Roguelike Alphabet

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A roguelike is a game which is inspired by other roguelikes. There are some very important features which are very important for being a roguelike, such as permadeath, randomness, ASCII graphics, and so on. However, there are also lots of other small things, which are very popular in roguelikes, but rare or not existant in other games. Here is the list of them in a alphabetic manner. Note how often big or small Roguelike features are logically linked to each other ---- a game with only few of these features would not make much sense.



The authors of roguelikes concentrate on gameplay, and usually don't care about graphics and sound --- there is no sound at all, and the display is made in the simplest way possible. The original Rogue was made using ASCII characters to represent dungeon and monsters. Almost all classic roguelikes can also be played in this mode (although most of the popular ones, except ADOM, also have a graphical mode, too).

Bones of previous adventurers

In many roguelikes it is possible to meet ghosts of previous characters. For your new character, this has both good sides (you can find their equipment) and bad sides (you'll have to face whatever killed them). This happens in NetHack, Ragnarok, and IVAN (in IVAN you can even resurrect your old character and have him as a companion), and there are also simpler version of this feature in Crawl and some Angband variants. This feature is not known to exist in any non-roguelike (it makes less sense without Permadeath anyway).


In all classic roguelikes it is possible to become confused, which means that the character picks directions randomly for some time. Yet another small thing which was present in Rogue and has been inherited by many other roguelikes. Another similar such thing is hallucination, which and makes the character see everything differently (e.g. monsters as different monsters).

Dungeon crawling

In all the classic roguelikes the game takes part in dungeons of some sort. However, in the modern roguelikes the area is usually more varied.

Ego Items

Items not only have an "item class" (like long sword), but they also can be of varying qualities. At the simplest level, we can have enchanted/high quality weapons and armor like 1 mace or 2, 0 mace. In many games, potions and scrolls can have blessed, uncursed or cursed status. Also, normal weapons (or other things) can get magical (or equivalent) prefixes or suffixes, like of orc slaying. In some new roguelikes things can be made of various materials. This is strongly linked to Randomness, and Identification (you have to identify the special qualities).

Free Software

Roguelikes are usually free. Often they are also open source. This is quite an important part of the roguelike culture.

Grid of Squares

Not only time, but also the space in a roguelike is not continuous, but rather divided into squares (hexes would probably also be good, but no classic roguelike uses them yet). On each square only one monster can stand. Also, most roguelikes have spatial consistency: for example, when entering a house you are not moving to another map, but rather this house is a part of the old map, and you can for example shoot your enemies outside from inside the house. (However, if the action takes part in a large area, usually there is a single overworld map which is played differently. Also, usually using stairs moves you to a different location, however some new games experiment with this.)


Most classic roguelikes (NetHack, ADOM, Angband) have fortune cookies or another equivalent feature. This is an item (or another feature) which displays a random hint when used.


In all the classic roguelikes, the names of potions, scrolls, wands, jewelry etc. are shuffled. You need a method of identification before being able to safely use them. Because of randomness you have to identify things in each game.


You can wear things such as rings and amulets, which affect some properties of your character. In SF settings this might be brain implants or mutations, but the idea remains the same.

Key-driven Interface

Roguelikes have key-driven interface, which means that you have to press keys in order to execute commands. For example, to read a scroll, you have to press 'r', and then select the scroll you want to read (all items in your inventory, spells, etc. have assigned letters; many roguelikes are written in such a way that these letter usually do not change during the game). This is very convenient for experienced players. Of course, for newbie roguelike players it would be nice to have both key-driven and WIMP interface.

Lots of kinds of monsters/items/other things

Most classical roguelikes have hundreds of monsters and items. Because of Randomness, you do not always find all of them in each game. This may be linked with the fact that roguelikes have only ASCII graphics --- after all, to add the new monster to an ASCII game, you just have to type its name and stats in some kind of a data file, and implement its special properties (if any). Also, often the roguelikes increase replayability by allowing the player to choose their race, class and maybe some other properties at the beginning of the game. The gameplay might be different with another race or class.


The game interacts with players by writing lots of messages to them, for example You hit the kobold. The kobold hits you..

Not Multi-Player

Roguelikes are generally designed to be played by a single player. This does not mean that multiple players playing on the same game never interact --- they can share Bone files and Highscore lists (X). Of course, some people do experiment with full multiplayer features. However, since the roguelikes are turn-based, and turns pass quickly, this is hard to do.

One Player Character

In almost all roguelikes the player controls a single character, not a party. However, often it is possible for this character to have friends and servants.

Permanent Death

Permadeath is a very important feature. Whatever bad happens in the game, it has happened, and you cannot reload it to the previous state. While Permadeath itself takes only one point in this list, many other points are strongly dependant on Permadeath.

Quaff, Read, Zap as different commands

In the Rogue tradition, we have different commands (keys) for Reading scrolls, Zapping wands, Quaffing potions, etc, rather than a single "use" command.


In the classic roguelikes, the details of maps (where are the corridors, what items and special features you will find, what monster you will fight) are randomly generated each game. Even though Permadeath forces you to start a new game, this new game often will be very different due to randomness. In modern roguelikes this may be extended to randomly generated world map, or maybe even to random story or randomly generated classes of monsters.

==Secret Doors

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