Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Guest Post: The Roguelikes, Part 3

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 11, 2011

Yes, part 3. And this won’t finish it. I wonder if I should rename this blog, “Tales of the Rampant Coyote and Rat” or something.  But Skavenhorde continues to delve the depths of the roguelike dungeons, coming up with not only a short review / quick-take of the worlds therein, but a bit of development history as well. This week, we’re looking at two more very popular roguelikes: Linley’s Dungeon Crawl and its derivatives, and Legerdemain. Here’s Skavenhorde:

Let’s start the ball rolling with Linley’s Dungeon Crawl or Crawl for short:

Linley’s Dungeon Crawl:

Linley’s Dungeon Crawl was started back in 1995 by Linley Henzell. Henzell left four years later when Linley needed to shift focus to his law degree and stopped developing Crawl. However this was not the end. He released the code under the GPL so anyone could work on it and work on it they did. When Linley left the game was up to version 3.30 and now it’s up to 4.0.0 (beta 26) with a few variants floating around the web. Most notably Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, but we’ll talk about that one in a minute. Unfortunately progress on Crawl has seemed to have halted with 4.0.0. The homepage hasn’t posted any news on it since 2004.

Enough history now for the good part. Crawl is a single dungeon roguelike with the main quest being to delve into the depths of the dungeon to retrieve the Orb of Zot and return to the surface. You’ll of course face an assortment of creatures whose only goal is to stop you on this quest.

From most accounts Crawl is a semi-lite roguelike. Easier to understand and jump right into than others like ADOM.

There 26 races to choose from. You have your usual character races such as humans, elves, gnomes, orcs and halflings. There are subraces such as high elves, deep elves, grey elves, deep elves, sludge elves (I can only think ewww when I first saw that one), hill dwarves, mountain dwarves and hill orcs. Unusual ones such as kobolds, mummies, ghouls, ogres and their subrace ogre mages, trolls, draconians, centaurs, demigods, spriggans, minotaurs, demonspawn, Kenku (violent bird-people) and merfolk.

Each race comes with advantages and disadvantages such as a troll will regenerate very quickly, but learn very slowly and need a large amount of food to survive.

On top of that you have 29 different classes which include everything from fighters, thieves and wizards all the way to summoners, venom mages, warpers, necromancers, reavers and crusaders. The combination of characters you can make with the races and classes are almost endless. At the very least it offers a unique game experience every time you choose a different race and class.

Not all races can become any class they want such. For example: If you choose a human you can start as any class, but choose a draconian and your choices are cut in half. You’ll need to select the race to see just how many classes are available to them. There goes my idea of playing a mummy crusader. I say let the undead stereotypes fall by the wayside. I want my mummy crusader of light and goodness.

All kidding aside this game offers up much more than just a huge assortment of races and classes. You also have skills to learn. Unlike in other skill based roguelikes such as ADOM you don’t choose which skills to increase as you gain levels. In Crawl you become more proficient with a given skill the more you use that skill.

With classes such as venom mage, conjurer, necromancer, warper and elementalists you would expect some unique spells. Well Crawl delivers in that area as well. The magic system is robust and unique enough to offer something new even to long term veterans of roleplaying games.

The religious part of the game is as deep as the character creation process. You have a choice of twelve gods to choose from to worship. I loved this aspect to the game. It offers an even more customized experience depending on what god you decide to worship.

Some characters have a choice of a god to worship when you create a new character. Such as when I started my first game as a demonspawn chaos warrior I was offered a choice between Xom of Chaos and Makhleb the Destroyer. After I chose Xom of Choas the very first message after the welcome was from my god saying, “A new plaything!” It’s little touches like that that make for a wonderful experience playing Crawl. As you gain favor with your god you can get access to special powers.

I didn’t mention mutations in my ADOM mini-review so I should mention them here. ADOM and Crawl offer interesting ways your character can become corrupted. Some mutations are beneficial and some are not. As my screen name implies I am quite a fan of the Skaven race in the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and felt right at home when I first learned about mutations in roguelikes.

There are no sidequests or NPCs to this game which is unfortunate.

From the reviews I’ve read people tend to agree that crawl is a great game to get your feet wet in the roguelike genre. Personally I would still recommend ADOM first since it offers up a more RPG experience, but if that one feels too complicated then try out Crawl and then ease your way into ADOM.



Wikihack Crawl

13 Steps to Crawl


Abandonia Reloaded

GameSetWatch @Play


Advancement of Dungeon Crawling – This hasn’t been updated in years, but there is still a lot of resources on it such as a Beginner’s Tutorial and many guides on every aspect of the game.

Playing Crawl on a server – I don’t know too much about playing Crawl on any server, but for those of you who want to then you can do so here. They have tournaments and a leader board. It’s still active.


Dungeon Crawl Spoilers

Dungeon Crawl Extra Spoilers

Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup:

This is a continuation of Linley’s Dungeon Crawl. Stone Soup is available with graphics or the usual ASCII interface. You can play the game either online or offline.

Stone Soup is still in development and as of April of this year they have released version 0.8 that adds a new god, new race, split up the enchantment school and some other odds and ends.

The graphic version of Stone Soup is so easy to play and get right into that I find myself playing it as a coffee-break style game. I’ll jump right into a game with my Draconian Necromancer, play a level or two, die and start all over again. The ease in character creation and mouse driven interface makes this game almost idiot proof. It took me all of 5 minutes to learn basically all the controls I needed to play.

Legerdemain – Now here is a roguelike-ish game that I love. It’s more a true RPG than a roguelike due to its static dungeons, gameplay changes, ability to save and others. Don’t let that fool you this game is hard and complex with a wonderfully surreal storyline to go along with that.

Legerdemain was made by Nathan Jerpe. He coined the phrase roguelike fiction to set his game apart from the other RLs out there. Some RL fans will be disappointed due to the static nature of the game, but I believe it enhances the games flavor and offers something unique among the roguelikes. Specifically it has an actual story. There had to be some concessions made when writing such a game and the randomness of the world was one of them. The other is permanent death. Due to how large this game (not to mention how difficult the beginning is) a permanent death system in this game would have been detrimental to your enjoyment. The heart to Legerdemain is its story and by forcing the player to restart every time he/she dies (you will die a lot) would have made this game unbearable. It’s not like a real roguelike where you can switch characters and try something new with new dungeon levels. The dungeon maps remain the same no matter how many times you restart. However, certain monsters and items do not remain the same. There are static items and monsters as well as random ones.

There is a free ASCII version of the game available on his webpage or you can buy the hintbook and tilesets. The “hintbook” (more a novel than a hintbook) is over 300 pages long and the tilesets offered are well made. Take my opinion with a grain of salt when it comes to graphics. I also think that Ultima 5 graphics are well done. This is due to the fact that I remember CGA graphics and anything better than that is ok, IMO.

The character creation is done by answering question and given a choice of five different multiple choice answers. Anyone familiar with Ultima should feel right at home with this except the answers are not quite as obvious as Ultima. Your answers will affect which philosophy your character follows (what spells he will have available in the beginning) as well as his starting stats, starting skills and interface color.

Each philosophy comes with its own spells. Some philosophies are easier to start with than others. If your characters start with the philosophies of Logos and Chronos then you may have a tougher time in the begging due to their non-combative spells. You’ll need to upgrade your skills in melee and missle as soon as possible to compensate.

There are a total of 12 skills in all ranging from the five different philosophies to combat skills such as melee to noncombat skills as in skulduggery and lore. Each time you level up you are given a choice as to what skills you want to improve. Obviously the higher the skill the better you are at it, but there are also some unlocks. For example when one of your philosophy skills gets high enough you will unlock three additional spells. You will keep unlocking more spells as your skills improve.

You cast spells with a brush instead of a wand and are given your first brush as soon as you enter the game. You will have a limited number of slots available to you to memorize spells. As your skill improves in that philosophy so will amount of slots available to you.

Some of the monsters are recognizable, but are also unique. Like the boogah who have imprisoned you in the beginning seem like ogres with a few differences. As you travel you will come across a variety of enemies that while familiar have their own unique flavor in this world.

One of the differences between a true roguelike and a roguelike fiction that you’ll see as soon as you start playing are question marks that will appear on the game screen. When you cross over one of these question marks a message will appear detailing the environment or giving background to the storyline. You’ll fine your first question mark as soon as you start a new character. As you are walking out of your cell you will come across a question mark which tells you a little bit about how you got into that cell and about your captors. There are also paragraphs that will appear from time to time when you come across something important. You can refer back to those paragraphs at anytime. They are all stored in your ‘philosophers journal’. Which can be accessed by hitting the ‘?’ key. A list of commands, memorable paragraphs, recent messages, local lore (read this every time you enter a new area) citizen interviews, known chants, a list of major characters you have killed and even a search engine if you are looking for a particular word or phrase within this journal.

NPCs can be talked to and can give you quests. The way you interact with them is similar to the old school Ultima series or Wizardry. As you are talking to them certain words or phrases will be highlighted. Type in those words and the NPC will tell you what they know about it. Just like in Ultima learning about certain topics from one NPC and talking about that topic with another NPC might yield more information or even quests.

If you are a fan of roguelikes, Ultima or desire something with more meat on its bones than what is offered by the AAA publishers then you should give Legerdemain a try. It may not offer a unique experience each time you play, but it makes up for that by offering a unique setting, complex gameplay, quests and most importantly a good story to sink your teeth into.


Play This Thing




Part 1: The Awakening

Part 2: Escape from the Depths

Part 3: A World of Fractured Sunshine

YouTube: Escape from the Doobah Jail

Once again I have over done it. I had wanted to get into Rogue Survivor, UnReal World, DoomRL and a few of the other newer roguelikes, but that will have to wait till next time.

Filed Under: Free Games, Guest Posts, Roguelikes - Comments: 6 Comments to Read

  • Max said,

    Nice overview. Can’t wait for Unreal World review – imho one of the most unique roguelikes out there.

  • skavenhorde said,

    “Tales of the Rampant Coyote and Rat” I like the sound of that. Sounds like a tale told in one of George R. R. Martin’s books. 😀 Plus, rats are really good at finding things which might explain my almost obsessive compulsion to write these articles 😉

    @Max Unreal World will be a difficult one to write. Ive gotten as far as loading it up once or twice, but haven’t had the time to dig into it like I have with the other roguelikes, but I’ll do some research on it and post what I find.

    I really wish I could try it out for a bit before I write my article, but the learning curve on that one is almost as bad as Dwarf Fortress (that isn’t necessarily a bad thing) and it would take too long to figure out.

    Rogue Survivor is my next favorite. That one I have played a bit and will be playing that all the way till Dead State is released.

  • Viridian said,

    You can telnet or ssh into crawl.akrasiac.org to play Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup on the official server, or you can just watch other people play it. Which is awesome.

  • Nathan D. Jerpe said,

    @skavenhorde I just wanted to say thank you for covering Legerdemain; articles like these really make a difference when you’re a small company. I’m going to be promoting it June 23-26 at Origins (http://originsgamefair.com) so if any of your fans happen to be there they should drop by Booth #130 and say hello.


  • WCG said,

    UnReal World is great,… but is it really a rogue-like? Sure, it’s got permanent death – which is the one thing I don’t like about it – but are there any other similarities?

    Well, either way, I’ll be interested to see your review.

  • XIII said,

    Might be this blogs best blog around…