Orb Run

Name dcss:brainstorm:orbrun
Summary Various players have felt that the orb run (when you picked up the Orb of Zot and bring it back to D:1) is a bit lukewarm. Granted, there is additional spawning now, but it could be much better.
Further information Old discussions: 1983561. See also Zot
Added by dpeg
Added on 2010-03-16 23:22

The goal is not just to make the orb run more exciting, but this is also a golden opportunity to connect some loose ends of Crawl's untold backstory.

This page overhauled once more by dpeg 2011-01-15 02:16. I erased dubious ideas and streamlined the rest. Ideas I absolutely approve of are indicated (other developers may still disagree).


It ain't an easy job lugging this orb to the surface. In order to make your life miserable, the orb should (these effects generally for a duration)

  • make noises (offsetting your stealth — see Flavour below). Partially implemented by due (noises are made when the orb is apported and picked up, but not while carried).
  • resist apportation, e.g. with a plain chance of Tloc/27. If apported (or just attempted to do so), The orb shrieks. There should be a line in the orb's description about this (“Only dedicated translocaters will be able to apport the orb easily.”), and there should ideally be a prompt when trying (or just a message in the Apportation targeting: “Orb of Zot (hard to apport)”). Implemented by due.
  • increased weight; this is good flavour for apportation resistance, and may make weak characters think about what they really need. Implemented (doubled the weight).marvinpa 2011-05-27 13:09
  • interfere with teleports (jarpian) — not so much forbid them, but rather (again, random, timed effects). Partially implemented (randomly increased teleport delay, randomly increased teleport fuzz, randomly preventing controlled blinks).marvinpa 2011-05-27 13:09
    • randomly prolong the time until they kick in (by a few turns)
    • make the fuzzy area for controlled teleports much larger
    • occasionally disable cTele temporarily (announce this: The orb emits a powerful warping space.)
    • let the orb determine the destination (naturally, the downstairs) (jarpian)
  • glow heavily: it gets a halo-like effect (with a radius of 3 and of orbish colours). If you carry the orb, you still see the orb's halo. This glow translates to a permanent corona on the player, thereby removing invisibility.
    [Up to here, dpeg supports everything. The ideas for inconvenience below are less good, or at least more risque.]
    This glow is mutagenic. Not that it'd matter much, but most characters would leave the dungeon as wracks. lemuel argues that this might make character dumps less informative, but there are several ways around that. (For example by having orb mutations be special, and annotated as such, or taking a snapshot of the mutations list before taking the orb for the dump.) From time to time, the orb could also generate various clouds.
    • If the orb can be apported, will it break this affect? — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:17
    • What does this imply for followers of Zin? Will it encourage renouncing Zin just prior to the Orb run? — jeffqyzt 2010-12-22
      • I remember thinking something similar about how by this Zin would probably prefer orb destruction or some sort of sacrifice over preservation of the abomination. — mrmistermonkey 2010-12-22 15:48
  • slower movement speed (but not combat speed, like Nagas) so enemies are more likely to catch up with you.
  • jump out of the players backpack (blink to some empty square in LOS). This is not just for flavour, the jumping orb also means that you cannot teleport out of peril all the time. This effect should be linked to tension, i.e. occur only if something exciting happens, like the sudden arrival of forces (a strong demon, a Pan lord, or a group of orb guardians). The effect can also be used when the player is about to teleport (she can still decide to cancel the teleport.)
  • float to the ceiling, so that you need to levitate to pick it up again, or else have to wait until it comes down by itself. (lemuel)
  • temporarily become much heavier, so heavy that you're burdened or worse. Again, either react (dropping things, increase strength), or wait it out. (lemuel)
  • teleport at random on the level. (lemuel) This is very aggravating, so it should be very rare (think once in a dozen orb runs or so) and there should be orb-coloured clues to where the thing is
  • have mutagenic radiation randomly polymorphing nearby low-level enemies into Zot or stronger caliber enemies
  • occasionally cancels one or all of the enchantments/status effects you have going (except it won't cancel flight/levitation where it will kill you) — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:38
  • occasionally generates traps near/under you. every now and then this will be a zot trap or shaft. When a shaft, a good chance of it also cancelling lev/flight to make you fall down it… — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:38
  • if an escape hatch is used while carrying the orb, it permanently closes. This way, if you were to fall through a previously undiscovered shaft, you won't be able to use the hatch again. — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:38
  • You might find that the orb has a habit of activating dungeon features (granite statues → special statues, regular plants → oklobs, skeletons → curse skulls, fungus → active Ballistomycete, piles of stones → stone golem, fire generators → orbs of fire, water → ice statues, etc.). Esp. true on DLvl:1 near exit (any previously innocuous features turn active on the way back out!). Maybe limit DLvl:1 entrance vaults to only useful scenarios causing an obstacle to exit (like statue gauntlet, oklob gauntlet, etc.). — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:22
  • Another idea similar to above: dungeon levels are 'flavored' by the power of the orb. Some levels turn slime (like the slime pits). Some turn fungal. Some turn stone. Some ice. Some fire. (You get the idea). You receive a message when you enter a level and the orb modifies the level. This wouldn't always happen (say it gets triggered about 3 times on average on a typical ascension). This doesn't happen in Zot, the realm of Zot is used to the power of the Orb. — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:56
  • The three (or more) portals leading out of Zot no longer function properly while holding the orb. Instead of the dungeon, they take you to the Abyss (or if you've been there, perhaps to Pandemonium or one of the Hells, but that seems too hard or too easy). Also, un-wielding distortion weapons doesn't cause banishment while holding the orb, instead it randomly teleports you 1-3 levels down in the current branch. — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:56


  • Create an open disk around the player (radius 5 or so) and place orb guardians at the circumference. This would make the notion “orb guardian” much stronger. Orb guardians always know where the orb is, across the whole level.
  • Orb guardians may go berserk if they see you with the orb in possession. (jarpian)
  • Special monsters (like strong demons, Pan lords, orb guardians) would be eager to pick up the orb. (There are some obvious extensions of this — for later: a weaker monster may hand over the orb to a stronger one; imagine a lowly imp picking up the orb and giving (or throwing) it to the Pan lord. If you leave the level while the orb is not in your possession, it will arrive at Zot:5 eventually.)
  • Resistance of the Dungeon/Hell/Pan population against your coup should increase the closer you are to D:1.
  • As a particular instance, all the monsters created during the orb run and who you didn't dispatch should show up on D:1. Near the stairs (and hatches). This would mean that (a) being quick is good, as it is now; but also (b) skipping monsters during the run will make matters more interesting later on, at D:1.
  • Curious monsters: If you are on a level with a branch entry, you having the orb (and the thing being so loud/glowing) should cause spectators to come from the stairs. This would include spectators from Abyss portals etc. (jarpian)
  • Monsters should often be generated near the stairs during ascension (they are running down to find you and get the orb for themselves now that it is liberated). This will make layouts where all upstairs are clustered much more interesting on the way back up, as they will be heavily guarded! — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:22
  • There should not be escape hatches on DLvl1. All the stairs out of the dungeon should be co-located to force a final bottle-neck and show-down to leave with the orb alive. — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:22
  • Encounters with Boris should be much more frequent on the way up. After all, you are finally achieving what he never could, escaping the dungeon with the orb! Also, any uniques not yet encountered should be fair game to get generated on the way up. Perhaps they want to dispatch you to get the orb! And, there should be a chance of activating any player ghosts who died with the orb…(or randomly generate some as alternatives to Pan lords) — ubergeek 2010-11-23 18:22

Orb enhancing monster abilities

Monsters that are generated for orb run should have qualities and abilities that make the player's escape harder. Stuff that impedes movement, teleportation etc. is effective. Such abilities include:

  • Miasma
  • Nets
  • Summon spam
  • Invisibility
  • Invisible summons
  • Selected monsters (high intelligence casters) should be able to cast teleporation on the player for cancelling his teleport. I think that's a fun way to sometimes mess with teleports. — dpeg 2010-03-17 13:46
  • Controlled teleport (teleporting to investigate noise)
  • Strength drain (to hurt carrying capacity)
  • Silence
  • Being fast/Haste/Swiftness
  • Heal and buff other monsters

(Many of these are too strong, and certain effects like paralysis or petrify wouldn't be much fun. We don't want to kill the player outright, just make matters more interesting. — dpeg 2011-01-15 02:16)

These additional effects (hasting, teleport to player etc.) should be attributed to the presence of the orb: “Powered by the orb's sight|force, the ynoxinul …” etc.
I also think that we could have an effect of the orb on puny monsters, those which are usually around on the shallow dungeon levels: they should be awed, e.g. paralysed (upon seeing you with the orb, not before!), etc. Currently, they're all asleep which is not good at all, but all the noise will help to solve that.

Divine commentary

Occasionally, the other gods chime in, with either penance effects or their invocations (sending Angels, smiting, and so on). Plain messages are also possible. We can assume that someone fetching the orb is such a major event in the Crawl universe that all the gods are watching. The reaction of some god should depend on the conducts we'll eventually track down. If the god is not unhappy about the player's behaviour, a good-natured comment would do, a la “What a brave follower you have, Warmaster Okawaru.” (said by Trog if, say, the player worships Okawaru and didn't cast).

Besides fun, this would give players some idea of other gods. It is crucial to make clear that the gods don't want the orb for themselves; they are rather proud if their follower managed to pull off the unheard stunt (or jealous if not).

Your own god should also say something: you should get a message when you first pick up the Orb, and occasionally as long as you carry it. Frequency should be such that you get 2-3 more on your way back up. Here, the idea is not to provide strong effects, but rather some divine pat on the back.


  • Messages when picking up the orb: “The gates of Pandemonium have opened,” or, “All Pandemonium breaks loose!”, which signal the change in monster generation. (This is also a great opportunity for story-telling and myth-building… there must be a reason why the powers of Pan are not happy if you steal the orb. We shouldn't explain that, but creating some thematic link between dungeon, Zot and Pan would be very nice.)
  • Purely cosmetic messages when carrying the orb: “The Orb glows purple and green,” “The Orb pulses strangely”, “The Orb emits a piercing shriek,” “The Orb secretes a foul ichor”, “The Orb smells of daffodils,” “The Orb tries to squirm out of your pack,” etc. lemuel offered to write a script for these.

Rune scaling

I took some of this ideas from Zot. The more runes you have, the harder the orb run is. Of course, we count all the runes found, not just the ones carried. It allows use to make the orb run more interesting for experienced players without screwing other players who gets the orb for the first time. The difficulty can still be boosted a little bit for 3 runers as it is really anti-climatic now.

  • Give -TELE to the orb. If we want to make the orb run more interesting, this seems mandatory. Of course, this breaks the usual random teleport, apport and control teleport away Zot:5 strategy. This might be a good thing as this strategy is considered a bit cheap and too easy. If it screws stealthy fragile chars too much, we can put an escape hatch in the orb chamber, or close to. My point is that -TELE to the orb is important for the orb run. When you're in a tough spot, you can always drop the orb, blink or teleport away and come back later to get it.
    • I think it is sufficient if teleportations are unreliable enough; see above. If the orb wouldn't give you plain cTele after pick-up, clearing Zot:5 becomes a lot more attractive than it is now. Instead of just disabling teleporation, I think it is more interesting to increase the duration until teleports set in. (With -TELE, it is clear that teleports are not an option. With crippled teleports, there is an option. More options are better.) — dpeg 2011-01-15 02:16
  • At each level one of the branches from which you've taken a rune is chosen as a theme, and thematic waves of monsters come down from the upstairs and come after you (or the orb if you have dropped it). We can use zotdef code! The monsters should be strong. The orb run is not the time to annoy the player with waves of popcorn. The frequency and size of waves depend on the number of runes you have.
    • Note that if you make the orb give -TELE, enemies become a lot more dangerous (and if you drop it and teleport away, they'll just swarm around the orb, I'm assuming, which won't help you much either). Waves of normally weak enemies (that is, ones which are easy to escape from) can suddenly become very dangerous if you can't blink away from them, especially if you get surrounded. Of course, overwhelmingly large numbers would be bad (there'd be no good way to get past them). — evilmike 2010-12-22 00:53
  • Pan lords frequency and power depends on runes too. If the player has many runes, he could encounter several at once (2 for >10 runes and 3 for 15 runes for example).
  • If you have stolen a rune from a pan or hell lord without killing him, he will come after you as the boss of one of his branch wave.
  • There is still some demonic monsters wandering around in every level (for hell's loose flavour). The density might scale a bit with runes, but not too much.
  • We shouldn't be afraid of making the orb run really hard for >10 runes. Characters doing all runers are pretty tough anyway. Also, we might see more variety in the number of runes. It seems to me that for now it's either 3, 4 or 15 runes. If you're doing the extended endgame, there's little reason not to go all the way to 15 runes. If the orb run gets really scary, more players might try 7, 10 or 12 runes for example.

galehar 2010-12-21 22:12

I absolutely love the concept. We've been talking about this in crawl-dev. Some personal opinions (dpeg 2011-01-15 02:16):
A 3 rune game orb run need not be harder than now (apart from the Inconveniences changes, which will make matters harder for everyone already.)
Theme, as far as I see it: you (the hero) came as a pillager into certain branches. This alone is bad enough, but upon picking up the orb (an event which will surely become known in the whole dungeon in no time) it is clear that you're much worse than just another marauder. You have used their rune to steal the orb! While some Pan lords feel compelled to try to get the orb back (even if we never know why), there would be additional resistance from Pan/Hells/Abyss, if you've stolen the corresponding runes.
I don't think we need to extend the resistance to plain branches. (For example, it seems strange that Slime would send someone.) A case could be made for Tomb. This would give four runes for free (Vaults and Lair branches), until orb run difficulty ramps up.

Movement speed and difficulty

I just ascended the orb in trunk as Cheib worshipper with full ponderous armour (did not know of the -ctele). I would have been better off switching to non-ponderous armour (what a hassle) before grabbing the orb. There was no way my 4-runer was defeating any of the (six) panlords, so only escape was to randomly teleport. One level spawned two panlords before I managed to land a teleport near stairs.

Example is a bit extreme, but still, quicker characters have a big advantage.

Maybe it's not good that you can grab enough runes with slow movement speed and by killing your way to them, but then the final stage of the game heavily favors fast movement speed.

Maybe there should be a fighting way to escape with the orb. Something that Oka and Trog worshipers could do with a good conscience. :) — kalma 2011-07-26 16:14

It's called the orb run. You'd expect it to be harder when slowed. And if you're strong enough, you can fight your way through it. Also, I don't see it as a problem that Chei worshippers should take off their pondering armour before the Orb run. Again, it makes perfect sense thematically. And we're fine with gods not being equally useful at each point in the game. Chei being bad for the Orb run just make sense. The god is probably too weak and should be boosted in other ways, but that's a different problem. — galehar 2011-07-29 11:13
We have the whole 0.9 and the Tournament to test it; if it proves to be a problem, we can let Chei slow down the spawn rate like he already does in the Abyss. — kilobyte 2011-07-29 11:58
Currently you need very strong character to fight your way through it. Maybe when/if difficulty gets scaled by number of runes it could be an option. Killing could also reduce the “inconveniences” temporarily.

Orb run (as some call it :P) does not need to be all about speed. As long as you prevent outright resting, a crawl can be just as exciting. — kalma 2011-07-29 13:01

Map Alteration

I've been thinking about this idea that removing the Orb starts breaking down the stability of the dungeon; so the forces of Pandemonium / Hell / Abyss start literally breaking through the walls. Sections of levels start getting replaced with randomly-generated areas themed around those branches and/or vaults. Dungeon levels might also get rearranged. The effect should scale either with time, or with how close you are to the surface, so the challenge gets harder and harder as you progress (as well as scaling more extremely depending on the number of runes you have). I like the theme that literally everything in the dungeon is thrown against you to prevent your success (and even grab the Orb for themselves!).

I think this could make the Orb Run a much more significant and memorable part of the game. It can solve a number of the problems presented here, without having to nerf any specific ability or strategy. If the map has changed then cTele becomes irrelevant, even dangerous, because you don't know where all the stairs are any more, and you could be teleporting right into the middle of a whole bunch of nasties. It also makes Hell, Pandemonium and Abyss slightly more relevant even in a 3-rune game where the player might not have even visited those branches.

In terms of implementation, perhaps some of the new Abyss code could be used here; if I understand those changes correctly, you might be able to have parts of the dungeon actually morphing in front of your eyes as the walls of reality break down around you. I'm not suggesting any of this would be easy of course! — mumra 2011-07-05 10:50

Zot:5 Orb

There are two main ways to obtain the orb: either clear two wings in Zot:5 and just get it, or teleport randomly and dash for it after a somewhat lucky placement (this approach often uses apportation). Both of these should stay, but the second one seems considerably simpler than the first. Some ideas to repair that:

  • Make the orb chamber no_tele_into.
  • Make the orb considerably heavier (so that it's harder to apport it). Fun idea: you can apport heavy items, but only one step or two.
  • Reduce the range of Apportation to 6 squares (forcing the player to reach the doorway of the room with the orb) or 5 squares (forcing the player to be strictly inside that room).
  • Make the range of Apportation dependent on Translocation skill (or spell power, but that is more easily gained from for example potions of brilliance) so that the player has a decision to make: how much XP to spend on Translocation.
  • Call for Pan demon security as soon as the orb is moved. — b0rsuk
  • Other layouts of the orb chamber (this is possible now, see zot.des).
  • Many of the teleport related proposals in Inconvenience do this. Two more radical solutions which make the teleportation useless (which may be a bit more than we wanted):
    • Carrying the Orb of Zot prevents all teleportation (-TELE). This makes it a lot harder to 'ninja' the orb, without the hassle of adding multiple artificial roadblocks to Zot like statues and patches of no_tele. Additionally it'll make the Orb Run more interesting, since players wont be able blink or teleport away from any Pan lords on the ascent (unless they first drop the Orb). — Mu. 2010-09-21 21:28
      • I would rather this not happen as it would make the Orb run really tedious. A lot of characters with just three runes probably aren't going to comfortably just deal with a Pan Lord, plus whatever else is around/is summoned and the game will probably devolve into dropping the orb, teleporting away, kiting away the Pan Lord (Or whatever is blocking your way), re-grab the orb and continue on. Also, the run would be subject to all sorts of uncontrollables from the RNG and losing at that point because something spawned and trapped you with no real escape mechanism would be terribly frustrating. The implications of including -TELE on the orb I think would serve to frustrate more than create an interesting run back up to the top. — kautzman 2011-05-25 21:07
    • Zot:5 itself is no_tele. This has the advantage that teleportitis is not a problem anymore. — dpeg 2010-09-21 22:27

More EPIC orbrun

The idea is: The Orb is really powerful artefact, which possibly would be helpful on the surface. So, why dont use some of its powers right here? Lets give player ability to gain some power through eVoking the Orb. Or passive great bonus. Or new god-related abilities.

Certanly, it should bring much more dangerous uprising, to compensate gained powers. May be spawn more enemies or god wrath after each eVoking. And some new uniques.

I understand, that it's very global goal, but I suggest to change the way everyone look onto OrbRun. Not danger, but entertain. I think, that the game is everything BEFORE orb. And EPIC ending would be great as a reward.

And as bonus idea - hard, but awesome shortcut from Z:5 to surface. Piu 2012-02-27


This page is full of good ideas, but we can't do all of them at once. I suggest we start with the following changes.

Nerf teleport

This is the most urgent thing in my opinion. Giving -TELE to the orb is probably too much and unnecessary. Let's see how we can nerf teleport and TC with some simple changes. Done (see above). — marvinpa 2011-05-27 13:11

  • Give an “abyss-like” effect to the Orb: unreliable teleport, and slower to kick in. We can use the same effect as the abyss or a variation of it.
  • Give a slight mutagenic effect to the Orb. Not enough to give you yellow glow by itself, but it would prevent the glow from TC to decay. Should seriously discourage controlled teleport at the slightest threat. To recover from the glow, you'll have to drop the orb and wait it out. We might want to completely prevent apporting the orb or players could go around the problem by dragging it instead of carrying it.
    • Glow isn't much of a threat when you're about to win. Lots of players stay hasted for most of the run. — minmay 2011-05-02 16:01
      • What if the orb also makes you gain glow faster? If a couple of TC put you in yellow or red, that might be more dangerous. And also reduce the precision of TC so it fails more often. — galehar 2011-05-06 17:36

Hell/Pan Lords

If you steal a rune from a lord without killing him, he has a good chance of spawning during the Orb run. Currently, there's little incentive to fight them, this could change that.


Scale monsters and random Pan lords generation (frequency and difficulty) with the number of runes you have. — galehar 2011-05-02 15:10

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dcss/brainstorm/dungeon/orbrun.txt · Last modified: 2012-02-27 12:25 by Piu
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