Backgrounds & aptitudes


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Tomb Titivator

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 02:51

Backgrounds & aptitudes

Backgrounds being purely starting package is intended.

(from "Make all stats useful for all chars")

This quote (and the thread in general) got me thinking. What if backgrounds mattered more? I have two goals:
  • Reduce the ability for different chars to converge given enough XP (meaningful choices, anti-farming)
  • Increase the constraints (and therefore flavour) of backgrounds (replayability)

Here's an approach I've been thinking of:
  • Backgrounds modify apts
  • Aptitudes affect max skill level

For modifying apts, this approach is pretty simple. You'd have some modifiers like this:
  • Fighter: +1 Fighting -1 Spellcasting
  • Berserker: +2 Weapon Skill -1 Stealth -1 Evocations
  • Wizard: +1 Spellcasting -1 Fighting
  • Fire Elementalist: +1 Fire, -2 Ice
The size of the apt tweaks and these specific apt tweaks were made up by me in ~30 seconds, so excuse their insanity.

I think this would have major impact throughout the game. MiBe gets +3 weapon skill! DeWz gets even glassier cannony. In general, taking a background that aligns with your intended playstyle would make the game easier, while making it harder to train out of that playstyle.

For modifying max skill levels, I was thinking something like this:
  • +2 apt (or more): max skill 27
  • +1 apt: max skill 22
  • 0 apt: max skill 20
  • -1 apt: max skill 18
  • -2 apt (or less): max skill 15
Again, I made these numbers up, they're pretty dumb.

The impact of this is harder to define. It's much more game-length dependent. Some characters (MiFi 3-rune) wouldn't notice. Some definitely would (TrBe 15-rune, wanting to wear heavy dragon armour with a 15 skill cap).

Any thoughts about the goal in general (backgrounds matter more) or the idea in specific?
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Pandemonium Purger

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 03:05

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

My first thought was that [+X apt: max skill level = 22+X] would be slightly less deranged.

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 03:07

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

This seems like an attempt to turn backgrounds into a second species. I'd say background is already about as strong of a contributor to winnability as species is (see: IE), and I don't think making backgrounds and species do more of the same things is an improvement to either - why not merge them into "Select Playstyle" at that point?
chequers wrote:Aptitudes affect max skill level
A maximum skill level of 22 means that executioner's axes become worse than battleaxes at max skill. That sounds intuitively bad to me.

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 04:17

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

Background should only affect tangible items: it should determine your starting equipment, where your skill points were distributed, and possibly who you decided to worship before starting the game; it should never affect anything innate.
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Tomb Titivator

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 06:19

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

This seems like an attempt to turn backgrounds into a second species.
A more generous rephrasing of this I'd agree with!

A maximum skill level of 22 means that executioner's axes become worse than battleaxes at max skill. That sounds intuitively bad to me.
I sort of like the idea of species with less than great apts at something being unable to use the best items in that category (see also bardiche, firestorm, et al). But it would be a problem for some species who have only 0 or +1 apt in their "core skill" (like DD for axes, or Tr for UC, or some Dr for Fire).

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 07:45

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

chequers wrote:Reduce the ability for different chars to converge given enough XP (meaningful choices, anti-farming)


Personally, I think there are much better ways to stop characters from converging. The main reason characters converge right now is, I think, due to the ridiculous amount of experience available in extended. A 15-runer can easily get a huge number of skills up to the 15-20 range (more if they do any Ziggurats), which lets them basically due a bit of everything. I don't think there's an issue with 3-runers converging. Rather than set strict limits on what a given character can do, I'd rather solve the issue of extended giving characters enough experience that they can learn to do everything. I see three ways to do this:

1. Reduce the amount of experience in extended.

2. Add more things to spend experience on, or reasons to spend larger amounts of experience on existing skills, so that even the huge amount of experience in extended isn't enough to do everything.

3. Add mutually exclusive ways to spend experience. Right now, the main mutually exclusive decisions you make in character development are god, race, and equipment. Maybe there could be other mutually exclusive decisions involved that differentiate characters with enough experience to train every skill. But I'd rather it be a new decision that happens late game - I think turning background into that decision is uninteresting, since you already make the other two major decisions - race and god - at the same time. But adding new mutually exclusive options late game would stop late game characters from being able to do everything.

chequers wrote:Increase the constraints (and therefore flavour) of backgrounds (replayability)


DCSS's emphasis on adaptation over planning and min/maxing in character development is one of my favorite parts of it. I love the way finding the right spell book or weapon or whatever, especially early in the game, can completely change the course of your character's development. It's a huge part of the game's replay value. Putting constraints, especially late game constraints, on characters can really hurt that and encourage everyone to just stick with their background's role.

To that end, I think increasing the constraints on backgrounds would actually be a massive, massive decrease in the game's replayability. Sure, it guarantees a DEFE plays differently from a MiFi, even lategame, because it's basically impossible for the MiFi to cast Firestorm or the DEFE to get an executioner's axe to min delay. But the problem is, now you're also guaranteeing that you never end up with the DEFE who, for whatever reason, ends up wielding an executioner's axe, or the MiFi who manages to get Firestorm online. I think the fact that those things can happen in DCSS right now is awesome.

Those are extreme examples, but the point is that while increasing the constraints on backgrounds ensures that characters with different backgrounds play differently, it also increases the likelihood that characters with the same background will play the same way. And that sucks, in my opinion.

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 07:56

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

I don't think we should worry about characters becoming similar in the extended game. That part exists purely so that players can do more things with characters that already could have won.

If we think that 3-runing characters are too similar, then there should be less intrusive ways to address that. As Quazifuji says, the original proposal removes choices, and that's not good.

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 17:36

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

Lots of things going on here, but I feel like commenting on all of them ;)

1) I wouldn't mind backgrounds modifying aptitudes, although I'd keep it fairly small, like +1 to main skill, -1 to something else. Maybe we could get monk with +1 UC and then you'd finally have a +2 UC race in the game ;)

2) Limiting max skill levels based on aptitudes is pretty terrible. It's rare, but sometimes you really do need that skill at 27 (or at least 25). Part of me really wants some way to break the max skill level of 27, but it wouldn't be terribly balanced.

3) XuaXua - backgrounds affect your stats pretty strongly, so it does affect something 'innate'.

4) character convergence/too much exp: I don't think characters tend to converge in basic 3 rune games, but they certainly do if you 15 rune. I think that's appropriate, and pretty well designed. I do want my 15 rune 1 zig character to be able to pick up level 9 spells and melee, that's something that a lot of people really like. It certainly isn't necessary, but neither is the > 80 AC+EV score I usually go for.

In short the aptitude tweaking might be interesting, although it does suffer a bit from adding complexity, which it may not be worth. I wouldn't mind playing around with it, though :)

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Post Monday, 1st June 2015, 17:46

Re: Backgrounds & aptitudes

duvessa wrote: I'd say background is already about as strong of a contributor to winnability as species is (see: IE)


Yeah, truth is the backgrounds determine your playstyle already. But they do so for only as long as it takes you to find stuff in the dungeon that provides you with options.

IE is great, because it gets you out of early-D intact. By the endgame its 6 and half a dozen beyond the stats as tasonir pointed out. I dont think anyone can claim an XL 27 IE has any advantage over any other bg. You might argue if they have lvl 27 Ice Magic, but anyone can get that, bg is genuinely moot by games-end. All the 27 IE has is a definate Book of Frost somewhere.

I like that most of my characters end up vaguely the same. They come from different places and approach the same goal. Which is not 'the way a character should be built', but 'the way I build characters'. The fact that we all converge onto specific schools/spells and weapons is because they are strong, and at the end of the day we want to win. Yet for each differant background I have a couple of new options to play with all the way to the lategame. I only just trained summonings, for probably the first time ever on my 17th win. And loved it, and might well include it in my 'cookie-cutter' plan for future runs because I loved abjuration and haunt that much. Its all about adapting to what you find, changing directions when something interesting drops. If I were penalised more for straying from the path I'd play an even shorter list of backgrounds.

The backgrounds I currently find most restrictive and play least, are the ones that already try to railroad you in this fashion. Zealots, hate em, 'cos I'm stuck with a god (and im not much of a fan of the deitys represented by zealots).
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