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-   -   Beleriand status (http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showthread.php?t=9442)

Quirk February 5, 2022 19:02

The opposed rolls really make the system. In particular I think the damage vs armour rolls are inspired. The old D&D rules are for me a bit of a failure both as simulation and on a tactical level (though in their defence combat is not too slow, and they inspired a lot of other people to do better), and Sil is a much more elegant and comprehensive attempt at modelling combat. I would class it above most tabletop combat systems, and in terms of tactical accessibility few other computer games have the same richness.

There are many elements that combine ingeniously. The malus for being surrounded and the morale and aggression systems are a couple more I'd highlight as significant influences on the gameplay.

That said, since we're on the Beleriand thread, there are a number of issues I have found over the years in balancing the game which would be useful to learn from if developing a new game.

You put your finger on a key theme with Melee/Evasion - which, to extend more broadly, is that while symmetry is seductive sometimes following symmetry leads to systems being pulled out of balance and the player experience can be pulled away from the sweet spot in order to make the character development screen look neater. I think there is sometimes a need to draw separating lines between how dissimilar systems work and stop forcing symmetry, and that your call with the opposed 1d20s was absolutely necessary.

In general, one size does not fit all with probability distributions. One issue with all normal distributions is that skill investment snowballs. Opposed 1d10s are particularly vulnerable here because it's quite a narrow distribution.

(If you have 6 skill points more than your opponent, you are already at 90% odds to win; one more takes you to 94%, one more 97%, one more 99%, then 100%. The first investment takes your opponent's victories from 1 in 10 to 3 in 50, the second halves this to 3 in 100, then cuts by a further two-thirds to 1 in 100, then your opponent winning is impossible. Increasing from 1 point ahead of your opponent to 2 conversely only takes your odds from 64% to 72%, i.e. taking your opponent from slightly better than winning 1 in 3 to slightly worse than winning 2 in 7.).

I suspect much of the time d10s are chunkier than would be ideal, because relatively small differences in skills can divide enemies into groups which are almost entirely neutralised by the check (for e.g. stealth, Lorien, Mastery) and groups which are quite dangerous.

Small differences in skills mattering a lot make it more challenging as the balancing developer to understand what range of skills players might be bringing to a particular encounter and hence what fair stats are for enemies, how good does a bonus on an item have to be before it's too good, etc.

Much of this is balanced by the variety of systems - e.g. the chunkiness of the stealth/perception check is lessened by the modelling of sound attenuation and other perception elements so the stealth experience overall is smoothed into a thing of beauty - but unfortunately where things most tend to break down is the late game, which would ideally be the tensest and most exciting part. This is very much the case with Evasion even though it uses d20s and much more investment is needed to more or less shut down enemies altogether.

"Sil is subtle", as they say. In other places also changing a single number can make for a world of difference. Balancing shortswords and daggers has been tricky for precisely this reason: the difference between a d5 dagger and a d6 dagger is substantial, and balancing so that a d5 dagger is potentially relevant to a fresh character and a d6 not overpowered to a stabber is a hard problem that has led me to drawing a lot of graphs.

In summary I would advise Nick to start with larger numbers and possibly wider distributions. This means a simple increment or decrement makes for a smaller percentage difference, and balancing becomes less fiddly. I would suggest also that symmetry often needs to be broken between systems that function very differently and it's maybe best to start by considering the needs of the systems and identifying where things are alike enough to overlap mechcanically rather than stretching the same mechanic over everything.

All this comes however from a place that could be considered perfectionist. Sil mechanics are honed to a degree few other games of my experience match, and if they could be honed further, it's probably only a few obsessives like myself who would notice or care.

half February 7, 2022 22:17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 157437)
In other places also changing a single number can make for a world of difference. Balancing shortswords and daggers has been tricky for precisely this reason: the difference between a d5 dagger and a d6 dagger is substantial, and balancing so that a d5 dagger is potentially relevant to a fresh character and a d6 not overpowered to a stabber is a hard problem that has led me to drawing a lot of graphs.

Yes, this is quite extreme. One of my aims was to reduce the numbers that appear in the game down to a manageable size. I think I ended up with numbers that are about half way between D&D numbers and Angband numbers (and much lower than, say, JRPG numbers). But unlike D&D, I wanted all weapons to be unique and not have any that are strictly better or worse than each other. And I needed to do this while having the numbers be thematic for that weapon (e.g. that they would end up being good when wielded by the kind of character that intuitively would be good at wielding them in the real world).

For some reason I seem to have been anchored to the Angband longsword at 2d5. So that is where I started. And through variation in the five numbers: attack, dice, sides, evasion, and weight, I managed to meet all my objectives. It wasn't easy, as these were also the numbers I needed to later tweak to adjust balance, leaving little room to move.

To top this off, I had various aesthetic ideas about how the numbers should look. I started with a triple of swords: the dagger (1d5), the longsword (2d5) and the greatsword (3d5), which seemed elegant. And then I decided to make all chopping weapons (e.g. axes) do even sided dice, while others do odd sided dice.

So there was indeed very little room to tweak things. It ended up a bit like a short poem, or similar, where it is highly constrained and every part has a purpose, and it becomes remarkable that it is possible at all. I love this kind of thing (especially the end product) as something to marvel over, but you are very much right that can be a lot of work!

Estie February 8, 2022 04:09

I wonder what odd taste for structural poetry is responsible for the 8d1 hammer in vanilla.

Quirk February 8, 2022 19:05

Quote:

Originally Posted by half (Post 157482)
Yes, this is quite extreme. One of my aims was to reduce the numbers that appear in the game down to a manageable size. I think I ended up with numbers that are about half way between D&D numbers and Angband numbers (and much lower than, say, JRPG numbers). But unlike D&D, I wanted all weapons to be unique and not have any that are strictly better or worse than each other. And I needed to do this while having the numbers be thematic for that weapon (e.g. that they would end up being good when wielded by the kind of character that intuitively would be good at wielding them in the real world).

This I consider one of the game's great successes, though as you say the tightness of the numbers can leave relatively little room to tweak things: most weapon types are viable right down to Morgoth (at least as artifacts, or smithed) assuming the character is built to take advantage of them. However, if I were embarking on a new project and wanted to make use of similar mechanics while preserving the goal of every weapon being unique, I would consider very carefully how many weapons I wanted the game to have before settling on the numbers.

Sil is definitely much like a poem. The constraints, of this type and others, have at times seemed torturous as I have laboured to balance a weapon or replace a skill. It's instilled in me a deep respect for the original vision that worked so fully with such a small and consistent palette.

I am curious to see what Nick will do drawing on Sil as an inspiration.

Nick February 8, 2022 22:37

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 157503)
I am curious to see what Nick will do drawing on Sil as an inspiration.

Yeah, me too.

LordL April 8, 2022 09:37

How is it going?

Nick April 8, 2022 11:51

Quote:

Originally Posted by LordL (Post 158184)
How is it going?

Fine, but slow - or maybe more precisely, there's a lot to do. I'm probably something like halfway through getting the rewrite of Sil done.


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