No-Backtracking God

Players rely heavily on backtracking between levels. Both strategically - clearing out most of a branch and leaving before the final floor, wandering around to stashes and shops — and tactically, with 'stairdancing'. A god that prevents this has the potential to provide an interesting and challenging conduct. (Though of course a god of this kind must provide similarly strong benefits to encourage players to worship it — this would be a similar challenge to the one Chei provides, at least on a tactical level, and even more difficult strategically.)


Several ideas for conducts.

  • No going up if there's an unvisited [down]stair connected to where you are. (wheals) This preserves the 'no stairdancing' rule in most cases, though not in most branch endings (e.g. Vaults:5, Tomb:3), while still eventually allowing strategic travel.
  • You cannot backtrack until you've reached the branch end (dpeg).
  • You cannot take the same stairs more than once. (Once you go down a set of stairs, you can't go up it again, and vice versa.) (pleasingfungus) This prevents stairdancing, and only allows you to visit a given level at most twice. However, escape hatches and shafts could allow the player to get stuck with no way down, by violating the odd number of stairs… I don't have a good solution for this just yet. There might also be issues in Orc.
  • You cannot take stairs to a level you have visited before. (pleasingfungus) This is even more stringent, and would perhaps be too harsh for the early game — a variant would be for this conduct to only kick in at *** or **** piety. However, I have no idea how you'd handle tomb… and it might be too harsh for any part of the game. It would also make shafts screw over the player even more than usual. This conduct (and the one before) would probably require a 'teleport to branch entrance' ability, to allow players to leave branches once entered. Moderate piety cost, high time cost to prevent use as an escape tool actually, being unable to ever return is enough of a cost, possibly some food cost.
    • Shafts can be handled, and the strategic restriction is very interesting. The main problems are Orc and Tomb, and any other broken/disconnected layouts that might appear… perhaps this is best handled through divine abilities, rather than conduct modifications?
    • nrook suggests a 0* effect that carves a straight path from your entrance point to a down-stairs, guaranteeing connectedness. It could be specially coloured/tiled, to make it clear that it was your god carving a path for you. This is kind of silly in tomb, but the conduct restrictions (esp. on tomb 3) more than make up for that, I think.
    • There should probably be similar paths carved to branch entrances, with a message from your god letting you know. (Similar, but distinct from, Ash's portal notifications.)
  • No going up if there's an unvisited [down]stair, or rune, connected to where you are. A variant of wheals' suggestion that tries to address stair-dancing on the most problematic levels.

Some general points:

  1. Shafts: these can be disruptive to the god's playing style, and we have to be flexible. For example, shafts could be pre-mapped. Or players are always shafting immune.
    1. Would be fun to give a “all traps automatically detected” effect - more thematic than detecting shafts specifically, and still not overly powerful.
  2. Orb-run: for the more restrictive versions of the conduct, here the conduct has obviously to be set aside. Removing the restrictions while keeping the god's benefits might encourage people to do things like the notorious “orbrun tomb”… which is pretty funny, so maybe that's fine.

There's no long-term strategic penalty to following wheals/dpeg's conducts, so the player would probably only receive penance for violating them. pleasingfungus' conducts have more strategic consequences (limited/no backtracking to shops, etc), so you'd have to excommunicate (and wrath) the player for violating them.

– Current thinking: the strategic conduct would probably end up requiring heavy accommodations from the rest of the game (branch design, races, etc). The tactical version is Interesting Enough.


The goal here is to give strong powers that help compensate for the god's restrictions and make it generally worthwhile to follow them. I'm fond of gods that scale well with Invocations, so there should be a few effects that reward invocations investment. Ideally they'd also be thematic in some way, and not overlap too much with benefits given by existing gods.

A nice passive benefit that no god currently offers would be robustness. This'd be a bit similar to Ely's Divine Vigour, but always-on. You'd also want to give some regeneration, to prevent tedium with large hp pools.

If we're going to have invocations, let's give a nice, heroism-like invocable buff. We probably don't want to give skill or stat boots (Heroism, Vitalisation), so let's give temporary slaying and spellpower. Maybe make the slaying start at +3/+3 and scale to +9/+9 at max invo (so +1 per 4.5 invo levels), though breakpoints might be a problem with such discrete bonuses. (Perhaps do weighted randomization; e.g. 2.25 invo would give a 50% chance of +3 slaying and 50% chance of +4?). Not sure about spellpower. Maybe +10 flat pre-enhancer spellpower, scaling to +30? Would have to play around to see what makes sense.

(Note: invocable -spellfail isn't a very good effect; invocable spellpower seems better.)

Another (or an alternate?) invocable ability would be summoning wild beasts. Inspired by a couple of the themes, below, 'exploration' and 'gladiatorial' - mechanically, it'd

  • Scale off invocations - 1-2 hounds/wolves/bears/elephants/dire-elephants, perhaps with a tiny (1/1000) chance of a herd of sheep.
  • It'd be thematically cool & distinctive for the animals to be frenzied (as the discord effect - extra damage, attack everything nearby indiscriminately). This'd make the ability quite a bit more powerful and require more thought on the targeting - beam-targeted, perhaps, instead of placing them near the caster (like most summons).
  • Perhaps too evocative of real-life animal fighting/cruelty? Not sure. We can always make the god evil, if it feels right…
  • I don't have a strong feeling on the costs - piety, certainly, then maybe some hunger and/or mp.

One of the big problem areas for followers of this god is stairs, since, well, no stair-dancing. We can partially compensate for this (while still letting them play quite differently) by giving a time stop effect after climbing stairs. The player would be able to act for some (very short!) period of time without any response from monsters — essentially, a miniature death's door, without the HP cost. (Of course, the player also wouldn't be able to trigger this ability at will, which limits it somewhat beyond what that comparison implies…) I'd suggest perhaps 4-5 free turns, scaling to 12-15 with max invo. The exact numbers can easily be tweaked, of course.

  • Might be good to theme this as making time pass *very slowly*, rather than not at all - preventing monster shouting/fineffs/etc would be quite difficult.

Here are some more ideas about powers for this god — dpeg 2014-10-10 03:17

  • It would make sense to not just detect all traps on the level but also all staircases and hatches (possibly also all portals, despite overlap with Ashenzari). After all, followers have to think hard about stair use!
    • Or: all stairs, hatches, branch entrances, shafts, runes, and orbs - rather than all traps, just the relevant ones to the conduct. (Portals don't seem especially relevant…)
  • We can make staircases tactical resources (this works particularly well with the conduct where you can use all three staircases on a level): when near a staircase, you can 'invoke' it for a timed, local, strong effect. (Problem: don't want players to lure monsters to staircases — this is why I think an activated staircase power is better than a passive one.)
  • A very bizarre idea (presumably better suited on a randgod): on ordinary levels (those with up and down staircases) your goal is to “tag” (i.e. step on) all > staircases — if you do, all monsters on the level vanish, and you get xp (perhaps less than full)! [I expect no-one to speak up for this idea; guess I will move it over to randgod signature powers after a while.}
  • A milder form of this: the god grants some kind of passive power (as discussed elsewhere on this page), and this effect starts afresh on each new level you enter: zero at first, 1/3 when you tag the first staircase etc. (Both this and the previous rule are about a stealth-related minigame. I believe that no-backtracking and stealth go well together, but I could be way off.)
  • I think this god needs a way to deal with bad luck: it can happen that you are unable to keep going on the level. A simple instance would be a very piety-costly power to create a < staircase.
  • Another wacky idea: under this god, you can collect staircases! (This works particularly well for the conducts where you can only use a single > staircase on each level.) When you step on one, you pick it up. You can use the collected staircases freely (and can create new ones at steep piety costs.) If doing this, then we can use staircases as a resource (a la fruits under Fedhas, only more rare): player-set staircases could convey boosts for a while.
  • Still another far-off idea: this god might combine well with door use (e.g. can see through doors, doors automatically close from afar, can create doors/gates).

Probably want one more effect. So far this god doesn't have any big piety sinks; we probably want one of those. (Or a gifting mechanic, but I don't know that there's a good conceptual space there that's not already taken by Okawaru/Trog/Gozag). nrook suggests something loosely inspired by the old 'god of challenges' (and fitting with this god's theme of rushing into danger): an ability that summons the strongest enemy on the levelin line of sight (presumably by XP value), and puts you into single combat with it. No other enemies can attack you during the duration of the duel, perhaps about 20 turns. If you can kill it before the duel ends, then your HP and MP are restored to full. Otherwise, well, you've burned a bunch of piety, summoned the strongest enemy in the level (into a possibly already-dangerous situation), and it's not dead!

  • Implementation might be tricky - there are a lot of special cases here. Perhaps you could prevent all other enemies from acting at all, maybe re-using the time stop mechanic? You'd want (new) summons from both sides to be able to act, though.
  • You could lock the player and their duel opponent into a temporary walled arena, shoving enemies out… teleport traps could end up sending enemies into the arena, which probably isn't ideal. Can you slap no-random-tele onto an area at runtime? You'd also need to give the player and their opponent -Tele, which could be tricky (especially for the opponent), and when the duel ends, you'd have to handle restoring the original terrain & re-placing the player (and potentially their opponent), if they'd otherwise be stuck inside something.
  • Or you could throw the player & duel opponent into a temporary level, like a portal vault or something like that. This is probably the best implementation.
    • This has all kinds of issues - you'd have to end constriction, fear/mesmerization, etc… banishment can handle that, though, so you could probably re-use code from there.
    • You'll want to pull items out of the arena, so that you didn't end up losing stuff like tiamat's cloak. Maybe also pull durable summons, to prevent making this effect *too* strong against TRJ… it already gives a full heal!
    • Plus, you could do some cool thematic stuff like have weird shit outside the walls of the arena - alien terrain, or an audience of neutral humans (or stranger things…? tmons? imps? pan lords? the ghosts of previous duelists…?)
    • It'd be neat if bloodstains stuck around from one visit to the next, though obviously having anything else stick around would be abuseable.
  • Speaking of which, banishment should definitely end the duel. If you get banished, well, duel's obviously over. If you banish your opponent (with a distortion/chaos weapon or Spellbinder?), then… that doesn't really feel like a proper win? For purposes of hp/mp restoration. I don't feel strongly about this, though - it might be unfair to users of those weapons to penalize their use… or it might incentivize them to use such weapons if we count banishment as a win. Not sure!
  • This effect should end the level-entry time stop. (That'd be pretty unsporting otherwise!)
  • Grabbing 'the strongest enemy on the level' isn't a good idea - it'd be really easy to end up grabbing OOD enemies from behind rune doors, which is a dangerous enough possibility to discourage the use of the ability entirely in many areas. Starting a duel with the strongest enemy in LOS is both more predictable for both the designer and the player… in this case, though, you'd probably want to limit the reward. Perhaps roughly scaled by enemy danger rating - full healing only if they're 'red' difficulty, half if they're 'yellow', and the ability just shouldn't work if the toughest enemy nearby is rated white/grey.
    • Grabbing an enemy from LOS doesn't work nearly as well - there's no risk, only reward. A better approach might be slapping a limit on the dangerousness of the enemy you can fetch - 1.5x times the XP value that makes enemies “red danger”, maybe? 1.25x?

A very rough preliminary arrangement would look something like this:

  • 0*: Conduct kicks in. Time stop on descending stairs. (To make joining this god a little less suicidal.)
  • 1*: Level 1 robustness/regen. (Stacking with muts.)
  • 2*: Insta-Tele + Timestop + Dimensional Anchor
  • 3*: Wild Beasts?
  • 4*: Level 2 robustness/regen.
  • 5*: Invoke Duel.
  • 6*: Level 3 robustness/regen.

- Current note: most of these are kind of generic/unthematic. Probably slip in insta-tele + timestop (to make it not suicidal) + dimensional anchor (as a cooldown). maybe around 2* instead of the invocable slay/splpow - that one's the worst offender. Not sure about the passive bonuses. - Also might be a good idea to scale purely off piety (and/or off some kind of “combo bonus” for successive downstairs taken), rather than requiring invo? This god already requires significant commitment, given the conduct… but then, so does Chei. undecided.


The first question is: should this god impose a cost on the player for piety? (Sacrifice: corpses, items, etc.) This god seems to be quite restrictive enough already, so my feeling is that there should be no further cost.

Should the god lose piety over time? Yes, probably. No backtracking; always be exploring!

Should the player be encouraged to play in some specific way to get piety (ala Chei)? Again, I think the conduct is enough.

Should piety be very strongly weighted by area (ala TSO)? TSO does this for purposes of being an extended-focused god; this god's design is probably least relevant in extended. Probably not, then.

So, if it's just “piety over the course of play”, the exact mechanic doesn't matter too much: could be vehumet-style murder, ash-style exploration, or whatever, as long as it occurs during the course of normal play, and not during backtracking. It seems to follow naturally that if the god hates backtracking, they must love novelty. So we could make seeing new levels and enemies give piety. In particular, I like giving piety on entering levels — this makes it exciting and a good thing, even though there's the “no retreat” threat. Giving (much smaller amounts of) piety on seeing enemies allows the player to sustain themselves/make progress in the midst of a level, and makes it less 'bursty'.

I also considered giving piety on entering new branches, but that'd be even more 'bursty'. Giving piety on seeing new enemy types would be very close to piety for new branches, with an element of random chance (do you see an alligator snapping turtle this game?) and also requiring much more code.

Killing uniques fits both gladiatorial and exploring themes (gotta catch them all)
Extra piety for going down shafts sounds fun - still wouldn't make it a *good idea*, but if you're gonna do it anyway…

Divine wrath should probably scale with the incentive to abandon the god. Trog and Okawaru both give gifts and fall off in extended; there's a high incentive to abandon them, and therefore their wrath should be (and is!) quite nasty. This god doesn't give gifts, and they're… like chei, they don't cripple you any more in extended than in the rest of the game. [s]So, the wrath probably doesn't need to be too bad.[/s] Except… there's a strong temptation to break conduct, since, you know, stairdancing. Does that need more than penance as punishment? Undecided.

For the exact mechanics, I haven't the faintest. Nastiness having a chance to appear whenever you travel stairs is cute - perhaps only at moderate-high tension? Summoning nasty enemies from across the level (in the middle of a fight|when you're healing), but without the protective arena or heal on victory? Some kind of anti-robustness - rot, temp frailty, not slow healing because that's just tedious? Frenzied wild beasts (per the ability) appearing around the player would be an excellent wrath effect.

The wraith may be used as means to enforse the same rules. I. e. the tension level when stair-dancing is used is memorised, and the next time it gets to that level, Mark of sentinel and seal entrance are cast.
Or, if there are enemies present, why not just take them upstairs? — Kashira 2014-10-10 15:01

Could go in a couple of directions with this.

  • Exploration. Suggested by the conduct of no backtracking; instead charging forward! Delving into uncharted realms! Cataloging strange species! Wearing pith helmets and monocles! (Might be too similar to Ash. Might not.) HP/Regen could be the god granting you the fortitude required to be an explorer in these strange and barbaric lands; time stop is, of course, for sightseeing purposes when first entering a new area. The invoked temp-buff would be the benefits of superior knowledge and weapons, allowing you to spellcast and slay better than any barbarous monster. The duel, of course, is the only honourable recourse of the gentleman.
  • Reckless impetuousness. HP/regen: a divinely inspired, stubborn refusal to die, and impatience with resting! Temp-buff: No time to learn to fight or spellcast! Duel: No time to chase those villains down, let's fight toe to toe, right now! Time stop: gotta go fast!
  • Gladiatorial. The “god of challenges”. You can't backtrack because that'd be cheating; you've gotta continue until the challenge (branch) is complete!

[s]This god might be quite strong for speedrunners, because it rewards them for doing something close to what they're doing already. (Especially with the older conducts and their 'teleport to branch entrance' ability.)[/s] This doesn't really matter, though.

Correction: Makhleb is almost certainly still better (for speedrunners)

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dcss/brainstorm/god/propose/no_backtracking_god.txt · Last modified: 2014-10-16 18:08 by PleasingFungus
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