Linley's Dungeon Crawl

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Linley's Dungeon Crawl (often called Dungeon Crawl or simply Crawl) is a roguelike game in a fantasy setting. Though NetHack has inspired many features of Crawl, the two games are very different.


The creator, Linley Henzell, made slight changes to the NetHack General Public License to create the "Crawl General Public License", thus Crawl is free software. Crawl does not contain any source code from NetHack.

Henzell created Crawl in 1995 and continued to improve the game until 1999. After that, he allowed a group of contributors to develop new versions of Crawl. Development stalled in 2003 with the release of Crawl 4.0.0 beta 26. The last developer, Brent Ross, proceeded to produce versions of Crawl 4.1 alpha until 2005.

A variant called Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup has displaced the original game (somewhat analogous to how NetHack displaced Hack). This variant integrates various bug fixes, interface improvements, statistical tweaks, and new dungeon branches. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is also free, under the GNU GPL V2 license. Most Crawl players now play Stone Soup.

Differences in development

The development of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is quite open; the developers use a Git repository that provides public read access, they chat on a public mailing list, and they seek new contributors. Much play of DCSS is on public servers, and the most recent development version is normally available.

NetHack's DevTeam has recently also moved to having an open version control repository.


Crawl and NetHack seem very similar in some ways. Note: as Stone Soup has gone through over 15 years of active development, differences will be noted in italics.

  • The goal in both games is to retrieve a special thing from the dungeon. NetHack players seek the Amulet of Yendor, while Crawl players want the Orb of Zot. To open the way to the special thing, the player must perform the invocation ritual in NetHack or must collect runes of Zot in Crawl. Then one must return upward, carrying the special thing out of the dungeon.
  • Crawl and NetHack both use persistent levels, although Crawl has two significant areas with non-persistent levels (the Abyss and Pandemonium). You may take stairs to revisit levels, and strategic use will help the survival of the player.
  • Crawl and NetHack both feature a similar fantasy settings. Expect to find elves, dwarves, orcs, kobolds and such in both games. Both games have magic items like scrolls, potions, rings and amulets.
  • Crawl and NetHack both allow you to attack monsters with melee attacks (by walking into them), ranged attacks (by shooting or throwing something at them), or magic (by zapping something at them).
  • Crawl and NetHack both have traps. Step on the wrong square, and it might teleport you or worse, for example.
  • Crawl and NetHack players may starve to death unless they eat corpses. *Food has been removed in modern Stone Soup.
  • Crawl and NetHack both have bones levels, although they are sharply different in nature: NetHack bones save the entire level, including monsters and items, and a weak ghost, while Crawl bones do not save the level layout, monsters, or items, but contain a player ghost that has powers similar to the deceased character. *While recent Stone Soup versions have locked ghosts behind a closed door due to trolling, prior versions let ghosts roam free.
  • Crawl and NetHack both have various dungeon branches.

Differences in gameplay

Players who try both games will immediately notice these obvious differences about the dungeon.

  • Crawl does not start you with a pet! In fact, allies (as they are called in Crawl) are extremely rare to find, although summoning spells (which create temporary allies) can potentially fill that gap.
  • Crawl generates larger dungeon levels than NetHack. In Crawl, the @ remains in the center of the map while the dungeon scrolls around the adventurer.
  • While NetHack starts out with distinct, separate rectangular rooms connected with corridors, Crawl starts out with more complex level designs, such as adjacent rooms, parallel corridors, pillars, and multiple staircases to the same level.

Crawl characters have better vision, too. If you give enough attention to the first dungeon branch in both games, you will notice the difference between NetHack's dark corridors and Crawl's lit corridors. If you play Stone Soup, your characters will see very well around corners, because of the Permissive Field of View. Vision in Stone Soup is symmetric, so if you can see the monster then the monster can see you. But Crawl limits the radius of vision; a Crawl player may be unable to see monsters on the other side of a large room, but NetHack players always see as far as possible in lit areas.

However, Crawl has subtle differences from NetHack that seriously affect how one plays the game. This presentation of the differences may be overly general, not to apply in all situations, so beware.

  • Skills are much more important than class in Crawl. Instead of 4 (or 6) granular levels of training, Crawl has numerical skills, up to level 27. Barring a few racial gimmicks (the cat species, Felid, can't use weapons/armour), every character can learn every skill to its maximum. Your class only defines what skills, stats, and items you start with. Your race defines how fast you learn skills, as well as certain gimmicks. However, the direction you then go is entirely up to you.
    You could start as a melee-focused Hill Orc Fighter, learn spellcasting from scrolls, read a spellbook, and spend the rest of the game as a spellcaster. (Stone Soup allows you to train any skill at any time - no need for scrolls.). However, fighting monsters without enough skill is even more perilous; think getting hit 16 times from a hydra from one slow swing.
  • Gods are both more numerous and unique. Instead of 3 alignments, and deities varying only in name, Crawl features 12 (26 in Stone Soup) gods. A large majority of them are not assigned at the start, instead picked in the very early dungeon (requiring that you find the god's altar to do so). Though most lack any noticeable conduct, gods define your character. Each one has multiple unique abilities and/or passive buffs.
  • The identification game is dramatically streamlined. Crawl players are much more likely to blindly consume items, especially scrolls, in order to ID them. It's often the only way to identify, and all consumables in Stone Soup are identified on use even if they did nothing. There are few, if any, special 'tricks' like price identification. The only other reliable method of identify is the scroll, which requires blind use to find. Players do this because there are few incredibly nasty bad items in Crawl. There's nothing like the scroll of amnesia (although an item by such a name with a good effect exists!) or the possibility of a confused self-genocide. Curses have been removed, and their only effect was to be stuck to the player. Now, armor, weapons, jewellery, and wands are completely auto-identified when you step on their tile.
  • Crawl encourages the player to advance downward quickly, while NetHack players may linger on upper levels. Once a level is cleared, there is little reason to remain there. NetHack players like to linger to regenerate or to sacrifice at an altar, and may encounter several battles even when traveling up through the dungeon. Of course, players of both games will travel up to escape monsters or to visit their stashes. * Stone Soup has disabled random monster generation, and older versions would spawn extremely out of depth monsters if you stayed too long.
  • NetHack restricts shooting to eight directions. It is a tradition that will not disappear; it enhances strategy greatly by allowing monsters (especially those annoying unicorns) to be out of your line of fire. Crawl has a targeting system that allows you to shoot arbitrarily nearby targets within your field of view, plus all of the extra controls that such a system requires. Stone Soup's symmetric vision allows you and monsters to trade shots around corners. Instead, many of Crawl's spells have unique targeting mechanics: Fireball creates a 3×3 explosion, Frozen Ramparts freezes enemies adjacent to walls, and Starburst fires in all 8 cardinal directions (whenever you like it or not). Ranged options have a comparably shorter range as a result.
  • NetHack has containers. NetHack players like to use chests, while Crawl players drop items on the ground. As a more-than-compensation, Crawl features an elaborate "stash" system which tracks the location of all objects ever seen, easily accessible with a CTRL-F. *In DCSS, items can never be damaged, and once-seen items are never picked up by monsters. Various item removals and the removal of all weight make things even easier.
  • NetHack seems to give more emphasis to arbitrary uses for objects than Crawl. In Stone Soup, there is explicitly only one mechanical use per item, and even in Linley's Crawl there weren't that many. You drink potions, but can't throw them at enemies. You can zap wands, but are unable to engrave or break them.
  • Characters and monsters in Crawl are much more vulnerable. A well armored Minotaur Fighter can lose half their health by a single hit from a fairly measly ogre, and all living lategame characters have to deal with Torment, which directly cuts HP by half. The only way to get intrinsic resistances is the rare and risky mutation system, with characters relying on items instead. In exchange, Instant deaths are almost nonexistent: there is no touch of death or "the poison was deadly...". So there is nothing absolutely required like NetHack's reflection; while useful, intrinsics like magic resistance and poison resistance can be forgone. Which may be a necessity, given that guaranteed items are few and wishing does not exist.
  • Magic is generally much more powerful and accessible. Any character can learn (almost) every skill, and skills are the most important part of casting. Spellbooks come with multiple spells, there are more spells in general, and players will not forget them over time. Even low-level spells can provide useful or potentially life-saving effects. On the other end of the spectrum, high-level magic is by far the most damaging thing in the game, dealing over 7-8x what an endgame melee weapon will do. In turn, most high-level player deaths will be from magic, not melee.

All these elements combine into one final difference, a summary point that applies mostly to Stone Soup:

  • Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is a game streamlined for combat. NetHack focuses a lot of the out of combat, 'dungeoneering' experience. An adventurer's bag of holding might hold many miscellaneous tools (musical instruments, magic markers, spare unicorn horn, water-walking boots, junk scrolls to blank later, junk potions to dilute later, huge piles of food, collection of valuable gems) to exploit. Stone Soup calls that clutter.
There is strikingly little non-combat interaction: while strategic character-building has been maintained, identification has been stripped of complexity, inventory management has continuously been streamlined, and 'creative' spoilery functions mostly do not exist. They fit in well with NetHack's geeky tone and reference-based humor. But once a player knows how to dip for Excalibur, Crawl's DevTeam could cut the process out and give it randomly to the player, which reduces 'noob trap' potential. Instead of flavor, Stone Soup's focus lies in adding replayability and tense, combat-focused scenarios.
This mentality ultimately comes from the fact that DCSS is a much, much younger game: forked from Linley's Crawl roughly 20 years post-NetHack, and actively developed for over 15 years afterwards - in an era where 'spoilers' are commonly used, acceptable, and available. Even the game itself features a much more robust database than NetHack.

Differences in interface and documentation

Crawl's tty user interface is better than that of NetHack. NetHack's problem is its old source code and its desire to remain compatible with old Hack and NetHack versions. The default values of some options follow this desire. So color defaults to false, and msg_window defaults to 's' single rather than 'f' full, because older versions had no color and displayed only single previous messages. (At least menustyle defaults to 'f' full instead of 't' traditional. Traditional menus are that primitive type being familiar to Hack players.)

An 80x24 window is large enough to show the entire map of a NetHack level, which assists player awareness.

Crawl's manual is better organised than the NetHack Guidebook. Crawl's manual, a text file, keeps the less important material in appendixes, and shuns long alphabetic lists by presenting things in groups. A separate text file describes the options. Meanwhile, NetHack's Guidebook uses troff or TeX formatting, so that the DevTeam may create pretty PostScript and HTML versions of the Guidebook, not only plain text files.

External links

Crawl links:

External references: