Welcome back to Let's Play Angband. This update is brought to you by me being (maybe) (hopefully) forever done with my GREs. If I'm not then I am going to be so sad. Like this: :( It is also brought to you by this delicious Bridgeport Haymaker. I do not usually like extra pale ales but this is like drinking sweet, succulent candy. Bridgeport, what style of beer will you make palatable to me next?

Maybe you missed me. Maybe you didn't (but I bet you totally did). But major thanks to VorpalEdge for keeping the LP going with some content while I was off studying, drinking, crying while studying, studying while drinking, and drinking while crying. I also played some Angband. Did you know that? You might have guessed, because this update is here. It might be a little short, but it's also a quasi-intermission, to help you all determine (once again) the future of Let's Play Angband.

This time, we're going to be inspecting the terrifying prospect of...Angband 3.11. That's right, I decided that it might be time to try out a little upgrade, and see if the user-friendliness of it will make it more likely to finish a game before this LP's one-year anniversary which is coming up in - believe it or not - four months. We've been playing for a long time. Well, not counting the breaks. There have been some good ones of those!

Let's start off with a character type that I haven't graced the LP with yet before: A ranger. Rangers are warrior/mage hybrids, and shoot things real good with their bows (and slings, and whatever else they can get their hands on). Curiously, this makes playing a ranger a bad idea under most circumstances, since being good at ranged weapons completely obviates the need for magic missile and all but the most powerful elemental bolt spells (which a ranger will never be able to cast reliably anyway). Half-elves make the best rangers, because they get small INT and DEX bonuses and have a very low (+10%) experience modifier to go with the ranger's enormous (+35%) one.

There are some things that are immediately obvious about Dr. Awesome. First, he has a great name. Secondly, his secondary stats are all now explained in an incredibly useful way and thirdly, are much, much lower than they were in the 3.0.x line. In particular it's now easy to understand what Searching and Disarming do; Dr. Awesome has a 1-in-3 chance of disarming a trap or finding a door in a single turn when performing the relevant action, and a 1-in-23 chance of finding a trap or secret door when moving. Saving throw is gravy.

Half elves also appear to have more infravision in the new version. I swear it used to only be one useless tile (10ft).

The town seems unchanged. That's an encouraging sign. If there was an inn or somewhere to get quests or a real estate office or a bookstore or something I would absolutely flip my shit after what happened last time. I would probably flip out so hard that I would make a completely retarded joke about ninjas here. Far eastern assassins are so wacky! Ha ha ha! I apologize and also please kill me.

There are also a plethora of new game options but none of them really matter, except for two because I think I mentioned them earlier; randarts (random artifacts) is no longer an alpha feature and smart monsters is still broken (as it has been since it was introduced in 2.8).

Let's check out our inventory. The obvious first thing is that all torches now automatically come with their maximum light allotment (5000 turns) and there's a scroll of Recall in our possession! That's new for rangers, which typically come with the standard food, light, first spellbook, some arrows, and.. equipment, which is suspiciously missing. Careful viewers will also notice the total burden/carrying % at the top, which is not as useful as you'd think outside of juggling equipment before going into the dungeon, or possibly in the very late game.

Checking equipment, we find that it's already been put on! What is this crazy world we live in, where equipment slots are already full upon creating a character, even the torch? We can just take that off for now, since running around town to build up equipment at the start of the game is just going to burn turns off. That, and I'm a terrible miser.

Because the ranger is a new class, I should explain a little bit about how the 'hybrid' classes (ranger and paladin) work. They function in nearly identical ways to the mage and priest, respectively, but are much better at combat (rangers with ranged weapons, paladins with hitting stuff real good) and learn spells slower and, of course, can't learn the most powerful spells out there. The interesting thing about the ranger is that it's sort of a compromise between the slow-learning support-only rogue and the magic-intensive mage; like I said rangers don't really need attack magic and are better served by learning a bunch of support magic like teleportation, identify, remove poison, and the like. Rangers and rogues are possibly the most balanced classes of the game to play as a result.

Let's head into the dungeon!

This is new too. What do you mean, a level feeling that I can understand in some way? It'll turn out that there are finer gradations of level feelings as well, which give much nicer clues about what you should be looking for, but of course still aren't perfect. I honestly like the new level feelings quite a lot.

Another feature new to 3.11 is that the game is actual proper ASCII now, with correctly sized tiles and everything. # are your standard walls and % indicates something you might want to tunnel through (dark grey is magma, which you can dig through relatively quickly, and white is granite, which is not so smart to go through unless you know there's something good at the other end).

The first levelup comes relatively quickly. I think the experience tables might have been rebalanced a little for the lower floors as well, because I don't ever remember a ranger gaining a level this fast. I do know, from monster recall (which is coming up, promise) that the new version is a little less crazy over fractional amounts of experience.

But perhaps the most welcome change in 3.11 is new dungeon generation code. Long-time readers might be able to determine (by now) that the map seen in the upper right here is unlike anything previously experienced in Angband; it's a little too twisty and folds back on itself in an unexpected way. We'll be seeing more examples of new dungeon generation as time goes on, but suffice to say that I actually enjoy it!

In another encouraging move, Fang is still present and he's just as much of a pushover (or danger, depending) as always. Most curiously there's the new color-coding of relevant information, especially the experience points. In ye olde angband, such a number would be 20.00 or some bizarre fractional number (16.67, etc.) but this version seems to favor rounding to the nearest tenth. I suspect that makes certain computations easier, not to mention more accurate. Getting into why this is the case would require an explanation of the IEEE floating point standard which I am not about to get into right now. I like details, but not that much.

To avoid another inappropriate Gon-style death, here we take potshots at spiders. This allows me to test out the ranger's new shooting capabilities too, and I can tell you straight up: If rangers start out being the class best at bows, I would never dare buy a bow as another class. Arrows connect roughly 60-70% of the time, which I guess is more in line with the new Shooting skill level that new rangers get, but still aggravating compared to the former near-perfect archery skills rangers used to be blessed with from level 1.

Here's something new as well. When I first got this message I immediately checked my inventory to see if the shield had been tagged as {average} as it should have been, and when I noticed that it wasn't, I wrote the inscription myself. What I failed to notice was that now, average pseudo-ID performs an actual ID on an item, meaning that average objects are always recognized for exactly what they are without a scroll of identify! This is very useful for certain tools, like for example, shovels and picks - because their digging modifiers aren't part of what you know intrinsically, and have to be "discovered" by IDing them. One can only hope that 'average' PID takes care of this ugly little issue as well now.

The wicker shield, of course, is also a new item. There's been a smattering of new equipment added to the game, but it was nothing special (to me), so I didn't make much of a note of it. But there are more options for what to buy in town now, especially in the way of armor.

And now, what might be my favorite addition to the new version. Earlier on this floor I got pickpocketed by a novice rogue, who thought that it would be fun to teleport away and only run into me again when I'd almost explored the entire level. But when I killed him, he dropped the money that he had stolen. That's right: Monetary theft is no longer a death sentence for early-game characters, and in particular, Smeagol is now only a serious problem if he steals from you and you then leave the floor.

This, by the way, is what a fully-mapped level looks like now. In particular, note the center-north block; it looks like a big mass of walls because that's a maze of twisty little passages (all alike) that don't connect to any large rooms. This, again, is a feature of the new dungeon generation algorithm.

Here's something interesting. I fully explored the floor before this one, but still got an "uncertain" level feeling; the game may now randomly generate these to discourage scumming. That's both kind of a dick move (any successful game is going to involve scumming, and this interrupts the flow of it) and something I appreciate (angband should not be about scumming).

Another neat new feature is finding stacks of items on the dungeon floor. This, believe it or not, also helps somewhat in casually IDing an item; bad potions (and scrolls) are more likely to show up in a huge stack, while more useful items will show up in smaller stacks. This appears to help with determining what to sell-ID, and, more importantly.. what to use-ID. As we'll see later, use-ID is actually a viable strategy in the lower floors of Angband now, although still dangerous when used casually.

So, two things; first of all, this level feeling is a total lie. An ego item at 50' is not a "little" luck - that's a huge boon. And secondly, you'll notice that the item isn't just tagged as {good} as it would be in previous versions; no, now Angband has several levels of pseudo-ID tagging, with {magical} indicating regular enchantment and.. who knows what signifies curses or artifacts. {magical} indicates items with negative enchantments as well, which may or may not be cursed. I never put one on to check.

The dagger, by the way, turns out to be fire-branded. A low-weight weapon with a 3x damage multiplier for most monsters? Score! This is a great thing to get.

I mentioned, long ago, that they rebalanced 3.11 to give depth to traps - but curiously, trapdoors remain one of those traps which show up early in the game. This is terrible, because they're probably the single most dangerous traps, although you can recover from them; they do massive falling damage and, of course, dump you in the middle of a dungeon level that you might not even be prepared to explore yet. Fortunately, Dr. Awesome is well-prepared for a slog through L3, or 150 feet.

By the way, I think that we're now at a point in the LP where I feel comfortable referring to dungeon levels in feet, instead of as a number. Every dungeon level represents 50' - so floor 6 is 300', 10 is 500', and so on. This will probably help with some of the confusion between dungeon level and player level, which I hate and which occasionally gets even me.

Curative potions also now heal a percentage instead of a fixed number of hit points. Plus, for players who are fucking crazy enough to attempt a no-rations game (yes, they exist) the amount of nourishment a potion provides is listed now as well.

Several types of mushroom have also been rolled into one ubermushroom that is kind of amazing, really. It's even better, because mushrooms (and all food, in fact) are one of those classes of item that tends to come in stacks.

I'll explain the next several screenshots at the bottom of them. This, for my money, is the coolest new feature.

First, Dr. Awesome has cast our old friend detect doors/stairs. This sets off the green DTrap indicator on the bottom of the screen, which at first confused me, and then I realized: That means that this area is safe from traps. That is awesome. But things get even better; as Dr. Awesome approaches the south, the DTrap indicator goes yellow, indicating that he's approaching uncharted territory and better be careful. And finally, when he steps on the other side of those green dots - that indicates that he's out on his own now.

That's right: The game now keeps track of the areas you've cast spells to detect traps and doors. This means that you'll never cast it twice on the same screen. To me, that's both an awesome and useful feature and something of a slick bit of programming. Adding this would have taken a number of nontrivial changes to the Angband source.

It even keeps track of your temporary resistances!

It also appears that you can sell bad, but uncursed, equipment now. That's a significant change.

Alright, time for a lesson in why use-ID is still bad. First of all, in my game, I wasn't as afraid (as usual) to use-ID items; worst that could happen was that my temporary character I was using to explore the wonderful world of 3.11 would bite it. So Dr. Awesome takes aim with an unidentified wand, and it turns out to be clone monster. I know I mentioned in the past that some players will intentionally summon and clone weak monsters to farm experience, but this is a bad situation: Dr. Awesome is not capable of taking on two large kobolds right now, even at full health.

The result is, as ever, predictable. However the death screen looks a little.. new! All the oldschool options are there but presented in a fancy new interface, which makes things easier to handle. Also, there's some (very convenient) spoiler generation, which I believe just dumps the spoiler information for things you've uncovered so far over this character's lifespan. I decided to investigate the un-ID'd equipment that was being carted around, and found this:

That is wicked crazy useful. Rings of Teleport were already items you put on in an emergency, but a speed bonus makes it even better! In fact, I bet that if a ring of teleport were generated with a +5 speed bonus it would never leave the equipment roster (well, okay, maybe it would).

That's all for this update of Let's Play Angband! It's nice to be back.

Question time! (just like they have in Parliament (and/or Funkadelic)) What character should I roll up next? You guys get to decide again, because you've seen, by now, almost all of the early game mechanics. And, although it might take longer between updates, do you guys want me to start skipping all the early-early game stuff so that we can move beyond well-charted territory?

There's also the question of which version of Angband do I play: Oldschool vanilla, or new fancy french vanilla? I'm alright with either one, but you, the audience, get to decide!

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