My favourite thing in roguelikes are the unidentified scrolls and potions, and no game does them better than the freeware, long-developed Brogue [official site]. It’s a mouse-controllable and surprisingly pretty ASCII roguelike in which quaffing everything you find is a valid early game strategy for identifying found potions and where reading every scroll is as likely to help you as hurt.
I decided to play the game with a rule: not only would I drink and read everything I found, I’d do so as soon as I found them, no matter what the situation. This is what happened.
An indigo potion
This flask contains a swirling indigo liquid. Who knows what it will do when drunk or thrown?
Vapor pours out of the flask and causes the floor to disappear!
(It must have been a potion of descent.)
You plunge downward into the hole.
I land on level two and am damaged by the fall. I’m now standing on a cliff beside a large chasm, so I suppose I’m lucky not to have fallen further.
Walking down the nearest corridor, I encounter a bloodwort stalk. I’ve no idea what that is, but I go to pick it up. It explodes and.. releases a cloud of healing spores! Jackpot. Also: jackals. Three of them rushing towards me from behind.
No wait, rushing away from me from behind. Huh! I head to the cavern they came from and spot two rats, a kobold and a turquoise potion.
A turquoise potion
This flask contains a swirling turquoise liquid. Who knows what it will do when drunk or thrown?
You can somehow feel the presence of magic on the level and in your pack.
(It must have been a potion of detect magic.)
I kill the rats and the kobold, take a rickety rope bridge across the chasm and head towards a magical item now handily marked on my map to the north. It’s a puce potion, but as I see its colour, those three – no, four now – jackals re-appear. I beat ’em up and collect:
A puce potion
You get the idea.
Newfound strength surges through your body.
(It must have been a potion of strength.)
I can’t tell how many more points I’ve got in my strength attribute than before, because I haven’t looked at it before now. I’m not sure it matters given how low my health now is. Luckily the next two enemies I meet are sleeping kobolds, so I kill ’em where they rest and take the magic ring and the scroll that lay beside them.
A ruby ring
This metal band is adorned with a ruby gem that glitters in the darkness. Who knows what effect it has when worn?
It will reveal its secrets if worn for 1500 turns, and until you understand its secrets, it will function as a +1 ring.
Sweet! I will die of starvation and bleeding long before then. I pop on the ring.
A scroll entitled “nuglo glorpnurt”
This parchment is covered with indecipherable writing, and bears a title of “nuglo glorpnurt.” Who knows what it will do when read aloud?
Who knows! I read it immediately and snap across to the other side of the level, a few grid spaces away from another kobold.
(It must have been a scroll of teleportation.)
I imagine the kobold’s surprise as I beat him to death, then imagine my bruised body as I again look at my dwindling health bar. The teleportation has brought me back to that bloodwort stalk though, and there’s another pod remaining. I burst it and run around in its cloud of healing spores till I’m feeling better.
Setting foot on depth three, the first thing I see are murky waters, the surface shimmering slightly in the dark. It’s beautiful. I beat another jackal to death.
A yellow potion.
Your maximum health increases by 33%.
(It must have been a potion of life.)
Moving through empty caverns, I spot a paralysis trigger. It’s a pad on the ground that, when pressed down, causes gas to spew from nearby vents. If I stand on it I’ll almost certainly be doomed, and my spontaneous quaffing and reading rule doesn’t apply to known traps, so I move carefully around it. I beat another jackal to death.
On the shore of another pool of murky waters, I can see far across to the other side of the cavern, where there are two marble statues in the windows of a room, beyond which I can see a sliver of carpeted floor and an aluminium wand. I confess I have not played Brogue in some time and have never before encountered whatever this room may be. There’s a downward staircase on this side of the water, but I’m determined to get to the other side and see what’s inside that room.
I beat three more jackals to death, rush over to a yellow spot near where they came from, and discover it’s… a puddle of urine. It’s not a drinkable item, thank goodness.
Skirting around the edge of the murky waters, I make way through a series of side caverns and reach the entrance to the carpeted room. It’s a locked iron door. Butts! I don’t have the key – I saw it earlier, on the shores of the first murky water pool, but couldn’t see how to reach it safely. Heading back there, I’m not sure I can reach it without leaping into the water and risking serious injury.
I risk serious injury by leaping into the water. Some darts I’d collected float out of my pockets and are carried away in the current before I can grab the key on the other side. And then I plunge through a previously unseen hole in the ground.
I am not-so-seriously injured as my feet crash down onto depth four, but things go from bad-to-worse when I attack a nearby sleeping toad. Or really, they go from toad-to-vampires, which is the idiom I’m going to use in future – the first time the toad hits me, I begin to hallucinate. The walls around me shimmer and the toad seems to morph with every strike into some other ghastly creature. I keep swinging, striking a hallucinated phoenix egg and being hit by goblin, striking a rat and being hit by a dar priestess. Every move of my mouse identifies the creature in front of me as something different: flamedancer, centaur, phantom, wraith, mirrored totem. I keep hitting the morphing toad till it’s dead, then walk around for a while to clear my head.
I still want to try to reach that strange, carpeted room on the floor above, but my search for the stairs back up hits a second unfortunate snag: a pink jelly. Pink jelly’s miss more than they hit while attacking but split into two every time they take damage, producing successively weaker clones. I don’t want to get bogged down in a mass of goo, so I decide to run, grabbing two scrolls on the floor and darting down a corridor. The corridor leads to… a chasm.
The jelly has followed me down the corridor and now there’s no way past it. I hit it, it splits into two.
This is technically the ideal setting for a jelly fight – the corridor limits its spawning positions – but it’s still a risk given my slightly diminished health. Leaping into the chasm will hurt, take me further from the carpeted room, and might leave me in a stickier situation. The jellies might even follow me.
Of course, first I need to use those two scrolls.
A scroll entitled “poder glorp finflurx”.
This is a scroll of enchantment.
I choose to apply it to my armour.
Your leather armor gleams briefly in the darkness.
Alright, that doesn’t do me much good – the goo in front of me strikes and misses. Let’s try again.
A scroll entitled “gerd herba pora nuglo”.
A shimmering pink blast shoots from my character and heads north, where it dissipates. It happens so quickly that I barely see it, and there’s no message explaining what it did. The pink jellies drench themselves and split into two again.
I decide to attack the jellies after all, and am surprised by how easily dispatched they are. They mostly seem to kill themselves by attacking one another. Free of my dead-end corridor, I head back the way I came, find a bog covered in explosive gas and another scroll. I don’t much fancy the bog and there’s no place else to go, so I read the scroll.
A scroll entitled “porta greepbloto lofa.”
A surge of energy courses through your pack, but nothing happens.
(It must have been a scroll of recharging.)
I sprint across the bog and reach the other side without encountering any enemies and, miraculously, find a staircase back up. Hey, the healing spores have re-grown! I bask in it and restore my health again. At which point a pink jelly follows me up the stairs.
I make quick work of it, then head back towards that carpeted room and locked door. The key works! I get inside and it’s full of useful trinkets – a wand of slowness, a wand of enchantment, some more powerful flairs and swords… and it’s all just sitting here? I don’t need to buy it? Huh! I can fit all of this in my pack, I think. I pick up the nearest item, the wand of slowness, and cages drop from the ceiling to cover every other item in the room. No!
Damnit. I really should have picked up the rapier first, as it would have been extremely useful. Slowing enemies down a bit doesn’t seem that great to me right now. I return to the staircase and descend again, deflated. I briefly hope the next thing I read or drink kills me.
A lavendar potion.
Your muscles stiffen as a cloud of pink gas bursts from the open flask!
(It must have been a potion of paralysis.)
You are paralyzed!
The kobold is paralyzed!
The toad is paralyzed!
You can move again.
I take my frustrations out on the paralysed toad and the kobold and feel a little better.
Then I come across a monkey. Monkeys can steal things in the midst of combat, which makes them the game’s cheekiest enemy. I hit the monkey, the monkey tweaks me and…
The monkey stole a wand of slowness!
Oh christ. I don’t even really want the wand, but I went to a lot of effort to get it. I swing for the monkey again, and he turns tail and runs. I hope he doesn’t know how to use the wand of slowness as I give chase, but it turns out not to matter as he moves slightly faster than I do to begin with. I chase. And chase. We do loops around the level. The Benny Hill music is playing in my head.
I give up. I don’t even really want the wand – let the little robber keep it. I find another potion and, for the first time, I know what this one is. It’s a potion of strength. I drink it and my points tick up to 14.
I see the monkey and chase him some more. I can’t help myself and eventually he comes face to face with a kobold. The kobold pursues the monkey also, chasing him into a dead-end. I kill the kobold and now have the monkey exactly where I want him. He has no escape from this.
Then I have an idea. Can I befriend the monkey? You can make friends with monkeys you save from kobold prisons, but what about wild monkeys you’ve already fought with?
I go into my inventory, take out some rations, and throw them on the ground beside the monkey. I wait and wait, but he doesn’t go for it. No truce can be struck, so I bash him twice more until, in the melee, I accidentally give him space to slip by me again. He rushes down the corridor. I throw a flail at him and miss. I throw my dagger at him and miss. My pockets are now basically empty and so I give up, trudge around collecting my thrown things, and grumble as I descend the staircase to the floor below.
A scroll entitled “snarg snarggerdpoder”.
Your pack glows with a cleansing light, but nothing happens.
(It must have been a scroll of remove curse.)
The more you know. I descend again.
Another jelly. I turn and run to find a safe nook from which to fight, but the first doorway I find only wedges me between the pursuing jelly and a bog-living eel. The jellies miss and multiply and miss, while the eel whittles me down to below 10% health. This is not ideal.
When the eel dies, I dash through the doorway I’ve been trapped within to try to escape – but it’s another dead-end cavern. There are jellies behind me, nipping at my health – which drops below 5%.
The only other thing in this room is a pressure plate on the floor. It’s a fire trap, and it’s set beneath a cloud of explosive gas.
To fight the jellies and risk an ignoble demise, or to die as I lived, and foolishly dive upon the plate?
A pressure plate clicks underneath you!
The pink jelly catches fire!
You catch fire!
Do you know what I wish? I wish I had stepped on the obviously safe square in this room and thrown something onto the pressure plate.
You defeated the pink jelly.
Burned to death on depth 6 with 629 gold.