User:Phol ende wodan/Monster letter rearrangement

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One source of moderate annoyance in the Mazes of Menace is that sometimes you can't identify a monster from a distance. Is that a dwarf king, or a master mind flayer? Is that a jackal that I can kill easily, or a werewolf that's going to summon help and tear me to pieces? Of course, farlook will inform the player of what the monster is, but it's not too useful of an interface.

Another confusing thing is that some monster letters are not letters at all, but punctuation marks. Punctuation is not quite as prominent to the human eye, especially on a map that mostly consists of punctuation marks. This is particularly problematic when apostrophes, semicolons, and blank spaces represent some of the more perilous monsters in the game.

This is a proposal to change monster colors and some classes in vanilla or a vanilla-like variant to fix those problems. It's based partially on a discussion with jonadab and several others with regards to this in Fourk; partially on User:Red_kangaroo/YANIs/Monsters#Class_symbols. Note that NetHack 4 has done a similar rearrangement.


The basic goals are, in order of priority:

  1. Eliminate the punctuation monster symbols ', :, ;, and  . @ is spared because it's traditional, iconic, and would probably cause a revolt if changed. & is also kept, because it's also iconic and is not difficult to distinguish.
  2. Keep monster colors within a letter as distinct as possible so the player has to do the minimum amount of farlooking to identify monsters. Note that there is no ANSI support for orange; NetHack's CLR_ORANGE uses bright red, which can variously render as orange, bright red, or pink depending on the terminal.
  3. Even out the number of monsters in each letter, so some classes (@) aren't overloaded while other classes (l, x, X, Q, z) have only one or two monsters.
  4. Have each letter be able to be summed up as something that describes the whole class or at least a large subset of it (a for ant; B for bat or bird; C for centaur).
  5. Color all races of monsters that exist as multiple variants (e.g. zombies, mummies) the same.
  6. Avoid coloring things as white that are not already white, associated with ice/cold, or associated with humans, because statue glyphs always display as that.
  7. Avoid dark gray and blue conflicts, because of use_darkgray coloring anything dark gray as blue.
  8. Bright magenta is underused in general and not currently used for any monsters, though it is used for warning level 5. It seems like it ought to be used to denote the strongest, most powerful monster of a class. Also worth keeping in mind is that making a monster a bright shade rather than a dark shade can carry a connotation of higher difficulty.
  9. Werecreatures shouldn't change color in their different forms.
  10. Avoid changing a monster's established color, unless other rearrangements force it to be changed. Previously this list contained some recolors that weren't strictly necessary but did things like make dangerous monsters appear more dangerous; these have been reverted.

This assumes that few or no monsters are going to be added to what already exists in vanilla. When discussing this with regards to Fourk, that was not the case.

Moving monsters around

  • Golems are moved to the g monster class, and retain their colors. The previous residents of this class are moved to the B class, now described as "a bat, bird, or flying creature":
    • Gremlins are B
    • Gargoyles are B
    • Winged gargoyles are B
  • Elves are moved to the Q monster class, now described as "a Quendi (elf)", and retain their colors. Quantum mechanics are merged into the humanoid monster class and retain their colors: h.
  • Lizards are moved to the l monster class, now described as "a lizard". Not all of them keep their colors; see below. Leprechauns are merged into the imp monster class, which is now described as "an impish creature", and are recolored to i.
  • Common major demons are moved to the I monster class, now described as "an infernal being". Not all of them keep their colors, because so many of them are already red; see below. Instead of I being used to denote an unknown but observed monster, use a ? instead.
  • Demon lords, princes, and the Riders remain on &, with the class description changed to "a demon lord or destructive force". & is being spared because it is visually distinct and has a longstanding association with demons and difficult monsters. Each demon lord gets its own unique color (see below), with the Riders all being &.
  • Sea monsters are moved to the K monster class, now described as "a kraken or sea monster". Pirahnas don't keep their colors, see below; but everything else does. Keystone Kops, being human, are moved to the @ monster class, and are recolored as if they were Yendorian Army soldiers; see below. (Fourk removes the Kops entirely.)
  • Ghosts and shades are merged into the W monster class. No monsters in this class except Nazgul keep their colors; see below.

Optional moves

These aren't really necessary unless you wanted to add a new monster class and needed a letter freed up, but they work thematically.

  • Puddings and blobs are merged into the j monster class, now described as "a jelly, blob or amorphous monster". This frees up the P and b classes.
    • Gray ooze is j
    • Brown pudding is j
    • Black pudding is j
    • Green slime is j; acid blob is recolored to j
    • Blue jelly is j
    • Spotted jelly is j
    • Ochre jelly is j
  • Lights and spheres are merged into the e monster class, on the basis that they are both classes of floating enemies that attack you by exploding. The class is now described as "an eye, sphere or light". This frees up the y class.
    • Yellow light is e
    • Black light is e

Recoloring existing monsters

Recolors that are independent of letter rearrangement

Monster Current Recolored to Reason
Aleax A A Ki-rin is already yellow, and gray is a good color for a shapechanging or imitating monster like an Aleax.
Fox d d Four reasons:
  1. The red color is being taken by werejackals, which should be more immediately recognizable.
  2. Fox gameplay is not really that distinct from jackals.
  3. "Red" foxes are actually brown.

This leaves jackals and foxes on the same color, but with the other changes to class d, there aren't really any other colors that make sense, and these monsters are really very similar, so I think it's fine.

Coyote d d
Wererat @/r @/r
Werejackal (jackal form) d d Conflict with hell hounds is considered acceptably rare.
Werewolf (wolf form) d d I think it is unreasonable to keep werecreatures' beast forms on the same color as those beasts, unless they are supposed to be so indistinguishable that they only show up as "wolf" instead of "werewolf" in farlook, which I doubt should happen.
Wolf d d
Warg d d
Floating eye e e Maybe this will shut up all the players complaining they can't see it.
Shrieker F F Violet fungus deserves magenta, and shriekers are the "most dangerous" type of fungus.
Fire giant H H Conflict with the non-generated giant monster is rare enough not to matter.
Ettin H H Ettins would normally remain brown and minotaurs would be recolored, but they are being forced to yellow because ettin mummies and zombies need a color.
Dwarf king h h I don't like this change because it removes their "purple = royal" association, but keeping mind flayers on magenta is more important both for assessing their level of danger and for consistency with that type of monster. If more "Lovecraftian horror" monsters got added, that might provide some impetus to create a class for them and move mind flayers into it, though.
Master mind flayer h h
Kobold k k Would normally remain brown, but all variants of kobolds are becoming gray for mummy and zombie rearrangement.
Arch-lich L L
Kobold mummy M M
Human mummy M M For consistency with human zombies and humans in general.
Ettin mummy M M Orc undead are becoming blue, so ettins need a different color.
Orc mummy M M
Titanothere q q
Baluchitherium q q
Mastodon q q
Giant rat r r
Rabid rat r r
Cobra S S
Fire vortex v v
Monkey Y Y
Ape Y Y
Owlbear Y Y
Kobold zombie Z Z
Orc zombie Z Z
Ettin zombie Z Z
Watch captain @ @ All human "captains" are being standardized to blue.
The Wizard of Yendor @ @

Recolors that depend on letter rearrangement but could be applied in their current class

Monster Current Recolored to Reason
erinys & I They have a poisonous attack.
barbed devil & I
marilith & I
vrock & I
hezrou & I Conflict with djinni is rare enough not to matter.
nalfeshnee & I Conflict with the mail daemon is rare enough not to matter. Since they are the only common demon who spellcasts, bright blue is very preferable.
pit fiend & I
imp i i More dangerous than manes.
pirahna ; K
gecko : l
chameleon : l This color works well as a "blank slate" color.
baby crocodile and crocodile : l
Keystone Kop K @ For symmetry with soldiers.
Kop Sergeant K @ For symmetry with sergeants.
Kop Lieutenant K @ For symmetry with lieutenants.
Kop Kaptain K @ For symmetry with captains.

Recolors that depend completely on letter rearrangement

Monster Current Recolored to Reason
Ghost W
Shade W
Wraiths W W Shades are "darker" than wraiths.
Barrow wights W W Bright blue works well since barrow wights are casters.

New colors for & bosses

Monster Recolored to Reason
Asmodeus & He is associated with cold and has the strongest cold attack in the game.
Baalzebub & He is insectoid and associated with decay.
Juiblex & No change.
Orcus & Not the only spellcasting demon, but the only guaranteed one.
Yeenoghu &
Geryon & Has a poison attack; this is not really significant or unique but it makes sense for at least one poisonous demon to be green.
Dispater &
Demogorgon & No change. He is indisputably the most difficult demon prince, so deserves magenta.
Death, Famine, and Pestilence & To mark them as the strongest and most fearsome (guaranteed) bosses in the game. There is also an argument for making them normal magenta and Demogorgon bright magenta, since he is actually more dangerous than the Riders.