Miscast Simplification


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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 03:41

Miscast Simplification

The current spell miscast system is... an adventure. It is at times flavorful and amusing, but it is so opaque that most players go with the option of "miscast as little as possible", while some players who have read the flowchart spoilers are more cavalier.

As a part of my ongoing magic revisions, I've turned my eye towards Miscast simplification.

The implementation is in the early phases but I expect this will be less writing and a quicker roll-out than positional magic.

This is a thread for feedback on the design and implementation as it unfolds. I'm particularly interested in:

  • Suggestions for what the heck to do with summoning (you'll see some on the wiki page)
  • Feedback on other parts of the game impacted by miscasts that I might have missed
  • Preferred UI rendering for the severity coloring now that there is no longer a miscast tier system

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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 04:09

Re: Miscast Simplification

Miscast effects, to a first order approximation, do nothing. The player has too much control over the circumstances that create significant miscast effects for them to have any impact on a reasonably informed player's games (as you mention).

For most spells, you will not see significant miscast effects at fail rates for which those spells are useful even neglecting the possibility of miscast effects. Even at 30-40% fail, you're not seeing a lot of dangerous stuff happen until you get into pretty high level spells. It seems to me that high rank (or w/e it's called) miscast effects are there to discourage the player from doing something that the fail rates already strongly discourage. It would be better to fold all of the disincentive into the fail rate and remove miscast effects entirely. Then you have a clean measure of how good an idea it is to try to cast a spell that does not depend on complicated formulas and lists of effects on a wikipage or whatever. You could, of course, increase fail rates somewhat to compensate for the lost disincentive of miscast effects on the high fail rate end.
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 08:07

Re: Miscast Simplification

I agree with tealizard. If fail rate alone is not enough for some spells (ex. long-lasting buffs like Necromutation or Statue Form), those spells should be changed/removed, or at least some special mechanic (like miscasts) should not affect instant spells which are already severely punished by wasted time and MP. If players want to cast Lightning Bolt at 70% chance, they should be welcome.
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 08:20

Re: Miscast Simplification

My 2 cents:
I agree with all that said before, but I'd like that there would be just 1 effect for all spells that prevent\disencourage trying to cast high-fail rate spells, because it would be still good to try to cast fire-storm\summon lightning spire\whatever at 50% fail-rate with things at the edge of the LOS and retreating if not working. And obviosly, reworking all the spells problematic from this point of view is really big.

My suggestion: each failure increases the fail-rate for that specific spell. The malus should decrease gaining experience. Remove every thing else related to miscast.
So, you could try anytime to cast deflect missiles\statue form at 50% fail-rate, but in most cases you'll end to be unable to to cast it.
(more brutal version to avoid anyway to trying to cast dmls at 50% then 50+malus etc..: after miscast make player unable to cast at all that spell until he gains enough exp)
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 08:40

Re: Miscast Simplification

I like nago's suggestion. It can result in interesting situations when impatient players lose access to some spell unless they severely overtrain corresponding magic schools and/or kill lots of monsters without using that spell.
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 10:06

Re: Miscast Simplification

The base mechanics of DCSS's spell system assume that the player never leaves combat. MP costs and fail rates are only meaningful if losing turns is meaningful. See the embarrassing disaster that is deflect missiles. Miscast effects might be an attempt to force non-combat spells to work by mutating you when you miscast them, but who knows what X dev's intent was when they changed school Y's miscast set for the Zth time, and regardless they've never worked very well for this purpose in practice (see the embarrassing disaster that is deflect missiles).

As nago points out, because the player can and often does leave combat, the lost turn and lost MP from miscasting is often not meaningful even for immediate damage spells. So you're left with three options: you can make sure the player is always fighting monsters all the time so losing a turn always does something, or you can overhaul the entire spell system, or you can add some kludge to stop players from casting high fail rate spells all the time.
Miscast effects actually kind of work as that kludge for high level spells; dragon form, a prime offender in the "cast this spell before going down the stairs" category, is rarely worth casting at 90% fail, because trashing your mutation set is pretty bad.
But miscast effects for lower level spells are completely ineffectual, and even the most basic miscast effect system is going to be a burden to explain to players, to say nothing of the overcomplicated miscast system in crawl and the overcomplicated miscast system that ebering proposes as a replacement.

If DCSS sticks with this kludge, it should pick ONE miscast effect and make sure it's debilitating. Two is unnecessary, twelve is absurd. The existing universal contamination effect would work all right for most species, just make it much stronger, especially at low spell levels. Unfortunately, it fails to be debilitating for ghouls and mummies, so until those species change, you'll have to go with something like extreme draining or extreme stat drain instead. Extreme draining has the nice effect of preventing further attempts at casting the spell for a while, but of course it also has the usual problems that drain has. nago's idea is interesting, but because it only penalizes the one spell instead of your whole character, I think it would only reduce how often you get to try your 80% fail fire storm, rather than stop you from doing it at all.
Damage is a pointless, impotent miscast effect because it is not meaningful when you can just leave combat, and times when you can just leave combat are the only times this kludge is necessary in the first place.

A simpler kludge would be to make it impossible to cast 50%+ fail rate spells at all (or 30%+ or whatever). Like you're a spellforged servitor. I can't think of a single situation where casting high-fail-rate spells is good gameplay, so it makes sense to make it impossible altogether, and this is pretty much the easiest option to explain to the player. The problem with this is that you're left with a lot of nasty breakpoints; lots of messing around with swapping wizardry and intelligence and strength items so that your spell gets just below the threshold. This is so bad that I think I actually prefer miscast effects as a solution, unless players lose the ability to influence spell success with equipment.

Note that because the player can take off their armour, wear wizardry rings they wouldn't normally wear, etc. etc., it is not possible for this kludge to make completely out-of-combat spells work in DCSS's system. See the embarrassing disaster that is deflect missiles.

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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 12:27

Re: Miscast Simplification

I think for most spells just losing out on the turns and mp is fine. Personally I don't even think about the miscast effects when evaluating eg Stone Arrow or Iron Shot.
I recon most people have this attitude, and that's why Sif Muna's miscast protection went unappreciated. In bcrawl Sif Muna protects from 100% of miscast effects, and that hasn't led to complaints or problems, as far as I'm aware.

I actually think that casting blade-hands at 60% fail rate to buff up for a unique/ghost is good gameplay. Certainly I enjoy playing that way.

If we ever get rid of chunks, spell hunger could provide a nice strategic cost to casting spells with a high fail chance - if spell hunger only activates when the fail chance is >10% and the spell hunger formula is changed drastically. Vampires would need some special effect, but leaving mummy's able to cast high-fail spells sounds fine.
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 13:12

Re: Miscast Simplification

Yeah, I was going to say a fail rate cutoff would make a lot of sense. About the issue of swapping items that modify fail rate and their interaction with duration effect spells, you could recompute fail rates turn by turn and cancel duration spell effects whose fail rate has exceeded the cutoff. This is similar to what's done in hellcrawl, but without reserve mechanics and so forth.

Some spells may have adverse interactions with these mechanics, silence being the main offender. Removing silence or making an exception for that case seems fine to me.
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 15:26

Re: Miscast Simplification

if a cut-off is implemented, there still needs to be a way to see the 'raw' fail chance. Because knowing whether a spell is at 80% fail chance or 99% gives a lot of information on whether it's worth training for it.

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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 15:56

Re: Miscast Simplification

Well, it could work as the skill training menu, where you can swap between base value, drained value, ash's bonus value.

About duvessa's rightfully concerns about wizardry, the solution for me is simple: remove +wiz items, excluding fixedart, Vehumet's bonus, mutations, etc.

Reasons: why +wiz exists at all? The drawbacks are far more than the interesting choices it provides.
If the experience cost of high level spells is too high - and for me this is true for most chars - just rebalance the base formula.

Sadly, that would still leave the problems about +stat ring or take-off armor, but one piece at time...
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Post Monday, 6th April 2020, 16:18

Re: Miscast Simplification

+wiz items help smooth out spell transitions.
As someone who uses high-level spells often, I'm glad they exist, but they're (almost) never in my end-game gear.
For example I'll replace a ring of +5AC with a ring of +wiz whilst my Big Spell natural fail rate is between 10 and 30%.
+wiz items offer an interesting choice, since you're often choosing between +wiz and good artefact rings. Sometimes you get an amazing +wiz artefact ring, and that's ok as far as the crawl philosophy goes afaik.
What exactly are the drawbacks of wizardry existing?

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Post Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 01:00

Re: Miscast Simplification

(Maybe everyone is already thinking this but) instead of putting in a cutoff at 50% miscast chance, just pass miscast probabilities through some function that f(x) with
- f(x) = x for x < 1/2
- f(x) is really steep for 1/2 < x < 3/5
- f(x) = 1 if and only if x = 1
- f(x) is linear for x > 3/5
The last two conditions are to address petercordia's point; if we don't care about that then drop them.
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Post Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 16:33

Re: Miscast Simplification

I just saw the dev wiki page on this reform and I gotta tell ya, and I say this with all due respect, you are way overthinking this thing.
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Post Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 17:21

Re: Miscast Simplification

I just looked at your miscast replacements, and the Distortion Unwield, Lugo wrath and Chei wrath look much more severe than the miscasts they're replacing.
Remember, your whole point was that mistcasts are mostly irrelevant. The new effects (such as 25% banish / 25% sever mutation-level contam /50% teleport) look scary.

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Post Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 23:48

Re: Miscast Simplification

What's wrong with that?

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Post Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 06:23

Re: Miscast Simplification

chequers wrote:What's wrong with that?


Nerfing casters again while doing nothing to berserkers and alike? Is there a plan to add possibility to be banished when melee attack misses? I can remind you that there are many weapons which are optimal to use even when you are really far from min delay. Why is it optimal for berserker to use battle axe even with 5 skills in axes while a caster can't even try iron shot with 5 skills in earth/conj?
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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 00:35

Re: Miscast Simplification

Well this thread went way off topic very fast. Most commentators read neither the pr nor the wiki page. (Thanks to tealizard, petercordia, and duvessa; gold stars for actually reading).

In terms of the wrath effects being more severe than the miscasts they're replacing: yes, good. These effects are supposed to do something, not be no-ops. The complication of the old miscast code picked these effects as a lazy crutch for "weird dangerous effect to the player". Removing the misdirection and writing down exact (shorter) lists of effects is better. Removing the archaic nested switch(random2(number)) statements with gotos interleaved with the cases is a technical boon.

Further simplifications (even all the way down to more contamination) are still on the table, but unlike the hardline posters here I value the flavor of spell-school differentiated effects.

I'm aware that out-of-combat spells are exploitable and miscasts don't help. In time honored development tradition I'm ignoring the problem for now (dealing with those spells is on my long-term-magic-overhaul plan but I'm not going to use miscasts to deal with them!).

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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 01:58

Re: Miscast Simplification

ebering wrote:Further simplifications (even all the way down to more contamination) are still on the table, but unlike the hardline posters here I value the flavor of spell-school differentiated effects.
It's not like you can't keep the school-specific flavour messages around ("Your hair momentarily turns into snakes" etc.). But having twelve mechanically different miscast effects is going to be just as incomprehensible to the new player as the current system, not to mention the impossible task of thinking up twelve different working effects in the first place. Even the current system shares some miscast effects between schools!

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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 05:22

Re: Miscast Simplification

It's somewhat less incomprehensible than the old system in the sense that you could conceivably put the miscast effect in the spell description to communicate it to the player, rather than requiring them to dive the source code and construct flowcharts. A system with a single, universal effect or no effect would be simpler, though.
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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 16:24

Re: Miscast Simplification

Having looked at the commit messages here (and tried source-diving, but Crawl's code is generally quite mysterious to me) I don't see how the miscast effects as described are particularly confusing. Fire miscasts do fire damage. Summoning miscasts can summon a hostile monster. Charm and hex miscasts slow you. Everything causes some contam. "Worse" miscasts are... worse. Even if I don't know exactly what they're gonna do, there aren't any huge surprises there.

Decoupling wrath from miscasts seems like a uniform good.

I'm agreed with tealizard that in general miscasts (especially severe miscasts) don't do anything because they're dangerous and easy to avoid (don't cast spells with dangerous fail rates). Something like the fail rate malus might actually lead to more interesting decisions in gameplay, since failing a miscast makes you strategically weaker until you gain XP, instead of doing tactical damage. Knowing that a miscast isn't going to outright kill you, but would make you weaker is a different sort of calculus to do.
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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 16:33

Re: Miscast Simplification

Also, if miscasts are going to use tactical effects, it might make sense to go for ones that can't be rested off — maybe instead of dimension anchor, word of recall or teleport to monsters? I'm not sure what you'd swap in for slow, though...

Also, a new monster introduced just for summoning miscasts might be a bit much? Durably-summoned hostile demons plus an aura of abjuration might be a less complicated route there. Though, it is a cool monster...
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Post Monday, 13th April 2020, 20:23

Re: Miscast Simplification

A few quibbles about the presentation/UI:

1) the manual describes magenta fail rate as corresponding to "potentially lethal damage," which is a bit misleading since, if I'm understanding correctly, the damage can potentially kill you at lower severities too. The point is that at that severity the damage might kill you from maxhp? And not that lower severity miscasts are not going to kill you outright? If so, there must be a less deceptive way to phrase this.

And yes, I agree that "potentially lethal damage" is not a good player-facing way to describe the possibility of e.g. being slowed for a long time.


edit: poking around a bit more it does seem possible to die from a miscast from full hp without the spell being colored purple. So I just don't know what that is supposed to mean.


2) > Wild magic is unpredictable—the consequences of a miscast may be worse than expected.

I don't understand what this means. If I were reading this for a new game I would figure there's a type of magic, wild magic, in the game, and you're telling me the miscasts for that type are worse than what was described above. I guess---I am not sure!---that in fact you're indicating that the possible damage values can vary quite a bit from the expected value? Again, there's got to be a better way to say that.

3) I think "you might take up to x damage" and "you can expect to take on average x damage" are both really desirable pieces of info for players casting under a miscast system where you not unrealistically might take amounts of damage that kill you (unlike the old system? ok I admit I don't understand the old system). Right now I don't think these are revealed clearly. If you're unspoiled you can sort of reconstruct that information from the spells' colors if you read the manual very closely and interpret it correctly. More realistically I'd expect people playing carefully enough to want to know this info to turn to extra-game sources.

It would be better to reveal this somehow more clearly. A suggestion is to have some information about it in the spell descriptions, where I expect people are more likely to look than the manual. For example, below the "Level: _ School: _ Fail: _%" line you might print "Miscasting this will cause you to take 1dx fire damage." (etc) or, if you're allergic to printing numerals outright, at least "Miscasting this might kill you from full health." when appropriate. I'm sorry, I don't know what the best way to do this is! But I think it can definitely be done better.

edit: sorry, I guess it cannot be as simple as 1dx can it, I was misunderstanding what "fail" referred to in the damage formula. Perhaps indicating the expected damage or the maximum possible damage, then?

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Post Friday, 17th April 2020, 17:55

Re: Miscast Simplification

Playing an ice elementalist to D:4, so far I have twice been almost killed by miscast effects.
Playing the way I'm used to (casting Ice Beast at 36% fail rate to prepare for a difficult encounter) apparently isn't a good idea with the new settings ;)

Of course the severity of miscasts can be discussed separately from the kinds of miscasts, thanks to your simplifications :)

I don't really like the severity of the miscast effects. Maybe it's just because I'm used to it, but I like getting a power spike when Summon Ice Beast is quasi-castable. Without them I'll have to run away from stuff more and I'll be significantly weaker than a melee dude at the same XL.
It does also sometimes happen that a spell fails at any non-0 fail rate, and at this XL the loss of 4mp and a turn is often enough to make a situation risky. With the severe miscast effects I'll have to take more precautions than I'm used to, which makes the game boring-er. I anticipate that perhaps I can't react to a dangerous situation by summoning a few ice beasts because if any of those spells fail I'll be dead (or need a blink scroll).

WRT the kinds of miscast effects, I'm a little concerned that ice damage might hurt a lot more in the early game than the late game (when you can get rC+++)
and nameless horrors are really difficult to take out for some characters, whilst being relatively easy to take out for other characters. I'm talking here about characters who otherwise have little trouble navigating the dungeon. If they stay this way I'm going to have to skill some characters specifically so that they can take out a nameless horror if it shows up. Currently it looks like you need ranged blast damage or non-magic melee damage to be able to deal with them. Some build options are lost, which is a shame.
If you'd make the nameless horrors go/melt away after a while, at least getting hit by a summoning miscast wouldn't come at a large strategic cost to certain characters, and I think they could still be as dangerous as the direct-damage miscasts. I understand you can't make them summons because they'd be susceptible to AoA, but StS shows there are also other options.
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Post Saturday, 18th April 2020, 01:44

petercordia wrote:I don't really like the severity of the miscast effects. [...]

It does also sometimes happen that a spell fails at any non-0 fail rate

Yes, I've got the same problem. Playing in 0.25 trunk with a felid relying on transmutations and dragon form, I noticed that a failure rate of 1% is still shown in yellow (!) (And iirc the failure rate at 5% was shown in red.)

Even worse, it happened 3 or 4 times that - after casting dragon form failed - my char turned into fungus or wisp form. In Zot I was lucky that my wisp could fly/blink away from the tentacled monstrosity.

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Post Saturday, 18th April 2020, 06:05

Re: Miscast Simplification

Thanks for the play-testing feedback. For now I'm keeping nameless horrors durably summoned, but I've halved their HP and lowered their AC.

I've also toned down miscast effects across the board, and improved status light coloring: grey failure only displays if no damage is possible. If the possible damage is very minor it shows in White, followed by Yellow, Lightred, Red, and Magenta.

Spell descriptions now explain the consequences of a miscast. Wording tweaks and other desired information are welcome.

More feedback on the coloring of failure rates and how it does (or does not) match your expectations when you do get miscasts would really be appreciated as well.
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Post Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 12:44

ebering wrote:I've also toned down miscast effects across the board, and improved status light coloring: grey failure only displays if no damage is possible. If the possible damage is very minor it shows in White, followed by Yellow, Lightred, Red, and Magenta.

My felids still have a rough time. No matter if they start as Tm or another class, they want to become a statue or a dragon.


Unfortunately, my felids sometimes still turn into a tree, pig, wisp (RAAAAWR!) or something when failing to cast SForm / DForm at 1% failure rate. This happened in one of the hell branches as well.

If a player loses one turn and gets some contam - isn't this enough penalty for a 1% failure rate? Turning into a bad form could end this felid's life (or the entire char with another species), so I think that's too much penalty.

In my games, this recently lead to a strange way of playing:

  • put all stats into int
  • put tMut skill much higher even if failure rate is 1% (I recently got "0%" DForm failure finally at skill 27)
  • if my char runs around in one of the forms (let's say, statue form in hells) and notices an enemy, it's best to withdraw and recast the form spell out of LOS and then return and attack the enemy. Or if you are lucky to get one of the spells online for midgame, you can go back to the stairs, recast the spell on the floor above and climb downstairs again.
Normally I would get my forms to sth like 3% - 5% failure and then focus on other stats/skills.


Off topic
My transmuters already suffer from another problem: the removal of DMsl which I considered to be mandatory for DForm (low AC, low EV, no shield). I know about the discussions - just telling you that Tm already has become harder.

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Post Friday, 1st May 2020, 16:59

Re: Miscast Simplification

Even after nerf to horrors their risk in D:1 - D:3 is disproportionate to all melee/ranged and most other caster miscast. I had a spell with 11% fail (white color) summon a 10 damage horror on D:2 and again on D:3. This isn't out of line with rare OOD spawns of regular monsters on D:2, but most of those don't appear on top of you in the middle of a fight. For many species this is in the neighborhood of 2-shot kill damage still, at a time where most escape resources are not identified/identifiable yet in standard crawl.

And, like most other threats in the game, the relative danger of this miscast rapidly scales down to "trivial" when used at sensible timings in a fight as you progress in the dungeon. So it's a threat that is potentially lethal or near-lethal on the opening floors and vanishes shortly thereafter. I thought one of the goals was to get away from that?

Players aware of this spoiler information could just stick to spamming mammals for the first 4-5 floors and likely be fine, but there is still something off-putting about ~90% success rate magic being extremely threatening off a single failure. Especially for the backgrounds most prone to very early game-over shenanigans.

Tmuts are even worse though. Those can really trash your defenses + limit options, to a degree where pre-casting incentives are worse than ever.

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Post Thursday, 7th May 2020, 10:09

TheMeInTeam wrote:Tmuts are even worse though. Those can really trash your defenses + limit options, to a degree where pre-casting incentives are worse than ever.

At least you can cancel your bad form with a potion - and in the actual trunk version I have the feeling that potions of cancellation are more common than before. Also,


So as transmuter I'd keep some of them in my backpack.

But as long as you don't have several of them you're right and these pre-casting incentives are a point.

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Post Sunday, 17th May 2020, 07:41

Re: Miscast Simplification

Tmuts is pretty obnoxious with the miscast changes, I have bladehands at 4% miscast (white) and am sometimes getting turned into badforms like fungus or tree which are potentially lethal if you run out of cancellation potions. At 4% I feel like I should just be able to cast my spell without always thinking "what if I become a tree, will I die?"

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Post Sunday, 17th May 2020, 12:15

Re: Miscast Simplification

Kramin42 wrote:Tmuts is pretty obnoxious with the miscast changes, I have bladehands at 4% miscast (white) and am sometimes getting turned into badforms like fungus or tree which are potentially lethal if you run out of cancellation potions. At 4% I feel like I should just be able to cast my spell without always thinking "what if I become a tree, will I die?"

I agree with that. Could there be a scaling of the severity of miscast effects? Basically, if I miscast a Firestorm at 60%, I need to assume that I may immediately die, but if miscast it at 4%, I have just wasted the time and the energy - that would sound reasonable to me, and it may help with the previously expressed comparison of casters with melee-fighters. There should be a level of expertise where a miscast just doesn't matter any more than a missed swing with my axe.
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Post Sunday, 17th May 2020, 14:10

Re: Miscast Simplification

Both scaling of severity and a threshold under which there is no miscast effect exist already.

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Majang

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Post Sunday, 17th May 2020, 15:04

Re: Miscast Simplification

It sounds like there is a problem with the types of miscasts for translocations - because bad forms can be *really* bad. Also arguably a problem with the severity of transmutation miscasts because transmutations were always the spells most likely to be cast at 70% fail rate (at least for me).
Perhaps making transmutation miscasts give temporary bad mutations would be better.

I also feel the scaling with spell level could be improved, where some miscast types should scale more and others should scale less, though that's not based on recent experience.

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Majang
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Post Monday, 25th May 2020, 14:11

Good news for players who like transmutations: Revise transmutation miscasts

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Post Monday, 25th May 2020, 19:27

Re: Miscast Simplification

It's funny to see nameless horrors show up as a result of Hell effects now. Fortunately they are rather weak (for hell monsters) since they often spawn as part of packs.

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