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Nick June 4, 2015 14:49

Angband Philosophy II: Magic
Over in the plans thread I promised some thoughts on classes - here is a part of what I'm thinking.

I'll start with spellcasting realms. Currently Angband has two, which I'll call for now Arcane and Holy (mage and priest). Variants have more realms; in particular I'm most familiar with Oangband's Necromancy and Nature magic.

It turns out that these have very strong representation in Middle Earth. Gandalf - representing the will of the Valar - was the enemy of Sauron, the Necromancer. In a similar way, the Ents represented Nature in its purest form in Middle Earth, and were opposed to Saruman, with his "mind full of wheels". So there's a spiritual spectrum from Holy to Necromancy, and a physical spectrum from Arcane (technology) to Nature.

And there's more. Tolkien wrote every explicitly about the elves (especially, but also other sentient beings) having two parts a hra (body) and a fa (spirit). On destruction of the hra (that is, death) the fa would normally return to Valinor, but could refuse to do so, or be persuaded not to - this persuasion was necromancy. I could keep quoting this stuff forever, but I'll stop now.

So how does all this apply to the game of Angband? Well, we already have two schools of magic representing the major themes of Middle Earth - adding Nature and Necromancy would in some sense be just completing those. But there's probably also deeper implications. If you look at the monster list, many of the monsters can be better understood under this scheme - vortices and elementals are purely Arcane creatures, for example. What seems to be emerging is an understanding of much of the game in terms of an "alignment" system a bit like D&Ds Good-Evil and Lawful-Chaotic (but in my opinion more coherent).

As far as classes go, we have lots of choice. What I've outlined is really a framework in which to do stuff, rather than the stuff itself. One thing I do think is that we should not throw away good things that we have, and we should not feel obliged to put in a class because we need to fill in a box in a grid.

So here are a bunch of questions we could consider:
  • Does all this make any sense?
  • This doesn't consider different combat style (eg ranged vs melee) at all - how should that figure in classes?
  • One strong related theme in Middle Earth, which is not dealt with here or in Angband (although it is in Sil) is song - is that something we should be considering, and if so, how?
  • How about classes that could cast from more than one realm? How would this affect spellcasting stats and mana?

It's late here and I'm maybe not at my most coherent, so I'll really stop now and ask for opinions.

Derakon June 4, 2015 16:13

My main concern is that all magic realms should be distinct from each other. Our current two realms break down as:

* Arcane: wide variety of narrowly-focused attack spells; haste and temporary resistance buffs; many niche spells; many narrowly-focused detection spells.

* Holy: small number of widely-applicable attack spells; powerful healing; lots of duplication in spell list; has Detection and Magic Mapping.

These are both really pretty scattered, honestly. If we're going to add even more realms, then it behooves us to overhaul all of the realms and make each one have its own strengths and weaknesses. Note that we can do this in part by manipulating the classes that have access to those realms -- for example, it's not a huge deal if the arcane realm can do everything if the only class that has full access to it is greatly hampered physically (as our current Mage class is).

I'm certain there have been many discussions in the past about overhauling spell lists and adding new magic realms. I can't be bothered to search for them right now. :)

Carnivean June 4, 2015 16:34


Originally Posted by Nick (Post 102191)
Variants have more realms;

Isn't that their job? How big a game should Angband become?

I think of Vanilla as a straightforward game, limited in variety, but balanced. I think of Variants as exploring the various flavours that could be injected into that game that might ruin the overall balance, but add interesting elements into the game.

Honestly I think that magic could be overhauled, but I think that the mage/priest dichotomy is as far as it should go. Additional classes should exist within the current framework and be balanced against the existing classes.

Nomad June 4, 2015 18:26


Originally Posted by Carnivean (Post 102193)
Honestly I think that magic could be overhauled, but I think that the mage/priest dichotomy is as far as it should go. Additional classes should exist within the current framework and be balanced against the existing classes.

Yep, I'm inclined to agree. I think considering how to make arcane vs. holy magic more distinct is definitely a good idea, but I'm not convinced that Angband needs any further spell realms when the two we've got are fairly blurrily defined and overlapping.

Although an alternative to trying to make the town books for both types of magic completely distinct might be to actually merge them into a single set of basic utility spells that all casters get a subset from, and then have class-specific dungeon books. (With perhaps pure casters like Mages/Priests able to use other classes' spellbooks as well as their own.) So it might be broken down like:

Basic Spells 1-4 - anyone except warriors can use
Book of Rogue Spells - rogues, mages
Book of Ranger Spells - rangers, mages
Book(s) of Mage Spells - mages only
Book of Paladin Spells - paladin, priests
Book(s) of Priest Spells - priests only

That might actually make it easier to introduce new spell realms, because instead of trying to come up with a whole nine books worth of not-very-distinct spells, you could give them access to the shared basic spells and then add a new class-specific dungeon book.

Or if you want to go further, you could nuke realms entirely, and just theme your spellbooks by topic, with different classes allowed or disallowed individual books according to topic. (For instance, maybe Rogues only get to use the spells from "Book of Detection" and "Book of Escapes", while rangers get "Book of Lesser Magical Attacks", and mages can use all of those plus others that are mage-only, but not the priest/paladin-specific "Book of Healing Spells" or "Book of Holy Attacks".)

Zireael June 4, 2015 18:31

I think three realms (Arcane, Holy, Nature) would be a good compromise - it'd help to explain why a Druid is not the same as a Priest. Also the other two might get a Ranger equivalent (warrior-caster hybrid).

Derakon June 4, 2015 18:45


Originally Posted by Zireael (Post 102196)
I think three realms (Arcane, Holy, Nature) would be a good compromise - it'd help to explain why a Druid is not the same as a Priest. Also the other two might get a Ranger equivalent (warrior-caster hybrid).

So how would a druid's spells differ from that of a mage or a priest?

debo June 4, 2015 18:51

I'd recommend to anyone who is going to participate in this conversation to also check out the way the spell realms are divided in zangband, and maybe even the *hengbands (not much different) if they haven't already. Each zangband realm has only 4 books iirc.

There may be an increased # of realms, but each realm is much more focused than the Vanilla ones. I've never understood why each Vanilla realm has 8 spellbooks, it's pretty ridiculous.

Also, if we are going to have a death/necromancy realm, I hope we can come up with something better than 'necromancy' as the realm title :)

wobbly June 4, 2015 18:56

In regards to the spell stats is there much point to the Int/Wis split in the 1st place, other then copying D&D. I'm not much of a fan of dump stats in the 1st place & it seems a combined device/resist stat (Will?) is a bit more useful for the non-casters too. The only real reason I can see to keep them separate is dwarves.

Other then that I'd be happy to see Rangers switched over to nature. I'm not familiar with the Oangband's Nature realm but the poscheng/z-band has in the first book basic detects/basic heal & element resists (no phase door, though I think it gets a teleport in a later book) which seems a more suitable set for rangers anyways.

Nomad June 4, 2015 19:38

I'm not sure how much current Angband can really do in the way of a Nature realm that feels particularly nature-themed, given limited terrain and no existing mechanism for non-hostile monsters. Same problem applies to Necromancy, really: you've got Drain Life, maybe add some sort of nether blast, but what else is there? And how many new spells can we really even add that are more than renamed variations on ones that already exist?

I feel like rather than considering which new spell realms would be cool and thematic to add, it might be a better approach to consider the existing list of spells and what categories they can be subdivided into, and then figure out what kind of thematically coherent realms/classes can be built from what we've already got. As Carnivean says, Vanilla is ethos-wise the straightforward base game that variants go on to add bells and whistles to, so I'm not sure it's necessarily a good thing to be inventing new classes or spell realms if it's going to require adding new mechanics or game elements to make them work.

fizzix June 4, 2015 20:02

Personally, I like the idea of different realms and more creative spells. Tome4 makes really great use of buffs and debuffs, which took me a while to get used to. Angband does really poorly at this and there's a lot of room here. Personally, I'd like holy to be a buff/debuff realm with limited healing, arcane to be a pure damage realm in the glass cannon way of things, nature would have strong healing and limited summons, necromancy would have mass summons (of undead) and some limited offense. That's if I had to choose those schools. I think all realms should have some basic detection abilities and utility spells.

Are there any thoughts on restructuring how we handle actual spellcasting? The current system never really struck me as that great. Here's a crazy proposition, using Nick's orthogonal system where nature opposes arcane and holy opposes necromancy. The utility/detection spells can even be separated out into another realm of generic magic. Players can learn all the spells (eventually) from the major realm and about half of the spells from the minor realm. You can also have hybrids that either get everything from one realm but no minor realm, or can have two minor realms.

I also would like to remove the need to carry a book to cast the spell. You learn the spell from the book and its there in your memory. This requires some fundamental changes to inventory handling also.

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