Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Desktop Dungeons

Go To
Them's some tasty level.

Like Roguelikes, but dislike sinking massive amounts of time? Then boy, do we have the game for you!

Desktop Dungeons is a Roguelike (or perhaps a puzzle game disguised as one) created in GameMaker, and a very unique one, in that each dungeon that spawns takes about ten minutes to play. You choose a race and a class, set out, and try not to die. All your resources (HP, MP, even monsters you can kill) are heavily restricted, and careful rationing of resources is vital to your success.

The game starts off easier than most Roguelikes, but as the game goes on, it throws you curveballs, adding new types of monsters and extra features. And as the game goes on, you unlock more classes and races.

So despite individual sessions being short, the game has a lot to spend time on. It can be easy to lose yourself.


The Alpha version of the game is freeware. A commercial version with much more content, more detailed art and a semi-relevant plot line was released on Steam on November 7th, 2013, followed by a free Enhanced Edition update on April 16th, 2015.

This game contains examples of:

  • Angrish: The Berserker's class quests consist of them going on a murderous rampage, and both the quest tooltips and the enemy names have been replaced with unintelligible growling. This is also how the sword Whurrgarbl got its name.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: The Goblins have this as their hat - the "bureaucrat" part is that they're more concerned with filing TPS reports than the fact that they live in terrible conditions, the "badass" whenever they're tapped to be an adventurer.
  • Bag of Spilling: Every dungeon run starts at level 1. Justified as each dungeon is tackled by a different adventurer in a kingdom full of adventurers, and they retire upon leaving the dungeon.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: The monk class obviously. They only deal 50% damage, but they also have a 50% resistance to physical damage and higher max resistance.
  • Beard of Evil: Aequitas, the Boss Warlock, is purported to have one. In the commercial release, the beard is the trophy he drops.
  • Blood Magic: BLUDTUPOWA, which is the signature glyph of the Bloodmage.
  • Blood Sport: Parodied with Hitball, which typically has players last a couple of weeks tops. There is no ball involved.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Pactmaker fills this role in the alpha, having no piety loss conditions and boosting your piety for every level you gain. Most classes can work their worship of him into a viable strategy.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Vampire race/class in the alpha does this. The BLUDTUPOWA glyph does that again in the commercial release, but also consumes blackspace (which is your ability to heal up between fights).
  • Combat Medic: Any character can potentially be this, as they all have some magical ability. Ironically enough, in this case, the wizard subclasses are the best medics, as they have the most mana/best magical efficiency. The priest subclasses are more tank-like than anything. Sorcerers are great in that role because all spells recover their hit points.
  • Class and Level System
  • Damage-Sponge Boss: The Super Meat Man has almost a thousand hit points, triple that of most of the bosses. However, his attack power is also significantly lower than most other bosses. Fighting him isn't a matter of surviving his attacks so much as it's about whittling his health down before you run out of resources.
    • The Matron of Flame and Frank the Zombie also qualify, if not to as great an extent — they have lower health than Super Meat Man, but it's still greater than that of most bosses and they hit significantly harder. Frank in particular has been the bane of many Crypt runs, especially since he's immune to Poison.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Largely averted — you can't hit-and-run an enemy to death, because when you heal via Fog of War, so do any injured enemies. If you poison them, however, this strategy becomes viable (and a few classes rely on it).
    • The monk tends toward this even without poison, because of its low attack, high resistances, and double regeneration.
    • In the alpha, the transmuter can regain health by eating the dungeon's walls, which, if done without exploring, keeps the enemy from healing as well.
  • Defiant to the End: Horatio's pre-battle quote mainly consists of lording it over the hero that they'll never know his motives.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Each class has a distinct flavor of this except maybe the berserker and the sorcerer.
  • Dungeon Shop: The primary source of equipment; each sells only one item, except the apothecary where you can pick one of several potions. Fulfilling certain quests upgrades their number and quality, but the quests mostly involve doing a lot of shopping during the same run.
  • Elite Tweak: Worshipping Binlor Ironshield as the transmuter in alpha. Binlor grants piety for mining out walls. The transmuter can ENDISWAL for very cheap.
    • The commercial release features several, such as playing rogues with gods or items that increase HP, using the Avatar's Codex with the Earthmother to negate its disadvantage, or playing halfling priests (possibly with the otherwise-unimpressive naga cauldron) to abuse the extra powered-up potions.
  • Empty Levels: Generally averted, but Dracul can give you a literal empty level in exchange for free piety (or as a cost of worship in the alpha). You level up, but you don't get any stat increases, or even the Level-Up Fill-Up.
    • Inverted with the Glowing Guardian — his "Humility" boon similarly lowers your level by one without lowering your stats.
  • Flaming Sword: Whurrgarbl.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: No matter how times you kill a given boss (and for many quests, you'll be doing so at least two or three times), or the circumstances behind doing so, they're always back by the next expedition.
  • Genius Loci: Bezar, which is simultaneously an Eldritch Abomination and a flea market.
  • Glass Cannon: Rogues have a lot less health and a lot more attack than other classes.
    • On the enemy side, gorgons, warlocks, and goats, of all things, have high attack and low health. The goat boss is particularly noteworthy, in that he will one-shot all but a few characters. The gorgon boss, Medusa, will automatically kill any hero not at 100% health.
    • Picking up the Terror Slice will turn any character into this — it gives a 100% attack bonus, but reduces your hp total to 1.
  • God of Evil: Dracul.
  • Grandpa God: The Glowing Guardian.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The kingdom's motto is Ut sit semper felicem terra timebat monstra, which roughly translates to "May the land of fearful monsters be forever blessed."
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: "H" — Horatio the Immortal — makes it clear that he hates the kingdom and feels it's intruding on his territory. However, he explicitly refuses to say why this is.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The convert quote for the Glowing Guardian.
    "Commandment One: Live your life freely. Commandment Two: Don't break any of my rules."
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The rewards for the vicious dungeons won't win you the game by themselves, but it's hard to deny that Namtar's Ward and the Dragon Shield are the most powerful items in their niche by a large margin, and the Avatar's Codex has one of the most dramatic effects in the game (but is double-edged).
  • Injured Vulnerability: Gorgons instantly kill you if you have less than 50% health. The Gorgon boss insta-kills you if you have less than 100% health.
  • "Instant Death" Radius:
    • Gharbad the- whoah!, the goat boss in the alpha, does 225 damage with his melee attack. You will not under any circumstances have 225 health, though you might manage enough damage resistance to pull it off. Bleaty, his replacement in later releases, can be even more powerful (sometimes topping 300). Some class quests (especially the warlord's) take it a level further with enemies who deal 999 damage.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: A large part of the game is choosing which glyphs and pieces of equipment to hold onto and which to convert (you can't drop items and pick them back up later). There are six item slots, each of which can hold five small items (like potions) or one glyph or large item.
  • Item Amplifier: The Thief class restores both health and mana with any kind of potions. The Priest class, meanwhile, enjoys increased restoration rate from health potions.
  • Jerkass Gods: They're evidently constantly squabbling, and take great joy when the others have their altars smashed up. Furthermore, Jehora Jeheyu is insane, Mystera Annur is halfway there herself, Taurog is a Blood Knight, Tikki Tooki delights in fighting dirty and will punish followers for boring him, Dracul is a God of Evil, and the Glowing Guardian, the only unambiguous force for good, is also incredibly strict to the point of madness. The Earthmother and Binlor Ironshield are too obsessively focused on their narrow interests (plants and mining respectively) to care about anything else, and the Pactmaker is so ambiguous it's not clear if he/she/it should count as a god or as a deal-making devil.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Due to the non-linear nature of the game, most of the plot and backstory is delivered in bits and pieces, often in boss monologues or class challenges.
  • Killer Rabbit: Do not underestimate the Goat boss.
  • Last of Her Kind: The Matron of Flame is the only true dragon female still alive. By killing her, you render the species extinct.
  • Level-Up Fill-Up: One of the most important tactical advantages your character has, EVER. Here are some of the most important things to know about revitalizing when leveling up (Warning: will not always apply under special conditions, like Dracul or Goatperson):
    • #1: Your health and mana are refilled to the maximum. This is important because it means that picking the enemy to kill for the last bit of experience can be a game breaking detail.
    • #2: When leveling up, you cure poison and mana burn, which don't deal damage/mana damage over time but prevent health/mana regeneration. This makes picking the right enemy to kill off for the level up even MORE important, because once per level, the character can shrug off what could be a fatal mistake.
    • #3: Your enemies will NOT LEVEL UP FILL UP WHEN YOU DO. That means you can attack an enemy, attack another enemy and level up, and finish off the former injured enemy. There is even an achievement for using this tactic on a boss.
  • Limited Move Arsenal: In the alpha, your character can only have three glyphs equipped at a time — except for the wizard, who can have four. In the commercial version, each glyph takes up the same space as a standard piece of equipment — again, except for the wizard, for whom they count as small items.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Surprisingly enough, inverted. Melee classes can get extremely powerful ridiculously quickly. It's not uncommon for 3rd level fighters to be hacking imps, gorgons, and vampires apart that are two to three levels higher than them. BURNDAYRAZ (the only spell that's truly offensive in the sense that using it directly deals damage) only deals 4 times your level worth of damage. This means that the absolute highest amount that you're going to deal with it is 40, and that's if you somehow make it to level ten. However, the major advantage to spell casting is that, unlike normal combat, most enemies can never retaliatenote . This means that, in theory at least, you could go an entire game without taking one point of damage.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Mysterious shops, after you buy the goods inside, mysteriously disappear. Mysteriously.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The game tries its best to place low-level enemies near the starting point. Still, due to the randomly generated dungeons, every game can be anything from nigh-unwinnable to a walk in the park. Certain characters and dungeons are particularly noteworthy, though:
    • Playing as a Tinker. Depending on the shops that spawn, they can be a waste of space, a multiple legendary-artifact wielding death engine, or anything in between.
    • Playing the alpha's Boss Hive as a rogue. In the boss hive, vampires take 90% of your health when you see them, rounded up. A level 1 rogue has 5 health.
    • Grimm's Grotto invokes this on purpose — it uses an old version of the level-generation algorithm which does not guarantee enemies you can beat spawn near the start, so there's extra emphasis on having a way to avoid being walled-in at the start.
  • Macrogame: Gold is pooled into a bank between dungeons. You can use it to unlock classes and items, or spend some to carry bonuses into a dungeon. You also unlock items and upgrades by completing quests, many of which require beating a dungeon several times.
  • Mad God: Jehora Jeheyu, though the first of his two puzzles shows that he used to be much more stable, and to a lesser degree Mystera Annur.
  • Magically Inept Fighter: The Berserker has powerful attacks, but all their glyph spells have a higher mana cost. Taurog grants his worshippers increased strength and defense, but discourages them from casting spells. A Berserker who worships Taurog is a formidable warrior who can destroy anything that doesn't have physical resistance.
  • Magic Knight: Technically almost any class can be, but Sorcerers are particularly geared towards this, regaining health every time they cast magic and dealing additional damage to enemies that successfully attack them.
  • Marathon Boss: Super Meat Man. He has 954 health. The second meatiest boss "only" has 636. Meat Man doesn't even hit that hard, unlike a lot of bosses who can casually one-shot the player. Meat Man's real threat is that he simply won't die without obsessively hoarding your resources for the entire dungeon and then blowing them all on him.
    • Horatio, the "final boss", has 999 HP if you fight him normally. If you manage to reach him in Vicious mode, however, he instead has 5000 HP (and you've probably exhausted all your resources by now).
    • Namtar, another vicious boss, seems normal enough — except you have to kill him six times! Unusually, after the second, his forms get progressively weaker (but so do you, as the level effects eat at your stats).
    • The Indominatable, on Vicious mode, can survive 50 killing blows. However his attack power drops each time he does, so by the halfway point he's doing scratch damage (or would be, except you should have a dozen or two layers of corrosion by then). And you can explore to regenerate as you wear him down as long as you're careful with the numbers.
  • Marathon Level:
    • The aptly-named Tower of Gaan-Telet. You have to clear four increasingly hard floors (with nasty effects when you enter the third and fourth) followed by a boss with 999 HP. But on vicious mode it's instead TEN floors, with the monsters scaling up, with nasty effects on all but the first, and the boss has 5000 HP.
    • Most of the Vicious dungeons are also this, with a harder-than-normal level after which you go to another area to jump through some extra hoops. Of particular note is the Naga Arena, where after a dungeon full of enemies with permanent weakening debuffs, you have to fight ten bosses in a row.
    • Triple Quests, as the name would imply, consist of three normally-sized maps following a storyline. The resource pool "refreshes" because of this, unlike the prior examples, but all three have to be completed in one sitting, and a death on the second or third map means starting from scratch.
  • Mascot Mook: Goats.
  • Meta Guy: The Witch, primarily in the form of telling the player to quit reading her tooltips.
  • Min-Maxing: The way races, classes, and patron gods interplay causes some combinations to be incredible and others to be total wastes. Of course, sometimes that's part of the challenge.
    • For instance, while playing a gorgon, making the right item purchases and selecting the right god can create a character nearly impervious to physical damage. Just go up to that level 10 zombie and casually smack him around; he can't do a thing to you.
  • Monsters Everywhere
  • Mother Nature: The Earthmother.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: The elves.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Gorgons can do this to you if you're under a certain amount of health. Boss Gorgons can be really deadly to ones who worship gods that forbid casting or roles like berserker, since their instant kill is at 99% health.
    • You can also do this to other characters with IMAWAL or automatically when playing as a Gorgon.
    • Assassins also kill all enemies that are below their level with one hit, regardless of their health.
  • Power at a Price: For most gods, the "price" is something you're not allowed to do, but particularly of note is Dracul, whose boons all come with a price (such as maximum health). Tikki Tooki takes this literally, as you can buy piety with him, and in the alpha version, he charges you half your gold to worship him.
  • Power Up Letdown: In the alpha, it's just not worth it to worship the Earthmother. Not only do you have to use IMAWAL to get any piety (see Useless Useful Spell), but one of her "boons" turns all bloodstains into indestructible, impassible plants. Congratulations, you just sealed off the entire dungeon!. In the commercial version, though, the IMAWAL glyph has been heavily upgraded and she is actually quite powerful.
  • Prestige Class: An interesting example in that most of them aren't necessarily stronger, just different. There's 19 altogether (4 of which are class/race combinations).
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Parodied with the Orcs, who enjoy a mix of upper-class pretension and brutal warmongering (they live in a gated community where all the mansions have imposing skull-shaped front doors).
  • Randomly Generated Levels
  • Random Number God: Mostly averted in combat, though it does apply to items in shops. Incoming and outgoing damage are both completely fixed. Dodging is random for characters who have it, but by default you have a 0% chance and you can often plan most things out as if you didn't have it and treat the missed hit as an unexpected health windfall.
    • In the alpha, worshiping Jehora Jeheyu, the god of chaos, invokes this. Two of his boons are complete crap throws. The first one trades all of your accumulated piety to give a proportional chance of him either A.) restoring your health fully or B.) destroying you. The second boon has him change all of the monsters in the dungeon into other monsters, including ones that you haven't unlocked yet and that shouldn't even be able to appear in that dungeon! In the commercial release, the first boon still exists (but does nothing if it fails), but is overshadowed by a guaranteed level up boon. In addition, he now randomly either gives you piety or punishes you with a status effect every time you carry out an action, completely at random, and his first boon, "Petition", exists solely to make him stop punishing you.
  • Shout-Out: Several of the boss names, including Super Meat Man, Tower of Goo, Gharbad, and, of course, the Iron Man.
    • Super Meat Man lampshades it — his boss intro is desperately claiming he isn't based on anything... and in the commercial release, he drops the pretenses altogether, but admits he has permission to be here.
    • Tower of Goo has an upgraded version in the commercial version... called "Whurld of Goo".
    • Druids are named similarly to the Gauls in Asterix, e.g. Getanadafix or Lernutrix.
    • Goo Blob looks like a protagonist from Gish.
    • The Thief challenges have several towards Thief; for example, the first mission is called "The Dark Project," the character you play is named Garrett, and his journal is written similarly to Garrett's narration in the games.
    • The first Priest challenge is a shout out to the Evil Dead series, with the Boomstick and Chain Saw artifact weapons and a boss named Bad Ash.
    • To recruit the orcs, you must drink something that is described as "almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea."
    • A scroll that allows you to teleport an item from a shop to your inventory mentions that its manufacturer is "not responsible for any cumin-related residues."
    • A series of randomized quests unlocked later on is called the Perpetual Questing Initiative.
    • The Witchalok Pendant, "an ancient ward against wolfoids."
    • The name of the quest that asks you to clear The Tower of Gaan-Telet on Vicious: Dark Souls.
    • One subdungeon called the Paan Labyrinth contains several imps called Hellbois.
    • The fully-upgraded Witch's house is Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut.
    • Taurog seems to be an Expy of Trog from Dungeon Crawl.
    • Namtar is based on the main antagonist of the same name in Dragon Wars
  • Squishy Wizard: Alpha wizards are very vulnerable unless they get the BURNDAYRAZ glyph early on. That's why they automatically start with it in the commercial release.
  • Standard Status Effects:
    • Poison prevents health from regenerating, and can be applied to both the player and enemies; Mana Burn can only affect the player and acts as Silence, depleting the player's MP and preventing them from regenerating more.note 
    • Burning is applied only to enemies hit by BURNDAYRAZ or Whurrgarbl. It increases the power of additional burning attacks (to a point), and does additional damage before disappearing if the player uses a non-fiery attack or attacks a different enemy.
    • Slowed, in addition to making an enemy move slower (preventing them from moving in response to an attack or hitting you as you kill them), provides 1 bonus experience if they're killed while it's active. It overrides First Strike.
    • Petrified turns a non-boss enemy into a statue, which acts as a wall (and if destroyed, there's gold underneath). Provides no experience, but adds 50% to the experience gain from the next standard kill. Certain enemies (mostly gorgons) also have this in the form of "Death Gaze," which — for the player — is equivalent to a One-Hit Kill.
    • Corroded and Weakened act as basic debuffs, the former increasing damage taken and applicable to both the player and enemies, the latter reducing damage dealt and applicable only to the player.
    • Cursed negates any of the player's damage reduction or resistance.
  • Stone Wall: Super Meat Man (and, to a lesser degree, Meat Man). He does very little damage, but has an absurdly high number of hit points.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The Super Meat Man in alpha. "Don't look at me like that. I'm totally not a violation of anyone's intellectual property or anything."
  • Technicolor Poison: The poison glyph itself is green, and your opponent's health bar turns purple when it's used.
  • The Trickster: Tikki Tooki.
  • Troll Bridge: Havensdale Bridge. The troll blocks access to the second half of the level and is unusually tough for his level, but can often be pushed or teleported off the bridge if you don't want to bribe or fight him.
  • Underground Monkey: Thankfully absent in most dungeons, but the class quests often feature enemies with recycled sprites but different names and abilities. Trolls, however, have several palette swaps in the main dungeons with wildly-different abilities.
  • Useless Useful Spell: The IMAWAL glyph in the alpha version. Turns an enemy into stone, killing it instantly. Sounds good, yes? Except that you don't get EXP for it, which is the most valuable resource in the game, and you now have an impassable wall where the monster used to be. In later versions, petrifying a monster gives you bonus exp for your next kill, as well as gold if you destroy the statue they become, which (particularly against low-level enemies) can be far more valuable than simply killing it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Namtar starts out boastful and sure of his invincibility, but as you carry him deeper into the Pit, his protests become increasingly desperate, until at the end he just begs you for mercy.
  • Walk It Off: Most of the classes heal by opening unknown cells of the map, thus turning Fog of War into a very precious resource.
  • War for Fun and Profit: A fairly lighthearted example, in that the kingdom's economy basically runs on adventuring, particularly taxidermy of rare and powerful monsters. To the point where a crash in the price of trophies spells economic disaster...
  • Weak, but Skilled:
    • Halflings and Gnomes gain potions when converting items, whereas all other races get some type of permanent benefit. Goblins as well — rather than increasing their stats, conversions give them experience, allowing them to quickly gain levels when necessary but depriving them of any special benefits beyond that.
    • Similar to goblins, the Fighter class actually has no stat boosts or drawbacks (unlike basically every other class in the game), and have no in-combat special abilities. However, they gain levels very quickly, and can see the position of any enemy their level or lower.
  • World of Pun: The glyphs all have punny names that describe what they do:
    • APHEELSIK: Poisons a monster, preventing them from recovering health.
    • BLUDTUPOWA: Lose health and reveal three nearby unexplored tiles to restore mana. Revealed tiles to not restore health to monsters or the player.
    • BURNDAYRAZ: Burns your enemy for magic damage proportional to your level.
    • BYSSEPS: Your next attack has a 30% damage bonus and reduces the enemy's resistance.
    • CYDSTEPP: Grants protection from a killing blow.
    • ENDISWAL: Destroys a wall and provides temporary 20% physical resistance.
    • GETINDARE: Grants players first strike for their next physical attack, and provides temporary 5% dodge chance.
    • HALPMEH: Restores health proportional to your level.
    • IMAWAL: Petrifies an enemy for no experience, but gives you bonus experience for your next kill. When used on an empty space, it just creates a wall.
    • LEMMISI: Reveals three random unexplored tiles, prioritizing ones that contain monsters and items.
    • PISORF: Randomly teleports a monster in the alpha; knocks them back in later releases.
    • WEYTWUT: Randomly teleports the player in the alpha; swaps their location with a monster (slowing the target in the process) in later releases.
    • WONAFYT: Randomly teleports a monster of your level to an adjacent square, slowing it when it arrives.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: