Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book


Although the central place for this kind of discussion is on the CDO wiki, some may find it helpful to discuss potential requests and suggestions here first.

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Post Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 21:07

Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Mages tend to get the same spells regardless of background. Ice or usually fire magic for area damage, plus OOD, LCS, or iron shot for unbranded damage. I tend to end up like this whether I start as a Wz, Cj, FE, IE, AE, EE, or VM, because playing this way is simply stronger than playing in another way. You need unbranded spell damage and there aren't many choices, and you need good area damage that works against a variety of enemies and again there aren't many choices (air and poison being inferior choices for area damage).

Here's a simple idea with the potential to make mages far more interesting to play.

Imagine: you can only use 1 spellbook at a time, which you equip in your shield slot, taking 5 turns to equip like a normal shield. You don't memorize spells, but you can use any spells in your equipped spellbook.

Think about it: this way, there will be a different mage playstyle for every different book in the game, including artifact spellbooks. Your playstyle will change over the course of a game as you find different books.

It will also completely solve the problem of spells that "every" character must have. You can't get regen unless you have a book with regen, and that limits what other spells you can have.

"But wait!" you might protest. "I love mages, but this sounds like a massive nerf to them!" You're right. To compensate for that, all spells can be made stronger and easier to cast. Also, spellbooks can grant large stat bonuses, slaying bonuses, and +SH that scale with spellcasting skill, and that are different for each spellbook.

"But won't some books be crap compared to other books? Who would want to equip a Book of Cantrips when they can equip a Book of Power?" The solution is to have the weaker spellbooks grant larger bonuses. Sure, you can have your Book of Power - or you can have your Book of Cantrips with massive stat bonuses. The bonuses should be randomized for each book, so that in some games one book is better and in other games a different book with different spells is better.

"Won't this make it very difficult to play as a pure mage? If I have a Book of Fire, that doesn't give me many options to kill fire resistant enemies, since I can't pick up IMB or Stone Arrow to supplement it." The answer is that all the books should grant large slaying bonuses that scale with spellcasting, so the mage gets a strong unbranded attack capable of fighting 1v1 against any single enemy in the game, just like melee brutes. The flavor is that any mage can blast enemies with pure magic in melee. The slaying bonuses can be larger when wielding any magic staff.

"What about Vehumet's spell gifts?" Vehumet would have to be reworked. Possibly, the gifts from Vehumet can be memorized and used in addition to the player's current spellbook.

"What about Arcane Marksmen? If they are wielding a bow, they can't use their shield slot for a book." The Arcane Marksman book can be given a special property so it can be equipped with a two handed weapon.

"Would this make melee brutes too weak?" Maybe. It would be a fork of the game. The brutes can be balanced later.
Last edited by Berder on Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 23:26, edited 1 time in total.
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Post Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 23:07

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

"Won't this be a whole lot of work to implement for solving a non-problem?" Yes.

Seriously though, if it is a problem that there are spells that every spellcaster wants to have, it can be solved by making spellbooks rarer. Maybe a book with Regeneration doesn't need to be generated in every game?
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Post Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 23:22

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

The problem being solved is that mages tend to get the same spells regardless of background. Ice or usually fire magic for area damage, plus OOD, LCS, or iron shot for unbranded damage. I tend to end up like this whether I start as a Wz, Cj, FE, IE, AE, EE, or VM, because playing this way is simply stronger than playing in another way. You need unbranded spell damage and there aren't many choices, and you need good area damage that works against a variety of enemies and again there aren't many choices. I should have mentioned this in the original post; I'll edit it.
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Post Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 23:37

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

so your solution is to bring back the inventory issues books created, you say

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Post Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 23:46

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

The idea would be that you change your book as often as you might change a piece of armor; not very often. You don't carry around six different shields, so you wouldn't carry around six different books. If it takes ten turns to change your book, it should discourage people from frequently swapping spell sets to fight different enemies. They might do it at the start of a branch or when they find a better book, but that would be the extent.

It might not work out that way and if it turns out to be a problem, some artificial mechanic like "you can only attune to one book at a time, and once you have attuned to a book you need to gain a certain amount of XP before you can change your attunement to another book, and you can't equip a book that you aren't attuned to" could solve it.
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 00:10

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Berder wrote:You don't carry around six different shields, so you wouldn't carry around six different books.

This argument doesn't work : the reason you don't carry six different shields is that all shields are similar and it is usually easy to say that a given shield is strictly superior to all shields you have found. Spellbooks are very different from one another and if you look at a good spell list, many spells come from different spellbooks (Blink, Ozo's Armour, Animate Skeleton, Conjure Flame, Summon Lightning Spire, Regen...). Shields and spellbooks are too mechanically different for the comparison to hold.

Berder wrote:If it takes ten turns to change your book, it should discourage people from frequently swapping spell sets to fight different enemies.

No, it will encourage people to find a fight, realize another spellbook would be preferable, break the fight, change spellbooks, go back to the fight, swap in the spellbook with regen and start again. For reasons why this doesn't happen with armour, see above.

Berder wrote:It might not work out that way and if it turns out to be a problem, some artificial mechanic like "you can only attune to one book at a time, and once you have attuned to a book you need to gain a certain amount of XP before you can change your attunement to another book, and you can't equip a book that you aren't attuned to" could solve it.

So that would encourage you to fight most fights with a suboptimal spellbook of your choice and only swap for big fights? I guess it's slightly better ?

All in all given the huge improvement that the spell library represents, I think this mechanic is subpar. Given the variety of spells in the game and the small number of spells in a given spellbook, this would probably just end up being frustrating. Just imagine it : you're basically telling the players "Here's a whole bunch of varied spells, but also you can only use five of them at a time, and only groups of five which we choose for you, and of those five a couple will always be crap"
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 00:18

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

you're describing a proposal where shields become a form of jewellery with varying bonuses, players are going to carry as many useful ones as they can and swap them frequently. the only reason players don't currently do that with shields is because shield egos are weak enough that the deciding factor for what shield to use is the amount of SH it gives (and honestly bad players might still carry a buckler of resistance for zot or reflection for branches with ranged attacks)

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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 00:33

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Fingolfin wrote:
Berder wrote:You don't carry around six different shields, so you wouldn't carry around six different books.

This argument doesn't work : the reason you don't carry six different shields is that all shields are similar and it is usually easy to say that a given shield is strictly superior to all shields you have found. Spellbooks are very different from one another and if you look at a good spell list, many spells come from different spellbooks (Blink, Ozo's Armour, Animate Skeleton, Conjure Flame, Summon Lightning Spire, Regen...). Shields and spellbooks are too mechanically different for the comparison to hold.


Many times there will be equipment that has elemental resistance against an enemy. Players normally don't swap their shields or other types of armor to get the resistance, unless the whole branch requires that resistance, even though it would be optimal to get the maximum resistance against every enemy you have chosen.

Berder wrote:If it takes ten turns to change your book, it should discourage people from frequently swapping spell sets to fight different enemies.

No, it will encourage people to find a fight, realize another spellbook would be preferable, break the fight, change spellbooks, go back to the fight, swap in the spellbook with regen and start again. For reasons why this doesn't happen with armour, see above.

I don't think this will happen too much. Players are too lazy to do that, just as they are too lazy to break the fight, change their armor for elemental resistance, and come back to it.

Berder wrote:It might not work out that way and if it turns out to be a problem, some artificial mechanic like "you can only attune to one book at a time, and once you have attuned to a book you need to gain a certain amount of XP before you can change your attunement to another book, and you can't equip a book that you aren't attuned to" could solve it.

So that would encourage you to fight most fights with a suboptimal spellbook of your choice and only swap for big fights? I guess it's slightly better ?

Actually this mechanic would prevent swapping for specific fights almost entirely. Once you have swapped for a fight, you can't swap back because you aren't attuned to the previous book anymore, so you have to use your new spellbook until you gain enough XP to change it (which should be in the area of 1 XL equivalent). So you should only swap if you think that the spellbook is better for the whole branch that you're doing.

All in all given the huge improvement that the spell library represents, I think this mechanic is subpar. Given the variety of spells in the game and the small number of spells in a given spellbook, this would probably just end up being frustrating. Just imagine it : you're basically telling the players "Here's a whole bunch of varied spells, but also you can only use five of them at a time, and only groups of five which we choose for you, and of those five a couple will always be crap"

The game is already telling the player "Here's a whole bunch of varied spells, but if you don't build your character around bolt of cold and OOD plus supporting spells, or around bolt of fire and iron shot plus supporting spells, your character will suck in comparison to a character that does use those specific spells."

If there are 90 spells, but 10 of them are the best spells, then savvy players will only use the 10 spells and it will be roughly the same 10 spells every game. The other 80 spells do nothing but present the illusion of choice. It gives the players *more* real choice, not less, if their character can be built around any of the 40 different spellbooks in the game. It adds to replayability: you can play with each different spellbook and get a unique game.


CanOfWorms wrote:you're describing a proposal where shields become a form of jewellery with varying bonuses, players are going to carry as many useful ones as they can and swap them frequently. the only reason players don't currently do that with shields is because shield egos are weak enough that the deciding factor for what shield to use is the amount of SH it gives (and honestly bad players might still carry a buckler of resistance for zot or reflection for branches with ranged attacks)

Not jewelry, armor. Players don't carry as many useful armors as they can and swap them frequently. See my responses to Fingolfin.

Also, if excess swapping does become a problem, the mechanic of attunement that I described earlier would solve it.
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 01:33

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

The premise is interesting, though I don't agree w/ the strategy talk outlined by the op. You need to do a big overhaul of crawl's magic system from the ground up to get it to work imo. I'm thinking something along the lines of pubby ogre magic everywhere- a very reduced set of spell schools or straight up spellcasting only, incentivize retaining the current book via tying something significant to its continued use (say, a large amount of spellpower), destroy book on unequip to prevent repeated swapping. You would also want to iterate heavily on spellbook content, since many of the current books would either be extremely bad or very boring under this system. There is at least an outline of an interesting magic system somewhere in here. Worth exploring in a fork or in a new rl.
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 01:39

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

1. Are these intended to replace actual shields? Do they provide SH?
2. If this comes to be, it'd be more practical if the amount of spells per spellbook was increased, spellbooks could certainly be balanced so that a spellcaster could have a decent balance of spells and it'd be practical to have access to a useful allotment of spells in each possible, but most spellbooks as they currently exist, wouldn't be practical to equip for any significant length of time.
3. You don't mention spell levels, is it the intention that you get access to all spells as soon as you get the book, or is there some training or XL that you have to get in order to use a spell from a spellbook?
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 02:58

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

It's an innovative idea, good creative thinking. If someone implemented this I'd happily give it a try.

If there's 90 spells and 10 are the best leading to mage playthroughs being too samish, then maybe that's a sign that those 10 spells need a bit of a nerf and the other 80 need a bit of a buff.

Be careful with "no real choice" logic. If your choice matters because A performs better than B then there's no real choice because you just choose A. If your choice doesn't matter because A and B perform equally then there's no real choice because choices that don't matter aren't real choices. Therefore there are no real choices.

The above argument is absurd. There are real choices because the game is complex and varied enough that the player is presented with an infinite variety of judgment calls, the navigation of which some people find fun. Perhaps over time you learn to make more effective choices and this is enjoyable. Perhaps sometimes you make unusual (bad?) choices and still manage to win and this is enjoyable. Perhaps certain choices are right for you that aren't for others because of what will shore up your particular weaknesses or best employ your particular strengths as a player, and identifying and acting upon these insights is enjoyable.
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Post Thursday, 21st June 2018, 03:30

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Hellmonk wrote:The premise is interesting, though I don't agree w/ the strategy talk outlined by the op. You need to do a big overhaul of crawl's magic system from the ground up to get it to work imo. I'm thinking something along the lines of pubby ogre magic everywhere- a very reduced set of spell schools or straight up spellcasting only, incentivize retaining the current book via tying something significant to its continued use (say, a large amount of spellpower), destroy book on unequip to prevent repeated swapping. You would also want to iterate heavily on spellbook content, since many of the current books would either be extremely bad or very boring under this system. There is at least an outline of an interesting magic system somewhere in here. Worth exploring in a fork or in a new rl.

I agree about fragile books, perhaps tying spellpower to continued use of a single book. I absolutely agree about reducing the set of spell schools. Reducing the number of spell schools, even to 1 school, would be great because it means players can actually use all the spells in a book instead of just those they trained for.

I think it may not be necessary to re-balance the books a lot, if the less useful spellbooks just grant greater slaying (or are just available earlier) then they would be strong enough to play with. Perhaps some books would be more boring, but if the mage casts no spells and only relies on the book's slaying bonus he is essentially a melee brute, so books would only be as boring as a melee brute and no more boring than that.

Siegurt wrote:1. Are these intended to replace actual shields? Do they provide SH?

Yes, they can provide SH or AC. The intent is that each book should give a defensive bonus large enough to compensate the lack of a shield (and then some, because mages will be in melee more in this system), and also give a slaying bonus large enough to compensate the lack of direct unbranded damage spells and other utility spells.

There is an issue that books might just be strictly better than shields. To solve this issue, the bonuses on each book should scale with spellpower (based on spell schools and intelligence) so low-int brutes would be better off with shields.

2. If this comes to be, it'd be more practical if the amount of spells per spellbook was increased, spellbooks could certainly be balanced so that a spellcaster could have a decent balance of spells and it'd be practical to have access to a useful allotment of spells in each possible, but most spellbooks as they currently exist, wouldn't be practical to equip for any significant length of time.

I think it would be okay.

For instance: Book of Party Tricks: Summon Butterflies, Apportation, Lesser Beckoning, Tukima's Dance, Alistair's Intoxication, Invisibility
This book should give substantial bonuses so the mage can melee. He has a useful bag of tricks that work on some enemies, including some little used spells. Alistair's Intoxication enables him to disable humanoid monsters, and he can kill many others with invisibility. His book will be useless against some enemies, and he can melee those.

Fen Folio: Corpse Rot, Stone Arrow, Leda's Liquefaction, Summon Forest, Hydra Form, Summon Hydra
This is pretty versatile, as he can summon things or just eat enemies with hydra form. He can get some use out of Leda's Liquefaction, a little used spell.

Book of Alchemy: Sublimation of Blood, Ignite Poison, Petrify, Alistair's Intoxication, Irradiate
Not a terribly useful book, but it does have Irradiate against dangerous enemies, and Alistair's Intoxication against groups.

Book of the Dragon: Flame Tongue, Cause Fear, Bolt of Fire, Dragon Form, Dragon's Call
Wouldn't it be cool if you could actually use all the spells in this book at once? The game discourages it currently because they are from all different schools, but with this book system and a reduced number of spell schools, you could live out your dream of being a dragon lord.

3. You don't mention spell levels, is it the intention that you get access to all spells as soon as you get the book, or is there some training or XL that you have to get in order to use a spell from a spellbook?

I was thinking you just have to train enough of the spell schools to be able to cast the spell, but with a reduced number of schools so you actually can cast all the spells in your chosen book. An XL requirement could be used, or not. In crawl trunk, the XL requirement for spells is very rarely an issue, players tend to reach an XL high enough to cast a spell significantly before they have the training to cast it reliably.

mattlistener wrote:Be careful with "no real choice" logic. If your choice matters because A performs better than B then there's no real choice because you just choose A. If your choice doesn't matter because A and B perform equally then there's no real choice because choices that don't matter aren't real choices. Therefore there are no real choices.

I look at it like this: it's okay to have some choices that are just better than others and require experience to choose correctly. But these should be kept to a minimum. It's better to have choices that are equally good, but require substantially different playstyles. That way neither choice has to be strictly better, but both choices are worth exploring.
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Post Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 05:12

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Maybe there are just too many spells and magic backgrounds. Once you get past the early floors where you have to play around your starter book, conjuration-centered gameplay is all about damage output per MP so a small set of spells will always be the best. Earth magic is relegated to support because it has terrible multi-targets (Lee's) and poor MP efficiency. Air magic misses all the time (lightning bolt) or needs relec if you don't want to accidentally kill yourself (ball lightning). at the highest levels firestorm is clearly better than anything else as a thing to use 8-9 MP to blow up an enemy with, glaciate has the awkward damage falloff, lots of enemies resist shatter, tornado can put you in an awkward position and takes too long to kill enemies sometimes, enhancers for fire are MUCH more readily available, etc. plus, there are only so many ways to blow up an enemy.
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Post Friday, 20th July 2018, 22:56

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

How fast does glaciate's damage drop off as range increases? I've only ever cast it on 2 characters.

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Post Friday, 20th July 2018, 23:37

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

Learndb says Glaciate does full damage for the first five squares before it falls off. I found out once exactly how much it falls off, but am not sure now - I think it was 20% less damage per square beyond the first 5.

tabstorm wrote:Maybe there are just too many spells and magic backgrounds. Once you get past the early floors where you have to play around your starter book, conjuration-centered gameplay is all about damage output per MP so a small set of spells will always be the best

We agree that this is the problem. The Mage Book concept is designed to solve this issue since, under Mage Book, you can't accumulate that small set of optimal spells. Instead you'd get to try out as many different spellsets as there are books, increasing replayability.
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Post Monday, 6th August 2018, 13:23

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

I was thinking about this proposal and the more I think about it the more I like this proposal. Berder's problem is spot on, whenever I play a caster basically as soon as I clear the lair I am keeping an eye out for the same spells, almost without question. The only time an Air Elementalist really feels different from an Ice Elementalist or a wizard is in the early game where their toolbox of available spells is vastly different.

I would expand Berder's suggestion however, and make the each "book" contain basically the entire school, (and unequipping a book dispels any spell effects from that book). That way a player can pick up the "Book of Air", and have access to the entire suite of Air Magic (provided they train the skill sufficiently). This encourages a player focusing in Air Magic to play as an Air Mage, and use Air Magic to solve problems in more creative ways. A high level air mage would play completely different from a high level ice mage. This also leaves open the possibility for artifact books containing a hand picked sets of spells that work well together in creative ways- like Ogleb's Toxic Radiance + Ignite Poison. This would make the ultimate spells more available to the player- as the elementalists would have them in their starting books, but players would be less able to quickly swap between spell schools to create an ultimate set. Vehumet could retain a niche of being able to gift conjuration spells independent of the equipped book and Sif Muna could be modified to allow a player to equip two books.

I would make the Book Slot a separate equipment slot and not force the player to commit a hand to them. The reason is that this proposal already drastically reduces magic's current flexibility. I see no reason that a player shouldn't be able to use a shield or two handed weapon and still cast spells.

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Post Monday, 6th August 2018, 17:36

Re: Dungeon Crawl: Mage Book

This sounds like a step backwards. Inventory management for spell books was just vastly improved. I don't want to swap and store books, talk about tedious.

I think a better solution is to make sure that more spells are at least marginally useful in more situations. MR is a tough one to play with, I'd probably leave that because if hexes can affect any monster, it will get abused. Elemental resists however could use some reworking. You shouldn't need to get BVC, firestorm, glaciate, shatter and tornado to get around resists (yes throwing BVC in that list was a joke.) A monster having various resists should matter, but just not as absolutely. For example: if a person wanted to only train fire/conj for fireball, it could be helpful to varying degrees all the time with different mechanics from iron shot (not missing, AOE) versus how it is currently: very effective sometimes and worthless other times, thus pushing people toward unbranded spells.

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