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Video Game: Angband

Angband is a roguelike game loosely based on J. R. R. Tolkien's books set in Middle-earth, but with stuff from other games, mostly Dungeons & Dragons and Rolemaster, as well as original content. Along with NetHack, Dungeon Crawl, ADOM, and ToME, it is considered one of the five major modern roguelikes. It has been in continuous development since 1990.

In terms of objective, it's fairly simple: your goal is to defeat Morgoth, the Big Bad of Middle Earth. To get to him, you must first descend through 100 levels of increasingly hostile dungeons, and hopefully acquire enough experience and equipment to defeat him. The challenge comes from learning how best to deal with the vast menagerie of enemies in the dungeon, and knowing when and when not to take risks.

Although not the first in its roguelike line (that distinction goes to Moria, of which Angband is a descendant), Angband is the grandfather of an entire family of roguelikes collectively known as *bands, thanks to its relatively easy-to-fork source code.

Angband and other *bands have a few features that make them distinct from other roguelike families:

  • non-persistent dungeon levels - dungeon levels are randomly generated, but crucially, only one dungeon level is ever generated at a time. If you leave the floor you're on and then come back, the game will generate a completely new dungeon level, replacing the previous one entirely. The result of this is that you cannot revisit a dungeon level once you leave it; it's wiped from existence, and anything left there is gone forever. This is the defining feature of Angband that sets it apart from almost every other kind of roguelike.
  • infinite dungeon - a side-effect of the non-persistent levels is that the dungeon is effectively infinite - there's nothing to stop you from visiting the same depth as many times as you like and taking as much as you can carry away from it. The game will always generate a new dungeon level each time you go, with new loot to collect and new enemies to fight. This means that the resources available to the player are effectively limitless. The dungeon itself still has a finite depth (100 floors).
  • large dungeons - dungeons in Angband and other *bands are huge, sprawling affairs, many screens wide and tall.
  • legacy characters - your character is considered a descendant of other characters (played by you) that came before him or her. Any new information your character learns about the monsters of the dungeon will be passed to his or her descendants, so that they may be better prepared.
  • monster memory - with each monster encounter, you may learn more about the monsters you're fighting. Every new piece of information you learn is stored in the monster memory, and can be recalled at any time - even by descendants who have never personally encountered the monster.
  • feelings - Angband uses a multiple-level identification system for some items, expressed as 'feelings' that your character has. For example, your character may acquire an item in the dungeon, and after carrying it around for some time, may 'feel' that the item is special in some way. They still won't know exactly why it is special - this may require them to actually use it, or to use magical means of identification. They also get feelings about the dungeon level they're on, and can sense potential danger, or the presence of worthwhile items.
  • emphasis on character advancement - *bands are ultimately about gaining experience and improving the character's survivability, by any means necessary. Level Grinding and Scumming are not as discouraged as in other games, and the design of *bands often makes this easy to do (for example, exploiting a self-replicating enemy for experience, or going up and down stairs repeatedly to generate new levels until you find one with some good items).

The latest version of Angband can be downloaded at http://rephial.org/.


Tropes in this game:

  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Monsters actively avoid tiles that you can see, opting to instead wait in the dark until they can pounce on you.
    • This also means that they don't fall for the common roguelike trick of 'lure them into a tight corridor then pick them off one at a time' - they'll instead wait for you to come out into the open where they can surround you.
    • Enemies can learn your resistances (or, if you set the option, know them in advance) and may not attempt to use ineffective attacks repeatedly.
    • In the variant/successor Sil orc packs try to flank you or block your escape routes, while archers will spread out and keep their distance - which is annoying and deadly.
  • Blinded by the Light: Some enemies have elemental light attacks which can do this to you.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • Rods/Wands of Light in general, which light up a long line of tiles. If you rely on any kind of ranged attack, you'll need to spot monsters from as far away as possible, and these babies really shine in long corridors. You'd also be surprised by how many enemies are damaged by it in the early game.
    • Teleport away. You don't have to kill absolutely everything. It's far safer to punt a dangerous monster to the other side of the map and loot the treasure behind it than to try and fight.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Genocide/Banishment spell, which will subtract 1d3 HP for every monster killed from the spell. Also, casting a spell without enough mana could damage your CON (health stat) temporarily or permanently.
  • Chest Monster: Creeping Coins and various other mimics.
  • Companion Cube: Slime molds, a food item which many players name and keep as pets.
  • Cycle of Hurting: if you've fallen victim to an enemy with a debilitating status effect (confusion, poison, etc) and you can't kill it, this is probably how you'll die - being slowly picked to death and unable to recover.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts:
    • Creatures with the ability to produce copies of themselves will generally kill you in this manner - they're usually relatively harmless by themselves, but once they start multiplying they can block passages and totally surround you, picking you off a little at a time.
    • If met at the start of the game, a Floating Eye can keep you paralyzed to the point that you starve to death.
  • Disability Immunity: warriors have this in some ways. They cannot use magic, and so have no mana, which makes them immune to the mana-draining abilities of jellies. They also aren't bothered so much by blindness; a blind warrior can still swing a weapon in front of them (which, since they're a warrior, will hit with a lot of damage), whereas a blinded mage cannot read their spell book and is therefore completely cut off from their primary source of defense.
  • Dump Stat: If using the point-buy system to create your character, Charisma had practically no use aside from price adjustments - and was generally the easiest stat to improve (due to potions of charisma appearing earlier than other stats.) As of 3.5.0, the stat was removed, with gold drops likewise being toned down.
  • Dungeon Bypass: practically a way of life in Angband. As long as you know where the stairs are, there's nothing compelling you to remain on the current dungeon level. (Well, unless an enemy has paralysed you, or has the ability to teleport you to its location. But that's rare.) You can pretty much choose whichever depth you're most comfortable fighting at, and you can also use stairs as an immediate escape from danger if you can reach them.
    • The Scroll of Deep Descent does this more explicitly; it teleports you five dungeon levels downward. It can be a hazard for new characters, as you're likely to accidentally read one in the process of identifying scrolls you haven't seen, with the result that your inexperienced character ends up way out of his or her depth.
  • Drop the Hammer: Priests are restricted to using bashing weapons. Also, Morgoth's hammer Grond, which shatters walls all around when swung.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Quylthulgs. Cthangband is a variant entirely based on the Cosmic Horror Story genre.
  • Elemental Embodiment: various elementals can be met throughout the game, mostly sticking to the classical elements, but occasionally venturing into more abstract territory (eg. smoke elemental, ooze elemental).
  • Elemental Powers: some enemies have them, or have resistances to certain elements. Players usually have to rely on hard-to-come-by magic devices and high-level spells if they want to do much elemental magic. They can also get elemental-branded weapons, but those are even harder to obtain.
  • Enemy Summoner: Some enemies (most often mages) have the ability to summon other enemies to fight you.
  • Escape Rope: Scrolls of Word of Recall, one of the most essential items in the game. These teleport you from the dungeon to the home town, and can also teleport you back into the dungeon again. They're also commonly used to escape threats, although the several-turn delay between invocation and the teleport means that it's not a foolproof way of getting out of trouble. Also available as a cleric spell.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Cursed items feel this way when you wear or wield them.
  • Explosive Breeder: Many low-level creatures have the 'breeds explosively' ability, meaning they can spawn copies of themselves. This is something fairly unique to *bands - Angband can get away with it because of its non-persistent dungeons (in any other roguelike, they would clog up the level permanently, which could unbalance the game). Reproducing creatures include worm masses, lice, and rats, each of which which have many annoying colour variants. These can be ground upon to gain levels, but unless you're using a borg (a bot which plays the game) this is too dull to do for more than a few levels.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Light is very important in Angband. All corridors are pitch black, and most rooms are unlit. There are mundane sources of light available (torches and lanterns), but also several magical ones. The most common are enchanted torches, which might be magically brightened, or even everlasting. There are also a few magical artifacts which produce light, all from Tolkien's works: the Phial of Galadriel, the Star of Elendil, and the Arkenstone of Thráin.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: A few variants avert this, notably Steamband.
  • Final Death: It's a roguelike. You can savescum, but don't try to pass it off as a genuine win.
  • Game Mod: Few freeware games have such a large number of variants as Angband. oook.cz is the most known repository.
  • Gateless Ghetto: Built on top of Morgoth's fortress is a town consisting of six stores, a black market, a house belonging to the player, and a few ne'er-do-well townfolk, surrounded by an impenetrable wall. A few variants avert this by adding an overworld.
  • Gemstone Assault: one of the game's elements is 'shard', which means pieces of crystal/rock. Some enemies can breathe it at you, or are composed of it.
  • Guide Dang It: Don't go below 1000 feet (20th floor) without See Invisible. Don't go below 2000 feet (40th floor) without Resist Poison.
  • Massive Race Selection: Angband itself only has eight races, but variants tend to go crazy with this. Z Angband has one of the most extensive selections. The Z Angband variant Entroband has thirty-seven races and twenty-seven classes. Averted by a newer variant Sil, in which you can only choose Noldor (High Elves), Sindar (Grey Elves), Naugrim (Dwarf) or Edain (Human).
  • Metal Slime: most unique enemies could be considered these - they show up irregularly, are fiendishly difficult to kill, but are usually worth the reward if you can defeat them.
  • Min-Maxing: This is pretty much the aim of the game.
  • Money Spider: Generally averted. Only monsters that are likely to carry money (ie. humanoids) will drop it.
  • Monsters Everywhere
  • Mook Maker: enemy summoners.
  • Randomly Generated Loot: The game uses this method for ego items and random artifacts. One starts with a basic item, like a Hard Studded Leather [7,+0]. With a numeric bonus, that might be a Hard Studded Leather [7,+3]. If it gets an ego, it might be an Elven Hard Studded Leather (increases stealth, detects orcs), a Hard Studded Leather of Resist Fire (reduces fire damage), or with two egos, an Elven Hard Studded Leather of Resist Fire! If it becomes a random artifact (or randart), it receives a unique name, like the Elven Hard Studded Leather of Felorith, and some random powers. Because this is Angband, most ego items and randarts look like average junk until the player identifies or psuedo-identifies the items.
    • Moria, the ancestor of Angband, has ego items but no artifacts.
  • Random Number God: Everything in the dungeon is randomly created and placed.
  • Schmuck Bait: Greater Vaults. If you see a completely walled off room filled with treasure, run away.
    • Also, in ToME, don't equip that yellow ~ lying on the ground right away. It could be the Phial of Galadriel, or something really evil...
  • Spider-Sense: all characters have an innate ability to sense things about the dungeon level that they're on, and can sense potential danger, even if they don't know exactly what the danger is.
  • Stat Sticks: Defender weapons.
  • The Symbiote: Available as a class in Angband Variants for the Android/IOS.
  • Unidentified Items: Angband and its variants have items start out unidentified: potions, scrolls, wands, staves, jewelry, armor, and weapons.
  • Vendor Trash: Since version 3.5.0, the ability to sell items has been turned off by default, precisely to prevent players from simply trawling through the dungeon for trash to sell. It can be enabled in the options however.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The town level is full of beggars, harmless drunks, street urchins, and various mangy animals. They're generally no match for you whatsoever, even at your lowest level, so you can kill them with abandon (and they even sometimes drop money).
  • Voodoo Shark: the game's explanation for the non-persistent levels is that there is a 'maze of staircases' between each level, in which your character always gets lost and therefore is unable to find his way back to that same level again. Considering that the dungeons take up significant floor space, and that your character also has access to mining tools (and, if really smart, could just leave a trail or something), it seems highly unlikely that an entire dungeon could simply be 'lost' like this. Not to mention the sheer area that this neverending collection of dungeons must take up (we know they're all on the same level, because the game tells you exactly how many feet underground you are!).
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: One of many properties ego and artifact weapons can have is bonus damage against particular types of enemies. This is controlled by a set of independent boolean flags, allowing (in the extreme) the artifact sword Crisdurian, which has all the Slay X flags set (and has the damage dice to make it count).
  • Weakened by the Light: light is one of the elements in Angband's elemental system, and some creatures are harmed by it. Many different magical items can produce bright light for this purpose.