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Old April 29, 2022, 22:42   #1
tom
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Learnede Disputationes Regardinge the Necro-Mancer Class

Having played a few necromancers, one of them through to the end game (where they were eaten by a very large dragon), I have a few thoughts about this class.

The "dwelling in the dark" theme is cool, but becomes irrelevant once you have a lantern of shadows, which is a pity. Would be nice to make this mechanic work all game somehow. Perhaps get rid of lanterns of shadows. Perhaps the necromancer should not regenerate mana when sat in the light. Perhaps some monsters (like priests) should cast "light area" to mess with you. Perhaps monsters who are themselves lightsources should light a larger area around themselves (the early game 'p' monsters do light their immediate surroundings, I think?)

Having waited till level 45 to have the Command spell, I found it very hard to use. You can't choose the spells your controlees cast, and greater undead are fond of summoning. Their summons are not friendly to your cause... I feel like this spell should either let you choose the spell your controlee casts (so you can take control of black reavers and spam mana storm), or should be moved to the early game. Controlees break the spell rather easily, too (it doesn't last long, I mean).

"Unleash chaos" is awkward to use, since it polymorphs things. Many spells are weak and inconvenient versions of things other classes have (which I think is totally fine. the necromancer is a challenging class IMO, and nothing wrong with having a challenging class in the game).

By mid game the necromancer does feel more like a vampire than a summoner/controller of the undead. I do not know if vanilla angband has any support for friendly monsters, but having undead autonomously fighting for you would be a very thematically tasty addition to the necromancer, and probably could be available from the early game without unbalancing things. (This might also open up the option of having druids summon animals... dunno how far down this road we want to go. Summoning is a bit absurd in eg Diablo 2)

Overall necromancers are fun and have a quite different feel to other classes, and this could be taken to the next level by aforementioned friendly undead helpers.
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Old April 30, 2022, 14:04   #2
robinjohnson
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I've been playing a lot of necromancers too. I tend to get to the point where it starts to feel like a decent spellcaster, with four or occasionally five spellbooks, then lose to some bad luck or judgement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tom View Post
Perhaps the necromancer should not regenerate mana when sat in the light.
This is what I think would work thematically. I'm not sure about getting rid of lanterns of shadows. I think it's OK for there to be a macguffin that gets rid of an early-game consideration, like Galadriel for the other classes.

Quote:
By mid game the necromancer does feel more like a vampire than a summoner/controller of the undead. I do not know if vanilla angband has any support for friendly monsters, but having undead autonomously fighting for you would be a very thematically tasty addition to the necromancer, and probably could be available from the early game without unbalancing things.
Agreed. I know friendly monsters are probably a massive can of works, but I feel it's a glaring narrative and thematic omission to have Necromancers in the game, but not allow them to have undead on side. The other necromancers that you meet in the dungeon do!

In fact, once you have the power sacrifice/vampire strike engine going, undead (along with the other nonliving monsters) become your least favourite monsters, since you can't vamp them. Tap unlife is nice, but only really works when you meet one undead on its own, or maybe a small number in an orderly queue. It's a narrative flaw that meeting a horde of undead is one of the situations that a Necromancer is worst equipped to deal with.

I also feel the shapeshifting spells (not just for necromancers, but I don't play druids much) are fairly fundamentally broken. You can't use bat to explore, because you can't cast read minds or use detection gadgets. You can use warg to fight, but have to come back out to do any healing (and it costs HP to cast!) making it impractical until you have lots of HP to spare. And the "gear merging into your body" line is just weird. Your armour can still get damaged by acid breath, and (I think) items in your inventory can still be stolen by master thieves. Bats and wargs can open, close and lock doors, and dig tunnels using picks. Bats fall into pits. What do these bats even look like?

I see no reason that shapeshifted players shouldn't be allowed to cast spells -- you're only using your mind, which is the part of you that's still the same -- but the limits on your other actions need more thought.

While I'm here, I also think the requirement to be able to see in order to cast spells from books is daft. Spells are memorised! Or are our characters really supposed to be thumbing madly through their collection of books mid-battle every time they cast something?
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Old May 1, 2022, 00:34   #3
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Thematically, what I was aiming for was a Tolkien style necromancer, which was someone who communicated with and controlled the spirits of the dead. The chief of these was Sauron (the Necromancer), and there aren't really any other specific examples given (although I have always taken it that the Mouth of Sauron was one). As I understand it that control of spirits involved commanding the ringwraiths (human spirits unnaturally kept alive after their bodies had faded), and placing elf or human spirits in creatures (such as the dragon Glaurung). Moreover, this was a fundamentally unnatural process, so was dangerous and warped the necromancer's own spirit. Note that Aragorn and the dead army is kind of a special case

Transferring that idea into an Angband class was not completely straightforward. There are a bunch of things in Angband which are unrealistic anyway (spellbooks, a suit of armor taking up the same backpack space as a ring, etc) but are choices that have been made in the creation of the game. Then there is its D&D heritage, which means a lot of the monsters are drawn from a mish-mash of a bunch of different mythologies. So I have gone with just a few thematic ideas:
  • Affinity for darkness, with increasing power over it, so you first can create your own, and then no longer need to do that;
  • Spells frequently costing something beyond mana - HP or XP;
  • Power over creatures with a spirit (Banish Spirits, Read Minds);
  • Other stuff that "feels evil".
The spell list is also constrained by needing stuff that's useful in-game, and being in keeping with the rest of the game. Summoning by the player is done in variants, but I felt there wasn't sufficient thematic reason for it to go through the re-balancing that would be necessary. Also I wanted to stay away from the generic fantasy necromancer with armies of zombies (not a Tolkien thing, despite their appearance in Angband) and vampires (Tolkien's vampires, such as they were, were really just big bloodsucking bats).
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Old May 3, 2022, 14:56   #4
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Thanks for reply, Nick. Do you have any opinions on the Control spell as it stands? I'm playing around with some ideas in code. Like I mentioned, I feel like it would be very flavoursome to give the necromancer this spell earlier. (And why not air this feature a bit more widely -- probably few players have had the pleasure of a level 45 necromancer.) Also nice if the player earned experience from their controlees kills (I'm sniffing this out in code right now -- looks like project_m_monster_attack() and mon_take_nonplayer_hit() need a 'struct source' for this to work). I wonder if changing it to "Control Evil" would make the use of the spell feel a bit more "evil", like you say, and more constrained. Evil folks are fond of having evil henchmen & henchwomen, like Saruman and his love of orcs.
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