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Old September 16, 2009, 00:53   #1
azfalt
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Thoughts about mages

Hey all,

I've heard a few people say on the forum that mages in V are rather weak and possibly in need of some re-balancing, and I wanted to share my experiences, having a played a couple of gnome mages down to around 2000' before their unfortunate deaths.

I do agree that mages are tough to play, when compared to rogues/rangers and priests/paladins. They are incredibly weak and fragile to start, and they stay that way for a long time.

My early game is based on magic missile, throwing flasks of oil, and running. This progresses to bad archery, magic missile, and better evasion, plus identify. A mage with a +9, +9 longbow, holy chant, and haste will occasionally hit stuff with arrows - but why is my character relying on a bow, anyway? Outside of magic missile, the other attack spells tend to be expensive to cast, and sub-optimal for damage output.

Things get better with Resistances of Scarabtrices, which allows a char with ~150hp to safely take on some mature and ancient dragons. I should also say that some of the attack spells are situationally good - lightning bolt in a corridor is great, as is spear of light for orcs/trolls, and stinking cloud is pretty good against hounds (but not as good as OoD).

Mages are fun even in their current state, but I suggest some changes:

(1) Make attack spells more interesting.

I think it has been mentioned before that lightning/frost/fire/acid bolts are basically the same attacks, just with different dice and colors. This has improved with the increased beam chance of lightning bolt, but I think it could be taken farther.

For instance, cone effects (a spray of acid vs a bolt), or more 'meteor swarm' type effects where a succession of missiles is launched. I'd love to see a higher-level version of magic missile that fires three magic missiles in a row - call it magic barrage, or magic fusillade, or magic salvo, or something. Or, attack effects that last more than one turn, ie a stinking cloud that actually hangs around for a while, as bad odours do.

(2) Make sleep/slow/confuse spells worth casting.

Sleep monster is marginally useful early on for hallways of orcs, but it seems that any other monsters past that easily resist any sort of charm spells. If Luthien charmed Morgoth in the Silmarillion, why can't my clvl 10 mage do the same thing to Mughash, the kobold lord? I think these spells should have at least a small chance of affecting uniques, too.

(3) Make mages better with magical devices, or scale the magnitude of a device effect with magical device skill.

I don't mean this to apply to artifacts, but to rods/staves/wands. For instance, mages using a rod of fire bolts may do more damage than a rogue using the same device. Or, maybe have a shorter recharge time. Elemental bolt rods are almost a viable option early on for mages, just because their other attacks are so weak - this change might actually make them useful.

What does everyone think? I think a few easy changes could make mages much more fun and playable, without dramatic revisions of spell lists, or variant-scale changes.
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Old September 16, 2009, 06:25   #2
Zababa
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I am not an experienced player at all. I clumsily played warriors in the previous years and now just started to play mages. I never got that deep as with them as you, azfalt. My current survivor is now on clvl 19 but that's because of extreme caution and avoiding everything beneath 450'.

I am not familiar with other classes, so I cannot compare them and judge their (im)balance. I would support your idea of having more spells which last more than one turn. I was quite surprised when I first casted the stinking cloud and realized it had no effect in the turn thereafter at all.

I think it's not that bad that the lightning/frost/fire/acid bolts are almost the same. Different monsters are resistant or more vulnerable to different kinds of bolts and until you know all the bolts and the weaknesses of particular monsters you have to be careful. It's kind of fun when you are happy for succeeding in casting an especially difficult and powerful spell and then you realize the monster resists a lot.

I was very disappointed, when I read that charisma has no other effect in the game except for the prices in shops. Having experience with playing mages in D&D-like games, I know how much fun you can have with mages (and thieves) who have high charisma. (Like Luthien charming Morgoth). I think that Angband could add a whole another dimension of fun to the game when mages could make use of the character's charisma. Charisma and Intelligence are the domain of mages. What can an Angband mage do with his high charisma? What if we had some kind of personal interactions between the character and an intelligent monster? We'd need a new kind of NPCs which have some role, like guarding a treasure and one of the options to get to what they guard would be to convince them, charm them. I also can imagine that a good mage could be able to get some know-how about the monsters' resistances and vulnerabilities from NPCs they meet and convince by their high charisma to tell them. Or what about a mage who convinces the leader of a pack of monsters guarding a vault to make way for him to loot it without fighting them? Isn't this the mage's way of adventure? Where are the glorious mental spells of a mage? Why can't a mage manipulate and play with the minds of monsters in Angband? Rendering them friendly (for a certain period of time), making more intelligent monsters ashamed of their inferiority, gazing on them and making them afraid of the mage's authority?

Yeah, obviously the fun playing a mage is not the melee or ranged fight, but what other fun can a mage find in the dungeons of angband? Is the tough beginning of a mage balanced by easier and witty late game? I can't tell. I never got far in Angband, neither with warriors nor with mages.

Last edited by Zababa; September 16, 2009 at 06:31.
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Old September 16, 2009, 06:30   #3
Hariolor
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azfalt View Post
Hey all,

I do agree that mages are tough to play, when compared to rogues/rangers and priests/paladins. They are incredibly weak and fragile to start, and they stay that way for a long time.

My early game is based on magic missile, throwing flasks of oil, and running. This progresses to bad archery, magic missile, and better evasion, plus identify. A mage with a +9, +9 longbow, holy chant, and haste will occasionally hit stuff with arrows - but why is my character relying on a bow, anyway? Outside of magic missile, the other attack spells tend to be expensive to cast, and sub-optimal for damage output.
I find that ball of acid does as well as a strong bow for the most part. It's not quite as quick but it's better against open rooms full of enemies, and has a pretty good punch. Also more in keeping with the flavor of the class. I have played a couple pretty successful mages without using bows except against uniques (never winners though!)


Quote:
Things get better with Resistances of Scarabtrices, which allows a char with ~150hp to safely take on some mature and ancient dragons. I should also say that some of the attack spells are situationally good - lightning bolt in a corridor is great, as is spear of light for orcs/trolls, and stinking cloud is pretty good against hounds (but not as good as OoD).
There is no way I'm facing down an ancient dragon with ~150 hp. Nuh-uh, don't matter what book I've got in my inventory...yikes!

Quote:
*snip*
What does everyone think? I think a few easy changes could make mages much more fun and playable, without dramatic revisions of spell lists, or variant-scale changes.
I agree that a buffed version of magic missile would be nice. If for no reason other than this: mages can take on hordes of wimpy monsters pretty easily by the time they've got all four basic books under their belts. But uniques, which every other class has a fair shot at either through melee/ranged/orb of draining - mages have no class-specific recourse. I think most here agree this is silly and out of flavor for the class. An irresistable spell that does more than piddly damage would be great for taking on mid-level uniques. It could be fairly costly in terms of mana, and doesn't have to be a one-hit-kill solution - but something as effective as a decent bow and arrow hit would be nice.

The physical fragility of mages could definitely be balanced by buffing some of the mid-level spells to make them more useful. I'll also voice support for the idea of making status-effect spells increase in usefulness with level. How awesome would it be to face down a room full of hounds by confusing them all first - or by sleeping them and walking right past. If anything this is more in line with Tolkein's brand of magic than flashy spells (which are pretty much direct nods to D&D here).

One last idea I'd like to add to the list is to tweak Tenser's a bit to make the spells progressive, rather than all-or-nothing. The idea of using magic to buff combat skills is tremendously useful, and even makes sense in an ostensibly Tolkeinian setting. Allowing mages to gradually increase the power of their buffs would make them more able to go toe-to-toe with later baddies without making them instant killing machines (we already have those, and they're called rangers). Indeed, it feels a bit like Invulnerability was added as a *fix* to make the game winnable with mages. But having not had a winner yet with one, I'll leave that assessment to players who've actually won with one.
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Old September 16, 2009, 06:38   #4
Zababa
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Lightbulb

Another idea that I got is writing spellbooks or spell collections. I don't like the idea that a mage with a strength of 8 has to have all basic magic books (preferably in 2 copies) for casting 5 or 6, scattered in different spellbooks. Why not write an own collection of spells?
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Old September 16, 2009, 08:33   #5
Storch
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Mages

I think that the main problem is not that mages are too weak. They are perfectly playable but have to be played differently. They have many useful spells so there have to be some drawback.

I have following objections:
- for most attack spells there exists better option. I tend to use only magic missile, poison cloud, lighning bolt, acid bolt, meteor swarm and mana storm. Other spells are not used because they are often resisted, mana expensive and by the time I achieve low enough fail rate I can shoot, melee or use a wand with higher damage output.
- Sleep, confuse, slow does not work on anything dangerous
- Some spells do not feel "sexy". Door creation is extremely usefull in certain circumstances but try to imagine Gandalf invoking closed doors around him to block the line of sight of the balrog :-)
- There are not many "interesting" spells (just a feeling)


To make a long story short, I don't think we need stronger attack spells. It would kill the different flavor of different classes. Mages would just cast a spell the way a ranger shoots an arrow. I would rather like to see some cool tricks for outwitting the enemy.

I have not played much since 3.0.6 so it has to be taken with grain of salt. I think I will try the new FAngband mage. I tried also UnAngband but it was too unpredictable and undocumented for me, I was never able to figure out which stats I need for what.
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Old September 16, 2009, 08:44   #6
PowerDiver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zababa View Post
Another idea that I got is writing spellbooks or spell collections. I don't like the idea that a mage with a strength of 8 has to have all basic magic books (preferably in 2 copies) for casting 5 or 6, scattered in different spellbooks. Why not write an own collection of spells?
Because at its heart, Angband is a game of inventory management, and that would be unbalancing if it were easy.

I think random spell books might be interesting. If you win the lottery to become overpowered, that is SOP.

A random mage book might contain one bolt spell, one ball or beam spell, one escape, one detection, one utility spell, one useless charm spell, etc.
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Old September 16, 2009, 09:14   #7
Pete Mack
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The easiest way to bring some balance back to mages (besides reintroducing the GoI spell) is to change p_class.txt:

Code:
S:-5:3:0:1:-2:1
should be
Code:
S:-5:3:0:1:2:1
It's silly to give Mages both bad base HP and bad CON: it makes game balance essentially impossible. (Just try a game of Quickband as a Mage and you will see what I mean.)
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Old September 16, 2009, 15:13   #8
ewert
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My vote would go for:

(mind that thinking these with the 3.0.8 spoiler set from online, don't remember straight off if any are different in current version so point those out please )

Slow/confuse/sleep area of effects depend on charisma
=>18/10 beams
=>18/60 cones
=>18/110 line of sight

Elemental spells area of effects change on levels like orb of draining
Stinking cloud increases in radius
Lightning bolt bounces to max distance if hits a wall (can hit self, yay! )
Spear of Light does also starburst in addition to targeted beam
Frost bolt causes slow effect with a higher chance of success
Fire bolt changes into a breath
Acid bolt does a ball at initial point of impact

Other dmg spells:
Magic missile instead of gaining more damage dice gains more missiles, and acts like meteor storm.
Raal's and Kelek's (and every other as well) go through a damage review, I mean mana is not "near"infinite like arrows tend to be, so anything not area effect needs quite an oomph. Especially at the lower levels when mana is low and restore mana very rare, revising the mana costs lower on the spells could be necessary (damage per spell might be okay).
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Old September 16, 2009, 15:33   #9
azfalt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Mack View Post
The easiest way to bring some balance back to mages (besides reintroducing the GoI spell) is to change p_class.txt:

Code:
S:-5:3:0:1:-2:1
should be
Code:
S:-5:3:0:1:2:1
It's silly to give Mages both bad base HP and bad CON: it makes game balance essentially impossible. (Just try a game of Quickband as a Mage and you will see what I mean.)
This is funny, but true.

I really don't want to go back to the GoI days - it was just silly to turn mages into melee fighters in the endgame. Although, maybe not as silly as turning mages into archers for almost the entire game, as things stand at present.

I agree with a lot of the other comments posted so far, though I do want to mention that I'm not in favor of massively inflating the damage of attack spells - I'm not sure that's necessary. I think it'd be more appropriate to increase the number of area/beam spells, and maybe decrease the spell cost of some of the bolt/ball spells (ie fire/frost/acid).

Mages can have quite high damage output if they pick their targets carefully - ie lightning bolt might only be 6d6 early on, but times 10 monsters in a hallway, is a lot of damage for only 4 sp.

Having CHR influence success of charm spells is a neat idea too, I mentioned that before in a thread about priests/paladins for their charm and dispel spells.
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Old September 16, 2009, 18:16   #10
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Originally Posted by Zababa View Post
Another idea that I got is writing spellbooks or spell collections. I don't like the idea that a mage with a strength of 8 has to have all basic magic books (preferably in 2 copies) for casting 5 or 6, scattered in different spellbooks. Why not write an own collection of spells?
I've always liked this idea. Let mages find blank spellbooks in the dungeon. They should be rare. The number of pages in the book could be modified to achieve balance. Successfully writing a spell into the new book destroys the old book. Failing to write a spell to the new book (casting fail rate x2) destroys both books.

Also, improved charms, sleeps, scares. Base saves on caster INT vs. target INT.
Also, more area of effect, multiple shot, lasting effect spells.
Also, more unique spells (spells that don't just mimic magic items available to anybody).
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