(G)nomes

Update: First round of changes is in, and has generously been added to the main git repository by Due under the “nomes” branch.

I (Minced) submitted a patch for Nomes at https://crawl.develz.org/mantis/view.php?id=2744. As noted, the race is currently brokenly overpowered and will need plenty of feedback before it's playable. Still, wall-swimming, the Nome's trademark ability, comes with an interesting setback: it takes a turn (currently) to enter or leave a wall, so it's quite possible to get trapped in open levels. Some of the nerfs will have to sharpen this weakness to the point where it affects gameplay choices. Changes:

Second Revision

Thanks Dpeg, Wensley, Eronarn, Kilobyte for helpful feedback! Here's the second round of changes, which I plan to implement in a few days.

Design Goals

  • Autoexplore should not be debilitating. If rock-swimming causes persistent slowing or MP loss, autoexplore will be crippled, making Nome play very slow.
  • Rock-swimming should not be abusable. Entering rock, zapping enemies on the other side, then retreating to the safe side is not kosher.
  • melee, spellcaster, stabbing should all be viable play styles.

General Changes

  • Gnomes, not Nomes.
  • slow speed (8 vs 10)
  • unbreathing*
With regards to unbreathing, let's try something new. The biggest unbalancing factor of unbreathing is the ability to walk through deep water. What if this race, although unbreathing, could *not* enter deep water, and took penalties while in shallow water as well? Out of their element, so to speak, and from a flavor perspective this works as well: gnomes begin turning to mud when exposed to water. Previous general discussions regarding shallow water (discussions unrelated to gnomes) favored ensuring that creatures can always traverse shallow water to prevent certain vaults from being inaccessible, but gnomes will often be able to make headway into the vault simply by moving through walls and taking no penalties from the water. A simple penalty for now should work, and the IRC channel came up with the following for a first pass: -20% max hp while in shallow water, and a negative attunement status (so that moving into walls from shallow water takes even longer than normal). We may eventually want to expand the shallow water penalty to something that causes a greater penalty over time to reflect that gnomes gradually deteriorate while in water, but this works for now. Also, think of how cool it would be to get the following death message: “killed due to turning to mud.” — wensleydale 2010-11-02 07:12
Note that in current trunk, unbreathing only grants asphyxiation resistance and Mephitic Cloud immunity, which is why it's been given to undead player races, who had those resistances anyway (the latter is also covered by their innate poison resistance). Walking through water is a separate quality, which is why it's displayed separately for grey draconian players (to explain their “You sink to the bottom.” messages), and not for undead races, who can still fall apart or drown. Just because you don't need to breathe doesn't necessarily mean you can survive immersion in deep water. — dolorous 2010-11-02 15:47
That's good to know, it will mean less special casing for gnomes if we do decide to keep them as unbreathing (a trait that is not at all critically important to their thesis). However, I would still like to explore giving them penalties in shallow water for the reasons described above. — wensleydale 2010-11-02 18:48

Wall-Swimming Changes

  • attunement is still there but has no slowing drawback, making autoexplore at least useable.
  • only rock, stone, green crystal passable.
  • can only enter “shallow” (touching air) walls
  • HP boost removed - 30% extra HP is way too good.
  • Mechanism:
    • (1 + (attunement change necessary/2)) turns to enter OR leave rock
    • while inside wall, AC + (4 + XL/4), EV + (2 + XL/4).
    • Damage shaving also possible - would make nomes more analogous to rock worm!
    • no additional slowing inside a wall.
    • attunement for air is 0, rock is 2, stone is 4, crystal is 4
    • outside wall, AC bonus is (4 + XL/4) * (attunement /4) - so bonus immediately halved when exiting rock.
  • illegal in walls:
    • ranged weapons are banned in rock.
    • spellcasting is currently impossible in rock.
    • no evocations except digging wands, Nemelex draw 1
    • potions still useable.
    • No natural HP gain. Trog's hand still works.
  • aptitude changes:
    • spellcasting now -1: since nomes can't cast spells in their native rock they are not used to spellcasting.
  • In the interest of preserving stabbing as a playstyle for Nomes, there will be no noise generated while nomes are in rock.
  • If the above gives nomes too big a bonus near corners, I'll add noise to rock-swimming.
  • +10 (small) stealth bonus in rock.
  • A message when moving from air to rock noting “you take a moment to attune to the rock” in order to convey to players that moving into a wall is not instantaneous.

Autoexplore Changes

  • exploration attempts to explore both rock and air
  • autoexplore starting in rock should stay in rock. If no further autoexploration within rock is possible, stop. Pressing 'o' once more should keep autoexploring by leaving rock.

Flavor Changes

Description
  The crouched, gravel-skinned gnomes are true children of the earth:
  stubborn as stones, strong as granite, slow as weathering, and insular
  as diamonds in the rough. Few gnomes ever glimpse the light of day,
  instead spending their entire lives swimming through cavern walls in
  search of precious gems. The gnomes in fact prefer swimming through
  rock and stone to more mundane means of conveyance.
  This earthy nature is the greatest strength of the gnomes - and their
  greatest weakness. On one hand, the gnomes are the masters of earth
  magic, and excel at bashing enemies with mace or with stony fists. On
  the other hand, gnomes are by nature inflexible in mind and body:
  gnomes frown on sorceries foreign to their caverns, and are too
  obdurate to excel at dodging, relying instead on their stony skin and
  diminutive stature for protection.
  Stony skin is typically enough protection for gnomes, so long as they
  remain ensconced in rock or stone, where they can assume their true
  forms. It takes some time for a gnome to shift forms (while entering
  or leaving rock), during which the gnome is vulnerable to
  attack. Thankfully, their attunement to the stone persists for several
  turns in open air. While attuned to the earth, gnomes retain some of their
  stony skin and have an easier time entering or leaving walls, allowing 
  them to dart across clearings. 
  However, like almost everything else about the gnomes, attunement
  is a double-edged sword. Offense suffers the most: projectile launchers, 
  wands, and magic are not designed to work in rock, though unarmed combat 
  is somewhat stronger. Above all, gnomes dare not delve into deep earth 
  for fear of misplacing their souls in the rock. Gnomes therefore endeavor 
  to spend their lives at the confluence of earth and air.

Mechanics

It is very important to note the following to dispel incorrect assumptions about wall-swimming:

  1. Unlike rock worms, nomes are not immune to damage while inside walls, they receive only the benefits outlined below.
  2. They cannot move through rock entirely at their leisure, they must remain adjacent to a square of open air at all times. This currently allows them to cross between rooms separated by two tiles of wall at most. If this is found to be too powerful, they could instead be coded to only be able to cross between rooms separated by one tile of wall (only accept the move if the open air adjacent to the new position is adjacent to open air that was adjacent to the old position).
  3. While swimming in rock walls, all actions are slowed by 120%. In stone walls, this penalty is increased to 140%. These numbers may be higher in the final version.
  4. Entering walls takes several turns while you attune to them, and leaving walls leaves you slowed for several turns.

flavor

The stooped, gravel-skinned Nomes are true children of the earth: 
stubborn and strong as the stones, and insular as diamonds trapped in the rocky
depths. Few Nomes ever glimpse the light of day, preferring instead to swim 
through the walls of their native caverns in search of ever-prettier gems. 
For Nomes can indeed swim through solid rock, stone or even metal, though most 
find a swim through metal akin to a swim through molasses.
This earthy nature is the greatest strength and greatest weakness of the Nomes. 
Nomes are the masters of earth magic, and excel at bashing enemies with 
mace or stony fists alike. On the other hand, they are by nature inflexible in mind, learning 
at a slow pace and having little patience for magics foreign to their caverns,
and equally inflexible in body, relying mostly on their diminutive stature to avoid blows.
Nomes are poorly adapted to life outside their small subterranean holdings, making 
adventuring a troublesome profession for the few Nomes open-minded enough to desire such things. 
Indeed, their bodies are more robust and better-protected when ensconced in rock, 
so it is recommended that adventuring Nomes flee to the solace of the nearest wall upon provocation.

The new nomes actually are only halfway decent at transmutations (they are by nature an inflexible people), and weak in more refined skills because they literally live in a hole in the ground. I think this description gives a flavor justification for an across-the-board skill nerf as written.

Aptitudes

High apts in bold and low underlined:

  • 0 fighting, 0 short blades, -2 long blades, 0 axes, +1 maces & flails, -3 polearms, -1 staves, 0 unarmed combat
  • +1 slings, -1 bows, -1 crossbows, +1 throwing
  • 0 armour, -1 dodging, +1 stealth, +1 stabbing, 0 shields, 0 traps & doors
  • 0 spellcasting, 0 conj, -2 ench, 0 summ, 0 nec, -2 tloc, +1 tmut , +1 fire, -1 ice, -4 air, +5 earth, -1 pois
  • -1 invocations, -1 evocations, 40% more XP needed to level (on par with high elves)

Wall Swimming

Slightly modified version of Wensleydale's “Earth Attunement” proposal.

  • Nomes have a level of “Earth Attunement,” indicated by status symbol “earth.” Default is 0.
  • High attunement allows entry into more solid walls, gives more AC, but slows *all* actions more.
  • To enter a wall, a Nome steadily increases attunement until it's high enough to enter the specified wall type.
  • Wall exit is immediate but attunement is not decreased until the Nome is in open air.
  • It takes one turn to increment attunement by a single level.
  • Attunement decreases in open air, resulting in a refractory period where player is slow but has good AC.
  • Attunement decreases much faster than glow - maybe decrease attunement by 1 every five turns.
Level AC provided slowing factor Passable Walls
0 3 100% none
1 5 + level/4 120% rock
2 6 + level/4 130% rock, green crystal
3 7 + level/4 140% rock, stone, green crystal
4 8 + level/4 150% rock, stone, green crystal, metal

To get a feel for these numbers, it takes one turn to enter a rock wall, and actions are slowed by 20% while inside. Also note that permarock is impassible, as it should be.

Alternate Name Suggestions

There has been some resistance to the spelling of “nomes”. There has also been some resistance to the spelling “gnomes” simply in order to prevent confusion with the earlier Crawl race and to ensure sequell queries are unambiguous. However, it would be nice for a name to preserve the spirit of mythological gnomes, which have been creatures that swim through the earth since their inception. Suggestions should be placed below.

Gnomes

What about fixing the spelling to “gnome”? I don't see any problems with it, and it's what people seem to prefer instead of highly contrived alternatives.

Compared, “nome”:

  • It is a misspelling from an obscure book (only first Oz is widely known).
  • Was fixed in later books in the cycle.
  • Breaks the 300 years rule.
  • Is a pure misspelling (as the pronunciation is the same), not a distinct name.
  • Brings nothing new (there are Paracelsus' gnomes, as used by everything before D&D)

Genomes

The original word “gnome” may be a misspelling. To quote Wikipedia: “The word comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of 16th Century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He is perhaps deriving the term from Latin gēnomos (itself representing a Greek γη-νομος, literally “earth-dweller”). In this case, the omission of the ē is, as the OED calls it, a blunder. Alternatively, the term may be an original invention of Paracelsus.” Reviving the initial “e” would be a throwback to the classical Greek meaning and would set Crawl's gnomes apart from those of the modern fantasy genre, whose gnomes are more focused on tinkering and invention. This name would mirror the idea that Crawl's gnomes follow the more classical “earth-swimming” gnome definition, which has been largely abandoned in modern fantasy.

Moving from one misspelling to another doesn't sound good. It's gnomes who were rock swimming – in fact, earth elementals, before D&D came and thrashed the thing into a yet another halfling-like race. — kilobyte 2010-10-27 23:52

Rock Gnomes

A parallel with rock worms, although rock worms do not actually work quite like nomes currently do.

Redundant. How do you say “rock earth elemental”? — kilobyte 2010-10-27 23:52

Nerfs

  • Permarock is meant to be completely inaccessible. Nomes should not be able to pass through it by any means.
  • Maybe rock swimming could drain MP? -1 per turn spent in the wall. Maybe this could be partially mitigated based on your Earth skill. (BirdoPrey)
    • Not sure about this - rock is supposed to be a nome's native environment, so making it difficult for them to stay is weaker flavor.
  • Staying in the wall for long periods of time should be discouraged to prevent people from swimming eternally. Every turn spent swimming in a wall should cause the nome to become more attuned to the earth (and hence become less attuned to his natural form). Turns spent inside the wall cause the nome to accumulate earth attunement, which could work similarly to glow. Turns spent not swimming in walls cause the earth attunement to gradually dissipate. Like glow, earth attunement has levels (grey → yellow → red, or similar), and each subsequent level of attunement grants more and more levels of ponderousness. If we're feeling adventurous (which I always am!), having just one level of earth attunement might also grant some benefits while *not* swimming through walls, such as more AC, or more melee damage (think stoneskin), thus rewarding the player for not being in the wall rather than simply penalizing them for doing so (and forcing them to find an acceptable balance between the two). — wensleydale 2010-10-22 11:05
    • Thanks! “Earth Attunement” has been implemented, see above. — Minced
aptitudes
  • Earth 4, Tmut 2 (Monky). Unarmed -1. Fighting 0. Conj -1.
    • If Nomes are still overpowered with the first round of nerfing, I'll consider these additional aptitude nerfs. — Minced

Feedback on first round of changes

Conversation between minced, Wensley, and Eronarn. In my personal opinion, I feel that nomes are a metric ton of fun and have a positively captivating playstyle, and they can be made even better and more balanced (which this section is designed to accomplish). — wensleydale 2010-10-24 10:05

Summary

Most importantly is keeping this race's power in check. Through wall-swimming, nomes will have a much greater ability to choose their battles than other classes, and so require a great deal of drawbacks to balance this.

Essential changes
  1. Remove HP boost from earth attunement (current HP is otherwise the same as spriggans)
  2. Make nomes as slow as naga while outside of walls; where naga make up their slow movement with stealth, nomes make it up with wallswimming (and while inside walls, actions will be slowed as well)
  3. Remove ability to move through metal walls. This creates an interesting dilemma for nomes in Vaults, Dis, and especially in Dungeon levels randomly selected to have metal walls.
  4. Along with removing metal from attunement, combine green crystal with stone to make only three levels of attunement: 0 (air), 1 (rock), 2 (stone/green crystal).
  5. Double the amount of time required to enter any wall. This increases the amount of turns required to enter rock walls from 1 to 2, and stone walls from 2 to 4.
  6. Remove the ability to eat food while wallswimming (they still hunger while in walls). Removing the ability to summon anything while in a wall may also be essential to prevent abuse, but has less flavor justification. Bodily transformations are cancelled when entering walls and fizzle if cast while in a wall (nomes attuned to walls after exiting the walls can still attain forms while retaining the AC and slowing of attunement). Clouds may also be abusable while swimming, but are somewhat balanced due to nomes' -4 air apt.
  7. Currently digging while inside a wall does not dig out the square you are in. This needs to be changed so that nomes cannot create infallible escape routes by entering a wall and then digging away from enemies, leaving a wall behind in the process.
  8. Increase hunger while swimming through walls (no transmutations in walls prevents lichform shenanigans)
  9. Moving through walls needs to create noise in a small radius, to prevent against abuse of dumb AI in the following situation (unless the AI could be made smarter, that is):

Turn 1:

....#XX
....#XX
....#@#
.....hh

Here, you (@) are embedded in a wall (#) fighting some jackals (h). You cannot swim in walls denoted by X.

Turn 2:

....#XX
....@XX
....###
.....hh

In a single turn you can move to this position, and the jackals will be unable to find you and have no idea how to pursue you. Having wallswimming make noise would allow the jackals to find you to prevent extreme cornerscumming. It would also help to differentiate wallswimming from the passwall spell.

Secondary changes

Mostly flavor and fun changes, these aren't absolutely essential like the above changes but would help to flesh this race out and make it even more interesting (and it is *very* interesting as it is).

  1. Suggested aptitude adjustments: shields up to +1, stealth down to 0, summoning down to -2, earth perhaps down to +4 if earth power bonus while in walls is implemented
  2. Earth magic power bonus while attuned.
  3. Sandblast acts as though you are wielding a stone when cast while swimming in rock.
  4. Hardiness: nomes take reduced penalties to spellcasting and stealth from wearing heavy armor
  5. Resistance to translocation effects (from any source) while swimming in walls.
  6. Enemies who zap you with a wand of disintegration will destroy any wall tile you're in as well as damage you.
  7. Being in translucent walls grant you invisibility (that is, until you're struck and the wall becomes bloodstained, causing you to become visible)
  8. Being in green crystal walls grants you immunity to fire and cold attacks
  9. Slow healing 1 while in a wall, or even slow healing 1 at all times.
  10. Suggested new attunement properties:
Level AC bonus movement speed action speed walls passable
0 3 120% 100% none
1 5 + level/4 120% 120% rock
2 7 + level/4 140% 140% rock, stone, green crystal
Play/personal experience

Paraphrased from IRC by minced:

Wensley:
* overall: wall-swimming is AWESOME, indescribably liberating
* It's easy to escape from enemies by going diagonally near a corner - natural stealth means enemies won't be able to figure out where you are. It's essential, with current monster AI, to add some noise to wall-swimming.
* Bodily transformations should not work *at all* when within a wall. On the flip side, attuned nomes should probably still get slowing + extra AC in other forms.
* Sense of recon is amazing, you never know when you enter a wall what you'll find on the other side.
* the slowing *is* sufficient penalty for being in a wall, but it's not so visible at first.
* Ashenzari is easily the go-to god for nomes due to scrying + wall-swimming
* it's easy for wall-swimming to make situations worse (met an orc priest + wizard on other side of a wall just as I entered the wall to get my AC boost against Sigmund :P)
* single-turn delay should be added to all wall entries regardless of earth attunement
* immunity to fire/ice when inside green crystal - after all, it's rare enough!
* immunity to electricity inside metal (faraday cage), provided nomes can still travel through metal in later versions
* shatter should be horribly painful when cast inside a wall ;)
* give cacodemons LRD just to make Nomes miserable =)
* dig should erase a nome's surrounding rock wall if cast within a wall.
 
Eronarn:
* Give nomes less stealth penalty for armour but poor stealth
* drop metal/crystal walls, so levels with metal walls scare the poo out of nomes. (Wensley agrees)
* Nomes cannot eat while in walls - targeted towards Nome conjurers trying to abuse wall-swimming
* teleport resistance outside of walls might be worth it, as would barring summons while inside walls
(eh, I'm not so sure, you could still summon while just outside the wall anyways - minced)
* the real issues a) abuses where you do something, then leave LOS b) abuses where you can duck out of LOS easily every time you start to lose at no risk. If a,b are eliminated then even unrestricted wall travel would be ok.
* b is not so bad, since there are already many 2-3 turn escapes in game. However, a is an issue due to clouds (eh, nomes have -4 air apt, oh well) and summons (which will soon be nerfed not to fight outside LOS!).
* autoexplore should be adapted to explore walls if the nome starts in a wall
* NOMES IN GLASS SHOULD BE INVISIBLE. Nomes in *bloodstained* glass, however, should become visible (!)
Design issues

There is one giant problem in the core design, and several in implementation.

  • Having a width 1 or (preferably) 2 wall anywhere on the level makes you effectively invincible. People like being invincible. This ends up in them luring every single monster to that wall so it can be fought in safety.
    • A possible solution could be requiring people to always have their noses in the air – so you can exit only to the side you came from. Interface-wise, this could reuse the way mesmerizing/fear works.
      • But doesn't that defeat the whole purpose? If you can't pass through walls under any circumstances (which is basically what you just suggested), I don't see how the ability is functionally different from just having wider corridors, except for scouting whatever's on the far side of width 1 walls, which aren't that common. — brickman 2010-10-28 05:44
  • It is strongly beneficial to explore all shallow walls, to find those coveted width 1-2 walls, and even if that gets removed, to find secret places or at least know what's on the other side. This means autoexplore should visit these – but with the gradual attunement mechanics, that's tricky and leaves you attuned the wrong way you want. Ie, this mechanics leads to gameplay annoyances.
  • Having shallow and deep walls look the same is confusing. Let's give them different glyphs (easy in Unicode which hopefully can become the default, tricky in ASCII). This is even worse if crossing width 2 walls stays – you have to actually try pressing the arrow key towards the other side for every single wall square since there is no information if that wall is thin or thick unless you actually try going there.

Random comments by dpeg

I didn't playtest the patch (no time, sorry), but I promised to read the wiki and provide my comments. First of all, I'll call them Gnomes; I know that terminology issues cause particularly long, heated and fruitless discussions, so I won't reply. (The species does not have to be called Gnome, my point is just that Gnome > Nome for reasons kilobyte explained already on ##crawl-dev.) Second, I believe the basic idea is definitely good enough to make a fun Crawl species.

On to more specific matters:

  • Luring enemies across the whole level just to fight them from within a wall (for whatever bonus this brings) is probably not good. It can be avoided by making gnomes slow.
  • In general, I think it is interesting to have another slow species (besides nagas). One which does not rely on stealth and poison. (And slowness fits the theme of gnomes, too.)
  • Speaking of theme: while it is very good to have a theme in mind (as you have above), be aware that theme is ultimately flexible. If we want to change some parameters of the species, it will be easy to come up with more fitting flavour afterwards.
  • The basic assumption here seems to be that gnomes are better (at least at some things) inside rock. If so, it is generally better to use few, strong effects which are also visible (over many, muddled effects). For example, an AC boost in rock is plain visible. A UC damage boost is much harder to convey.
  • Note that most of the species's features could also be achieved by giving the boosts when next to rock. Of course, this is less cool and flavourful. The crucial difference of actual wall-walking is that you can cross walls of type .#. or perhaps also .##. (remains to be chosen later which rule we want). This difference is good, but its own source of balancing problems.
  • However, allowing players to enter rock allows us to come up with much better drawbacks (e.g. more hungering from being inside rock).
  • As I said, rock-walking can be tactically (ab)used. You have examples for this already; the most basic problem is this: .#@….O. where you shoot the ogre until it is one space away, then retreat into rock and leave. (Yes, slow speed can help here; but with the original proposal you could greet the ogre with nasty spells from within the wall.) To me, the abuse potential seems much higher for spells (or other ranged combat) than for melee. Therefore, I'd suggest that melee is boosted in rock whereas casting is harder (perhaps even impossible). Even with melee, we get situations like .#@O. (with player in rock), retreating every time HP get too low. However, melee from rock squares means that the monster can hit back.

Here is a shoot from the hip — a simple set of rules:

  • Need a certain amount of MP to enter rock (say maxMP/2).
  • Constant hunger hit when entering rock. By the way, whenever I say “rock”, this could be expanded to other wall types at our choice.)
  • In rock, MP=0 and no MP regeneration.
  • In rock, no HP regeneration (this might not be needed if resting in rock is very expensive food-wise).
  • In rock, AC+XL, EV+XL boosts.
  • Additional base hungering (think trolls) in rock.
  • Slow movement everywhere (floor and rock).
  • Perhaps unbreathing (this is an intrinsic now, and gnomes seem to be able to breathe in rock…)
  • Perhaps no item use in rock (potion, scroll, wand), including eating. Weapons should be okay.
  • Perhaps stealth bonus when in rock. (This would make gnomes competent stabbers, which is something we may want. However, it'd overlap a bit with nagas.)

So a gnome has much greater tactical flexibility at the expense of slow speed. Walls are very valuable for fleeing and for melee. Rock has the liabilities of hunger and that you'll leave MP-less.

Altogether, I'd expect the following playing styles to come out of this:

  • melee (perhaps supported with stabbing or spells)
  • caster, using rock as an emergency exit (they have to watch MP for this — but all numbers are liable to change, of course).

Autoexplore starting in rock should stay in rock. If no further autoexploration within rock is possible, stop. Pressing 'o' once more should keep autoexploring by leaving rock.

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dcss/brainstorm/species/propose/nome.txt · Last modified: 2011-12-21 17:27 by XuaXua
 
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