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Game of the Day: Angband

Date/Time Permalink: 06/02/07 08:19:15 am
Category: Linux Gaming

If you've not played Angband or its variants, sprint, don't waddle, to Thangorodrim and get thee thy new game. It is a stupendous implementation of the text-mode RPG game, with a highly authentic Lord-of-the-Rings flavor. Here is an absolutely random assortment of mutterings I've burbled about the game, originally done with the intention of a text file (before the days of blogs, my young listeners!) affectionately titled:

Uncle Bilbo's tips for Angband

Hobbit Rogues
Hobbit Rogues are played different from every other character, it is often said, but different in what way? They are, first and foremost, thieves. They have some meager fighting skill, excellent stealth and perception, saving throws that give them the luck of the Devil himself, charisma to charm the shopkeepers, and detection spells. Let's say you accompany a Hobbit Rogue into the dungeon.

While you heft your sword and begin slashing at orcs, the rogue hangs behind and casts detection spells. He scurries about, often unseen by all but the keenest monsters. He has been on the level two minutes, and has already gathered the best equipment to be found there. He's bored now, and wants to go downstairs. Level after level, he seems not to care as much for experience. Every time he's attacked by something, he either runs away from it with his (+10 speed) boots and (+5 speed) ring, or he phase doors away and shoots it with his seeker bolts. Should he encounter something really nasty and pissed, like an ancient multi-hued dragon, he merely waves his staff of *destruction*, glumly notes that this left no treasure, and slips on his decursed ring of teleportation and blinks away, leaving you to tunnel out of the rubble.

Just as a warrior's main skill is his brawn, and a mage's main skill is her magic, a rogue's main skill is gaining the best equipment! When it's time to kill monsters, the warrior might hack and slash, the mage may cast fire-balls, but the rogue just pulls something from his bag of tricks. He always has money, and so never misses an opportunity to purchase plus-stat potions. He eats only Elvish waybread, turning his nose up at any other food. His visits to town are the most lengthy, as he never misses the black market (and indeed, seems more welcome there than others), or his home, where he is restocking his goods from a seemingly endless supply and squirreling away artifacts for later use. The successful rogue's hoard is the envy of Angband!

Strategic Tricks for various classes

The Long-Distance Attack Trick
Get a cap of telepathy, a staff, rod, or prayer of enlightenment, and a ranged weapon. This way, you can often see and shoot at monsters from as far as twenty-five tiles away, killing even ancient dragons before they can get to you.

The Money-saving ID Trick
For any potions/scrolls/mushrooms found in the first ten levels by a new character, I just sell them to the shopkeepers. You miss out on getting the best price for the good stuff, but you also save the expense of ID'ing worthless items. I also enjoy hearing the shopkeepers' fuss when I get them to pay 14 gold for a potion of sleep! It works out in the long run, and the good stuff will be recognized when you chance upon the same item next time. As you advance in levels, it becomes more feasible to ID everything when it's more affordable or you have more spell experience.

The Tunnel instead of Searching Trick.
Does your searching tank? If you know for sure that there HAS to be a door there, you can always tunnel into a suspected hidden door. If it's there, you'll find it quickly. If it isn't, you got some exercise. This works especially well with warriors.

The Charisma Trick
Keep the best +Charisma amulet you can find at your home in town, and switch with whatever amulet you wear in the dungeon before going to the stores to do business. The savings add up, as charisma gains you a higher price when selling, as well as a lower price when buying. Don't forget to switch back before returning! Amulets of charisma do not impress Wormtongue.

The Sleep Monster/ Orc Pit Trick
Gain Sleep Monster through spell, wand, or staff. When you encounter an orc pit, don't attack until you find (or can create with Stone to Mud) a long corridor leading away from it. Now "knock" on the door and flee into the corridor. Fight orcs until your hit-points get low, then put the first one in line to sleep. Now scoot out of sight and rest yourself until you are back to full hit points. Go back and renew your conquest. Repeat until you're out of orcs! Watch out for certain orcs, such as uraks, who are immune to sleep. Snagas never are. Also, beware of archer orcs, such as half-orcs, who may fire an arrow, killing your sleeping orc before pursuing you!

The Ghost Trick
When you're attacked by a ghost, move into the middle of a large, empty room. The ghost will follow you, and it will be easier to kill without any walls to hide in.

The Multiple Runes of Protection Trick
Monsters can break through glyphs of warding, but it takes time for most. So just lay down several, rest until your mana recovers, and then go fight.

The Macro Trick
Angband being the most keyboard-happy game ever, I look for finger-saving shortcuts wherever I can. One set of keys guaranteed to be useful (and available) is the function keys (F1 thru F12). Since they're organized into groups of four anyway, I try to keep them sorted by general purpose. For instance, for a mage I might save F1 to F4 for offensive spells, F5 to F8 for defensive spells, F9 to F12 for detection, etc. Run out of keys? You can also set a macro to (shift + F1-12) and get twelve more macros! For another instance, for warriors and such who have no identify spell, I set up one macro as (r-n-*). Then I inscribe my ID scrolls with (@n) where "n" is whatever number I pick for that purpose. That way, at the press of a single key, I can pick from the list of unknown items to identify, or "Esc" to cancel if there isn't anything there I want to waste a scroll on. For mages, of course, the macro is (mcf*).

The Stash Trick
Murphy's law of town: The item that you see for sale all the time suddenly won't be in stock the one time you desperately need it.
Things to stock up on in your home:

  • Potions of restoring, whatever attributes you don't have sustained.
  • Extra ammo for bows, etc.
  • Scrolls of *Identify*. I buy them whenever I see one, because they're never available when I need one for the Artifact I've found.
  • A Charisma amulet for shopping. This can come in handy when you find a high-price item and you're just 200 gold short of affording it.
  • Extra spell/prayer books, just the most common four (the rest are all element-proof). For mages, by the time I get down to level fifty of the dungeon and below, I just carry five copies of each of the four lower books on me, and restock from home. Fire breathing creatures just happen!
  • Items for later use: say I just found a +5 ring of strength. But right now, my life depends on my +constitution and +wisdom rings. I stash the +strength ring, in case I later find an item (say a suitable +attributes cap) that will render one of the other rings superfluous. You can always sell it later!

The Banishment Trick
Creatures that never drop any treasure at all (molds and hounds, for instance), I just banish from the level when I get to it, as long as my hit points are holding out. Then I rest back up to full before venturing. If you have banish, have tons of HP, and are a high enough level, there's simply no reason to deal with hordes of hounds breathing all over your equipment when you want to concentrate on taking out the big boys. At VERY high levels I even banish the orcs, since by the time you're level 50, a snaga isn't going to drop anything even vaguely interesting.

The High Mage/Mass Banishment Vault Trick
For advanced mages, I just get near a vault and cast mass banishment, as long as I can't detect any creatures valuable for experience/item drops. This may leave a Unique or two to deal with, but gets a lot of the riff-raff out of the way where they can't interfere with scooping up the treasure. Keep in mind that most of a mage's higher spells not only destroy monsters, but most of the nearby items as well! Rest up between banishment and conquering the vault, of course!

The Detect Enchantment Trick
Since mages don't have the detect objects spell like rogues get, it's worth noting that detect enchantment will at least find all the magical items in the area. Who cares about the plain stuff, anyway?

The Polymorph in Town Trick
Tired of hacking through a squint-eyed rogue just to get through town, only to have him drop a lousy potion for your trouble? Polymorph can turn the town into quite an interesting place, and dungeon creatures drop better items. This works well if there's a high-price desirable item in the store and you're hanging around town killing anything that moves until you have enough money. If things get out of hand (like explosive-breeding monsters) you can always make a dash for the stairs and come right back up BEFORE the shops update and you lose that item.

The Specialty Stores Trick
Whenever you can, sell your items to the store that pays the best for that item. You can always test a shopkeeper to find out the price, pressing "esc" to cancel the deal. As a rule, I sell ammo, cloaks, and shovels at the general store, priestly weapons, scrolls, and potions at the temple, etc. Whatever you do, avoid selling anything at the black market, unless you can get a better price for something due to variations in price limits. And pay attention to the maximum price of each shopkeeper. If you're selling a mace of extra attacks, for instance, the temple showing a price cap of 30,000 would surely be a better bet than the weapon smith at a maximum of 5000. These prices change with the coming and going of shopkeepers.

The Zero-failure Spells/Prayers Trick
Yes, if your Priest/Mage has maximize stats mode, stats at their highest (where the relevant stat shows a "!" on your stat list, indicating that it cannot be increased any higher) and a +intelligence/wisdom ring, then 95% of your spells or prayers can achieve zero percent failure rate! However, the higher the spell/prayer, the more likely it will stubbornly cling to a failure percentage. I've never seen this work without both the maxed stat and at least a +5 to stat ring.

The Black Market Restock Trick
If the black market's list is only showing eight or fewer items all priced at 5000 gold or less, and I have the money to spare, I buy out the store. This forces the black market to restock, and I can sell the items elsewhere. Useful for players with gobs of money who are looking for specific items.

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