Name dcss:brainstorm:branch: abyss
Summary Brainstorm for ideas to make abyss (and specifically the search for the rune) more interesting.
Further information Lugonu
Added by marvinpa
Added on 2010-03-30 21:41

Abyssal rune

At present, many characters aiming to win a 15-rune leave the abyssal rune until they have collected all other runes, at which point it is very easy for them to survive almost indefinitely in the abyss and kill anything that could spawn there with very little difficulty. This, coupled with the great length of time it can take for the abyssal rune to appear (upwards of 7000 turns at times), makes the search for the rune to be far less fun or interesting than the other extended endgame runes (tomb, hells, pan). It also discourages characters who may not necessarily wish to get all 15 runes from even attempting the abyssal one (many winning characters would probably be able to survive and get the abyssal rune but don't do so because of how long it takes).

Increased difficulty over time

As you spend longer in the Abyss, the danger level or amount of monsters which spawn could gradually increase (at a rate which wouldn't impact low-level characters who have been accidentally abyssed and just want to find an exit as soon as possible). This would at least keep players from mindlessly being able to kill everything until the rune finally generates. However this alone would probably not persuade players to attempt to find the rune sooner, and would have to be rather extreme to have an impact on players that have already collected the other extended endgame runes - ideally the rune should be generated significantly earlier than it is currently.

Rather than simply using time spent, use “squares seen”. I described this as Exploration Timer on this page: Time. This has the benefit of not rewarding players who hole up, use Tomb of Dorolokhe and similar. Players would have to actively look for the rune. b0rsuk
If you want to be extra forgiving, don't use time spent or squares seen: Use exits seen without being used. Maybe count Lugonu altars as well at 1/4 the value. Another possibility would be using a mechanic frequently used in other roguelikes, but shunned in Crawl: scaling monster strength after player strength (maybe some combination of level and stats). It could be justified by saying that powerful characters attract more attention from the infernal powers that be. — vintermann 2011-02-07 13:23

Abyss Remembers You

In addition to difficulty increasing the further you go, I think it would be interesting if Abyss remembered you and saved “danger level” even if you exit. Entered next time, Abyss would start as dangerous as when you left it. This would make it self-balancing without hurting low level characters. For rune seekers it would discourage brief, frequent diving. For everyone else it would mean each subsequent Banish is more dangerous. This could even lead to removal of permanent HP penalty from Banish Self ability of Lugonu, or even restoration of Banish Self spell ! Basically no one would be able to use Banish for escape over and over because it's getting more dangerous each time.b0rsuk

No random rune, new method for generating it

An alternative solution would be to change the rune so that it is no longer randomly generated in the way it is currently. One suggestion from Keskitalo in IRC was to have something like abyss portal vaults, which would be significantly more dangerous than the abyss itself, but would contain the abyssal rune (and be more likely to be generated than the rune currently is).


  • How likely should these vaults be?
  • What difficulty of monsters should be inside? Would a player be able to try an opportunistic rune grab if they were banished while doing Elf:7, for example? (early abyssal rune grabs at present are usually just a matter of luck)

Proposition: These vault entrances should be as common as, say, exits (or at least in the same order of magnitude), but the vault should be very tricky to clear (roughly same difficulty as Vaults:8 or Slime:6. Lugonu worshipers should maybe have some of the monsters inside be generated peaceful (based on piety or something, so no really early rune runs) for an easier time?

I don't like the idea of rune vaults. There are enough of them as it is, and this smells of Pandemonium. In my opinion with Abyss getting more dangerous the further you go (exploration timer), it will be possible to increase the spawning chance several times or more. b0rsuk
I think it would be nice to count all your abyss visits instead of only the last one towards the rune generation timer, so that someone who was frequently inconvenienced by banishment while doing the hells would be compensated by having to wander less to look for the rune. — luca 2010-05-23 02:03
Yes, absolutely. If “Abyss Remembers You”, then counting all Abyss visits is the logical next step. b0rsuk
For what it's worth, the abyss currently has rune vaults, although there are only two at the moment (0.7.1) and only one of them has an interesting challenge. They are also both pretty small. I think it's a step in the right direction though. Abyssal portal vaults would be interesting, but maybe a little too weird. One thing that I do think would be cool would be the possibility of larger vaults in the abyss. — evilmike 2010-08-27 05:47

Abyssal rune/Lugonu proposals

The new Lugonu proposals suggest that Lugonites would be tasked with corrupting the dungeon and desecrating altars, and should be dissuaded from grinding the abyss for piety, for example. Lugonu should definitely still make it easier for the player to gain an abyssal rune somehow - perhaps giving it to the player once they have corrupted a sufficient amount of altars, or gifting it at an altar with max piety? (although that mechanic is already used for the distortion brand).

Building upon the idea of rune from corruption, perhaps give a chance of putting the rune in the abyssal part of the level from corruption, increasing with altars and levels corrupted or some such. This of course has the downside of perhaps putting too much of an emphasis on frequent corruption, but maybe some other conditions would help it. — mrmistermonkey 2010-08-20 09:29

Abyss overhauls

MrMisterMonkey's overhaul

Most of the following is probably bad and I should redo it sometime, so don't take it too seriously: — mrmistermonkey 2011-04-26 19:46

My first impression of the abyss was that it was exciting and different, due to the layout and importance of avoiding fights. As time went on, though, I grew tired of the lack of threat it posed to my prepared character, and the tedium involved in finding the rune and an exit. I hope to change this by making the abyss more interesting, in addition to more challenging. My goal is to make the abyss less of a death sentence for low-level characters, but scale to be threatening to frequent visitors and rune hunters, while proving more interesting for everyone. Optimally, escaping from the abyss should also depend less on luck, and abyss trips should be shorter, such as not to bore. Sadly, I don't know anything about how the abyss is currently generated, so many of my ideas may be highly impractical without overhauling respective code. — mrmistermonkey 2010-08-20 09:52

The abyss is a horrible place.

As with the current abyss, it is filled with dangerous monsters, and more will eventually come if you try to engage in a fight. This abyss, though, has different walls –stone, metal, and rock, with flavorful adjectives in front will suffice– to which interesting things happen. Simple ideas include giving a hideous shriek (alerts monsters to its location), morphing into an abomination, and moving around. Hopefully this isn't too much like hell effects; more ideas, especially to differentiate it, are welcome!

The abyss loves and remembers you.

Taking from the above proposals, the abyss measures exploration, and upon that bases difficulty and chances of rune generation, both of which stay constant between multiple trips thereto. Perhaps give a message or some other effect indicating this.

The abyss doesn't want you to succeed.

Abyss shifting in its current form is a sudden transition from area to area; I think this would be much more interesting as sort of a reverse-banishment: instead of sticking abyss into the current level, stick what you can currently see into abyss, permuting it slightly. [Additionally, this is a fun way to look at banishment, in my opinion: when banished, you are placed in the bit of your previous level that was in sight, but permuted a bit and colour-adjusted; add translocational clouds for flavour.] Alike banishment, again, stasis does not prevent this. Rather than triggering abyss shifts randomly, trigger them more rapidly when nearing something of importance (and tell the game to remember to replace that thing similarly, so it doesn't end up making things hop to completely different areas once you near them). Other abyss effects should trigger more rapidly near exits and the rune, too; perhaps also increase difficulty near the rune, to make it feel more genuinely challenging and rewarding [perhaps give a message once difficulty has been noticeably upped, so new players don't take it for coincidence, and know to flee]. Keeping bits of the previous abyss around also eliminates the frustrating problem of nearing a rune or exit and getting teleported away.

The abyss isn't just for you.

Putting banished uniques in the abyss is a nice touch, and I think this can be extended to allow for new arrivals in abyss. Say, occasionally a –screaming, if applicable– monster appears near you, from a tear in reality, wreathed in clouds of translocational energy. If the new banishment idea is implemented as well, perhaps also change the area around the monster such as to look like it was ripped from somewhere else. Perhaps weight this to happen away from exits and the rune.

While I'm not convinced about the other points, this one is great. But it shouldn't happen very oten. — b0rsuk 2010-08-20 12:02

The tedium problem

Abyss has a fundamental problem: the entire challenge is leaving it. This means that if a player decides the Abyss is boring, they're stuck with finishing it anyway. This is compounded by the fact that the Abyss is completely and utterly nonthreatening to lots of characters. Labyrinths and Pandemonium have a similar issue, but those are only entered voluntarily, so at least you can decide not to visit them at all, even if it is almost always suboptimal to skip a labyrinth. There are branches like Swamp that many people do not enjoy, but they can (and do) just skip them. I don't really know what can be done about this directly, but this issue is basically what drives every other suggestion here. — minmay 2011-04-26 17:09

It seems like the best solution is to make the Abyss less boring. — pepperfez 2011-05-22 22:33

Interface screws

Why does the Abyss have maprot? — minmay 2011-04-26 17:09

Looking into it, it seems the major problems with mapping Abyss are that it interacts poorly with teleporting (you shouldn't know where you teleported to in relation to where you were) and that the map would get very large. The first can be fixed with two simple changes to teleport, which in my opinion are good ideas regardless:

  • First, make blinking in the Abyss do an actual blink (always within LOS) instead of a teleport.
  • Make teleporting in the Abyss always generate a new Abyss area, instead of only sometimes.

Then we have map size to deal with. This one is more difficult. Just letting the map get very large and having the player scroll through it isn't so bad, since Abyss will shift eventually. Maybe make shifts much more frequent to help with that.

Unless I forgot something, the only concern after that is loss of flavour. — minmay 2011-06-16 19:40

Terrain Generation

As of v0.8, Abyss terrain is generated as follows:

  1. Pick the fraction of the abyss that should be floor.
  2. Sample with replacement from a weighted list of features.
  3. Iterate over the abyss, distributing those features uniformly

This leads to incoherent terrain. Deep water is adjacent to lava. Water tiles are isolated. Sure, the abyss is meant to be a strange and horrifying place, but this tends to be very dull. I propose the following generation strategy:

  1. Start with a turbulent Worley noise basis.
  2. Draw the terrain type from a unique ID assigned to each Worley cell and allow for a 'wobble' onto an adjacent terrain type (ie. shallow water will be mixed with deep water, rock walls will be mixed with stone walls)
  3. Vary the percentage fraction of deep water, lava and empty floor as a function of experience level, time in the abyss and Lugonu's disposition toward the player.

A very unstable demo is available at crawl@ch4n.org password: crawl. Start as an Abyssal Knight, enter Wizard Mode and regenerate the abyss. More to come. — brendan 2011-05-08 14:45

Brendan: your demo seems to have some nasty display corruption. For example, on &{yX there's a lot of black areas, and when moving around you often seem to move erratically. This makes testing the layout quite hard.
The layouts produced seem far less distinct than the current one. This makes the Abyss look like a yet another caveish map :( — KiloByte 2011-05-08 17:13

The bug that Kilobyte is referring to was due to a configuration error (locale != UTF-8). I would still appreciate feedback before I investigate this further. At the moment only one player can be active at a time. — brendan 2011-05-18 19:34

0.10 abyss

Right now (0.10-a0-754-gd03843a) abyss is awful. It's so ridiculously spammy and annoying. Having your movements constantly blocked by walls, water and lava appearing in front of you makes for extremely tedious exploration. The amount of water/lava on the floor is way too high (my char was XL27 if the thing brendan talks about above actually went in). Items seemingly don't exist there anymore, they get immediately destroyed by terrain if you can actually find any. It somehow makes the abyss feel *more* repetitive than it was before.

The idea of abyss changing and morphing is cool, but the way it's done now is absolutely not worth the negative effect on gameplay in my opinion - abyss was already of the least fun places to be in. — st 2011-09-17 21:10

» I have fixed item handling. They are not eaten by morphing anymore, just pushed around. — galehar 2011-09-21 11:56

Shifting makes the Abyss less tactical. Every encounter is interrupted by water/lava/walls. Abyss was already seriously lacking in challenge (your actions rarely meant much) and now it's even more so. I think the entire concept of shifting is a case of putting coolness over gameplay. — minmay 2011-10-29 16:59
Surely there's a middle ground … e.g. instead of shifting being a constant factor, it happens periodically … so there are peiods where nothing changes, and then periods where over the course of, say, 10-20 turns it morphs to a new abyss. This would retain the new (awesome) morphing effect, whilst averting the various complaints about the new system. Actually I think constant shifting effectively makes the Abyss too predictable - basically, you shouldn't be able to rely on anything and being able to rely on continuous shifting is just as bad as being able to rely on nothing changing … — mumra 2011-10-29 18:00
Having periodic shifting instead of constant shifting sounds like a step in the right direction to me. The current 0.10 Abyss just feels even more mentally taxing (you have to be paying attention to every single tile of terrain every single turn), especially on non-casters with only limited or nonrenewable sources of levitation. The effect itself is cool but currently I'd agree that it serves mainly just to make the abyss more annoying (the unrelated changes of removing Hell banishment and the requirement to exit Pan via the Abyss do mean that Abyss trips are far less common, at least). — MarvinPA 2011-11-10 23:45



Homogenous randomness is downright dull. By blending different scales of structure we can convey to the player that he or she is somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Large scale motifs (that the player is likely to encounter until an abyss shift) are one component of this. Here are some brainstorms:

The River

An endless waterway cutting through the madness of the Abyss. (Implemented on inception branch!)

Roiling Wastes

A region devoid of solid terrain. Wisps of slow moving clouds provide the only structure.


Strangely calm corridors surrounded by chaos.

Decaying Dungeon

The Abyss exhibits periods of stability where it resembles the real dungeon. This mimicry vanishes as the world decays into chaos. — brendan 2012-09-16 08:43


Narrow twisting branching passages surrounded by rock, ending in dead ends and chambers, with the passages splitting and reconnecting as the Abyss shifts. — nicolae 2012-09-17 20:57

Ancient City

A crumbling ancient city, with buildings, fountains, walkways, etc., appearing out of the Abyss before vanishing back into it. — nicolae 2012-09-17 20:57

The Wall

Similar in idea to the River motif: a long, endless wall. Every so often there will be a massive gate, patrolled by demons, with the occasional crumbling crack for those who want to slip past elsewhere. — nicolae 2012-09-17 20:57

I love this idea! The implementation might be a bit tricky (gate placement), but definitely worthwhile. — brendan 2012-09-21 08:24


A region where the Abyssal morphing is constant and rapid, like old versions of the Abyss. Features chaos spawn, shapeshifters, etc., along with clouds of seething chaos and mutagenic fog. — nicolae 2012-09-17 20:57 Sort of done. I have a 'roiling chaos' layout that shifts rapidly between random features. I still don't handle any special monster spawning. — brendan 2012-09-21 08:24

Fog of War

A region nearly totally blanketed in fog, periodically interspersed with other cloud types. Terrain should be relatively open with largish islands to provide walls to periodically stumble along. — jeffqyzt 2012-11-09 20:00


A region that is locally relatively homogenous, but is transitioning from one terrain type into another. As the player moves, tiles will “flip” into the opposing variety along a moving line of demarcation. The rate of change should be fairly rapid, so that if the player stands in place it will “roll” past them. Or perhaps the rate can be tied to abyss layer depth. — jeffqyzt 2012-11-09 20:05

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dcss/brainstorm/dungeon/branch/abyss.txt · Last modified: 2012-11-09 20:09 by jeffqyzt
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