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Old April 6, 2011, 15:14   #1
Max Stats
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A thought about mimics

My feeling is that mimics don't behave like they are traditionally portrayed; i.e., a monster that disguises itself as treasure or other interesting item that lies in wait until a hapless adventurer walks up unsuspecting and tries to touch it, then snaps. I wonder if Angband's mimics could behave more like this? Specifically, I am thinking along the following lines:
  • A mimic starts out looking and behaving exactly like a regular object. Potion, scroll, and ring mimics pick a specific flavor of their respective object class appropriate to the current dungeon level and are seen as that with the "examine" command. Object and treasure detection should pick them up. They should also pick flavors that represent more desirable objects so that the player is more likely to investigate them.
  • A mimic takes no offensive action or otherwise gives away its true nature until approached by the player.
  • If the player walks onto a mimic attempting to pick it up (potion, scroll, and ring mimics) or searches or attempts to open it (chest mimic), the mimic gains a surprise attack on the player that does significantly increased damage and is much more likely to hit compared to a normal attack. From then on, the mimic behaves like a monster and is detected as such.
  • When the player is within a certain range of a mimic, he/she begins to make perception checks and, if one passes, the mimic is revealed as a monster and is detected as such; however, the mimic should probably not be aware that the player knows this, Perhaps the player could be allowed a sneak attack similar to what the mimic would have gotten on the player if undetected. The chance of successful detection should increase slightly as the player gets closer.
I wonder if it would also be good to have "lesser" and "greater" mimcs. Greater mimics could have more devastating sneak attacks and nasty spells to keep them dangerous to higher-level characters. Maybe we only need these two distinctions, and choosing the specific type (potion, scroll, ring, chest) would just be part of the monster generation process.

Squelching is an issue. If a mimic chooses to masquerade as an object that is squelched, it will be effectively non-existent. Since squelched objects are unseen, it isn't fair to allow squelched mimics to attack the player. I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing, because traditionally mimics rely on being tempting enough to draw an adventurer in, and if a mimic makes a bad decision to pose as something the adventurer doesn't care about, the adventurer is going to take no notice and not fall into its trap. This can be mitigated somewhat by making mimics choose objects that are both in depth for the current dungeon level (so they seem normal) and of a desirable flavor (i.e., don't choose potions of poison, etc.) so that they are less likely to be squelched.

One thing I like about this implementation is that it gives new value to the "Perception" stat. This stat is usually only marginally useful for the first few dungeon levels to detect the occasional trap and then pretty much useless once the player can reliably detect traps. Rogues, of course, would be particularly skilled in dealing with mimics and should be able to make perception checks from farther away than other classes.

I only play Vanilla, so I don't know if any of the variants have already attempted something like this. I was wondering if anyone else had thoughts or know of other issues that something like this would raise.
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Old April 6, 2011, 20:24   #2
Magnate
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Have you played nightlies recently? ISTR someone committed some changes along these lines not long ago.

EDIT: I see from your recent YAWP that you have, so I'm not sure I have understood your post at all. It seems to be based on the previous behaviour rather than the newer behaviour. Sorry for the noise.
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Old April 6, 2011, 23:32   #3
Max Stats
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Yep, I do see that mimics have been improved in that they take on different appearances (not all Potion and Ring mimics are the same color anymore). They do a better job of surprising because they don't show up on the monster list right away, but they still don't behave entirely like objects. You can't use the examine command on them, and they don't show up on the object list with the ']' command; so if the player is clever enough it is still possible to figure out their true nature. Also, if you move into them, you attack them, even if you haven't seen them for what they are.

Mimics also give themselves away by attacking before the player comes near them. I see them more as something that lays in wait before springing an especially dastardly attack when the adventurer comes near.

Of course, this whole idea really a small issue, and I don't see the goal as making mimics easier or harder, but rather exhibiting closer to traditional behavior. It is probably going to open a can of worms, and if the answer is that it isn't worth it, that is understandable. But it seemed like a neat idea to put out at the very least.
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Old April 7, 2011, 00:25   #4
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In DaJAngband, mimmics show up on the object list, and can be examined with the (l)ook command as an object. If you move into its space you get the message "You realize that that's a mimmic," and don't attack that turn, but the mimmic doesn't get a surprise attack (but I think that's a good idea...).

Also they do cast spells before being recognised, so the player can wonder "Where are those spells coming from -oh that must be a mimmic."
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