Rogue and Rogue-like games have been outside my RPG experience. But times are lean, so I decided to take a look at one, called ZangbandTK (ZTK). At least it has graphics instead of the usual ASCII characters.

The look is circa Ultima III, which is fine with me. Movement is with cursor keys or numpad. The cursor keys are supposed to be for running, but I find that the keypad zooms the character around, too. Fortunately, I can click with the mouse to move one step at a time.

The display is all little windows, with a large one for the main screen. The windows float, too. You can drag one around and see your desktop underneath. So far, the game has been running well under XP, although in one session, the game did crash a couple times. Have no idea why, but it’s been okay since then so far.

ZTK is not for the faint of heart. If your character dies, game over, man. Yeah, this is really hardcore, and I must be crazy to attempt it, especially as one also needs (gak) food. Wow, I’m desperate as wll as crazy.

You have a bunch of races to choose from. Along with the usual suspects of human, elf, dwarf, etc., we have the less-seen Half-Troll, Half-Titan, Half-Giant, a few undead (hey, be a Zombie instead of killing one!), and several other interesting races (haven’t you always wanted to be a mindlfayer?).

Classes are more typical: fighter, mage, fighter/mage, rogue, ranger, paladin, and so on. However, included in the mix are the Mindcrafter (psionics) and the Chaos Warrior, for those who enjoy unpredictibility. You never know what will happen when a Chaos Warrior levels up, and some of those “happenings” can be bad news. I am not trying that one anytime soon.

Character creation is what you would expect: pick a gender, race, and occupation. Then you go to the roll-up screen. You can re-roll until you get a set of numbers you like. That can take awhile, or it can happen quickly. Give the character a name, and you’re set. By the way, any time before the final acceptance, you can back up and start over. Nice.

There’s a starting town called Outpost with the usual range of shops and a (very expensive) black market. Just outside town to the east is the dungeon. Farther east is another town, called Telmora, and some more in other directions. You’re not expected to stay in Outpost forever.

ZTK is also not for anyone who finds modern games complicated. Most commands are done from the keyboard, and I count, hmm, seems like 49, plus the movement keys. Yeah, it helps to have a list handy while playing ;).

So I’ve been fooling around with a few characters of standard variety, none of them past level 2 in experience. Oh, forgot to mention: when you walk out of the dungeon, it generates a new layout next time you go back in. This can be good or bad.

Finally decided to see how far I could get with a Hobbit Rogue. She was doing fairly well, then died on level one (I haven’t been lower than that yet), thanks to an insect swarm.

I started a new one. Her luck was terrible. On the way to the dungeon, I somehow managed to run her all the way east to Telmora. Zip! That’s running. Poked around the shops a bit, then headed back west. Zipping right along, and suddenly she was dead. Just like that. Apparently I ran right into a raven (never saw it) that wiped her out very quickly. Darn, she hadn’t even got started, really.

So I worked up a third one. She was moving around the dungeon, and entered a room where a Greater Hell Beast was snoozing in a corner. Uh huh. I turned around, and tip-toed right back out again. Like I said, sometimes generating a new layout on re-entry is a Good Thing.

Unfortunately, on her next visit, despite being a Hobbit with good Dex and whatnot, she managed to set off a trap. There she was, surrounded by a fruit bat, an Ewok (really) and a silver jelly. This was hopeless, of course. I tried a “Quit Without Saving” maneuver, but reloading found her right back in the same situation. She’s still there; I don’t have the heart to continue to the obvious outcome.

I’m on my fourth Hobbit Rogue now. If she bites the dust too soon, I’ll probably give Rogues a rest and try something else. This game is certainly going to require dedication.

Will I finish? Hard to say. I looked at the forum for this game. Didn’t notice anyone saying they had completed it; lotta messages about dying, though. And I dunno how long it will take for me to either (a) give up on the “one death and game over” or (b) play cheater and start copying save files. Only time will reveal just how much of a masochist I am ;)