My character is currently at XL17 (max so far), and I'm letting a wraith drain me prior to buying protection. I've completed my Quest, so no longer need to be at any particular level. Knowing that XL affects ML, I'm wondering if there's any benefit from lowering my level permanently, or if the previously achieved level dictates? Also, will DL eventually over-rule all of this? I'm wondering this because I haven't foud a genocide scroll and have terrible luck with the nasties.

2 Answers 2


From the source code (makemon.c):

zlevel = level_difficulty();
/* determine the level of the weakest monster to make. */
minmlev = zlevel / 6;
/* determine the level of the strongest monster to make. */
maxmlev = (zlevel + u.ulevel) / 2;

In plain English, monsters are generated with a difficulty between one-sixth the "zlevel", and the average of the "zlevel" and your current experience level.

"Zlevel" is a bit difficult to define. It's essentially:

  1. If you're in the elemental planes, it's the full depth of the main dungeon plus Gehennom, plus one-half your current experience level.
  2. If you've got the amulet, it's the depth of the deepest dungeon level you've reached.
  3. If you're in a branch of the dungeon that grows upwards, it's the depth of the branch entrance, plus the number of levels you've gone in the branch.
  4. Otherwise, it's the depth of the current level.

Yes, reducing your experience level will make the monsters easier. However, it doesn't make them much easier: the minimum monster difficulty is unaffected, and past dungeon level 30 (the shallow part of Gehennom), depth is the dominant factor even for someone who's been power-leveling.

In the endgame, it would seem like keeping your experience level low would be a good idea: since your experience is factored in twice, the formulas give a difficulty range of 11 to 49 for a level 30 player, versus 8 to 26 for a level 1 player. However, apart from arch-liches (29) and archons (26), the most difficult randomly-generated monsters in the game are level 22.

  1. On the way down, a Monster is selected with a difficulty that ranges from (Dungeon Level / 6) to ( (Dungeon Level + Player Level)/2 ). Once you've hit the sanctum, just assume that you're Dungeon level is pegged there.

  2. When a monster of appropriate difficulty is selected it's Level (base Hit Die) is then modified based on Dungeon Level (-1 or +1/5 the level difference) and your Level (+1/4 the level difference).

For example, let's say you've found the castle on DL27.

  • Minimum Difficulty is 5: Killer Bees, Gnomish Wizards and the like.
  • Maximum Difficulty for a L1 Character is 14: Lich, Vampire Lord, Disenchanter...
  • Maximum Difficulty for a L17 Character is 22: Krackon, Mastadon, Iron Golem...
  • For the L17 Character any Killer Bees or Gnomish Wizards will get a boost of 3HD more than the L1 Character.

Personally I'd rather have the extra 16 Levels worth of Hit points, +16 to-Hit, Skill points enough to max out my favorite Melee & Ranged weapons with enough left over for "Skilled" in a couple of other abilities. At Level 17, "Skilled" in a school gives "easy" casting of spell level 5.

This means that by artificially limiting your own experience level you can have some effect on Monster Difficulty and Hit Dice. Unfortunately, taken to extremes, this also allows you to be regularly outclassed by the Monsters you encounter. You'll also notice that the highest difficulty baddies in the game are not randomly generated, but standing around waiting for you, and showing up at Experience Level 1 won't rob them of a single Hit Die.

  • So, you're saying....it's using CURRENT level? This character as HP(dnurses, potions too), AC and accuracy/strength, tryin a novel tack to let my pets levelup, and maybe ascend XL1 from 1st entry to Valley.
    – slowball16
    Jan 12, 2017 at 21:56
  • @slowball16 Yes, I'm saying the calculations use your current level. I'm also saying that being under leveled your current game stage will not keep you from seeing the most "difficult" monsters, and that Monsters will not have their default Hit Dice reduced to compensate for wimps. Just look at the difficulty table I've linked to, and you'll see that, by the sanctum, you'll be generating everything but newts, gnomes and the like anyway.
    – tjd
    Jan 13, 2017 at 13:26

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