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Old March 29, 2017, 14:47   #1
fizzix
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Revamping the monster list

So I started going through the monster list to try and see where things can be improved. I've only been through the first 5 levels or so, but some things seems like obvious areas we can improve things. Here are some of the things I've come across.

1. Townsfolk. Most townsfolk should really just ignore the player. There's no reason to have them constantly harass the player. After that you can differentiate them a little. Maybe "attacking" the aimless merchant opens up a store dialogue where you can buy a very few basic goods at cheaper prices than a store. The mangy looking leper just loiters around store entrances. The squint eyed rogue is invisible and tries to steal some very small amount of money. I dunno.

2. A lot of early game monsters are really forgettable. Soldier ant, white and, black ant are kind of pointless. For diversity's sake, we could do quite a lot with some of the improved dungeon generation features. On their own these ants are very useless, but if you made a templated room (or ideally something like a cavern in a section of the dungeon) which was populated by these ants as a lair, then you can make a lot of these forgettable monsters more interesting.

3. Snakes and centipedes are also a problem. There's many different types and there isn't much to distinguish them. These need some significant work.

4. Jellies and molds serve a purpose, but right now there are too many of them. Jellies tend to be giant unmoving blobs of hp that damage you if you go near them. That seems to work fine, but I might recommend going even further and upping their HP even more and combining that with the stipulation that they can only spawn in rooms. After that, I might recommend giving them radius 2 attacks or auras, but maybe that's unnecessary. The Jellies that do the same thing (white, yellow, spotted) probably should be differentiated further or combined. Molds are probably ok as they are now. Much less hp but more dangerous attacks.

5. There are a bunch of other monsters, harpies, oozes, lizards, that are really forgettable. The main purpose of these appears to be just to get variety in name and shape if not actual behavior. There's some work we can do here.

6. In general it's probably best to have the highest diversity of monsters in levels 1-10.
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Old March 29, 2017, 15:09   #2
Nomad
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I think a lot of subtypes of monsters either need to be consolidated or given distinctive, memorable attacks. For instance, looking at early game reptiles, I know Red Frogs drain strength and Salamanders have fire attacks, which are good, memorable traits, but what distinguishes Rock Lizard/Green Frog/Cave Lizard/Night Lizard, really? Maybe they have slightly different amounts of damage/HP, but it's not a distinction that I have any real awareness of.

Ideally, for each subset of monsters, you should have maybe one basic type, and then every other version should be immediately recognisable as, "Ah, that's the one that does X". That's the one that poisons, that confuses, that drains a particular stat, that breathes X element, that casts spells, etc.

What's the difference between a giant white louse and a giant black louse? A fruit fly and a flea? A crow and a raven? A cave bear and a grizzly bear? Too often you've got multiple blurrily-defined types that aren't really obviously different beyond the nuts and bolts of damage dice.
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Old March 29, 2017, 15:27   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
I think a lot of subtypes of monsters either need to be consolidated or given distinctive, memorable attacks. For instance, looking at early game reptiles, I know Red Frogs drain strength and Salamanders have fire attacks, which are good, memorable traits, but what distinguishes Rock Lizard/Green Frog/Cave Lizard/Night Lizard, really? Maybe they have slightly different amounts of damage/HP, but it's not a distinction that I have any real awareness of.

Ideally, for each subset of monsters, you should have maybe one basic type, and then every other version should be immediately recognisable as, "Ah, that's the one that does X". That's the one that poisons, that confuses, that drains a particular stat, that breathes X element, that casts spells, etc.

What's the difference between a giant white louse and a giant black louse? A fruit fly and a flea? A crow and a raven? A cave bear and a grizzly bear? Too often you've got multiple blurrily-defined types that aren't really obviously different beyond the nuts and bolts of damage dice.
I'm thinking a lot on the same lines. Exactly how to differentiate things is tricky though.

Even "that's the one that poisons" isn't enough for the simple reason that early game poisoning monsters just don't do enough damage for poison to be a concern.

So I think we need to think outside the box. Maybe the giant frogs move differently. They move only every other turn, and when they move they jump 2-3 squares. Maybe centipedes crawl on the ceiling where you can't hit them with melee attacks, and then they drop on you. Snakes could constrict the player, they move super slowly but they can constrict the player and prevent them from moving. Harpies could lay eggs that hatch after a few turns if they're not destroyed (just only let them do this when the player is in sight). Oozes could take 1/4 damage from blunt weapons, meaning they're cake walks for any character except for priests, where they're a real difficulty to work around.

I think what we can do depends a lot on how much we want to special case different monster behavior. A lot of these are going to be essentially one-off sections of codes made specifically to relate to a very specific monster. Is this something we want to do?
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Old March 29, 2017, 15:43   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fizzix View Post
Oozes could take 1/4 damage from blunt weapons, meaning they're cake walks for any character except for priests, where they're a real difficulty to work around.
I'd be careful with this 1. Sangband, Unband & Steamband have a fair bit of this & I find it becomes more annoying then fun quite quickly.
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Old March 29, 2017, 16:10   #5
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Changing movement rules is an easy way to vary monsters. If you haven't played Necrodancer, you should; all the monsters in that game are primarily defined by how they move.

Give some early monsters very weak status effects on their attacks -- confusion, blindness, stunning, hallucination, or paralysis, but they only last for one or two turns. Most monsters that poison should consider getting their poison swapped out for one of these, and some monsters that don't currently do anything special with their attacks (some frogs, centipedes, snakes?) should get status effects.

Have oozes deal elemental damage to the player when the ooze gets hit in melee. Call it "splash damage", hurr.

Nothing says we can't continue to use these kinds of abilities for lategame monsters as well. Ideally the early game should be training the player on important concepts that they'll need to have mastered to survive the late game. I see no reason why we can't have lategame monsters that "breed" by laying eggs, placing time-delay summoning runes, etc. for example. So I don't think the coded behaviors will necessarily be one-offs. Even if they are, if they add important variety to the game and the code can be neatly sectioned off so that it doesn't make everything else messier, I see no problem with it.
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Old March 29, 2017, 16:13   #6
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I was thinking on this a little more, and I think maybe the main issue even before we get to distinguishing individual monsters is actually giving each monster category a unique identity.

For instance, I know how to define what a dragonfly is (weak, erratic moving element-breather) or a mold (doesn't move, no ranged attacks, status effects or element attacks on melee) or even what distinguishes, say, different humanoids like dark-elves (light-vulnerability) and orcs (large groups, vulnerable to slay orc), but there are a lot of categories, particularly among animals, which don't have any clear identity you can point to like that. What, in terms of behaviour/traits/vulnerabilities, makes a bird a bird, or a centipede a centipede, and recognisably distinct from a cat or a killer beetle or a reptile or a rodent or a snake? Each category should have its own unique combination of traits you can clearly outline like that.

Should, say, all centipedes fire spines and be the first weak ranged attackers? All bats be vulnerable to light and have the 'absorb light' attack? (Seriously, it makes no sense for mice of all things to dim your light.) Should all birds be able to blind you in melee? Harpies cause hallucinations? Etc.
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Old March 29, 2017, 16:37   #7
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I think this would benefit from a small talented design team (likes of Fizzix, Derakon etc) and a bold but incremental approach. (If you try to do all these monster changes in one leap I think you'll end up with a nigh unplayable game. Trickle 'em through.)
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Old March 29, 2017, 17:06   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antoine View Post
I think this would benefit from a small talented design team (likes of Fizzix, Derakon etc) and a bold but incremental approach. (If you try to do all these monster changes in one leap I think you'll end up with a nigh unplayable game. Trickle 'em through.)
I dunno about talented.

But I think your idea of a incremental approach is probably a good one. Maybe Nick can help set a target for the near term and we can work towards that. Even if all we do is something like adding constriction for snakes and adding weak confusion and blindness effects as Derakon suggests.

@wobbly, it's a good point that this can be annoying. I think the skeleton change might work well currently simply because skeletons are already fairly weak and forgettable. But maybe jellies would be far too onerous since they are already a nuisance monster.
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Old March 29, 2017, 17:25   #9
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Hm, I'd watch out for changing skeletons, since they are weak, but Liches, who are magic skeletons, and Cantoras, who even has the 's' glyph, aren't weak. In fact, they're some of the most horrifying monsters out there.
I would not make jellies even more annoying to fight unless Ochre Jellies are straight-up removed from the game. They are the worst.
I expect it'll be rather difficult to rework the game in a way that monsters are distinctive within their groups and distinctive as groups. Especially if you want to avoid having all the monsters be divided into foo shaman, foo mage, foo chief etc. On the other hand, the game doesn't really need all that many monsters, it just needs a way to make more interesting situations.
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Old March 29, 2017, 17:29   #10
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Here's a list of pre-level-20 monsters that I think are particularly poorly-differentiated or unmemorable. In general the first monster in a given category gets a pass (e.g. giant white mice are fine because they're the first normal-speed breeder you encounter) but later versions need to stand out against that first version through more than just having slightly bigger numbers. Having substantially bigger numbers for your depth does help you stand out though. The dragons, dragon flies, and hounds get a pass a) for being dragons, and b) for introducing the chromatic elemental system.

Code:
giant yellow centipede
giant white centipede
white icky thing
large brown snake
large white snake
small kobold
rock lizard
soldier ant
kobold
metallic green centipede
giant green frog
giant black ant
white harpy
blue yeek
large yellow snake
wild cat
crow
metallic blue centipede
black naga
spotted mushroom patch
yellow jelly
giant white ant
yellow mold
metallic red centipede
cave lizard
blue jelly
giant white rat
blue worm mass
large grey snake
raven
blue ooze
large kobold
skeleton kobold
grey icky thing
red worm mass
copperhead snake
giant brown bat
cave orc
manes
bloodshot eye
red jelly
green icky thing
zombified kobold
night lizard
brown yeek
green mold
skeleton orc
lemure
hill orc 
bloodshot icky thing
giant grey rat
black harpy
king cobra
giant spider
dark elven warrior
hairy mold
wolf
giant fruit fly
hippogriff
zombified orc
black mamba
white wolf
skeleton human
zombified human
tiger
Easterling warrior
killer brown beetle
ogre
black orc
giant flea
flesh golem
warg
giant black louse
black ogre
guardian naga
half-orc
giant tarantula
giant clear centipede
griffon
clear hound
clay golem
giant tan bat
grizzly bear
water spirit
giant red scorpion
fire spirit
stone golem
red mold
My process here was to go through each monster, and delete it from the list if it was interesting. I confess that I got confused at times and accidentally kept a monster because it was interesting; I tried to catch all of those and fix them, so hopefully this list is properly boring.
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