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Positional Attack Magic

Edgar A. Bering IV edited this page Nov 25, 2019 · 13 revisions

The goal of ebering's positional magic branch is to overhaul crawl attack magic aiming towards the following goals

  1. Further differentiate attack magic from ranged combat
  2. Make tactical positioning more relevant for magic users (interleaves with previous)
  3. Further differentiate elemental schools among one another

These have been long standing goals; some efforts have been made over the years. Two major themes of these past attempts have been: tweak ranges, and funky cone targeters. Neither of these are particularly satisfying. The range differences (Bolt of Cold vs. Bolt of Fire e.g.) mostly don't affect strategic decision making over spell school and play basically the same. Funky cone targeters are hard to reason about, and often just pointed at a single target anyway. This leads to a secondary goal:

  • Reduce usage of weird cone targeters

To articulate a guiding player thought we'd like magic to induce often: "Should I use one of my spells, or move to make one or more of them more effective first?". This will eventually collide with luring, but that's a problem with luring shared by melee (and ranged to a lesser extent).

There are some other issues with magic that I (ebering) would like to look at in 0.25, but I'll start here. When the branch is a bit more mature and team members have had a chance to comment I'll start adding the results to trunk in an incremental fashion for play testing &c.

This page is organized by spell school, looking at conjurations and elemental schools. Dual school spells are listed in their element.

For the most part the removals are of player spells; monsters will have the old spells. Teaching monsters to use positional spells seems like a nightmare and an exercise in making monsters too smart to be fun to fight. Some pruning of monster spell sets might be warranted but that's an exercise for another time.

Rough elemental themes

These are sketches, not all spells in the school will fit this description exactly, but these are the themes I'm going for.

  • Fire "somewhat directed but explodey" or "set a nearby thing on fire over time"
  • Air "bouncy, pointy, hard to direct"
  • Ice "diffuse" and "subtle"
  • Earth "directed"
  • Poison "poisoning things" or "alchemy"
  • Pure conjurations "pure magic"


Air is already in a very good place. The single-target spells in air are Shock, Lightning Bolt, and Airstrike. Shock and LBolt bounce, and getting the most out of them requires some maneuvering. The remaining attack spells are clouds, non-target damage that depends on monster arrangement and target position, and a fixed position summon. SLS does have some issues related to being a summon, but as an attack spell it's very different from ranged and requires positional thought, so for the purposes of this exercise it's in a good place.

That leaves Airstrike. Airstrike is also in a pretty good place: it's smite targeted which is different from ranged.

Changed spells


A good place doesn't mean there's no room for variation. Airstrike could scale with the empty space around the target. This is currently in the branch.


Single target ranged conjurations are the primary culprit for "sameness". Fire has several of these. Fireball, while a directed single target spell, always hits and explodes; its signature properties that make it distinct from ranged (except one randart) and require some positional thinking (can't use it well in close quarters).

Flame tongue is L1; while I'd prefer something other than "damage but red" here, getting good positional effects requires some AOE or an air like approach. The range scaling does make it a bit more strategically interesting than a fixed range spell, and distinct from the other L1 damage spells. Some room will have to remain for these single target spells.


Two spells can be unapologetically removed: Throw Flame and Bolt of Fire. The classic "damage but red" spells have no place in this overhaul.

Below in new spells is a draft design for a replacement for Flame Tongue that is more positional but a bit complicated. If it works well it can replace Flame Tongue

New Spells


L6 Fire/Conjurations. Fires a bolt of fire in each of the cardinal direction at range 5 (6 with Veh) with some fuzzing that decreases with spellpower. A sketch of the attack pattern as currently implemented (in open space) (include the rotation the other way).


This fits with the "directable and exploding" theme of fire, but replaces Bolt of Fire's arbitrary targeting with a positional configuration. The fuzzing might not be a good idea, since it makes the spell harder to reason about and might be frustrating to use (It was not a good idea). The range could also go up to 6, which would guarantee a hit 3 cells out instead of 2 like the current implementation.


L1. Fire/Conjurations. Conjure two foxfires on empty cells adjacent to the players. Foxfires are pseudo-summons kind of like orbs of destruction. They have the following behavior: if a monster moves into them they dissipate, do their damage and the monster is able to move into that cell. On their move they try to path to their target (closest foe). If they succeed (or find a different hostile along the path) they hit and do half flame-tongue damage. If they fail (because the player or an ally or a wall is in the way) they dissipate harmlessly. Range of the foxfires increases with spellpower (according to the old FT formula or similar, maybe plus one more so they can go around the player).

In a corridor this is really bad. You'll get 0 or 1 hits per 2 turns casting (if you get 0 it's because you're at a corner and both are behind you). In a slightly more open space you can get both hits but you have to wait a turn before re-casting. In the wide open you can cast every turn and they'll always do well, giving you 2 hits per turn.

Changed spells

Inner flame

As an attack spell this is awkward to use: the caster must kill a monster adjacent to the target. Until then the spell does nothing. It often gets used on allied monsters (skeletons and snakes, it doesn't work on summons) and shines a bit brighter there.

To open up more positional opportunities, I've decided to experiment with having it place flame clouds whenever the hexed monster takes damage. This makes it a stronger damaging spell, but also gives opportunities for breaking up packs or isolating a monster using clouds.

CanOfWorms suggestion: Inner flamed monsters explode after a certain amount of time (like a mobile Fulminant Prism), this does not have to kill the inner flamed monster. Possibly make this a higher level variant?

Conjure flame

A very strong spell as it can be used to hold monsters that won't enter flame clouds at bay indefinitely, and used to build flame cloud walls that monsters will path into. (Again, the walls can be maintained for some time with the renewal feature).

Based on minmay's suggestion I've implemented having CF start on the caster's square only, the caster is immune to the cloud the turn after casting but must then either move or take damage. This eliminates the tedious refresh shelter and makes building walls take longer. It does also allow a player to create a flame cloud gap in a hallway, so the extent to which this change is a pure nerf is debatable.

Further revision now implemented: to remove the gap creation CF first places a cloud of "smoldering embers", which bursts into flame 10 auts later if there's nothing in the cell.


The "diffuse and subtle" school, most of Ice's spells are in a good place. The three that don't fit well with this overhaul are Throw Frost, Throw Icicle, and Bolt of Cold.

The changes as listed currently leave the IE starting book a little thin. A L2 Ice/Hex variation on slow would fit thematically with the book as well as with Ice's theme. These changes also mean that IE probably shouldn't start with Conjurations skill (beargit).


The three baddies, Throw Frost, Throw Icicle, and Bolt of Cold

Consider a change


Cone targeted, distance falloff, kind of weird. Glaciate replaced Ice Storm to be more different from Firestorm but it's kind of in a weird place. Some ideas have been brainstormed but I don't have a concrete direction for this spell yet. One idea that I am partial to is a slow moving ring of translucent ice blocks that block LoF, start surrounding the player like Tomb, and advance outwards each 10aut the player doesn't move (can take other actions, including another glacier?!), and does glaciate-ish damage to monsters it hits (a monster that it hits won't give an ice wall cell so there will be holes, but if the monster dies it'll be replaced by an ice block as before).

This change will, if it happens, wait until after the bulk of these changes are landed.

New spells


L4 Ice/Conjurations. Throw Icicle like mixed damage, maybe less dice. AOE in an annulus of inner radius 2 outer radius 3 (4 with Veh). Sketch of the attack pattern. Roughly inspired by malacante's starshower suggestion.


A L4 AOE might be too strong, but the annular attack pattern is probably constraining enough to make it acceptable. I'm undecided on the impact of Veh (plus range or not?) and the interaction with allies (miss, hit but not hurt rC+ allies, hit all allies). Currently in-branch Veh does not increase the range, as that almost doubles the tiles hit; icy monsters are immune but everyone else gets hit, so this works well with ice allies but not other allies.


The physical and directed school. Removing all single target conjurations is a bridge too far, especially for Earth. However, under this revision, having lots of single-target damage spells now makes Earth stick out. So, the only thing left to check is differentiation from ranged combat. Here the damage vs. range curve is quite different from Ranged combat's always LOS:

Spell Damage Range
Sandblast 2d(4+P/3) 3
Stone arrow 3d(5+P/8) 4
Bolt of Magma 4d(4+P/6) 5
Iron Shot 9d(1.66+P/12) 4
LCS 10d(2.33 + P/10) 3

With most other bolt spells removed, and BoM not bouncing like LBolt, Earth seems to be in a good place. BoM is one of the weaker bolt spells, but this is ok. If it turns out to be really unacceptably bad to not have a stronger bolt spell, BoM can be buffed in some way.


Poison is already significantly different from other spell schools: its highest level spell is level 6. This is a good start, but once again the single target conjurations are a wart. Poison is by its nature "diffuse", to distinguish its diffusion from that of Ice, a further emphasis on alchemy can help. That means trading Conjurations synergy for Transmutations synergy.

The increased emphasis on Transmutations might require a change to VM starting skills. This will be looked at once the ideas are more developed.


Remove Sting, Venom Bolt, and Poison Arrow, the single target conjurations.

New Spells


L1 Poison/Transmutations. Perform a range-3 reaching melee-like attack that does physical damage and always poisons on hit (even if no damage is done). Flavor as transforming the user's appendage into a stinger (briefly). Damage up to 1d8 (but physical, not poison anymore, thanks tmut) like old sting.

A melee reaching attack "sounds good" but isn't a good idea. Instead, make Sting a range-3 Poison/Transmutation with Poison Arrow's beam flavour so that it does partly physical damage and always poisons.

Eringya's Noxious Bog

L6 Poison/Transmutations. Lasting status effect. As the user moves, the cells they depart are temporarily transformed into "noxious sludge". Sludge does 70% resistible pois+physical damage to monsters in it (like pArrow, but the exact number should be smaller) and functions like shallow water on move speed and accuracy. Also poisons monsters in it. Ignite poison removes bog cells and replaces them with flame clouds places flame clouds above bog cells.

Should probably go in the Fen Folio and maybe one other book; but not Annihilations.

In the Fen Folio and the book of Alchemy


This section is reserved for pure conjurations or conjuration/non-elemental spells. The (quasi)-single target spells to single out for consideration are almost the entire school. In line with Earth's analysis, spells with unique mechanics are superior to those that are just "ranged damage but conjured". In the single-target unique mechanic camp there are: Magic Dart (always hits) and OOD (homing missile, not instant).

This leaves Searing Ray, Dazzling Spray, Force Lance, and IMB for consideration. Taking a cue from Mdart, OOD, and Fulminant Prism, "pure magic" should be interpreted to mean "good accuracy" in some form or another.


Force Lance, and IMB. "Damage with knock back" is interesting, but the knock back needs some work and a single targeted lance that can miss isn't inline with the "pure magic" theme. IMB gets lost among the lower level damaging conjurations, while those will be removed in this revision, IMB falls short of the more nuanced understanding of "pure magic". Besides, the funky explosion targeter didn't add much.

Since monsters are retaining the old single target spells for now, IMB still gets lost among the other conjurations at a similar level, so should be removed from monsters and replaced with an elemental conjuration or force lance.

New Spells

Iskenderun's Mystic Blast

This one is a minmay suggestion. L4 Conjurations/Translocations. This spell creates a 5x5 explosion of force centered on the caster that damages monsters and knocks them back, significantly further than Force Lance currently does, like 4 or 5 squares. (Force lance can already do 4 squares at max power, so a flattened knock back curve is more what we're after here --ebering).

This has been implemented in-branch. It's a big awkward to play with in conjunction with fulm prisms because the monsters collide with the prisms, making them hostile.

Changed Spells

Dazzling Spray

Keep the level, remove the damage, make blinding chance depend on spellpower and distance, and make it a 7x7 AoE centered on the player. Rename to Dazzling Flash. This is implemented in-branch.

Searing Ray

Instead of fixing a direction, fix a target. The ray always fires for max range and the same damage amount (chose the per beam damage to try to make the old and new distributions line up) for each beam in the direction of the fixed target (updating targeting as the target moves), like a homing missile. Another minmay suggestion.


Battlesphere and Servitor

The reduction in single target spells nerfs these two spells. Battlesphere+Magic Dart the iconic duo remains, but the list of possible Servitor spells is cut down quite a bit. Battlesphere is probably ok in this future. Servitor is probably best changed to take the player's single highest level reasonable Servitor spell (altering ones spell list to improve the performance of a Servitor isn't really an interesting decision as the "best" servitor spells are quite clear). Servitor might fit better as Earth/Summoning since most of the available spells are now Earth themed...


This revision is focused on direct attack spells, so the rest of necromancy will be ignored for because Necro is a big hodgepodge of damage, allies, and debuffs.

For attack spells, Pain is single target, but because it checks MR is rather different from other direct damage ranged options. Vamp Draining has melee range, which makes position relevant to its use. Agony and Dispel Undead are both single target, but are mechanically very different from other single-target spells and from ranged. Making them range 1 could be interesting, and is something to consider.

Something needs to be done about Corpse Rot: it's strong, but falls into the "too positional" category; using it well is rather luring intensive because it depends on absolute positioning, the positional considerations of other spells are all relative to the player. I don't know what to do here yet, though. CanOfWorms has a good idea.


Bolt of Draining. Necro has plenty of other damage sources and "bolt but black" is on the chopping block.

Changed spells

Agony and Dispel undead

Make these range 1, like Vampiric Draining.

Borg's Vile Clutch

Consider turning into a beam, with range between 3 and 5 (undecided). Penetrates to full range and skips allies like current BVC. The new shape reduces the number of clutchable squares to at most 5 (down from 9), and fits better with Earth's theme. Bonus synergy with Bolt of Magma.

Corpse Rot

CanOfWorms suggestion: Turn it into a 1 turn Ring of Miasma effect. It shouldn't grant immunity so the player has to commit to staying in place (or walking through miasma). Possibly add some noise on cast to make it attract monsters?

ebering addition: make it Necromancy/Air since a ring of clouds (even short lived and trapping) is pretty strong.

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