Mutation Rebalancing

Even with the new rebalance and subsequent limitations on bionics, mutations simply lack a real incentive to pursue them beyond variety, roleplay, minmaxing specific pathways, or simply passive use.

For starters, locking away the really helpful early ones, such a light eater/drinker, fast healer, et al will help make people more invested into the process, since mutations already prefer to travel down partial paths.

For next, some of the maladaptions, such a herbivore or carnivore, can grant more nutrients from their food choice. Its called specialization.

Things like gross body deformations should come as prereqs to more beneficial mutations, to give people a reason to accept them. People should perhaps be able to craft specific gear to accommodate them, if only to partially mitigate their new disadvantages.

Mutations, such as chitinous skin or treebark, should grant acid armor. This is a fairly large one since these same mutations are on the path to gross body deformations.

Slight nerfing of how the strongest trees work, which are unironically the ones granting multiple passive buffs, would help.

Mutations should have a chance of firing their special attacks while using a weapon. In tandum infact. while its fine to base it on the unarmed skill, to restrict most to only fire when unarmed is silly. In fact, Id argue for a button to be set up so as to allow players to use their abilities at will, or attempt to. This also allows noncombat special functions to emerge.

Kissing Kousin to the mutations themselves is how to obtain them.

High skill craftables is fine, but its essentially a grind. You grind up the skill to craft them and then grind the materials to craft them and then grind the potions down your potential gullet along with appropriate amounts of purifier until you have something you can idealize.

I have suggested before that radiation and serums and such ‘push’ your character into mutation. Such as it is a passive quality of your character. You mutate over time according to this number, which increases when exposed to mutagenic material and decreases over time, mutating you slowly instead of at once.

Unlike chaotic or unstable genes, which would either lower the threshold for mutations or steadily increase this hereto nonexistent quality, you dont keep mutating, you mutate either as you sleep or painfully while going about you life if the number rises to fast/high. this helps incorporate a ‘oh look, I woke up and suddenly I have a tail’ feel to the process. Or a sudden convulsion as you chug 4 bottles of mutagen and now you writhe on the ground getting curbstomped by zombies.

This helps eliminate the minmaxxing of mutations, and hopefully encourages people to not try to emulate chaos spawns.

Some major mutation rework will have to happen first.

Mutation roulette is designed so horribly that there is just no fixing mutations for as long as you have to get cooking 9 and lab books just to start.

Mutations over time isn’t a bad idea, but it needs a better source than mutagens and serums.

As for thresholds, I’d totally get rid of the whole “you inject serum and now you are a superhuman and can get mutations nobody else can” thing. The categories (and thus thresholds) are heavily unbalanced and also uninteresting, as most of them are animal based.
It’s hard to be excited about turning into a furry, especially when the biggest advantage of that is just more skills.

Thresholds could be more implicit - given when needed and when your highest category is aligned with them. For example, you are about to gain lizard regeneration, your highest category is lizard, so you gain both lizard regen and lizard threshold. If your highest category was bear, you’d just get a message about thresholds or better - a reroll of mutation.

I quite like the flavour text associated with the thresholds, but I don’t see why they should be a one way street. If the player is willing and able to take the metric shitton of mutagen or purifier required to pull yourself back from that brink, why not let them? God knows they’ve worked for it.

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carcinogenics are the primary driver behind scifi and comic mutations, so we can easily stick with that theme. Especially since we mostly already are.

Lets make low quality mutagens unhealthy for the player in various ways.

Lets see:

-Radiation requires zero skill, its ill effects are obvious. Actually, Id like to see more of this. Might even make a monster who emit radioactive fields. A zumbie.
-Make sewer the next. Simply grabbing a hunkachunka raw sewage and mixing that into something. Could even get you high now that hallucinations arent so much noise.
-Very rancid materials making mutagen go here. With somewhat low skill, being able to craft zombie pheromones and then further distilling that into other putrid tonics.
-Treated sewage, the kind produced by the sewage plant computers, could be next.
-Low grade lab mutagen, the first to not be directly unhealthy, should kick in at least level 5 or 6.
-Then the serums, a more potent mutagen.

Making the thresholds uncrossable is a good thing. It lets the player who pursues permanent life choices (something the game doesnt emulate as well as it could right now) recieve the best benefits of a mutation. This absolution of humanity should carry more weight wrt npc and even blob/triffid/fungus interactions. Im not saying the player align with any of them, simply that suddenly being a coldblooded reptile or a giant spider might change how the factions react to your presence.

But thresholds allow the mutations to be as fluid and random as they currently are. they set limits.

If low quality sources are to be a thing, the robust genetics mutation has to go.
Honestly, it has to go (or be reworked) before any serious mutation overhaul is going to happen. It makes it impossible to have mutations accessible without creating a situation where not taking robust makes sense.

One way to rework it would be to make it favor current mutation line. Say, robust+lizard is 2 times as likely to receive a lizard mut.

i like idea of exposure to mutagenic sources making character develop mutations over time (with different speeds and disadvantages on different exposure levels) instead of instant gain, adding of some early mutation sources sounds interesing too

I’m a little torn on this, honestly. While this rework would ostensibly be to make mutations more accessible, having a lot of the stronger trees unavoidably require major deformations is a very serious disincentive.

While logically deformation would be a common problem with random mutations, it’s also one of the harshest penalties it has to offer. I’d argue that the strongest trees in the game right now aren’t the ones that provide the most passive benefits, but the ones that DON’T cut you off from wearing armour (Alpha, Elfa and Medical being the top tier choices).

With heavily deforming mutation trees, like most of the mammalian animal variants, you’re looking at forevermore getting half the armour value from twice the encumbrance, and that’s assuming you’re a master tailor and armourer (as well as completely locking you out of power armour, but that’s supposed to be beyond the considerations of game balance). Mutations that only restrict armour on your hands or feet are workable, but still generally solidly negative.

I’d also be against completely removing the player’s ability to influence their mutation. The fact that you can steer mutation in cataclysm to a degree, with the right skills, makes it possible to plan to make a mutant character without completely abasing yourself before the random number god, which is far more interesting to me than, say, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup’s mutation system, which is entirely random.

Purifier-H1: Reverses the threshold crossing, reverting you back to human. Cancels post-threshold mutations.

Find the recipe on a data storage item, be it a console or a USB stick. Require a special machine where to produce the purifier-H1.
Have the production take a full season, or 14x24 hours, whichever is shorter.
Only one dose of purifier-H1 can be produced at a time.
Optionally require multiple machines in the whole operation, such as:

  1. Require data decryption, similar to the black box printout.
  2. Require preliminary chemical processing at a centrifuge, 72 hours.
  3. Require a visit to the CVD machine.

Purifier-H2: Clears out any and all traits and mutations. Even the starting ones, making traitlessness the new baseline.

Would you use the still code to achieve this?

Many mutations could be changed to have higher encumbrance instead of outright ban on armor.
Also armor levels should be buffed - hooves would be much more appealing if they gave immunity to (foot component of) acid fields, for example.

Somewhat, related topic from old developer/lore guy:

So Im thinking for now I want to add 2 paths. maybe 3.

Each will be very volatile. And no purifier. And unhealthy. This will allow players to mutate, but wont let the go back without skill. And Ive never been one to approve of the easy route, so I think I like the idea that you want to turn you got it with no taksies backsies.

Lets see:

-Cooking and first aid
-Survival and cooking
-first aid and electronics

This is a recipe for mutagen. Uses blob glob and… some manner of partial dissolvent. Acid? It uses acid to dissolve the glob up a little, then we need to take out the acid and pop it into something more edible or shootable. Edible. Maybe a slurry. makes you sick/unhealthy.

Levels 4

This is something like a hallucinogenic that trips you out. Triffid stingers and mashed bone? grounded up and mixed with poopyseed?

Levels 4

Takes advantage of the current bionic->mutation pathway to lore it up. essentially an electric shock that damages the body and forces a change in physiology. Would need some kind of poison/catalyst … What monsters in coregame drop a bodypart and would be found more often by techies?

this, of course, is not my suggestion for the overhaul, its a suggestion either my own use or as a stand alone.

p: sewer samples/sewage

Short term balancing doesn’t work for mutations.

Damage, health, radiation, non-permanent effects - all those will wear out too quickly to matter.
Except maybe something that causes direct health loss as opposed to health_mod loss - that could result in some mid-term complications.

Lack of purifier could work. Or just making purifier uncraftable.

[quote=“Coolthulhu, post:11, topic:12705”]Many mutations could be changed to have higher encumbrance instead of outright ban on armor.
Also armor levels should be buffed - hooves would be much more appealing if they gave immunity to (foot component of) acid fields, for example.[/quote]

Increasing the armor provided by the mutation trees themselves is certainly a good solution. Another thing that’s occurred to me is that I don’t see any reason a character with the skills and equipment to create armor shouldn’t be able to tailor armor to their new physiology mitigating or even eliminating the penalties.


You arent going to be making reasonable hardsoled boots for tentacles, for instance.

It’s already possible to apply leather or kevlar reinforcements to tentacle stockings. Still not great armour, and quite encumbering, but better than nothing.

Well, early tests with sprinkling more mutagen into the labs and world (via drug deal drops, science drops, science labs, and occasional, very rare purifier drops too) have been interesting to say the least. I gained carnivore in my sleep, though I suspect it was due to radiation exposure.

The bare req for crafting mutagen is 2FA and 2Cook and some blobs and bleach and ammonia. the recipe is autolearned at 2c, 2fa, and it diff 3 iirc. the book will take you there faster, but I typically get to 2/2 first.

I looted a lab for this. Im some kind of beast/bird/raptor thing.

purifier is a diff 7 skill 6 material. It requires mutagen and royal jelly. This limits how much can be made of it, and its further limited by my own limiting of beehive jelly.

There are tons of problems with mutations in their current implementation. Firstly, a survivor has no real reason to mutate even with taking into consideration min/max builds. The reasons for this are twofold. One reason is that most mutation paths have rather significant penalties associated with them (more thirst/hunger, inability to wear armor, health degeneration, NPCs hate you, having no carryweight, being unable to use vehicles, restricting your diet) while providing bonuses that are for the most part trivial to acquire from non-mutation sources (armor, nv-goggles, flashlights, having access to food and medical supplies, having decent weapons, bionics). Because of this, mutations that increase a survivor’s stats are the only ones worth caring about since mutations provide one of the most significant and convenient ways to boost your stats. This combined with the relative lack of downsides is the reason why the Alpha mutation path is easily the best mutation path. I say best but in reality the alpha mutation path is the only one that is vaguely worth it (with maybe the exception of tree) which leads into the second reason.

The current way one mutates with any sort of real control requires phenomenal preparation from the survivor. You have to break into a lab and brave the dangers within, you have to collect all the different materials required to craft everything, you need access to facilities that can craft the mutagen, you need very healthy stores of food and water to survive the time it takes to craft everything and to survive the use of said mutagens, and you need to be combat proficient enough to be able to create a zone of safety to craft these things. All of these barriers to mutation mean that any benefits you get from mutations end up being off set by you having already solved the problem that the mutation would of helped to solve. It’s analogous to completing Doom only for the game to give you a super mega gun with infinite ammo and super fast fire rate that can kill anything in one shot. While it’s definitely cool and bad ass, you have already beat the game and the credits are rolling and even if you get to use it on your next play through, you have clearly demonstrated you don’t need the gun at all. While mutations are not as extreme as that scenario, it helps to demonstrate that even taking into account min/maxing it provides no realistic benefit. The only real reason someone would have to mutate is to help themselves live out some sort of fantasy or to provide another avenue for min/max wank. Now, these aren’t necessarily bad reasons for mutations to exist, but it does mean that mutations are essentially fluff with no real game play benefit.

Secondly, the current methods for mutating and thresholding are quite frankly absurd. Mutating is an instant process that can cause you to overnight turn from a human into a freaky fish thing. It makes the detrimental transitional mutations almost non-existent. The inclusion of purifiers also makes it that an adequately prepared survivor (and one would need to be adequately prepared to really start mutating to begin with) could just chug mutations and purifier all day until they get a suite of mutations that are almost all upsides with no downsides. The process of thresholding also makes mutation trees in general all kinds of messed up. With the way it works currently, getting the “strong” mutation would cause your survivor to increase their mutation category levels in almost every mutation path. It causes getting the mutation path you want to be an exercise in insanity and makes things like serums all but necessary to ensure that you are capable of pursuing a mutation path that you want.

Now with all that said I want to stress that mutations are currently very weak with the “op” mutations being the only options are vaguely viable. In order to better balance mutations, it would be important to make them significantly more accessible and at earlier stages in the game. I also rather like the idea of gradually mutating as proposed in this thread and that would make balancing mutations easier.

I’d like to balance mutations by point costs.

That is, if you have more good mutations than bad ones (weighted by costs), you’d be more likely to receive a bad mutation next. And vice versa, of course.
For an unmutated player, the balance would be 0, favoring low absolute cost mutations.
Base stats could be included in the point cost to balance low-stat-high-trait starts.

Then the bad mutations that ruin slots could be just heavily penalized by huge negative point costs, making them unlikely to happen unless the player had high positive balance. And if they happened, they would make future mutations more likely to be positive.
And vice versa for the really good mutations, of course.

This would allow balancing mutations just by setting a point value for them. While not perfect, that’s leaps and bounds above what we have now - a pure roulette.