It’s a silly NetHack-themed game about exploring a dungeon, presented through a bunch of characters sitting around passing a blunt between them. It’s not really that hard, but there is a bit of strategy to it.
You and your pet sit around a campfire with other characters from that dungeon level and talk about things. Your character and your pet can say things like, they want to be less or more aggressive on the next level, or they want to invoke Elbereth, or they want to use an item; other characters may say things like telling you where fewer or more fights will be, or where treasure is. Or they may have nothing of importance to say.
Every time a character says something, they must pass the blunt, which when it’s depleted signals it’s time to go to the next level. (C’mon, you know all the characters in this dungeon have to be potheads.) All of the fighting and stuff happens in simulation between conversations. Your character or their pet may be wounded (observe their hit points when their conversation turn comes up), or even die at this phase. It’s possible for your pet to die but your character go on to win. It’s also possible for your character die and your pet go on to win the game, which is not something that can occur in NetHack.
It’s a very simple game, and as stated, not really that difficult. But it’s fun, and might give a chuckle to NetHack fanatics. It’s free and completely playable in browser!
A quick note today, the 7-Day RogueLike challenges begins tomorrow! Try to make a roguelike game in seven days! This will be its nineteenth year, and its sixth on itch.io! Slashie, Darren Gray and Jeff Lait are running it again this year!
Consider joining it to make a game, or consider playing this year’s entries, or those of previous years! Last year there were 65 official entries. Regularly, a number of really interesting games are entered, but all manner of entries are accepted and are playable each year, from nearly professional to barely hacked together, and ranging from full classic style roguelikes to only slightly inspired by the general idea of procedural generation.
I love the 7DRL Game Jam! One of the oldest jams out there, on March 2 they’ll begin their 19th year! It asks participants to complete a roguelike game within a week. I even covered every game that succeeded at the challenge one year for @Play on GameSetWatch a long time ago.
Public enthusiasm for it has ebbed and flowed over that time, but even last year 65 people are recorded as having completed the challenge. And every time there are a few games that are hugely interesting! A rating system helps to reveal those games that might be particularly interesting.
If you’d like to participate this year, well, you just can, they’re clear that you don’t need their permission and there is no real prize for doing it. But if you want to participate during the official period of the challenge, this year it’ll start on March 3rd. We have a reminder post here on Set Side B ready to roll out the day before it begins, so keep watching our pages for it!
Here is a brief look at the highest-reated 7DRL games that made it last time:
First: Mercury Salvage is a graphical roguelike about cleaning out derelict spaceships.
Second: The Mage’s Student is a deck-building roguelike centered around magic, and has to do with fighting off ” the many creatures guarding the Newt-Core and the Transformative Cricket…”
Third: Death Stranding RL is, as should be obvious, based on Hideo Kojima’s game. It has an interesting look for a console-based game.
On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.
In the world of romhacks, the term “Ancient Dungeon” has a specific meaning.
Way back in the SNES days, there was the cult favorite JRPG Lufia and the Fortress of Doom, a.k.a. Estpolis Denki. While overloaded, and most agreed harmed, by its ludicrous encounter rate, it had a good number of interesting innovations. It had an end-of-game stat report and a kind of New Game Plus mode, called “Try Again,” which reset players to base level but increased player experience and gold earned by four times. It had hidden Dragon Eggs throughout the world that could be collected and redeemed for special advantages near the end of the game, whereupon they would be scattered throughout the game, and refound, for more advantages. The game also had “Forfeit Island,” a place full of shops where every item the player characters ever sold throughout the game would make their way, and could be re-purchased.
Its prequel, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, had even more play innovations, including visible monsters and a Zelda-like system of items that could be put to various uses on the exploration screen. Another thing Lufia II expanded on was the first game’s “Ancient Cave,” which was a dungeon that only a single character could enter. It didn’t take up a large portion of the original game, but Lufia II expanded it greatly, turning it into its own alternate game mode, that could be accessed from the main menu after completing the game.
Probably inspired by the Mystery Dungeon games, this version of the Ancient Cave was a 100-level randomized dungeon that reset players to Level 1 and no equipment when they began. It’s a completely optional challenge in that game, but many players found it highly interesting.
In romhack circles, an “Ancient Dungeon” is a game that completely tears apart its original game and turns it into a randomized play experience like Lufia II’s Ancient Cave. A similar implementation is Mega Man 9 and 10’s “Endless Mode,” which has also been recreated in romhacks for other Mega Man games.
Most Ancient Dungeon hacks are for JRPGs, but now we have one for Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda, and you might find it worth checking out.
The Legend of Zelda: Ancient Dungeon takes its name literally, in that the whole game is just one dungeon. There are no overworld screens. Each room contains a number of enemies, sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes few, sometimes many, and sometimes a boss. They still drop items when you kill them, so you can build up lost health if you’re careful.
The creator of the hack managed to include the overworld enemies in the dungeon rooms, and also include monsters who are not ordinarily found in the same dungeon in the same room, by dynamically loading monster graphics during room transitions. That’s a pretty decent technical trick!
The layout of the dungeon is completely random. Monsters are chosen dynamically as you go. Many Ancient Dungeon hacks are actually computer programs that do the random generation themselves, and write that layout to the rom, so if you play the same version multiple times you’ll get the same dungeon each time, but that does not happen here.
The game shuts the doors out of each room until all the enemies inside have been defeated. Sometimes when you clear a room, a random item will be left. Once in a while this will be one of the game’s major items, like a Sword or the Ladder. You often get Heart Containers or other major items from beating bosses. There are also rooms where an old man offers to sell you another item using the rupees that you find along the way.
This Ancient Dungeon hack doesn’t map logically. Often you’ll enter a room with one exit, which will lead to a different room than it was when you were there before. This doesn’t mean your choice of exit is completely meaningless though. You’ll still enter the next room out of the opposite side of the screen as you left the last room, which can be important if you’re expecting a boss in the next room.
One thing about this hack is that it ramps up pretty slowly. When Link has full hearts he can shoot his sword, which can make quick work of many screens of enemies. If you take even half a heart of damage, though, you’ll go to only short-ranged attacks until you can build it back up. Getting far demands a lot more care than normal Zelda. You might find Water of Life as you go, which you may have to make a difficult choice as to whether to use it quickly and get your sword back, or save it for when the monsters get tough.
In my first test play I mostly ruled at it. I’ve played a ton of Legend of Zelda over the years, and I even managed to-carefully-destroy a three-headed Gleeok with just five hearts, a Wooden Sword and a Blue Ring. But I still lost, on Room 155, when I was unexpected thrust into a room with three blue Darknuts and three blue Wizzrobes, not a pleasant sight when you only have those five hearts and Blue Ring.
The hack does not allow for saving your progress, and unless you cheat by using savestates you lose everything you’ve done when Link gets his ticket punched. 155 rooms is a long way to go to only have five hearts to show for your progress.
I don’t know if I’ll try it again. Zelda’s dungeon rooms sure get monotonous after awhile. It could use a lot more variety in graphics, and its colors don’t even change throughout all those rooms. But this hack was released very recently, and I look forward to seeing what creator arnpoly does with it in the future!
Youtuber LackAttack24 did a successful hour-long play of this hack, if you’d rather watch than try it yourself:
We’ve been recapping some of the talks of Roguelike Celebration 2022 for a couple of months now, and it’s probably about time to let it rest until next year. Still, there is one more talk I’d like to draw attention to, on procedural music generation.
The other talks presented this year use music generated by this system for bumper and intermission ambiance. It really became the distinctive sound for this year’s conference.
Honestly, I could devote a post to every Roguelike Celebration talk. I’ve been limiting myself to just one such post a week, on Saturdays. This one, a short sixteen minutes talk about terrain generation, is for the developers out there.
Constraint-based generation, also known as “wave function collapse,” is a system where, as objects are placed randomly during generation, the generator “solves” the world around them, placing later terrain as is necessitated by prior terrain. If the generator reaches a contradiction, a situation where there is no viable terrain that can be placed, it undoes the contradictory placement and continues from there.
It’s a technique that’s fairly popular in procedural generation circles, and among other games is used in Caves of Qud. It’s also fun to watch it work!
Sil-Q is an Angband variant. Joel Ryan, aka MicroChasm, made its tileset which shows a lot of care in its creation. Sil-Q’s tiles are modular, so humanoid monsters can hold weapons, and also have strong silhouettes to aid recognition. It’s full of the kinds of concerns pixel artists have to worry about!
From Roguelike Celebration 2022, Reed Lockwood’s talk on trap design in roguelikes. Traps are an essential part of a D&D-style dungeon exploration sim, but are very easy to get wrong, either by making them too strong or, conversely, too weak. Some interesting ideas here!
‘@Play‘ is a frequently-appearing column which discusses the history, present, and future of the roguelike dungeon exploring genre.
I’ve been lagging behind a bit with @Play, which I apologize for. There are a lot of Angband variants, and even just covering important ones, there’s a lot to go over, and I’ve suffered from many distractions lately. So I figured I’d just take a more leisurely pace for a bit, which works out because many variants have quite a bit to say about them. So let’s start out with what’s probably the most important Angband variant of them all:
Lineage: PC Angband 1.3 > Angband– > Zangband
First released in 1994. Last update 4/2003
We could consider Zangband to be the first major Angband variant. It forked directly off of frogknows, but contains modifications to Angband dating after that. Its list of maintainers includes Angband maintainers Ben Harrison, and Robert Rühlmann, who took over as lead maintainer Zangband from Topi Ylinen. Of note is that he stopped being the maintainer of Angband at around the same time that Zangband entered stasis, and previous Angband fansite Thangorodrim went dark. Maybe Morgoth finally got him.
It’s a tradition to name Angband variants with some variation upon its name. The Z in Zangband stands for Roger Zelazny, the author of the Chronicles of Amber series, and contains monsters and items from that series. Cribbing from fantasy literature has long been a way that roguelike authors have paid homage to their favorite stories.
An interesting aspect of Zangband is its version of the Angband character auto-roller. Instead of going until it hits minimum stats that you specify, asks you to “weight” various stats on a scale of 1-100, and then rolls 500 characters and picks the best one rolled as judged by those weights. This means you can’t just set your character to roll dice indefinitely until you get the perfect character–or at least, you can’t do that automatically. Nothing stops you from killing the process if you don’t get a character with stats you like and trying again, as many times as you like. Statistical cheese has, after all, long been part of the flavor of rolling up character stats, dating back to all those D&D house rules groups used to make characters more powerful/interesting than typically produced by the old roll-3D6-six-times-then-assign system.
In addition to adding a lot of new character classes and monsters based on the Amber books, and other sources as well because why not, Zangband opens up the world outside the starter town. You can step past the walls of Angband’s town and see the outside world! That world works rather like a horizontal dungeon: instead of diving down into the earth, you can explore outward in all directions through the wilderness, which is filled with varied terrain kind of in the style of Minecraft. A new character can die very quickly that way, however; unexpectedly, the first levels of the main dungeon are rather easier to survive than just outside the town’s gates. If you have a means of defeating strong monsters, though, it’s possible to gain levels very rapidly without traveling too far from the starting town.
Out in the wilderness there are other towns to find, some of them with their own entrances into the dungeon (which work just as if you had entered it from the main town). As you progress out further from what we might call Point Zero, the monsters found in the wilderness get more dangerous. Some towns have special kinds of shops that are not to be found in the starting shop. The game’s bosses, which have been changed to the Amber-flavored Oberon on Level 99 and the Serpent of Chaos on level 100, are only found down in the dungeon.
While it did pick up some of Angband’s later advancements, it still halted development nearly two decades ago. Angband has changed a fair bit in the time since Zangband became frozen, so to speak, in Amber. Playing it requires getting used to the many little things that Angband has abandoned in more recent years, like having to actively search for secret doors and traps. If you’re playing a magic-using class, it’s possible for your starting spellbooks to get incinerated by a fire attack, then for you to head back to town and find that it’s not for sale. Once you’re alert to the danger of this, you’ll know to buy extras when you can and keep them in your house. It’s the kind of affliction that affects most players exactly once, which is a common enough experience in the world of classic roguelikes.
Zangband is notable for itself inspiring a bunch of variants, in fact a lot of Angband variants get those genes through Zangband as an intermediate parent. Its inclusionist philosophy of adding a whole bunch of monsters and things, and its inclusion of a persistent overworld (which it originally borrowed from Kangband) might explain the attraction.
While Zangband hasn’t been updated in nearly twenty years, its website persisted doggedly until just earlier this year, at zangband.org. Sadly, it has finally succumbed to linkrot, and now can only be found through the graces of the Internet Archive. Its Sourceforge repository still exists however, meaning you can still obtain the game through a living site, at: https://sourceforge.net/projects/zangband
Roguelike Celebration 2022, the yearly conference about this peculiar genre, begins tomorrow! This year it is again being held virtually. Its schedule is here, and you can get your ticket here. As I write this tickets cost $30, but if you can’t afford that there is an option for free admission at that link. If you can pay though then please consider it? I presented there last year, although in my 30 minute timeslot I didn’t even get to cover like even 10% of what I had planned.
It generally has much of interest both to players and developers, and covers more than strictly-defined roguelikes but also a variety of games and topics related to procedural content generation.Here’s a selection of talks that I personally think may be interesting, although there are many more than this planned:
Persistence and Resistence: How narrative in roguelikes is currently underutilized, by Sherveen Uduwana
Remembering Moria – a roguelike before the roguelikes, by Santiago Zapata
How hard can it be to create a non-violent rogue-lite dungeon crawler?, by Tabea Iseli
Smoothing the Sharp Edges of RNG, by Evan Debenham
A Million Little Players: Monte Carlo Simulations for Game Design, by Phenry Ewing
Tips and Tricks in Procedural Generation, by Pierre Vigier
The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games are interesting offshoots of the mainline Mystery Dungeon titles. They make clear a stark difference between primacy and popularity: if you only care about sales, then there is no question that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games are the main games, because their sales vastly outweigh the other games. The games in the second generation, Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky, are the best-selling Mystery Dungeon games of all. You have to know that there’s around 30 other games, many much older than the Pokemon flavor, in fact older than Pokemon itself by three years, to know the whole story.
Yet the PMD games are still Mystery Dungeon titles, and they play very similarly. They’re graphical roguelike dungeon-crawl games, just, you, your teammates, and your opponents are not generic fantasy creatures, but Pokemon. That is, specific fantasy creatures. Trademarked ones, in fact.
Because PMD’s fairly popular, you’re more likely to find investigations into its internals than the Shiren or other Mystery Dungeon games, just from the number of people who exist in its audience with both the will and skill to investigate. Yet, those internals are close enough to the MD standard that they even provide insight into how classic Mystery Dungeon operates.
YouPotato TheZZAZGlitch’s usualy video stomping grounds in Pokemon, but they have a fondness for PMD, so they’ve made a video on how the first generation (Red/Blue Rescue Team) generates its dungeons, and what do you know, many of these floor types are also very familiar to me from my time exploring the Shiren games, and it doesn’t seem a stretch at all to presume they’re run by the same, or at least a very similar, algorithm.
‘@Play‘ is a frequently-appearing column which discusses the history, present, and future of the roguelike dungeon exploring genre.
Back in the GameSetWatch era, I focused more on a general kind of audience for @Play. No, really! I notice that I’ve gotten a fair bit more detailed so far in the Set Side B era. That’s especially the case this time, which is a dive into the history of Angband. But there’s a purpose to this: after knowing where Angband’s been, it’ll help us when, next time, we finally look at its huge number of variants. That should be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope it’ll make up for all the time I had to spend building this one.
Angband has a long and somewhat convoluted history. There aren’t many open source games with its longevity. It’s managed to keep going by changing ownership somewhat regularly, with each maintainer adding their own stamp to its play.
The Release section of the current Angband homepage rephial.org goes into exacting detail over what was introduced when, but it’s a lot to sift through, and in terms of volume most changes are just bugfixes.
I have gone through all the pages and tried to render down the essence of each change, and what effect it had upon Angband. In this article, we follow along with the various changes that have been made since its origin, and in the end try to note the best version to play, for people interested (or not) in its various aspects.
Some of this will be familiar to people who have been reading @Play on Angband so far, so I’ll keep it brief. MORIA was created by Robert Koeneke in 1983, and may be the first true “roguelike” that wasn’t Rogue itself.
Moria was written in Pascal, a fine language that, sadly, isn’t nearly as popular as C. UMORIA (5/3/1987) is a reimplementation of Moria in C. It was updated until July 7, 1994, with one last gasp on 10/13/2008 by a different developer.
ANGBAND was based on UMoria 5.2.1, and is where our story really begins.
Other variants of Moria include Morgul (1993), PC Moria (unknown years), and VMS Moria (1983-1985).
Angband 1.0 (1990): The first version of Angband was derived from UMoria by Alex Cutler and Andy Astrand. My indications are that Angband was largely a bigger version of Moria back then: 100 levels instead of 50, beat up Sauron and Morgoth at the end instead of a balrog. This version probably doesn’t survive, and doesn’t seem to have been widely distributed outside the University of Warwick.
What The Frog?
Angband 2.4.frogknows (April 11, 1993): This version was called (right on its title screen) “2.4.frogknows,” was produced by Steve Marsh and Geoff Hill after Angband’s creators graduated, and was the first version with a wide release. This version put a definite stamp on the game, and founded aspects of what many consider iconic about Angband. Amazingly, binary and source versions of frogknows are available from the current-day Angband Home Site.
How does it differ from UMoria?
Added more Tolkien, D&D and Rolemaster monsters
More object types, including rods, which don’t have limited charges, but instead have a timeout between uses
Special dungeon rooms
Monsters can be generated in groups
Monsters have more spells and abilities
Special monsters based on defeated players (“ghosts”) can appear in the dungeon and attack you
Treasure pits, a predecessor of vaults, appear. These are large rooms with lots of treasure but also out-of-depth monsters
It helps, when giving dates, to give some idea of what else was going on in the world at the time. In the same year as frogknows, Bill Clinton was inaugurated as U.S. President, and child sexual abuse allegations were made against Michael Jackson. It was the 16-bit era in console video gaming. Secret of Mana came out for the SNES. Arcades saw the release of Mortal Kombat II and Super Street Fighter II. Among roguelikes, the NetHack DevTeam would release 3.1.0, the beginning of modern NetHack, but they hadn’t yet gotten to the venerable 3.1.3 version.
If you’re only used to 4.2.4, there are some specific things to be aware of. Mages are much more fragile starting out in older versions, with very slow spell point regeneration, while warriors can be played in a much more direct, hacky-smacky style. It you get stuck on a dungeon level, there’s probably a secret door you didn’t find; use the ‘s’ key in corridors and along walls to search for them. You must remember to wield torches to use them, you don’t start with anything equipped. Artifacts and ego items look just like normal items until identified. You don’t find stacks of useful potions and scrolls at once, but have to find across them one at a time.
Seemingly on the same day as the release of frogknows, Charles Teague (who helped with frogknows) released PC Angband 1.0.
PC Angband went on its own for awhile. In the year 1993: April 20: 1.1; May 20: 1.2. August 18: 1.3; August 28: 1.3.1; it switched hands to Charges Teague. Then, March 7 1994: 1.4; and then, by Phil Yellott, on February 18 1995: 1.4.1b. After that, the line seems to have been merged back into mainline Angband.
Most versions of Angband before 2.8.0 are lost, and those that survive are usually only available in source form, but 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4 of the the PC Angband line survive and are playable in DOSbox. 1.0 and 1.1 also survive, but their closeness to frogknows means that the Angband site links them from its page.
PC Angband 1.2 (5/20/1993): Players could look at monsters to determine how wounded they are, and a stat autoroller was added.
PC Angband 1.3, 1.3.1 (8/28/1993): Targeting was added, allowing players to launch missiles and magic in arbitrary directions, not just in the orthogonal and diagonal ones. (You still can’t do this in NetHack, since it would materially affect other aspects of the game.) And players could gain more than one level at a time.
1.3.1 is an auspicious release, as the base of Angband’s first variants. One of these is Angband–, which seems to be lost, but would serve as the foundation of ZAngband, a mega-variant that itself saw a lot of iteration. It would inspire CthAngband, ToME, and Hengband, all variants that continue to see a lot of interest even now. Hengband is a Japanese variant with several notable children itself, and ToME has been rewritten several times, and now is basically its own separate, full-fledged game. You can even get it on Steam. We’ll talk more about variants, a huge topic, next time.
Mainline Angband, 2.X
Angband 2.5.0 (12/8/1993): Charles Swiger took over as maintainer. Versions from this to 2.5.9 were released with many technical and miscellaneous changes that I won’t bore you with. Targeting was ported into mainline Angband with 2.5.6.
2.5.8 is the only of these versions that is available on the Angband home site, and even that only in the form of source code.
PC Angband 1.4 (3/7/1994): The last version of PC Angband, and Charles Teague’s last contribution to the game. Many of its changes were merged with the core game. It added a new speed system, and other miscellaneous adjustments.
Angband 2.6.0 (9/4/1994): More miscellaneous changes over three versions, and the end of Charles Swiger’s tenure. 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 are available as source code.
The Macintosh port of 2.6.1 marked a notable addition to the roster of people who have worked on Angband….
Angband 2.7.0 (1/14/1995): Ah! With this version, Angband legend Ben Harrison began his work. The current Angband homesite calls it the beginning of the Second Age of Angband.
Ben Harrison cleaned up the code greatly, almost rewriting it, and fixed lots of bugs, resulting in the 2.8 line being the foundation for many variants. A lot of Angband’s reputation for spawning variants is due to this version, both directly and by its successors. Ben Harrison also founded a notable Angband Home Page on the World Wide Web, that survives today. (The successor to it, thangorodrim.net, has not been so lucky.) And, Ben Harrison invented the Angband Borg, in which one’s computer plays Angband itself, learning about the game as it goes.
2.7.2 added the Scroll of *Identify* to the game, which offers complete information on an artifact’s properties. (Angband loves emphasizing words with asterisks.)
2.7.4 is notable because it’s one of the few versions of Angband from back then that’s still available in compiled form, and downloadable from the Angband site. Its Windows version doesn’t work well for me, producing a garbled display on Windows 10. The DOS version appears to be salvaged from someone’s playfield; it has a valid save file for a character named Whopper, a Human Paladin, who is in the middle of exploring the dungeon, and carries the artifact “Sting.”
2.7.5 rewrote dungeon generation. 2.7.6 added a health bar for monsters. And 2.7.7. removed player ghosts “temporarily,” but they have yet to return even today. This is the version that rephial.org says added Angband’s famed monster memory, a set of spoilers that the game creates and maintains as you play, collecting all the information that your characters have learned on their adventures. However, some form of this extends back as far as PC Angband 1.0.
2.8.0 (10/12/1996): 2.8.1 expanded dungeon spaces so more than one item can fit in a space. Up until then, any dungeon space could only hold one object on the ground. This sometimes caused enemies to leave less treasure than they would otherwise have if they were being fought in a corridor, since there simply wouldn’t be enough room for it all. (The Mystery Dungeon games abide by this restriction, where it adds some unexpected wrinkles to its gameplay.) It also made it so any player race can try to play as any class, although some are probably not good ideas with the stats the game assigns to them.
The 2.8 series on Windows contains rudimentary graphics, but several of its releases don’t like to work on current Windows.
2.8.2 removed the prompt for the number of items to drop, sell, or destroy at once. Instead, players could specify a count before the command, similar to Rogue and NetHack’s repeat systems. After vocal outcry from some players, 2.8.3 added it right back again.
2.8.3 was Harrison’s last official version, although he’d release a version of a prospective 2.8.5 for testing. This version seems to be the first version with support for Allegro tile-based graphics on Windows, but it’s not enabled in the supplied binary. It contains the font-based graphics of the other 2.8 versions, but they have to be enabled in ANGBAND.INI, by setting the variable Graphics therein to 1. Although the tiles are tiny and hard to make out, it’s recommended to play this way, as the terminal graphics are messed up on current Windows. You can somewhat get around this by use the Look command (‘l’) to identify characters in sight. This version does not have compiled DOS binaries on the Angband home site. This (the garbled terminal graphics and Graphics=1 in ANGBAND.INI) is also true of several of its successors.
2.9.0 (4/11/2000): A new Angband for the year 2000. Robert Ruhlman took over the reins of Angband with this version and created the thangorodrim.net website (Wayback link). 2.9 added birth options (see the previous article for more on those), one of them being a way to enforce the “ironman” playstyle, where characters are disallowed from ever using upstairs. Other birth options remove shops or artifacts from the game, or else replace the built-in set of artifacts with randomly-generated replacements. Font graphics can be enabled in ANGBAND.INI on Windows, but are on by default on DOS.
3.0.0 (3/30/2002): A notable change with this version was the addition of Lua scripting to the game. You might think that sounds like it’d be a great idea, after all lots of other games have used Lua, but it actually didn’t see much use, and would be removed from the code with 3.0.8.
It’s minor from a play standpoint, but 3.0.2 removed the term “Genocide” from the game, in order to disassociate a mere computer pastime from real-life horrors. The effect was renamed to Banishment, although this meant that the pre-existing Priest spell Banishment had to itself be renamed to Banish Evil to avoid nominal confusion.
3.0.4 marked two significant changes. With this version junk items, which were included as dungeon flavor but served no real game purpose, were no longer generated in the dungeon. And this was the version to, finally, remove haggling over prices to buy or sell from shops, which I have to say, after experiencing Moria, is probably my own personal favorite change. (Up until this point, the game had already been shortening haggling a lot.)
Robert Ruhlmann stopped maintaining Angband with 3.0.6 (6/8/2005). It’s also the last version supplied with DOS support.
3.0.8p1 (prerelease, 6/24/2007): Anna Sidwell takes the fiery spikéd torch from Robert Ruhlmann, and removes Lua support. This is the first version to have item “squelching,” allowing the player to set the game to automatically ignore items they aren’t interested in. Mouse support is added, and the code cleaned up again.
3.1.0 (beta, 1/24/2009): This version marked fairly large changes to gameplay. Monsters here ceased to drop so many items, potions began tending to appear in stacks, and healing became proportional to wounds taken. (I’m not quite sure what that means.) A “bad” class of items from previous versions, that reduce a stat and provide no upside, was replaced with alternate items that lower one stat but raise another. Gold generation was toned down in the later dungeon, and traps start out only generating relative safe types, with the worse ones saved for getting progressively deeper in the dungeon.
Graphics here, by default, are TTY-based, but can be switch to tiled graphics from the Options menu fairly easily. If the window is too small for you (easily possible), the size of the screen can be adjusted in steps from the Window menu.
3.1.1 (beta, 7/29/2009): Another auspicious moment for the game of Angband. For many years Angband had suffered, after being worked on for so long and by so many hands, of not having a clear line of copyright for all its code, which prevented it from going full GPL. While everyone generally agreed that the game should have fully open source and no one was really against it, the community’s inability to contact everyone who contributed to the source code meant they couldn’t fully relicense it. With this version, the last of these rights issues was finally cleared up, and Angband became available under a dual license, both GPL and its own Angband source license.
3.1.2v2 is credited to the Angband Development Team, I think signalling them taking over from Anna Sidwell.
3.2.0 (12/24/2010): Armor Class, the game statistic indicating how protected a character is from harm, was changed to make heavy armor more worth it relative to their weight. The speed system was changed again. Element resistances was extended to cover carried items. With this version, all artifacts became immediately recognizable: items with names are instantly known, although your character still won’t know what their abilities are until discovered in play. Until that point, you would eventually get a good feeling about a specific item if it was an unrecognized artifact that had been carried for awhile.
Starting in this version, I notice, you can resize the window to get more of a view of the world.
3.3.0 (7/31/2011): Dungeon generation got another long-overdue overhaul. New cavern and labyrinth special level types were introduced. Level feelings, a part of the game going back to frogknows, were redesigned, separating the danger level of a level from the treasures on it. Resistances were revamped. This version made the spiking of doors, in order to slow down pursuing monsters, a feature that had long been in the game and derived from tactics in classic D&D, more effective.
3.4.0 (9/14/2012): Development pace slowed for a bit here. Various changes over the years had resulted in Angband becoming easier, and this version attempt to restore some of its classic difficulty.
3.5.0 (12/24/2013): Changed the game a fair bit. Charisma, often the dump stat in D&D-derived games, was removed entirely. Item generation was rebalanced, ego items redistributed by level, and shops by default no longer buy items from the player; you can instead donate an item to a shop to be identified or recharged. Money in dungeons was made more plentiful to compensate. (Shops will buy items again, and less money will be generated, if enabled with a birth option.) Random monster generation was toned down, and continuing the trend towards removing bad items, Scrolls of Curse Armor and Curse Weapon were removed. And with this version, door spiking was removed entirely, along with jammed doors and bashing them down. I guess people didn’t like it as much as it was thought they would.
By this point Angband on Windows had come to default to offering the multi-headed display. (One of the Ben Harrison released versions also turned it on by default, I forget which one.) It also offers current-day Angband’s choices for tile size. At a glance, it looks a lot like the 4.0 series.
Modern Angband (4.X)
4.0.0 (6/29/2015): Nick McConnell takes over maintaining Angband. A new rewriting of the code begins, with the intent of not making game changes until it is finished.
4.1.0 (6/25/2017): Big changes are made to the game after extensive forum discussion. I described many of these aspects in more detail last time. Active searching (with the ‘s’ key) is removed entirely after 24 years; stepping next to a secret door now always reveals it immediately. Identification of equipment properties and curses takes on its current rune-based form, and classic roguelike “sticky” curses are removed entirely. All potions, scrolls, and mushrooms are immediately identified on first use, and wands, staves, and rods usually identify when used, unless they only work by affecting monsters and none are present when tried. Conversely however, Scrolls of Identify and *Identify* are now gone, replaced with Scrolls of Identify Rune. More level generation types are added, including a “Moria level” in homage to the original game. Status ailments that could be inflicted by monsters were made more interesting.
4.1.1 added a birth option to make dungeon levels persistent, not being regenerated when left and returned to. It’s still in as an experimental feature today.
4.2.0 (8/17/2019): As of this writing, it’s the current major release of Angband. (The newest minor version. 4.2.4, was released 2/22/2022.) This version revamped the magic system, adding two more types to make for four major varieties, and added druids and necromancers that specialize in them. The number of spellbooks was reduced so players don’t have to lug as many around. Shapechanging is added for players and monsters. Many new mechanics are added to the game with this version.
What Flavor Of Doom Is Right For You?
Some of these versions of Angband are still available to download, so you can play the one that’s in the most accord with your personal preferences. Over the years, some features have been toned down or removed entirely, and others introduced and given prominence. Generally speaking, later versions of Angband are easier than earlier ones, and also put more of the focus on combat than dungeon exploration, but this not a universal trend.
If you want an experience as close to Moria, and Rogue, as possible, you’ll want to seek out 2.4.frogknows. You’ll get an authentic, but sometimes annoying, game.
2.7.5 removed player ghosts. It also added, or at least improved, the monster memory. Memory is a great help, over many games, towards recognizing which monsters are the most dangerous and why. (The full history of the monster ability recall function will probably have to wait for another time.) 2.7.6 is the first version after this point that survives.
For graphics, 2.7.6 and successive versions have tile graphics if you change Graphics=0 to Graphics=1 in ANGBAND.INI, which will also ungarble the console on modern Windows. For Windows tile graphics, version 2.8.3 is likely the earliest version with Allegro support, but you’ll have to build it yourself.
2.9.0 added birth options, letting you customize the game more to your liking.
3.0.0 added Lua scripting, which might be interesting to modders.
3.0.2 added item squelching, helping streamline the exploration of the dungeon.
3.0.4 is when haggling with shopkeepers, a long-standing feature going back to Moria, was finally removed.
3.0.8 removed the problematic “genocide” terminology, and Lua scripting.
3.1.1 is when Angband’s rights issues were worked out.
With 3.2.0, artifacts became known on sight, greatly reducing the possibility of missing out on something great, and dungeon generation was overhauled.
Like the idea of spiking doors to delay pursuers? That was in the game from all the way back in frogknows, but was made more effective in 3.3.0.
Hate that idea? It was excised from the play entirely in 3.5.0.
3.5.0 is also when shopkeepers stopped buying items from players without enabling that as a birth option.
Hate tapping the ‘s’ key to find doors? That was removed in 4.1.0. Up until then, if you didn’t have a magic aid to searching, you could get stuck in parts of the dungeon where all the doors out were hidden. With this version, stepping next to a hidden door is enough to reveal it.
Hate cursed items that make it hard to stop using them? Like the rune-based ID system? Both aspects also changed in 4.1.0. That’s also when identification was changed: identify scrolls were removed, but it became less dangerous to ID things from use, and dungeon generation was overhauled again.
If you like magic other than just Arcane and Divine, you’ll have to play the most recent line, and thus probably should go with the current version, 4.2.4. If you have no other preferences you should also go with this version to get the latest features and play niceties.
Well that was certainly a long and dry description, but it’s definitely shorter than what I had to read through to get it here. I think it’s still interesting for a look back at a twenty-nine year old game that has been through many different hands. After all that, while it’s changed a lot, Angband still feels a lot like it did in 1993: it’s a tactics-heavy dungeon exploration and combat game, with a lot of area to explore, but with occasional heart-stopping moments of terror.
Next time will be the end of our Angband discussion for now, where we embark on the long-promised exploration into the world of its variants. Angband variants are based on different versions throughout its long history, so having this version key to refer to will be very useful. See you then!
EDIT: Explained frogknows a bit better. Made a few other clarifications. This was a hard article to write.