Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup v0.10: “Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus”

By: Paul Eres

On: March 5th, 2012

TIGSource hasn’t covered Crawl since 2007, back with Linley’s Dungeon Crawl, and it’s changed a lot since then. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is the living branch of Linley’s Dungeon Crawl (the original branch hasn’t been updated since 2003). Most fans of roguelikes have played it or at least know about it, but for those seeking to get into roguelikes this is a good place to start. Ortoslon got me into this particular game, and it became the first roguelike I ever finished (albeit as a Minotaur berserker, one of the easiest combinations to beat the game with).

The new update added (among many new features) a new species, octopodes, which can wear eight rings, but can’t wear armor except hats. In Crawl, species matters a lot more than starting class, class just determines which skills and items you start with, but is non-binding because you can always learn other skills and find other items: so you can begin as an elven fighter but then find a spellbook and decide to focus on magic anyway. Your species determines how fast you can increase different skills (varying from -5 to +5 learning rates), your movement speed, body size, metabolism, whether you have horns or claws or other features, and so on. If you get into the game you’ll probably try out all the species at least once, but then stick with a few favorites.

What I like about roguelikes is, through freeing themselves from the requirement of a lot of graphical resources, how many tiny little detailed rules they can have. They don’t need to draw dodge animations when they want to add the ability to dodge, they don’t need to animate the octopode’s tentacles encircling the enemy when they want to give the octopode that ability, they don’t need to animate lightning bouncing off of walls when they add that feature in. It sort of makes those of us who do have those constraints a bit jealous; e.g. when I want to add a new type of creature to a game, it’s not as easy as just coding it in, I also need to get an actual sprite for it.

That said this game does have a “tiled” version of the game, which I do recommend playing; you don’t have to play in pure ASCII unless you really want to, the two versions of the game are identical except for graphics. But even the tiled version is still very limited graphically of course (no walk animations, etc.), and has no sound effects or music at all (which I do hope they add one day, since music helps with immersion).

My main criticism of the game (although this can be a good thing for many people) is that a lot of information about it has to be either taught to you by someone (as in my case with Ortoslon) or looked up through forums, wikis, or other databases of information. The game’s manual is good and almost required reading if you don’t have someone guiding you through the game, but even that doesn’t include everything you would want to know about the game. Even several weeks into playing the game I was still learning about the game’s mechanics, because there are just so many of them. Its formulas have a lot of variables: dodging, for instance, is based on the enemy’s accuracy, your body size, your equipment’s evasion penalties and bonuses, your dodging skill, whether you are paralyzed or not, whether you are standing in water and are a Merfolk, whether you are flying and a Tengu, whether your opponent is invisible (and you can’t see invisible) or not, if you are “delayed” (busy carrying out a multi-turn action), etc. — and even after all that you still have a set 2.5% chance that an attack will miss regardless of any of the above factors, or hit regardless of any of the above factors. It’s probably not a coincidence that I learned about this game from a math major. Ortoslon also tells me that very late game (trying to get all the runes) is more boring than just completing the standard game, because the optional difficult dungeons don’t have much variety or don’t require as much strategy as the main part of the game, but I have not tried them yet to verify this.

Despite those problems it’s still by far the best and most approachable roguelike I’ve played (although I’ve only played like two of them — NetHack was the other). It also annually gets either first or second in “best roguelike” voting contests in the roguelike community (DoomRL is its main competitor there). So if you’ve been meaning to give roguelikes a try, enjoy a challenge, don’t mind losing a few hours of work repeatedly (this game has permadeath), and have a few weeks of spare time to engross yourself into this game’s rules, it can be very rewarding to do that. There’s a lot of great parts to this game; this review hasn’t even touched on many of the most interesting parts of this game, like “uniques” (one of a kind enemies), the game’s religion system, the mutations system, the food system (some species require just meat or just plants, or have a preference for one or the other), or fighting ghosts of your previous dungeon attempts (which are just as strong as you were when you died).

  • Davioware

    Two octopus posts in a row. Coincidence? Conspiracy.

  • Emailtrollbait

    i cellapod that aswell

  • Jotaf

    DCSS is great, but if you’re not into complicated stats you should try out Brogue. Though many people label it as a newbie-friendly roguelike, it gets pretty hardcore after some levels! Oh and the ASCII actually looks nice (it’s not limited to 16 colors).

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    fun fact: in one game, Paul died to Urug after killing Mennas

  • Nillo

    The game simply won’t run for me. Apparently, it’s trying to create a directory in the “Application Data” folder and fatally crashes after failing to do so.  Is it possible to make it save in the game’s own directory instead of some other place? I’ve had this problem with other games before. I always prefer to have my saves in a game’s directory and not anywhere else.

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    try the zipped version instead of the Windows installer

  • http://twitter.com/tametick Ido Yehieli

    Can also try the web version.

  • Arucard

    I could never get the installer to work, zip files always worked fine though.

  • Gnome

    Excellent stuff!

  • LocalWizard

    I like this game I like it a lot,
    And you will like it as well.
    You can swim and starve and fly and rot,
    And even eat pizza in hell.

    You can be a vampire,
    And drink tonnes of blood,
    You could be a sludge elf
    And do things with mud.

    If you want to have horns,

    You could be a minotaur,

    In the next room – a Hydra!

    Quick, close the door!

    You could be a mummy,
    And never eat or tire,
    You could master black magic!
    You could also catch fire…

    You could be a knight,
    Brave and true,
    Until you meet Sigmund,
    On level two.

    You can be quiet and stealthy,
    A kobold Assassin or thief,
    Until you backstab a golem
    And it gives you grief.

    You can be peaceful,
    And never eat meat
    Change your mind by the Lair,
    And kill lots of sheep.

    If you really want,

    You can worship a slime,

    But choose Cheibriados,

    You can then control time!

    You can worship Fedhas,
    To grow plants and weeds,
    Or worship Sif Muna,
    For more books than you need.

    Worship Trog to kill your enemies,
    Until they’re all gone.
    If you like to just have fun then die,
    All glory to Xom

  • Tom

    Derek: “My main criticism of the game (although this can be a good thing for many people) is that a lot of information about it has to be either taught to you by someone (as in my case with Ortoslon) or looked up through forums, wikis, or other databases of information.”
    Wow, you should say this for at least 80% of indie games, and 99.9% of roguelikes…lol this game even has a Manual, dude. I guess the guys making DCSS aren’t your friends. 

  • http://laserbrainstudios.com Christian Knudsen

    Do you spell Derek p-a-u-l-e-r-e-s?

  • Hartman

    What is your major malfunction, numbnuts? Didn’t Mommy and Daddy show you enough attention when you were a child?

  • Anonymous

    derek and i have totally different writing styles, i’m not sure why you’d confuse us. i also did mention the manual, and said that that feature can be seen as a good thing, so i’m not sure why you’re so upset about it

    i just think it’s a good thing to try to point out the potential good and the bad of a game. that that’s among the *worst* that can be said about the game can be considered a good thing

  • necronomist

    DCSS is indeed one of the best active roguelikes-however, its main ‘competitor’ in the annual Ascii Dreams survey is TOME 4, which is possibly one of the best tactical RPGs ever released. It also has graphics and sound!

    DoomRL is also great and it has recently released a graphical version as well. 

  • Moczan

    I was never really into roguelikes, just could get into them with complicated controls schemes etc. but I sit down, did tutorials, read manual and I actually enjoyed this game a lot! Now Paul, give me back my productivity!

  • Josef

    Dear RinkuHero,

    I don’t mean to criticise you, but please tell me this. Why do you never EVER capitalise your sentences when you comment?
    Is the shift key such a terrible thing? I’m sorry if it turns out that you only have the use of one of your hands – in which case this is forgivable and I apologise.

    But if not, please could you start using capital letters in your sentences? I mean, you don’t seem to have a problem using punctuation so I am mystified as to why you don’t like using capital letters.

    Why don’t you do this? WHY?! Perhaps I’m the only person that notices or cares, but it doesn’t make any sense! Why do you only type in lowercase?! I need to know. Please tell me and I’d be very greatful,

    Thank you,


    XXX (kiss kiss kiss (yeah that’s right I went there baby))

  • Harkejuice

    i agree wholeheartedly, those DCSS and Tome4 have a permanent place on every computer in the house.

  • Anonymous

    i don’t see how this is related to dungeon crawl at all, but my answer can be found in my formspring; you can go look it up if you wish, as i don’t like answering the same questions repeatedly

  • Anonymous

    a lot of the hotkeys are optional, i think this is one of the few roguelikes that you can play with just the mouse if you wanted to

  • GGringo

    Two octopus posts in a row. Coincidence? Conspiracy.

  • Josef

    OK, thanks for directing me to the answer (although I kind of wish you did not (HOLY SHIT)). It isn’t related to Dungeon Crawl and I didn’t mean to single you out. But now the people you mentioned are in my little black book. Hopefully they will read this and it will encouage them to press shift occasionally.

    It’s a personal irritation due to the fact it makes people look stupid or somehow mentally deficient when they are not.
    Myself (and possibly other people) associate typing only in lower case with very young children or people that are just learning to use a computer.

    The justification you gave was that typing without capital letters is marginally faster. Holding down the shift key a couple of times when making comments surely doesn’t take that long? I think it will be worth the extra milliseconds just for the extra clarity.

    But I certainly didn’t mean to offend you. I apologise.

  • http://about.me/ortoslon ortoslon

    is the book’s title in title case

  • http://crawl.develz.org/ MarvinPA

    I think the fact that a lot of things can be hard to figure out without looking up details elsewhere is absolutely a fair criticism, even if lots of other games have the same issue. It’s certainly something we’ve tried to address to some extent with the tutorial and updated hints modes, but there’s still lots that could be improved. (And note that we don’t really consider it a problem if you can figure out how something works by dying to it once :P).

  • Anonymous

    i think it only makes people look “stupid” to a special subclass of people, not to most people. i wouldn’t necessarily want those kind of people to like me anyway — it seems like a terrible kind of person who judges someone based on so little (those people are much more worthy of going into a black book), and an even worse type of person who would change their habits just to please that subclass

    speaking of which, that black book probably isn’t going to be so little considering that probably more people type informally on the internet than formally. it might be more efficient to have a black book for those authoritarians / people with OCD (those are my genuine beliefs about such people) who do everything properly as they are told to do in school. often such people (although not you in this case) even use two spaces after periods, because they were taught that way, even though that’s actually the incorrect way to use spaces (it applies to typewriters, but not to printed text)

    i also don’t think it’s true that that class consists of people only learning how to type, it consists of basically everyone who uses a computer. particularly in instant messenger and IRC and email; i have internet friends who have been using computers and typing even longer than i have had one (which is since 1994), and are older than me, and are more intelligent than me, and still primarily use lower case over instant messenger and in email

    and i don’t think it’s clearer to use capitals; i actually think that writing is clearer and more aesthetic without them. the majority of the world’s writing systems do not have the capitalization system at all and do fine. but i’d like to actually see tests on this; they’d probably be easy to set up if you cared to try (read a passage of writing in the two styles and see which you get through faster). i’ve read so much text in both styles that i suspect i read equally fast both ways. as for how much time they use, i *have* set up tests (i can estimate that this comment would have taken me 1.3 times as long to have written if it used capitalization, which is a good lost minute or so — and are you really saying it’d take you *more* than a minute longer to read this comment than if it were capitalized, or that, if it did, your minute is worth more than my minute?), and the time difference it makes is significant, and not worth pleasing people like this e.e. cummings critic who let such little things get in the way of beauty (quoted from e.e. cummings’s wikipedia page):

    Critic Edmund Wilson commented “Mr. Cummings’s eccentric punctuation is, also, I believe, a symptom of his immaturity as an artist. It is not merely a question of an unconventional usage: unconventional punctuation may very well gain its effect… the really serious case against Mr. Cummings’s punctuation is that the results which it yields are ugly. His poems on the page are hideous.”

  • Anonymous

    one suggestion would be to, perhaps if just in the tutorial mode, have gui elements have mouse-over text which explain them when you hover the mouse over them. for instance, the player could move the mouse over the evasion stat, or the short sword skill, and get a pop-up explanation of what affects it and what it effects

  • Benjamin Porter


  • Anonymous

    eh… that assumes i’m not actually a retard (or at least that i don’t want to appear to be one) — both of which are untrue

  • Guest

    There is no excuse for sloppy typing. Even though you see it as an informal thing, I see it as plain rude and sloppy. This is how I see you.

  • Guest

    Capitalizing letters makes it easier for people to read your posts, by not doing so you inconvenience your readers.

  • Guest

     Also, it takes you one minute to take away one minute from every single person who reads it. Think about that for a moment. 1 person spends more time or 20 people spend the same amount of time. Is that fair?

  • Anonymous

    but — i don’t deny being rude or sloppy either…

    (it’s also kind of funny that someone who opened up a discussion by calling someone a retard is concerned about the rudeness of others)

  • Anonymous

    i doubt even 20 people will read my comments. i do capitalize my posts here, as you can see in the entry above (although i don’t capitalize my tigsource posts specifically *for* that reason)

    and i never claimed it’s fair, it’s entirely selfish

  • Guest

     I hate you less now.

  • Josef

     One day you will learn to capitalise your sentences. Perhaps it will be night… Perhaps it will be day…. But you will start to feel… …Naughty.

    You will say to yourself, “Hey, why not? I’m a Cool Guy. Just… one letter…. It can’t hurt. Can it?”

    At first it might just be a capital letter here… a capital letter there…

    And sooner or later it will start to feel good.

    Unable to resist for much longer, you will cave into the temptation. It will burst out of you all at once, in a furious eruption the like of which you have never experienced before, those capital letters that you have held back for so long.

    You will cave in and gorge yourself on the joy of capitalised sentences and you WILL succumb.

    You will start ruthlessly hammering out sentence after sentence of gloriously punctuated sentences marked by big bold capital letters.
    You will not be able to hold back or stop yourself, turned into a mere slave to your repressed capitalised desire.

    Your shift key might not even be able to cope with your new found capitalisation.

    And through the mists of your newfound lust, you will notice something. The people that neglected you before, familiar faces of friends and loved ones. Just as you are about to give into your thirst and reach for that CAPS button, they will reach out. And you will reach for them, I know you have the strength inside you.

    You will look up at them. And you will smile. You will laugh. You will cry.

    With open arms they will welcome you once again and you will start your life anew, with responsible use of capital letters.

  • Anonymous

    doesn’t matter to me either way. it’s like — what tangible benefit or penalty comes to me from anonymous tigsource commenters liking or hating me? i guess maybe one day, if they ever finish a game, they might not send me a review copy or something

  • Anonymous

    the implication here is that people who don’t capitalize never capitalize; but that’s clearly wrong in pretty much 100% of cases. most people capitalize in formal situations and don’t care as much in informal ones (just like not everyone who uses slang uses slang in their college papers). if you go to ortoslon’s channel or website he capitalizes normally, it’s only in his comments that he doesn’t; same with me. in my case i’ve even written entire books with capitalization

  • Josef

    My dear RinkuHero,

    I am honestly confused as to why you replied to my post, but mark my words, I am flattered.

    As you (quite rightly) guessed my post was indeed an allegorical story. Kudos to you, my young Gnomish ally. However, a tingling feeling in my glands (yes, quite) tells me there was a slight miscommunication on my part as a result of my woefully hamfisted attempt at communicating to you.

    The real essence of what I was trying to tell you in the Internet equivalent of guttural and primitive grunts is that we are walking a fine line. One that is precariously stretched out with full lowercase and its on one side and full Caps lock on the other.

    It is not so much that the selective abandonment of capital letters in sentences bothers me, my chief interest (and indeed my profession) is in fact the *tension* between the full lowercase and caps lock approaches.

    My interest and concern for your full lowercase comments, stems from my work as a carer for those that put off capital letters in TIGsource comments until later in life. I have seen what repression and the inevitable self-harm that this can cause.  If you think this is a joking matter, you are quite wrong.

    But in spite of that, your reply has done more than think. Not only did you prove me false. Your reply has relieved me.
    And I mean that literally as well as just a figure of speech.

    By writing the sentences that TIGsource *needs*, rather than the sentences that TIGsource *deserves* it is perfectly clear to me now.

    Quite frankly, I was a fool not to notice it earlier and as a result I have massively humilated myself on TIGsource with my empty accusations and foolish words.

    And that, my tiddlywink, is why my esteem for you (and your commrades) is so very high.

    Thank you.

    Yours apologetically,


  • Anonymous

    that’s too long of a comment to read (and yeah this is hypocritical since i also wrote a long comment here)

  • Tiganon

    I want stone soup on my tablet.  It’s my favorite roguelike.

  • Anonymous

    it’s open source, so you could potentially port it yourself

  • Dialock

     He said you are a cool dude and capitals are for sane people.

  • Eino Keskitalo

    Criticism is a very valuable thing in reviews, and clarity (as in having no need for spoilers to play the game) is a design goal for DCSS. Pointing out flaws like this is very appreciated. Of course, tastes vary here too – I haven’t felt the need to know all parts of the, say, dodging equation to play a character that relies on evasion. But sure, I’ve looked a lot of other information up while playing.


  • Eino Keskitalo

     This is a good idea that has come up before – it’s really just a matter of someone coding it up. Thanks for bringing it up again, it helps that it comes up from different directions.


  • http://twitter.com/mcozma Mihai Cozma

    This isn’t fair. I’ve been looking for a while to play a more user friendly rogue-like (with mouse that is), and now I can’t work on my game because I can’t stop playing this :P

  • P in NY

    The pedantry of the comments is pure comedy. I tend to type with caps purely out of habit, and lacking the need to rebel and I see the reasoning behind the complaints but they are unjust, The simple matter is that inferring mental deficiency from someone’s writing style is bound to be erroneous.

    It isn’t even really possible to deduce the eventual level of education of a typist solely from the style used. I have friends who are way more educated than myself and are also quite a bit smarter than me who type like this “r u thre? cus I wanna cum ovr…” which generally makes my headache but is perfectly intelligible with a little bit of acuity. But as the saying goes “Feed the trolls at your own risk, no refunds, no tikki, no laundry.”

    The review seems accurate though perhaps I would add an underline to the part about dying. A lot. This game has caused many a hairpulling/screaming hysterically session. Yep roguelikes often have this in common. I agree that DCSS’s main competitor has to be Tome 4 on T-engine.

    Also, the similarity between tome and dcss visually speaking is striking though the games developed quite independently (I was a tome tester/player for a long long time, though never very good at it and not one of the more active ones at that.) Makes me wonder if they have an artist in common (or perhaps ones with ties to each other.)

    Would love to read your tome 4 review if you get around to it. (Or have done it and I missed it.) I ended up here, seeking more indepth ideas regarding playing Octopodes because of the very thing you complained about: The strategy and detailed information about them is still obscure (not clear enough, yet devs. :)) to need to read up on them, AFTER hours of playing them.