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Old August 12, 2010, 23:33   #1
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Learn-spell rambling

Just some thoughts on alternate ways that spells could be learned:

Currently you can learn spells based on level and stat. Each spell costs one "point", let us say. What if we were to increase the number of points the player gets, and then also variably increase the cost of the player learning spells? So for example, Manastorm might cost 20 points instead of 1. Then you can let the player make tradeoffs in which spells they want to learn.

Now, determine which spells are related to other spells. Give the player a discount for learning spells that are related to spells they already know. If you know Firebolt, the cost of learning Fireball is reduced by 2 points. Knowing Detect Monster, Detect Treasure, etc. makes learning Detection cheaper. This encourages specialization: you won't have the points to learn every spell and it's not cost-efficient to try to learn many spells that aren't related.

Now, mush all the spells together. Give the player a personal spellbook that increases in weight by 1 pound for each spell they add to it (and scatter individual spell scrolls about the dungeon). Ditch the mage/priest distinction. All classes are primarily distinguished based on how good they are at melee/missile weapons, and how many points for spell learning they get. You could even change character creation into picking a set of points on a slider for your character: "I want to be 30% combat / 70% spellcasting. I want to have 80% saving throw / 20% stealth. Etc." Being more biased towards combat gives you extra blows, more starting STR/DEX/CON, a higher armor limit before being encumbered, etc. Being biased towards spellcasting gives you more points for learning spells, better starting INT/WIS (which would need to be more strongly differentiated, perhaps into points earned / mana earned), a lower minimum failure rate, etc.

One possible problem with this approach is that by level 50 the player may find they have leftover points that they cannot spend on any spells that they want. "Well, I have 3 points left, the only spells I'd actually use cost at least 5, and everything else I can afford is basically useless." One thing you could do here is allow the player to invest remaining points into supercharging a spell they already know. For example, each extra point invested in Firebolt increases its damage by 50%, decreases its cost by 1, and increases its minimum level by 5. Probably not as good as learning a useful new spell, but a lot better than nothing, and again encourages specialization. You might have mages who try to scrape by with a bare minimum of spells until they get to Manastorm, and then pump all the extra points they can into that one spell. Or mages who spend the entire game casting Magic Missile (only to find by the mid-late game that it stops scaling adequately, making up for the much easier early game).
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Old August 13, 2010, 06:18   #2
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The problem with this is that Angband has no levelup options. This is important because irrevocable changes to a character that might be suboptimal ruin the fun experience. If you go all out Magic missile improving, then it stops working, your character is useless. This isnt a good situation, because its a newbie mistake that cant be played out.
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Old August 13, 2010, 15:04   #3
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Originally Posted by emulord View Post
If you go all out Magic missile improving, then it stops working, your character is useless. This isnt a good situation, because its a newbie mistake that cant be played out.
It would depend on the implementation (note this is in the variants forum). If you are a new player and you go all out MM and it stops scaling at the mid-late game I would say a few things:

1. Congratulations on being the first new player ever to make it to the mid-late game on your first try. I'm surprised nothing else killed you along the way.

2. Really? You put all your magic in to MM? Really? You looked at SB4 in the store and thought, "I'll never need to haste, teleport something away, and fireball sounds utterly lame."

3. Well, you are in the mid-late game so you probably have 4 blows and a decent melee weapon so all is not lost.
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Old August 13, 2010, 16:37   #4
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I'll freely admit that the full balance implications of this all haven't really been considered. That's why this is a ramble and not an essay.

That said, my thinking with the "invest points into spells you already have" is basically that if you invest in early spells, you're trading off an easier early game for a harder late game. The conventional wisdom currently is that mages have the hardest start and the easiest finish; well, you could smooth that out a bit if your early-game attack spells were better. The cost (which I'll freely admit may be rather opaque to new players) is that you won't be able to learn as many late-game spells. There's certainly some aspect of "whoops, I made bad choices 200k turns ago so now I can't win" that would need to be planned around. Certainly some players will feel that they have to spend their points as soon as they get them, rather than saving them up for later (I know this because I used to play Diablo II that way).
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Old August 14, 2010, 05:35   #5
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You might want to check out the magic system in the most recent version of Z+. It didn't get a lot of playtesting but the whole point was to get the player to make some choices in developing their character, magic-wise.

You weren't able to learn every spell in your schools (except, possibly, if you were a high mage.) You could also spend spell slots on "upgrading" spells you already know rather than learning new ones, though there are rules around this for balance so you can't simply upgrade Magic Missile every level. I think it made attack magic characters somewhat stronger - instead of getting a zillion different bolts they could focus on a couple they find most useful and get better power from them as a result, or save the spell slots for use in their other school which might have more variety and more utility spells.
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