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Old February 2, 2014, 16:16   #1
Derakon
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Status ailments

It's a common problem, in RPGs of all stripes, that offensive status effects are worthless. The only monsters they actually work on are the ones where you can kill the monster in a round or two anyway, so why would you ever bother applying them?

Angband has this problem too -- monster resistance to status ailments rises so quickly that it quickly becomes pointless to try to confuse, sleep, or slow a monster. Confuse and Slow almost never stick once you're out of the early game, and even if Sleep does work the monster almost always wakes up the next turn anyway, so you've basically traded one of your turns for one of a single monster's turn.

Of course, if these abilities did work reliably, they'd be overpowered. A confused monster is essentially helpless; a slowed monster is literally half as dangerous as usual. A slept monster...ehh, still seems pretty marginal to me. But anyway, it seems clear that fixing this problem is not simply a matter of tweaking saving throws. We need to change what the status ailments do. So here's my proposal.

In all cases, the spell should work all of the time, except against monsters that are immune to the effect. However, they should not stack. The idea is that applying the status ailment is already costing the player a turn they could be using to damage the monster directly; if that doesn't pay off over the course of the fight in at least one turn's worth of benefit, then the spell is not worth using.

1) Confuse: replace it with Stun. And change how "stunned" monsters behave. Instead of being paralyzed, a stunned monster has a greatly increased failure rate on spells (50% seems reasonable), reduced melee accuracy, and reduced melee damage, but they can still move (and move in the right direction reliably) and try to cast spells. Stunning should significantly reduce a monster's offense for several turns.

2) Slow: instead of subtracting 10 from the monster's speed, just subtract 2. This is still worthwhile against large targets where the occasional free turn is very much welcome; even against small targets, slowing a single orc can give you time to run away down a long corridor, as his friends get jammed up behind him. The duration has to be 10 turns at bare minimum, giving 1 free turn to make up for the turn spent slowing, and 1 free turn to benefit from taking the slowing action, at normal speed. Ideally Slow Monster would reduce the monster's speed by 20% instead, but that's hard to do with Vanilla's nonlinear speed system.

3) Sleep: this one's tricky. It might be sufficient to simply max out the monster's sleep timer, or at least greatly increase how long monsters sleep when magically slept. It may be necessary to modify their alertness though. A monster that is put to sleep should stay asleep unless the player is aggravating. Maybe we could make this be a paralysis effect that lasts for N turns but wears off if the monster takes any damage?

4) Stun: this is currently only accessible from a couple of arcane attack spells that deal sound or ice damage. I don't have a problem with effectively merging them with the modified Confuse Monster, so that they all deal stunning.
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Old February 2, 2014, 17:04   #2
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Side note: I've found the RPGs that have useful status effects also have the opposite problem -- you always have to inflict curses / ailments on monsters if you want to have a hope in hell of surviving. This leads to sort of formulaic gameplay ("apply buffs, apply nerfs, kill"). See: Etrian Odyssey
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Old February 2, 2014, 17:23   #3
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I like your take on slowness, it could even be cumulative, which I think you also mentioned.

Confusion doesn't have to go away. It could just make the monster slightly erratic for starters, then mildly erratic, somewhat erratic, etc. in movement as well as targeting spells. One charge from a wand might buy you a turn or two over the course of the duration, emptying the whole wand would have your enemy walking into walls until you put it out of it's misery.

or (I think I like this better and is a better fit for Angband)... confusion could greatly affect casting while having little or no effect melee/movement, and stunning would greatly affect melee with little or no effect on casting/movement. Slowness affects movement only. In this way the effects are segregated, confusion affects spells, stunning affects melee, slowness affects movement. You would need the proper solution depending on the problem.
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Old February 2, 2014, 19:16   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by debo View Post
Side note: I've found the RPGs that have useful status effects also have the opposite problem -- you always have to inflict curses / ailments on monsters if you want to have a hope in hell of surviving. This leads to sort of formulaic gameplay ("apply buffs, apply nerfs, kill"). See: Etrian Odyssey
Yes, this is also a potential pitfall. Hitting the "sweet spot" where debuffs are worth using but not required is a bit tricky especially since half the classes have poor access to them, requiring the use of magical devices.

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Originally Posted by buzzkill
or (I think I like this better and is a better fit for Angband)... confusion could greatly affect casting while having little or no effect melee/movement, and stunning would greatly affect melee with little or no effect on casting/movement. Slowness affects movement only. In this way the effects are segregated, confusion affects spells, stunning affects melee, slowness affects movement. You would need the proper solution depending on the problem.
This is also definitely a way we could go. I liked replacing confusion with stunning because it mirrors the effects of stunning on the player (increased failure rates, reduced combat capability). I think it'd be a bit weird to have a monster confusion effect that only does some of what happens to the player when they get confused, but that's not an insurmountable problem.

I definitely think that monsters that are suffering from confusion shouldn't be able to perfectly target their spells.
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Old February 3, 2014, 03:46   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Yes, this is also a potential pitfall. Hitting the "sweet spot" where debuffs are worth using but not required is a bit tricky especially since half the classes have poor access to them, requiring the use of magical devices.
I was thinking that perhaps one way to make this happen would be to make them have only a percentage chance of taking effect, so as to force players to make a decision - spend time trying to get the status effect on the enemy, or cut straight to fighting. But I suppose that might frustrate players. Perhaps a better option would be to make them non-binary - that is, "status effect meters". We already have this for poison and cuts for the player - you can be mildly poisoned/cut, or moderately poisoned/cut, or severely poisoned/cut, and the more severely you are affected, the more HP you lose per turn. Perhaps extending this mechanic to the other status effects in the game would make them more useful? Even uniques could be affected by status effects if you did this - you'd just give them a bigger meter, meaning it takes more points of status effect to get the same result!
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Old February 3, 2014, 05:04   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekolis View Post
I was thinking that perhaps one way to make this happen would be to make them have only a percentage chance of taking effect, so as to force players to make a decision - spend time trying to get the status effect on the enemy, or cut straight to fighting.
Much of the point of the suggestions I made was to do away with percentage success rates -- status ailments should either always work or never work, depending on the enemy (and the number of enemies on which they work ought to be expanded). The point is to have them be significant enough that it can be worth spending a turn not hurting your opponent, without being so significant that the optimal action is always to lead off by crippling your opponent with every status ailment in the game. Hence, subtle effects that pay off over time.

Your "meters" suggestion sounds like just making the effects stack. Is there a difference I'm not understanding?
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Old February 3, 2014, 20:52   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Your "meters" suggestion sounds like just making the effects stack. Is there a difference I'm not understanding?
No, it's pretty much the same thing. Just wanted to flesh out the idea of "cumulative" status effects as buzzkill mentioned a bit more. I see in your original post you said you didn't want status effects to stack. What's your reasoning on that? I think making them all-or-nothing just makes the problem of them being either overpowered or worthless worse - they're either useful or they're not at whatever strength they're set at, and there's no shades of gray enabling different players to make different choices as to how much to use them.
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Old February 3, 2014, 21:03   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ekolis View Post
No, it's pretty much the same thing. Just wanted to flesh out the idea of "cumulative" status effects as buzzkill mentioned a bit more. I see in your original post you said you didn't want status effects to stack. What's your reasoning on that? I think making them all-or-nothing just makes the problem of them being either overpowered or worthless worse - they're either useful or they're not at whatever strength they're set at, and there's no shades of gray enabling different players to make different choices as to how much to use them.
My main concern is that I don't want the player to have a win button. A status ailment that locks the monster down for a few turns is okay so long as they get a chance to break free, but if you can pile the things on top of each other, then you make it potentially possible to completely lock down a monster into helplessness.

Basically, I suspect that the utility of most status ailments has increasing returns (i.e. the second application is worth more than the first one), which makes stacking potentially unbalancing. Certainly I know that Wands of Slow Monster used to stack, and being able to fight a unique when they're at -20 speed and you're at +0 wasn't really all that interesting.

Hence the goal was to have ailments that are useful but not overpowering when applied once.
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Old February 3, 2014, 23:58   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Hence the goal was to have ailments that are useful but not overpowering when applied once.
I believe you're working on the assumption that the player has limitless access to cause said aliments (which may well be the case and if it is, then it's a problem unto itself). If that's the case, then you'll never have a balance that's interesting. If it's not the case, which is how I prefer to envision it, cumulative effects make sense because they reward a player for a) risking resources and b) risking time/turns in order to c) produce a desired outcome.
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Old February 4, 2014, 01:21   #10
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The main reason why debuffs (lets call it that ? its shorter) are worthless is that monsters get a saving throw. I remember trying to use them in desperate situations: mage in trouble because a fast critter approaches ? try slow *it is not affected* try sleep that orc ? *its immune* (wtf its a lousy uruk!) etc.

These days in the early game I sometimes carry a slow wand instead of squelching it immediately to slow uniques. Nothing else is worth the trouble.
But other than that, I dont bother; I dont even learn the debuffing spells with my mages anymore.

Wouldnt it be better to remove the saving throw (i.e. make the effect automatic; theres still the usual chance to fail the wand application or spell casting) and make uniques immune to all debuffs ?
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