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Combat will occur on any turn in which you initiate it; Monsters will not arbitrarily decide to take a bite out of you.

Monsters appear not on map squares, but at the borders between them; whether a monster will choose to fight is indicated in advance (you lucky people) by the icon in each cardinal direction. If you see an arrow, you can move unhindered; a battle-cross ( shows that the creature is up for a fight.

Creatures of low comparative level will often let you pass, as will those of your own alignment; however, much-higher-level monsters, even of your own alignment, may choose to fight. Certain items can avoid, realign, banish or anger monsters to avoid a fight or provoke one.

You always get the first opportunity of attack(s), then the monster gets theirs.


Your Attack

To take as an example weapon – your basic down-to-earth honest-john Fists:

  • Fists (1 40%)

This item description shows that your Fists will do damage of 1 HP when you manage to land a blow, which you'll do 40% of the time.

You attack the Duck.
You cause 1 point of damage, and receive 1 experience.

If the creature is weak against your alignment, your damage is doubled. Huzzah! Beat up on the weak!

You attack the Esquilax.
You cause 2 points of damage, and receive 2 experience.

This weapon has several numbers to consider:

  • Fire Stone (2 2x60%) x3

The Fire Stone will do damage of 2 HP when you land a blow, which is 60% of the time, and you get two attacks in a row, each with 60% chance (2x60%) - and costing you an AP each. You also happen to have two spares, but they do you no immediate good.

You attack the Sylph.
You cause 2 points of damage, and receive 2 experience.
You attack the Sylph.
You miss.

Ah, but that's not all.. against an Earth-aligned monster, this Fire Stone will do double damage:

You attack the Gnome.
You miss.
You attack the Gnome.
You cause 4 points of damage, and receive 8 experience.

.. and yet there's more. In the hands of a Fire-aligned player against this Earth-aligned beast, it does double damage again! You layer-downer of righteous fiery destruction, you know what you've done now?

You attack the Gnome.
You cause 8 points of damage, and receive 16 experience.
You attack the Gnome.
You cause 8 points of damage, and receive 16 experience.

Bows and arrows have way too many numbers:

  • Long Bow (4 5x80%)
  • Arrow (2 60%) x254

This Bow will give you five, yes, five attacks in a row! It'll cost you 5AP, but that may well be worth it to knock down that fearsome Roc before it gets in another six hits on you...

You will also need an Arrow for each attack you make using the Long Bow, but you may be able to recover these from the monster's corpse. You could always try and stab the monster with the Arrow (without using a bow); using the numbers above, you'd have a 60% chance of doing 2 damage.

The to-hit probability and damage of the Arrow and the bow are independent. As with all other weapons, the to-hit probabilities are modified by your character's base to-hit probability; this character has a base to-hit probability of 70% (Long Bow gives +10% to hit, Arrows have -10% to hit).

Monster Attack

Now the poor beleagured monster (who was just minding her own business before you came along) gets a go at you:

The Eagle attacks 2 times.
The Eagle misses you.
The Eagle causes 2 points of damage.

There is armour in Cities, but you must trade for it. Only Armourer characters may make armour, and you will almost certainly become a Knight first. Each piece of armour has a "coverage" rating, in percentile, which is cumulative. If you have a total of 50% coverage, you have a 50% chance of the armour absorbing some damage for each attack. A random piece is hit, and armour can wear out with repeated damage. Leather armour absorbs 20% of damage, while bronze armor absorbs 33% of damage. Armor absorbtion is rounded down, so it is quite possible to have a piece of armor absorb 0 points of damage.

If you are weak relative to the monster's alignment, he does double damage against you.

XP gain

(cribbed from an early entry on the New Stuff page)

You gain XP for each hit on a monster, rather than for the final kill – for that, you get to loot the corpse for items. The more damage you do, the more XP you get – and this is also scaled by "how hard" the combat is, as gauged by how much damage the monster can do to you:

  • XP is (Damage done) * (Monster's Damage) * (1+floor( Monster's Number of Attacks / 3 ) ).

So a monster which does 1 damage but has 12 attacks (e.g., 12 ants) will give 5XP per point of damage done. (damage * 1 * (1+12/3) = damage * 5)

  • As a side note, XP gain is based off of the monster's base hit value, and not any opposite alignment bonus hit value. -Geayzus 23:30, 12 March 2006 (GMT)

Conservative Combat

The most painful part about Cities is that, with the exception of scenarios like Che's just above, your deaths and follies are predictable. The game has random elements, but its general predictability (no critical hits, many near-100% success options) means that a failing is usually your own fault. At least in a more random game your mistakes aren't so glaring; either random chance can obscure your errors, or the death you suffer at your own hand is nothing compared to the twenty deaths last week you suffered as a result of the dice.
Dying is downright unpleasant. Not only do you have that charming little note on your character sheet declaring how many times your body has been dragged away, but all your stuff's gone, too. While there are half a dozen ways to suss out where your stuff is, once somebody else has nabbed it, it's theirs. More than this, though, the very act of surviving has allowed a mediocre player (and worse editor) like myself to be competitive with the mainstream in this game. I've come up with a few tips on avoiding the reaper.

  • Get insurance.
The instant you enter the game, go to the temple in the city you start in (use your map; you start with a map of your starting city), and get insurance. Go for the good stuff: lose no items, pay two days' AP. In the Bygone Olden Days of Old, this cost a cool 10,000 gold, but in these enlightened times, it's free. If you die, go back and get insurance again. Your progress in Cities can be measured both in quests completed and stuff gained, and they're very nearly the same value; later in the game, your stuff is worth far more than your quests. Don't lose your stuff. Get insurance.
  • Know thine enemy.
Basically, look around the Wiki here, especially as regards monsters. Figure out its hit points, how much damage it's capable of... you'll read more about that below... and finally, any special notes. Does it eat all your food as you fight it? Does a strike from it cause you to slowly lose hit points unto your death? Does it fall more easily to one device than another? Should you pack an aspirin? You just can't know unless you look it up. If it's not covered after a good search, consider adding any data you can find on the matter, as it would be a service to others.
I cannot stress this enough, for two Knights (myself included) have fallen to the beasts. If your opponent is a Mimic, scertain whether it is a Greater or Lesser Mimic. Attacking a Greater Mimic with a bow of any kind is most likely suicide.
In a game such as this, there's seldom any good reason to trust to chance.
  • Start small.
If you're just starting out and lack stuff, seek out the lowliest, weakest creature of that alignment which is weakest to you. Make sure you try for the less combative quests before you start chasing the nastier, more painful critters. Don't worry too much about being behind; it's a mutual journey, and there shall be other people further behind than you eventually. Some creatures, of course, just beg a good thrashing, even at low levels; these include
  • Leprachauns (which, by any other name, are just as much thieves) who shall steal your gold but give it back bloody when you're done with them.
  • Pinatas, which are defenseless wildlife that spill out that most beloved of Cities treats, random stuff!
Consider saving a pinata for folks who need to tick it off in their Spotter's Guide. More often than not, breaking a Pinata isn't worth the loot that comes out of it, and it really helps people out if you post the location on the Pinata Summon page.--Hamelin 01:31, 28 March 2006 (BST)
  • Vampires, which are nearly as defenseless when pressed with a pointy stick. I understand there's a risk of losing XP from their bite.
Nevertheless, when you're just starting out, try to avoid the Angels and Lions of your world. It's just not worth the trouble when you can get comparable treasure from a dozen Undines and Worms. With time, your pile of Stuff shall grow to include handy weapons of many shapes and sizes, reducing the necessity of fast gold from larger kills. If you must relieve boredom by killing a few big critters, feel free... but remember, they often won't give the gold you need to heal yourself, much less the items needed to speed your later kills.
  • Advance!
The biggest difference between a new player and an established one, in my experience, is your damage multiplier. Few things can offer you an increase to this all-important statistic other than the 'King, so look over the quests necessary to get in his good graces. This may not be a combat-specific point, and yet it's incredibly important not to neglect your advancement. Experience is nothing if you don't use it!
Basically, get to know the 'king, befriend the guards, then start the slow process of beefing yourself up to kill dragons. When you feel inclined to become a Duelist, make sure you've got a good strategy for your defense... or your offense, if that's how you wanna do it. Personally, I liked just sitting around the Fire Shrine and waiting for somebody to strike me. Took time, but it worked well enough.
Eventually, you may wish to travel down the path of the Armourer or the Wizard. This isn't recommended until you're much more experienced at Cities. Changing your class requires both a fair amount of work, and killing some rather dangerous creatures.
You should prioritize opportunities to increase your maximum HP. Whereas wizardly skills may increase your HP considerably on a temporary basis, a high Max HP increases the efficacy of your gold and AP when it comes to healing yourself up. This means a longer period between heals, and at exceedingly high power levels can be the difference between life and death.
  • Take advantage of alignment.
It's far easier to gut the beast if you've an alignment advantage, and that's easy enough to manufacture with the right wands. This may seem an aggressive thing to mention here, but in truth, it can halve the time you spend fighting a monster and decrease your problems considerably.
  • Better your AP than your HP.
Use a bow whenever feasible. Feasibility being defined as when it makes sense to, as opposed to always. This particularly applies to mosquitoes, dragons, triffids, or anything else you want to keep a good arm's reach from. While this will not prevent them from hitting you, a decent bow will allow you to do significant damage to your enemy before the enemy can get a strike at you. This applies to a few other weapons, too. Tars require their own special considerations, but hopefully I've already covered that in "know thine enemy." Finally, carry lots of bandages. Best to pick them up cheap, which means a trip to the Water City.
  • Better your gold than permanent harm.
Those familiar with my posts or my personal page will note that I'm quite fond of using the Golden Gun and Midas Wand. Although it may seem a frightful waste of gold, a conservative player will find he can get by well enough by marketting his masses of never-lost stuff for a fair amount of cash. Again, Tars are the exception; I cover those more just below this. Thus, if you need this kill, don't be afraid to dish out the cash to kill it right! It's not remotely going to be the most expensive thing you'll do in the course of this game.
Of course, Golden Guns simply aren't as common as they were when this guide was originally written; for further discussion of such matters, please check the next header, regarding conservation of weapons.
  • Know you can do it before you try.
It shouldn't take much math to figure it out. If you can kill it in one day's fighting, without risk of death, it's probably a good idea to kill it. While some things aren't worth the risk of breaking your weapon, many others are a great way to get an extra gold piece. More importantly, though, never sink your effort into killing a monster that you don't have the AP to kill right now, else somebody will... and I daresay rightfully... come along and kill it for you. Better to just wait until your AP is charged enough to kill the fellow yourself.
  • To quote Cicero, rashness characteristic of youth, prudence that mellowed age and discretion the better part of valor.
Like I said, death sucks. You lose stuff. Which makes it harder to fight enemies and complete quests. In that spirit, I recommend figuring out not how much damage an enemy averages, but how much it is capable of in a single action... and rely on it, however pessimistically, to strike you for that much. Better a happy surprise than an unhappy one, yes? So carry a large number of bandages wherever you go. A good start is to steal a hat of some kind, preferably a pirate's hat and dash to the Water City's big hospital. There you can purchase 10 bandages at a minor savings, a savings compounded by a good hat; try not to step away without at least 50. -- On the note of beating hasty retreats, I like to keep at least two stones and two talismans of each alignment, favoring the talismans for their relative inexpense. Not only are they frequently useful for quests and other such silliness, but it looks awfully pretty in your inventory. Finally, having a goodly compliment of King's Talismans, Brighthelm Rocks, and the four alignment thingies puts you in a very good position when you need to make a hasty getaway for whatever reason. I think you'll find it worth your while.
Also, don't forget this lesson when it comes time to capture the Snark; he's an AP-sucker to chase, but there is so very, very much worse in store for you if you're overconfident when fighting this beast. He's a great way to gauge your progress at all of the above.

Anyway, I hope you've found this Conservative Combat guide useful, and I invite all low-risk players to contribute. Edited S. Mackie, 07:33, 8 June 2007 (BST)

Conservation of Weaponry

Having mastered the art of Conservative Combat as described by the estimable Doc Mackie, let us turn our attention to the conservation of weaponry. Let's face it, weapons break. When good weapons break, it can be expensive and time-consuming to replace them (if not nearly impossible). The only way to keep them from breaking is to not use them. To take an extreme example, don't kill an Earth Worm with a Fire Sword.
Aligned weapons are tremendously useful, but scarce, and like all weapons, scarcity increases with stopping power. Thus breakage is more of a concern with more powerful weapons. Consider the case of Duke Foobar (Damage Multiplier 5, Base Accuracy 90%) with an array of aligned weapons at his disposal, facing a set of favorably aligned monsters of various HP. The weapons, and the damage they do, are as follows:

  • Martial Art (e.g., Fire Punch): 40
  • Knife: 60
  • Sword: 80
  • Catana: 140
  • Bow: Typically 360 or so

Our Duke wishes to conserve his more powerful weapons by not exposing them to the risk of breakage. This means not using them, or more practically speaking, not using them more than is necessary. If facing any properly aligned monster whose HP is less than 40 at any time, Duke Foobar will use his Martial Art, which does not break. If facing a properly aligned 50 HP creature, an aligned Knife will do the job. Duke Foobar knows that there is no reason to pull out an aligned Sword for a 50 HP monster. Doing so risks breaking it, and aligned Knives are much easier to come by than aligned Swords.
Note that if a 50 HP monster (e.g., a Thunderbird) is in its natural alignment (in this case Air), then there are two ways to kill it with (typically) 2 AP. Duke Foobar could align it properly with a Wand, then do it in with a Knife of his own alignment, at 60 HP damage. A more conservative approach, however, might be to forgo the Wand and just bash the monster twice with a Knife of its opposing alignment (in the case of a Thunderbird, an Earth Knife), dealing 30 HP a whack (unless Duke Foobar is Earth aligned, of course).
When needing to deal between 61 and 80 HP, an aligned Sword is the proper candidate, and from 81 to 140 HP Duke Foobar would use his aligned Catana. You may not have an aligned Catana, however. This means that snuffing any monster with more than 80 HP will require at least 2 blows.
To conserve weaponry, two shots with an aligned Knife is a better option than two shots with an aligned Sword for any beast up to 120 HP. Again, Duke Foobar knows that there is no reason to risk breaking an aligned Sword for a 100 HP monster. From 121 to 140 HP, the use of an aligned Sword followed by an aligned Knife is appropriate, as it exposes the Sword to half the risk as opposed to using it twice instead of combining it with the Knife.
These principles can be used with any combination of monsters and weaponry to determine the optimal weapons to use in most situations. To reduce risk and conserve AP, slay the beast in as few turns as possible given the choice of weapons at hand. To conserve weaponry, use the least damaging combination of weapons that gets the job done. Remember the Earth Worm and the Fire Sword - overkill means unnecessary risk of breakage.
Duke Foobar and I hope that this helps you to preserve your arsenal of shiny, shiny weapons. -- Sertularian 01:42, 18 July 2006 (BST)

Note that if you have a truly absurd to-hit bonus, both the Hammer of Thor and the Spear of Odin are "sticky" weapons that will never break, be stolen, or even be lost on death. Both weapons have a massive penalty to hit (-60% and -65%, respectively), but are only slightly worse than an aligned weapon in damage (6 and 7, respectively). Only an initially Fire-aligned player will be able to get these weapons up to 90% to hit, and if either weapon is worth using at your to-hit bonus, the Spear is usually more useful than the Hammer.

Footnote by S. Mackie:
Some weapons are rewarding despite a chance of overkill. Just as there's benefits to saving your big guns, there are benefits to using some weapons even when they're ridiculous. Much of this advice applies doubly to wizards and armourers, who may need pets to be terribly proficient at the daily commute to the office.

  • Rusty Sword: In addition to being quite damaging compared to other weapons of its drop statistic, these break into Bits of Iron. A small bonus, but meaningful if you're pet-dependent.
  • Sacrificial Sword: Very handy for tiny killing blows when your enemy's HP is very low. While this quirky weapon may not be especially useful in some circumstances, it's rather nice... again, when using pets.
  • Cross Bow variants: Up until the Furious Bow, each of the irritated bows will level into a more powerful weapon. Many's the duke who swears by the Furious Bow, and these make great gifts and sale items. In this manner, the daily commute can become a manufacturing process!
  • Bows in general: While one should never trust one's life to chance, one may occasionally decide to take a chance with one's stuff and time. When fighting small enemies which have non-deadly implications (infectious sewer rats, squirrels, triffids, similar) it can be a good idea to destroy such a creature as quickly and efficiently as possible. If your sword can kill it in one shot and your bow can kill it in 2, it's probably a good idea to use the bow, as it drastically reduces risk of infection, theft, or poison. The odds of missing 5 or 10 times in a row are very low.


Death occurs when your hit points reach zero. If your death is to a particular beast, your insurance policy kicks in. By default, all but a program-defined few items (the "sticky" items) shall fall into the hands of the enemy. Worse yet, if that enemy falls to another sword later, your corpse will be in the hands of another player, and they are under no true obligation to return your stuff. However, you can change your insurance cover to retain half or all of your items in return for working at the shrine. (You need to choose your insurance policy before you die in order to be covered.) It cannot be stressed enough: get insurance. It's free. Losing your stuff is a heavy blow.

There are circumstances where death is less devastating, such as passing out while in the Desert or the Frozen North. You will merely be teleported to a Rescue Center, and all your belongings will stay with you.

Finally, there is the Knightly Order of Tubthumping, an order of knights recently formed to see to the health and welfare of the Community of the Disadvantaged, being those members of our land who have recently fallen valiantly before the foe. The order's primary purpose is to get the recently resurrected sufficiently equipped and delivered to their foe, so as to ensure that a player's possessions are returned to their hands. Doc Mackie

Other Stuff

(more TODO...)

Some monsters do things other than (or as well as) hurting you...

  • Leprechaun/Asbo (takes money when it hits)
  • Tar babies, living tars, and large living tars will eat stuff you strike them with, gaining a +10 HP bonus. They will not eat fists and martial arts attacks, though! (They also won't eat the Hammer of Thor or the Spear of Odin, but these weapons require a quite ridiculous to-hit before they're more worthwhile than martial arts attacks.)
  • Hungry ghosts will eat edible items on your person. Luckily, you can pass right through them without fear so long as you can't see them... and you won't be able to see them, except at midnight, unless some significant circumstance occurs, such as using a Spirit Sword or Diamond Bling.
Hungery ghosts don't give the stuff back either. They have an overactive digestive system apparently. Syagrius 00:30, 14 March 2006 (GMT)
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