First, I want to stress the fact that I haven’t played many different Roguelikes, and I don’t have anything approaching authority when it comes to the topic. I’ve played the Diablo series, which draws tremendous inspiration from the Roguelike genre, and I’ve played Dwarf Fortress, which should be enough.

Sure, I’ve played Nethack a little, but not enough to really say anything about it, and I’ve played plenty of roleplaying games to know what the basic differences between genres. Hopefully, enough that I can sound like I know what I’m talking about without coming off as a jerk. ‘Cause that’d make me a little bit sad.

So! What does a Roguelike offer a player that most other roleplaying games don’t? Well, first of all, there tends to be an enormous amount of customization available to players. You can play as any of a dozen or more races, classes, you have a multitude of skills and spells to choose from, and every dungeon is different. Mostly.

Depending on the Roguelike you’re playing, you may have access to other things, but most Roguelikes to my knowledge, focus on dungeon-crawling. I’m sure there are some even that break away from that basic assumption, but most of the ones you find, will be based around a dungeon. Even Dungeons & Dragons is like that.

You’ll probably find more of almost everything you can get in a game in a Roguelike ’cause one of the trades they tend to make in design, is graphics for detail. Most Roguelikes rely heavily on a player’s imagination to represent actions, and include vast amounts of detail — whether it’s monsters, physics, equipment, or magic.

There’s also a lot of potential replay value in a Roguelike. I say potential replay value because a lot of Roguelikes generate their dungeons randomly, and sometimes the results are unplayable. While there might be a degree of strategy to working through one, sometimes that’s just not a fun way to play a game.

Also, there’s the nagging problem of … well, needs that nag you, and prevent you from playing the game. As with in The Sims, a hunger meter can get in the way of accomplishing some pretty basic tasks. It may occasionally be entertaining for a character to pass out from exhaustion while trying to feed themselves… yeah.

Now, one of the ways that Roguelikes really shine is in how they require resource management across a pretty broad spectrum. Everything from eating and staying hydrated, to praying and training to keep your skills sharp. Maybe the most difficult part is somehow striking a balance between needs decay and actions taken.

Solve that though, and you have yourself some good design.