How many levels should a skill have?

Discussion in 'Modding' started by r_b_bergstrom, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. r_b_bergstrom

    r_b_bergstrom Will Mod for Digglebucks

    A few questions for those who use or make skill mods. Because I was never able to get any of the RCs working on my Mac, I have less experience with skill mods than most of you do.

    #1: Is there a consensus to how many levels a modded skill should have?
    It seems to me like most skill mods have 7 or 8 skill levels in each tree. Is that just my outsider's perspective, or is that the default people are using?

    In the main game (no mods, and no Diggle Gods), all the skills only have 5 or 6 levels. (I haven't seen anyone in the RC9 thread mention anything about additional levels in the beta/patch, so I assume it will remain the same whenever 1.0.10 becomes available to my Steam or HIB page.)

    In Realm of the Diggle Gods, they add 7 skills, but only 3 of them have more than 6 levels.
    • Werediggle has 8 levels, but you can't use most of your other skills while it's active, so that seems a fair trade-off.
    • Demonlogist has 7 levels, but the last couple of them have some big drawbacks that seem to balance it.
    • Emomancy also has 7 levels, with no obvious counter-balance... but some people think it's not that great, if I'm remembering another thread correctly.
    Not trying to point any fingers, here, I'm just curious about what people think about high-level skills and what it does to balance. Plus, I'm kinda toying with going back to finish up the skill mod I started and abandoned a few months ago, and I'd like to know whether I should be filling out the high-end of the trees.

    #2: When you get to the end of the game, how many (if any) unfinished skill trees do you usually have, and how many levels are left in them? If you answer that question, please also include a statement about whether or not you use Archaeology, because I think that might flavor the answers. I've never been entirely certain if Archaeology really results in additional levels by game end, or if it just speeds up your acquisition of the early-to-mid- levels. (I've beat Dredmor once, then I switched to GRPD and haven't managed it a second time.)

    #3: How much impact does the length of the skill tree play in your decision about which skills to use? If I released a skill with only 5 levels, would that make you less likely to download or use it?
  2. Daynab

    Daynab Community Moderator Staff Member

    IMO, 5 or 6 is the ideal number.
    When I finish the game, I'm always out of skills to put points in, yes. If a skill had only 3 or 4 abilities, I would probably not pick it up.
  3. Werediggler

    Werediggler Member

    For me it's quality over quantity. If I mod adds something worthwhile or amusing to the game and does it in a small amount of skill levels that's great. If a mod adds something with 8 levels that doesn't accomplish it's goal I probably wouldn't use it. I love long skills, it makes me feel like I'm really investing in something, but if a mod makes something really great in a small package that's awesome. To answer about the leftover skills, I, unfortunately, am not extremely good at roguelikes. I've beaten Dredmor once or twice and I can't recall my leftover skills. I think one was finished with NTTG so I most likely didn't have any leftovers on that run. Hope my opinions help. :)
  4. r_b_bergstrom

    r_b_bergstrom Will Mod for Digglebucks

    Suppose I should answer my own questions as well.

    #1: Don't know what's ideal, that's why I'm asking, and I haven't played all that many skill mods.

    #2: The one time I beat Dredmor, I used up all my skill levels. I think my last level-up was a the beginning of the forest level (floor 14), before finding the zoo. So if I had a skill with 7 or 8 levels, I would have probably been 1 level higher when I reached the final battle. I don't think that character had Archaeology, but I'm not certain.

    #3: Back in the early days, i sometimes took the trees with 3 or 4 skill levels, but I can't imagine doing so now. However, it's not uncommon for my current builds to have a number of 5-skill trees, and I don't really consider that a factor when choosing a character. Perhaps it would be a more relevant if I were not using PermaDeath, and thus more likely to survive to the final floor.
  5. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    #1) Yes; that concensus is "at least 5". :p

    For the record, when I write skills, I write as many abilities as I feel like the skill needs to complete it's "thought". Which is to say, if the concept can be completely expressed in 5 skills, I leave it there. In fact, most of my skills started off as 5-level skills, and then I added more weeks or months later because I realized there was more to 'say'. For example, Silver Tongue started off as 5 levels with the thought of "Rogues need non-magical debuffs and they don't show off their charisma much. Let's fix that." Today, it's 7 levels because I added one level about 4 days later thinking "...and where's the panty-stealing?", and then I added a level when I upgraded to 1.0.10 syntax, thinking "...This skill is cool and all, but it needs something Epically Bardic to really get the point across that these guys can talk their way out of anything."

    So now, they steal panties and they can quite literally talk the Gods into helping them (though they can't really control which God, and heaven help them if it's the Diggle God of Death that replies.). It's a 7-level skill not because 5 levels was too little in some sort of game-mechanical sense, but because it took 7 levels to fit in everything that a truly charismatic Rogue should be able to do. (Well, except get a big discount from Brax, but that's because prices are hard-coded. If that ever changes, it'll be an 8-level skill.)

    It seems like most of my skills are 6 or 7 levels, with a few exceptions (Warlockery mostly) that needed all 8.

    #2) I never get to the end of the game anymore, so I can't realistically answer this question.

    #3) Not at all. I take skills for their powers and stat points, not how long they are.
  6. Kazeto

    Kazeto Member

    Re:1: At least 5 skills are supposed to be in a tree, since that is pretty much standard, and any lower-tier capstone skill (if there were only 4 or less skills) would be difficult to balance because it would have to be less potent than higher-tier capstone skills from other skill trees. That being said, there is no upper limit, but unless you really have solid ideas for skills, it really isn't necessary to make more than 6 skills into one skill tree. And on the other side of it, if you have a good idea for a skill tree that is useful because of its uniqueness, but you can't make it into a 5-tier tree without using filler abilities (which you might not want to do), it's acceptable to make it into a 4-tier tree; sure, you'll have to work slightly more on balancing it, but it's not like it's impossible to make something like that work.

    Re:2: I only finished the game once, before getting the RotDG expansion (because after I got it I didn't have much time to play), bur I had 3 fully-levelled skill trees, and lacked about half a dozen points (but I can't say how many exactly).

    Re:3: No, there's no need not to take a good skill tree just because it has 1 or 2 skills less if I don't even need to be at the highest possible level to win. In fact, if I know I'm going to lack 2 levels, I'd rather take a skill tree that is 2 tiers shorter just so that I'll be able to have a full set of skills instead of lacking something. Then again, I'm the kind of person who prefers a challenge when playing, so that might be a factor here.
  7. FaxCelestis

    FaxCelestis Will Mod for Digglebucks

    As many as are necessary to convey the point. Compare, for instance, my Inquisitor skill to my Meteorology skill. Both have a very clear theme (hunter of evil, weather magic), but the former has five skills while the latter has eight. Why? Because in order to examine the entire spectrum of weather magic, I needed more than just five skills. Now, if a concept has fewer than five skills in it, maybe you need to broaden your concept.
  8. Lorrelian

    Lorrelian Member

    Two bits from a non-modder:

    1) Pretty much agree with Fax and Essence. As a flavor guru I feel that skills should have however much they need, and you shouldn't stretch just to give a set number of skill levels. That said, if a concept isn't broad enough to support five or six skills, you might want to ask yourself if it shouldn't be an item mod or something like that instead.

    2) On the rare occasions that I find Dredmor (win or loose) I've usually ended the game with all but one or two skill trees full, I'd say about 5 to 7 levels from my cap. Except for that one Archaeology run where I had all four weapon skills. Then I just had two levels left to go in Archaeology. So I could say that Archaeology definitely makes a difference in what level you are at the end game, except I'm a horrible floor skipper. I just got bored on DLs 12 and 13, so I skipped down to 15 and killed the Lich (or got killed). Naturally, since I started using ID and 1.0.10 came out, I haven't even made it that far.

    3) The length of a skill probably won't influence my decision to take it, although it might influence the decision of what to take it with. A dual weilding berserker doesn't need another 5 level skill, for example.
  9. OmniaNigrum

    OmniaNigrum Member

    More is better if we can find a way to reward grinding. That is tough. I have no solution. But I *Hate* playing a RPG and finishing with less than maximal levels/abilities/gear. I want to always become the master of the game world. Cliche? Yes. But it is not uncommon.

    If DoD were more like other Roguelikes where levels changed every time you went to that depth, people could grind and stock up on stuff. And consequently deeper levels could offer double or more the risk since people could have loads of health/mana potions and other essentials.
  10. Ruigi

    Ruigi Will Mod for Digglebucks

    From a gameplay balance perspective, you should also consider how skill level progression can be used to reward players with powerful abilities. A super useful or powerful skill can be the end result of a seven point skill rather than a five point skill.
  11. Dray`Gon

    Dray`Gon Member

    My personal opinion? I like long skills, but only if they are long with a purpose. I'm the kind of person that likes to feel like I mastered the game (which is hard with rougue-likes so I tend to kinda toy with them most of the time). I've never really gotten far enough to even fight Dredmor so I can't say how close I got to maxing my skill trees. Maybe if I spent more time on DoD I might actually complete it once... :p Still, if the skill tree has a concept I really enjoy and happens to have only a few levels in it, I might be willing to take it anyways.
  12. Nicholas

    Nicholas Technology Director Staff Member

    ... how many ideas can you think of? A lot of the Dredmor skill trees have no stuff in it because, well, we ran out of ideas for things to put in them. Some trees we have too many ideas for.
    Kaidelong and Essence like this.
  13. lockeslylcrit

    lockeslylcrit Member

    In my personal opinion, as many as it takes to get the point across, and no more. I find 5 to be a good number, but if a skill is sufficiently good enough, 7 is also a good number.
  14. coldcandor

    coldcandor Member

    I'll chime in here:

    #1 I think more is better, the more I think about it. If you have less in a tree, then you risk lots of left over points at game end (massively so if you have archaeology). If you have more, then it becomes a classic RPG setup - I know I'm not going to max all of these, so what do I REALLY want? And because you aren't going to max all of them, it opens up a little more freedom to have powerful tier 7 and 8 abilities. The downside, however, is archaeology. If you take that, you could easily end up with all the above.

    #2 Unfortunately, I've only finished the game twice - once on easy mode and once on RotDG with archaeology. On that easy mode run, I had traditional pre-RotDG skills and did not learn them all (though I can't remember how many were left). On the second, I not only finished all skills, I had 7 or 8 levels left over at the end. Selling Scarfs and glass necks for 9k XP a pop is incredibly OP in late game (though obviously not so much if you have no skills left to get...).

    #3 I would be very unlikely to play a skill with only 3 levels. 4 more likely, but still low. 5-6 are nice middle ground skills, fairly easy to max one out to get yourself rolling. 7-8 are really fun to look at as things to base your whole character around.
    Wi§p and OmniNegro like this.
  15. I think that it's very possible to have your cake and eat it (sort of) in terms of skill number by having 7-8 skills. You can make this work by "milestone" skill points. There a few mods that do this very well. Warlockery comes to mind. Picking up two levels nets you two buffs, both of which complement each other quite well. However, if you are going to get one more level, then you pretty much need to pick up every other level to make Empowered form worth it.
    A simple example of how you can do this would be to start an 8 skill tree with a passive ability, then alternate Active Ability/Passive buff for each successive level. Essentially, assuming that each "active ability" is above average for its relevant level, while the passives are somewhat subpar, each active ability then becomes a "milestone" in the tree. The general idea is that you can put only 1 level into the tree and still get good value for your investment. If you want more out of that tree, then you have to make that 3 levels, 5, or 7 levels.
    Kazeto likes this.
  16. Essence

    Essence Will Mod for Digglebucks

    Yeah, I've never liked that about Warlockery. It's going to change soon so that the 4th level isn't a polymorph, but rather a buff -- and all of the later spells will work without the buff, but they'll work much better with the buff. :)
  17. ^Oh? I'm currently field testing a GRPD skillset that's properly build around a melee-mage. I tried putting warlockery in there, but you can't really afford to go straight up warlockery, and finding the 5 extra points to make the polymorph worthwile becomes hard later on. You generally get more value putting those 5 points into something like viking wizardry, which gives you something good/great every level, instead of something that you have to wait 2-3 more levels to get decent value out of.