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Scatha January 3, 2019 23:04

Sil-Q Review
 
Neither half nor I have had much time for Sil in a while. We were interested to read about the changes being wrought in Sil-Q. More recently, I spent several hours exploring 1.4.1. I had a few characters, including one (Christmas-present-aided) winner. For Tolkien's birthday, I thought I'd write up my thoughts. This is a review based in part on my experience playing it, and in part based just on the written descriptions in the manual, viewed with the lens of the design aesthetic we tried to build into Sil. This is solely my review. Since half and I share similar taste, I expect he would agree with quite a bit of my thoughts, but also that there will be places where we’d disagree. (Perhaps he will come by the thread.)

Overall: I am really quite impressed by Sil-Q. Quirk has taken a game where we put a lot of attention into crafting each detail, and extended it in substantial ways, largely congruent with the original vision. There are a good number of changes that I straight-up like; there are a good number that I dislike; and there are a good number that I on the fence about. In this review I’ll get into specifics of things I like and don’t like, and why. In some cases I’ll throw out ideas for how else things could be. It is, of course, Quirk’s prerogative to completely ignore these views!

---

Major design aesthetics of Sil, and how I think Sil-Q does on them:

Tokienian flavour:
Excellent, feel happy with the taste displayed here. Sure in some cases I have a slightly different take, but overall seems very good

Elegance of mechanics
Medium-good. I think many of the changes are roughly fitting with this (certainly more than a lot of game design), but there are a number of rough edges

Making optimal play interesting
Good. Some definite improvements. A few loopholes and places where it feels like it gets carried away slightly on the wrong version of things.

---

Monsters:
Removing Deathblades maybe the right choice. They had become the most egregious of the remaining monsters in terms of fit for the world (even if Tolkien does do talking swords). They did play an interesting role as an opponent that light-weapon characters would have difficulty with but actively want to fight. I wonder if something else should be filling a similar role in the monster ecosystem.

I support making Morgoth tougher to kill, and tougher as you fight him. We’d thought it would be good long term to have some feature like this, along with a record of how badly you wounded him (Fingolfin managed seven wounds!). I haven’t actually tried fighting Morgoth, so don’t have a view on how this is in practice.

Both Phantoms and Brood spiders are interesting early game monsters. I think in each case you’ve put them slightly too early, though. Brood spiders feel like they should go 50’ or 100’ deeper (and get correspondingly tougher presumably) so that it’s more likely one has met Spider hatchlings before first encountering one. This is both for thematic reasons and mechanical ones: trying to introduce monster mechanics slowly. Similarly we tried to make the first few levels of the dungeon feel more mundane, with stronger magics and weirder foes as one goes deeper. I think Phantoms at 50’ undercut this a lot: they are much earlier than the first other undead (350’), and much much earlier than the first other invisible monster (600’). They also somewhat undercut the feeling of all the Ws being dangerous/draining. I do think they’re interesting, though. My instinct while writing this is to do something like make them a ‘w’ rather than ‘W’ and push them to 250’.

No strong feelings on the other monster changes – I have minor good feelings and minor bad feelings about most of them. I rather like the paired orc uniques, although I seem to encounter them a bit too often (also be aware that paired uniques are quite a chunk of experience for the player; possibly they could do with a slight buff).

Mechanic changes:
  • Blunt weapon damage is not fully absorbed by armour
I don’t love the implementation of this one. I do think it’s an interesting way to differentiate blunt weapons, but I think there’s some flavour + incentive fail, of e.g. carrying around a quarterstaff so that you can easily deal with grotesques. Also I haven’t tested whether there’s an exception, but on the natural implementation blunt weapons would make cutting out silmarils trivial.

Spitballing: maybe the natural thing is for blunt damage to ignore a fraction of armour? That’s what sharpness currently does, but you could argue that sharp enough weapons should ignore light armour altogether. So an alternate mechanic would have bluntness do something like current sharpness, and sharpness reduce protection by a fixed amount (5? 7? 10? Variable amount with the song if that still exists? 100 for Angrist?).
  • Defence is now halved against attacks of opportunity made against point blank archery
I remember years ago discussing with half whether this (or something quite like it?) should be the case. I don’t even remember the conclusion of our discussion! It seems reasonable to me in any case.
  • Stealth is boosted a little at early levels and lowers as you descend
I’m basically happy to defer on whether this improves balance, but the implementation feels a little bit clunky: why not tweak monster Perception scores instead?
  • Monsters scared from the level yield a (little) experience
This one I again remember a conversation about whether we should do this. We decided against, because the player has already been given experience for the encounter, and it’s not obvious that scaring them off should yield more than sneaking past them. I don’t feel strongly about that conclusion.

I do feel strongly that the implementation is a bad one. The manual says “This is calculated as the current experience that would be gained for seeing a new monster of that type divided by the number of monsters of that type that have been scared upstairs or downstairs.”. This incentivises weird behaviour: there is more total experience available if you scare some monsters away rather than just kill them, and there is more available if the ones you scare are among the first few you encounter.

If you want experience for scaring monsters off the level, the simplest thing would be to count them as defeated, and award the experience for killing them (for non-uniques). A little less simple but still non-distortionary would be to count them as “half a kill” (in either case this should update the experience available for future kills as well as future scares).

[Part of the reason I care so much about this is that Sil is quite delicately balanced in terms of the pools of experience points available, and a modest change in the amount of experience available can have a surprisingly large affect on difficulty.]
  • Gorged status gone - you can overeat without losing the ability to eat more
This is a tradeoff of realism-seeming against avoiding really annoying seeming downsides for the player. I don’t have a strong view either way. [I do have some feeling that things like this contribute to the erosion of the hunger clock as a significant mechanic in Sil. Maybe it should eventually be removed, I’m not sure. I certainly used to lose characters to starvation and don’t anymore.]
  • All stairs are shafts during the escape
I believe that this could create better gameplay, but the implementation has(for me) a weird breaking-of-immersion. Could the change happen more off-screen, so that they appear as just stairs on the level, but taking any stairs with a Silmaril makes you go an extra 50’?

Relatedly, I don’t think removing crumbling stairs on the ascent straight works: stair-scumming to try and get two in the same room is pretty powerful. One could not increase the relevant variable for taking up staircases on the ascent (and perhaps not for taking down staircases in the main game).

A more extreme alternative would be to have “the stairs crumble behind you” on the ascent, so you’re always dropped into a level without an immediate escape. (I think this might be pretty interesting to play with, actually.)
  • Traps easier to detect and disarm
This might be alright, but I notice I’m worried about it. I think traps throwing players into unexpected and difficult circumstances provide some of the most exciting moments in the game. If it’s too easy to opt out of the dealing-with-traps game, people will do that, and then the game will be less interesting.
  • Passive identification is faster
Sounds fine.
  • Sunlight
I think I do like the addition of sunlight. Half and I discussed whether there should be sunlight at some point and thought maybe it was a bit weird, but it feels better in-game than I would have expected. Don’t feel very strongly either way.
  • you now start with a curved sword equipped
This one is a convenience for experienced players, but removes something about the feeling of desperation at the start, and also doesn’t include the subtle nudge to make sure new players know how to equip things. I feel mixed about it overall.

Objects:
  • Filthy rags and broken swords removed.
Feel a bit negative about this change. It seems like it’s coming from an aesthetic of only presenting the player with interesting choices. However, the choice not to use these items is actually a trivial one for players – not just in terms of there being not an interesting choice, but there being no hassle cost associated with not using them. So I think the cost of having them in is relatively negligible. And there are a few benefits: giving some easy things to work out for new players; adding flavour to the world; occasional interesting decisions with the artefacts.

(If we added features to Sil, broken swords would also appear in a couple: some ability to reforge broken swords might be interesting, and perhaps some nightmare mode where one starts with a broken instead of a curved sword.)
  • Quarterstaff, spear, great spear, glaive and war hammer base stats tweaked
The base stats for the blunt weapons definitely depends on where the rules for blunt weapons end up.

I believe that polearms may have been slightly underpowered before, but I think not by much, and the stat changes here are one of several different buffs they’ve received. I think this may be a bit much overall. I’ll discuss in the abilities section.
  • Daggers, sceptres, robes and crowns have new flag that increases the chance of having special abilities.
I feel mostly fine about this (similar to these items (except daggers?) having the modifier making it easier to smith powerful artefacts).
  • Robes default to +1 Evasion.
Feel odd about this in conjunction with the previous. At [+1], Robes are at basically the natural point in the armour spectrum – better for extreme evasion characters than leather. They’re shrinking the natural market for leather armour down, but it still exists (characters whose exchange rate puts [+1] at between 2 and 2.5 sides of protection dice, where those below 2 will naturally prefer heavier armour, and those above 2.5 will naturally prefer robes). If Robes are also very often special, I think it’s squeezing on the natural market of leather armour even further. Then there’s a judgement call to be made on whether it feels flavourful to have a significant proportion of characters descending into the depths of Angband doing so in robes. Maybe that’s OK actually?
  • [new items]
I generally like these.

An exception is around new bows. Sil tried quite carefully to make bows ignorable for characters who didn’t want to dabble in archery (with a single mild exception in Belthronding). But several of the new special types have bonuses that matter outside of archery, which means that they start to matter. I find this is somewhat immersion-breaking.

(This is a matter of taste, and Sil already violates it a bit, for example having melee weapons sometimes affect archers. Still, wanting to share where my taste is.)
  • Horns now affect a cone instead of a straight line
Nice! I’ve thought that something like this could be good. (Spitballing: maybe there could be an artefact horn of dragonfire, which lets you create flame like a dragon?)
  • Cursed negative stat jewellery removed
A bit like traps, I feel like this leads to some interesting experiences and stories. Don’t fully feel the pull for removal (even if it’s obviously frustrating in the moment to put on).

Smithing:
I initially felt confused and like things were mispriced. After exploring more and trying to break things I felt less sure. e.g. slays and damage sides on weapons seem very cheap and good value, but perhaps that’s OK because it makes Weaponsmith more attractive?

I do still think that damage sides on weapons are underpriced relative to accuracy on weapons. (Based on old combat-simulation spreadsheets.)
I find the rules governing the costs confusing. One of the aesthetics we aimed for in Sil was trying to have good behaviour come out of fairly simple rules. I think this is particularly good if achievable for smithing, since the player needs to be able to plan. On the other hand perhaps it was already relatively opaque, and it just seemed more transparent to me because I’d been involved in the design.

Things that were particularly surprising to me:
  • Why is it so expensive to move a shortsword weight down to 1lb?
  • Why is it so cheap to increase protection on a hauberk (e.g. relative to a corslet), and one can do it twice?
I’m not quite certain that either of those are mistakes! But I’d prefer to have an elegant system that naturally generates outcomes like this, and can be explained to the player, if one exists. (Maybe with a few exceptions that get special flags)

[This has got pretty long already; I'll put discussion of abilities into a follow-up message in the next couple of days.]

Nivim January 4, 2019 05:03

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
[...]Variable amount with the song if that still exists?[...]

Just a quick note, as I'm a little short on time now; Song of Sharpness definitely no longer exists, just as Song of Slaying was removed, because they were too effective at helping kill Morgoth. Quirk did a lot of work trying to add songs in their place that people would use (as well as in place of Este, because it already wasn't used much), and that work probably isn't done yet.

Quirk January 4, 2019 19:30

I'm honoured. I am very glad you gave Sil-Q a shot, and even more glad you enjoyed it. I want to take the opportunity to thank you for the original Sil, with its many ingenious systems; this fork was for me a labour of love.

There is much you've written to respond to. I appreciate this, as often it feels like I'm scraping round desperately for any sort of feedback. Some I'll probably agree with fully or to some extent, some I'll disagree with, but probably the most interesting cases are the places where I used to think as you did and changed my mind.

I'm going to split this over a couple of posts because it will get large.

Firstly though, there are a few things I need to bring up as context for the rest.

Sil has a number of simple elegant mechanics. Unfortunately, simple elegant mechanics can scale awkwardly or unevenly. Basically what I'm saying here is that good behaviour coming out of simple rules tends to come with points where it breaks down, and I'm going to refer to this in particular with reference to abilities and items (skill points self-balance a good deal more because of the scaling costs).

I spent a chunk of time with a combat simulator which allowed me to investigate the results of hypotheticals such as going up against an orc with only a spear vs having a longsword. (Initial work was here: http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showthread.php?t=8857). Some changes which may "feel" too strong are very much data-driven e.g. I didn't change Finesse to improve crits by 2 points instead of 1 because of my personal experience, but because simulations showed it was worse than Power even for a longsword over a range of reasonably typical face-offs.

I also had the great advantage of getting to watch players on angband.live and finding out more about how they actually played the game in real time. This was very educational, and there are too many people I have to thank for giving me fresh perspectives on things.

There are undoubtedly things I've changed based on too limited feedback. Often it's all I've had. Early on in particular when I had less skill of my own with Sil I accepted some suggestions I consider in retrospect questionable, but I have kept evolving the game and hopefully corrected most if not all of the early missteps.

On to responding properly!

Quirk January 4, 2019 21:48

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Removing Deathblades maybe the right choice. They had become the most egregious of the remaining monsters in terms of fit for the world (even if Tolkien does do talking swords). They did play an interesting role as an opponent that light-weapon characters would have difficulty with but actively want to fight. I wonder if something else should be filling a similar role in the monster ecosystem.

I agree deathblades filled an interesting role. I have though been looking for foes more rooted in Tolkien; partly because even Tevildo and the cats make players less steeped in lore raise eyebrows, and am not finding it altogether easy. I've generally tried to steer clear of large re-engineerings of how the existing set of enemies work as I want the game still to feel like Sil.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Both Phantoms and Brood spiders are interesting early game monsters. I think in each case you’ve put them slightly too early, though.

I'm going to put this together with:
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Filthy rags and broken swords removed.
Feel a bit negative about this change. It seems like it’s coming from an aesthetic of only presenting the player with interesting choices. However, the choice not to use these items is actually a trivial one for players – not just in terms of there being not an interesting choice, but there being no hassle cost associated with not using them. So I think the cost of having them in is relatively negligible.

So - early game, Sil is very plain. There are a handful of enemies you might see at 50': wolves, orcs, tanglethorn, grimhawk - maybe spider hatchlings, orc scouts, blue serpents. Despite this, it's got a brutal reputation among players who haven't spent long with it. New players often die quickly, and then come back to the same spare first couple of levels, and die again without experiencing much of the game, only seeing enemies that are relatively dull in Sil terms. This is not helped by the list of sexy abilities which are both tempting to newbies and mostly worse in the very early game than sinking points into skills. Worse, though, I observe very experienced players wiping out at 100' or 150' much more frequently than one might expect.

Part of this is that it's very lumpy. Getting protection early on is particularly important for the survival of players unused to the stealth mechanics, but you can very easily get screwed on drops and not see any. The "hassle cost" in not using the items is that they make a drop a non-drop at a point in the game where orc soldiers are about to spike the difficulty. Once you have some quantity of armour, the next couple of hundred feet are decidedly less challenging. Getting that armour when many of the drops are useless is not a given. And, of course, there are still useless drops even after dropping the actual useless drops - seeing nothing but shortswords still leaves you horribly ill-equipped.

Harsh and highly random difficulty at a point where the player has barely seen the game and feels they've hardly made any real choices is IMO questionable, and I think not deliberate. I read Sil complaints such as:
Quote:

Originally Posted by A player on /r/roguelikes
I was a little disappointed by the way the enemies I encountered felt pretty samey, and that almost all of my deaths came from just being a little too surrounded by boring mobs. The dungeon itself is almost featureless, in contrast to the OP's two picks.
...
I felt like there was a rich complex game under the surface of this first-contact experience and sameyness of the first few floors every run

and I cringe, because I can see exactly how they got there.

There are two tacks I've taken here: one is to ease early difficulty, and one is to give the player more to see. Improving item drops counts for both, and brood spiders and phantoms are not hard to fight, but necessitate very different tactics to fighting orcs or wolves. I agree phantoms could go a little deeper, perhaps with some buffing, but in that case I would like to find something equally interesting to confront the player with at 50'.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
I rather like the paired orc uniques, although I seem to encounter them a bit too often (also be aware that paired uniques are quite a chunk of experience for the player; possibly they could do with a slight buff).

They began buffed, and got gradually debuffed after player complaints. Some of the players complaining certainly knew how to play, so I took them seriously. Of course, nobody complains when they're a little too weak so maybe they've gone too far.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Blunt weapon damage is not fully absorbed by armour
I don’t love the implementation of this one. I do think it’s an interesting way to differentiate blunt weapons, but I think there’s some flavour + incentive fail, of e.g. carrying around a quarterstaff so that you can easily deal with grotesques.

So - I actually don't love this either. The problem though was that blunt weapons were almost strictly worse than alternatives. Axes have many dice and are good if you are strong. Polearms have many dice sides and are good if you're weak (well, in theory). Swords are a happy medium, and grant evasion. Blunt weapons...? Sceptres are an odd flavour choice, and unplayably bad without a certain ego. Quarterstaffs grant evasion at the cost of not being able to have a shield, and do pitiful damage. Hammers are slightly weak but fixably so.

I could have thrown out sceptres and quarterstaffs altogether, but having hammers sit in a smithing category on their own felt wrong, and it wasn't clear what kind of identity any other blunt weapons would take - or even could take, given we have the Power weapons in the axe corner, the Finesse weapons in the polearm corner, and the swords in the middle. In the end I fell back on the well-used anti-armour trope, which is at least rooted in real medieval warfare, though it's not particularly suited to sceptres and quarterstaffs.

I would love to get to discuss this further.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Stealth is boosted a little at early levels and lowers as you descend
I’m basically happy to defer on whether this improves balance, but the implementation feels a little bit clunky: why not tweak monster Perception scores instead?

Well, the effect is largely the same whether Perception is decreased or Stealth increased, but it came out of an initial misguided attempt to improve Stealth before I did my own pacifist runs and came to the conclusion there was little wrong with it. I agree that it would probably be thematically better to adjust monster perception instead.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Monsters scared from the level yield a (little) experience
This one I again remember a conversation about whether we should do this. We decided against, because the player has already been given experience for the encounter, and it’s not obvious that scaring them off should yield more than sneaking past them. I don’t feel strongly about that conclusion.

I do feel strongly that the implementation is a bad one. The manual says “This is calculated as the current experience that would be gained for seeing a new monster of that type divided by the number of monsters of that type that have been scared upstairs or downstairs.”. This incentivises weird behaviour: there is more total experience available if you scare some monsters away rather than just kill them, and there is more available if the ones you scare are among the first few you encounter.

If you want experience for scaring monsters off the level, the simplest thing would be to count them as defeated, and award the experience for killing them (for non-uniques). A little less simple but still non-distortionary would be to count them as “half a kill” (in either case this should update the experience available for future kills as well as future scares).

I am not convinced this is good either. One or two people pushed for it, and initially it yielded experience equivalent to a kill. This was clearly too good because scaring is easier than killing. I think half a kill would possibly be too bad, as it would be a significant loss of possible XP for monsters you see early on. As it is, the reward is barely useful - yes, if you scare the first monster you meet you get half the experience you got for seeing them (this is worse than killing them), but walking into a room, seeing and scaring three new monsters of the same type gets you just 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/12 of the experience you'd get for killing one.

I don't think Majesty/Elbereth need this and I'm not sure this is enough to help the scary pacifist anyway. I would be disposed to remove it again, I think it is probably a mistake.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • All stairs are shafts during the escape
I believe that this could create better gameplay, but the implementation has(for me) a weird breaking-of-immersion. Could the change happen more off-screen, so that they appear as just stairs on the level, but taking any stairs with a Silmaril makes you go an extra 50’?

Relatedly, I don’t think removing crumbling stairs on the ascent straight works: stair-scumming to try and get two in the same room is pretty powerful. One could not increase the relevant variable for taking up staircases on the ascent (and perhaps not for taking down staircases in the main game).

A more extreme alternative would be to have “the stairs crumble behind you” on the ascent, so you’re always dropped into a level without an immediate escape. (I think this might be pretty interesting to play with, actually.)

These are all useful thoughts. The stairs crumbling when you were escaping in the most natural manner possible seemed a petty and frustrating annoyance, so I removed it, but I actually very much like your idea of the stairs crumbling behind the player.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Traps easier to detect and disarm
This might be alright, but I notice I’m worried about it. I think traps throwing players into unexpected and difficult circumstances provide some of the most exciting moments in the game. If it’s too easy to opt out of the dealing-with-traps game, people will do that, and then the game will be less interesting.

I think traps lead to a lot of frustrating deaths that feel unfair, as well as randomly eroding armour and whisking people off the level where they've finally found a forge. These are mostly bad play experiences. When I hear players talk about traps, pretty much everything I've heard has been strongly negative.

I would like in the long run to make traps feel more fair. This means letting players determine from the environment that there might be traps about, so they can slow down and play accordingly. I have done this to a small degree lately with spider-infested rooms which have webs; ages ago I considered generating whole levels which felt like caves or felt like underground city, where one might consider the cave with skeletons likely to be spider-infested, or the treasury likely to be booby-trapped. Without doing this though they're a random frustration of the players' plans, placed without logic to ruin your armour.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • you now start with a curved sword equipped
This one is a convenience for experienced players, but removes something about the feeling of desperation at the start, and also doesn’t include the subtle nudge to make sure new players know how to equip things. I feel mixed about it overall.

This also I fought for a long time. Eventually I started looking at starting equipment, trying to find something that better differentiated the starting races and made it look like you were there on purpose: why are you in Angband unequipped, and why has someone left a sword lying next to you? I couldn't quite settle on starting equipment I liked and put it off for another day, but made a concession to the mpa-sil crowd. I am also mixed.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
I believe that polearms may have been slightly underpowered before, but I think not by much, and the stat changes here are one of several different buffs they’ve received. I think this may be a bit much overall. I’ll discuss in the abilities section.

Having simulated: I strongly disagree.

Two-handed weapons are in general not great for much of the game. The lack of protection means you take damage a shield would spare you. They do gain something because you can half-kill an unaware enemy, or finish one enemy before another arrives, but the ratio of damage dealt to damage received is in simulation mostly bad. Even being very strong doesn't make a two-handed weapon look great in an extended brawl in a corridor - but here I'm talking about axes and greatswords. Great spears and even glaives are frankly terrible in Sil in comparison - and then, to add insult to injury, elves get a bonus to sword proficiency, making them even worse.

Then we get to the one polearm that you can wear a shield with, the spear. The Sil spear does (-1, 1d9). A longsword is (0, 2d5)[+1]. A spear is 3 lb, so you need to crit by 10 to get a second d9.

With 0 strength (most players have at least 1), the spear is doing an average of 5 damage with 1 die, 10 with 2 dice. The longsword does 6 damage with one die, 9 with 2. In practice it would outdamage the spear in most realistic confrontations - at 0 strength - even without having both a melee and evasion bonus. Then of course we have elf sword proficiency on top of that, so the most-played races have even less incentive to use them.

Spears have had a lot of buffs. They have needed them.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
If Robes are also very often special, I think it’s squeezing on the natural market of leather armour even further. Then there’s a judgement call to be made on whether it feels flavourful to have a significant proportion of characters descending into the depths of Angband doing so in robes. Maybe that’s OK actually?

I don't see many players using robes - the first little bit of protection makes a huge difference. Early game they're certainly very much worse than leather armour.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
An exception is around new bows. Sil tried quite carefully to make bows ignorable for characters who didn’t want to dabble in archery (with a single mild exception in Belthronding). But several of the new special types have bonuses that matter outside of archery, which means that they start to matter. I find this is somewhat immersion-breaking.

So this is a case of hard choices. Someone made the point that having a bow care about what it's pointing at is silly. Why would a bow slay dragons but not orcs? An arrow might be enchanted to special deadliness, but the bow is just the launcher.

It turns out that once you've removed slaying from bows, it's hard to make good bow egos. Putting archery abilities on them only negates the point of archers taking them (and if archers don't want ego bows, who does?).

Having also disliked the idea of having bows affect non-archers, I found I didn't really have much of a choice if I wanted bows to have egos and didn't want to write a ton of new code to do special bow-specific things. The latter may yet happen, as my muted feelings as to how much bonus is fair on a bow has made them possibly a little dull, but it wasn't a question for this release.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Horns now affect a cone instead of a straight line
Nice! I’ve thought that something like this could be good. (Spitballing: maybe there could be an artefact horn of dragonfire, which lets you create flame like a dragon?)

I like the idea, but I can think of at least one Tolkien fan whose hackles I suspect would rise at it. An artefact horn would be cool though.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Smithing:
I do still think that damage sides on weapons are underpriced relative to accuracy on weapons. (Based on old combat-simulation spreadsheets.)
I find the rules governing the costs confusing. One of the aesthetics we aimed for in Sil was trying to have good behaviour come out of fairly simple rules. I think this is particularly good if achievable for smithing, since the player needs to be able to plan. On the other hand perhaps it was already relatively opaque, and it just seemed more transparent to me because I’d been involved in the design.

Ironically, it's trying to keep things simple which I think is the root of the issue there.

Melee and evasion are still priced the same way over all items. Evasion is easy to get to be completely broken late-game. High Melee is much less broken. Costs which are necessary to prevent stupid late-game Evasion look oddly high for Melee.

I think +Melee on weapons could be a good deal cheaper and not be broken. Weaponsmith in particular is a good deal more limited than armoursmith, so it needs to make its weapons count. I am less sure about Melee costs on armoursmith, which gets to double up its advantages with both heavy armour and gauntlets. Possibly the calculations need split.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Things that were particularly surprising to me:
  • Why is it so expensive to move a shortsword weight down to 1lb?
  • Why is it so cheap to increase protection on a hauberk (e.g. relative to a corslet), and one can do it twice?

1d8 shortswords at 1 lb are broken good with Subtlety. Devastatingly so. Weakening Subtlety would make them less desirable, but leave pretty much any other choice underwhelming. Were they cheap to make, they would displace every other possible weapon a Subtlety build might take.

Hauberks are worse than corslets. I spent a bunch of time simulating and playing with the stats. At 2d6 they're slightly better, though still heavier, and are worse than corslets again once corslets hit 2d5. They drop deeper than corslets, so by the default smithing mechanics, a hauberk is more expensive, and a fine hauberk more expensive than a fine corslet.

I don't know if anyone is smithing hauberks, but I wanted to make players have some reason to choose to do so.

Protection incidentally is cheaper than before and Evasion more expensive: this is largely because in the early game, protection is very good, often better than an extra point of Evasion, but in the late game Evasion is king. Smithing is now priced more round the late game than the early game. A 2d7 hauberk will carry you easily through the levels where enemies do 2d7 or 3d6 damage, but late on where enemies hit for 2d19 or 3d13 and criticals are extremely damaging the lost Melee and Evasion are less amply compensated.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
I’m not quite certain that either of those are mistakes! But I’d prefer to have an elegant system that naturally generates outcomes like this, and can be explained to the player, if one exists. (Maybe with a few exceptions that get special flags)

This proves to be a little difficult. Symmetry is always tempting, but often the things we are looking at are not actually symmetrical. Evasion is not the same as Melee, and Perception is less useful point for point than Stealth. More than this, the equations change over the course of the game as the gap between the player's Melee and Evasion and the enemies' Melee and Evasion widens, and to cap it all, these things do not widen linearly: as soon as you roll two dice against one another, you find yourself in binomial land, and while +1 Evasion may reduce your odds of being hit by 10% when you're both equal, when you're already 17 Evasion ahead that same +1 Evasion can halve your odds of being hit.

In the end, I'd rather have an asymmetrical system in which players looking for an advantage disagree which route is best than an elegant symmetrical system in which experienced players always take the obviously best choice.

wobbly January 5, 2019 14:38

Hi Scatha, great to hear from you & hope you're doing well. Now that Quirk has had a chance to reply I'll add my 2 cents on some points.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Both Phantoms and Brood spiders are interesting early game monsters. I think in each case you’ve put them slightly too early, though. Brood spiders feel like they should go 50’ or 100’ deeper (and get correspondingly tougher presumably) so that it’s more likely one has met Spider hatchlings before first encountering one.

This is hard for me to judge as I recognize spider hatchlings already. I'll give the good & the bad for me. Having something new in the early game is great for an old player who sees the same stuff all the time. Having something that is easy xp scumming before the 1st forge, not so great.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
No strong feelings on the other monster changes – I have minor good feelings and minor bad feelings about most of them. I rather like the paired orc uniques, although I seem to encounter them a bit too often (also be aware that paired uniques are quite a chunk of experience for the player; possibly they could do with a slight buff).

I'll just mention that the one with Cruel Blow was horrendous to fight with an Edain pre-nerf. I mean Edain's are meant to be hard & Boldog's a nightmare too, but it's worth keeping in mind. A lot of experienced players were dying here with Noldors.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Monsters scared from the level yield a (little) experience
[Part of the reason I care so much about this is that Sil is quite delicately balanced in terms of the pools of experience points available, and a modest change in the amount of experience available can have a surprisingly large affect on difficulty.]

I don't 100% like the implementation either but am not convinced it's worth scumming. I'm pretty good at collecting broken levels of XP. The time to scum this is potentially losing more then you gain. My main trick for breaking the XP pool is to stack a couple of levels of danger & dive as hard & as fast as you can (obviously this is risky). Possibly you can scum vampire lords & the like, I've never bothered to try. There are easier ways to break the XP curve.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Gorged status gone - you can overeat without losing the ability to eat more
This is a tradeoff of realism-seeming against avoiding really annoying seeming downsides for the player. I don’t have a strong view either way. [I do have some feeling that things like this contribute to the erosion of the hunger clock as a significant mechanic in Sil. Maybe it should eventually be removed, I’m not sure. I certainly used to lose characters to starvation and don’t anymore.]

Gorged is & has always been one of the most horribly bad mechanics in every angband variant (Obviously my opinion). If you're ready to face Morgoth the last thing you want to do is go through a heap of busy work emptying your stomach. It's slowing the game down at a moment that should feel dramatic.

I too had food issues as a beginner. That still works for those learning the game (a beginner is probably better at answering whether that's good or bad). I think it still works as a slot filler & limit on how much hunger gear you can wear. Mostly I'm neutral on hunger clocks. I'm not neutral on Gorged & never heard of anyone liking them outside of 1 player who recently posted in the vanilla thread on hunger. I'm sure you can find the thread if you want an alternative opinion.
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
  • Traps easier to detect and disarm
This might be alright, but I notice I’m worried about it. I think traps throwing players into unexpected and difficult circumstances provide some of the most exciting moments in the game. If it’s too easy to opt out of the dealing-with-traps game, people will do that, and then the game will be less interesting.

I didn't mind the old traps but I'm in the minority. I did dislike lugging chests around till I found a freedom staff & I certainly disliked getting caught by rooms where you couldn't find the secret door, ever, no matter how many times you hit search....
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Smithing:
I initially felt confused and like things were mispriced. After exploring more and trying to break things I felt less sure. e.g. slays and damage sides on weapons seem very cheap and good value, but perhaps that’s OK because it makes Weaponsmith more attractive?

For the most part I find smithing better balanced. Which is to say it's not but it never was & has always been a hard ask to get right. Previously it wasn't worth the investment to go low smithing, only to replace 50-100' latter. Now you can usually get something that'll last you to 400' (& still ultimately be replaced).
Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135122)
Things that were particularly surprising to me:
  • Why is it so expensive to move a shortsword weight down to 1lb?
  • Why is it so cheap to increase protection on a hauberk (e.g. relative to a corslet), and one can do it twice?

I'll add my perspective on these 2:
Making weapons super light was usually a big deal for me in smithing something crazy good (particularly if you play str 1/dex 5 on a feanor)
Hauberk's are generally bad unless you can get 1 with high protection when all of a sudden they are crazy good (on the right character of course). Getting a good hauberk by the 1st forge used to be pretty strong. I prefer the feeling of starting with mail then upgrading to a hauberk if I'm going for super heavy.

Scatha January 5, 2019 20:29

Thanks Quirk and wobbly for the in-depth replies!

OK, second half of my review. I want to reiterate that I like a lot of things about the game, but the places I feel most like I'm seeing something important which is being missed end up being the places where I'm spending most words.

But I'm feeling sad to notice that in discussing new objects I didn't mention that, say, I think the Ring of Mairon or the Spear 'Dugrakh' are wonderfully evocative and thought-provoking, nor that the Crown of Maedhros captures that story perfectly, nor that potions of Esgalduin may have more magic in them than any flasks we left in Sil.

Abilities:
I have lots of zoomed in things to say about the ability changes. Holistically, I feel like the ability trees have lost the feeling of being an interesting intricate structure with some things screened off. I think this is a loss to making the game feels like it hangs together as a coherent whole, and a loss to some things feeling particularly special.

Getting the pre-requisites to feel right did take some time and attention, and perhaps if you’re still juggling to work out which abilities you even want in the game it’s reasonable to wait until after to try to work it out, but I would recommend returning attention to it.

Melee tree:
  • Momentum removed
I guess this was maybe a correct move. I am fond of the Momentum mechanically, but it does seem to have distorted the late-game a bit without enough corresponding interest.
  • Throwing Mastery gone; Knockback moved into Throwing Mastery's place
These seem reasonable. I don’t have strong views.
  • Finesse strengthened
Interesting move. There are two effects here: making Finesse a better buy, and making light weapons generally better. If mostly thinking of the latter I’d wonder about just reducing the base for criticals back to 6 (where it was back somewhere before the 1.0 release) and leaving Finesse as only a single point difference.

I guess I’m interested to see if it’s not too broken. I do think Finesse becomes a solid ability with this change, and I think it’s possible it will end up being too strong (e.g. I think it should normally be preferred to Power by longsword users as well as the more obvious shortsword and polearm users, though that isn't obviously problematic).

A side effect of this is a major boost to Subtlety characters. But they’ve lost rings of damage, deathblades, and some of the strength of Cruel Blow, so it’s not obviously over the top. I did experiment some with it and it seemed powerful, but in a fun way.

Another nice side-effect is that daggers become more plausible.
  • Polearm Mastery strengthened
I’m ambivalent on the argument that “mastery should grant +2”. I think there’s something to it, but the extra ability granted kind of plays this role.

Note that polearms have five different buffs in Sil-Q: base stats improved, Finesse improved, Polearm Mastery improved, Impale introduced, smithing slaying weapons cheaper (and polearms are often the best choice there). I suspect that this is a little too much. In testing I did think they were strong, but I didn’t have a winner abusing it, so I’d describe my suspicions as theory-driven and not-disconfirmed-by-data.
  • Impale added
I played a bit with this on a Flanking character. It was interesting but not ridiculous there. I think the ability is reasonably elegant. I am worried that it’s another ability that pushes towards fighting in corridors, which is often the least interesting gameplay. I’m not sure whether you’re tracking this. I guess I'm tentatively a fan.
  • Anticipate added
Interesting, I haven’t played with it but on face value this sounds very strong. (Why not just reroll once? That would at least be more elegant, and sounds plenty powerful enough.)

I don’t think the reliance on enemies being aggressive mitigates that much. It’s already sometimes an advantage as it lets you fight in corridors rather than having to emerge into rooms.

Playing off the name, I’d think something like a natural version might be: If you didn’t move last turn, re-roll missed attacks once. I suspect that’s still very strong.
  • Whirlwind Attack changed
This again removes one of the incentives for fighting in the open rather than in corridors. I don’t feel great about that direction. At the same time, I do think that Whirlwind didn’t get much use (even if it was quite strong with Flanking). So I agree with the desire for a change, but I’m not sure about this particular one.

---

Archery tree:
Interesting to see such a reimagining of the whole tree. I haven’t tested archery much, so the review here is based mostly on the manual and my own theory.
  • Careful Shot, Rapid Fire, Flaming Arrows, Precision gone
There are none of these I feel are obviously wrong to remove. I don’t think the losses are free, though.

Careful Shot and Flaming Arrows were pressure valves on number of arrows found mattering. There is now only one pressure valve for this: smithing. Maybe that’s enough? Or maybe you decide that arrows will be frequent enough that you just don’t want this ever to be a real constraint? I guess I feel OK about that. Flaming Arrows also had some canonical support (Gandalf lighting Legolas’ arrows as they fight wolves); however I do feel sympathetic to the argument for balance to remove it.

Rapid Fire was one of the few outlets for high Strength to matter for archery. If it’s being removed, I wonder if dragon-horn longbows should be a 3- or 4-dice weapon to compensate.
  • Crippling shot modified
I feel OK with the direction of the modification. Don’t have any strong view over the exact formula you ended up with; seems fine modulo testing.
I’ll note that an alternative change would have been to stop the duration of the effect scaling with the level of critical (since the difficulty already did).
  • Rout added
This is fairly simple and cute. Is the effect size large enough?
  • Blessing of Orome added
Huh. Interesting ability. I haven't played with it a lot, but I played around and it definitely does feels cool. I worry that it is a little crowded in-between 1) Bows of Radiance, and 2) Song of the Trees.

Perhaps the Ability and the effect from Bows of Radiance should be the same, and then the bows could grant the ability? I’m not sure which the best version of the effect would be. The 'radiance' effect is maybe a little weak-seeming. One could change it to make it illuminate a width-3 corridor instead of a width-1 one, but maybe the Blessing of Orome effect just plays better; I'm not sure.

Another issue with this ability is how explicitly ‘magical’ feeling it is. Generally we tried to keep such non-mundane things confined to the Grace-based skills. Flaming Arrows was a bit of an exception, but a) it was a little ambiguous, one could imagine doing it in a mundane way, and b) it was deep into the ability tree. This all makes me end up feeling mildly negative on the ability, or keen to sink it a bit further into the tree if it's kept.

The name is very fitting.
  • Fletchery added
This is simple and on the face of it sounds like an interesting question it poses to the player. I like it.
  • Dedication added
Oof. In many ways I like this as a simple reward for going heavily into archery. I do have a couple of worries:
1) Does this just add annoying busywork to the player, of equipping and unequipping a weapon all the time? (This was a large part of why there’s a separate bow slot from weapon slot)
2) Does this make ‘pure’ archers too appealing relative to those who dabble a bit in melee?
  • Deadly Hail added
This is pretty interesting, clean and potentially powerful without obviously being broken. I like it quite a bit.

---

Evasion tree:
  • Leaping now leaps all traps that aren't roosts and webs
Sounds good to me. (Assuming this means when they're known about.)

I faintly remember a discussion with half when we introduced Leaping about whether it should do this. But I can't remember any particular reasons for concluding it shouldn't; maybe just a worry that it would be too strong?

---

Stealth tree:
  • Exchange Places and Opportunist exchange places
Not obvious to me, but also not obviously wrong. These are both Stealth abilities with significant utility to non-stealthy characters. I think Exchange Places is the more powerful of the two and the one that feels more heavily stealth-linked, so I’d have been inclined to leave it where it was, but I don’t feel strongly.

---

Perception tree:
  • Eye for Detail gone
This one wasn’t essential, but it was sometimes a helpful utility ability and I thought gave some interesting choices. I don’t fully understand the reasons for removal (without feeling that it was necessarily wrong to remove).
  • Lore-Keeper, Lore-Master gone, Alchemy added
I think how you’ve spread these effects out among other abilities is pretty interesting. I might be missing something, but it seems like there now isn’t anything which gives full knowledge of enemies. Maybe Master Hunter should? [Oh, I see it’s with Forewarned]
  • Quick Study added
In some ways this is a bit boring and meta. I kind of like it though. But my liking it reminds me of how I like Momentum, giving the player a way to bypass what’s actually an interesting constraint, and it’s possible it would turn out to be a mistake in the same way.

In any case, I think it’s currently undercut by how much you’ve stripped the frequency and depth of pre-requisites out.
  • Forewarned added
I think this is a pretty interesting concept for a Perception ability. However, I really don’t like the way that this sometimes makes investing an extra point into Evasion make your character weaker. We carefully avoided that problem for Versatility, but it’s easier there since they both rely on Dex. Here it feels like Grace boosts should help you, so importing the same solution doesn’t obviously work.
Riffing off the idea: how about it adds Perception to Evasion, but only if you weren’t attacked the previous round?

---

Will tree:
  • Mind Over Body gone, Clarity becomes Indomitable, adds resistance to fear and slow digestion
I think this is a balance question. Indomitable feels to me like it may be a bit too much, but I’m not confident.
  • Strength in Adversity dropped to Mind Over Body slot, strengthened
That’s quite a lot stronger! I’d be interested to test, maybe this is fine.
  • Vengeance added
Mostly I think this is interesting. However, I worry that it incentivises a weird thing of trying to finish fights with a ‘vengeance boost’ in place (for instance by scaring away the last foe after getting hit). Perhaps the boost should disappear if not used within a modest number of turns?
  • Channeling changed
Looks reasonable on the face of it. I think one of the main uses of Channeling before was to strengthen the ability to put Morgoth to sleep with staves. Perhaps the boost to Staves of Slumber will be enough to not make this a problem for that kind of build?

---

Smithing tree:
  • Artistry gone, effects available by default
Having played with this I think it’s OK, with some residual suspicion that it makes early smithing too powerful.
  • Expertise added
This is cute, I like it. Should it come before Artifice in the tree?
  • Jeweller lets you identify jewellery, Enchantment enchanted items
Makes these strong, but not obviously a problem. I like the way that it makes dabbling in Smithing a bit more tempting.

---

Song tree:
  • Song of Slaying gone
I understand there have been issues with this ability. I think it’s quite powerfully thematic, though, and I feel bad about cutting it altogether (which is not the same as a claim that it should definitely be kept).

For what it’s worth, here are some old notes of mine on things we could do to improve the ability:
Quote:

We wanted to smooth the power of the song, so it's stronger when you are killing few things and weaker when you are killing many -- in particular in the throne room.

There's currently a constant K which is used internally to track kills etc, which gets converted to another constant k (I think a small multiple of K), and gives you a bonus of k*S (where S is your song).

I propose leaving the algorithm for K as it is, but replacing k with k', where k' = sqrt(k/2).

(If all the arithmetic is with integers, we probably want to take a square root at the level of K rather than k)

This will leave the effect alone when it's currently granting a bonus of S/2, and otherwise use the geometric mean of the current bonus and S/2 (this description gives an alternate way of coding the rule). Of course this would want a bit of playtesting.

I could also look closely at the current algorithm and propose something which is a bit more base-level (there is something inelegant about applying this transformation at the end). However:
• Song of Slaying is already opaque about the exact workings.
o We'd be keeping its most important transparency property, which is that the bonus is proportional to your Song
• There was some fine balancing about the speed of building up and decaying of the bonus. Changes to the fundamental mechanism there will need more playtesting than versions which leave it alone.

  • Song of Aule gone
I think this was quite thematic but not extremely so. It’s also unclear whether it made the gameplay better; it certainly complicated the balancing of Smithing. Overall I guess I feel fine without it.
  • Song of Este gone
Again I think this was pretty thematic, but it seemed to get very little use. Strengthening it or removing it both seem fine. If removing, one could consider wrapping (some of) the ability from Song of Este up into another song … I think the natural candidates are Song of the Trees and Song of Staying.
  • Song of Sharpness gone
This one I feel quite bad about. This is one of the most canonical songs (sung by Beleg to free Turin), and many of the sharp artefacts in the game are taken directly from that verse.

I also don’t think it was particularly problematic. It was often taken for the throne room, but it was useful for combat before the throne room too, and doesn’t seem particularly differentially useful for combat in the throne room. It is also useful for cutting out Silmarils, but I feel like that’s working as intended.
  • Song of Challenge
I think the effect is interesting but doesn’t quite deserve a song. I also think the name is a bit weak thematically.

(Possible this effect could be combined with a somewhat weakened Slaying effect.)
  • Song of Delvings
Wow, this is cool. It’s also, I believe, very strong.

I used this song on my winning character. I found the exploring effect both useful and flavourful as a kind of gradual subtle magic – much less jarring than Staves of Revelations. I would have been delighted to take the ability just for this exploration effect, without any detection of traps or boost to tunnelling. I like the way it works, and the way it scales with your Song score. (The exact scaling is a parameter that could be used for balancing.) From everything in Sil-Q, this gave me my strongest "I wish I'd designed that!" moment.

I think the detection of traps should almost certainly be removed from the song. It’s just a very cheap way to totally obviate the trap sub-game. It also steps on the toes of Song of Freedom, which is a slightly more expensive way to do the same. I’m not sure that the tunnelling bonus is needed; I suppose it seems fine.

I quite like the name of this song. [I think this could also potentially be called “Song of Aule”, although perhaps in that case I’d want to remove the tunneling and add some minor boost to smithing (although helping you find forges will mean it’s already very useful to smiths, so maybe that last isn’t even needed).]
  • Song of Thresholds
The part about warding doors is pretty cool. Based presumably in part on the word of power Gandalf speaks to ward the door against the Balrog? I haven’t played with it for real to see how that turns out.

The bit about combat boost for fighting in doorways I’m less sure about. That’s a very big bonus with a relatively easy condition to meet (especially since doorways are often good places to fight anyway). It’s also a little … dull? I can’t quite picture what makes the person singing about thresholds so much better at fighting there. If it gave them a Grace bonus or opponents a morale penalty or something, I think I could see it a bit more. Maybe I feel a bit funny about the flavour overall.

I think this should probably be a noise 8 song. I also want to note that we tried to make all of the songs use 1/3 or 1 voice per turn for simple-pattern reasons. It’s not crucial that this is kept, but it feels like you’ve broken the pattern with a couple of new songs without getting much payoff for doing so.
  • Song of Overwhelming added
I’m underwhelmed.

I think in a vacuum it would be fine, but:
a) Thematically it’s a bit too close to Song of Mastery
b) “Foes stricken and shields broken” makes me think it’s going to be easier to hurt the foes, but this doesn’t match the mechanics
c) Stunning already has a different meaning in the game. Something about being consistent and making things work within the rules system where they naturally can rather than with a hodge-podge of exceptions to it is I think part of what makes the game rules as a whole feel elegant. The different "stunning" effect here is a bit painful because of that (that damage is mitigated a little if it's called something different, but only somewhat).

(Also, restricting songs to affect only adjacent things is slightly funny. Why should the sound work like that? But this is a pretty minor point and I’d be willing to give it a pass if I otherwise liked it.)

-------

Well, that was a long review. It’s a testament to the fact that I think you’ve done something cool and impressive here that I was happy to write something so long.

Good luck with the future development!

(I'm hoping to come back and reply to some of the replies, but I am fairly busy the next few weeks, so I don't want to promise I'll manage them all.)

Infinitum January 5, 2019 21:46

Interesting read! Couple of thoughts paging through:

Blunt Weapons, Sharpness: Enemy protection is currently only using [d4]'s to signify armor strenght. One easy way to simulate penetration whilst simultaneously bring it more in line with how weapon damage/strenght works would be for penetrative weapons to lower the number of sides rather than act as a percentage points. Examples given; Blunt Weapons and singing the song of sharpness (and spears?) could bestow a penetration value of 1 (lowering enemy armor dice sides from Xd4 to Xd3) and sharp weapons could have Penetration 2.

This would also slightly nerf Sharpness effects since it'd lower enemy armor by 20 and 40% on average, respectively.

Harder to implement, but I'd also prefer it from a purely design elegance point of view if the characters armor could also be calculated as a # of equal-sided dice rather than the current system of added dice ranges. This would obviously require quite the rework but maybe calculating total protection values (as well as maluses to attack, defense and stealth) as a function total weight rather than the individual pieces (with Mithril and various positive magical effects adding to functional weight for protection calculation only)?

Traps: Why not simply remove the acid traps and trap doors, and possibly rebrand alarm traps as magical wards rather than mechanical contraptions? This would also reflavor disarming traps to unraveling wards, which is a flavor win in my book (and helps explain why its a grace and not a dex ability, and why V's creations passes through unharmed). Additional wards that could be added could for an instance block the player from passing (like glyphs of warding) or summon additional (OOD) aware monsters to the level in addition to the Alarm effect.

Literal traps in commonly traversed areas are among the stupidest tropes of fantasy roleplay and I for one wouldn't be sad to see them go. Webs and roosts and the occasional pit are still fine imo.

Derakon January 5, 2019 23:47

Regarding the difficulty of making blunt weapons meaningfully distinct, what if they rolled damage twice and took the higher roll? So they'd just straight-up reliably do a bit more damage; for example, a 1d8 weapon's average goes from 4.5 to 5.8.

Scatha January 6, 2019 00:37

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135167)
Blunt Weapons, Sharpness: Enemy protection is currently only using [d4]'s to signify armor strenght. One easy way to simulate penetration whilst simultaneously bring it more in line with how weapon damage/strenght works would be for penetrative weapons to lower the number of sides rather than act as a percentage points.

Interesting thought! Or possibly:
- Blunt penetration reduces the number of sides of protection dice (e.g. 3d4 -> 3d3)
- Sharp penetration reduces the number of protection dice (e.g. 3d4 -> 2d4, although I think the default should be sharp 2 if it's to be comparable to other brands)

Scatha January 6, 2019 00:43

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135143)
There is much you've written to respond to. I appreciate this, as often it feels like I'm scraping round desperately for any sort of feedback. Some I'll probably agree with fully or to some extent, some I'll disagree with, but probably the most interesting cases are the places where I used to think as you did and changed my mind.

I'm not going to properly respond now, but I wanted to say thank you for such high-quality responses. I really appreciate seeing the details of your thinking on lots of these issues.

Quirk January 6, 2019 02:22

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Thanks Quirk and wobbly for the in-depth replies!

Thank you for the feedback!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Abilities:
I have lots of zoomed in things to say about the ability changes. Holistically, I feel like the ability trees have lost the feeling of being an interesting intricate structure with some things screened off. I think this is a loss to making the game feels like it hangs together as a coherent whole, and a loss to some things feeling particularly special.

Getting the pre-requisites to feel right did take some time and attention, and perhaps if you’re still juggling to work out which abilities you even want in the game it’s reasonable to wait until after to try to work it out, but I would recommend returning attention to it.

Prerequisites in general are an added cost to an ability. Some abilities are particularly strong - for instance in many cases players take the extra stat points, because they strengthen the character substantially without forcing them to jump through any hoops. However, if the prerequisite ability is already a little stronger than abilities at the same level, it's the non-prerequisite abilities that suffer.

In Sil originally, the stat points in a number of instances forked from some of the strongest skills in the tree - Strength came from Momentum in Melee, Dexterity from Flaming Arrows in Archery, Constitution from Critical Resistance in Will. Bluntly: this was broken. Skills which already underperformed their peers (e.g Whirlwind Attack, Strength in Adversity) also drew the player off the path to strong later abilities. A balanced approach to prerequisites would sacrifice power in the short-term for long-term gain, but we would also like prerequisite abilities to feel related to the abilities that come later. I think this is something that could be examined again, but it is much more challenging to balance than it may have previously appeared.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
A side effect of this is a major boost to Subtlety characters. But they’ve lost rings of damage, deathblades, and some of the strength of Cruel Blow, so it’s not obviously over the top. I did experiment some with it and it seemed powerful, but in a fun way.

Another nice side-effect is that daggers become more plausible.

I think d6 daggers and Poison daggers can now be sensible choices for an Assassination-based character. I am not sure there is anything much I can do to rescue d5 daggers more broadly. At least we can throw them at people.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Anticipate added
Interesting, I haven’t played with it but on face value this sounds very strong. (Why not just reroll once? That would at least be more elegant, and sounds plenty powerful enough.)

I don’t think the reliance on enemies being aggressive mitigates that much. It’s already sometimes an advantage as it lets you fight in corridors rather than having to emerge into rooms.

The skill is a little less powerful than it appears. Although you hit a chunk more often, it doesn't buff damage, and the impact on critical hits is muted. It's best with weapons that do a lot of damage but hit less often. Rerolling once would still be a reasonable buff, but making enemies aggressive often leads to player-killing situations - it makes it very difficult to conduct a sensible retreat if things go wrong. (There are certain situations where it is very useful, of course). I think without a drawback a single reroll would be about right for its position on the tree, but without a drawback it would be quite a dull skill.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Playing off the name, I’d think something like a natural version might be: If you didn’t move last turn, re-roll missed attacks once. I suspect that’s still very strong.

This could work. It's a substantially weaker drawback, but it still affects player calculations to some degree. I am a little concerned that it rewards the most natural playstyle, duelling an enemy one on one without changing position.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Whirlwind Attack changed
This again removes one of the incentives for fighting in the open rather than in corridors. I don’t feel great about that direction. At the same time, I do think that Whirlwind didn’t get much use (even if it was quite strong with Flanking). So I agree with the desire for a change, but I’m not sure about this particular one.

To be honest I suspect Whirlwind Attack could be permanent Rage and still be a minority interest. I don't think it was strong with Flanking. It was a temptation to enter the middle of a room, get surrounded, try to flee, die pressed against a wall. Being surrounded still kills, though Dodging/Flanking/Zone of Control do let you dance with two or three enemies effectively in the open.

More than anything, it does the wrong thing. Generally as an experienced player if you allow yourself to be surrounded by enemies, you're not that worried about being able to handle them individually. Killing surrounding enemies faster is not a priority. Dealing effectively with a single very strong enemy is a priority. Dodging/Flanking helps here. Zone of Control and Riposte grant plenty of extra hits on your main foe. Whirlwind Attack at best clears a couple of distractions.

I haven't come up with a better alternative, so it stays for now, but at some point someone will suggest a skill that is both flashy and effective that could replace it, and then it will be pensioned off.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Careful Shot and Flaming Arrows were pressure valves on number of arrows found mattering. There is now only one pressure valve for this: smithing. Maybe that’s enough? Or maybe you decide that arrows will be frequent enough that you just don’t want this ever to be a real constraint? I guess I feel OK about that. Flaming Arrows also had some canonical support (Gandalf lighting Legolas’ arrows as they fight wolves); however I do feel sympathetic to the argument for balance to remove it.

Careful Shot was always slightly dubious, in that it was insurance against not finding enough arrows later. If you were already low on arrows, it was too limited in effect to really help.

Flaming Arrows was a skill I liked. Unfortunately an extra damage die is a lot of power - disproportionate power compared to other skills in the tree, with a drawback that didn't matter very often in practice. One of the main reasons that it didn't matter so often in practice was a bug I found in which the actual arrow drop numbers were actually calculated using the algorithm for pieces of mithril. I think it would have been a significantly more real cost had arrows had the original drop rate calculation, but running out of arrows as a dedicated archer is such a miserable experience that I wasn't disposed to seriously reduce their numbers.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Rout added
This is fairly simple and cute. Is the effect size large enough?

I originally had it at 5. I had some player complaints that this was far too much for a low-tree archery skill that an elf could take for free, and so I reduced it, but - between you and me I think it's mostly a bit of a win-more skill on non-Elbereth builds, and 5 is still fine.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Blessing of Orome added
...
This all makes me end up feeling mildly negative on the ability, or keen to sink it a bit further into the tree if it's kept.

The name is very fitting.

So this got added very recently, in the last release. I began with it very high on the tree, and then in my early testing kept walking into dark rooms where I had to shoot repeatedly into the dark for it to do anything, and consequently felt quite negative about it. I increased the light radius and dropped it down the tree, and then I did a run where it pretty much negated the threat from various shadow enemies and felt it was pretty powerful.

There were some comments from a player here: http://angband.oook.cz/ladder-show.php?id=22203 that I've taken into consideration. I am not sure if it will stay. Perhaps we can find a skill that rewards Strength that doesn't look like it came off a spreadsheet.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Dedication added
Oof. In many ways I like this as a simple reward for going heavily into archery. I do have a couple of worries:
1) Does this just add annoying busywork to the player, of equipping and unequipping a weapon all the time? (This was a large part of why there’s a separate bow slot from weapon slot)
2) Does this make ‘pure’ archers too appealing relative to those who dabble a bit in melee?

So having played a fair bit with this:
1) Not for combat reasons, as you'd really rather be firing Point Blank. The lack of a shield is a big thing here, so you're not increasing your survivability much by equipping a weapon, and the bow is much more likely to hit. Possibly in the context of adding and removing +light items.
2) Even as a pure archer it's a very real cost. You're giving up a weapon and shield that can provide extra light, maybe a resist or two, maybe stat points. It's possible it doesn't do enough to compensate for this - Archery is so powerful anyway, facing half Evasion, that the extra damage may not be worth the tradeoff.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Perception tree:
  • Eye for Detail gone
This one wasn’t essential, but it was sometimes a helpful utility ability and I thought gave some interesting choices. I don’t fully understand the reasons for removal (without feeling that it was necessarily wrong to remove).

There were one or two bugs which made Perception worse than it should have been (e.g. putting a lamp on the floor beside a locked chest made it much easier to detect traps and unlock than wielding the same lamp did). Subsequently, trap detection was made easier. All these weakened the case for the existence of the skill, but the real issue was that nobody took it or wanted to have to take it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Lore-Keeper, Lore-Master gone, Alchemy added
I think how you’ve spread these effects out among other abilities is pretty interesting. I might be missing something, but it seems like there now isn’t anything which gives full knowledge of enemies. Maybe Master Hunter should? [Oh, I see it’s with Forewarned]

It's actually an option in the options menu now. You can turn it on if you desire.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Quick Study added
In some ways this is a bit boring and meta. I kind of like it though. But my liking it reminds me of how I like Momentum, giving the player a way to bypass what’s actually an interesting constraint, and it’s possible it would turn out to be a mistake in the same way.

In any case, I think it’s currently undercut by how much you’ve stripped the frequency and depth of pre-requisites out.

I like it because it's very different from the other skills, and it's not another additional variable in an interminably complicated combat formula, but I also am not wild about the meta nature of it. The difficulty was in finding something useful for a Perception skill to do that wasn't already covered, and wasn't combat. If I had a brainwave for a brilliant low-tree Perception skill tomorrow, it would be the skill to give up its slot.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Forewarned added
I think this is a pretty interesting concept for a Perception ability. However, I really don’t like the way that this sometimes makes investing an extra point into Evasion make your character weaker. We carefully avoided that problem for Versatility, but it’s easier there since they both rely on Dex. Here it feels like Grace boosts should help you, so importing the same solution doesn’t obviously work.
Riffing off the idea: how about it adds Perception to Evasion, but only if you weren’t attacked the previous round?

Yeah, this is a very real weakness in the way it operates. I have to confess I don't like the way Versatility works much either, though: it takes your Melee from poor to mediocre and leaves it there. Forewarned at least does offer a big short-term boost along with a long-term drawback, and makes it possible to invest heavily in Perception as a skill.

I think the idea of adding Perception to Evasion if you weren't attacked last round sounds very interesting, though I'd need to think what builds it would affect and how: pacifist and archer, certainly, and maybe there's something possible with Sprinting and Charge?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Strength in Adversity dropped to Mind Over Body slot, strengthened
That’s quite a lot stronger! I’d be interested to test, maybe this is fine.

The skill is still painfully weak. No experienced player wants to spend extended periods at reduced health, so I seldom see it taken except when people are taking Vengeance.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Channeling changed
Looks reasonable on the face of it. I think one of the main uses of Channeling before was to strengthen the ability to put Morgoth to sleep with staves. Perhaps the boost to Staves of Slumber will be enough to not make this a problem for that kind of build?

It is possible now to mostly use staves for ID purposes, and of course doubling up on Treasures and Revelations and other things has some real value. Slumber is now pretty much where it was with Channeling before IIRC.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Expertise added
This is cute, I like it. Should it come before Artifice in the tree?

Maybe. Four out of the six broken characters on the ladder who managed to kill Morgoth took Artifice. In terms of potency, Artifice could move up a slot or two and still see plenty of play.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
Song tree:
  • Song of Slaying gone
I understand there have been issues with this ability. I think it’s quite powerfully thematic, though, and I feel bad about cutting it altogether (which is not the same as a claim that it should definitely be kept).

I still actually sometimes recommend new players play Sil first for the original Sil throneroom experience. I think it is awesomely thematic, it's just a damn shame it keeps people from using the rest of the Song tree.

I think I played with rebalancing it, it's been a while, but the problem was that it did scale with every kill, so it was always the best choice for the throneroom even when it was greatly weakened to e.g. giving a bonus of +7 or +8. Conversely, when you were fighting a few orcs early game, killing them could take long enough for the song to wear off, and it was noisy enough for you to attract a crowd capable of wearing you down. It's possible there's some calculation I didn't try that would work.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Song of Sharpness gone
This one I feel quite bad about. This is one of the most canonical songs (sung by Beleg to free Turin), and many of the sharp artefacts in the game are taken directly from that verse.

I also don’t think it was particularly problematic. It was often taken for the throne room, but it was useful for combat before the throne room too, and doesn’t seem particularly differentially useful for combat in the throne room. It is also useful for cutting out Silmarils, but I feel like that’s working as intended.

Technically I think Beleg "wove" and "uttered" a charm rather than singing, but I agree on the richness of the Tolkien theme. The issues I saw were however that it was practically the only way to cut multiple Silmarils if you didn't have a sharp weapon handy, it wasn't all that fantastic for combat (even assuming you're getting it about 900'-950', which is about the average depth it looks to have been usually taken), and I found it mechanically kind of ugly.

2% of armour per point of Song always looked to me to be a pretty clunky looking calculation in a game that never dealt with percentages anywhere else. Going up to something like 15 Song, that was 30%, which looks like it should be pretty good, but still adds less than a 1d4 against trolls, werewolves, spiders, vampires, cats, drakes and dragons - maybe a fraction better than Power on the Melee tree, but making a fair old noise liable to attract attention. It did have a certain usefulness against serpents and silent watchers, but the main attraction was that you'd likely need it for Sil-cutting anyway and since you needed a ton of Song investment for Slaying you probably could afford it.

I'm not opposed to the notion of it reappearing in some form, but I'd need to think quite hard about how it would work. I want a Song tree that people are happy to invest in at 500', not 900'. If we reworked sharpness to e.g. ignore some number of armour dice instead of a percentage, it could probably be balanced to work as a much cheaper song - I'm about to rant about why that matters. (Ignoring 10% of early game orc 1d4 and 2d4 armour doesn't do much, but removing 1d4 from their armour roll does).

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Song of Challenge
I think the effect is interesting but doesn’t quite deserve a song. I also think the name is a bit weak thematically.

(Possible this effect could be combined with a somewhat weakened Slaying effect.)

The song has actually been quite popular with players, and I feel is reasonably Tolkienesque (I believe Beren sings a "song of challenge that he had made in praise of the Seven Stars" in answer to Luthien's song in the Silmarillion, but if we are to blur words and song as with Sharpness, Fingolfin's challenge to Morgoth outside Angband is a more obvious predecessor). It is not particularly magical, but many of Tolkien's songs aren't. It's possible though that I'm not fully understanding your objection.

In terms of the effect, the neutralisation of archers and breathers adds quite a bit of value.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Song of Delvings
Wow, this is cool. It’s also, I believe, very strong.

I wish. I never see anyone take it except on the ascent (where it is unambiguously useful if you lack staves of Revelations). The added bonuses are there as a lure to persuade my reluctant players to invest.

I think it might work if it were a little cheaper, and I might be able to reduce it again to doing just one thing. I hope, anyway, because I too really really like the effect.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
I used this song on my winning character. I found the exploring effect both useful and flavourful as a kind of gradual subtle magic – much less jarring than Staves of Revelations. I would have been delighted to take the ability just for this exploration effect, without any detection of traps or boost to tunnelling. I like the way it works, and the way it scales with your Song score. (The exact scaling is a parameter that could be used for balancing.) From everything in Sil-Q, this gave me my strongest "I wish I'd designed that!" moment.

Thank you.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Song of Thresholds
The part about warding doors is pretty cool. Based presumably in part on the word of power Gandalf speaks to ward the door against the Balrog? I haven’t played with it for real to see how that turns out.

The bit about combat boost for fighting in doorways I’m less sure about. That’s a very big bonus with a relatively easy condition to meet (especially since doorways are often good places to fight anyway). It’s also a little … dull? I can’t quite picture what makes the person singing about thresholds so much better at fighting there. If it gave them a Grace bonus or opponents a morale penalty or something, I think I could see it a bit more. Maybe I feel a bit funny about the flavour overall.

Again, the broader issue: almost nobody takes expensive songs. I am coming back for a substantial song rework, and the plan is to break the connection of one Song available per point of Song and cap the most expensive Song much lower. With Thresholds at 2 or 3 points and Delvings at 3 or 4, I think they could concentrate purely on the thing they're good at and still be good value. Thresholds will of course lose the slightly silly combat boost - the current problem is that warding just isn't good enough to justify the cost.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135166)
  • Song of Overwhelming added
I’m underwhelmed.

I think in a vacuum it would be fine, but:
a) Thematically it’s a bit too close to Song of Mastery
b) “Foes stricken and shields broken” makes me think it’s going to be easier to hurt the foes, but this doesn’t match the mechanics
c) Stunning already has a different meaning in the game. Something about being consistent and making things work within the rules system where they naturally can rather than with a hodge-podge of exceptions to it is I think part of what makes the game rules as a whole feel elegant. The different "stunning" effect here is a bit painful because of that (that damage is mitigated a little if it's called something different, but only somewhat).

(Also, restricting songs to affect only adjacent things is slightly funny. Why should the sound work like that? But this is a pretty minor point and I’d be willing to give it a pass if I otherwise liked it.)

This one will probably die entirely come the song rework.

Expensive songs turn out to be hard to get right. If they don't affect combat, the realistic value they can deliver is tightly capped. If they do affect combat, they either don't affect it enough to be worth the investment, or they are so effective that almost every character takes them for the throne room. Part of the problem is that while Evasion and Melee gently scale through the game, any song that costs 9 or 10 points requires you to survive without it until you can afford it, and going from the last song you could afford (perhaps Staying) to a song at 9 points means investing something like 3.7K experience, when getting to Song of Staying only required 3.3K.

I have this fantasy of the versatile singing elf melee warrior, and in this fantasy players invest gradually in Song throughout the game. In practice, even Staying is a fairly late game pick, coming in at about the same point people pick Constitution off the Will tree (at over twice the XP investment). People aren't willing to spend enough on Song to get to the top of the tree unless they're working to one of the dedicated plans such as a Silence/Lorien sneaker or Elbereth archer, and the sneaker and archer don't need anything beyond an optional Song of Mastery.

So, yeah. Song is hard to fix. Este was far too expensive, Sharpness held its place artificially through the sil-cutting difficulty, Slaying was the throneroom song par excellence. With those gone, Freedom, Trees and Staying have seen more play and Challenge is cheap enough to make the cut, but the new expensive songs are not faring better than Este did. My main plan now is to reduce the costs, with a scheme which keeps the Silence/Lorien and Elbereth/Mastery gameplans operative while broadening the choice of cheap utility songs.

I've written quite the wall of text myself. I hope it's not too intimidatingly verbose. I want to say again that I really appreciate the feedback. There are a lot of things in Sil-Q I'm not entirely happy with as yet, and things keep evolving as I have the time, but often I run into a position where I've changed something, I don't know if the change is good, and I don't have many people to bounce off for opinions. wobbly has been invaluable as an advisor.

Quirk January 6, 2019 02:23

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135174)
Interesting thought! Or possibly:
- Blunt penetration reduces the number of sides of protection dice (e.g. 3d4 -> 3d3)
- Sharp penetration reduces the number of protection dice (e.g. 3d4 -> 2d4, although I think the default should be sharp 2 if it's to be comparable to other brands)

Oh I like this. This is elegant.

Quirk January 6, 2019 02:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by Derakon (Post 135173)
Regarding the difficulty of making blunt weapons meaningfully distinct, what if they rolled damage twice and took the higher roll? So they'd just straight-up reliably do a bit more damage; for example, a 1d8 weapon's average goes from 4.5 to 5.8.

I feel that this makes comparison a little trickier. If I were to ask you whether a glaive at 2d9 does more average damage than a blunt hammer at 4d3, given that we're taking the best of two rolls, what would you say? (Ignore criticals, +melee, etc).

I think it's quite hard to calculate how much extra that damage reroll gets you, particularly across multiple dice. Currently it's relatively easy to understand that blunt weapons will be good against heavily armoured enemies and less good against less armoured ones. I'd like to preserve that if possible.

Derakon January 6, 2019 04:56

That's fair. I was just throwing out an idea without giving it much thought. :)

Scatha January 6, 2019 11:51

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135178)
Prerequisites in general are an added cost to an ability. Some abilities are particularly strong - for instance in many cases players take the extra stat points, because they strengthen the character substantially without forcing them to jump through any hoops. However, if the prerequisite ability is already a little stronger than abilities at the same level, it's the non-prerequisite abilities that suffer.

In Sil originally, the stat points in a number of instances forked from some of the strongest skills in the tree - Strength came from Momentum in Melee, Dexterity from Flaming Arrows in Archery, Constitution from Critical Resistance in Will. Bluntly: this was broken. Skills which already underperformed their peers (e.g Whirlwind Attack, Strength in Adversity) also drew the player off the path to strong later abilities. A balanced approach to prerequisites would sacrifice power in the short-term for long-term gain, but we would also like prerequisite abilities to feel related to the abilities that come later. I think this is something that could be examined again, but it is much more challenging to balance than it may have previously appeared.

Some really good points here, thanks. (I'm still interested in achieving the goal but it does seem tricky.)

Quote:

The skill is a little less powerful than it appears. Although you hit a chunk more often, it doesn't buff damage, and the impact on critical hits is muted. It's best with weapons that do a lot of damage but hit less often.
I was imagining with characters who do a lot of damage but hit less often. e.g. a STR 4 dwarf in a hauberk. This matters because the difference between characters is often much bigger than between weapons.

Quote:

To be honest I suspect Whirlwind Attack could be permanent Rage and still be a minority interest.
If you're correct, I think maybe it should be. That's so much cleaner and flashier-feeling. It might have become a necessary-for-the-throne-room at that point, except that people have herbs.

Quote:

I wish. I never see anyone take [Song of Delvings] except on the ascent (where it is unambiguously useful if you lack staves of Revelations). The added bonuses are there as a lure to persuade my reluctant players to invest.
Well I just posted my winner to the ladder. I took the song less than halfway down, and it was a massive quality-of-life upgrade. I think it helped me win much more quickly and reliably than I'd otherwise have experienced. It's like the other half of Listen. I guess I was playing the kind of build which most wants it, but I do think it would be good for a fair range of characters.

Quote:

Again, the broader issue: almost nobody takes expensive songs. I am coming back for a substantial song rework, and the plan is to break the connection of one Song available per point of Song and cap the most expensive Song much lower.
I feel pretty interested to see that (and a little anxious that it will all feel less cool as a result).

wobbly January 6, 2019 13:40

Ok I'll pay that song of delving is good right from the get go. Not sure I have the patience & concentration to put this kind of build through at the moment, but the principal is sound:

http://angband.oook.cz/ladder-show.php?id=22209

Quirk January 6, 2019 14:46

Ah! I also took Delvings on my last Lorien pacifist, in the competition. I personally think knowing where your next stairs are is a very substantial advantage for a weak stealthy character, but I am more inclined to pacifist play than most.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha
I was imagining with characters who do a lot of damage but hit less often. e.g. a STR 4 dwarf in a hauberk. This matters because the difference between characters is often much bigger than between weapons.

I think the STR 4 dwarf in a hauberk was often at a substantial disadvantage before as late game enemies became more and more capable of overwhelming the protection the armour offered. There was definitely a bit of intentional buffing going on.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha
It might have become a necessary-for-the-throne-room at that point, except that people have herbs.

This is a very real concern with Whirlwind Attack, yes: when people do get stuck in situations where they feel they want or need the effect, the herbs exist. The herbs are also quite flavourful so I am reluctant to drop them.

I think it would be potentially viable as an early game skill, when people don't know which herbs are which and when they're getting surrounded by orcs. Prerequisites don't help it at all. There is some difficulty in making a skill that you have to jump through hoops for worth it. The top four skills in the Melee tree in Sil 1.3 were Rapid Attack, Two Weapon Fighting, Knockback, and Whirlwind Attack. Rapid Attack is good but requires a high melee score to use well, Two Weapon Fighting is niche, Knockback is extremely niche (I think the only build that it's really sensible on is using Polearm Mastery) and original Whirlwind Attack is useful only if you're playing suicidally.

I would argue that if you swapped any of these with Power, Power would see more play than the original skill. Power is often even better than Strength. I don't think this means that we must move Power up the tree - thematically it fits nicely at the start - but the top of the tree needs to be worth the cost in terms of prerequisites and more valuable for the right build than just buying more Melee points. Ideal is a skill that does something reasonably cool which is also an effective pick (e.g. Zone of Control, Sprinting, Listen), but these skills are quite hard to find - particularly since I don't want to make a Morgoth-killing skill.

Any skill ideas you want to bounce off me will get serious consideration, this is certain.

Quirk January 6, 2019 18:33

Sharpness thoughts:
Losing 2 armour dice for normal sharpness and all for Angrist is a bit awkward.

I'm contemplating "sharp" and "famously sharp", with all the weapons in the whetting spell as well as Angrist being the latter. (I don't believe anything in canon indicates Angrist should necessarily be sharper than the others).

"Famously sharp" would negate all armour, but also gain no damage sides from strength, because a weapon that cuts through rock doesn't require much strength to use. Rebalancing the weapons shouldn't be too hard from there - famously sharp polearms would be poised to become most dangerous, but upping their weight to make their criticals rarer would reduce this.

"Sharp" would negate just one armour die; this would make it weaker than a brand, but that would make it better balanced for lesser artefacts, egos, smithing, etc.

Infinitum January 6, 2019 20:10

Don't like those two tbh. Armor Dice reduction is just a flat damage increase by another name unless you scale it off the # of enemy protection dice but at that point reducing sides is a cleaner solution imo.

Famously Sharp sounds like a lot fof added layers of complexity for something which isn't really needed in the game at the moment? It would also get back to the current hammer problem of people forging one supersharp weapon for use against statues and use whatever against everything else, no matter what penalties you give them otherwise. Also, Angrist is describad as if not sharp then.. hard? It's notwehorty enough for a unique effect imo.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silmarillion, Of Beren and Luthien
Then Lúthien rising forbade the slaying of Curufin; but Beren despoiled him of his gear and weapons, and took his knife, sheathless by his side; iron it would cleave as if it were green wood.


Scatha January 6, 2019 20:50

Sharp and famously sharp is quite elegant. If it played well enough I'd be in favour. (To make 'sharp' more distinct from extra damage it might be good if there were a couple more monsters with no protection at all; currently I think the only ones with substantial health are whispering shadows and distended spiders.)

I assume that famously sharp weapons would not be player forgeable. I have a slight worry that if they were too good it would make high-STR characters unappealing.

Quirk January 6, 2019 20:54

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135198)
Don't like those two tbh. Armor Dice reduction is just a flat damage increase by another name unless you scale it off the # of enemy protection dice but at that point reducing sides is a cleaner solution imo.

Ideal would be to have different mechanics for sharpness and bluntness.

Quote:

Famously Sharp sounds like a lot fof added layers of complexity for something which isn't really needed in the game at the moment? It would also get back to the current hammer problem of people forging one supersharp weapon for use against statues and use whatever against everything else, no matter what penalties you give them otherwise. Also, Angrist is describad as if not sharp then.. hard? It's notwehorty enough for a unique effect imo.
Double sharpness is currently unforgeable, and only on Angrist. Nobody is forging anything for use on statues, particularly since blunt weapons work perfectly well there at present. Angrist is described as sharp, but when compared with the "Glaive of Gaurin whose gleaming stroke / did rive the rocks of Rodrim's hall", or "Celeg Aithorn who shall cleave the world" I don't see any particular reason for it to be considered sharper.

All the other famous sharp weapons are just "sharp" which is to say they halve enemy armour protection; Angrist ignores it.

Quirk January 6, 2019 20:55

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135199)
Sharp and famously sharp is quite elegant. If it played well enough I'd be in favour. (To make 'sharp' more distinct from extra damage it might be good if there were a couple more monsters with no protection at all; currently I think the only ones with substantial health are whispering shadows and distended spiders.)

I assume that famously sharp weapons would not be player forgeable. I have a slight worry that if they were too good it would make high-STR characters unappealing.

Oh god no. We'd keep them out of player forges as we have Angrist's sharpness.

Vampires, wights, shadows, horrors, maybe giants seem possible targets to reduce armour and increase HP. Trolls I can see going either way. Wolves maybe but they would need altered throughout. Shelob is definitely hard to pierce, men and dragons certainly should be well-armoured.

Edit: cave trolls probably should be more armoured than they are now. It was a scaled troll that notched Boromir's sword in Moria. So - not trolls in general. Hill trolls of the sort featured in the Hobbit and giants would likely work. I kind of want to have an interaction that can be engineered between hill trolls and sunlight now...

Scatha January 7, 2019 00:39

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135201)
Vampires, wights, shadows, horrors, maybe giants seem possible targets to reduce armour and increase HP. Trolls I can see going either way. Wolves maybe but they would need altered throughout.

Of these, Wights are the ones which feel most wrong to me to reduce armour for. That's partly from a feeling of being unconvinced how many strokes from a dagger could stop them, and partly from mechanically liking there being some critical-resistant foes with moderate armour.

Quote:

Shelob is definitely hard to pierce, men and dragons certainly should be well-armoured.
Shelob is hard to pierce, but that seems to be related to her age. I think it argues for Ancient Spiders having high protection, and speaks less to the other spiders (including First Age Shelob!).

wobbly January 7, 2019 04:17

Just double checked with loremaster & every monster seems to be currently setup as xd4 armour? Maybe there are some exceptions but it appears to be set to that pattern. So -1 die for sharpness is going to be fairly literally +1d4 damage unless you're planning to rework the armour on everything.

wobbly January 7, 2019 06:51

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scatha (Post 135199)
I assume that famously sharp weapons would not be player forgeable. I have a slight worry that if they were too good it would make high-STR characters unappealing.

It would take a lot to make low str the go to. The mid game is much more of a pain & it's hard to get a more solid setup for 950' then Dramborleg and hador shield. There are stronger and flashier setups but that just does every enemy with the minimum amount of hassle. Troll guards have big hps not armour & big weapons get through ancient serpent armour via sheer brute force. 5 str (or 8 buffed with rapid attack) is the goal there and the black blades are 5lbers too I think.

Quirk January 7, 2019 08:46

Quote:

Originally Posted by wobbly (Post 135205)
Just double checked with loremaster & every monster seems to be currently setup as xd4 armour? Maybe there are some exceptions but it appears to be set to that pattern. So -1 die for sharpness is going to be fairly literally +1d4 damage unless you're planning to rework the armour on everything.

Not everything has armour, and we're discussing stripping the armour off a couple more things. It will be 1d4 in most cases though.

I find myself pausing and wondering if it's okay, but currently calculating how much bonus damage sharpness will do against any enemy involves knowing how much armour they have, and it's quite hard to evaluate in a vacuum. I guess this is also true for bluntness. In both cases it's currently clear that it will be more beneficial against heavily armoured enemies, and this is not true of new sharpness, which is a small concern - new sharpness would only care if there was some armour capable of being pierced.

Reducing damage sides for bluntness by 1 incidentally reduces armour by 20%, not 25%, which is a small nerf. I still think it feels reasonably elegant but I'd need to look at weapon power.

Quirk January 7, 2019 12:52

Zooming out...

In reality, sharp weapons are better against unarmoured opponents and blunt against armoured. Some dispensation can be made for magical sharpness.

However, we're discussing this in a context where blunt weapons consist of the warhammer, the quarterstaff and the sceptre. The first is undoubtedly a battlefield blunt weapon. The other two are dubious - one was an effective poor man's weapon against the lightly armoured, the other not even a weapon and existing only in tiny numbers. They are also relatively ineffective in Sil.

Perhaps it's better to look at the weapons harder and consider what would make them make more sense. I am not sure crowns and sceptres should be anywhere near as common as they are, or even if they should exist at all. Quarterstaffs and staffs with magical effects also coexist oddly.

Infinitum January 8, 2019 15:54

Well, I guess Gandalf wore a staff in the canon but didn't he use Glamdring for actual fighting? Making staffs equippable in the offhand and only provide passive bonuses (ie effectively making them shields) could be one way to go about it (pretty sure I've seen it suggested a couple of years back).

Either that or severely cut weight, maybe add a to-hit bonus and give them a niche as critical-oriented defensive two-handers, but that also seems a bit meh tbh. Sceptres and staffs could probably be folded into one cathegory, especially as the Sceptre egos make more sense as Wizard staffs anyhow.

EDIT: Ooops, meant Quarterstaffs. Hope the context was clear enough.

Quirk January 8, 2019 17:31

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135233)
Well, I guess Gandalf wore a staff in the canon but didn't he use Glamdring for actual fighting? Making staffs equippable in the offhand and only provide passive bonuses (ie effectively making them shields) could be one way to go about it (pretty sure I've seen it suggested a couple of years back).

Either that or severely cut weight, maybe add a to-hit bonus and give them a niche as critical-oriented defensive two-handers, but that also seems a bit meh tbh. Sceptres and staffs could probably be folded into one cathegory, especially as the Sceptre egos make more sense as Wizard staffs anyhow.

I think you are entirely right with regard to Gandalf and Glamdring. Gandalf's staff is mostly used for magic. In the Hobbit he makes a light on it in Bilbo's dining room (it is called a wand later in the book on more than one occasion, perplexingly, when he does so again, but it is used several times for light). If any staff in Sil follows Tolkien, it is the staff of Light.

He breaks the bridge the Balrog stands on by smiting it with his staff so hard the staff also breaks, but he uses Glamdring to actually fight the Great Goblin and the Balrog.

It is however an assistant to the magic rather than a key part of it - most of Gandalf's explosions and telekinesis and reading of thoughts don't make use of it at all.

There is a tension between Sil's inherited Angband-consumables and the way things in Tolkien work. A staff actually enchanted to perform great magics on its own I imagine would function like the Palantirs, or the Rings: limitless in effect, but requiring effort from the user to master it (and in the case of the Rings, exacting a slow and subtle cost).

Perhaps the bigger answer here would be to ditch the idea of blunt weapons as such, retaining only the hammer, to slide melee weapons into a single smithing category, and to rework staffs and artefacts in general to better approximate attuning to and attempting to master a difficult to control item. This line of thinking takes me quite far from original Sil, though, which is a tendency I've always tried to rein in before.

As for the regalia of kings, I can imagine a crown or even sceptre imbued with great power adorning some dragon-hoard of Angband, but it's hard for me to consider it a natural part of the litter of the upper floors.

Wiwaxia January 9, 2019 05:54

I went to make an account to delurk and comment on this thread and discovered I'd already made one... 5 years ago? God.

First of all, thank you half, Scatha, and Quirk for making such a beautiful game and variations thereof, and for talking in detail about what you did and why. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Sil and to lurking this forum is for the in depth discussions of design and seeing how that plays out in practice and continually changes and adapts. I have enormous respect for all three of you as game designers and especially as game designers who incorporate feedback and changes elegantly, and reading what you have to say to each other on design goals and solutions from slightly different approaches to the same game is a treat.

My two cents on the discussion:
I think I'll go through the song tree in advance of the rework and see a bit more of what I think of it. I haven't played a lot of singers, but my general impression of the tree from what I have played and lurking discussions here is that it splits into three categories. On the high end there seems to be a couple "capstone" songs (Lorien and Mastery) that are expensive, evocative, powerful, and strongly change the way you play that form the center of dedicated builds. On the low end there's a couple songs (Elbereth, the old Slaying) that are good for dabblers but also scale well with more investment and can have builds based around them. (Song of Elbereth and its interaction with morale mechanics, incidentally, is one of the best pieces of game design I have seen in any game I've played.) In the middle there's some solid situational songs (Freedom, Trees, maybe the new Delvings) that are good minor themes for singers and potentially worth the investment for non-singers, plus a lot of songs that don't quite fit well in any role (the ones replaced in Sil-Q and the weaker proposed replacements).
I'll see if this model holds with more firsthand experience.

I just tried a few abortive runs with Song of Delvings after Scatha mentioned liking it. I was pretty unimpressed by it's description on paper but I absolutely love it in practice. Having that additional information to work with is nice for seeing where you might get flanked, planning possible escape routes, and spotting special rooms in advance (I look forward to avoiding wolf pens entirely once I survive deeper). I got consistently killed by rushing to it over more reasonable early-game investments because it's so fun to have.

I would love to see Slaying and Sharpness return to Sil-Q on thematic grounds. I wonder if there's a place for Slaying as a "capstone" song, possibly combined with Challenge as Scatha mentioned so that it proactively drew in enemies to keep up momentum in more sparsely populated areas of the dungeon. I would be worried about Slaying-singer/melee builds outshining non-singing melee, and discouraging the variety of possible builds there, though. It seems like there's still a niche for Sharpness as an anti-protection ability for serpents, kemmenraukar, and their ilk, but I have no idea if that could be implemented in a balanced way.

I'd also be in favor of ditching blunt weapons as a category. Having sceptres as a dedicated stat-stick weapon type (i.e. Sceptres of Power) makes some sense thematically, but my impression is that Sil design doesn't really favor stat-sticks. I agree that sceptres and crowns should be rarer, and possibly special-only.

I have to say I do like consumables as they are from a gameplay perspective, even if they don't make complete thematic sense. I'm still holding out for Herbs of Athelas and maybe Niphredil. I like the Sil-Q trend of adding a bit more variety in items and adding more of interest to the upper levels.

I think the question of ease of detecting and disarming traps is mostly a sideshow to the fact that Sil's trap design, with the exception of roosts and webs, is not great or at least certainly not up to the standards of the rest of the game. I might make a thread on this, actually, if there's not a minimum post limit to do so.

Finally, this doesn't quite fit with the current discussion but a thought about Sil I've had for a while is that Morgoth shouldn't be immune to fear, at least until the player has picked up a silmaril, on thematic grounds. His cowardice, and his fear of Elbereth in particular, is frequently noted in canon and I think that cowardice is a major part of Tolkien's conception of evil in general and the way it is often both seemingly unstoppable and pathetic.

half January 10, 2019 19:37

Hi Quirk,

I haven't had time to try Sil-Q yet, but have enjoyed reading this thread and finding our more about it. Like Scatha, there are things I like and things I dislike, but my overall impression is being impressed that you *get* so much of the underlying aesthetic and reasons behind many of the choices we made, so as to be able to improve it at all by our lights. That is no easy feat. It is difficult to pick up someone else's novel and make a whole lot of changes and find that they agree with even a tenth of them, and I think the situation is similar with unusual, opinionated games like Sil. The people behind mpa-sil shared some, smaller, part of the aesthetic with Scatha and I, while you share a different and larger part.

Here are a few quick comments on things that have come up in the thread.

Deathblades: are there for the reasons Scatha mentioned, and also because they are cool. This probably wouldn't be quite enough to include them (especially not with a not-so-Tolkienian name), but the extra reason is that they are a subtle homage to the Dungeon of Doom: the first roguelike I played and one that had a few really nice ideas and hasn't been remembered by the community (perhaps because it was on Mac). I'm willing to bend things a bit more than usual to get in a homage, but future developers should feel no need to bend things to allow a homage they don't personally connect with.

Blunt weapons: I never intended these to be balanced with swords, as I think they simply are less good for combat (prior to plate armour), and they aren't used much in the source material. I included them because they are mentioned in a few places and I'm happy for them to exist and just be worse. The same goes for broken swords, curved swords and filthy rags. To a lesser extent, we were happy to have swords be a little better than other things for most characters so that most characters ended up with some kind of sword (like in the books) rather than spread equally between all kinds of different weapons.

Scaring monsters: Apart from the monster that kills you, you always manage to deal with the monster in some manner (be that sneaking past, fleeing, scaring, or killing). You get half the experience for each monster on first encountering it because that is easier to implement than getting it upon dealing with the monster. I'm happy with killing it being the only thing that grants extra experience. As why is scaring it off the level any better than scaring it into another room? or to sneaking past, or putting to sleep, etc.? If I were changing anything, it might be to drop the extra experience for killing it -- you already are rewarded with the items. (this would obviously require increasing experience a little to compensate)

Early game: As Scatha said, we had an approach of making it feel more magical and more complex as you descend. But the downside is more mundane and simple at the top. The mundane is bad for new players and the simple can be bad for old players. I'm willing to believe that we overdid it and should have left a bit more excitement for the first levels.

Other things: It's great that you found and removed many small bugs, and make various changes that were overdue (e.g. removing the need to be hungry before Morgoth, doing something about Song of Slaying in the throne room, and doing something about Momentum).

As I said at the top, it is great to see that you understand so much about what the game is trying to do, and have continued in that spirit.

Quirk January 10, 2019 21:49

Hi half!

Thank you for all the kind words. Thank you also for making such a great game. I believe a lot of the aesthetic resonance you note in me exists precisely because Sil is such an unusual and opinionated game: the game has principles and it is true to them. Beginning from old Angband, it strides strongly toward a descent that Tolkien might have described, while enabling a rich strategic sensibility with a flavour very unlike its predecessors. Where I have succeeded, it is by understanding the game's principles.

There are flaws in some of my additions, and particularly in some of the earlier ones where I was a little too keen to latch on to whatever feedback I could get. I strive to keep on improving. I've talked at length on most of the topics here, so I won't go back and cover the same ground, though I will note again that the experience for scaring monsters was in hindsight a mistake, and if I do decide in future to attempt to make the Elbereth pacifist a little more viable it will be through less clumsy means.

Lastly, I hope that when you and Scatha find time to return to Sil development that you feel free to lift and improve any ideas in my little fork that you like. I have enjoyed your creation immensely.

Quirk January 10, 2019 22:53

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I went to make an account to delurk and comment on this thread and discovered I'd already made one... 5 years ago? God.

Exceptionally good to have you posting. I've very much enjoyed your comments on your ladder characters.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I just tried a few abortive runs with Song of Delvings after Scatha mentioned liking it. I was pretty unimpressed by it's description on paper but I absolutely love it in practice. Having that additional information to work with is nice for seeing where you might get flanked, planning possible escape routes, and spotting special rooms in advance (I look forward to avoiding wolf pens entirely once I survive deeper). I got consistently killed by rushing to it over more reasonable early-game investments because it's so fun to have.

Hopefully a slightly more reasonably costed version can find its way to be a fixture in places other than the ascent!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I would love to see Slaying and Sharpness return to Sil-Q on thematic grounds. I wonder if there's a place for Slaying as a "capstone" song, possibly combined with Challenge as Scatha mentioned so that it proactively drew in enemies to keep up momentum in more sparsely populated areas of the dungeon.

I would like to find a way to bring some variant of Sharpness back - probably at a much cheaper cost. Songs are hard to balance though as you usually gain the benefits of only one of them at a time, while you slowly lose Voice, and you attract more foes. This requires quite a lot of raw power to overcome, but enough raw power and a song tips over into an obvious pick, and a song that is an obvious melee pick in the endgame risks outshining simple useful options such as Trees and Freedom. Mastery also exists at present in a somewhat endangered position: the Song needed to make it good exists primarily on Lorien builds which don't really need it, and on the too-rare Elbereth archer. A more combat effective song in a similar position really would serve to virtually obsolete it.

Song of Overwhelming - Song of Fierce Blows at the start - began as an attempt to provide guaranteed effectiveness without the huge investment needed for Mastery. It failed; it did not offer enough over Song of Staying, and even if it had there was no ladder to get there. The ladders are Elbereth, Silence and Lorien and none of them work well for a non-stealthy melee character.

I may reconsider whether it is possible to make a melee ladder Song in making a fresh attempt at the Song tree. It is a little difficult in that moving on to the next Song requires the last to be outshone. Lorien is a clear upgrade on Silence, Mastery is an expensive and initially slightly dubious upgrade on Elbereth, but Slaying/Staying/Sharpness don't scale all that well over most of the game, and Challenge/Staying/Overwhelming have not done much better. My main idea at present is to keep the territory the ladder needs to reach short, so investing in a new song is not so daunting. Perhaps we can see more prerequisites return in time, but songs will need to be a little more popular first.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I'd also be in favor of ditching blunt weapons as a category. Having sceptres as a dedicated stat-stick weapon type (i.e. Sceptres of Power) makes some sense thematically, but my impression is that Sil design doesn't really favor stat-sticks. I agree that sceptres and crowns should be rarer, and possibly special-only.

On some level I like the notion of descending with robe and staff, but the approach really works only for the dedicated pacifist, and there aren't that many of us.

I would be tempted if I got to playing properly with level generation to reintroduce items which were more explicitly tailored to flavour than gameplay. I would rather though have Angband filled with things crudely made by orcs than broken elf-things. The latter is tolerable as long as it suits gameplay but it irks my inner simulationist.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I have to say I do like consumables as they are from a gameplay perspective, even if they don't make complete thematic sense. I'm still holding out for Herbs of Athelas and maybe Niphredil. I like the Sil-Q trend of adding a bit more variety in items and adding more of interest to the upper levels.

Athelas! Yes. I would prefer to do more with herbs and less with potions, though I do love the way Orcish Liquor works. This would be a potentially hefty rebalancing though, and in truth there's a limited supply of Tolkien-faithful consumable magical substances.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
I think the question of ease of detecting and disarming traps is mostly a sideshow to the fact that Sil's trap design, with the exception of roosts and webs, is not great or at least certainly not up to the standards of the rest of the game. I might make a thread on this, actually, if there's not a minimum post limit to do so.

This is largely why I have weakened them so. I feel traps that the player is expecting are fair, provided the consequences are not too ruinous and in alignment with player expectations. If the player can choose to take the risk and has means of mitigating that risk, the player largely has themselves to blame when the trap shuts. Currently, traps spawn in places with no underlying logic, and a player who has fallen through a floor or damaged their armour simply through underinvestment in Perception or a poor roll is entitled to feel a little upset.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135248)
Finally, this doesn't quite fit with the current discussion but a thought about Sil I've had for a while is that Morgoth shouldn't be immune to fear, at least until the player has picked up a silmaril, on thematic grounds. His cowardice, and his fear of Elbereth in particular, is frequently noted in canon and I think that cowardice is a major part of Tolkien's conception of evil in general and the way it is often both seemingly unstoppable and pathetic.

This is a not unreasonable stance, though I am not sure he would necessarily flee the player when the player comes into his very own lair. He did not flee Fingolfin at the gates, for all he took his sweet time coming up, and I don't think second-hand Valar would be enough to scare the originator of the attack on the Trees, for all he may have feared Tulkas. Still, I'd listen to other opinions on it.

Wiwaxia January 11, 2019 11:57

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135280)
Exceptionally good to have you posting. I've very much enjoyed your comments on your ladder characters.

Thank you! I'm flattered.

Exploring the song tree a bit more, I've found Challenge somewhat helpful but bland; opportunist deals with the same kind of enemies it does much more stylishly. It might stand out a bit more if the trick to lure group AI into fighting one-on-one in doorways by closing the door was taken out, which was always kind of a weird exploit.

Thresholds is very fun. It feels super versatile: just playing around with it for a short while I used it to lock away things I didn't want to deal with, make a bolthole to rest, continuously cover my path so I wouldn't get outflanked, and lure archers into a room and trap and kill them one-by-one. I imagine it would also be very nice for defending forges and I can see an edge use in just using it to mark the map at some point you don't want to lose. I can see it having good synergy with Delvings and Listen to proactively control the flow of enemies through the dungeon. I like that the wards remain after you stop singing, because it puts Thresholds in less direct competition with other songs - you can get the benefits of both skills without needing Woven Themes (this is true of Delvings, too). I haven't gotten very deep with it yet, so I don't know how it plays at deeper levels.
My one complaint is the colors: green isn't intuitively "more" than blue, it would make more sense for there to be a gradient of dark to bright with increasing strength. Bright blue is also used for mithril, glowing slays, and lesser jewels and so has strong positive associations and feels like it should be strong rather than the weakest level. On the other hand, bright green has obvious visual associations with glyphs of warding and helps convey what the song is doing.
The 16-color palette makes coming up with a good color ramp hard, here. Dark green -> bright green -> yellow might work, although the directionality between bright green and yellow is still a little shaky. You could also do dark blue -> bright blue -> white, but I'd be concerned about white looking like the floor and thus less powerful rather than more.

I am seeing your frustration with costs on the song tree. I can't buy the more expensive songs off the bat, so I don't know how they play, so I don't have a good idea of how to start a build that will use them eventually, and I may not have anything to do with that song investment until I get there. This is doubly true for me as a so-so player, because my characters often die long before I can actually buy the ability I'm working towards. I don't know if cutting costs is the right fix, but I agree that it needs fixed (and as you've mentioned, lower costs means easier playtesting for new songs).


Quote:

On some level I like the notion of descending with robe and staff, but the approach really works only for the dedicated pacifist, and there aren't that many of us.
I do think it's worth having some dedicated toys for rare builds like pacifist even if they will never be popular choices, especially because, as you say, descending with only a robe and staff is so evocative.


Quote:

This is largely why I have weakened them so. I feel traps that the player is expecting are fair, provided the consequences are not too ruinous and in alignment with player expectations. If the player can choose to take the risk and has means of mitigating that risk, the player largely has themselves to blame when the trap shuts. Currently, traps spawn in places with no underlying logic, and a player who has fallen through a floor or damaged their armour simply through underinvestment in Perception or a poor roll is entitled to feel a little upset.
Very much agreed. I think it would be better, and it sounds like you agree here, to rework traps and/or trap generation rather than just weakening them, but I imagine that being pretty involved.


Quote:

This is a not unreasonable stance, though I am not sure he would necessarily flee the player when the player comes into his very own lair. He did not flee Fingolfin at the gates, for all he took his sweet time coming up, and I don't think second-hand Valar would be enough to scare the originator of the attack on the Trees, for all he may have feared Tulkas. Still, I'd listen to other opinions on it.
Partly I just like the idea of an Elbereth-pacifist win on both thematic and gameplay grounds. Sil also already provides the opportunity for players to accomplish things well beyond canon (returning with all three silmarils, killing Sauron, hypothetically killing Morgoth) with a good deal of extra effort, and making Morgoth turn and run fits into that category, I think.

Quirk January 12, 2019 14:01

Speaking of songs, after a discussion with wobbly: how would people feel about elves having song affinity instead of sword proficiency? Doriath having mastery, of course.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 12, 2019 18:41

+1 for Noldorians to start with +1 Song

Quirk January 12, 2019 20:47

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011 (Post 135310)
+1 for Noldorians to start with +1 Song

So this would be a free song skill instead of a Song boost - like archery.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 12, 2019 21:24

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135311)
So this would be a free song skill instead of a Song boost - like archery.

What you said - That's what I meant.

wobbly January 13, 2019 08:50

So I guess I'll explain my logic behind the idea. A "mage"-style build with multiple small utility songs has always been considered too expensive to be worth it, if the aim is to make multiple songs more affordable proficiency lines up with the current Sil mechanics. Any song later then trees is a large investment: Delving = 2.6k(6 + song), Staying = 3.1k(7 + song). Very few people are going to try this without using an earlier song as a stepping stone. How much is 2.6k? that's still +1 melee & evasion by the time you have 13 pts in melee & evasion, e.g. further then a lot of people reach in the 1st place. So I had the vague idea that challenge & elbereth could be the base of the song tree in the same way that power/finesse are the base of the melee tree (& trees, silence/lorien remain as alternative paths), but that needs the price of multiple songs to drop, as people often aren't taking songs now, so why would they take them if they had to invest even more?

As for sword proficiency going, that was mostly because 3 proficiencies seemed overboard & it occurs to me I don't like sword proficiency on an elf. Half has always expressed a preference for swords being king. I respect that, I just don't think the proficiency is necessary to achieve that. I think swords are king anyway (up until late game where it's a bit of preference). I often preference a sword on a dwarf despite dwarves having axe proficiency, the extra accuracy, the extra evasion, they are just more reliable. I also suspect it's a touch confusing, players forget that +1 is even there (I certainly do most of the time).

However I don't want to be pushing an idea just because it sounds good to me. After all it was my idea so I have a bias. Ultimately it's up to Quirk, but it would be nice to hear from anyone playing, rather then a change being added that players do not like or doesn't achieve it's actual aim.

Edit: I guess another way at looking at the question is - what would it take for a player to try a singer? To try taking multiple songs? to invest in more then the minimum to grab a favoured song?

Infinitum January 13, 2019 12:41

I could do wihout the extra weapon proficencies tbh, swords are stronger than the other weapon cathegories anyway, and I seem to recall even the dwarfes of Bilbo going with swords over axes. Dwarfes being axe-only is more of a DnD trope (Gimli nonwithstanding). Maybe make swords a Feanorian specialty (instead of the archery affinity) to go with their clans preference for them in the raid of the harbours arc. Speaking of, maybe downgrade the archery affinity to a bow proficiency for the elves (with Falas receiving an archery affinity as well). Elves are plenty strong as is.

I still feel the songs should provide flexibility to a character, and as such shouldn't be purchased separately (since that encourages narrow specialization, especially with the character pregression system Sil uses).

One way to go about it would be to give each race its own set of songs, and make that a requirement for continuing down the song tree (eg an elf would have to learn elven songs at the bottom of the trees before learning Dwarfen or Human songs and vice versa). Each set of songs would be its own ability; eg:

Elven: Elbereth, The Trees, Overwhelming
Dwarfen: Delvings, Thresholds, Staying
Human: Freedom, Silence
Songs of Mastery: Mastery, Lorien

'Course, the elves are effectively two separate languages so if one really wants to geek it up one could move Thresholds to the Elven songs and then split them in Sindar and Quenya variants (Elbereth and Thresholds probably being Sindar what with Elbereth being a Sindar word and their proficiency with enchantments (eg the Girdle surrounding Doriath).

Speaking of the starting races, any chance of removing the Dexterity/Strenght maluses from dwarfes and Sindar respectively? Dwarfes being worse fighters than humans doesn't make much sense, neither does elves being weaker than men. They could both lose a point of constitution to compensate. Maybe give the dwarfes a stealth malus as well.

Quirk January 13, 2019 13:31

So I've discussed this a bit with wobbly already, and won't say much more than: I think the song proficiency on elves is absolutely canon, dwarves and men are rarely seen working magic through song if at all. There is the possibility that it leads to every elf being a singer of some description, but that may be okay, and I do note that not every elf invests in archery at present despite its obvious power.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum
Speaking of, maybe downgrade the archery affinity to a bow proficiency for the elves (with Falas receiving an archery affinity as well). Elves are plenty strong as is.

This is a perfect and elegant idea. Swap out the archery affinity for song affinity, and sword proficiency for bow proficiency. I very much like this.

With regard to songs being split by race: currently it's been quite hard to balance them without imposing further restrictions, so I'm not sure how I feel about this. It would be somewhat difficult to make it work as you've suggested - Trees couldn't go at 1 elegantly, as many characters wouldn't have the requisite 5 points to get even one light level of benefit, Staying would be monstrously powerful, etc - but splitting songs between races would go some way to resolve the current crush of songs that need the investment to be cheap to be viable (Elbereth, Challenge, Silence, Freedom, Delvings, Thresholds). That said, we then weirdly incentivise the dwarven or human singer, which is dubiously canonical.

With regard to removing Dex/Strength maluses, I think my preference would be to remove a Con point from the Sindar, and a Grace point from the dwarves. Nogrod would then gain back the Grace point to be the same as before, and Belegost would swap the Dex malus for having 0 Grace. This preserves the bruiser nature of Belegost and may even be a small buff. Sindar will lose out some from not having the extra Con, but I think Sindar are currently decently stronger than Naugrim.

I do think it would be interesting to have some skills which were race-dependent, but it's easier said than done. Coming up with one decent skill to fill a slot in a manner which is balanced enough that it gets taken on some builds and not others is hard enough, never mind finding three, and having them all suit neatly into racial stereotypes. Trying to do this for multiple trees or multiple skills in the same tree will get wearing fast. Having a separate tree for them might work but feels like it might prove inelegant.

Quirk January 13, 2019 14:30

What I was sketching out last night is a structure that looks roughly like this:
  1. Song of Elbereth / Song of Challenge
  2. Song of Silence / Song of Staunching
  3. Song of Freedom / Song of Thresholds
  4. Song of Delvings / Song of Whetting (prerequisite Challenge)
  5. Song of Trees - (prerequisite Elbereth or Freedom)
  6. Song of Staying - (prerequisite Staunching or Thresholds)
  7. Song of Lorien - (prerequisite Silence)
  8. Song of Mastery - (prerequisite Elbereth or Lorien)
  9. Woven Themes
  10. Grace

Song of Staunching, based on Luthien's song of staunching sung to heal Beren, would shorten bleeding and more importantly greatly speed regeneration.
Song of Whetting I'm currently thinking gives an extra damage side. I don't like the old Sharpness implementation in which each additional Song point gives you 2% of Xd4 more damage against your opponents, it feels clumsy. On the other hand the canonical whetting spell allowed Beleg to sever metal shackles with a sword, which feels like it maxes out at more than just a damage side.

In both cases the scaling with Song is tricky. Songs tend to a linear scaling when for balance purposes this does not always work very well. I have tried to keep this, but in places it can lead to relatively inelegant implementation.

Having Staunching's regeneration scale linearly is problematic: it will do too little early on, and possibly too much late - particularly if Song is scaling a multiplier on the existing regeneration mechanic which also scales with Constitution. Ideally it would do enough early to save a player from death by poison, and still be usable later. I may try something like "Stops all bleeding and regenerates 2 + (Song/6) health per round" (the numbers here will be tweaked after much testing). I think it has to go quite early because it is potentially a useful emergency song that could be grabbed at the point you realise you won't survive the poison you just took.

Whetting scaling to multiple damage sides could easily become very broken, but perhaps something like 1 + (Song/12) damage sides would be plausible. The other mechanic I was debating was it granting the extra damage side to weapons weighing less than the singer's Song score, making it easier to whet a dagger than a greataxe. It might not be broken to have it grant actual sharpness to weapons weighing less than (Song / 5) lbs as daggers and shortswords are very much stealth weapons and the song could be a noisy one; you would need to get to 10 Song to whet a light longsword. This would make shortswords somewhat more viable without backstabs.

Whetting arguably shouldn't work on blunt weapons, particularly if it's granting actual sharpness, but this approach gets us toward the situation where you put aside your warhammer when you have to deal with an armoured opponent, which seems fundamentally wrong - I can't think of a better tool to deal with an enemy made of stone.

I'm not sure how I feel about prerequisites here. Prerequisites block off some builds, and punish skills: weaker higher-tier skills suffer from having a prerequisite, weaker lower-tier skills suffer from not being a prerequisite to a strong higher-tier skill. Delvings is not a prerequisite for anything, which may mean it is still too costly at 4 after the competition has hotted up; it may be better to swap its place with Silence, which will still be viable at 4 because it lives on an all-in Song/stealth build. I don't really want to split Challenge/Elbereth or Freedom/Thresholds because they make nice naturally opposed pairs at the same cost.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 13, 2019 18:36

Question about Smithing Enchantment ability: When you pick enchantment, does it apply to just to the chosen prerequisite (e.g. Weaponsmith) or both Armorsmith and Weaponsmith? Imo, it should apply to just the already chosen prerequisite.

Quirk January 13, 2019 18:52

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011 (Post 135333)
Question about Smithing Enchantment ability: When you pick enchantment, does it apply to just to the chosen prerequisite (e.g. Weaponsmith) or both Armorsmith and Weaponsmith? Imo, it should apply to just the already chosen prerequisite.

It applies to Weaponsmith, Armorsmith and Jeweller - but you can only make enchanted versions of these items if you already could make those items. So if you have Weaponsmith and Armorsmith and pick Enchantment you can make both enchanted weapons and enchanted armour, but you still can't make enchanted jewellery.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 13, 2019 19:05

I realized I asked something else than intended: my corrected question - does the enchantment's identification apply only to those items I can make?

On a separate topic - various other things:

Does the Song of Elbereth work if player is blinded?

I noticed these too:
' command (reversed apostrophe) works as another ESC key.
When accessing the abilities via TAB key, TAB can be used to exit it.
When changing options, 't' can be used to toggle yes/no
Left arrow key can be used to exit out of the Smithing menu

Quirk January 13, 2019 19:29

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011 (Post 135335)
I realized I asked something else than intended: my corrected question - does the enchantment's identification apply only to those items I can make?

Yes.

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011 (Post 135335)
On a separate topic - various other things:

Does the Song of Elbereth work if player is blinded?

Yes.

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011 (Post 135335)
I noticed these too:
' command (reversed apostrophe) works as another ESC key.
When accessing the abilities via TAB key, TAB can be used to exit it.
When changing options, 't' can be used to toggle yes/no
Left arrow key can be used to exit out of the Smithing menu

All sounds plausible - never really looked at the key bindings in any detail.

Scatha January 13, 2019 20:13

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135328)
So I've discussed this a bit with wobbly already, and won't say much more than: I think the song proficiency on elves is absolutely canon, dwarves and men are rarely seen working magic through song if at all.

I think Song affinity makes a lot of sense for elves.

However, it's not very explicit, but I always imagined this was referring to some song-like magic:
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells


Quote:

With regard to removing Dex/Strength maluses, I think my preference would be to remove a Con point from the Sindar, and a Grace point from the dwarves. Nogrod would then gain back the Grace point to be the same as before, and Belegost would swap the Dex malus for having 0 Grace. This preserves the bruiser nature of Belegost and may even be a small buff. Sindar will lose out some from not having the extra Con, but I think Sindar are currently decently stronger than Naugrim
From a game aesthetic perspective, I really like the maluses. I think it makes the game more interesting by expanding the space of accessible characters. I'm also very willing to defend them on lore grounds.

I feel a bit negative about different abilities for different races, like it's undermining one of the nice subtleties of how the game differentiates them in favour of something very loud which breaks immersion a little. But I'm not sure how to justify this feeling.

wobbly January 14, 2019 02:11

I'm fairly neutral on stat changes, just a few comments from my perspective:

In regards to dwarfs I find a Nogrod actually has more dex then an Edain in practice, simply because playing with less then 3 con on an Edain leaves you next to no room for errors. Where things get painful is a Belegost smith in heavy armour with an axe, you no longer hit. Now it balances out in that you can take a fair bit of punishment but unfortunately play tends to feels very stodgy on this kind of build.

Quote:

Originally Posted by half (Post 135276)
Scaring monsters: Apart from the monster that kills you, you always manage to deal with the monster in some manner (be that sneaking past, fleeing, scaring, or killing). You get half the experience for each monster on first encountering it because that is easier to implement than getting it upon dealing with the monster. I'm happy with killing it being the only thing that grants extra experience. As why is scaring it off the level any better than scaring it into another room? or to sneaking past, or putting to sleep, etc.? If I were changing anything, it might be to drop the extra experience for killing it -- you already are rewarded with the items. (this would obviously require increasing experience a little to compensate)

Reasonable but would require a fair bit of rebalancing for pacifists & assassins. Pacifists currently require far less xp then kill 'em all builds. Assassins need a temptation to kill things, most stuff of value is on the floor & there are safer ways to move sleeping dragons then poking them in the eye.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 14, 2019 04:19

I found a bug: Apparently, once I choose the Enchantment ability...it will ID anything that says {special}...For example, it IDed Treacherous Paths on some footwear laying on the ground...even though I didn't learn Armorsmith yet! (At the time, I didn't check to see if the Jewelry were affected, e.g. {special} Brass Lanterns, because I already learned Jewelry before I encountered the bug)

Wiwaxia January 14, 2019 06:05

Quote:

Originally Posted by half (Post 135276)
If I were changing anything, it might be to drop the extra experience for killing it -- you already are rewarded with the items. (this would obviously require increasing experience a little to compensate)

The more I think about this, the more I really like it. It removes an odd disadvantage of pacifist builds that doesn't seem to have a strong reason to be there, further pushes the point that there are things you really shouldn't bother to fight, encourages diving past where you can safely win fights, and cuts out the "running around 100ft killing tanglethorns for the last 10xp you need for the first forge" nonsense I've gotten into occasionally.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135330)
What I was sketching out last night is a structure that looks roughly like this:
  1. Song of Elbereth / Song of Challenge
  2. Song of Silence / Song of Staunching
  3. Song of Freedom / Song of Thresholds
  4. Song of Delvings / Song of Whetting (prerequisite Challenge)
  5. Song of Trees - (prerequisite Elbereth or Freedom)
  6. Song of Staying - (prerequisite Staunching or Thresholds)
  7. Song of Lorien - (prerequisite Silence)
  8. Song of Mastery - (prerequisite Elbereth or Lorien)
  9. Woven Themes
  10. Grace

Song of Staunching, based on Luthien's song of staunching sung to heal Beren, would shorten bleeding and more importantly greatly speed regeneration.
Song of Whetting I'm currently thinking gives an extra damage side. I don't like the old Sharpness implementation in which each additional Song point gives you 2% of Xd4 more damage against your opponents, it feels clumsy. On the other hand the canonical whetting spell allowed Beleg to sever metal shackles with a sword, which feels like it maxes out at more than just a damage side.

In both cases the scaling with Song is tricky. Songs tend to a linear scaling when for balance purposes this does not always work very well. I have tried to keep this, but in places it can lead to relatively inelegant implementation.

Having Staunching's regeneration scale linearly is problematic: it will do too little early on, and possibly too much late - particularly if Song is scaling a multiplier on the existing regeneration mechanic which also scales with Constitution. Ideally it would do enough early to save a player from death by poison, and still be usable later. I may try something like "Stops all bleeding and regenerates 2 + (Song/6) health per round" (the numbers here will be tweaked after much testing). I think it has to go quite early because it is potentially a useful emergency song that could be grabbed at the point you realise you won't survive the poison you just took.

Whetting scaling to multiple damage sides could easily become very broken, but perhaps something like 1 + (Song/12) damage sides would be plausible. The other mechanic I was debating was it granting the extra damage side to weapons weighing less than the singer's Song score, making it easier to whet a dagger than a greataxe. It might not be broken to have it grant actual sharpness to weapons weighing less than (Song / 5) lbs as daggers and shortswords are very much stealth weapons and the song could be a noisy one; you would need to get to 10 Song to whet a light longsword. This would make shortswords somewhat more viable without backstabs.

Whetting arguably shouldn't work on blunt weapons, particularly if it's granting actual sharpness, but this approach gets us toward the situation where you put aside your warhammer when you have to deal with an armoured opponent, which seems fundamentally wrong - I can't think of a better tool to deal with an enemy made of stone.

I'm not sure how I feel about prerequisites here. Prerequisites block off some builds, and punish skills: weaker higher-tier skills suffer from having a prerequisite, weaker lower-tier skills suffer from not being a prerequisite to a strong higher-tier skill. Delvings is not a prerequisite for anything, which may mean it is still too costly at 4 after the competition has hotted up; it may be better to swap its place with Silence, which will still be viable at 4 because it lives on an all-in Song/stealth build. I don't really want to split Challenge/Elbereth or Freedom/Thresholds because they make nice naturally opposed pairs at the same cost.

I like the new song tree design aesthetically, especially those two themed pairs. I'm not clear on how Song of Staunching is supposed to differ from the erstwhile Este. If I recall correctly, part of the issue with the original Este was the question of when you were supposed to sing it. If it's going to be a combat song, it needs to regenerate fast enough to compete with simply not taking that damage in the first place courtesy of Staying. If it's going to be a survivability song, it needs to regenerate enough to compete with ending unfavorable fights by scaring away enemies with Elbereth. Otherwise, it's left as a patch-up-after-battle song, which only really saves on turncount over regular healing, especially now that Thresholds makes it easier to make safe boltholes to rest.

Whetting granting sharpness by weapon weight is elegant. I'd be curious to see how it plays out in practice, although I imagine it would upset the light weapon vs. heavy weapon balancing you've already tried to do. It makes more intuitive sense for a whetting song to benefit knives more than axes rather than vis versa like adding a damage side would do. Spitballing, but in keeping with it being a whetting song you could have the effect build up over time as you sing it as you "sharpen" your blade.


A quick question about song interactions: does Freedom negate your own wards from Thresholds? I discovered that staves of freedom do, but I didn't have the spare experience to test the song.

Quirk January 14, 2019 09:35

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135343)
The more I think about this, the more I really like it. It removes an odd disadvantage of pacifist builds that doesn't seem to have a strong reason to be there, further pushes the point that there are things you really shouldn't bother to fight, encourages diving past where you can safely win fights, and cuts out the "running around 100ft killing tanglethorns for the last 10xp you need for the first forge" nonsense I've gotten into occasionally.

Pacifists - and stealth - are already balanced round this lower XP. They're already the speed run kings and the easiest characters for a 50K start.

I think there would be reduced incentive to stab unaware enemies. It would change the game balance quite a lot and I'm not sure I understand all the implications.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135343)
I like the new song tree design aesthetically, especially those two themed pairs. I'm not clear on how Song of Staunching is supposed to differ from the erstwhile Este. If I recall correctly, part of the issue with the original Este was the question of when you were supposed to sing it. If it's going to be a combat song, it needs to regenerate fast enough to compete with simply not taking that damage in the first place courtesy of Staying. If it's going to be a survivability song, it needs to regenerate enough to compete with ending unfavorable fights by scaring away enemies with Elbereth. Otherwise, it's left as a patch-up-after-battle song, which only really saves on turncount over regular healing, especially now that Thresholds makes it easier to make safe boltholes to rest.

A large part of the issue with Este was its cost. Yes, you would rather have Staying and Staying cost less than Este. Here Staunching is very much cheaper - 2300 XP cheaper - and a prerequisite for Staying.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135343)
Whetting granting sharpness by weapon weight is elegant. I'd be curious to see how it plays out in practice, although I imagine it would upset the light weapon vs. heavy weapon balancing you've already tried to do. It makes more intuitive sense for a whetting song to benefit knives more than axes rather than vis versa like adding a damage side would do. Spitballing, but in keeping with it being a whetting song you could have the effect build up over time as you sing it as you "sharpen" your blade.

I think for very light weapons this is okay, they're hard to justify outside stabbing. For 2 lb longswords it is trickier as they are good already. I may have to go to Song/10 which makes 2 lb longswords 20 Song to Sharpen. Maybe that's too much. Would prefer a round number.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135343)
A quick question about song interactions: does Freedom negate your own wards from Thresholds? I discovered that staves of freedom do, but I didn't have the spare experience to test the song.

I believe so but will have to check. Code should be similar.

Infinitum January 14, 2019 15:49

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135328)
With regard to songs being split by race: currently it's been quite hard to balance them without imposing further restrictions, so I'm not sure how I feel about this. It would be somewhat difficult to make it work as you've suggested - Trees couldn't go at 1 elegantly, as many characters wouldn't have the requisite 5 points to get even one light level of benefit, Staying would be monstrously powerful, etc - but splitting songs between races would go some way to resolve the current crush of songs that need the investment to be cheap to be viable (Elbereth, Challenge, Silence, Freedom, Delvings, Thresholds). That said, we then weirdly incentivise the dwarven or human singer, which is dubiously canonical.

Well, another way to go about it could be to have all characters know all songs intrinsically (without having to spend abilities) but introduce minimum song scores for each song. Pretty sure you or wobbly mentioned that earlier? It might be a more elegant solution. Of course, this would create a gaping hole in the song tree and require heavy rebalancing but hey, new design space!

Also, I think the idea of every new character starting off knowing a language (Quenya for Noldor, Sindarin for Sindar, Khuszdul for Dwarfes and.. Taliska or Haladin (?) for the Edain) and have it affect gameplay somehow is pretty Tolkien-ish. One of the talents of the song tree could be learning a second language, or even the dark tongue or Valarin.

Quirk January 14, 2019 18:34

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135352)
Well, another way to go about it could be to have all characters know all songs intrinsically (without having to spend abilities) but introduce minimum song scores for each song.

This sounds identical to what we have now, except that abilities would be free?

I think it's better to have the tree work the same way as the other trees for symmetry reasons. Apart from anything else not all songs are useful for all builds (same as any other tree), but without having to commit to a build in Song characters would feel much more samey and hybrid.

Infinitum January 14, 2019 19:21

Well, truth being told most songs are too situational to be useful full stop. At least that way the situational ones would be more likely to find a use sometimes. Which would be nice, seeing as many of the more interesting song concepts are pretty narrow by default, and I think the idea of singers being super-flexible at the cost of yet more melee/evasion is appealing.

Also one could combine this idea with the languages; eg each song has an original language (say, Elbereth and Sindarin) and is only fully available to characters speaking that language. Some songs could then be incompletely translated to other languages; Eg Quenya-speakers might also have access to Elbereth (because they are aware of Varda, even if they've fallen out of favour) but at a song malus. Other, higher tier songs could then be available only to specific languages eg Mastery could be a Valarin-only affair to require some investment in the song tree.

So they'd function like spellbook abilities, pretty much. Down to certain spells being available but weaker in different lores (like Nature and.. Holy healing spells in vanilla? Have barely played Angband).

For an instance each character could start off with their native tongue (represented as a "free" ability) which lists which songs are available (and at what penalties). Then they could purchase abilities to eg learn an extra base language (formatted as Bane), then have the option to learn Valarin or even the dark tongue (which could even give a stealth bonus vs awake enemies depending on Song score, similar to disguise).

Spoken languages could also add some extra diversity to character classes, should you ever wish to add those (eg Hador Nobles/Sages speaking Sindarin instead of Taliska).

Also, the notification messages could be different for different languages; eg a Hador might start singing the Song of the Trees with the message "You start singing about the splendour of the sun" whereas a Sindar Elf could go on about the stars and Dwarfes about the glow of the forge, and so on and so forth.

Haven't really thought about the game balance much, but there's plenty of inherent thematic potential there.

Pete Mack January 14, 2019 19:39

One tricky thing here. You get points for killing monsters you can't see. I dunno about for 'seeing' them.

Quirk January 14, 2019 20:53

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135361)
Well, truth being told most songs are too situational to be useful full stop. At least that way the situational ones would be more likely to find a use sometimes. Which would be nice, seeing as many of the more interesting song concepts are pretty narrow by default, and I think the idea of singers being super-flexible at the cost of yet more melee/evasion is appealing.

Infinitum, forgive me for being impatient, but you are again making sweeping statements that are hard to reconcile with reality. This is along the same lines as claiming that Smithing is not useful when two-thirds of winners take it.

The cheap songs are on the whole decidedly useful. Elbereth and Silence and Lorien support entire builds. I'm aware of players who take Challenge more or less every game to force engagements on their terms. Freedom is a bit more niche, I'll grant, useful as it is against Morgoth or in the absence of a digging tool; Trees is potent throughout the whole late game, particularly if one has been unlucky with lamps. Delvings is fun, but too pricey for the reward so tends to be seen on the ascent. Staying is a combat character go-to song at about 800 feet. After Lorien - yes, we're in luxury territory and it is a real problem getting people to invest.

You could call Freedom situational. I don't think anything else up to and including Lorien qualifies. Three of these songs are central to a build, Challenge and Staying are potentially relevant any time you have enemies to fight, Delvings you use throughout the ascent non-stop and would probably use all the time on the way down were it cheaper. Trees is very strong in a game in which light is so important. In fact I don't think anything after Lorien is necessarily situational either, just (in some cases) overly expensive.

I get that everyone's experience of the game is different, and perhaps you haven't found ways to use the songs effectively. Let me assure you this is not the general case, and while your suggestions on the Song tree are undoubtedly well meant, I'm finding it hard to mine them for usefulness.

HugoTheGreat2011 January 15, 2019 01:27

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pete Mack (Post 135362)
One tricky thing here. You get points for killing monsters you can't see. I dunno about for 'seeing' them.

Yes, we do get points for seeing monsters. Seeing the monster(s) for the first time, definitely yes. But, for the # of times afterwards, I don't know.

Wiwaxia January 15, 2019 06:11

Quirk asked me for my thoughts on the relative strengths of songs based on this recent character: http://angband.oook.cz/ladder-show.php?id=22225


Thresholds seems quite strong. On reflection, I think its current price (9 song, iirc) is probably around right, especially if all elves are going to be getting a free song. It's not as nuts as Mastery, but offers you a huge amount of control over encounters. It's stronger than high-song Elbereth for avoiding combat, because enemies can't come back after you after you stop singing. I'm not sure how it stacks up against Lorien, which would be the other point of comparison cost-wise. It's extremely versatile without being much of a drain on voice resources because you can tap it on to lock a door and then tap it off, so it plays well with having other songs even if you don't have Woven Themes. Having that much ability to pick battles on relatively non-combat-ready build felt about right balance-wise, but I'm concerned that a Thresholds brawler might feel a bit too safe, especially if it's made much cheaper. I'll give that a test run if I have time.

I never had a ward actually be broken. I don't know if this is due to the strength of the wards or their effect on monster pathing (which I assume is the same as a glyph of warding?), because I couldn't tell if monsters were trying to bash them down or just milling about on the other side. I don't think this is a bad thing, necessarily; being able to control the direction monsters move is more interesting than a ward door/break ward shoving match, but it does make the song much more potent. The ability to put entire levels on lockdown by closing every door you see may or may not be too much. I don't have a great sense of exactly how it stacks up against other expensive songs. It means that you are essentially never going to have an unexpected monster sneak up behind you or outflank you, but it also doesn't remove monsters from the level or defang them if you need to move through the room you locked them in. Wall-eaters and anything that can bash doors down before you get to them also are a limitation on this strategy.

Selected other uses of Thresholds, for a sense of how versatile it can be:
  • Make a safe retreat corridor of open doors with all side doors locked (remember to lock the last door to the stairs so things don't come up the stairs behind you).
  • Secure the stairs room as soon as you enter a level for a bit of safety while you get your bearings and start exploring.
  • Trap archers and scouts in a room with you so you can pin them in a corner and kill them without them running away.
  • Trap things in a room with you and the stairs so Elbereth scares them off the level rather than into another room.
  • The build I ran wasn't a fighter, but presumably one could lock off an arena to fight a unique or the like without having to deal with other monsters, or the unique running away.
  • Use the additional stealth from doors staying locked between you and enemies as a quasi-Vanish.
  • Shut a door behind you in a corridor so unaware wandering monsters path down a different, open corridor instead.
  • I didn't try it on this build, but I imagine you could also do the pathing trick where you keep an enemy in archery range by locking a door when it gets too close so it starts to take the long way round and then opening the door so it paths back to you before it gets out of sight, etc.
  • Lure dangerous enemies into an out-of-the-way room and lock them in.
  • Proactively lock away monsters or room types you don't want to deal with after detecting them with Listen/Delvings/staves.
  • Make a safe bolthole to heal.
  • Lock a door to sing Delvings without worrying about the sound waking things up.
  • Escape pursuit, obviously. To do this, you need to have some way to open up at least two spaces between yourself and a normal-speed enemy (one to start singing, one to lock the door). I used Elbereth and Mastery for this. Lorien and Sprinting are the other obvious choices, but Knock Back + Controlled Retreat should also work, and might be fun.

The additional information about the dungeon from Delvings and Listen is very powerful with Thresholds and using it proactively. Delvings and Thresholds alone are enough to semi-consistently survive the upper levels without any other skills. I imagine scouting with high stealth would be similarly helpful. If you have _treasures, too, you can plan relatively safe grabs of specific items.


Delvings is definitely too expensive right now. Despite all the comments about it being something to take for the ascent, I really like having it as an early-game song. Having more information about the dungeon is always valuable, but especially when you have low light. Knowing the size and shape of a large, dark room you just stepped into already tells you something about the possible risks before you wander around and bump into a white wolf, and finding forges is just a massive quality-of-life boost. Like Thresholds, it's not a major drain on voice, for the same reason. I usually try to find some safe corner to sing it in to fill in my immediate surroundings when I reach the edge of my map, rather than singing it continuously as I explore.

I completely forgot the secondary digging/doorway fighting effects on these songs existed, so I can't speak to that except to say that maybe that's a sign in favor of cutting those.

Quirk January 15, 2019 12:53

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wiwaxia (Post 135376)
Thresholds seems quite strong. On reflection, I think its current price (9 song, iirc) is probably around right, especially if all elves are going to be getting a free song.

Thank you. This is really useful feedback. I felt the wards were powerful from my own experimentation, which was more combat oriented, but it was hard to put a finger on it. Knowing that it would be broken at a low price means I do need to go back to my latest sketched redesign and reconsider it, but better that than wreck game balance.

Lorien is stronger than Thresholds at 50' on a Sindar, but gets markedly weaker as enemy will and perception ramp up. This levels off late game so while I usually get Lorien about 500' on a pacifist and it is weakish at 15 song or so there, at 900' with Song in the mid 20s you are basically untouchable.

I think the weakness of Thresholds currently is that you need to survive to the point you can afford it, or go all in early with few other tools. Staying tends to be bought by combat characters at about 800', so such a high cost makes it unattainable until very late game, and I suspect the build you're running needs it to survive. I think maybe dropping it to 6 or 7 would make it a plausible option from the start while being enough of a sacrifice that it forces some dedication to the build?

I'm thinking of dropping Delvings to 2 or 3; does that seem reasonable?

wobbly January 15, 2019 14:17

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135382)
I'm thinking of dropping Delvings to 2 or 3; does that seem reasonable?

I tried it with a bunch of low grace dwarfs & it is much weaker at low levels, it starts getting strong around 10 song level, so with current numbers I doubt 2 or 3 is going to overpowered unless you're running a high grace finarfin or doriath.

Infinitum January 15, 2019 20:11

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135366)
Infinitum, forgive me for being impatient, but you are again making sweeping statements that are hard to reconcile with reality. [...]

Perhaps our viewpoints differ. I mainly play melee characters. The way I see it, the main difficulty of Sil is keeping ahead of the melee/evasion curve from ~350' through ~850'. Before that, a largeish investment in melee/evasion is usually enough to kill everything with minimum equipment, and once you've survived Kemenrauko/Cat territory one generally have enough good equipment, consumables and raw skills to trivialize every other encounter sans V.

In practice, I find this means every single skill and ability purchase prior to and during those depths have to be justified in place of another point of (functional) melee/evasion, since dealing and avoiding is what ultimately keeps melee characters stocked with consumables, safe, and alive. This changes somewhat in the lategame once melee/evasion becomes prohibitively expensive, but at that point everything else dies on contact anyway.

In light of that,

Smithing: Can be an equipment boost for a low investment until 500' or so, but any expenditure beyond that is actively counterproductive for the midgame. There are some lategame shenanigans to be had, but the lategame is nowhere near as punishing as the mid and mid-lategame. There's heaps of threads on this.

Song of Elbereth: Is an unreliable escape at best, and generally a worse combat song than Staying in situations where having a song matters (eg vs tough, high will opponents or when you're otherwise losing).

Song of Challenge: Is generally worse than Opportunist. Cheaper to get initially, sure, but some stealth isn't a bad investment to avoid some surrounds, and Opportunist still works in situations where you want a combat song (eg vs tough opponents).

Song of Silence: Is generally good for stealth/stabbing characters, obviously. It helps that Quick Study isn't that good for stealth builds.

Song of Freedom: Like you noted. Generally much worse than Staying. 10 extra will vs Slowing/Entrancement isn't as good as 10+ extra will vs everything, and between the 6 perception combat characters want for Bane and rings of perception traps usually aren't an issue. There is a small niche vs V since it can close pits/open up rubble, but that isn't worth the 1500 extra xp imo.

Song of the Trees: Is generally good. Elemental resists are never bad, one needs some extra light around shadow spider depth anyway, and this is cheaper than the 1500 xp for the jeweller/pray-for-mithril combo (assuming one also wants Staying, and nothing else in the song tree). Not to mention dropping Lamps later on is not always enough for multiple Amethyst S/Gwauthrauko.

Song of Delvings: Is cool and thematic and atmospheric and I'll leave it at that.

Song of Staying: Is good. For a 3 grace Noldor, it's effectively 10 points of Will as well as the protection bonus. I usually value [,+1d2] slightly above [+1,], so at 3300 xp this is a pretty good value once one can afford to stockpile the xp (at ~(+10)[+10]). 7 song/3 grace is incidentally where one gets +2 light from the trees.

Song of Lorien: Is good for stealth singers.

Song of Thresholds: Is situationally a (+4)[+4] by the time you get it, which is pretty good. It's also another 3200 xp on top of The Trees/Staying, which is quite steep. And it both requires and prohibits mobility in combat, which can be situationally bad (especially since you can otherwise use doors to lure the AI 1v1). And Staying + Dodging/Flanking is generally [+3,2d2] which is arguably better. The escape is cool, but requires you to create distance vs non-flitterers, which looks quite situational for melee characters.

Song of Overwhelming: Looks weak. Haven't tried it though. Does it work off another will modifier than Mastery (or does the stun remain longer)? Might be situationally good for heavy armor characters?

Song of Mastery: Suffers a bit from the Smithing problem. It's (very) strong later on, but the early-mid concessions to get there (eg dropping evasion to pay for it) are painful to play through. And I'm far from convinced it actually makes song better than evasion at equivalent values (RIP my singer-smiths. All of them).

So, looking at the songs from my perspective I'm seeing a pretty solid midgame combat boost at 3300 xp, a necessary answer to shadow critters in the late midgame at 1000 xp, and a bunch of interesting and situationally good abilities that aren't worth the 1500+ xp investment during the critical parts of the game.

Which is to say they're not all that different from most other ability trees in the game, except I think this one has a pretty intuitive way of addressing the problem without overhauling the ability system (and help make non-stealthy Singers into more of a standalone arcetype).

Anyhow, different strokes for different folks etc etc.

Quirk January 16, 2019 00:10

Quote:

Originally Posted by Infinitum (Post 135388)
Perhaps our viewpoints differ. I mainly play melee characters.

So this does make quite a substantial difference.

I can tell you myself that Elbereth is pretty great for archers. I've been running quite a few lately in testing the overhaul of the archery tree and I've seen Wiwaxia run a couple of Elbereth archers too. Very early on, when it doesn't keep the wolves off, it's not so hot, but by the time they're wargs, they're fleeing. Late game you can make the switch to Mastery to freeze up enemies you don't want escaping, but for an awful lot of the game Elbereth keeps many of your enemies where you want them: distant pincushions. Here's one from Angband.live who managed to grab a Sil after some awkwardness on 950' led to me descending before I'd properly scummed:
http://angband.live/Quirk/silq/Celui...108-223852.txt

Challenge doesn't really do the same thing as Opportunist. Opportunist is good at hurting and finishing enemies that are running away. It doesn't pull in cat assassins or stop breathers breathing on you. Some of what it does in terms of pulling enemies in to fight in more favourable surroundings can be replicated with various AI tricks. Not everyone has patience for that. A few quotes from other players here:
Quote:

Originally Posted by ripforareason
Song of Challenge is good, very useful against cat assassins.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Blinkhog
Song of challenge, the balance seems good, maybe slightly too powerful, as orc archers become easy to deal with only 2 points in song and 3 grace. It also downgrades cat assassins from a terror to annoying. I like the mechanic though and the monster stances, I think this mechanic should be developed further.

Quote:

Originally Posted by HugoTheGreat2011
For the future - whatever you do, DON'T remove Song of Challenge! It works for me!

Quote:

Originally Posted by thzfunnymzn@gmail.com
Song of Challenge is really, really good. Even at 500' - 600', I've been able to manipulate packs / archers of foes off of a simple two Song + three Grace alone. Annoying Easterling Warrior trios or Orc Captain packs are somewhat trivialized with this...

It's strong & makes my guy stronger, yeah, but I feel like I'm cheating.

How situational it is depends on whether you're consistently using it to pull enemies into corridors, in which case it's bread and butter, or whether it's more of a silver bullet against ranged types. In either case, it's cheap and decently widely taken.

Silence, Lorien, Trees, Staying you've noted as good. Freedom we both think niche, Delvings is clearly overpriced on the way down, and is only widely taken on the ascent. Thresholds is potent, but distinctly overpriced, and the ward side doesn't necessarily primarily benefit melee builds.

Overwhelming is decidedly better than Mastery for melee at the point you get it: with Mastery if you beat them on Will, they skip one turn, win one with Overwhelming, they're stunned for 2d6 turns and doing half damage. In practice you will win some against most late game enemies with 10 Song. Melee characters however just don't tend to take that much Song and I'm not expecting that to change.

Mastery currently largely supports Elbereth archers and Lorien sneaker throneroom shenanigans. I don't think it's easy to make work on melee builds at all and the cost of entry is high.

A number of the songs you call "a bunch of interesting and situationally good abilities" just aren't good on the builds you play - Elbereth, Silence, Lorien. And that's fine, but the game isn't just about melee brawling, and these songs would not materially help melee brawling. They require different playstyles to shine. There is no real issue with any song up to Lorien except Delvings in terms of people taking them and playing with them, and if you didn't look at when people took Delvings you might not be certain of even that from simply seeing winner skill lists.

The issues with the songs at the top of the tree are not necessarily going to be fixed by not having to pay for abilities. Thresholds is fun but requires a different play style of its own, and I think it needs to be cheaper to be used in builds. Overwhelming hasn't persuaded people to upgrade from Staying so far, and I'm not sure shaving the cost of upgrade from 2900 to 1900 is going to do it; it probably has to retire. Mastery needs a lot more song than 11 to be good, and reducing the cost of entry from 8100 to 6600 still probably doesn't make it all that viable for melee fighters.

So no, I don't think the suggestion to stop paying for abilities does enough to fix the cost issues of the expensive ones, and I'm not going to touch on the generally unhelpful direction of the language stuff; the last thing we need right now is to divide the song tree further.

Wiwaxia January 20, 2019 02:02

Quote:

Originally Posted by Quirk (Post 135382)
Thank you. This is really useful feedback. I felt the wards were powerful from my own experimentation, which was more combat oriented, but it was hard to put a finger on it. Knowing that it would be broken at a low price means I do need to go back to my latest sketched redesign and reconsider it, but better that than wreck game balance.

Lorien is stronger than Thresholds at 50' on a Sindar, but gets markedly weaker as enemy will and perception ramp up. This levels off late game so while I usually get Lorien about 500' on a pacifist and it is weakish at 15 song or so there, at 900' with Song in the mid 20s you are basically untouchable.

I think the weakness of Thresholds currently is that you need to survive to the point you can afford it, or go all in early with few other tools. Staying tends to be bought by combat characters at about 800', so such a high cost makes it unattainable until very late game, and I suspect the build you're running needs it to survive. I think maybe dropping it to 6 or 7 would make it a plausible option from the start while being enough of a sacrifice that it forces some dedication to the build?

I'm thinking of dropping Delvings to 2 or 3; does that seem reasonable?

These both sound reasonable to me. There's a melee Thresholds build I'd like to try, and dropping the price a bit should make it easier to get off the ground.
Having Thresholds at 6 or 7 does allow an all-in Delving/Thresholds/Elbereth start, which will be a much smoother start for the build I was trying out, but I don't think that will be a problem.


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