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FogSpear December 29, 2020 17:36

Roguelikes - a waking dream - vanilla is my flavour (so far)
In some spare time this season, I wandered into the world of Roguelikes by trying a few Roguelike-likes on my mobile device (e.g. OneBit, Pathos). I felt something familiar in those apps and yet was wholly unsatisfied.

I soon realized that I was going to have to get to the computer and dive down this rabbit hole. The history of the genre began drawing me in. I have been quickly trying a number of roguelikes that I have found linked on the RogueBasin website. I started with reviewing lineages and then looking for cases of active development. I have tried a few since to get a feel for the variations: Brogue CE, Nethack, Angband, DCSS, ADOM. I also looked quickly at some older ones like Moria, Larn/Ularn and some *band variants like Sil.

So far, I keep coming back to Angband Vanilla. Why? Hmmm. True - it's learning curve is a little taller than some modern remakes like Brogue CE. True - compiling it on my Linux box and getting everything working the way I wanted took a little longer than expected (e.g. sound - sdl, graphics - sdl2, layout - term purposes, sizing, positions). True - it's ASCII interface is a distant relic from the past. But - SO FAR I LOVE IT.

Maybe those were some of the things that have drawn me in. I feel I have had to invest a little bit of time to get familiar with everything. Now, none of that per se sets Angband apart from other roguelikes really. So what else aside from the slightly technical setup and the core aspects of roguelikes (i.e. permadeath, random dungeons, turn based play, etc...)?

I am a noob but I like vanilla so far because:
- I seems immersive to me (see tips below)
- it combines, loosely, d20 mechanics and a middle earth universe
- it retains a useable ASCII graphics model; the game design stands on its own without fancy graphics; I am not a fan of graphic tiles mixed with textual info panels. Give me an immersive environment: graphics or ASCII - hybrids rarely do it for me.
- it moves with modern human interface devices; Nethack put me off because of its insistence on vi key bindings (which I could probably find a way to over-ride but...)
- it has multiple terminal configurations but with sdl2 in fullscreen, I feel like I am inside an immersive environment; it is a bit reminiscent of spectrwm for any fans of linux cli and tiling managers.
- it seems polished; meaning rich with variety of generated objects, starting options, graduated balance, and depth of interaction model beyond just the dungeon level.
- it seems still actively developed by a community; which helps with longevity (i.e. it is likely not going to disappear tomorrow).
- it is often used as a base for variants; which likely signals strong programming fundamentals; although I have not yet dove into the code.

Some things that I would hope for:
- a return of charisma or at least an option to include it (e.g. if selling in town is enabled) - I did see a thread debating its utility but there is something core to Angband that says - hey this is a cool expression of two familiar tropes that we are going to combine and make better. Removing charisma seems to mess with the integrity of that core recipe IMHO.
- combat roll view option - I like what Sil has done; I can figure out the hit/damage myself if I want aided by the combat roll window. (I also appreciate their take on spending skill points to develop your role; it reminds me of Skyrim but I recognize that as a larger departure from basic d20 stuff)

Some things I have not done yet:
- tried using macros with the inscription/keymapping functionality
- tried modding or considered the ease of variant creation (I still want to play more)
- oh...and beat the game. Not that I ever need to :) but I hope to.
- and a bunch of other things that only experience will bring

For my increased immersive experience (now we are talking), I run:
- sdl2 with all 7 tiled term windows going (on linux)
- "tabletopaudio" with some town and dungeon ambience playlists
- a dark room and a headset

Thanks for the great ride so far.

tangar December 29, 2020 18:24


Originally Posted by FogSpear (Post 150331)
- "tabletopaudio" with some town and dungeon ambience playlists

It's cool, I also enjoy tabletop audio! :D the only trouble - is to swap music from town to dungeon manually.. We definitely need music system in-game :D It could be very simple - just divide music to two different playlists: town and dungeon (my topic about it ). It will greatly increase immersion into the game.

DavidMedley December 29, 2020 19:00

Thanks for the review! There's no d20 in this, but I'd love a dice roller window, too.

Sacksquatch December 29, 2020 19:16

Similar situation, except I discovered Angband AND Linux about the same time. So I'm not just experiencing variants and their timelines, but my PC has become a platform for temporary linux distros, virtual machines, and usb live boots lol.

I believe I've settled on two favorites Angband and FirstAgeAngband (both of which have updates coming out soonish). I also spend quite a bit of time on Sangband, Sil, and Frogcomposband. You can play a lot of them at Angband Live, but I go back and forth between playing there and getting that SDL2 + sound experience. Angband Live is a great way to quickly jump in and get a feel for different variants. Plus the people are nice and helpful. I've asked a metric shit-ton of questions, and never got any 'tude from it hehe.

Brogue is a nice break. I love it because I find the situations it puts me in are hilarious at times.

If you want a phone version for life's dull moments (like waiting for the doctor to prove he exists) there are phone ports for Angband, Brogue, DCSS, and more. You may or may not find them on the playstore and may need to visit their git. One game you will find on the store is called Pixel Dungeon. It's pretty damn fun. I use the Shattered version, it has a bit more gameplay depth than the original (which is open source btw). Pixel Dungeon and Brogue will be the most phone friendly to play.

Oh and I *think* I've settled on Manjaro w KDE lol, but my mind is still blown away with the choices.

bughunter December 29, 2020 19:17


Originally Posted by FogSpear (Post 150331)
True - it's ASCII interface is a distant relic from the past. But - SO FAR I LOVE IT.

The ASCII interface is part of the appeal to me.

I was introduced to roguelikes 40 years ago, playing Moria on a VT-100 terminal at an engineering-themed summer camp for high schoolers.

I was a D&D nerd, and Car Wars geek, thrown together with a hundred or so other like-minded young men and women. When the day programs were over, did we retreat to our dorms to roll d20's and 2d6's? NO. The computer lab was open from 7-11pm.

We gobbled down our cafeteria food and rushed to the lab to play games. There were some other games (lode runner, a buggy pac man port) but Moria was the star. Dive, Dive, Die was my playstyle then.

We played nonstop until we were threatened with bodily injury to leave when the lab closed.

So, just like figurines and dice hold nostalgia for old grognards like me, so does the "@."

That, and my laptop has an intermittent problem on the board behind the power connector, and an old battery. I have to argue with the damn thing to get it into the charging state. (I'm an artisan procrastinator, too.) I really can't try to run anything more power intensive than Firefox for long. Roguelikes are perfect in this regard. (Well, except for DF... god knows what that thing is doing under the hood... but it's a black hole for CPU cycles.)

Anyway, just the ASCII environment still gives me the sense of awe and wonder I had back in 1980. I've played mostly Nethack until about two years ago, and have switched to Angband. Playing the former, I learned to be a little more circumspect about diving quickly, but Angband actually rewards it.

To a degree...

Grotug December 30, 2020 00:42

The visual style of Angband is a major draw for me. I *like* the ASCII look, and its efficiency for conveying information is unmatched by other games and for that reason tile/graphic roguelikes are far inferior.

I, like you, also love vanilla Angband and cannot get drawn into other roguelikes, even other *Bands. I think a big reason for this is that the level designs in Vanilla work really well for the game's format and their relative simplicity and consistency of design contrast really well with the game's depth and complex mechanics. Other roguelikes and *bands are doing too many things and it's a bit much for my tastes. Vanilla Angband does have some funky environments from time to time to break up the consistent levels style, but they are quite rare. Vanilla, in general, may be the closest thing to a perfect game.

Selkie December 30, 2020 01:15

I'll be honest, I've always felt a bit guilty for only playing vanilla Angband. I did dabble with ToME for a while but returned to what I knew. There are so many variants, and I do spend a lot of time reading about their strategies and idiosyncrasies (which makes it even weirder that I've never tried playing them).

Also, how strange it is to read an Angband vanilla noob asking for a return of the charisma stat. I mean it was an interesting dynamic in 1996 with my half orc warrior not getting a good price for his spellbook, but I can honestly say the game is so much better without pointless charisma... I make my own

whartung December 30, 2020 15:59

I don't care for the graphic tiles. I like the ASCII interface as well.

FogSpear December 30, 2020 16:00


Originally Posted by tangar (Post 150332)
It's cool, I also enjoy tabletop audio! :D the only trouble - is to swap music from town to dungeon manually.. We definitely need music system in-game :D It could be very simple - just divide music to two different playlists: town and dungeon (my topic about it ). It will greatly increase immersion into the game.

Interesting feature request. Music is quite personal so such a feature seems it would need to be customizable. This is a quick playlist that I put together to enjoy the ambience -

FogSpear December 30, 2020 16:01


Originally Posted by DavidMedley (Post 150334)
Thanks for the review! There's no d20 in this, but I'd love a dice roller window, too.

Point taken - but you captured the essence of having the desire: an optional dice roller window to satisfy the dice rollers in each of us.

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