Improve the early game


Although the central place for design discussion is ##crawl-dev on freenode, some may find it helpful to discuss requests and suggestions here first.

Halls Hopper

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 06:14

Improve the early game

You know what? The first 3 dlvls levels of this game stink. They contain more unavoidable deaths and frustration than the rest of the game put together. From Sigmund to Grinder to monsters with wands that can 1 or 2 hit kill you to kobolds with poison darts on dlvl 1 to out of depth monsters like gnoll packs (with nets!) on dlvl 1 to a centaur on dlvl2, no other part of the game throws such disproportionately difficult monsters at you and it comes at a time when you have had very little chance to gain any useful ways of coping with difficult situations. This makes the difficulty curve all screwed up, you die a ton in the first 3 levels then things become much easier. It's a major turn off for me, and I'm a relatively experienced rogue-like player. For introducing newbie to the game... it makes things very difficult, it's hard to convince them not to give up in frustration before they see that the rest of the game is not like that.

Some suggestions for changes that might improve the early difficulty curve:

No Sigmund before dlvl 3, no Grinder before dlvl 4.
Sigmund and Grinder less likely to wake
No OoD monsters on dlvl 1+2, monsters cannot be more than eg. 2 levels OoD on dlvl 3+4
Monsters do not use wands in first 3 dlvls, their offensive power is too strong to be aimed at such low level characters.
Characters start with some basic escape tools eg. 1 potion of healing + 1 scroll of blinking or a potion of swiftness (which should totally be a thing)

Vestibule Violator

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 10:06

Re: Improve the early game

Adding starting consumables is problematic because it also identifies those consumables. This is quite valuable. Less OOD on the first few levels sounds like a good suggestion to me. Early on most chars just don't have the means to kill OOD monsters, and few means of avoiding anything, especially anything ranged. So OOD monsters are simply not very interesting there. Same for wands.

Edit: There is a recent fork of DCSS with the goal of making the game easier and shorter. It's called Crawl Light and maintained by dtsund. Maybe you should also take these suggestions to him.

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 12:02

Re: Improve the early game

1. Despite the reek, some players manage streaks which are too long to be accidental.
2. 0.9 gave everyone +3 HP.
3. The starting kit is meant to get you through the first levels. Out of depth monsters are problematic, some builds are better suited than others. Let's see: berserkers are always fine, as are assassins (curare) and, to a slightly lesser extent, gladiators (nets allow you to escape quite reliably). Next, all builds with stealth have good chances to ignore certain monsters (switch off stealth at your own risk). This leaves some backgrounds which are more susceptible to unexpected opposition: Fighters, Hunters (but those with large rocks and javelins are pretty well off again), Artificers (confusion can solve many problems again).

We may want to strengthen certain backgrounds, but on the other hand, this may be not really necessary. The complaints about the unfair early game are as old as the game, and earlier versions were a _lot_ harsher in what they could put on D:1 (dragons have been seen in the starting room). In other words, I am not convinced. Starting your petition with "the early game stinks" is unlikely to get any change underway, anyway and by the way.
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Dungeon Master

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 12:49

Re: Improve the early game

Looking at the OP suggestions, I say no to all of them but one. Wands. We already don't give strong wands to weak monsters. Why put them on the floor? Either a monster picks it up and blast you or you pick it up and the early game is trivialised.
Let's use this logic in dungeon generation and not put high tier wands on the first floors. Another thing which could be removed from the first floors is potions of berserk rage.
So, no berserk potions and no high-tier wands before D:3?
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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 12:54

Re: Improve the early game

To add to dpeg's list of combos that are good at escaping, Wizards and Venom Mages can escape easily with Mephitic Cloud (starting at experience level 3 and very probably before your first centaur) while also taking out "glowing weapon kobolds" early, Transmuters and Stalkers can easily confuse and kill anything dangerous early on with Evaporate. Except Grinder, maybe, but you're overestimating his threat a bit. He 1) blinks; 2) is speed; 10 3) will often fall back in a chase since he spends a turn casting Pain on you. Paralysis exists, sure, but generally you can run away from him if you try.
Warpers and Healers have great survival options.
Deep Dwarves are basically unlosable on early levels. Spriggans, while vulnerable to careless play, too.
All in all, a majority of roles and races are well-streakable.

// Don't give top-tier wands before 5 HD, except to Ijyb and not in
// sprint.

And here's the unique you should be moaning about instead. ;)
Last edited by cerebovssquire on Thursday, 1st September 2011, 12:58, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 12:57

Re: Improve the early game

galehar: sounds good.
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 13:11

Re: Improve the early game

minmay wrote:Should we remove early books of Frost, too?

Monster usage is the main question here.

minmay wrote:Really, problems with these items come from monsters using them, so that would be the first thing I'd take away. I definitely wouldn't miss monster potion/scroll usage.

Are you suggesting that monsters don't use any consumable? Or just potions of berserk rage and high tier wands? The former is dull, and the later is special-casey and spoilery.
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Vestibule Violator

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 13:38

Re: Improve the early game

It's a little weird that every sentient monster seems to have identified all potions and scrolls. No matter what they find, they know whether it's useful or harmful. I don't see why monsters not using consumables would be dull. I find it annoying when it happens, and (except for wands) it is rarely interesting.

Also knowing what potions and scrolls can be safely left on the floor is spoilery.
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 13:53

Re: Improve the early game

Galefury wrote:It's a little weird that every sentient monster seems to have identified all potions and scrolls.

Oh, that's easy to explain. They live here.
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 14:15

Re: Improve the early game

Galefury wrote:It's a little weird that every sentient monster seems to have identified all potions and scrolls. No matter what they find, they know whether it's useful or harmful. I don't see why monsters not using consumables would be dull. I find it annoying when it happens, and (except for wands) it is rarely interesting.


Could be amusing to have monsters occasionally use harmful potions / scrolls by accident (id'ing them for you in the process); "The kobold drinks a potion! The kobold turns into a Boggart!" etc. :)
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 15:02

Re: Improve the early game

mumra wrote:The kobold turns into a Boggart!

Hilarity ensues.
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Abyss Ambulator

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 16:52

Re: Improve the early game

If there's anything that I think should be changed that makes the early game not fun, it's something that's not even mentioned in the original post: altar vaults with horribly OOD monsters.

I remember one recent game where I literally took about 5 steps, opened a door, and there was a troll behind it, presumably generated as part of the Okawaru altar vault. I've also heard of people running into iron golems on very early levels for similar reasons.

In the end, it hardly mattered as I was 5 turns into the game, and it hardly takes any time to start a new character - but if I'd been on a streak I might have been upset.

I guess if I had been spoiled about this, I might have recognised that particular vault from the layout of the walls and known not to open it, but isn't part of the philosophy of the game to reduce the importance of spoilers?
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 20:48

Re: Improve the early game

minmay wrote:Yes. If monsters zapping wands at the player is considered bad, it makes sense to get rid of monsters' ability to zap wands at the player. If monsters drinking potions and berserking is considered bad, it makes sense to get rid of monsters' ability to drink potions.

I've only said that a subset of the wands and one potion type are too dangerous in monsters' hands on the first 2 floors. You are generalizing it to all items all the times without any reason. If that's what you think, fine, say so (and provide arguments if possible). But please, don't express it like it's a logical conclusion to what I said, because it isn't.
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 21:10

Re: Improve the early game

A good thing about galehar's proposal is that it does not change a rule (a la "certain monsters are not allowed to use certain stuff"). It is just about not generating certain items on D:1 and D:2 -- a mild and indirect change.
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Barkeep

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 23:12

Re: Improve the early game

How is certain levels not generating some items different than those levels not generating some monsters?
I am not a very good player. My mouth is a foul pit of LIES. KNOW THIS.
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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 23:21

Re: Improve the early game

minmay wrote:"Certain dungeon levels are not allowed to generate certain stuff" doesn't sound much better than "certain monsters are not allowed to use certain stuff." (Of course, it also wouldn't be any worse.)

Are you trolling?
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Dungeon Master

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 23:46

Re: Improve the early game

galehar: I have seen this quite often. While it is very valuable to listen to players' complaints, and we should always have a look when they present ideas, it is often fruitless to _discuss_ design with them. We (here this means you) might explain some new idea once, but that's it. Ideas will always draw complaints and criticism, and that's okay. It is just not our job to convince players.

In other words: players are fully entitled to complain about nerfs and bugs. Developers are entitled to develop without any explanation. If asked nicely, they should explain once.

I am not sure the nerf is actually necessary (the streaks, the streaks!). However, it is probably a good idea to reduce early variance in this way. Of the myriad possibilities, your proposal is as non-intrusive as possible. Everything else can be settled on ##crawl-dev.

And no, I don't think minmay is deliberately trolling.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 23:51

Re: Improve the early game

There are already D-level restrictions on item generation. Scrolls of immolation, for instance. It's perfectly reasonable to expand this restriction, either to keep items that trivialize the early game out of the hands of players, or to keep monsters from one-shotting starting characters, or both. There should be plenty of items left over to keep the first few levels interesting even if we don't allow those that can instakill XL3 characters at range on D1.

In the list of restricted items, I'd include most wands, scrolls of immolation and summoning, potions of berserk rage, and weapons branded with electric, pain, or distortion brands. I also think it would be a good idea to take a closer look at branded darts, because there are some that don't seem good for D1 but also aren't useful deeper down either. That still leaves plenty of normal brands you can get, plenty of consumables, and wands that are good enough to snipe jellies and orc priests even if they can't carry you all the way to Lair all by themselves.

I also think it might be a good idea to judiciously use additional equipment to fix backgrounds that are inferior. Wizards don't need the help, but no aspect of balance is going to get out of whack if the lowly fighter starts with identification of potions of might. There's also the option of swapping out the basic rations every background gets for some form of special food that has some potentially useful property. A fruit that suppresses poison damage for a short duration, for instance, might save you from a kobold with poisoned darts long enough to recover or find a potion.

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Post Thursday, 1st September 2011, 23:58

Re: Improve the early game

KoboldLord: Yes, that reads very good. Giving one or two !might to Fighters is an interesting idea. A bit more conservative would be to give them knowledge about !might.

Halls Hopper

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 02:20

Re: Improve the early game

I thought I'd try and get a sample to illustrate why I thought the difficulty of the 1st 3 levels needs balancing. I used the recent games list on crawl.akrasiac.org, and counted place of death. Of the 60 most recent games, 44 resulted in death before dlvl 4. So the first 3 levels account for 75% of all character mortality in this sample, while the remaining 95% of the game caused only 25% of the fatalities. I would say that this is not a good difficulty curve... And even good players die disproportionately frequently on these levels. The recent games of hyperbolic, who has the top score on that server, have 5 wins, 5 deaths in dlvl 1-3 and 5 deaths in the entire rest of the game.

Does this sound like a difficulty curve that is balanced? That helps new players get into the game?

Halls Hopper

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 02:34

Re: Improve the early game

dpeg wrote:1. Despite the reek, some players manage streaks which are too long to be accidental.
2. 0.9 gave everyone +3 HP.
3. The starting kit is meant to get you through the first levels. Out of depth monsters are problematic, some builds are better suited than others. Let's see: berserkers are always fine, as are assassins (curare) and, to a slightly lesser extent, gladiators (nets allow you to escape quite reliably). Next, all builds with stealth have good chances to ignore certain monsters (switch off stealth at your own risk). This leaves some backgrounds which are more susceptible to unexpected opposition: Fighters, Hunters (but those with large rocks and javelins are pretty well off again), Artificers (confusion can solve many problems again).

We may want to strengthen certain backgrounds, but on the other hand, this may be not really necessary. The complaints about the unfair early game are as old as the game, and earlier versions were a _lot_ harsher in what they could put on D:1 (dragons have been seen in the starting room). In other words, I am not convinced. Starting your petition with "the early game stinks" is unlikely to get any change underway, anyway and by the way.

You forgot all the priest backgrounds, elementalists, wiz/cn before they get mephitic cloud and necromancers. That's more than half of all the backgrounds that are easily vulnerable to early game unavoidable death.

Yes, good players manage long streaks. But then I look at the streak breaking games for the longest streaks on akrasiac - death on dlvl 1, dlvl 4, dlvl 3, dlvl 1, a labryinth, dlvl 3, dlvl 11, dlvl 3, dlvl 4, dlvl 1.... I see a pattern there.

Halls Hopper

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 02:43

Re: Improve the early game

minmay wrote:Sigmund and Grinder are very strange monsters to single out. They're not anywhere close to being likely to cause unavoidable deaths.

galehar wrote:Looking at the OP suggestions, I say no to all of them but one. Wands. We already don't give strong wands to weak monsters. Why put them on the floor? Either a monster picks it up and blast you or you pick it up and the early game is trivialised.
Let's use this logic in dungeon generation and not put high tier wands on the first floors. Another thing which could be removed from the first floors is potions of berserk rage.
So, no berserk potions and no high-tier wands before D:3?

Well, you could say the same thing about nearly any good item. Specifically forbidding these items is special-casey and spoilery. Should we remove early books of Frost, too? Really, problems with these items come from monsters using them, so that would be the first thing I'd take away. I definitely wouldn't miss monster potion/scroll usage.


Sigmund and Grinder are major causes of unavoidable deaths. Sigmund will very often confuse, you will not have MR and if you don't have !healing id'd then you have absolutely no way of dealing with it, and it's almost always a death sentence. Grinder can paralyze and cause an unavoidable death. They both also have very high ranged and melee damage for their depths.

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 04:23

Re: Improve the early game

lazorexplosion wrote:Sigmund and Grinder are major causes of unavoidable deaths. Sigmund will very often confuse, you will not have MR and if you don't have !healing id'd then you have absolutely no way of dealing with it, and it's almost always a death sentence. Grinder can paralyze and cause an unavoidable death. They both also have very high ranged and melee damage for their depths.


Sure, but when I pull an escape from them, I feel very happy; the first levels would be utterly boring without this thrill. Even when you have not met Sigmund by level 4, just wondering whether you missed it, or did not generate, or he is waiting for you on level 5 is incredible fun. This game is not supposed to be fair, and what better introduction for a new player to show this the very first levels.

Crawl is in a state that many people enjoy playing immensely, and the truth is that nerfing these levels may brake the whole game. New players are nice, and they are welcome to adopt their expectations to enjoy the game we like to play. The other way around, changing the game to people's expectations (e.g. first levels should be easy!) seems unacceptable, in my opinion.

Also, regarding the high number of deaths on these levels, we have to take into account that people would be more likely to play carelessly when losing the character is not such a big deal. It has been my experience that the easier the first levels, the more I play overconfident later, and my best characters have been the ones that survived rather unfair odds at the beginning. Choosing the wrong action at the Lair or at Level 1 is way more costly, just because of the time invested. This is even more so for people looking for a streak, which are certainly not unheard of.

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 08:17

Re: Improve the early game

lazorexplosion: Yes, the majority of deaths occurs on D:1-3, we know this, of course. That's why 0.9 saw +3 HP for everyone and also why galehar reacted to this thread with a specific proposal. Then again, it is expected that many deaths occur early on: Crawl is, among other things, a game of resource management, and you have fewest resources at the start. I am sure that a flat mortality rate (there are approximately 50 levels, players die with 2% on each) is desirable: First, many players plow recklessly through the early game -- it is a huge difference if you lose a five minute or a five hour game. Secondly, the harshness is part of the appeal. Roguelikes share this with shoot-em ups, say, and it stems from permadeath. I wouldn't say the game is much easier after the first part (in places it is, though), rather that you can apply all kinds of (real world) skills there.

To sum it up: Yes, the first few levels are different, and more dangerous. But it's also fast and still a gauge of good play: the best players will inevitably survive more odd OOD encounters on D:2 than you or me. Capping the outliers of early game threat variance as galehar proposed is good: a wand of cold will probably get every player, and the suggestion also contains a nerf in that players would get such powerful items later. There is also some thematic underpinning to this by now: a player needs some Evocations skill in order to operate a wand of cold reliably (you may have read about this change; it is quite noticeable in play). We can assume that the D:1-2 humanoids are as incapable of this as is the non-Artificer player. (And no, no wands of cold on the floor for Artificers.)
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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 09:06

Re: Improve the early game

minmay wrote:No. I honestly don't see restricting generation of specific items as being better than restricting monster use of specific items.

We already restrict generation of plenty of items based on depth. Immolation as KoboldLord pointed out, but also acquirement, EWIII, summoning, vorpalise weapon, torment, holy word and vulnerability. And it's not just limited to items, we also don't put shafts on D:1 for example. Dungeon generation is all about depth.
And it's not just "generation vs monster use". the restrictions I suggested are of a much more limited scope than what you are suggesting.

dpeg wrote:I am not sure the nerf is actually necessary (the streaks, the streaks!).

What's wrong with the streaks? If the best players are able to pull long streaks, it seems to me that we have achieve a good balance. From the philosophy section of the manual (I know, you wrote that)
Ideally, a game like this would be really challenging and have both random layout and random course of action, yet still be winnable with perfect play.

If the goal is that the game is winnable with perfect play then we shouldn't try to prevent streaks. We might get worried if everyone and their mother are pulling streaks regularly, but we're not there yet ;)
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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 09:56

Re: Improve the early game

galehar: Hey, I just lean slightly to the conservative side. The streaks are definitely a compelling argument that the game does not need to become significantly easier. (Especially if you realise how diverse some streaks are in the species/background composition.)

I suggest to go ahead with the depth restrictions you proposed and call it a day :)

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 11:51

Re: Improve the early game

Just a note on streaks, there are only seven people (ever) who have ever managed to streak 10 or more games in a row (some play on multiple accounts so it gets a bit confusing if you look at the list). Nine people have managed to streak 7 or more. Once you start looking at 5 and 6-streaks the list gets a bit longer, but it's still a rather small group of people.

Also, while long streaks are a bit more common now and current versions of crawl are a bit easier (imo), I think the main factor is just that there are more extremely skilled players than there used to be. After all, old versions had mega-streaks too (stabwound's 19-streak was in version 0.4, Jeff had a 10-streak in 0.5).

Because of this, I'm skeptical about streaks being a good measure of how balanced the game is. If you balance the game around "streakability" (not that this seems to be a goal), I think there is a risk of the game being balanced around what the top players are capable of, rather than the majority of the playerbase.

Oh yes, I should also add, being able to streak is almost entirely about being able to survive the early game (as has been pointed out). Late game balance plays a role, but not much. If I want to streak (and I usually don't), I'll play something like a centaur, deep dwarf, spriggan, etc. If you look at deaths at the end of long streaks, it's usually stupid little things, like a pack of jackals or an unlucky kobold.

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 12:09

Re: Improve the early game

evilmike: Thanks for the analysis. My point did not get across, perhaps: I am afraid of streaks because they indicate that the game is "solved". My goal is not to have more or longer streaks. I believe the early game is a bit too hard, and the challenges in the late game are not hard enough (probably because we give out too much stuff). Of course, it is a stated goal that everyone can win -- we won't solve the streak problem (if you perceive it as such) by making wins impossible for everyone (the 4.1 approach, if by accident).

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 19:00

Re: Improve the early game

minmay: I find your opinion on streakability between versions interesting. (I am not a very good player, I just happen to have two tiny 2 streaks.) Why do you think DCSS 0.9 is harder than 0.5?

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 21:09

Re: Improve the early game

minmay: thanks for the list. I have a hunch that it's subjectively flavoured, but I cannot prove it, so perhaps I am professionally blinkered.

Balance is a subjective notion, of course, but I support all the nerfs in your list. There's no question that each of them makes the game harder (I think in a good way, but that's a personal opinion.) However, I believe that you've cut out the list of buffs, which should be equally long :)

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Post Friday, 2nd September 2011, 22:12

Re: Improve the early game

minmay: of course, but certain niche strategies have been boosted (not to the point of being on par with the strongest strategies, it seems, but still).

For example, ranged combat has been improved throughout all DCSS. I am not sure if it shouldn't be too strong by now. Because everyone's been grown up with "shabby interface, poor power", there is little feedback, even when neither point holds true anymore.

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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 03:33

Re: Improve the early game

dpeg wrote:lazorexplosion: Yes, the majority of deaths occurs on D:1-3, we know this, of course. That's why 0.9 saw +3 HP for everyone and also why galehar reacted to this thread with a specific proposal. Then again, it is expected that many deaths occur early on: Crawl is, among other things, a game of resource management, and you have fewest resources at the start. I am sure that a flat mortality rate (there are approximately 50 levels, players die with 2% on each) is desirable: First, many players plow recklessly through the early game -- it is a huge difference if you lose a five minute or a five hour game. Secondly, the harshness is part of the appeal. Roguelikes share this with shoot-em ups, say, and it stems from permadeath. I wouldn't say the game is much easier after the first part (in places it is, though), rather that you can apply all kinds of (real world) skills there.

To sum it up: Yes, the first few levels are different, and more dangerous. But it's also fast and still a gauge of good play: the best players will inevitably survive more odd OOD encounters on D:2 than you or me. Capping the outliers of early game threat variance as galehar proposed is good: a wand of cold will probably get every player, and the suggestion also contains a nerf in that players would get such powerful items later. There is also some thematic underpinning to this by now: a player needs some Evocations skill in order to operate a wand of cold reliably (you may have read about this change; it is quite noticeable in play). We can assume that the D:1-2 humanoids are as incapable of this as is the non-Artificer player. (And no, no wands of cold on the floor for Artificers.)

Yeah I think a flat mortality rate for non-branch ends is desirable, but don't think it's been achieved because mortality is much higher in the early game than the middle game, even for experienced players who are on long streaks and are therefore presumably playing carefully. The problem with difficult encounters in the early game is that they come before you can get any tools to deal with them, so they can cause unavoidable deaths. Sure, you can't prevent all unavoidable deaths, but you can tweak their frequency, and in my opinion unavoidable deaths occur too frequently in the early game. For established players sure losing 5 minutes because you died early isn't per se a huge deal although it is frustrating to have to do the first levels all over again; I would prefer it if this was smoothed out, but I can live with it because I know the rest of the game is great. The bigger problem is how it turns off newbies; you can try and coach a new player into learning that they need to recognize dangerous situations and escape but then you're stuck with the fact that the early levels don't give much means of escape and meanwhile the newbie gets killed by being confused 1st turn by Sigmund on dlvl 2 and they just get frustrated. They think the game is unfair, they get the idea that because some of their deaths are clearly unavoidable that all their deaths are the game's fault instead of being their fault for poor play. It just gets them frustrated and in the wrong frame of mind to learn to improve.

The conclusion I've come to is that the game would be fairer and the learning curve better if characters started with some means of escape ie. a potion of healing and scroll of blinking. With those tools, it is fine for the game to randomly throw big threats at the players right from the word go.

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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 08:04

Re: Improve the early game

lazorexplosion: You do realise that very good players avoid most of those early game deaths? It's _your_ (or mine) games that you complain about. Of course we wont give a scroll of blinking at start, that's hilarious. Recall you just got 3 HP. Also read the thread again, and try to learn from the masters.

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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 10:15

Re: Improve the early game

dpeg wrote:lazorexplosion: You do realise that very good players avoid most of those early game deaths? It's _your_ (or mine) games that you complain about. Of course we wont give a scroll of blinking at start, that's hilarious. Recall you just got 3 HP. Also read the thread again, and try to learn from the masters.

I'm looking at recent games played by players with high total scores and win rates greater than 10%. From that sample of good players, I'd estimate 50% of good players' deaths occur in dlvl 1-4. Good players do in fact die frequently in the early game, and die more frequently in the early game than the rest of the game put together. My back of the envelope estimates are that good player mortality is 10 fold higher in the first few levels than the rest of the game.

You've said yourself that a relatively flat mortality rate would be desirable; it seems clear to me that the evidence suggests this has not been achieved because the early game mortality is very much higher than the rest of the game. Mortality in the early game is higher because players do not have as many escape tools yet to deal with threatening situations, therefore mortality will not match the rest of the game unless early game threatening situations are reduced (potentially boring) or unless the player has some escape tools.
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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 10:59

Re: Improve the early game

The lack of escape tools is also what makes the early game different and interesting. Your first objective is to find some as soon as possible. For example, if you want to optimize the id mini-game, then you should pick up a piece of armour and use it for scrolls which asks for an item. But it's more important to id your potions rather than saving one of those scrolls, so you'd probably should use it on potions and hope it's ?id (which is more common too).
The harshness of the early game forces you to start identifying your stuff as soon as possible, and maybe not in the optimal conditions. It creates a balance between finding escape tools and wasting resources. Wasting resources is an important thing to learn for new players.
To conclude, I think it's better to balance the early game by addressing the sources of unavoidable threats rather than giving away escape tools.
<+Grunt> You dereference an invalid pointer! Ouch! That really hurt! The game dies...

Swamp Slogger

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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 11:10

Re: Improve the early game

Early game is fine. You died on D:2? Whatever. Or you can survive against all odds (Grinder + Sigmund + those elven twins on D:3) and form a stronger bond with your character or something like that. Well, unless you care about streaks and stuff like that in which case you're probably going to play a background with a strong early game advantage in the first place.

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Post Saturday, 3rd September 2011, 18:15

Re: Improve the early game

Galefury wrote:Adding starting consumables is problematic because it also identifies those consumables. This is quite valuable. Less OOD on the first few levels sounds like a good suggestion to me. Early on most chars just don't have the means to kill OOD monsters, and few means of avoiding anything, especially anything ranged. So OOD monsters are simply not very interesting there. Same for wands.

Edit: There is a recent fork of DCSS with the goal of making the game easier and shorter. It's called Crawl Light and maintained by dtsund. Maybe you should also take these suggestions to him.


No need; I lurk here.

CL 0.2 will be getting rid of random item identities*; I think this'll serve to make the early game a bit less vicious, as you can more readily spend consumables to get out of trouble. It'll also make the early game more consistent with the mid to late game, I feel, where item identities are pretty much always known to the player.

*Many roguelikes are all the better for randomized identity. I just don't think Crawl is one of them.
Just a well-spoken spambot.

Swamp Slogger

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Post Monday, 5th September 2011, 11:18

Re: Improve the early game

So, I've tried MDFi after a while. Yeah, I sort of take back my words. His early game is a joke. He has no answer to anything except running and it's not that he's good at it either.

On the other hand, Troll Hunter's early game is brokenly good. You have to play recklessly or half asleep to lose him before temple. 5 +1 large rocks can take out pretty much anything dungeon has to offer up until Lair I guess (and later with proper investment in Throwing but that's not an issue here). Not that life is very long for those "lucky" to still get in melee range with the guy. It pretty much makes TrHu a nobrainer compared to TrMo.
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Post Monday, 5th September 2011, 12:59

Re: Improve the early game

thenewflesh wrote:So, I've tried MDFi after a while. Yeah, I sort of take back my words. His early game is a joke. He has no answer to anything except running and it's not that he's good at it either.

On the other hand, Troll Hunter's early game is brokenly good. You have to play recklessly or half asleep to lose him before temple. 5 +1 large rocks can take out pretty much anything dungeon has to offer up until Lair I guess (and later with proper investment in Throwing but that's not an issue here). Not that life is very long for those "lucky" to still get in melee range with the guy. It pretty much makes TrHu a nobrainer compared to TrMo.


Funny, I've rarely ever had a TrMo that died before Temple... They rip through everything with ease. Maybe if I get a D:6 or D:7 Temple and some bad rolls on the RNG for uniques I'll run into issues, but I regularly Temple dive right away with my TrMo's without any real issues.
KoboldLord wrote:I'm also morbidly curious now as to how Shatter is abusable for 'stealth tricks'. It's about as stealthy as the Kool-Aid Man smashing through the walls and running through the room

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Post Monday, 5th September 2011, 13:02

Re: Improve the early game

Monk is even better now, they get ** piety with their first god.

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Post Monday, 5th September 2011, 13:35

Re: Improve the early game

bobross419 wrote:
thenewflesh wrote:So, I've tried MDFi after a while. Yeah, I sort of take back my words. His early game is a joke. He has no answer to anything except running and it's not that he's good at it either.

On the other hand, Troll Hunter's early game is brokenly good. You have to play recklessly or half asleep to lose him before temple. 5 +1 large rocks can take out pretty much anything dungeon has to offer up until Lair I guess (and later with proper investment in Throwing but that's not an issue here). Not that life is very long for those "lucky" to still get in melee range with the guy. It pretty much makes TrHu a nobrainer compared to TrMo.


Funny, I've rarely ever had a TrMo that died before Temple... They rip through everything with ease. Maybe if I get a D:6 or D:7 Temple and some bad rolls on the RNG for uniques I'll run into issues, but I regularly Temple dive right away with my TrMo's without any real issues.


TrMo is easy combo, but TrHu is like an upgraded TrMo (esp. with new skill system). You still rip through almost everything and you have a nuke that can kill pretty much anything else (uniques, ogres on D:2, etc.). So, instead of diving you get tons of free xp to plough into Unarmed before you even get to the temple.

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Post Tuesday, 6th September 2011, 08:39

Re: Improve the early game

I feel like there are two issues with the early game.

The first is not that it is difficult, but that it is arbitrary. Luck plays an enormous role early - there is a long list of things that will kill you for which there is no right play, even in hindsight. Examples being very early poison, goblins with distortion daggers, high power wands, an invisible Sigmund with a wand is death for almost all characters in most cases. I'm not arguing you should remove randomness entirely, or that characters just shouldn't die early on, or that some classes shouldn't have an easier early game than others, rather that the numbers here are off. I'm genuinely shocked to hear that a flat mortality curve is a goal for the dev team, because it feels anything but.

Personally I'm not a good player, but I've never taken a rune and not gone on to win; yet I doubt I hit lair in 10% of my games. People who streak are the wrong examples to use, they'd be the pros if crawl could support it, people who play on CAO are probably, what, the top ten or fifteen percent of players? Would the game suffer if casual players made it to temple more often? What attracted me to the game in the first place is that unlike nethack/adom/every other roguelike it wasn't like you relied upon spoilers to progress (ok so it's not 100% but its a big improvement), and that whenever you died you could see the thing you did (or didn't do) that led to it. The early game is a major exception to this.

The second problem I have is that the optimal strategy is pretty much mandatory in the early game. Good players know to run away and avoid the randomness as much as possible, dive every unique, play the ID minigame correctly, never wear-ID jewelry, etc, etc. A big part of the issue here for me is that it requires a lot of knowledge, either by playing a huge amount to get not very far, or by reading the wiki/learndb. This would be fine if that's just how the game was, but once you actually have some resources to manage everything changes. I disagree that it's teaching players who "plow recklessly through the early game" anything, because the one time the dice all fall the right way and they make it to mid game they don't need that play style. It's fine for there to be an optimal way to play, streakers gonna streak, just like its fine that stair scumming is the "best" strategy in angband, but forcing it on the player is a legitimate design flaw (even if you can avoid it mostly with TrHu).

Don't get me wrong, I really like the game - it's just for me that game really starts at the temple.
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