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Old September 5, 2020, 21:52   #1
Egavactip
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Angband 4.2.1: First Impressions, Part 2 (Blackguard)

After playing for a long time on version 4.0.5, I've been trying out version 4.2.1 and seeing how it shakes out. My previous first impressions post related my impressions after my first win, using a fighter character to test out the basic system.

This time I decided to test one of the new character classes: the blackguard. I played twice and died twice in the endgame before winning on my third try (http://angband.oook.cz/ladder-show.php?id=23845), which basically gave me almost three full games to base my impressions of the blackguard on.

Before I get into the blackguard specifically, I want to discuss more general impressions of Angband 4.2.1.

In general, I found that my previous first impressions were largely confirmed (I urge people to read that post). I won't repeat everything in that post but I do want to highlight certain things, and mention a couple new general items.

* The upgunning of so many monsters is pretty irritating. Now there are tons of monsters more powerful even than powerful uniques, which doesn't make that much sense. Also, some of them offer criminally low experience points for killing them--the Maia are the worst offenders here, where there are several very powerful and dangerous maia only worth a few thousand XP. Once a upon a time, maia were a great source of consumables for the end game. Now they are simply something to avoid, to destruct, or to teleport away. Disappointing.

* The upgunning of artifacts is equally annoying. There are a virtually unlimited number of artifact weapons with +20 to over +30 damage, while artifacts with stat gains of +5 or +6 are very common, and immunities are routine. There are now far more powerful rings, as well as artifact torches and lamps as well, adding to the mix.

Note that the solution here is NOT simply to make artifacts weaker, because you basically need more powerful items in order to have a chance of dealing with all of the super powerful monsters. Rather, BOTH artifacts and monsters need to be taken back down to a normal, non-steroidal level. There are ways to make Angband more difficult for veterans without simply making everything more gigantic.

* It is good that items have a better chance of affecting monsters, as in 4.0.x many items were worthless because they were more likely to just lose you a turn than have a useful affect on a target. However, it looks like most of these have 100% chance of success. This makes Rods of Slow Monster almost broken, as they are guaranteed of slowing everything except huorns and vortices, unless a use failure occurs. Even Sauron and Morgoth are slowed, although the rod for some reason malfunctions more often when used against Morgoth. I think there needs to be a small chance that the rods will have no effect. I accumulated 4 rods of slow monster relatively early and basically fought against slowed opponents for the whole rest of the game.

* Some of the items are now too common. In previous versions, some magic items could be found only at such a depth that the player probably already had better gear before finding the items in question. Other items, useful when a player had 2 or more, were simply too rare for that to happen except once in a blue moon. Some of this has been fixed, but Rods of Magic Mapping are now way too common and players can easily accumulate a huge stack of them pretty early. I think there was some overcompensation here.

* Stairs. It's really annoying that stairs no longer appear in rooms, except for those "rooms" which contain de facto corridors within them. Also, stairs are too often concentrated in those rooms, either, with three or four down stairs in one of those rooms, for example. The previous system of stair placement was much better.

* I now have no idea what missile weapons can do in terms of damage, because apparently it's all been changed.

* My sense so far is that playing styles are likely to change quite a bit. With 4.0.x I would proceed down the dungeon at a good clip, then once I had the stats and items (esp. esp/detection and teleport other) to survive in deep depths, I would move down much faster, then spend some time at the deepest levels to get whatever consumables or other missing items I needed before I went into the final battles.

I see no reason to do that now. The deepest levels are far too dangerous to want to spend a lot of time in them, while it is easy to get endgame weapons and other powerful artifacts even in the mid-depth dungeon levels. Now it seems wiser to build up a character and get as many consumables as possible at levels shallower than DL80 or so, then try to get to DL99 while spending as little time as possible in the dungeon levels in-between.

* I'm not sure why there seems to be so many ways to get strength and constitution back, but not dexterity.

* To reiterate from the previous post, all the new tunneling or rock-traversing creatures are just irritating. They also mean that characters really need to have a lot of teleport other or destruction just in order to survive. Some of these need to be eliminated or have those abilities removed.


Now on to the Blackguard class. Overall, I liked the class less than I hoped I would. It starts with a really strange rationale--it's essentially a berserker who also casts magic spells, which just doesn't make sense. It's also something that's very hard to find an analogue for in the LotR mythos.

* Melee. While I like the idea of a character class that likes to use bigass weapons, penalizing the character for using smaller weapons when the character class is supposed to love melee seems like a bad idea. It seems to me that a bonus for using big weapons, normal use of small weapons, and a very big penalty for missile/thrown weapons would make more sense. Because of the character's inability to use small weapons, as well as only having 5 attacks, plus something of a missile penalty, my impression is that it seems rather weaker than a fighter overall.

* Spells. The blackguard class has awful spells, in general. Ideally, one would want each spellcasting class to have at least one "killer app" utility spell (like object detection or speed for rogues, or heal for paladins or orb of draining for priests) as well as at least one "super" spell (like mass banishment or restoration or word of destruction, etc.).

The blackguard certainly has a killer app utility spell in the spell that makes him immune to confusion; I constantly cast it. The berserk spell is also nice, as is the venom spell. The shape change spell was fun to mess around with but by the third game I was hardly using it, simply because there are many tactical limitations with being in animal form. Unholy reprieve was certainly handy and the tunneling spell was useful. All the other spells had little or no use to me. So basically I was regularly casting just a few spells and ignoring all others. I easily could have left the 2nd and 3rd spellbooks back at home when I went against Morgoth and Sauron.

I think the spells need to be improved for this class, to make them more interesting and useful, or the class should not be spellcasting and some of its abilities should be made inherent. It would be a natural for this melee-loving class to have a "teleport to" spell, for example, that would bring far away monsters close to it so it could engage in melee.

The character class should also have a spell or ability that would help it fight while surrounded--something that would give it more attacks or more damage the more monsters are adjacent to it.

Also, I should note that the spellpoints to spells ratio is strange here. Given how few spells are useful (but also even assuming all are useful), characters can easily accumulate 350 spell points, most of which will never be used, even with the mana draining penalty for the character.

I found mana scrolls of very little use for this class, even in the final battles.
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Old September 6, 2020, 17:32   #2
DavidMedley
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Egavactip View Post
* I now have no idea what missile weapons can do in terms of damage, because apparently it's all been changed.
I'm a bit surprised that a game you seem to dislike so much is getting so much play. But thanks for all the feedback. (I mean that; not sarcasm.)

You can see how much damage a missile weapon does by inspecting the ammo you are going to fire.
Quote:
Now it seems wiser to build up a character and get as many consumables as possible at levels shallower than DL80 or so, then try to get to DL99 while spending as little time as possible in the dungeon levels in-between.
Yeah, this is interesting. I think it was Sky who posted not too long ago that he thinks you should spend as little time between levels 40 and 98!
Quote:
Now on to the Blackguard class. Overall, I liked the class less than I hoped I would. It starts with a really strange rationale--it's essentially a berserker who also casts magic spells, which just doesn't make sense. It's also something that's very hard to find an analogue for in the LotR mythos.
I'm one of the people most responsible for the Blackguard class, especially the changes from 4.2.0 to 4.2.1. So I'll try to respond to these comments.

How would you create a berserker without magic spells in Angband? What about Turin, Uruks, and Morgoth? None of these strike you as analogous to the Blackguard class? Or, at least, clearing the low Tolkienesque bar set by the other classes?
Quote:
* Melee. While I like the idea of a character class that likes to use bigass weapons, penalizing the character for using smaller weapons when the character class is supposed to love melee seems like a bad idea.
This is one of my biggest question marks about the class. This has been discussed a lot here:
http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showthread.php?t=9901

I think the weapon weight system in Angband is broken. When I find a magical longsword with a fighter and have to keep using a +0/+0 dagger instead, that's a problem to me. The Blackguard class alone cannot fix these problems. Frankly, Nick seems a bit disinterested in fixing the problems with the default combat system because he's more interested in the alternative combat system. (Note: I think Nick is GREAT and has the right to focus on whatever he wants.)

So, instead of doing something like the Ranger that gets significant permanent bonuses to using bows, I tried to create a spellbook that rewards using large weapons. The results, I think, are good but not a smashing success. I don't think I will again have the kind of time that I had recently to do another major overhaul, but I think for whoever is looking to modify the class next, exploring built-in rewards for large weapons is a promising idea.
Quote:
* Spells. The blackguard class has awful spells, in general.
I don't think you've understood the spells very well.
Quote:
It would be a natural for this melee-loving class to have a "teleport to" spell, for example, that would bring far away monsters close to it so it could engage in melee.
This is the role that Leap into Battle fills, and is much more thematically appropriate than teleport-to.
Quote:
The character class should also have a spell or ability that would help it fight while surrounded--something that would give it more attacks or more damage the more monsters are adjacent to it.
Whirlwind Attack
Quote:
Also, I should note that the spellpoints to spells ratio is strange here. Given how few spells are useful (but also even assuming all are useful), characters can easily accumulate 350 spell points, most of which will never be used, even with the mana draining penalty for the character.
Yeah. That's why I added Quake late in the development process, which didn't really hit the mark. I'd like a late game mana-intensive spell that gives you something to do with all those SP without breaking the game.
Quote:
I found mana scrolls of very little use for this class, even in the final battles.
Well, when you hate all the spells except for the first book, that's not very surprising.

More generally, we had some specific goals with the Blackguard class and I think we hit them. This is an excellent post (if I do say so myself) from six months ago that laid it out:
http://angband.oook.cz/forum/showpos...39&postcount=6

Quoting from that post:
Goals
  • Melee class
  • Maximize Action
  • Fun to play!
Melee class
  • Ability to close quickly or otherwise minimize enemy breaths and spells
  • Mitigate enemy melee tricks (confu, stat drains, etc.)
  • Staying power
  • Reward heavy weapons
Maximize Action
  • Give incentive(s) to keep moving rather than resting
  • Bad stealth / aggravate / other enticement to fight more often
Fun to Play!
  • Unique play style
  • Not much harder or easier than other classes
  • Optimal play close to theme (e.g., if the best play style is to avoid melee, we failed this test)

Quote:
Overall, I liked the class less than I hoped I would.
Well, I hope that we disappointed your high expectations, and didn't fail your already low expectations. Thanks for giving it a try, and congrats on your win!
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Old September 6, 2020, 22:36   #3
Egavactip
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>>How would you create a berserker without magic spells in Angband? What about Turin, Uruks, and Morgoth? None of these strike you as analogous to the Blackguard class?

I don't remember Turin well enough, but certainly not the others. One can create a berserker in Angband by giving him inherent abilities, or abilities that can be used at temporary drain in stats or hit points.

>>I don't think you've understood the spells very well.

I think I have. But I'm curious to hear from other blackguard players--how many of its spells do you use at a high frequency?

>>This is the role that Leap into Battle fills, and is much more thematically appropriate than teleport-to.

Leap Into Battle is blah. It has an extremely limited range, it has an extremely weak attack, and it takes you to the monster rather than bringing the monster to you. Teleport-to would be an actually useful spell.

>>Whirlwind Attack

Whirlwind attack is weak. It gives a limited attack, if it is able to be cast correctly. And it only lasts for one round. It does nothing to encourage players to wade into the middle of a pack of monsters.

>> Ability to close quickly or otherwise minimize enemy breaths and spells
>> Mitigate enemy melee tricks (confu, stat drains, etc.)
>> Staying power
>> Reward heavy weapons

It has very little ability to close quickly. It does have a spell that can make enemies less likely to breathe or cast spells. The protection from confusion is great, but it has little else to mitigate melee tricks. I don't see how it has any particular staying power. Also, unless I read the descriptions wrong, it doesn't reward heavy weapons but only penalizes non-heavy weapons.

>> Unique play style
>> Not much harder or easier than other classes
>> Optimal play close to theme (e.g., if the best play style is to avoid melee, we failed this test)

The play style is not really different from that of a fighter, so far as I can tell. I agree it doesn't seem much harder or easier than other classes.
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Old September 7, 2020, 01:49   #4
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Originally Posted by Egavactip View Post
The play style is not really different from that of a fighter, so far as I can tell. I agree it doesn't seem much harder or easier than other classes.
Your play-style of the Blackguard is not really different from that of a fighter. When you choose to forgo a large portion of what makes the class unique, of course it will boil down to be very similar. The fact that overall you found the class not much harder or easier to play than other classes in spite of the above suggests to me that it is fairly balanced.

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Originally Posted by Egavactip View Post
Teleport-to would be an actually useful spell.
Balance considerations aside, I find it odd that whilst complaining that a spell-casting berserker is not thematic, you are simultaneously advocating for the replacement of a thematic ability with an actual spell.
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Old September 7, 2020, 03:13   #5
DavidMedley
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Originally Posted by Egavactip View Post
The protection from confusion is great, but it has little else to mitigate melee tricks. I don't see how it has any particular staying power. Also, unless I read the descriptions wrong, it doesn't reward heavy weapons but only penalizes non-heavy weapons.
Well, I don't feel like I'm being heard, but these are straightforward enough to answer.

Melee Tricks
Grim Purpose is intended to be available before you can get confusion or paralysis locked in melee by monsters native to around DL15 IIRC. Unholy Reprieve saves you from 3x stat drain and XP drain.

Staying Power
As you cast spells you get HP back. The more damaged you are, the more you recover. Stunning monsters greatly reduces their melee damage. Bloodlust keeps you alive below 0 HP (you still die around -50, depending on CL and BL level).

Heavy Weapons
Several spells do a fixed number of melee blows. Heavy weapons are better with these. Several spells increase your blows. @s with lower blows to begin with benefit more from these.
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Old September 7, 2020, 16:14   #6
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Originally Posted by Egavactip View Post
I think I have. But I'm curious to hear from other blackguard players--how many of its spells do you use at a high frequency?.
Played several BG combinations a while back and honestly loved how it transformed my playing style. I think that some small scaling for the early spells to keep them relevant in late game would be worth looking at (Whirlwind) but in my case nearly every new spell was an exciting milestone. Leap is a particular favorite for me and the Werewold/Bloodlist combination is a great experience.

Earthquake is "meh" but I have a hang-up about breaking the dungeon so that's more a prolem in my head (I almost never use Destruction either).

Honestly, after playing it I'm not sure I'd find a vanilla fighter interesting anymore.
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Old September 7, 2020, 17:35   #7
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I think that some small scaling for the early spells to keep them relevant in late game would be worth looking at (Whirlwind) but in my case nearly every new spell was an exciting milestone.
I agree. Also for me, Venom can be improved. Perhaps releasing a poison ball on impact? For non-whirlwind hits of course.
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Old September 8, 2020, 03:18   #8
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I think that some small scaling for the early spells to keep them relevant in late game would be worth looking at (Whirlwind).
Whirlwind goes up to 2 blows at CL25 and 3 at CL40. That's not the kind of scaling you're looking for?
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Old September 8, 2020, 19:20   #9
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Whirlwind goes up to 2 blows at CL25 and 3 at CL40. That's not the kind of scaling you're looking for?
As I view it, in the latter half of the game any situation which ends with @ surrounded has already gone south. At that point my goal is to get out of the situation. If not by phase or teleport than by clearing a path by doing the greatest targeted damage- which comes from a direct strike. Doing less damage to more creatures can certainly be fun but choosing to persist in that situation offers reduced survival chances overall.

I get that we don't want to make Whirlwind a low-cost room-cleaner late in the game. Perhaps a high-mana late-game equivalent which gives you 4 & 5 blows?
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Old September 8, 2020, 23:36   #10
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There's plenty of times you have 2 or more weak monsters around you and Whirl is the right choice, if you think of it. However, these are all situations where you could probably phase away, too. So it's underwhelming, for sure. If the game didn't have unlimited cheap 0% fail phases then maybe Whirl would be more worthwhile.
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