Caves of Qud is a science fantasy RPG and roguelike epic steeped in retrofuturism, deep simulation, and swathes of sentient plants. Come inhabit an exotic world and chisel through a layer cake of thousand-year-old civilizations. Play the role of a mutant from the salt-spangled jungles of Qud, or play as a true-kin descendant from one of the few remaining eco-domes: the toxic arboreta of Ekuemekiyye, the ice-sheathed arcology of Ibul, or the crustal mortars of Yawningmoon. Decide: is it a dying earth, or is it on the verge of rebirth?
I’m ashamed to say that although I’ve had Caves of Qud for quite a while, I’ve only recently started getting somewhere with it. I expect that like most folks who’ve tried it, I got killed pretty quickly, and left it for a rainy day when I’d have the time to get to grips with its wacky ways.
The thing is, it’s not actually hard to survive your first forays in Qud if you act like your life depends on it. Don’t expect to button-mash your way to victory when a troop of baboons takes a dislike to you. You best run!
To Freehold Games credit they’ve made Qud a lot more welcoming to newcomers than when I first started. There are now several pregenerated character types to help you get going.
Anyway here is my Noob’s Guide to Caves of Qud based on the things that I’ve picked up along the way. Who better to advise a noob than a noob mk II?
Let’s get going!
MOVEMENT (number pad)
Using the number pad on your keyboard (and not the cursor keys) is really useful for moving and interacting in the cardinal AND intercardinal directions (that is NE, SE, SW, NW). The thing is, your number pad may not seem to work. If you have a problem moving using the number pad, then give it your NUM LOCK a toggle and try again.
There are a few other controls which make movement easier, once you get used to them.
- Walk (W)
- Move to Edge (SHIFT+ENTER)
- Move somewhere (CTRL+ENTER)
- Stairs up/down (-/+ on number pad)
AUTO-EXPLORING (0 on number pad)
This function is a godsend. Not only will it save your fingers from doing the donkey-work of exploring every nook and cranny, but you can discover lore that’s engraved on everyday objects.
I would recommend trying not to provoke common Neutral lifeforms. If their faction becomes hostile to you, then you’ll not be able to auto-explore whilst they are in view.
Useful to show the positions of lifeforms in view, and the location of objects that you’ve discovered whilst auto-exploring. You can easily miss cave entrances in the wilds unless you use this feature.
Speaking of which, caves aren’t added to your Journal or World Map automatically. So if you find a cave, you can add them manually by opening your Journal (J) and Add (+ on number pad) an entry. This allows you to fast travel to it – handy, huh? You might as well give it a memorable name while you’re at it.
WORLD MAP (zoom out/zoom in -/+ on number pad)
As long as you aren’t lost on the surface, you can view and travel using the World Map. One square on the World Map is referred to as a parasang. Each parasang is equal to 9 game screens – there is one screen for each compass direction and one in the centre. Both the surface and sub-surface game screens are identical in size, so it’s possible to figure out where you are when you’re underground if you’ve been paying attention.
If you want a closer look at anything, then try LOOKING at it. It’s worthwhile looking at items in your inventory if you want an idea of how they might benefit you.
INTERACTING (SPACE or CTRL+SPACE)
You can press SPACE to interact with things nearby. But if there’s more than one thing in a location, then it’s best to use CTRL+SPACE which is more thorough. NB You can interact with things in your location by choosing 5 (on number pad) as the direction.
Get (G), Open (O) and Chat (C) are useful interaction shortcuts.
ATTACK (Ranged: F then F. Melee: direction)
You can carry both ranged and melee weapons. So do so. But remember it will take a turn to Reload (R) your ranged weapon when your ammo is depleted. You can sometimes buy yourself some time by moving away as enemies won’t always follow your every move.
If you’re determined to fight things, and it’s daylight, then you may as well equip a 2nd weapon rather than carrying a torch. You won’t always hit with it, but it may help. Using a buckler shield on your arm, isn’t going to hurt either.
RUN AWAY & HIDE
There are lots of things that want to kill you. If in doubt, SPRINT. Also remember to use cover to your advantage. You can sometimes throw enemies of the scent if they lose sight of you. But if you’re planning an ambush from behind cover, then you’ll need to Wait (5 on numberpad) until the time is right.
And don’t fight Baboons, Irritable Tortoises or Turrets. They are a nightmare in early game. Snapjaws aren’t too bad as long as you don’t let them swarm you. Crocs are your best bet for easy pickings.
FORCE ATTACK (CTRL+direction)
By default you can’t attack non-hostile lifeforms – if you try, you just swop places with them. However you can Force Attack non-hostiles and inanimate objects. This can be used to destroy cobwebs and even break down walls.
Time is a great healer. If you’re in a bit of a bad way, you could either Wait a turn at a time (5 on number pad) or Wait til Healed (‘).
MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE
It doesn’t hurt to have backup. Depending on your character type you may be able to Beguile or Proteslyze lifeforms to fight on your behalf. But if not, you can always try to persuade them to be your companion through if your reputation with their faction is high enough.
If you do gain a follower, then it can be useful to give them a name (Interact with them to get the option). It helps you identify them when they’re amongst a group of their own kind. They’ll also appear friendly if you Highlight (ALT) your surroundings.
THIRST / HUNGER
You will get thirsty so always carry some fresh water. If you’re running low, it’s not too hard to get hold of some by selling some of your bits and bob (see TRADE below). All the villages that I’ve been to seem to have a local dish which you can snaffle a sample of from their communal kiln. If it gives you any desirable special effects (see STATUS SCREENS below). then it’s worth buying the recipe from the villagefolk.
As far as Cooking and Gathering skills go, I think Butchery is more useful than Harvestry. Vinewafers are cheap and plentiful and not really that appetizing on their own. All the good recipes that I’ve discovered so far include some kind of jerky. So you might as well stock up as soon as you can. For maximum efficiency, you can even toggle your Butchery skill, so that you automatically do the business when you find a corpse. Mmm mmm!
There’s so much more to the game than first meets the eye. I’d recommend getting familiar with the following status screens. It could be a matter of life or death!
You can either use the appropriate shortcut key or press TAB to open your Inventory and then 7 or 9 (on number pad) to tab through the various screens.
- Character sheet (X)
- Equipment (E)
- Inventory (I)
- Skills / Powers (P)
If you think that something’s up with your character, then try looking at Active Effects, which is a sub-page of your Character Sheet.
There are other status screens which are useful, eg Journal (J) and Quests (Q), but I think they’re not so important very early on when you’re mainly concerned with trying not to die.
I found trading one of the most confusing aspects of the game at first. The unit of currency seemed to be the Dram, which is water, but items also had a value in $. Trading is done via bartering – which is fair enough – but having two currencies to factor in to the equation was mind-melting to my tiny peabrain. The thing is, the answer is really simple. There is only one. Drams are $. DOH!
When trading, the difference between what you’re buying or selling is rounded to the nearest Dram, but not in your favour. So when you’re selling more than you’re buying, you may as well offer slightly more than a whole Dram, and when buying more than you’re selling, slightly less than a whole Dram to get the best deals.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Drams of water may be the unit of currency but water is heavy. And not that valuable. 4 Drams of water weighs 1#. I’m not sure what the unit is called but that’s the symbol for it – knowing Qud it’s probably something like Dongras. So if you find that you’re getting weighed down, then try buying items that are worth more but weigh less than water and pay for it with Drams rather than bartering. But don’t spend it all. You’re gonna need some fresh water to drink remember! Oh and if you find you’re packing too much meat to carry . . . it’s worth noting that raw giblets weigh more than preserved meat. So make some jerky at your camp fire!
I made a PDF of the keys that I used to get me going. You can download it here.