The Fell Gard Codices

A Few Idle Thoughts on Angband

November 12th, 2012

When I was young, my father had an Osborne computer which seemed almost magical to me. He also had several floppy discs (the five-and-a-quarter-inch discs, thank you, truly floppy things) filled with games he’d got from one bulletin board or another. I want to write here about one game in particular, called Dungeon. In that game you moved a heroic “@” symbol around a field made up of ascii symbols, pursued by letters that stood for horrible monsters — T for Troll, D for Dragon, and so forth. You had to get down to level 25 to find a magical amulet, then make your way back up.

It was a Roguelike game — a variant of the game Rogue. I never was able to beat it. Only a few years ago it occurred to me to try to dig up the game and try to take it on now. I didn’t find the exact variant I remember, but I did download Rogue, which I found just as difficult. Somehow playing that game led to me looking for more diverse challenges. Which in turn led me to Angband.

Angband’s a more expansive, and to me more fun and less frustrating, version of Rogue. You’re trying to make your way through a hundred levels of Angband, originally a vast dungeon complex in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. At the bottom is Morgoth, lord of evil. You have to build up your experience level, and outfit yourself with magical treasures you find in the dungeon, to get to a point where you can slay Morgoth.

Unlike Rogue, you can go up as well as down at any time. There’s a town level outside the dungeon, where you can buy equipment from shops (particularly useful if you dislike starving to death). And you can choose what character class or character race you want to be, making tradeoffs in one area to gain powers in another. It’s a free game, maintained by a development team of fans, and supported by an active message board.

It’s a lot of fun. And you can pretty obviously see a connection to D&D (whose mechanics had a strong influence on the game). You can also see a connection to the Fell Gard story. But that connection is not necessarily as obvious as it seems.

More on that tomorrow.

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