What a RL should be

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This article is an older compilation by Kornel Kisielewicz of the thead on rgrd. For a more formal and widely-accepted definition of what a roguelike is, see the Berlin Interpretation.

Original post by Crypt

We all add more and more features to our beloved projects, etc.. But in your opinion what is a good RL ? (in a PLAYER point of view) What do you like ? Interaction ? Growing up a character ? Exploration ? Quests ? Huge world ?, etc.

The Sheep

I really enjoy Rogue recently.

  • Levels small enough to prevent boredom.
  • With good connectivity of rooms.
  • Food clock to keep me going.
  • New monsters every level (with new special abilities).
  • Items that really have impact on the gameplay (I have to play differently depending on what I find first).
  • Lots of "traps" -- situations where I'm not really forced to fight, but the reward looks so good (and would be lost if I didn't fight), that I often try it and die.

Michal Bielinski

  • presents me with situations requiring much thought and careful spending resources at disposal
  • most obstacles can be tackled with more than one way risks offering good rewards that are not necessarily to be taken (like Crawl's dungeon branches)
  • densely packed levels with features (that may be unusual monster coalition, a vault, dungeon feature, secret room ... ) to keep me from being bored
  • character advancement can be minimal. I rarely pursue collecting experience to level up PC


  • to be often surprised (this covers a lot of things : interactions possibilities i did not previously thought of, new map features, etc.)
  • to have a lot of possibilities to pass an obstacle.
  • to have a lot of possibilities in using an item or map feature. Not only the single obvious usage.
  • persistent maps.
  • no variant of variants which are themselves variants of spells, monsters, etc... A Greater Blue Caporal Fire Zombi of CthuMogBan is no fun. Nor a Greater Ultra fire bolt of lesser green hell. No need for 600 spells nor 1250 creatures if only 10% of them are really unique. (that's one of the things i hate in the Bethesda elder scrolls's spells)


I know I'm not as 'hardcore' as I should be, but I like being able to make mistakes without each one being fatal. For example, in GearHead I might be doing a quest, but I fail it and my mecha is destroyed. It sucks, sure, but at least I don't have to restart the early game (think of the tedium in ADOM) or rebuild my NPC relations.

When you don't die as often, you are able to focus much more on character development. That's also important to me when I play roguelikes.

I also really like a tactical element in combat. Anyone who has played Shogun:Total War (or a similar game) knows what I'm talking about, but that sort of thing is rare to find in roguelikes. I like alternatives to the 'hold down the arrow key until the monster dies' method. For example, Hengband has a ninja class. Combat deals with hiding, then popping out and scoring critical hits. If you go head to head with a monster, you'll soon be saving a character dump.

Finally, I like a plot and game development. I like tangible evidence that I'm progressing in the game, something more definitive than "Hey, these monsters are getting harder." On that note, quests are essential. I think the best quests are those that involve no combat, since these quests offer a break from the fighting tedium I mentioned before.


  • A rich, interactive, consistent, persistent world - not necessarily huge though (Rogue/ADOM have relatively small but feature-rich levels)
  • Many skills to learn/apply that affect gameplay
  • Nice language/text not just "a sword +1/-2", "you hit the orc. the orc hits you", "a town", etc... -> a bit more flavour
  • Quests that depend on each other, making your decisions more complex

As a player I like to play games that feel unique and suck me to their world: ADOM's chaos-infested Ancardia, Nethack's dungeons that everything can (and will) happen, GearHead's mechaworld, Crawl's dungeons of tension.

Grabbing the player's attention is the first thing a game worthy of its code should be able to do.

Mario Donick

Well, that's a good question...

I like to grow my characters. I want to become better in general and in certain skills, I want to collect treasure and I want to find artifacts and items. Therefore I like games with hundreds of items, regardless if some of the items aren't very creative. For example, if I had a simple sword first, then buy a better sword, than get a sword that enhances i.e. my magical defense and than get another sword that enhances not only my magical defense but also casts fire on an enemy - that's great. Become better and better and get better and better items =)

Related to character growing is battle. I really enjoy to get hunted by monsters and lead them into dead ends of dungeons or into traps or into rooms which I then leave and close until I have time to come back and kill them. So the maps should provide some interesting, perhaps difficult, movement opportunities.

Quests are nice, but there is no need for an endless number. I like the way Diablo did it. Six quests per act, and the rest of the time I'm hunting and chasing for items ;)

My own project, LambdaRogue, will become exactly the kind of roguelike I personally like. Therefore it emphasizes battle; there are many enemies at the same time, hunting the player and for me, this hack'n'slay feels very good. I'm also trying to implement many items, but in the moment there are only about 100.


I am not too much of a hacknslasher/munchkinianist, so I think exploration is a big factor of success.... get to know new places, obtain ancient artifacts, meet powerful enemies...

I like open spaces more than dungeons although there is always something fascinating on exploring the depths of the world.

A believable world generator that can be used again and again, with freeform for its characters... and that offers realism only to the point required to be consistent, thats what I want to achieve with my (soon to be restored) project, Guardian Angel

I also like the pleasure of vanquishing monsters for pure fun, without too much hassle into the realm of realism, and thats what CRL is :P


I'm very new to Roguelikes, so naturally a few of the things I'm keen on and not too keen on are a result of learning the right way to play them. Permadeath initially was a shocking concept to me but I soon warmed to the idea of it. It's just that I came from a gaming lifetime of computer and console RPGs and playing a Roguelike just requires a different mindset.

Anyway, one of the things I enjoy most in any game like this is the exploration and character advancement. I'm not much of a tactical mind - which of course has already led to a number of deaths as I go in guns or swords blazing. The thing I like the most - the thing that Crawl does - is the persistence of dungeons once they're created. I do find randomizing levels very frustrating and it does somewhat take me out of the game experience. I'm playing ToME at the moment, and it just seems very odd that I'd go into the Barrow-Downs, descend one level then come back up the same steps only to find a completely different, unexplored level. Randomly creating the dungeons on the first entry or during the initializing of the game and then keeping it consistent would be better, in my opinion.

Oddly enough, when I first started playing RLs I always sought out tile graphics versions. I still prefer the tiles simply because I can look at the screen and see that a snake or a kobold or a dragon(!) is down a tunnel, without having to mentally decipher the screen every few steps, or enter into a sequence of key presses to identify things. Having said that, I have become somewhat accustomed to the ASCII in things like ADOM, which has no tiles support. There is definitely a kind of beauty to them. I just find that 32x32 tiles are a perfect balance between simplicity and functionality.

Narf the Mouse

Adom is my favorite. A rich main story and quests that facilitate exploration, not get in the way. A timer that adds tension, while still benefiting the player. Plenty of detail to make and play a character, without too much difficulty in doing so. ( The interface does need to be greatly streamlined, though. What is it, six pages of keybindings?)