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Old October 10, 2007, 08:52   #1
Djabanete
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[non-variant-specific] Items with Drawbacks

Time for a stupid idea. What would you do if you found this item, with whatever character you're playing right now (any variant):

Nuke-Resistant Armor [60, +40] (-4 to speed)
[super heavy, like 50 lb]
It provides resistance to fire, acid, lightning, sound, and shards. It decreases your speed and dexterity by 4. It cannot be harmed by the elements.

Intriguing, yes... but would it be worth using? Well, why not take it for a spin and see how it goes? Here's another lame example:

Ring of Undeadness
It provides immunity to nether. It attracts undead creatures.

That one's a little different. Maybe worth keeping around just for when you're fighting Azriel? How frequently do the undead appear? How bad would they even be if you're immune to nether? Maybe it's worth keeping around? No? As a swap?

To me, that kind of item is the most interesting kind, and I don't see enough of them. It's not that they're not out there; it's that when you find them, you've always got better options. That's no fun. Items with drawbacks create interesting equipment decisions, and sometimes they create interesting game situations. The perfect "grey item" (as I like to call them) is Calris. It has a lot of upside, but also a very significant downside which must be weighed. An example of a non-grey item would be the One Ring, which is so ridiculously powerful in every respect that you don't care if you aggravate and you don't care that you can't take it off. The Palantir of Westernesse lies somewhere in between those.

I'd like to see more things along the lines of Calris. Just as an experiment, I'm going to look at a couple pages of winners on the Angband ladder --- not the top score guys since they all have perfect kits, maybe one page in. (*looks*). 0K --- The One Ring and the Palantir (very rarely Calris) are the *only* items with any sort of drawback that winners use. Let's look at some mid-level characters. (*looks*). I didn't see any grey items at all.

Well, I just wish the grey items were better, that's all. That there were some items with *real* drawbacks that aren't just cursed crap. That there were items that create tough choices - and I'm not talking about the "Hmmm, Ringil or Deathwreaker?" kind of tough choice.

Anyway, sorry for the disorganized, late-night post. This just occurred to me and I wanted to share the thought and see what you guys have to say.

-Djabanete
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Old October 10, 2007, 10:41   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djabanete View Post
To me, that kind of item is the most interesting kind, and I don't see enough of them. It's not that they're not out there; it's that when you find them, you've always got better options. That's no fun. Items with drawbacks create interesting equipment decisions, and sometimes they create interesting game situations. The perfect "grey item" (as I like to call them) is Calris. It has a lot of upside, but also a very significant downside which must be weighed. An example of a non-grey item would be the One Ring, which is so ridiculously powerful in every respect that you don't care if you aggravate and you don't care that you can't take it off. The Palantir of Westernesse lies somewhere in between those.

I'd like to see more things along the lines of Calris. Just as an experiment, I'm going to look at a couple pages of winners on the Angband ladder --- not the top score guys since they all have perfect kits, maybe one page in. (*looks*). 0K --- The One Ring and the Palantir (very rarely Calris) are the *only* items with any sort of drawback that winners use. Let's look at some mid-level characters. (*looks*). I didn't see any grey items at all.

Well, I just wish the grey items were better, that's all. That there were some items with *real* drawbacks that aren't just cursed crap. That there were items that create tough choices - and I'm not talking about the "Hmmm, Ringil or Deathwreaker?" kind of tough choice.

Anyway, sorry for the disorganized, late-night post. This just occurred to me and I wanted to share the thought and see what you guys have to say.
Well said. I agree completely. This is one reason I never play without randarts - too many of the standard artifacts are no-brainers (Thorin, Dor-Lomin, Fingolfin etc.). When Chris Robertson & I re-wrote the randart.c code for V (back in 2.9.x - it never made it into V though it has been adapted for use in NPP, Un and others), one of our primary goals was to make "grey" randarts more viable. Unfortunately we were constrained to a small range of drawbacks (negative pval, minuses to-hit, to-dam or AC, light or heavy curse, aggravation), but that still allows a much broader range of items than the old randart code (which simply gives all powerful items aggravation). Adding some other drawbacks would make life much more interesting.

I suspect that someone will come along in a minute and say that this has all been done brilliantly if only we would try Un ... I will one day, honest ...

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Old October 10, 2007, 11:32   #3
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Adding some other drawbacks would make life much more interesting.
Next version of FA has percentage resistances - and vulnerabilities. Not many grey items yet, but it's certainly in the plan.
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Old October 10, 2007, 11:37   #4
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As for armor I think it is too easy to get rbase covered. Finally any item of elvenkind (or Resistance) will show up and that's it - for a while.
The player isn't forced to wear any too heavy armor usually (there are some rare moments I remember walking around in rusty elvenkindish things with -4 or such and also filthy rags of elvenkind with poor base stats).

How about making shield/robe/armor of elvenkind only cover up random three of rbase + one high extra? This would lead to some change at least for midgame.
The good high resistances like rPoison, rConfusion for example could be bound to only heavy armor or they would be only granted if the item had only two of rbase covered.

Similar things could be done with weapons - telepathy could always cause aggravation. *Slay* weapons could aggravate the undead.

Last edited by Mondkalb; October 10, 2007 at 11:43.
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Old October 10, 2007, 13:02   #5
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Speaking for low-levels, I like the Shooters of Nazgul (whatever variant that was, I guess O) that grant SI at a cost. They are really nice for humans, especially if they could be auto-identified somewhat (ID for each {terrible} weapon is a bit too expensive for a starting char).

I think similar things should be done with FA (some big drawback too), and other vital abilities, so that players have the option to reasonably dive with some interesting drawbacks instead of scumming for the ability or risking madly. I think most of the cursed items in the game could be made more interesting by throwing in some big drawbacks and small but interesting bonuses, thus increasing interesting strategic trade-offs. As the game progresses the grey items could be exchanged with strictly positive items (except some really wonderful grey artifacts).
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Old October 10, 2007, 18:03   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnate View Post
Adding some other drawbacks would make life much more interesting.
Yes, Definitely. Some drawbacks that I haven't seen in V:

Randomly summon certain kinds of monster (undead, animals, etc)
Be much heavier than a typical specimen
Require you to carry stuff around for some reason (like flasks of oil; why no artifact lantern?)
Reduce your light radius

I'm trying to think of stuff that's not too far-fetched for V. Bright ideas?

@Mondkalb: Agree on the Elvenkind armors, although it's already plenty annoying to have to *ID* them all. This would increase that necessity because you need to know your resistance holes! But I think *ID* should be a lot more commonly available anyway.

@Bandobras: Yes, those Nazgul weapons are exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about! You reminded me - my favorite Angband weapon was a Great Axe of Morgul that I enchanted up from (-17, -17) to (+8, +8); suddenly I had a weapon with See Invisible, Slay Undead, and Poison Brand, at the cost of Aggravation. I died soon after, but it was awesome
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Old October 11, 2007, 07:53   #7
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I suspect that someone will come along in a minute and say that this has all been done brilliantly if only we would try Un ... I will one day, honest ...

CC
I've started it, but the approach taken by yourselves (and me) is I think the wrong one, if I may be so bold.

Currently, we evaluate a single artifact power level, which is the positive bonuses, minus the negatives.

We should be generating the negatives first, and heavily cursed items then allowed to rise above the current depth's maximum power level. This would make e.g. weapons of Morgul very tempting as they'd be 'ahead' of the power curve.

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Old October 11, 2007, 10:07   #8
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I've started it, but the approach taken by yourselves (and me) is I think the wrong one, if I may be so bold.

Currently, we evaluate a single artifact power level, which is the positive bonuses, minus the negatives.

We should be generating the negatives first, and heavily cursed items then allowed to rise above the current depth's maximum power level. This would make e.g. weapons of Morgul very tempting as they'd be 'ahead' of the power curve.
I would go even further, and suggest that a fresh approach to evaluating artifact "quality" (carefully avoiding "power") would be to quantify more than one distinct total. So instead of getting into the bizarre minutiae of "is rchaos worth more than +3 STR? What about +4 STR? What about +6 Speed? What about ESP?" etc. etc., you can have a more sophisticated approach. I thought about this last time round, but didn't get anywhere with it because I'm not clever and/or persistent enough. I'm probably still not, but the discussion of "grey" items, and their potential for improving the game, has prompted me to contribute what I can.

The first quantity to measure is the artifact's effects on your six main stats. This is probably the simplest, because they're all numbers already. There is some debate to be had about whether +4 STR is worth twice as much as +2, or four times, or whatever, but in the end you can come up with an algorithm which measures the item's contribution to improving your stats.

The side issue here is the "spell stat". Personally I favour rating items according to their value to the current character (ie. WoG is {uber} for a priest, while Raal's is worthless), though I know this is a big departure from current item generation. With this idea of a more sophisticated rating system for randarts, I think there is mileage in saying that the current char's mana stat is worth more than the non-mana stat.

The second thing to be quantified is the item's contribution to your offensive power: to-hit, to-dam, slays, brands, extra shots/might/blows. This is the bit that Chris Robertson did really well, with the monster rating code and weighting of brands/slays according to how many monsters resist them. The only enhancement I wanted to add was a more detailed assessment of the value of +to-hit, taking monster AC and criticals into account - this is not really significant in V but would be very important in O-combat variants.

Anyway, the third thing to be quantified is the item's contribution to your defensive capacity: +AC, resists, immunities, FA, hold life, regen, feather fall, bonus to saving throw in variants which allow that. You could arguably dump all the other possible attributes in here, it all really depends on how detailed you want to get.

Then there are super useful things like +speed, +stealth, SI and ESP, which really deserve their own consideration. There are also a bunch of not so useful things like +searching, slow digestion, +tunnelling, +infravision, plite. If you wanted you could group these into detection-related (SI, ESP, searching, infravision, light) and then just have speed, stealth, tunnelling and slow digestion as separate, but again it depends on your penchant for detail.

Finally there is the activation, if any. So you have at least five distinct contributions to an artifact's value, maybe more (we haven't touched on item weight, for example). Sure, you can just add them all up and end up with a power rating not dissimilar to the current code, but you could do more than that. You could have separate depth distribution for each element: certain totals or combinations of stat enhancements could be restricted to one set of depths, while combinations of offensive or defensive enhancements could be found at different depths. You could develop Chris R's idea of "supercharging" and create items which have only offensive capabilities, or only defensive, etc.

So what does all this have to do with grey items? Well, my thinking is that if you have a more granular system for assessing and creating items, you can treat drawbacks in the same way. Multiple pvals (as used in S) would be a huge help, because at the moment in V you must have ALL pval-related stuff attached to the single pval (stats, speed, stealth, infravision, searching, tunnelling, shots, might, blows). To do grey items properly you need to be able to create items which boost one stat but lower another, boost speed but lower stealth, etc. etc.

Even without multiple pvals you could concentrate the drawbacks in a particular area (lots of offensive penalties on an item with a lot of defensive enhancements, for example). Another thing that would broaden the scope is the addition of vulnerabilities (negative resists) - at the moment the only drawbacks you can have are negative to-hit/dam/AC/pval, curses and aggravation (ooh, and xp drain and random teleportation, I forgot). Introducing vulnerabilities, or something like Z's anti-magic or anti-teleportation would give more combinations (what about a mind***k attribute that cancelled ESP? Fine if you don't have ESP yet, but very painful if you do ...).

I'd better get on with some work. Sorry this hasn't been much other than a bunch of undeveloped ideas, but maybe I'll do something with it one day. None of it was intended to disagree with the main point - I agree that grey items being generated 'ahead' of the power curve is a good thing.

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Old October 11, 2007, 21:06   #9
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We should be generating the negatives first, and heavily cursed items then allowed to rise above the current depth's maximum power level. This would make e.g. weapons of Morgul very tempting as they'd be 'ahead' of the power curve.
Do you think you could elaborate a little on this? I don't really understand what you're suggesting. Are you thinking of applying this to ego items? Randarts? How is generating negatives and then adding positives different from generating positives and then adding negatives? Sorry, I'm probably totally missing the point here. =p

@Magnate: Yeah, I think a smart randart generator would do well to consider those various aspects so it can make artifacts more intelligently. Then you can produce really interesting grey item randarts (e.g. an item that enhances senses but reduces defense ---> SI, ESP, light radius, but AC penalty; that would be pretty clever for a randart, and I think that kind of thing would be simple to generate).

A similar but different way to come up with grey randarts would be to draw positive *and* negative correlations between all the possible attributes; and then to produce one "starting" attribute and go from there. So you could link "+stealth" to "combat penalty", "ESP" to "aggravate"; and each link has a chance of being applied to the generated randart. As you got deeper, the links would stay the same, but the numbers would get bigger; so the generated randarts would get even more grey (big +stealth, big -combat, for example).

Anyway, I'm not a coder, and I have no idea if that's practical or even original, but the concept seems pretty simple and effective.
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Old October 11, 2007, 22:21   #10
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A similar but different way to come up with grey randarts would be to draw positive *and* negative correlations between all the possible attributes; and then to produce one "starting" attribute and go from there. So you could link "+stealth" to "combat penalty", "ESP" to "aggravate"; and each link has a chance of being applied to the generated randart. As you got deeper, the links would stay the same, but the numbers would get bigger; so the generated randarts would get even more grey (big +stealth, big -combat, for example).
I like this idea, and intend to steal it
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