Don't spawn literal trash monsters


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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 05:39

Don't spawn literal trash monsters

For those who aren't in the know, and without going into too much detail, DCSS generates monsters by picking from a big weighted table of monsters that's defined for each branch. This list is used for monsters that spawn randomly on level generation or over time, and includes all the out of depth spawns for that branch. Monster placements can also be defined by vaults. That's how you get stuff like the spriggan baker and that lair ending with the anaconda. This post isn't about those, though. It's about regular old normal monsters that are randomly generated way past the point where they can be threatening to literally any character.

Here's what a line in the pop_entry for dungeon looks like:
{ 6, 16, 1000, FLAT, MONS_BULLFROG }

The first number is min depth, second is max depth, third is weight (this doesn't mean anything without the context of all the other weights but 1000 is pretty high), FLAT is a type of curve that defines how the weight changes with depth (in this case it doesn't change), and lastly it tells us that this info is for bullfrogs. You can get out of depth spawns, hence you can see bullfrogs above D:6, but D:6 is the first floor that they're in depth.

You might notice that bullfrogs stay in depth for the entire dungeon past D:6 and even a little beyond that (this matters for OOD spawns). I assert without argument that D:15 bullfrogs are not threatening in any reasonable circumstance. Why are they still in depth at the bottom of dungeon? Here are some other notable offenders:
  • Giant cockroaches and ball pythons are in depth through D:8
  • leopard geckos and jackals are in depth through D:11
  • adders and quokkas are in depth through D:12
  • worker ants, iguanas, scorpions, hounds and phantoms, are in depth through D:14
  • crimson imps, shadow imps, jellies, quasits, sky beasts, ice beasts, and necrophages are in depth through D:15
  • hungry ghosts and their fearsome five damage attack don't start being in depth until D:7 and stay in depth through the end of dungeon (and into the OOD only zone!)
  • gnolls can get spawned in orc
  • shadows can get spawned in swamp and crypt
These are the ones that jumped out at me, but there are plenty of others too. I get that not every fight in dungeon crawl can be a brutal tactical puzzle that requires superior wit and cunning in order to succeed. However, I don't believe that it is necessary to randomly generate exceptionally weak monsters for balance, flavor, or any other reason. They are the extreme end of meaningless, boring crawl encounters that only exist to waste time.

The obvious solution is to just tighten up the lower ranges. For example, stop spawning cockroaches and ball pythons past D:3. Two minor caveats with this approach though: 1) some of the weights use a curve of some variety or another so you'd have to do some calculations to retain the same spawn rate for that monster on the upper floors, and 2) if you "just" remove D:8 cockroaches, you will generate slightly more of the other monsters that can generate on D:8, increasing the average available experience and difficulty for those floors. So I appreciate that a good solution would require some amount of work.

I would suggest the following changes for the monsters I listed:
  • cockroach, ball python, leopard gecko, jackal max depth D:3
  • adder and quokka max depth D:4
  • worker ant, iguana, scorpion, hound, phantom max depth D:8
  • crimson imp, shadow imp, jelly, quasit, sky beast, ice beast max depth D:8
  • bullfrog max depth D:8
  • No necrophages or hungry ghosts at all
  • No gnolls in orc
  • No shadows in swamp or crypt
Replace the weights cut from deeper levels with MONS_NO_MONSTER (for the uninitiated, it does exactly what you think). This prevents accidentally introducing more experience to the changed areas. I think a larger scale overhaul of some of the monster sets would be good, but that has significant balance implications that the devteam might not want to tackle. Removing the worst of the garbage spawns would be an unambiguous improvement with minimal balance implications imo.

If you want to check out the monster data for yourself it's in mon-pick-data.h.

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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 06:24

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

I think shadows in swamp/crypt can be replaced with unseen horrors. It can be interesting when invisible monster blocks retreat path.
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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 06:50

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

One suggestion: don't replace the weights with NO_MONSTER. This just makes the spawn table hard to understand. The level builder decides on a number of monsters and tries to place them. If some of them roll NO_MONSTER, you end up with fewer monsters than desired, but the exact distribution will change based on the weights for each floor in a confusing and non-intuitive way.

If removing trash monsters makes too many hard monsters spawn, this can be fixed by changing the total number of monsters the level generator spawns.

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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 06:58

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Hellmonk wrote:No gnolls in orc

Gnolls are stronger than orcs. So, if orcs belong there, in terms of depth, then I guess gnolls are fully justified. Then again, I believe that the Mines are the worst offender of the game when it comes to spawning popcorn, by the time you enter them. I rarely ever level up to a higher XL in the Mines, in spite of all the crowds I'm killing there.
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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 13:08

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Strong agree with the OP. Some of the monsters named as inappropriate spawns could stand to be eliminated entirely. Crimson imp, scorpion, and sky beast stand out in my mind as particularly ill-conceived monsters.
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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 14:22

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Since no-one has mentioned it, monsters that are too weak for words 1-on-1 can still contribute to an existential threat in context.

If you're running away down a corridor and there's a bullfrog, the turn it takes to kill it could mean what you're running away from has a chance to kill you. If you're sneaking, a bullfrog could wake up more dangerous monsters. If you're fighting a horde in a chokepoint and not quite concerned enough to teleport, a bullfrog coming up behind you that you'd have to let hit you for a while might be enough to change your mind.
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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 16:03

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Majang wrote:
Hellmonk wrote:No gnolls in orc

Gnolls are stronger than orcs. So, if orcs belong there, in terms of depth, then I guess gnolls are fully justified. Then again, I believe that the Mines are the worst offender of the game when it comes to spawning popcorn, by the time you enter them. I rarely ever level up to a higher XL in the Mines, in spite of all the crowds I'm killing there.

Except Orc does not spawn plain orcs by themselves. They are only there as part of the stronger orcs' bands. Plain gnolls would also stay as members of gnoll sergeant/shaman's bands, even if the proposed change is implemented.
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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 17:41

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

My feeling is that gnolls of all kinds are too weak by the time you enter orc, and normal orcs as part of stronger orc bands are a bit dubious.

If you enter orc as soon as it shows up the only monsters which are generally dangerous there at all are knights, warlords, high priests, sorcerers(the last two of which can be quite dangerous because of summons and paralyze). Warriors aren't quite dangerous enough and shamans/sargeants are weaker, to say nothing of normal orcs and gnolls.
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Blades Runner

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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 19:33

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Freaking white imps in Cocytus...

Slime Squisher

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Post Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 23:38

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Reptisaurus wrote:Freaking white imps in Cocytus...

They're there to block your path so that you can't get to that tormentor too fast, also a noobtrap to make you hit them and waste turns between hell effects.
Other similarly annoying and otherwise absolutely harmless things:
- Coc: flying skulls, skeleton/zombie spam, wights
- Dis: iron imps, mummies, hell hounds, shadows, necrophages, wights again, zombies again, { 1, 2, 8, FALL, MONS_CRIMSON_IMP } whhyyyyyyyyyyyyyy is it even theeeeeere
- Geh: oh god this is one is just obnoxious everything comes in packs and barely anything is actually harmful, I'm not going to list everything
- Tar: zombies zombies more zombies, shadows, necrophages, wights... I guess just the usual + doom hounds with smite targetted hex, also { 1, 7, 850, SEMI, MONS_NECROPHAGE }, { 1, 7, 720, FLAT, MONS_NECROPHAGE } double the fun!

Please remove imps, wights, shadows, mummies, flying skulls, necrophages, hungry ghosts, wraiths and other cannon fodder from hells. They just make the whole ordeal longer and not even a tiny bit harder. If you need them to counterbalance the torment and hellfire damnation spam, then fine, but please don't spawn so many of them. And why do red devils kite the player if the only part of the game where they can do any damage is that one lair ending? Is this supposed to be fun?
Last edited by Leszczynek on Wednesday, 2nd August 2017, 21:13, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Wednesday, 2nd August 2017, 00:07

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Indeed. A lot of these hell filler demons could easily work as dungeon monsters. Sixwhatevery, that thing that used to cast cigotuvi's embrace for some reason, etc. would work fine as dungeon monsters and could replace some of the trash monsters mentioned in this thread later in dungeon.
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Post Wednesday, 2nd August 2017, 15:49

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Replace all the orcs in orc with orc warriors.

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Post Thursday, 3rd August 2017, 07:41

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Literal trash monsters would be awesome, too bad we don't have any in crawl
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Post Friday, 4th August 2017, 03:17

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Right? After reading that title I was hoping I had missed an update that introduced things like Garbage Golems, Awful Offals, Waste Wizards, Rubbish Rats, Junk Jousters, Litter Liches, Filth Fiends ...

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Post Friday, 4th August 2017, 03:43

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Come on guys, it's 2017, everybody knows that literal means figurative now.

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Post Wednesday, 16th August 2017, 11:33

Re: Don't spawn literal trash monsters

Hellcrawl FR: Trash Monster

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