Background attributes


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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 20:30

Background attributes

Currently the attributes (str, int, dex) that you start the game with are determined by both species and background. Species contributes between 18 (ghoul) and 34 (demigod). Background always contributes 12. The background contributions are as follows:
  Code:
Be  9 -1  4
Fi  8  0  4
Gl  7  0  5
AK  4  4  4
CK  4  4  4
Sk  4  4  4
Ar  4  3  5
Hu  4  3  5
AM  3  5  4
Wr  3  5  4
As  3  3  6
Mo  3  2  7
Tm  2  5  5
AE  0  7  5
Cj  0  7  5
EE  0  7  5
En  0  7  5
FE  0  7  5
IE  0  7  5
Ne  0  7  5
Su  0  7  5
VM  0  7  5
Wz -1 10  3
(Wn stats are randomized)
It is typically said that backgrounds are supposed to be "starting packages", rather than "classes" that prescribe a specific "playstyle" for the entire game. But backgrounds determining your attributes is contradictory to that. Attribute points are one of the most permanent things in the game. They cannot be gained except by leveling up, and they cannot be lost. They cannot be rearranged except with Jiyva, and even that rearrangement is usually detrimental. Every non-Jiyva character is stuck with their background's attributes forever, and the impact of this carries into the late game, as str and int have strong, direct effects on spell success and spell power.

I think this is a problem. Backgrounds shouldn't have far-reaching, essentially permanent effects like that. Therefore, I suggest removing the background contribution to starting stats, so that species is the only thing determining your starting stats, and adding 4,4,4 to all species' starting stats. This has obvious balance implications, so here is the background list with the changes in starting stats that would result from this change:
  Code:
Be -5 +5  0
Fi -4 +4  0
Gl -3 +4 -1
AK  0  0  0
CK  0  0  0
Sk  0  0  0
Ar  0 +1 -1
Hu  0 +1 -1
AM +1 -1  0
Wr +1 -1  0
As +1 +1 -2
Mo +1 +2 -3
Tm +2 -1 -1
AE +4 -3 -1
Cj +4 -3 -1
EE +4 -3 -1
En +4 -3 -1
FE +4 -3 -1
IE +4 -3 -1
Ne +4 -3 -1
Su +4 -3 -1
VM +4 -3 -1
Wz +5 -6 +1
AK, CK, Sk, Ar, Hu, AM, Wr, As, Mo, and Tm are not significantly affected.
Be is significantly nerfed. I see no problem with that.
Fi and Gl are nerfed. Ever since getting might, Fi has had a decent early game, and Gl's early game isn't awful, so I think this is okay.
All mage backgrounds are significantly nerfed. Since these are strong backgrounds I think that's fine.
Wn loses an axis of variance. However, I contend that this axis wasn't a satisfying one in the first place. Starting with no spells and all your stat points in int is not particularly fun or interesting.

So as a whole, balance-wise, this is a player character nerf that mostly targets strong backgrounds, and nerfs them for the entire game, not just the early game. That sounds like a good thing to me!

If you want to get fancier, the amount added to species doesn't need to always be 4,4,4. If DE are supposed to have really low str you could give them 0,7,5.

(Yes, removing attributes would solve this problem just as well, but that won't happen soon.)

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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 20:57

Re: Background attributes

Is it a problem that background has permanent effects on the character?

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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 21:10

Re: Background attributes

Having different background attributes is a good thing, because it makes characters more different from each other. They also don't prescribe a specific playstyle, they just guide you to some direction.

Removing the background contribution to starting stats would make the game more boring imo.
DCSS: 83: ...FoGl}DgEnFeNe{OpGlHuSu}DDArHaCKSpAEGrTmDgFEDsCjGhMoHuVM
{HaAMBaEn}{HuMoHOWn}DsWzDDHu{DgWnGnBe}FeIE{MiEnMfCj}SpNeBaEEGrFE
{HaAKTrCK}DsFESpHu{FoArNaBe}FeEE{HOIEMiAE}GrGlHuWrGnWrNaAKBaFi{MiDeMfDe}DrAK
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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 21:23

Re: Background attributes

Sprucery wrote:Having different background attributes is a good thing, because it makes characters more different from each other. They also don't prescribe a specific playstyle, they just guide you to some direction.

Removing the background contribution to starting stats would make the game more boring imo.

I like the idea of backgrounds being a starting toolkit, as they commonly presented, as opposed to an endgame-reaching determinant of your characters' spellcasting ability. I've always felt it was strange that people glossed over the stat differences.

Now, that doesn't mean the proposed fix is the only one. As duvessa states, they could be rolled into species and varied in that domain, making species differentiation stronger. They could be chosen by the player as they level in addition to "normal" stat gains every 3 levels. (Maybe species stats could be across-the-board nerfed, background stats could go away, and you could just get a stat-up every level. This would be...elegant at least, though a relatively big nerf to early-game characters.)

I'm not sure how I feel about the proposed fix, but I agree it's a problem, and one I've felt was serious for a long time but didn't take the time to write up so nicely. I''d have been a lot more likely to take a book start for "mostly-melee" characters if the stats had been congruent with that.

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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 21:49

Re: Background attributes

Troll gets 15/4/5 so currently TrBe is 24/3/9 and TrWz is 14/14/8. By the proposal, both would be 19/8/9. I really think differentiation is a good thing.

If the problem is just the concept of backgrounds as mere starting packages, let's just stop saying that phrase. I honestly think that is is a good thing that backgrounds are a bit more than just starting packages.
DCSS: 83: ...FoGl}DgEnFeNe{OpGlHuSu}DDArHaCKSpAEGrTmDgFEDsCjGhMoHuVM
{HaAMBaEn}{HuMoHOWn}DsWzDDHu{DgWnGnBe}FeIE{MiEnMfCj}SpNeBaEEGrFE
{HaAKTrCK}DsFESpHu{FoArNaBe}FeEE{HOIEMiAE}GrGlHuWrGnWrNaAKBaFi{MiDeMfDe}DrAK
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Post Wednesday, 10th May 2017, 22:22

Re: Background attributes

chequers wrote:Is it a problem that background has permanent effects on the character?
DCSS tries to have meaningful strategic decisions with at least some emphasis on adaptation. That's why the skill system and levelup attribute choices exist, and I presume why things like scarves and new amulets are added. Making your background prescribe a major part of your long-term strategy on turn 0 takes away a lot of potential depth. Species suffer from the same problem, but while almost all aspects of species have these permanent effects, backgrounds only give you nigh-transient stuff (weak items and low skill levels) aside from attributes and gods. Making the starting attributes unbiased would lead to richer gameplay for the non-zealot backgrounds because they would no longer have that long-term bias. Biased species and unbalanced options would remain biased and unbalanced, obviously, but getting rid of background attributes is still a definite improvement; think of how much more interesting Hu and Ds warriors and mages would become!

If you view Crawl's strategy as boring anyway, then there's no particular problem with background attributes aside from clarity and weakening the distinction between species and background.

Sprucery wrote:I really think differentiation is a good thing.
Of course differentiation is a good thing in a vacuum, but in many cases it comes at an expense. DE skill training and HO skill training are very different from each other, because one ignores about 40% of the skills in the game and the other one ignores a different 40%, but it's not a stretch to say that Hu skill training offers just as much variety as both of those put together, and much more difficult and interesting decisions. It's the same thing with backgrounds: starting stats actively discourage wearing heavy armour on Wz and getting conjurations on Fi. This makes the two backgrounds more different from each other, but it reduces the differentiation and variety in the actual characters that result from them.
Your starting items dictating your strategy for the first few floors of the game is a necessary evil as long as characters depend on items, and backgrounds are a good way to stop D:1 from being excessively samey without encouraging startscumming (as a random initial inventory/skillset would). But they don't need to dictate your strategy for the rest of the game, and ideally they wouldn't. (Why else would "adaptation" be such a common buzzword in DCSS development?) That's why starting books don't have high-level spells.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 00:45

Re: Background attributes

I like it. Maybe there could be a monk-equipment-like background in which you choose to be dexterous or strong or smart, although it would mostly benefit non-mages (because finding books is hard).
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 01:51

Re: Background attributes

I do not think there is any contradiction between "starting package" and "permanent effects". As a simple example: if you start with a book, the book is permanently yours. Similarly, the few levels you get in your starting weapon will forever be with you (leaving aside Ash).

Let's take a more moderate version of the proposition: the stat distribution has major and long-term effects on the character (much more than a book or starting weapon, say). Is this a bad thing? I am not sure about that. The (ideal) aim of different backgrounds is to start you off at different points, and then it is up to you how you go from there.

Leaving aside things like Be, there is typically some flexibility in how you go through the game. Species is of course a big thing (which you made before the game, so it doesn't count). God choice matters a lot. In the very early game, you are typically playing to survive; so of course you have to develop your character in a certain way (assuming that you don't get a very good drop that allows you to ignore the sunk costs and switch to some other path; and if you aren't something like a Troll, in which case you play in the same way no matter what your background is). Afterwards, when you have more breathing room and more options, you can diversify. I am not sure how this situation can be any other way.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 04:38

Re: Background attributes

I think this is a problem. Backgrounds shouldn't have far-reaching, essentially permanent effects like that.


If you accept this premise, then your solution is a sound one. I happen to disagree with this premise.

Some backgrounds having some permanant-ish effects that skew (but don't wholly determine) how you build your character increases the variation of play available for a *given race* at the expense of making a given combo lean towards less variation.

This actually turns out to be a pretty good deal, variation wise. a HOWz plays differently than a HOGl in part because of the attribute differentiation, given the same set of attributes for backgrounds, TR** for example would all play even more similarly than they already do.

That your attributes support your starting kit is reasonable and, I think, preferable. I would personally find it annoying as crap if my spellcasters all started with 10-12 int, mostly because the spell failure rate with 10 int would mean a more annoying amount of kiting. Obviously more changes could go in to obviate the negative effects, making it more palatable, but I don't see why it's preferable.
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 04:39

Re: Background attributes

This is a step toward removing stats entirely.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 05:44

Re: Background attributes

Another direction I'd been considering was making stats more mutable, but I haven't been able to come up with a satisfactory way of doing this. It's also probably not a good idea with where stats are at the moment, looking at how trivial level-up stat choices usually are.

Maybe the random stats you gain as you level up could be class-dependent, resulting in the same final stat spread regardless of class? (Berserkers start with more Str but gain more Int by level, Wizards start with more Int but gain more Str by level)

(still has some weirdness when Ru starts messing with the level cap)

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 06:04

Re: Background attributes

Characters are a combination of a species and a background, which defines a semi-unique starting package for each combo that will determine a lot of the choices they make through the whole game... Seems good to me.
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 06:09

Re: Background attributes

bel wrote:if you aren't something like a Troll, in which case you play in the same way no matter what your background is

And even currently, with TrWz at 14/14/8, you can use the book and play the game differently than with a fighter-type Tr. If TrWz would be 19/8/9, this would be much worse.

I have said it before and I'll say it again: opening up (almost) all species-background combos was one of the best design decisions in DCSS. Now, for example, if book starts didn't get extra int, it would make low-int species book starts just ignore spellcasting mostly and just play like a fighter anyway. In effect, so called challenge combos would get harder and/or more boring.

Rast wrote:This is a step toward removing stats entirely.
In effect it would be also a step towards removing some character combos.
DCSS: 83: ...FoGl}DgEnFeNe{OpGlHuSu}DDArHaCKSpAEGrTmDgFEDsCjGhMoHuVM
{HaAMBaEn}{HuMoHOWn}DsWzDDHu{DgWnGnBe}FeIE{MiEnMfCj}SpNeBaEEGrFE
{HaAKTrCK}DsFESpHu{FoArNaBe}FeEE{HOIEMiAE}GrGlHuWrGnWrNaAKBaFi{MiDeMfDe}DrAK
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 09:24

Re: Background attributes

This is a significant Trog's buff (do not confuse with Berserkers). I disagree with crawl's idea that Fighter can become Wizard before Lair and vice versa. What's the point of backgrounds then? Just to have unique style on first 5 floors before DEFi finds any book or HOWz finds any axe and plate armour? First skill levels are very cheap, you can get the same skills with Fi and Wz before Lair.
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 14:00

Re: Background attributes

The odd of Fi finding Minor Magic (or any starting-level book, really) before lair are pretty damn slim. And then you get to decide if you want to get those spells castable (maybe ditching your armour and shield?) rather than getting better at using the gear you started with.

I guess it seems like going Fi -> Wz early sounds like a terrible plan even if the floor god allows it, but I can't see any particular reason why crawl should forbid it.

I'm generally agreed with the OP; if that solution is too drastic I'd wholeheartedly endorse, say, halving the impact of background on stats.
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 14:27

Re: Background attributes

It's about variability. Every Tr plays the same (melee), now we can have the same for HO (melee), Ce (ranged), DE (magic), Mf (hybrid) etc.
Also as others wrote, it would make some combos almost unplayable. I wouldn't even try playing MiWz as Wz or TrFE with Fire Storm in 3 runes game in the new crawl.
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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 16:45

Re: Background attributes

The opening post looks awfully similar to the trend of "deem X insignificant/too significant -> nerf/trivialize X -> deem X too uninteresting in its new form -> remove X" which is bad and anyone forcing it should feel bad about it.

I've had to stop myself from including a few knee-jerk reactions in this post, so let me say it simply: I see absolutely nothing wrong with backgrounds having a permanent effect on the game. What's more, I wouldn't even mind if these effects applied to aptitudes as well. If you remove or even out stat boosts of backgrounds, it will really only hit spellcasters, making melee even more of a thing for most species. Every race can rather easily play melee, but not every race can easily play a spellcaster after all.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 22:11

Re: Background attributes

Backgrounds shouldn't have far-reaching, essentially permanent effects like that.


Since people don't agree on this statement, it seems like it should be the focus of conversation.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 22:35

Re: Background attributes

VeryAngryFelid wrote:Also as others wrote, it would make some combos almost unplayable. I wouldn't even try playing MiWz as Wz or TrFE with Fire Storm in 3 runes game in the new crawl.


How high of a priority should the balance of challenge combos actually be, though? If you're not allowed to make changes because it'd make some of the most suboptimal builds non-viable, you lose a whole lot of wiggle room in adjusting anything non-viable. Would you be against removing the total amount of XP in a 3-rune game, for example, because then you might not be able to play MiWz "as Wz"?

On the fence about the proposed changes (though I'm leaning towards in favor), but "the race with the worst spellcasting apts and second-worst int in the game may not be able to get a level 9 dual-school spell online in a 3 rune game" doesn't seem like too much of a loss.

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Post Thursday, 11th May 2017, 23:16

Re: Background attributes

Gigaslurp wrote:
VeryAngryFelid wrote:Also as others wrote, it would make some combos almost unplayable. I wouldn't even try playing MiWz as Wz or TrFE with Fire Storm in 3 runes game in the new crawl.


How high of a priority should the balance of challenge combos actually be, though? If you're not allowed to make changes because it'd make some of the most suboptimal builds non-viable, you lose a whole lot of wiggle room in adjusting anything non-viable. Would you be against removing the total amount of XP in a 3-rune game, for example, because then you might not be able to play MiWz "as Wz"?

On the fence about the proposed changes (though I'm leaning towards in favor), but "the race with the worst spellcasting apts and second-worst int in the game may not be able to get a level 9 dual-school spell online in a 3 rune game" doesn't seem like too much of a loss.

A level 27 draconian FE with exactly 27 levels worth of XP gets with 28% conjuration/fire 14% spellcasting/fighting/dodging and nothing else has the following spellcasting success rates for firestorm:
11 int: 28%
15 int: 22%
19 int: 16%
23 int: 12%
28 int: 9%
33 int: 6%

A difference of 4-5 int does make a fair bit of difference...
For reference this is with the following for skills:
  Code:
20 fighting
17.4 dodging
17.4 spellcasting
24.6 Conjurations
24.7 Fire magic
1.7 stealth (starting value)

I'm not sure how relevant it is since level 9 spells aren't really the thing to do in a 3 rune game, but Dr are often thought of as one of the better spellcasting races.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 00:25

Re: Background attributes

There are stats-boosting items in the game, though. They would become more relevant.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 03:45

Re: Background attributes

I believe VAF was talking about Vehumet wizardry (and perhaps another source of wizardry which you're likely to find by the time you learn a level 9 spell).

I agree that it is not the most pressing concern (for me at least).

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 06:58

Re: Background attributes

Gigaslurp wrote:How high of a priority should the balance of challenge combos actually be, though? If you're not allowed to make changes because it'd make some of the most suboptimal builds non-viable, you lose a whole lot of wiggle room in adjusting anything non-viable. Would you be against removing the total amount of XP in a 3-rune game, for example, because then you might not be able to play MiWz "as Wz"?

On the fence about the proposed changes (though I'm leaning towards in favor), but "the race with the worst spellcasting apts and second-worst int in the game may not be able to get a level 9 dual-school spell online in a 3 rune game" doesn't seem like too much of a loss.


You are right, it is not my primary objection, just a secondary effect, that's why I wrote it last in my message. As some old taverners probably remember, I am proponent of late game characters being as different from each other as possible, that's why I dislike suggestion in the OP so much.
Still you can see from my objection that casting characters will be much closer to melee characters and I hope everyone agrees it is a bad thing. Previously DEWz would need to join Chei if they wanted to use CPA found before Temple, now they just use it almost as fast as Fi. Previously HuFi would need to put bonus points into Int if they wanted to use a conjurations-based book found before Temple, now they just use it almost as fast as Wz. It is not adaptation to loot, it is lack of long-term strategic decisions IMHO.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 07:36

Re: Background attributes

Gigaslurp wrote:
VeryAngryFelid wrote:Also as others wrote, it would make some combos almost unplayable. I wouldn't even try playing MiWz as Wz or TrFE with Fire Storm in 3 runes game in the new crawl.


How high of a priority should the balance of challenge combos actually be, though? If you're not allowed to make changes because it'd make some of the most suboptimal builds non-viable, you lose a whole lot of wiggle room in adjusting anything non-viable. Would you be against removing the total amount of XP in a 3-rune game, for example, because then you might not be able to play MiWz "as Wz"?

On the fence about the proposed changes (though I'm leaning towards in favor), but "the race with the worst spellcasting apts and second-worst int in the game may not be able to get a level 9 dual-school spell online in a 3 rune game" doesn't seem like too much of a loss.


It isn't really about viability of edge cases so much as an overall reduced ability of characters to specialize and an increased similarity of all characters of a given species. I don't think there is a reason to make a change with this result unless the player's ability to choose a specialization when they select a character badly needs to be nerfed.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 07:47

Re: Background attributes

I have the feeling that there are two approaches to crawl.

One kind of player likes to play it as a role playing game, selecting some imagined figure and try to play as such, like Troll FE played as FE, etc. They want to have backgrounds far reaching effects, because it makes the roles available at the start more varied, and it also makes it possible to reach their goal, because the far reaching effect of the background helps them to play as they want - as "wizard", "fighter", etc.

On the other hand there is the rougelike promise that the game is randomly generated and every game is different based on this - it is not the same variance as duvessa ha pointed out. To increase this variance backgrounds should have really minimal effect, and the game should not give you a clear path to build your character however you want.

These two goals are contradictory. I think it would do better to the game if we select which one we want to satisfy, and let the other group of players choose a different game that suit their needs better.

The only middle ground I can think of is mostly what duvessa suggested: decrease the backgrounds impact, instead increase species impact. This at least let somebody play as a "fighter" and "mage" if they choose the appropriate race: Mi, DE, etc, but there could be races (like human, demigod, mummy) where the rougelike aspect is stronger. But yes, it should discourage MiWz "played az Wiz", etc.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 08:17

Re: Background attributes

sanka wrote:The only middle ground I can think of is mostly what duvessa suggested: decrease the backgrounds impact, instead increase species impact. This at least let somebody play as a "fighter" and "mage" if they choose the appropriate race: Mi, DE, etc, but there could be races (like human, demigod, mummy) where the rougelike aspect is stronger. But yes, it should discourage MiWz "played az Wiz", etc.


I agree with the rest of your post except this. Let's not "fix" what's not broken. You still can join Trog and burn your book with every Tr and Mi in current crawl, it is even optimal and we agree that there are players who like it and who dislike it. Let's just not make it optimal to do the same weird thing with half of other species. Or do you want to buff HuWz or HOFE in some special way to make joining Trog/Oka/Makhleb and going almost pure melee suboptimal for them? Because I cannot see why new HOFE should not join Trog if it has the same Str/Dex and aptitudes in Armour/Axes/Fighting/Dodging as HOGl.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 08:34

Re: Background attributes

Sorry, I wanted to reply instead of thank (altough thank you for replying) - but I do not agree.

The question for me is what is the point of having a "Mi" race in crawl. If it is a roleplaying game, than it is perfectly acceptable that you want to play a muscular guy with horns, and it is acceptable to roleplay it as a wizard, etc - it is common to roleplay these condratictory types, muscular wizards, fragile elven warriors, etc.

However, if it is a strategic rougelike, than it is clear that the whole point of a race like this is to strongly encourage certain playstyles and discourage others. Since it is the whole point, I do not see any problem making it stronger a little bit, if it helps to reach other goals in the game. And this is the important part - duvessa did not proposed to nerf roleplayed MiWz, that's just a sideeffect which I personally do not care too much. The point of the proposal is to strengthen the rouge like aspect of balanced races like Human.

Again: I think that the roleplay and rougelike aspects are contradictory, and if you strengthen one of them you most likely weaken the other one. Either you can decide how to train your character or you need to adopt to the randomly generated dungeon.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 08:48

Re: Background attributes

sanka wrote:However, if it is a strategic rougelike, than it is clear that the whole point of a race like this is to strongly encourage certain playstyles and discourage others. Since it is the whole point, I do not see any problem making it stronger a little bit, if it helps to reach other goals in the game. And this is the important part - duvessa did not proposed to nerf roleplayed MiWz, that's just a sideeffect which I personally do not care too much. The point of the proposal is to strengthen the rouge like aspect of balanced races like Human.


But MiBe/MiFi/MiGl will become weaker, not stronger! Also we are reducing ability to play brutal Mi who does not care about magic because new MiGl will have easier time branching into magic. That's basically like making every species more similar to Hu. Also I don't think the point of having Mi is to make MiWz play like MiFi.
I dislike idea of breaking 20+ species to make Hu more interesting. Hu is one of my least played species, I dislike it. Basically in current crawl everyone can find combos which they like, be it HuXX for guys who like to adapt or MiWz as Wz for those who like to role-play. I don't think it still will be true in new crawl.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 08:51

Re: Background attributes

If this change gets implemented, the backgrounds should be removed entirely, leaving only a choice of starting equipment, so that it's apparent that you're not playing a Hill Orc Fire Elementalist, you are playing a Hill Orc with no weapon and a fire spellbook. I think it's a horrible idea, of course, but at least it'd make things clearer if you really have to go with it.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 08:59

Re: Background attributes

VeryAngryFelid wrote:I dislike idea of breaking 20+ species to make Hu more interesting. Hu is one of my least played species, I dislike it. Basically in current crawl everyone can find combos which they like, be it HuXX for guys who like to adapt or MiWz as Wz for those who like to role-play. I don't think it still will be true in new crawl.


I think that the current crawl is very strongly biased toward the roleplaying aspect. There are very, very rare cases where "adapting" is good move if you try to win and try to follow the strongest path. (One is to join Kiku who can change you into a necromancer.) This is true for human and demigod as well.

I also think that "breaking 20+ species" is really not true. They would play fine.

About the weakening of MiBe: duvessa mentioned in the OP that you can change the starting attributes of the species. If you do not want to weaken it for whatever reason, you can make it even more biased towards strenght, and make DE even more biased toward Int, to the point where a current MiBe or DEWz is. The whole debate is not about weakening or strengthening specific combos, but to limit the long term effect to races, so that you can choose a balanced one.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 10:04

Re: Background attributes

I'm in principle alright with making backgrounds less strategy-determining, but I'm not convinced that just levelling the background contribution is the best answer.

As a, hasty, alternative I would suggest to reduce starting stats (it might be necessary to compensate) and give players more stat choices on level-up. Perhaps over the first 5 levels the player can catch up to the total starting stats used to give, but now with more choice.

I realise that in practice book starts would be better off choosing Int, etc. It would allow players to play all races in whatever direction they want to. Of course all directions are not equally powerful, but I don't think that's a problem.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 10:32

Re: Background attributes

Here comes a longer post.

Removing or trivializing backgrounds leads to melee being a much more common playstyle and spellcasting being limited to only a few select species, with some schools being only one race gimmicks. Current background stat bonuses ensure that spellcasting is a more viable alternative and at least sometimes more desirable than melee/physical combat in general. So what happens if you remove those bonuses? Let's go race by race, with a preferred playstyle listed after theoretical background removal/trivialization.

Ba: melee
Ce: physical ranged (bow/polearm)
DD: melee
DE: magic (conjurer, elementalist)
Dg: melee
Ds: melee
Dr: melee
Fe: magic (enchanter, conjurer) or hybrid
Fo: melee
Gn: hybrid
Gr: melee
Gh: melee
Ha: melee
HO: melee
Hu: melee
Ko: melee or physical ranged
Mf: melee
Mi: melee
Mu: melee
Na: melee
Op: anything
Og: melee
Sp: magic (enchanter)
Te: melee or hybrid
Tr: melee
Vp: hybrid or magic (enchanter)
VS: melee
This list assumes no god influence; if you want to count gods in, just put melee everywhere because of Trog.

Wow, that's very varied. Now, a lot of species can still choose other playstyles. Tengu make great conjurers. Draconians make good mages. Gargoyles make great earth elementalists. Several species make okayish mages in general. The problem is, for all of them their main options are still better. Compare HuFi to HuCj for example. Melee is better because it doesn't have a resource. As long as you have HP, you can attack, whereas with magic you're limited by MP, with additional malus of spell failures (even more so with hexes). Lower Intelligence means even less of the resource and bigger malus (lower spell success chance), whereas lower starting Strength doesn't matter nearly as much because ring mails and light dragon scales are a thing.

Furthermore certain playstyles are very bad for a lot of races. Most notably Enchanters are terrible because of much bigger spell failure chances; it's not fun to be faced with a 50% success chance of Confuse while having 8 MP. The good Enchanter species are those who can easily reset the fight while also having great Hexes apts: Spriggans, Felids and Vampires. As a rule of thumb you don't ever bother with Hexes if you aren't En/AM because with average Int you need to train them up to 11 (literally) to match hexing wands power in an average game (i.e. assuming some Evocations investment, around 6-8).

Hybridization is a thing, but the spectrum of useful spells is painfully low. Summoning, Necromancy, Translocations are the holy trinity and even in those schools there are spells that are much better than others. Extended introduces a few more spells that are still optional. This leaves out the entire elemental magic and conjurations (unless you fancy training for things like Ring of Flames or Irradiate). Transmuters are in their own category but should be probably counted as gimmicky melee rather than an actual hybrid; there are no species that are better at being transmuters than at being plain meleeguys anyway simply because the latter require less experience.

So, again, why do we want to buff melee as a playstyle? Is it underpowered?

There was an argument thrown somewhere above that we could tweak the numbers on attributes. You'd have to really mess around with them to make melee worse or at least on par with spellcasting because of melee's resourceless nature. Spellcasters have to bother with MP, two kinds of spell failure and in some rare, edge cases food as well (I was actually close to running out in my Gn^Zin win recently) and finally the burden of micromanagement (luring, positioning, breaking the fights etc.), whereas meleeguys at worst will have to deal with the positioning and luring, not caring at all about all the rest.

You need a big reform of other things before you remove attribute bonuses from backgrounds/"equipment starts". Play some Wanderers or Chaos Knights of different races. It's melee galore, rarely any Wn or CK will bet on spellcasting until well into late game.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 16:03

Re: Background attributes

Or the toolkit for heavily stat dependant starts could just be buffed in some minor transient way that encorages and enables staying with spells.

I'm still pretty fond of the skill unlock chests and weaker consumables/minor book buffs are reasonably easy to add if this does force a significant upswing in meledudes.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 16:07

Re: Background attributes

@Leszczynek : I must admit I do not understand your post. This proposal does not seem to be a melee buff to me and not about melee vs magic.

Also I think that mage starts are stronger than melee starts. It's true that melee biased races are stronger than magic biased ones, and melee biased gods are far stronger than magic biased ones. Yes, and berserker is strong.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 16:24

Re: Background attributes

In almost every discussion about strategic depth, a large part of the discussion revolves around but fails to acknowledge the competing interests of within-run and between-run differentiation (mentioned upthread).

This discussion follows that trend, the suggested change would -- depending on knock-on changes -- increase the former at great expense to the latter. It is true that for some heavily specialized species like minotaurs the existing between-run strategic depth is minimal, but that just makes MiWz a terrible example, it doesn't support the change.

MORE IMPORTANTLY it would ruin one-and-winning, which is the only fix for those of us in checklisting withdrawal after finishing the greatlists.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 16:32

Re: Background attributes

zackoid wrote:MORE IMPORTANTLY it would ruin one-and-winning, which is the only fix for those of us in checklisting withdrawal after finishing the greatlists.

...

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 17:24

Re: Background attributes

People keep talking about MiWz, which seems like one of the least importantly affected characters by a change like this... What about HuWz, GhNe, NaFE, HOFE, GrEE, OgWz... All the average spellcasters who would take a big hit to early ability. The effect would be pretty large so it can't be waved away as a side-effect... So why implement such a change unless the goal is explicitly to nerf these characters?

What I am saying is that the change is proposed to fix a problem that is purely theoretical/aesthetic (seeking ideal conceptual framework for what a background should be) but whose main effect is a nerf to player's ability to choose specialization when playing the game. So the purpose is immaterial and the "side-effects" are the bulk of the actual effect...

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 17:32

Re: Background attributes

yesno wrote:People keep talking about MiWz, which seems like one of the least importantly affected characters by a change like this... What about HuWz, GhNe, NaFE, HOFE, GrEE, OgWz... All the average spellcasters who would take a big hit to early ability. The effect would be pretty large so it can't be waved away as a side-effect... So why implement such a change unless the goal is explicitly to nerf these characters?

I disagree - if anything the current stat balance heavily encourages a single playstyle for, say, HuWz. Despite the race's balanced toolkit and the hybrid background, you're pretty much pushed into light armour because of your stats. Getting decent str would be a nice buff.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 17:43

Re: Background attributes

johlstei wrote:
yesno wrote:People keep talking about MiWz, which seems like one of the least importantly affected characters by a change like this... What about HuWz, GhNe, NaFE, HOFE, GrEE, OgWz... All the average spellcasters who would take a big hit to early ability. The effect would be pretty large so it can't be waved away as a side-effect... So why implement such a change unless the goal is explicitly to nerf these characters?

I disagree - if anything the current stat balance heavily encourages a single playstyle for, say, HuWz. Despite the race's balanced toolkit and the hybrid background, you're pretty much pushed into light armour because of your stats. Getting decent str would be a nice buff.

So play a skald... :p What I'm hearing here is "wizards are too wizardy". But that's totally beside the point anyway: If you wanted to have a discussion about wizard balance, you could do that in earnest... It's confusing to evaluate it as an effect of a sweeping change to character attributes.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 17:58

Re: Background attributes

yesno wrote:
johlstei wrote:
yesno wrote:People keep talking about MiWz, which seems like one of the least importantly affected characters by a change like this... What about HuWz, GhNe, NaFE, HOFE, GrEE, OgWz... All the average spellcasters who would take a big hit to early ability. The effect would be pretty large so it can't be waved away as a side-effect... So why implement such a change unless the goal is explicitly to nerf these characters?

I disagree - if anything the current stat balance heavily encourages a single playstyle for, say, HuWz. Despite the race's balanced toolkit and the hybrid background, you're pretty much pushed into light armour because of your stats. Getting decent str would be a nice buff.

So play a skald... :p What I'm hearing here is "wizards are too wizardy". But that's totally beside the point anyway: If you wanted to have a discussion about wizard balance, you could do that in earnest... It's confusing to evaluate it as an effect of a sweeping change to character attributes.

...Wizard is a hybrid background and that's why it's relevant. This change is a big improvement for people playing hybrid backgrounds, who wish to have a different playstyle between the beginning and the end of the game. Right now, because of stats, if you wanna mainly go melee by vaults or something, you're gimped if you picked wizard, even if it's starting equipment and skills are perfect for the start of the game. This change opens up choices like early-game caster/end-game melee by not hamstringing you with inappropriate stats for the other playstyle.

The same argument applies for skald so you can pretend I said that if you don't believe that the book start with wide variety of "toolkit" spells no higher than level 3 is a hybrid by design.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 18:04

Re: Background attributes

One other thought: what if, every two levels starting at level 3, you got the ability to move a stat point from one category to another. So, over the course of your game (assuming you make it to XL27), you would eventually get chances to re-allocate all background's stat points.

This way, background attributes really are part of your "starting gear" and can be reconfigured over the course of a game. But they're still much slower to change than things like gear and spells.

Downsides: it might be fiddly, and people might use it to minmax their characters in weird ways without resorting to Jiyva.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 18:10

Re: Background attributes

If such a change as universal 4/4/4 would make mages bad, the problem is that there isn't enough INT around, and all species could get a couple points more.
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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 20:00

Re: Background attributes

johlstei wrote:...Wizard is a hybrid background and that's why it's relevant. This change is a big improvement for people playing hybrid backgrounds, who wish to have a different playstyle between the beginning and the end of the game. Right now, because of stats, if you wanna mainly go melee by vaults or something, you're gimped if you picked wizard, even if it's starting equipment and skills are perfect for the start of the game. This change opens up choices like early-game caster/end-game melee by not hamstringing you with inappropriate stats for the other playstyle.

The same argument applies for skald so you can pretend I said that if you don't believe that the book start with wide variety of "toolkit" spells no higher than level 3 is a hybrid by design.


I was saying it isn't relevant because whether wizard is a hybrid or not or whether it is balanced or whether it would benefit from some attribute points adjustment or whatever is a different topic from "backgrounds should give flat attributes for the sake of conformity with a design principle". The OP suggests that it would be a general nerf to book backgrounds, and I agree. It sounds like you like it because it would make it easier to play a character archetype you like to play a lot (I assume, since you seem very opinionated about it). Maybe you should start a thread on the design space of the wizard background and see what other people think too.

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 20:08

Re: Background attributes

njvack wrote:One other thought: what if, every two levels starting at level 3, you got the ability to move a stat point from one category to another. So, over the course of your game (assuming you make it to XL27), you would eventually get chances to re-allocate all background's stat points.

This way, background attributes really are part of your "starting gear" and can be reconfigured over the course of a game. But they're still much slower to change than things like gear and spells.
I did consider changing the every-3-levels stat gain into an every-3-levels stat movement (gain a point in one stat of your choice and lose a point in another stat of your choice). This might be a nice late-game nerf but the problem is that it doesn't actually correct the impact of background: a Wz that picks int every time still ends up with 10 more int than a Fi that picks int every time.

(also, really curious about how this could be construed to ruin one-and-winning)

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Post Friday, 12th May 2017, 20:15

Re: Background attributes

Making your background prescribe a major part of your long-term strategy on turn 0 takes away a lot of potential depth.


When I start crawl i have an idea what kind of character i feel like playing and that will be fun for me. If i want to start a character who is not a specialist and who will have to adapt to the dungeon, then there are some backgrounds ideally suited for that. Like other RPGs, it asks me what I want to play and then sets limits on my power level. So the system now seems ideal except for someone who wants to create a more uniform strategic environment for every start, but personally I see that taking away from the game, except for benefiting the balance of streaking random characters.

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Post Saturday, 13th May 2017, 02:42

Re: Background attributes

I'm not sure that caster backgrounds need a nerf in the early game that tapers off in the late game. Playing a caster background is already a fucking chore in the early game, if you bump the Int down that just means more instances where you run out of mana before killing a dude because your spells failed, and go back up a staircase, rest, go down a different staircase, and continue. If anything specific spells like Iron Shot could be nerfed instead so that the late game isn't a joke. Why is a game winning conjuration level 6? I'm in agreement that certain caster backgrounds are super strong, but I feel the proposed change targets their weakness and barely affects their strengths.

The STR loss on melee also seems silly. How many species exist besides Tr that won't want to learn spells at some point? Playing to win generally involves branching out in the mid game to learn utility spells or worshiping Trog on melee characters. If you are playing to min-max your overall power you aren't wearing CPA or GDA anyways(and neither of them are common enough or good enough to factor on most melee wins.) unless you are Trogging. I'd much rather wear Fire/Shadow/Storm/Pearl scales over either of the former. The only real difference for most melee is that you won't be able to immediately wear plate as soon as you find it(and a negligible decrease in damage). Chain is more than enough to win with and not finding plate until after Lair isn't particularly uncommon anyways. If anything this is a buff to optimal play because you will get Regen/Spectral Weapon/Animate Skeleton etc. castable more quickly than before. Just nerf Trog and no one will be wearing huge ass armour unless they've already committed to a suboptimal pure melee play style. Why does a play style that isn't the strongest way to play most characters need to be nerfed? A HOFi is much better off pumping Int right now anyways. The difference between now(pumping Int from the start) and the proposed change(putting points into STR for a bit if you want to wear plate, or just pumping Int from the start if you are going for FDA) isn't really meaningful for players attempting to win as much as possible.

Really the difference this makes is completely negligible in the long run except it will make CPA and GDA really bad on most characters. Using an STR ring to get CPA wearable over getting a useful resist is bad now and will be bad after the change.

I just feel that this idea doesn't really solve anything except more closely matching the stated goal for backgrounds, which is really just flavour. The choice between distributing your stats towards a certain playstyle during selection or after isn't super meaningful. There's already a breakpoint for loot quality that will make you switch things up anyways. If you find a powerful randart/fixedart or a some strong utility spells it's already the better decision to branch out and get those up and running. If you go into a game with an open mind planning to use whatever is available to you and not committing to a specific playstyle you will still end up getting a mindelay weapon or the strongest spell in your book before seriously branching out
most of the time, even with these changes. Casters get more janky but still win as soon as they get their end game conjuration/summon. Melee get worse but mainly by making already suboptimal play styles(heaviest armour available pure melee) less viable. The optimal way to play is largely unchanged. Hybrids are largely unnaffected.

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Post Saturday, 13th May 2017, 05:29

Re: Background attributes

johlstei wrote:...Wizard is a hybrid background and that's why it's relevant. This change is a big improvement for people playing hybrid backgrounds, who wish to have a different playstyle between the beginning and the end of the game. Right now, because of stats, if you wanna mainly go melee by vaults or something, you're gimped if you picked wizard, even if it's starting equipment and skills are perfect for the start of the game. This change opens up choices like early-game caster/end-game melee by not hamstringing you with inappropriate stats for the other playstyle.

The same argument applies for skald so you can pretend I said that if you don't believe that the book start with wide variety of "toolkit" spells no higher than level 3 is a hybrid by design.


Wait, are you saying we should have wizard as good in plate armour as it is in light armour? Why??? Is it why you like OP? I remember people playing HOFE in plate armour as hybrid in Vaults and I don't think it should be possible with DE, for example.

The main difference between melee and casters is that melee does not need extra Str that much (SpFi or MfGl is totally fine in light armour) while casters really need extra Int because spell power and spell failure are much more important than a bit of extra melee damage.
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Post Sunday, 14th May 2017, 00:25

Re: Background attributes

I'm really stressed out when I see suggestions like these that are being thanked by several people and I can't help but feel crippling anxiety as I ask myself "Surely the devs won't implement this change? Surely not? Right?". And I can never quite answer my own question because it is rare that the devs confirm that something will never happen.

Others have said everything I would want to say about the topic. Basically, I just disagree with the premise of your post - in particular:

It is typically said that backgrounds are supposed to be "starting packages", rather than "classes" that prescribe a specific "playstyle" for the entire game.


(Yes, it is often said so, but I don't mind them nudging you towards a specific playstyle. Bear in mind that it's still just a nudge, and you can start off as a mage and finish as a melee warrior, or vice versa, with almost any character - just less effectively, perhaps. But I think that being able to hybridize even more easily than before would make things more boring, not less, by erasing even more differences between the various backgrounds and thus making the background choice even less interesting.)

And

I think this is a problem. Backgrounds shouldn't have far-reaching, essentially permanent effects like that.


(As I said, I don't mind those permanent effects.)
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Post Sunday, 14th May 2017, 01:21

Re: Background attributes

Seriously tbh when I see a dev thank some random idea in GDD i wonder "does this mean this dev will propose this change to the dev team and support it?" I probably wouldn't have put any effort into replying if dpeg hadn't thanked OP...

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Post Sunday, 14th May 2017, 01:32

Re: Background attributes

johlstei wrote:The same argument applies for skald so you can pretend I said that if you don't believe that the book start with wide variety of "toolkit" spells no higher than level 3 is a hybrid by design.


So, when you say, "the same argument applies", and your argument for Wz was that it's gimped because it should be a hybrid but it doesn't have enough Str, how does it apply to Skald, which already has 4/4/4 attributes? It's a hybrid background well-served by the status quo.

One of the main reasons I think Wz isn't a hybrid is that it gets so much Int... Its package is designed so that you can branch into any spell school you happen to get books for, while also having a toolkit that can help you survive if you don't get good books, and that denies you the opportunity to start the game with both very high int AND killer high level spells (which would be overpowered).

So now suppose skald and wizard are both 4/4/4... What improved about the game?
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