run. I’ll list some things to look at in addition to the purchase lists above.
- Nurse's hat: Massive HP and MP regen makes this a very attractive hat on a moxie run (equipable at level 10).
- Miner's helmet: You need to pull it anyway, and it gives +item.
- Bounty-hunting helmet: Best +item hat in the game, equipable pretty early.
- Plexiglass pith helmet: Fam weight, HP/MP regen, and extra muscle, but equips late.
- Yak anorak: Only MP regen shirt in the game, equipable at a reasonable level (can be made in-run with armorcraftiness).
- Goth kid t-shirt: Third-best ML shirt in the game, and you get it every run.
- Grateful Undead T-shirt: Second-best item shirt in the game, equipable pretty early.
- Dreadlock whip: +10 ML and some elemental damage, useable very early.
- Hippo whip: +10 ML and no equip requirement.
- Bar whip: +2 fam weight and no requirement.
- Cloaca-Cola shield: equipable from turn 1, lets you shieldbutt. With the bandersnatch the low damage is less of a problem.
- Vinyl shield: +25 ML and good DR, this gives more stats than a Pilgrim Shield (and has been pulled on speed runs).
- Six-rainbow shield: ER and HP, decent DR.
- Mutant Couture: Additional skills, lots of nice bonuses, and no equip requirements, last Crimbo’s outfit could be a good way to get through the early levels.
- Miner's pants: You’re pulling them anyway, and they have a decent DA tacked on.
- Astronaut pants: Good power, extra muscle and HP/MP.
- Square sponge pants: Extra moxie, DA, HP/MP regen, but high equip. Possible late moxie run pull.
- Tube sock: 20 moxie means you’re a lot safer.
- Sneaky Pete's breath spray: 10 moxie means you’re a bit safer.
- Slow Talkin' Elliot's dogtags: 30 muscle at the cost of -30% combat initiative.
- C.A.R.N.I.V.O.R.E. button: Best non-UR ML accessory, might be hard to run though.
- Stainless steel scarf: +20 ML
- Ring of conflict: -5% combats is quite useful.
- Monster bait: +5% combats is also useful.
- Vampire pearl ring: Moderate HP/MP regen could be rather useful.
- Lead necklace: 3 lbs of any familiar is nice, on 5-day runs I’d rather pull several specific equipments.
- Rock and Roll Legend: +5 duration to AT buffs cast.
- Mace of the Tortoise: +5 duration to TT buffs cast.
Familiars and Skills
The guide continues at Familiars and Skills.