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Old December 5, 2011, 16:24   #1
Derakon
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Revamping combat

(This thread is a response to Magnate's post in the roadmap thread)

One quick question: when are light weapons like daggers and whips expected to be used? The classes that are bad at melee (especially priests) are currently encouraged to use heavy weapons to get as much damage as they can out of their weak stats. If you disallow heavy weapons for them in the name of creating a use for lightweight weapons, then you've really made the early game hard for them. On the flipside, if heavier weapons are still allowable, then I can only see lightweight weapons getting used in edge cases ("Wow, this dagger is badass!") or as stat sticks ("I'm never going to swing this whip, but who cares? It has +4 INT!").

If you're going to marginalize light weapons for the warrior types, then the only way I can see to making them still have a relevant place in the game is to make artificial class-based restrictions, which basically amount to "rogues and rangers get bonuses when using light weapons". Personally I really like how combat works basically the same for every class though, so I'd rather not see that happen.

I still don't think the lightweight-weapons thing is as big a deal as some others here are making it out to be, since it generally only rears its head in the early game for race/class combos that can really push their STR and DEX. That sounds like a chargen issue to me (or possibly an issue with how blows are calculated), not a combat balance issue. But if you're going to fix this, then you need to have a plan in mind for all of the weapons. If there's no room in your design doc for a character that wants to use daggers, then something's wrong.

Incidentally, to-hit does affect criticals at some level, IIRC. You can drink Heroism / cast Bless and see your damage numbers increase slightly, even though they only affect your to-hit, not your to-dam.
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Old December 5, 2011, 16:36   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
If you're going to marginalize light weapons for the warrior types, then the only way I can see to making them still have a relevant place in the game is to make artificial class-based restrictions, which basically amount to "rogues and rangers get bonuses when using light weapons". Personally I really like how combat works basically the same for every class though, so I'd rather not see that happen.

I still don't think the lightweight-weapons thing is as big a deal as some others here are making it out to be, since it generally only rears its head in the early game for race/class combos that can really push their STR and DEX. That sounds like a chargen issue to me (or possibly an issue with how blows are calculated), not a combat balance issue. But if you're going to fix this, then you need to have a plan in mind for all of the weapons. If there's no room in your design doc for a character that wants to use daggers, then something's wrong.
I'm happy to agree with you there. I don't think there's anything wrong with everybody using light weapons - even warriors - in the early game. But IMO warriors need to grow out of them a lot more quickly, while other classes do so at slower speeds.

I think you are in a minority about liking combat being the same for all classes: at least, changing that is a fairly fundamental aim for v4. Rogues in particular should fight in a different way to warriors. If I recall d_m's views correctly, they were about making STR and DEX much more significant in choice of weapon, so rogues would lean towards dex-based weapons (fast and/or complicated, if not all necessarily light), while warriors would prefer str-based weapons (big, heavy, slow things[*]). One of the issues with this is that STR is such a universally important stat, for both +dam and carrying capacity, that we'd need to look at this too.

[*]EDIT: of course, if we get this right, there's no reason you can't build a dex-based warrior instead of a str-based one ...
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Incidentally, to-hit does affect criticals at some level, IIRC. You can drink Heroism / cast Bless and see your damage numbers increase slightly, even though they only affect your to-hit, not your to-dam.
You are right, I had forgotten. It's a smaller effect than it ought to be, though.
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Old December 5, 2011, 16:52   #3
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Originally Posted by Magnate View Post
[*]EDIT: of course, if we get this right, there's no reason you can't build a dex-based warrior instead of a str-based one ...You are right, I had forgotten. It's a smaller effect than it ought to be, though.
That's fine. I want the same combat rules to apply to everyone. They're free to make differing decisions based on their own situation. Everyone shouldn't have the same optimal approach, but they should all be playing by the same rules.

So sure, if you want to make rogues much more DEX-heavy, and tweak combat so DEX and STR are opposite sides of the same coin, that'd be fine. Artificially saying "rogues get bonus damage when using weapons <5 pounds" is the kind of thing I'm arguing against.
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Old December 5, 2011, 19:33   #4
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Many games make weapons relevant by restricting or heavily penalizing use to some classes. For example, D&D which angband is based off of, restricted priests to blunt weapons, and restricted mages to daggers, darts and quarterstaves. Similarly, rogues and rangers could not wear heavy armor, mages could only wear robes. In this way light weapons are useful because certain classes are restricted to using them.

I think outright restrictions are a very bad idea for angband, but penalties are a good idea. We already have these in place, with mages getting a SP penalty if their armor is too heavy, and priests getting a penalty for using a sharp weapon. We could add to the penalties/bonuses. Paladins could get a bonus using heavy weapons, Rogues for light weapons, warriors are very good at all weapons, etc. Mages get a penalty for heavy weapons, priests for sharp weapons. I don't have specifics for how this would work, just a general idea.

There's yet another option which involves going back to splitting AC into absorption and evasion. I tried this once, and it didn't make much difference. But I know why, and can adjust accordingly. The effects refactor will help this.

The general idea is the following. Let's say you have two weapons. A dagger and a war hammer. With the dagger you get 3 blows per round with an average damage of 10 per blow, for 30 damage per round. With the hammer you get 1.5 blows per round with an average damage of 18 for 27 damage per round. The dagger is the better weapon for damage output. Now, let's say that you're fighting a monster that absorbs 6 damage every time you hit it. The dagger now only gets 4 damage per blow and 12 per round, and the hammer gets 12 per blow and 18 per round. The war hammer comes up on top for battling armored creatures. This gives a distinction between light and heavy weapons. You could envision early on having an edged weapon that does no damage to many monsters.

In addition, you could imagine monsters being hard to damage with certain types of weapons. Jellies could be strong to blunt weapons, skeletons to edged weapons, and I'm sure someone could come up with a class of monsters that would be strong to piercing weapons.

Lastly, you could envision monsters that are immune to all physical damage, and only take damage from magical pluses and brands. Making these monsters painful to warriors, but a piece of cake to mages. High HP monsters like orc groups are easy for warriors but hard for mages.

I don't actually think that asymmetric LoS, pillar dancing, etc. I also don't care about off-weapon bonuses distinction. Although I would like to distinguish between magical pluses and non-magical pluses.
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Old December 5, 2011, 19:44   #5
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Originally Posted by fizzix View Post
I think outright restrictions are a very bad idea for angband, but penalties are a good idea. We already have these in place, with mages getting a SP penalty if their armor is too heavy, and priests getting a penalty for using a sharp weapon. We could add to the penalties/bonuses. Paladins could get a bonus using heavy weapons, Rogues for light weapons, warriors are very good at all weapons, etc. Mages get a penalty for heavy weapons, priests for sharp weapons. I don't have specifics for how this would work, just a general idea.
The armor restriction applies to everyone equally (well, except warriors, who of course have no mana to lose). Mages arguably care the least about it since they have the most mana; their bugbear is being slowed by the sheer weight of their gear, not being unable to cast spells in it. And the priest sharp weapon penalty is IMO stupid and should go.

Mages already get penalized for heavy weapons because they're too weak to wield them effectively. That's the kind of "penalty" that should be in the game. Not a penalty which is some distant DM going "Says here on this character sheet that you're a mage, so you get -1 to damage for each pound your weapon weighs over 3." That's not playing fair, to me -- the rules should be equal for everyone, just their starting circumstances are changed. If you stumbled into high-STR gear for your mage and want to wield heavy weapons, sure, go for it.

Which isn't to say I'm arguing for some "everyone's a blank slate with the same ultimate potential" type of system. We currently have class-based skills that dictate effectiveness in a large number of areas and that seem to work fairly well. But they're broad overarching things; warriors suck with all magic devices. Priests suck with all ranged combat. And so on. Narrowing things down by item subtype is the kind of thing that bugs me.

Quote:
There's yet another option which involves going back to splitting AC into absorption and evasion. I tried this once, and it didn't make much difference. But I know why, and can adjust accordingly. The effects refactor will help this.

<snip>
The only concern I have with this approach is finding a way to make it meaningful without devolving into "everyone carries a swap weapon for when their main doesn't work." Otherwise it sounds like an excellent idea. ISTR that SAngband has weapon damage types and monsters that resist those types, as you described; trying to kill e.g. a skeleton with anything beside blunt trauma was an exercise in frustration.
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Old December 5, 2011, 20:18   #6
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Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Mages already get penalized for heavy weapons because they're too weak to wield them effectively. That's the kind of "penalty" that should be in the game. Not a penalty which is some distant DM going "Says here on this character sheet that you're a mage, so you get -1 to damage for each pound your weapon weighs over 3." That's not playing fair, to me -- the rules should be equal for everyone, just their starting circumstances are changed. If you stumbled into high-STR gear for your mage and want to wield heavy weapons, sure, go for it.
How do you feel about extra shots for rangers?

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The only concern I have with this approach is finding a way to make it meaningful without devolving into "everyone carries a swap weapon for when their main doesn't work." Otherwise it sounds like an excellent idea. ISTR that SAngband has weapon damage types and monsters that resist those types, as you described; trying to kill e.g. a skeleton with anything beside blunt trauma was an exercise in frustration.
I don't see a way around this. Everything about making different weapons better in different situations screams "swap." For warriors it would probably be swap weapons, I don't see a way around this. I don't think it's bad for gameplay though.
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Old December 5, 2011, 20:36   #7
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How do you feel about extra shots for rangers?
I don't play rangers often, so it hasn't really occurred to me to think much about it, but now I'm inclined to think that shot speed should work broadly like blows per round -- that is, the rate at which you can fire the weapon is a function of your dexterity (to notch and aim), your strength (to draw / crank the bow), and the weight/multiplier of the bow (larger weight -> heavier draw -> more strength needed to draw quickly). Obviously this would need fractional shot speed to be remotely balanced.

Warriors getting innate protection from fear at clvl 30 is also problematic...there my main concerns are that a) warriors are nigh-completely neutered by being frightened, and b) their inventory is already strained by not having any spellcasting ability. Still, everyone else who wants fear protection just carries !Heroism (or, rarely, finds gear with the relevant protection). It won't hurt the warriors overmuch to have to do likewise.
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Old December 5, 2011, 21:05   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
I don't play rangers often, so it hasn't really occurred to me to think much about it, but now I'm inclined to think that shot speed should work broadly like blows per round -- that is, the rate at which you can fire the weapon is a function of your dexterity (to notch and aim), your strength (to draw / crank the bow), and the weight/multiplier of the bow (larger weight -> heavier draw -> more strength needed to draw quickly). Obviously this would need fractional shot speed to be remotely balanced.

Warriors getting innate protection from fear at clvl 30 is also problematic...there my main concerns are that a) warriors are nigh-completely neutered by being frightened, and b) their inventory is already strained by not having any spellcasting ability. Still, everyone else who wants fear protection just carries !Heroism (or, rarely, finds gear with the relevant protection). It won't hurt the warriors overmuch to have to do likewise.
So I think your "rules should be the same for everyone" approach is actually quite a bit more radical than we intend v4 to be - but in the opposite direction!

I'm not sure that the meaningful variety that I think is necessary in combat skill is adequately achieved by having the rules the same for everyone bar overarching high-level skill differences. But I respect your concern that having class-specific penalties 'just cos' feels wrong. So how would you feel about a hybrid: let's say that some weapons rely purely on STR (big hammers/maces) while others rely purely on DEX (daggers, whips) and others on both to differing extents (flails, swords, etc.). But instead of using the stats directly, we use a 'skill' level derived from each stat (let's call them smashing skill and wiggling skill, respectively - so hammers need smashing skill and daggers/whips need wiggling skill). There's no reason that every class needs to have the same smashing skill at a given STR, is there? You can see warriors being better with hammers than mages, even with the same STR, right? Similarly rogues would have higher wiggling skill than warriors, at the same DEX. Does that work for you?

Fizzix is right about swap weapons btw: *Everybody* in Sang carries either swap weapons (warriors) or other attack forms (spells/devices) to deal with monsters that resist their main weapon. In fact the design of O and its descendants explicitly expects warriors to carry multiple weapons. But yes, I really like the idea of some monsters being more/less vulnerable to specific types of damage. Not sure whether we want to go further than just blunt/sharp - the distinction between slashing and puncturing might be more trouble than it's worth ...
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Old December 5, 2011, 21:47   #9
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I'm not sure that the meaningful variety that I think is necessary in combat skill is adequately achieved by having the rules the same for everyone bar overarching high-level skill differences.
Certainly a reasonable concern. Right now I'm mostly just spouting off my feelings, without any eye towards implementation details. Obviously feelings have to bow to what is practical to implement.

Quote:
But I respect your concern that having class-specific penalties 'just cos' feels wrong. So how would you feel about a hybrid: let's say that some weapons rely purely on STR (big hammers/maces) while others rely purely on DEX (daggers, whips) and others on both to differing extents (flails, swords, etc.). But instead of using the stats directly, we use a 'skill' level derived from each stat (let's call them smashing skill and wiggling skill, respectively - so hammers need smashing skill and daggers/whips need wiggling skill). There's no reason that every class needs to have the same smashing skill at a given STR, is there? You can see warriors being better with hammers than mages, even with the same STR, right? Similarly rogues would have higher wiggling skill than warriors, at the same DEX. Does that work for you?
That's certainly a lot better than direct class-based weapon restrictions, because it's more organic. The fact that rogues are better with light weapons than with heavy ones is unchanged, but instead of simply stating the fact as a premise, it is derived from simpler premises. I much prefer emergent behaviors over fiat "this is how things should be" rulings.

Your breakdown sounds pretty reasonable. For better names, how about "weapon finesse" and "combat power"? Skill is a function of race, class, level, and (DEX for the former, STR for the latter).

Branching out a bit more, you could make blows be a function of your finesse skill and how much finesse contributes to the weapon, while damage per blow would be a function of power skill and how much it contributes to the weapon. So for example, a maul might get a 4x multiplier to damage, but still only make 1 blow per round; a whip might get 4 blows per round, but would have no multiplier to its damage. So characters with high finesse but low power will tend to make multiple light blows per round, while characters with high power but low finesse will make single, heavy blows.

You could also make finesse affect your to-hit chance regardless of weapon, while power affects your critical quality regardless of weapon. The nice thing about this is that us re-cast the to-hit bonus on a weapon as its modifier to your finesse skill (and likewise with damage and your power skill). The same would of course apply to off-weapon bonuses.

Quote:
Fizzix is right about swap weapons btw: *Everybody* in Sang carries either swap weapons (warriors) or other attack forms (spells/devices) to deal with monsters that resist their main weapon. In fact the design of O and its descendants explicitly expects warriors to carry multiple weapons. But yes, I really like the idea of some monsters being more/less vulnerable to specific types of damage. Not sure whether we want to go further than just blunt/sharp - the distinction between slashing and puncturing might be more trouble than it's worth ...
In hindsight, that's to be expected -- if there's a common situation in which a swap weapon gives significant tactical advantages, then players will carry swap weapons. I'm always paranoid about losing them to elemental attacks, is all...
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Old December 5, 2011, 22:04   #10
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Perfect - thank you. If I just keep bunging you questions you'll have the whole new combat system sorted out in no time ...
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