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Old October 28, 2014, 00:05   #1
danaris
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Debuffs for Monsters

I'm interested in people's thoughts on the debuffs available in Vanilla currently. To my mind, they're mostly very weak for practical purposes. I think part of this is because too many of them are essentially of the "save or suck" variety, but I may also have not been treating them right in-game, and...well, let's go through them.
  1. Confuse Monster - the spell at least gives you a bolt; the scroll is downright ridiculous, just attempting to apply Confusion to the next monster you attack in melee, which is so very unusual. As is too often the case, though, a great many monsters, skewed toward the more powerful (and, IIRC, including all uniques) are straight-up immune to confusion. But, as noted, Confusion is pretty much the epitome of a "save or suck" debuff: for its duration, all spells are negated, and the monster has to get lucky to land a melee hit on you, so it basically means that a ranged character can kill you for free, and a melee character very cheaply. However, somewhat oddly, this is actually the very first debuff that arcane casters get access to, at level 5 for pure mages.
  2. Sleep Monster - This isn't quite as bad as Confusion to be affected with, but it shares the same resistance flag (or at least, that's what the spell description says). On the plus side (for the monster), one hit from the player and you're back up again. On the minus side, you may stay asleep for some time while the player runs away and heals up. This has single- and multi-target versions, which I think is a distinct improvement over Confuse Monster.
  3. Slow Monster - This is a little better. There's no resist flag for Slow, which is a little odd, and means that all uniques resist it, and no one else. Actually, I think that Slow is a very good debuff, though I think that resistance to it should be a little more fine-grained...and I think it should be possible to apply to more than 1 monster at a time.
  4. Scare Monster - Fear is a debuff that's only helpful when you're trying to retreat, particularly with monsters' improved ability to find smart ways to flee from you in recent versions. And again, it's automatically resisted by all uniques, and a fair number of other monsters (a similar set to those that resist confusion, since a lot of them are the mindless monsters).

And...that's pretty much it. Just 4 different debuffs. There's Polymorph, but that's not really a debuff, just a "save or be a completely different monster". Which is pretty damn weird, and I'm not sure what to do about it yet.

Since I'd really like to make possible an archetype of player that buffs itself and debuffs monsters before getting into melee (or ranged physical) combat, I would very much like to expand that.

One thing that (as you can probably already tell) I'd like to do is make resistance more fine-grained, and ideally, make fewer monsters outright immune to debuffs.

Also, based on my reading of the mon_resist_effect() function, it appears that as you get to higher levels, it becomes close to utterly useless to even try debuffing any monsters, whether they automatically resist the effect or not. Even attempting to apply an effect (a hypothetical one) that a monster is not immune to, that has a power rating (which seems to be equivalent to duration) of the player's level, to a non-unique monster first found on dungeon level 70 (the 3500' level), the monster has an 85% chance to resist that effect. When you're fighting monsters from deeper than level 85, their chance to resist will be above 100%. And none of the debuffs have an endgame power level higher than character level.

I'd like to change that to make all resist attempts directly dependent on monster level vs character level as well as monster level vs power level.

In terms of new debuffs, here's what I've come up with so far:
  • Dazzle Monsters - Reduce the to-hit and/or to-dam values of affected monsters by some % for a level-dependent duration. Specifics will need testing for balance, as I want this to start as a very low-level spell.
  • Fear Ladder - The Legend pen-and-paper system uses a "fear ladder," with four different levels of fear that can be applied, Shaken, Frightened, Panicked, and Cowering, with associated levels of debuff. I'd like to do something similar, with the current Afraid condition being roughly equivalent to Panicked. This would allow the spells which inflict Fear to initially apply the Shaken condition. I'd have to work out some way to avoid spamming to make every monster Cowering in four shots, but I think I can balance that.
  • Entangle - This is a debuff I've already added, which roots monsters (or the player) in place, but doesn't prevent attacks or spells. Just gotta figure out where to put it.
  • Blind - Another debuff I've added, which prevents monsters from using sight & sound information to find the player (sound as well because just turning off sight makes the effect on monster movement nearly undetectable), and prevents spellcasting.

I'm open to all kinds of suggestions—including suggestions for how to play the existing debuffs in Vanilla optimally.
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Old October 28, 2014, 00:27   #2
Narvius
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The Etrian Oddysey series of handheld RPGs has a group of three debuffs, called "binds" - one each for head, arms and legs.

Each of those blocks a class of moves (for example, a leg-bound bison can't charge, while a head-bound mage can't cast spells).

In addition, leg-bound enemies will ALWAYS be hit, by everything, arm-bound enemies take more and deal less physical damage, and the same but with magic damage for head-bound enemies.

While not necessarily a central mechanic, they were applicable in many places (making some otherwise near-impossible fights trivial), and even enemies exploited them (a certain boss comes to mind - full-party leg bind on one turn, low hit chance party wipe attack in the next).

I always thought those were a pretty great idea.
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Old October 28, 2014, 00:29   #3
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Isn't there also some insane-damage move you can do once the enemy has all three binds?
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Old October 28, 2014, 01:19   #4
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You may be interested in this thread that discussed exactly this topic, and coincidentally also brought up Etrian Odyssey basically immediately.
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Old October 28, 2014, 01:21   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debo View Post
Isn't there also some insane-damage move you can do once the enemy has all three binds?
I only played the first and fourth one extensively, and I don't recall one, but there might have been at some point.

Oh, also Dark Souls does what you might call cumulative status success. Each hit with a status effect builds up some of that status effect, and once you pass a threshold it's applied.
Tons of bookkeeping, though, and you'd want to clearly communicate what is happening to the player ("X looks sleepier" is NOT what I'd call "clearly").
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Old October 28, 2014, 01:24   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Narvius View Post
The Etrian Oddysey series of handheld RPGs has a group of three debuffs, called "binds" - one each for head, arms and legs.
Yeah, that sounds related to the Final Fantasy Tactics "Disable" and "Immobilize" debuffs, that prevent action and movement, respectively.

Bind Legs is, I think, taken care of with Entangle.

Disabling spells, and disabling attacks, are probably good things to add too, though I'm not sure yet whether or not I'd want to put them directly on an at-will spell (which is what all spells in Vanilla are, though I'm seriously contemplating doing something with cooldowns in my variant). They might well be something I'd put on an artifact or rare ego on-hit, or artifact or rare wand activation. (Though I dunno; disabling one of those for a turn or two shouldn't be all that powerful...)

Definitely another aspect to think about.
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Old October 28, 2014, 01:25   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
You may be interested in this thread that discussed exactly this topic, and coincidentally also brought up Etrian Odyssey basically immediately.
Hah! Excellent, thanks!

I'll go through this and shamelessly mine it for ideas, too.

[Edit] ...OK, I've gone through it, and here's my summary of the interesting ideas in it, with my thoughts on them in blue:
  1. Make all debuffs always succeed or always fail—so that you always know (at least, once you've tried it on a particular monster type) whether it's worthwhile spending a turn to try to apply a given debuff or do something else. I'm not sure about this one just yet; I think I'd either go this route, or the polar opposite, making all debuffs have a much more variable resistance % for all monsters.
  2. Change Confuse to Stun (which I remembered a little while ago that I had left out of my original debuff listing), and Slow from -10 to -2. I think there are already too few debuffs, so conflating Stun and Confuse doesn't appeal to me. However, making the low-level spell stun monsters, and have a much higher success rate, does. I'm not sure about the Slow change, but I think I'll address that more below.
  3. More talk about affecting movement, spells, attacks, and even breaths separately, as debo mentioned here. Again, I like it, and separating out breaths, too, seems even better. I think I like this better, too, when it's reducing the success chance (or the move speed or cast/attack rate) rather than disabling it entirely.
  4. Stacking is an interesting idea, but should not be allowed at will. As I mentioned before, I definitely find the notion of being able to stack debuffs, like the Fear Ladder, interesting. The more I look at it, the more I think that there's a lot of interesting stuff that could be added to an Angband variant if mana-cost at-will spellcasting were replaced (in whole or in part) with resourceless cooldown-based spellcasting.
  5. Allow stacking of effect, but without extending the duration. Definitely an interesting idea, but I'm not sure it's the direction I prefer to go. Another thing to keep in mind, though. None of these ideas are really mutually exclusive.
  6. Critical hits are only effective against debuffed monsters. This is actually something I've already got partly implemented, with the Rogue's Sneak Attack ability activating against sleeping monsters...and one of the higher-level things I was already considering for Rogues was allowing Sneak Attack to activate against monsters with other debuffs. However, I don't think I want that to be the only way to get critical hits.

I definitely like the idea of stacking debuffs on a cooldown, such that, for instance, with access to only a single source of Slow, you can only reduce a monster to -5 speed, but if you gain access to a second source (staff + spell), you can reduce it to -10...and if you can find the one or two artifact weapons that apply Slow on-hit once per turn, it can reduce them to a minimum of -30! Or something along those lines, anyway.

That particular example would obviously be quite powerful, and I'm not sure if I would ever enable full-fledged on-hit stacking debuffs, but it's not something I'm going to rule out just yet.

Last edited by danaris; October 28, 2014 at 02:07.
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Old October 28, 2014, 01:36   #8
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Oh right, I forgot I already thought of this. Man I have really good ideas!
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Old October 28, 2014, 02:08   #9
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Oh right, I forgot I already thought of this. Man I have really good ideas!
It's always fun when you find a good idea someone wrote down in the past, and realize that someone was you!
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Old October 28, 2014, 02:11   #10
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By the way, the fear ladder already exists in the hengbands. (Maybe also in zangand?) It's pretty fun, except for the absolutely ridiculous and obnoxious way it interacts with telepathy.

It might also exist in FA, I can't remember.
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