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Tiered Spell Chains

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 Post subject: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:10 pm 
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While coding other Mordor projects, I have been debating a redesign of the tiered spell chains on Mordor. I'd like feedback on what I have so far, whether on the overall concept or just possible spell names. While not limited to mage elemental damage spells, I will describe my thoughts based on it, and then briefly reference how other classes can also benefit.

The mage class design is dominated by elemental spell damage, which has been worked into spell chains. Each chain is thematically similar to others with a change of element, in that the spells of the chain progress from 'touch' to 'range' to 'area-of-effect', such as the fire chain: burning hands, fireball, enflame. One accomplishment of spell chains was the avoidance of useless spells on the mage list, since a spell's damage is influenced not only by the mage's proficiency in that spell (practice %) but also in the proficiency of all spells in the chain up to that point. Therefore, it is worth the gold and time of a mage to use their latest spells instead of settling with prior ones (to save gold for example) for a few more levels until they reach a better spell. There are still many issues with damage spells in the mage class, however:
  • Some spells are only temporary, since they do not fit into a spell chain (magic missile, colour spray, psionic blast)
  • Spell chains do not contain enough spells to gradually advance the mage from level 1 to 100, leaving a huge gap between level 19 and 73. These gaps also make mana costs difficult to balance, since the same spells are used for so many levels, and also fail to promote leveling.
  • Some damage spells fall outside of the elemental damage on which mage is designed (such as psionic blast being mental)
  • The level of a spell (on the mage list) is partially responsible for the amount of base damage a spell does, yet spells of the same tier (touch, range, or AoE) differ in level between the elements to spread out the benefits of leveling up the mage class - ultimately meaning that the differing elements are not balanced in terms of base damage.
  • Mages lose a lot of damage potential against targets the are not-vulnerable to elemental damage (or worse, resistant to it) without any solid backup options.

One adjustment is already in place which changed 'magic missile' from a temporary (often ignored) level 1 mage spell into 'blast', a non-elemental damage spell which starts every spell chain (thematically resembling the control over magical energy, prior to forming it into specific elements). To expand on this idea, we can add more non-elemental spells to the spell chains while removing the non-chain spells, with all the chains sharing the same non-elemental spells. To further detail this, I'll use N1, N2, N3 and N4 to denote non-elemental spells of tiers 1-4. The letter will change to represent (A)cid, (C)old, (S)hock and (F)ire. The current chains, each with the same N1 spell 'blast', would be represented as:
  • N1 A1 A2 A3 - (blast, caustic grip, acid blast, acid rain)
  • N1 C1 C2 C3 - (blast, chill touch, ice shard, blizzard)
  • N1 S1 S2 S3 - (blast, shocking grasp, lightning bolt, lightning storm)
  • N1 F1 F2 F3 - (blast, burning hands, fireball, enflame)
With the addition of more non-elemental spells, the chains (without spells names) would change to:
  • N1 A1 N2 A2 N3 A3
  • N1 C1 N2 C2 N3 C3
  • N1 S1 N2 S2 N3 S3
  • N1 F1 N2 F2 N3 F3
  • N1 N2 N3 N4 (use this one when casting a non-elemental spell, since elemental spells won't assist non-elemental spells)
(For thematic reasons, 'blast' would likely change to N2, being the non-elemental range spell in all the spell chains. At this time, I don't have any names for N1, N3 or N4.)

To address the issue of damage that is influenced by the spell level (in the mage list), we can base spell damage on the tier instead of the level. Using the annotation above, the elemental spells A1, C1, S1 and F1 would all have the same base damage. A2, C2, S2 and F2 would also have the same base damage. This will add variety for "top-damage" spells, instead of always defaulting to the highest level spell (currently the fire spell chain).

Also, since the damage will be based on the tier instead of the spell level (in the mage list), the spell levels can be better spread out. The current spread is:
  • 1 (blast)
  • 13-19 (elemental touch)
  • 73-79 (elemental range)
  • 93-99 (elemental area-of-effect)
The proposed spread (just as an example) could be something like:
  • 1 (non-elemental touch)
  • 13-19 (elemental touch)
  • 35 (non-elemental range)
  • 53-59 (elemental range)
  • 70 (non-elemental area-of-effect)
  • 83-89 (elemental area-of-effect)
  • 99 (better non-elemental area-of-effect)

Further, the shared non-elemental spells (N2-N4) will offer a new damage option for generic targets. Each non-elemental spell will be ~33% more damage than the prior tier of elemental spells. For example, the damage of N2 would be ~33% better than F1, except against targets that are vulnerable to fire (since fire vulnerability gives F1 a +50% damage). This also means mages will maintain their current power against targets with elemental vulnerabilities, but they will not suffer as much against non-elemental-vulnerable targets. This also explains the inclusion of the level 99 N4 spell. Finally, spreading out the levels will further enable a gradual change in mana cost.

To address other classes:
Cleric can have their non-elemental spell chain (cause light, cause serious, cause critical and harm) replaced with the non-elemental damage spells from the mage class, again referencing control over raw magic energy. Further, 5 new spells chains can also be added to the cleric spell list (similar to the elemental spell chains of the mage) for holy, negative, mental, sound and light. Unintuitively, the cleric spells will be lower in base damage than the mage spells (possibly by making the N1 spell mage only, thus naturally limiting the cleric from doing any damage spells until they have at least 1 mage level).

The heal spell chain can also be amped and adjusted to fit this system, which will affect both clerics and rangers. The difference would likely remain the same between the two classes in that rangers will not have the final tier of healing spell (which in this case would be an area-of-effect heal spell). Finally, since there would be an area-of-effect heal spell in the cleric list (mass healing), the priest list would likely pick up a healing boost in its place (or perhaps an item based enhancement, similar to channel staff for wizards, but along the lines of a healing implement).



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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:55 am 

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For the mental, sound, and light Chains I'd suggest making them available to mages also, but possibly at higher levels. What are the currently available spells for holy, negative, mental, sound, and light anyway?


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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:10 pm 
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GandGolf wrote:
For the mental, sound, and light Chains I'd suggest making them available to mages also, but possibly at higher levels. What are the currently available spells for holy, negative, mental, sound, and light anyway?

The idea is to split them up between the classes, so that one class isn't superior in every situation. Mages would still be able to cast spells from other spell chains, but they won't have them native to the class. A primary mage casting the cleric spells would do better than a primary warrior casting cleric spells though, since the mage would have the non-elemental spells at 100% and the warrior would depend on the cleric class to get them (85%).

Currently there aren't any major holy/negative/mental/sound/light spells before remort/adept. The only 3 that even come to mind are 'psionic blast' (mental) , 'colour spray' (light) and 'ray of truth' (light), each of which will likely be removed or put into their respective spell chains.

Additional thoughts:
Through discussion with Noni, Drahsin and Isolas, some other changes to what was proposed in the OP have come up. For starters, healing will be left out (at least from phase 1), and rangers will get 2 nature spell chains as well: wood and water. Further, the non-elemental 4th tier spell (N4 above) won't be necessary. Instead, each non-elemental spell will get boosted damage as the "same" tier elemental spells improve. Damage boosts from each of the spells will not necessarily be equal, such that the mage's E1 (touch elemental) spells may each boost N1 more than the cleric's E1 spells. The boost values have yet to be set, but the following design points will be targeted for the overall system (assuming characters practice their spells to their maximum percentages):
  • Mage spells will maintain the highest base damage, as these spell chains are meant to be their 'bread-and-butter', where clerics and rangers have other abilities available to them.
  • The potential of any spell chain should out-damage (or at least match) any other spells chains (assuming casters with primary classes respective of the spell chains) for which the former has an advantage against a target in terms of vulnerability or resist.
  • Priests and striders will get affinities similar to what wizards have for the mage spell chains.
  • The non-elemental spells of each tier should initially be worse than any of the elemental spells of the same tier for any character, but should improve beyond such damage as the respective elemental spells are improved (via boosted the non-elemental damage).

Obviously, this still has quite a bit of details to hammer out. Input welcome!



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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:16 pm 
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To further complete this design, we need to come up with appropriate side-effects for each element. It's worth noting that we will be removing the fireproof spell since it will not be necessary in the future. All jewelry fusing/burning and armor etching (acid) will be removed. So what side-effects seem appropriate? A lot of gaps to fill in here, and anything added to the spells as a side-effect will also likely end up being an assassin blade-spell enhancement in the future as well. That said, all current and future side-effects will be adjusted so that there is a balance in respect to whether it came from a spell (chance to hit every 6s) or a weapon flag (chance to hit for an assassin can occur every 1/4 second).

  • Fire - blind
  • Lightning - daze/stun like affect?
  • Ice - slightly longer lag (~15%) for movement style combat skill (bash, circle, pugil, archery, backstab, etc.)
  • Acid - ?
  • Holy - provide some healing when target is evil alignment
  • Negative - provide some healing when target is good alignment
  • Mental - ?
  • Light - ?
  • Sound - ?
  • Wood - ?
  • Water - slightly longer lag (~15%) to cast spells

None of these are set-in-stone. Just throwing out a few ideas here. Suggest additions/modifications as you see appropriate.



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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:52 pm 

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First, a few suggestions:

1) Do not remove fireproof spell. Instead, make it character-wise affect (if character has this affect on, none of the equipped/inventory gear will suffer to fuse effects)
2) Give bless an option, when cast on character, to bless all the gear equipped (with higher mana cost). Either as a switch, random effect or a separate spell/target option
3) Granting a small bonus to damage spells, that scales with level, might possibly solve the gap issue. E.g. extra 2% damage for every level your character has above the base level this spell is learned. This means level 1 magic missile getting +200% bonus at level 100, which isn't too powerful since it's weak anyways (I hope so).

As for elemental effects, my options would be:

Fire - apply small DoT similar to how poison works now. Generally speaking, DoTs are a big area for improvement atm
Lightning - stun/daze sounds fine. Might induce Spark affect, that works as a small Lightning DoT and capable of jumping to a random target in a room.
Ice - negative affect (Chilled Muscles?) that makes you use more Moves for all skills using this resource. Short duration (1-3 minutes)
Acid - negative affect (Burned Skin?) that does damage to yourself when you do damage with melee. Short to medium duration (2-4 minutes)
Mental - negative affect (brain damage) reducing Int/Wis stats slightly
Light - Beacon of Light affect. Works as a light source. Does small healing to good/small damage to evil, room-wide. Amount depends on alignment value.
Wood - didn't know we had wood-damage spells. OK. Barkskin affect: improves AC, reduces dodge/parry chance and increases Fire damage taken
Water - applies Wet affect, increasing Lightning damage taken.


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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:03 pm 
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It seems there might be some confusion. These are meant to be side effects, not the primary effect of a spell though. In terms of the "Tiered Spell Chains", the primary effect is going to be damage so they are always targeting an enemy. Each element will have a different side effect though. Currently, this is similar to 'ray of truth' having a chance to do blindness (long duration) and fireballs causing the firebreath affect (short term blind).

Since we want to stay consistent, any side effects from these elemental spells will also be present in any weapon flags. So "flame blade" spell for assassin will mean each time a weapon with the "flaming" flag hits an enemy, the enemy might get affected by the elemental side effect. There would be some balance needed in terms of how often it hits, since a weapon can hit an enemy numerous times per round, but the elemental spells will only have a chance to apply the side effect once every two rounds (due to spell lag).

As for the not removing fireproof, I have to ask why not? This "feature" seems to just be an annoyance, with the possibility to upset players when they forget (or if fireproof runs out in the middle of a fight), but there is no upside to it. There's never been a situation, that I know of, where a player was happy to see their equipment burn up. I can't see any upside to keeping it, as it is simply a tedious chore to remember, currently.

I like the side-effect for 'acid' that you suggest, where it damages the affected enemy each time they do something movement based (although this would be over powered against mobs, since they never choose to turn off melee). Perhaps it could damage the affected enemy whenever they circle/bash/etc.

This idea could be extended to the 'mental' elemental, where its side-effect would deal damage when they cast a spell.

I don't see how casting a 'wood' spell on an enemy would increase the caster's AC. The reduction to dodge/parry could have some affect though. What I particularly like about the wood/water suggestions is that they suggest the use of other elementals afterward. Creating spell combinations that have different effects (whether based on damage elemental or the side-effect being active) would make for some interesting decisions, both for a solo caster going through different spell combos, or for a group of casters quickly building up off of each others' spells for the combo. The group scenario would require good timing, but would promote group tactics, and could be useful for taking down larger mobs. This is an interesting concept that I'll have to revisit during a later phase of changes to the casting system.



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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Sun Feb 23, 2014 2:35 am 

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For sound side-effects maybe deafness (is deafness in the game and is it of any use against mobs?)
For mental possibly confusion or dumbfounding (decrease mobs casting ability?)
For light I was thinking blindness but that's going to be for fire?


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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2014 7:14 pm 
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GandGolf wrote:
For sound side-effects maybe deafness (is deafness in the game and is it of any use against mobs?)
For mental possibly confusion or dumbfounding (decrease mobs casting ability?)
For light I was thinking blindness but that's going to be for fire?


We don't have any concept of deafness, especially not in terms of combat mechanics (which is what we'd want to target). Cutting off channels wouldn't do much good, as it would just cause players to use out-of-game chatting instead... so I'm at a bit of a loss here. Any more ideas? Best option I've heard (outside of the forums) for this would be distraction, increasing cast lag. It's a bit of a stretch but seems half-decent.

For mental, reducing spell casting ability seems appropriate, which is done mechanically via Int/Wis reduction (as Rakot suggested). Another, that I'm currently favoring, is inducing a "migraine" psychically which deals damage when the affected casts a spell - or maybe has only a small chance to damage which interrupts the spell (causing it to fail)?

It seems hard to come up with something for light that isn't either similar to holy/unholy (Rakot's light suggestion) or fire (GandGolf's blind suggestion). If we can think of a better effect for fire, then light can take on the blindness quality (which fits nicely with blindness being a cleric spell anyway). If we can't think up a better fire effect, then we could think up a better acid effect (and thus move Rakot's acid effect suggestion to fire, under the same reasoning of 'burned skin'). Possibly acid could be a small DoT, similar to poison? (It would not deal nearly as much damage, since poison is much weaker without its boosts from assassin skills... but who knows what wizards may end up with in a later phase of additions to this system.)

Any more ideas? I'll recap the current best-fits, including affects mentioned in this post:

  • Fire - burnt skin: take damage when attempting a movement style combat skill (bash, circle, pugil, archery, backstab, flee, etc.)
  • Lightning - shocked: daze like affect (small chance of stun?)
  • Ice - chilled: slightly longer lag (~15%) for movement style combat skill (bash, circle, pugil, archery, backstab, flee, etc.)
  • Acid - corroded: Damage-over-Time (weaker version of poison)
  • Holy - small amount of healing (better if target is evil & caster is good)
  • Negative - small amount of healing (better if target is good & caster is evil)
  • Mental - migraine: take damage when attempted to cast a spell
  • Light - blindness: blinds target
  • Sound - distracted: slightly longer lag (~15%) to cast spells
  • Wood - ????????????????
  • Water - ????????????????

For wood and/or water: interesting ideas came up about small chances to disarm, blindness or damage-over-time. These could be randomized, so the exact effect isn't known until after the cast. For water they might be slippery hands (disarm), fog (blindness) and drown (damage-over-time). For wood they might be titled splinter for causing the disarm and also for the damage-over-time affect-list name or sap (blindness).



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 Post subject: Re: Tiered Spell Chains
PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 4:52 pm 
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Phase 1 is now slotted as the current project. Some minor changes have come into play, but the basics are still the same. Mage spells will include tiers for the 4 elements they currently have (acid, ice, fire, lightning), cleric tiers will have 5 elements (holy, negative, light, sound, mental), and rangers will have 2 elements (water, wood). There will also be a raw magic (non-element) which mages, clerics and rangers all have. The raw spells are pre-requisites for any of the elements. (More on this later.)

Each element includes 3 total tiers, representing the growth of learning the respective element, such as the mage fire element having the spells 'burning hands', 'fireball' and 'enflame'. The three tiers for each element will follow the pattern of 'touch', 'ranged', then 'entire room', which are meant to be "light single target damage", "heavy single target damage", and "heavy area-of-effect damage" respectively. The raw spells will follow the same pattern.

The raw (non-elemental) spells thematically represent a caster's ability to control magic. To give the raw spells names to further the analogy (which are by no-means set-in-stone), we can call them "mystic clutch", "blast" and "magic field". A mage wishing to practice the fire elemental spells would depend on the raw spells as well. That is, the mage would first have to train in "mystic clutch" before she could effectively use "burning hands". The levels the mage is able to train these spells would be reflected here as well. As an example, the entire fire+raw spell tree with levels in paranthesis could therefore be: "mystic touch (1)" > "burning hands (19)" > "blast (50)" > "fireball (69)" > "magic field (80)" > "enflame (99)".

The raw spells belonging to three spell lists (mage, cleric, and ranger) means that a ranger could get their raw spells to 100% even with mage as a secondary class, although the fire elemental spells would still cap at 85% for the ranger. Each spell through the tier chains will act as a modifier for its own damage as well as any spells higher in the chain.

Raw spells will also have a unique trait to them, in that training elemental spells can boost raw spell damage. Thematically, this means that although the second tier raw spell "blast" is a pre-requisite for the 11 second tier elemental spells ("fireball", "acid blast", etc.), the "blast" spell will also improve in base damage as the caster improves the 11 second tier elemental spells. Specifically, the raw spells will start with less base damage than the immediately following elemental spells, but through training those elemental spells the raw spell's base damage will increase past the elemental spells' base damages.

Disclaimer: this is about to get a little "mathy".
Each of the 4 mage spells can add up to 10% damage to the raw spell, each of the 5 cleric spells can add up to 5%, and each of the 2 ranger spells can add up to 7.5%. In total, that means mage spells contribute to 40% bonus damage, cleric spells to 20%, and ranger spells to 15%. This is also dependent upon the level of training in those spells, such that a mage can train the 4 elements to 100%, resulting in the full 40% bonus. A 3rd class mage can only train each of the mage elements to 70%, thus resulting in 21% bonus (40% * 70%). Prior to adept level, this means that top 50% of class orders (which we will consider as possible casters) can get the raw spell damage up to 127% to 140% (class order dependent) of the elemental spells.

If "fireball" has D base damage, the preceding raw spell "blast" will begin at 83% of the "fireball" base damage (.83*D). Training all the elemental spells of that tier to the max, "blast" will end up doing 1.27*D to 1.4*D damage. Note that this means that a raw spell is always better than an element spell that hits an element resist target (67%, or .67*D), but at best it is can still never best an elemental vulnerable target (150% or 1.5*D).

I'll stop here, as real-life beckons. This is all a part of Phase 1 that is currently in the works, though. Phase 2 will include the side-effects previously mentioned in this thread.



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