RL Terrain

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By R.Dan Henry (wikied by abcgi - with permission) (And now slightly improved for the web by the original author.)

Inspired by the "Of bottomless pits and invisible walls" thread awhile ago, I did some thinking about the types of effects different types of "terrain" can have in a roguelike. Of course, as usual with such lists, using all of these effects in one game would be... well, probably too much of a good thing. Possible example applications in parentheses.

Movement Effects
  • normal movement (default)
  • slows movement (mud)
  • speeds movement (faerie path)
  • blocks incoming movement (wall)
  • prevents outgoing movement (tar pit, bear trap)
  • randomizes movement (oil slick, ice)
  • teleport (typically a trap effect, often a "terrain" in RLs)
  • changes level (trap door)
  • movement is more or less tiring (increases hunger rate or use of fatigue; likely an alternative to speed changes)
  • modifies stealth (squeaky floor, pillows)
Character Effects
  • causes damage (lava)
  • causes status changes (desert makes you "overheated", tall grass makes you "hidden" if small)
  • grants experience (first time on terrain is a new experience)
  • drains stats, experience, fatigue points, etc. (unholy ground)
  • increase/decrease hunger, thirst, regeneration rate(s) (desert increases thirst counter rate)
  • racial (or class) bonus/penalty (Elf gets +10 to actions in forest terrain, Rogue gets +10 on city street terrain)
  • religious influences (piety does not time out for worshipers of Sea God while on ocean terrain, prayer bonus on holy ground)
Item Effects
  • destroys items (lava, ice)
  • (dis)enchants items (mana node)
  • curses/blesses item (holy ground)
  • damages item (swamp terrain makes scrolls mildew)
  • preserves item (ice causes food to decay slower)
  • polymorphs item (lava cooks dropped food, ice turns potions to frozen potions)
Combat Effects
  • improve/decrease evasion or attack (mud reduces evasiveness)
  • blocks missiles (wall)
  • hinders missiles (firing through brush reduces chance to hit)
  • aids missiles (firing into death zone terrain doubles damage)
  • destroys missiles (firing over lava destroys arrows)
  • special effects (if hit on ice, chance to slip and fall)
  • elemental attacks influenced (ice bolt over lava loses strength)
Light Effects
  • blocks light (wall)
  • distorts light (prism)
  • translucent ("frosted" glass)
  • transparent (glass, invisible wall)
  • colored and transparent (makes color identification difficult)
  • self-illuminating (lava)
Other Effects
  • subject to change (dry grass may burn, low ground may flood)
  • encounter types (monster/item generation keyed to terrain)
  • hidden (quicksand and traps)
  • summoning effects (brambles might produce ticks)
  • spell-casting boni/penalties/mods (healing is more effective on holy ground)

These effects can be automatic, optional (set off/avoid known trap), allow a saving throw or skill roll of some kind, or vary based on factors like species (spiders on webs), movement mode (flying over mud), intrinsics, items, statuses (drowning may depend on burden status) or skills (if you have Swimming you don't drown). Some of these suggestions are fairly exotic, but could be just the things for the right game.

R. Dan Henry danhenry@inreach.com