Feedback: Transmutation Rework Experimental Branch

(Reposted from @gammafunk’s discord announcement.)

A major rework of transmutations is available for playtesting on CDI.

This moves forms from being spells into new ‘talisman’ items, which can be evoked to enter a form. Many forms have also been changed or replaced. Further details in the PR description:

Try out some transmuters, and see how they feel! Does it feel like you usually find a talisman to switch to by the time your starting form runs out of steam, but not so many talismans that you’re drowning in them? Do you feel like you can switch to a weapon if you find a really sweet one without giving up on your transmuting playstyle entirely? Do some forms feel too strong, too weak, or just too confusing?

Please comment here with your playtesting feedback - the most helpful comments are based on actual experience, not pure theorycrafting.

To play, register and log in at WebTiles - Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup and click Transmutations Rework under experimentals. You can also play on console via SSH on port 22 with user crawl and using the CAO key. The RC file used is that of your trunk RC, so use the trunk edit rc link to change your settings. All games played on CDI are not scored on CAO or Sequell.

5 Thanks

Potions of Lignification are very short lived when in a form; this is likely a bug. (This also appears to apply to badmuts.)

My first feeling is that Beast Talisman feels like starting out with a ring of slay. You’re really strongly incentivized to pick up a weapon and use it; your damage with a +0 hand axe will be higher than your UC damage D1, and you can get the delay down way faster. Finding a not trash weapon makes this difference much more pronounced.

Having entering a form be on eVoke and leaving be an Ability feels very awkward; I don’t have strong opinions about which should be the key but it should be the same key for both.

Screenshot from 2023-07-01 17-59-00
Current messaging for transmutation layering implies that you’ll return to your normal, un-tmut’ed form once porkalator expires. “Your transformation has ended.”

Things that are melded in both forms should not get a message for unmelding and then melding again on the same turn to avoid message spam.

Having a lot of fun so far. Lost a troll to greed and hubris in an ice cave :slight_smile: Anaconda troll in lair feels very different. I had acid dragon scales that were comparable to my anaconda AC bonus, but having less hydra stress was worth choosing it over beast form or blade hands.

Trying on the new lich form that I found way too early to use yet. While in that form, I tried to switch back to my current form.
Screenshot from 2023-07-01 18-55-10
Whoops, I guess I’ll go untransform my undead flesh first then :stuck_out_tongue:

1 Thank

do i have to re-transform myself to get the benefits of a higher level transmutation skill, or does it scale automatically?

Scales automatically; you can see this in beast form if you @ when the slay increases

i dont know if this is intended or not but a particularly devastating thing that can happen is when you transform/switch forms/untransform something offscreen can come into view and kill you with no way to stop it (this just happened to me with a d:6 centaur, i think i was dead by the 3rd turn)

I’ve thrown a few characters into the grinder now- I’ve got to take a break cause I’ve come down with a bad case of tabbrain, but I’ll be back for more later.

My initial impressions re:Beast form still hold, every single char I’ve wanted to swap to a weapon.
Latest char later found Blade form, which made me swap back to UC. I suspect it might need some toning down; it’s way easier to use Blade form than it was to use Blade Hands on the sort of char who would care for Blade Hands, and 9 Tmut is not especially onerous to get a 20+ base dam weapon online.

First thoughts (i.e. i haven’t tried it yet):

  • I would be worried about form power level around the Lair stage. Ice Form could slow cane toads, hydras, and new: stops skyshark berserk.
  • I’m not sure why lichform was re-themed. imo lich is very iconic to dcss; you could have the same abilities and still have it be called “lichform”.
  • Pragmatism: there’s no reason for more than 1 talisman to spawn in the game. However, it can be a feelbad to have an expensive talisman in a shop or portal level (if there’s only 1/game).
  • Presumably the % screen shouldn’t say beast-form (expiring)

The same would apply to Beastly App in current 0.30. Gotta wait until spider/ice in order to transform

Arguably the easiest way to encourage UC would to give claws 1, that’s ghoul level; stronger than short sword / whip at base Tm start. No bonus for Fe or Op, but they don’t get armour slots anyways.

EDIT: Beast Form already has 5 base damage (which is pretty much claws 1)

I played five games, all HuTm. 3 losses and 2 “wins” (the server enters explore mode when you save+quit, so unless you want to watch the whole ttyrec, i can’t prove they are honest wins)

Games were played around commit 2148338; things were adjusted since then

Game 1

Game 1:


  • I didn’t know about the additional UC boost for this game. So I went short blades. Then I got +2 whip of venom, and insta swapped to that.
  • I died due to player error, but I was planning to leave Tmut and go into generic weapons. venom + nemelex is killdudes enough


  • I had ?acq D:2 and !exp pretty early, didn’t use acq until I got a second one; didn’t use !exp at all

Game 2

Game 2:

I accidently went explore mode :frowning: but I swear i didn’t actually die in that game!!

This game I went beast → snake (up by D:8) → dragon (up by S-branches) → storm (obtained Slime:5) without ever feeling the need to switch to weapons.


  • Even beast form UC felt v. strong here. Not sure why. It might be psychological, since there was less lag. Probably because of the great jewellery, but it felt powerful.


  • Got snake talisman on D:2 this run.
  • Anaconda form busted!! Got it running by D:8 (with UC:8). Constriction broken busted, and 12 base damage also very good. Being able to constrict large monsters helps a ton compared to Op constriction.
  • Anaconda form should be able to swim. Anaconda monsters can, other snake monsters can, ice form could.
  • It would be nice if talisman could be in the 'A’bility menu. Would make it easier to look up form stats.


  • Got not 1, but 2 dragon talismans on Lair:3.
  • I got running it by S-branches and smashed through them. Definitely overtuned for this stage of the game.
  • By vaults I felt frail; the form felt balanced, like current dragon form (no way!).
  • Limited slots feels kinda bad? Even though its exact same form, and the exact same restriction
  • “Form is expiring, do you really want to go into deep water?” is annoying This has been fixed


  • Got it from Slime:5
  • Being “single school” makes it a lot easier to get running.
  • It’s still storm form. Really good and now requires less XP.
  • “I forgot I had irradiate”


  • D:1 Ring!prot, D:2 serpent talisman, and D:5 reflect amulet
  • 3 ?acq by Lair. Only used 1, got ring of +10 EV. This ring is probably why Dragon form felt really good. needs another play.
  • You should be able to swap equipment even if it’s melded by a form.
  • Nemelex clone card feelsbad that it only clones your base form
  • FR: Guaranteed (X) talisman in Elf:3 and/or Slime:5 and/or Vaults:5.

Game 3, 4

Game 3:


  • Game 2 wasn’t a fluke. I one-shot multiple (D:1) things in a row with beast form. Essentially troll claws, now that think about it.
  • There’s little incentive to train Tmut until you get a T:2 form
  • I also died again. i’m bad at the game

Game 4 I died to sigmund.

Game 5

Game 5:

again it was set to explore mode… i’m not doing this intentionally

See Index of /crawl/ttyrec/Hordes/ (There is no ttyrec gap between 2023-07-02.10:08:43.ttyrec and 2023-07-02.08:06:45.ttyrec and 2023-07-02.10:16:38.ttyrec. if you want you can watch the whole thing, i dont die)

This game was Beast → Maw (up by Lair:1) → Blade (obtained on Lair:3) → No Form UC (Shoals / Vaults+).


  • You kill the gnoll! 19/22 HP (XL1)
  • Having “sane” access to heavy armour is pretty strong


  • I couldn’t really judge the strength of this one. It felt alright? Not as obviously OP as the other two T2 forms


  • Let’s not pretend 32 base damage for 9 Transmutations is balanced.
  • However, shields are even more broken. I wanted a shield for shoals / vaults, so i switched ASAP.


  • Early +4 ring of protection (again).
  • Nasty vaults from D:8 - D:10, skeleton warriors on D:11, and then Erochla + Psyche on D:12
  • Got banished by Louise and barely survived (by then i swapped out of forms)

I think that picking up talismans could just permamently give you the ability to enter a form, not appearing in your inventory after pickup. That completely removes all effects on inventory pressure and the potential need to track down the locations of different talismans.

It makes sense that forms take time to enter to reduce tedium, but if you would at least be able to quickly end a transformation, that would make forms more distinct from armour, and preserve some of the tactical decisions of froms.

3 Thanks

FYI, the server doesn’t normally enter explore mode when you save and reload. It’s a bug specific to this branch that will get fixed before its merged.

Is it intentional that dragon scale mutations are not suppressed by forms (my iron grey draconian gets +15ac in any form and feels rather powerful). While in terms of fun [i.e. not making species choice redundant] this is cool. It also seems like it maybe wasn’t intentional and like the sort of things evil devs will nerf out of existence the moment they see it XD :hearts:

Image iron-draconian in storm form:

My game: DrTm of Fedhas
Since i had ~12 extra AC almost the entire game I won’t talk about powerlevels [I was very strong I did 5 runes and won on my first attempt] (might play again later and report back).

Availability of talismans felt good. I got Serpent talisman on D9 (storm on D1 but I guess that was simply lucky) and Dragon in Spider. other forms in Elf 3 and death in V5.

Note: I am a big fan of transmutations as they currently exist (my favourite playstyle) so naturally I’ll be critical of any changes :smiley: (still know that i appreciate the work put into this update and the devs working on this in their free time) :

What I liked:

  1. I like how transmutations no longer force you into either air magic, earth magic, or dragon form.
  2. Forms not running out also feels nice (but I miss not having to cast them).
  3. Serpent form is a nice form.
  4. Finding blade talisman next to hall of blades is cool :slight_smile: .

What I disliked (I know some of this is likely intentional and the reason for the changes):

  1. You’re no longer really a spellcaster and thus maybe incentivised to pick strength over int. I liked how transmuters were spellcasters first. Sure other transmutation spells still exist (for now) but imo since int doesn’t help with what the transmuter does 99% of the time it didn’t feel worth it to invest much into it [although idk if that’s actually true].
  2. It taking long to change into removes some tactical elements like getting into spider-form to kill an ogre but reverting back when facing bees.
  3. I know beast form is powerful (it carried me until D9) but imo it sadly doesn’t feel interesting or different from a normal unarmed user. Yes having +x slay makes one more efficient but imo it doesn’t feel like I’m a playing a transmuter. BeastlyAppendage and Wereblood are cooler imo.


  1. Does Trog still hate it if you train transmutations?
  2. Isn’t forms no longer being disspellable is a huge buff for fragile transmuters since dispelling bolts were always one of the biggest threats for transmuters in Zot. (dispelling bolts causing contam or slow or confusion for form users might instead be an option idk)
1 Thank

I’ve played two (incomplete) games, and thought I should share my thoughts. Bear in mind: I don’t normally play transmuters, but occasionally I’ll use a form as part of a hybrid build (ie. Ice mage with Ice Form for meleeing, spider form on an Ogre for emergency EV, etc.)

  1. Beast form seems like it might be too strong right now. Despite playing races with negligible aptitudes (Hu and Og), right from the start I was swinging as fast and accurately as a dagger, but dealing damage on-par with most medium-tier weapons (ie. war-axe/longsword). My first character tried to leverage those perks with a slower (vampiric) weapon, but I learned from that mistake and my second character leaned into unarmed to much better results.
  2. Compared to Beast, Blades felt disapointing. The extra damage on Blades was largely wasted by missing much more often, and the delay on shifting meant that, unlike normal 2-handed weapons, I couldn’t swap to something more suitable when a high EV enemy appeared.
  3. Anaconda felt far superior to both Blades and Beast. The extra defenses were very helpful (previously an Ogre in a robe), and constriction offered similar overall accuracy to Beast’s slay bonus, albeit with the possibility of a couple extra misses up-front.
  4. I really like being able to access forms without the requisite skill. Choosing to (temporarily) lose max HP to gain a form’s other benefits is an interesting strategic trade-off - one which I leveraged to handily take out Amaemon, despite having only 60% of my normal health (Granite was definitely the right choice for that fight.)
  5. Races with extra HP have always seemed to have a bit of an advantage compared to other transmuters, but Ogre Anaconda took that to pretty absurd levels (over 200 HP in Lair.)
  6. The progression for Talismans felt pretty reasonable in both my games: first game found 1 new talisman before Lair, while the second found 2.
  7. The description on the Granite Talisman states that it affects weapon damage, but there aren’t any numbers listed on the item. Anecdotally, it also felt like I was dealing the same amount of damage (though I did switch from Beast to Statue, so maybe losing the slay bonus explains that?)
  8. Despite playing races with decent magic aptitudes (and finding +Int rings), I simply ignored magic. In .30, transmuters at least marginally benefit from Spellcasting/Int, making branching out into other magic more appealing, but it seems like the new transmuter is more of a typical fighter in that regard.
  9. My favorite aspect of transmutations in .30 (and earlier) was making tactical choices about changing forms mid-fight. Shifting to ice form to escape over water, or becoming a spider to try to dodge an ogre’s attacks felt satisfying when they worked out, and were a learning opportunity when they turned into YASD. Slow transformations largely eliminates this, so I expect I’ll treat talismans less like evocables (carry them all, just in case) and more like armor (ignore anything that isn’t an obvious improvement.)
  10. I didn’t find wereblood in either game - if it’s been removed altogether, I mourne the loss. Song of Slaying was always my favorite Charm, both for its flavor and the way it inverts the optimal tactics of DCSS fights (ie. killing popcorn first rather than the biggest threat.)
  11. The 2nd game had a possible bug/issue with level generation: when I entered Elves, it reported that an item generated out of bounds. I immediately saved a character dump and exited, in case having a snapshot of that moment is useful.

1st Morgue:
2nd Morgue: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup version 0.31-a0-230-g2148338c87 (webtiles) character f -

2 Thanks

Some more generalized notes, so I don’t have to keep editing the same post:

  • Right now, I didn’t feel much incentive to train past the minimum skill.

    Beast form is the best example. 1 level in TMut gives you < 1 slay, but 1 level in UC gives you 1 base damage, +0.5 to-hit, and faster attacks. With -2 Tmut aptitudes, that only gets worse. This leads to a situation where, “don’t train TMut → train only Tmut until ~min skill for T2 form → don’t train TMut”.

    I know that is an issue with Transmutations as a whole. The solution seems simple in theory, to increase scaling. You’re getting Snake Form for the 12 + constriction damage, not for some extra AC.

  • If you’re gonna nerf Maw + SBls, it shouldn’t be +Str / -Dex, I’d assume that (a good chunk) of your damage comes from the aux attack, not the SBl itself.

  • Permanent forms should not impact species’ move speed. Snake Form Naga moves at 1.0 delay. Snake Form Spriggan moves at 1.0 delay. Feels extra mean/kind with perma-forms. Might be a balance issue though.

  • Statue Form melee bonus feels kinda sad compared to all the new toys.

  • let snake form swim

I had fun trying out the experimental branch over the weekend. Here are my thoughts based on these three games:



General Feedback:

Overall: Reduced mental burden from not worrying about your forms expiring made the game more enjoyable. Being locked in a form also has the potential for interesting strategic decisions.

Talisman Frequency: Talismans appeared fairly frequently in my three games. I usually could upgrade to the next tier when I was ready, but occasionally had to wait a few floors to find something.

Transmuter Background: Beast form is strong but boring, and the Tm background lacks progression. Since the transmuter playstyle is now isolated from other playstyles, there’s a strong chance that a character who starts as a transmuter will end the game as one.

Gameplay: Transmuter is no longer a hybrid playstyle, so I found my skilling and tactics very similar to a melee character. Since most forms additionally fill weapon/armour/shield slots, there were relatively few strategic decisions to make in the game.

Balance: Since a dedicated transmuter is now strategically and tactically similar to a traditional melee character, I think the damage and defenses of forms will have to be made on par with weapons and armour in order to maintain game balance.

Replayability: A character can use all of dragon/statue/storm/death forms interchangeably with no additional cost. For a dedicated transmuter, the pros and cons of each of these are minor and will largely come down to player preference. If you’ve played one transmuter, you’ve played them all, so to speak.

Minor: Having an explicit skill threshold for activating a talisman with no interaction to stats felt at odds with normal crawl logic.

Other minor: It would be nice if talismans didn’t occupy an inventory space, but not a big deal either way.

Specific feedback on new forms:

Maw: From the description I expected this to heal me on kills, but I never saw the effect happen.

Snake: Strong, but I felt it was a missed opportunity for a more interesting early-mid game form.

Death: Exciting and powerful, but given the lower defenses and permanent no potion drawback it stands out as weaker than the other high end forms.

4 Thanks

I really like the new talismans, however, some of them felt a bit strong.

Beast form felt too good for the first few levels of the dungeon. Requiring little to no investment and merging armour you probably don’t have yet for a large boost to damage.

Maws form didn’t feel like much of an upgrade from beast form, although I only found it early enough to be useful once and that was on an felid transmuter so it might be better with weapons.

Blade and serpent forms where solid upgrades from beast form when unarmed and I was usually able to find at least one of them by the time it was reasonable to get the transmutation to use them.

Granite form wasn’t that good. The time taken to end the transformation made it not worth it to end it when running to stairs or a chokepoint. I am probably biased as I don’t like other slow characters either.

Dragon and storm forms felt a bit to good. They have always been good and the removal of timing out, being dispelled and sometimes using a few magic points to recast in combat made them a bit stronger.

Lich form didn’t end up being useful as I didn’t do extended and the time taken to switch forms was to long for things like curse toes. I liked how this talisman seamed more common than necromutation as I’ve switched to TSO too many times because I didn’t find it.

I also found a few minor bugs when playing.
First: Auto-explore wouldn’t travel above deep water and lava when in a flying form (the fly status was also in blue which usually means it’s temporary).
Second: If you searched for talismans it would show all the duplicates of the same talisman instead of just showing one and telling how many duplicates there are.

Thanks a ton to everyone for the feedback! I’ve already fixed some of the bugs so far and am working on more changes. A few notes:

I think that picking up talismans could just permamently give you the ability to enter a form, not appearing in your inventory after pickup.

A few folks have suggested this. It’s reasonable, but doesn’t work as well if I later add artefact or randart talismans, which I’m still hoping to. My feeling is that inventory pressure shouldn’t be major in most cases, for the same reason that there isn’t much inventory pressure from aux armour - we’ll see how it feels to folks as we get more used to it.

It makes sense that forms take time to enter to reduce tedium, but if you would at least be able to quickly end a transformation, that would make forms more distinct from armour, and preserve some of the tactical decisions of forms.

Another frequent suggestion. I don’t hate it, but I’m not excited by it - it makes the downsides of forms much less significant if you can just leave them. My feeling is that forms already feel very different from armour, so I’m not worried about differentiation there.

Is it intentional that dragon scale mutations are not suppressed by forms?

That’s how things work in trunk; it’s not a change.

Right now, I didn’t feel much incentive to train past the minimum skill.

This is intentional. The goal is to make the main power boost from forms be the exciting part when you become able to use a new form, not the boring incremental part of getting small percentage upgrades to an existing form. It also helps make later forms clearly more powerful. (In both ways, this is similar to spells.)

First: Auto-explore wouldn’t travel above deep water and lava when in a flying form (the fly status was also in blue which usually means it’s temporary).

Interesting. I’ll look.

Second: If you searched for talismans it would show all the duplicates of the same talisman instead of just showing one and telling how many duplicates there are.

I can look at that too, thanks!

2 Thanks

Oh, right, artifact talismans. That’s a neat idea, how could I forget about those!

I mean, it adds a tactical decision that would be mechanically different from what could be unrandart armor. I think it’d be more interesting and less spoilery than having to carefully pick your form in advance.

Either way, flavor-wise, I think a shapeshifter should be able to adapt their form on the fly, to some extent. Another suggestion: Each talisman contains multiple forms, and you can switch between the forms of the active talisman freely, with a cooldown. That allows you to balance the downsides of switching from your form how you see fit, possibly using bad forms.

I like those moments when both options have weaknesses, like when your only rElec source is statue form, but you face enemies that together have both lightning bolt and LRD.

This sounds like a really cool unrand, but seems too finicky/tedious for the default.