Like most such roguelikes, it's been worked on for a long time, with the first version being in 1994, and the last official version 2.7 getting released in 2003. In all, it builds enormously upon Angband, adding about 30 more playable species, and setting the game's overworld in a huge, interactive wilderness.
Unlike most roguelikes, this game (and most of the other *bands) does little to reduce Level Grinding. There is nothing to stop you sitting around on the first dungeon level and whacking at a self-replicating worm mass until you reach experience level 50, except that it'd take you about a million years. It admits in the documentation that maxing your stats is pretty much the objective of the game (although it does have a real objective; to slay the Serpent). In other words, this is a game for the player who likes to level grind.
As per its predecessor, levels are NOT persistent; once you leave a dungeon level, you will never find that same dungeon level again (and anything you left there is gone forever). Some quest dungeons in some versions avert this, though they reset when you exit them.
Tropes associated with this game:
- Dungeon Bypass: not only can you bypass dungeons by simply going to the nearest staircase (if you can find it), you can keep going up and down the stairs until you find a dungeon you like (a practice referred to as "level scumming" or just "scumming"). Each dungeon is completely randomly generated, so going up and down the stairs is the same as generating a new level. This also means that you can escape any enemy instantly, just by going up or down some stairs. They'll be gone when you return.
- Explosive Breeder:
- an enemy kind unique to *bands, mainly because the non-persistent levels prevents them from being much trouble. Worm masses and mice will keep replicating themselves until they're a swarm filling a huge chunk of the level, and allowing you to grind.
- Or they can cause a Death of a Thousand Cuts. Sometimes when you attempt to grind.
- Invisible Monsters: some just are, like ghosts, which is why it's always handy to have some way to see invisible.
- I Sense a Disturbance in the Force: the player character gets 'level feelings' sometimes, normally a sense of safety or fear which indicates how dangerous the level may be.
- Massive Race Selection: 30 in total: Amberite, Barbarian, Beastman, Cyclops, Dark-Elf, Draconian, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Golem, Half-Elf, Half-Giant, Half-Orc, Half-Ogre, Half-Titan, Half-Troll, High-Elf, Hobbit, Human, Imp, Klackon, Kobold, Mindflayer, Nibelung, Skeleton, Spectre, Sprite, Vampire, Yeek, Zombie.
- Spell Book: the source of magic spells for spellcasters (which is actually most of the classes in the game, although only mages really specialise in it). Although you have to 'learn' spells, you still need the book to cast them.