Thread: Sil-Q Review
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Old January 6, 2019, 03:22   #11
Quirk
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Join Date: Mar 2016
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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
Thanks Quirk and wobbly for the in-depth replies!
Thank you for the feedback!

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.


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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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?

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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).

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.

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Originally Posted by Scatha View Post
  • 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.
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