Caves of Qud

Caves of Qud

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Kill things with your mind: How to play an Esper
By Aquillion
All will flee before your BIG BULGING BRAIN.
 
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Introduction
Dedicated Espers are by far the most powerful character type in Caves of Qud. They're also somewhat slow to start, and require some knowledge of which mutations to learn as you advance, so they're not necessarily a good choice for a beginner; but with the right initial mutations, even the early game won't be too tough.

The main idea behind an Esper build is to raise your Ego and / or Willpower very high; these stats improve every mental mutation you learn. Then you take the Esper mutation, which ensures all your mutations will be mental, and focus on learning as many powerful mental mutations as you can as you level up. This guide will go over how to build a character based around this core concept, which mutations to focus on, and what other choices and strategies you can use to support your core mutation-focused strategy.
Brains vs. Brawn: Your stats.
Ego is your most important stat by far. Raise it to 24. In the long run, every point of ego bonus (which you get for two points of ego) adds a level to all your mental mutations. This fact is the whole reason you are playing an Esper in the first place, so raise your Ego as high as it can go. This has other benefits; Ego also lowers the prices of things in shops and improves your success with Proselytize and other Ego-based skills. One major warning for Ego is that your mutation levels are capped at half your character level, so you won't get the full benefit of your 24 Ego initially... but the steep discounts you get at shops will more than make up for this, and later on the benefits are outrageous. Also, put all the attribute gains you get from leveling up into Ego. Trust me on this, it's important.

Willpower is useful because it lowers the cooldown of all your mutations (by 5% per point over 16, with penalties instead if you leave it lower than that), but I would recommend against raising it above 18; the small bonus you get just isn't worth giving up the options you get from stat points elsewhere. Note that several important mutations (Force Wall, Teleport, Mass Mind) have their cooldowns decrease with level anyway, usually far more dramatically than you can get out of Willpower. The one advantage Willpower has over Ego is that you get its full benefit in the early game, whereas the cap on mutation levels means that you need to level a bit to get your full Ego benefits. Still, I recommend you focus on Ego. Also, note that benefits from Willpower are capped - the lowest you can reduce cooldowns is to -20%, which happens at 32 willpower. I don't recommend you even shoot for that cap (raising Ego is more important), but definitely never raise it past 32. It does basically nothing at that point.

Toughness is vital. No matter how good you are, you will get hit eventually. Raise it to 18.

I would recommend spending the remaining points raising your Intelligence to 18 as well; there are many useful skills to spend the skill points it gives you on, and 18 intelligence means you can learn basic tinkering once you reach level 6 (you get bonuses to all your stats as you level), which is nice. But this is less essential; you could put these points in strength or agility instead and it wouldn't be the end of the world.
I can kill you with my brain: Your mutations.
Let's go over the basic rules to make sure you know them. You start with 12 points of mutations to spend, and can get up to 4 from drawbacks. (But if you want the full 4 extra, you have to take narcolepsy. It's not quite as suicidal as it sounds, but it's a pretty nasty drawback.)

You also get 1 mutation point per level; 4 of these can be spent to learn a new mutation (you get to choose one of three random ones.) This is how you will be spending all your mutation points; there's no point in leveling them individually when your massive Ego is going to boost them for you.

Mutations have different costs at chargen, but cost the same amount when you get them in play. Therefore, ideally, you want to buy cheap ones at chargen, and get the expensive ones as you level up... although this is trusting the RNG to an extent.

The Esper mutation, for 1 point, limits you to learning only mental mutations. This is a good thing, since it means the new mutations you get from spending those mutation points will all be mental and will all benefit from your Ego. As you probably guessed from the fact that this is an Esper guide, we're taking that.

Now, Unstable Genome, for 3 points, causes you to learn a random mutation (again, chosen from three) as you level up. Each purchase buys you one random mutation later on. Obviously, this is beneficial if you can use it to get a 5 point mutation later for only 3 points now, but you're trusting the RNG. This is something to buy once you're comfortable with the game and confident that you can survive with fewer mutations early on; generally speaking, you'd buy it instead of mutations that cost more than 3, while loading up on whatever valuable mutations cost 3 or less.

Aside from those, the most valuable mutations for a mental mutant to start with, in general, are:

Light Manipulation

This gives you a reliable source of damage. It never misses, and scales well as you go up in level (provided you keep your Ego maxed.) It costs 4 mutation points, but is generally worth it. You should put this on every mutant unless you're very confident of your ability to survive the early game without it. It does have one drawback: For some reason, it won't go through your own forcefields. Still, it's valuable even later on, since it lets you kill weaker enemies without wasting a powerful mutation. It costs 4 points, but is generally worth buying at chargen unless you're really experienced and feel you can survive the early game without it. I recommend binding Laze to its own key from the ability menu, such as 'Z; this will make it easy to use it as your primary method of attack.

Force Wall

This mutation is golden. It can save your life by walling off a dangerous enemy. It can be used offensively to wall an enemy in and then finish them off with a gun. It can be used to save allies at range, to isolate enemies who have weird powers you don't want to deal with, and to generally deal with anything you can't deal with in any other way. It's incredibly versatile, since you can place the wall any way you want. Note that if you place it over someone (including yourself), they won't be pushed or trapped, but can step out onto any adjacent square; so if you have an adjacent enemy you need to escape, you can place a wall over yourself and then back out of it, and they won't be able to follow. Of course, you can wall all 8 squares around an enemy to trap them completely. Finally, and most importantly, Force Wall's cooldown decreases by 8 per mutation level; at level 10, its cooldown will be lower than its duration, letting you keep it up indefinitely. It's a steal at only 3 points. Take it at chargen.

Clairvoyance

This mutation might seem minor at first, but it's one of the best an Esper can have. If you're facing a ranged attack from outside your field of view, it lets you spot what's shooting at you and fire back. It lets you keep tabs on your allies. It lets you target several other mutations (like Sunder Mind) through walls, meaning you can kill things and they can't fight back at all. Combined with Teleportation, it lets you teleport to places you haven't been. Also, at mutation level 10, it reveals the entire map. Did I mention that? Obviously our goal is to be omnipotent, but being omniscient is a nice first step. Also, it costs 2 (count them, two) points. Don't ask questions. Grab it at chargen and walk away while whistling innocently.

There are many other valuable mutations, but I recommend learning most of them as you level. Still, most of those are also good options at chargen if you're more concerned with surviving the early game. Squeeze in whatever else you want with your remaining points, depending on which drawbacks you're willing to take. If you don't want any drawbacks, I recommend Ego Projection or Teleport Other with your remaining points, but they're not particularly essential and anything could do.

Ego Projection

Increases one physical stat (of your choice) by twice your ego bonus for about 60-odd turns. Since your ego bonus is very high, that's a pretty big boost; and since you can choose any of the three physical stats, this can be a pretty versatile ability. Note that to fight in melee effectively, you will need accuracy, damage, and defense; and by default this can only raise one of those things. However, there's some ways around that, and a number of valuable tricks...

With a good weapon (one with a high strength-bonus cap), boosted strength is very effective at breaking down walls - or at defeating enemies frozen by Cryokinesis, who you always hit. Boosted strength is particularly valuable if you can get accuracy bonuses from elsewhere, like the Long Blade tree's duelist stance combined with a counterweighted weapon.

Boosted Agility makes you effective with ranged weapons, and can also make you highly accurate with weapons that don't need strength, like gaslight weapons, vibroblades, or the Ceremonial Vibrokhopesh. It also grants you high DV, although usually you need DV-raising armor to take full advantage of it (which won't be so useful when your Agility isn't boosted.)

Boosted Toughness provides a very powerful emergency defense button (instantly granting you hundreds of extra HP); it also makes it easy to shake off poison, bleeding, and other physical afflictions.

This mutation combines particularly well with Mass Mind. At low levels, you can stack it twice on the same attribute, or boost two attributes at once (like Strength and Agility to become a melee master). If you have very high-level mass mind (with a cooldown of 5), you can reset and stack Ego Projection repeatedly to raise stats ridiculously high, granting yourself brief bursts of godlike stats (although the duration remains only moderate, so you'll have to balance your power-up routine with the time you want to spend actually using that power.)

The other nice thing about this mutation is that it only costs 2 mutation points; early on, boosting your agility will let you smack down weaker enemies like snapjaws, since they tend to have low armor, accuracy, and health.

It does have some disadvantages; the cooldown is very long, so (unless you have very high-level Mass Mind) you can't remain superpowered all the time. Additionally, it doesn't help you meet the prerequisites for most weapon skills (although the basic Long Blades stances don't have prerequisites, and decent Intelligence will let you grab Duelist Stance). Still, if you combine it with some of the tricks above, this is a very powerful mutation.

Summary

The character code for the above build is BAEEMMMUABDCDHDJDL.

Substituting Teleport Other for Ego Projection also works: BAEEMMMUABDCDJDLDY

Alternatively, if you are willing to take Narcolepsy, you substitute Ego Projection for two copies of Unstable Genome: BAEEMMMUABU2DCDJDLED
More brain, more kill: Mutations to learn as you level.
These are the mutations I generally recommend you learn as you level up... although starting with them certainly can't hurt. I've ordered them, roughly, in terms of importance, although it's debatable with the ones further down.

Teleportation

Chariot of the gods. Teleports you anywhere on the level that you've ever seen, including places you've only seen with Clairvoyance. With Teleportation + Clairvoyance you can simply bypass many dangers, if you want. More importantly, though, it can get you out of trouble and keep you out of sight of the big nasties trying to kill you, letting you kill them remotely with your own powers instead. This is a lifesaver. Oh, and the cooldown goes down with your mutation level; eventually it reaches a cooldown of 5 (or even lower, depending on your willpower), meaning you never need to walk anywhere again. Unfortunately, it costs 5 points at chargen, so you might want to learn it later instead, although if you're new to the game starting with it can dramatically increase your survivability. If you don't start with it, learning this mutation should be by far your highest priority; grab it no matter what if it appears as an option.

Sunder Mind

What sort of mutant can't kill things with their brain? At high levels, Sunder Mind is one of the single most damaging attacks in the game; only willpower can defend against it, and most enemies suck at that. More importantly, though, it has unlimited range; you can target anything you can see (and with Clairvoyance, that means everything.) There are two drawbacks, of course. It won't work on things with no minds (like robots and oozes.) And second, it's so good that psychics have a special mutation, Mental Mirror, purely to defend against it; later on, most NPC espers will have that. Never use Sunder Mind on an enemy esper, no matter how tempting it might be. Despite these flaws, though, Sunder Mind is one of the most valuable mutations a mutant can have. It does have one more significant drawback: It costs 4 points at chargen, so you might want to try and learn it later. Cooldown is 30; not that bad, but you might have trouble using it as your only attack, especially when combined with the fact that some enemies are immune.

Force Bubble

Surrounds you with a nearly-invulnerable bubble of force that moves with you. Anything nearby will be pushed back, provided there's room. While it's up, nothing can get close enough to hit you in melee. This mutation is great, but notice that I said nearly invulnerable -- lasers and bullets will be stopped, but thrown objects won't be (the slow blade penetrates the shield and all that rot.) Also, explosions and other area-effect attacks will still hit you, as will Sunder Mind. A small number of really really damaging area-effect effect attacks (like the attacks of a Chrome Pyramid) can even destroy parts of the bubble itself; but this is rarely worth worrying about, since those attacks tend to kill you instantly anyway. The bubble's duration raises by 3 per level, but it's generally a lot harder than Force Wall to get to the point where you can keep it up all the time. Also, it costs 5 points, so you might not want this at chargen, as good as it is.

Temporal Fugue

Creates duplicates of you; the number depends on your mutation level. This power is a bit tricky. The duplicates have all your mutations, so if you have big explosive stuff, they might hit you in the crossfire. That said, this power is a very effective nuclear option. The duplicates will also take advantage of clairvoyance (including if you had it up before you used it -- they'll copy your version of it) and teleportation, meaning that if you spot a far-off enemy with Clairvoyance, and you have Teleportation, you can use Temporal Fugue and your duplicates will teleport over to murder them for you. Oh, and they get duplicates of whatever grenade you're carrying, and will throw it -- again, this risks friendly fire, but can be incredibly powerful if you need a lot of damage very quickly. Be careful, though; they tend to destroy any loot lying on the floor if you give them explosive attacks like that. 5 points at chargen again, so you probably want to wait on this. Cooldown is fairly long, too, so you can't rely on it constantly.

Pyrokinesis / Cryokinesis

These mutations are very effective, especially against groups, and can be targeted through walls with clairvoyance again (although the range is fairly limited.) They have a tendency to destroy stuff on the ground, though. Pyrokinesis does more damage, but lights stuff on fire (which can be bad if the fire spreads.) Cryokinesis freezes things solid; if you end up getting frozen yourself, it's actually not quite as bad, since you can still use mental mutations in that state, including teleportation. Still, despite their power, these are somewhat lower-priority, especially since they cost 5 points at chargen. Also, note the interaction with Temporal Fugue mentioned above -- they are very powerful when used together, but also very dangerous. It's up to you if you want to take the risk, though in my experience teleportation makes it fairly safe.

Mass Mind

Resets the cooldown on all your mental mutations. Do I really have to explain why this is good? Also, its cooldown decreases dramatically as its level increases, going from 1000 at level one to 5 at around level twelve. Yes, 5 (although reaching that point in a normal game is going to require a lot of Ego-boosting.) Another oddity of this mutation is that it will occasionally put all your mental mutations on cooldown for 30 turns; this is rare, and becomes more rare as it goes up in level. Since it's fairly useless unless you have lots of mutations to reset with it anyway, this is generally a mutation you want to learn later rather than one you want to start with. It costs 4 points, anyway. Don't take its low position on the list as a commentary on its usefulness; it really depends on how many other high-cooldown mutations you have and how late in the game it is. This is a mutation that becomes more powerful later on. The main reason it's so low, really, is that by the time it really kicks in you're going to be overwhelmingly powerful anyway.
Other mutations
These mental mutations are ones that I don't feel are quite as important as the one above, or whose synergies with the basic Esper playstyle aren't as strong; still, some of them can still be quite effective, so you might have fun experimenting with them. These ones, unlike the ones above, are in no particular order.

Burgeoning

Summons a bunch of friendly plants within a range of eight squares. While it shows a 3x3 area, the plants tend to be scattered roughly around there, and you can get more than nine. Plants include seed-spitting vines, jilted lovers, pricklers, qudzu, dreadroots, and young ivory, as well as some harmless ones that only serve to block movement, like mangrove trees, and mostly-decorative stuff like watervines. It has a range of 8, but you can target it through walls with Clairvoyance. The plants last forever, so you can build up a lot in an area if you want, too. And the mutation's cooldown drops from 105 as its level increases, all the way down to 5(!) at level 11.

Unfortunately, there are a few catches. First, that's the only way it improves; the plants don't get any stronger. Seed-spitting vines and jilted lovers might seem powerful at level 1, but later in the game they're somewhat less powerful offensively (though they remain good as a barrier and a distraction.) Second, the Qudzu will of course rust equipment that you would have looted yourself. Third, the Dreadroots it summons will scare you, too (they're apparently not smart enough to be friendly.) Fourth, seed-spitting vines are very inaccurate and will frequently hit you or neutral monsters by mistake; and when they hit neutrals, they'll turn them hostile. With all that said, this is still a pretty nice mutation, and serves as an alternative to Force Wall in many respects. One additional note: If you have harvestry, you can harvest from some of the plants you summon, granting effectively limitless food. This is somewhat less amazing than it sounds (these plants are all pretty common anyway), but it's nice to know.

Beguiling

Similar to Proselytize, this turns an adjacent enemy to your side if it succeeds. There are some differences, though. The level cap here is 5 per mutation level; in practice, if your Ego is high (and yours is), this means it can convert people significantly above your level, whereas Proselytize is limited to your level. Additionally, it grants the creature +5 HP per mutation level, which can add up to a lot later on. You can only have one Beguiled ally at a time; but it and Proselytize track separately, so you can have one from each (though you may need to hurriedly lead your new allies into a new area to make them stop attacking each other after recruiting the second one.) Beguiling does have some disadvantages when compared to Proselytize, though. It's considered a hostile act, so if you try to beguile a friendly watervine farmer and fail, everyone in town will get angry at you (though only if you fail.) Additionally, its 50-turn cooldown is somewhat higher than Proselytize's 25 turns, at least unless you have very high Willpower. But really, if you're taking Beguiling, you probably want both so you can keep two allies at once; you'll also want Inspiring Presence to raise your ally's HP even higher. And as with Proselytize, it combos with...

Domination

Gives you control of an adjacent target for an extended period of time (if you can beat their mental defenses.) Your own body will sit there and do nothing. Like Beguiling, this is considered a hostile act if you fail, although you can safely use it on your own allies. (So you can use Proselytize on a neutral target until it works, then use Domination to control them.)

Both you and your chosen target gain XP for anything you kill,. You don't lose anything if your victim dies, so you can use this to explore in complete safety. In practice, though, using it like this is less awesome than it sounds, since most individual enemies are weaker than the player; outside of very early areas (where goats and beele-baums make nice things to control) you'll have to risk your life to gain a new body if your old one dies. And if you want to equip them, you'll be risking that equipment...

There are other uses for this, though, especially when combined with proselytize or beguiling. When your allies level up, they gain mutation points, skill points, and ability points; Domination lets you spend these to improve them (even buying them new mutations, if they live long enough.) It also lets you equip them and apply skills they wouldn't normally use. Note that an ally that has learned Butchery or Scavenging will apply those skills automatically even if you're not possessing them. It also lets you equip them a bit more precisely and reliably than just handing them items via the "give" screen and hoping they equip the stuff you want.

Oh, and one other oddity. If you're controlling an ally and send them into another area, then release your control, they'll return to you the next turn, regardless of the distance. This can be used in somewhat clever ways with recoilers: Drop a recoiler, possess an ally and have them pick it up, then have them return to town to retrieve or store stuff for you, buy / sell things, and so on. When the domination ends, they'll come back to you. Be warned that they'll use their Ego to buy and sell, which is probably lower than yours.

Another possible exploit: You can dominate merchants and take all their stuff. Be warned that they'll go hostile if you fail, though.
Other Mutations, Pt 2.
These mutations I have less to say about. Some of them can still be very useful, but they're not essential and often don't fit into the plan we're going for.

Siphon Vim

Drains the enemy's health by the mutation's level each turn for many turns, healing you in the process. Unfortunately, the enemy has to be adjacent to you to initiate it (though you'll continue to drain them at any distance after that.) This drawback is the only reason the mutation isn't on the the list of important mutations; it's very strong, will make you very tough while it's in effect, and will usually kill anything you use it on. But as a dedicated Esper, you probably don't want to get up close and personal with enemies. Possibly this could be valuable in a hybrid build that sometimes gets into close range combat, though. Oh, and it has a cooldown of 200 turns, fair warning.

Psychometry

Flawlessly identifies an artifact, and teaches you how to build it if you have the right Tinker skills (actually, this seems to be bugged at the moment, and will teach you to build any artifact at all as long as you have Tinkering I.) Also it opens most locked doors for you (which won't really matter once you have Teleportation.) This mutation is fun, but ultimately it just isn't worth it -- with your ridiculous Ego, you'll eventually be able to buy the recipes for anything you want to build, and tinkering (while it can be nice) just ultimately isn't as valuable to you as your mutations are.

Disintegration

Massive 7x7 blast of disintegration centered on you, followed by stunning you for 3 turns. This is hugely destructive, especially to inanimate things like walls or robots. In terms of raw damage over a large area, this is the best mutation in the game. The problems are that it's centered on you (and you probably don't want to get near enemies), it leaves you vulnerable afterwards, it clears out walls (which is bad for you because you want to get Teleportation to use them for cover), and last but very much not least, it tends to destroy your loot. it's also really not a good idea to combine it with Temporal Fugue. With all that said, you could probably find lots of good ways to use this... but I'd recommend you go for something with more finesse.

Mental Mirror

Reflects Sunder Mind... and does nothing else. While Sunder Mind is a really nasty power, and enemy Espers are going to be one of the biggest threats you face (not in the least because they're usually going to have this mutation, so you can't instakill them with Sunder Mind yourself), I still don't recommend taking this. First, you'll probably have decent Willpower, so you won't take huge damage from Sunder Mind anyway relative to everyone else; and second, it's just way too specific. Enemy Espers are nasty, but they're not that common.

Precognition

Save-scumming as a mutation. There's a lot of cool things you can do with this, like checking to see what mutations you'll learn (though you may have to play a bit to make the random seed for whatever you were doing advance), or buying and identifying artifacts and then reverting your vision if you didn't like them, or always getting the stat you want from Eaters' Nectar Injectors, or never failing to Dominate a shopkeeper... but its most basic function is to serve as an invulnerable defense against absolutely anything bad while its duration lasts. Combined with a high level of Mass Mind, you can keep it up 24-7 and become nearly unkillable, especially if you also have Teleportation and are careful to always reach a safe spot before it expires. Be warned that the cooldown for this mutation is really high and doesn't decrease with its level; this is the main reason it's not listed as more important. If you do take it, try to combine it with Mass Mind to give it late-game power.

Space-Time Vortex

Summons a vortex that teleports anything that walks into it to a random part of Qud -- sometimes on the surface, but often deep underground. Occasionally (very, very rarely) things may wander out of it, too, including glowfish merchants. You don't get XP or loot from things that get sucked into it, of course (they're actually still alive, somewhere), but it does serve as a way to eliminate really dangerous foes. Oh, and you can step into it yourself, providing you with a viable but dangerous escape option (though it's less dangerous if you have a recoiler.) You could also do weird things like use Domination to step into it and explore, or use Precognition to use it safely. Still, ultimately this mutation is more of an amusing trick than something you'd base a serious strategy on.

Stunning Force

Does somewhat low damage in a wide area, knocks everyone around, and stuns them. This is an alright substitute for Pyrokinesis / Cryokinesis, but much more prone to friendly fire in the hands of Temporal Fugue duplicates, and not as good at straight-out killing stuff. Oh, and it can be targeted through walls using Clairvoyance, even if its animation wouldn't make you think it could... using it like this is a bit less useful than other such mutations, though, since the damage is low.

Teleport Other

Makes an adjacent enemy be somewhere else. It's random, and you generally want to avoid letting the enemies get that close in the first place; but it does drop all the way down to a cooldown of 5 at level 11, making it pretty easy to just dismiss close-ranged opponents as they reach you. Also, it only costs 2 mutation points. Unfortunately, a lot of the most dangerous enemies in the game are dangerous at range, and this won't really help you with them... but given that this eventually makes you nearly immune to being engaged at close range, it's probably still worth a look if you have two points to spare at chargen.

Time Dilation

Slows time for nearby enemies based on their proximity; at close range and high level, it nearly stops them entirely. Another powerful option for close-range Espers... but, as with a lot of the other mutations I rejected above, the problem is that you don't usually want to fight at close range; and many of the most dangerous enemies are deadly at range. Still, this mutation is really good at what it does. Oh, and this is another mutation you should generally avoid combining with Temporal Fugue. The time dilation fields of your duplicates overlap and will stop time completely for anything inside them until they wear off (and they will wear off even in stopped time, thankfully)... but unfortunately, you are not immune to your duplicates' fields, so you tend to get frozen in time yourself. There's probably still some way to exploit the combo if you're extremely careful and use Teleportation, but I'm not sure it's worth it.

Confusion

Confusion makes every enemy in a 3x3 area wander randomly (and imposes big mental penalties, although those rarely matter.) While it says confusion is not fully implemented yet, it appears to work fine. The 40 turn cooldown isn't that bad, and it's effective at what it does, making it good both as an emergency escape option and as a way of keeping enemies from fighting back while you finish them off with other attacks.

It's a strong mutation for more "mixed" builds, but I feel that it's not great for a dedicated Esper - a gun-user or melee combatant can easily kill anyone rendered helpless by it, but for an Esper, you could often have just dealt with them directly with another mutation, without needing to rely on some other option to finish them off. Force Wall is often going to be better at what it does. Also, some things are immune to it. Still, it's good at what it does and can render a group of enemies more or less helpless; even with no agility and no skills, it usually isn't hard to finish off confused enemies using a gun.
Other Mutations, Pt 3
Kindle

Starts a small (non-damaging) fire at moderate range. This mutation does have some uses. It can reduce the danger of cold damage, or increase the danger of fire damage; and while it does no damage directly, it can ignite webs or boil liquids into steam (although sadly in both cases the resulting damage awards you no XP.) It can illuminate areas at range in order to let you target distant enemies in the dark, too, although Clairvoyance kind of does that better. Unfortunately, 1-point mutations don't increase in level, so this is sort of a waste.

Sense Psychic

Warns you of nearby psychics. In addition to pinpointing obvious psychics, it can alert you about otherwise innocent-looking uniques who have mental powers. Ultimately, though, psychic powers aren't that common in Qud, and you have Clairvoyance anyway. Again, doesn't gain levels.

Telepathy

Lets you talk at sight range. With Clairvoyance you can talk to anyone on the current screen. It lets you avoid the penalty for losing your tongue to glotrot, but you can cure that if you know what you're doing; and there doesn't seem to be much other use for it.
Background and skills.
You want to be an Apostle. The +2 Ego is essential. Don't be a Graybeard; the Willpower isn't as important in the long run, and most of their skills are less useful to an Esper. The Water Merchant skills are even less relevant. Meanwhile, the Apostle skills...

Proselytize is incredibly valuable. In the early game, you should try to have a proselytized ally at all times (if you're without an ally for whatever reason, keep spamming it on a Watervine Farmer, a goat, or a beetlebaum until it works, depending on your level.) Later on (once you start teleporting everywhere) it becomes a bit less useful, but it's still nice to have. The main thing to understand is that it works on almost everything. Watervine farmers, snapjaws, giant crabs, sabertooth tigers, oozes... everything. You can only have one ally at a time with it, but they're very very useful; they can provide additional damage, block enemies from reaching you, cover your retreat if you need to escape, and generally provide support. They make Force Wall more powerful, too (because you can cage monsters in with them to force them to fight your ally instead of you.) And if your ally dies, you can always try to Proselytize an adjacent opponent to get yourself out of a pinch. Proselytize also has strong synergy with Dominate, if you get that mutation, since you can use Dominate to equip your ally and have them spend the attribute, skill, and mutation points they get as they level up. Note that you cannot proselytize anything above your level, so it will always fail on "tough" or above enemies.

Intimidate is also a very useful panic button early on; scaring adjacent enemies away is often as good as killing them, since you can either retreat or blast their retreating backs.

Your skill options beyond that are somewhat limited by your lack of agility or strength, but most of the available options can be valuable.

From the Ego tree, I strongly recommend you learn Menacing Stare -- it'll give you another way to make enemies run away, which can be valuable if you have something nasty at close range while your other stuff is on cooldown. And while its range of 5 isn't huge, it's far enough to drive away dangerous ranged attackers that are outside the range of Intimidate. Remember that a fleeing enemy won't attack, so a perfectly valid (if someone harsh) option is to use Menacing Stare or Intimidate to make an enemy flee, then Laze or shoot them in the back. It also combines well with Prostytize and minion-based strategies, since you can use it to save your allies (who don't always know when to retreat) by forcing enemies to back off from them.

Berate, meanwhile, basically makes an enemy suck -- they get steep penalties to to-hit, DV, Ego, Willpower and Quickness. The last one is particularly noticeable; Berated enemies slow down significantly.

Inspiring Presence applies a 4 * Egomod hitpoint bonus to your followers. Since your ego is going to be very high, this bonus can be significant (especially if you take Beguiling and have two followers as a result).

Don't take Snake Oiler if you're thinking long-term. The best prices you can get cap out at an Ego bonus of +9; since you'll aim to reach that eventually, Snake Oiler will eventually be useless to you, and even before then, you get diminishing returns. Snake Oiler is an excellent skill for anyone who has just a little bit of Ego (just enough to qualify for it), but it's bad for a heavily Ego-focused character like an Esper.

Tinkering is much more valuable now that you can add mods to your equipment; while you're unlikely to be able to go above basic tinkering, your high Ego makes it easy to buy disks and scrap from people like Argyve, so you'll be very good at it. Depending on what mods you get, you can get free DV or AV, reduce the weight of your equipment to compensate for your low strength, and scope or counterbalance your weapons to compensate for your low accuracy. Being able to craft grenades as needed also adds a bit of versatility to your character, although once you have enough mutations you're unlikely to need them very often. Finally, being able to deconstruct stuff you find into bits allows you to essentially carry more loot, giving you a way to benefit from all the Goatfolk with heavy guns you encounter in the wild later on.
Equipment
Your high ego makes prices cheap; take advantage of this. Buy up all the bullets offered by any merchant you encounter, and all the vinewafers you can get your hands on. Anything else weight-free should generally be purchased... definitely buy a bunch of bandages. Eventually your Ego will reach the point where you can basically trade things back and forth at virtually no loss.

But mostly, carry a gun. This is particularly important with Force Wall, since you can shoot through it with a gun (and not with light manipulation); even very powerful opponents can often be killed by boxing them in with forcefields and shooting them repeatedly. It also gives you a backup option if all your mutations are on cooldown.

Grenades work similarly, but you probably don't want to carry too many due to the weight. If you learn tinkering, you can make them as you need them, anyway.

Obviously you want equipment to raise your ego as high as possible. Beyond that, you want to raise your AC -- your DV is going to suck anyway due to your low agility. Don't rely purely on forcefields; later in the game, there are lots of enemies that can throw stuff through them. This is why you have 18 toughness, too.

One note when it comes to ego-raising equipment: You can cut off an enemy's face and wear it for an Ego boost. The hard part is that you have to cut it off while fighting them, which is only possible in two ways, both of which happen at random. One is by using the Axe skills of Dismember or Berserk; you're unlikely to be able to (or want to) learn them yourself, but if you have Domination you could consider having an ally learn them. The other option is to use a weapon with the serrated mod. Unfortunately, in both cases the chance is low. It's also possible (in theory) to get a copy of your own face by fighting something like a Madpole until they cut it off, then regenerate it with Ubernostrum tonic; however, you're quite likely to die or lose other limbs in the process, so this is really only an option if you have Precognition to try repeatedly until it works. It might be slightly safer to lead proselytized allies to Madpoles and let them get their face ripped off.

Even if you have light manipulation, carry a backup light source (and try to get a glowsphere or floating glowsphere as soon as possible.) Light manipulation has a nasty drawback where the light radius it provides decreases as you use it; if you're not careful, you can end up in the dark with no more laze shots... not a good place to be.

With 10 Strength and 10 Agility, you are only really going to be good at melee for brief windows when using Ego Projection. Still, Qud tends to throw enemies with a wide variety of threat-levels at you, and it's useful to be able to kill weak enemies in melee at higher levels. Vibroblades, Gaslight weapons, or the Ceremonial Vibrokhopesh can negate your lack of strength. Short Blade Expertise or Duelist Stance can partially compensate for your low accuracy; with those, perhaps some agility-boosting equipment, and a weapon that doesn't rely on strength, you can kill weaker things in melee.

A somewhat niche late-game option is to wield the Fist of the Ape God, a cudgel dropped by the ape deity found in a randomly-hidden dungeon somewhere near Kyakukya. The Fist grants +4 Ego (obviously useful to us) and +3 to-hit (making up for our abysmal agility, especially if combined with Cudgel Proficiency); it also has a decent base damage and allows unlimited strength bonus, making it brutally dangerous when combined with Ego Projection. However, there's a catch; it has a whopping weight of 120, so with your low natural strength you will realistically need a Hoversled and multiple Spheres of Negative Weight just to lug it around.
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16 Comments
Vivisector 9999 May 14 @ 8:39pm 
Also chiming in to thank you for this excellent guide. I was having trouble figuring out a good esper build, and this was great.
jens0512 May 3 @ 8:08am 
Awesome guide :D. Thank you very much.
Aquillion  [author] May 1 @ 11:14pm 
Really? Hmm. That makes it a bit better, since realistically a PC Esper will overwhelm NPC espers in terms of number of shields, letting them sunder enemy espers with impunity. I still don't think it's a great mutation, though - still too specific.
The Dark Lord May 1 @ 3:38am 
If two psyhics with Mental Mirror attack each other with Sunder Mind or Confusion, the attack will bounce between them until one of them no longer has any reflections left.

That's confirmed on the wiki.
The Warlock VDS𝟺𝟻 Apr 2 @ 6:45pm 
i was actually able to get a Snapjaw's Face very early on in the game to boost my Ego. i convinced a farmer with a Serrated vinereaper to join me and he was able to dismember some guy's face. maybe that might not be too bad of a strategy
Aquillion  [author] Jan 21 @ 4:18am 
If you don't want to take any drawbacks, either Ego Projection or Teleport Other are useful with your last two points. You could also take Kindle + Sense Psychic, but I recommend against it because they won't benefit from your Ego and because taking a two-point mutation removes it from the pool of possible things to learn as you level, which increases your chance of getting good stuff.
HOUR HERO YES Jan 18 @ 5:53pm 
I still have 2 skill points left after choosing clairvoyance, force wall, and light manipulation? which other skills should i take
The Dark Lord Jan 15 @ 11:42am 
The wiki says that Telepathy allows talking when afflicted by Glotrot.
Robot Cousin Jan 10 @ 6:35pm 
Fantastic guide, but I'd like to add in the character code for ease of use.

BAEEMMMUABDCDJDL

Mutated Human Apostle

Clairvoyance
Force Wall
Light Manipulation

Stats:
S: 10
A: 10
T: 18
I: 18
W: 18
E: 26
Tildy Nov 13, 2016 @ 9:32am 
Excellent, very well written guide.