What a roguelike is

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'What is a Roguelike?

It is hard to conceive a RL definition with which everybody will agree as this is a gaming genre that has evolved and has a dynamic definition as well.

Some of the most common elements in roguelikes are:

User Interface

  • ASCII Character display: The game uses no graphic tiles or 3D models but rather a character grid, in which each character represents an entity. For example, a human may be plotted as a '@', a dragon as a 'D', etc.
  • Narrated Action: Short text descriptions are given for almost all game events except ordinary movement.
  • Front-Loaded Commands: The player has knowledge of and access to all (or almost all) commands at the start of the game, often long before acquiring the objects or powers that make the command useful.

Game World

  • Random World Generation: Some parts of the world in which the action is performed is generated using a random algorithm; this is made for the sake of replayability, thus every game is different from the last.
  • Spatial Consistency: All the actions happens in a definite space. No warping to fight scenes or minigames on a different reality.
  • Little Storyline: A gripping plot is not typically the selling point of any roguelike. The story is usually kept to a minimum to enhance replayability.
  • World Interaction: Little or no objects lie as an adornment in the world; most of them have a use in the game.


  • Permadeath: Once your character dies your savefile disappears; this encourages careful choosen tactics, cold sweat when fighting big baddies and curses when your character dies.
  • Freedom: The player may choose to do anything he wants in the game; there are no fixed plots, you can roam freely or look for the final game goal.
  • Turn-Based: The time freezes in order to take the best of decisions when time comes.
  • Dungeon-Hack: Your goal is to kill monsters and find powerful treasures in order to kill stronger ones and repeat the process.
  • Tactical Single Character play: The unit of action is based on the individual adventurer. The game is not twitch oriented (like Quake, rewarding reflexes & well trained actions) nor is it strategy oriented (like Civilizations or Warcraft, requiring working on the large picture)

Even among the "Major Roguelikes" it is not uncommon for one or several of the above guidelines to be broken, such as ASCII character display (many offer a graphical-tile alternative) or plotlessness (ADOM is heavy on plot).

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