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10th Year of the International Nethack Tournament

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the why-did-this-potion-eat-my-legs dept.

Classic Games (Games) 170

Dr. Zowie writes "The 10th annual Nethack Tournament just started over at, so put on your Hawaiian shirt, grab an expensive camera, and head for the dungeon. The tourney runs through the month of November each year, with volunteer game servers dotted around the world. Fewer than 1% of contestants actually finish the game by retrieving the Amulet of Yendor and ascending to demigodhood, but take heart: there are many prizes for intermediate goals, and prizes for team effort. For those too young to remember games older than Halo, Nethack is the apotheosis of the Roguelike genre of role-playing games, rendered in ASCII. Gameplay is phenomenally complex, and the game is somewhat sadistic; there are no 'checkpoints,' so if you manage to kill yourself somewhere in the dungeon you must start over from the beginning. The dungeons are quasi-randomly generated, so every game is different."

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Great! (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25603859)

Good luck to both of you still playing nethack!

Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25603897)

Amazing [] .

Barack Obama's aunt, a Kenyan woman who has been quietly living in public housing in South Boston, is in the United States illegally after an immigration judge rejected her request for asylum four years ago, the Associated Press has learned.

Zeituni Onyango, 56, referred to as "Aunti Zeituni" in Obama's memoir, was instructed to leave the United States by a US immigration judge who denied her asylum request, a person familiar with the matter told the AP late last night.

The disclosure about Onyango came shortly after Obama's presidential campaign confirmed that Onyango was Obama's paternal half-aunt on his father's side.

It was not immediately clear how Onyango might have qualified for public housing with a standing deportation order.

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (0, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604049)

Don't be selfish! The government needs to redistribute from the haves to the have nots. Wealthy people more than the median household income ($44,389) can surely afford more taxes to provide for those who aren't as well off.

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (1)

Chris Rhodes (1059906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605185)

Nethack is more like real life than this post. In nethack, you stroll through shops filled with goodies you can't afford, and are attacked for the slightest misbehavior (except attacking other customers.)

And the median income is more like reality than this post, since in Nethack you can barely afford to buy enough food to stay alive.

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (0, Offtopic)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604103)

Here goes my karma.

Who gives a crap? It's not him, it's not his children - it's his father's half-sister. She didn't raise him, and IIRC the first time he met her, he was an adult.

So what, exactly, does her life have to do with him? Having a deadbeat relative precludes you from being President?

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (2, Funny)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604981)

Having a deadbeat relative precludes you from being President?

Heck, (once) being a deadbeat doesn't preclude you from being President.

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604129)

Thanks, McCainbot! Lucky you warned us before we accidentally elected a black man!

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604709)

Calling Barack Obama black is like calling John Edwards a mill worker.

Re:Obama's aunt an illegal, living on taxpayers $$ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605545)

so we shouldn't vote for him because he's both too black and not black enough?

i wish McCain supporters would just make up their damn minds.

Re:Great! (2, Informative)

cbuhler (887833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25603903)

Thanks. I've only had one assension so far, so going to need it. Been playing for years. Very addicting game.

Re:Great! (2, Interesting)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604021)

My only ascension so far has been a wizard. I may try to ascend a monk for the tournament. Wizards with their spells have so many options, but they can be very fragile at times...

Re:Great! (3, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605135)

Starting class only determines how you start (starting abilities and inventory)....after a point, all characters evolve into basically the same thing. Even race has only a small bearing on your character after a point (starting intrinsics). There are ways of getting all of the equipment and intrinsics such that by the end of the game, you've collected all of the ones you need.

Generally, I find Valkyries to be the easiest early on (and most likely to survive long enough to make initial class irrelevant)..... Archaeologists are also good because gem identification (makes it easy to buy the good equipment0..... Wizards are tough early on until you can gain some strength and good equipment.


Re:Great! (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605597)

wizard, monk, Valkyrie, and... archaeologist? are you serious? so i can be Indiana Jones?

Re:Great! (1)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605743)

You could also be one of this women and play a tourist so you can scream at every little insect you come across ;)

I've been trying to ascend a tourist for the past three weeks. Right now I've got the amulet and am on my way back up (thanks to a Gnome-with-a-wand-of-death late in the mines), but I don't think I'll make it through the Plane of Fire. Anyway, I won't be participating this year, though I wish good hunting of rodney to those who try.

Re:Great! (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606709)

Yep. You start with a pickaxe and bull whip. They're certainly not the easiest class to play, but they have their upsides.

Re:Great! (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606697)

You missed a big one: caps on skills. Different classes are restricted as to how far they can advance in different skills. Wizards and monks, for example, are the only classes that can reach Basic level in all spellcasting schools. Other classes do better with weapons and such.

Re:Great! (1)

msormune (808119) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604249)

Well, luck is easy to come by, you just need a potion of holy water and a correct type of grey stone...

Re:Great! (2, Interesting)

SeePage87 (923251) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604947)

You might be surprised how many people still play. Last year there were 16,722 games played in the tournament (which is not even the biggest). This is only from players hearing about the tournament and participating. Playing across the internet is often painful because of latency, so most people don't bother.

Re:Great! (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605727)

how could latency be such a big issue for an ASCII-based RPG when people regularly play FPS games online that not only require more bandwidth but also revolve around fast-paced gameplay which happens in real-time, where precision timing/aiming make latency a much bigger factor?

i mean, i've played CS all hours of the night against Chinese/Korean/Japanese players half way around the globe without much of a problem. so i'm having a hard time understanding how latency would affect a game like nethack more so than a conventional online games.

Re:Great! (2, Interesting)

SeePage87 (923251) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605805)

Do you play nethack? Waiting for the board to update every move would drive most people crazy, but not doing it and "queuing" your moves will get you killed very quickly. You need to look before you leap. In a FPS, when you die you come right back to life (and don't use CS as a counterexample, it's not the same as losing a character you've spent 5 hours carefully tending).

Re:Great! (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606591)

how could latency be such a big issue for an ASCII-based RPG when people regularly play FPS games online that not only require more bandwidth but also revolve around fast-paced gameplay which happens in real-time, where precision timing/aiming make latency a much bigger factor?

Latency isn't a big issue, but it can become annoying by forcing you to slow your typing down. At least, I've found it annoying playing cross-country. Right now, I'm much closer to the NAO server, and it's not noticeable at all.
Also understand that the most popular server is colocated and running all (at the moment 43) games itself, rather than having the clients run them.
Unlike in other games, Nethack is not multiplayer at all. There's not much incentive to play online. This makes it much easier for lag to drive people to local copies.

Re:Great! (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606747)

ah, i see. if it's like playing a game over telnet where each keystroke needs to be echoed back to the player before the client displays the results then it's understandable that one would get frustrated.

Nethack probably hasn't been optimized for online play because, as you said, it's not really a multiplayer game. but maybe an optimized client/server version can be designed specifically for online play such as tournaments.

For those too young... (4, Funny)

rob1980 (941751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25603935)

For those too young to remember games older than Halo...

Get offa my lawn!

Slashem (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25603937)

I love Nethack, but I prefer Slashem.

I made an uber-patched version of Slashem I should polish up and release some day.

Re:Slashem (1)

heptapod (243146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604031)

Funny, everyone seems to be playing SporkHack [] while others have migrated over to Crawl [] .

Re:Slashem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604271)

Well not me. I play vanilla with ELBERETH compiled out (IMHO the most silly feature ever). And of course all of my three ascensions so far are wishless, two of them polyless.

SporkHack lost that Nethack flair IMHO. Gehennom(sp?) is supposed to be repetitive. ;)

SporkHack (1)

lorimer (67017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604579)

Link you meant to use is probably SporkHack [] , or telnet here [] for the public beta server. :)

three four three (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25603965)

And for half that time there haven't been any official updates to NetHack!
Does the DevTeam still exist?

Re:three four three (1)

bhaak1 (219906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604497)

Well, they still answer to bug reports. Sometimes :-)

The last update to the bugs page has been in August.

But what's taking them so long for a new version, nobody knows.

Re:three four three (5, Funny)

tzot (834456) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604929)

Well, they still answer to bug reports. Sometimes :-)

The last update to the bugs page has been in August.

But what's taking them so long for a new version, nobody knows.

I've heard that they had issues switching to a new graphics engine.

Re:three four three (4, Funny)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606353)

What, Times New Roman?

Interaction (5, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604001)

One of the things I love about nethack is that items (and monsters, and dungeon features...) interact with each other in so many ways. Wielding a cockatrice corpse as a weapon will make short work of many monsters -- as long as you're wearing gloves. Just be careful not to fall down the stairs because you're carrying too much load...

The lack of a save and restore feature is definitely one of the things that makes nethack work so well. After putting in several hours carefully figuring out which potions do what and collecting decent armor and weapons, that D down the hall will be far scarier than any gorgeously rendered 3D dragon. After all, it can actually kill your character, not just send you back to the last save point.

At first glance, nethack seems not just hard but outright sadistic (well, ok, it is, but bear with me). But, as you get to know it, you realize that it's not like many other RPGs. Rather than trying to acquire the single best collection of stuff you can, in nethack you're rewarded for having backup plans -- and backups to your backups. When you find yourself surrounded my monsters and low on HP and out of healing potions you might consider praying. If you've done that too recently, you might try a wand of teleport or digging to escape. And when you discover that those wands just ran out of charges, you'll be glad you didn't leave that cursed potion of gain level behind. (The cursed ones, rather than gaining a character level, make you gain a *dungeon* level.)

Combine the attention to detail with the huge variety of options for character class, general strategies, and the high game-to-game variability thanks to random dungeons levels with random items, and you get serious replay value.

Re:Interaction (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604135)

Wielding a [...] corpse as a [...] will make short work of many monsters -- as long as you're wearing [...].

I can has spoiler warning? :(

Re:Interaction (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604201)

It means go up a level, not down one. On the top level, it'll make the game end as if you took the stairs out. (Unless you have the Amulet.)

Re:Interaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604343)

Come on, man, this game's old enough to drink. The statute of limitations on spoilers is long expired.

Spoiler Warning? (4, Insightful)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605005)

Now that you know that one tidbit,
I suggest that you read every other spoiler you can find,
and then still have only a 1 in 10000 chance of ascending...

Re:Spoiler Warning? (2, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605163)

1 in 10,000???!??!?? You must play in Wizard mode. :D (That's either a smiley or YASD by newt.)


Re:Interaction (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604147)

ok, i have to ask, what happens if one use a cursed "gain level" potion on the deepest dungeon level?

Re:Interaction (1)

Krakhan (784021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604211)

A cursed potion of gain level sends you up one dungeon level. It's very useful in situations where you can't teleport by other means to a level or dungeon branch. One such situation would be at the deepest level in the game, where you do retrieve the Amulet of Yendor.

Re:Interaction (2, Funny)

hitmark (640295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604339)

ah yes, i was wondering what "gaining" a level would actually mean.

thing is this tho, are not the levels counted in increasing numbers while going down?

as such would one not be "loosing" a dungeon level by going up?

or is this on par with: []

Re:Interaction (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604379)

If you're on level 10, you "gain" a level to end up at level 9. Doing this on level 1 has the same effect as going up the stairs, ie it's not normally what you want.

Re:Interaction (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604411)

I suppose losing a level would be more technically correct, though it depends on whether you consider "gaining" to mean "increasing the number" or "going up".

Anyway, the question you should be asking is what happens if you use a cursed potion of gain level on the uppermost level of the dungeon, i.e. the first floor below the surface.

And the answer is that, unless you're carrying the Amulet of Yendor, then nothing happens. If you do have the amulet, you go to the Plane of Earth (the first level in the final quest to ascend).

Yeah I had to look it up and yeah I thought it'd be more exciting... there are other cases where leaving the dungeon for the surface causes the game to end.

Useful, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605419)

I didn't think c!oGL worked in Moloch's Sanctum?

Anyhow, what they might really be wondering is what happens if you quaff one on level 1 (at which time it would take you to level 0 and outside the dungeon).

This depends on whether or not you have the amulet, IIRC. If you have the amulet, you can leave for the elemental planes (and go through the endgame--what, you thought it was over just because you grabbed the amulet?). If you leave without getting the amulet, your game ends, but you don't win. There are other ways to go to further negative levels (e.g. level -1) or something. IIRC, you die from falling back to the ground unless you have levitation in those cases. The Dev Team DOES think of everything.

There's almost always a way out of every deathtrap, but you usually only think of it once you die (e.g. ooh, I had a camera? I should have photographed that monster to blind it!).

Re:Interaction (2, Informative)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605133)

That 'outright sadistic' is why I don't play Nethack. I quit after a beginning character stepped on a trapdoor, landed on a trapdoor on the next level, landed on a teleport trap on the third level that sent him two more levels down, only to land on (you guess it) another trapdoor.
        No one who did that to my character in a pen and paper RPG would ever get me back to the table. I've thrown people out of conventions for doing that sort of thing to other paying members when running tournaments (and I point out, every organized gaming convention, without exception, will readily do just that to stop the cases of sadistic abuse that sometimes happen, and has a public posted policy on just that point in the membership and/or staff kits).
      Some companies who feel they are losing customers thanks to sadistic GMing keep a joint industry blacklist of referees who have abused players in sanctioned tournaments that way, just to curb the 'outright sadistic' conduct. Back 30 years ago, Gary Gygax sometimes told bad DMs he observed that they were never to DM ever again, and instructed TSR's mail order dept to refuse to sell to those people so as to put some teeth into it.
      Oh, but this is a computer game, that makes it different. No, it doesn't. All the good features of Nethack you've cited, the neat options for character class and so on, would make a great game, maybe the best game evah! BUT not with the 'outright sadistic' parts.


Re:Interaction (5, Interesting)

Urkki (668283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605633)

Nethack and the like would be boring without the sadistic part, without the constant threat of dying of unfair causes. It helps the game to stay somewhat challenging even after completing it many times. It makes every game intense and exciting.

Besides, many unfair deaths aren't really unfair deaths, but instead deaths that could have been avoided by playing better (preparing better, being more cautious, being less greedy, etc). This is especially true when you get further along in the game and have more to lose. Truly unfair deaths where you do everything right and then you just die anyway are quite rare.

Note: I'm not saying you're "wrong" to not play Nethack 'cos you think it's too sadistic. Then it's just not a game that's entertaining for you. I'm just saying that it would be worse if it wasn't like that, it would be just plain boring.

Re:Interaction (1)

bhaak1 (219906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606041)

It is indeed important that this is a computer that did this to your character. It was not a DM that fucked you up but probability and random numbers.

Computer roleplaying is completely different from RL roleplaying. We still can't simulate a human good enough to programm a good RPG DM.

NetHack doesn't even try this but it tries to give the player a multitude of options. Every item in the game has several uses and can even interact in different ways. Every monster has something special that is of value or a threat to the player. All this together creates *every time* you start a game a unique game session *without human creativity*. Only through the Random Number Generation mechanism.

Nothing beats paper & pen if you're looking for real RPG. Play that for the real thing.

Re:Interaction (1)

Fnordulicious (85996) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606301)

I have wondered about a "fairness" system that could be tacked on the Random Number God in Nethack or its congeners. Various events in the game could be given a fairness rating, and this could be cumulative over some number of successive events. Something like hitting a teleport trap and landing on a trap door would be more unfair than hitting a teleport trap and landing on a fountain, for example. Depending on the event, some boundary between fair and unfair could decide whether the RNG should reroll or not. This could be a fairly simplistic simulation of what real DMs do in fudging their rolls.

This would be a great academic project for someone studying game design and implementation. It would be disgusting to diehard nethackers of course, but would perhaps encourage more "casual" players in taking up the game.

Re:Interaction (1)

BlackSabbath (118110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606283)

Dude, no offence but what you've described is extremely unlikely, and while that is no consolation to you when it happened, it is unlikely to happen again.
I've been playing since about 1987 (ascended only once, as a wizard) and never encountered anything that unlucky.
Just chillax and try again. I've not encountered a single game since that has repaid so much more after the initial investment in learning. And the great thing is that I am still learning little things (admittedly, these days I don't play that often. I may get a hankering for NetHack about once a year that leads to about a month or so of playing).
In the old "desert island" scenario, NetHack is the one game I would pick to have with me.

Re:Interaction (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606771)

Occasionally, you get something that's truly unfair. Traps on level 1-2 are one of the classic examples. (Gnomes early in the mines with potent wands are another.) But all of those are early; you reroll the character and it cost you all of 5 minutes. Later game deaths that you truly can't avoid with good play are very, very rare.

The problem is that you don't get the good parts of the gameplay without them. The rest of the game feels unfair until you get to know it. What's really going on is that you're not sufficiently prepared. You get rewarded for expecting the worst case scenario and being ready for it -- and if you're not, you won't get to continue the game.

The only real problem I see with the game is that it's not always obvious to the player that they could have done something better and avoided dying. Then again, if it always told you what you did wrong, it would be too easy.

The other major thing that the permadeath feature does is make you be actually invested in the character. An RPG on a computer with savepoints, or a GM who's willing to fudge numbers to let the PCs handle the tough monster, can simply never inspire the same sense of fear for your character that nethack can.

Re:Interaction (1)

cheftw (996831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605517)

Real men save by playing in a VM.


Re:Interaction (3, Funny)

Scooter (8281) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606787)

One of the things I love about nethack is that items (and monsters, and dungeon features...) interact with each other in so many ways. Wielding a cockatrice corpse as a weapon will make short work of many monsters -- as long as you're wearing gloves. Just be careful not to fall down the stairs because you're carrying too much load...

This is what kept me playing Nethack for many years - to see if some obscure piece of logic had been accommodated. It usually was.

I once "died" in Nethack of a "thermonuclear explosion", largely due to a series of unfortunate events (coulda been a Darwin contender :P):-

I had a room full of demons to deal with, and adopted my usually successful room clearing move which goes like this: having acquired teleportation and a ring of teleport control, I teleport into the room; then using my magic whistle, I summoned my 3 tame dragons (Huey, Dewey and Louie - when you absolutely have to kill off every last m**** f**** in the goddam dungeon...). This where it all went wrong though as on the next turn, the dragons breathed fire at the demons, I got caught in the cross fire, which wasn't a problem as I had many many HP by then and was fireproof (you need to be to descend to the "hell" levels), but I was also carrying so many spellbooks, wands, potions, scrolls etc which all went up causing a critical mass of magic...

I also remember a friend of mine who thought he'd be clever and hack his save file in an early Nethack and give himself max HP. He was very pleased with himself until he went up a level, gained 8hp, and the signed integer rolled over...

I've said this before but... (5, Funny)

slaker (53818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604003)

I ascended with a wishless tourist once, and I consider that more of an accomplishment than my bachelor's degree.

Re:I've said this before but... (1)

ral8158 (947954) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604059)

That's..... that's an accomplishment.

Re:I've said this before but... (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604119)

I ascended with a wishless tourist once, and I consider that more of an accomplishment than my bachelor's degree.

Your CS dept.'s friday bar probably had more chicks, though ;)


Re:I've said this before but... (1)

slaker (53818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604439)

There are CS classes that can have girls in them?

Re:I've said this before but... (1)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605975)

I had a CS class with a girl in it once. But then someone informed her that this wasn't Intro to American History, and she left.

I put more effort into nethack... (4, Interesting)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604225)

I'm pretty sure that between the ages of 15 and 23 I put in a PHD amount of work into ascending in nethack. And no, it didnt happen.

I replayed the game in 05 a decade later... and cheated to do some "tourist gaming" even with a full wand of wishing, and optional dying, it took all night to ascend,, When I left the dungeon I was bloody surrounded with monsters. Even in the deep parts of nethack there are monsters conventions that make moving a total pain.

Still, a game where you can wield the iron ball on your ankle as a weapon rocks.

Re:I've said this before but... (2, Informative)

cbuhler (887833) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604475)

My one assension was with a Ranger. I personally would consider getting a tourist past the mines a bit of an accomplishment, probably my poorest character. Wizards and healers are both fun, but it's almost a different game with them.

Nethack is fine (2, Interesting)

Xeth (614132) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604007)

But in the genre of cruel dungeon-crawls, I prefer Iter Vehemens Ad Necem [] .

There's nothing like bludgeoning a zombie to death with your own severed arm, then being forced to eat the arm to stave off hunger.

No Ubuntu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604725)

Aw. No Ubuntu package.

Re:Nethack is fine (1)

MooUK (905450) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605369)

That sounds so amazingly awesome I might have to try it...

Re:Nethack is fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25606669)

Then getting leprosy from eating something covered in zombie blood, and having your other arm fall off.

Very difficult but strangely rewarding (5, Informative)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604039)

I never managed to complete Nethack until I found the spoilers [] , which include helpful advice about the best way to approach the game. The dungeons are random, but the structure of the game is not, and the same things will appear in approximately the same places (with different names). Once you have got to a certain depth, you've cracked the game and a win is almost certain.

Whether it is cheating to look at the spoilers is a philosophical question. Cheating is copying a save file or modifying the game - reading spoilers is no more cheating than looking at the source code.

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (2, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604099)

I think most veteran hackers would agree that looking at the source, along with most spoilers, is definitely cheating -- though some level of general advice is not. The definitely-not-cheating ways to learn about the game are explore mode and the oracle; both are quite informative without being overly spoiled. At the same time, I think the vast majority of players look at spoilers to some degree.

To anyone new to nethack out there: Give it an honest try without spoilers. Use them when you get stuck, but only in moderation. Nethack is fundamentally a game about discovering the rules; if you learn them all by reading, it's far less fun. Of course, remaining eternally clueless is no fun either. As in many things, moderation is the key.

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (1)

BeeRockxs (782462) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604469)

"most veteran hackers?" BS. You've never been to rgrn or #nethack on freenode, have you?

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604577)

On the contrary, I've been to both. I think they would generally agree that you should avoid it, but not get too stuck up about it -- at least until you finish your first ascension. But that doesn't mean they'll look down on you for it, and it certainly doesn't mean they don't do it...

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (2, Insightful)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606343)

I agree. The grandparent needs to be modded down. Ellora's Saga [] is legendary because the guy tried so hard to not be spoiled. Saying someone should try their hardest to beat Nethack without spoilers is just plain mean.

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (3, Insightful)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604501)

I agree with your general sentiment, that it is good to learn the game without spoilers, but due to the game's difficulty, I found this far too frustrating. The game does not forgive mistakes, and even in explore mode it is easy to get stuck.

I think I have a different philosophical approach to the game. I see it as a black box. Provided you don't open the box and change the rules, you can do anything you want with the information it provides and the moves you're allowed to make. Viewed like this, Nethack is a sort of remote debugging challenge in the form of an adventure game. To understand the state of the game running on the server, you can look at your own local copy, the source code, the spoilers, and everything the server has sent you - if you want. Which is even geekier than treating it as an RPG!

Re:Very difficult but strangely rewarding (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25606537)

As a seasoned nethack player (I've ascended all classes and done some optional conducts. Still working on pacifist :) ). Spoilers and source diving are not considered cheating amongst the greater nethack community. And by greater nethack community I basically mean

There is only one thing that is universally considered cheating, and that is backing up save files to circumvent permanent death.

While spoilers are very helpful, they are not gamebreaking. There's no set path to follow in nethack that will guarantee victory.

Spoilers are more often used as a reference for things that just don't make sense to memorize.

For example, let's say I need a scroll of enchant armor, I have blank paper and a Magic Marker with 15 charges on it. I don't remember how many charges are required to make that scroll, so I look it up.

The spoiler won't give you the idea to make a scroll that you need using equipment found around the dungeon. But they will give you the details you need to be a little more efficient.

Think of the spoilers as more of a pocket reference than a walkthrough or tutorial.

Spoilers is a bit like doping (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604111)

reading spoilers is no more cheating than looking at the source code.

Which, I imagine, a lot of the people with long beards and intravenous coffee would also consider cheating.

Reading spoilers or source is like doping: it gives you an advantage over those who don't do it, but the sport is still challenging. As long as you can distinguish those who do from those who don't, and take appropriate measures [whatever that is], I see no reason to be offended.

I pulled off a Double Top last year (2)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604047)

That may well be my crowning achievement in video gamery.

I've since retired from Nethack, simply because I don't have the patience for any more of it. Good luck to this year's players.

bsdgames, hack, age of nethack (4, Informative)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604067)

For those too young to remember games older than Halo

Halo? More like Bomberman or the Lotus and Turrican series (~1990). Nethack is from 1987, and is based on hack from 1985.

If you install `bsdgames' on debian/ubuntu, you can play hack, the precursor to nethack.

To get an idea of how the world looked when the internet was black-and-white, look at the end of the man page:

          Probably infinite. Mail complaints to mcvax!aeb .

Bang path ftw :) I'll get off your lawn now.

Re:bsdgames, hack, age of nethack (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604281)

there were multi-player games before the internet, of course. Starting in the 1970s, variations on dungeon exploration and star wars. google MUD1 and DUNGEN and Sceptre of Goth, also some star wars variants. some were ported from PDP to other platforms in the 80s, I played them on CDC Cyber running NO

Re:bsdgames, hack, age of nethack (1)

Teckla (630646) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605677)

Scepter of Goth, actually. I still have the Pascal source code for it. Wish I had the time/patience to port it to C or Java.

Re:bsdgames, hack, age of nethack (1)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605885)

Unlike most adventure games, which give you a verbal description of your location, NetHack gives you a visual image of the dungeon level you are on.

Sigh. :)

Re:bsdgames, hack, age of nethack (1)

lamapper (1343009) | more than 5 years ago | (#25606573)

... Nethack is from 1987, and is based on hack from 1985.

If you install `bsdgames' on debian/ubuntu, you can play hack, the precursor to nethack....

First played Rogue [] on a DOS PC around that same time frame. It ran just fine on that old PC. I will have to give the debian/ubuntu version a try one day. Back than we were playing Chess, Othello, Go and Solitare on the PCs as well.

One of the better programmers (he was on a team that placed 2nd in the ACM's international programming contest a year or so later) stayed in one of the university computer labs all night long playing Rogue. His goal at that time was to do it in one pass without stopping, no saves, just playing all night long. He managed to do it too! He was also doing some pretty interesting stuff on a VAX with Fractiles also.

Sadly I never made it all the way to the Amulet, nor did I try to cheat. Perhaps one day I will give it another try. And yes I will look over the hints before I do, lol.

Got to play Apache on the MacIntosh within a year or two of that same time period, flying a helicopter through the city and shooting at things was a blast compared to the pixel computer games I was use too.

It was years later that I got to play BattleZone on an IBM PC. I remember being sad that I had finished all of the missions and wanted to play more. That was before having kids of course when I had more time. I first played the Arcade version of BattleZone for a quarter; the PC version with missions was so much better than the Arcade version that only gave you a screen you could pivot and move.

Two of my favorite really old games, pre PC; pre MacIntosh because they did not cost me a quarter like Missile Command did in the arcade, were played in 1979 with a TSO account on an IBM 360 and Amdhal 470 with not enough system RAM memory so that only two or three players could play at the same time. That system RAM was of coursed shared by everyone and everything running on the system at that time. Adventure and Empire. I believe they were written in Fortran, but honestly do not remember...its been a couple of years.

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike

Found a link with a map of another game, Zork [] , but it is similar enough to give someone who has never seen it an idea. We would take our printouts (remember that green and white banded paper from the mainframe days) and make maps like these. Since the TSO account playing the game took up so many system resources, I had to promise that I would only play it on the weekends after 10pm or risk losing my TSO access. There were 9 or 10 accout levels, with TSO access not being granted until either level 6 or level 8 and I was not going to blow it.

One of the systems programmers had managed to get through Adventure to the end, but he told me that he went through the code to learn more about the game to do it. He told me what he did to win it and what he did when all the dwarfs woke up, lol, but I do not remember exactly what he said now. I got killed by waking up the dwarfs more than once.

Empire was fun, the world was randomly generated each time, so you explored and learned the lay of the land as you played the game. Battle was simple, you had a 50/50 shot when your pixel Army or Fighter encountered a city (or the enemyA) and 10 turns to build a Fighter (F) plane. While I never played long enough to build them, you could build Troop Transports (T), Aircraft carrieer's and Submarines (S) also. Of course they took longer to build, but you would need them to cross a body of water and only Cities next to a body of water could build them. In the time it would take to build one fighter, you could have built 5 Armies, so the more armies, the better. In battle between a Fighter and an Army, it was still a 50/50 no advantage there, other than the Fighter could explore the world faster than an Army could.

For those that have never played, An A army could move one pixel at a time; A F Fighter airplane could fly 10 pixels at a time out and than back to the city to refuel. As you move the world is revealed to you, each pixel around you is a dot . so when you move the army you learn about the three spots in front of you, the two spots on either side and so forth. The rest of the world is simply undiscovered until an Army of yours goes there.

I could not find an image of the screen for the mainframe Empire game, so here is a poor example, but might give some an idea.


.C.........F. 1 turn right - - >



At the same time you are exploring the world, the enemy is doing the same thing somewhere else in the world and you never know when you will run into each other.

Very basic, very simple. My sons would find it boring as heck compared to what they play today. But back in the day....

I remember sending out the Fighter to discover the world faster and having it crash and burn because I did not refuel it first, taking a wild chance that their might be a city out there somewhere 20 pixels away. In the day of punch cards, before PCs, being able to play a game like that was a trip. And as I said earlier, it did not cost me a quarter as a game in the arcade would. Today it costs you two, three or four quarters to play a game, doesn't it!

I know the gaming boxes are all the rage, but I still prefer to buy computer games that I can install on a computer and run instead. I would not expect the computer to be better than a gaming box until a 3D display capability is realized...than perhaps. Besides if you are playing games that you install on a computer, you can get the development tools and learn how to create them. It is a bit harder to manufacture cartridges for home use.

At least with the gaming boxes and computers you do not have to put quarters in them!

SoF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604069)

Personally, I prefer Sword of Fargoal over Nethack.

variations (1)

david.peace (1302591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604149)

Falcon's Eye: a graphical version on Ubuntu!

Re:variations (2, Interesting)

dweezil-n0xad (743070) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604247)

I would recommend Vulture's [] if you want a a graphical version of NetHack.

The Vulture's games are forks of the Falcon's Eye project; over the standard Falcon's Eye base and the optional use of the Slash'EM core, Vulture's incorporates the latest core sources, hundreds more graphics and sounds, many bugfixes and performance enhancements, and an open, collaborative development environment.

Re:variations (1)

sketerpot (454020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604619)

I tried Falcon's Eye, but I found the isometric graphics too clunky for me. As far as I'm concerned, the closest-to-perfect version of Nethack on Linux is the MS-DOS version running on Dosbox with the graphical tiles enabled. I play it pretty often.

Re:variations (1)

menkhaura (103150) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605807)

I like the IBMGraphics option on a konsole, even though some items may be depicted with only a '?'. For the Linux console, DECGraphics for the win. I've never quite got along with Falken's or QT or GTK graphics...

Long live Nethack!

Food (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604167)

"You have finished eating your kitten."

I don't think I'd win. :-(

Re:Food (1)

sketerpot (454020) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604627)

Be a chaotic character, or forego prayer until you have a chance to sacrifice some random monsters on a co-aligned altar. Problem solved.

I prefer Angband. (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604187)

Everyone has their own preference. I just like the finding the elemental resist and speed artifact part of the game.
The game also has its own special flair when it comes to ironmaning it. If you run out of light or food, you pretty much lose. If you linger too long on a dungeon level, you waste light and food. So if you get low on light or food, you play more aggressively and dive faster. Of course if you dive too fast, you won't be able to defeat the enemies. So very often you find yourself staring death by lack of resources vs death from tough monsters.

Why limit yourself? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25606257)

Personally, I love both Nethack [] and Angband [] . Why limit yourself to just one? ADOM [] deserves mention here, too, as do the *band variants (ToME [] , ZAngband [] & Enteroband [] are all personal *band variant favorites).

There's no reason you can't play them all. Some, like ADOM, are very well-developed. It has the most 'plot' of them all, IMHO. But I wouldn't want to be limited to playing just one of them!

So far, I've beaten everything except Angband (unless you count watching that Borg winner, but the Angband Borg [] is another story, and a very cool bit of AI!)

I linked all those variants up for you because I want to encourage people to play these games. And if you're stuck, I like to read spoilers. Some people help that, but they REALLY help you appreciate the depth of the games, IMHO. If you don't like that, though, don't read them. But there are lots of crazy things about what resistances you need, or what gear is important, or even what to wish for that are really hard to figure out. I mean, how many would notice that herbs grow in a pattern according to Conway's game of Life? That's important if you want to farm them (what did you think farmers were good at, other than polearms?).

Anyhow, these are rich & fun games that shouldn't be ignored just because you think text based interfaces are too retro. Good times, all around :)

For those who tagged this "getalife" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25604209)

Nethack is one of the few very complex games that requires *zero* time investment. I sometimes play when I'm stuck in an airport, or wherever, or waiting for something to download or update or compile, and when I'm back to work just save the game. Aside from not requiring time, but allowing you to waste as much time as you have to waste, it has infinite replay value. You could play it for your whole life without ever beating the game, and also without the game ever getting boring. The reason it never gets boring is because your character can die suddenly at any moment, and there's no way to restore (without messing with the game's internals, which I don't think very many people bother to do). It's the total antithesis of modern video games - no emphasis on graphics, and nearly infinite options for what you can do within the game. Nethack is the best roguelike (I've played dozens), the best free/libre software game hands-down, and possibly the best game, period.

So stick your world of warcraft where the sun doesn't reach.

telenet to watch live games (5, Informative)

6350' (936630) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604325)

It can be a lot of fun to just sit and watch someone play nethack. Just type telnet into any old command line, and you can connect up to play, but also to observer a game in progress. Try to match up your window size to the player you wish to observer (listed in the game info). It's great fun to watch people are often far, far better than you, getting far, far further in the game than you ever will :P And my god, the speed these guys progress at. Yikes!

This thread will (has) descend into alternative recommendations, so I'll take a moment to pimp a multiplayer variant of Angband, being MAngband ( [] ). A realtime non-turnbased roguelike sounds kooky, but it actually works out pretty darned well (and Morgoth in realtime is a very frightening experience).

On a side note, I always appreciate roguelike-related threads on slashdot, as it is a rare opporunity for my username to have any sense of context.

telnet 37331 for tourney games (3, Informative)

tripa (1070956) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604819)

Unlike all-year public servers, the tournament ones aren't watchable by default. But a few of the contestants broadcast their own games anyway on telnet:// [] so that's always a nice watch too. This service doesn't get enough publicity, I wish the top players could show us their progress!

Flamebait - Best game ever (5, Informative)

mathimus1863 (1120437) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604395)

I don't post here much, but I have to write to promote this game. The game has been in development for 20 years, and the graphics have been exactly the same the whole time. So where did all the development go? Into pure depth of gameplay. I played this game off and on for like 7 years before I was able to finally finish the game once, and that's with just one of the 20 character types you can be. There's actually a portion of my brain devoted to nethack knowledge. Yes, I'm a nerd. But, this is a great game. As long as you don't mind your buddies making fun of you for playing a game produced exclusively from ASCII graphics (but it is the most efficient way for you to view and comprehend the current state of the game).

As an example of pure depth, consider the water traps that rust your weapons and armor. Well, if you are polymorphed into an iron golem, you can rust to death from walking into a water trap. Touching cockatrice corpses will turn you to stone instantly, but if you wear gloves you can wield it as a weapon to turn other creatures to stone. But if you are burdened carrying too much stuff, you are likely to fall down the steps and turn yourself to stone. Game over, try again. If you are confused from eating rotten food, reading scrolls will cast spells in ways you weren't expecting. They thought of everything in this game.

You can actually find a wand of wishing on the first level and get any three items in the game. The inexperienced player still won't make it very far. No matter how strong or amazing you are, you could still die from a falling drawbridge, cockatrice corpse, being digested by strange creatures, being drowned by an electric eel, or kicking a wall while you are near death. Even after all the years I've spent on this game, I still learn something new every time I play. It's that deep.

Re:Flamebait - Best game ever (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604837)

Funny. You could almost say the exact same thing about vi.

Re:Flamebait - Best game ever (2, Insightful)

Bambi Dee (611786) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605583)

I'm bad at both... and I keep trying to save and quit Nethack with a ":wq".

Re:Flamebait - Best game ever (1)

menkhaura (103150) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605853)

Hm... nice idea for a nethack patch, since the movement keys are (since the beginning) just like the vi ones. Those of us with muscle memory for :wq for saving/exiting would be grateful for such an advancement.

Re:Flamebait - Best game ever (1)

crunch_ca (972937) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605181)

You can actually find a wand of wishing on the first level and get any three items in the game...

In fact, you should probably wish for 2 blessed scrolls of charging and get up to 5 additional items... And if you're willing to zap till dust, you should be able to get 6.. Depending on how many charges are in the wand when you find it of course...

But you're right, that's no guarantee that you have a chance of winning -- even if you wish for the right stuff.

Nethack isn't hard among roguelikes (2, Insightful)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604427)

Nethack is high on the illogical quick factor, so there's a harsh learning curve, but once you learn them or spoil yourself, then Nethack is not difficult. ADOM and Crawl are far more punishing.

Re:Nethack isn't hard among roguelikes (2, Insightful)

bhaak1 (219906) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604757)

NetHack isn't really about being hard. It is about surviving situations that the RNG throws at you or you get yourself into by using all options available to you.

If you want a punishing NetHack, play Slash'Em :-)

Don't remind me... (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604567)

I had a wizard down to the end of the Dungeon. I had stopped playing for a while in order to catch up with Real Life. When I came back, I had forgotten all of the tricks, and a titan cast summon nasties around me in the Castle.

I even had a scroll of taming in my bag I could have tried, followed by invoking the Eye. FFFFFUUUUUUUUUUCK...


An incredibly hard, incredibly fun game (3, Informative)

HonestButCurious (1306021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25604647)

I ascended as a samurai once, and it was this close to landing on my CV. That one's offset by the squillion times I was killed by a combination of my stupidity and the cruelty of the almighty RNG (random number generator).

Then there are those crazy iron-man ascents made by guys who never eat, never attack other monsters, never wear armor and so on.

It's a great game, and after playing it a few times you can take a look at some archived YASDs to appreciate their fine humour: []

Best nethack moment ever (4, Funny)

bertok (226922) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605669)

It's just amazing how many strange combinations of items and effects have been thought of by the dev team.

My favorite Nethack moment ever was when I had used a blessed scroll of genocide to permanently wipe out all dragons from the game, but I was still wearing a suit of silver dragon scale mail I had acquired earlier. I stepped on a polymorph trap, and discovered a little known game mechanic that if you're wearing dragon armor while polymorphing uncontrollably, you turn into that kind of dragon. However, dragons were already wiped out, so I couldn't. The message the game gave me was:

"You feel slightly silver dragon-ish."

Re:Best nethack moment ever (1)

menkhaura (103150) | more than 5 years ago | (#25605909)

Did you genocide Rs earlier? Depending on your class, these are the most annoying critters on the whole game (and then, depending on your class, these are the most annoying critters on the whole game!)

I don't know how you do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25605827)

Even with all the spoilers and hacking my game to reset hunger to the default every turn, I have never ascended. Good thing I haven't tried in a while, my hands thank me for it.

That said, Nethack is a masterpiece.

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