Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Sunday, 1st March 2020, 03:00

Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

So the hydra head chopping mechanic has been generally unpopular for a while, but removing it leaves hydras somewhat uninteresting, so I think it would be best to replace it with something else. Proposal:

Hydra heads cannot be removed.
Hydras gain an extra head if they land a hit on the player which deals damage, at some % chance. Limit one per round, and a max of +X heads per hydra.

The exact specifics on this can be tweaked; for example you could require that the bite deals at least 5 damage vs at least 1 damage, and how many heads they should be able to gain is another way to balance this. I'd suggest something like gaining 2-3 heads as a good starting point, although if you really wanted to, you could let them gain heads indefinitely. Then tavern memers can have a challenge about building the biggest hydra possible!

Likewise, on a hit that does pass the damage threshold, you could have the odds to gain a head at 25%, 50%, or even 100%, depending on testing.

This would let people attack hydras with any weapon effectively, but you would be punished for engaging in melee without the ability to kill them off quickly. If you got unlucky with an 8 headed hydra, it could grow to 11 heads; as written a 5 headed hydra would be capped at 8, although if you wanted to, you could use the same cap for all hydras regardless of starting heads.

With high enough armor you'd still be safe against hydras, but they'd be a bit more threatening against light/medium armor, which is the hydra's intended role.

One downside is that this completely breaks with historical hydra lore...but I'm alright with that.


Cocytus Succeeder

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Post Sunday, 1st March 2020, 04:59

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

It's not clear to me why this monster is called a "hydra" at all. This is just a new monster with the old name.

If the name (or lore) isn't really important, I'd suggest a simpler solution: remove the head-chopping mechanic and add nothing else.

Basically, the idea of a melee monster dealing a multi-hit attack seems to be a reasonable enough idea. Why not just stick with that, instead of complicating it (the above proposal) or making it degenerate (the head-chopping mechanic). Just to hold on to a name?


FWIW, the idea of a "scaling multi-hit attack" is also a fairly reasonable idea. However, the idea can be simplified. For instance, in Slay the Spire, there's an elite monster "Book of Stabbing", which does 7 times X damage, where X increases as the fight goes on. That seems to be a simpler and easier-to-communicate way to scale the attacks.

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Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Sunday, 1st March 2020, 05:52

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

If there's a monster that gets stronger, it should get stronger even when the player runs away. Especially when the player runs away, if anything. It should not even need to stay in LOS to do so, let alone make melee attacks, otherwise good players will just never interact with the gimmick at all.
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Vaults Vanquisher

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Post Sunday, 1st March 2020, 17:21

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

Agree with bel about removing the head-chopping mechanic and replacing it with nothing, but would also push back on the idea that removing it makes hydras "less interesting." Head-chopping may have "flavor," but it's a bad mechanic easily defeated by a reasonably proficient player (through carrying otherwise useless items no less). If it is more interesting, it's only in a bad way. We should not feel obliged to compensate for removing it.
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Tomb Titivator

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Post Sunday, 1st March 2020, 21:29

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

I personally hate Hydras, playing mostly unarmed and blaster caster characters. The head chopping mechanic does nothing for me, although I do actually quite like it thematically, I wouldn't moan if Hydras were simply no longer in the game.

Lerny is an interesting boss (and hilarious if you have a phantom mirror) but each time I see a regular hydra then tend to just be a pain in the ass and avoided, or tedious to isolate and then throw everything at.
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Tartarus Sorceror

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Post Monday, 2nd March 2020, 01:50

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

Hydra heads are an odd mechanic in Crawl, because it's the only one where weapon damage type makes any difference. However, I am not that sure that they are a bad mechanic. What I mean is that there are a number of situations which encourage you to carry around a certain weapon or item just in case (antimagic weapons, rElec, Undeadhunter...). Compared to these mechanics, hydra heads are very easy to understand and very impactful (two positive qualities in and of themselves), which is why they are hard to avoid.

Now, a system where weapon damage type were applied more often wouldn't be worse. To make an example, slashing damage capable of regularly cutting down limbs on unarmoured opponents. Blunt damage ignoring part of AC. Piercing damage with a bonus when stabbing.

Maybe this would mean grouping together weapon classes under the same damage type, or maybe it would mean that a certain kind of character would have no reason to advance beyond a piercing polearm.

We already have something like this in place with spells. We have spells that inflict more damage on brittle monsters, for example. They could share that with blunt damage.
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Blades Runner

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Post Monday, 2nd March 2020, 15:50

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

Damage brand absolutely matters for other monsters. They check resists, and they also check things like demonic/undead or "chaotic" (vulnerable to silver). There is also a "cold blooded species slowed by freeze brand", which includes numerous monsters and one player species.

I wouldn't HATE removing the mechanic for hydra heads but IMO it's fine as it is, a lore-consistent extra consideration which gives meaningful choices. I actually wouldn't mind more monsters with similar mechanics rather than fewer. A lot of monsters boil down to "it hurts you a lot in melee", "it hurts you a lot from a distance", or "it's fodder at this point in the game. Changeups like this break that up a bit.

Abyss Ambulator

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Post Monday, 2nd March 2020, 16:12

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

I personally hate damage brands everywhere else as well. I hate switching between weapons, it is not an interesting deceison, it just slows down combat for no meaningful reason.

Snake Sneak

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Post Monday, 2nd March 2020, 19:42

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

I think Shtopit meant damage type as in slicing, crushing, piercing.

Hydras are thematic and there are plenty of monsters inspired by Greek mythology, especially since Shoals were added.

I think Hydras are strategically interesting because it's a monster you may just need to run away from, at least initially. They're like Revenants in Brogue (immune to weapon damage). They are also one of few glass cannon monsters which deal much more punishment than they can take. They are interesting because they force you to take a different action, like Spirit in Catacomb Kids.

What I can see as being problematic is that they're so quirky. For example if it wasn't for the wiki, I wouldn't figure out that Potion of Lignification is a hard counter to hydras. It gives you lots of AC, extra HP, and turns your unarmed attacks to blunt damage. I would rather see make hydras more consistent and less Nethacky (like - all melee attacks are bad against hydras). Cold vulnerability is explicitly stated in their description. In the myth, fire really did cauterize cut hydra heads.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Monday, 2nd March 2020, 20:28

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

If there's enough agreement that replacing it with nothing is better, then I'd be fine with that. I do think it'd be nice to keep some form of a head-growing mechanic, but I wouldn't say it's absolutely required.

Ziggurat Zagger

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Post Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 04:50

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

If you want to keep head growth, you can have them grow additional heads over time. 1% chance per aut for an awake hydra to grow an additional head, say.

If you want to keep head growth and you additionally want to keep it as an on-damaged effect (this is not good, because it does not make the monster stronger when you run away), at least make it happen with all damage, not just damage from melee attacks with certain weapons. This at least stops you from carrying otherwise-useless items solely for the purpose of killing hydras.
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Zot Zealot

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Post Tuesday, 3rd March 2020, 08:01

Re: Proposal: Alternative hydra head-chopping mechanic

Here's an alternate proposal: any non-fire >0 damage attack against a hydra causes a head to grow. Fire attacks cause a head to be removed.

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