Moria (roguelike)

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The Dungeons of Moria, often shortened to just Moria, is one of the earliest roguelike computer games, created in 1983 by Robert Alan Koeneke.

Moria and its variants rival NetHack in popularity - many classifications divide roguelike games between "hacklikes" and "*bands", with the latter being named after Angband, the most famous Moria variant. Moria was also the first open source roguelike and was ported to many different computer platforms, which was a major achievement for the era.


Rogue started as a binary for BSD, which was then a variant of Unix running on VAX hardware. Because Rogue did not include its source code and originally ran only on one platform, several Rogue clones came into existence. Moria was the first of these many Rogue clones, or roguelikes, created for computers running VMS. Meanwhile, a free Rogue clone known as Hack was made for Unix, from which NetHack would come to be; Hack added features such as persistent levels, pets, and shops, while NetHack changed the game even more with additions like dungeon branches.

A port from VMS and Pascal to Unix was eventually created, known as Umoria - Angband is one of several Umoria variants - while another variant, called Imoria, was created based on the original Pascal version.

Development of the original Moria essentially ended in the late 1980s, while development of other non-Angband variants of Moria would continue until 1993; there was brief attempt to revive Imoria after this year, and development of Umoria would end in 1995. On the other hand, development of Angband and its derivatives continue to this day. The Moria community considers Umoria, VMS Moria, and in later eras Angband, to be "vanilla" versions of the game in contrast to variants like ZAngband, IMoria, or Pmoria - these would be analogous to NetHack Plus or SLASH.


Moria and most of its variants are set in Middle-earth, with the game taking its name from the underground city of Moria.

Moria deviates from the structure of Rogue in many significant ways, with the most notable being the addition of a town above the dungeon. Unlike NetHack, where the dungeon is a long trek away from civilization, Moria has a town set right near the dungeon entrance. Due to the non-persistent floors, Moria generates a new level with new monsters and items every time you leave a floor and return to it at a later point, making staircases one-way; Angband would change this during its own development so that staircases could be re-used. Therefore, Moria players seeking to make stashes generally leave them in the town, where they may still be disturbed by the town's other inhabitants.

Another significant change from the structure of Rogue was the shift of the main objective. Rather than retrieving the Amulet, the objective of the original Moria and variants that retain its name is to reach the bottom of the dungeon and defeat the Balrog, which completes the game.

Both these changes and others, combined with the vastness of the dungeon and the impermanence of its floors, genereally means that the average Moria playthrough is of a similar length to NetHack if not longer. It may take weeks and months to play a Moria character from the beginning to either triumph over the Balrog or an inglorious death.

The Town

In Moria, the town contains the bulk of the game's services and shops; central to Moria is the Scroll of Word of Recall, an item that warps you between town and the deepest visited dungeon level, reducing the time and danger of making a trip back to your stash. Some Moria variants expand on this feature: Angband and other *bands let you leave town to find other dungeons and towns, while Moria variant BOSS instead has you defeating one of the Boss's lieutenants, after which it automatically transports you to another town with a more difficult dungeon.

Shopping in Moria mostly consists of interacting with a menu at each shop entrance, meaning that you cannot attack or rob shopkeepers, and other citizens cannot enter shops or take items. Items in shops are bought and sold fully identified, shopkeepers pay a base price for unidentified items, and their wares do not include cursed items; this is a useful way to ID the wider number of different potions, scrolls, and other items that Moria has compared to NetHack.

The six shops are a general store, an armory, a weaponsmith, a temple, an alchemy shop, and a magic-users' store; while beginners can supply themselves well if they have money, the dungeon will often still be the more viable source of better and higher-enchanted items. Food supply is limitless and thus largely a non-factor, unless one is playing an "ironman game" that forgoes access to the town.

The Dungeon

In Moria, there are two ways to label dungeon levels: by number (1, 2, 3, 4) as in NetHack, or by depth where the measure is fifty times the level number (50 feet, 100 feet, 150', 200').

Moria dungeon levels are much larger than those found in NetHack, which are designed to fit on 80x24 terminals, and thus are split into panels. The map jumps to another panel as you approach the edge, and offscreen monsters might surprise you with attacks as you approach the edge. There is an option to center the screen on your hero (@), as in Linley's Dungeon Crawl; the game typically disables this by default, so you may want to enable it prior to your first forays in. Larger levels mean larger rooms and longer corridors that take longer to explore, and it is not uncommon for some Moria players to take the first staircase they find instead of fully exploring a level.

Dungeons are also drawn differently. For example, a NetHack room and corridor might appear like this:

----------         #
|........|     ########+     +   door
|..{.....|     #   #         -   open door
|..@.....|   ###   #         @   hero
|........-####     #         - | wall
|......d.|         #         d   dog
|.%......|         #         %   food ration
----------         #

Now here is how it might appear in the dungeon of Moria:

##########    #####+####
#........#    #...'.'..+     + door
#........#  ###.###'####     ' open door
#..@.....####...# #.#        @ hero
#........'....### #.#        # wall
#......j.######   #.#        j jackal
#.,......#        #.#        , food ration
##########        #.#


In Moria, ranged attacks from monsters can target you on any a square within their range, compared to NetHack and its eight-directional combat; Umoria variant Morgul allows the player to do so as well, as does Angband and its variants. Monsters cannot target the player around corners or pillars, allowing characters with sufficiently high speed to attack monsters and quickly dash out of their sight before they retaliate; this is known as "pillardancing".

As you fight monsters in Moria, the game will gradually "memorize" their capabilities and store it in a "monster memory". This feature contains information such as how many times you killed each type of monster, how fast they move, what attacks it has, and what level it normally appears on depending on how many of that monster you've fought. This monster memory is the only thing besides options that persists even after character death.

The lookup feature in vanilla NetHack only returns a literary quote associated with the monster in question; players must remember those monsters themselves, or else consult a bestiary of spoilers like the one hosted on this wiki. Some variants, such as Slash'EM Extended and xNetHack, add a monster lookup or a "Pokedex" that can be used to research the stats of a given monster.


Moria objects and their generation have a few base similarities to NetHack items. NetHack and Moria players can wield weapons, wear armor, and put on rings and amulets; both games also have an active and a spare weapon slot, with a command to quickly swap the two. Weapons and armor can have enchantments that increase their damage or defense.

In Moria, however, there are only 22 item slots from a to v, not counting currently worn equipment (as wearing something frees up that inventory slot). NetHack inventories have 52 slots - a to z and A to Z (not counting the # used when picking up a loadstone with a full inventory). NetHack additionally has a wide selection of gems and many miscellaneous tools, including containers such as bags and chests to hold many "screenfuls" of items.

Saving slots in Moria is done by eventually replacing carried items with better ones, such as finding spellbooks with multiple spells, and amassing enough gold that they no longer need to gather junk to sell. Moria has no gems and fewer miscellaneous tools to worry about, and of those tools light sources have a dedicated slot; digging implements, which are second only in importance to lighting, can be put in the "spare weapon" slot.

NetHack items can be blessed, uncursed or cursed, with beatitude having an effect on item usage (i.e., blessed items often have much more beneficial or less harmful effects, while cursed ones tend to have weakened useful effects or much worse detrimental ones). NetHack items can also have additional properties applied, such as erosion-proofing, greasing, and a set number of uses. While Moria items function similarly in that items can be cursed or noncursed, armor and weapons that are generated cursed have negative enchantments, and cursed weapons and armor cannot be removed, the curse itself does not actively degrade the item as in NetHack.

In lieu of artifacts, Moria has "Ego" items; unlike artifacts, more than one of a given type of ego item can appear in a given game, and can have any number of extra properties; a scimitar might have a "Frost" brand, making it a Scimitar of Frost that does extra cold damage and provides cold resistance. A scroll of identify will not reveal all these advanced properties, and only gives the two-letter code for the ego-type; the manual contains the key that details what each of the ego-types do.

Item generation probabilities remain uniform in NetHack across dungeon levels, though they differ between branches (e.g., item generation in the Gnomish Mines is slanted towards tools). In Moria, each item has an associated dungeon depth, and progressively more powerful items - higher-quality Ego items, weapons and armor with high enchantments, etc. - become more common as the hero descends deeper.

Moria references in NetHack

NetHack naturally draws from J. R. R. Tolkien's setting and works among many others, and as such shares some other traits with Moria (e.g. the inclusion of lembas, mithril, etc.) NetHack has the balrog as a powerful regular enemy that generates in Gehennom and can be gated in by other major demons, but cannot perform gating itself.

One of the hallucinatory monsters in NetHack - the "ancient multi-hued dragon" - is directly credited to Moria in the source code.

Moria in variants

UnNetHack has the Ruins of Moria branch, which draws heavily from Middle-Earth and even features a unique balrog, Durin's Bane, as a boss monster. The third level also simulates a dungeon level found in a typical game of Moria.


NetHack is free and open source software under its NetHack General Public License. Moria and its variants originally used a license which prohibited selling copies of the game. The practical effect of this is that operating systems like Debian originally classified NetHack as "free" and Moria as "non-free", and refused to include Moria when selling discs of the system. The Angband OpenSource Initiative was a successful attempt to change this: on January 9, 2009,[1] Angband and Moria were completely dual licensed under the Moria license, and the GNU General Public License. (Moria had in fact been so dual licensed some time earlier, thanks to its lower number of contributors.)

The Moria license also did not contain explicit permission to modify the game, but modification is a strong tradition of the Moria community.


External links