“You Found a Trap!”

25 Casualties in the Pits of Angband.

Angband is a dungeon exploration game first developed (1990) by students at the University of Warwick, based heavily on Moria (1985), and expanded, improved, ported, and maintained, since then, by a long list of enthusiasts. As in Rogue, its ancestor, and Nethack, its cousin, Angband’s graphics are purely symbolic and its gameplay is notoriously unforgiving. Death is permanent and mistakes are irrevocable. Here are several examples.

  1. Had fun killing monsters and collecting treasure until it was time to return to the surface. Rations eaten by a ghost. Explored two different incarnations of level five, still no way up. Weak from hunger. Died grasping at random potions for nourishment.

  2. Stumbled onto a pit of slimes and was immediately blinded, confused, afraid, hallucinating. Somehow made it away from the entrance, whereupon several mushrooms phased and jinxed me again. Armor quickly corroded away; internal organs soon followed.

  3. Trapped in a permanent haze of confusion against a bronze dragon. Wasted so many turns healing, only to be confused again immediately, that by the time I realized it was useless I no longer had enough hit points to wage much of a fight.

  4. Spent most of the initial cash on Phase Door scrolls, and used all of them trying to escape a black naga who absorbed my magic missiles and lived. Couldn’t shake her and was finally crushed to death.

  5. Caught the attention of a better-equipped novice warrior and, weighing the odds against my dwindling hit points, resorted to an unidentified scroll of (yes) Summon Monster. Without the scroll I still would’ve died, but I thought it was a nice touch.

  6. Cave spiders. Very skittish, very flighty — until I had lost a bit of life. Then they all joined in for the kill.

  7. Gorged on the potion I drank to regain sight to read the scroll to teleport away. While waiting for the highly caloric potion to digest, the hounds just kept on breathing and in that time, before I got a chance to react, I was blinded again.

  8. Fighting So-and-So the Betrayer and winning. Hasted, shielded, plenty of potions. Ignored my hit points for a turn too long and when the tombstone came up it didn’t even register. For a moment I waited uncomprehending for control to revert so I could attack again, and then the trance wore off and I realized what must have happened.

  9. Equipped with a mace and not much else. Eventually learned Cure Light Wounds and used it several times, while poisoned, with no hit points and no spell points, and several times it saved me. After enough of those miracles, however, my CON was so low that each successive foe became harder and harder to kill, and finally I invoked Cure Light Wounds for the seventh time and it failed.

  10. Sent to hell by a novice priest.

  11. Confronted by a tiger. In the time it took Orb of Draining to fail, twice, it slashed away half my hit points. There’s really no running away from something that fast, so I had to kill it. I did. The grizzly bear behind it, slow by comparison, now advanced and I took the opportunity to run away: only to find, in an area I thought I had cleared, a hound blocking my escape route. I spent long enough dealing with it that the bear caught up and finished me.

  12. Battling a pack of wolves. I killed most of them and chased the stragglers into a room with a sleeping green dragon. With all the commotion the dragon woke up, breathed from across the room, breathed again, and the wolves and I were now very dead.

  13. Chanced across a group of gnome mages. I should have fled as soon as I saw them, but I stuck around and fought until the whole room was full of creatures they’d summoned: hydras, hounds, and priests, who I think may be able to summon familiars of their own. It was ugly. Used all my Phase Door scrolls hoping to at least make it to one of the adjoining corridors, but they just kept bouncing me to different spots within the room. I did eventually hack my way out, but there were enough breathers and spell-casters after me that it wasn’t much of a reprieve. I couldn’t withstand them long enough for Recall to kick in.

  14. Surprised, just outside the radius of my last detect spell, by a group of novice priests.

  15. Entered the level near a dragon (a sleeping, baby dragon, but a dragon nonetheless) and did not immediately take the staircase back up. Instead I left it alone, got involved in a battle elsewhere with some demons, which woke it up, and soon I was dead.

  16. Attempted to disarm a chest and the trap — a summoning trap — blew up in my face. Surrounded by mumaks and hounds, who took me from max to zero before I had a chance to act.

  17. Transfixed in the physical sense by a party of kobold archers I didn’t realize was quite as large as it was.

  18. Caught, again, by a band of priests. Somehow I didn’t think to teleport away until I was out of mana. It worked, but I fainted from the effort and a nearby bear wandered over and killed me.

  19. Burned through my last torch at 550′ without a way up. Managed to survive for several hours in the dark, winning food from enemies, but never made it higher than 400′. When a band of priests began to overtake me, I was happy to let them.

  20. Pursuing an elven priest down a corridor when I saw a dragon poke its head out behind me. “No problem,” I thought, “I have several ways to get away,” when the priest glanced back and blinded me, trapping me nicely between two evils. I tried to muscle my way through, past the priest, and eventually I did kill something, probably him, but by that time someone else had taken his place — maybe another dragon for all I know — and I was raked into oblivion.

  21. Having come up the stairs to escape a bad situation, I saw what I thought was easy prey: a bat, a snake, and a floating eye. What I didn’t realize — and, stupidly, didn’t check — was that, although the first two were straight out of level one, that eye was a Spectator, who moved in immediately to confuse and paralyze me. Somewhere in there — perhaps another monster wandered in? — I was poisoned, too, and that’s how I lost the majority of my hit points. The puny underlings were only too happy to finish the job.

  22. My rod of Treasure Location revealed a special lantern, but what it couldn’t show me was the green dragon watching over it. Since I didn’t have poison resistance, his breath took away more than half my hit points. I ducked around the corner, drank some cure potions, and ran to the nearest staircase. These ancient dragons, though, are apparently pretty fast, and soon he was within breathing distance again. My only means of teleport was Phase Door, so I tried that, a few times, but it never put me outside harm’s way. Only three moves away from the stair, I succumbed to another blast of poison breath.

  23. Couldn’t resist zapping a corridor full of orcs with my wand of light. As I moved in to collect their treasure, I woke up their master, a unique called Bolg, who was too fast and too strong for me. Phased into a little room behind all the orcs, but Bolg followed. My remaining scrolls didn’t take me outside his base, so I put on a ring of teleportation in case recall was slow to kick in. Neither recall nor teleportation seemed forthcoming, so when Bolg caught up to me for the last time, I started gulping down potions. Unfortunately, he kept producing critical wounds faster than I could cure them, and I died waiting to be whisked away.

  24. Entered a room with an ancient multi-hued dragon. I knew he was there, but I had taken out several other ancient dragons and assumed I could handle one more. Not so: he breathed once, taking away almost double my max HP.

  25. After my stats were permanently scrambled by a Nexus Hound several floors back — turning my fearless warrior into a clumsy, feckless weakling — I’d been desperate for stat potions of any kind. Detection revealed a promising new kind of potion, unguarded by anything too serious, so I strayed from the staircase to grab it. Whether it was the orc I too loudly murdered, my decision to tunnel directly through a wall, or my complete lack of stealth, generally, I aroused the curiosity of a pack of Hezrou, a kind of summoning demon. I killed a few, along with their accompanying minions, when in pops a Balrog, who quickly took charge of the situation. He and I jointly burned through my stock of scrolls. My next move would have been to teleport, but my wand was used up and my staves had just been drained. Meanwhile, more Balrogs are filing into my little corridor and my hit points are plummeting. Recall doesn’t kick in and that’s that. Oh, and the potion? Restore Mana.