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Video Game / Angband

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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.

The objective of the game 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 in Angband are generated when you arrive and discarded when you leave; the game has no memory of the layouts of previous levels you have visited. In other words, 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.
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  • 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 brand-new dungeon level every 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 and you can, in principle, play forever.
  • feelings - player characters in Angband have mysterious intuitive senses called "feelings", which can foresee potential danger on the current dungeon floor, or the presence of powerful items. (Prior to version 4, the player would also get feelings about the quality of the items they find; however, this has since been replaced by a rune-based identity system).
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  • rune-based identity system - object properties (eg. "resist lightning", "slay animal") are denoted by runes, which are initially unknown to the player; however, once they learn the meaning of a rune, they recognize it when they see it on other objects.
  • curse system - there are many different curse runes, which initially can't be distinguished from good runes until the player learns their effect (usually the hard way).
  • large dungeons - dungeon levels in Angband and other *bands are huge, sprawling affairs, many screens wide and tall. Most other roguelikes tend to have dungeons that are closer to a single screen in size.
  • 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 - your character is constantly observing and learning things about the monsters they fight, such as their special powers and any vulnerabilities they've been seen to display. Every new piece of information learned is stored in the monster memory, and can be recalled at any time - even by descendants who have never personally encountered the monster.
  • emphasis on character advancement - Angband is ultimately about levelling up and improving the character's strengths and survivability, by any means necessary. Level Grinding and Scumming are less discouraged than in other games, and the design of *bands often makes this easy to do.

The latest version of Angband can be downloaded at

Tropes in this game:

  • Animorphism: Some player classes can learn transformation spells which allow them to adopt animal forms, such as bats or foxes. This gives you benefits such as increased speed or heightened senses, but you can't use items.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Multi-hued dragons have all of the breath attacks and resistances of multiple different dragons species.
  • 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 always 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Several of the named weapons are this. Mostly because they are too slow. Even a suped-up orc slaying sword like Orcrist does less damage to an orc compared to a vanilla +10 Main Gauche that gets three attacks a round.
  • Bandit Mook: You can encounter thieves of many different races in the dungeon, which have the ability to steal money from your pouch and teleport away before you can do anything about it. This is particularly annoying in Angband, since the non-persistent dungeons mean that you'll never see that money again unless you track the enemy down and recover it. It's even worse if you encounter Sméagol too early; he can take your money and is near-impossible for a low-level character to kill. Your best hope is to accept the loss and run.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted - by the time bears start showing up as enemies, you'll probably be so strong that they're little more than a nuisance.
  • 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 vulnerable to light 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.
      • Phase Door scrolls will teleport you away a short distance: perfect for gulping down a potion or two before they close in again. Teleport Scrolls will move you a good distance away and are essential for a sudden escape.
  • Breath Weapon:
    • Many enemies have these - most notably dragons, but some lesser enemies like giant salamanders have them too. Angband can get quite abstract about what constitutes a breath weapon - there are monsters that can breathe darkness, or light, and there's even an enemy that breathes time.
    • The player can also gain a breath weapon themselves if they manage to acquire some dragon armor.
  • Buffy Speak: One of the lower level monsters are simply called "icky things".
  • Captain Obvious: Some of the monster description texts such as a "Green Ooze" - "it's green and it's oozing".
  • 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.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Many enemy species are differentiated only by their color, which generally gives an indication of what their elemental nature might be - however, it isn't as "convenient" as you might expect, as Angband is slightly inconsistent with its color indicators. For example, the blue jelly has a freezing attack (as you might expect) but the red jelly has a strength-reducing attack, not a fire attack. The red dragon has a fire attack, but the blue dragon breathes lightning - it's actually the white dragon that breathes frost. Meanwhile, white sometimes means poison, and black usually means acid, but some green monsters are acidic too. Fortunately, if you ever forget, you can look any monster up in the monster memory to see what you know about it.
    • On an interface level, the ASCII glyphs for humanoids tend to be consistently color-coded. Dark blue enemies are usually thieves and will steal your money if they get close, so these are good targets to take out at range. Green means holy, and brown means a fighter or soldier. Unique enemies tend to be colored differently to their kin, making it easy to single them out in a large group.
  • Continuity Cameo: Almost every unique enemy in the game is a character from Tolkien's works - including many minor characters that most people won't even have heard of unless they're very familiar with the books.
  • Cursed Item: Some items are inscribed with magic runes, and each rune has a specific effect which may or may not be harmful - but you can't tell that until you've identified the rune. Sometimes it can be worth keeping a cursed item and enduring the curse, if it's something good or useful. Alternatively you can keep it until you've found something that can lift the curse.
  • 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.
    • Paralysis was worse in an earlier versions, as it could produce infinite paralysis cycles without doing damage. Version 2.8.2 did a partial adjustment, requiring those attacks to inflict at least 1 point of damage.
  • Damage Discrimination: Averted - enemies have no protection from the ranged attacks of other enemies, nor any compunction to prevent such damage. For example, a dragon will happily try to murder you with its fire breath even if there are enemies in the way that would be incinerated by the blast. You can sometimes take advantage of this.
  • 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.
  • Destroyable Items: Angband doesn't guarantee the safety of your items at all, and there are many enemies who have the means to damage your equipment and destroy your resources. Players can expect to replace and upgrade their resources fairly often as they progress into the dungeon.
  • Disability Immunity: Warriors have this in some ways. Unlike every other class, they cannot use magic and have no mana. This means they can't cast spells by themselves and have to rely on magic devices if they want to use any magic. However, they are immune to mana-draining as a result, and also aren't bothered 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.
  • Disadvantageous Disintegration: Scrolls, potions, and rings can be destroyed by certain elemental attacks, which is a problem when you're fighting groups of enemies - you may have to hold back your more powerful area-of-effect attacks to avoid destroying the loot that you're fighting for.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Finding a Potion of Experience early in the game - as they are not scaled instead giving a huge flat gain, finding one early can advance you twenty levels making the early game much more trivial. Somewhat downplayed as you will be less powerful than an "organic" character of that level as you won’t have found level appropriate equipment and items and won’t have found the stat gain potions to match limiting your power until you do.
  • 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 and can reach them, there's nothing compelling you to remain on the current dungeon level. You can choose the depth you feel 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 below the lowest depth you've reached so far. This is an early game 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 have to rely on magic devices, rare branded equipment and high-level spells if they want to do much elemental magic.
  • Enemy Summoner: Some enemies (most often mages) have the ability to summon other enemies to fight you.
  • Energy Absorption: Silver mice have a light-draining bite, which exhausts your light source. Some enemies can also drain and feed on your mana.
  • 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.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Every single monster in the dungeon (and a couple in the town) are hostile and will kill you if they can.
  • Explosive Breeder: Some creatures have the "breeds explosively" attribute, 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 other roguelikes, they would clog up the level permanently, which could unbalance the game).
  • Fantastic Light Source: Light is very important in Angband - the dungeon is largely pitch black, and you need light to be able to see where you're going, what's around you, and to read scrolls and spellbooks. For this reason, it's vital to carry a light source with you at all times. There are a few 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.
  • Fiery Salamander: Salamanders deal fire damage, and giant salamanders can breathe flame.
  • Final Death: It's a roguelike. You can savescum, but don't try to pass it off as a genuine win.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Players are immune to their own area-of-effect spells, so you can happily bombard groups of enemies with explosive fire blasts without ever having to worry about damaging yourself or your equipment. This also allows for an outside-the-box method of dealing with invisible enemies; if you target yourself with an area effect spell, any invisible enemies near you will be caught in the resulting blast.
  • Game Mod: Few freeware games have such a large number of variants as Angband. 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 (eg. earth hounds) can breathe it at you to inflict lacerations, 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.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: You can encounter all of Farmer Maggot's dogs (Grip, Fang, and Wolf) in the dungeon - in fact, they're probably the first unique enemies you'll encounter. You can also encounter Farmer Maggot himself in town. If you killed Grip, Fang, or Wolf, he'll be mourning his missing dogs.
  • Holiday Mode: At Christmas, Father Christmas himself can show up in town with an entourage of red-hatted elves.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: The Warrior class can't learn or use magic at all.
  • Magic Mushroom: There are many different species of mushroom in the game, all with different effects. Some of them are mixed blessings; for example, Mushrooms of Terror make your character terrified and unable to fight, but also give them a staggering burst of speed for running away.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Gold dragons (and gold dragon flies) can "breathe sound", which stuns anyone hit by the blast.
  • Massive Race Selection: Angband itself only has eight races, but variants tend to go crazy with this. ZAngband has one of the most extensive selections. The ZAngband 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).
  • Mega Dungeon: The game measures its dungeon depth by feet underground, not numbered levels, with players traversing randomly generated levels of the fortress Angband to destroy Morgoth. Angband extends infinitely down, but Morgoth is generally found about a mile straight down.
  • 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. Some summoners can even summon summoners!
  • Mushroom Samba: Mushrooms of Emergency give you an enormous health boost and temporarily confer elemental resistances, which can be good for getting out of a tight spot. The downside? They make you wildly hallucinate, causing you to see monsters that aren't there and making it impossible for you to recognize objects at a distance.
  • Mythology Gag: Farmer Maggot, when he's in town, keeps asking you about mushrooms - a prized produce of his farm in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "killer fire beetle"
  • Nominal Importance:
    • Enemies with proper names are uniques, and are significantly stronger and tougher than generic enemies of the same race.
    • If a piece of equipment has a proper name, it's something really special, and may have additional powers.
  • Oh, Crap!: When you realize you're in trouble, chances are good there's no escape and you'll die shortly thereafter.
    • Blinded means you cannot read your scrolls. If you rely on them to escape (recall, phase door, teleport), woe is you if you get in trouble.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Speed. High levels of speed mean you can act two or three times for every time a standard speed monster can. It's pretty much a requirement to have at least +30 speed when fighting the Final Boss Morgoth so you can match him in speed so he doesn't get two consecutive turns to act against you which can be fatal.
  • Panthera Awesome: Unlike bears (see above), big cats are bad news in this game. Fast, with multiple hard hitting attacks, they can ruin your day. Saber tooth tigers are especially nasty.
  • Poison Mushroom: Potions of Salt Water, which make you sick and dangerously hungry.
  • Random Effect Spell: Wands of Wonder have a random effect each time they're used.
  • 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.
  • Reduced-Downtime Features: There is a weapon tagging system, which allows applying a number to an inventory item rather than worry about its letter, along with a tags that requires confirming use of certain "dangerous" or resource-critical items. A rest command allows restoring health in negligible real-time when no monsters are around. A run command that allows quickly traversing through corridors. An "interact" command that takes a contextually obvious action for a given tile. And finally, a macro system to automate some things, allowing for one button rests.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Creeping coins disguise themselves as piles of coins, hoping that greedy players will come by to try to loot them.
    • Greater Vaults. If you see a completely walled off room filled with treasure, run away.
  • 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. Also artifact bows and other missile launchers for classes who generally use spells or magic items for long range fighting. Mages will often choose melee weapons that boost their speed and spellcasting stats over actual combat effectiveness as they rarely engage in melee.
  • The Symbiote: Available as a class in Angband Variants for the Android/IOS.
  • Tempting Fate: A hallmark of this game. To get the best treasures, you need to press your luck.
    • The Deep Delve scroll. It drops you five levels deeper than your lowest delve. You will face a significantly more challenging level.
  • True Sight: Can be granted temporarily by a potion, giving you the ability to see otherwise invisible enemies.
  • Unidentified Items: Angband and its variants have items start out unidentified: potions, scrolls, wands, staves, jewelry, armor, and weapons. The latest versions allow you to start knowing either what all consumable items are, all permanent items are, or both.
  • Untouchable Until Tagged: Fights can sometimes go like this. A player might be able to hold their own pretty well until an enemy manages to get in an attack that turns the fight - usually one that inflicts a status effect the player was not prepared for.
  • Vendor Trash: In an attempt to streamline the game, since version 3.5.0, the ability to sell items has been turned off by default while gold drops being improved to avoid having the player constantly going back to town to sell stuff. It can be enabled in the options however - savvy players using this will restart the game until they get a combination of high maximum payout shops to sell to.
  • 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). Some of them are dangerous to low level characters - Mean Mercenaries are an even fight for a starting character and Battle Scarred Veterans remain dangerous for a few levels. Squint-eyed Rogues and Street Urchins are not dangerous in melee but can steal gold from you and should be avoided or killed at range.
    • At Christmas, you can attack and kill Father Christmas, who is specifically there to bring presents for the poor street urchins.
    • In ZAngband, you can kill the Finnish president and Nobel Peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari - or rather, a parody version of him.
  • Visual Pun: Angband has "dragon flies": insects with breath attacks.
  • Voodoo Shark: The game's explanation for the non-persistent levels is that there is a "maze of staircases" between each floor, in which your character always gets lost and therefore is unable to find his way back to that exact same location 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 (and we know that all dungeons of the same level occur at the same depth, because the game tells you exactly how many feet underground you are!).
    • It's doubly frustrating, as you are in a dungeon created by a rogue archangel as an impenetrable fortress. There is little better justification for it being a Mobile Maze.
  • Vulnerable Civilians: You can kill everyone in the home village (except shopkeepers - they are just flavour names when you enter the shop and not actually present on the map).
  • 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.
    • Some player classes are specifically adapted to the dark, and suffer penalties in light conditions. This makes it more beneficial for them to skulk in the shadows - or, with the right magic, to create their own darkness.
  • 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).


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