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Author Topic: Some maybe contrarian opinions on master traits  (Read 293 times)

iainuki

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Some maybe contrarian opinions on master traits
« on: June 14, 2020, 02:39 »

DoomRL's difficulty is enormously tilted to the early game.  This isn't unusual among roguelikes, Nethack and Angband are both other roguelikes I've played with the same characteristic, but DoomRL takes it farther than either of those games.  A character that survives Phobos Anomaly can usually win the game, and one that survives the Cyberdemon is almost certain to, IME.  Because of this, the best choices for the early game are whatever keeps you alive longest.  The game gets easier the farther you go, so even choices that aren't optimal for the late game make sense because you don't need late-game power as much as early-game power.  You can't take a master trait until the mid-game, which automatically means that master traits don't help during the hardest part of the game.  Because of their blocks and requirements, though, they can hurt during the early game, if the master trait you want hurts your early-game survival chances.

Because of this, I evaluate a lot of the master traits differently than some other commentary I've seen, and I'm not convinced that masterless builds aren't straight up better than most of the master traits.

I group the master traits into three rough categories, master traits that don't hurt your early game through requirements or blocks (whether a master trait is any good itself), bad traits with bad blocks and requirements (never useful, don't take these), and good traits with bad blocks and requirements (the hard cases).  To explain which master traits are in which categories though I first need to briefly cover what other traits are good and bad, and those too fall into three rough categories, good for the early game, situationally useful in the early game, and not early game material.

Good Early-Game Traits

  • Intuition: IMO the strongest trait in the game, knowing where enemies are is tremendously powerful for shooting them without getting shot back.
  • Hellrunner: Faster movement reduces the chance of being shot when moving into the sight range of an enemy before you can act, lets you kite enemies and close to melee, and on Nightmare! reduces the speed with which corpses respawn.  Hellrunner also gives a direct defensive benefit for dodges as well.
  • Son of a Bitch: The only direct damage trait for shotguns and rapid-fire weapons.
  • Finesse

Traits Situationally Useful in the Early Game

Most of these traits are only good for characters specializing in a particular type of weapons, and that type of weapon is usually obvious.

  • Brute and Berserker: Melee is the weakest early game weapon, but going berserk from taking lots of damage in one hit is surprisingly useful even for characters who don't use melee as their primary damage source.  Brute and Berserker are typically both needed to do enough damage to make up for getting punched in the face repeatedly.
  • Son of a Gun and Dual Gunner: Pistols are also weak in the early game, and only the huge bonuses from these traits make them viable.
  • Reloader and Shottyman: Only shotguns and rocket launchers need to be reloaded often enough for Reloader to pay off, but it's perfectly possible to use shotguns and rocket launchers without these traits, shell and rocket boxes exist.
  • Eagle Eye: Only rapid-fire weapons really need this trait, though pistols, melee attacks, and most importantly rocket launchers also benefit.  As the prerequisite for Intuition this is also important for all marines and technicians, though unfortunately they may not be able to afford it in the early game.
  • Triggerhappy: Useful for rapid-fire weapons but often a lower priority than Son of a Bitch, Eagle Eye, and Finesse.

Traits Not Useful in the Early Game (or Ever)

Offense is more important early than defense because you can prevent damage with better tactics, so most of the defensive traits end up here.

  • Whizkid: is a great trait but only useful after you get enough modpacks to power it.
  • Juggler: is good for any character who uses multiple different weapons, but usually you don't have enough choices for it to matter until the midgame.
  • Dodgemaster
  • Ironman
  • Tough as Nails and Badass: Badass's knockback reduction is useful for melee characters but isn't a priority even for them.

Master Traits with Good Prerequisites and Blocks

Some of these traits are good, some of them aren't, but they're all playable in a way that other master traits aren't.  The good master traits are considerably better than other traits, and the not-so-good ones still might be worth taking depending on what other traits are available, angel-of challenges you're undertaking, weapons you've found, and so on.  One important note is that the melee and pistol master traits all have weak early games if you aim straight for them.

  • Blademaster: Hellrunner, Brute, and Berserker are the traits that all melee characters want ASAP.  The blocks prevent you from using pistols or rapid-fire weapons well, but shotguns are the best early-game weapon anyways and shotguns plus melee in the endgame is fine.  The free attack after a kill is good but not great.
  • Malicious Blades: Finesse, Hellrunner, and Dodgemaster are good for most characters, and Brute is something all melee characters want.  Son of a Bitch, Reloader, and Son of a Gun are all unblocked so rapid-fire, shotguns, and pistols are all viable.  Losing Eagle Eye hurts rapid-fire and (to a lesser extent) pistols, but weapon choice and mods can mitigate that.  The biggest costs are losing Intuition and Berserker.  The double attack partly makes up for the loss of Berserker, and the resistances are the best part of the trait and useful whether you're attacking in melee or not.
  • Gun Kata: The only painful block is Son of a Bitch, and given you're putting up with pistols in the early game anyways, the only real diversion is Dodgemaster.  The benefits however are situational enough to not be that powerful.
  • Shottyhead: Not having access to Son of a Bitch hurts shotguns and Juggler doesn't do much early on, but the firing speed reduction is a solid bonus.
  • Fireangel: Again, blocking Son of a Bitch is a significant downside for shotguns.  Losing Eagle Eye doesn't matter for a character who only uses shotguns but forecloses Intuition, and limits rapid-fire weapons and rocket launchers as secondary weapon options.
  • Cateye: Cateye and Intuition are some of the best traits in the game, Son of a Bitch is good, and Triggerhappy is useful for rapidfire builds.  The only real downside is that it blocks Reloader and through it Shottyman, which hurts but doesn't foreclose shotguns.
  • Scavenger: Eagle Eye, Intuition, and Whizkid are all good traits though only Intuition is really strong in the early game.  While blocking Berserker makes melee nonviable, it's possible to use pistols and rapid-fire weapons without Dualgunner or Triggerhappy.  How much benefit you get from Scavenger depends a lot on how much luck you have with finding unique and exotic weapons and what modpacks you get from them, ranging from multiple nano modpacks to virtually no modpacks at all.

Bad Master Traits with Bad Prerequisites and Blocks

I don't know if I could justify taking any of these master traits.

  • Bullet Dance: This trait has an awful combination of antisynergizing requirements and blocks.  Rapid-fire weapons and pistols fill the same role, single-target DPS at range, so you don't get a viable two-weapon style out of taking traits for both weapon types.  Son of a Gun 3 is much better for pistols than Son of a Bitch because the attack bonus increases with every level of Son of a Gun.  Triggerhappy does nothing for pistols without this trait, and you can get more shots per second more efficiently by taking Son of a Gun or Finesse.  To add insult to injury, it also blocks Hellrunner and Eagle Eye.  Losing Eagle Eye in particular hurts both pistols and rapid-fire weapons and blocks Intuition.
  • Entrenchment: Tough as Nails 2 and Badass 1 are more or less dead traits, particularly for a non-melee character, and having Finesse blocked hurts rapid-fire weapons and all other weapons too.  Meanwhile, the limitations on chain fire are crippling: it only works on monsters in LoS, it stops when you run out of ammo or get knocked back, and it takes three turns to ramp up to the boost in damage output.
  • Survivalist: This trait has a toxic combination of bad prerequisites and awful blocks.  Missing out on Hellrunner and Son of a Bitch hurts almost all possible characters, and missing out on Berserker means no melee.  The prerequisites are all defensive, and Badass in particular isn't even good at that.  Finally, the benefit is entirely defensive and only okay at that.

Good Master Traits with Bad Prerequisites and Blocks

Some of these traits are considered good, and in specific circumstances they are, but they also have major downsides.  I've never managed to get some of them to work, and others only seem useful in particular challenges.

  • Sharpshooter: Aside from the general weakness of pistol traits early, Sharpshooter's required Eagle Eye 3 is excessive given the base accuracy of pistols.  None of the bans are too awful: obviously losing Dualgunner hurts any pistol build, but it's not essential for pistols, and Son of a Bitch is only mandatory for rapid-fire weapons, which pistols can comfortably replace.  The increased damage and decreased variance from Sharpshooter's ability is quite good, and having to take Eagle Eye 3 does have the silver lining of opening up Intuition.
  • Vampyre: Vampyre only requires one dead trait, Badass 1, since marines don't need the Tough as Nails requirement.  However, the Hellrunner block really hurts all low-level melee characters, and the Eagle Eye and Son of a Bitch bans hurt all non-melee alternatives as well as banning Intuition.  That said, Vampyre offers the best defensive ability for any trait. 
  • Army of the Dead: Like Vampyre, Army of the Dead requires only one dead trait.  The traits it blocks, though, are strong choices for every character: Finesse and thus Juggler and Whizkid, Eagle Eye and thus Intuition, and Hellrunner.  Notably, it's the only shotgun master trait that doesn't block Son of a Bitch, and none of them foreclose melee, pistols, or rapid-fire weapons as secondary choices.  Meanwhile, Army of the Dead's makes shotguns do significantly more damage to heavily-armored enemies, which is useful against many late-game monsters but not as valuable early on.
  • Ammochain: Ammochain has two problems, antisynergizing requirements and the ban on Eagle Eye.  Reloader just doesn't provide much benefit for rapid-fire weapons, and the lack of Eagle Eye increases ammo consumption while decreasing DPS with rapid-fire weapons.
  • Gunrunner: Gunrunner's primary disadvantages are requiring Dodgemaster and Juggler, neither of which are outstanding early, and banning Son of a Bitch, which is the only trait that boosts shotgun damage.  Blocking Whizkid also hurts starting in the midgame.  The extended run duration and ability to fire while moving are quite strong.
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singalen

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Re: Some maybe contrarian opinions on master traits
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2020, 23:50 »

I like the analysis. It's well-structured.
I almost never played melee, so cannot speak of it, but I cannot see a statement I would immediately disagree with.
I also like the idea of optimizing for early game, because this is what people get first impression from. JH design should take this idea into account as well.
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PsihoKekec

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Re: Some maybe contrarian opinions on master traits
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2020, 06:52 »

I always considered that loss of Hellruner and Finesse in Army of Darkness is necessary to not make it too OP.
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Sylph

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Re: Some maybe contrarian opinions on master traits
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2020, 08:04 »

I couldn't disagree more with the notion that juggler is not useful in the early game. Even without stacking shotguns and using mousewheel, it's still one of the very best early game traits.
In fact, considering I usually play on nightmare going for angelics, finesse-juggler is often my beeline at the very start. I totally agree with your opinions about master traits, and more often than not I finish masterless, but juggler, for me, is the prime example of a reason not to go for master traits!
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