Part 64: Bonus update 2: Character CreationBonus Update 2: Character Creation
Now that Freude's tale is done, it's about time we learned how character creation works so we can make his successor!
First things first, just because Freude is gone doesn't mean his savefile goes away. It gets converted into a stripped-down file that can be used to jumpstart character creation:
We aren't locked into creating another Half-Troll Warrior, though; hitting N will let us start character creation from scratch. However, by re-using the savefile like this, we can inherit Freude's monster memory. Additionally, all of Freude's options and keymaps will be preserved, a nice convenience.
Anyway, let's take things from the top.
Can you believe some players get upset at the existence of a "Neuter" gender? People are weird. Gender in Angband, like in most fantasy settings, is purely cosmetic.
Next we get to the races:
Races in Angband are not balanced. Some races are better than others, sometimes significantly so. The original devs halfheartedly tried to balance things by making the better races need more experience to level up, but all that means is you have to grind for longer, and besides they didn't really know what made a good race.
Running down some of the more relevant entries:
- STR determines your carrying capacity, gives you extra damage in melee combat, and helps you get multiple melee blows per round. Everyone wants STR. Being overburdened by carrying too much penalizes your speed, which is Bad News.
- INT is the arcane spellcaster stat; it determines mana pool size, number of learnable spells, and spell failure rate for mages, rangers, and rogues. For everyone else, it gives a minor bonus to magic device skill (see below), which is really not a big deal.
- WIS is the holy spellcaster stat, and does for priests and paladins what INT does for the others. It also has a minor influence on your saving throw; again, not a big deal.
- DEX gives you minor AC and to-hit bonuses, but its most useful attribute is that it helps you get multiple melee blows/round. If you want to go big on melee, then get high STR and DEX and equip a light weapon. You can see how many blows you get when allocating stats; if you can't get more than 2, don't bother with DEX.
- CON doesn't do anything except give you bonus HP, on a per-level basis. This isn't going to be relevant early on, but in the mid- and late-game having a high CON will make a huge difference in your total HP. Maxing CON at 18/200 gives you an extra 12.5 HP per level, for 625 bonus HP at level 50. It's recalculated every time your CON changes, by the way, so no need to worry about pumping it early.
- That Hit/Shoot/Throw line is a minor modifier to your chance to hit in melee, when shooting with a missile launcher like a bow or sling, and when throwing things. I have no idea why throwing is its own skill because there's nothing in the game to support a throwing-based offense.
- The hit die is what you roll each level-up to determine how many extra hitpoints you get; functionally each additional side on your hit die increases your max HP at level 50 by 25, on average. I believe the game does some fiddling to ensure that you don't get HP-screwed in the long run, though that doesn't mean you won't roll 1s several times in a row early on.
- "Devices" refers to magical devices, and determines your failure rate whenever you aim a wand, use a staff, zap a rod, or activate a magical artifact. With most offensive magical items, you also get a damage bonus of (your Device skill - level of item)%. Unfortunately the level of the item is not displayed anywhere and the game doesn't tell you about the bonus, either.
- The important thing to remember about stealth is that each point of stealth is worth more than the last one. In other words, going from +10 to +11 makes a much bigger difference than going from +2 to +3 does. As a result, if you want to play a stealthy character, it pays to stack stealth bonuses.
- Digging just reduces the amount of time it takes to dig through things. Picks and shovels have digging bonuses on them; one race (guess which?) has an intrinsic digging bonus. Having high STR and a heavy weapon also help with digging faster.
- Infravision lets you see warmblooded monsters even if they aren't illuminated; every 10 feet is 1 tile's worth of infravision radius. Surprisingly helpful.
Let's just take a look at the races in turn.
Humans suck. They're supposed to be the "baseline" race with no stat modifiers, but usually you'll be matching your racial stat bonuses to a class that benefits from those bonuses, so all this means is that humans aren't good at any class. They do level up very quickly though, so early on, when character level is a significant determinant of player power, they aren't half-bad. Humans get no extra abilities, and have no infravision, which sucks.
Half-Elves are just humans with infravision and some minor bonuses. Trading away CON for DEX isn't really worth it (swapping INT/WIS is a wash). At least they don't take a penalty to their hit die like they used to in old versions.
Elves used to be the worst race in the game by a wide margin, with a pathetic hit die of d7 or something and nothing worthwhile to make up for it. They've been buffed significantly since then, but they're still not really interesting. Resistance to light is not a big deal, nor really is DEX sustain.
Incidentally, these are pretty obviously D&D elves, not Tolkein elves, since they aren't automatically better at everything. You want High-Elves for that.
Hobbits have some amazing stat bonuses, but only a d7 hit die. They also have a ludicrous +4 to stealth, so hobbit rogues in particular are almost noiseless. "Identifies mushrooms" means that they auto-ID mushrooms when they pick them up. They also have innate hold life, which should help speed their leveling in the late game when undead are everywhere. That's more a convenience than anything else though; you can always just carry Potions of Restore Life Levels.
Gnomes are pretty great -- good stat boosts for spellcasters, innate Free Action, almost as good stealth as hobbits, and a great magic device skill bonus. A bit fragile though. Innate Free Action sounds fantastic, but tons of items give it anyway. Still, it's nice to not have to worry about getting paralyzed.
Pretty much exactly what you'd expect: a tiny slab of beef with great martial capability and lousy stealth. Dwarfs are pretty much your best bet for holy casters (nobody gets better than +2 WIS anyway). Innate protection from blindness is an excellent trait. "Senses ore/minerals" just means that tiles that contain buried treasure will be revealed on the map if the player gets close enough to them; I think the sensing radius is 3 or so. Not a big deal unless you're the type of player that carries around a digging tool just to mine money out of the walls.
Brawny and not that stupid. Lousy skills though. I seem to remember these guys being more durable; I think they got nerfed.
The Best Race. Look at those stat modifiers! Look at that hit die! Sustained STR and innate regeneration are two of the best intrinsics in the game -- everyone needs STR and lots of nasty monsters drain it, and regeneration makes a big difference in how long you spend hanging around the level recovering, which in turn affects how quickly monsters wake up and how many extra monsters spawn. Sure, they're dumb as a post and have the world's worst stealth, but who cares?
Also, regeneration affects mana recovery as well, so half-troll casters can cast lots of spells. Or at least, they can try to; their stupidity makes their failure rates rather high. That doesn't stop Half-Troll Mages from being rather entertaining and a lot more viable than you'd think.
Superhumans, literally. Humans, but a bit better at everything except infravision, and they need a whopping 80% extra EXP to gain levels. CON sustain is...meh, not many monsters drain CON.
High-Elves look attractive; they're the only race that gets +3 INT, they have a decent hit die, and they have innate See Invisible, making the early game a lot less irritating. But they need 100% more EXP to gain levels than anyone else. Playing as a high-elf is a slog. But hey, if you want to take your time anyway, they're a good option.
These guys are new; I want to say they were added in the early 3.0 days? So, "new" means "within the last five years" or something like that. Anyway, surprisingly decent for a monster race that stops having new monster types show up after 350'. Good stat boosts, great stealth, and innate resist poison is very handy since it's a necessary resist and doesn't show up often.
Next up, classes! Usually I pick the class I want to play as first, and then pick a race that complements it, but oh well. Note that these screenshots are based on a human race; the displayed stats are the sum of the race and class modifiers, so this way you can see the class modifiers independent of the race you're playing as.
Warriors are the run-up-and-hit-things class, and they're good at it. Amazing durability (check that +9 hit die!), great stat boosts, great combat skills, and best of all they have two dump stats. They are, I believe, the second-best class at archery too (behind the Ranger, of course). At level 30, they get innate resistance to fear, which obviates the most obvious way to shut them down.
If you're new to playing Angband, you should play a warrior first. They are by far the most forgiving class; mistakes that would otherwise be fatal can be survivable with a warrior, up to a point. They have an amazingly strong early game, a somewhat tough midgame (mostly due to not being able to know what monsters are in the vicinity), and a strong late game.
Mages are terrible. They have fantastic versatility, but they fall apart like wet tissue paper if you so much as look at them funny. Zero hitdie bonus combined with a CON penalty means they have the worst HP in the game, and that -3 to STR is a major hindrance because it limits the equipment they can wear and the gear they can carry. Irritatingly, they don't even have enough mana to be able to kill most monsters with spells; you have to supplement with magic devices, archery, or melee (in more or less order of preference).
If you can keep a mage alive until the endgame, then they become quite solid, with spells to deal with most occasions. It's getting them that far that's the trick. Mages are a class for veterans, no question, which is a shame because many new players love the idea of playing mages and therefore pick them as their starting class.
Mage spells (a subset of which are also ranger and rogue spells, at increased cost and failure rate) give early access to detection magic, a number of direct-damage spells in a wide range of elements (including more exotic elements in the dungeon-only spellbooks), and a variety of useful buffs including Haste Self and Resistance (which gives temporary resistance to all four basic elements and poison).
"Advanced spellcasting" means that they can hit a 0% failure rate on their spells once their INT and level get high enough. Some late-game spells are difficult enough to never be failure-free, though.
Mages have a hideously weak early game, an okay midgame, and a reasonably strong late game.
Priests are better than mages. They use the holy caster spells, which aren't as versatile as the mage spells, and miss a few important abilities, but have some really key abilities (chiefly, the ability to heal, and an attack spell that ignores resistances). Priests are also significantly more durable than mages and can actually participate in melee a bit.
"Prefers blunt/blessed weapons" means that the priest gets a minor penalty if they use an edged weapon that doesn't have the "Blessed by the gods" flag. This is moderately annoying, but if you find a great unblessed weapon it can still be worth using.
Priest spells have one big thing that mage spells lack: healing. Being able to convert MP into HP has incredible utility. In exchange, priests have a few obvious holes in their spells lists, chiefly having Detect Evil instead of Detect Monsters, no Phase Door, and no Haste Self. They do get a quality attack spell in Orb of Draining, which deals extra damage to evil monsters, cannot be resisted, and scales very nicely with level. Their dungeon-only spellbooks also greatly improve their detection and mobility spells.
Priests have a tricky start until level 9, then a strong early game; their midgame is tricky due to limited monster detection (just Detect Evil). Their lategame is quite strong.
Rogues are a hybrid class; they learn some arcane spells, and are also very good at melee and decent at ranged combat. If you're a new player and absolutely can't stand the idea of playing a warrior, then rogues (and paladins) are a good fallback, since they have much of the warrior's durability. They get no attack magic, though (those spells are "illegible" in the spellbooks), and lacking the "Advanced spellcasting" trait means that their spells will always have at least a 5% failure rate.
Rogues have a decent early game, a strong midgame, and a decent lategame. It's not that they get weaker; it's just that everyone else catches up more than they do.
Rangers used to be hilariously twinked, being second-best or third-best in the game at everything except of course for ranged combat at which they were (and still are) the best by a wide margin. Their melee and spellcasting have been nerfed from the old days, but they're still pretty good. Most importantly, if you are using a shortbow or longbow (not a sling or crossbow), then you get free extra shots at levels 20 and 40. This is a powerful ability -- at level 20 you'll suddenly be doing twice as much damage with your bow as you were at level 19. Rangers are a great class for shooting down everything in the dungeon; if only they could carry enough arrows...
They're also pretty decent spellcasters; better than rogues, anyway, and with access to all but the most powerful mage spells.
Rangers have a middling early game, but once they get that first extra shot they really pick up and never really run out of momentum.
Paladins are the hybrid holy class; they learn prayers instead of spells, and get access to almost all of the useful ones, though they aren't very skilled casters. They're better at melee than rogues are, but worse at ranged combat. However, good melee, combined with access to holy spells, makes them phenomenally durable. Paladins are very hard to kill once they hit the midgame.
Paladins have a good early game, a middling midgame (they have the same detection problem as priests do, though they're more durable and thus better-able to survive surprises), and a strong lategame. Lategame paladins are borderline immortal unless you do something exceptionally foolish...