Crawl: New Documentation

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Members of have suggested that it would be good to write some updated documentation which reflects the current status of the game. Below is the readme.txt, followed by crawl.txt file from Stone Soup, which is also from Crawl 3.40. Please change, update, or entirely replace it as you see fit; this is just provided as a basis for the new documentation.


                           Crawl Quick-Start Guide
                       (Copyright 1999 Linley Henzell)

So, you want to start playing Crawl straight away without bothering with the manual? Read this, the guide to starting Crawl with a minimum of preparation. When you get some more time, you can read crawl.txt in the Docs directory for more detailed information.

I suggest printing it out and following its instructions while playing your first few games (you can also press '?' while playing for a list of commands).

Introduction to Crawl

Crawl is a large and very random game of subterranean exploration in a fantasy world of magic and frequent violence. Your quest is to travel into the depths of the Dungeon (which is different each time you play) and retrieve the Orb of Zot.

Crawl is an RPG of the 'rogue-like' type, one of the descendants of Rogue. Its graphics are simple but highly informative, designed to be understood at a glance, and control is exercised largely through one-keystroke commands.

Starting out

After starting the program you will be greeted with a message asking for your name. Don't spend too much time over this, as your first character will *not* last very long (sorry, but it's true).

Next you are given menus of species and character classes from which to choose. A dwarf, orc, ogre or troll Fighter is a good bet. Elves are quite fragile, humans are pretty average at everything, and the weirder species are mostly too tricky for beginning players. Finally, you may be given a choice of weapons. I suggest an axe (axes are fun).

Now you are in the game. The game screen has three parts:

  • the Map takes up the upper left part of the screen. In its very centre is the @ sign which represents You. The coloured parts of the Map are the parts you can see, while places which you have visited before but cannot currently see are shown in grey.
  • the Message box is the large part of the screen below the map. It describes events as they happen and asks you questions from time to time.
  • the Stats area (to the right of the Map) contains various indicators of your health and abilities.


Try walking around, using either the numeric keypad (turn numlock off) or the hjklyubn keys. To move in a given direction until you reach something interesting or see a hostile creature, press shift and the direction.

If you want to know what a certain character on the screen represents, you can use the 'x' (examine) command to get a short description. You use the 'o' (open) command to open doors, and the '<' (up) and '>' (down) commands to climb staircases. Sometimes doors are hidden, and must be searched out by standing next to walls and resting (a number of commands do the same thing: 's', '.' (period), delete, or '5' on the numeric keypad).

The Dungeon gets more dangerous (but more interesting!) as you go down. If you get lost you can access a map of the whole level you are on with the 'X' command, which uses the whole screen.


After walking around for a while, you will no doubt come across some items laying around (you may come across some monsters as well; for help in dealing with them skip to the Monsters section). You can pick up items with the 'g' (get) or ',' commands and drop them again with 'd' (drop), and the 'i' (inventory) command shows you what you're carrying.

There are several different types of items:

  • Weapons, represented by the ) sign. Wield them with the 'w' (wield) command. Some weapons are cursed and cannot be un-wielded without the use of magic.
  • Armour (]). Wear it with the 'W' (Wear) command, and remove it with 'T' (Take off). Heavier armours give more protection, but may hamper your ability to fight and to dodge attacks aimed at you.
  • Ammunition (also the ) sign). Throw it with 't' (throw). Darts are meant to be thrown by hand; other missiles need an appropriate launcher to be wielded (eg arrows are much more effective when shot with a bow).
  • Wands (/), Scrolls (?) and Potions (!) can be very valuable, but have limited uses (scrolls and potions can only be used once each, wands contain only a certain number of charges). Wands are 'z'apped, scrolls are 'r'ead and potions are 'q'uaffed.
Unfortunately, you won't at first know what a wand, scroll or potion does; it will only be described by its physical appearance. But once you have used, for example, a potion of healing, you will in future recognise all potions of healing.
  • Rings (=) and Amulets (") often contain powerful magic, but it can be difficult to work out exactly what one does. They are put on with 'P' (Put on) and removed with 'R' (remove), but can, like weapons, be cursed.
  • Food (%) is vital to your survival. Eat it with the 'e' (eat) command when hungry. Monsters' corpses, also %, can be eaten if chopped up (the 'D' (Dissect) command), but not all of them are healthful, and many species of player-character dislike eating raw flesh unless very hungry.
  • Money ($) can be used to buy stuff in shops, and increases your score if you escape.

There are a few other types of item, but you will discover these as you play.

One vital command to remember when dealing with items is 'V' (View), which gives you a short description of any item. Use it on everything you find. The magical Scroll of Identify can also help for identifying magical items of uncertain nature.


You will also run into monsters (most of which are represented by letters of the alphabet). You can attack a monster by trying to move into the square it is occupying.

When you are wounded you lose hit points (displayed near the top of the stats list); these return gradually over time through the natural process of healing. If you lose all of your hp you Die.

To survive, you will need to develop a few basic tactics:

  • Never fight more than one monster if you can help it. Always back into a corridor so that they must fight you one-on-one.
  • If you are badly wounded, you can run away from monsters to buy some time. Try losing them in corridors, or find a place where you can run around in circles to heal while the monster chases you.
  • Rest between encounters. The 's', '.', delete or keypad-5 commands make you rest for one turn, while pressing '5' or shift-and-keypad-5 make you rest for a longer time (you will stop resting when fully healed).
  • Learn when to run away from things you can't handle - this is important!


Before long, you'll probably end up dead.

Death in Crawl is permanent; you cannot just reload a saved game and start again where you left off. The 'S' (Save) command exists only to let you leave a game part-way through and come back to it later. Quitting ('Q') is a way of committing suicide if you can't even be bothered to help your character escape from the Dungeon alive.

Final words

Well, that's it for the quick-start guide. This should help you through your first few games, but Crawl is extremely (some would say excessively) complex and cannot be adequately described in so short a document. So when you feel ready to start playing with magic, skills, religions, the arcane intricacies of the initfile and a whole heap of other stuff, glance through the manual. Happy Crawling!


                    Dungeon Crawl version 3.40
           (Copyright 1997, 1998, 1999 Linley Henzell)

Crawl is a fun game in the grand tradition of games like Rogue, Hack and Moria. Your objective is to travel deep into a subterranean cave complex and retrieve the Orb of Zot, which is guarded by many horrible and hideous creatures.

Detailed instructions for playing Crawl follow. If you want to get into the game quickly, read the quick-start guide (README.TXT) and learn as you play. Otherwise, it may be worth your while to read at least part of this file (although it will probably confuse you somewhat). Read at least the disclaimer at the end of this document and the LICENCE.TXT file, though.

Character species

You have a number of different species to choose from. This affects several characteristics:

  • Your choice of classes
  • Your initial attributes
  • Occasional bonus points added to some abilities
  • The amount of hit points you get each level
  • The amount of magic points you get each level
  • Your initial equipment
  • Your rate of level advancement
  • Your rate of skill advancement
  • Various special abilities and powers

Note: Some species are slower than humans in most/all skills. For some classes these races may seem to have very few skills because they haven't quite earned the first level of several of their skills (Centaurs are notable in this regard... although non-human Wanderers can appear to start with no apparent skills at all). This isn't a bug or an oversight, these species are just particularly weaker than humans at these classes.

If you practise the skills you think or know are missing early on, they should pick up the remaining skills very quickly (and their training will be more complete).

Note: Some species have special abilities which can be accessed by the 'a' abilities menu. Some also have physical characteristics which allow them to make extra attacks using the Unarmed Combat skill.


Humans tend to be hardworking and industrious, and learn new things quickly. The human race is the most versatile of all the species available to players. Humans advance quickly in levels and have equal abilities in all skills. Humans can also be of any class.


There are a number of distinct races of elf in the world. Elves are all physically slight but long-lived people, quicker-witted than humans but sometimes slower to learn new things. Elves are especially good at using those skills which require a degree of finesse, such as stealth, sword- fighting and archery, but tend to be poor at using brute force and inelegant forms of combat. They find heavy armour uncomfortable, and make the finest, lightest armours to be found anywhere. Elves are particularly good at using elven weapons.

Due to their fey natures, all elves are good at using enchantments and air elemental magic and most are poor at invoking the powers of earth and death (necromancy).

Those of the most common strain are referred to simply as elves or, when they're not listening, as common elves. Common elves have good intelligence and dexterity, but suffer a bit in strength. They have slightly fewer HP and slightly more magic than humans, and advance in experience a bit more slowly.

High elves

High elves are a tall and powerful elven race who advance in levels very slowly, requiring half again as much experience as do humans. They share the same attributes as common elves in most respects, but their strengths and weaknesses tend to be more pronounced.

Grey elves

Grey elves also advance slowly, but not as slowly as high elves. They excel at using short and long swords and bows, but are poor at other fighting skills. They are excellent at all forms of magic except for necromancy.

Deep elves

The deep elves are an elven race who long ago fled the overworld to live in darkness underground. There they developed their mental powers, evolving a natural gift for all forms of magic (including necromancy and earth magic), and adapted physically to their new environment, becoming shorter and weaker than other elves and losing all colouration. They are poor at hand-to-hand combat but excellent at fighting from a distance.

Sludge elves

Sludge elves are a somewhat degenerate race of elves. They are mirror images of normal elves in some respects: they have no special proficiency with bows or swords (long or short), nor do they have any aptitude in the traditional areas of high elven magic (enchantments, conjurations and divinations). On the other hand, they are superlative transmuters, and are comfortable dabbling in necromantic, poison and elemental magic. As fighters they are often more dangerous unarmed than armed. They advance in level slightly faster than their common brethren.


Dwarves are short, hardy people. They love to fight, and often venture forth from their subterranean cities to seek fame and fortune through battle. Their armour and weapons are very well-crafted and much more durable than the products of lesser artisans. Dwarves are particularly dangerous when using dwarven weaponry.

Hill dwarves

Hill dwarves are extremely robust but are poor at using magic. They are excellent at hand combat, especially favouring axes or bludgeoning weapons, and are good at using armour and shields, but are poor at missile combat or at using polearms (which are usually too big for them to wield comfortably). The only forms of magic which they can use with even a minimal degree of aptitude are earth, fire and conjurations. They advance in levels at a similar rate to common elves.

Mountain dwarves

Mountain dwarves come from the larger, more civilised communities of the mountains. They advance slightly more quickly than hill dwarves and are almost as robust while having similar aptitudes, but are slightly worse at fighting while being slightly better at more civilised pursuits.


Halflings, who are named for being about half the size of a human, live in small villages. They live simple lives, and have simple interests. Some times a particularly restless halfling will leave his or her village in search of adventure.

Halflings are very small and are among the least robust of any character species. Although only average at most fighting skills, they can use short blades well and are good at all forms of missile combat. They are also very stealthy and good at dodging and stabbing, but are poor at magic (except enchantments and, for some reason, translocations). They advance in levels as rapidly as humans. Halflings cannot wield large weapons.


Gnomes are an underground-dwelling race of creatures, related to the dwarves but even more closely in touch with the earth.

They are quite small, and share many of their characteristics with halflings (except for the great agility), although they advance slightly more slowly in experience levels. They are okay at most skills, but excellent at earth elemental magic and very poor at air magic.

Occasionally they can use their empathy with the earth to sense their surroundings; this ability increases in power as they gain experience levels.


Hill orcs are orcs from the upper world who, jealous of the riches which their cousins the cave orcs possess below the ground, descend in search of plunder and adventure.

Hill orcs are as robust as the hill dwarves, but have very low reserves of magical energy. Their forte is brute-force fighting, and they are skilled at using most hand weapons (with the exception of short blades, at which they are only fair), although they are not particularly good at using missile weapons. They prefer to use their own weapons. Orcs are poor at using most types of magic with the exception of conjurations, necromancy, and earth and fire elemental magic. They advance as quickly as humans.


Kobolds are small, ugly creatures with few redeeming features. They are not the sort of people you would want to spend much time with, unless you happen to be a kobold yourself.

They have poor abilities and have similar aptitudes to halflings, without the excellent agility. However, they are better than halflings at using some types of magic, particularly summonings and necromancy. They often live as scavengers, surviving on carrion, but are carnivorous and can only eat meat. They advance in levels as quickly as humans.

The Undead

As creatures brought back from beyond the grave they are naturally immune to poisons and negative energy, have little warmth left to be affected by cold, and are not susceptible to reductions in their physical or mental abilities.

There are two type of undead available to players: Mummies and Ghouls.


Mummies are undead creatures who travel into the depths in search of revenge, redemption, or just because they want to.

Mummies progress very slowly in level, half again as slow as humans, and in all skills except fighting, spellcasting and necromancy. As they increase in level they become increasingly in touch with the powers of death, but cannot use some types of necromancy which only affect living creatures. The side effects of necromantic magic tend to be relatively harmless to mummies. However, their dessicated bodies are highly flammable. They also do not need to eat or drink, and in any case are incapable of doing so.


Ghouls are horrible undead creatures, slowly rotting away. Although ghouls can sleep in their graves for years on end, when they rise to walk among the living they must eat flesh to survive. Raw flesh is preferred, especially rotting or tainted meat, and ghouls gain strength from consuming it.

They aren't very good at doing most things, although they make decent fighters and, due to their contact with the grave, can use ice, earth and death magic without too many difficulties.


The Naga are a race of hybrids: humanoid from the waist up, with a large snake tail instead of legs.

They are reasonably good at most things and advance in experience levels at a decent rate. They are naturally immune to poisons, can see invisible creatures, and have tough skin, but their tails are relatively slow and cannot move them around as quickly as can other creatures' legs (this only affects their movement rate; all other actions are at normal speed). Their body shape also prevents them from gaining full protection from most armour.

Every now and then, a naga can spit poison; the range, accuracy and damage of this poison increases with the naga's experience level.


Ogres are huge, chunky creatures related to orcs. They are terrible monsters who usually live to do nothing more than smash, smash, smash, and destroy.

Plain ogres

They have great physical strength, but are bad at almost everything except fighting and learn quite slowly. Because of their large size they can only wear loose robes, cloaks and animal skins. Although ogres can eat almost anything, their size means that they need to do so more frequently than smaller folk.


Ogre-mages are a separate race of ogres who are unique among the beefier species in their ability to use magic, especially enchantments. Although slighter than their common ogre relatives they nevertheless have great strength and can survive a lot of punishment. They advance in level as slowly as high elves.


Trolls are like ogres, but even nastier. They have thick, knobbly skins of any colour from putrid green to mucky brown and their mouths are full of ichor-dripping fangs.

They can rip creatures apart with their claws, and regenerate very quickly from even the most terrible wounds. They learn very slowly indeed - even more slowly than high elves - and need a great amount of food to survive.


Draconians are a race of human-dragon hybrids: humanoid in form and approximately human-sized, with wings, tails and scaly skins. Draconians start out in an immature form with brown scales, but as they grow in power they take on a variety of colours.

Some types of draconians have breath weapons. Draconians advance very slowly in level, but are reasonably good at all skills but armour (most types of which they cannot wear) and missile weapons.


The Centaurs are another race of hybrid creatures: horses with a human torso. They usually live in forests, surviving by hunting.

Centaurs can move very quickly on their four legs, and are excellent with bows and other missile weapons; they are also reasonable at the Fighting skill while being slow learners at specific weapon skills. They advance quite slowly in experience level and are rather sub-average at using magic. Due to their large bulk, they need a little extra food to survive.


Demigods are mortals (humans, orcs or elves, for example) with some divine or angelic ancestry, however distant; they can be created by a number of processes including magical experiments and the time-honoured practice of interplanar miscegenation.

Demigods look more or less like members of their mortal part's race, but have excellent abilities (strength, int, dex) and are extremely robust; they can also draw on great supplies of magical energy. On the downside they advance very slowly in experience, gain skills slightly less quickly than humans, and due to their status cannot worship the various Gods and Powers available to other classes of being.


Spriggans are small magical creatures distantly related to elves. They love to frolic and cast mischevious spells.

They are poor fighters, have little physical resilience, and are terrible at destructive magic - conjurations, summonings, necromancy and elemental spells. On the other hand, they are excellent at other forms of magic and are very good at moving silently and quickly. So great is their speed that a spriggan can keep pace with a centaur.


The minotaur is yet another hybrid - a human body with a bovine head. It delves into the Dungeon because of its instinctive love of twisting passageways.

Minotaurs are extremely good at all forms of physical combat, but are awful at using any type of magic. They can wear all armour except for some headgear.


Demonspawn are horrible half-mortal, half-infernal creatures - the flip side of the Demigods. Demonspawn can be created in any number of ways: magical experiments, breeding, unholy pacts, etc. Although many demonspawn may be indistinguishable from those of pure mortal stock, they often grow horns, scales or other unusual features. Powerful members of this class of beings also develop a range of unholy abilities, which are listed as mutations (and can sometimes be activated with the 'a' command).

Demonspawn advance quite slowly in experience and learn most skills at about the same rate as do Demigods. However, they are a little better at fighting and much better at conjurations, summonings, necromancy and invocations.


The Kenku are an ancient and feared race of bird-people with a legendary propensity for violence. Basically humanoid with bird-like heads and clawed feet, the kenku can wear all types of armour except helmets and boots. Despite their lack of wings, powerful kenku can fly and very powerful members of this race can stay in the air for as long as they wish to do so.

They are experts at all forms of fighting, including the magical arts of combat (conjurations, summonings and, to a lesser extent, necromancy). They are good at air and fire elemental magic, but poor at ice and earth magic. Kenku do not appreciate any form of servitude, and so are poor at using invocations. Their light avian bodies cannot sustain a great deal of injury.


The Merfolk are a hybrid race of half-human, half-fish that typically live in the oceans and rivers and seldom come onto the land. The merfolk aren't as limited on land as some myths suggest, their tails will quickly reform into legs once they leave the water (and, likewise, their legs will quickly reform into a tail should they ever enter water). Their agility is often misjudged, and they tend to be surprising nimble on land as well as in the water. Experts at swimming they need not fear drowning as they can quickly slip out of any encumbering armour during the transformation into their half-fish form.

The Merfolk have developed their martial arts strongly on thrusting and grappling, since those are the most efficient ways to fight underwater. They, therefore, prefer polearms and short swords above all other weapons, although they can also use longer swords quite well.

As spellcasters, they tend to be quite good in specific areas. Their mystical relationship with water makes it easier for them to use divination, poison, and ice magics... which use water occasionally as a material component. The legendary water magic of the merfolk was lost in ancient times, but some of that affinity still remains. The instability of their own morphogenic matrix has made them very accomplished transmuters, but most other magics seem foreign to them.

Character classes

In your quest, you play as one of a number of different types of characters. Although each has its own strengths and weaknesses, some are definitely easier than others, at least to begin with. The best classes for a beginner are probably Gladiators, fighters and Berserkers; if you really want to play a magician, try a Conjurer. Each class starts out with a different set of skills and items, but from there you can shape them as you will.


Fighters start with a decent weapon, a suit of armour and a shield. They have a good general grounding in the arts of fighting.


The Gladiator is trained to fight in the ring, and so is an expert in the art of fighting but is not so good at anything else. In fact, Gladiators are pretty terrible at anything except bashing monsters with heavy things. They start with a nasty weapon, a small shield, and armour.


Berserkers are hardy warriors who worship Trog the Wrathful, from whom they get the power to go berserk (as well as a number of other powers should they prove worthy) but who forbids the use of spell magic. They enter the dungeon with an axe and a set of leather armour.


The Hunter is a type of fighter who specialises in missile weapons. A Hunter starts with a bow and some arrows, as well as a hunting knife and a set of leathers.


The Monk is a member of an ascetic order dedicated to the perfection of one's body and soul through the discipline of the martial arts. Monks start with very little equipment, but can survive without the weighty weapons and spellbooks needed by other classes.


The Thief is one of the trickiest classes to play. Thieves start out with a large variety of useful skills, and need to use all of them to survive. Thieves start with a short sword, some throwing darts, and light armour.


An Assassin is a thief who is especially good at killing. Assassins are like thieves in most respects, but are more dangerous in combat.


The stalker is an assassin who has trained in the use of poison magic.


The Crusader is a decent fighter who can use the magical art of enchantment to become more dangerous in battle. Crusaders start out lightly armed and armoured, but equipped with a book of martial spells.


Reavers are warriors who learn the magics of destruction in order to complement their deadliness in hand combat.

Death Knights

The Death Knight is a fighter who aligns him or herself with the powers of death. There are two types of Death Knights: those who worship and draw their abilities from the Demon-God Yredelemnul, and those who study the fearsome arts of necromancy.

Chaos Knights

The Chaos Knight is a fighter who chooses to serve one of the fearsome and unpredictable Gods of Chaos. He or she has two choices: Xom or Makhleb. Xom is a very unpredictable (and possibly psychotic) entity who rewards or punishes according to whim. Makhleb the Destroyer is a more purposeful God, who appreciates destruction and offers a variety of very violent powers to the faithful.


The Paladin is a servant of the Shining One, and has many of the abilities of the Fighter and the Priest. He or she enters the dungeon with a sword, a shield, a robe, and a healing potion.


Priests serve either Zin, the ancient and revered God of Law, or the rather less pleasant Death-God Yredelemnul. Although priests enter the dungeon with a mace (as well as a priestly robe and a few healing potions), this is purely the result of an archaic tradition the reason for which has been lost in the mists of time; Priests are not in any way restricted in their choice of weapon skills.


The Healer is a priest of Elyvilon. Healers begin with minor healing powers, but can gain far greater abilities in the long run.


The magician is not a class, but a type of class. A magician is the best at using magic. Magicians start with a dagger, a robe, and a book of spells which should see them through the first several levels. There are various kinds of magicians:


A Wizard is a magician who does not specialise in any area of magic. Wizards start with a variety of magical skills and the magic dart spell in memory.


The Conjurer specialises in the violent and destructive magic of conjuration spells. Like the Wizard, the Conjurer starts with the magic dart spell.


The Enchanter specialises in the more subtle area of enchantment magic. Although not as directly powerful as conjurations, high-level enchantments offer a wide range of very handy effects. The Enchanter begins with lightly enchanted weapons and armour, but no direct damage spell (since enchantments does not deal with direct attacks). Instead they begin with the "confusing touch" spell and some enchanted darts, which should help them out until they can use the higher level enchantment spells.


The Summoner specialises in calling creatures from this and other worlds to give assistance. Although they can at first summon only very wimpy creatures, the more advanced summoning spells allow summoners to call on such powers as elementals and demons.


The Necromancer is a magician who specialises in the less pleasant side of magic. Necromantic spells are a varied bunch, but many involve some degree of risk or harm to the caster.


Elementalists are magicians who specialise in one of the four types of elemental magic: air, fire, earth, or ice.

  • Fire Magic tends towards destructive conjurations.
  • Ice Magic offers a balance between destructive conjurations and protective enchantments.
  • Air Magic provides many useful enchantments in addition to some unique destructive capabilities.
  • Earth Magic is a mixed bag, with destructive, defensive and utility spells available.

Venom mages

Venom mages specialise in poison magic, which is extremely useful in the shallower levels of the dungeon where few creatures are immune to it. Poison is especially effective when used against insects.


Transmuters specialise in transmigrations, and can cause strange changes in themselves and others.


Warpers specialise in translocations, and are experts in travelling long distances and positioning themselves precisely.


Wanderers are people who have not learned a specific trade. Instead, they've travelled around becoming "Jacks-of-all-trades, master of none". They start the game with a large assortment of skills and maybe some small items they picked up along the way, but other than that they're pretty much on their own. Non-human wanderers might not even know which skills they have (since they haven't quite learned enough for one full level), and therefore make for an additional challenge. You shouldn't expect human wanderers to be easy either, as this class is typically harder to play than the other classes.


When you kill monsters, you gain experience points (xp) (you also receive one half experience for monsters killed by friendly creatures). When you get enough xp, you gain an experience level, making your character more powerful. As they gain levels, characters gain more hit points, magic points, and spell levels.

Additionally, the experience you gain is used for your experience pool. This pool of points is used up whenever you practice a skill.


Your character has a number of skills which affect his or her ability to perform certain tasks. You can see your character's skills by pressing the 'm' key; the higher the level of a skill, the better you are at it. Every time your character gains experience points, those points become available to increase skills. You convert experience points into skill levels by practising the skill in question (eg fight with a certain type of weapon, cast a certain type of spell, or walk around wearing light armour to practise stealth). The amount of unassigned experience points is shown next to your experience total on the main screen as well as on the skills screen, and the number in blue next to each skill counts down from 9 to 0 as you get closer to gaining a level in that skill.

You can elect not to practise a particular skill by selecting it in the skill screen (making it turn dark grey). This means that you will be less likely to increase that skill when you practise it (and will also not spend as many experience points on it). This can be useful for skills like stealth which use up points whenever you move. It can also be used on a specific weapon skill if you want to spend more points on Fighting, and similarly with magic skills and Spellcasting.

The species you have chosen for your character has a significant effect on your rate of advancement in each skill. Some races are very good at some skills and poor at others. If your character is naturally quick to learn a skill, they will require less experience and take less time to advance in it; being bad at a skill has the opposite result.

If your character does not have a particular skill, (s)he can gain it by practising as described.

Here is a description of the skills you may have:

Fighting skills

These skills will help you face monsters in meele.


Fighting is the basic skill used in hand-to-hand combat, and applies no matter which weapon your character is wielding (if any). It is also the skill which determines the number of hit points your character gets as they increase in level (note that this is calculated so that you don't get a long run advantage by starting out with a high fighting skill).

Weapon skills

Weapon skills affect your ability to fight with specific melee weapons. Weapon skills include:

  • Short Blades
  • Long Blades
  • Maces & Flails
  • Axes
  • Staves
  • Polearms

If you are already good at a weapon, say a long sword, and you practise for a while with similar weapon such as a short sword, your practise will be speeded up (and will require less experience) until both skills are equal. Similar types of weapons include:

  • Short Blades and Long Blades
  • Maces & Flails and Axes
  • Polearms and Axes
  • Staves and Polearms

Being good at a specific weapon improves the speed with which you can use it by about 10% every two skill levels. Although lighter weapons are easier to use initially, as they strike quickly and accurately, heavier weapons increase in damage potential very quickly as you improve your skill with them.

Unarmed Combat

Unarmed Combat is a special fighting skill. It allows your character to make a powerful attack when unarmed and also to make special secondary attacks (and increases the power of those attacks for characters who get them anyway). You can practise Unarmed Combat by attacking empty-handed, and it is also exercised when you make a secondary attack (a kick, punch etc). Unarmed combat is particularly difficult to use in combination with heavy armour, and characters wearing a shield or wielding a two-handed weapon other than a staff lose the powerful punch attack.

Throwing skills

Throwing is the basic skill used when throwing things, and there are a number of individual weapon skills for missile weapons as well:

  • Darts
  • Bows
  • Crossbows
  • Slings

Magic skills

These skills cover variety of ways to use magic.


Spellcasting is the basic skill for magic use, and affects your reserves of magical energy in the same way that Fighting affects your hit points. Every time you increase your spellcasting skill you gain some magic points and spell levels. Spellcasting is a very difficult skill to learn, and requires a large amount of practice and experience.

Only those characters with at least one magic skill at level one or above can learn magical spells. If your character has no magic skills, he or she can learn the basic principles of the hermetic arts by reading and reciting the spells inscribed on magical scrolls (this stops being useful once you reach level one in Spellcasting).

There are also individual skills for each different type of magic; the higher the skill, the more powerful the spell. Multidisciplinary spells use an average of the two or three skills.

Elemental magic

Elemental magic is a special case. When you practise an elemental magic skill (fire, ice, air or earth magic) you will improve much less quickly than normal if you already have one or more elemental magic skills higher than the one you are practising. This is especially true if those skills are 'opposed' to the one you're practising: fire and ice are mutually opposed, as are earth and air.

Say you have level 2 fire magic, level 4 ice magic, and level 1 air magic. Practising ice magic won't be a problem. Practising air magic will be a bit slow, as you have other elemental skills at higher levels. Practising fire magic will be very slow, as you have a higher level in ice magic. Right?

Miscellaneous skills


Having a high Armour skill means that you are used to wearing heavy armour, allowing you to move more freely and gain more protection.


When you are wearing light armour, a high dodging skill helps you evade attacks and projectiles. This works for heavier armout too but to a lesser extent.


Helps you avoid being noticed. Try not to wear heavy armour or be encumbered if you want to be stealthy. Big creatures (like trolls and ogres) are bad at stealth.


Lets you make a very powerful first strike against a sleeping/resting monster who hasn't noticed you yet. This is most effective with a dagger, slightly less effective with a short sword, and less useful (although by no means of negligible effect) with any other weapon.


Affects the amount of protection you gain by using a shield, and the degree to which it hinders you.

Traps & Doors

Affects your ability to notice hidden traps and doors and to disarm traps when you find them. With this skill at a high level you will often find hidden things without actively looking for them.


An easy-to-learn skill which affects your ability to call on your God for aid. Those skilled at invoking have reduced fail rates and produce more powerful effects. The Invocations skill affects your supply of magic in a similar way to the Spellcasting skill and to a greater extent, but the two are not cumulative - whichever gives the greater increase is used. Some Gods (such as Trog) do not require followers to learn this skill.


Your character is further defined by his or her abilities, which initially vary according to class and species.


Affects the amount of damage you do in combat, as well as how much stuff you can carry.


Affects how well you can cast spells as well as your ability to use some magical items.


Affects your accuracy in combat, your general effectiveness with missile weapons, your ability to dodge attacks aimed at you, and your ability to use thiefly skills such as backstabbing and disarming traps. Although your dexterity does not affect your evasion score (EV) directly, any calculation involving your EV score also takes account of your dexterity.

Armour Class

Also called AC, when something injures you, your AC reduces the amount of damage you suffer. The number next to your AC is a measure of how good your shield (if any) is at blocking attacks. In both cases, more is better.


Also called EV, this helps you to avoid being hit by unpleasant things.

Magic Resistance

Affects your ability to resist the effects of enchantments and similar magic directed at you. Although your magic resistance increases with your level to an extent determined by your character's species, the creatures you will meet deeper in the dungeon are better at casting spells and are more likely to be able to affect you. MR is an internal variable, so you can't see what yours is.


Not much an ability but still an important factor. This is how much money you're carrying. Money adds to your final score, and can be used to purchase items in shops.

Special Abilities

Sometimes characters will be able to use special abilities, for example the Naga's ability to spit poison or the magical power to turn invisible granted by a ring. These are accessed through the 'a' command.


In the dungeons of Crawl there are many different kinds of normal and magical artefacts to be found and used. Some of them are useful, some are nasty, and some give great power, but at a price. Some items are unique; these have interesting properties which can make your life rather bizarre for a while. They all fall into several classes of items, each of which is used in a different way. Here is a general list of what you might find in the course of your adventures:


These are rather important. You will find a variety of weapons in the dungeon, ranging from small and quick daggers to huge, cumbersome battleaxes and pole-arms. Each type of weapon does a differing amount of damage, has a different chance of hitting its target, and takes a different amount of time to swing. You should choose your weapons carefully; trying to hit a bat with a greatsword is about as clever as bashing a dragon with a club. Light weapons are easier to hit with but heavier ones deal more damage. It is wise to use small arms for evasive and hard to hit monsters and use heavy weaponry for those slow and armored opponents, at least until your skill with weapon is high enough to be effective. There are exceptions though. Having many different weapon skills is generally unadvised.

Weapons can be enchanted; when they are identified, they have values which tell you how much more effective they are than an unenchanted version. The first number is the enchantment to-hit, which affects the weapon's accuracy, and the second is its damage enchantment; weapons which are not enchanted are simply '+0'. Some weapons also have special magical effects which make them very effective in certain situations. Some types of hand weapons (especially daggers, spears and hand axes) are quite effective when thrown.

You can wield weapons with the 'w' command, which is a very quick action. If for some reason you want to go bare-handed, type 'w' followed by a hyphen ('-'). Note that weapons are not the only class of item which you can wield.

The ' (apostrophe) key is a shortcut which automatically wields item a. If item a is being wielded, it causes you to wield item b instead, if possible. Try assigning the letter a to your primary weapon, and b to your bow or something else you need to wield only sometimes. Note that this is just a typing shortcut and is not functionally different to wielding these items normally.


If you would rather pick off monsters from a safe distance, you will need ammunition for your sling or bow. Darts are effective when simply thrown; other kinds of ammunition require you to wield an appropriate device to inflict worthwhile damage. Ammunition has only one "plus" value, which affects both accuracy and damage. If you have ammunition suitable for what you are wielding, the 'f' command will choose the first lot in your inventory, or you can use the 't' command to throw anything. If you are using the right kind of hand weapon, you will "shoot" the ammunition, otherwise you "throw" it.

When throwing something, you are asked for a direction. You can either enter one of the directions on your keypad, or type '*' and move the cursor over your target if they are not in a direct line with you. When the cursor is on them, press '.' (period) or delete to target them (you can also target an empty space if you want). If you press '>' instead of '.', the missile will stop at that space even if it misses, and if the target space is water, it may hit anything which might be lurking beneath the surface (which would otherwise be missed completely). If you type '.' (or del) instead of a direction or '*', or if you target yourself as described above, you throw whatever it is at yourself (this can be useful when zapping some wands; see later). Also, if you type 'p' instead of a direction or '*', you will target your previous target (if still possible).


This is also rather important. When worn, most armour improves your Armour Class, which decreases the amount of damage you take when something injures you. Unfortunately the heavier types of armour also hamper your movement, making it easier for monsters to hit you (ie reducing your evasion score) and making it harder for you to hit monsters. These effect can be mitigated by a high Armour skill. Wearing heavy armour also increases your chances of miscasting spells, an effect which is not reduced by your Armour skill.

A Shield normally affects neither your AC or your evasion, but it lets you block some of the attacks aimed at you and absorbs some of the damage you would otherwise receive from things like dragon breath and lightning bolts. Wearing a shield (especially a large shield) makes you less effective in hand combat. Shields are more effective when you're fighting a small number of foes than when you're surrounded.

Some magical armours have special powers. These powers are sometimes automatic, affecting you whenever you wear the armour, and sometimes must be activated with the 'a' command.

You can wear armour with the 'W' command, and take it off with the 'T' command.


This is extremely important. You can find many different kinds of food in the dungeon. If you don't eat when you get hungry, you will eventually die of starvation. Fighting, carrying heavy loads, casting spells, and using some magical items will make you hungry. When you are starving you fight less effectively as well. You can eat food with the 'e' command.

Magical Scrolls

Scrolls have many different magical spells enscribed on them, some good and some bad. One of the most useful scrolls is the scroll of identify, which will tell you the function of any item you have in your inventory; save these up for the more powerful and inscrutable magic items, like rings. You can read scrolls (and by doing so invoke their magic) with the 'r' command.

Magical Potions

While scrolls tend to affect your equipment or your environment, most potions affect your character in some way. The most common type is the simple healing potion, which restores some hit points, but there are many other varieties of potions to be found. Potions can be quaffed (drunk) with the 'q' command. Try to avoid drinking poisonous potions!


Sometimes you will be lucky enough to find a stick which contains stored magical energies. Wands each have a certain amount of charges, and a wand will cease to function when its charges run out. You must identify a wand to find out how many uses it has left. Wands are aimed in the same way as missile weapons, and you can invoke the power of a wand by 'z'apping it.

Rings and amulets

Magical rings are among the most useful of the items you will find in the dungeon, but can also be some of the most hazardous. They transfer various magical abilities onto their wearer, but powerful rings like rings of regeneration or invisibility make you hunger very quickly when activated. You can put on rings with the 'P' command, and remove them by typing 'R'. You can wear up to two rings simultaneously, one on each hand; which hand you put a ring on is immaterial to its function. Some rings function automatically, while others require activation (the 'a' command).

Amulets are similar to rings, but have a different range of effects (which tend to be more subtle). Amulets are worn around the neck, and you can wear only one at a time.

Magical Staves

There are a number of types of magical staves. Some enhance your general spellcasting ability, while some greatly increase the power of a certain class of spells (and possibly reduce your effectiveness with others). Some are spell staves, and hold spells which you can cast without having to memorise them first, and also without consuming food. You must wield a staff like a weapon in order to gain from its power, and magical staves are as effective as +0 quarterstaves in combat. Spell staves can be Evoked with the 'E' command while you are wielding them.


Most books contain magical spells which your character may be able to learn. You can read a book with the 'r' command, which lets you access a description of each spell, or memorise spells from it with the 'M' command. Some books have other special effects, and powerful spellbooks have been known to punish the attentions of incompetent magicians.


If you manage to kill a monster and have some luck it may leave a corpse behind for you to play with. Despite the fact that corpses are represented by the same '%' sign as food, you can't eat them without first cutting them into pieces with the 'D' command, and being extremely hungry helps as well. Even then, you should choose your homemade food with great care.


These are items which don't fall into any other category. You can use many of them by wielding and 'I'nvoking them. You can also use some other special items (such as some weapons) by invoking them in this way.

Racial Items

Some items have been crafted by members of a gifted race, and have special properties. In addition, items made by a specific race work better in the hands of people of that race.

Dwarven weapons and armours are very durable, and do not rust or corrode easily.

Orcish bows/crossbows are particularly effective in combination with orcish arrows/bolts.

Elven armour is unusually light, and does not affect the dodging or stealth of its wearer to the extent that other armours do. Elven cloaks and boots are particularly useful to those who wish to be stealthy, and elven bows are particularly effective in conjunction with elven arrows.

Getting Items

You pick items up with the ',' (comma) command and drop them with the 'd'rop command. When you are given a prompt like "drop which item?" or "pick up <x>?", if you type a number before either the letter of the item, or 'y' or 'n' for yes or no, you will drop or get that quantity of the item.

Typing 'i' gives you an inventory of what you are carrying. When you are given a prompt like "Throw [or wield, wear, etc] which item?", you can type the letter of the item, or you can type '?' or '*' to get an inventory list. '?' lists all appropriate items, while '*' lists all items, appropriate or not. When the inventory screen is showing "-more-", to show you that there is another page of items, you can type the letter of the item you want instead of space or enter.

You can use the adjust command (the '=' key) to change the letters to which your possessions are assigned. This command can be used to change spell letters as well.

Some items can be stickycursed, in which case they weld themselves to your body when you use them. Such items usually carry some kind of disadvantage: a weapon or armour may be damaged or negatively enchanted, while rings can have all manner of unpleasant effects on you. If you are lucky, you might find magic which can rid you of cursed items.

Items like scrolls, potions and some other types each have a characteristic, like a label or a colour, which will let you tell them apart on the basis of their function. However, these characteristics change between each game, so while in one game every potion of healing may be yellow, in another game they might all be purple and bubbly. Once you have discovered the function of such an item, you will remember it for the rest of the current game. You can access your item discoveries with the '\' key.

A very useful command is the 'v' key, which gives you a description of what an item does. This is particularly useful when comparing different types of weapons, but don't expect too much information from examining unidentified items.


There are a number of Gods, Demons and other assorted Powers who will accept your character's worship, and sometimes give out favours in exchange. You can use the '^' command to check the requirements of whoever it is that you worship, and if you find religion to be an inconvenience you can always renounce your faith (use the 'a' command - but some Gods resent being scorned!).

The 'p' command lets you pray to your God. Anything you do while praying, you do in your God's name - this is how you dedicate your kills or corpse- sacrifices ('D' command) to your God, for example. Praying also gives you a sense of what your God thinks of you, and can be used to sacrifice things at altars.

To use any powers which your God deems you fit for, access the abilities menu with the 'a' command; God-given abilities are listed as invocations.

Some classes start out religious; others have to pray at an altar to dedicate themselves to a life of servitude. There are altars scattered all over the dungeon, and your character has heard rumours of a special temple somewhere near the surface.


Although it would doubtless be a nice thing if you could remain genetically pure, there are too many toxic wastes and mutagenic radiations in the Dungeon for that to be possible. If your character is so affected by these that he or she undergoes physiological change, you can use the 'A' command to see how much of a freak they've become and the 'a' command to activate any mutations which can be controlled.

You can also become mutated by overusing certain powerful enchantments, particularly Haste (not the kind you get from being berserk) and Invisibility, as your system absorbs too much magical energy - but you would have to spend almost all of your time hasted or invisible to be affected. However, some powerful items radiate dangerous levels of magical energy. More often than not, the mutations caused by magical radiations express harmfully.

Any demonic powers your character may have are listed in red; these are permanent and can never be removed. If one of your powers has been augmented by a mutation, it is displayed in a lighter red colour.


Magical spells are a very important part of surviving in the dungeon. Every character class can make use of magical spells, although those who enter the dungeon without magical skills must practise by reading scrolls before they can attempt spellcasting.

Spells are stored in books, which you will occasionally find in the dungeon. Each spell has a Level, which denotes the amount of skill required to use it as well as indicating how powerful it may be. You can only memorise a certain number of levels of spells; type 'M' to find out how many. When you gain experience levels, you can memorise more, and you will need to save up for several levels to memorise the more powerful spells. When you cast a spell, you temporarily expend some of your magical energy as well as becoming hungrier (although more powerful spellcasters hunger less quickly from using magic).

High level spells are difficult to cast, and you may miscast them every once in a while (resulting in a waste of magic and possibly dangerous side- effects). Your chance of failing to cast a spell properly depends on your skills, your intelligence, the level of the spell and whether you are wearing heavy armour. Failing to cast a spell exercises your spell skills, but not by as much as casting it successfully.

Many of the more powerful spells carry disadvantages or risks; you should read the spell description (obtained by reading the spellbook in which you found the spell) before casting anything.

Be careful of magic-using enemies! Some of them can use magic just as well as you, if not better, and often use it intelligently.

Exploring the dungeon

You can make your character walk around with the numeric keypad (turn numlock off) or the "Rogue" keys (hjklbnyu). If this is too slow, you can make your character walk repeatedly by typing shift and a direction. They will walk in that direction until any of a number of things happen: a hostile monster is visible on the screen, a message is sent to the message window for any reason, you type a key, or you are about to step on anything other than normal floor or an undiscovered trap and it is not your first move of the long walk. Note that this is functionally equivalent to just pressing the direction key several times.

If you press shift and '5' on the numeric keypad (or just the number '5' on the keyboard) you rest for 100 turns or until your hit points or magic return to full, whichever is sooner. You can rest for just one turn by pressing '.', delete, 's', or '5' on the keypad. Whenever you are resting, you are assumed to be observing your surroundings, so you have a chance of detecting any traps or secret doors adjacent to you.

The section of the viewing window which is coloured (with the '@' representing you at the centre) is what you can see around you. The dark grey around it is the parts of the level which you have visited, but cannot currently see. The 'x' command lets you move the cursor around to get a description of the various dungeon features, and typing '?' when the cursor is over a monster brings up a short description of that monster. You can get a map of the whole level (which shows where you've already been) by typing the 'X' key. This map specially colour-codes stairs and known traps, even if something is on top of them.

You can make your way between levels by using staircases, which appear as '>' (down) and '<' (up), by pressing the '>' or '<' keys. If you ascend an up staircase on level one, you will leave the dungeon forever; if you are carrying the magical Orb of Zot, you win the game by doing this.

Occasionally you will find an archway; these lead to special places like shops, magical labyrinths, and Hell. Depending on which type of archway it is, you can enter it by typing '<' or '>'.

Doors can be opened with the 'o' command and closed with the 'c' command. Pressing control plus a direction also opens doors. If there is no closed door in the indicated space, you will attempt to attack any monster which may be standing there (this is the only way to attack a friendly creature hand-to- hand). If there is no creature there, you will attempt to disarm any trap in the target square. If there is apparently nothing there you will still attack it, just in case there's something invisible lurking around.

A variety of dangerous and irritating traps are hidden around the dungeon. Traps look like normal floor until discovered. Some traps can be disarmed with the control-direction commands

When you are in a shop, you are given a list of the shopkeeper's stock from which to choose, and a list of instructions. Unfortunately the shopkeepers all have an enterprise bargaining agreement with the dungeon teamsters union which prevents them using non-union labour to obtain stock, so you can't sell anything in a shop (but what shopkeeper would trust a scummy adventurer like you, anyway?).

You goal is to locate the Orb of Zot, which is held somewhere deep beneath the world's surface. The Orb is an ancient and incredibly powerful artefact, and the legends promise great things for anyone brave enough to extract it from the fearsome Dungeon. Some say it will grant immortality or even godhood to the one who carries it into the sunlight; many undead creatures seek it in the hope that it will restore them to life. But then, some people will believe anything. Good luck!

A full list of the commands available to you can be accessed by typing '?' (question mark). If you don't like them, they can be changed by the use of:


You can change the keys used to perform specific functions by editing the macro.txt file (or creating a new one). The K: line indicates a key, and the A: line assigns another key to that key's function.

You can also redefine keys in-game with the ` key, then selecting K, and save them with the ~ key. There is possibility to create macros for actions that take many keys to be activated with but one. After selecting ` press M, then type in key you wish to activate macro sequence and then type all keystrokes that are neede to perform action.

Some examples: Assuming 'Z' is cast spell key, magic dart is at position 'a' in spell list then macro to cast magic dart at closest enemy would be "Za+ " (without quotes, '+' meaning next closest monster and whitespace serving as confirmation).

Assuming 'z' is zap wand key, wand of paralysis is at position 'p' in inventory then macro to zap wand of paralysis at previously attacked monster would be "zpp" (second 'p' meaning last target).

(Thanks to Juho Snellman for this patch)


In the caverns of Crawl, you will find a great variety of creatures, many of whom would very much like to eat you. To stop them doing this, you will need to fight. To attack a monster, stand next to it and move in its direction; this makes you attack it with your wielded weapon. Of course, some monsters are just too nasty to beat, and you will find that discretion is often the better part of valour.

Some monsters can be friendly; friendly monsters will follow you around and fight on your behalf (you gain 1/2 the normal experience points for any kills they make). You can command your allies using the '!' key, which lets you either shout to attract them or tell them who to attack.

Miscallaneous stuff

The scores file does not have to be present (as of v2.02), and is not included in the distribution. You can unpack the zip file into your old crawl directory and the new version will keep using the old scores file (scores files from any version are usable by any later version).

The initfile, INIT.TXT, lets you set various options affecting the game's user interface, like the conditions for Autopickup and a default name for your character. You can alter it with any reputable text editor.

As of 2.60, a -c command line switch activates the alternative character set for non-IBM graphics displays. A -nc switch activates the non-IBM char set and, for Linux systems, disables colour.

Crawl is available for a number of different systems, including Linux, DOS, the Mac, etc.

One strange thing you may notice about Crawl is that it does not keep your saved games if you die. This is not a bug, it is a feature! If you could restore your game after dying, you would probably finish the game rather quickly and lose interest, because most of the fun in Crawl is in the discovery of its bizarre secrets while taking risks with your characters. It is possible to cheat by messing around with the save files, but you're only cheating yourself out of experiencing this game as it was supposed to be played. If you think Crawl is too difficult, tell me!

Crawl was compiled using the djgpp compiler, and comes with the files CWSDPMI.EXE and CWSDPMI.DOC. You can contact the author of CWSDPMI.EXE at Read CWSDPMI.DOC for more details.

Although version 3 of Crawl is a complete and finished game, it probably contains a few unwanted features which crept in without me noticing (all of the earlier versions did). So, if you find anything which you think may be a bug, please send details of it to me, including version number, details of your system, what you were doing (in the game) when it happened, and just what exactly did happen. Hopefully this will never be necessary, but if it is you can (as of 26/3/99) reach me at:

You can also discuss this game on the newsgroup

The object of your quest in Crawl (the Orb of Zot) was taken from Wizard's Castle, a text adventure written in BASIC.

A lot of people have been sending me feedback and bug reports, which is extremely encouraging. I really appreciate that people have been taking the time to play my game. Keep it up!


Read Licence.txt for information about the Crawl licence (which is practically identical to the nethack GPL).

Source Code

The source code for the current version of Crawl is available from the Crawl web site: Source for some earlier versions can be obtained from me, although unfortunately I've lost most of it.


This software is provided as is, with absolutely no warranty express or implied. Use of it is at the sole risk of the user. No liability is accepted for any damage to the user or to any of the user's possessions.