Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Angband: Played On

This session, I reached dungeon Level 10 and character Level 15. I still have not experienced a character death. The mechanics of the game haven't changed since my previous entries, so all I have is a bunch of miscellaneous things to tell you:
  • As is often the case with me and roguelikes, I struggle to effectively use missile weapons. I recognize their importance to effective tactics, but I hate having to swap them in and out. Angband gives an "off-hand" slot for exactly that purpose, but I have to switch to my pick-axe so often that prefer to keep that there. I've been mostly using wands in lieu of missile weapons when I really need to hit something from afar.
  • The creators of this game really like slimes, jellies, molds, and other icky things. It seems like half the enemies are some variety thereof.
  • Lots of enemies can poison, but so far they've only been capable of short-duration poisoning, such that it wears off before it's worth using "Slow Poison," let alone "Neutralize Poison."
  • I was well into the game before I realized that the number of experience points that you get for each enemy is dependent partly on your level. It is possible to get less than one experience point for a foe. For instance, at Level 13, I only got 0.23 experience points for killing a giant louse. At Level 15, it was only 0.20.
Picking a lock puts me over to the next level.
  • Lots of things deliver experience, including casting spells for the first time, picking locks, and disarming traps. At 10 experience points, disarming traps is more rewarding than most monsters on the levels.
  • There are classes of creatures that, in the game's own words, "breed explosively," meaning that it's hard to kill them faster than they appear. Such creatures include giant lice and worm masses of several colors, one of which is invisible. I sometimes have to abandon dungeon levels to their infestation. This is less of a problem than it is in roguelikes where dungeon levels are permanent.
I can't kill the louses fast enough to keep up.
  • One of the most useful features of Angband is found in its textual descriptions of monsters, which you can call up with the slash (/) key. The description slowly fills in as you experience more of the monster's special abilities and defenses.
This is a pretty awesome feature.
  • Monsters are denoted by both uppercase and lowercase letters and color. The letter indicates the class of monster and the color indicates the specific type, although some monsters only have one type. For instance, "j" is the letter used for jellies, which include blue oozes, blue jellies, yellow jellies, silver jellies, green oozes, and white jellies. Uppercase letters seem to denote more difficult monsters, to the extent that I haven't met most of them. These include Ancient (D)ragons and (V)ampires.
  • You occasionally run across a unique capital-lettered monster. I've met three: Fang, Farmer Maggot's dog (C); Grip, Farmer Maggot's other dog (C); Mughash the Kobold Lord; and Bullroarer the Hobbit. That last bastard got about six actions per round, stole my money and items frequently, and disappeared in a puff of smoke like a rogue. He was immune to the effects of wands. It took me three Potions of Heroism, one Potion of Speed, and one Potion of Berserk Strength to finally kill him. Mughash had no special attacks but hit hard and had a lot of hit points. I had to "Portal" away from him several times, heal, and re-engage before I finally killed him.
Fighting a named NPC. I think it's safe to say that the developers took names from Tolkien but not the actual personality of the characters.
  • I guess Fang, Grip, and Bullroarer are all Tolkien characters. The game also has "snaga," which I now understand is a term for the non-Uruk Hai orcs. The movies never made me understand who was an orc, who was a goblin, and who was an Uruk Hai.
  • The letter "p" seems to be used for the most enemies (people), including novice rangers, novice warriors, novice priests, novice mages, novice archers, novice paladins, novice rogues, battle-scarred veterans, mean-looking mercenaries, aimless-looking merchants, singing happy drunks, squint-eyed rogues, mangy-looking lepers, pitiful-looking beggars, village idiots, boil-covered wretches, blubbering idiots, and filthy street urchins.
  • In the place of mimics, the game has "creeping coins." They make you think they're piles of gold, but then they attack you. These same enemies could be found in Wizardry, but they make less sense there because the mechanics of that game didn't allow you to be fooled by piles of money. Thus, if you told me that Wizardry adopted them from some other source, that would make sense to me, except I can't find any evidence for that source.
  • Not all monsters try to kill you. A lot just chill where you found them, only attacking if you come within range and threaten them. (Oddly, the ostensible monster "alignment" has nothing to do with this. Paladins attack my paladin with abandon.) My list of monsters to avoid includes green oozes (release gas that damages your equipment), blue oozes (damage your equipment with frost), giant salamanders (set you on fire, which can destroy scrolls), red naga (drain strength), and rogues and halflings (steal your stuff).
Maybe I'll leave this room alone.
  • I get my strength drained a lot. Fortunately, stores back in town sell Potions of Restore Strength. Sometimes they don't have it in stock when I desperately need it. I often go down in the dungeon and just wait a couple hundred turns until the stocks change.
  • SHIFT-S, which turns on searching permanently, has helped a lot with searching. A lot of things turn it off, though, and I often forget to turn it back on.
  • I have found a ton of Wands of Confuse Monster, and they're really useful. They not only make monsters bumble around randomly, they also forget to use their special attacks. 
  • I have found several chests, but I can't figure out any way to put things into chests.
  • Because of the above problem, inventory gets full fast. Usually when I have to warp back to town it's because of a full inventory rather than any particular danger.
  • The haggling mechanic in shops got old fast. I enabled the option to turn it off, and I almost always get better deals now anyway.
The game bargains for me automatically.
  • Selling unknown items identifies them. While shopkeepers won't buy bad items (e.g., Scrolls of Darkness, Potions of Weakness) or cursed items, they will often take a chance on unknown items. If they turn out to be bad, the shopkeeper usually screams or weeps or yells at you.
  • If you carry an unidentified item, you slowly learn at least some of its properties over time.
  • Whatever was stopping me from learning new prayers last session eventually went away. I now have "Detect Evil," "Cure Light Wounds," "Bless," "Remove Fear," "Call Light," "Find Traps," "Detect Doors/Stairs," "Slow Poison," "Blind Creature," "Portal," "Cure Medium Wounds," "Chant," "Sanctuary," and "Remove Curse." I get the most use out of the healing spells and "Call Light," but "Portal" (which does the same thing as a Scroll of Phase Door) has saved me from a couple of deaths.
I prepare to "Portal" away from some orcs who have nearly killed me.
  • "Detect Invisibility" is somewhat useless in this game. It only shows the presence and positions of invisible characters for one quick round.
I won't see those worms anymore after I acknowledge the message.
  • Since I got the "good feeling" about the level in the last entry, and found the Shining Phial, it hasn't happened again.
  • There is a "wounding" system distinct from the loss of hit points. I'm not sure what it does, however, because any wounds I've received so far have healed within a couple of rounds.
  • Scrolls of Words of Recall take about 30 rounds to work. 
  • Scrolls of Identify are, as usual, some of the most useful items in the game. It always enrages me when I get back to town and there are none for sale.
  • Your house in town is a really useful place to stockpile things you want to save but don't need just yet.
For inventory, my main weapon is a longsword. I found a pretty good one with +2 to hit, +1 to damage. Having "settled" on it, I've been periodically buffing it with Scrolls of Enchant Weapon, so now it's up to +8 / +5. I'm wearing an iron helm, leather scale mail, a large metal shield, a set of gauntlets, a pair of hard leather boots, and a cloak, none of which I'm particularly wedded to, so I haven't been doing the same with Scrolls of Enchant Armor (which are less plentiful anyway). I have a Ring of Searching +10 and a Ring of Protection +8. So far in the game, I haven't had a lot of other ring options. I had a Ring of Feather Falling for a while, but you don't fall that often. A Ring of Slow Digestion seems to be a waste in a game where food is plentiful.
My equipped inventory at the end of this session.
I ended my last entry asking what you particularly liked about what I felt was a somewhat bland game. What I can say now is that the game satisfies me in a few areas. The first is the constant improvement loop as you find new equipment, acquire gold, and level up. We meet so many games that regard character development as an afterthought; roguelikes have always understood its importance. Second, I like how the number of potential combat tactics are growing as I gain spells and equipment.
Third, I think the "town level" really adds a dimension that roguelikes of the NetHack line lack. Finally, I like that you can essentially control the pace at which the game becomes more difficult.
NetHack, though a better game, is also a very claustrophobic game. Every time you start a session, you take a deep breath, enter the dungeon, and don't quite feel safe until you leave. When death comes, it often feels like a relief from the constant tension. Angband, with its easy first levels and ability to retreat to town, is a much more casual game. You don't play every session in a cold sweat.
As I mentioned above, I did make it to Level 10, but I was getting ahead of myself. I nearly died a couple of times at the hands of large groups of hill orcs. Keeping the dungeon level to about half my character level seems a good strategy if I want to continue not to die. At this point, that's more important to me than making quick progress, although that may change as the game drags on.
Time so far: 10 hours


  1. Yay, progress! Couple small things:

    -I really wouldn’t be using Portal to escape potentially-deadly situations when you’ve got a 22% spell failure rate so long as you’ve got scrolls of phase door available instead.

    -there are indeed lots of monsters not worth tangling with, and the j class includes a bunch of them! Small mechanical spoiler about dealing with stat loss: Yriryvat hc fubhyq erfgber nal qenvarq fgngf, naq guvf rneyl va gur tnzr gung cebonoyl vf unccravat serdhragyl rabhtu gung lbh qba’g arrq gb jbeel gbb zhpu nobhg ohlvat erfgber nggevohgr cbgvbaf.

    -it’s probably worth experimenting more with missile weapons, especially keeping an eye on how fast you can shoot. There’s also an important quirk in the Angband Line of Sight code that you might want to try to figure out (again, small mechanical spoiler: Vs lbh’er ntnvafg n jnyy naq n ybat xavtug’f-zbir njnl sebz na bcra fdhner gjb oybpxf nybat gur jnyy naq bar va, lbh pna frr naq nggnpx gur bcra fdhner ohg fbzrguvat ba gur fdhner pna’g frr lbh).

    -the equipment chase is indeed one of the most fun parts of Angband, and juggling your load out is where a lot of the tactical depth comes in. Sounds like you’ve got a good handle on things, though your stats might be such that you’d be better off trying a lighter weapon that can get a higher number of attacks per round - though I’m guessing this version lacks many of the modern conveniences that name comparing damage per round easy.

    -I wouldn’t take the fact that some large orc groups are dangerous as an indication that you need to slow your descent; you should expect that some encounters on most levels will be too challenging (or resource-draining) to be worth fighting. Slow progress that leads you to feel safe and lazy can be more dangerous than rapid descent that keeps you engaged! With a strong character like the one you’ve got and at such shallow depths, I’d be way more worried about complacency than anything else.

    -“wounded” just means you’re bleeding and losing a few hp each turn - it’s usually no big deal (healing magic like potions and spells can end it).

    -some of the monsters who aren’t attacking you might be immobile (check the monster memory) but others might be asleep - the stealth system is really important, especially once you start getting to lnhygf.

    1. Missile weapons aren't as powerful in this version as they are in future Angband. Doesn't take long for those changes to arrive in relatively rapid succession, but Chester won't see them here.

      Also, if Chester wants to roll with "melee first, magic second, archery a distant third", paladin was, and still is, the best class for that.

    2. Well, it's nice to know I didn't bungle something. Thanks, tetrapod, for your overall set of tips and points. I agree with the "Portal" failure issue, and I do have a Scroll of Phase just in case.

    3. I would definitely try to have more than one on hand - dunno how common they are in stores (in modern Angband you can buy unlimited phase door and recall scrolls) but they’re really useful both for escaping bad situations and giving you time to take advantage of your healing as you wear down tougher monsters. Plus I think you’ve already noticed that monsters’ attacks can mess with your stuff...

  2. I ended my last entry asking what you particularly liked about what I felt was a somewhat bland game
    Someone's surely already made an Angbland pun?

  3. I've checked, and I'm surprised to learn that creeping coins are not originally from D&D. Speaking of creeping coins, this scene in the Kill Six Billion Demons webcomic is likely a shout-out: https://killsixbilliondemons.com/comic/seeker-of-thrones-6-63/

  4. Per the AD&D monster manual, mimics can take the form of any object made of stone or wood. So you're right, they're not a straight lift from D&D like so many CRPG features, but that was likely the inspiration for Wizardry's creeping coins for whatever reason.

    1. For some reason, even though the floor, ceiling, walls, treasure chests, and even the apparently empty passageway can all try to kill you in 1st edition D&D, the coins themselves normally don't.

      The Wizardry creeping coins definitely came before the ones in Moria/Angband, which probably pulled them from Wizardry, yes.

      The Moria vorpal bunny also probably comes from Wizardry -- that's a Monty Python concept, but the name itself comes from Wizardry. Mainline Angband did not inherit the vorpal bunny from Moria (they're restored in some variants); I'm not sure why.

      On the other hand, Angband still has the green glutton ghost (dating to the days when the original Ghostbusters was still in movie theaters), and it's actually treated as a non-silly monster.

    2. It's just weird that Wizardry would have invented them when Wizardry doesn't have a way to use them for their intended purpose; that is, there's no way for the party to reach for a pile of coins and get tricked by the creeping variety.

    3. It could just be for flavor. After all, deadly coins as a monster isn't the worst idea, even if there isn't any sort of way for them to be used as a trap

    4. In the "actually monsters that can kill you in ADD", let's not forget stalactites, stalagmites (a different monster) and ... cloaks. Specifically cloaks.
      Dark Sun tabletop goes one step further with OASIS trying to kill you (actually a giant carnivorous plant that "closes" on you as you try to pick what looks like water but is not).

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Nice title pun, have you been waiting to use that one for a while? :)

    1. Aargh, that one passed me by when I glanced at the page earlier!

    2. It was the first thing I thought of when thinking of Angband subtitles. The downside is that I've had "Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde" stuck in my head for several weeks.

  7. Based on your character & dungeon level, and especially the fact that you mention how few XP you're getting from the monsters around there, it sounds like you're fairly overleveled for where you are right now. In general, between about levels 5 and 25, I would say it's reasonable to expect to be diving 1 dungeon level per charlevel.

    Chests aren't for you to store things in. They have treasure. You can (o)pen them, but you will want to check them for traps first, and disarm them if there are any.

    The equipment upgrade game is definitely going to be continuing, at least until you're well below 3000 feet in the dungeon.

    1. Level 25 is a key here, right? My first true (no backups) Angband win came on this version and I hadn't yet learned gb tb engure snfg gb 25 naq gura fgnl sbe n juvyr...

      Of course, any level that is Special is important to clean out properly. And I now remember the disadvantage of the classes not using wizard spell books: no spell of Identify.

    2. This version of Angband still has Moria-esque monster distribution.

      Version 1.31 still has a large difficulty spike at the levels where Moria also has one. (ROT13: Vg'f ng qhatrba yriryf sebz zvq-guvegvrf gb gur rneyl sbegvrf. Vg'f nqivfnoyr gb unat bhg n juvyr va gur rneyl guvegvrf, nf lbh arrq n ybg bs nqqrq bbzcu gb eryvnoyl fheivir gur qvssvphygl fcvxr va byqre irefvbaf. Lbh qb abg ernyyl arrq gb unat bhg ng gjragl gb gjragl-svir va i1.31; vg qbrfa'g unir gur cnenylfvf vafgnag-qrngu oht cerfrag va i2.7.9i3 gb i3.1.1.)

      There are game-mechanical reasons for this spike to exist both in Moria and to a lesser extent Angband, but as they aren't at all obvious, the spike was eased in modern Angband and many variants.

    3. V frrz gb erzrzore gung gur fgng-tnva cbgvbaf jrer zbfg cebonoyr ng yriry25? Gur gernfher qvfgevohgvba znqr fbzr 2-5 yriryf fvtavsvpnagyl orggre ng cebqhpvat fgng-tnva cbgvbaf naq nqinapvat shegure qbja orsber 90%-vfu bs gur fgng tnvaf jrer qbar jnf irel fho-bcgvzny. V zvtug pbashfr gur yriryf jvgu Zbevn, bs pbhefr. Vg'f orra n ybat gvzr fvapr V pbhyq nssbeq gb fcraq rabhtu ubhef gb jva gurfr tnzrf.

    4. My experience concurs with Håkon's here.

    5. In v1.31 (ROT13): Punevfzn vf zbfg pbzzba ng yriry gjragl. Fgeratgu, Qrkgrevgl, naq Pbafgvghgvba ner zbfg pbzzba ng yriry guvegl. Vagryyvtrapr naq JVfqbz ner zbfg pbzzba ng yriry guvegl-gjb. Vs lbh tb qrrcre, jung unccraf vf gung qrrcre bowrpgf fgneg gb bhg-pbzcrgr g urz, rkprcg va guvf fcrpvsvp pnfr, gur zbafgre qvssvphygyl fcvxr vf zber fvtavsvpnag.

      Gung'f sebz GERNFHER.P va gur i1.31 fbhepr pbqr.

      This advice is going to depend on exactly which version of the game you're playing.

  8. I often go down in the dungeon and just wait a couple hundred turns until the stocks change.
    Hey, he independently re-invented shop scumming!

    The haggling mechanic in shops got old fast. I enabled the option to turn it off, and I almost always get better deals now anyway.
    The only time anyone haggles is their first game, until they figure out how to turn it off.

  9. I think investing in the longsword may be an unintuitive blunder. I'm sure someone else has also mentioned it, but in Angband, strong characters generally use light weapons to maximize their damage/turn via multiple hits. Heavy weapons have improved critical chances, but I don't think it's anywhere near competitive with light weapons for early-to-mid characters. In any case, a middle-weight weapon like a longsword is almost certainly the worst of both worlds.

    Re: see invisible. Obviously, knowing invisible worms are in the room isn't too useful, but there are much more dangerous invisible foes out there. Knowing you need to emergency-evacuate as soon as possible is one of the best abilities in Angband.

    1. Using light weapons is an optimization trick; it's far from necessary, especially playing a Dunadan Paladin.

      Soon enough he'll find an ego or artifact weapon, and from then until he has the choice between *multiple* ego or artifact weapons of a similar tier, it will be the hands-down correct choice.

  10. I know you didn't ask, and I know others have explained this before on this blog... But goblins and orcs are the same thing in Tolkien's universe. In the black tongue Uruk-hai translates to great orc and snaga is a term for slave that orcs call each other.

    1. I'm sure you're right that it's been explained before, but I had forgotten it if so. I didn't remember that orcs and goblins are the same thing.

      "Snaga is a term for slave that orcs call each other." I suppose it's probably taboo for non-orcs to use it. They probably refer to it obliquely, like "the s-word."

    2. As with many things in the legendarium, it isn't nearly as clear as that. "orc" is a corruption of "Uruk", and that term is supposed to be specifically for the great soldier-orcs of Mordor. Using "snaga" or "goblin" to differentiate the smaller types used as laborers or that infest the Misty Mountains is not without linguistic justification.

    3. Informally, or in the movies, goblins are the smaller sort of orcs, like those that appear in the movies in Moria.
      Uruk-hai are a greater sort of orc, supposedly an "improved" version. As if Sauron experimented with orc breeds to get a better one.
      They are, in the end, all orcs. And Sting would glow in the presence of all of them.

    4. In the books "goblin" is used for Uruk-Hai as well. In The Two Towers chapter II "The Riders of Rohan," Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli come upon the aftermath of the Riders' battle with the orcs while searching for Merry and Pippin:

      "Upon a stake in the middle was set a great goblin head; upon its shattered helm the white badge could still be seen."

      The white badge is Saruman's symbol, worn by the Uruk-hai, and the orc was a large one; probably Ugluk, the Uruk-hai leader.

      (I don't have this memorized, I'm reading the books to one of my kids who was brought up on D&D and he was confused because he thinks of goblins and orcs as completely separate!)

      It does seem as though Tolkien did sometimes use "goblin" for small orcs and "hobgoblin" for larger ones, see question 16 here: http://tolkien.slimy.com/faq/Creatures.html.

  11. "Selling unknown items identifies them. While shopkeepers won't buy bad items (e.g., Scrolls of Darkness, Potions of Weakness) or cursed items, they will often take a chance on unknown items. If they turn out to be bad, the shopkeeper usually screams or weeps or yells at you."

    I love this.

  12. It's the right time of year, so it bears mentioning: this version of Angband doesn't have any special bonus for playing on Christmas. That's been around for several years in mainline Angband.


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