Kerkerkruip discussions

In reply to posts here, my take on grenades:

  • The fragmentation grenade is one of the better items in the game. Throw it at an enemy with full concentration who is attacking you, and you are almost guaranteed to break his/her/its concentration. (Yes, grenades can be thrown as a reaction.) Throw the grenade when you are fighting a group of enemies, and you’ll damage all of them and break their concentration.
  • The flash grenade is not useful enough. I’m afraid that if you can throw it into adjacent rooms, it may become too useful, so some kind of balancing measure might be needed.
  • The rust grenade is somewhat useful, especially once you have found a good non-iron weapon.
  • The smoke grenade is useful if you have any of the smoke-related items (smoky robe, smoky blade), but rather useless otherwise.
  • The blessed grenade is awesome against undead.

Looking at this list, I’m not sure that the problems that there are would be solved by the ability to throw grenades into adjacent rooms. The fragmentation grenade and the blessed grenade are already powerful enough. Rust and smoke grenades wouldn’t be improved but the ability to throw them into other rooms. (They probably should be improved by adding more content that is sensitive to smoke or rust/rust spores.) Only the flash grenade would be improved by this proposal, but it might be improved too much.

That doesn’t mean I’m against the proposal, though it would need to be balanced carefully. One way to balance it would be to not give the ability to the player at all times, but only when she has readied a special weapon, the “grenade launcher”.

The flash grenade probably needs some work irrespective of whether we implement grenade throwing or not. What about this: the flash grenade only blinds people temporarily. This makes it a good item for covering your escape, but doesn’t cripple you or your enemies for the rest of the game. (This would also balance the flash grenade if we do decide to let people throw it.)

I will have to try using the frag grenade more as a reaction… and I agree that the flash grenade needs work regardless of what happens.

I really dislike the idea of a grenade launcher. Sneaking around with the cloak, or using your free instant retreat, and then throwing grenades to an adjacent room (or into a portal) just seems like an obvious strategy to me. Perhaps all grenade throwing should be targeted, so that normal use would require you to throw grenades at specific people to get their maximum effect. Throwing from an adjacent room would mean you couldn’t target a particular person, reducing their effectiveness, possibly to the extent that you might not cause any damage, while still attracting their attention.

I have also always thought that Metastasio’s hat should do more than simply help you retreat… perhaps if my previous idea was implemented, the hat would allow you to throw grenades with maximum effect even to an adjacent room.

OK, sounds good, with several dials that can be used to balance things out. I’m interested to see what you come up with!

(Apologies for any spelling errors that may crop up – my glasses broke in half today, so I’m inconveniently located with my nose almost touching the screen.)

For version 6 of Kerkerkruip, I want to improve an element of the game that needs improving: statistics. How often do you even check what your dexterity, perception and willpower are? Never, that’s how often, and the only time you’ll be conscious of any of them is when you are battling the mind slug and he is getting your willpower dangerously low. There are a few other situations where statistics play a role (attacking in the Hall of Mirrors, ducking under the chain golem’s chains, and so on), but it doesn’t add up to a compelling part of the game. I have some plans for changing that, which I’d like to share with you. I’m grateful for any comments.

Here is the basic plan:

  1. The statistics will vary a little more at character generation.
  2. Whenever you absorb a soul, you will be asked which statistic you want to increase. The increases are +n for a level n monster, so you can get a total of 1+1+2+2+3+4=13 points of statistics increases. (Of course, these numbers can be tweaked.) You do not lose statistics increases when souls are removed from your body.
  3. Each statistics has one or more noticeable effects. Some possibilities are: (a) willpower gives you a chance to remain concentrated when you are hit; (b) perception sometimes allows you to identify a scroll before reading it, leading to a y/n prompt whether you really want to read it; © perception allows you to find more objects in the dungeon; (d) dexterity improves your chances of a critical hit, i.e., rolling 20 on your attack roll. More ideas are of course welcome. All of the underlying checks would be silent, since we don’t want to fill the screen with statistics checks; but the difference between 5, 10 or 15 points in a statistic would be very noticeable.
  4. All powers – the special skills you receive from monsters – will depend on one or more of the statistics. For instance, the pierce ability given by the swarm of daggers might depend on both perception (probability of hitting) and willpower (probability of remaining concentrated). The dominate power will scale directly with willpower. The lash power will allow you to hit first or not depending on your dexterity. Again, these checks would be silent, but differences of several points in a statistic would be noticeable in play. Furthermore, the dependence of each skill on the statistics would be explained in the help menu.
  5. More environmental features involve explicit or implicit statistics checks.

This should lead to at least the following:

  • Statistics matter. A high willpower character plays differently from a high dexterity character. What is a huge challenge for one may be easy for the other; what may be a great skill or piece of equipment for one may be nearly useless for the other.
  • A new dimension of strategic planning is opened. You see that the swarm of daggers is in the dungeon, and you want to pierce Malygris, to break his concentration. This means that from the beginning of the game, you should start putting all your points in dexterity, because you’ll need very high dexterity to use that skill against Malygris. Of course, this also means that you should keep the swarm of daggers alive until you are ready to take on Malygris, so that you won’t lose its power.

What do you think?

Re: Plans for making stats more important to gameplay

I’m all for this. I particularly like the implications for longer-term strategic planning.

One thing that does nag at me a bit: the cumulative nature of stat upgrades that you seem to be planning. The Kerkerkruip design has always impressed me by not falling into the typical RPG trap of stat progression: rather than make the player character “interesting” via increasing bonuses*, Kerkerkruip has always required the player to balance positive and negative effects of any tactic or strategy. I feel like cumulative stat upgrades could potentially work against this design. Or not. This is really just a call to think through the consequences. In practice, things may well balance out. For example: I have killed the chain golem and the daggers. Do I now fight the flesh bomb or sneak on by to look for a level 3 creature to tackle? If I fight the flesh bomb and win, I will lose both the pierce and lash powers, but I will at least gain the explode power and another +2 to my willpower.

I’m not sure that I like the idea of all of these checks being completely silent. Surely if my dexterity gives me a bonus or penalty to my to-hit score, I should see that reflected in the summary of the roll? Other checks, such as probability of identifying a scroll, could certainly be silent, but anything that affects the core gameplay (combat) ought to be explicit. (Random further comment on explicit checks: I’d like to see the check for the explode power on death be explicit. If the player doesn’t see any “you failed to explode” text at the end of the game, he is left wondering why the power didn’t work–is the game buggy?)

Also, if the stats are to be more important during play, it would probably be best if the STATUS command were automatically called at the outset so that the player can see where he stands.

More tactical mechanics?
While I think the addition of stats will make the game more interesting, I would also love to see more options for combat at the tactical level. Right now, the major tactical focus is the concentration mechanic. I would love to see options expanded so that there is a bit more variety in combat moment to moment. I have no particular ideas about what that might look like, but I wanted to register my desire to see more variability here.

Potential contribution
I have almost zero time for this sort of thing right now, but even so I am considering adding an animated title page (a la this) that would display on graphics-capable interpreters. Would that be a welcome contribution?


*As the player’s stats increase in a typical RPG, the game either gets easier the longer we play it (wouldn’t it be more if it got harder?!), or we have to increase the stats of enemies concomitantly, which means that we have no more interesting decisions to make than we had before (e.g., now we have bigger orcs that we fight in the same way as we fought their smaller kin). I feel like Kerkerkruip right now pretty much completely avoids this trap.

I see your point. The way I’m thinking about it, there would be two kinds of effects: (1) some challenges will just become easier as your statistics increase; (2) others will scale up with you, since you are fighting tougher monsters.

This is basically the way the game works already. As you become tougher, some of the challenges become simply easier – for instance, killing the undead that may jump out of the sarcophagus, or the rotting corpse that may come out of the pile of human body parts, or the thieving imp. But other challenges remain roughly equal, namely, killing the next monster – since the next monster becomes tougher at roughly the same rate as the player. In itself, that give a nice balance of a feeling of progression and not having the game become trivial. But more is needed to make it interesting. The powers mechanics ensures that the player is always tempted to take on monsters that are slightly above her own current strength, because if she doesn’t, she won;t be able to rise to the strength needed to take on Malygris.

Statistics would get their interest in another way, namely through the mechanic of having to divide your points over three of them. You’ll need to increase each statistic in order to scale your powers and prowess up with the monsters – for instance, a dexterity-dependent power won’t do much against Malygris is you’re still at dexterity 4. But you can’t increase all of them sufficiently, so you’ll either have to accept that your stats are mediocre by the end of the game, or you need to specialise and accept some weaknesses in order to gain other strengths.

Of course, this only works if the stats have an obvious influence on the game, and if they are well-balanced. (I.e., it shouldn’t be the case that dexterity is always better than willpower. It should depend on which powers you want to use, which enemies you’ll meet in which circumstances, which items you find, and so on.)

Good points.

You should always explode. If you do not, it is a bug. (If you die because of an attack, that is – you don’t explode if you fall from the staircase or kill yourself with a fragmentation grenade.)

Yes, though only if the stats vary much for starting characters.

One final thought: I tried to couple some of the powers to statistics, and found that dexterity, perception and willpower together don’t cover enough terrain. This is not surprise, since they weren’t invented for this purpose, but it may be a problem now. So I’m thinking of changing them to something else – maybe body, mind and spirit? That might fight well with the game’s soul-based cosmology.

I’m open to suggestions, of course. :slight_smile:

That would be absolutely fantastic. I love it.

That all sounds good. To my mind, increasing stats and distributing points between stats are not interesting mechanisms in themselves; it’s the degree to which they are embedded in other systems that provides the potential for interesting choices–and I see a lot of potential in your description. (But re the undead in the sarcophagus and body parts: I’ve given up on triggering them–I’ve never gotten any loot from those spots, and I find those battles are the least interesting in the game. Never encountered the thieving imp.)

I’m 99% sure that one of my recent deaths was bugged then. I was killed by Fafhrd and didn’t explode. (The 1% uncertainty is that, despite looking forward to my first self-immolation for many turns, I am not absolutely certain that I didn’t lose power of the bomb before dying.)

Speaking of buggy deaths: dying during a reaction where you’ve used the lash power results in a weird death message–that you’ve committed suicide, despite your having been run through by Malygris’s loathsome little dagger.

Yes–I was suggesting this as a follow-on to point 1 of your plan for amping the importance of statistics.

That sounds good. I’ve been kicking around an idea for a somewhat different sort of dungeon crawler that bases its stats on the multipartite Aztec model of the soul:

[spoiler]In addition to birth rituals and the fortune of birthday day-signs, Aztecs bodies also contained three forces that controlled an individual’s vigor, vitality and passions. The Aztecs associated each of these forces with a particular organ. ‘Tonalli’ derives from ‘tona’, a word that means “heat” and is associated with the sun, the sun’s warmth, and individual destinies. The tonalli was located in the head, and the Aztecs believed that creator deities placed the tonalli in an individual’s body before birth. This vital force regulated a person’s growth, body temperature and liveliness, and each person’s tonalli differed according to his or her status, age, and experience. Interestingly, tonalli could leave the body through dreams, ritual hallucinogenic experiences, or fright. At death, the tonalli continued to reside in the individual’s earthly remains.

The ‘teyolia’ (from ‘yollotl’, heart) resided in the heart and was the seat of a person’s knowledge and vitality. In contrast to tonalli, teyolia separated from the body at the time of death and continued into the individual’s afterlife. The posthumous destiny of teyolia depended upon the type of death a person suffered. The third vital force, ‘ihiyotl’ (breath) controlled an individual’s emotions, desires and passions. Of the three forces, ihiyotl is the most mysterious. Perhaps its mystery stems from a lack of ethnohistoric descriptions of its significance and functions, but ihiyotl seems to have been visualized as “a luminous gas that had qualities of influencing other beings, in particular attracting them toward the person” (López Austin 234). These three vital forces and their connections with body organs characterize the ways in which Aztec understandings of the body interwove physiological and cosmological concepts.[/spoiler]
…which is even more “soulful”, I suppose.

Great! You wouldn’t still have a layered GIMP/Photoshop file for the cover that would allow me to easily isolate the type from the image, would you?

Victor, I like you recent changes to the mind, body, spirit system.

What if a faculty increase was granted after all deaths? It would provide more of a temptation to fight the level 0 monsters, and if you played well you could get an advantage in the middle of fighting one of the groups by using a bonus in between killing them.

I can see what is good about it – it makes fighting a level 0 monster more rewarding – but there are also two things I don’t like about it. First, the current system is easy to understand: kill a level 1 monster, you get a +1 point increase for a faculty of your choice; kill a level 2 monster, you get a +2 increase; and so on. Giving a point increase for level 0 monsters is harder to explain.

Second, and more importantly: this could lead to infinite rewards. I have been planning a “brood mother” monster for some time now, which would continue to spawn level 0 monsters until she is killed – such a monster would now become a source of infinite faculty increases. In fact, we already have such a monster: the smoke demon, which reappears after it is killed. For a high level player, the optimal strategy would be to kill the smoke demon hundreds of times… neither fun nor balanced.

Perhaps we can work around these problems; but it may be easier to make level 0 monsters more rewarding in some other way.

A quick update about faculties (body, mind, spirit): I have now rewritten the Kerkerkruip code so that it uses these rather that dexterity, willpower and perception. The player can increase them after killing a monster. Each of them grants a bonus that is useful in normal combat situations:

  • Any defender has a BODY * 2% chance of getting a +3 defence bonus when attacked.
  • Anyone who is hit while concentrated has a (MIND * 2 - damage dealt)% chance of remaining concentrated. (This can be increased or decreased by other effects.)
  • Anyone has a SPIRIT * 2.5% chance of getting a random initiative bonus every turn.
  • The probability of getting the special roll of 20 on an attack or skill roll (normal rolls are 1d7 + 1d4 -1, which gives a number between 1 and 10) is no longer a static 1/56. It is now min(BODY, MIND, SPIRIT)%, where ‘min’ is the minimum function. (This can be increased or decreased by other effects.)

So body makes us harder to hit, mind allows us to remain concentrated, spirit makes us faster, and a well-balanced set of faculties allows us to roll 20s more often. This last rule is meant to counterbalance the fact that specialising in a single faculty is better where powers are concerned.

Rewriting all the powers in the game in a such a way that they make use of body, mind and spirit is the next step. This may involve redesigning some of the powers from scratch, because not all of them are much fun. (Especially stun, which is perhaps the poorest design choice in the entire game.)

Victor, do you remember what typeface you used for the cover art? I would like to break the type out from the art so that they can be animated separately, but so far I haven’t been able to figure out what font you’re using.


Erik, sorry, I forgot to check the image. I’ll do it when I get home tonight. (I should still have the gimp files. Even if you don’t use gimp, I should be able to find out what font I used from them.)

No problem, I should be able to use the Gimp files whether in Gimp or translating them to some other format.

By the way, I like the way the stats plan is shaping up. Malygris’s dagger of stat draining suddenly looks far more fearsome…!

The letters at the right hand edge is obviously some digital cut of William Morris’s Troy/Chaucer typeface – an excellent and free version by Dieter Steffmann can be found at

Erik, I believe the font at the right is Kelmscott, and the font at the bottom is Cloister Black. I have added the gimp-file as an attachment. (426 KB)

Perfect. Thanks!

I have redesigned and reimplemented all the level 1 powers. They have all changed quite a lot, so I’d like to share them with you. Here is the new help text:

One thing I hope to have achieved is that all of the powers are now unequivocally useful. In the original Kerkerkruip, I felt I needed to make the powers balanced against the normal conbat options, because otherwise, why would you use the normal options? But this made them feel “mweh”. I for one only ever used a small handful of them. But powers should be cool! They have now been limited in different ways: pierce and scales have a cooldown (and notice that it is not clear that you should use them as soon as possible, for the cooldown is long enough that you do not want to waste them), stunning an enemy that is already stunned comes with a small damage penalty and little gain, and the power of the ape remains passive but is now much more interesting.

The size system is new. Growing bigger has more negative than positive effects… unless you have a large, huge, or gargantuan weapon, in which case it can be very profitable. It is now also more obvious that letting the blood ape grow before you kill it is profitable. (This has always been the case: you get more health from a larger blood ape, and at big sizes you even got attack bonuses. Did anyone ever notice this?)

Does the new blood ape power (at a very high maximum size) make the ape king’s mace useful for longer? I know it used to get kinda useless once it grew past “large” because the penalties for using a weapon of a different size stacked with its inherent penalties. But if you become the right size for it, is that enough of a band-aid that its absurd damage makes it worth using again?

Also, might an unexpectedly enormous player want to just switch to his fists rather than trying to flail away with his now toothpick-sized weapon? I see in the code that the penalty for using a mis-sized weapon is -2 attack penalty for each size difference, which really stings after a while, but I couldn’t find any code for using the knuckles.

Yes. The attack penalties that the spiked mace of the ape king got when it became big have been removed; the only penalty you now get for using it is based on the size difference between you and it. A gargantuan player wielding a gargantuan spiked mace of the ape king will be dealing 1d11+4 basic damage with no real penalties. Which would make it the best weapon in the game. (For a short while…)

Yes, the damage modifier for your fists (and in fact all natural weapons of all creatures) is +1 for large, +2 for huge, and +4 for gargantuan size. And of course, there is never a size difference between you and your fists. (Size difference is not checked for natural weapons.) So a gargantuan player will be able to deal quite a bit of damage with her fists.

Oh yes, I forgot to check if the mace’s definition had been updated. Wouldn’t it actually be 1d11+8 (aka OUCH)? The mace itself appears to be 1d11+4 at blood 11, +4 more for the player ALSO being gargantuan. That would really hurt. Being gargantuan is a pretty bad penalty otherwise though, and the gargantuan mace appears to be still highly dodgeable and not much use for parrying (hard to parry though). And I guess it only works once before becoming too big to swing. Still, a bit of a surprise for Malygris, I should think.

I knew about the size-based damage mod (although it seems to affect all attacks, natural or artificial, except those using size-agnostic weapons like the staff of pain). However, I couldn’t find the damage die for the knuckles, nor could I find rules stating that everyone has knuckles readied if they don’t have something better. Are they in ATTACK rather than the Kerkerkruip-specific code?