Saturday, 18 June 2011

Just like a dirty, cheating player

One of the biggest challenges in Unangband when fighting some of the higher level uniques is their tendency to teleport away then heal themselves up. This extends fights because it forces the player to track the unique down again and continue - and is doubly challenging if the monster also has the ability to recover the mana points that they used up in the process of escaping. What can result is extend stalemates, where the player is unable to damage the unique quickly enough to kill them before they escape again.

There are plenty of opportunities to break these stalemates: deadly traps, cross-fire from other monsters that may be involved in the fight; but these mostly rely on the monster AI not being smart enough to recognise and avoid these additional threats.

The player is equally capable of using teleports and heals, and has the additional ability to flee up or down the stairs at any point (I've considered allowing uniques to do the same) to effectively reset the level. Teleportation can be a risky escape mechanism, because the destination may be more deadly than the current location, and healing may be overwhelmed by more damage the following turn and permadeath ensures that the player is punished for pushing their luck too far. But monster teleportation and healing is less risky, because the unique is in the position of having overall control of the level: there is no other faction he could teleport into which would threaten him, and the player usually lacks the means of ramping up damage even further (because otherwise he'd already be using it).

Allowing the player to summon monsters is one significant way of addressing this, but not every player is a spell caster capable of doing this. Letting warriors and thieves recruit armies or assassins is another possibility, but outside the scope of the game in the short term: and very much against the fiction of Angband which is a one-sided battle where you are the 'weaker' side. Druids are also capable of using spells to 'prepare the ground' and make part of the dungeon far more dangerous for other monsters. And other roguelikes offer anchor magic of various kinds which prevent both the player and nearby monsters teleporting to escape.

A trap that some Angband variants fall into is offering various abilities to drain monster mana, which since mana inevitably is converted into hit points by monsters which can heal, means that these items are effectively doing large amounts of damage - usually much larger than any other attack is capable of.

I think I have the balance of the above mix right for spell casters in Angband, but I'm welcome to more feedback. I'm more worried about whether I've missed anyway of balancing these abilities. I'd love to hear your ideas on other ways to fix this.

And for the record, I've always loved enemies turning around and using healing magics - Tenchu being the first game where an enemy ninja quaffed a potion just like I had been doing - because it makes you realise on many levels just how cheap, portable, instant, heal all magic can be.


Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

You mention letting uniques use stairs. This would be interesting but should probably be limited in some way. I brainstormed a couple ideas for this. First is only letting them go to levels that they can spawn at or below. My second idea is that only let them use stairs if they are chasing a player and see them use the stairs.

As for the balance of what you have I will agree it is quite good at the moment. Not perfect but I can't really think of anything to improve it off the top of my head.

asciidreamsfan said...

Well a simple and easy way to make the uniques easier, would be give a mana burn to all damage (instead of just X wands/spells)
While drastic, it should be easily balanced and manageable.

Grievous Wounds (anti-heal) debuff trait to wepons, maybe skills. maybe halve healing? or mana regen?

possibly just plainly cap the amount of heal a unique can to in a lifetime, or in a set amount of turns.

Paul said...

What about a "pursue foe" teleportation spell that drops you in the vicinity of the last monster to teleport away in your presence? Then you could relentlessly hound powerful uniques to their demise.

The unique does lose the ability to regroup and extend it attack. But if the AI takes allies into account, your foe might keep hopping across the dungeon until it's safe in a pack of monsters. The player then has to balance the extended cost of protected battles against the risks of following a foe into an orcish horde.

leoboiko said...

Now I’m wondering about a dungeon crawler roguelike with NO healing. at all. (which would mean, no HP upgrades either. the HP you get at the beginning is all you have.)

Antoine said...

The situation seems much worse in high level D&D where any serious opponent should be able to teleport out before it gets killed...


Andrew Doull said...

leoboiko: Desktop Dungeons changes the healing mechanic significantly to good effect.