This guide will try to fully cover all of the dryad types, their uses in game, and how they compare to alternatives. Additionally the gauranlen trees will be important.
Ultimate Guide to Dryad Types
Gauranlen Trees as a Whole
Gauranlen trees boast unprecedented hardiness compared to all other plants. They can grow on a wide variety of tiles and heal themselves over time.
The Gauranlen trees will continue to support their dryads year-round, and are only affected by connection strength.
They have a high potential in making difficult games possible, such as those in the extreme desert, where there is no arable land for plants, but plenty of sand for the tree. Or those in low grow period zones, where the tree will maintain it's production through winter and even in a no-grow tile, such as the northernmost tundra tiles. They remain unable to grow in ice sheets. They can also be planted on fungal gravel (unlocked by tunneler meme) in the dark.
For players that prefer year-round preferable biomes, the trees have specific uses, but remain weak in comparison to growing alternatives, combat dryads are the same regardless of map.
How long do they take to maintain?
A pawn at plants skill 0 will take 7.5 hours a day to maintain 4 dryads on a tree, or above 65% connection strength. Assuming 5% above the connection strength: 1 dryad: 3.3 hours, 2 dryads: 4.8 hours, 3 dryads: 6.7 hours. At plants 10, they only take 5.8 hours. They take a minimum of 5 hours at plants 20.
Your pawn will get faster at maintaining the tree since pruning gives plant experience.
Can I prune them faster (aka get more dryads)?
Currently pruning is only affected by plants skill. A pawn with wooden hands and 50% manipulation will prune the same speed as a pawn with 2 field hands. Other than increasing plants skills you can't make them faster.
As a note, pawns with a tree-connection-ideoligion should prune faster, but don't at the current moment. I will update this when they do with how much faster they are.
Combat Dryads: The Clawers and the Barkskins
These fearsome dryads will follow their tree's connected pawn into battle and fight similarly to animals. Power wise, the clawers are incredibly high damage, boasting a 7.44 melee DPS with an astonishing 80% armor penetration. That is enough to readily tear through the armor of nearly every enemy the game can throw at you, including mechanoids. Barkskins have a high armor stat, 60% sharp and 30% blunt, that will help deflect every couple of shots they take. The clawers more noticeably faster than the barkskins, but only by a difference of 0.8cells/sec.
The only pawns that have a chance to deflect or blunt the attack are those with power armors that give them higher than 80% sharp armor. This includes the shattered empire's cataphract soldiers and some particularly heavily armored industrial tech enemies, like those in the rough outlander factions, who have a chance to wear marine or recon power armor. Note that they can still kill these pawns, they just won't be able to consistently penetrate the armor.
In terms of practical use, like other animals, numbers always help. Having multiple pawns have a tree with combat dryads can replace the need for your colonists to fight at all. A group of 4 clawers could take out early game raids, and using the 4:4 strategy, you should be able to defend against a fair amount of mid game raids with 12 or so enemies. To deal with the late game raids with many pawns, a different approach is necessary, but the dryads can defend their master by taking melee pawn aggro. Game-ending raid sequences are too dense for the dryads to recover fully, so use them sparingly to help in those critical raids and as pawn defense.
They cannot be included on caravans and thus should only be considered for defense, which makes sense.
General advantages of animals as fighters that also apply to dryads
They are animals and not colonists. They can be easily replaced while colonists are not. Losing 4 clawer dryads to a centipede will hurt less than your combat pawn.
Healing your dryads
Dryads are unique in that they can fully recover... somewhat. By changing the caste on the dryads tree, all of the non-downed dryads will attempt to make a cocoon to change into the new caste, which takes 6 days. When they emerge, all injuries will be removed and they will be just like new. This is really good, since that means they can take all kinds of beatings when in combat. This can be cancelled at any time if necessary by reselecting the caste the dryads are changing from, in case of an emergency.
Normally, they will quickly recover injuries but not lost limbs. They don't benefit from medicine and should be set to tend only. Let your pawns tend them, especially important if they were downed, they must be able to walk to enter a cocoon.
Why I recommend matching your number of clawers to barkskins
Because of the healing using cocoons, switching your barkskins to clawers and your clawers to barkskins after a battle will allow you to get back full hp dryads.
Replacing Dead Dryads
Because the dryads are living creatures, they are capable of dying as any other. When this happens, expect 8 days for an immature dryad and another 6 days for it tor cocoon into it's caste. If all of your dryads died in a battle (unlikely), it will take 38 days for a complete set of new dryads. Note that the actual time can differ because the first dryad won't always take a full 8 days. Realistically, about 75% of the dryads are downed rather than killed outright, and thus they can heal back as soon as they can walk again (note that they need at least 1% moving to do this, and be conscious, therefore if they lose all their legs they should be manually killed to replace them).
How to use them effectively
These guys are in my opinion significantly better than the barkskins. Since their damage output is so high, they can usually take out most enemy pawns solo, but do better ganging up on one enemy. A good strategy is to have them on attack enemy and have your pawn near wherever enemies funnel into, they will likely aggro at the same time and fast, meaning they all get hits in before the enemy can.
Four clawers annhihilating a centipede.
I have yet to find a good use in specific. Armor is kinda wacky in this game and they will take only marginally less damage than a clawer. Only reason to use them is they can also melee engage targets. I would say use these guys to melee engage ranged targets and have yours colonists shoot to assist. The friendly fire with this tactic is concerning though, and the dryads end up dying to friendly fire rather than the enemy. Have them stay near your pawn and take melee engage so your pawn can continue shooting. This is good for when large numbers of melees break through and try to destroy turrets or attack colonists. Could be particularly useful in touch range, where your pawns can shoot over them safely(within 3 tiles or so). Positioning is really important for this, since your pawn must be close.
Using the barkskins to take melee engage while a pawn shoots over them.
bulbatrs said they should have about 35% more effective hp than a clawer. This is a guess, but thanks to them for giving at least a number.
Things to keep in mind
For both of them, friendly fire is engaged and they have a .65 body size, meaning they are harder to hit than normal pawns. They have a melee hit chance of 62% compared to a pawn with melee 10 having 76%.
If you intend to have heavy fire going in the direction of the dryads, opt to have them wander near their master and they can handle the melee enemies while your pawns deal with ranged enemies.
How they compare to other combat animals
Arguably thrumbos are the best combat animals, but wargs are more reasonable to get so we will compare to them. At a flat combat comparison, 8 wargs matches that of 4 barkskins and 4 clawers, based on a test against 18 tribals. The wargs get more heavily injured (and will not be able to regain full health) but will mostly survive, whereas dryads die more because of how fragile they are. In my opinion, they beat wargs (and by extension the other options like huskies) due to the fact that they can repopulate at an expected rate and regenerate limbs. Animals must breed, birth, be trained, and matured if one must be replaced. Work-wise: dryads win out in my opinion. Most animals need specific food, kibble, or hay. Finding out how much you need is rather difficult, and you often end up with too much or not enough food. You also need a pen for some animals, and trainers with good enough skills. For that reason, I can't calculate how they compare for hours to combat power, but I will say that dryads are easier to have.
Are they worth it?
Absolutely, the amount of space the tree takes, the power of the dryads, and how much time the pawn takes to maintain them match up really well. They are reliably attainable as long as you can get a gauranlen seed, whereas with animals you are at mercy of luck (getting a male and female on map, or in a trade caravan).
These cute guys wander around their trees and produce 32 berries every 2 days.
How many berries?
Each produces 32 berries every 2 days. With a full tree of 4 dryads, that's 128 berries every 2 days. That's 960 berries a quadrum and 3840 berries a year.
So can it feed my pawns
A pawn needs 1.6 nutrition a day at base stats, and berries have a nutrition of .05. Eating raw berries if you don't have a way to cook, a tree with 4 dryads can feed 2 pawns exactly. If you can cook, that's 12.8 simple meals every 2 days, which is enough for 3.6 pawns.
Interesting thing to note here is that berries satisfy up to count/countess titles, which could be useful if you have no cook to make lavish meals.
Are they worth it?
In many situations: no, in some specific ones:yes. First of all, they produce consistently year-round, so you don't need to worry about blight, winter, or power outages(hydroponics). So if you are on a tile with short grow seasons, they can sustain some pawns during the winter. This is especially useful if you cannot refrigerate food or make pemmican (meat restraints due to ideoligion or lack of animals).
Woodmakers produce 25 wood every 2 days
How much wood?
Each Dryad produces 25 wood every two days, so with 4 dryads thats 100 wood every two days. That's 750 wood in a quadrum and 3000 in a year.
If you like to make chemfuel, that is 50 chemfuel every 2 days, enough for about 5.6 chem generators (5833 W). Woodfired generators are horribly innefficient, but think like 2 generators.
For Tribals, thats enough for 5 campfires or 5 passive coolers.
Why choose these when I can cut down trees?
Harvesting non-sowed trees requires pawns to travel, cut, and carry wood back. This isn't streamlined with pawn behavior, so it takes them a while if there aren't trees very close. Harvesting sowed trees takes a lot of space and they take a lot of work to plant. A single tree yields ~.73-.93 wood per day on a constant grow schedule. They are also hard to grow at maximum efficiency.
Beliefs matter (heh wanted to say that)!
If you have a tree connection ideology and particularly with the tree cutting precept, your colonists will quickly rack up bad moods (at most -10 if a lot of trees are cut). Woodmakers don't give that guilt, and additionally the gauranlen tree will make them happy if they see it, more than a normal tree can (+10 mood bonus compared to +6 for rich forest).
Could they make me money?
If you've got better ways to make money, then no. Wood is worth $1.2 each, and most settlements will buy it, but it is very heavy and not easy to transport. Selling with a bad social pawn, you get 0.6 of their value when selling, so they sell for at least $0.72 per wood, or $36 a day. For easier transport, chemfuel takes more work and power, but weighs 1/16 as much as the equivalent wood. It's worth $2.3, sells for $1.38 and will make you $34.5 a day and also sells to most settlements. Not the most fantastic rates, but they can over time allow you to buy things. With a Trade price improvement of 15% (social 10), you will get $41.4/$39.68 a day. With T.P.I of 30% (social 20), you will get $46.8/$44.85 a day.
Are they worth it?
No if you are running a normal colony, yes if you have tree connection or no trees on the map to harvest that you need to.
Carriers will haul stuff
Hauler dryads directly can help hauling things and replace a job that is usually done by colonists. They move at 2.4 cells/second compared to a human moving 4.6 c/s. They can carry 50 items of a stack compared to a human's 75. At face value, 4 carriers can haul 1.39x as much stuff as a human can in the same time frame.
Dogs can haul, why these?
In my experience, animals with the hauling training rarely actually haul stuff. They get sort of "inspirations" to haul stuff a couple of times a day, basically wandering around uselessly for 1/3rd the time. Carriers will carry until they get sleepy, which is about the same amount of time as human pawn. They don't need to eat or have their training maintained by a pawn, while normal animals do, and often have specific food requirements that can be hard to fulfill in certain situations.
The colonist that prunes the tree can haul, why even bother?
As said, they haul all day at 1.4x the efficiency of a normal pawn that will prune it for 5-7.5 hours. That leaves plenty of time for your pawn to do things other than haul. They also don't get mood penalties for seeing corpses, so they can clean up a battle without your favorite hauler destroying your components because they saw 5 too many corpses (note: there's an ideology precept that removes this). Also, if you have colonists that are dumb and try to haul things from outside the safe zone during a raid, these guys are better to lose than a colonist.
Are they worth it?
If you don't like seeing your colonists haul stuff, yes. I personally hate seeing my pawns travel across the map to pick up 1 steel when they could be researching. If you have enough* hauling animals that you can maintain, then no. If you prefer your pawns to haul rather than the tree and dryads, no.
Medicinemakers make 3 herbal medicine every 2 days.
My opinion on these right now
They are really useless in pretty much every situation. Healroot takes 13 days to grow, and even a small area on 70% soil growing in 18.5 days, you'd only need 111 tiles of grow zone and a decent plants colonist to match the rate. In actuality there is no need for the amount of herbal medicine they produce.
My hopes for changes
Some advantage over herbal medicine, I personally think they could give neutroamine in small amounts could be cool. Neutroamine is synthetic however, which conflicts with the concept of dryads, so we probably wont see that. Instead I think they should give better medicine, an inbetween for herbal and industrial. Possibly have a chance based system to get better medicine. They could also make some sort of medicinal related natural product, like an insect jelly equivalent or an item that can slowly heal a pawn's injury with a plant-like replacement (that might be a little far from vanilla). They could also give ambrosia, which seems pretty plausible.
Could you make money with these?
They have the exact same money production rate as woodmakers, so see there. Beyond that they are at a significant disadvantage, since settlements won't buy it, and most wandering traders won't buy it. Don't consider making industrial meds with them for money. Really bad exchange rate there.
How could they be used?
If you don't want the hassle of growing healroot, a pawn can take care of 1 medicinemaker dryad in 3.3 hours, and satisfy your medicine needs.
Are they worth it?
No in almost every situation. The expection is if you are unable to grow any healroot for some reason (no grow season).
Three gaumakers will enter a pod to make new gauranlen seeds
In the photo, three gaumakers have entered the gaumaker pod while a fourth wanders around.
Is this better than waiting for the event?
It is more reliable so yes. If you have a ritual that gives them as rewards, that may be enough for your needs, if not, still yes. It also adds on to how many you can get. According to 1.3.3072 patch notes, you get a sprout roughly every 60 days without tree connectors, and every thirty days with tree connectors. You only need one tree connector for the rate, but having multiple ideoligions are annoying imo.
What do I need for them?
The tree's connected pawn must be in a tree believer ideoligion. There also must be a viable spot for the gaumaker pod. This can be any tile 2-3 cells from the tree with 70% fertility or higher (not sand). it also appears the tile must not have gauranlen moss, which you can cut by putting a grow zone on a target tile, after which the pawn will try to plant, just delete the zone before they do and a gaumaker pod should spawn there. Additionally, you must keep tree connection above 50%, otherwise one of the dryads (even in the pod) will return to the tree. A pod won't appear if below 50%, this is noted in game.
Gaumakers and their pod in a fungal gravel cave.
Great, how many seeds will they make?
At maximum efficiency, they make a seed every 24 days. This requires having 4 dryad slots so that another one can start spawning while the pod matures (technically it starts spawning anyways, but that is unreliable imo). The pod will mature and make more space for dryads well before the first dryad spawns. The first seed will take 34 days from planting the tree, since the dryads will have to all spawn and mature (3 dryads=24 days, plus 6 for the last one to get it's caste, plus another 4 for the pod to mature).
Are they worth it?
This is 100% up to you. If a new tree every year (1/2 year with tree connectors) is enough for you then there isn't really a need. If you are like me and want these trees everywhere regardless (they are pretty and there is a use for that), then you probably need extra seeds.
Tips and Interesting Facts
This is pretty much useless though, since the basin will automatically incur the building penalty.
For optimizing gaumakers
Have cycles in mind for them. For the first 2 dryads of the cycle, they can be a production dryad (can't recommend combat since they might die which would be problematic) and give you a good amount of stuff. When the third dryad emerges, switch the dryad type back to gaumaker. Then, once again, after the pod is harvested, set the caste as not gaumaker and repeat every cycle. This is pretty easy to do unless you really don't care. Only two instances of changing the caste at two easily timeable points. You have 2 day and 4 day cushions on the respective end of the cycle. This will give you 10 days of production, or 5 production sets. That's 125 wood, 15 medicine, or 160 berries. Not much, but could supply your needs for each.
The trick of switching the castes of dryads to remove hediffs works on all dryad types, it just would cut into production rates due to the time they spend cocooned,
Preparing for liftoff
Since liftoff usually takes a lot of time out of your colonist's day, you can designated the pawns to not prune to tree. They will take ~4 days to deteriorate from 100% to 75% (and you'd lose 1 dryad). Alternatively if you can keep at least a couple of hours for pruning in their day, they should fall slow enough to maintain 4 dryads for the 14 day countdown. If a dryad dies, just set the maintain goal as something lower.
Liftoff tip 2
Except for carrier dryads(for previous reasons), set all the dryads to combat castes. This should give you a nice backup of troops.
Dryads can get the same drug benefits as all other animals. Go juice will increse a clawer to 9.67 dps and 6 c/s, faster than most things. Luciferium (for those particularly crazy people) will increase them to 8.52 dps and 4.4 c/s. Both of them together give 10.03 DPS and 6.4 c/s. Additionally they increase the hit chance. Both dissappear as hediffs after changing castes, including luciferium need (they don't get debuffs while cocooned). Must be administered through the health tab, if needed on field, any pawn capable of medical can do it, just set a sleep zone, assign it to the dryad, and administer the drug(s).
Circadian half cycler/wakeup
SInce both of these replace the need for sleep, a pawn with one can continue pruning all day long and thus maintain more trees. They will also get a lot of xp, and should be able to maintain 2-3 (4 is dangerous) steadily at 100%, while also fitting in eating and recreation. The half cycler reduces consciousness, but due to how pruning works, this will only make them slow going to recreation or eat. They will always prune the same speed.
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