A martini glass in black and white

Bottled Green Pixie: a Retro Review

2023-10-19 // IOTM Retro Review

What bleats like a goat, shakes like a dog, and talks about how it was a total game-changer in a bygone era? No, it's not your hungover uncle! It's the Bottled Green Pixie, an IOTM from -- seriously -- over 16 years ago. This IOTM can drive, folks!

What does it do?

Fighting, dancing sprite / Dinnae try tae cross his path / Ye'll get yer heid broke.

At the Pixie's core, it's a fairy that drops a useful item. The Green Pixie drops up to 5 tiny bottles of absinthe per day. These allow you to adventure in The Worm Wood, which can get you a variety of different outcomes. The two most popular usages of absinthe for period-relevant speedruns included:

  • Stat gains from the Worm Wood non-combats
  • Not-a-pipe, a spleen consumable granting 4-12 adventures gained in exchange for 3 adventures in the Worm Wood to acquire it

It's also worth noting that the Worm Wood itself is a relatively built-out container zone; it features three distinctly flavored zones based on the writings of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, each including 5 separate monsters, a spate of noncombats, and a series of noncombats offering users a bunch of choices (even if most users just took the stats or the spleen item as the dominant options).

How powerful was Green Pixie at the time?

You drink the bottle of absinthe. It tastes like licorice, pain, and green. Your head begins to ache and you see a green glow in the general direction of the distant woods.

It's rather difficult to find logs using the Green Pixie in speedruns. This is primarily because the Pixie was released in June 2007, which just so happens to be the same month that NS13 dropped. This was a huge shakeup to the ascension game; best we can tell from the old IoTM thread, the mechanics had yet to be properly publicly spaded by the time NS13 rolled out.

One of the most obvious changes that NS13 brought came with the name -- 13 is two higher than 11, and as such, runners needed to hit two extra levels to ascend. This presented 2007's speedsters with a problem -- stats were very hard to come by in the early days of NS13. The Pixie could get you a ton of substats with the use of its scheduled non-combats; when you had either 5 or 1 adventure left of Absinthe-Minded (granted by the pixie's tiny bottles of absinthe), you could adventure in the Worm Wood for some of those sweet sweet stat gains. It didn't hurt that you often wanted to be running a fairy anyways, because item drops were incredibly difficult to come by in the old meta.

Looking at the log of the first 5-day sub-1000 turn HC run (ahh, the days of speed), all but 6 combats were spent with statgain familiars out; the Spirit Hobo is a volleyball, and the Green Pixie essentially served as a way to launder turns with your fairy into stats via the aforementioned absinthe usage. It also allowed for a load of adventures, as virtually nothing else in the game was valuable in the spleen slot, so not-pipes were crucial to bloat turns to success. In these early days, turnbloat was still the name of the game.

FamiliarTurns Spent
Spirit Hobo422 combat turns (67.4%)
Green Pixie193 combat turns (30.8%)
Leprechaun6 combat turns (1.0%)
Hovering Sombrero1 combat turns (0.2%)

As the meta surrounding NS13 progressed, the routing HC players used changed dramatically, and new sources of statgain and turnbloat came into play to force the Green Pixie into more of a niche role. It was still incredibly useful for low skill runs, and players who could not keep up all the leveling buffs up for the entirety of their run due to either MP constraints or lack of survivability. A good example of the "low skill" niche usage is found in this 2010 run by pantsless. You can see him needing to eke out every bit of stat gain he could:

Haunted Ballroom4714603480
Giant's Castle2162321813
From consumables81810251587
Battlefield (Frat Uniform)5145501366
Mouldering Mansion2923883
Stately Pleasure Dome00853
Hole in the Sky303296713
The Upper Chamber224227601
Black Forest225279597

This was the only sub-15 skill 4 day HC run at the time, so it was an impressive feat, and one that simply couldn't have been done without the stats from the Pixie.

What have you done for me lately?

In the modern game, the Green Pixie is a relic of a bygone era. There are dozens of unrestricted fairies that offer more benefit -- the XO-Skeleton, Cat Burglar, Intergnat, Reagnimated Gnome, Grey Goose, and even the Slimeling all offer more bang for your buck in modern play when you need item drops and want to get a bit more turnsavings for your time. Even comparing the Green Pixie to similar "fairies with spleen drops" leads you to a spate of better options -- the Pair of Stomping Boots, for instance, allows players to get an equivalently strong turngen spleen item without spending three turns to generate the eight from your spleen hit. The not-a-pipe is an excellent joke, but neither it nor the statgains from the Worm Wood have a place in a modern unrestricted run.

However! There's still an extremely small, extremely niche usage in the modern unrestricted speed game for our beloved Green Pixie. In the Community Service challenge path, one of the tests is based around Familiar Weight. To pass the Familiar Weight test in the minimum number of turns, you need to accumulate 295 pounds of weight. That's a heck of a lot, and even with a decade of powercreep, it's still quite difficult to generate that much heft.

Enter the Green Pixie. Within the Worm Wood, there lies a zone titled the Stately Pleasure Dome. If you run a Green Pixie for enough turns to generate an absinthe, you can use the absinthe, access the Worm Wood, use one of your Map the Monster charges within the Stately Pleasure Dome to encounter a toothless mastiff bitch, and use the Fourth of May Cosplay Saber to drop the Mastiff's items without spending a turn. The mastiff drops a "disintegrating spiky collar", a potion for +5 familiar weight. Bada bing, bada boom -- 5 pounds down, 290 pounds to go!

There are a two small issues with this I'd like to note. First, +5 familiar weight saves exactly 1 turn in Community Service -- ergo, for it to actually help you, you're expending an awful lot of resources for a somewhat pitifully small amount of savings. I'm old as dirt, and I happen to have a Pixie from buying it when it was in Mr. Store. So, when I did my 1/70 minimum-turn Community Service run, I used the Pixie for those 5 pounds, but it was definitely lot of resources spent for a rather small benefit. If any more familiar weight sources get introduced, this is certainly the first familiar weight source I'd cut. Second, the Green Pixie features one of TPTB's most annoying early-KOL habits -- the dreaded "purely random" drop rate. Here's what I mean by that: compare the 2007 drop mechanic of an absinthe to the drop mechanic of, say, 2018's garbage fire's burning newspaper. The newspaper drops at a consistent, spaded, and predictable rate. It's 5 turns for the first, then 30 turns of Garbage Fire usage for every drop after that. The Pixie drops absinthe at a rate of 20% + 5% * N, where N = the number of turns you have used the Pixie. What this means is that the expected turns to get an absinthe is lower than the 5 you get with the Garbage Fire, but it also isn't predictable; it could pop the first turn you use your Pixie, or it could take (if you are wildly unlucky) a maximum of 16 turns. With so few turns to spend with your familiars in a 0-turn-spent Community Service run, it's difficult to plan around a familiar with such a high variance around the turns-spent-to-absinthe estimate.

As TPTB have improved as game developers, they have slowly tried to extricate these kinds of "true random" drops where IOTM resources are unpredictably run-skewering; almost everything in the modern game is delivered in a relatively trackable form, which makes planning ascensions easier. But it makes it all-the-more glaring when faced with incorporating IOTMs from prior eras into modern run planning.

What's the take, Jake?

Is the Green Pixie usable in modern unrestricted ascensions? No. It very much isn't. That's true of nearly every familiar prior to the mid-aughts, though, and IOTMs from that era are best approached through their value in their contemporary environment. And the Green Pixie shined there, as a source for both the turnbloat and stats that enabled some of the earliest shenanigans in KoL speedrunning. On top of that, the Green Pixie features some lovely flavor; the Coleridge jokes are the kind of referential humor that KoL is known for, and almost every monster within the Worm Wood is a fun and creative spin with solid jokes and clever jabs. The Pixie may be underpowered for the modern era, but it always has a place in our heart.

  1. How powerful was the Green Pixie at the time? 4/5; strong, but not gamebreaking
  2. How powerful is the Green Pixie now? 2/5; there are many better alternatives, but some mild value remains
  3. How flavorful is the item? 5/5; extremely well-written, with far more content than many other contemporary IOTMs

He writes epic poetry about his feelings, although it's a weird, quite modern form of poetry: it's mostly sung, and consists exclusively of the lyrics to popular songs. I guess I'm not Bohemian enough to understand the line between modern poetry and karaoke.

Article contributed by Captain Scotch & 3BH