Species Proposal - Shapeshifter


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Lair Larrikin

Posts: 17

Joined: Friday, 16th March 2018, 19:22

Post Friday, 16th March 2018, 19:44

Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

I've read the previous Shapeshifter suggestion, but had a different take on it...

Shapeshifters start the game with two special abilities, Learn Shape and Change Shape. They also start with one ‘Shape Slot’, so they can learn a single new shape to begin with. Every three levels they will gain a new Shape Slot (1, 4, 7, etc.) with a final slot gained at level 27. Once a Shapeshifter learns a shape, that slot is permanently filled and can never be changed. The MP and hunger costs for Change Shape will vary with the HP of the chosen shape.

Shapeshifters have a permanent -Cast effect. However, this shouldn’t affect abilities granted by a shape, e.g. Spit Poison for Naga’s or Breathe Fire/Cold/etc for Dragons.

Attribute increases would be random.

Arm Ddg Sth Shd Inv Evo HP MP Exp MR
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Shapeshifter 0 +2 +1 -3 0 0 +0% 0 0 +5

Fgt SBl LBl M&F Axs Pla Stv UC Thr Slg Bws Crb
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Shapeshifter +1 -2 -2 -1 -2 -2 0 0 -1 -2 -3 -3

Spc Coj Hex Cha Sum Nec Trl Trm Fir Ice Air Ear Poi
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Shapeshifter -1 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 0 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2


Special Abilities

Ability - do what? Cost Failure
l - Learn Shape None 0%

Learn the shape of a corpse on the current square. You must have an empty Shape Slot. Learning a shape is permanent.

Learning a shape requires the player to be standing over a fresh corpse of the race whose shape they want to learn. The corpse is completely used up in the process (no skeleton is left). This also reduces hunger by an amount that is the same as if the player had butchered and eaten all chunks from the corpse. Learning a shape also changes the Shapeshifter into that shape (without any chance of failure and without the usual MP/hunger costs). After learning their first shape a Shapeshifter is no longer able to change back into their original ‘larval’ form, but will always be in one learned shape or another.

This ability costs: nothing.



Ability - do what? Cost Failure
c - Change Shape 1-9MP, Hunger 30%

Change your shape to one selected from your learned shapes. On failure you will change into a shape randomly selected from your learned shapes. Failure chance would decrease with XL, but never below 5% (10%?).

This ability costs: 1-9MP depending on the strength (HP) of the chosen shape. Hunger also increases with strength.



Options

Do away with the -Cast effect, but decrease aptitudes for magic skills.

I suspect early game would be very difficult for a Shapeshifter, so their larval form could have fangs and/or claws. Having both might make it tempting to stay in the larval form for the entire game. Which might be fun, too.

Add a permanent effect that randomly changes the player’s shape similar to the rate of a Ring of Teleportation. Maybe with MP and hunger cost, maybe not.

Or have the first permanent mutation that a player gets automatically be the random shifting one. Once gained it could never be removed.

Each Change Shape could have a chance to remove one temporary effect from the player (beneficial or harmful), and/or heal some damage. That could include magical contamination. Lower chance of it happening for lower power shapes. Maybe 2-4% per MP cost.

Allow a Shapeshifter to learn spells even if they can’t cast them, so they can learn magic skills, so they can use magical staves as weapons? Alternatively, allow any character to learn the appropriate magic skill when a magical staff is equipped (but that's another discussion).

I can see a strong case for preventing the use of Change Shape while polymorphed, since then polymorph would no longer be any threat to a Shapeshifter. I think allowing Change Shape while polymorphed would be in character, but might be unbalanced.

Notes

My concept of a Shapeshifter is largely built on the True Game books by Sheri Tepper, so that influnces most of my ideas here.

A person who could take on so many useful shapes would have very little need for technology or magic, so lower aptitudes the more 'advanced' a weapon. I can even see changing most of the -2's to -3's.

Shapeshifters would never be able to learn shapes that don’t leave a corpse, so no undead, demons, jellies, etc.

Named monsters would not provide any benefit over normal monsters of the same race. Same for stronger versions of a race, e.g. Centaur Warrior, Big Kobolds.

Current shape would influence size, movement speed and abilities (fly, water, etc), resistances in some cases, natural weapons (claws, fangs, etc) and in some cases special abilities like a Dragon's breath weapon. It might also determine the presence or absence of some equipment slots with equipment in missing slots 'melded' as with Transmutations. Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence would also be influenced toward the normal range for the race. HP, MP and all skills would remain the same.

Strategy would be slightly less dependent on chance than a Transmuter finding appropriate spell books, but the Shapeshifter would still need to find, kill and get a corpse from a desired race. That means that before they can shift into a Gold Dragon or Titan or other powerful creature, they would have to be able to kill one. I’m not sure if this chicken/egg problem would be surmountable or not. They would also need to balance the needs of a new shape now, versus saving slots for powerful shapes later in the game.

Two different strategies might involve going all in on unarmed combat and choosing shapes with natural weapons, or instead going for shapes with high strength/dexterity and training an appropriate weapon with all the benefits of having branded/bonused weapons. Either way, a wide variety of movement, resistance and ranged abilities would be important.

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Snake Sneak

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Joined: Friday, 9th March 2018, 20:26

Post Friday, 16th March 2018, 21:41

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Before even considering the balance, it seems like it would take quite a lot of effort to compile form statistics for all the corpse-leaving monsters in the game.

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 24

Joined: Sunday, 26th February 2012, 07:01

Post Sunday, 18th March 2018, 21:12

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

This looks like a lot of work to implement and a lot more to balance but the idea is awesome and looks like it would create a fun new way to play, sort of like Gnoll did.

Mike.

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Zot Zealot

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Post Sunday, 18th March 2018, 22:58

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Is it intentional that monsters which do not leave a corpse cannot be imitated?

I agree the work would be extensive. It would probably be impossible and pointless to support all abilities, so I suggest dropping that (even though it breaks symmetry with monster shapeshifter).

Snake Sneak

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Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 07:12

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

OK- I agree the concept sounds very interesting if it turns out even remotely balanced, and someone is willing to do the work. Is it... even slightly balanced, though? This immediately delves into "Wow, there's a lot of forms to consider". I imagine there would be an explanation of what will be granted when using Learn Form, e.g. "Using this corpse will grant Human form. Proceed? (! for form description)"

Before getting into much, though; HP needs to vary. Otherwise you get spriggan hercules, and much less reason to use monstrous forms that carry notably inferior AC to humanoids. Appropriate forms can just come with robust/frail mutation. It's fair for the HP difference to be less pronounced than normally reasonable, though. (E.g. a hornet will not have -40% hp. Their lack of AC is scary enough) As for STR/DEX/INT, forms would presumably modify STR and DEX by -/+ X amount. INT is mostly irrelevant, though you might built for it if you plan to extensively use certain forms...

But the big thing here is... how does the species play out? What forms do you WANT to get?

Humanoid forms:Few active abilities as only species is copied, but can use equipment instead. Equipment means way more AC than almost all non-humanoid forms, so few abilities is probably fair.
-Spriggans have blistering speed and EV, centaurs have speed without fragility, merfolk excel in water, ghouls pack many resistances (torment immunity!)
-Trolls get giant rocks and claws; UC focus is good for monster alt forms
-Orcs and humans are mostly bad choices, but consider worshipping Elyvilon for pacification bonuses in mines/vaults. Otherwise, only useful if, say, Orc form grants bonus aptitude for axes, merfolk for polearms, centaurs for bows, etc.
-Killer Klowns... powerful UC chaos attacks while still being able to access all armor?
-Demonspawn and Giant type enemies provide significant lategame power boost! Although it's unclear how divided demonspawn types would get...?? Giants include Frost/Fire Giants and Titans for innate resistances, bolt spells

Monsters:Often carries very low AC, but may have useful species abilties. This means remaking some abilities into player versions and balancing out form statistics for many monsters, however.
-Hornet for status stings, if you can take the fragility
-Hydra form, now easy access. Head count based on XL?
-Moth of wrath for berserking others; many spellcasting uniques are arguably less scary 'zerked
-Crabs have AC and cloud breath attacks; ghostly breath could be interesting
-Orb spiders for OoD(!), jumping spider for immense escaping (barachian hop but better), tarantella has confusing touch attacks (tarantella probably not worth using with no AC, though)
-Bears can berserk
-DRAGONS. Obviously very useful. All of them.
-Doom Hounds have... their summoning howl, however that would work?
-Raiju/spark wasp for blinkbolt could be a powerful escape tool
-Very Ugly Thing; if they possess an ability to actively choose what color you want, it... might be desirable? Maybe?
-Torpor snail slows everything, but isn't particularly good at things... use god abilties on your slowed enemies?

...it's 3am, so I can't think any more. I'm going to sleep. Consider whether being able to use all these forms sounds ridiculous or not, I guess. Most other useful forms would come from non-corpse-leaving monsters so you can't get them (gargoyles, elementals, undead, demons), or would just give a generic non-powered species form (e.g. vault warden, merfolk avatar, etc). Also consider the huge number of monsters that would be awful forms... yet still have to have forms made for them, unless the game will just audaciously state "This form does not seem worthy of your time and effort."

Proposing that you can get forms from non-corpse monsters would make the species -vastly- more complicated to implement and balance, and IMO shouldn't be considered. That includes many monsters that are either very atypical (more complicated to make forms for; it would be enough work as it is) and/or problematically powerful to turn into.

honestly the species is probably way too fuggin complicated. but it IS interesting to imagine.

For this message the author Tumalu has received thanks:
mdonais

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 24

Joined: Sunday, 26th February 2012, 07:01

Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 15:55

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Here is a version of his pitch that is maybe simpler to implement and balance:

Instead of changing shape, it adds to its list of activated abilities on the 'a' menu each time it eats a corpse.

So if it eats a gold dragon it gets a new ability that is breath gold dragon breath.
Each time it uses an ability it causes exhaustion (or maybe it has a % chance to cause exhaustion). Similar to a naga or draconian's breath weapon attack.

Not every monster needs to add a special ability, you just pick 20 or so and put them on the list. Eat the corpse and gain access to that ability. They could scale with evocation or with character level.

Relatively easy to implement and balance but still feels very new and different to play. Use the ability that is best for the situation you are in.

Mike.

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 17

Joined: Friday, 16th March 2018, 19:22

Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 17:43

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Tumalu wrote:Before getting into much, though; HP needs to vary.


Thanks for the detailed notes!

For HP, yes I thought of that after posting. Probably each shape would have some modifier for HP, MP, Str, Int, Dex based on the species.

I've started looking through the Crawl code and I agree the way forms are currently implemented my idea just wouldn't be doable (much like the transmuter related items I posted). My current not very well researched thought is that a single new Form subclass would be added that takes a species as input and tries to calculate the effects on the fly. Even to me that sounds hard to debug, though. I don't know how far I'll get, but I'll probably keep poking at it.

As for balancing the overall idea, there are lots of ways that might be done:

  • Max number of shapes, or max number of HP of shapes. Maybe based on Transmutation skill. Which might be a good idea just so the player can't focus too much on just a few skills.
  • For any species that looks like it might be a problem, just prevent it altogether.
  • Also a blacklist of specific abilities that don't make sense or would be overpowered.
  • Have a modifier that adjusts how much the players stats are changed by each form. So with a low modifier spriggan shape might only increase player speed by 10%, for example, but HP would also only be reduced by a little. A larger modifier would mean larger changes.


Early game: bat form, a humanoid (kobold, goblin, etc), something with poison (snake or blowgun). If I could kill a centaur early enough, that would be useful for speed and equipment.
Troll for regen, unarmed and gourmand (which might be an issue in itself)
Something that can fly, something that can swim, resistances: fire, cold, negative
Later I can see a couple of Dragons (fire, ice, shadow, gold if possible) and maybe Titan.
I hadn't thought about Demonspawn, the monster kind never struck me as very interesting. I don't even know how they work or what they can do.

Really, though, I would try to change it up every game. Which is probably why I play Demonspawn Transmuters so often, despite me rarely getting very far.

Snake Sneak

Posts: 128

Joined: Friday, 9th March 2018, 20:26

Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 21:43

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Bleyddyn wrote:I've started looking through the Crawl code and I agree the way forms are currently implemented my idea just wouldn't be doable (much like the transmuter related items I posted).

It wouldn't? I don't see why not, considering transmutation spells exist. It'd just be a semipermanent status the way Spider/Ice/etc form are, and when swapping forms one status would be removed and replaced by another.

Granted, I haven't looked at the code. I just don't see why transmutations spells work and making a race with boatloads of "____ Form" abilities wouldn't. Not that it wouldn't still be an enormous level of work, of course.

As for demonspawn, there are four types. Inferal, Gelid, Monstrous, and Torturous. AKA Fire, ice, beastly (robust/claws/etc) and one with Augmentation+Spines+"Powered By Pain".
mdonais wrote:Here is a version of his pitch that is maybe simpler to implement and balance:Instead of changing shape, it adds to its list of activated abilities on the 'a' menu each time it eats a corpse.

A pretty good idea for making a shapeshifter-type that's actually realistic to implement. Just gaining an ability feels a bit basic, but could be expanded... instead of accumulating a list of blue magic from corpses, instead imagine gaining a specific set of mutations and abilities from using a certain corpse. You would only be able to keep X sets of such abilities at a time, discarding one for another as you progress... it'd be more like a chimaera than a shapeshifter.

I mean, that still involves making things for every corpse type, but since you're expected to have several at once, it's fine for most to only impart a few minor bonuses, and maybe an ability. You don't have to balance out an entire form for a creature.

Actually, that sounds pretty fun. It keeps most of the ideas of a shapeshifter species, while altering it into something not just far easier to implement, but also probably funner to play; you use all your "forms" at once instead of one at a time.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Joined: Tuesday, 30th October 2012, 19:06

Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 21:59

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Tumalu wrote:
Bleyddyn wrote:I've started looking through the Crawl code and I agree the way forms are currently implemented my idea just wouldn't be doable (much like the transmuter related items I posted).

It wouldn't? I don't see why not, considering transmutation spells exist. It'd just be a semipermanent status the way Spider/Ice/etc form are, and when swapping forms one status would be removed and replaced by another.

Granted, I haven't looked at the code. I just don't see why transmutations spells work and making a race with boatloads of "____ Form" abilities wouldn't. Not that it wouldn't still be an enormous level of work, of course.

The problem is that there's no way to automate a translation from "monster" to "player form", so while you could special-code each form, you'd have to do it by hand for every single form you wanted to have available, so rather than one boatload, it's more like two to four boatloads. It's of course doable, however it's not *practical* to expect anyone to write the code to do it. Additionally, each time a monster was updated, you'd have to go change the corresponding code in the shapeshifter code. So you not only add a butt-ton of work on the front end, but add overhead to all future changes to monsters down the road. In short, it's just not a good idea.
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Snake Sneak

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Joined: Friday, 9th March 2018, 20:26

Post Monday, 19th March 2018, 22:04

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

Yeah, in the end, the race is probably way to much work to be realistic, regardless of how neat.

I think the more chimaera-type suggestion would still have some merit for pursuing the overall concept of taking monster abilities/attributes, though.

Swamp Slogger

Posts: 174

Joined: Saturday, 16th September 2017, 21:17

Post Monday, 26th March 2018, 13:35

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

This race is replaced by one simple skill --

Transmuation.

That's everything you want. Instead of a new race, you could campaign for alterations/additions to the transmutation skill/spells.

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 17

Joined: Friday, 16th March 2018, 19:22

Post Friday, 30th March 2018, 16:48

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

I've made more progress on this than I expected so I thought I'd leave a link to my code in case anyone else is interested enough to look: https://github.com/Bleyddyn/crawl/tree/shifter

With the major caveats that it's still nowhere near playable, and I suspect I've already had to make changes that might not be acceptable.

Blades Runner

Posts: 534

Joined: Thursday, 25th October 2012, 03:19

Post Saturday, 31st March 2018, 00:26

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

This sounds like a very cool idea for a race. Hammering out the details may indeed be difficult though. In the current version, what are the largest issues?

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 17

Joined: Friday, 16th March 2018, 19:22

Post Monday, 2nd April 2018, 17:01

Re: Species Proposal - Shapeshifter

svendre wrote:This sounds like a very cool idea for a race. Hammering out the details may indeed be difficult though. In the current version, what are the largest issues?


So far I've changed one public const member variable of the Form class to a protected non-const variable with a public accessor function. There are a lot of public const variables, though, and I'll probably have to change most or all of them, requiring changes to a lot of other code. All of which may violate design rules and is also a good way to introduce bugs, so even if everything works, the cost might be too high to be included in the main branch.

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