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View Full Version : interesting monsters (reply to Takkaria and Andrew's message in Icey's thread)


will_asher
August 24, 2007, 21:41
I can't be sure what Icey meant when he said the monster's weren't interesting, but what I meant was that they lack character, not that they aren't challenging enough. I'm fine with diving deeper to get to challenging monsters. I can only guess that Icey meant some of both (that they weren't challenging and that they lack character).

People who have been here at least a few months have read me talk before about Angband's monsters lacking character, about how I despise icky things and yeeks, and snakes that differ only by their color and hit points. An "icky thing" is not the name of a monster, neither does "It is a smallish, slimy, icky creature" describe a species of monster. It just describes something smallish, slimy, and icky. Does it have legs? Does it have a head? Does it have a brain? Where is it from? Fighting an icky thing is barely more interesting than fighting an arbitrary "i" which is given no value and is just a letter on the screen.

Do you know what I mean?

I used to play Nethack, and monster character is one big thing that Nethack has but Angband doesn't. Nethack has actual descriptions for all its monsters and takes almost all its monsters from mythology, legends and other stories, and it has monsters which behave differently than other monsters. I realize having different behavior for different types of monsters would be very hard to implement, but maybe it can be done by using monster stats like intelligence, boldness, stealth, and others. Angband does have a few flags (such as erratic movement) that begin to do this but only very little. I think instead of "has a brain", "small brain" and "no brain", the options should be "has a humanlike brain", "has an unhumanly evil brain" (for demons, vampires, liches, and some other undead), "has an intelligent animal brain" (for were-beasts and the unique hounds at the end of the game), "has an animal brain", "has a small animal brain" (for bugs and maybe a few dumber animals), "has an artifical semblance of a brain" (for golems: has slight intelligence but isn't detected by telepahty), and "has no brain" ..there might be one or two more which would be appropriate for other monsters. If a monsters talks (insults, moans or otherwise), you should be able enter in to the monster.txt file what things it can say.

Obviously, what I can do with the monster.txt file will not change this very much, but at least I can change monster names and descriptions. "white cave snake" is slightly better than just "large white snake", only very slightly but it's something. I know really impleminting monster character would be a lot of trouble, and I don't really expect it to be put in to vanilla Angband. It's still a good game the way it is.


BTW, I took a break from going through the monster file, first to go on vacation and then to try to get a win in (unmodified) vanilla angband, but would you like to see what I have so far? It might not do a whole lot of good yet because I haven't written in more than a couple monster descriptions and only slightly modified a few others. (When I have the monsters' descriptions in my mind, I don't need to see them in text, so I was planning to wait till I was finished with redoing the rest of the file before I wrote descriptions)

konijn_
August 27, 2007, 21:50
Well duh! Of course we want to see what you have so far ;)

Cheers,
T.

Nick
August 28, 2007, 00:10
People who have been here at least a few months have read me talk before about Angband's monsters lacking character, about how I despise icky things and yeeks, and snakes that differ only by their color and hit points. An "icky thing" is not the name of a monster, neither does "It is a smallish, slimy, icky creature" describe a species of monster. It just describes something smallish, slimy, and icky. Does it have legs? Does it have a head? Does it have a brain? Where is it from? Fighting an icky thing is barely more interesting than fighting an arbitrary "i" which is given no value and is just a letter on the screen.


The descriptions typically get more interesting the deeper you go. Sometimes there are subtleties, too - check the description of giant grey rats, for instance... I must say, I kind of like the minimality of the description of icky things - to me it says "this is a being of little consequence", which makes it all the more humiliating if it kills you :)

If you're really keen on bigger descriptions, try Steamband.

pav
August 29, 2007, 23:15
These particular descriptions made it to my ~/.fortune file:

The Phase Spider. A spider that never seems quite there.

Squish. Larger than the normal icky things, and twice as icky.

I'm perfectly happy with (non)descriptions as they are now :)

Conker
August 30, 2007, 04:58
Do you know what I mean?

Yes, you made some good points in my opinion. I mean really, the monsters shouldn't be viewed as a chore, but as an opportunity - to build the atmosphere. And the inclusion of a 'giant grey scorpion' or whatever else that might as well just be a lump of bashable jelly isn't really doing that. The uniques are a great start (in some cases...we could lose a couple of early orc/human ones, in my opinion), but I do think the monster list is a good target for work.
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will_asher
September 8, 2007, 18:12
Okay, I'm not completely against "(non)descriptions". I have no problem with phase spiders, but having monsters (like scorpians and snakes) that differ in descriptions only by their color is bad, and as I mentioned before I can't stand icky things and yeeks. I don't mind having scorpians and snakes, I just don't like it when the only difference between them is their color.

Since at least one person has shown an interest in seeing what I have so far, I'm posting a link to my modified monster.txt file. It is far from finished, but it is playable (up to a certain point). I haven't done very much of the monster descriptions yet (though I tried to do descriptions for most of the very early monsters before posting), and haven't worked on it very much in the past several weeks.

http://www.geocities.com/will_asher/MonsterDictionary/monster.txt

BTW, the version stamp is for 3.0.6, so you'll have to change that and maybe delete the empty listings at the end in order to play it.

I am right now trying to upgrade my modified angband for the new version. So I put the edit directory in a separate place, and installed the new version. Then I copied my edit directory over the newly installed edit directory, and changed all the version stamps in the .txt files, but the game won't work. Can someone tell me why?
Okay, I figured out why and it has nothing to do with my modifications. For some reason the normal font which I'm used to shows up blank, but I change the font and it works. that is very strange.

Djabanete
September 9, 2007, 07:10
You have Ogre as #196 and #198. Yes, I am that big of a loser.

EDIT: Perhaps that was intentional, as it's not the only case...

EDIT #2: I have to ask, what the hell is a Zhelung? Did you invent it?

will_asher
September 10, 2007, 04:43
Yes, I invented the zhelung and I do have a description for it in the file (monster #321). I also invented the null and a few others.

Ogre #196 is loner ogres, Ogre #198 is when they come in groups. It is done that way for several monsters including the novice mages, rogues, warriors, priests, paladins, and rangers in the unmodified game.

Conker
September 14, 2007, 23:04
I had a skim through that list of yours, Will, and if I may be so bold as to give my opinion...

PRO: The best things in that list are the things that have features that stand out. Things like the rock mole, because of its tunneling. Or the different types of golem - a gold golem that, while being tough, would drop large amounts of gold, for example. And uniques we know - The Great Goblin is a much better unique than, say, Pazuzu, because we remember him from The Hobbit (and because the latter is little more than a generic major demon).


CON: Wasn't a fan of things like the Texas wasp or the poker chips - seems too Nethacky. And there seemed to be too many types of boring enemies - tabby cat, rabid cat, etc. They might sound a little different, but really, a couple of whacks with my sword or a magic missile or two and they'll go down just like a brown snake/icky thing/whatever. Similarly, I don't see the point in introducing only slightly different versions of things we already have (e.g a small troll), or yet MORE orc uniques of Cirith Ungol or wherever.


Reading through, I had a couple of my own ideas

1. In keeping with the theme of less of the 'same old, same old', how about we do something with Bill, Bert and Tom - we reduce their difficulty, but make them guaranteed to all appear within the same group?

2. Add more special features to monsters. Will's list has a wood golem listed - how about adding a line of code or two to this monster that severely increases its susceptibility to fire? I know susceptibilities are now gone from the game since Moria days, but I think in very rare cases, they'd be fun and interesting. Like a wood/straw golem or a mummy, being insta-killed by flame. Hell, weapon artifact activations (such as the thancs, or Anduril) might actually add something to the game then, as opposed to being largely forgotten.

Another example of little special features - the list has a 'grim' monster, referencing the black canine omen of death. Well, how about we include that monster, but only make it appear (guaranteed, one) on levels that contain a greater vault? Also, we could add some meaning to male/female choices - males may late in the game face the Furies (3, unique), whereas females could instead encounter the Fairy King unique (the chap who steals away Sir Orfeo's missus in the Middle English lay - which Tolkien translated, interestingly enough).

I'm not trying to suggest we turn into Nethack with a response cooked up for every crazy situation ('pure chewing satisfaction'), I'm just suggesting make monsters meaningful beyond their HP and damage output. We already have it in some respects - vampires taking damage from light, rock monsters from stone to mud - but not to a great enough extent. Vampires, for example, seem to take less damage from light than they would from the wimpiest sword blow or magic missile. So what's the point?

I've gone on long enough, but I hope you can see what I'm driving at.
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Big Al
September 15, 2007, 00:40
Indeed, it was the things like the "trident" and out of place monsters (Keystone Kops etc.) that made me quit nethack in the first place. I don't want to see too much silliness in (vanilla) Angband.

Seany C
September 15, 2007, 09:47
Indeed, it was the things like the "trident" and out of place monsters (Keystone Kops etc.) that made me quit nethack in the first place. I don't want to see too much silliness in (vanilla) Angband.

After all, that's what Zangband is (was?) for... :)

will_asher
September 15, 2007, 19:33
I had a skim through that list of yours, Will, and if I may be so bold as to give my opinion...

PRO: The best things in that list are the things that have features that stand out. Things like the rock mole, because of its tunneling. Or the different types of golem - a gold golem that, while being tough, would drop large amounts of gold, for example. And uniques we know - The Great Goblin is a much better unique than, say, Pazuzu, because we remember him from The Hobbit (and because the latter is little more than a generic major demon).

CON: Wasn't a fan of things like the Texas wasp or the poker chips - seems too Nethacky. And there seemed to be too many types of boring enemies - tabby cat, rabid cat, etc. They might sound a little different, but really, a couple of whacks with my sword or a magic missile or two and they'll go down just like a brown snake/icky thing/whatever. Similarly, I don't see the point in introducing only slightly different versions of things we already have (e.g a small troll), or yet MORE orc uniques of Cirith Ungol or wherever.

I was already planning either to take out the Texas wasp or rename the regular wasp to be the Texas wasp, I'll probably just take them out. I like Nethack, and I'd like to allow a bit of silliness for my modified vanilla (there won't be too much). This monster list isn't really a suggestion of how I'd want the vanilla list to be. Once it's finished I'm going to post it again (with other modified .txt files) as an alternative in case people want to use it. I think I will take out the small troll. I agree with you on that one.
Also, I kindof think it's in the nature of Angband to have some easy/boring monsters. I don't want to make it much harder as I'm not a great player myself (got deeper than L50 only three times and never past L60).
About the orc uniques, all of them are from the Lord of the Rings, and instead of taking them out I'm thinking of making some of them weaker and be more like normal orcs, so when you fight them it's like fighting any other group of orcs. Maybe I'll take away their good drop too, so they'll be more like named monsters than uniques (if you know what I mean).


Reading through, I had a couple of my own ideas

1. In keeping with the theme of less of the 'same old, same old', how about we do something with Bill, Bert and Tom - we reduce their difficulty, but make them guaranteed to all appear within the same group?
might be a good idea, but I can't do it because that would take more than just modifying the monster.txt.

2. Add more special features to monsters. Will's list has a wood golem listed - how about adding a line of code or two to this monster that severely increases its susceptibility to fire? I know susceptibilities are now gone from the game since Moria days, but I think in very rare cases, they'd be fun and interesting. Like a wood/straw golem or a mummy, being insta-killed by flame. Hell, weapon artifact activations (such as the thancs, or Anduril) might actually add something to the game then, as opposed to being largely forgotten.
I very much agree, It just makes sense for certain monsters to be more vulnerable to certain things (and for vampires to be either more significantly hurt by light or scared by it).

Another example of little special features - the list has a 'grim' monster, referencing the black canine omen of death. Well, how about we include that monster, but only make it appear (guaranteed, one) on levels that contain a greater vault? Also, we could add some meaning to male/female choices - males may late in the game face the Furies (3, unique), whereas females could instead encounter the Fairy King unique (the chap who steals away Sir Orfeo's missus in the Middle English lay - which Tolkien translated, interestingly enough).
I don't really think male/female should make a difference in the game.
BTW, can you give me the name of that story Tolkien translated? It sounds like something I might like to read.

I'm not trying to suggest we turn into Nethack with a response cooked up for every crazy situation ('pure chewing satisfaction'), I'm just suggesting make monsters meaningful beyond their HP and damage output.
I agree wholeheartedly. Shall we make a petition?


The ending parts of the monster list are taking me longer because I've never gotten that far in the game, but I'll try to get it out sometime in the next.. uh.. month ..or two.

Conker
September 20, 2007, 21:16
BTW, can you give me the name of that story Tolkien translated? It sounds like something I might like to read.

'Sir Orfeo'. Tolkien's was far from the only translation, of course. It's entertaining even in the original Middle English, and not that hard to understand.

The reason I suggested the Fairy King versus The Furies was because I think it'd be a nice reminder that people actually did choose one gender or the other - at present its only effect is a two-letter difference on your C screen. I doubt one unique change would be enough that people would say 'Oh, I'll make all my characters male/female, because of it', but it'd be nice (in my opinion) variety. It's all towards making the monsters mean something - giving them character, instead of them just being characters.
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fyonn
September 23, 2007, 00:39
I have to admit, I've always thought that susceptabilities were a good thing. they would fit for obvious things like a white dragon being vulnerable to fire, and a red being vulnerable to cold etc. I think it would give a bit more scope for tactical advantage and give some more use for the medium level mage spells that after a while, all monsters resist.

perhaps make monsters susceptable to poison too? or gets cuts like we do?

Interesting thought about the vampire and light.. perhaps we could have minsters that won't go near you when you're carrying a (big) light source, or who keep out of lit rooms? if you want to kill them, then either fire down unlit corridors, or take them on in the dark? maybe if you carry a 1 square light source you can come up to them, but a 2 or 3 square source is too bright?

just thoughts...

Conker
September 23, 2007, 03:52
I have to admit, I've always thought that susceptabilities were a good thing. they would fit for obvious things like a white dragon being vulnerable to fire, and a red being vulnerable to cold etc. I think it would give a bit more scope for tactical advantage and give some more use for the medium level mage spells that after a while, all monsters resist.

That's another point - the resists really need to be more intuitive (or descriptions changed to add some clue). Okay, I get that a Fire Elemental won't exactly fear a flaming bolt, but some of them are quite random. Why would a yeek resist acid?


As for your light idea - innovative, but the problem is that people have enough trouble hauling crap around as it is. I doubt they'd want to take a torch with them to replace their Phial/whatever just on the possibility they might run into something that doesn't like the light.
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will_asher
September 23, 2007, 05:38
Interesting thought about the vampire and light.. perhaps we could have minsters that won't go near you when you're carrying a (big) light source, or who keep out of lit rooms? if you want to kill them, then either fire down unlit corridors, or take them on in the dark? maybe if you carry a 1 square light source you can come up to them, but a 2 or 3 square source is too bright?

just thoughts...

If we had stuff like that, we could add grues to the game (from Zork).

fyonn
September 23, 2007, 10:30
As for your light idea - innovative, but the problem is that people have enough trouble hauling crap around as it is. I doubt they'd want to take a torch with them to replace their Phial/whatever just on the possibility they might run into something that doesn't like the light.

well, people could taker a torch (or walk around until they find one), but there's also the several artifacts that provide light themselves, infravision or the option of fighting in the dark.

I know it would require code changes, but I think it's an interesting idea, and give some character to some of the monsters. monsters you can't just heave into HTH with, but you've either got to chase (if you've got a speed advantage), re-equip or take on from a distance, possibly without being able to see them (of course, that means you won't get monster memory for them). some ghosts would be good for this, dark hounds, possibly clear hounds, some low level orcs?

as an out-there idea.. how about re-positioning smeagol as a very powerful unique, but you only see him if you have the one ring? (which I've never seen). only problem is, it's brings a bit too much "story" or single use cases into play which I don't think angband is about.

dave

PS. hmm.. why don't we have goblins in the game? they're mentioned in the description for snaga's but we never see them as a monster.