Thread: Sil-Q Review
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Old January 5, 2019, 21:29   #6
Scatha
Swordsman
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.)

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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.)
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