Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Average White Angband

 
My character at the beginning of this session.
     
Unless you want another hiatus while I amass enough material for a meatier post on Angband, I might as well just narrate a detailed session. This will be particularly valuable to readers unversed in roguelikes. For the rest of you, perhaps you can help me clear up some points of confusion.
   
Chester the Dunadan Paladin begins at Level 4 with 39 hit points and 5 mana. He is "excellent" at fighting, "bad" at perception, "poor" at searching, and "fair" or "good" at everything else. He begins in town, wielding a broadsword in one hand and a pick-axe in the other, wearing leather armor and gloves. He carries a Holy Book of Prayers, three rations of food, three torches, a brass lantern, and four unidentified potions, two unidentified scrolls, and two unidentified staffs. He has only 201 gold pieces, not really enough to buy anything interesting.
   
Like most roguelikes, the unidentified items are color-coded. He has, for instance, an icky green potion, a light brown potion, a scroll titled "ionere st," and a walnut staff. Once he figures out what the icky green potion is, he'll know what every icky green potion is for the rest of the game. The only ways to find out are testing (which is risky) or finding a Scroll of Identification, which itself must first be identified, but I think I did that in the first session.
   
I've already cleared Level 1 twice, but I'm still having a little trouble on Level 2, and I want to avoid death as long as possible. I thus settle in for at least one more loop through Level 1. I head down the stairs from the town and the dungeon generates a new level. I can only see one square in each direction with my existing light source. I begin exploration in a follow-the-right-wall pattern.
          
My carried and worn items, which are separate from my "inventory."
        
I soon come to a door, which I open with "o" and the direction. Doors are sometimes locked and have to be picked or bashed, but not this one. You can close doors, too, and even spike them closed--one of Angband's concessions to a staple of tabletop RPGs. I don't know why you can't do that in, say, Skyrim.
    
Occasionally during this session, I come to the end of a dead-end corridor, in a place that it seems likely that there is a secret door. In such cases, I try to s)earch for it. Because the command so often fails, you either have to do it multiple times or type a number like 9 before the command so that it automatically executes 9 times. Even though my paladin is "poor" at searching, he usually finds things within a few searches. However, I typically only do it when the secret door is obvious. I know I miss a lot of them along the walls of big rooms and other non-obvious places. Given that all the levels are randomly-generated, however, I know that there are no major plot points behind secret doors.
   
Soon I'm in a corridor. Suddenly a message pops up that says, "You hit it. You have slain it." I didn't see what "it" is. There does seem to be some low-level invisible enemy that runs around on the first level, occasionally "touching" you for a few hit points' damage. A few minutes later, I kill a fruit bat. Enemies do not leave corpses for you to eat or otherwise do anything with. This isn't NetHack. Enemies rarely even drop anything. Most loot is found independently of enemies.
    
Some rubble blocks my way. I tunnel through by using "x" to swap my pick-axe and broadsword, then T)unneling in the appropriate direction. To get this to work, I turn off the "roguelike commands" option, because with those turned on, the game wants me to use CTRL with the direction, but from that weird key cluster that I'll never master.
 
A chamber lies beyond containing a down stairway and a giant centipede skeleton. I wouldn't mind an explicit spoiler on what use skeletons have. I find another stairway a little ways to the north, near some money embedded in the wall. Three hits of my pick-axe, and I have 51 gold pieces' worth of silver.
   
I find a magenta potion, slay a giant yellow centipede and a fruit bat, and fall through a trap door to Level 2. Fortunately, that only causes a few hit points' damage. This session overall is relatively merciful with traps. In practice sessions, I got hit with traps that hold me, damage me, blind me, and destroy my armor. The only way to avoid them is to search for them every step. I'm willing to do that in NetHack, with its 30 or so small levels, but not in Angband, with its 100 or so huge ones.
       
The plot thickens.
        
The room I end up in on Level 2 looks more "constructed" than randomly generated. It looks a bit like a hall full of pillars and alcoves. There's a stairway down and two deposits of copper, which together are worth 42 gold pieces. Suddenly a "blubbering icky thing" appears, represented by a white letter "i." It "crawls on me" and poisons me. I swing at it with my sword. In the next round, it destroys one of my food rations. Duly noted. I kill it on the third round. I've lost 18 hit points and they're depleting by 1 per round. I'm just about to start trying random potions when the game announces that I feel better and the poison wears off. I s)earch in place for a few turns while my hit points regenerate. I grow "hungry" after a few such turns and eat one of my remaining rations. Hunger is a longtime staple of roguelikes, but it is far less difficult here than in NetHack or especially Rogue; the onset is slower, and it's generally easy to get back to town to buy more food. Still, I can't get complacent, and wandering around for too long with only one meal is pretty complacent. I'd better find the stairs.
      
This room seems less random than most.
         
A small gray "p" approaches me in the next chamber. I attack, and the game tells me that I've scored an "excellent hit" that has immediately slain the "novice rogue." I guess there's some kind of critical hit system at work here; I don't remember if Moria had that.
   
Big trouble in the next chamber: a swamp of six gray "S" characters. A check of the character listing tells me that I'm seeing giant scorpions or spiders. I back up into the hallway so at least they have to approach me one at a time. As I do, they close the distance (they're faster than me), and one of them bites me for 2 hit points. The game identifies my attacker as a cave spider. This seems like maybe a good time to try one of my staffs. I use the mulberry one, and it turns out to be a Staff of Light. No help. The walnut one is a Staff of Door/Stair Location. That'll help after the battle, but not now.
       
Oh, hell.
      
I sigh and start swinging my sword, but I'm down to 26 hit points by the time I kill the first spider. I try a "Cure Light Wounds" prayer, and not only does it work, it elevates me to Level 5. I guess you get a few experience points per successful casting, and I was right on the cusp. Either the extra level gives me more power or I just get lucky, but the other cave spiders fall in quick succession to my sword. When things are calm again, I G)et a new prayer (I can get one per level), and the game gives me both "Remove Fear" and "Call Light," adding them to my existing prayers of "Detect Evil," "Cure Light Wounds," and "Bless."
   
Mindful of what just happened, I experiment with "Detect Evil." It takes two tries to get it to work (my success rate is only 15%), but when it does, it shows me another thief and a kobold nearby. I suppose it probably doesn't highlight animal enemies like spiders. Oddly, I'm attacked by a "novice mage" in the very next chamber, but I guess maybe he wasn't evil. He dies in a few hits.
      
Sensing the presence of evil.
       
Other enemies fall: a giant white mouse, the kobold, the novice rogue (after he fails to grab my money pouch), a white jelly (which briefly poisons me), a floating eye, a novice warrior, a giant green frog, a large brown snake, a metallic green centipede, a blue yeek, and another one of those invisible things. These enemies have different colors, but I don't know what they denote. I pick up a chromium wand, a zirconium wand, a robe, a hazy potion, a black potion, a scroll titled "condan vi," and some gold, and leave an elf skeleton.
 
I periodically use my Staff of Door/Stair Location to no avail. When I finally find a stairway up, it's after I've explored most of the level. It takes me to a brand new randomized Level 1. "You feel there is something special about this level," it says as I arrive. I've never had this message before and don't know what it means. 
        
The game is usually generous with stairways, but I had to explore all of this before I found one up.
      
As I hunt for the stairs back to town, I find a shiny phial and a Potion of Heroism (I identified it last session), but I can't carry either because I'm overloaded. I decide to take a chance on the two unidentified scrolls. The first is a Scroll of Darkness, the second a Scroll of Light. How convenient. Emboldened, I try some potions. Magenta is Resist Cold; hazy is Resist Heat; black is Cure Light Wounds; light brown is Apple Juice. I quit while I'm ahead and pick up the two items. The "shining phial" turns out to be a light source. It doesn't light any bigger a radius than my lamp, but it doesn't have a specified number of turns. I'm not sure how long it will last. Maybe I don't need to keep so many extra torches while I have it.
   
I find a stairway up, but I'm not sure I want to take it until I figure out what's special about the level. I try some of my wands on a kobold, and they turn out to be Confuse Monster, Magic Missile, and Haste Monster. I guess there's no reason to keep the latter one. When I finally kill the poor thing, I go up to Level 6. I've learned all the prayers in my existing spellbook, so I won't learn any new ones until I find a new book.
   
A Scroll titled "imre kle" turns out to be a Scroll of Treasure Detection, and it shows me a couple of deposits on the other side of a wall, so I tunnel through to get to them. I find that while I can tunnel through "quartz veins" just fine, I don't seem to be able break through "granite walls." You can't tell the composition of a particular wall until you test it. It takes me a while to find a path. By the time I'm done, I'm hungry again and eat my last meal. I decide that whatever is special about the level, it's not worth sacrificing everything I've gained, and I return to the stairs and the surface.
         
Trying to get at that sweet, sweet cash.
          
Back in town, I have 509 gold pieces plus a few things to sell. If you try to sell bad items, the shopkeepers not only don't want them but get angry. Everything else, you really have to haggle. The shopkeeper always starts by offering 1 gold piece. I decide to sell my Staff of Door/Stair Location because it didn't really seem to work. I ask 50 for it and the shopkeeper counters with 30. I agree. "What a fool!" the shopkeeper (or the game) says as the shopkeeper turns around and lists it for sale for 3,009.
   
Eventually, I get up to 613 gold. I start looking for the best way to spend it. I eventually spend 188 on the next-level Book of Prayers, but when I try to G)et a spell, the game says, "You seem to be missing a book," so I'm not sure what's happening there. I spend 20 on 5 rations of food, 250 on a Scroll of Word of Recall (so I have an emergency way back to town), 23 on a pair of hard leather boots, and 55 on a metal cap. As I do, I eye some of the things I might eventually be able to save for, including a Ring of Searching +5 (1,008), Scrolls of Enchant Weapon (265; there are separate ones for "to hit" and "damage"), a Pike of Troll Slaying (4,611), and a Staff of Genocide (16,925).
           
Negotiating with a shopkeeper. I love his all-purpose insult.
        
As I move from shop to shop, I kill at least half a dozen village idiots, mangy lepers, mean mercenaries, blubbering fools, filthy street urchins, and other townsfolk, sometimes because they annoy me, sometimes accidentally because they just walk into my path. You get no experience from them. What are they for?!
    
Finally, I CTRL-X to save the character and quit the game. I then back up the character file. I have decided only to allow myself to do this in town, and to go as long as possible before I have to use the backups. So far, no deaths yet. 
       
My character at the end of the session. He's gained two levels, gone from "excellent" to "superb" in fighting, and from "good" to "very good" in bows, saving throws, and magic devices. His experience has doubled and his armor class has gone up by 6.
       
There is an extent to which Angband feels somewhat "basic"--and I use that term in the modern pejorative sense of offering little that's unique or special. It feels like a generic roguelike, offering the same mechanics as dozens of other roguelikes without (aside from some minor mechanics) doing much that's original, surprising, or exciting. In that way, it's not only a basic roguelike but a basic CRPG. It's always nice to experience character leveling, wealth acquisition, and equipment upgrades, but I'm experiencing those same things in Dark Sun with a lot more plot and role-playing. No ice cream is bad, but some ice cream is vanilla.
    
This surprises me because I've had a lot of commenters praise Angband and say they were looking forward to my entries. I'm assuming that most of them are thinking of later versions, but if that's not the case and you particularly prize even this edition, what is it that you find compelling about it?

Time so far: 5 hours

 

83 comments:

  1. It's possible that you've found a Phial of Galadriel, which appears in several roguelikes and is a permanent light, after one of Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship in Tolkien.

    And "Ionere st" is clearly an anagram for "stereo NI!"

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    1. Well, that would be a stroke of luck.

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    2. Yeah, the Phial can be (n)pgvingrq gb rffragvnyyl pnfg gur yvtug fcryy rirel fb bsgra, yvtugvat hc qnex ebbzf. Irel unaql.

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    3. The Phial is described in section 9.1 of the v1.31 documentation.

      You can read sections 8.3, 8.6 and 9.1 (which are all deliberately incomplete, and occasionally straight-up incorrect) to get an idea of some of the one-of-a-kind artifacts you may eventually find. Emphasis on "may" -- there are people who have played Angband for thousands of hours but have never seen some of the rarer ones.

      The sentence immediately before section 9.1 is also relevant, but that one sentence isn't accurate, the skeleton objects on the floor won't get up and attack you. (They absolutely do in other roguelikes.)

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  2. "a giant centipede skeleton. I wouldn't mind an explicit spoiler on what use skeletons have."

    I don't know what use the skeletons are, but presumably in the case of the centipede it's an exoskeleton... unless the devs have been to a Spirit Haloween store recently.

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    1. Ha. I didn't even think of that.

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    2. Skeletons stayed in the game just for pure flavor values for a long time. It did come up, but the remove-skeletons side (I was on that team) got outvoted repeatedly.

      The community has since changed its mind. It went in the order "auto-squelching added" (about v2.8), then "skeletons removed from the game outright" (about v3.0).

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    3. Brodda The EasterlingDecember 17, 2021 at 9:35 AM

      Carrying junk items - shards of pottery, rags, skeletons - has a limited use
      in that when you are attacked by fire or inventory-stealing, you don't mind
      losing them.

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  3. The 'special' feeling is definitely worth noting, and usually indicates the presence of an artifact (sometimes a special room, though I'm not sure if that applies to this version). So finding the Phial (an early convenience item; it's definitely that, as there's only one phial in the game) was the 'special' event. Note that artifacts can sometimes have special powers that can be invoked, so try to ID it properly and look at the description.

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    1. Specific spoiler (ROT13) and specific for the v1.3 Chester is playing:

      N fcrpvny srryvat va i1.31 vf 100% thnenagrrq gb or na negvsnpg ba n yriry guvf funyybj (orsber yriry 10, be 500').

      Vg'f abg arprffnevyl gur Cuvny va i1.31 -- vg qbrfa'g ernyyl unir gur rkgen pbaprcg bs negvsnpg yriry gung jnf yngre nqqrq.

      Yriryf 5-9 pna unir inhygf, juvpu ner penml qnatrebhf guvf rneyl. Gur byq, byq gevpx sbe cynlvat irefvbaf guvf byq jnf gb frnepu yriryf 3-4 sbe negvsnpgf, naq gura qrfpraq nf snfg nf lbh ernfbanoyl pbhyq gb ng yrnfg yriry 20 (1000'). Lbh pna'g cbjreqvir yvxr lbh pna ba n zber erprag irefvba -- gbb zhpu punapr lbh zvff fbzrguvat.)

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    2. Thank you both for the clarifications!

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  4. Skeletons have no use.

    Does this version give you a feeling about every level besides 'special'? If so, it's probably not worth exploring ones without a good feeling. There is an option to automatically only generate good levels ('auto-scumming': not exactly cheating, as it just saves having to wait some number of turns and go up or down the stairs to regenerate), but it might not exist in this version. This game will take forever if you don't get good items fairly regularly, so it's worth maximizing value-for-time when you can.

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    1. All but the truly ancient (pre-public, so we don't have their source code) releases have some kind of level feeling.

      I don't think versions this old have any way to auto-scum -- it would definitely result in noticeable slowdown on the computers of the time. (The random number generator in the specific version of Angband Chester is playing does long division by a 32-bit integer that isn't a power of 2, which is a performance bottleneck if you call it repeatedly.)

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    2. No, this version usually dumps you on levels without telling you anything about how you feel about them.

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    3. There's a requirement for that (ROT13): You must spend enough time on each level to get the feeling for the next. (Something in the order of a minimum of 1000 turns -- it isn't a short timer.) That should guarantee it, though this early the level feeling will typically just be "nope nothing here".

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    4. Double-checked for this specific version, it doesn't work that way (ROT13): guvf irefvba qbrfa'g tvir lbh n engvat zrffntr ng nyy vs rvgure gur yriry vf obevat (zber erprag irefvbaf fcrpvsvpnyyl fnl gung), be vs lbh unira'g fcrag rabhtu gvzr ba gur ynfg yriry. Ohg "rabhtu gvzr" vf zhpu fubegre guna V erpnyy: ybbxf yvxr 100 gheaf vf nyjnlf rabhtu, rkprcg sbe gur irel svefg gvzr lbh ragre gur qhatrba.

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  5. After your first entry, I tried playing the modern Angband (4.2.3 or something like that), and I would have to agree with your initial assessment after playing down to about level 50 in the Dungeon. Monsters get more interesting for a while, but after about level 30 the only difference between them and earlier versions is that they have more life, hit harder, and have more annoying attacks. (It seems like every big monster has a life drain attack after a certain point.)

    I also observed that you really don't gain anything interesting for getting a new level. All levels are: more life, more mana. Fighters are the worst class in this regard; since they don't get spells, more life and more mana really all there is to look forward to when you level up. Spellcasters gain spells they can learn but you eventually get limited by the availability of the rare spellbooks, which you have to find in the dungeon (or perhaps the Black Market?).

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    1. When I say "life drain" I mean "experience drain". Very frustrating after a while, and the only way to fix it is potions that are only sometimes available in town. (priests and paladins might have a spell or two to help with that as well).

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    2. Yeah, the game doesn't start to get interesting until you hit dungeon level 20 or so.

      I've never held this against Angband (or any other game); it's normal for a game to just not throw any sort of real complexity at you until significantly later.

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    3. Fair enough. I am in the opening hours.

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  6. As for Angband feeling bland, the most fun happens once your character is moderately capable, you have some cool items and a good tactical approach, and you're delving into challenging levels hoping to find rare items, unique enemies, and the like.

    A word of warning: Word of Recall scrolls take a few turns to activate, so don't rely on them for emergency escape. You need some sort of teleport for that.

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    1. Right. The same was true in Moria.

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    2. I would say that for someone new to roguelikes, the angband/moria games are great because even in the first few levels they are gaining interesting powers and learning how to use them.

      For the experienced player it can feel bland because there is no pressure to move down so you feel strategically obliged to do the safe thing and hoover up goodies on floors that don't threaten you.

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  7. About the wand of haste monsters. My only roguelike experience comes from ADOM, there a hasted monster gives more xp, so if you can manage it can be worty to haste monsters

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    1. This is definitely not true in Angband. Hasted monsters are worth the same as un-hasted (or even slowed) ones; Wands of Haste Monster are *only* useful if you want to give yourself a bigger challenge.

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    2. Yeah, that's an ADOM-specific trick -- it won't work in any of Rogue, Angband, Nethack, or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

      Wands of Haste Monster do have marginal uses -- you can use one to speed up a weak monster so it will get in between you and a stronger monster -- but these are all so marginal that the wands are rarely even worth the inventory slot.

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    3. It seems to me that the wand of haste monster is to make it riskier to blindly activate a bunch of wands in combat, yes.

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  8. 1) Shop inventories rotate frequently. Just because that was the cheapest spellbook in the shop doesn't mean it was the "second" spellbook; it might have been the "third". I don't think there's a good way to tell, other than by acquiring the book and reading it to see what spell levels it contains.

    2) When I originally played Angband, there was no such thing as "roguelike mode" — and people got into holy wars over which command system was "better", which is a dumb and pointless argument.

    3) There should be a "search all the time" mode you can activate, which is the equivalent of hitting Search every time you move. I think it's shift-S in Angband mode. It turns off automatically if you spot another creature, so you have to constantly turn it back on, but otherwise the only penalty you pay is time (and thus hunger).

    4) Spoiler about the invisible creature: lbh'ir nyernql abgvprq gung fbzr rarzvrf ner pbyberq; fbzr ybjre yriry zbafgref yvxr gur vpxl guvat pna or pyrne, juvpu zrnaf gurl ner uneq gb frr ohg lbh znl or noyr gb hfr gur ybbx naq gnetrg pbzznaqf ba gurz vs lbh xabj gurl'er gurer.

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    1. 1) Ah. Thanks for making that clear. I'll keep checking back.

      2) Someone actually defended that absurd key cluster as "better"? Yeah, I could see supporting a jihad against such a creature.

      3) Yep, there is a "Search Mode" here. I just overlooked it in the command list. Thank you.

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    2. On the book thing - Fbzr obbxf bayl fubj hc va gur qhatrba be gur oynpx znexrg. Lbh'yy trg gung zvffvat n obbx zrffntr hagvy lbh svaq gurz.

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    3. The vi keys make sense if you've been using them for years, just like WASD makes sense to people who have been using them for years. I really don't see what's so inexplicable about them.

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    4. The difference is that WASD keys are arranged intuitively (i.e. the topmost key moves you up, the leftmost key moves you left), and YKU / HL / BJN are not. Like, you'd expect the key for top-right to be on the right (which it's not) and adjacent to the key for moving right (which it's not either).

      So WASD also makes sense if you have NOT been using them for years; which is why that has become the major standard for gaming, and HJKL (or for that matter, OPQA) has not.

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    5. It is like speaking different languages, I've been speaking vi for 20 years and HJKL is my mother tongue. Most people speak WASD and they think HJKL is insane. It is like saying that Basque is insane because you speak English and all your friends speak English and most of the internet speaks English.

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    6. What you're missing is that English is more popular than Basque for lengthy historical reasons, whereas WASD is more popular than HJKL simply because it's more intuitive and easier to pick up. That's, like, user interface design 101.

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    7. WASD and "YKU / HL / BJN" isn't an apples to oranges comparison, because you're comparing an 8-directional scheme to a 4-directional one. Most games that use WASD don't need 8 directions, because those keys became popular paired with a mouse (and thus mouselook and strafing). WASD is actually a pretty uncomfortable key combination if you need to make a lot of discrete directional movements, like in a roguelike.

      HJKL would never have taken off in PC gaming not because it's so unintuitive but because it uses the right hand. That's fine for a roguelike (where you're using the keyboard exclusively) but not a FPS. This is also why arrow keys didn't become the standard for gaming, despite being even more intuitive than WASD. (And HJKL would have never really had a foothold on the PC, since it was mostly used on software systems that weren't widely available on PCs until the mid-90s.)

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    8. Arrow keys were pretty standard for quite a while before WASD replaced them. They're the default keys for most of the early FPS titles (Wolf3D, Doom, Duke3D), and were only replaced when the rise of mouselook necessitated keeping the right hand on the mouse.

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    9. It's funny that after decades, some people are still defending that absurd key cluster as "better" :)

      If it were just about left-hand vs right-hand, then consider why no game ever uses a HJKL-shape for the left hand (e.g. QWER) as controls, and why many games do use a WASD-shape for the right hand (i.e. the cursor arrows). It's almost as if people have actually thought about this design, imagine that!

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    10. One virtue of the vi keys is that you can navigate in 4 directions while keeping your hands on the home row, which is useful for interfaces (like text editors or roguelikes) which you interact with mostly via key commands. One virtue of the WASD cluster is that you only need three fingers to use it, and none of them are the weak pinky, which is better for real-time 3D gaming.

      I have not argued that vi keys are "better" than WASD, only that each of them is a reasonable adaptation for their respective use cases and that neither of them are bizarre, absurd, or inexplicable.

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    11. As a southpaw, let me tell you: wasd with no choice to use the ACTUAL ARROW KEYS as an alternative while requiring the use of a mouse is a total dealbreaker for me. I could never make my brain accept the vi keys (I'm an emacs guy), but at least I can use them AT ALL while my left hand is busy wiht the mouse.

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  9. A few notes (some of which reiterate those from other commenters here):

    - If you want to search every step but not have to stop and press the button to do it, you should be able to turn on Search Mode (it will display "Searching" in the bottom-left, I think). It's (S) in roguelike mode; I don't recall any of the non-roguelike keys offhand.

    - Rather than manually searching as you heal, if you haven't already found the option, let me recommend using (R)est—which, if you give * as the duration, should last until you are healed and then stop.

    - There are, in fact, several levels of "critical hits", which I think go from "good" all the way up through "excellent" to "*GREAT*".

    - You gain XP for the *first* time you cast each newly-learned spell.

    - Again, apologies if you've already discovered this, but you should be able to (P)eruse the spellbooks to see what spells they have and what levels you can learn them at.

    - A "special" feeling about a level indicates either an artifact, or, later on, a "monster pit". In this version, *artifacts are lost forever* if you don't find them on your first try. So if you get a "special" feeling, and don't find a monster pit, identify every item you find.

    - When I played this version, on the Mac, the display of the walls was slightly different—granite walls were represented by #, while quartz veins and magma intrusions (both easier to tunnel) were %. It may be possible to change your display settings somehow to enable that for you, too, but I'm not sure.

    - Skeletons are utter junk. Ignore them.

    - As other commenters note, the challenge level of the game, and the kinds of strategic and tactical decisions you'll need to make, will change *drastically* as you get higher in character level and lower in dungeon level. I actually somewhat agree with you that Angband is a very "plain" roguelike, but I don't see that as quite as much of a bad thing. It's a very straightforward kind of challenging dungeon-crawling experience, and it doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is.

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    1. Thanks very much for the tips.

      You're right that plain doesn't necessarily mean bad. I'm sure that among the pantheon of roguelikes, there are some that completely muck it up, like putting lobster in ice cream.

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    2. A couple more notes upon rereading:

      - The reason you got so little from selling the Staff of Door/Stair Location which the shopkeeper then turned around and sold for much more is because you didn't know its number of charges. Identify it, and you'll almost certainly make back more than the cost of a scroll of identify.

      - Shop inventories cycle—the goods you see now are not guaranteed to be the same goods you'll see when you come back from your next expedition. I think they've got something like a 5-10000 turn cycle in this version? Every shop except the black market has *some* certainty in what you'll find there—particularly things like basic spellbooks in the magic shop & temple, which will *usually* all be there, and almost always at least one.

      Delete
    3. Oh, and when you get further down in the dungeon, you will be getting a *lot* more loot from monsters.

      Like...a **lot** more.

      Delete
  10. Angband, even in versions this old, has a sophisticated loot-generation system -- which you are unlikely to see at all this early in the game. You need to progress quite a bit further to see it come into action. It's deeper than the systems used by any of Nethack, ADOM, or Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (DCSS comes pretty close; it's partly why it's relatively popular today). To compare to other games both I and Chester know well, loot generation works very roughly like Might and Magic 6/7/8, but with significantly more depth. (Come to think of it, they also both have in common "do X so you don't permanently miss one-of-a-kind artifacts.)

    It's also more visible in more recent versions of Angband. v1.31 doesn't have item stacking -- meaning that the game often won't even try to generate loot simply because there isn't space for it to drop when you kill a monster (and monsters don't drop much this early in the game, either).

    To me, this system what makes Angband playable even today, but Moria not.

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  11. So, this version of Angband feels a lot like the version of Moria we used to play as kids. (The commands, the fact you never found the balrog, and the lack of magic weapons were things that surprised me about your Moria playthrough, and what appears here suggests that Angband was derived from the version I'm more familiar with).

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  12. "As I move from shop to shop, I kill at least half a dozen village idiots, mangy lepers, mean mercenaries, blubbering fools, filthy street urchins, and other townsfolk, sometimes because they annoy me, sometimes accidentally because they just walk into my path. You get no experience from them. What are they for?!"

    Roleplaying I suppose. They go back to Moria but never really got fleshed out because the focus of the game is on the tactics in the dungeon. The town is technically level 0 and so the developer threw in some exclusive level 0 monsters to occupy it based on what you would find in a town. No experience is strange considering some monsters are quite difficult compared to level 1 monsters, but the explanation is that this is where you live so you don't learn anything new from interacting with them. I never liked this "feature" because as far as roleplaying goes, it makes no sense for a paladin, or even the ordinary adventurer, to be casually chopping up beggars and children on his way to the potion seller. But they are so obnoxious and creep up on you even if you are going out of your way to avoid them. Angband is light on roleplaying elements and most of it's core audience is in it for the high-level play. In some later variants "virtues" are added which discourage killing these town monsters but still do not solve the problem of them being so obnoxious.

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  13. Never played the original Angband, but I remember Zangband being popular when I was in college.

    There were similarities to Angband I'm sure, but I think the most unique feature was to be able to play as a Lost Soul: start at the bottom of the dungeon, and try to survive getting to the surface :)

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    Replies
    1. "start at the bottom of the dungeon, and try to survive getting to the surface."

      It is called "Wizardry IV."

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    2. It wasn't a feature in Zangband. Kamband, another early variant, was the first to come up with this, and this mode was popularised (and grossly abused) by ToME.

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  14. I enjoyed the detail. I think roguelikes are inherently good story generators.

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  15. I never, ever in my life understood spikes and why they were so damn important in D&D. Just...huh? The game heavily implied that they were a must-have item. I couldn't for the life of me understand why anyone would need them. Yes, spike the doors open. Huh? Why?

    It was only a few years ago when I started reading accounts of the Lake Geneva D&D sessions that I realized what was going on. See, all the doors of the dungeon were stuck closed. Thus, the "open doors" statistic, based on strength, was needed to open a door (another baffling insistence on importance). Once pried open, all doors slammed shut and became stuck again. Thus the need for spikes to keep them open. Naturally doors automatically opened for all monsters.

    Stupid Gary Gygax. After being so insistent that everyone play by his rules as written, in his own games he freely violated them and never played with things like 3d6 for stats and roll for starting hit points. Jerk.

    Enemies do not leave corpses for you to eat or otherwise do anything with.

    This is one of the reasons I came to dislike Moria and its variants. The levels are just so windswept and empty. The monsters don't often drop treasure at all, it's usually nothing they'd be wearing. Even so, to be able to drop treasure there must be an area (2x2 or 3x3 including diagonal) available to drop. If the place selected for treasure is occupied by solid rock or another item, the treasure is not generated! So over and over again you have to lure monsters (especially unique ones that have good treasure drops) into an open area to fight them.

    It always irritated the crap out of me that you can't chase down rogues and get your stolen item back. On USENET I always heard the weak excuse "well obviously he's fenced it" and yeah that's B.S. there is no thieves guild or corrupt merchant in a freaking dungeon teeming with monsters.

    A check of the character listing tells me that I'm seeing giant scorpions or spiders.

    This is the part of Moria and its variants that I like very much: the monster memory. As you fight monsters and kill more and more of them, you become more expert at them, eventually knowing their exact hit dice and damage rolls. As they execute special attacks against you, that information gets added too. IIRC there's a monster that erases your monster memory as its attack.

    No ice cream is bad, but some ice cream is vanilla.

    It totally sucks that vanilla ice cream is a synonym for "bland and boring" in our society. Vanilla is one of my favorite flavors and it's so difficult to find anything with a pure vanilla flavor in it. When my Mom used to bake, she'd bring the vanilla out for a teaspoon of it and it smelled so wonderful. But of course you can't drink vanilla extract. It's easy to synthesize a chemical that tastes like vanilla so the real thing is always such a luxury.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The canonical bland ice cream flavor should be sweet cream, aka unflavored ice cream. But that sounds too nice.

      Delete
    2. I agree about vanilla, I love it. There's a microbrewery in SF that had a vanilla ale that I was so obsessed with, I served it at my wedding. They actually didn't have a keg, so I had to get a few growlers. It was not sweet at all, FWIW, more of a nutty flavor.

      You can drink vanilla extract if you make it yourself. Get a couple vanilla pods (they are kind of pricey), split and scrape them into a bottle of your favorite spirit. You put the scrapings and the pod in there. I'd probably go with a high-proof rum, myself, maybe Privateer.

      It's funny that they sell "plain" yogurt all over the be place, but "plain" ice cream is called "sweet cream." And it's pretty rare to find...

      Delete
    3. All of the criticisms of Angband in this post do apply to the v1.31 Chester is playing, but haven't been true of mainline Angband for a long time, 20+ years in most cases.

      Spiking doors was removed long ago (and wasn't even controversial at the time, unlike a lot of other changes that were long overdue); there is more variety in levels these days; item stacking has existed for a long time; monsters have actual inventory now and you can chase down thieving rogues to get your stuff back.

      The last two were always more practical programming limitations than game balance. It didn't take long for what was a reasonable limit in 1993 to disappear.

      You can also spike doors in Ultima Underworld. Chester also made a point of mentioning you could do that there, but I never found a practical use for them there either.

      Delete
    4. Weird historical quirk that one of the most valuable and sought-after flavoring agents on the planet became synonymous with blandness.

      Delete
    5. Man, and you know how hard it is to cultivate vanilla?

      From https://www.wikihow.com/Grow-Vanilla

      The vanilla orchid only flowers for one 6-week period per year. Additionally, the flowers only last approximately 1 day! This means you’ll need to keep a close eye on the orchid, checking it daily for flowers. When it does flower, you will need to hand-pollinate the flowers in order to grow the vanilla beans.

      I would play a vanilla-farming RPG.

      Delete
    6. Vanilla ice cream is great, at least the good stuff is. What I raise an eyebrow at are flavors like maple walnut, butter pecan, and especially, pistachio with the invariably rancid pistachio nuts, dyed a color of green that'd make even a St. Patrick's Day paradegoer blush.

      Why those things exist, I don't know. To me, they're made for old men who smell like cigars and stale urine and sit around at Rotary Club and Elks Club meetings, complaining about their wives (or eulogizing them, if their wives predeceased them), praising politicians who "tell it like it is", and drinking antiseptic disguised as cheap whiskey.

      ("Because it is bitter, and because it is our ice cream.")

      Delete
    7. The spikes are meant to keep the door open? I thought that they were used to keep the door shut and make sure no one snuck up on you while everyone was resting. I agree that using them to keep a door open doesn't make sense outside of weird game rules

      Delete
    8. Also my son loooooves vanilla, will choose that over every other flavor when getting ice cream

      Delete
  16. It's funny thinking about a 70 year old running around doing all this.
    Is aging a thing that affect the game later on?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dúnedain are very long-lived. Aragorn is almost 90 by the events of Lord of the Rings and lives for over 100 years after that. So at 70, Chester is a strapping youngster. As far as I know, vanilla Angband doesn't have any kind of old age mechanic.

      Delete
    2. There's that word again. :(

      Delete
    3. In this case denoting "standard", not "bland".

      Delete
  17. Have you tried selling unidentified items to the shops? That's a viable tactic in later *band games, don't know about this one in particular.

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    Replies
    1. The problem is the shopkeepers pay pennies for unidentified items that, when identified, sell for thousands. It happened in the post. Making it worthwhile for the player to go to the effort of identifying them.

      Delete
    2. The incident in the post was a haggling failure with an ID'd item. Not an un-ID'd one.

      I kind of like shop-ID'ing in the early game, in the versions I'm familiar with. The gold cost isn't so bad, and if you manage to get something important ID'd it's a win.

      Delete
    3. Selling a bunch of mushrooms you know are probably going to be bad (most early ones are) and that potion you found on level 1, which from elimination you reckon is a potion of salt water may only get you six gold for the lot. Those six gold feel like justice after selling that dagger of westernesse un-ided in the weapon shop that you were sure was just an average unenchanted dagger

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    4. I always tested all potions, scrolls, wands, etc. at the beginning just by using them. If you get a truly bad one you only lose a small amount of playtime and it helps a lot with identification until you get the spell.

      Delete
  18. One of the things people who are really into Angband tend to like is that it has a much more interesting loadout management game than, say, Nethack.

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  19. I assume everyone got the pun in the post title, and that's why no one mentioned it, but I for one appreciated it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh, I didnt know that band. Yeah, good pun, I’ll pay it.

      Delete
    2. And it was meant to tie in with my "some ice cream is vanilla" line, but everyone wants to argue that vanilla is a perfectly fine flavor in its own right. I don't even know why I try.

      Delete
    3. Try this: next time you're at the store, buy a small pot of a really good quality vanilla ice cream. Then get home, get a spoon, and let the ice cream sit out for 5-10 minutes until it's just very slightly melted. No chocolate sauce, no nuts, nothing. Don't just dig in and start gobbling, savor each spoonful. Then tell me if that isn't one of the most wonderful flavors you ever had.

      But yeah, the cheap vanilla ice cream, they know it's going to be slathered with toppings anyway, so why bother. It's probably closer to what someone called sweet cream flavor anyway.

      Delete
    4. I knew as soon as I saw that there would be long defenses of Vanilla in the comments. I don't blame them though. Vanilla is good.

      Delete
    5. https://slate.com/human-interest/2005/08/how-vanilla-became-shorthand-for-bland.html

      Not a bad article. Also, I think vanilla is a great flavour and also one of my favourite adjectives for generic =p

      Delete
    6. "I don't even know why I try."

      You ARE writing a blog about a style of game known for it's incredible detail (and adherence thereof), much of it spawned by a style of game designed by exactly the people who argue about travel distances of arrows...

      Many of us enjoy the wit... but we're also going to argue about ice cream flavours! ;)

      Keep with the wit, and don't worry about this being a dessert of comedy, even if you're also playing Dark Sun.

      Delete
  20. I recommend save-scumming your current character on through. Angband is worth a valid win, but only once you reach the versions with item stacking, artifact preservation, removed haggling and improved squelching.

    The main draw of Angband, like Crawl, is mid- to late-game difficulty. There will always be monsters that can two- or three-shot you with an unlucky roll of the device, and summoners or tunnelers can quickly cause a situation to become untenable. Because of that, place more emphasis on escape methods than you would in Nethack. At this stage of the game, your escape options are scrolls of phase door, teleportation or deep descent (recall takes too long to help) and potions of haste. Also keep healing potions on hand at all times.

    A missile weapon is a vital part of any build. Even an unenchanted bow with plain ammo can soften up enemies as they approach, and later on you can use a bow as a "stat stick" that gives you helpful resistances or stats. Speaking of which, said resistances are immensely helpful, as high-level enemies can one-shot you without them. Finally, the "special feeling" might be an artifact, which you should linger on the level to find; it might also be a vault or monster pit. Sadly, you only have one chance to grab the artifact in this version.

    I actually prefer Angband to Nethack, due to the latter's reliance on spoilers. But only modern-day Angband. Early Angband is painful.

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  21. To address your final notes where you ask "why were people looking forward to Angband?", all I have to say is: you've been trawling around on levels 1 and 2 and think the game is really basic. I don't know much about the really early versions of Angband, but if they have even a fraction of the tactical depth to be found in modern Angband, it isn't to be found on levels 1 and 2. Playing conservatively in this game is not a bad idea when you're new to the game, but you're playing extraordinarily conservatively. You should keep scrolls of recall on your person and dive more aggressively - you will get much more experience and loot deeper in, there is no real need to hang around the top levels bashing white worms, especially on a Dunadan paladin.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I've only explored Levels 1 and 2, but I'm sort of mentally filling in the rest with my experiences in Moria, since this game seems so similar.

      Delete
    2. It's definitely an extension of Moria, yeah, especially this early version. I think any divergences are likely to be later in the dungeon. Honestly though I just think you'll have more fun and make progress a lot faster if you dive more aggressively - Dunadan Paladin is one of the strongest race/class combos. The kind of progress you made over 5 hours with this character on levels 1 and 2 could have been done in an hour or less if you were diving faster, and since you only have so much time to give to a game as part of this blog, you'll reach the section of the game where Angband begins to diverge from Moria a lot faster if you dive to match what your character can handle.

      Delete
  22. Hey Chet, comments appear to be blocked in the latest Dark Sun post (unless that was deliberate?)

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  23. Just got to say that I love the reference you did in the title of the post

    ReplyDelete

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