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Playing LambdaHack

LambdaHack is a small dungeon crawler illustrating the roguelike game engine library also called LambdaHack. Playing the game involves walking around the dungeon, alone or in a party of fearless adventurers, setting up ambushes, hiding in shadow, covering tracks, breaking through to deeper caves, bumping into monsters, doors and walls, gathering magical treasure and making creative use of it. The bloodthirsty monsters do the same, intelligence allowing, while tirelessly chasing the elusive heroes by smell and sight.

Once the few basic command keys and on-screen symbols are learned, mastery and enjoyment of the game is the matter of tactical skill and literary imagination. To be honest, a lot of imagination is required for this simple game, but it's playable and winnable.


The heroes are marked on the map with symbol '@' and with '1', '2', ..., '9'. Their goal is to explore the dungeon, battle the horrors within, gather as much gold and gems as possible, and escape to tell the tale. The dungeon consists of 10 levels and each level consists of 80 by 21 tiles. The basic tiles are as follows.

           dungeon terrain type               on-screen symbol
           floor                              .
           corridor                           #
           wall (horizontal and vertical)     - and |
           pillar                             O
           stairs up                          <
           stairs down                        >
           open door                          | and -
           closed door                        +
           rock                               blank

The game world is persistent, i.e., every time the player visits a level during a single game, the level layout is the same. Some items aid in dungeon exploration, e.g., a ring of searching improves the speed of finding hidden doors by heroes and monsters. The higher the ability bonus displayed for this and other dungeon items, the more effective it is. Only the best item carried in a hero's or monster's inventory counts. You can throw the rest away, but beware that your adversaries may pick it up and use it against your party.


You move throughout the level using the numerical keypad or the vi text editor keys (also known as "Rogue-like keys").

           7 8 9     y k u
            \|/       \|/
           4-5-6     h-.-l
            /|\       /|\
           1 2 3     b j n

SHIFT (or CTRL) and a movement key make the selected hero run in the indicated direction, until anything of interest is spotted. '5' and '.' use a turn to brace for combat, which gives a chance to block blows next turn. Melee, searching for secret doors and opening closed doors can be done by bumping into a monster, a wall and a door, respectively.

Below are the default keys for major commands. Those of them that take hero time are marked with a *.

           key     command
           <       ascend a level*
           >       descend a level*
           ?       display help
           R       restart game*
           S       save game
           X       save and exit*
           c       close a door*
           d       drop an object*
           g       get an object*
           i       display inventory
           o       open a door*
           q       quaff a potion*
           r       read a scroll*
           t       throw a dart*
           z       zap a wand*

To make a ranged attack, you need to set your target first, using targeting mode. Note that the target, for the few commands that require any, is indicated by the targeting cursor. The origin of a command --- the hero that performs it --- is unaffected by targeting. For example, not the targeted door, but one adjacent to the selected hero is closed by him.

To avoid confusion, commands that take time are blocked when targeting at a remote level (when the cursor is on a different level than the selected hero). The targeting commands and all the less used commands are listed below. None of them takes hero time.

           key       command
           ESC       cancel action
           RET       accept choice
           SPACE     clear messages
           TAB       cycle among heroes on level
           SHIFT-TAB cycle among heroes in the dungeon
           *         target monster
           +         swerve targeting line
           -         unswerve targeting line
           /         target location
           D         dump current configuration
           P         display previous messages
           [         target next shallower level
           ]         target next deeper level
           {         target 10 levels shallower
           }         target 10 levels deeper
           0--9      select a hero anywhere in the dungeon

There are also some debug and cheat keys, all entered with the CTRL key modifier. Use at your own peril!

           key     command
           CTRL-o  toggle "omniscience"
           CTRL-i  inform about level meta-data
           CTRL-r  rotate vision modes (effective next turn)


Heroes are not alone in the dungeon. Monsters roam the dark caves and crawl from damp holes day and night. While heroes pay attention to all other party members and take care to move one at a time, monsters don't care about each other and all move at once, sometimes brutally colliding by accident.

When the hero bumps into a monster or a monster attacks the hero, melee combat occurs. The best weapon carried by each opponent is taken into account for calculating bonus damage. The total damage the current hero can potentially inflict is displayed at the bottom of the screen. The total damage potential of a monster may change as it finds and picks up new weapons. Heroes and monsters running into another (with the Shift key) do not inflict damage, but change places. This gives the opponent a free blow, but can improve the tactical situation or aid escape.

Throwing weapons at targets wounds them, consuming the weapon in the process. Target a monster with the '*' key from the top keyboard row or from keypad. You may throw any object in your possession (press '?' to choose an object and press it again for a non-standard choice) or on the floor (press '-'). Only objects of a few kinds inflict any damage. Whenever the monster's or hero's hit points reach zero, the combatant dies. When the last hero dies, the game ends.

On Winning and Dying

You win the game if you escape the dungeon alive. Your score is the sum of all gold you've plundered plus 100gp for each gem. Only the loot in possession of the party members on the current level counts (the rest of the party is considered MIA).

If all heroes die, your score is halved and only the treasure carried by the last standing hero counts. You are free to start again from a different entrance to the dungeon, but all your previous wealth is gone and fresh, undaunted enemies bar your way.

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