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Ruts Plays CRAWL: Part 1 of Dead

By Rutskarn
on Wednesday Feb 10, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play


I’ve been playing a classic dungeon-crawling game to loosen up for my upcoming Patreon series, and since I’m still building up a buffer for my next Tuesday LP, I’m doing a little one-off. Probably a little two-off, actually. Let’s see what happens when failure’s even more guaranteed than usual.

Everybody wants the Orb of Zot, and if you don’t, you’re a degenerate and you need to get the hell out of my office.

What does it do? What does it do? What kind of slackjaw rube question is that?

Nobody knows what it does, you knucklehead. Nobody’s seen it. It’s at the bottom of a rotten daemonic middenshaft bursting with the worst things ever. To get the orb you’re going to need to fight more living things than you have seen in your entire life so far and personally kill all of them. Beast by beast. Room by room. Stratum by stratum. The least messed-up things you’ll see will be snakes the size of horses and rats bred exclusively on living flesh, and within ten minutes, you are going to be powerfully nostalgic for such simple pleasures. Then you are going to get lost. Then you are going to get cursed. Soon you are going to starve–and if you’re lucky you’ll starve to death. You’re going to need to do the unheard of, win impossible victories, and get enough hidden evil magic runes to unlock a unholy antechamber with an unsurvivable anteconfrontation followed by a general-purpose brouhaha–and if you’re legendary enough to survive that, congratulations! The Orb is yours. At least for a few seconds, because now you’re going to have to fight back up except this time evil gods are showing up to kill you personally.

So are you gonna sign the contract or are you gonna wuss out on me?

What’s in it for you? You’re asking about the Dungeon of Zot. You’re asking me why you ought to go down into a hole and die. I do not have the answer to that question. That’s why the lease on this office is “annual”, not “until I’m eaten by orcs doing something an idiot would do.If you had an ounce of sanity and any good reason to live, you wouldn’t go–wouldn’t think about going. You wouldn’t even be asking these questions. You’d be meeting somebody nice at a tavern and splitting a roast chicken or you’d be out on your porch whittling a duck. Look, I can promise you what’s in the contract, which is–in the downright apocalyptic eventuality that get the Orb–a percentage of whatever money turns out to be involved in that. In exchange I give you a weapon, some cheap clothes, a breadstick, and a toothbrush. Is it a good weapon? Well, let me point out to you that I’ve never ever gotten one of these back, so you tell me: am I going to give you a good weapon?

There’s my door. If you don’t have some kind of awful, horrible reason why you need to throw your life away trying to get that Orb–you walk right out there and never come back.


That’s what I thought. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Count Roylo Vartolemew the Vampire — Infiltrator and Assassin

446 years old

Last Words Before Entering: “You wrote all that down? You’ll record those as my last words? Very well, I’ll go in now.”

When you don’t breathe anymore, don’t pump blood anymore, you need some kind of rhythm or you go mad. It made sense; you’re supposed to have a kind of music inside of you, something beautiful and natural and always there, and when it’s gone, your good old human head doesn’t know what to do. So Roylo made his own little rhythms any way he could. Tapping his fingers, humming under his breath, grinding his teeth, fake breathing–it felt like pounding a nail with a crocheted hammer. Or sometimes, when he had to be quiet–like now–he just squeezed his hand into a fist. Over and over again.

Nobody down here gave him funny looks about it. They just tried to kill him–if they saw him at all.

Oh, he was still holding onto that goblin.

He let the body slip down his fingers to the ground–sucked the blood absentmindedly off his palm, flicked more blood off his knife. This was getting harder. He’d already had a couple nasty scrapes and he wasn’t going to keep getting the drop on people forever; there’d have to be at least a few times before here and the Orb where he’d have to stop and engage from a distance. He’d have to keep an eye out for a ranged weapon. He wasn’t picky about what kind. Part of the point of this little vacation was to learn new things, new ways to…to…was that another staircase up there? He was making excellent progress. Be out of here in a brisk afternoon if his luck held.

More goblins, snakes, couple of ants. Few doors. Lot of dead ends. Stairs, stairs, stairs. He was getting his exercise today, that was for certain. And then–wasn’t that convenient? Just like he’d asked for. An embroidered sling, beautiful stitching and crisp leather braiding, just lying on the dungeon floor. Who’d leave something like this just lying around? He loaded it–gave it a practice whirl. Oh. Felt like rubbish, actually. Well, he’d hang onto it and maybe later he’d…

That was interesting. He’d meant to put it in his bag…but he was still holding it. Maybe he should just drop it.

How did you drop things?

With dignity, Roylo plucked up a stone in his left hand. Then he let it fall through his fingers. Alright, that had been straightforward enough. How had he done that? Specifically?

He picked the rock back up with his left hand and–concentrating thoughtfully–dropped it again. Then he stared at the sling in his right.

This was interesting.

He found himself interrupted by a slavering monster, which he was beginning to gather was the sort of thing that happened around this neighborhood. He slashed its throat with a practiced motion–no, rather, he flicked the braided leather cord of his sling just under the most surprised goblinoid visage he’d ever laid eyes on. In the disagreement that followed he switched to hurling stones from point-blank range, a tactic that amused him for the rest of his life.



GHARGL THE OGRE — Also Assassin and Infiltrator

32 years old



Dark elves are famous for being assassins. So how many dark elf assassins have you ever seen in your life–one or two? Three?

Now how many ogre assassins have you ever seen?

Quod erat demonstrandum; ogre assassins are sneakier than dark elves. GHARGL would have been a fool to kowtow to stereotypes, tote a club like his brothers, and leave these unrecognized gifts…unrecognized. And GHARGL wasn’t a fool. He’d be the first to admit that most ogres, if not absolutely all of them, were oatmeal-brained idiots who couldn’t be helped. Frankly, he was sick of being around them. The thing that really galled GHARGL wasn’t just that the others were stupid–it was that they were too stupid to know they were stupid. They probably thought HE was dumb. How dumb was that?

They’d see who was dumb when he found the Zot Ball Thing contract guy had drawn a picture of.

Everything had been going his way so far, but his real triumph was finding the Ring. It was the perfect assassin’s ring: it heightened his senses to a level he’d never even dreamed of. Ever since putting it on, even the subtle sounds of his own ogre clodfeet padding down a hallway sounded like war drums. He could hear even the subtlest of his own stealthy movements, all the better to minimize them–and when he stood totally still, he could take comfort in knowing he couldn’t hear any footsteps coming for him.

The ring gave him the only edge he needed: it let him engage the dungeon’s denizens on his terms.


Sdafo the Weird Vinebeast(?) — Warp Mage (??)

??? years old

Last Words Before Entering: “Honestly, nobody cares if I live or die.”

He probably died, I guess. I don’t think he came back out.


Comments (25)

  1. MichaelGC says:

    I looked up the sysreqs for this game and according to this guy: “You can play this on a toaster that’s not plugged in.”

  2. Galad says:

    Funky. I was thinking of the crawl game on steam, but I guess that’s a different one. Looks interesting somehow. Might even try it if I remember about it later tonight before XCOMin

  3. wheals says:

    It’s pretty amazing to see someone like Rutskarn writing about playing a game I’ve helped develop the past few years! This must be how actual video game developers feel when they release a game and it gets talked about.

    The tale of Sdafo is extra-funny since the highest score of all time was a Warper, and the second highest was a Vine Stalker. Clearly he wanted to be the guy badly (maybe he tripped over the corpses of the other people who wanted to be the guy on the way down to D:1 and died >:D).

    • MichaelGC says:

      That’s really cool! :D

      Question – when he’s fighting the something, is that a thing actively identified as A Something, or just an as-yet-unidentified thing temporarily just called ‘something’ because there needs to be something there so you know you’re failing to damage something with your headbutts and aren’t just e.g. trying to nut the wall or a door or something? Er, if you follow me.

      • wheals says:

        Anything you can’t see but you do get a message about gets called “something,” yeah. At one point “it” was used, but that led to even more ridiculous messages like “An aura of fear fills the air! You are terrified of it!”

    • Rutskarn says:

      As I wrote this, I knew both of those things were overpowered because I couldn’t figure out how to use them.

      I got put onto this game by my girlfriend. She plays at a thoughtful collegiate level, has retrieved the orb, and is in the process of doing it with all the runes (she recently got about a dozen before a freak death in Pandemonium). I play at a fingerpainting, field day, just-have-fun speed and have made it about as far as the bottom of the orc mines on a really good day.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        How are you liking the game? I remember picking up the game a while ago, and putting it down pretty quickly when I couldn’t figure out how to make combat more interesting than “Press the attack/shoot/fireball key until bad guys fall down”. I didn’t stick with it long though, does the gameplay evolve further in?

        • Hal says:

          It depends on what you play.

          Some characters can survive (more or less) by hitting stuff until it dies. Most mages or ranged characters will have to devise means of retreating from and avoiding foes at various times.

          I love playing Orcs, because you can become the Orc Messiah and the orcs in the dungeon will swarm to you, even gaining their own experience. Later on, you can even pass gear you’re not using off to powerful orcish allies to boost their usefulness. (Of course, this is mainly useful in the early/mid game. By late game, your allies either get in the way or get crushed by certain foes.)

          • Naota says:

            Curiously enough, one of my easiest games was playing as the Deliverer of Orcs himself, and even featured another player coming into my game to comment on how useless my orc messiah powers were going to be at my level. Needless to say, I summoned my posse of four artifact-wielding veteran orc chieftans on the spot, who proceeded to smash me clear through the Vault, into the endgame, to the orb, and back out again with only a single casualty.

            Poor Borgun, T-boned in a tunnel intersection by two of the aforementioned angry gods, bought me just the time I needed to reach the exit.

  4. Abnaxis says:

    The first header screenshot gives me Dwarf Fortress adventurer’s mode flashbacks…

    • MichaelGC says:

      I like the subtility on show. There’re clear differences between missing, just barely missing, and hitting but doing no damage. Nuanced. (I wonder if you can also wildly miss just for the additional verimissilitude?)

    • Nixitur says:

      “The Human Axeman hacks The Human Pikeman in the left hand with her silver battle axe, tearing apart the muscle and bruising the bone through the large linen left glove!
      You bite The Human Pikeman in the upper body from behind, bruising the muscle and bruising the liver through the large rope reed robe.
      You latch on firmly!”

  5. Cybron says:

    Looking forward to this. I love me some roguelikes. DCSS is a good one.

    You should try ADOM. It’s one of the few roguelikes with a story and the first quests have plenty of weirdness.

    • psivamp says:

      ADOM keeps sucking me back in. I’ve never really gotten into any other hardcore roguelikes.

      I also never beat it. Even save-scumming like a fiend, that game destroys me.

      Part of it is probably that it uses John Conway’s Game of Life as a mechanic and I am drawn to that.

  6. Paul Spooner says:

    Oh man! Linely’s Dungeon Crawl! I got hooked back in the day, save-scummed my way through, and emerged victorious!

    Also… “You should know better than to pick up a {} in a dungeon”.format(random.choice((“sling”,”ring”,”thing”,”potion of oatmeal”)))

    • Hal says:

      Save-Scumming is the way I grabbed every rune and escaped with the orb.

      After achieving that, I really didn’t have any desire to return to it. I’d seen it all.

      That said, I was a Fomor Warrior who worshipped the Shining One, with a divine executioner’s axe . . . I pretty much chewed threw everything.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Yeah, same thing happened to me. I never did the seals, but I took a detour through one of the hell levels and got a taste of it. Still, I think the clowns were the hardest foe… ooh, or the acid hydras.

        • Naota says:

          For me it’s specific player ghosts almost every time. How do you die on D3 as a minotaur fighter in legendary plate mail?

          This is closely followed by huge spike damage hitting my evasion-based characters on a double-fluke coincidence (hit on a 5% chance for max damage), unexpected banishment from ordinary enemies holding weapons of distortion, and discovering that the 27-headed Laernian Hydra really does make 27 separate attacks in one round.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            Yep, those all sound familiar.

            Escaping with the Orb is surprisingly difficult if you linger for too long. Probably how that minotaur bit it.

            • Sleeping Dragon says:

              The online community had (maybe still has?) this thing for a while where some people experienced enough to reliably run at least decent chunks of the dungeon would create characters specifically to level them up and gear them up a bit and then climb back up and suicide on a fairly low level so as to create absolutely monstrous ghosts… Of course this could be an ascend death or some other kind of weirdness.

              On an unrelated, I also went through the game savescumming the hell out of it just to see what things were like, then I tried doing it legit for a while including a brief escapade into playing it online. I have to get back into it one of these days, even though I generally suck at roguelikes.

  7. Cinebeast says:

    Never heard of this, but this was fascinating. Funny, but also genuinely fascinating.

  8. Naota says:

    Rutskarn’s suffering warrants a tale of two of my favourite Dungeon Crawl scenarios of all time:

    My smash-happy ogre once died to a sewer-dwelling crocodile early into the game. There was nothing usual about this sequence of events until his predecessor encountered the very same grating not five minutes later, up to and including his own ghost. And not just any ghost: a braggart-ghost either hopelessly confused, or a thoroughly atrocious liar.

    The Ultimate Life-form began as an experiment to leverage the esoteric slime god Jiyva with a demonspawn that specialized in unarmed combat. The idea was to rack up as many inherent mutations as possible and remove emphasis on the armour slots that would invariably be taken up by the eldritch growths and pulsing pseudopods of his newly-slimed physicality. Jiyva randomly alters a character’s stats and mutations over time, so the risks of dying under a mounting pile of extra thumbs and melting limbs go from high to non-existent.

    Like most things in Dungeon Crawl, this plan almost immediately disintegrated. I had started racking up mutations at a surprising rate… but the plan was to trade in my shaky hands and deteriorating flesh for slimy goodness, and to the contrary I was rapidly and irreversably becoming a god. Look closely at that screenshot for just one of this immortal ur-balrog’s horrifying synergies: his razor-sharp claws cause the enemy to bleed; spilled blood bursts into hellfire in his presence; he is immune to clouds of flame.

    At one point in this game I slashed an elf. It was a superficial wound, barely shaving his health bar, but still I coaxed forward a little trickle of blood onto the tile. Then I stood back, and I watched. There was fire where the elf had been slashed; there was blood where the fire touched his face; and there was more fire where the blood spurted. He abandoned all hope of winning the battle with guile or sorcery and ran screaming down the hall. I followed. Just watching. Watching was sufficient.

    The Ultimate Life-form never gave worship to Jiyva. His natural form was already terror, death, and perfection beyond the reach of the gods. In the end he accrued only a single “bad” mutation – his wands were supernaturally more powerful at the cost of a few drops of energy from a vast pool of magical power he used for nothing else.

  9. Mark says:

    I just wanted to say that description of Roylo’s last minutes was really well-written.

  10. Incunabulum says:

    Soooo – I’ve heard of this before, never played it.

    How does it differ from Nethack? I’ve been playing that since ’85ish (when it was just plain Hack).

    • Akett says:

      Crawl doesn’t like you to sit around grinding or farming forever and it also doesn’t like to do instant “gotcha!” death stuff, though it’s still got a couple things that get pretty close to killing you instantly, such as paralysis or banishment (where you get thrown into the abyss, if this happens to you early on it can get pretty deadly really fast, and if it happens mid game it can drain a lot of your resources to stay alive until you can escape, it’s not fun). It also doesn’t like the idea of there being items or equipment that are so vital to winning that all characters need to get their hands or other various appendages on them to get by. Crawl in general tries to make it so that you never need to know “spoilers” to win, everything you encounter has a description you can read to find out everything you need to know about it, including monsters and what types of damage they resist and exactly what spells they are likely to murder you with, though it’s still got some issues with telling you some numbers, like the ranges of damage monsters can do to you with attacks or their exact AC and EV, which are things you can look up online.

      Though I’ll be honest, I don’t actually know firsthand that Nethack does the things I accuse it of, I just know that when people ask that question in the Crawl tileschat (if you play online your game can be watched and there’s a little chat client where people can tell you if you’re doing something wrong, ask you newbie questions, or just generally shoot the breeze) that’s the usual response.

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