Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Game 173: Moria (1983)

Moria was first released in 1983; I'm playing a DOS version from 1988 that, as far as I can tell, maintains the basic structure, mechanics, and spirit of the original game.
United States
Independently developed and distributed
Released 1983 on VMS systems; ported by various developers over the years to multiple platforms, including DOS, in 1988, by Don Kneller
Date Started: 23 December 2013
If we ignore graphics and sound, both of which should matter least to an RPG player, Moria is second only to Ultima III as the most advanced game of 1983. In considerations of equipment, economy, and monster variation, it not only surpasses Ultima III but any game released in 1984 and most games released in 1985. Again, we have to note that reliance on ASCII characters and only the most primitive sounds freed roguelike developers (in this case, University of Oklahoma students Robert Alan Koeneke and Jimmey Wayne Todd) to focus all their attention on logistics and mechanics. NetHack remains my highest-ranked game when it comes to the uses and variety of equipment, and only a few games rival it when it comes to the variety and special attacks and defenses of its monsters. I knew nothing about the roguelike sub-genre when I started this project, and my exposure to it has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my blog.

Moria is arguably the second roguelike game, after Rogue itself. Hack is often credited as a 1982 game, but as far as I can tell, it wasn't released until 1984, which of course matters most when considering a chronology. Wikipedia's chronology of roguelikes gives several others that supposedly precede Moria, but all of them are quasi-roguelikes retroactively labeled. They precede Rogue itself (Beneath Apple Manor, DUNGEON), show no awareness of Rogue (Sword of Fargoal, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Cloudy Mountain), or don't have the full complement of roguelike features.  To review, these are usually given as:

  • Turn-based movement, ideally with no activity during the period between player actions
  • Randomly-generated areas
  • Abstract representation of graphics, usually with ASCII characters
  • Permadeath: while you can save a game for later play, the death of a character results in the erasure of the saved file (or it's erased on every startup)

These four elements seem to be on everyone's list. Most of them also feature some kind of complex logistics associated with items, including an identification system, creative ways in which they interact, and a large variety of items to wear, wield, and use. 

The frequency and permanence of this screen separates roguelikes from normal RPGs.

Moria is certainly a good roguelike and a good CRPG for 1983, but it's somewhat unsatisfying playing it after NetHack. Unsatisfying and disconcerting, I should say, because the game looks like NetHack and yet operates under different rules. Some, but not all, of the commands, items, and monsters are the same. Having invested an absurd number of hours in NetHack last year, it was very difficult to re-learn the interface and conventions of a visually-similar but mechanically-different game. Ultimately, NetHack is a much better game, but of course it's also much later. In discussing the game, I'll try to make more comparisons to Rogue, its predecessor, than NetHack.

A typical Moria screen. On Level 1 of the dungeon and character Level 2, I fight a giant white centipede, who happens to be standing right next to a kobold. Another centipede awaits me in the room beyond, as well as a potion.

Moria's main quest is to descend into the mines of Moria and slay a balrog. (The two names are  lifted from the works of an obscure 20th century British author.) There's no other back story or context to the game world. The game begins above-ground, in a town with multiple shops and a handful of crude NPCs. From here, the player descends into 50+ levels of randomly-generated dungeons, slaying monsters, increasing levels, and finding better pieces of equipment on the way. Assuming the player makes it that far, the balrog is found somewhere around Level 50. Killing it immediately and victoriously ends the game.

Several characteristics of dungeon generation make Moria significantly different from Rogue and, ultimately, NetHack:

  • The dungeon levels are very large, occupying multiple screens.
  • Although you can move both up and down in the dungeon (and return to town), dungeon levels are randomly-generated every time you visit. There's no need to exhaustively explore a level, as you only have to go down and then back up to regenerate the level with new monsters and treasures.
  • Because of the random generation, all staircases are one-way. Upon arriving on a new level, you must find new staircases both to go down and to return to upper levels.
  • Monsters respawn extremely slowly on levels you've already cleared.

I found the game relatively easy in its early stages. It's quite hard to die in the first five or so levels, except through carelessness or really bad luck. Because enemies hardly ever re-spawn, you usually have very large, cleared "safe" areas in which to dither around and regenerate hit points. Enemies are relatively weak, and conditions like "poison" are only temporary and do not affect attributes, only hit points. Finally, because you can get a brand new level just by leaving and returning, you don't feel the same obligation to explore every corner that you do with Rogue.

White worm masses replicate and swarm, leading to a rare early-level death if you're so stupid that you take them on.

In the later stages, on the other hand, Moria can be a real bastard. Harder monsters may get multiple movements to your one (more on speed variances in the next post), making it hard to kill them and impossible to flee them. Perhaps most important, the sheer number and size of the levels increase the cumulative probability of death. NetHack took a long time to win because of the difficulty, but my actual winning game took less than 8 hours of actual gameplay. In Moria, I've played twice that long only to die on Level 20. You don't so much "win" Moria as outlast it.

As with other roguelikes, inventories can get out of control very fast.

I'm going to cover each of the major sections of the game in detail (most in the next post), but before I do, let me simply mention some of the main differences from NetHack for those of you stuck (as I was) in a NetHack mindset before playing:

  • There are no intrinsics (save the "abilities" that we'll talk about) and no eating of corpses.
  • Enemies don't drop any equipment and only rarely drop treasure. Valuable items are found randomly in the dungeon, not on slain foes.
  • While items can be "cursed," the effect is simply to make the item non-removable. It is not a worse item, intrinsically, than a non-cursed version. There are no blessings.
  • Items cannot be used in conjunction with each other.
  • There are no special encounters like thrones, sinks, and fountains.
  • There are no alignments or religious system.

On the other hand, Moria does have a number of its own innovations, including a town level and more complex shops. It had a full array of attributes, races, classes, and abilities before NetHack did. In keeping with its Tolkien source, you can "mine" valuables directly from some walls. There's a useful distinction between "equipped" items and "inventory" items and a bigger selection of magic items and effects. Combat mechanics are a bit more complex, and there are more ways to extract yourself from encounters (like spiking doors). While I still think NetHack is superior, I would easily put Moria ahead of Rogue for enjoyment.

Although every dungeon level spreads across multiple screens, you can bring up a small-scale map to help you navigate.

It's taken me so long to post about Moria because I really wanted to win the game and tie everything together in a single posting. At this point, having invested a few dozen hours in the game since December 2013, I have to say that you're not likely to see a "won" posting without an asterisk. While I'm convinced that the game is beatable with time and patience, I simply don't have the stamina to go through another NetHack experience. As I write now, the lowest level I've reached is 24. As I finally start this series of (probably three) postings on the game, I'll do my best to play honestly, but I'm also going to allow myself to copy the saved game every 2 or 3 levels. We'll see how far I get before having to resort to restoring one, and how much save-scumming I have to do after that to reach the final screen.

In creating your character for Moria, you choose your sex and race from a list of eight options: human, half-elf, elf, halfling, gnome, dwarf, half-orc, and half-troll. (The origin of the latter is perhaps best not imagined.) They have the normal D&D-inspired strengths, weaknesses, and class restrictions; for instance, halflings are good at thievery, only humans and half-elves can be paladins, and half-orcs and half-trolls are dumb but strong and best suited as warriors.

The game then rolls for age, height, weight, social class, and the game's six attributes (the standard D&D set of strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution, and charisma). You get a cute little "background" paragraph for your character, which varies depending on your race and sex selections but is also heavily randomized. For instance, one random roll for a half-elf might give you:

Your father was a Green-Elf. You are one of several children of a yeoman. You are a credit to the family. You have dark brown eyes, wavy blond hair, and an average complexion.

Another roll for the same character might produce:

Your father was a Grey-Elf. You are the illegitimate but acknowledged child of a serf. You are the black sheep of the family. You have blue-gray eyes, straight black hair, and a very dark complexion.

It's just simple sentence substitution, but it's still a little fun.

A character background for a dwarf male.

The attribute rolls are fairly generous, and it's not hard to get everything in the double digits with a few SPACE bar entries. It's best to focus on the attributes. Weight matters a little, for carrying capacity and bashing, but I don't think the other statistics (age, height, social class) have a significant effect. The background doesn't really matter at all except for role-playing reasons.

After accepting the attributes, the player selects a class from those available to the race. Only humans and half-elves can choose from every class: warrior, mage, priest, rogue, ranger, and paladin. Finally, depending on all of these factors, you get a ranking from "very bad" to "superb" in eight skills: fighting, bows and throwing weapons, saving throws, stealth, disarming, use of magic devices, perception, and searching. These are immutable throughout the game and basically tell you how to best play the character. [Later edit: This last sentence was an artifact of an earlier draft and is incorrect. The skills are not "immutable"; they change with levels, attributes, and items.]

I've had a lot better experience playing a spellcaster in Moria than in the early versions of NetHack. Spells are much more useful here, particularly since they don't fade away from your spellbook. I'll cover the system in detail next time, but suffice to say that I consider "Detect Monsters" and "Find Hidden Traps/Doors" to be particularly vital, and I wouldn't want to rely on scrolls for these.

I haven't had a lot of luck relying on magic for combat, however, so strong martial skills are still important. After experimenting with a variety of characters, I've settled on a half-elf ranger as my best option. With the right stats, he starts at least "good" in every ability, which can showcase almost everything the game has to offer.

The final character sheet.

The game starts in a town level of six buildings: two magic shops (one for priests, one for mages), a weapon shop, an armor shop, a potion shop, and a store that sells exploration sundries like rations, torches, and iron spikes. (I can't remember this staple of tabletop RPGs showing up in any other computer RPG.) Item selections are partially randomized and remain quite relevant even at advanced levels. Particularly useful are potions and scrolls that increase your attributes or improve your weapons and armor. The problem is that the further you explore the dungeon, the further you get away from the town, and the longer it takes to backtrack and trade. This makes "Word-of-Recall" scrolls, which automatically whisk you between the town and the lowest explored level, a necessity.

The player starts out with a reasonably good default selection of items and an amount of gold influenced by starting attributes--the game actually compensates for lower scores by giving the player more starting gold. I generally found it was best to save the shops until I'd explored a few levels. There's a bargaining system, but gold is plentiful enough that I haven't bothered much with it. [Later edit: This last sentence is also the artifact of an earlier draft, and it's laughably wrong. The economy actually plays a major role in the game; gold is not that plentiful at higher levels, and every gold piece you can save makes all the difference. I apologize for the error.]

Bartering for iron spikes in the shop.

The town is also full of the most annoying NPCs that ever existed, including drunks, street urchins, beggars, blubbering idiots, rogues, and lepers. They swarm you, begging for money (rogues even steal it), stumbling into you, and you have to keep acknowledging their messages. There's no "talk" option in the game that makes them useful. I soon found that while there's no reward for killing them, there really isn't any penalty either.

If "more beggars than a Eurostar stop" isn't already a phrase, consider it coined.

After exploring the town, it's time to hit the dungeon, where--just as in any roguelike--you have to master a long list of keyboard commands (many varying whether you use uppercase or lowercase or a CTRL modifier), fight monsters, collect treasure, and slowly grow more powerful.

As with any good roguelike, there's an exhaustive in-game list of keyboard commands. If anyone's playing along with me, here's a tip you won't find in the manual: the DOS version recognizes only the right CTRL key, not the left.

This seems like a good place to break off. In the next post, I'll talk about the game's mechanics, including monsters, inventory, combat, and magic, and then probably spend a third post on the endgame if I can reach it.


  1. Does anyone have recommendations for graphical Rogue-likes that are deep and satisfying, like Moria or Nethack? I love the idea of a rogue-like but the ASCII graphics are too abstract for me to enjoy the experience.

    1. ADOM seems like it's been the high point of traditional roguelikes for years now. Has more RPG elements than Hack/Band (there are a few set maps with questgivers)


      The Guidebook for when you stop trying to figure everything out on your own. You can be as spoilery as you like - I find it useful for corpse effects and item descriptions in particular.


    2. If you own a tablet you could try Pixel Dungeon. It's no NetHack, but still pretty hard. But then again, I completely lack the patience for these types of games.

    3. Here is roguelike games list from 1996.


    4. It is your lucky day!

      IVAN (Iter vehemens at necem) - 'modern Nethack'. Uses graphics very nicely and is very, very deep in item-environment interaction. But it's also very, very frustrating. Prepare yourself to be cheated at this game, my friend.

      ADOM - has graphics in versions >1.1.1. Veeery involvel, Nethack-like. Lots of tastes to discover. Very story&world driven for a roguelike.

      Dungeon crawl stone soup - great tiles. It's more an arcade roguelike, with lot more focus on combat than items, but give it a try. You can play it online - crawl.akrasiac.org:8080

      Brogue - ASCII graphics, but best ones I've seen. It is Rogue with lots of improvements. Short & deadly.

      Doom the roguelike - graphics. Try it.

      Spelunky - platformer roguelike. You can waste 15 minutes on it :)

      There were - Dungeons of Dredmor, UnReal World, Shirou the Wanderer that were graphical and roguelike but didn't suit me very well (meme humor in DoD particularly got on my nerves)

    5. Dungeons of Dredmor is enjoyable (and I liked the meme humour) but not deep.

    6. Dungeonmans, Tome, DoomRL, Brogue

    7. ADOM is my favorite, but already mentioned.

      Tales of Maj'Eyal is excellent as well. It does a number of things philosophically different from other roguelikes (no item IDs, for instance) with has the attitude you should only die when it's your own fault. Like most roguelikes it will be your own fault often.

    8. Another good one is Powder. It can be played on DS, and it's relatively short as roguelikes go, which makes the gameplay snappier. Themed levels, good tiles, and a well-balanced deity-based leveling system improve the experience further.

    9. Binding of Isaac, Final Fantasy: Chocobo's Dungeon and Dungeons of Dredmor.

    10. DreamQuest - roguelike card collectible game. The most addictive piece of software on my ipad, now also out for PC I think. Ridiculous stick figure graphics but what a gameplay! Must... not... go... for... one... more... game...

    11. And, on top of all of these, there's also Nethack and Slash'EM. Yes, they do have graphical tiles available which make distinguishing between a spider and a snake quite a bit easier. There was even a project at one point to give Nethack an animated, 3D graphics frontend, but I think it may have died out due to lack of competent artists...

      The configuration keyword you'll be looking for is "tiles". Or, there's an isometric graphics frontend for it that, I believe, was called "falcon's eye".

    12. Since we're at it... Rogue-like with Giant Death

    13. The Amiga version of Moria has a graphical interface. It is basically the same game as the one Chet is playing, except that they added a few new monster types and magical items.

      There are a few screenshots of the game around the internet. A picture of the town map can be found here

    14. Nethack has tiles these days, if you want, and plenty of fan made tile sets are available if you don't like the 'official' ones. I prefer the IBM Extended Graphics or the DEC Extended Graphics myself that use additional box features to extend the range of characters, plus a few custom characters I put in myself from the relevant codepage.

      I'd check the roguelike wiki, roguebasin, though; it is MUCH more updated then a list from 1996! http://www.roguebasin.com/index.php?title=Main_Page

  2. I think the non-persistent dungeons and lack of loot drops are both a bit of a turn off. ADOM has an optional non-persistent dungeon. It's useful for safer leveling early game and which always generates a stair back the way you came under your feet, sensibly. It's the least interesting location in the game though.

    1. The non-persistent dungeons were a technical limitation of the time, though it is baffling why many of the 'bands of decided to keep that feature.

    2. It gives a very different playstyle that a lot of people like. Much more focus on minute-to-minute tactical decisions then long term stockpiling and food management and such.

      I prefer strategic gameplay to tactical, but sadly the trend is currently towards the later.

  3. The Moria/Angband "branch" of the roguelike family (characterized by the random levels and never returning to the same level once you leave it) is very rewarding in it's own distinct ways. Angband will add some of complexity that makes makes Moria pale in comparison to NetHack's later versions.
    I agree with your lack of willingness to persist with a "legitimate" win in Moria. I had many real Nethack wins but never a real Moria or Angband win because there simply is too much time invested in a character that only has a 25/50% chance of winning the final fight.
    Melee face-rollers are so much fun to play in Moria, but a hybrid class or mage-type has a much better chance at a legitimate win in the final battle.
    Moria is worth playing to the end for an asterisked win (with backups), but Angband is a much better game for investing time.

  4. If we ignore graphics and sound, both of which should matter least to an RPG player

    That is awesome.

    Yeah, Moria vs. Nethack is a tough transition, especially if you learned nethack first. I get the distinct impression that the developers of Nethack 3 on had played a ton of Moria and used that experience in their game. Food, for one. It's a much larger part of the game in Nethack than it is in Moria. In fact, one wonders why you even need to eat in Moria at all. Mushrooms, I suppose, but those are just potions in another form.

    Don't feel bad, eh. I never won Moria, either. I bombed out at about the same place, level 25-30. It gets a lot harder to survive and you need to use a ton of spells and really master the Moria system. I remember my favorite low-level weapon was a whip. Since it doesn't weigh anything, it gets multiple attacks per round. Or was that in Angband?

    What really bummed me out about Moria after a while was just how *empty* it is. The levels don't last, if thieves steal something from you you can't chase them down and get it back, and to get monsters to drop loot you need to fight them in an open area. See, the treasure can drop anywhere within a 2x2 range, and if that space is occupied by anything, then there's no treasure. No stacking Moria, one item per square. But it was the emptiness that drove me off. The windswept town that tantalized with the idea of NPCs and never delivered. The levels with nothing to visit, no features, no surprises. Just endless procedurally generated dungeon, which is always different but after a while looks all the same. It's a pity because the game starts out so well when you're leveling up.

    So, when's Larn. coming up on the list? :D Wasn't it '86 or so? Whatta great game. The first roguelike I ever won. And how about a bonus review of rogomatic? :D

    1. Thanks for the explanation on the loot drops. I didn't understand how that mechanic worked, and I wondered why the money would sometimes appear a couple squares away, if at all.

      I tried Larn early in my career, but I wasn't willing to be as flexible with save-scumming back then, so I didn't go very far. I might revisit it.

    2. I remember vaguely that Moria has few to none out of depth monsters, which allows you to grind very safely if you limit yourself. Basically, you just have to know when Vampires, Liches and AMHDs start to spawn and don't go there too early. Of course drop rates of interesting items are lower that way, but that's the price.

      Considering your limited options to scout monsters, protect yourself and flee, this is the safest option. It also makes the game an awful grind.

      I also remember vaguely that "social class" influences your starting money. You can still grind, but a few 100$ make the first few levels a lot more survivable.

      Larn is far shorter and has a better pacing than Moria, which overstays its welcome. Also it's a bit easier and the only roguelike I have ever beaten without save scumming (won Moria with).

    3. Give Larn a try. I bet you can bang it out in a single posting. You've gotten better since the last time you tried. ;)

  5. I haver played Moria far more than I should have and have around a dozen legitimate wins through the years. Unless you have a very different version than the ones I've played you have a few basic facts very wrong:

    1. Monsters drop loot. And treasure, but the low level monsters drop little, and it need to be open floor space for the loot to drop on.
    2. The stats (and abilities) are not immutable. They change as you find stat-increasing items and potions and ability increasing items.

    You say you'll cover speed later, so I'll just comment that it is _very_ important.

    I heartily recommend using a backup save file if you want to get the winner screen, though. It is possible to have a close to 100% chance to beat the Balrog, but there is a much more dangerous monster down in the deep that can kill you from off-screen in one hit. The last time I won I played at a server with a common high score list and the next two pages of entries (below my winner) were killed by the same monster.

    (And now you've gotten me to long for a round or 10 of Moria again...)

    1. I appreciate the corrections. I originally wrote the first draft of this posting more than a year ago, when I started to play the game, and there were a lot of bits of incorrect information in it. I corrected most of them, but I somehow missed the "immutable" statistics thing. The other major one I just now corrected has to do with the economy; I didn't think it was important when I first started playing, but now I realize that it's vital.

      As for #1, though, I've never had an enemy drop anything except gold. Is it perhaps a version difference? (I'm playing a relatively early one.) I do admittedly do most of my fighting in hallways...

    2. Just to add two points as somebody who has won Moria with a moderate amount of save scumming:

      1) At levels ~25 or so, you're hitting the maximum of the ranger. You'll have a much, much easier time in the meat of the game (below level 30) if you go mage or priest.

      2) I may be confusing some details with Angband, which I've played much more (and recently), but there are 'sweet spot' levels where certain drops begin to become common. Spending lots of time at the wrong level range is literally a waste. In the ~25-35 zone, unless you're seeing stat potions on a reliable basis (ie. most trips), you aren't nearly deep enough to camp for a while (same goes later on for finding enough +speed).


  6. Moria's main quest is to descend into the mines of Moria and slay a balrog. (The two names are lifted from the works of an obscure 20th century British author.)

    That's that J.K. Rowling, innit?

  7. Replies
    1. Pretty sure he meant Arthur C. Clarke

    2. Yeah, that's C.S. Lewis's best work.

    3. He's talking of Lord Dunsany, of course!

    4. Close on the C.S. Lewis guess, but I'm pretty sure he's talking about a friend of Lewis's and fellow member of the "Inklings" group.

      I speak, of course, of Charles Williams. I believe Moria is modeled on one of his most popular and well-received works, "Descent into Hell." (Also the basis for the video games "Descent" and "Doom," as I recall.)

    5. No, they're still not obscure enough. I think it's George Orwell though. Damn, these guys are so obscure, we are basically trying to dig them out from unmarked graves!

    6. Oh yeah, I think I saw the movies. Total ripoff of Dungeons & Dragons.

      I think it was called Harry Potter.

    7. @HunterZ- Who in their right mind would wanna ripoff this terrible movie, amirite?

      Silly George R. R. Martin for writing this crazy story.

  8. I tend to find that players of the 'classic' roguelikes tend to fall into two main camps - the player who favor the Hack variants, and the players who favor the *band variants, of which Moria is one.

    I originally learned roguelikes on Rogue, went to Moria, and then went to Angband (which has changed vastly over its dev history). As such I find the Hack variants incredibly hard to wrap my mind around - not only are familiar controls not the same, but basic paradigms are completely sideways.

    1. I agree. I played Zangband and Powder for awhile, but I could never get into Nethack. The similarities are deceptive, as the differences are deep.

    2. I've played pretty much all of them, ones I keep coming back to are adom,nethack,zangband,tome,cataclysm dda (dwarf fortress if you count it but you shouldn't). Only played moria a couple times (imo play that for historical reasons, play *angbands for enjoyment). Nethack is more complicated but its often easier just to get into a game of one of the angbands without worrying about remembering all the special ways of getting around problems that nethack brings. ADOMs pretty sweet in having a coherent story and brings complexity beyond the angbands. TOME is a descendant of angband (and thus also moria) but has evolved to be very different, while some things remain the exact same in moria and all the angbands. Cataclysm and dwarf fortress are not so much rpgs but sandbox ascii games, both epic but the addict wouldn't have to worry about either for years to come anyhow

    3. I find that the 'bands play more like traditional rpg's, whereas the 'hacks play kind of like graphical versions of Beyond-Zork in that it's much more important to know what items to use and when than it is to make a character.

    4. Yeah, there's a pretty deep divide between the two design philosophies and I envy anyone who can wrap their brain around both. I started with Angband and I've never been able to grok Nethack.

    5. This is why I have so much trouble with hack. I am used to thinking in a band oriented way. Its not just the special use items and circumstances, because ADoM which I love has some of that thinking. Its also that the commands are so different in function and keypress yet it is a roguelike so I instinctively hit the wrong command when trying to do things.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. I'd love to know of other games that follow Nethacks design style. I like stockpiling and playing with alters and such, but would love a shorter, easier game. Does such a thing exist? b

  9. Rangers/druids are great. I tend to play that kind of ranged attack + magic assist class in a lot of games.

    Also, Addict, why are you carrying around so many skeletons and such if there's no corpse-eating? (Inventory screenshot)

    1. Things in life I don't understand #811: People who choose 'Fighter' in single character RPGs

    2. In *angbands (Zangband specifically) I find pure fighters get kind of boring, and pure mages tend to die before they reach character level 5, so I tread the middle ground, clerics/rogues/monks/chaos warriors etc

    3. I loaded up on junk inventory just for the purposes of the screenshot.

    4. I also prefer mages to fighters: throwing hellfire is more fun than just hitting someone with a pointy stick, and since mages usually have low health, they are still challenging to play despite their power. Something I like about The Elder Scrolls is that I do not have to choose: I can play a fighter who Blasts things with spells and picks every lock. It is oddly muchkiny for me, as I normally love good challenges and still love to go back and play those really hard platformers and R.P.G.s from the NES and SNES days,

    5. @Tristan. I tend to start with fighters under the assumption they'll be simpler while I'm learning the game. Get used to that first and then move up to other classes, like spellslingers, that are generally more fiddly.

    6. Why people choose pure fighters? Because CONAN!!!

    7. Half troll warriors are incredibly viable in the later Angbands.

    8. Carrying junk around can serve a tactical purpose, that is to lower the
      probability of useful inventory items being destroyed by theft, fire damage
      etc., at least in the later versions.

    9. I'll play Wizards or Warriors depending on the game, magic system and difficulty. In Nethack I almost always play Valks since they are the easiest class. Not like they can't learn some useful magic.

  10. My favorite Roguelike is The Binding of Isaac: It has real-time movement and combat and nice graphics, but it also has the randomization, permadeath and general cruelty of the genre. It is basically Zelda mixed with Rogue, and it is awesome.

    1. Urg. I guess I'm old fashioned, but I always have had trouble calling that one a Roguelike. I'm not a strict Berlin Definition person, but in my mine a RL should be an RPG, totally turn based, with one person, in a random dungeon. *grumble*

  11. I think Moria is very winnable, but it requires patience, first in time/character, and second in overall time to learn the tricks of the higher-level monsters. You can reduce the second part by reading tactical tips / "spoilers", although spoilers are not nearly as important in Moria as they are in Nethack.

    1. Speaking of "winnable" that seems like it might be a good special topic. In many of these early games there's often pretty serious doubt as to whether anyone can even win these games on their own. I mean even beyond the brutal lethality of Rogue-likes, just in terms of some of the fiendish puzzles thrown out in games that you don't see as much anymore. For instance, it took two decades and a walkthrough before I finished The Bard's Tale, but by the time of Pool of Radiance I confidently (and rightly) assumed I'd win out eventually, and in a game like Dragon Age I don't think there's ever a doubt about anyone's ability to finish. There's probably a lot more to be discussed in the shifting understanding of winning from something that's a rare achievement to something that's basically guaranteed.

    2. Quirkz, great topic. I may wrap up my Moria discussion with that.

      "It requires patience." I'll say. I visited a fan page that had screen shots of a group of winning characters. They were all in the 70s for their levels and had over 5 million experience points. I don't know how you possibly get that high; in 20 hours of play, even save-scumming, I've only gotten to about 50,000. If it requires THAT much grinding to win, we might not see a "won" posting even with save-scumming.

    3. Ah... the good ol' 80s... where games are so tough to play and screenshots so hard to take that everyone will call bullshit if you declare that you beat them.

    4. You usually should win Moria around level 37 or 38. Depending on your luck finding speed items. If you luck out and find the boots you could win earlier. The problem is (of course) that speed items (non-boot ones) are most common at (or below) dungeon level 50 (2500 feet), which is the same depth where the Balrog starts showing up (50% chance each time, I think even in the early versions, the alternative is really annoying...)

  12. Now that another Roguelike's come up, I'll mention a pretty good (though now defunct) column on the genre called @Play.

  13. This is one leg of the major branching of RL games. Rogue had two main imitators, Moria and Hack (a 1985 Unix game that you seem to have missed completely). Moria (technically the Unix port Umoria) was followed by Angband, while Hack was followed by Nethack. Since then, most of the roguelike genre has been divided into the *hack and *band subgenres, although completely distinct examples such as ADOM, DooMRL, and possibly Dwarf Fortress adventurer mode do exist.

    For whatever reason, *bands are far more numerous than *hacks, despite both of the "mother games" being open source. I'm only aware of four or five major *hack games, while there are at least SIXTY *bands (although only five to ten are in active development), most of which are setting transplants (some move from Tolkien flavor to incorporating the actual setting in different eras and fidelities, others replace it with other universes or invent their own), ground up gameplay redesigns, or in at least one case a genre shift (Steamband moves the gameplay from a typical fantasy setting to a steampunk one).

    I don't know how the Addict will winnow the list down, as most are worth playing (particularly from the semi-scholarly point of view of this blog) even if they're no longer updated; but adding all of them (even in only one version, as he's made the sensible declaration that he's not going to do multiple versions of any game except nethack) would be a massive expansion (worse than it seems on paper, as they tended to release in clumps) of the game list, much worse than adding console games or fan translations would do (quite possibly larger than adding every console game and fan-translated PC game ever made, given the depth of the typical RL). Certainly a significant number of them can be filtered out as junk or insufficiently distinct from another version, but picking and choosing from the rest seems to be a daunting task, made worse by the somewhat lacking categorization.)

    1. I cant' remember what happened with Hack. I think I had trouble finding a working copy when I first came to it on the 1985 list. I was less patient then--always eager to get to the next game--so I probably didn't try very hard. It's on my list to pick up in the re-pass for 1985,

    2. I wouldn't actually call them "imitators". More like a natural evolution in games development after the pioneering of a new genre, especially if there is a branching out of sub-genres.

      That said, unless those games are official commercial offerings, Chet would not have to touch them. That said, since he's even dabbling in Shareware (which quite a high number of those games are), I'm afraid he'd have to devote a few hours of his life to check each one out, at the very least.

      Seriously, I'd rather he check out and blog about noteworthy Indies who made it big with original ideas (i.e. -contemporary examples- Minecraft, Warband & etc.).

    3. I've heard it was because the Angband source code was a lot easier to workwith then Hack's. Experienced people could knock out a variant in an afternoon, though it would wind up being very similar to Angband.

  14. If "more beggars than a Eurostar stop" isn't already a phrase, consider it coined.

    Is that meant to be a pun? Since people sometimes offer coins to beggars, but "coined" also has that other meaning.

  15. Here's some tips from my dim Moria memories:

    1) Unlike later versions of Angband, Mages and Rogues appear to be the best two classes, followed by Rangers. Priests and Paladins have major holes in their spells, and Warriors' don't get the mitigating factors they do in Angbands.
    2) Like in the later games, Speed is your God-stat.
    3) Look for resistances. While AC is more important in Moria than it is in Angband, nothing sucks more than being one-shot by an Ancient Multi-hued dragon, or worse, the Balrog.
    4) Especially once you hit 1000', but even before then, identify everything. There's a famous story of a guy at 2500', who mistakenly put on a cursed Helm of Blindness.

    1. From a little less dim memory:
      1. Restistances don't stack (or rather almost not). There is no point in several items with the same resistance. You can stack one resistance from worn items with one temporary (spell, mushroom, potion)
      2. There is no resistance to poison.
      3. The (gas/poison) breath-attack of an AMHD does more damage than the theoretical max HP of a Half-troll Fighter. There is no resistance to this, so make sure you don't get hit. The Balrog can be resisted (since it doesn't breathe gas/poison)

      And you 4) is very important. And the reason you should play a mage/rouge/Ranger to win (as they get identify as a spell).

  16. The experience points for kills increases dramatically at higher levels. But getting a winnable character definitely takes substantial max level grinding. Getting to max level is just the first step, then you need to kill enough baddies to get yourself all decked out in artifact quality gear.
    The artifacts are one of the best parts of the game, by the way. So if there is a "Preserve" setting in that version of the game, I would turn it on. Otherwise if you fail to discover a generated artifact, it will never be generated again for that character.
    As mentioned, Speed is incredibly important. Getting Rings of Speeds, Boots of Speed, and a weapon with speed on it (most commonly a particular longsword with +10 speed on it) is absolutely vital.

    1. As I recall, Moria doesn't have artifacts, that's a *Band thing. The Defender/Holy Averger/etc gear only has the fun damage bonuses. I don't even think it has *Slay* weapons.

    2. Thanks for the correction! They do run together so many years later.

    3. I commented on this in the next post, but despite exploring to Level 62, I've yet to find anything that has to do with speed nor any way to view my own character's speed, and I wonder if that's something that wasn't implemented until a later version of the game.

  17. Moria was my first roguelike, except maybe for Larn which I never figured out. I spent a ton of time playing (and enjoying) it but never beat it. I never really figured out Nethack or moved on to Angband, but I did eventually get into some more modern roguelikes like POWDER (and am listed in the credits for providing lots of ideas and bug reports to the author after countless hours spent playing it on my GameBoy Advance SP a decade ago).

    I did produce what has managed to stand as the last official release of the PC version of UMoria, 5.5.2, which I ported to a 32-bit MS-DOS version of GCC around 18 years ago (holy crap, that was around half my life ago!) as a personal project just after learning C in community college.

    A decade later, I participated in a successful project to contact all source code contributors to get official permission to re-license the source code under an open source license (GPLv2 and/or Public Domain): http://free-moria.sourceforge.net/

    Now that I've been a professional software engineer for a decade, I've thought about going back and rewriting the source in C++ or somesuch, but I think the world has moved on to Angband and even more modern roguelikes and roguelites, leaving Moria as a bit of a relic. I'm very happy to see it chronicled here!

    By the way, I believe Moria is credited as being a major inspiration for Diablo, which was originally conceived as a turn-based graphical roguelike. The original developer decided to make it real-time, which (along with the graphics of course) was probably key to making it attractive to mainstream gamers at the time.

  18. FYI:

    Singing Happy Drunks do tend to drop gold when killed, at least in 5.5.2. This is an easy way to pick up a few coins at the start if you're just short of the funds required to buy something.

    I think Squint-Eyed Rogues sometimes drop stuff too, but usually aren't worth the trouble because they're a challenge to kill at low-levels and they tend to pickpocket you and disappear.

  19. Hi !
    Where can one safely download Moria to try it ?

    1. The latest version is here: http://beej.us/moria/files/pc/80386-5.5.2/

      You will need to run it in DOSBox.

    2. Update: I've created a new 5.6-based Windows port here: https://github.com/HunterZ/umoria/releases/tag/5.6-cygwin1

      It's a more faithful port of the Unix/Linux source, so it doesn't have some of the bells & whistles of the old DOS versions.

  20. Man don't tell me I missed you playing the game I was pushing so hard for you to play before hack. Really sorry that I was away from this community when you did this.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. I played Moria many years ago and finished it as a half-elf priest. My recollection of the game is hazy, but I never found speed items. The key was finding some type of weapon (called a "flamberge" or something like that). Using this weapon with a bash attack seemed to do more damage to powerful monsters than to weak ones. Perhaps this is was a game bug. So, with this weapon speed was not a big factor--I was able to vanquish ancient dragons and even the balrog with a single blow.


  23. I did not even know that in 1983 had already developed computer games. In the country where I was born at a time no one even knew about the computer. :) Amazing and incredible as technology progressed and evolved over the years.

  24. You played the earliest version of RAK's Moria that's widely available today (v4.873), but I extensively played two versions of v4.83 that people passed around in middle school (and still have those copies, if anyone wants them for preservation).

    It's awkward to play even compared to v4.873, and especially the v5.4 most familiar to roguelike veterans. Most notably (compared to v4.873), experience required to gain a level is ~50% higher across the board, and the see invisible ability doesn't work, making combat against the Balrog harder.

    I never was able to actually defeat the Balrog in v4.83, but I didn't know then that the Balrog draws strength from wands and staves you carry. (I first beat the Balrog in v4.873, but by then I knew that.)

    A note on historic preservation of games: what's available online is scattershot, for anything before the CD era:

    * Non-commercial games either often don't have the full version available (for shareware), or have an unclear release history early on (for freely distributable games like RAK's Moria). (The history of Nethack is relatively well-documented these days because it's always been tied to Usenet, which is relatively well-preserved.)

    * Commercial games often only have the oldest version readily available, which reflects pirates' obsession with pushing games out the door ASAP. Even if you can easily get the latest version, the version history may be obscure (Ultima VI, which Origin assiduously patched, is a late example). (Infocom's standard 35 games are the major exception to this; its history has been well-documented for longer than some of your readers have been alive.)

  25. Just wanted to let the community know the original author of Moria, Robert Koeneke, passed away on July 15th.

    1. I'm very sorry to hear that, but thanks for letting us know. I haven't been able to find a full obituary, but it appears he was living outside of Fort Worth, Texas and was 64.

    2. Thanks for letting us know. I've passed the word on Twitter.

    3. For those of you who keep submitting links, I'm capable of basic Googling. A line on a clickbait website with a name and date is not an obituary. An obituary is usually written by someone who knew the deceased and tells you something about his life, legacy, and family.

  26. This obituary includes numerous postings with significant details into Robert's life, including his development of Moria:



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