Posted by: duskfire | June 11, 2011

Roguelikes on Linux, part 1

Roguelikes are an interesting subset of role-playing games. In nearly all of them, you only control a single character, the graphics are either small tiles or (usually) colored text (known as ASCII), and the usual “story” is that you have to enter a dungeon of many levels, fight the monsters in it while you go deeper and deeper to the end, then either defeat the main “boss” of the dungeon or take a specific treasure item and return all the way back to the top. By fighting the monsters you gain abilities and gold, as well as useful magic items that you carry with you – scrolls, wands, and potions typically.

The most distinct feature of a roguelike is that if your character is killed, you cannot reload a “saved” copy and keep going – you must start the game all over from the beginning. When you save the game, it shuts down after, and restarting the game will delete the “save”. This is regarded as a challenge to learn to play well, and even after years, some people haven’t won a game more than a few times. They are turn-based and the key to winning – or at least getting further – is learning the best tactics to use for each class and race combination.

There is plenty of replay value in these games, too, since you select from several races besides humans, several professions (fighter types, thief or archer types, and spell caster types), and the dungeon is completely randomized for each new game. In addition, the development teams behind each game have usually focused on gameplay and complexity, rather than graphics.

The games listed here can all be found in the Ubuntu repositories.

Angband – One of the oldest and best-known roguelikes, there is plenty of online information to help you play, including forums. There is a documentation file in the repos as well. Starts from the command line. Dungeon seems monotone, but the town has colors. There is no “tiled” version. When you quit you are asked to confirm. This is strongly recommended. Wiki and downloads for other operating systems are featured here. Forums, screenshots, and much more information about variants are at this website.

Zangband – Angband has over a dozen active variants, but this is the only one in the repositories. It requires an 80×24 screen (opens in same terminal you start it). Full color Ascii, grey background. Recommended.

Dungeon Crawl (and Crawl w/tiles) – This is best known as “Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup”, and has become one of the most popular roguelike games lately. The version is the repos is only one version behind the current one. When installed, it appears in the Games menu. Highly recommended, and if you are new to roguelikes this is one of the 2 you should start with. The DCSS website has more information, current versions, and links to related sites.

Tome version 2.3.5 – “TOME” used to stand for Tales of Middle Earth, before the author recoded the game engine entirely and decided to set it in a wholly original world. The repository version is an older one that is still set in Middle Earth. You have to start it from terminal. It opens 7 extra terminals to display game information and makes you verify quitting with “@” sign. If you like the idea of a tough role-playing game set in Middle Earth, try this one; however the newest version does have a Linux port. The author’s website has news, a blog, forums, and a wiki.

Gearhead and Gearhead2 – Gearhead is a science fictional (giant robot) ASCII only roguelike. So is Gearhead 2. It is not real clear how to play. The cursor flickers and won’t stop – maybe buggy? Gearhead 2 does play, and seems to have a storyline. The website shows versions with good graphics, and I don’t know why they are not in the repositories.

Nazghul/Haxima – Nazghul is the engine, Haxima is the only game that it runs so far. This one is full color, and opens windowed. It is intentionally reminiscent of the early Ultima games, Ultima 1 – 5. The website is here. It seems to have a lot of potential, and hopefully other game writers will take advantage of the platform.

Omega – An old rpg also on Windows. Starts in terminal, by entering “omega-rpg”. It’s monochrome. This game seems to have much more of a story than most roguelikes, and although it features permanent death, there is a great deal more to do than in most roguelikes (including quests). I found out about it from a blogger who is known as the CRPG Addict. He did a playthrough of the game starting here.  Give this one a try, it is an interesting blend between the usual roguelike and a computer role playing game.

Powder – After installing, you run from the Games menu. You can choose to play fullscreen. It features tiled graphics and uses the mouse. Quite playable. Unlike nearly all other roguelikes, the graphics show equipped items on your character! Highly recommended and a good intro for beginners – don’t let the graphics discourage you, the author ported this to the Nintendo GBA and the iPhone.

Scourge – Another rpg that you find in the Game Menu after installation. It starts fullscreen but options allow changing this. Graphics are full 3d and look good. You set up your character before playing, and have a choice of 5 classes, male or female, and 7 or 8 models for your appearance.

Slash’em – This is a basic version with monochrome text, but inside a very large window. The SDL and GTK versions don’t seem to be any better. Slash’em is a variation of Nethack with more monsters and items. There is a graphical version, but it isn’t in the repositories. That version resembles the tiled version of Nethack. I can’t recommend this basic version of Slash’em.

Egoboo – Unfortunately, I never got to try this one. Online pictures show it to be a fully 3d dungeon crawler. It starts full-screen, with extremely sluggish mouse movement. When I tried to set options for better resolution, I saw that the settings were by default on the highest settings. I didn’t bother even playing the game – it was too annoying to move the mouse. Play Soulfu instead. [the newest version of this may work better.]

Glhack – I think this is a variant of Nethack, but I never got it to run – sets desktop to 800×600 and closes. Apparently buggy and I never figured out a fix. Not recommended. [the newer versions of this may work better]

Nethack – Another of the “classic” roguelikes, you start it from the terminal. There are 3 or 4 versions – ASCII only (with only a few colors), and an XNethack and  Qthack version (both tiled, and they use the same save files. Choose whichever you think looks best). In the tiled version you need to use the mouse to move. Highly recommended.

Soulfu – This is made by the same person who made Egoboo, however this one actually runs smoothly. Graphics are pretty good. Found out from the site’s forums that you have to set controls before playing the game for the first time.

In my next article, I will discuss roguelikes that either have Linux versions not available in the repositories, or only have Windows versions but will run with no problems using Wine.



  1. I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days..

  2. You don’t actually have to use the mouse to move in the titled version of Nethack; You likely just have your keyboard set wrong in the config file; Each version keeps its own config file, and you likely had it set to the wrong type of numberpad, or set to use the old-style movement keys.

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