An Introduction to DCSS Forks

by chequers

Posted: September 14, 2018
Last Updated: -


There has been some interest in DCSS forks lately. For those who are keen to explore them, I thought I'd write some introductions.

First, a comment on the philosophy of forks. A lot of dcss forks start as reactions against the removal of features/content. This isn't a bad thing (especially if you dislike removals), but it does mean many forks retread the same ground over and over again. IMO the most interesting forks ask questions dcss can't, like "what would happen if you couldn't go upstairs?", or "what would happen if every enemy was a gnoll?".


Creator: the dev team

In case you didn't know, people refer to the base game as "vanilla".


Creator: hellmonk

Play online: CPO (AU), CBRO (US), CWZ (KR)

Active development: yes

Forked from: 0.19

"VERY IMPORTANT STATEMENT ON DESIGN GOALS My design goals are to make an incredibly tavern/crawl-irc fork and to incorporate a bunch of dank memes into it. You can expect: Content removals galore. Less floors, less experience, less monsters, less items [...] a more streamlined crawl experience, by which I mean it's shorter because I removed stuff"

Originally more of a joke than a real fork. But after more than a year of active development, it's become one of the most unique in Crawl history. Hellcrawl removes a lot of content, tweaks a lot of the fundamentals, and then adds a small amount of new stuff on top. What you get is a game with a very different tactical and strategic rhythm than vanilla, one which its fans say is much tighter and consistently challenging.

The biggest change is that the dungeon is one way. Each floor has no upstairs and only one downstairs destination (save a few shortcuts). After picking up the Orb, you have to escape through Hell. As you might expect, this has a radical effect on the game. So much tedium in vanilla (kiting, stashes, travel to other branches) has roots in your ability to backtrack, and Hellcrawl solves these problems by saying "actually, you can't do that".

Other changes include a few new species, many new Zot monsters, and a difficulty system.


  • New content: 2/10
  • Execution of vision: 10/10
  • Differences in playstyle from vanilla: big
  • Only fork that removes more than it adds: yes

Overall: Crawl 2.0



Creator: Vajrapani & CXC Discord

Play online: CPO (AU), CBRO (US), CWZ (KR)

Active development: yes

Forked from: 0.22

X-Crawl was created by a group on the CXC Discord server who wanted to try out some species changes that were never going to be added to vanilla. Now, it's a "democratically driven" fork, where everyone on the CXC Discord can submit proposals to be voted on by everyone else.

Perhaps as a result of this development philosophy, it's hard to summarise X-Crawl's changes. Changes range from the trivial (no more scrolls of random uselessness) to the major (Tengu and Deep Elf have been merged).


  • New content: 5/10
  • Execution of vision: #democracy
  • Crazy randart PRs of mine they've merged: 1/1
  • Most likely to contain a bunch of special-interest changes: also yes

Overall: Good place to get into crawl dev



Creator: Floodkiller

SA forum thread: Stick a Fork In It

Play online: CPO (AU), CBRO (US)

Active development: yes...?

Forked from: 0.21

Gooncrawl is a new DCSS fork created by myself for the Crawl thread on the Something Awful forums, but others can play it too! The design goals for the fork are simple: it's design by committee, with the committee being the SA thread. Majority rule decides what gets approved.

Mostly, this fork is adding old removed content from vanilla (eg Death Knights) and content from other forks (eg Faerie Dragons). There is only one active developer but they're pretty talented and dedicated, so watch this space.


  • New content: 1/10
  • Execution of vision: #democracy
  • Puss in boots status: puss in hat and scarves
  • Best feature: re-added mutagenic chunks

Overall: ???



Creator: hellmonk, Vajrapani & the World Crawl Association

Current development status: completed

Do you think DCSS removes too much? Do you think the game is a pale shadow of it's former glory years, and wish you could play grey elves, sludge elves, high elves, deep elves, or even just normal elves?

This is the fork for you. This fork adds thirty eight new species and backgrounds. Look at the species select screen, look at it!

Just try and tell me you don't want to play a Flan Understudy or a Robot Redneck.


  • New content: 32767/10
  • Execution of vision: 10/10
  • Did I mention you can play a Felid Mummy Chef?

Overall: Or a Ratling Alchemist?!


Creator: Dracunos

Play online: CPO (AU)

Current development status: done!

No exp gain. Only gnolls.

The memest meme fork. Started when some players expressed annoyance about the incredible danger of a d:1 gnoll. Now you can experience the tension in a d:1 gnoll for the entire game! Every monster is a gnoll, and you can't gain experience. Trivia: this fork has been won several times!


  • Gnoll content: 10/10
  • Execution of vision: 10/10
  • Gnoll: gnoll

Overall: Gnoll

DCSS: Circus Animals (dcss-ca)


Creator: jeremygurr

Play online: CPO (AU)

Current development status: obsolete

"DCSS-CA is "a playground for some ideas I wanted to try. ... Many changes center around increasing the richness of the species in DCSS. I take a species that I consider boring to play, then alter that species until it feels like a compelling choice."

This fork has more new content than any other. This fork adds: new species, old species, difficulty levels, experience gain modes, kiting nerfs, infinite duration transmutations, curse rework, stamina mode, removed food, restored old branches, removed level 27 cap, extended inventory. Seriously, it's huge.

If you're looking for a balanced experience, look elsewhere. If you're looking to explore a zany fork with a ton of new stuff, you've come to the right place.


  • New content: 11/10
  • Execution of vision: 8/10
  • New keys to learn: too many
  • Best feature: OP species/items/spells
  • Number of crashes: very high

Overall: Fun zaniness

About the Author:
chequers was rocking a scarf and achieving maximum style points before they were added to Crawl. He has a special love for forks and the Tab button. chequers is also the host and admin for the best DCSS server in the universe, CPO.