|Getting killed by a dead foe takes a special kind of talent.|
Well, you were all right: NetHack is incredibly fun and addictive. It keeps revealing new facets to me, even on the early levels, every time I start a new character. And the character classes really do matter, unlike Mission: Mainframe or many other CRPGs--roguelike and non-roguelike--of the era. Are their abilities meant to be so mysterious, though? I suspect that resistances and attributes and such vary from class to class, but the guidebook doesn't have much to say about them.
Anyway, I thought I'd embed some of the gameplay features among stories about five adventurers and their experiences in the Dungeons of Doom.
1. Victoria the Vakyrie
Victoria was the brashest member of a brash race--charging through dungeons and actively engaging dangers. She blew through Level 1 so fast that she left her dog behind. In the first room on Level 2, she swiped a scroll from the dungeon floor. If there was a part of her mind--even in the deepest recesses--that exercised caution, she didn't hear it. She boldly read the words on the scroll and was rewarded for her risk with the absolute coolest spell ever--the ability to eliminate any monster from the game [permanently, on all levels, I assume]. She thought briefly about dragons and basilisks before glancing at her sword and noting the scarring and pitting that had been done only moments before by an acid slug [they had reduced it from a +1 to a 0]. With a brief word, the slimy menaces existed no more.
|She would soon wish she had said "orcs."|
On Level 3, she encountered legions of orcs, but she pushed through their incessant darts and hacked them up one by one. On the other side, she found the most glorious site ever seen in a roguelike game:
|A store! If only shopkeepers would identify items, I'd be in heaven.|
She was momentarily baffled by the interface: you "pick up" objects to add them to your shopping list and then "pay bill" when you're ready to check out; until then, the shopkeeper blocks the door. You "drop" items to sell them. She was also baffled by the willingness of the owner to purchase corpses of slain orcs, but she wasn't complaining.
|Seriously, what is he going to do with this?|
She purchased some food rations and a mysterious brass ring (to go with the Ring of Protection +1 she'd found earlier and identified with a scroll). Among the piles of orc bodies, she had discovered a suit of ring mail +8--not bad for Level 3.
Alas, her brashness was her undoing. Coming across another scroll, she read it aloud and was told by a mysterious voice that she was being punished for misbehavior. She found an iron ball shackled to her leg; she could pick it up but otherwise not get rid of it [seriously: is there any way?].
|If the game would let you name the ball "Irene," NetHack would be awfully true to life.|
Her despondence grew to annoyance when her stomach started growling for the umpteenth time. Eying her rations--which included pizza and an egg--she decided to save her food and defy the universe with the unthinkable. She stripped the armor and clothing off a slain hobgoblin, roasted it over an open flame, and sank her teeth into its flesh. It did not agree with her. She died clutching her stomach and cursing the names of her Norse gods.
|That's putting it mildly.|
2. Grey Star the Wizard
Grey Star began with a pile of magic items: spellbooks with create familiar, force bolt, and sleep; scrolls of teleportation, light, and remove curse; a potion of invisiblity; rings of conflict and stealth; and wands of polymorph and "nothing." Only the "Ring of Conflict" and the "Wand of Nothing" were real mysteries. In the first room, he found a second Scroll of Remove Curse and a pile of rocks for throwing. He quickly transcribed the spells in the spellbooks to his memory. Encountering a floating eye upon leaving the room, he tested out force bolt but was told he "goofed up" and then his measly 2 magic points were gone. He had to defeat the floating eye with his dagger like a common warrior. [At least the spell points regenerate fast.] The spell served him well in the next room, though, on a hobgoblin, and he kept using it on other foes until a message warned him that the spell "was starting to look well-used" [do spells run out in this game?] Things were nonetheless looking good for Grey Star until his stomach began to growl and he realized he didn't have any food. In desperation, he ate the corpse of an acid blob, but it just made him sick. Growing weaker by the moment, he fainted in front of a jackal and died at the wild canine's canines.
3. Kurosawa the Ninja
Kurosawa left his distant clan and journeyed thousands of miles to the Dungeons of Doom, which explains why he didn't have any food when he got there [thanks, NetHack--most of my deaths are turning out to be food-related.] He did have a katana, 39 shurikens, leather armor, and a blindfold [??] along with, of course, his dog. On Level 1, he found some magic items that he dared not identify, and a fountain which, upon drinking the waters, dried up and revealed a gem. Unfortunately, an acid slug corroded his katana to the point of near unusability, and on Level 2 he was slain by an orc.
4. Malory the Knight
Sir Malory heard about the deaths of the ninja, valkyrie, and wizard and couldn't help but laugh. Exploring the depths of dungeons was knight's work (and, incidentally, he thought, man's work). Equipped with a spear, long sword, ring mail, helmet, gloves, and shield, he vowed to hack and slash his way through any enemy the dungeon dared throw at him. He bullied his way through Level 1 and on Level 2 found a message written in the dust that read "ad ae?a? um" [seriously: what?]. On Level 3, he encountered narrow passages that his bulk of armor would not allow him to traverse. Not to be defeated by such annoyances, he stripped his armor and left it in a pile so as to wiggle his way through a tight crevice. On the other side, he found a giant ant and, having no protection, was slain.
|Is it a cryptogram?|
5. Paul the Priest
Paul descended into the Dungeons of Doom convinced that his predecessors had lacked something crucial: faith. Armed with a blessed mace, chain mail, a shield, four vials of holy water, and spells of healing and detect food, he found himself in a dungeon room with an oddity: a kitchen sink. After quite a bit of fumbling about, he couldn't figure out what to do with it and moved on. True to his class, his foray into the dungeons did seem unusually blessed: he found a plethora of food, gold, and gems on the first two levels and defeated most enemies easily, rising quickly to Level 5. On Level 3, he found an armor shop and bought an Elven cloak.
|Yea, my god is a merciful god.|
Nonetheless, even the priest began to feel the ravages of hunger over time--hunger that was not sated by two of his rations, which turned out to be spoiled. On Level 4, he grew weak and started to faint. Clued by the game manual, he PRAYED and was rewarded by a full stomach! On Level 5, he found the same weird message that Malory had found along with a nymph who kept seducing him and stealing his armor before he finally tracked her down and killed her with some darts he had picked up from dead orcs.
|Hello? Fourth Amendment?|
Then something utterly weird happened. Paul was running out of inventory room, so he took a chance reading a scroll. It turned out to be a mapping scroll and showed him a room in the upper-right corner of the map that he couldn't reach. Wandering around to try to get to it, he found himself suddenly teleported there from a dead-end passage. The room was full of gold! More than 1,400. Momentarily forgetting his vows, Paul scooped it up greedily. But he couldn't get out of the vault. As he futilely searched for an exit, a guard appeared and claimed that probably all his gold (including the 750 he already had) had been stolen from the vault and he'd best turn it over. Paul dropped the gold and the guard led him out. As he contemplated his empty pockets, he thanked his gods for teaching him a valuable lesson about greed.
|This is exactly how Mickey Mouse got into trouble.|
But Paul had another lesson to learn. On Level 6, he began to feel the weight of his inventory, so he thought he'd try a few potions and scrolls to lighten the load. One potion "confused" him, and he probably should have stopped messing around until his head cleared. Instead, he read a scroll that turned out to be a "scroll of create monster." Because he was confused, he "mispronounced the words" and found himself surrounded by homunculuses. But when the battle cleared, he had two new rings and a potion, so everything turned out better than expected.
As I head to bed for the night, Paul the Priest is on Level 6, is Level 7 himself, and has a big complement of unidentified magic items. He is doubtless my most successful hero so far. It's going to be painful when I (inevitably) lose him.
I'll have to try to force myself to play a little Le Maitre des Ames tomorrow, or I'll just end up with this all day.