Shapechangers are fighters that get abilities from the forms they can mimic. Basically, a Shapechanger will melee a lot with the benefits from their current form (resists, melee brands, AC, speed and to-dam boost...). Some of those forms will provide innate spells and even breath attacks. Shapechangers get basic mana points to cast those spells (note that breath attacks, like for the Dragon race, don't cost mana, but HP instead...). Monster spells can be very helpful sometimes: support spells (Blink, Teleport, Heal...), ranged attacks (all sort of bolts, balls, even arrows/missiles), which often only cost a few mana points and have a low fail rate. Some of those are easily available (a simple Novice Mage will give Blink, Magic Missile, Confuse and Blind... and a Novice Priest will give Heal, Cause Light Wounds and Scare), some will be more tricky to get.
What is the best race for a Shapechanger? I'd say any race can make a good Shapechanger, but I'd go for the extreme races as they tend to make the best Shapechangers:
- Ent: huge STR, CON and HP boost, possibility of multiple bpr at start, racial ESP every 5 levels (animal at 10, orc at 15, troll at 20, giant at 25, dragon at 30, demon at 35, undead at 40, evil at 45... and ESP radius at 50)... making form hunting really easy, at least in the beginning... however they get a huge xp penalty to compensate, and a small speed penalty (-2 in normal form, -1 when polymorphed)
- Thunderlord: good STR, CON and HP boost, ESP dragon and ESP radius right at birth (with radius growing with level) making life easy (good for form hunting especially dragon forms... but not as good as Ent)... at a cost of an outrageous xp penalty
- Yeek: pathetic stats and HP but really really fast levelers... and once polymorphed they regain half of the stat loss they suffer from being a Yeek
Note that as Shapechanger you cannot choose the Dragon race.
So how to play a Shapechanger? Basically, you will spend half your time scumming for forms. At start, depending on your race, you'll choose a light weapon (if you can get multiple bpr) or a heavy one (if you're limited to 1 bpr) and use missiles as backup. More than half of the game will be hard, because the forms you will use for their abilities (resists, speed...) will have much less HPs than what you would have when using your normal form. Here's a good stategy with Shapechangers:
- macro your normal form: \e^V0\n
- get a form with a speed bonus at once (even Fruit Bat is nice at low level) and macro it: \e^V(form number)\n
- switch between those two forms when fighting (depending on your race, one of the two could be more powerful)
- get a PASS_WALL form as soon as possible (Phantom Warrior is easy to get, they appear in groups and are one of the few ghostly PASS_WALL forms without erratic movement), it makes life *very* easy
- scum for wands of clone monster: you will need those to speed the process of getting new forms (although cloned monsters won't give loot or xp, they will still increase your kill counter to get better forms)
- try to improve your "speedy" form: for example, it's easy to improve from Cave Spider to Wood Spider and then Mirkwood Spider before reaching 1000ft (Mirkwood Spider will also give you resist poison and poison branded melee attack)
- between 1k and 2k, you should look for Hydras: 5-Headed Hydra is a nice form at that point, and with resist poison and clone wands you should be able to get the form quickly... this should help you pass stat gain
- at this point, ESP becomes really valuable: since full ESP is now really hard to obtain, go for a mix (ESP animal + ESP evil would be great, ESP radius is always great to have too)
- around 2k, look for Zoos: they often have a lot of Hydras and you should be able to improve your Hydra form up to 11-Headed Hydra
- an alternative solution is to look for Angel pits: instead of the Hydra path, you could choose the Angel path (Cherub, Seraph)... however the high level Angels (Archons, Fallen Angels) would probably kill you if you're not prepared
- once you have ESP undead or better, you should improve your PASS_WALL form: Phantom Warrior is really weak past midgame, and you really need a PASS_WALL form with speed and better HPs; Shadow and Phantom are the first forms with speed and without erratic movement; if you can, get a better form like Nether Wraith, or even better... Death Quasit (very fast)
- between 2k and 3k, it's time to really improve your main forms: aim for a form with +20 speed (Archon is great and easily available from pits), and if you don't have a good PASS_WALL form get Ethereal Hound (easy to get from packs), Great Ethereal Drake, Archlich, Elder Vampire or Dreadlord
- hack your way through the dungeon until you reach 4900ft; don't kill the uniques that come with "useful" escorts: Tiamat, Ancalagon, Lungorthin, Gothmog; use them to get a good D or U form
- once you're ready, get your ultimate forms: Greater Balrog, Ancient Wyrm...
- now you should be a walking truck... clear your unique list, gather heals and go kill morgy!
PWMAngband Maintainer - Check http://www.mangband.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=9 and download the latest client, server, lib files, sound fx patch and even the source code for this new variant!