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Old August 15, 2014, 03:06   #1
DeusIrae
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FAangband - first win and some thoughts from a (relative) newbie

Just won my first game of FAangband (ladder dump here -- dwarf warrior who killed all the uniques and cleared all the dungeons save T-I-G, though really should have died inasmuch as I carelessly let myself get knocked to 0 hp while picking fights with druj on level 93) and thought I'd post with some thoughts -- I understand it's not currently under active development but Nick's planning on getting back to it once some more progress has been made in vanilla, so maybe the feedback will be helpful and not just me talking to hear my own voice!

For background, I've only gotten into Angband in the past three months or so, from coming across this Let's Play thread; thus, I've only ever played 3.5 and have no clear idea which features of FAangband are distinctive to it, which come from O, and which are just relics of the way things used to work in vanilla. I've won vanilla with four of the six classes -- haven't tried ranger or paladin yet; only other variant I've tried is Sil, where despite dying an ungodly amount, I've only managed to get to Morgoth once, which didn't exactly end well. One day!

Anyway, as promised, the thoughts:

-I really really liked the overworld -- it definitely changes the feel of the game substantially, and breaks up the dungeon-crawling nicely. In some ways the wilderness levels are easier than the dungeon levels, in some ways harder, so they felt like a good change of pace. And some of them -- I'm thinking especially of the rivers, and the spiderwebs of Nan Dungortheb -- are very neat looking, too, which is not something I thought I'd ever say of a roguelike! (I should say, I played in ASCII mode, so no clue how things look with tiles). I found one "special" wilderness level, which had a bunch of fort-looking things, which was really neat too (that was on a different character, who died to a summon trap calling the Phoenix, alas).

-I also really liked the fact that items were more likely to have tradeoffs -- I used a fair number of rings and necklaces with curses on them since the benefits outweighed the occasional downside. These were fun decisions to make, and there was nice drama around trying to uncurse good loot and hoping the item didn't blow up from the attempt. In general, item enchantments also seemed more varied than in vanilla -- partially from the non-binary resistances, but also because things as simple as a necklace of insight could have stat boosts, speed, resistances, etc. added on. This made mixing and matching more interesting, and meant I didn't squelch nearly as much as in vanilla -- though of course that in turn meant more time checking out every single item in the huge loot-piles in the endgame. Not sure there's a way of resolving this particular dilemma, though.

-Monsters having mana was generally not something I noticed, except when fighting Morgoth. At first I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to beat him, since it seemed like he was summoning big-hitting Ds every single round, and the fact that he carved up three squares instead of just one makes the vanilla tactic of phase dooring around a *destroyed* area not as viable for crowd control. But eventually, after some frenzied teleporting, banishment, etc., he ran out of mana and suddenly the fight became a cakewalk (he took regain-mana actions three or four times after that, but didn't restore that much and never did anything with it). Maybe worth rebalancing a little bit so the fight doesn't turn into an anticlimax; perhaps making it so that his restore-mana actions give him a much larger chunk of his pool back?

-Summons seemed totally, totally bonkers -- again, not sure whether this a relic of how things used to be in vanilla, but I'm used to summoners pulling like half a dozen baddies. But especially in the early going, I felt like every animist I came across was likely to pull 20+ beasties, often noticeably out of depth. Not an unfair challenge by any means, but it did feel out of whack with what other monsters could bring to bear.

-Not sure if it was just luck of the RNG, but I felt like I came across many fewer vaults than I'm used to in vanilla, which was a bit disappointing. I also didn't come across much in the way of speed gear -- I think I found only one set of boots of speed, which were only +4 (though I did get a +5 boots of elvenkind). Quite a change of pace from vanilla, where double-digit boots and rings are very common!

-I loved artifact wands/staves/rods -- both the general idea, which I'd never even thought of, and a couple of the specific items. The rod of delving is a great labor-savor, and the rod of portals opened up a neat new tactical space (though I suspect I'd have taken better advantage if my device skill were a bit better -- it was only reliable over very short distances).

-The warrior specializations, and the shield-bash, were high points for me too -- gave a class which often feels a bit basic a little more flavor, and a little more to do.

I noticed a couple of bugs, too:

-I could never get the warrior probing ability to work -- hitting 'm' would just lead to a "you don't know how to read magic books" response. Not a big deal, but a little annoying.

-Much bigger deal: something prevented me from ever successfully genociding Z; I tried twice, with scrolls (never found a staff of genocide, if such things even exist), and each time it accepted the input but the bastard hounds stuck around (re the genocide v. banishment thing -- is that a O/FA nomenclature change, or did it used to be called that in vanilla too?)

-Back to annoying -- the monster recall screen didn't appear to be quite sure how to treat the Desperate Adventurer; I swapped him some flasks of oil and let him go on his merry way, but while the list screen showed him as dead in the right-hand column, the tally at the bottom would always say "X known, X-1 killed".

Overall, it's definitely a fun game, and looking forward to seeing what happens next with it (and seeing Beleriand)! I might go back to banging my head against the wall-of-my-character's-corpses that is Sil, or try another FA character -- any of the new classes particularly worth trying out? I'm a bit curious about druids...
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Old August 15, 2014, 15:35   #2
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Originally Posted by DeusIrae View Post
-Much bigger deal: something prevented me from ever successfully genociding Z; I tried twice, with scrolls (never found a staff of genocide, if such things even exist), and each time it accepted the input but the bastard hounds stuck around (re the genocide v. banishment thing -- is that a O/FA nomenclature change, or did it used to be called that in vanilla too?)
I thought it was just me and my knotted fingers being unable to hit the correct buttons ...
Apparently Nick has something to do once he is done with the refurbishment of Angband. ^^
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Old August 15, 2014, 16:25   #3
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(re the genocide v. banishment thing -- is that a O/FA nomenclature change, or did it used to be called that in vanilla too?)
It's the reverse. It was originally (Mass) Genocide in Vanilla too, but the name was changed to (Mass) Banishment. Not sure why exactly, I guess it might have something to do with the "genocide" only affecting the level you're on. (I believe it affects all future monster spawns in Nethack?)
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Old August 15, 2014, 17:40   #4
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Druids are pretty difficult. After warrior, assassin is the next most played class, at least as far as ladder results go. I almost only play warriors, but I did play through with an assassin once and it is loads of fun, especially once you get the hide-in-shadows spell, or whatever it's called. Try an assassin!
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Old August 15, 2014, 18:35   #5
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Druids are pretty difficult. After warrior, assassin is the next most played class, at least as far as ladder results go. I almost only play warriors, but I did play through with an assassin once and it is loads of fun, especially once you get the hide-in-shadows spell, or whatever it's called. Try an assassin!
I can only second the Assassin recommendation. Great fun with super-stealth and Mana Burn can be super-helpful.
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Old August 15, 2014, 18:54   #6
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It's the reverse. It was originally (Mass) Genocide in Vanilla too, but the name was changed to (Mass) Banishment. Not sure why exactly, I guess it might have something to do with the "genocide" only affecting the level you're on. (I believe it affects all future monster spawns in Nethack?)
may be because it was politically incorrect?
tome4 got rid of one of their most well made locations (orc breeding pits, horrible depictions of orc women, also achievement 'genocide' for clearing it) because of that
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Old August 15, 2014, 22:42   #7
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"Genocide" means you're killing things, and should therefore get loot and xp (which you don't).

"Banishment" means you're sending them away somewhere, which explains why you don't get loot or xp.
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Old August 16, 2014, 01:22   #8
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Well done, and thanks for all the feedback.

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Originally Posted by DeusIrae View Post
I also really liked the fact that items were more likely to have tradeoffs -- I used a fair number of rings and necklaces with curses on them since the benefits outweighed the occasional downside. These were fun decisions to make, and there was nice drama around trying to uncurse good loot and hoping the item didn't blow up from the attempt. In general, item enchantments also seemed more varied than in vanilla -- partially from the non-binary resistances, but also because things as simple as a necklace of insight could have stat boosts, speed, resistances, etc. added on. This made mixing and matching more interesting, and meant I didn't squelch nearly as much as in vanilla -- though of course that in turn meant more time checking out every single item in the huge loot-piles in the endgame. Not sure there's a way of resolving this particular dilemma, though.
Agreed - I get a bit irritated with the lack of clear winners between items sometimes, but I think on the whole it's worth it.

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Monsters having mana was generally not something I noticed, except when fighting Morgoth. At first I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to beat him, since it seemed like he was summoning big-hitting Ds every single round, and the fact that he carved up three squares instead of just one makes the vanilla tactic of phase dooring around a *destroyed* area not as viable for crowd control. But eventually, after some frenzied teleporting, banishment, etc., he ran out of mana and suddenly the fight became a cakewalk (he took regain-mana actions three or four times after that, but didn't restore that much and never did anything with it). Maybe worth rebalancing a little bit so the fight doesn't turn into an anticlimax; perhaps making it so that his restore-mana actions give him a much larger chunk of his pool back?
I'm not really sure the best way to handle smart spellcasting. The Vanilla method of not having mana, just ruling out dumb spells and then making choice from there random is one approach; on the other hand, I do like the sense of the monster learning during the fight. And the sharp change after his mana runs out is certainly not something I like.

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Summons seemed totally, totally bonkers -- again, not sure whether this a relic of how things used to be in vanilla, but I'm used to summoners pulling like half a dozen baddies. But especially in the early going, I felt like every animist I came across was likely to pull 20+ beasties, often noticeably out of depth. Not an unfair challenge by any means, but it did feel out of whack with what other monsters could bring to bear.
I think the issue here is that the game count a pack as one monster, and animals tend to come in groups, so animists, druids etc summons tend to be big. Personally, I'm OK with this

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Originally Posted by DeusIrae View Post
Not sure if it was just luck of the RNG, but I felt like I came across many fewer vaults than I'm used to in vanilla, which was a bit disappointing. I also didn't come across much in the way of speed gear -- I think I found only one set of boots of speed, which were only +4 (though I did get a +5 boots of elvenkind). Quite a change of pace from vanilla, where double-digit boots and rings are very common!
One thing you can do here is turn on nightmare mode (it can be toggled in-game) when you're feeling brave. The change to random jewellery seems to have nerfed speed rings - it probably needs rebalancing - and I think speed boots have always been rarer than V.

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I loved artifact wands/staves/rods -- both the general idea, which I'd never even thought of, and a couple of the specific items. The rod of delving is a great labor-savor, and the rod of portals opened up a neat new tactical space (though I suspect I'd have taken better advantage if my device skill were a bit better -- it was only reliable over very short distances).
Completely an O thing. The Staff of Winds is also great.

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Originally Posted by DeusIrae View Post
I could never get the warrior probing ability to work -- hitting 'm' would just lead to a "you don't know how to read magic books" response. Not a big deal, but a little annoying.

-Much bigger deal: something prevented me from ever successfully genociding Z; I tried twice, with scrolls (never found a staff of genocide, if such things even exist), and each time it accepted the input but the bastard hounds stuck around (re the genocide v. banishment thing -- is that a O/FA nomenclature change, or did it used to be called that in vanilla too?)

-Back to annoying -- the monster recall screen didn't appear to be quite sure how to treat the Desperate Adventurer; I swapped him some flasks of oil and let him go on his merry way, but while the list screen showed him as dead in the right-hand column, the tally at the bottom would always say "X known, X-1 killed".
Thanks - noted.

I think mewmew is closest to the reason for Genocide->Banishment in V - it was before my time, but my understanding is some people found "genocide" distasteful.

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try another FA character -- any of the new classes particularly worth trying out? I'm a bit curious about druids...
My personal favourite is rogue - they can set traps and steal, and sneak around the wilderness at night without waking anything - or necro. Most of the classes play quite differently to the V versions.

As far as the future of FA goes, I do have plans, but they're too insane for public consumption yet
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