Posted this on my Kingdom of Loathing clan's message board and since I spent two hours working on it, I thought I might as well post it here as well. If you're not a Loather, it probably won't interest you.
Got a kmail in response to the skills thread regarding how I run my hardcore runs. With the author's permision, I'll share it:
Wow... That's some nice hardcore that's going on there.
What's the secret? That's faster than most people can do softcore runs... How are you getting it so fast?
Could you give me a brief overview of where you use your turns, what you eat, and what you drink?
And just so everyone's on the same page, here's my ascension record:
I'll begin by saying I'm not going for speed. That is, I'm not going for the speed hardcore recordboards. They're much faster than I am and far more disciplined. To much regimentation and KoL wouldn't be fun for me. I like to think of my runs as "rapid" runs: try to do them as swiftly as possible but drink green beer on Sneaky Pete's day, Trick or Treat on Halloween and have a blast at Crimbo.
Having said that, here's my secrets. First off, I play every day. The only days I've missed in the last year were in November when I had to stay with my brother was in the Children's Hospital for a week and they didn't have wireless internet access. So I never miss a day's worth of food and (path willing) booze. Secondly, the order of hardcore skills kept makes a huge difference. The more skills you have, the faster you go. The last secret is knowing what to do when in a run. But that's really no secret either, it just comes with experience. Experience that I don't mind sharing.
Playing every day is so much easier on the new servers. KolMafia and Greasemonkey scripts are a must. I can run through a day's turns in about 25-40 minutes if I have to pay attention and micromanage. Which is the normal pattern of events. But, as I've mentioned before on the forums, I remodel houses and travel a lot. Last year I drove over forty thousand miles. I've unpacked my laptop at foodcourts, restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies, bookstores, just so I could play my turns. Am I commited player or am I a compulsive player? Who knows, but a player that plays every day is going to have an edge. That player can get full adventures from eating and drinking. That player knows he or she can bank turns for stat days
. Don't get me wrong, plenty of casual players enjoy the game and have a great time, but playing every day is the best way to rapid ascensions.
Even playing on my schedule, I muddled through my first couple hardcore runs. They were long and painful and a little boring. I ate a lot of urinal cakes. But as I gained Permenent Skills, the runs got faster, more fun and I got to eat a lot better food. The skills I've kept so far fall into three categories: familar skills, crafting skills and combat skills. Familiar skills are easy: there's only three of them. Amphibian Sympathy should be one of the very first skills a hardcore player keeps. Empathy and Leash can wait a bit, but Sympathy is probably the best skill in the game. I use a Cheshire Bat and that extra five pounds adds up to a lot of free stats. When I can afford to use the other two, the extra 15
pounds gives a whole lot of stats. Crafting skills let you eat and drink decent food regardless of what sign you've chosen. Pastamastery is first, then Saucecrafting and Cocktailcrafting rounds out the set nicely. Reagent dishes and later, chow meins, are among the best foods in the game. The recent upgrade to Disco Bandit drinks is a nice bonus, but the turns and stats gained from food still rule the roost. Armor and Weaponcrafting skils fit in here too. I make furry pants and that's about it. Lastly, the combat skills a player chooses is largely related to their personal combat style. It's hard to beat the LTSynergy combo for pure effectiveness, but a dedicated spellcaster or ranged weapon user may do just fine too. I'm rounding out my LTS skillset and as I add the last few skills I need, I expect my HC runs to get even more rapid.
As far as the day-to-day work in doing a run, here's what I can remember. On the first day, after ascending, I sell at least three of my Pork Elf gems, making a hamethyst necklace and a baconstone bracelet (yes Myst sign for the past 7 runs). With the proceeds I train my Coffee Pixie nine turns in the arena
and sub my Bitten in for the last turn, hoping for a Stone. If it's a clover day, I'll try and build a Rock and Roll Legend so I can cast Madrigal and Symphony. If I'm not coming off a Teetotaler run, I'll farm the Knob until the council gives me the larva quest, do that then do the the tavern quest. If I'm feeling ambitious, and I normally am, I'll track down Ratsworth and steal his monocle. I've got Elemental now, so I can skip the entryway and go right to Guano Junction. Set the MCD at four and get the Boss Bat Britches, which I'll wear basically until I ascend. Maybe the Knob opens up the first day, maybe it doesn't. If it does, then I farm a clover and get some reagent ingredients. Day two or three I usually finish out the Knob and help out the Friars. If I'm not a Teetotaler, I start farming the Barrel Full of Barrels for booze. I may be beefy enough the second or third day to take on the island (after Moxie shoring five times - regardless of class), slaughtering hippies for their clothing. Usually at this point I forget that I need to farm pixels, so I set the MCD to eleven and get to work. Day four, take on the Cyrpt, build the Bonerdagon Necklace and Badass Belt and hope that the Trapzor's quest has opened up. Day five, Orc Chasm. Day six, Beanstalk. Day seven, ascend (I was one turn away from having a seven day run last time). Maybe Day eight or nine, ascend. Throughout the run, I try to keep my familiar buffed, the mind control device high and my eyes on what I'm going to need next: Farming the Cove before the Chasm opens up, farming food on non-stat days for stat days, getting a wand for the inevitable wandly uses. Here's some things I stopped doing: farming a chef (or bartender) in a box. Planting mushrooms. Farming flanges. Eating Chow Meins. Just don't see the need for any of those things the way I play.
Although there's a lot here, this is still a very broad overview of my play style. There's a million little tricks a Loather picks up after repeated runs (like adventure in the Heart of the Woods or The Defiled Niche first when you do those areas and hope to get the elemental resistance item). None of them are secrets but there's too many of them for one post. But as a player ascends, future ascensions get faster and faster. Getting the first few out of the way is the tricky part.