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Old March 25, 2019, 08:43   #1
Flambard
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Question about rods

Hi all!

Long-timer lurker, first time poster. Please be gentle

OK, first off, I want to introduce myself, and explain the reason behind this post. I'm one of the MAngband devs, and one of the aspects of my "job" is to download each and every version of V, to carefully examine it for code (and gameplay) changes -- to port those into MAngband. (not mentioning scouring rephial.trac, github angband/angband, etc)

I will be the first to admit, that MAngband dev. team has NOT done a good job when porting latest V comes to mind; you guys should be familiar with PowerWyrm and his PWMangband variant, if you look at its code, you will realize it's pretty close to V4.1, MAngband itself is stuck somewhere between 2.7.9 - 3.0.9.

I'm telling you this, so that you could appreciate my POV a bit, because I'm going to ask a question that should've probably been asked like 10 years ago, maybe even before takkaria's time. So I kinda expect answers like, "it's been like this for ages, and it's all fine", but for me, this thing is a recent change.

OK, hopefully that made some kind of sense, and now to the question itself.

At some point in 3.X dev cycle, wand/staff/rod stacking was introduced. And at the same time, the recharge backfire was changed to only drain charges and lose object ID. Then, there was a bit of back-and-forth on "should wands/staves be destroyed on recharge", which ended on going back to "yes, let's destroy them on recharge".

All fine and good, we're following this in MAngband, we had a version (which ran for ~10 years) with "safe recharge" and we're going to back to "dangerous recharge" now.

HOWEVER, the rod situation was not addressed, I've examined V from 3.1.0beta to V4.1, and it's still the same. I've also asked PowerWyrm (I consider him an expert on both multiplayer *bands and on all the V code re-hauls) and he confirmed it.

So what exactly is the problem with rods, in my mind? It feels like they are massively over-powered. Since V3.0.6, rods can stack. The more rods in stack you have, the faster recharge rate you get. You can no longer recharge them with spells/scrolls, so there's no backfiring involved.

The problem, as I see it, is you get all the benefits without any penalties. Consider this:

10 rods of acid bolts weight just 15 lb (in comparison, 7 wooden torches weight 21 lb), and 10 is enough to always have at least 1 charged, so that's unlimited, free, acid bolt machine gun.

I realize you need high Magic Devices skill for that to work, but it still feels very very wrong. Without rod stacking, carrying 10 around would be a huge penalty by itself... and as far as I can tell, there are no other penalties.

Can someone help me out here? Is it really how things are supposed to work?
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Old March 25, 2019, 08:55   #2
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I can't remember ever getting 10 rods of any kind, they are too rare for that. I ususally maybe end up with 4 light or lightning bolts.
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Old March 25, 2019, 09:10   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mondkalb View Post
I can't remember ever getting 10 rods of any kind, they are too rare for that. I ususally maybe end up with 4 light or lightning bolts.
Thank you, that's actually quite helpful, and gives me some food for thought.

The reason that does not apply to MAngband (which is Multiplayer Angband), is that we're running a semi-persistent world, while the dungeon levels are still generated randomly, the town stays the same, and it's quite possible for people to accumulate any desired amounts of any items they wish for, given they dive carefully and spend enough time doing it. (That part, I believe, is true to V too).

That might be a problem by itself, but the system worked quite well for all other consumable items, because there's always some kind of penalty involved for each item: scrolls run out, wands/staves can backfire, etc. But rods just stay with you (unless destroyed/stolen by a monster, but that applies to everything, so doesn't really count as "rod penalty"), they recharge automatically, they don't backfire...
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Old March 25, 2019, 10:04   #4
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They are still of limited use. Most classes will do more damage with their weapons or spells in the end. Also, there are a lot of different rods and you can't carry them all.
The more powerful rods are even rarer.
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Old March 25, 2019, 10:48   #5
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Frankly, I think it was just a step where the game got easier. Note that it also makes the interface simpler, which is something V has been working on for a long time.
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Old March 25, 2019, 10:51   #6
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tl:dr: don't underestimate the factor that rod rarity plays in their power assessment.

I've always found rods very balanced compared to staves and wands. Their rarity combined with their recharge time is a pretty big penalty as is the lack of an option to recharge. My impression is that most players who rely on devices to deal damage use wands, not rods. I've never played MAngband, but given the general principle of 'all things are equal' I think the stack of rods of acid bolts is still inferior to whatever else you've found by then (ie all the other things you find in the time that you find ten rods of acid bolts are likely to eclipse the benefit of a literally limitless supply of acid bolts).

Don't rods also do less damage than wands? By the time you've found 10 rods of acid bolts, you've also found something else that is twice as efficient as dealing damage as the 10 rods, like 18 wands of acid bolts that deal more damage per zap, fail less often and are 50% lighter. For my money the weaknesses of rods outweigh the benefits: unless I find three or four elemental bolt rods in quick succession (which sometimes happens) they are just not worth the bother for me as a primary source of dealing damage. For me rods are a stop-gap until I find a better way to deal damage.

The other thing to consider is: what are you doing while you are waiting to have collected enough rods to rely on them solely? Surely it's a pain to pile them at home until you have enough of them that they replace your wands? And if you're carrying both wands and rods, well that's a lot of weight. And then consider the following scenario: you spend 10 hours patiently collecting rods of acid bolts. You've accumulated 8; and you're excited to almost reach the magic number of infinite acid bolts, and then you die. I imagine this penalty alone is more than enough to compensate whatever imagined benefits a stack of 10 rods of acid bolts has over other means of dealing damage. As such, as someone who tries to win games relatively quickly, rods of healing are almost useless. Now, if you spend hours and hours collecting them and turn count doesn't matter, (make a rest key for 10,000 turns) I suppose they can have some utility; but they are still used as rapid regeneration, not as a reliable save given their high fail rate (though I admit I don't know what the fail rate is for a level 50 mage). Not to mention that you'll have collected 100 !*healing* in the time you collect ten rods of healing.

Rods are also weakened by their recharge time being independent of @'s speed.

In conclusion: Rods' rarity combined with their recharge time means there's almost always a better option by the time you have a significant stack of them. Therefore rods seem better than they actually are. The allure of a device that never needs to be charged, never runs out, deals infinite damage is tempered by the reality of what it takes to collect enough of them to realize that dream, and all the other things you find and collect in the time you reach it. By that time an infinite acid bolt machine gun is about as exciting as a virtually free magic missile spell (which eventually becomes free by virtue of regeneration). The reality is that all rods seem better than they actually are, not just damage ones. I've often been tantalized by the allure of finding enough rods of speed that I'd get unlimited temporary speed; but before I've ever found enough of them that dream is always shattered by a better one: I've found enough powerful speed gear to render a stack of rods of speed obsolete before I've ever gotten the stack big enough for the infinite speed bonus. Or put more simply: before the stack is complete the dream is shattered by a better one: Morgoth is already dead.
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Last edited by Grotug; March 25, 2019 at 11:01.
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Old March 25, 2019, 11:25   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick View Post
Frankly, I think it was just a step where the game got easier. Note that it also makes the interface simpler, which is something V has been working on for a long time.
I adore the new "interface" for rods, it does makes things simpler, no question about it. And I respect you for admitting, that it does make the game easier.

Grotug, thank you very much for that detailed post. You got me thinking I was just being paranoid and did overestimate rod usefulness.

I believe that answers my question pretty well, thank you guys!
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Old March 25, 2019, 12:43   #8
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Being a bit worried about stacking rechargables was why I added the 'max-stack' line in object-base.txt, which lets you choose per object type (tval in the old language) how many items can be in a pile. It's not used and I'm not sure if Nick thinks it's worthwhile, but it was a thought I had about how to maintain the UI benefits of stacking rechargeables while toning down its power a bit.
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Old March 25, 2019, 14:39   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by takkaria View Post
Being a bit worried about stacking rechargables was why I added the 'max-stack' line in object-base.txt, which lets you choose per object type (tval in the old language) how many items can be in a pile. It's not used and I'm not sure if Nick thinks it's worthwhile, but it was a thought I had about how to maintain the UI benefits of stacking rechargeables while toning down its power a bit.
I love this, and will likely port this to MAng. Thanks a lot for the heads-up!

P.S. and yeah, we're still on TVal "system".
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Old March 25, 2019, 14:47   #10
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One of my play styles is to (as convenient) do precisely this. I hoard "bolt" rods successively. First lightning bolts and frost until I find I have enough frost bolts that lightning is being ignored. Then eventually enough fire bolts that I toss all of the frost bolts. Despite having a "grind it out and clear every level with no regard to turn count" play style, I have never had enough acid bolt rods to graduate to them. By the time I am at the late stages of the game even the fire bolts get less use except against hoards of suitable Hounds or Dreads.
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