Too many game developers fall into the trap of making warriors re-skinned wizards: that is, the warrior class ends up have a list of special moves that in most respects acts identically to a magic user's spell book. There may be some overt themeing: the warrior may end up using themselves as a weapon, with more of an emphasis on buffing, but in all other respects, the abilities fall into the same categories that I talked about in the Designing a Magic System series of articles - the chief culprit of which is a screen or menu showing a list of abilities to pick from.
There are several ways around this. I've talked previously about using positional game play to trigger warrior abilities - by having special moves activate when a warrior moves twice in a single direction (charging), moves laterally (dodging) or stands still (blocking). Flend's DDRogue, reviewed by John Harris in his latest @ Play column extends this concept to a host of different special moves which are triggered by a combination of single moves. The weakness of this approach, as John points out, is that it is very hard to convey where in a move the player is currently using the user interface of a roguelike. In a fighting game, 'subcell stance' - such as whether a fighter is standing, crouching or jumping, is intuitively conveyed using graphics. A roguelike designer does not have this luxury.
Another key issue is a warrior's limited ability to flee a fight. Mages are given an automatic out in the form of teleport spells, which allow them a variety of tactical options for moving around the battlefield. To duplicate this in Unangband, a warrior ends up carrying a large number of different items - as highlighted by Bandobras in a recent Unangband ladder dump - which drags them back into the pick items from a list camp of game play.
I've tried several approaches to this. My initial thoughts were around letting the player manipulate whether they wanted a half-cost move versus a full cost move. A half-cost move - to reflect running around the battlefield - would allow the warrior to move around dynamically but incur a movement debt which would have to be paid off later. This movement debt appears in Unangband currently as fatigue, which slowly accumulates if the player is moving unusually (through water, mud or other terrain; highly encumbered; hasted) and encourages the player to periodically rest by causing them to eventually faint if they do not do so.
The problem with half-cost moves is the user interface overhead in order to be able to take advantage of them. I initially went with a modal approach, where the player would always prefer half-cost moves unless searching, which made the mental book keeping required to move far too high - you'd have to rest far too frequently while simply moving around the dungeon if you were in the wrong mode. A bucky key approach, where a modifier key such as Ctrl or Shift is used to indicate a half-cost move, overloads the user input requirements.
I like the semi-realtime approach that Wayfarer uses, simply because it emphasises mashing the keys to move quickly. From this post on rec.games.roguelike.development:
Basically yes -- it "feels" real time because different speeds areUnfortunately, messing with timings in a roguelike is something that has to be done very carefully, as time sequence is something core to the balance of the game.
shown as different npc-slide-rates, and they complete their current
move if you idle. So you can outrun a glormbeast if you're holding
the movement key down, but if you're doing a tap-think tap-think
process it will stay at your heels.
The other option is to allow the player to push monsters and terrain around. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic has a kick option which, although horrendously overpowered, allowed you to kick your enemies into nearby terrain. Similar cinematic inspiration suggests that letting a certain class of martial artist warriors leap acrobatically around the terrain as in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
But both these options require a command based interaction system, as opposed to a simple bump, which starts to stretch warriors back into the pick from a list mode of gaming that I'm trying to avoid.
Thus the dilemma I'm in. Any suggestions?