On a Lankhmar Roguelike

When I was in high school, I discovered a game for MS-DOS entitled “Hack.”

The concept of Hack was quite simple — you were an adventurer, you had a dog, you went down into a dungeon in search of pillage and plunder, and you fought all sorts of monsters along the way. It was a dungeon crawl, nothing more.

I loved it.

I wasn’t especially good at Hack. The best game, that I can recall, had me reach the 22nd or 23rd dungeon. Often, I’d get killed — or worse, starve to death — by the fifth of sixth. After a time, though, I’d routinely reach the fifteenth dungeon or so.

The game along these lines that I really liked? Larn. Very few people have ever heard of Larn, though. I usually fared worse in Larn than I did in Hack, but Larn had one advantage — there was a nice “cheat” mode (called Wizard Mode) that would amp your character up to the max to make exploring the dungeons easier.

In college I found NetHack, an updated version of Hack, with more bells and more whistles. I’d played it a few times, but I moved on.

Later, I found Angband. And though I’ve installed it — and even look for updated versions every few months — have I spent more than five hours with the game? Ever? It seems unlikely.

Hack and NetHack are vaguely Dungeons & Dragons-like. Generic dungeon crawls. Angband and variants like Tales of Middle-Earth are more specifically Tolkien-derived.

With the Angband code, players have been rewriting the code over the years to create variants. Don’t want Tolkien’s monsters? Fine, why not replace them with creatures out of Roger Zelazny’s Amber or Terry Pratchett’s Discworld? Is Angband not quite Tolkien-enough for you? Well, that can be fixed, too.

So it occurred to me. A Lankhmar Roguelike.

My love for Fritz Leiber’s tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser is well-known. And it seems to me that Fafhrd and the Mouser and their tales of pillage and plunder across the landscape of Lankhmar would be well suited to a dungeon crawl game of some stripe.

I, of course, would have neither the aptitude nor the tools to create such a beast, to replace Tolkien’s settings and monsters with Leiber’s settings and monsters in the game. And for all I know, it’s already been done, the creation of a Lankhmar roguelike. (Though if it has, I’ve yet to find it online. My Google-fu may have failed me here.)

It’s a nice idea, though. Who knows? Maybe some intrepid programmer, looking for a challenge, will read this and think, “Hey, I could do that.” 🙂

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