Where’s my dowsing rod?

As some devoted players may have noted already, the Divinations school is gone: vanished, disappeared, no traces left. Actually, that’s not quit true, some traces are still there.

But one thing after the other — why did the developers, blessed with their insight and wisdom, remove a whole spell school? The main reason is that some effects are interesting and useful, but should never have been spells. Most former divination spells belong in this category, including: Identify, Detect Curse, Remove Curse, Detect Creatures, Detect Items, Detect Secret Doors, Detect Traps and Magic Mapping.

Here is why:

  1. All of these effects are not tactical. That’s the strongest indicator something is wrong with these spells. For example, use outside of battle means that the usual approaches for balancing spells won’t work: the MP cost is irrelevant and, for a slightly contrived example, one could go about casting Magic Mapping by taking off armour and using two rings and a staff of Wizardry.
  2. Magic Mapping and Detect Traps are easy to pick up, even for otherwise strict non-casters and extremely useful. Ideal play would demand to get these spells and use them on every level. So not only are these spells inherently unbalancable, they break the game. What’s worse is…
  3. Magic Mapping, Identify, Detect Curse, Remove Curse are copies of scroll effects. In other words, the accused spells remove interesting choices. Whereas the scrolls are valuable resources, the spells render them obsolete.
  4. Most of the spells were never used; they were only added to provide some flesh for an otherwise barren school.

To be fair, there are other spells that suffer from this affliction: Alter Self is a spell never used tactically and many Conjuration spells have doubles among wands or abilities. Nevertheless, the Divination spells in the dock stand out like sore thumbs, and the verdict was unanimous: eradication.

Luckily, a few spells from the rotten school proved to be better, and they escaped extinction: See Invisible (now Enchantments) is a good way to increase dedicated casters’ flexibility. Forescry (now Phase Shift, a Translocation spell) is the EV counterpart of the various AC boosting spells. These are both of tactical value.

What does that mean for your 0.6 characters?

First, trap detection is now only done by the Traps & Doors skill. Second, scrolls of magic mapping and detect/remove curse are more valuable; although the latter two could still stand to appear less often. There have been some related changes which are worthy of mention: active abilities like levitate, sense surroundings, teleport are no longer potential properties of random artefacts. The reason is similar to 1 above: players should not be encouraged to carry around weapons for purposes which are outside of combat. While the mapping mutation still exists, it now works in a passive manner. Most players will find this to be more convenient. Finally, no form of magic mapping will find secret rooms.

The future

Scrying into the more distant future, there will be a god centered around a divination theme. In a curious deviation from the normal design process, the name is already fixed: Ashenzari, and this god’s powers allow us to fix the bad effects incriminated above. Also, there may come additional consumables to provide ways to Detect Something. The most natural candidates are scrolls and miscellaneous items. However, play-testing with the Divinations school removed, it was quite obvious that the need for such items is not as pressing as one may have thought.

So, stash your crystal balls and rods of divination, and let’s get onto the Great Big List!

A note by the editor: many thanks to David Ploog for providing this piece on the removal of Divinations. Tune in next week for something (hopefully!) on the new Portal Vaults feature in 0.6.

We’ll start at commit 290637fc2afa3, where we left off last week.

Bugs fixed

  1. Some mouse slow-down has been resolved by reducing screen redraws.
  2. Shaft trails are no longer generated on non-shaft levels.
  3. Shopping list toggles now properly clear in-shops, while gold messages fit 80 columns when prices exceed thousands of gold.
  4. Melee noise no longer wakes hibernated monsters on the turn that they have been hibernated on.
  5. The shopping list symbol is now shown in the stash tracker shop inventories.
  6. The screen is updated before delayed god gifts, meaning that messages no longer appear before gifts are actually granted.
  7. Yellow draconians no longer have inherit resist corrosion.
  8. Trog no longer appreciates kills of non-spellcasting ghosts.
  9. Saint Roka now uses his special Messiah speech.
  10. Some vaults have been repaired.
  11. Tiles: mousing over areas out of sight no longer gives away undetected traps, needle tiles are now transparent instead of white background.
  12. Brilliance’s spelling in Troves has been corrected.
  13. Merfolk no longer enter water twice while in ice form.
  14. Monsters flying over unknown traps and related detection has been fixed.
  15. EV is redrawn after wielding weapons of evasion.
  16. Weapon inscriptions will now appear in the proper region of the screen in tiles mode, and should no longer cause crashes.
  17. The dungeon Lua item wrapper for egos has been fixed, “holy wrath” is now represented as such, instead of “hlywrath”.
  18. Ctrl-X should now display Unicode items properly, while Unicode book glyphs are properly encoded in command help.
  19. Ziggurat milestones are now generated through epilogue in post-generation hooks; this means that when a Ziggurat level fails to build for whatever reason, it will not generate upward of 35,000 milestones.
  20. Shift-targeting Evaporate no longer increases its reduced range, while you are always prompted if you target yourself with it.
  21. Bad line-break in the e’x'amine documentation has been fixed.
  22. The non-existent Lair branch is properly hidden in the overview, while D:1 is properly reported as being explored fully.
  23. The travel cache is now properly initialised before the ‘X’ map is viewed for the first time.
  24. Crashes no longer occur if you die to a beam whose thrower is already dead.
  25. Tiles no longer redraws as often while resting; this option is configurable using the tile_runrest_rate, and has reduced slowdown in resting.
  26. Nessos will now properly fire his bow at people; likewise other spellcasters now have a chance of starting with a range weapon which they will then use.
  27. An occasional crash when updating the monster pane with zombies in view has been fixed.
  28. Excessive Jiyva piety gain has been improved.
  29. Non-ego ponderous armour now uses the ponderous brand tile.
  30. An off-by-one error fix for background colouring has been reverted as it caused other weird background colouring issues.
  31. Tiles targeting mode performance issues have been fixed.
  32. Tiles not running with umlauts in the game path has been resolved.
  33. Killer klowns are properly treated as chaotic.
  34. Map knowledge is no longer inappropriately filled in the Abyss.
  35. Tiles no longer causes a delay on the last step of auto-travel, and beams targeting the player function correctly.
  36. Mummy death curses should no longer cause crashes when they kill a moving animal.
  37. Jiyva piety gain has been greatly improved.
  38. Tiles: it is no longer possible to scum Fulsome Distillation for endless amounts of water potions.
  39. Tiles: secret doors should now function properly both for vault-selected tiles as well as normal wall types.

Features changed

  1. Pandemonium levels now generate milestones.
  2. Current status and full fee are now displayed in relevant places for Trove portals, while the locking message is more explicit.
  3. Tiles: new (preliminary) tiles for teleporter vaults, rusted sewer portal.
  4. Monster-used shafts are now destroyed, while known shafts are safe for monsters.
  5. Butterflies no longer generate corpses.
  6. Shopping-listed items are no longer coloured cyan.
  7. Necromantic spells are no longer marked as empowered by Kikubaaqudgha.
  8. “Wandering” stationary monsters are described as “unaware”.
  9. Transmuter ghosts retain Evaporate as Mephitic Cloud.
  10. Overview display has been tweaked slightly.
  11. Tutorial spacing has been made consistent, and a description has been noted for monsters that do not have any resistances, while information on chunks making you sick has been included.
  12. Descriptions are no longer shown if pointing at floor/walls in targeting mode.
  13. Friendly monsters will no longer animate corpses that you are butchering, nor will they animate corpses while you are less than satiated.
  14. Animate dead now uses specific verbs instead of defaulting to “walking” when animating monsters that do not walk.
  15. Tiles: in-flight tiles for the new sling bullet types.
  16. Player ghosts speak properly now, instead of using default ghost speech, and they now optionally use speech dependent on their best skill.
  17. Smart monsters and natives will walk over unknown shafts without triggering, while stupid monsters will always trigger them, regardless of nativity; low weight monsters have a chance of escaping a shaft.
  18. Tiles defaults to using CSET_ASCII instead of IBM.
  19. Kraken tentacles are now water-only, and the speed of both kraken and their tentacles have been increased.
  20. Scrolls of detect curse now automatically identify, unless you have no items in your inventory.
  21. You are now prompted for saving macros when exiting the game, if you have actually changed them; this also applies to dying, quitting or escaping.
  22. Milestones are now generated for Labyrinths as well as Bazaars, meaning that all portal vaults generate milestones.
  23. Milestones now report the parent level that you entered from properly, thus, “FOO entered BAR (D:1)”, instead of “FOO entered BAR (BAR)”.
  24. All efreeti, including Azrael, now have flame trails.
  25. slouch no longer affects sleeping monsters.
  26. Island and atoll creation algorithms for Shoals have been improved.
  27. Tiles: demon pentagrams use a smaller icon in design.
  28. Skill training has been improved.
  29. Donald is no longer missing speech for Vehumet worshippers.
  30. Chaotic, like mindless, is mentioned when examining monsters.
  31. Experimentally, demon pentagrams are now coloured differently.
  32. Improved tile: hexagonal wall tile.
  33. The default low hit-points warning is now 30%, instead of the previous value of 10%.
  34. Alter Self now aborts, instead of failing, when your hit-points are too low to cast it.
  35. Terrain is now stored in map knowledge, meaning that it is possible to view what terrain is under a current cloud, while clouds are no longer copied to map knowledge; the key ‘|’ can be used to show just the terrain in e’x'amine mode.
  36. The credits have been expanded to specifically list some major contributions by past and current community members.
  37. New tiles: hive-shaped walls instead of rock walls for the Hive.

Other changes

  1. Documentation update: milestones are now used in epilogues, rather than the main Lua code chunk.
  2. Documentation for autofight.lua.
  3. Documentation has been updated to explain the difference between “any good_item” and “|” symbols.
  4. Combination of speech tags for Donald are no longer needed and have been removed.
  5. Makefile, debug, and wizard and some code improvements.
  6. Documentation: the new aptitudes system is explained further.
  7. A variety of placeholders have been added to dngn.png to allow for additions to tiles in 0.6.
  8. MONS_GHOST now exists and is the base type for ghosts, instead of MONS_PLAYER_GHOST being the base type for all ghostly creatures.
  9. Dynamic monster casts from actor have been replaced by actor::as_monster.
  10. New framework for portal debugging using x+”. This queries the “portal_debug” property of a marker, allowing the hooking in of specific debug functions, or simply returning relevant text values.
  11. Considerable tweaks to autofight.lua and the mons_info Lua wrapper.
  12. LuaJIT 2.x is now included as a submodule for testing purposes, though is currently not used by default.
  13. The stash_filter option now only affects the stash searching; filtered items are still stored, but are merely filtered out.
  14. There is now a maximum FPS rate limiter for tiles, and documentation about lag issues has been updated with possible solutions.
  15. Skill exercise and cross-training checks have been cleaned up and simplified.
  16. Casting spell source code has been improved.
  17. Dungeon Sprint has now been merged into the main repository.
  18. The tiles create guide has been updated.
  19. Debug information can now be generated for random monster spawns.
  20. Arena monster vetoing for Abyss monsters has been fixed.
  21. Major version has been increased to avoid compatibility issues with 0.6 saves.
  22. The identified/type check for dungeon Lua items has been improved.

That’s us up-to-date at commit 1696ef06816e705! Tune in next week for another big list, and, as mentioned above, hopefully something on recent additions to the realms of Portal Vaults.