A Species That Doesn't Need Books


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Post Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 15:53

A Species That Doesn't Need Books

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The Bikeshedders are an ancient people, doused in magic. Their innate talent allows them to learn spells as their skills progress, without relying on magic books.


The idea is that of a species that doesn't gain new spells through randomly found or gifted books. Instead, the player uses skilling to control what spells become available in his library. Once the spells are in the library, they have the usual prerequisites for learning and casting (slots and failure rate).

One of the aims is that of allowing certain playstyles without having to rely on book gods to make up for the rarity of certain spells. Certain backgrounds also need new spells before Lair, when, probably, only Kiku will have gifted new books. So e.g. Wizard can get alternative conjurations or hexes or summons, and VM can get Poison Arrow. Transmuters can play Cheib or Dith and be sure to find lvl 6 transmutations and upwards, and so on.

How do they get access to new spells?

There are many ways in which this can be done; I prefer options 1 and 4.

Option 1: As one of the school skills increases, they gain access to all spells of that school. (elegant in simplicity)

Option 2: As the spellcasting skill increases, they gain access to all spells. (it is also simple, but could be overwhelming, so I would avoid it. Plus the whole "no brainer" thing.)

Option 3: As they level up, they gain access to all spells. (setting the right rhythm in a way that is easily understandable would be difficult. Also overwhelming)

Option 4: A combination of the previous ones: you gain access to spells by e.g. 1/2 spellcasting + school skill. This is the one that would imo work best mechanically, allowing access to higher level spells at lower levels IF the player is interested into putting some skill into making them available by investing in spellcasting. At the same time, you gain a pool of lower level spells available from schools you didn't specialise in.
How would higher level spells be made available? My idea is, e.g. (the numbers need fine tuning):

skill level 0 unlocks level 1 spells
skill level 3 unlocks level 2 spells
skill level 6 unlocks level 3 spells
skill level 9 unlocks level 4 spells
skill level 12 unlocks level 5 spells
skill level 15 unlocks level 6 spells
skill level 18 unlocks level 7 spells
skill level 21 unlocks level 8 spells
skill level 24 unlocks level 9 spells.

With option four, for example, you would need fire magic 18 to unlock ring of flames, or fire magic 12 + spellcasting 12. How high INT is would probably play a role in choosing how much to train spellcasting (because of spell power + spell success), but I suspect that these mechanics are unclear to most players (they aren't all that clear to me, too).

How do they interact with spellbooks?

I prefer to cut them off from spellbooks, because the two mechanics overlap too much. Also, by the time the spell would be safely and reliably castable, it would also be available by skilling. Maybe an exception can be made for randart books, but I am not sure that it makes sense.
I also thought about allowing them to use books, and forcing them to learn a spell of a certain school from a book to be able to progress in that school and autonomously get to other spells of that school. This would make starting backgrounds more important and choosing new spells to learn somewhat less overwhelming (otherwise, you would be able to learn any lvl 1 spell at game start, which means choosing from a dozen spells).

Please discuss!
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Post Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 18:54

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Since you need skill in order to cast high-level spells anyway, there seems to be little practical difference between this species, and a species that simply starts with all spells in its library.

This also seems like a species where every game is going to be pretty much the same. If you're aiming to win you'll just get whatever spells are the strongest in the current version, every time, because you don't need to rely on books to find them. It's this fixity that makes me hate Gn, and I think this species would probably be even worse in that regard.

Therefore, I suggest more randomization. Training fire magic unlocks random fire spells. Training earth magic unlocks random earth spells. You might get conjure flame and LRD at skill level 4 or you might not get them until skill level 27 (or perhaps not at all).

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Post Wednesday, 2nd May 2018, 21:02

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

I'd say combining the concepts along with Duvessa's. Learn spells when you level up, based on your skilling. You will not obtain all spells... apart from perhaps a 15 rune game. Like a Felid's lives, one would keep learning new spells past lv27 at appropriate EXP intervals that you could check with whatever that archaic self-examine key is. (E? @?)

I do like the concept. Even with nerfs where you will not expect to learn a huge portion of spells, you -can- expect to advance far with a main spell school or two WITHOUT having to choose Veh/Sif/Kiku to do so reliably. You have a good chance of finding appropriate spells at a reasonable pace and your god choice is flexible. It's notably more difficult to branch into multiple schools of magic for individual high-payoff spells like Reflect Missiles, and somewhat even for low-level spells like mephitic cloud, blink, and conjure flame; you can't find a spell and then train the school, as you must train the school in order to "find" the spell! (This is arguably a good thing, granting a tradeoff and making the casting experience significantly different)

So instead of casters often picking up the most useful spells of many schools, this species would likely want to focus on going all-in on a few specific fields of magic, and not just to conserve exp.

This species should be able to train any magic school without knowing an appropriate spell beforehand, for obvious reasons.

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Post Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 20:14

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

If rarity of certain spells is a problem, then I would say that new books should be introduced, or book rarity values altered so the liekelyhood of a certain spell is equalised across the spell level, rather than an attempt to brainstorm a new species.
If certain backgrounds need new spells before lair (only VM comes into mind to be honest), then the problem will be best resolved by changing the start book or background, rather than an entirely new species.
As pointed out, the isn't much practical difference to the proposal to simply starting out with knowledge every every spell, so randomization is proposed, but randomization would achieve the exact same effect as crawl plays right now with all species.

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Post Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 21:30

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Adding randomness seems counter to the point of the species; if adding randomness really is the best solution then this species is almost useless
I'm with tasonir on this one.

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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 05:59

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Midn8 wrote:Adding randomness seems counter to the point of the species; if adding randomness really is the best solution then this species is almost useless
Do you think Ds is almost useless because its mutations are random?
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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 06:22

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

VeryAngryFelid wrote:
Midn8 wrote:Adding randomness seems counter to the point of the species; if adding randomness really is the best solution then this species is almost useless
Do you think Ds is almost useless because its mutations are random?

The point of the OP was to have spell unlocks be deterministic instead of random :
Shtopit wrote:The idea is that of a species that doesn't gain new spells through randomly found or gifted books. Instead, the player uses skilling to control what spells become available in his library.

Making the spell unlocks random goes directly against the main point of the species. The Ds mutations are random (and imo a good feature) but are also out of the scope of this thread.
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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 06:52

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

I am trying to say that it is a good idea to give random spells. For instance, if you earned to get a level 3 fire spell, it can be one of Conjure Flame, Ignite Poison or Inner Flame. If you earned a level 5 fire spell, it can be either Fireball or Bolt of Magma. Giving all those spells is IMHO bad, giving always the same spells (Conjure Flame and Fireball I suppose) is also bad.
When there is just a single Fire Magic spell at specific level, you get it of course (Throw Flame is the only level 2 Fire Magic spell, for example).
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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 13:22

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

OK, thank you VAF, I hadn't understood what you meant. This is a kind of randomization that maybe can work with this design idea. I say maybe, because I think of a school like Necromancy, where you have very different spells that work for very different playstyles, which is a different matter from "power". At the same time, it would partially solve the problem of what to do with schools like conjurations, which has around 35 spells.

There's also that it might cause you to get a spell like "ignite poison" because of the fire component, but no poison spell.

Another problem of early randomization is startscumming. IIRC, the most important reason why draconians mutate at level 7 is that it's far enough removed from the start to make startscumming more difficult.

Duvessa's randomization suggestion is problematic, because it is too similar to how the game already works. It does have some differences, but there are too many odd cases. One is the chance of never getting spells above level 5. The opposite is also problematic, getting the high level spells too early, and dying because you can't cast them, or having to improvise a character as if based on an alternative background. Another one is how to handle massive schools like necromancy, compared to little schools like transmutations: would you be guaranteed to get all transmutations, or would there be a % chance of spells you don't get, independently from school size?

It's true that Crawl has huge balance problems, which are made worse by how these balance problems are marketed as difficulty settings. And a species like this is very much exposed to this problem. In theory, one could say that not everyone chooses Trog, not everyone always plays Minotaur, and so on. But this is because of different playstyles, which is more important than relative power. The problem with spells is that many of them do exactly the same thing from a playstyle point of view, but some do it much better than others. Mystic Blast vs Throw Icicle is a good example. So I understand Duvessa's worry, at least when it comes to spells that give the same playstyle.

An option could be that of giving the species the option of choosing only a certain number of schools whose spell to unlock. For example, you get three schools total. You choose the first one at level 1, the second one at level 6, and the third one at level 12. Those are all the spells you are getting. Memorization is limited by slots, and casting by skills, encumbrance, and stats, as usual. Exceptionally weak schools could come in a bundle (although I can't think of any other than poison); or you could always start with poison unlocked, since, otherwise, no one would choose it. Some schools could be random; they don't need to be all of them. The question, then, is how to handle a huge school like conjurations, and how the species would relate to mage background selection. (maybe conjurations could count as 2 schools: if you choose conjurations, you can't choose a third school. The medium size of a school is around 15 spells.)
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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 14:24

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

To me, this sounds more like a god proposal than a racial one, it sounds a lot like a different take on Sif's spellbook gifting.
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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 20:15

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Imho if you just stuck with option 1 or 4, but required the player to know all of the spell schools, then you can avoid the conjurations having 35 spells problem. You'd have to know both conjurations and fire to get bolt of fire, and bolt of cold won't show up to a player with 0 (or low) ice magic.

I'd personally go with option one but make level 1 and 2 spells free, and then 3 * (spell level - 2) for the rest. Basically your method just one more free level at the start. This would make it easy to get any spell you want, ie, you don't have the limitation of having to randomly find spells. I can understand the issue duvessa has with this, but I consider it a benefit. I don't mind if players want to repeat the same build on one of 27+ races. Letting one race have deterministic access to spells helps people like me who are stubborn and stuck in our ways :)

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Post Friday, 4th May 2018, 23:51

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Also, if the intention is to grant access to spells you have the skill for, why not just grant access to all spells you have under an arbitrary spell failure percentage for (presuming you weren't wearing any armour, and didn't have brilliance or wizardry active, as nobody wants to have to take off body armour just to get access to more spells) something like say 25-30% or so.
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Post Saturday, 5th May 2018, 00:00

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Yea, that method would work just fine as well. The system is largely the same but "You can memorize any spell that would be < 25% failure" is very simple and elegant; it's much easier to communicate to players. One line, one comparison needed.

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Post Saturday, 5th May 2018, 01:38

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Right, I guess that it would also simplify the relationship with starting background. So, if you are an ice elementalist, you start off with 3 ice magic and 1 conjuration magic, will be able to memorize throw frost as soon as you hit level 2, and will have a little head start when it comes to memorizing ice spells.

The library panel probably should have an option to show unlocked spells, and see what schools they belong to. Probably a search function too, or a way to show by school. I haven't played trunk lately, but I believe that at least the search function has been implemented for the spell library.
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Post Monday, 14th May 2018, 09:14

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

duvessa wrote:Therefore, I suggest more randomization. Training fire magic unlocks random fire spells. Training earth magic unlocks random earth spells. You might get conjure flame and LRD at skill level 4 or you might not get them until skill level 27 (or perhaps not at all).

It is called VEHUMET.

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Post Monday, 14th May 2018, 23:46

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Species with random components are extremely fun to play. Demonspawn's randomness is what makes it by far the most liked species. Therefore I +1 the idea that not all spells are unlocked, but only a random subset (or at least in a random order that takes >15runes to "complete").

The problem with this suggestion is that randomly unlocking a subset of spells is functionally very similar to randomly finding books.

I think you need to find a way to make this species have randomness in what spells are available without the feature being a cosmetic copy of random book generation.

Here's one proposal: the species starts with all spells memorised and all spell skills "locked" (cannot be trained). Starting from XL2 and every 5 XL after, one spell skill is unlocked. There could be some detail around this. For example the unlock for a skill could happen in increments (first unlock lets you train to level 7, second to 17, third to 27). The spell schools could be "tiered" so you get "better" unlocks later in the game.

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Post Tuesday, 15th May 2018, 19:06

Re: A Species That Doesn't Need Books

Shtopit wrote:OK, thank you VAF, I hadn't understood what you meant. This is a kind of randomization that maybe can work with this design idea. I say maybe, because I think of a school like Necromancy, where you have very different spells that work for very different playstyles, which is a different matter from "power". At the same time, it would partially solve the problem of what to do with schools like conjurations, which has around 35 spells.

As an alternative example of this, if I'm training a melee unarmed character on this race and I level up earth to get a level 6 spell, I'm going to be very upset to get iron shot instead of statue form. If I train transmutations I might get hydra form instead of statue form, which is at least appropriate for the character build, but suffers a power level problem.

I'd be totally fine with it rolling iron shot vs statue form, but I'd want to keep training earth and eventually get the second one. If the second one is never gifted at all, you're basically doing the same thing as just rolling random books on the ground, and I don't see how this changes much.

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