Components for Backgrounds

A lot of the current roles can be viewed as consisting of two/three basic components, e.g.

Cr = melee + magic(ench)
DK(nec) = melee + magic(necro)
Ne = 2*magic(necro)
Wz = 2*magic
Pa = melee(longblade) + god(TSO)
CK = melee + god(X,M,L)
As = 2*thief
St = thief + magic
Th = thief + melee
Fi = 2*melee
Hu = melee + ranged
AM = ranged + magic(ench)
Wr = magic(tr) + ranged

If we can find a small selection of components such that choosing two flavoured components would cover the current range of roles, it might be an option to replace current job selection by this. A two point points-buy system of sorts.

If two is not enough, or the list of components grows too large, this likely won't work well.

Components (flavour): melee(weapon), ranged, magic(school), god(god choice), thief


  • What about spellcaster basic stealth/dodging? maybe part of the basic stuff, only replaced by some armour skill for 2*melee.
  • Fi as 2*melee or melee+defense(heavy), Gl as melee+defense(light)?
Instead of defense(heavy) or such, it could be just a yet another choice, just like that's the case for weapon, magic school or god. The question would be asked only for 2*melee.
“thief” would be better labelled “stealth”.
Wr is more magic(tr) + melee to me, I never bothered with their darts to any significant degree. They receive full weapon choice.
Generally, the idea is pretty good, the biggest problem being character labels. — kilobyte 2010-04-12 23:31

Some random comments by dpeg 2010-04-13 00:03: The approach is interesting. Advantage: very clear reduction of our backgrounds to their basic pieces. Drawback: even more keys to press (for example, a Fighter would require choosing Melee twice, then perhaps a choice between Heavy and Light, finally the choice of weapon). However, even if we think this is too clumsy for selection purposes, this would still be useful. This would make very fine background descriptions — if we want, we could colour code right next to the name of the backgrounds on the screen.

There's no need to split melee and ranged here; just have the weapons list include darts, bows, crossbows, slings, (large rocks), blowpipes, and whatever, listed after swords, hand axes, and so on. If you want to start as a troll with a mixed focus on range and melee, you could pick both combat(maces & flails), which gives you a mace, and combat(throwing), selecting large rocks, for example.

Also, I don't really think that a few more keypresses at character creation is anything of a concern, especially since the game would store the last configuration to allow for successive restarts. I definitely think a point-buyesque system is a great direction to move the game in, though preserving the current classes spellbook-wise seems like it'd be a large problem (unless you just pick from a big list of them at creation, which doesn't exactly seem desirable). You'd also lose nuances like hunters starting with +1 ammo, for what that's worth. And Combat aside, I don't like stuff like 2*component at all - what's the difference between one necro and two, for example? Stacking components seems like it'd be sort of powergamey regardless. — og17 2010-04-13 05:49
This is very interesting, and could work. I agree with the original poster that it should be a two-part selection at most; more, or a point buy, leads to losing some of the magic of discrete decisions. I like the idea of choices being fighting (general or weapon category), magic (general or school), god (pick one), rogueishness, and items. The skills given by each choice does not need to be strictly limited to the obvious skills: for example, unarmed and ranged would train dodging, while the rest of the fighting choices would increase your skill in armor (maybe general would train both). I'm not convinced that it's necessary to be able to choose between heavy and light armor styles; it's okay if a guy who picked polearms twice just always gets armor, and an unarmed guy always gets dodging. For starting equipment, the only non-obvious bits are how to do armor and how to do spellbooks. For armor I suggest an armor level counter which each choice gets a chance to increase by one or two - robe, leather, chain, scale or the like. Spellbooks are just as tricky as everyone's been saying they are. For a generalist/generalist the wizard book works, and for a generalist/specialist or a guy who specialized in the same school twice just pick that school's book. For someone with two different specializations though… we could go make a book for every combination, but it might be easier to just make a half-length book for each school and give the two-school guys a pair of those. — squashmonster 2010-04-13 19:03
I'm strongly in favour of doing this. To see it done right, you can try Lost Labyrinth (a roguelike). It has component-based character creation with point buying system. Seven points, but character creation is still fast and refreshingly flexible. Speaking of Crawl, I think 1) I would prefer point-based purchase system, as it allows more fine-tuning and there are no arbitrary distinctions like one choice of X, one choice of Y, one choice of Z. 2) It's self-balancing. You don't have to remember what each other job starts with to make sure all are on the same level of power. You just tweak cost or power of individual components. 3) By requiring some components for others, you automatically get rid of situations like Ogre Fighter, who is barely different from gladiator (ogres can't wear most heavy armour). Instead of trying very hard to make an equivalent of everything for every race, you put some limitations and let players customize from there. Race could even be one of components (mutually exclusive with other races, mandatory, 0 point cost and so on). 4) It doesn't have to increase complexity at all! On character creation screen, player would be given a choice of several most effective/popular component combinations for each race. Advanced character creation would be listed separately, much like random character currently is.
You could even go crazy and get character ideas from players automatically. Keep track of choices made by players and list the most popular ones for each race. I mean on servers like CAO and CDO. I think character titles should come from how they're played (best approximation is used skills), not what you chose on start. b0rsuk

Skill divisions

Here's an idea for how the current skills could be split: — og17 2010-04-13 06:56

  • Stealth - stealth, stabbing
  • Combat - fighting, weapon class (I don't think giving fighting with ranged weapons is a problem, as you'd train it anyway. If a “ranged weapons”-type skill returns, melee and ranged could be split up, with melee getting fighting and ranged getting generalrangedskill)
  • Defense - shields, dodging, armor (Light is leather and a buckler, Heavy scale mail and a shield, perhaps? Light starts with dodging skill, Heavy with armor skill. Without Defense, you get a robe and no related skills)
  • Magic - spellcasting, spell school (again, this is likely going to need a lot of reworking book-wise. A wizard-like generalist could get extra spellcasting and no specific school)
  • Divine - invo, a god (with Lugonu starting as current CKs do - that's a great bit of flavor, I'd hate to lose it. I think it'd be fine to have all gods be available here, as you're spending a sizable portion of your “points” to get it early)
  • Item-using placeholder name - evo, traps & doors (picks an item like current atificer. Traps & doors is assuming trap creation goes in, otherwise it's something of a flavor-appropriate leftover)
Combine “item-using” and “stealth” under common name of Trickery. b0rsuk

Here's my approach b0rsuk:

  • Player gets a certain number of points (to be determined), probably around 4.
  • Each component has a fixed cost, usually 1.
  • Each component is a combination of skills, items (usually 1, but for example artificer may get wand of random effects free of charge), and stat modifiers

Examples of components/modules:

  • 1-handed melee weapon, weapon skill, Fighting, +1 stat (Str or Dex depending on weapon), -1 another stat (cost: 1 point)
  • 2-handed melee weapon (Trident, Dire Flail, etc), weapon skill, Fighting, +2 stat(s), -2 stat(s), (cost: 2 points)
  • Ranged weapon, ranged skill, ammo, +1 dex, -1 other stat (cost: 1 point)
  • Dodging, +1 Dex, -1 Str/Int (cost: 1 point)
  • Shields skill, a shield, +1 stat, -1 stat (cost: 1 point)
  • Armour, +1 Str, -1 Int/Dex, ring mail (cost: 1 point)
  • Stealth, +1 Dex, -1 Str (cost: 1 point)
  • Magic skill, Spellcasting, a book, +2 Int, -2 other stat(s) (cost: 2 points)
  • Religion, usually Invocation as well, some bonus piety (cost: 2 points)

vandal 2010-05-17 05:45 This would be a great addition to the game, but instead of buying “melee” or “magic” as a component of your “class”, leave the existing class selection as is, and add an “advanced kit selection” screen that allows the purchase of specific equipment. Since equipment essentially determines your “class” in Crawl, it is the most direct method of letting players specify exactly what kind of character they want to bring into the dungeon. Give X number of points, create a list of basic weapons and armors with hard caps on things like the number of missile ammunition or spell books you're allowed to purchase using said points. How to integrate gods into this is the tricky part, unless god worship selection was simply restricted to the current game start choices (Pa, CK, Be, etc…).

It would not be a huge stretch from how things work now, since most classes allow you to specify a weapon or spell book after picking them anyway. As for starting skills, simply link item purchases to X amount of xp in the related skill. How this would apply to weapon types and spell books is obvious, and armour can simply split the xp awarded between Stealth, Dodge, and Armour skill based on type of the Armour purchased. example:

  • Robes split the xp 75% Stealth, 25% Dodge, 0% Armour
  • Leather splits 33.3% Stealth, 33.3% Dodge, 33.3% Armour
  • Ring Mail splits 0% Stealth, 25% Dodge, 75% Armour

djnrempel 2010-06-10 13:40 I really like this idea! I'd really like to be able to customize starting kit / skills. Another approach would be to start characters with a bit more gold and XP pool, but less skills and equipment, and just put a few shops on the first dungeon level that would have a good selection of basic equipment. Perhaps when you buy stuff on D1 it automatically allocates a chunk of your starting XP pool to the relevant skill (“Since you're obviously inexperienced, the kindly shopkeeper gives you few brief lessons”). Or you have some schools on D1 where you can pay to get starting skill levels (Lessons cost more if your aptitude is worse). Then more of the character development takes place in-game. One problem though is that spellbooks are a lot pricier than melee weapons. I'd be okay with spellbooks being assigned in character class selection and less important details (like short sword v mace) being decided by the character in D1.

I though about something similar: “Ecumenical Academy”. Yes, I know the name doesn't make sense, but it triggers correct expectations. Similar to Ecumenical Temple, but for choosing proffesion *after* the first few dungeon levels. This would have the benefit that player could adapt to interesting items he finds along the way. — b0rsuk 2010-06-12 21:04

Detailed proposal

Based on the above and a bit of work, here are anym's thoughts on how a background components system might look.

List of Components

First of all, here's a somewhat long list of possible components. It's not necessary to allow all of these for the proposed system to work. If some choices seem redundant, such as separate backgrounds for every single weapon type, that's because I want to avoid any additional prompts, such as asking for weapon type, after the background selection step. Currently, the names are mostly descriptive and just based on the skill/book/god in question, but more flavourful titles are also possible, e.g. instead of knowing Short Blades, Bows, Spellcasting, Trog or The Shining One, one might have a background in Sword-fighting, Archery, Thaumaturgy, Trogism or The Shining Path.

Every character gets the Universal traits and can then pick three “points” worth of background in addition to that. Backgrounds that include a spellbook or a religion cost two, all other backgrounds one. See below for examples.

  • Universal: robe, Ddg 2, 3 Dex, 10 HP, 0 MP
  • Short Blades: short sword, Fgt 1, SBl 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Long Blades: falchion, Fgt 1, LBl 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Maces: mace, Fgt 1, M&F 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Axes: hand axe, Fgt 1, Axs 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Polearms: spear, Fgt 1, Pla 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Staves: quarterstaff, Fgt 1, Stv 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Unarmed Combat: Fgt 1, U_C 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex, +2 HP
  • Bows: bow, 30 arrows, Bws 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Crossbows: crossbow, 30 bolts, Crb 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Blowguns: blowgun, 10 poisoned needles, 3 curare-tipped needles, Thr 2, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Darts: 24 darts, Thr 2, +2 Str, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Javelins: 6 javelins, Thr 2, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Nets: 6 nets, Thr 2, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Slings: sling, 30 sling bullets, Slg 3, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Armour: scale mail, Arm 3, Fgt 1, +3 Str, +2 HP
  • Shields: shield, Fgt 1, Shd 2, +3 Str, +1 HP
  • Stabbing: dagger, Fgt 1, Sth 2, Stb 2, +2 Str, +1 Dex
  • Spellcasting: potion of magic, Spc 1, +2 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Minor Magic I: book of Minor Magic I, Spc 2, Coj 1, Trl 1, Fir 1, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Minor Magic II: book of Minor Magic II, Spc 2, Coj 1, Trl 1, Ice 1, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Minor Magic III: book of Minor Magic III, Spc 2, Enc 1, Sum 1, Trl 1, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Conjurations I: book of Conjurations I, Spc 1, Coj 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Conjurations II: book of Conjurations II, Spc 1, Coj 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Brands: book of Brands, Spc 1, Enc 3, +4 Int, +2 Dex, +2 MP
  • Charms: book of Charms, Spc 1, Enc 4, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Hinderances: book of Hinderances, Spc 1, Enc 3, +4 Int, +2 Dex, +2 MP
  • War Chants: book of War Chants, Spc 1, Enc 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Summonings: book of Callings, Spc 1, Sum 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Necromancy: book of Necromancy, Spc 1, Nec 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Translocations: book of Spatial Tranlocations, scroll of blinking, Spc 1, Trl 3, +4 Int, +2 Dex, +2 MP
  • Transmutations: book of Changes, Spc 1, Trm 3, +4 Int, +2 Dex, +2 MP
  • Fire Magic: book of Flames, Spc 1, Fir 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Ice Magic: book of Frost, Spc 1, Ice 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Air Magic: book of Air, Spc 1, Air 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Earth Magic: book of Geomancy, Spc 1, Ear 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Poison Magic: Young Poisoner's Handbook, Spc 1, Poi 3, +5 Int, +1 Dex, +2 MP
  • Stalking: book of Stalking, Spc 1, Coj 1, Enc 1, Poi 1, +4 Int, +2 Dex, +2 MP
  • Trog: Trog, 35 piety, Fgt 2, +6 Str, +3 HP
  • The Shining One: The Shining One, 35 piety, Fgt 2, Inv 2, +5 Str, +1 Int, +2 HP
  • Zin: Zin, 45 Piety, Inv 5, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 MP
  • Yredelemnul: Yredelemnul, 45 piety, Inv 5, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 MP
  • Beogh: Beogh, 45 piety, Inv 5, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 MP
  • Xom: Xom, 100 piety, Fgt 3, +4 Str, +2 Int, +2 HP
  • Makhleb: Makhleb, 32 piety, Fgt 2, Inv 2, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 HP, +1 MP
  • Lugonu: Lugonu, 45 piety, Fgt 2, Inv 2, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 HP, +1 MP
  • Elyvilon: Elyvilon, 55 piety, Inv 5, +4 Str, +2 Int, +1 MP
  • Rods: rod of Striking, Evo 2, +1 MP
  • Wands: wand of enslavement, Evo 2


Existing classes as combinations of the above components

While the above components don't exactly replicate every class (e.g. there's no way to get any headgear), they should cover most current character concepts. As an example, here's how something resembling the existing classes could be built with the above system. Often some skills or items will be off a little, but in general, I think it plays out well. Mo and Hu, who both specialize in a narrow area, are probably the worst fits. Remember, you get to pick three components, unless you want one with a spellbook or a god, then you get that one plus a single other one which mustn't also include a spellbook or god.

  • Fi: Maces & Shield & Armour
  • Gl: Polearms & Shield & Unarmed Combat
  • Mo: Unarmed Combat & Stabbing & Javelins
  • Be: Axes & Trog
  • Pa: Long Blades & The Shining One
  • Pr: Staves & Yredelemnul
  • He: Unarmed Combat & Elyvilon
  • CK: Short Blades & Xom
  • Cr: Maces & War Chants
  • Re: Axes & Conjurations I
  • Wr: Polearms & Translocations
  • Wz: Spellcasting & Minor Magic I
  • Cj: Spellcasting & Conjurations II
  • En: Darts & Charms
  • Su: Spellcasting & Summonings
  • Ne: Spellcasting & Necromancy
  • Tm: Unarmed Combat & Transmutations
  • FE: Spellcasting & Fire Magic
  • IE: Spellcasting & Ice Magic
  • AE: Spellcasting & Air Magic
  • EE: Spellcasting & Earth Magic
  • VM: Spellcasting & Poison Magic
  • St: Stabbing & Stalking
  • As: Short Blades & Blowguns & Stabbing
  • Hu: Bows & Nets & Stabbing
  • Ar: Rods & Wands & Stabbing
  • AM: Bows & Brands

New combinations

In addition to replicating existing classes, the proposed system would of course also allow new combinations, such as:

  • Maces & Axes & Polearms
  • Staves & Javelins & Armour
  • Unarmed Combat & Hinderances
  • Bows & Translocations
  • Stabbing & Charms
  • Spellcasting & Zin
  • Poison Magic & Wands
  • Etc.
What about letting humans (or some new race) to take 4 points? Humans would become unique and interesting at last.Starting with 2 spellbooks is cool as well as starting with spellbook&God or armored spellcaster or any other mix — strobgpoint 2010-08-31 11:15


Interface-wise, I think a somewhat reduced list of backgrounds (probably no more than 36 or 39 to fit the layout nicely) should be presented after the species selection, ideally on a single screen, either as an alternative to the current background selection or maybe sometime even as a replacement for it. Here's a mockup how it might look like.

Welcome, Anym the Human. Please select your backgrounds.

   a - Short Blades         n - Stabbing             A = Air Magic
   b - Maces                o - Spellcasting         B = Earth Magic
   c - Axes                 p = Conjurations         C = Poison Magic
   d - Polearms             q = Brands               D = Trog
   e - Staves               r = Charms               E = Yredelemnul
   f - Unarmed Combat       s = Hinderances              Beogh N/A
   g - Bows                 t = War Chants           G = Xom
   h - Crossbows            u = Summonings           H = Makhleb
   i - Blowguns             v = Necromancy           I = Lugonu
   j - Javelins             w = Translocations       J = Elyvilon
   k - Slings               x = Transmutations       K - Rods
   l - Armour               y = Fire Magic           L - Wands
   m - Shields              z = Ice Magic

   You are trained in the use of axes and enter the Dungeon with one.

   & - Viable backgrounds   * - Random backgrounds
   # - Viable character     ! - Random character
   % - List aptitudes   Space - Change species
   ? - Help               Tab - Human Armoured Shield-Using Mace-Fighter

You can select a background either by pressing its letter or by moving around with the cursor keys and pressing Enter. At the bottom of the screen is a description of the currently highlighted background. So far, same as the species and current background selection screens. Backgrounds that cost double have a = instead of the - after their letter. Upon selecting a background, that symbol become a + and unavailable backgrounds are greyed out and he letters vanish, a bit like the shop interface or the current background selection for Demigods. Here's a second mockup to illustrate that:

Welcome, Anym the Human. Please select your backgrounds.

   a - Short Blades         n - Stabbing                 Air Magic
   b - Maces                o - Spellcasting             Earth Magic
   c - Axes                     Conjurations             Poison Magic
   d - Polearms                 Brands                   Trog
   e - Staves                   Charms                   Yredelemnul
   f - Unarmed Combat           Hinderances              Beogh N/A
   g - Bows                     War Chants               Xom
   h - Crossbows            u + Summonings               Makhleb
   i - Blowguns                 Necromancy               Lugonu
   j - Javelins                 Translocations           Elyvilon
   k - Slings                   Transmutations       K - Rods
   l - Armour                   Fire Magic           L - Wands
   m - Shields                  Ice Magic

   You are trained in Summoning magics and can summon creatures to your aid.

   & - Viable backgrounds   * - Random backgrounds
   # - Viable character     ! - Random character
   % - List aptitudes   Space - Change species
   ? - Help               Tab - Human Axe-Fighting Conjurer

After selecting three “points” worth of backgrounds, the game would start automatically. Maybe after a final confirmation, but I'd first try it without one, to keep the number of keypresses low. Speaking of keypresses, the increased flexibility comes at an increase in them, too, although not too dramatically, nothing takes more than three, which some of the current ones, e.g. Re also need, and many, coincidentally including Re, only need two. Also, as there is only a single selection screen rather than subsequent menus, the individual keypresses might themselves be faster, if that is a concern.

Note that the above mockups also present a suggestion for a trimmed down list of components (no Paladins, no Stalkers, no Minor Magic, only one Conjurations, but Hinderances as a starting book), sample descriptions and a way to present sets of components in the “previous selection” field in the lower right. — anym 2010-08-27 01:40

on Gods

I think we should consider, if this happens, revising the list of startable Gods. Obviously there are some Gods that aren't meant to be starters (J), but for a brand new player, reaching the Temple isn't easy, and it might be nice for them to get to try out some of the other Gods. It also makes sense that a)The Temple Gods have all been heard of outside the Dungeon, and B)Since the God's specific class (eg:paladin) isn't a choice, all regular Gods have a shot. Besides, by the late game, the difference in Survivability and Piety between having a God form D1, or From the Temple (found before D10), would be minimal. — ironjelly

on Points

To be more consistant with 27 races, 27 gods, etc.. i suggest that there be 27 points to spend on character creation. This should allow more fine tuning of point weighting to various skills / equipment. For example, level 1 Spellcasting can be 2 points, but level 2 spellcasting is 4 points, and cumulative 2+4 = 6 points leaving 21 points to spend on spellbook, stealth, spellcasting school(s) etc. —sunspire

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