Early in the stages of Ultimate ADOM design & development we started adopting the “Your dungeon, your rules” moniker for the game. Roguelike games for me always have been about randomness, endless options and the chance to continue new hidden features even after decades of playing. Procedural generation of things obviously plays into this. Another central theme here is having a large variety of items in the game allowing ever more combinations of things to generate new effects or invent new tricks.

For Ultimate ADOM we decided to push this to the limit by introducing the ability to actually animate unliving things turning them into living beings. Kind of like golem crafting only different because it allows you to side-step smithing sentient swords by “simply” animating a mighty sword you found. If you then manage to turn it into a friend you might have a truly strange but powerful companion. A little like a certain black soul-drinking sword, just in better.

Then we thought “But why stop at items?”. Being able to animate anything that is unliving could make for various exciting tactical battlefield transformations. Imagine animating the walls of a room and charming them to attack the dragon that is giving you a beating. Or animating a door and scaring it in order to bypass a lock you failed to pick. Or animating an altar to have a travelling companion allowing you to seek spiritual communion if the need arises during your trip. Or animating a fireball trap and shooing into a horde of orcs and so on. The possibilities are endless.

Currently we plan different approaches for allowing you to gain the ability to animate things in Ultimate ADOM: Caverns of Chaos. There are going to be spells to that effect (Animate Object to animate a single inanimate thing and Wave of Life to animate basically anything in a certain radius). These will come at a price but most likely prove to be handy part of the toolkit for an aspiring wizard. Then we certainly are going to have an artifact or two hidden somewhere in the dungeon allowing less magical classes to partake in the joy of creating life. Finally we probably will see a couple of random limited-use items providing access to these powers. We will be working hard to make some of these options available at reasonably early stages of the game as it just wouldn’t make sense to hide such a fun feature so that but 1% of our players can utilize it.

Another aspect playing into the fun of this feature is what we call grafting. A later blog post will elaborate this feature but briefly summarized it allows collecting amputated body parts and then using alien magics to graft them to your (or someone else’s) body. Effectively allowing you to gain extra abilities (like a third arm to wield more weapons or spider spinnerets to be able to generate webs). Now imagine combining the powers of grafting and animation… animating eternium full plate armor and then grafting a fire-breathing red dragon head to it. Or adding ghoul arms to your hovering sword of sharpness (which would bestow the ghouls paralytic tough ability to the sword and in consequence would allow it to first paralyze and then slice apart victims).

Yet another interesting tactical variation is to animate items that in turn can be activated e.g. by magical pulses you (or something else) emits. Imagine animating a fire ruby (which explodes in a fireball when activated), sending it into a den of monsters and then activating it with a targetted magical pulse (bingo, remote-controlled magical claymore mine invented). Or move it closer to giants crossing an icy surface, activate it for a nice explosion (which probably wouldn’t be powerful enough to seriously harm the giants) but melts the ice beneath the feet of the giants sending them into the water. You in theory could do that directly with some fire spell… but it probably would force to move you closer than you like bringing you into the deadly range of hurled giant rocks. Thus it might be smarter to send someone else towards the giants (cannon fodder anyone?).

Getting back to some technical aspects: What happens when you animate something:

  • First of all it is turned into a living being which allows it to act (probably every turn, depending on its speed).
  • Second it generates all kinds of attributes for the item in question (Strength, Mana, Dexterity, Toughness, DV, PB, Hit Points, …). Usually these attributes are derived primarily from the material an item is made from but obviously item bonus modifiers also will apply to the item itself. Obviously tougher material will create tougher beings. Size also plays into this so that an animated wall obviously will have quite different statistics than an animated small rock.
  • Finally the item might become enabled to utilize its own powers (a ring of regeneration healing itself, a wand zapping itself with kamikaze like fury for certain effects) or newly gained powers (e.g. animated items usually get a new bash attack so that non-weapon items are not completely harmless).
  • Usually items will be neutral towards to you but circumstances might change this.

Some things had to be changed from the way they work in ADOM in order to not make this feature completely overpowering. E.g. altars now work differently in that they basically consist of two parts: The altar block and a sport of hallowed ground. You need to stand on the hallowed ground in order to do what you could do with altars in ADOM – but this will only work if an altar is nearby. Otherwise the hallowed ground becomes ineffective. As you will be able to bless (whatever that means for your particular religion) ground, a mobile animated altar allows for interesting situations but won’t be a totally overpowering companion as insta-sacrificing everything nearby wouldn’t work (out of the box).

As a final side note I should mention that we already had quite a bit of fun and surprises testing this features. E.g. early on we animated a closed door – and then moved into it triggering the “open door” interaction. The now living door was opened – and technically (internally) transformed into a different type of entity – an open door. Due to a bug in the code it lost its animated status. So we have found a creative but unintended way of “killing” an animated closed door.

This concludes our outlook on our nice “animate inanimate things” feature. We hope you will have as much fun playing with this as we had building it as soon as Ultimate ADOM: Caverns of Chaos releases.