Terrain Type Proposals

This page is for discussion of terrain types.

High ground

A recurring idea. The last person to mention it was eronarn in Shoals . He proposed:

Explicit cliffs

Cliffs could be passed only in one side - it's easy to jump or slide down, but hard or impossible to climb back. He then goes on and says it could be traversed with levitation, etc. eronarn proposes a separate tile, which I think is unnecessarily complicated:

  • it requires a separate symbols. Likely a couple of them to indicate direction
  • it eats extra space
  • usual downsides of unpassable terrain still apply. In particular, levitation running out over this feature is problematic. Death by drowning is already annoying and often caused by accident
  • terrain modification is tricky
  • it's not trivial to tell where the high ground ends

I'm particularly concerned about space used. A single tile of high ground would have to be delimited by eight cliffs:

Map -1: Single high square with explicit cliffs

Note that the caret symbol means a cliff, not a trap. Things break if I try to use fancy symbols.

In last point I say that it's not clear where the high ground starts or ends. Why would that matter ? If high ground is to be something more than an obstacle (water and lava already do that), then it should have some other effect as well. If you want to give combat bonus for fighting from high ground, this is hard to do:

Map -2: Distinguishing between high and low ground with explicit cliffs

As you can see above, the implementation makes it pretty much impossible.

On the plus side, creating a simple wall is efficient:

Map -3: A single edge with explicit cliffs

… but I don't think this differs enough from a line of water or lava.

Implicit cliffs

I have another idea: implicit cliffs. Instead of having cliffs as a separate tile, have only 1 extra tile and make movement limitations implicit:

Map 1: Single high ground square with implicit cliffs

In the picture above, the “trap” is actually the high ground. Standing there, a landwalker can step down in any of 8 directions, taking damage or not, with delay or without. Moving from low ground (dots) to the high ground can't done by mundane means. I suggest that not even levitation should work. You need Flight to travel vertically. Note that this nicely adds a distinction between levitation and flight.

Of course, with implementation like this entering high ground looks impossible without magic. So a second extra tile is introduced - slope/ramp:

Map 2: Small high ground with a slope

A character standing on a slope can go to either high or low ground. Slope has no special effects otherwise, counts as low ground. This makes it especially efficient for bigger areas of high ground:

Map 3: One slope is is enough for a big high ground.

Only one point of entry is needed.

As for glyphs for high ground and slope, I suggest one of (;:”) for high ground, and yellow comma (,) for slopes. I think the comma is especially good, as slopes would usually be used sparely and act as points of entry. Quite like doors they resemble.

I think vault designers would like the system with implicit cliffs, as they enable to build DooM-like vaults:

Map 4: Implicit cliffs take less space and allow for interesting designs

In this room there's high ground, and it can be entered through stairs. You can step between high ground tiles, but to enter them you need to go for the slope. Outside, there's a balcony and possibly some ranged monsters on it. You could even have one of Labyrinth maps made out of low and high ground, with slopes here and there to make things confusing.

Implicit cliffs - comments

Having said all that, I must say there is a downside. It complicates monster pathfinding. I'm convinced, though, that the price is worth it. I haven't seen anything like that in roguelike games. It would also be a nice fit for Shoals. ( I get bonus points for this from Swamp haters, right ?). I really like the idea that flyers like griphons or wyverns would nest on high ground if available. They would also retreat there to rest. — b0rsuk 2010-03-25 20:05

"Trenches" - on LOS

I like the implicit cliffs idea, I've had a similar thought - a “Trenches” portal vault. The most important idea is that from below, your LOS only includes the first squares of the high ground.

Map a: implicit cliffs and Line Of Sight

So the @ in the above can see monster 1, but not monster 2. The reverse is probably true too, you can't see creatures on a lower level unless you stand on the edge. So in the above, monster 1 can see the @, but monster 2 can't.

evktalo 2010-03-21 21:20

I think LOS should be mutual in all cases: if you can see something, it can see you. I agree with the LOS rules posted above, but would like to extend it:

  1. Creatures on the edge are always visible.
  2. Bigger size means the creature can see more. It is also easier to notice.
  3. Smaller size means the creature sees less, but is harder to notice.
Map b: Implicit cliffs and LOS affected by size

In the picture above:

  • The player (human, medium) can see all creatures in front row regardless of size. The orc and bear can see the human.
  • Human (medium) can't see the necrophage (medium), but he can see the ogre which is large. The ogre can see the human as well.
  • The bat can be seen by everything, and can see everything, because it is flying above.
    • For additional fun, resting flyers could be considered on ground as long as they're not undead, demonic, or otherwise unnatural. Monster generator would have to remember no to place such monsters on water. To inform players, resting flyers could have a line “It is resting on the ground.” instead of the usual one.

So, assuming player on low ground and monsters on high ground, I'll summarize:

  • Player can see all creatures in the front row (standing on the edge), no matter what. This is mutual.
  • Player can see creatures in other rows if average(player_size, monster_size) > distance_from_edge_to_monster + 2. Distance is 0 for first row, 1 for second row etc. Size is 0-tiny, 1-small, 2-small, 3-normal, 4-large, 5-big, 6-giant, 7-huge. This is also mutual.
  • Player can see all roughly natural flying monsters on high ground if they're not resting.

b0rsuk 2010-03-25 19:39


Suggestion: Put fish in '6', give cliffs ';' and slopes ','. — evktalo 2010-04-02 19:47

Minor point, but numeric monsters are well-defined as demons and constructs. I've suggested similar for other creatures, but “I” would work well for fishes, and it'd even be meaningful. Ice beasts could be ice-elemental Y or similar; there's little reason for a single monster to take up an entire glyph. — og17 2010-09-20 19:10


Seconded. This is a very beautiful idea and would lead to many interesting tactical situations. The proper way to introduce this would be first a portal vault, then a branch (could also be an old branch that gets cliffs as part of the layout generator — not just vaults) and then it could be used everywhere.
There are some open questions: can you blink onto cliffs? (Probably yes.) Can you walk down from a cliff to the floor? (Unsure.) Should very large (speaking of giants here) be able to walk up/down cliffs (I think this would be interesting.) — dpeg 2010-09-20 19:00
I'd say flying creatures should be able to scale cliffs, but large ones shouldn't. This does make flying more interesting, and it makes one group of creatures more interesting in situations including cliffs. Not sure about levitation. The Trenches idea, and the labyrinth idea require that you cannot drop down to a floor from a cliff without finding a slope. — evktalo 2010-10-06 18:15
If bigger creatures can't climb cliffs, they could still be able to attack adjacent enemies a level up. — og17 2010-10-06 19:39
There's a common-sense problem with introducing a third dimension - if you levitate off the edge of a cliff, you'd expect to just stay at that altitude, while flight would let you move vertically regardless of terrain, using < and > or whatever. This raises questions of fall damage, stacked squares, and monster/player reach - I'm pretty sure that no one actually wants this, so levitation flavor could be tweaked to be a sort of surface effect that keeps you several feet above the ground at all times, so you could float down from any height, but never move up (though then you'd need to let lev use staircases normally, I'd think). Magical flight flavor would be similarly limited but controlled, and allow traversing a single layer higher than the player's current level.— og17 2010-10-06 19:39
Sounds about right to me - I was thinking that Levitation shouldn't let you climb, but Flight would. — evktalo 2010-10-06 20:16

My point of view: Levitation wouln't let you climb, but Flight would (the same as ekvtalo's). As for dropping down from a cliff - I forgot to mention it, but I prefer the implementation where everyone can do so. Otherwise, how do you distinguish between low and high ground ? Unless you use the LOS idea I proposed above, with sizes ? I like it, but I can see it's a little complicated. Another reason for allowing dropping down: it would allow nice ambushes from above. I think the AI and preventing cheese is the main challenge here. — b0rsuk 2010-10-06 20:26

Standing Air

The idea of this terrain type is that it is actually an empty space, but you don't fall down. Instead, you float in it, and movement is like Levitation in this proposal. That is, when you move into the standing air, you keep moving to that direction until you have something to hold on to. (Probably best to read the proposal first to grasp this).

“The standing air” is a placeholder name - suggestions welcome! Here's some:

  • antigravity field (techy)
  • empty void
  • full air
or perhaps:
* slippery ice (avoidable with real lev) — kilobyte 2010-04-05 10:52
* +1 To the slippery ice idea, opens up possibilities with spells creating/destroying ice tiles loginerror
Slippery ice sounds good too, although the flavour of standing air is new/unique (I'm obviously rather fond of it) — evktalo 2010-04-10 00:17
Example map (with the standing air represented by dashes, curly braces are the stairs)

In the standing air, you are not levitating (as per the status effect), just the movement is like it. (For instance, controlled flight amulet doesn't give you Fly, you need to apply Levitation.) As per the levitation proposal, to change direction you need to hold on to something (a wall) or cast levitation. You also regain control when you step to a floor square, but not when next to one.

Some problems:

  • In the levitation proposal, you can levitate something (like yourself) in place. It is crucial that creatures (especially the player) can not be stranded in the standing air. Solution might be to not allow levitating things in place in the standing air.
  • Items. I'd flat out just not apply any drifting etc. effect on them, but have the drop mid-air and stay there. So no ammunition travelling from one map end to the other thank you!
  • Probably spectacularly breaks travel & autoexplore. Not to mention AI.

The interface could colour the squares where you have control of your movement brighter from the ones where you don't have it. This would be interface only, the terrain type would remain the same.


We already have cosmetic grass tiles in the lair etc. (at least in the Tiles build), but having them actually distinguish themselves from regular floor might be nice. Ideas:

  • Could burn up when a fire spell crosses/lands on their tile, possibly adding extra damage or creating a weak flame cloud.
  • Could be created or abused by Fedhas followers in some way, possibly speeding up movement or health regen or something.
  • Someone mentioned somewhere, maybe in the plants discussion about them increasing stealth/decreasing noise.


thick vegetation at the edge of deep natural saline waters (read: shoals).

  • movement is even slower than shallow water.
  • combat effectiveness penalty is less than shallow water. (because there are more natural grapples to pivot against)
  • green colored tile. ^^

Noxious swamp

like a mangrove, but not bound immediately to saline waters. Offers noxious fumes that give a chance to impart sickness on the creature on that tile, for each turn present. also amplifies AOE fire damage to creatures on that tile.

Metal Floor

  • Like metal walls, grounds players standing on them from electrical shock.
  • Could make extra noise, making players wearing boots less stealthy.

Teleport Tile

  • Is not generated hidden and acts like a teleport trap, but with a fixed destination on the same dungeon level.
  • Could be used to add flavor to vaults, by allowing disconnected rooms or shortcuts.
Already exists, look for the_teleporter in vaults.des and icecave.des. — evktalo 2010-04-10 00:15

Time warping

  • This terrain would only appear in places like the Abyss, Pan, and Xom vaults.
  • Based on the coloration, it would either increase or decrease the speed of creatures traveling over it.

Cracked Wall

  • You can see through it.
  • Players or monsters cannot go through it unless as small or smaller than a spriggan. (eg. felids, spriggans, players in bat/spider form.)
  • Amorphous monsters/players can squeeze through the crack regardless of their size. Monster examples: Jellies, acid blobs. Player examples: Jivya worshipers (can only do so while not wearing any hard armour), Octopode
  • Trying to squeeze through the crack would double the time it takes to move through a normal tile. While within the crack, you suffer severe evasion penalty.
  • Cracked rock walls can destroyed with dig. Cracked stone/metal walls cannot. — ledtim 2010-11-13 05:03
I could see this being cool in a few branches and vaults–in Lair it would fit with the flavor and allow snakes and rats to pour in from more directions in tunnels, though most of Lair is open anyways (it'd also let snakes escape more easily). In one or both of the undead branches and some of the ossuary maps they could be added to give small characters a minor advantage (also I think the undead branches have some kind of small enemies); I'm pretty sure there's at least one or two ossuary maps where you need to teleport or dig to reach the treasure and it'd be a neat unexpected bonus if tiny players without means to do so could still reach part of the loot. The main problem is you'd have to examine every one to know which zombies can go through it. It could also be cool in a few minivaults; say, a little 2×3 room with treasure and a guaranteed blade trap in the entrance, but there's a cracked wall in the back that you can use to enter safely. On a different note, while seeing through it is important, perhaps LOS could be reduced for spaces you can only see through the crack; after all, just because it's not a solid wall doesn't mean it's completely unobstructed. — brickman 2010-11-13 20:47
Medieval castles had arrow slits, which were basically cracks in walls the builders put in on purpose. Based on this, perhaps the cracks could behave differently for creatures standing next to them. Anything beside it would be able to see and attack through like it was a floor cell, while anything farther away could only see 1 cell past and only attack through with smite-targeting. This would give cracked walls a distinctive tactical purpose in the Bailey and the occasional fortress vault. — infiniplex 2012-09-05 21:49
I think I want to suggest the feature name of “Crevice” rather than arrow slit or crack – it's more semantically neutral and would work for both natural/artificial walls. Crevices could work well as the thematic feature of the Snake Pit (like webs for Spider or acidic walls for Slime), allowing snakes and guardian serpents to slither between adjacent rooms. All of the constricting or poisonous monsters would benefit from the ability to ambush players. I think that vision through crevices should be impeded somewhat, perhaps to just one tile (increasing to 2-3 tiles if you are directly adjacent to the hole, since you can peek through). Allowing other small creatures through crevices (spriggans, killer bees, etc) as above would still be desirable in the long run, but I imagine it would be easier to implement initially and test out, if it were introduced to just one branch first. Levels in the snake pit might have to be laid out somewhat differently, with more rooms directly adjacent to one another. — roctavian 2012-09-22 21:59


  • Slow to travel through
  • A creature that moves through it leaves a “path” that is not slow to move through. The path is either permanent (possibly another terrain type) or vanishes after a period of time.
  • Light creatures are not slowed and do not leave paths
    • Size tiny
    • Flying
    • Clinging to walls

Cloud of flies

  • On tiles where rotting corpses or chunks of meat lie, each turn gets small chance to spawn a cloud of flies
  • Any player or monster standing in a tile containing cloud of flies gets reduced ToHit and Evade a small amount, due to them buzzing about your face
  • If the rotting meat is picked up or rots away completely, the cloud of flies lingers for a few turns before dispersing
  • clouds can move or spread to nearby tiles if more corpses/chunks are in them
  • the cloud cannot be attacked directly with conventional weapons, but some spells such as fireball could dispel a cloud

Glass Doors

These would behave exactly like ordinary doors except that you can see through them while they are closed. They would presumably need a special open and closed tiles, but probably only for single-cell doors at first.

I hope to use these occasionally in Elf — infiniplex 2014-02-02 23:59

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dcss/brainstorm/dungeon/terrain_types.txt · Last modified: 2014-02-03 07:00 by infiniplex
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