Mazes of Mordred – A Roguelike Pitch

Several years ago, inspired by Dungeons of Dredmor, I thought it might be nice to put together my own roguelike. It’s an idea that I’ve left to percolate, and I think I’ve come up with what may well be my dream permadeath-hardcore-RPG game.

To quickly explain: a roguelike is a turn-based RPG, typically tile-based and rendered in a top-down perspective, which takes place in a randomly- or procedurally-generated dungeon. The goal is traditionally to reach the lowest floor of the dungeon, fighting against increasingly difficult monsters and traps, at which point you gather an item that you must then bring back to the top floor. Along the way, you’ll receive random items, given to you in very much a random version. There’s a lot of randomness at play, and such games are heavily luck-based.

With that in mind, my ideal roguelike would be something that combines some of my favourite RPG experiences, but still retains the ‘heart’ of a roguelike.

A screenshot of Fallout, showing the isometric perspective and dieselpunk aesthetic.Something that kind of bothers me about the classic roguelike formula is that it’s almost always tile-based. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but it’s almost always square tiles – and, well, there’s a reason the Civ series migrated over to the superior hexagonal tile format. It’s a reason I can’t exactly quantify, but I’m sure there’s a term for it. Essentially, square tiles feel a bit cumbersome when you can only move in four directions; but if you can move in eight directions, suddenly it feels like you’re cheating. Diagonal movements feel like you’re moving two tiles at once. It’s fine, but it feels a bit unrefined.

As such, my roguelike would have a Fallout-style hexagonal grid. I always really enjoyed how it felt to simply move around in Fallout, even if your character can’t run directly north or south. It feels correct to me, in a way I can’t really explain.A screenshot of RuneScape, demonstrating (in a very basic fashion) the options available in melee combat.The next challenge is combat, something that’s rather important in a roguelike. There aren’t many that allow you to simply talk to the monsters, a la that one Doom review, so having robust combat options is rather vital. As it stands, most of the roguelikes I’ve played have very simple combat in which you trade blows with your enemy until one of you falls over.

I’m honestly not sure how you’d get around that – it’s a bit of a trapping of turn-based games as it is. I’m not convinced I could come up with a better system, but I do think there’s room for a bit more nuance.

I quite like RuneScape’s system of combat (that is, pre-EOC – that’s a whole thing) which is pretty much an elaborate rock-paper-scissors method. To boil it down: melee beats ranged, ranged beats magic, magic beats melee. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that – a sufficiently-equipped melee user can best a less skilful magician, even if it’s not The Optimal Method.

You also have a few different ‘combat style’ options within each class. For instance, sword users have the option of slashing or stabbing. So, if you’re holding a scimitar (a curved blade) then you’re going to be really good at slashing things, but trying to stab someone won’t get you very far.

It’s possible that might be a little too nuanced for my roguelike, but on the other hand, it means you have a bit more to think about than just clicking the baddie ’til it dies.

A screenshot of Shattered Pixel Dungeon, showing the Huntress in a room full of flowers. Bet it smells lovely in there!Of course, I couldn’t discuss roguelikes without mentioning possibly the best mobile game of all time: Shattered Pixel Dungeon. This, as well as Pixel Dungeon upon which it’s based (but diverts very heavily from) has some really nice ideas that I would totally like to, ahem, borrow in my roguelike.

Lucky players will find things called artifacts, which are special items that confer unique abilities. For example, the Horn of Plenty gives the player a supply of food which infinitely replenishes over time, much like the Magic Porridge Pot. One of my favourites is the Ethereal Chain, which allows you to grapple over to distant surfaces, as well as pull enemies towards you. And if you happen to be stood in front of a pit when you do so…

This is, of course, just a surface-level idea of what my dream roguelike would look like. I’ve given a little thought to setting, and I’m leaning towards giving it an Unknown Universe spin – after all, you don’t come across many sci-fi roguelikes! I also had a brief idea to give it a gothic horror vibe, but that’s probably just because I’m halfway through reading Dracula at the moment, and I’m feeling all Castlevania-y as a result.

Let me know what you think! And sorry if this one’s a bit dry – kind of just wanted to get this down on paper before I forgot all about it.

As a side note, I’ve put a new theme on my site, again. It’s an old default WordPress theme, but I think it’s aged rather gracefully! Think I’ll spend a bit of time this weekend sprucing it up with my own inimitababble style.

About LunarLoony

IT support technician by day, artist also by day, video game enthusiast by day as well. Not keen on doing things by night... when else am I supposed to sleep? I have been making internet things since about 2005, and advocate for personal websites and blogs and things. I also run Broken Circus, where I make short films about video game history!
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