The Return of Sigmund
March 28, 2010 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Popular open source roguelike Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has updated to version 0.6.
It is a variant of the older game Linley's Dungeon Crawl, and is regarded by many as one of the best roguelike games out there. Unlike its rival game Nethack it is undergoing rapid development. Also unlike Nethack, the game retains a more consistent difficulty level (hard) throughout, and has a much greater variety of character types.

Offline it can be played with rather nice graphics tiles. If you don't care about those, it can be played with a telnet client online at In addition to the main game, there are a couple of special versions to try. Zot Defense is inspired by Tower Defense games, and Dungeon Sprint, is one huge, deadly, mostly pre-made level with experience gain 27 times normal.

Platforms: Available for Windows, OSX and Linux. Zot Defense and Dungeon Sprint binaries are for Windows, but it may be possible to compile it for those other systems.

Previously: Nethack

The new version has a cool new dungeon branch called the Shoals, many new unique opponents including a disturbingly accurate version of Odysseus' acquaintance Circe, three new gods to worship, new vaults, the removal of the Divination magic school, and many other things.
posted by JHarris (61 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Yay! Thank you!
posted by painquale at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2010

I was surprised, as I was composing a post about the update to 0.6, to notice that Crawl had never been on the front page! I've written a bit about Crawl before (and a couple of the developers once commented on something I've written), but other than that I have nothing to do with its development.
posted by JHarris at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2010

Sweet, I'm going to see if I can find an android version.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:11 PM on March 28, 2010

It's actually available as source, so it should probably compile under other reasonably UNIX-ish or POSIX-ish OSes, I would think.

I've heard good things about this game, but... I remember when I first got into Nethack. I'm not sure if I'm ready to jump into another roguelike. If I end up liking it it could erase all my time.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:25 PM on March 28, 2010

It's also available on the Wii through the Homebrew Channel.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:36 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Harder than Nethack?? I played Nethack on and off for 3 years and even took 2 weeks off from life where I literally did nothing other than eat, sleep and play Nethack and I never beat it! Something always gets you, like being turned to stone by tripping over a cockatrice corpse while blind and not wearing gloves!
posted by Joe Chip at 1:48 PM on March 28, 2010

I've been playing nethack off and on for almost twenty years and have never won.
posted by octothorpe at 1:52 PM on March 28, 2010 [7 favorites]

Harder than Nethack?? I played Nethack on and off for 3 years and even took 2 weeks off from life where I literally did nothing other than eat, sleep and play Nethack and I never beat it! Something always gets you, like being turned to stone by tripping over a cockatrice corpse while blind and not wearing gloves!

I think it's referring more to the difficulty curve than the overall difficulty - the second half of Nethack (the castle, underworld, trip back up and ascension) is pretty easy if you don't make any dumb mistakes. The problem is getting that far.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:54 PM on March 28, 2010

JoeChip, the thing about Nethack is knowing about all those things that get you. There seem like a lot but in fact it's only a limited number in the end. Once you've digested them all the game becomes much easier. And there are certain attributes to aim towards getting, once you have them a lot of the danger goes away.

Crawl's late dungeon is almost as dangerous as the early game, so you have to play carefully even later on. (Its early dungeon is no slouch either, depending on which race and class you chose.)
posted by JHarris at 1:55 PM on March 28, 2010

DecemberBoy: "the second half of Nethack (the castle, underworld, trip back up and ascension) is pretty easy if you don't make any dumb mistakes."

Tell that to my Chaotic Monk, surrounded by The Wizard of Yendor and three ArchLiches in the middle of Juiblex's Swamp.

RIP Moncey.

(I did ascend a wizard recently, and yeah, that was easy as pie, quickest quest to astral altar time ever for me)
posted by idiopath at 2:03 PM on March 28, 2010

*make that three Wizards of Yendor, the whole thing was so traumatic I forgot some details
posted by idiopath at 2:04 PM on March 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

But I was just getting the hang of playing a heavy armor caster in 0.5.2...
posted by Phssthpok at 2:05 PM on March 28, 2010

I've never managed to get past the learning curve of Roguelikes and Dwarf Fortress. I can't tell if that's more good or bad.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:09 PM on March 28, 2010

Castle of the Winds is a great Baby's First Roguelike. Just remember to save every so often.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:12 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I find MUDs to be more fun. I installed Dwarf Fortress, wasted four hours trying to do anything, and gave up.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:17 PM on March 28, 2010

Dungeon Crawl is much easier to learn than Dwarf Fortress. It's probably my all-time favorite game, and I have spent probably hundreds of hours playing it over the last 3 years or so.

It's been a pleasure watching it develop, too. Each new release changes the game just enough to keep it fresh and interesting, without making you relearn the way things work. The latest release introduced a couple of interesting new religions and some interesting unique monsters that you bump into.

The religion system is one of the best I've seen. They do a fantastic job integrating the philosophies of the religion into the way you play the game. My favorite is Xom, god of chaos. Worshipping Xom makes the game even tougher, because he will randomly do nasty things to you just to mess with you. If you can survive, he might shower you with gifts of powerful artifacts.

It's also been interesting watching CrawlWiki develop as a community. It was a simple collection of spoilers, but they are introducing community features like Ask an Expert - it's AskMe for Crawl.

Speaking of developing roguelike communities, I was fascinated by the Request for Adminship process on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.
posted by agropyron at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The DF community is what finally drew me into Dwarf Fortress. I tried to learn it a few times and always gave up. After I read the Boatmurdered story and this MeFi post I got interested in just the idea of DwarfFortress, and the awesome story of its creation. Toady was a math professor who quit his job to devote his life to this game! He and his brother are completely supported by fan donations, and they have quite grand plans for the future of DF. Check out that list of features, and imagine a game that actually had all of that. I believe they can pull it off, and I'm now donating regularly.

After reading the bay12 forums, I saw that its interface has been the subject of lengthy and intense discussion. DF's supporters know that the game as it exists now is more or less a debugging tool for the extremely early version of a truly great game. I then started to think of learning Dwarf Fortress as similar to learning a programming language. With that mindset, it was a piece of cake.
posted by agropyron at 2:40 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Huh. Fancy that. I was just reading the DF newbie guide mentioned here on askMe and thinking I should give it a shot. But this seems perhaps more my speed. Thanks for the headsup, JHarris!
posted by Sparx at 2:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Crawl is the best Roguelike I've ever played (yes, better than NetHack. Way better than Angband or any variants thereof) and probably one of my favorite games of all time, period. I'm glad to see it has a FPP on here.

John Harris of GameSetWatch did a 4-part "Crawlapalooza" series on Stone Soup recently in his (generally excellent) @Play column, which does a good job showing the overall tenor of the game and some of its appeal: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 (ignore the offset indices in the URLs).

Hope to kick some MeFites' ghosts' asses on or in the near future! Also you can stop by the totally rad IRC chatroom at ##crawl on
posted by valrus at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, the JHarris above is John Harris! Awesome work, John!
posted by valrus at 2:59 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

A new Nethack version?? Ooh! Lemme at it!

Seriously though, I'll have to check crawl out. I've got a samurai character in the middle of gehennom that I haven't touched in weeks just because it got too boring. On the one hand, it's nice having a certain level of security once you get all the resistances and AC you need, OTOH, when Demogorgon's basically the only thing in the game that'd make me nervous...
posted by fnerg at 3:59 PM on March 28, 2010

Tell that to my Chaotic Monk, surrounded by The Wizard of Yendor and three ArchLiches in the middle of Juiblex's Swamp.

Juiblex: Wand of digging when it engulfs you then smack it to kill easily. Follow up with a spell of cure sickness, uncursed/blessed potion of extra or full healing, or in a pinch applying a blessed unicorn horn.

Arch Liches: Elbereth if pressed, but other than that means of curse removal along with magic resistance and good cancellation, or scroll of blessed genocide (capital L is a popular target).

Wizards Yendor: Wand of death, spell of finger of death.
posted by JHarris at 5:10 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

yeah, this was on the way back up again, juiblex was easy.

Wand of death worked great, the first 12 times, then I ran out of wands/charges, and one of the rodneys got my eyes of the overworld (granting him immunity to wand of death).

The approximate cause of death was the monster summoning (leaving my dealing with immediate threats like sliming, drowning attacks, brain-eating, and disenchanters, while the summoners recursively summoned summoners), on a no-teleport level, surrounded by water. The amount of monster summoning from 3 arch-liches and 3 yendors at once is insane.

I had been chasing the wizard for many dungeon levels, and he had my eyes of the overworld and the amulet, and I was out of level teleports.

The real cause of death was not doing enough damage per round to kill Rodney before he double troubled or brought in more arch-liches. This is with two rings of increase damage, one +5 and the other +6.
posted by idiopath at 5:23 PM on March 28, 2010

Yikes! Yeah, the best way to handle a situation like that is to avoid it in the first place, which is kind of hard in Juiblex's level, one of the few places in Gehennom that's fairly wide-open.
posted by JHarris at 5:51 PM on March 28, 2010

This is crazy, I just downloaded Crawl for the first time two weeks ago and have been playing 5.2 (or whatever) most of the week. Awesome! Thanks as always JHarris.
posted by xorry at 5:55 PM on March 28, 2010

Yeah, it only occurs to me just now, a week afterward, that I had water walking boots in my bag of holding and I could have just walked around most of those monsters... *retroactive facepalm*
posted by idiopath at 6:07 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dwarf Fortress is essentially a pre-alpha of the Matrix.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:25 PM on March 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

He and his brother are completely supported by fan donations, and they have quite grand plans for the future of DF.

The latest DF build available for download is from a year and a half ago. Is it still being updated?
posted by painquale at 6:27 PM on March 28, 2010

Thanks so much JHarris - and thanks for introducing me to this wonderful game
posted by keithburgun at 6:31 PM on March 28, 2010

painquale: Oh yes. He's just queueing all his changes up into a single mega-update. That's been going on for months. I think he's actually trying to kill people with an overdose of sheer awesomeness when it's finally unveiled.
posted by JHarris at 6:40 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Holy... just read a little more of that page I linked painquale, ToadyOne says there may be a new Windows release within a week!
posted by JHarris at 6:44 PM on March 28, 2010

I always liked Larn. It was beatable. Moria, Nethack, and the like always sent me into a fury when I played, and especially when I heard it was possible to win.
posted by CarlRossi at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Oh, the JHarris above is John Harris! Awesome work, John!"

Heh, I've read some of his stuff but didn't know it was the same person I see here. He also wrote a fairly exhaustive (8500 word) guide for nethack that you can find here.
Thanks JHarris.
posted by vapidave at 9:06 PM on March 28, 2010

Transcendence is a great roguelike for a beginner. It doesn't look like a roguelike at all (it has nice graphics and spaceships), but the mechanics are essentially the same. It only has three starting "classes" (or ship types), so it's less confusing than other RL-s, and when you die, you can just resurrect and continue where you left off.

DoomRL is another easy one. Of course I'm only saying this because it's the only RL I've ever managed to beat.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:01 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Idiopath, if I had a nickel for every retroactive facepalm incurred while playing Nethack over the years...
posted by fnerg at 11:11 PM on March 28, 2010

Also, I'd add that levitation, or a flying mount is way more useful than water walking boots, since you can gain it from more sources, and it protects you against pits as well. A ring of levitation is part of my regular ascension kit.
posted by fnerg at 11:16 PM on March 28, 2010

Having downloaded and played for a bit, I can confirm the cracklike properties of this game. I started off all elfywizardy, as is my wont, but the game actually makes it easy to slip into new characters and, the help system is super useful. The 'o' explore button seems really cool too, on account of the size of the levels, but I am a bit worried it hurts my food expenditure

Plus the tiled version plays nicely with my 1024x600 netbook which is just gravy! I'd even suggest ading a netbook tag to the post, as I am always keen on finding great games that work well with netbooks.

Thanks again, JHarris. If this is only v0.6 I am way impressed.
posted by Sparx at 11:16 PM on March 28, 2010

Sparx: The version numbering might seem a bit confusing if you don't know the history of Crawl. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is actually a branch of Linley's Dungeon Crawl, created in 1995. By the time its development ceased in 2003, it had reached version 4.0. DCSS was supposed to sort of just fill the void until the main developer picked up working on 4.1 again (which is why they started the numbering from 0.1), but this never happened, so they just continued developing this branch. So the reason why Crawl seems so mature despite being "only 0.6" is because it's actually more like version 4.6.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:07 AM on March 29, 2010

Yeah idiopath fnerg et al. I've only been playing Nethack (and it is my first Roguelike) since last July and my deaths with a scroll of teleport or other simple solution in my inventory or list of known spells are embarrassingly numerous. My own pet hasn't killed me for quite a while (or I him) and Team Ant rarely gets me anymore so I guess there's that though. The YASDs* usually happen after I've been playing for 6+ hours which I suppose should tell me something.

*For those that don't play, YASD is an acronym for Yet Another Stupid Death and is common enough to warrant an acronym.

If you ever get a chance ask blasdelf about one particular YASD of his, it's as bad as it gets.

And although I will inevitably, but not likely soon, employ "regular" and "ascension kit" in the same sentence I'm pretty sure Nethack would be my desert-island game.
posted by vapidave at 12:14 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I had a nickel for every "blasted by Sigmund on (D:2)"... That fucking bastard.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I highly recommend IVAN, it's like nethack but a fair bit more user friendly and, although it's still tile based, has some neat graphics that display what armour/weapons you are using, wounds, etc. Good fun, but not quite as detailed as nethack.
Will have to check out crawl once I thrash IVAN. Still playing DF but I set nethack aside a while ago.

posted by Dillonlikescookies at 12:17 AM on March 29, 2010

Holy... just read a little more of that page I linked painquale, ToadyOne says there may be a new Windows release within a week!

Fuck, there goes productivity next week.

gimme army arc, gimme army arc, gimmmy army arc
posted by afu at 12:28 AM on March 29, 2010

fnerg: "A ring of levitation is part of my regular ascension kit."

Monk, rings of increase damage stone rather than metal - better to give up jumping than 5 or 6 points of damage per hit when I am limited to martial arts damage.
posted by idiopath at 1:05 AM on March 29, 2010

Thanks Daniel_Charms - that does indeed help explain why the game is quite wonderfully put together.

Full disclosure: I'm 38 and used to play hack on my dad's university burroughs mainframe back in the 70e , which used to slow down to a crawl if there was actual computing going on.

So I have huge geek love for anything roguelike or collossal cave related and love discovering how they got better over the years

That said, the 'o' explore button? Is that a waste of turns?
posted by Sparx at 2:12 AM on March 29, 2010

That said, the 'o' explore button? Is that a waste of turns?

Generally, it's ok. The only problem is, you might get jumped on by a monster who paralyses/confuses/one-shots you, in which case you're (naturally) screwed.
posted by daniel_charms at 4:35 AM on March 29, 2010

dunkadunc: the learning curve for Dwarf Fortress is more like a vertical line. I made four attempts before I even had any idea what I was looking at. Once you finally grok it, though, it all falls together pretty quickly.

Don't do it. It is an impossibly deep game, and you will find yourself staring bleary-eyed at grids of cryptic ANSI characters at 5am, with no idea where the time went. For months.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:55 AM on March 29, 2010

Fuck, there goes productivity next week.

RL threads are inherently nsfw, sadly.
posted by ersatz at 6:09 AM on March 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

On autoexplore wasting turns: It appears to work by attempting to gain sight of, continually, to the closest unseen spot on the board in terms of turns required to reach. When it finds it it seeks out the next-closest spot, and so on.

Sometimes this leaves isolated sections of map that don't get explored the first time through, that requires a noticeable expenditure in turns to get back to. However, some of those turns would have been spent in the local inefficiencies needed to explore those spaces instead of the larger ones needed to travel back to the site, so the problem really isn't that bad. And in other ways auto-explore does a more efficient job of revealing spaces than a human. It's a lot more apt to use diagonals and cut corners, and it does an excellent job of filling in whole rooms. So, while I have no proof of this, it seems to me like it would balance out.

The problem with getting one-shotted, or otherwise screwed over, by a monster who attacked on the turn he came into sight is actually not a problem with autoexplore; the same chances of that happening exist when manually exploring, and that has the added liability of not necessarily stopping movement the very turn you catch sight of the foe.
posted by JHarris at 8:00 AM on March 29, 2010

Yep, autoexplore is a good thing. The food clock is not so brutal that you need to worry about autoexplore wasting 5 or 10 steps here and there. Unless you are low on food, that is. You can generally survive on butchered monsters' corpses, only using your rations in emergencies.

Autoexplore also ensures that you don't overlook any valuable items. Even if you explore a level manually, when you're done it's a good idea to use autoexplore to make sure you didn't miss anything.
posted by agropyron at 9:27 AM on March 29, 2010

You have got to be kidding me. Stone Soup 0.6 comes out when I'm 70 pages into writing my dissertation, and the new version of Dwarf Fortress will be released next week? Doom.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:33 AM on March 29, 2010

What's the prevailing wisdom regarding ToME vs. these other games? It's the only one I've spent any time playing (I want to devote more time to Nethack, but thusfar it has eaten my lunch).
posted by Nabubrush at 9:39 AM on March 29, 2010

Just to be clear: You say "previously: Nethack" but then everything that follows is still about Crawl, right? Because I certainly haven't heard of any new NetHack version being released.
posted by 256 at 11:12 AM on March 29, 2010

256: The "Previously: Nethack" problem is the fault of the mods. The original version of the post put the two paragraphs that immediately follow the "More Inside" fold in the front-page part. The mods evidently thought this cluttered up the front page too much (which makes sense) and moved the fold up a bit. But they didn't leave any <br> tags in its place, which inadvertently concatenated two paragraphs, hence the problem.

I should probably mail 'em about it.
posted by JHarris at 12:13 PM on March 29, 2010

Oops, yeah! Collateral damage from an attempt to have the post not be giant on the front page. Line breaks restored now, sorry about that. I would be pants-shittingly excited about a new Nethack release, so I feel your pain.
posted by cortex at 12:20 PM on March 29, 2010

Same here. What could be taking them so long? I hope it's a major game update, the 3.1 dungeon is getting a bit long in the tooth.

Sorry about the front page clutter thing!
posted by JHarris at 1:42 PM on March 29, 2010

I've been eagerly awaiting this release for a while. The tiles interface got even better and worshippers of Trog, such as my minotaur berserker (I know) now don't have to play the minigame of prayer-chop and prayer lasting multiple turns. However, it may be unfamiliarity with 0.6 so far but I definitely think the early game difficulty has amped up for a minotaur berserker. It may be that the min-maxing introduced in this version (if you are a MiBe you are always 21 in strength now, with less dexterity than you would usually get previously) has made the MiBe easier to hit, but I'm definitely feeling like early monsters, particularly hobgoblins, are tougher. Also, I think the power of berserking might have been nerfed a little. A caveat is that I haven't looked at the changelist in detail, so this is all going by how it feels.

Also, for all those aware of NetHack and unaware of crawl, crawl is far more intuitive, less spoiler-based and even has an in-game tutorial. Deaths generally feel fair and you usually know where you made a mistake. If you never "got" roguelikes based on trying NetHack, crawl is the best introduction I've found.
posted by Gnatcho at 6:44 PM on March 29, 2010

Huh - just noticed a previous post got some server error, and didn't go through. To recap:

Thanks for the info about autoexplore, Harris and D_C. Its moves quite zippily on my machine so I wasn't able to tell if it was using diagonals etc. I've had a squiz at the (rather extensive) documentation and it mentions the autoexplore isn't optimal (so obviously it won't play the game for you), so knowing when to use it is all part of the playing strategy.

But to echo what Gnatcho said - I am very impressed by the sheer intuitiveness of UI, the non-suckiness of the tileset, the brilliance of commands like autoexplore or find and move to nearest descending staircase, and the usefulness of the docs and the tutorials in-game. I'm not necessarily up with the state-of-the-art in roguelikes, so I don't know if this is common stuff these days, but it really does make the newbie experience very smooth.
posted by Sparx at 8:56 PM on March 29, 2010

Gnatcho -- thanks for the tip. This post made me reload nethack again. And instead of screwing around not knowing what I was doing, I read the wiki whenever I had a question or wanted to ID something, or know what some esoteric printed phrase really meant. And I still keep dying in the gnomish mines as a dwarven valkerie. Maybe I'll give crawl a chance after I get re-frustrated with nethack.
posted by garlic at 8:20 AM on March 31, 2010

garlic: Nethack's monster difficulty is the average of player level and dungeon level. But player success is more largely due to equipment (which is overall randomly generated) than experience level. If you can get a really good piece of equipment early on, it can help you overcome that point in the monster generation (usually when difficulty reaches 3 or 4) where newbies tend to get overwhelmed.
posted by JHarris at 11:29 AM on March 31, 2010

The new version of Dwarf Fortress has been released today, and it isn't an April fools joke!
posted by Stove at 6:43 PM on April 1, 2010

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