User:Bluescreenofdeath/Balance issues comment

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This page is meant to be my commentary to User:Phol ende wodan/Balance issues because it is too big for the discussion page and would suffocate all the other comments, therefore I'm making it into its own page. Here I will express my thoughts about the balance issues aosdict has described in his document, and often also offer new or alternate ideas for "fixing" them. Almost everything I suggest will either already be in SLASH'EM Extended, or is planned to be working like my suggestion one day. This document will probably be updated irregularly, or whenever I see new stuff getting added to aosdict's document that I feel like commenting. Disclaimer: None of these suggestions are absolute "you must do it this way" instructions or anything, they are just my thoughts. Which will be biased, probably, but I hope my comments doesn't actually sound offensive to anyone. If they do, I'm sorry.

"The end goal of balancing a game should be to make it more strategically interesting and fair while preserving its variety as much as possible. Balancing might involve reducing variety, but hopefully only the bad kind." - IMHO, balancing the game by adding more variety will always be superior to trying to balance it by reducing its variety even more. Vanilla NetHack already feels the same every game to me, and making this problem worse would cause me to fall asleep in front of the monitor even more quickly.

"Once you get a luckstone and can maximize your Luck, that is a flat +13 to hit." - my fix for that is to make it +d13 rather than +13. Granted, it's still a high bonus on average, but slex also adds monsters with AC values better than -10, and I don't want those to become next to impossible to hit.

"(UnNetHack implementation) Flat 25% chance of missing when fighting with an unskilled weapon. This has annoyed many players trying to wield cockatrice corpses." - I absolutely hate this spiteful change. If cockatrice corpses are OP, specifically nerf them. I did that by making them petrify enemies only 25% of the time, without changing the to-hit calculations at all. Unskilled weapons only really matter in the early game anyway, which is already hard enough, thank you very much! And the unnethack thing where it takes five times as long to reach basic just means that you'll struggle as an apprentice for that much longer, while as soon as you actually up your skill (which is later in the game, i.e. the part of the game that is too easy) the penalty just goes away... it means that very early on, you absolutely have to use your main melee weapon, i.e. the one that your role starts at basic skill with, because unskilled you'll just not hit anything and having to score 100 hits to reach basic is more than enough time for soldier ants to spawn and end you, while later on you'll always max out your main weapons anyway and are therefore completely unaffected by this nerf! IMHO, the late game is what's too easy while the early game could stand to be made a little easier, but the unnethack way does the exact opposite!

"Weapons generate at a certain enchantment, and if they are enchanted more from "artificial" means, it eventually goes away and the weapon reverts to its original enchantment." - I can't believe someone would actually suggest that. The item micromanagement part of the game is already annoying enough, this would just add an extra layer of needing to polypile to get enough enchant weapon scrolls to keep your weapon up at the value you want, and for what? Just so that if you use your favorite artifact weapon, you need to hit things one or two times more? Monsters in vanilla Gehennom are nothing more than speed bumps anyway, and this will only make it take longer but not really more difficult!

"Ascension kit degeneracy" - I've added plenty of base items that convey important in/extrinsics, including stuff like helm of speed, amulet of free action, gauntlets of reflection, boots of disintegration resistance, and many more. Plus, armor enchantments (stuff like "studded leather armor of telepathy" or "hawaiian shirt of reflection" or even "cloak of magic resistance of free action") further increase variety in the ascension kit. If too few item types convey vitally important properties, add more!

"There are only a few artifact weapons worth using." - Once again, add more! In fact, add (well-balanced, of course) artifact weapons for every base item type. I have no idea why short sword artifacts are nonexistant in vanilla. Also, Grayswandir is very powerful compared to most other artifacts, and long swords generally have high base damage and are therefore inherently better than most other weapons, so consider making artifacts of other weapon types good enough to be able to compete with them, but of course not so strong that a specific new artifact owns all. I even went so far as to actually nerf Grayswandir, by making it only add 1dX damage per hit, with X being the value that would have been doubled. So, say a vanilla Grayswandir always does X*2 damage, in slex it does a random amount ranging from X+1 to X*2. Which means that the total amount of damage added still goes up as you enchant the sword, but it's no longer ultra-powerful at +7.

"Martial arts are a joke, and are completely non-competitive with even normal weapons, let alone artifacts." - Just implement them the way they are in SLASH'EM, then. Honestly, I have no idea why the vanilla NetHack dev team didn't properly port the monk from SLASH'EM (where it originated from, after all). Techniques aren't even necessary, the important part is that martial arts does meaningful damage in SLASH'EM but not vanilla because the calculation used for determining the damage is completely different!

"Resistances, once you acquire them, are perfect. (This includes certain damage-prevention properties like reflection and magic resistance.)" - The way I tried to address this is to make resistances, and also stuff like reflection or free action, only offer partial protection, always, whether intrinsically or extrinsically. Most resistances simply have a 5% or 10% chance of not working on any given "incident" where they would otherwise protect the player. Of course, poison instadeath or touch of death instakill will not happen if you are resistant. The net effect is that while having the resistances or other properties is still very useful and, for things like magic resistance, more or less mandatory, they are no longer a cure-all. IMHO this is much better than Sporkhack's spiteful "no matter how much poison resistance you have, eating a poisonous corpse still takes off huge amounts of strength unless you're absolutely 100% resistant" change, and certainly a heck of a lot better than its "sleep resistance is completely irrelevant, even if you have 54% resistance the orange dragon breath is still a technical instadeath because you still sleep for 50 or so turns" implementation.

"Alignment record, It's subject to mass inflation." - What I did was to make the increase of maximum alignment record have diminishing returns. It still goes up over time, but the higher the maximum already is, the lower the chance on any given "check" that it will actually be increased further. Instead of seeing "your maximum alignment record was 525" or some such insanity after the game is over, my characters usually have a max of about 60-70 at the time of ascension. Which is still quite high, but I also greatly increased the penalties for killing peaceful monsters/pets, being a caitiff etc. It is possible to have a negative alignment record in slex after the early game.

"(Fourk implementation) Gains from killing monsters are removed completely." - That only works if you also add a way to actually increase your alignment record. Clearly, manipulating monsters into falling into a pit should not be the primary way of doing it. There should be a way to increase it without going out of your way completely, and the game should not become almost unwinnable if you violate your conduct once.

"The game dumps 5-7 guaranteed wishes on the player at the Castle." - Rather than the "you simply cannot recharge the wand" change some variants like to do, I like to randomize things by making the wand spawn recharged some of the time but not always. In fact, slex can even make a cancelled recharged wand, which means you effectively have 0-7 wishes instead of 5-7. Sometimes you get lucky and can wish for basically a full ascension kit, while at other times you'll only be able to patch a hole or two, and in the latter case, might actually hope to find good gear in Gehennom!

"Conflict affects nearly everything in line of sight, and can be incredibly powerful, especially on levels mobbed with monsters." - My solution to this (although I'm not sure whether it's optimal) is to first make all eyeless monsters immune, important for the Plane of Air especially, which used to be trivialized with the ring because air elementals were mostly busy fighting each other. And then I also made it so that all monster-versus-player to-hit checks are tilted in favor of the monster if you're using conflict. This makes conflict into a double-edged sword of sorts, instead of a property that has virtually no downsides in the endgame unless you have pets. Playtesting seems to suggest that this works nicely, i.e. it doesn't make conflict completely useless but actually makes not using conflict be the better choice in certain situations.

"(Slash'EM implementation) Unicorn horns eventually run out. Spending them frivolously to regain attributes might be what amounts to a waste of valuable resources." - Actually, in regular SLASH'EM they don't, they just have to be enchanted for a higher chance of fixing things. But even a +0 horn can fix all stat damage if applied repeatedly. SLEX, on the other hand, gives unihorns a chance of permanently not fixing an attribute point, in which case it is lost for good, and the restore ability spell has a lesser chance of doing so; only potions of restore ability (which are an expendable resource, unlike the spell that can just be cast repeatedly) are reliable.

"Attribute loss from abuse is a permanent loss." - IMHO this is a terrible idea, because there is one stat (dexterity) that is far too easy to abuse. If attribute loss were permanent, you'd never be allowed to be satiated, ever, unless you like playing with a terribly low dexterity. In fact, I generally think dexterity loss from being satiated is too harsh, and therefore made the impact of being satiated much lower than it used to be.

"It's quite dangerous to read unknown spellbooks." - SLASH'EM nicely fixes this by making uncursed spellbooks not give bad effects when read, unless they are out of charges. Granted, a barbarian will still not be able to cast polymorph at XL1, but it means everyone can read spellbooks and see whether they can get a useful spell. SLEX also completely overhauls spellcasting by making low-level spells generally easy to cast even for non-spellcaster roles while also nerfing the effects of some "too powerful" spells. The end result is slightly more versatility for melee roles by allowing them to cast a few spells, while also reducing the power creep of wizards and other caster roles without making them useless.

"Many players are ready to enter the quest at experience level 10, 11 or 12, but 14 is the hard lower limit." - No other part of the game has any level or alignment limits or whatsoever, and for that reason I took them out entirely. Let the player go on the quest whenever they want! If someone is foolish enough to attempt Master Kaen at XL1, their own fault. After all, in theory you could also levelport to Rodney's tower and try to take him on at XL1...

"Invisibility and see invisible's availability as intrinsics means that the problems of not having them eventually vanish completely." - One way to address this might be having more monsters that can steal those intrinsics, preferably without making it more likely to lose intrinsic poison resistance in the progress.

"Several things are too potent against early game players and will probably kill them regardless of the player's skill." - Chest traps are not unavoidable though, fiddling around with a locked chest at XL1 is simply not the brightest idea I'd say. There is no obligation to ever open a chest in the entire game! :P Poison and wand of death instadeaths are nerfed in slex by making them happen a lot less often, and in theory it might even be possible to play through the entire game without poison resistance as a result. Taking out the instadeath chance entirely would of course also be a possibility, but I want there to be a tiny little risk of it happening in my variant.

"get rid of summon insects in the end game." - I really like what SLASH'EM does there: it adds new a-class monsters that ensure this spell still remains dangerous, and of course slex adds so many additional high-level insects that this stays true throughout the game. However, it might be a good idea to reduce the frequency of it being cast, possibly by adding more different spells for priests to cast?

"The High Priest of Moloch should have more powerful attacks than the standard mace + clerical spell. He should also wear a shield of reflection instead of his small shield, so the player's death rays don't work, and be shock resistant, so Moloch's divine lightning doesn't hurt him. Jonadab proposed he get a special attack that turns floor in the vicinity into lava and wear fireproof water walking boots." - sarcasm mode: and he should also have an attack that tentacles to tentacle you, which will destroy your cloak of magic resistance and drain 9 points of intelligence with every hit and all the other things it does in dnethack :P Seriously though, making a mandatory boss monster too hard to defeat will greatly narrow down the amount of strategy a player can use and results in a situation where you either have the exact kit that will let you defeat said monster or you're doomed. This also applies to buffing the riders even more. Sure, your average vanilla samurai with +7 Excalibur and +7 katana and -45 AC and half a dozen wands of death will easily pwn Famine and Rodney as many times as necessary, but what if you're playing a pacifist illiterate atheist foodless healer (slight exaggeration) and the bosses are boosted so much that they'd eat up a pack of Archons? Should said healer then be completely impossible to ascend?

"All Quest nemeses can be trivially killed by standing on the upstairs on a scroll of scare monster and punching them to death. Even Master Kaen." - I second that bosses should be immune to it, and immune to Elbereth too of course. the Elbereth nerf in 3.6.0 is actually quite good IMHO, but scare monster scrolls still seem too much of a cure-all...

"Wands don't scale as the game progresses." - Well, the thing that calls itself "wand balance patch" is a terrible idea IMHO. There are a number of obvious problems as I see it, but even then, what's the point? In slex I just made damage-dealing wands scale with the zapper's level, which ensures that magic missile is no longer completely useless later on, and wands of cold are now actually viable tools for getting rid of some of Gehennom's demon lords. Oh yeah, I did add a wand skill, but it doesn't directly affect the wands, instead it means you get more charges out of them on average (unless the wand is e.g. wishing). One big problem with the wand destruction patch (that's what I call the wand "balance" patch) is that a spiteful change in the functionality of monsters using wands of lightning means that your own wands are never going to be safe again, no matter what you do, since an intelligent monster holding such a wand could spawn anywhere at random. At least in vanilla, having your wands out in the open becomes a valid strategy as soon as you have reflection, but with the wand destruction patch that is no longer the case. And there are situations where the turn it takes to get them out of a container is one turn too long *cough*gianteel*cough*. In fact, the item destruction itself is a beef I have with vanilla, too: it's just insane how many items are broken by a single instance of you getting hit with fire, cold or shock, and why the heck are blessed items not more resistant??? Anyway, even if you grudgingly accept that you can only ever carry wands inside of containers with the wand destruction patch, there are other issues, such as the barbarian getting crap all for wand skill and therefore becoming even less versatile than ever. It used to be that barbarians can use wands of teleportation or death, but with the patch that's out, since the patch means that unskilled wands are working strictly worse than in vanilla. If the issue is only that monsters with wands are too powerful, why not specifically nerf the effects they have when used by monsters? Why does the player have to suffer for this? In fact, why do players and monsters have to be symmetrical anyway? There is only one player versus possibly thousands of monsters over the course of the game, so clearly the player should have some advantages to ensure he has a chance?

"Lots of stuff doesn't really have a sensical weight. Potions are an exception to this, as their weight is working as intended (according to jonadab)." - In vanilla, all things weigh way too much, and therefore slex greatly increases the amount of stuff a player can carry because stash management is incredibly tedious and boring. SLEX lets the player carry (almost) everything they ever want to carry, but tones down the average amount of stuff the player will find, and implements several types of clocks to prevent infinite farming for better/more items, and I feel it's working as intended :)

"The player is supposed to have to make strategic choices about which skills to improve, and if need be gain extra levels if they decide they need more slots." - IMHO the problem is rather that, given the very low amount of skill slots a vanilla character gets, you absolutely have to enhance your main weapon(s) and maybe a spell or two, because otherwise you'll be XL14 (and unable to ever level up again unless you find foocubuses or potions of gain level or wraithes, but that's another issue) and still don't have maxed weapon skills. It is also a total waste of time to enhance most of the weapon types in vanilla - for example, a samurai would only ever enhance long sword, maybe two-handed sword, and very theoretically bow. They might just as well not have the remaining weapon skills at all since the weapons that use them simply cannot keep up with Excalibur. Now, if the player had more skill slots, training a supporting weapon (say, shuriken or polearms, which could have some situational use) might become viable for the samurai...

"Boomerang: only boomerangs use it. This is fine because boomerangs are very different from any other weapon." - But they are so weak, it's a great pity. Combined with the fact that the amount of skill slots is so low, no one is ever going to enhance this skill.

"Short sword: there are four slightly numerically different variants, but they are all simply inferior to long swords, even for Rogues." - And, as I said earlier, there are somehow no artifact versions for it. Why???

"Two-handed sword: considered to be dangerous around spellcasting monsters because of curse items; more importantly, twoweaponing +7 weapons almost always beats out the extra damage of the two-handed sword." - What slex does is that it greatly improves the damage output of two-handed weapons to make up for the fact that curse items is a constant threat. Highly enchanted dual-wielding can still outdamage it (and in slex, artifacts can be dual-wielded), but dual-wielding was also made relatively inaccurate, so a two-hander can actually be better depending on the situation.

"Add skills for armor and shield use." - SLEX does this, obviously; both of them increase the AC bonus when wearing armor pieces (every piece adds to the boost for the body armor skill, while shield skill specifically adds bonuses when using a shield, as well as a chance to block missiles, something that's completely nonexistant in any other variant - in vanilla, if your AC is good enough then arrows and darts and similar missiles will simply never hit you!), and also slightly reduce the spellcasting penalty when wearing metallic versions of the piece(s) in question. Casting in full plate mail can actually become possible that way, the penalty does not become zero but it will get quite low at master body armor skill compared to a character who is restricted.