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Old May 29, 2016, 15:13   #1
Nick
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Curses feature branch

...coming real soon now. Maybe a week.

The last month I have not had a lot of time for coding, and I have made the curse system "very general" (read unnecessarily complex). It has reached the point where pretty much all the code is in place to make curses work, and cursed items can be generated, put on and noticed, and the player's knowledge of curses is tracked correctly, and it doesn't seem to crash any more.

I still need to do some tidying up of the mechanics, and then actually put in some new curses and add them sensibly to objects, egos and artifacts.

I won't give full details now, but the rough outline is
  • curses have variable power on different items
  • curse removal spells and scrolls have differing strengths
  • curse removal targets a particular item, and rolls spell strength against curse power
  • failure of removal leaves the object liable to be destroyed on future attempts (yes, even artifacts)
  • curses are runes
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Old June 4, 2016, 05:53   #2
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I have now reached the point of looking at specifics of curses. I have some ideas, and would like some opinions.

Before ID-by-use became a thing, there used to be four basic ways of getting cursed objects:
  1. Basic objects which were always cursed. These were (I think) always jewellery - Amulets of DOOM, Rings of Weakness, etc
  2. Random cursed items. Any non-jewellery wearable item which wasn't an ego or an artifact had a chance to be cursed - light sticky curse and negative to-hit, to-dam, to-ac as appropriate.
  3. Cursed ego items. These were specific ego types with either a light or heavy sticky curse, negatives to-hit and to-dam or to-ac, and other bad properties like stat negatives, aggravation and experience drain - examples include boots of Slowness, armor of Vulnerability, weapons of Morgul.
  4. Cursed artifacts. These are the only cursed items still in 4.0, and they are largely unchanged, except they can only be uncursed by enchanting.

Since ID-by-use, gotcha sticky curses have been no longer desirable. However, rune-based ID changes the landscape considerably - if curses are runes, then the gotcha would only happen once, and after that the curse is always known. In this new regime, curses of type 1 and 2 above become pretty dull, and type 3 are more interesting (finding a weapon of Morgul is kind of cool), but still won't really affect gameplay.

So my ideas for curse implementation are as follows:
  • Most of the old cursed ego items (type 3) are reimplemented as individual curses. For example, the vulnerability curse would give the sticky property, a minus to ac, and aggravation. This is then interesting
    1. the first time you find it and
    2. when you find an item with it that would be useful if uncursed.
  • Curses can be applied to any non-artifact wearable (and probably restricted to specific equipment slots in some cases, so the dullness curse of -to INT and WIS would only apply to headgear). This restores type 2 curses in an interesting way, and you could find, for example, gloves of Free Action with the clumsiness curse.
  • Some of the old cursed egos (I'm thinking weapons of Morgul and launchers of the Nazgul) should be redesigned as mixed-blessing items, possibly with some removable and/or non-removable curses.
  • No sticky curse should ever be non-removable, except on the One and the Massive Iron Crown (and they should be up for discussion).
  • Curse removal magic should probably target a particular curse on a particular item, so the player can choose to leave some curses as they are rather than risk item destruction.
  • Some variant of the Topi Ylinen curse becomes a possibility

I'm finding these possibilities quite exciting - what do you think?
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Old June 4, 2016, 06:27   #3
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I think the #1 rule is to try to design the system such that the player should not feel tempted/obligated to test out items in a "maximally safe" manner. Functionally this means that curses should not be so debilitating as to warrant immediate flight from the level until their effects can be safely mitigated/eliminated.

All of your suggestions sound plausible. Coming up with interesting curses/mixed blessings will be a bit tricky, but it's the kind of thing that lots of people can brainstorm.

Historical note: you could find cursed jewelry that was not "inherently" cursed -- that is, in addition to Rings of Weakness, you could find cursed Rings of Strength, which did exactly the same thing but with a different name.
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Old June 4, 2016, 07:03   #4
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I dont quite understand - what you describe is basically the same curse mechanic that was in place before they got removed, modulo some minor changes and one major one (artifact destruction). But how does the player detect/avoid a curse, if at all ? And if he cant, isnt this a 180 degree turn from the established "its safe enough to test" policy ?
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Old June 4, 2016, 10:01   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
I dont quite understand - what you describe is basically the same curse mechanic that was in place before they got removed, modulo some minor changes and one major one (artifact destruction). But how does the player detect/avoid a curse, if at all ? And if he cant, isnt this a 180 degree turn from the established "its safe enough to test" policy ?
The main difference is that each curse is a rune, so it can only catch the player by surprise once, and will be recognised on walkover after that. So objects aren't perfectly safe to test, but I think not unsafe enough to ruin the ID-by-use game.
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Old June 4, 2016, 13:15   #6
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So, I can break the aggravation rune? Like if I pick up Deathwreaker and get annoyed that everyone charges me, then I can break the rune and have Deathwreaker with no down side?
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Old June 4, 2016, 17:10   #7
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This is definitely going to put an end to id by use for permanent items.

Imagine a starting character who finds a runed dagger that turns out to be cursed, sticky and negative to hit/to dam: what is he supposed to do ?
He can either farm measly coppers for half an hour to buy remove curse scrolls, or keep playing without any melee ability, or start over. The last option would be the sensible thing to do. Or he can change his playstyle and gather coppers untill he can afford a cheap runed dagger to identify the magic weapon rune from the start instead of risking unknown runes - certainly less of a grind than having to get rid of an early curse.

Now look at a slightly later stage, assume the fighter has a magic dagger and finds a bunch of unknown runed weapons. In that situation, I would normally wield each and see what identifies itself (stat bonuses), and do a few swings versus harmless opponents to find potential brands. While I hope that I hit the jackpot and one of the bunch is a dagger of westernesse or such, most will be worthless and discarded on the spot; a pike of slay dragon isnt going to replace my magic dagger.

Add cursed runes into the mix; who in their right mind is going to risk losing access to their superior magic weapon, when the chances are high that one of the many test subjects is going to be cursed ? Instead of playing an unfavourable lottery, I would stick (haha) to my known dagger. Discard everything that is a bad base type and store light weapons till id scrolls turn up, or remove curse scrolls if I think that they will actually remove a curse.

People have complained that there are still negative potion effects in the game; the worst probably being lose memory, an effect that has virtually no negative impact on the characters ability to play the game an can be fixed with a towntrip to buy a common potion for a couple hundred gold pieces. While this kind of risk is well in the limits of id-by-use play, having your character disabled never mind having your artifacts destroyed certainly is not. No, if this kind of mechanics is going to be re-introduced, id by use will be a thing of the past.

I dont know how much of a done deal this mechanis is, but for curses I would look elsewhere than at runes. Perhaps make a spell that can curse a piece of @īs equipment, castable by highlevel monsters like night wings or Saruman.
Or limit the appearance of curse runes to specific base items (blade of chaos ? Mithril ?) so the lottery is limited in scope and doesnt affect the whole item acquiring process. Or make level 13 a special level with a guaranteed vault that holds good items mixed with cursed ones.
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Old June 4, 2016, 22:55   #8
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What made old-school sticky curses really problematic was that scrolls of remove curse were rare items (or expensive from black market). Instead of eliminating non-artifact curses, an equally well-balanced solution under pre-rune id would have been to let remove curse scrolls be cheaply available at the normal item shop.

Perhaps that would be going too far under rune-based id, as the cursed items can easily be avoided after being discovered once. But if we're talking about having interesting cursed items, there's another obvious solution: nerf the sticky-curse. Instead of having cursed items stick until uncursed, have them stick for a few thousand turns. Then your average player can simply hang out someplace safe (like the town or lower dungeon levels) until it wears off. It'll be more challenging for players who are trying things like ironman or speed-running, but then life is supposed to be difficult for those folks.
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Old June 4, 2016, 23:32   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luneya View Post
But if we're talking about having interesting cursed items, there's another obvious solution: nerf the sticky-curse. Instead of having cursed items stick until uncursed, have them stick for a few thousand turns. Then your average player can simply hang out someplace safe (like the town or lower dungeon levels) until it wears off. It'll be more challenging for players who are trying things like ironman or speed-running, but then life is supposed to be difficult for those folks.
Rather than turn-based, it could be EXP-based - once you've equipped a sticky cursed item, you have to earn X number of experience points for it to come unstuck. That way you won't be stuck with it for an annoyingly long time, but you still have to actually fight with it equipped for a little while rather than just being able to rest until the curse goes away. (Another alternative might be to just have it work the same as stat-draining, so all sticky curses break the next time that you level up.)

You could even make curses work like random mini-quests where you have to fulfil particular conditions to break the curse: stuff like "kill 20 more monsters" or "kill a dragon" or "descend 3 more levels", etc.
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Old June 5, 2016, 00:27   #10
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OK, I'm going to start by giving a fuller description of the curse mechanics, and then answer individual questions.

A curse consists of a collection of properties applied to the object. This collection can include: bad flags like sticky or aggravation; good flags like free action; resists or vulnerabilities to any elements; positive or negative modifiers to stats, speed, stealth, to-hit, etc; or an effect that happens at intervals. Obviously making a curse which involves just good properties would be a bit silly, so in general it would have at least some bad properties and maybe some good ones as well.

Any object can have a curse (or multiple curses) attached to it, but the effects of the curse only happen if the player wears it. A curse on an object has a power, from 0 to 100. A curse with power 0 is removed by any attempt at curse removal; a curse with power 100 can't be removed. Curse removal spells have a strength An attempt at curse removal involves taking a random number from 0 to the curse power, and a random number from 0 to the spell strength, and successfully removing if the spell number is at least the curse number.

Obviously, the specific numbers used for the power of curses and the strengths of spells are going to be important for balance.

A failed curse removal results in the item becoming fragile. Further attempts at curse removal from that object will have a chance of destroying the object - the size of that chance is also something we want to get right.

Each individual curse is a rune in the ID system. This means that once seen, it is always recognised again.

Cursed objects should be generated in the following ways:
  • Wearable objects have a chance to get a random curse or curses
  • Some ego types may get standard curses, or random curses
  • Some items should be cursed but also given a boost to good properties
  • Some artifacts will have standard curses
The power of curses given to objects is another way of controlling how the system works.

I would also think that an object might acquire curses in-game, from traps and possibly from monster spells.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnivean View Post
So, I can break the aggravation rune? Like if I pick up Deathwreaker and get annoyed that everyone charges me, then I can break the rune and have Deathwreaker with no down side?
As Deathwreaker currently stands, no. If we decide to put its aggravation property on a removable curse instead of on the actual object, then yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
Imagine a starting character who finds a runed dagger that turns out to be cursed, sticky and negative to hit/to dam: what is he supposed to do ?
He can either farm measly coppers for half an hour to buy remove curse scrolls, or keep playing without any melee ability, or start over. The last option would be the sensible thing to do. Or he can change his playstyle and gather coppers untill he can afford a cheap runed dagger to identify the magic weapon rune from the start instead of risking unknown runes - certainly less of a grind than having to get rid of an early curse.
This would depend on how item allocation is done. I would think that such a curse would be expected not to start occurring until, say, DL 10 - and in general, the system can be tweaked so that the situation you described can't happen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
Now look at a slightly later stage, assume the fighter has a magic dagger and finds a bunch of unknown runed weapons. In that situation, I would normally wield each and see what identifies itself (stat bonuses), and do a few swings versus harmless opponents to find potential brands. While I hope that I hit the jackpot and one of the bunch is a dagger of westernesse or such, most will be worthless and discarded on the spot; a pike of slay dragon isnt going to replace my magic dagger.

Add cursed runes into the mix; who in their right mind is going to risk losing access to their superior magic weapon, when the chances are high that one of the many test subjects is going to be cursed ? Instead of playing an unfavourable lottery, I would stick (haha) to my known dagger. Discard everything that is a bad base type and store light weapons till id scrolls turn up, or remove curse scrolls if I think that they will actually remove a curse.
If the chances are high, certainly. So we tweak the numbers until the chances are acceptable - make the power of early curses mostly 0, say, and make curse removal scrolls cheap and available. So early curses are almost irrelevant gameplay-wise but a sign of things to come, a little like baby dragons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
People have complained that there are still negative potion effects in the game; the worst probably being lose memory, an effect that has virtually no negative impact on the characters ability to play the game an can be fixed with a towntrip to buy a common potion for a couple hundred gold pieces. While this kind of risk is well in the limits of id-by-use play, having your character disabled never mind having your artifacts destroyed certainly is not. No, if this kind of mechanics is going to be re-introduced, id by use will be a thing of the past.
The intention is not for the character to be disabled, except through calculated informed risk. Having curses with the sticky property is a bit of a gotcha, but these should be easily removed the first time, and always recognised after that. As for artifacts, I would think probably no standard artifacts get any sticky curse, and possibly no randarts. So attempting to remove the curse from an artifact is again a calculated risk.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luneya View Post
What made old-school sticky curses really problematic was that scrolls of remove curse were rare items (or expensive from black market). Instead of eliminating non-artifact curses, an equally well-balanced solution under pre-rune id would have been to let remove curse scrolls be cheaply available at the normal item shop.

Perhaps that would be going too far under rune-based id, as the cursed items can easily be avoided after being discovered once. But if we're talking about having interesting cursed items, there's another obvious solution: nerf the sticky-curse. Instead of having cursed items stick until uncursed, have them stick for a few thousand turns. Then your average player can simply hang out someplace safe (like the town or lower dungeon levels) until it wears off. It'll be more challenging for players who are trying things like ironman or speed-running, but then life is supposed to be difficult for those folks.
I think with the approach I'm looking at the nerf will not be necessary. My thinking is (most of) the old cursed ego types will turn into sticky curses which will largely be seen early when easy to remove. And recognisable doesn't mean irrelevant - suppose you find a fairly early armor of Elvenkind with RPois and a vulnerability curse. You may want to wear it even if you can't easily remove the curse, and whether to attempt removal is an interesting decision.

I'm also thinking that curses involving stickiness will be in the minority.
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