A Beginner’s Guide to Doom WADs

Since we’re going to be talking a lot about Doom WADs in the future, it occurs to me that I should probably explain how they work. It’s second nature to me, but for everyone else, it’s probably a bit daunting. If you’re interested in trying them out, hopefully this will help.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. An IWAD

This will generally be either DOOM.WAD or DOOM2.WAD. The (Internal)WAD file can be found in the game’s install directory, and contains all of the base Doom content. C:\Doom2 is the default location for Doom II, at least in the old days. If you’re not sure where your Doom install directory is, the fastest way to find it is probably searching for “doom.wad” and “doom2.wad” in Windows Explorer.

If you don’t have a copy of Doom, you can buy it digitally from Steam or directly from id’s website. Physical copies are always floating around on eBay, too, if that’s your thing.

The vast majority of mods run on Doom II, so as long as you have DOOM2.WAD, you’re in pretty good shape. Far fewer use DOOM.WAD. If you have both, you can play 99% of Doom mods out there. The other 1% run on one of the Final Doom IWADs — TNT.WAD or PLUTONIA.WAD — but it’s very unlikely you’ll need to worry about those.

2. A PWAD

The (Patch)WAD is the actual mod. When someone’s talking about a WAD, this is the file they’re most likely talking about, rather than any IWAD. PWADs temporarily modify the base Doom game in order to create a new gameplay experience. They can contain anything from new sound effects and graphics to new levels or enemies. You’ll download these from the internet — most likely the /idgames Archives — where they’ll be packaged along with a readme inside a single zip file.

If you find more than one actual WAD file, or even something ending in “.deh”, inside the zip, don’t freak out. Some older mods split their content between two WAD files — one for levels and another for textures, for example. A .deh file is a DeHackEd patch, simply a different kind of patch, modifying game behavior rather than resources. If the mod you want to play contains more than one file worth of content, just select all of them and drag them onto the executable when you get to that step.

3. An executable

The executable is what’s used to interpret the Doom content. When the game first came out, we all just used the Doom.exe (what’s called Vanilla Doom now) to run the game. More recently, though, fan-made executables (called source ports) have been released that allow the game to be run in Windows, remove original limitations of the engine, or even add brand new features.

Chocolate Doom, PrBoom+, Eternity, and ZDoom are all quite common source ports. A lot of WADs may require a specific source port in order to use its advanced features. It’ll say so in the readme if it does, and I’ll make sure to mention it in any reviews. The nice thing is that once you know how to set one of these up, you’re pretty much good to go getting any of them up and running. I’ll be walking you through Eternity, since it’s my favorite (and it allows dragging and dropping PWADs, which simplifies things a ton).

Also note that you can still run Doom.exe on modern PCs, “as it was meant to be”, in a DOSBox environment. It’s more complicated, but if  you’re familiar with DOSBox, you shouldn’t have any trouble.

Okay, let’s do this.

All we need to do is get everything in one place and we’ll be golden.

Step 1: Download your source port. In this case, let’s grab Eternity. Here’s a direct link.

Step 2: Unzip the source port files into a folder of your choice. I use C:\Games\Eternity

Step 3: Copy your IWAD (DOOM.WAD, DOOM2.wad, or preferably both) into this folder.

Step 4: Download the PWAD you want to play, and unzip all files into the source port’s folder. Your folder should look something like this:

doomfolder

Step 5: Drag and drop your PWAD onto the executable. It should immediately boot up with the modded content, provided it doesn’t require a special source port or an IWAD you don’t have.

Step 6: Kill the demons. (No, John. You are the demons.)

There you go. It was kind of long-winded, but we got there.

If you’ve got any questions, or if anything was confusing, let me know. I’ll keep updating this post with additional information and clarification as needed.

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8 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Doom WADs

  1. It doesn’t work! Please help me. In the readmes it says type in bla bla… Where do I type? DosBox? Way to complicated for me. When I drag and drop a wad onto chocolatedoom.exe it says “No IWAD file was found”. What am I doing wrong ?

    • Hey Jesper! It sounds like you were missing the Doom IWAD from the Chocolate Doom folder, but not the Eternity one. Make sure either doom.wad or doom2.wad are in the folder you’re trying to run Doom from.

      If you’re trying to play custom PWADs, things are a little more complicated if you’re running, say, Chocolate Doom or Doom.exe. Doom.exe would require DOSBox, but ChocoDoom shouldn’t. The easiest way to do it is from the command prompt. If you go to your Start menu and click on Run…, you can type either “command” or “cmd” to open the prompt. It uses standard DOS input, so you’ll use “cd” to change directory. For instance, you could navigate to the Chocolate Doom directory on my hard drive by typing “cd c:\games\ChocDoom”

      Once you’re in the folder, it’s as easy as saying “chocolate-doom” to run the game. If you want to add custom WADs — which you probably do if you’re running from cmd — you can add “-file <the filename of the WAD" at the end of the command. So, to run Suspended in Dusk, I'd type "chocolate-doom -file sid.wad" and off we go!

      Just be sure that your PWAD, IWAD, and executable are all in the same folder. Let me know if it works!

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