User:Phol ende wodan/DungeonOverhaul/ais523
The Oracle remains in the game, but with a tightened (and shallower) level range; her level always appears as level 5 or 6. The purpose is the same as before, to give a milestone in the very early game (which should show in the xlog, please!), to provide a method of giving information to unspoiled players, and to serve as a location for lawful players to make many attempts at getting Excalibur if they wish.
This is probably a good idea, though I'm not sure how the Excalibur part would be affected if only Knights were able to dip from it like some people want to do.
The rogue level is an amusing and pleasantly surprising thing to have in the game, and worthwhile on that basis, but its actual gameplay isn't all that different from regular gameplay. Unlike most special levels, it also doesn't really serve as a milestone. As such, the rogue level now only generates in a small proportion of games (maybe 20%), and is otherwise unchanged; that should make it more surprising when it turns up.
Agree with bhaak - the Rogue level could probably be removed entirely, it contains nothing of particular interest to the (spoiled) player. If I encountered it while exploring the dungeon on the 20% chance, I would say "aww man, not this level again" and feel like the RNG cheated me out of a level's worth of special rooms and loot. The level's value for unspoiled players is minimal, and does not make a strong enough argument for keeping it in the game - a bones pile with maybe a fake Amulet, which may or may not be discovered, is not really a useful indication to the player of anything. Even if it were, it could be moved to some other level anyway. I also dislike the level's ability to override my preferences for the symbol set and to have colors.
The general idea of the map works pretty well (although I'd probably change the entrance room, which is one of the most awkward sizes it could be; it needs to either be a corridor or else to drop the player in open space). As usual, being able to make the details slightly random would be a good thing, although it's a lower priority here than elsewhere.
I may have said this in my response to jonadab's proposal, but I like the idea of the portal dropping you on the opposite side of the level from the exit portal, so you can't use it to return to the Dungeons and take a breather whenever you feel like.
One change which I think would be very worthwhile would be to change the Minesweeper reference to an actual Minesweeper minigame. This could be done via changing the sizes of the stacks of gold to reflect the number of adjacent mines (and placing mines so that every square had an adjacent mine and so that every square was reachable without stepping on mines). The mines themselves would be undetectable except by stepping on them, triggered automatically when stepped on or hovered over, and covered by a single gold piece. Triggering any mine would cause the remaining gold in the treasure room to fall through cracks in the floor, giving a big incentive to solve the puzzle rather than just tanking the traps. We'd need to give a hint as to how all this works (probably via both Oracle consultation and an engraving outside the room itself). Note that there's been a suggestion in #nethack4 that a reference to the Infocom text adventure games in NetHack would be desirable, but preferably a really subtle one (that's more interesting than just adding hallucinatory monsters). I'm informed that many such games used the number 69105 somewhere as an easter egg, and it struck me that the total number of gold pieces in the Ludios treasure room is of around that magnitude as it is; we might want to make it a constant 69105 in order to continue the reference.
I like the idea of Minesweeper being an actual minigame a lot, but it's missing a couple of implementation details - in particular, do spaces with no adjacent mines have no gold on them, or a relatively small sum? If every space were covered by at least one gold piece, how does the player know where to go next? Doesn't seem fair to have the challenge potentially lost before it's begun simply due to RNG. Unlike in Minesweeper, the player is limited in where they can first step, and I'm not sure if you planned to include the mechanic in which if the player's first guess is a mine, the mines will be reshuffled such that there is no mine on that space.
Other notes: jumping over mines should be allowed because you get no information about the space while passing over it, but levitating or flying over mines should not work ("Air currents below you trigger a land mine!") because you can nearlook it to see if there is 1 gold piece there. I think farlook might also need to be slightly modified, since it does currently distinguish between one or multiple gold pieces, or mines could just have 2 gold pieces on them instead of one.
The deeper Dungeons could probably do with other special levels which change up the "feel" of the gameplay somewhat without fundamentally changing the actual strategic rewards. (The Rogue Level is a good example of this.) In other words, you go through them on the way down and again on the way up, but probably don't trawl through them repeatedly all that offen. If the level requires the player to learn/understand how it functions in order to play properly, it should probably be in every game so that unspoiled players can figure out how it works over time. If it doesn't, it should probably generate with only a small probability to help maintain the novelty.
Hmm. If loot or dungeon features aren't changed up at all, I'm not sure how compelling the levels would be. (The Big Room doesn't have much difference in the way of loot, but it lets you see most or all of it at once so you don't have to hunt it down.) Personally, I like more and better varied special rooms as the mechanism for more variety in the deeper Dungeons.
Ideas for other special levels? The poor town from Unnethack? The garden/nymph level?
The last level / branch ending of the Dungeons is now Medusa's Island. This has similar considerations to existing versions of NetHack, serving (in terms of the feel of the dungeon) as an obvious landmark location, and (in terms of strategy) as an "item test" that requires the player to deploy a means of crossing water (at a point in the game which is early enough that they may well not have a permanent source, and thus need to use consumables). The level is predominently formed of water, with several islands, some of which contain ruined buildings. There's now guaranteed to be a path from the stairs to Medusa's island itself that doesn't cross any more than two water tiles in one go; this means that a character crossing using jumping boots doesn't have to worry about the instadeath caused by colliding with a monster after two squares of a three-square jump. Ideally, the level would be randomly generated, rather than using fixed special-level maps, although keeping to the same general principles as the existing levels. The titan in one variant is probably overkill (it's interesting but this is the wrong level to put it on; I'd recommend moving it elsewhere or removing it).
Agreed with regards to the water gaps of 2 and removing the titan. So much strategy advice, even down to picking your starting alignment, was given based on that stupid titan.
Guaranteed items in the level include a blessed potion of monster detection on the entrance island (as an additional clue to Medusa's presence for people who think the inclusion of Medusa in the game is unfair to unspoiled players, and as a way for experienced players to check the locations of sea monsters; note that the item could also come in handy later, so there are definitely reasons to not use it), a number of statues in the room prior to Medusa herself (the existing clue that there's a petrifying monster going around), and the statue of Perseus in Medusa's room itself. The statue is now guaranteed to contain a sack, and either a shield of reflection or cursed boots of levitation.
I probably don't agree with the people who say an unwarned Medusa is unfair to unspoiled players, since it's a death you probably won't repeat. (Same goes for cockatrices, mind flayers, purple L, and other sources of instadeath.)
Is the +2 scimitar being removed, or did you not find it interesting enough to note down here? (Not that I know of anyone ever being happy to find the +2 scimitar in the statue; it's not very important.)
Medusa herself is the same as before, staying in a room with closed doors and guarded by squeaky boards. (For flavour, can we give them a sound other than the usual ones? In 3.6.0, most squeaky boards play musical notes; making these hiss or something could be interesting.) She's no longer alone in her room, having a retinue of fairly weak snakes (for flavour reasons; the player's unlikely to have much trouble killing them).
What's the flavor behind hissing squeaky boards, though? A snake under the floor? What would the message be, something like "A board beneath you hisses loudly"?
The mines filler levels are not that different from in existing versions of NetHack. One change is that the mines have no natural light at all; rather, the light predominantly comes from a type of glowing fungus (in ASCII, bright cyan F would make sense as a symbol; and "luminescent fungus" would do as a name) which illuminates an area around it. The fungus also gives poison resistance when eaten (with a fairly low probability), tempting players to darken the area. The gnomes generate with candles (as in 3.6.0 and many NetHack variants), to ensure that making the game unwinnable via candle shortage takes ridiculous effort (i.e. is only likely to be done intentionally), and for flavour reasons too. (It'd be nice if the gnomes could use the candles, but that's been shown to have unworkable logistical problems due to inventories getting cluttered with many candles of different lengths. Additionally, it would be nice if the player could viably use the candles as a light source, meaning they probably need a longer burn time. Perhaps the best option would be to have just a few statuses for candle length: "long candle", "short candle", "candle stub", with each length having a very small random chance of going to the next length down (or burning out if a stub) every turn it's lit?)
There would have to be many luminescent fungi in a Mines level to do any reasonable job of lighting it up. Also, I stand by my comments on jonadab's proposal that the upper Mines to lower Mines transition would be underscored by the upper Mines being fully lit and the lower Mines being unlit (and I think he already did that in Fourk).
Luminescent fungus corpses would be interesting if they retained some light, and the radius of the light decreases as the corpse ages. <-- YANI
Don't gnomes in 3.6.0 use their candles? Don't unnethack gnomes do this as well? I don't think it's an unworkable problem.
Candle statuses could also be implemented as a less informative version of NH4 candles, where they still have a fixed number of turns but their description depends on that number of remaining turns. (Presumably, when the candle changes status, you give the player a message, e.g. short candle to stub has "Your candle's flame flickers low!") I don't think I like the idea of randomly burning down to the next length, because that puts your candle life at the RNG's mercy, where I feel this sort of thing should be deterministic.
Also, this is not really related to dungeon design, but an idea that occurred to me is that the increased light radius formula needs some rebalancing. Currently nobody lights up 7 candles at once because it only makes them as good as a lamp, and it's better to use them all one by one for more lifetime; it should be easier to get a radius of 3 and fairly feasible to get a radius of 4 (requiring 49 candles is absurd).
Some other minor changes are to tweak the dungeon generator slightly to reduce the chance of chokepoints (they tend to be tedious in the common case), and to change the monster AI so that peaceful gnomes become hostile if they see you attack a peaceful gnome (the current behaviour feels jarringly unrealistic).
Extend this to any sort of peaceful monster will become hostile if it sees you anger a peaceful of its class, so it works on dwarves, gnomes, orcs, elves, gremlins, etc. Humans, or at least "always peaceful" humans, should probably be an exception; you don't want the Minetown priest attacking you if they see you kill a watchman.
Mines filler levels below Minetown are broadly the same as those above, but contain less luminescent fungus. Additionally, levels of gold and gems in the branch as a whole are similar to 3.4.3, but bottom-weighted (i.e. less generating at shallower depths, more generating at deeper depths). There's also a guaranteed, pre-identified polymorph trap on one of the shallower filler levels in the lower Mines (in addition to the possibility of secret polymorph traps anywhere they're in-depth); the idea is that the polymorph trap adds both danger to the level, and serves as a minor reward once cleared.
For the polymorph trap idea to work, monster polymorph needs rebalancing first; in particular, it's not fair if the trap is on the other side of the level and within 5 turns a gnome becomes an arch-lich and kills you. I'm not sure I'd even consider it fair if an entire group of gnomes uses it to become leocrottas or similar harder monsters.
Minetown is generally similar in nature to 3.4.3, containing several shops, an attended temple, and watchmen with a watch captain. (Orctown has proven to have been very unpopular/unenjoyable.) The shopping situation now consists of two guaranteed shops (Izchak's lighting store and a delicatessen) plus two random shops. All the shops are, however, fairly small, with an initial stock of maybe 6-12 items.
I've made some effort to make Orctown more palatable by giving it a barricaded general store and better loot, but this has not been tested. I wouldn't be that sad to see it go.
I think jonadab's idea for a guaranteed general store, even if small, is pretty good and I would favor it over the two random shops idea here, but this is in context of the current identification game where a guaranteed general store is very good to have. There has been some discussion about making identification less reliant on shops.
The temple still exists, but now always has a neutral altar. (It seemed flavourly appropriate to have an altar that gnomes would use, and having guaranteed alignments for the early-game altars helps to differentiate characters from each other a bit more strongly.)
Interesting. This will certainly influence strategy advice for starting alignment, since only neutral characters can expect a guaranteed coaligned temple. I would say that this might force some artifact rebalancing to occur, since neutrals already have the best artiwishing choices. With that and a coaligned temple, they seem too powerful.
YANI: have the Oracle stand on an altar. You could only access it by killing or teleporting her. The problem is that it makes sense for this altar to be neutral too (certainly not lawful or chaotic, unless it's just random).
It might be interesting to see if it's possible to generate Minetown layouts similar to 3.4.3's randomly. Extra variety would not be a bad idea in this case, because what's important is what the level contains, not that the player recognises the layout.
Randomized generation of special levels is something I really want to do as well.
The Catacombs has changed from being a Mine's End variant to a guaranteed (but short) branch in its own right. It's a single level accessed via downwards branch stairs somewhere near the bottom of the Mines (from one of the last two filler levels). The level has a similar (but not identical) layout to previous versions, consisting of a small number of randomly placed medium-sized (but not identically-sized) square rooms, with the area outside the rooms filled with semimaze (i.e. a locally mazelike structure which globally has multiple paths from place to place; think of a maze where gaps are made in the walls in order to ensure that no two points are too far apart following corridors). There's no luckstone here; rather, the level contains (as before) a number of spellbooks randomly scattered around.
An easy way to make semimaze without actually changing the maze algorithm is to do what the Catacombs do now and add "rooms" which are really just hubs of empty walless space which connect to multiple maze paths.
The level continues to be populated by undead. (It can also generate slightly to moderately out-of-depth undead, but only rarely, and only if they move more slowly than the player does.) The staircase (the only stairs on the level, as it's effectively a "branch end") is in one of the rooms; a different (randomly chosen) room is the throne room of Vlad the Impaler, who has identical stats to 3.4.3 apart from no longer being covetous. Vlad has no special death drops himself, but his throne room's throne chest contains two guaranteed cursed scrolls of teleport, in addition to three random scrolls and typical chest inventory. Unfortunately, the chest is situated on a level teleporter (as a reference to the level teleporters beneath the gray stones in the 3.4.3 version of the map). Vlad is aware of the level teleporter and will not step on it voluntarily.
So scrolls and spellbooks are still the main loot.
I'm not reading ahead here, and now I want to know who gets the Candelabrum.
The level teleporter seems kind of annoying since with current behavior, it would require either magic resistance or the willpower to trigger the trap and then maybe trek back from level 2 or 3 all the way down (and yes, the existing Catacombs have this problem). It'd be nice if you could get the cursed teleport before levelporting, but an early character isn't likely to have teleport control anyway. Also, with current monster AI, Vlad would step on the teleporter once you get him to sufficiently low health. Keeping it in purely because it's a reference to the old Catacombs doesn't seem like a good enough reason to me, and I'm not convinced of the argument here for its gameplay benefit.
The basic idea of this branch is to be a way for spellcasters to get properly started with their spellcasting, whilst having rewards large enough that they don't feel like a waste to get even for non-spellcasters, but small enough that skipping the branch doesn't leave you missing out on anything you badly needed. I also wanted to give Vlad somewhere to live where he could actually be somewhat scary.
The only problem I think might occur here is that most non-spellcasters might decide it's not worth it fighting legions of undead just to get some mostly useless spellbooks and a few scrolls. There are some obstacles with bringing "non-spellcaster" and "spellcaster" roles together; I'm not expecting this proposal to address them, but it would improve the Catacombs if the lines weren't drawn so solidly.
The idea of Mines' End in vanilla is reasonable enough, but the actual set of maps needs quite some review. The Gnome King's Wine Cellar is good enough as levels go (although could do with being less hardcoded), but the Mimic of the Mines is fairly tedious and unrewarding, and the Catacombs is out of place (and thus moved to a separate branch here). As such, what Mines' End really needs is more layouts, loosely based on the Gnome King's Wine Cellar. That means a reward of a luckstone, several highly valuable gems available (but unidentified), probably some decoy loadstones, a fountain, and a separate reward that's somewhat offbeat but nonetheless mildly useful (in the case of the wine cellar, it's six potions of booze + 3 random potions; other ideas involve stacks of blank paper (perhaps from paper golems); less commonly used tools (perhaps a room containing several musical instruments, some of which are magic?); a stable containing a couple of saddled horses, together with a sack of food for them; and armour of an uncommonly used base type at around +3 enchantment.)
Right, the Mimic of the Mines is not fun at all. I don't quite like the long straight corridors of the Wine Cellar, after a very organic looking branch, nor do I like the somewhat out of place quarter-circle of rock containing the luckstone which must be dug out to reach it. In short, I think this proposal is fine in terms of loot (though the loot being a stable would be annoying if your role can't benefit much from riding, though admittedly that's only a couple of them) but could use a whole different level layout.
Presently, NetHack has Sokoban, which always branches off one level after the Oracle. In this proposal, Sokoban's location in the dungeon is used for two parallel branches, one of which is a slightly modified Sokoban, and one of which is a new branch named The Arena. Both branches have the same end destination, the Crater Clearing (which is technically part of the Arena in much the same way that the Valley in vanilla is technically part of Gehennom), so a player can attempt either branch depending on how much they like solving Sokoban puzzles. Note that if the Arena is solved, Sokoban can then be completed backwards (which is much easier than completing it forwards) to get at its rewards, giving another option for Sokoban-haters. The branch as a whole is accessed via upwards branch stairs from Dungeons:7 (which connect to Arena:6).
What is the verdict here on effective level difficulty? 3.4.3 says use the exact Dlvl, 3.6.0 says treat it as descending further, I prefer keeping the level difficulty constant for Sokoban but not sure what this should use.
In these plans, Sokoban has randomly generated levels (because players who like Sokoban prefer them, and players who dislike Sokoban will probably now take the alternative). The level generator creates the levels in such a way that a puzzle needs to be solved, pushing boulders into holes to reach the upstairs. The boulders are given different names and tiles from regular boulders, being more cube-shaped, and thus have two special rules (you can't push them diagonally and you can't squeeze diagonally past them). At the end of each level is a fairly large empty room containing the upstairs; monster generation is biased to drop monsters here most of the time, so the difficulty of combat is based on how long you take to solve the puzzle.
Could we do something like dnethack and make them a separate object, a boulder-like "square crate" which still uses S_BOULDER? That way, instead of defining special rules for boulders in Sokoban, you only have to define special rules for square crates, anywhere.
Is there any way to make the fight with the monsters at the end not let the player have, or be able to retreat to, a controlled choke point? As is, the choke point into each Sokoban room makes the fight rather easy.
Unlike in the current version of NetHack levels of Sokoban don't have "special physics" nor a penalty for cheating. However, some forms of cheating at the puzzle are prevented using mechanics that already exist from elsewhere in the game:
Idea: If this is implemented following the "square crate" object from earlier, trying to fill Sokoban holes with boulders from scrolls of earth results in "There is a thud as the boulder falls down the hole. It disappears without a trace!" and the hole is not filled.
There are, however, two special mechanics. First, it's impossible to take potions of gain level into the branch from outside. This is capable of identifying the potions, and intended to help people understand how the Arena works. It also has a nice side effect of removing an obvious (and highly accessible) method of cheating. Second, pets will not enter the branch, or follow the player within the branch, voluntarily, but will not lose tameness due to separation from the player while the player is in Sokoban (this is mostly just quality of life, as pet management in Sokoban is really boring). As an exception, pets will follow the player into or within the branch if the player has used a whistle recently or the pet is leashed.
I think that both of the ideas for the Arena and Sokoban work if the player can bring in their own cursed gain level. By the time they actually have enough to bypass the branch, they will likely not actually need the prize. Having one and strategically using it to bypass one level seems okay.
The Arena is a 6-level branch occupying depths 1 to 6. Arena:5 to Arena:2 is the Arena proper. Arena:6 consists of a single room containing the stairs from Dungeon:7, the stairs to Sokoban:5, and a cursed potion of gain level; it contains nothing else by default (monsters don't generate in the Arena, and other items don't generate with this level specifically), thus helping to save people from getting far too worried about securing their stashes. Arena:1 is the Crater Clearing, described below.
This Dlvl 6 level seems kind of like a kludge just to make the Arena mechanics work, and a very boring level by itself. Couldn't it be spiced up with something?
The Arena has no regular stairs or ladders at all (only branch stairs), and (unlike most branches) does not generate new monsters over time. Movement downwards is accomplished via the use of pre-identified holes (every level has one), meaning the branch is always possible to leave unless you decide to be idiotic and use scrolls of earth or the like; level teleport works (if uncontrolled, it always moves downwards, just like in Sokoban). Movement upwards can only be accomplished using cursed potions of gain level (or controlled level teleport); such potions which generate in the branch have amusing #names in order to encourage people to use them immediately. The aim of each level is, therefore, to kill a monster to get at a cursed potion of gain level in its inventory, allowing access to the next level. (It follows from this that until the player can bring in c!oGL from elsewhere, or gains a controlled level teleport source, they only get one try at the Arena.)
Since there is no monster generation, could a game be rendered unwinnable by having no digging tools, no potions of gain level, no levelport, and having filled the hole with a scroll/scrolls of earth?
I dislike the gain level stuff, and would probably prefer to do away with it entirely (too much focus on a mechanic that exists only for the sake of a pun) and put stairs in the Arena like normal, but contrive something that prevents you from ascending until there are no hostiles remaining on the floor. Even something as simple as "A mysterious force prevents you from ascending."
A special level within The Arena, and a "branch end" at that; it's a more flavourful replacement for the Sokoban zoo. Arena:1 is flavourwise a place where a meteor hit the ground above the dungeon, opening up a crater with inaccessibly steep sides (thus it's outside and has a view of the sky, relevant for messages that talk about the ceiling, but doesn't serve as an exit from the dungeon). The level generation is fairly open, consisting of solid rock (which is actually rock, and shows as such in tiles builds) around the outside, and many trees (more commonly around the outside), possibly with small pools dotted around. The level doesn't fill the whole screen, but is nonetheless fairly large (a little larger than one floor of the Wizard of Yendor's Tower).
For flavor: place trees around the inaccessible rock walls, and maybe even some in the crater. Also have boulders or a vaguely round wall obstruction in the center, which is of course the unexploded remnant of the meteor.
Idea: if the player has flying and presses < while on this level, the game will say "Fly out of the dungeon. Are you sure? [yn]" and answering yes will count as an escape (perhaps if the player has the Amulet, it either prevents this or lets the player enter the Planes as normal.)
The level contains a large number of depth-appropriate monsters, and unlike the rest of the Arena, favours intelligent monsters (although basically anything of the right difficulty can generate here). It also likes to generate monsters in groups, even if they don't normally generate in groups. Gold is common here (both on the ground and in monster inventories). There's a guaranteed good item (amulet of reflection, bag of holding, maybe others of similar value?) in the inventory of a random monster, although it isn't distinguished as being anything special (so the player may not be able to identify it immediately). Of course, there are likely to be plenty of other items available via the intelligent monster inventory.
Not sure how you would tell the game to favor intelligent monsters, but assuming there's some way to do it, it seems neat.
Off to one side of the level is a chaotic altar surrounded by out-of-depth, peaceful intelligent chaotic monsters (of a randomly selected kind, e.g. it might be orcs one game, and elves in a different game). If the altar is converted, they become hostile.
So we have a guaranteed chaotic altar, and a guaranteed neutral temple... did I miss something about an early guaranteed lawful altar, or do lawfuls just get shafted here?
Probably best to make the monsters guaranteed not to match the player's race.
One thing I explicitly *don't* want to change is the level 14 barrier (which is changed in many variants); one of the main strengths of NetHack's balance is that it gates various areas of the game behind things that you can get elsewhere, and levels is a good example of that. 14 is just high enough that it's possible to get there by grinding in the Valley, or via item (2 potions of gain level is normally enough, as you naturally reach about level 12 going through the Dungeons), meaning that it hits a sweet spot where you can get the Quest unlock with or without items but probably not upon first reaching it. This also means that the quest home level serves as a milestone in its own right (e.g. for getting fire resistance as a valkyrie), but the rest of the quest can be come back to later, thus serving as a separate part of the game.
I disagree with the level 14 barrier on the grounds that it annoys players to have to put off the Quest and usually compels them to grind in the Dungeons for wraiths or potions of gain level. Doing the Quest before passing Medusa, unless forced to do otherwise, is ingrained in most people.
However, giving an alternative to bypass things like the grind to 14 is still useful. As such, I'd favour giving the Bell of Opening to the quest *leader* (whilst leaving the quest artifact with the quest nemesis); they can be killed for the Bell, giving the resources required to complete the game, regardless of whether the quest is even unlocked. They'll only give up the Bell peacefully if the quest is complete (in the sense of getting the quest artifact), though. This might be useful for speedruns, and is definitely useful in cases that would otherwise be unwinnable. (Quest expulsion would need to be changed or removed; the current cases of expulsion don't function well anyway, with nobody practically failing the alignment test 7 times.)
The obvious solution to the expulsion problem is that the leader and all of the friendlies turn hostile instead of expelling you. Then, you have to kill the leader anyway.
I really, really dislike required mazes, for reasons I have already written down (in particular: magic mapping, detect treasure, and digging make the mazes very easy for some characters and very tedious for the others). The good thing is that there seems to be a general sentiment that the 3.4.3 perfect mazes are bad and need improvement. However, some of the things in this proposed branch, such as items generating in dead ends, act as motivation for the player to spend even more time tediously exploring everything. Traps generating on the wrong paths is a good idea; yet anyone who wants items is going to have to explore past the trap anyway.
The Castle's rewards are, however, somewhat less useful than before (it's hard to keep them as useful while maintaining any semblance of game balance). The wand of wishing is replaced by a pre-identified magic lamp and an amulet of life saving; still valuable, but nowhere near as much. Additionally, the Castle throne is a special throne that's guaranteed to give a wish, and not vanish, the first time that it's used (and thereafter acts as a normal throne). This gives an expected 1.8 wishes upon reaching the Castle, about ⅓ as much as the previous expected 6 wishes. Note that the storerooms are still present, and there are still four random adult dragons in their general area guarding them; the dragons here are now guaranteed to drop scales, effectively acting as a partial replacement for a dragon scale mail wish.
So 1.8 wishes on average, but only one guaranteed, and fairly good non-wish gear as well. Will need to read the rest of this to see the full wish balance implications. (This is much, much simpler than jonadab's Terminus, and I am happy about that.)
This branch also serves as a barrier to long-distance travel; it is not possible to level or branch teleport within the branch nor past the branch (you can level or branch teleport into it, but will end up very near the entrance in the direction you're going, as if you'd entered via the stairs and staggered a few spaces).
This is bidirectional? Hmm. That's a big branchport (and levelport) nerf if so.
Edit: Okay, the Tower of Madness allows you to bypass it, but that a) seems sort of like it cheapens the barrier set up here, and b) seems like most players would then prioritize the Tower in order to obtain easy levelporting back to a stash or altar or something.
The Valley of the Dead is the first level of the Gateway, and is reached via branch ladder or trapdoor from the Castle (and has a branch ladder back up to near the Castle back entrance). It consists of a large number of graveyards connected by wide corridors, with the accompanying undead monsters. Traps are common, but not particularly dangerous, and often block the path entirely. The far end of the level contains an attended unaligned temple. So far, just the same as before.
Squeaky boards would probably be the most aggravating type of trap you could put here, because otherwise the graveyards are trivial to clear out with stealth, and seem to fit the "common but not dangerous" theme here.
I also want to add more difficult later-game undead, which would presumably make the Valley scarier if it were able to generate difficulty-appropriate monsters.
The main difference is that the layout is no longer fixed, but rather generated randomly (like most of the other levels), still keeping to a Valley-like level generator. There'd normally be two or three different routes through. The exit stairs, leading to the River of the Dead, are near the temple but not necessarily accessed via the temple itself (they might be in a side route).
I would love a randomized Valley. Tapering graveyard ravines, please!
The main purpose of this level is to serve as an area to grind experience (for, e.g., the Quest; it's important that it gives enough experience if fully cleared to grind from 12 to 14), and to serve as a clear transition between the first and second halves of the game.
The River below seems to serve better as a "clear transition" like that.
The River of the Dead is a new level whose purpose is to limit the rate at which trips can be made into and out of Gehennom (and in particular, to prevent the player carting an entire "upper dungeon" stash down to Gehennom with them; that's not only very tedious, it'd also make it almost impossible to maintain the game balance). The level is dominated by the River itself, which is very wide, and is devoid of items and living enemies (the occasional stray undead enemy would be fine and add a bit of flavour, especially if it was very weak and didn't generate elsewhere, e.g. "raven zombie"). Instead of being made just of water, it's made of something that makes it very dangerous to enter or levitate over, with visible gas coming off it. (IIRC there's something like this in a patch, or possibly Slash'EM; if not, we could design it. At the very least, it should cause major item damage over time, which would be a good reason to avoid going through it.) Because the river strongly discourages crossing it directly, there's a ferryman provided (unique monster, probably @ or &; probably best to use a generic rather than mythological name) who is willing to ferry the player across. (Note that it shouldn't be *impossible* to cross without paying, e.g. in case the player kills the ferryman; it should just that be that the cost typically isn't worth it. Perhaps it's an antimagic gas that drains charges from items and makes noncharged items nonmagical; a bag of holding suddenly becoming a sack could be a real problem.)
What are the arguments for not using mythological names? Is it about not locking this to a certain pantheon? I don't think naming this river the River Styx and naming the ferryman Charon really breaks that immersion, they are both very well known and still work with the Gehennom = Hell = Underworld concept. Actually, using generic names seems like the developers want you to think of the Styx/Charon but can't use them, for unknown reasons.
Idea: put some stray undead on the Dungeon side, and put one or two demons or other Gehennom inhabitants on the other side. They should both roam around aimlessly if the player is not on their side of the river, and not charge towards the player from the other side of the water.
I wonder how making stuff nonmagical works if it's impossible to make an item (like an amulet of magical breathing) nonmagical without changing its actual object class.
Crossing by ferry requires paying a fee. The fee in question is fairly reasonable on the way into Gehennom, but much more expensive on the way out. The exact fee is proportional to total inventory weight (flavourwise because a heavy boat is more dangerous/difficult to row, gameplay-wise so that players are rewarded for thinking about what they need to carry). For a typical player (at this stage of the game, that's probably "with a maxed-out carry capacity, and at the top of Unburdened"), I'd expect the prices to be around 8000zm to enter Gehennom, and 32000zm to leave.
This is a good idea towards gold balance.
The level contains stairs up to the Valley of the Dead at one side of the river, and branch stairs down to Gehennom at the other end. (The whole "Are you sure you wish to enter?" thing would make more sense being said by the ferryman (or not at all; there's much more clues in the level design now) rather than at the stairs, because it'd be very expensive to turn back at the stairs and because it makes more sense. Even though it does get rid of one of the best-known YAFMCs.)
You could add the "Do you wish to enter?" prompt to the stairs leading down from the Castle, if you wanted to keep the YAFMC.
A "shortcut" branch that once active enables an alternative path from the Maze to Gehennom, without having to obey the restrictions of the Gateway; this is the main reward for solving it, and it's designed to be a reasonable branch to skip entirely. It consists of nine levels, and has a branch entrance on a random Maze level and an exit ten levels deeper, somewhere in Gehennom. It cannot, however, be fully activated without entering it from both sides. Once activated, it's considered as the "main path" through the dungeon as long as you are in, below, or above it; level teleportation to a number within its range will take you to a Madness level, and level and branch teleportation will ignore the Gateway block (because they can conceptually go via Madness levels instead).
So this does allow players to bring stashes to Gehennom, and things like that, while only having crossed the River once? It seems like it undermines the point of the River.
Each Madness level is a fairly small circular level (around the size of Vlad's Tower in vanilla; it might need to be a little bigger). However, upon initially entering it, there is probably nothing in the level but the stairs via which you entered it, making the level appear as an empty circle with nothing but the player and a staircase; while in this mode, no monsters generate on the level. This is because content of each level conceptually only exists while the player has a certain trinsic (or trinsic- or timeout-like property); gaining the trinsic causes a level to be generated around the player on the spot (including a set of stairs to the next level), losing that trinsic causes everything that was generated to permanently vanish.
This is an interesting concept, but I don't know how technically difficult it'd be to make an illusory generated level that can vanish in the blink of an eye.
As an exception, certain actions can cause generated objects, monsters and terrain to become real, and stay even after the level dissipates; a monster will become real if it's tamed or killed, and an item will become real if it's placed in the inventory of the player or of a tame monster, or deathdropped by a dead monster. The stairs to the next level will become real if they're used. If an illusory monster picks up a real item, the item will drop to the ground when the monster disappears. Note that any items that generate here will inherently be infinitely farmable; this is probably a good thing as long as the items themselves aren't too game-breaking, because it makes it possible for the player to look for something specific if they're desperate enough.
Infinitely farmable items means infinitely farmable gold and credit in shops. Though this doesn't seem to be much of a problem in normal play. It'd only really be a problem if a specific valuable type of monster deathdrop (like dragon scales, or unicorn horns) could be farmed here. Perhaps only monster inventory drops as real items, and special monster drops and the 1/6 random item chance don't appear here. You would also not want to put consumable items on the floor in a way that can be farmed here.
The trinsic required for each level is hinted at by an engraving on (or rarely, adjacent to) the stairs, e.g. "Sometimes only the blind can see". Typically speaking, the trinsic would be either negative (e.g, blindness, hallucination), or else rarely used (e.g. monster detection, being polymorphed). It's probably best to avoid things with semi-permanent negative consequences, such as god anger.
Now this is getting interesting. Worth noting that negative intrinsics to which resistance can be gained permanently (like if Healers started the game with sickness resistance, or if poison were a necessary component) should not be used.
I wish this proposal contained a full list of the levels in the tower and which properties are required and what the challenge would be like.
The central (fifth) level of the branch is special, having no relevant trinsic, and an engraving that simply says "Not yet.". The only way to solve this level, therefore, is to approach it from both sides (as the stairs you enter from always become permanently real), connecting the tower into a single continuous tower. The level has a few real items scattered around to serve as a minor reward, but nothing major; my current plan is to place an amulet of lifesaving, plus a few random items.
Since this is the Tower of Madness, why not create the reward only when both stairs are established?
(A possible variant for the fifth level: with a low probability, make it appear to be a regular Madness level if first approached from above, but make the relevant trinsic levitation. There'd be no way down, and that'd be pretty maddening.)
This is hilariously evil.
The basic idea of Gehennom with this redesign is to a) make the main branch less tedious, and b) move depth out of the main branch and into side branches, set up in such a way that typical strategies are likely to jump around between branches (so that the likely monotony of late-game branches becomes less of a problem).
Note that jumping around branches is more tedious than putting everything on the main branch, because moving around on the main branch efficiently consists only of levelport + controlled teleport, whereas moving between branches efficiently consists only of branchporting, and only one artifact can do that.
The branch is therefore only 14-18 levels long, considerably shorter than before. Most of the levels are filler levels. The level generator for these levels is substantially changed, generating a number of open areas (larger but not giant towards the top, smaller towards the middle, and starting to open up again at the bottom), and with a network of tunnels around the edges of the areas and connecting them. Many of the tunnels are secret, with all their connections into more open space guarded by secret doors.
Is this the "aiscaverns" mentioned by jonadab, or is there some difference? Is there water or lava?
One thing I don't see in Gehennom proposals by anyone except Amy: special rooms. Gehennom-specific special rooms would be really interesting, and would fit into this level generator really nicely.
Gehennom still has the same special rules as in existing NetHack: religious actions don't work, just like in the Gateway. (Again, like in existing NetHack, this restriction only applies to Gehennom and the Gateway specifically; branches from Gehennom are safe to pray in.)
Do you propose to add "The heat and smoke are gone" and "It is hot here. You smell smoke..." to every branch out of Gehennom?
Gehennom filler levels contain a similar monster set to before. However, I'm hoping that changes to, e.g., the damage formula can make the differences between the monsters that exist there more apparent; if not, the monsters may need to have their stats changed to differentiate them better. Some specific notable changes are that the monsters are changed to be less affected by reflection, magic resistance and magic cancellation (either by changing the monsters or the mechanics); and that elemental attacks typically partially bypass intrinsic resistances (with extrinisic resistances still blocking them).
Note that more open levels, in general, mean more difficulty for the player because it's easier to be surrounded. However, open levels benefit area-of-effect attacking characters even more, so wizards with their easy access to skilled fireball or cone of cold might be overpowered here compared to everyone else.
The basic aim here is to prevent the player being able to tank most of the incoming attacks using items they already have, needing to explore Gehennom and the surrounding branches to help gain relevant equipment. As such, the quality of items that generate here is better than it would be in the pre-Castle branches, and rare items are more common. It may be necessary to add a number of extra items to the game in order to give Gehennom a selection of items of its own. The Gehennom main branch favours generating gold, gems, and consumables, although nonconsumable equipment generates too at a rarer rate.
I've heard the extra items proposal before, but the authors never seem to agree on what the extra items should be and why they should generate only in Gehennom when they would also create interesting and varied gameplay if they appeared in the upper dungeon.
Filler levels can, of course, also contain traps. This isn't very effective in the current versions of NetHack, serving mostly to block pathing, because traps don't really scale as the game goes on. In the new version of Gehennom, the traps will have to be rather nastier to be relevant; unlike traps in the Maze, which can be quite complex and interesting and mini-puzzles by themselves, traps in Gehennom are more of a straightforward depth-resistance thing (i.e. designed to force unprepared characters to waste resources or retreat).
Any examples of such traps? Like unresistable (so intrinsics don't matter) unblockable (so dexterity or other stats don't matter) high-damage traps? Or magic traps that summon nasties, not just difficulty-appropriate monsters? Just be cautious the traps don't get too Gehennom Fun Patch-style.
Unlike previously, bosses (both the existing bosses of Gehennom special levels (other than the Wizard of Yendor), and newly designed bosses that don't necessarily have to be similar to the existing ones) can appear randomly on filler levels rather than necessarily needing their own lair or to be summoned by a lesser demon. (The current lairs are not really a good fit for the game anyway; apart from the ruined town, they don't play significantly differently from filler levels, but are rather more tedious to walk through after they're already complete.) These are, if necessary, redesigned to ensure that they present a notably different challenge from other monsters; for example, they could have unusual defences (e.g. immunity to most forms of attack), or use unusual forms of attack that force characters who don't have appropriate counters to them to escape via running away or using escape items.
Bosses spawning randomly on filler levels is good, but something needs to be done about covetousness so the player doesn't face a boss 2 turns after coming down the stairs. Also, I think special levels are fine, as long as they're not "boring lair that is a system of rooms surrounded by maze", these are demon lords with a penchant for evil, and their lairs should be consequently evil. If there aren't enough levels in Gehennom to give everyone a lair, maybe the bosses could be placed in large special rooms, rather than requiring their own level.
The above is a special case of something more general: Gehennom should have something of the "depth/resistance" balance property used by many roguelikes, becoming much more dangerous at specific depths if the player is lacking in certain relevant items (be they extrinsics, consumables, or something else). This ties into the theme of giving the player incentives to explore rather than diving, and also into the theme of encouraging players to take breaks to enter side branches. (That said, when nearer the bottom of the dungeon, diving may well be a better strategy than facing the presumably nightmarishly difficult monsters that exist.)
I think the prevailing strategy among NetHack players is to overprepare until you are reasonably well-prepared to survive anything the game will throw at you. So creating a gauntlet of nightmarishly difficult monsters deep in Gehennom is likely to encourage what would currently be overpreparing. Not sure if there's a good way to turn non-speedrunning players away from this strategy for the average player.
Design like this also encourages some of the problems we see with ascension kits: there are a limited amount of ways to bundle all the "necessary" protective effects into one set of gear. On the other hand we don't want to encourage "golf bag strategy" - carrying lots of extra gear and swapping pieces out to best suit each encounter.
Amongst the filler levels are a few branch entrances, but also a few special levels. The special levels are intended to give the player a chance to restock, regroup, make stashes, etc., and thus are notably easier in terms of than the surrounding filler levels, at least once cleared. (NetHack levels typically can't be cleared – they start with very few monsters and most of the encountered monsters are generated over time – but special levels start with their own stock of monsters and thus are easier once cleared than they are to begin with, despite the fact that monsters continue to generate after clearing them.) The shallowest of these "restock levels" is the Black Market, explained in much more detail below (although it can't be used to make a stash, the entrance to the Tower of Madness has a similar depth, and serves as a good stash location in its own right).
jonadab (though not in his proposal) wants to make this the norm for ALL levels.
I think biasing them more towards "regroup" would be better - there shouldn't be too much free stuff there, though perhaps more than in an ordinary Gehennom level.
I have many problems with the Black Market, mostly described in my responses to jonadab's proposal, but also applicable to the markets in Unnethack. Briefly, they necessitate creating supposed-to-be-invincible monsters (which applies to both Sam and the enforcers in this case), which don't make much sense from a flavor or gameplay standpoint. They also require creating a lot of new mechanics which only exist on that level (and yeah, this is just design, but lots of new mechanics aren't generally a good thing).
The penultimate level of Gehennom. The level is laid out using the filler level generation algorithm, but has a few notable differences. First, there's a drop in the difficulty of the monsters (placing the difficulty at about that of mid-Gehennom), and no bosses. Second, the level is unnaturally dark; no square on the level is naturally lit (although that's nothing special for Gehennom), nonmagical light sources fail to function entirely, and magical light sources are interfered with (scrolls and wands of light have a reduced radius, as do magic lamps and the Candelabrum; the spell of light is more expensive in Pw than normal and also reduces maxPw when cast here), although light emitted by monsters still functions as normal (mostly to allow an alternative method of solving the level). Most notably, though, the level has no downstairs, and it's impossible to travel below here by any means until the downstairs are created.
maxPw reduction seems ever so faintly cruel to people who don't know about it, and it doesn't really make much sense except as a sort of kludge to stop the player from casting it all over the place.
The deepest (but not last!) level of the game. This already functions pretty well (once the "amulet delivery service" glitch was fixed; the other tricks used on this level, such as "level teleport in, cursed potion of gain level out" are interesting and not broken and thus can probably safely be left in). The main problem that the level is suffering from is having a fixed layout, which causes some parts of the level to be irrelevant once you've memorized it. As such, this level could do with having more variants that aren't immediately distinguishable, or (ideally) a random generator of its own. The level basically consists of a few rooms, the last of which contains an interior room that's an unaligned temple, surrounded by fire traps and accessed by a secret door. Some of the rooms contain just a few priests (including the entrance, and the courtyard surrounding the temple, but possibly others too); at least one room that has to be passed through on the way is packed with demons and undead.
Cursed potions of gain level are a clever way to escape once you get the amulet, but I think level teleporting in should still land the player near the stairs.
The High Priest here actually works pretty well as a boss (basically just based on the very large melee damage he or she deals; the standard priest behaviour is less interesting). As usual, he/she has the genuine Amulet of Yendor, which is the main reason to come here. I'd recommend giving the High Priest a guaranteed cloak of magic resistance (death-raying bosses is an interesting tradeoff when they respawn, but not really when they don't; note that other instakills still work here), and otherwise leaving the boss fight unchanged.
I prefer robe + shield of reflection for the High Priest, and perhaps he could be buffed a little, but overall, yes. He probably shouldn't be as bad as Cthulhu, or the Elder Priest, or jonadab's proposed High Priest.
After the Amulet is obtained, a few changes are made to Gehennom. The mysterious force no longer drags players back downwards, but several changes are needed to compensate for this. There are two categories of negative effects that affect the player during the ascension run; both of these are periodic effects that take place on a turncount timer (meaning that the faster you move through Gehennom, the less you're affected). This serves both as a method of rewarding players who choose to spend time terraforming Gehennom (giving another way in which players can prepare; many players seem to like this sort of playstyle), and as a method of positive feedback (if you get in trouble, you're likely to get into more trouble); positive feedback is desirable late in permadeath games as it gives a method of increasing the amount of risk/tension involved and makes management of escape items (which the player will have a lot of by that point) more important.
It should only be slightly biased in favor of digging everything. Making it optimal play is not something I would like to see.
The first category of effects are "collapsing Gehennom" effects; removing the Amulet from its previous location causes the place to become less stable. This manifests in occasional shifts in terrain, typically ones which block the most direct path to the stairs (calculated via pathfinding or perhaps simply crow-flies direction; a particularly insane player can use this as a method to help locate the upstairs if they've never visited the level before). These effects involve both wall/floor collapses (similar to a localised drum of earthquake effect), and ceiling collapses (creation of a large number of boulders, and monsters falling down along with and among them; the effects can happen separately or together. The basic aim here is to prevent the player simply walking along a pre-prepared escape route on every level, whilst giving a flavourful way to add more difficult combat situations.
I like the idea. Gives a feeling of urgency to the ascension run. For extra danger, make the collapses able to occur (not any more likely, but still possible) above the player, bringing down boulders and rocks on their head. This would certainly not work well in vanilla Gehennom, but I think it works well enough in cavernous levels. For best effect, I think collapses should be pretty frequent - only enough to spend up to a thousand turns or so per level before boulder-breaking becomes a necessity.
Note that collapsing Gehennom effects can and probably sometimes should generate miniboss-level monsters that weren't previously in the dungeon. Ideally, these would *not* covetous teleportation (so that it's possible to simply outrun them if you take a wide berth around the location of the collapse).
Suffers from the fact that since time is important, most players will ignore such monsters and take a few hits while running past them to the upstairs. At some point (perhaps once out of Gehennom), the challenge could become more focused on battling monsters who are trying to stop you from getting to the stairs and out of the dungeon, and less about speeding past all threats.
In addition to the increase in intervention frequency, there's also more variety in the intervention effects. One effect that the game needs in some volume (although less than 3.4.3!) is something that causes the player to go through a level on the ascension run more than once (giving more of an incentive to connect the stairs). Probably the best way to do this is to just swap the main staircases on the level with a probability that increases the nearer the player is to the upstairs (ideally with a message that's also used for something else, so that the player can't just automatically backtrack); this also has the advantage that it discourages just waiting at the upstairs for a Gehennom collapse event to occur, a strategy which could otherwise make collapses mostly irrelevant. There's plenty of scope for other interesting actions, though (e.g. unequipping some of the player's items, random negative status effects, teleporting the player but not the Amulet); basically anything that could cause a player to rethink their plans either strategically or tactically. (Semipermanent effects need some care here, as they could make slower ascension strategies unviable; things that can be dealt with using consumables, like Rodney reappearance (semipermanent as he's stronger each time) and item cursing, are probably OK, but it's best not to expand the list too much.)
Repeating levels should not be a particularly common occurrence, but probably anything is better than the vanilla Mysterious Force.
Unrelated to the above, monsters spawn faster during the ascension run, spawn when a level is first re-entered in addition to while the player is on the level, and are more likely to spawn at or near the upstairs; this is mostly an attempt to prevent controlled teleport shortcutting past the whole thing (as there's a decent chance you'll try to teleport onto a monster).
Monster generation rate does have different parameters when u.udemigod is true, but the implications of monsters respawning in a level I'm not sure about. It seems like it would just add more stuff for the player to slog through. Also, Unnethack's monster spawning on the upstairs can get quite annoying, particularly if you're bringing a pet who likes to eat.
Finally, there are a few positives during the ascension run, too; not everybody hates you, after all. If One-Eyed Sam is still alive and has a good opinion of the player (probably defined as "has never been angered and has made at least one transaction"), he or she defends the player (by attacking the player's attackers, taking care to avoid collateral damage to the player) as they go through the Black Market. (It should be pretty fun seeing enemies falling into summoned lava!) Of course, there are obvious ways this can go wrong (if the enemy had the Amulet at the time, you're going to have to dig it up and then buy it back), and should you happen to be on the ascension run with an angry Black Market, you're going to have to go through it on the way up, which is likely not present at all.
Same black market complaint: flavor-wise, One-Eyed Sam probably likes you, but would gain much more by killing you (which his stats allow him to do easily), taking the Amulet, and using its fantastic power to challenge the gods, or something.
Eternity is a branch accessed by branch downstairs on a shallow Gehennom level (level 2-6 from the start of Gehennom, but not the same level as the Black Market, nor as the entrance to the Tower of Madness), consisting of 8-10 levels. The design is similar to that of room-and-corridor levels, except that the corridors are a bit wider (thus effectively being long, thin, and possibly diagonal rooms of their own); the current plan for the level generator is to generate a room-and-corridor level, then make every square orthogonally adjacent to a corridor into a room tile of its own. This is the "Mines of Gehennom", a branch that's accessible early, and intended to be interspersed with the main branch (i.e. it'd be unusual to do the whole thing in one go).
How's the lighting going to work on that? Full-level lighting seems sort of appropriate here.
The major gimmick of this area is that, although it's possible for players and monsters to move around, time doesn't pass. The only things that happen at turn boundaries are the refilling of movement points on players and monsters, (to avoid an obvious unfair instadeath) helplessness timing out, and (for gameplay reasons) monsters spawning. This notably means that HP and Pw don't regenerate inside the branch, timers don't run, and short-term spell and potion effects can be kept around indefinitely (but negative status will be too). To give a strong clue as to what's going on, the turn counter doesn't increase inside the branch either (and should probably change colour). Ideally, time wouldn't pass inside the branch even while the player was outside the branch, but that might be fairly hard to program.
Monsters that gives you detrimental status effects should be fairly common, then. Though what happens to bad timers like stoning, sickness, food poisoning and the like? I guess if you're alive in here, you have as long as you need to cure them? Do things like the Wizard harassing you and Gehennom collapses still happen in here?
Also, it would be funny if something (new monster, or whatever) in this branch freezes you in time forever. This would end your game, but you achieve "immortality", the same as ascending. (In FIQhack, of course, leaving bones on such a level would result in a player monster with a paralysis timer, which of course never times out).
No Pw regeneration means that either potions of gain energy / some other means of regaining energy need to be stronger than they currently are, or else spellcasters without good physical combat options will have a very hard time here. (Even though the monsters are less difficult, presumably they won't be total wimps.)
Special terrain features do not generate here. Visually, the area should have a very "clean" look, partly because that seems reasonable for an area where time doesn't pass, partly to make a contrast to the piles of corpses and deathdropped items marking where monsters died.
So no traps either?
Because this branch is not part of Gehennom, prayer is possible here. While in the branch, being at less than full HP or Pw are considered minor troubles (in addition to the existing consideration of, e.g., blindness as a minor trouble). This means that prayer can be used as a method of fixing the lack of regeneration.
But of course, prayer is only possible once. (Unless you go back outside.)
The branch's item set tends towards nonconsumable items (this is partly because nonconsumable items are more useful in Gehennom than here, and the consumables that generate in Gehennom are more useful here than there, and partly for flavour reasons). Gold and normal gems don't generate here (they seem out of theme, and are common in Gehennom, so this helps to make a contrast). It's also reasonable for corpses to generate here; that wouldn't make sense in any other branch, but is very reasonable here (especially as corpses will, unless eaten, remain indefinitely, and nobody needs to eat while they're here unless they're casting hungering spells or the like).
Corpses seem to contradict the idea of it being a very clean branch though.
There's also an item that generates only in this branch, and is one of the main reasons for coming here: time essence. This is a magical type of gem; in addition to being valuable (thus being usable for score at the end of the game, or saleable to buy things in the Black Market), it can be applied in order to "freeze time" for a moment (thus being very valuable in the late game). This allows the player to take several actions in the same turn, without monsters being able to respond. Time essence rarely generates with filler levels, just lying on the ground.
This stuff had better be rare, because you don't want a player to spam it on Astral and breeze through without any challenge. Even if it is rare, a player could save it for extra-special encounters and use them to destroy whatever foe they are facing.
This is approximately halfway through Eternity, and rather more open than most levels in the branch; it's likely to be a handcrafted special level with a fairly regular structure (possibly with a few variants). Golems are very common here, and may generate peaceful even if they normally wouldn't. (Other monsters can also generate, but in lower quantities.)
I wonder if golems should get angry if you attacked a peaceful golem in this level, similar to the gnomes in the Mines.
The level has a guaranteed lawful altar (although there's nothing preventing characters of other alignments simply converting it). The altar is not attended by a priest, but is in a fairly securable area. Because being below full HP is a minor trouble in this branch, it should be possible to heal up via carting corpses to the altar (from this level and elsewhere; note that they don't decay in this branch, so will be sacrificable forever) and using them to regain prayer timeout. (Possible enhancement: the act of sacrificing itself gives you partial HP and Pw recharges, proportional to the value of the sacrificed monster.)
Hmm, the guaranteed lawful altar makes an appearance at last, but this is awfully late compared to the other two. Don't think I like HP and Pw recharging from plain sacrifice; it doesn't affect atheist characters in either case.
This is the last level of Eternity. It's a medium-sized octagonal room, and the scene of a boss fight. The decor / flavour is themed around reflectivity (e.g. mirrors are fairly likely to generate here).
Ooh, can we have large standing mirrors as a terrain feature (gray \ or something) that reflect rays shot at them in certain directions? If so, they would be cool in this level.
The boss is the Infinite Dragon, who's similar to a silver dragon (but a separate monster, much like Ixoth is similar to a red dragon but a separate monster). It has much higher HP and accuracy than a typical silver dragon, and its breath has much higher range (and it can bounce it off walls, meaning that some thought is needed to stay out of range of the breath weapon). It also summons monsters over time (perhaps a new sort of monster designed for the fight). Unlike everything else in the branch, its HP and special attacks regenerate normally over time (meaning that it can't be worn down over the course of multiple trips).
Hmm. Not aware of a clean way to give a certain enemy higher accuracy. Unless the combat system were overhauled, or something.
The Infinite Dragon should be very intelligent in bouncing rays, and have AI that favors staying out of line with the player so it can breathe at them from a safe place where the player won't see it coming. I think it should probably not have frost breath if something more thematic could be used. Perhaps paralysis breath, or slowing breath, or freezing-the-hero-in-time breath (not an instadeath).
The main reason players will come here, though, is for the wand of wishing (which is in the Infinite Dragon's initial inventory). This always contains exactly three wishes (which with vanilla wand of wishing mechanics, would make it generate at (1:2) charge). The basic idea here is to move some of the Castle wishes to later in the game (as Eternity is intended to be done in parallel with Gehennom), whilst giving a major reason to actually attempt the branch (although it plays differently from Gehennom, it doesn't have a major genre shift or anything that changes the fundamentals of the game).
Is the wand the reason for the level name? Anyway, I am not sure the player should get three wishes dumped on them at once. (Still better than vanilla's 5-7 wishes, though.) Perhaps one wish (using a scroll of wishing?) could be obtained at the Golem Shrine, one wish could be obtained from the Infinite Dragon, and one wish could be moved elsewhere.
This branch has an upwards entrance somewhere deep in Gehennom (in the bottom third). The main gimmick of the branch is that magic doesn't function here; specifically, all items act as though they were cancelled (without actually cancelling the item; it goes back to normal upon leaving the branch), magical items that are normally unaffected by cancellation (e.g. amulets) cease to have any properties, and the player's current Pw is locked at 0 (with all monsters acting as though they were cancelled too). It's probably best for this to show up on the interface too in some way or another; either showing the cancelled stats of items, or else abstracting away their properties (perhaps by giving !dknown descriptions, because the material an item's made of is more relevant than the item itself over here). Note that a side effect of this is that entering this branch can be used as a simple way to unequip cursed equipment, which is probably a good thing (as it makes two-handed weapons less dangerous at the point of the game where they're most likely to get randomly cursed).
If Eternity is biased against spellcasters, this branch is going to be totally awful for them, isn't it? Not that that's too much of an issue yet - spellcasters have some nice advantages in the later game.
Seeing Pw locked at 0 would be quite jarring if I didn't know it was coming. Perhaps continue to show it at its current level, and simply block Z from working.
What happens if you try to use a wand or magical tool here? I doubt it would consume a charge, but it shouldn't go all the way and disintegrate the wand either. What about if you read a scroll, drink a potion, etc? They would be consumed without any effect?
Yeow, I assume all beneficial properties of armor, including extrinsic resistances, are suppressed here. In that case, the danger is that players will feel compelled to obtain as many intrinsics as they can before trying this tower, which while never a bad idea probably shouldn't be actively encouraged.
Since 3.6.0 has deafness, should the Tower of Silence be silent and force deafness?
Hmm, you could use the curse removal strategically on the ascension run if you needed to.
The branch is made entirely of filler levels, which are the same size as Vlad's Tower levels (i.e. pretty small) but more open (perhaps damaged versions of the old Vlad's Tower maps with walls removed?), and with frequent pre-identified trapdoors (Vlad *was* here, after all; this also serves as an escape item equivalent as most actual escape items don't function here, and serves to add some tactics to the branch because strategy isn't very relevant here). The enemy selection consists of a mix of humanoid-ish monsters with weapons (often not particularly good ones), slow-moving monsters that hit hard, and enemies which are resistant to certain weapon types (as weapon selection is much more important here than elsewhere). Flavourwise, this should basically be seen as "a bunch of demons and undead and their pets". Items here tend towards those which are useful when nonmagical (weapons and armour), and are more commonly cursed or negatively enchanted than elsewhere (as it wouldn't matter to the people who live here). As a result, this branch is very much somewhere you go through to get to the end, rather than somewhere you spend time grinding. Additionally, the monster generation rate is high, but typically only while you *aren't* on a level (i.e. if you kill monsters and leave the level, they come back).
Note that any (natural, not magical) elemental damage is likely to be disproportionately damaging here. Ice devil attacks, for example. Since they can't be resisted by normal means.
I don't think the current combat system provides much for resistance to different weapon types. I toyed with the idea for a bit in my proposal but left it out because of golf bag strategy. Of course, golf bag strategy might not be a bad thing here, since you can just pick up some gear and ditch it when you leave.
The top level of the branch (which is short, probably 3 or 4 levels) is still laid out as a filler level, but instead of random enemies, contains what's basically a unique long worm as the boss (that starts out "pre-lengthened" to a fairly long length). It can only attack using its head (meaning that careful placement is important), has attack power proportional to its length (meaning that cutting it in half can be a viable strategy), and has speed chosen so that an intrinsically-fast player moves faster than it on average but it will double-turn such a player sometimes (this implies a speed of around 15). It drops a selection of gold objects when killed, including the Candelabrum of Invocation (which it presumably gathered because it just likes gold).
Note that in vanilla, the only gold objects that exist are the Candelabrum, gold pieces, and the gold ring. (Okay, there's also the gold spellbook and golden potion, but realistically, some other objects might want to be made gold, or new gold items added, or the object materials patch applied, or something.)
The surface, internally "level 0" (but perhaps not for UI purposes), is basically a tutorial level. The game starts here, with the player having only a minimal subset of their starting inventory, and with a level designed specifically for the player character's class, to teach them the relevant basics of gameplay for that class in particular. The level is entirely scripted, and only takes up about 2/3 of the screen vertically (in order to allow the rest of the screen to be an extended message area giving explanations on what to do both in terms of in-game actions and in terms of the commands used to achieve them). Ideally this is done in a flavoured way, with quest friendlies giving advice; however, it's situated at an "above the Dungeons" location, not at the Quest home location. After teaching the player the basics of how their character works, they can enter the dungeon at Dungeons:1 via a set of downstairs. However, the `>` command here is special, and just ends the tutorial and places the character into the Dungeon with their standard starting inventory, fully healed, etc., regardless of what happened in the tutorial (and even whether they reached the downstairs or not); this both means that playing the tutorial can't get you an advantage, and that the tutorial can be skipped by players who already know how to play. (A "press `>` to skip the tutorial" message is permanently onscreen while the tutorial is ongoing.) The tutorial always appears, but skipping it is likely to end up part of an experienced player's muscle-memory.
PLEASE no mandatory tutorial. Even if it could be disabled in options, I don't like it defaulting to on. And of course, if it defaulted to off, nobody would use it.
A tutorial might make sense in NetHack 4, but this is NetHack. It doesn't care whether you die or not. It also isn't going to tutor you to make the game easier. I think the Guidebook works fine as a source of education for new players.
So there are a bunch of quest friendlies hanging out... any (flavor) reason why they don't accompany you into the dungeon and make your mission easier? I don't remember ever reading anything saying you had to adventure alone.
[...] Open spaces other than the one where the player enters can contain the occasional rare pit trap (flavoured as being naturally generated) or rock trap (ditto, the rocks don't come from a trapdoor but from the unstable earth above). In general, this has the feeling of a naturally generated area, rather than manmade like the Dungeons are.
Also make rock traps potentially drop a boulder on the player's head instead of a rock, which the player is likely to shrug off like nothing. Boulders should also generate embedded in rock occasionally, which are obstacles the player should route around (or blast through, but that'd take longer).
The main challenge, though, comes from earth elementals, which are *very* powerful on this Plane (with hundreds of hitpoints, enough accuracy to consistently hit an endgame player, and dealing around 120 base damage on hit; they're also sped up to speed 12). The idea is that the player will benefit from outrunning/dodging them, rather than fighting them (although items like wands of death will work in emergencies); the potion of detect monsters can be used to track their location (at least for a while), and the player is probably hasted and thus able to outrun them on open ground (but they have the speed advantage if the player has to dig). Hopefully, the goal of figuring out how to avoid earth elementals is an interesting one. The density is large enough that they'll inevitably encounter the player en route to the portal, but they start far enough away from the starting chamber that they're unlikely to interfere with the initial battle.
This will be bad if the earth elementals decide to converge on the player all at once in a narrow corridor, blocking their escape, like they do in vanilla. Perhaps they only give chase if they sense the player near them.
The Plane of Air works very well already and hardly needs changing. The only change I'd make from 3.4.3 would be to the cloud layout, making it random rather than predetermined; the map generator should always generate an obvious thin point in the clouds that's only three squares wide ("obvious" in that you can tell where it is just by looking at the clouds from the start of the level), and a cloud-free route through that's rather indirect or maze-like. (I'd also ensure that the level is lit, for both flavour and gameplay reasons, but IIRC it is already; if not, though, I'd want to change that.)
Hmm, so you don't like 3.6 Plane of Air much then? This is like 3.4.3 but with random generation.
There are some minor changes to do with flavour. Squares are unlit unless over or adjacent to lava, in which case they're lit. (IIRC many fiery monsters illuminate the area around them too; that's even more flavourful.) Fire elementals here move faster (speed 24) and hit harder (dealing some damage even through fire resistance), but are nonetheless not expected to be a significant threat; additionally, every hit burns (or worsens the burn on) two non-fireproof items in main inventory which have an appropriate material, even if they wouldn't normally burn (e.g. sacks); this is just flavour as most such items that wouldn't "naturally" burn in this situation have no erosion effects defined anyway.
It'd be interesting if this attack (and nothing else, except maybe the below inferno) could take items from "thoroughly burnt" to "burned away" and destroy them, like in Grunthack.
On to the actual gameplay of the plane. The character starts very near (6-7 squares from) one edge of the plane (probably the east, for consistency with vanilla); the portal is equally near to the other edge. "Behind" the character (i.e. nearer the near edge, further from the portal) is an advancing inferno that covers the entire height of the level, is initially two squares wide, and gradually (on any given turn, each inferno square has a 2 in 3 chance of making an orthogonally adjacent square that isn't currently an inferno into an inferno). Once a square becomes inferno, it never turns back. Inferno is effectively on the "regions" layer of the map (like stinking clouds are), so can exist "above" a floor, lava, or portal tile. Whenever inferno expands onto the character's tile or the character takes a time-consuming action that leaves them on an inferno tile, they die (if not fire-resistant) or take heavy damage (if fire-resistant), likely on the order of 60 damage or so (that isn't resisted by half damage because it's neither physical nor a spell). As such, this level is pretty much a race to reach the portal before the inferno does; dawdling here is likely to end the game fairly quickly.
That basically requires you to use gold detection. Even a crystal ball is dangerous to use, because you might be out of it long enough for the inferno to reach you, and you can forget about using the erratic Amulet for anything. I really like the idea of the advancing wall of fire, but not so much its execution. Not sure I like it. One improvement I can think of is to surround the exit portal with several monsters, making it highly likely one of them will wander onto the portal and automatically reveal it (and even if they don't, a player that knows this will be able to guess well enough.)
The level still consists of bubbles surrounded by water, and (like 3.6.0) the bubbles are conceptually three-dimensional (with water "above" them) so the water can't be levitated over. However, there are considerably fewer bubbles (only 4 or 5, each around as large as the largest bubbles in vanilla NetHack); the starting bubble is isolated at one end of the level, with the other bubbles scattered over the far side. One of them contains the portal.
Are the bubbles static? It kind of seems that way.
The starting bubble contains a guaranteed water nymph who deathdrops an amulet of magical breathing in an oilskin sack (the basic equipment required to get through the level, and a strong clue as to what you're meant to do). Apart from that, the monsters are much the same as before. Again, water elementals are made stronger here for flavour reasons, this time raising them to stats that will give a notable challenge to the player (especially as many of their standard tactics may not work underwater!), whilst not being worthy of a boss. Other monsters capable of swimming are here too, but probably won't give too much trouble; note that most healing sources don't work well underwater (even the amulet of life saving doesn't work as you can't take off the amulet of magical breathing to put it on), so care will be needed in balancing combat here as escape options are very limited compared to normal.
Hmm. Giving a free amulet of magical breathing removes much of the danger of drowning attacks. Perhaps the monsters should get attacks that steal your amulet (more water nymphs are the obvious choice), though having it stolen while underwater should not be an instadeath, there have been some proposed fixes to drowning that would resolve this. One would expect water elementals to get even better attacks when surrounded by water.
The Astral Plane is, for most characters, the final test that determines who will win and who will lose. The general idea, of forcing the player to fight their way to an altar and then back out to check the next one, is a good one. It would be great if the player could somehow be forced to always check multiple altars, but it's hard to think of a non-arbitrary way to do this; the arbitrary way, and the way I'd go for if no better option presents itself, is to cheat via only selecting the identity of an altar once the player has enough information to deduce what it is.
Not sure I'd consider it a balance issue that the number of altars to check is basically down to RNG. On one hand, getting the first altar on the right try can score a good first ascension for new players who wouldn't survive getting to all three. On the other hand, it can reduce the challenge for someone who can definitely handle one altar, but might not make it to two or three.
The general enemy makeup here is fairly good already, posing a real challenge to players who have only moderate preparation. Unfortunately, very highly prepared players can sometimes just breeze through tanking everything, which is a problem. Making the player stats too irrelevant would *also* be a problem, though, so the best compromise is probably to ensure that all three Riders have an attack that "levels" max HP (via taking off max HP, more so if it's already high). Death already has an attack like this; in this proposal, the other Riders' attacks also have the max-HP-reduction effect that Death gets, and Death's attack gets a level-drain side effect to compensate (incidentally, it makes sense if Death has the weakest special attack, being the hardest Rider to kill). None of these attacks can be blocked by magic cancellation, of course.
There is a problem with enemy makeup: it is disproportionately Team Ant due to priests. This is not fun and makes it even more of a wade through enemies than it would be otherwise. I favor blocking the priest AI from selecting this spell on Astral (and in the Sanctum too).
The situation with conflict also needs some changes; it should ideally be an option rather than something that's clearly the best. One change it needs is a general improvement to conflict resistance among all monsters on the level (not immunity, just enough that it's noticeably less effective). Another change, which would make the plane more friendly to unspoiled players, is to summon several (most likely 4) guardian angels upon arrival, and make them so that instead of disappearing when conflicted (and sending in weaker replacements), they always attack the player's character while conflicted (whilst remaining tame) but go back to normal if conflict is removed. The player will therefore have the option of killing them (with likely penalties) or somehow ditching them in order to keep conflict, or else removing conflict to keep them on their side; and wearing conflict onto the plane by mistake won't force the player into a decision early. If the player's alignment record is poor, the same number of angels still appear, but fewer are tame (some will be angels of other gods and thus hostile), with only one tame (and three hostile) angels at 0 or negative alignment (one for each relevant deity).
I like the idea of player monsters not being affected by conflict whatsoever. FIQ, I believe, has gone even farther and proposed that the angels and priests (or anything not affected by Elbereth?) not be affected either, which would make conflict pretty marginal, and perhaps that's the way it should be.
While in Endgame under ascension conditions, the player is conceptually already an immortal demigod. This is represented game-mechanically by ensuring that nothing bad can happen to the character; most notably, damage increases the character's maxHP rather than reducing the character's current HP (so the "amount of damage the character has taken" increases by the expected amount upon taking damage, but there's no way to die to damage). Status conditions, lost abilities, etc., automatically heal themselves in a few turns; instadeaths reverse themselves instantly; eroded items repair themselves; and in general the feeling of invincibility should be quite clear.
What if you blow up your bag of holding or something? I imagine it doesn't reconstitute with all of its contents intact. Not that it really matters here, but it'd be annoying to have to punch everything to death because you were a smart aleck and decided to destroy all your gear.
The level itself is mostly a featureless void [...] Every now and then, something from the character's history will appear nearby for a few turns and then disappear again; perhaps a door with a wall on it, the room containing the player's stash, or some other notable area. [...]
It seems quite hard to determine what constitutes a significant location or event from the character's history. Much less something the player finds significant.
Because it's impossible for what happens here to affect the win/lose result of the game; this level is skippable; in a mirror of the tutorial, it can be skipped simply by pressing `<` (and a note to that effect appears before the monologue, although it doesn't stay onscreen constantly). However, what happens here can affect scoring, with a score bonus being assessed if the player clears the level the standard way (using the portal); the less help the player needed from the invicibility conditions (i.e. less damage taken, fewer status conditions autohealed, etc.), the more bonus score they get. Skipping the level also causes the player to miss out on the bonus score. (As such, it should maybe have a confirmation.)
Should monster summoning work here? What if you managed to beat the odds and survive an Archonstorm? Are they going to show up at the end of Endgame (with the highest difficulty) and create another one? Also, would unique monsters generate here?
Overall Endgame thoughts: I do not much like it, but I can see how preferences might vary. I don't really like the idea of a cutscene in a turn-based game, and I don't like the on-the-nose way it pits score against patience. If the bonus score were removed so there is no consequence to press < immediately for the impatient player, it'd be much more palatable.
Also, "Endgame" is perhaps not the best name for said level, if only because In_endgame() is already widely used for the whole Planes region.
Not sure the game should take this much effort to say "your ending was bad and you should feel bad". It's a lot crueler than simply dying on Astral.
The most obvious is pacifist play. This doesn't directly change anything, but it does mean that Endgame will have no monsters (because it has no list to generate from). In such a case, its progression through the levels will run very quickly (as a consequence of the lack of monsters to generate).
I think pet kills count as your own kills, don't they? So a pacifist would still have monsters? But eh, it's probably more thematic to only generate monsters when pacifist has been broken.
The game also takes care to prevent players breaking conducts in Endgame; for a foodless character, for example, any food in their inventory will disappear, monsters will leave no corpses, and the like. This is partly for gameplay reasons (breaking a conduct here would really suck), and partly for flavour reasons (the character is effectively already shaping the world around them by their choices). This also expands to preventing monsters breaking conducts the player hasn't broken; for example, a polyselfless player will effectively have protection from shape changers while on the level.
Wait, Endgame can break conducts? That's ridiculous, especially since all the end-of-game stats have already been recorded. It'd be much simpler to just ignore conduct breaking here; lots of other things are being ignored.
The biggest change, though, happens for an atheist character. This actually affects things a level "early"; upon arriving on Astral, the character will find it entirely empty, with only walls, floors, and doors (which are still locked); no items or monsters generate here in this version. Each of the altars is replaced with a magic portal (and all three portals go to Endgame; it doesn't matter which you take). As TDTTOE, an attempt to pray in this state will produce a message along the lines of "Nobody answered...". For atheists, therefore, Astral is not the final "boss level" at all; Endgame is. Unlike in other branches of the game, this is now very much a real level; it's still mechanically the same, but there's no outside force helping or hurting the character, it's just them against a really large horde of monsters. The portal only appears once every monster that generated has been killed (although like before, this doesn't force the player to re-kill every monster they've killed; only a representative subset actually appear in the level). I'm currently unsure whether there should be an "ascension poem" for this case, or whether the game should just show its normal game messages. (Incidentally, this also means that for an atheist pacifist ascension, the last tricky part is on the Elemental Planes. Trying to do the new versions of those as a pacifist is likely to be nightmarish, though.)
Okay, the prospect of an empty Astral is just spooky. I like that. Though, in this case, you still haven't acknowleged the gods, so where do you end up if you overcome all these final obstacles and enter the portal? Do you still ascend? You don't appear to gain Immortality...