Thursday, December 13, 2012

NetHack: The Great Heist


Fans of NetHack consider an ascension without having read spoilers very prestigious; the achievement is so difficult that some question whether it has been or can be accomplished.
--NetHack entry on Wikipedia

Retrieving the Amulet of Yendor is a bit like stealing the Mona Lisa. Would you attempt that theft by walking in and seeing what happened when you grabbed it?...Your Barbarian was about as close to his goal as a guy who managed to break a window to get into the Louvre and had wandered the halls for a while... But you did not know where the goal was; the protections it would have; how to deal with the guards; or how to escape again with the prize.
 --Glenn's comment to my last NetHack entry on 11 December 2012.


All right, crew, gather round. That's it, come on, have a seat. Everybody eaten? Good. Everybody sober? Close enough. You  probably...hey, I'm talking here! Archaeologist, you can ask Cave-man about neolithic burial practices later. Now, let's...Rogue! Rogue! Leave Valkyrie alone. This isn't some Japanese eroge game. Oh, Samurai, calm down. I was just kidding. Now, we...for Yendor's sake, Tourist, nobody knows where the ATM is. Certainly not Priest; people just give him money for free. Just, all of you, sit down.

Okay.

What I'm about to propose to you happens to be both highly lucrative and highly dangerous. If that doesn't sound like your particular potion of fruit juice, help yourself to as many slime molds as you like and safe journey. No hard feelings. Otherwise, come with me.

All right. Ladies, gentlemen, gentlemen who look like ladies--oh, calm down, Elf. I was just kidding--I give you the Mazes of Menace. Otherwise known as the place from which none of our colleagues has ever returned. Fifty levels dug through solid earth, safeguarding the one thing this Guild wants more than any other: the Amulet of Yendor.

And we're going to get it.

No, Barbarian, it's a little more complicated than "smashing" our way to the center of the dungeon and "grabbing" it. That didn't work so well for your cousin--Karen or Harry, whatever his name was.

Bad news first. To even get near the Amulet, we've got to fight our way through 25 to 30 levels of monsters. Nasty monsters. Some of them can kill us with one breath, or just by touching us. Then we've got to breach a castle surrounded by a moat and lousy with trap doors. From there we descend into Hell, and I'm not talking figuratively. We'll roast in a second if we don't have fire resistance--which none of you have.

After that, it's an unknown number of maze levels. Maybe as many as 23. Inside one of them is the Wizard of Yendor, and he's got the Amulet. It's possible--not likely, but possible--that we'll be able to go toe-to-toe with him and win, but we're not going to take that chance. 'Cause if we're wrong, some other poor sap's gotta start all over from the beginning. So we're going to take him out in one blow, with a Wand of Death. What's that, Wizard? Where are we going to get one? You mean you don't have one?! You should have done some start-scumming! Just kidding! Just kidding! Sit down. If we haven't found one by then, that's where the Castle comes in. See, there's a Wand of Wishes in there, and we're going to steal that first.

Once we take the Amulet off the Wizard's cold corpse, we...What? Eat him?! Well, I...yeah, Cave-man, I suppose you can do that. Let's cross that bridge when we come to it, okay? No, the...no, there's no actual bridge. That was a metaphor. Look, there's going to be plenty to eat, okay? Our intelligence says there's all kinds of Elves down there. You can eat them. No, wait! Elf, come back! I was just joking! You're going to what? Where are you going to get a Scroll of Genocide? Wish for it? Yeah, let me know how that works out. Let him go, guys. I hear the Guild isn't even going to allow that role anymore.

All right, where was I? Now, remember, this is Mazes of Menace number 3.0.9, which means no quests, no elemental planes, no candles and invocation ritual, and no Moloch. The Wizard has the damned Amulet himself. No branches, no Gnome Mines, no Sobokan. There's only one way up, and one way back.

Once we steal the Amulet, we have to make our way back through the previous levels, cutting through the demon and dragon hordes, to reach the exit. At that point, we gotta keep the corks in the champagne because we still have to navigate the Astral Plane, find our god's altar, and sacrifice the Amulet to him. Then, we'll be full members of the Guild!

Guys? You don't look excited. I said, "We'll be full members..."

Right, I know that seems like a lot of work for guild membership. I...look, if you want to join an easy Adventurer's Guild, why don't you go to Spielburg? I hear that you can join their guild by taking a correspondence course! Ha ha! Ha...What? No, Priest, I don't know the address. Put your magic marker away.

Here's something to sweeten the pot: There are probably about 1,000 zorkmids per level in that dungeon, up and back. An average of 35 levels, times two, is 70,000 pieces of gold. Now without Elf, there are eleven of us. Each with an equal share. You do the math.

That's what I thought.

All right. Here's how we'll begin. First task: exercise. We've got 27 levels to get into shape. We're going to fight every damned thing that comes our way, drink every potion of gain ability, eat every giant. I want to see some of those stats--if not all of them--at 18 before we hit the castle. And we're going to level, too. Potions of gain level, wraith corpses, and good old-fashioned fighting. I want to see us at the same level as the dungeon level we're on.


Second task: reconnaissance. We're going to identify everything, and I mean everything. I don't want to find a Scroll of YUM YUM on Level 25. If we're past level 15 and we stumble on a "pink potion," we're going to test it by pouring it down someone's throat. Got me? We're going to experiment on ourselves and on the monsters around us, but by the time we hit the castle, we're going to know what every potion and scroll is, and most of the wands, too.

Third task: shopping list. We're going to need a bunch of stuff to get to the Amulet and back alive.  This is what I've come up with:

  • A Wand of Fire or Lightning with at least 10 charges, so we can burn ELBERETH in emegencies. Preferably two. Or at least one plus a scroll of charging.
  • A pick axe, to make our own paths.
  • A unicorn horn, preferably blessed, to cure blindness and hallucination and such.
  • A Wand of Teleportation
  • Decent weapons and armor. I want to see some high pluses.
  • Good throwing weapons, like blessed spears.
  • A tinning kit. If we can't eat some creature because we're already full, I don't want it to go to waste.
  • A lizard corpse, in case we get stoned.
  • At least one Scroll of Genocide, which we'll bless. I don't want to see any liches. I have a special hatred for liches.
  • Boots of Speed
  • Some item that reflects spells
  • Some item that bestows magic resistance
  • Some item that levitates
  • A blindfold, to go along with telepathy
  • Potions of Healing, Extra Healing, and Full Healing, preferably blessed
  • Lots of K-rations and C-rations
  • Potions of Blessing to create half this stuff. 
  • A bag to store a lot of this stuff.

Now, there are a lot of things we'd like to have. Yes, yes, Tourist, I was just getting to the Amulet of Life Saving. That, a Wand of Cancellation, and a Ring of Regeneration would all be good. But I'm going to stop short of calling them necessary. We've already got plenty of stuff on the "must" list. How are we going to get all of these things? We've got 25 levels and all the time in the world, guys. The first 10 or 15 levels are our playground. We'll go up and down, visiting shops and altars when we need to, and check things off one by one. We don't need to be in a hurry; we'll have a tinning kit.

Fourth task: intrinsics. This is where it gets a little disgusting, guys--probably even for you, Cave-man. We're going to need to eat things. Lots of things. Raw. I know, I know, but it's the only way to get everything we want. What are those things? Well: speed (yes, if we find the boots, they'll supersede it, but we want it anyway), telepathy, stealth, teleport control (followed by teleportitis), strength, and resistances to everything. I'm talking poison, cold, shock, sleep, and fire. Fire, Cave-man. It's like...well, it's a kind of...look, Wizard will show you. Hey! I said show him, Wizard! Healer, take care of Cave-man, please.

Teleport control's going to be the hardest. We can only get it by eating a tengu. I don't know, Knight. I think it's a kind of possum. But eating a tengu has an equal chance of conveying teleportitis, which is bad. So we're going to have to already have a Ring of Teleport Control before eating the tengu and then, once we have it intrinsically, we can use the ring slot for something else. I know it's confusing, Barbarian. That's why I'm the brains and you're the brawn, okay?

There's one more intrinsic that might be helpful. It's called "divine protection." It helps our armor class permanently. To get it we're going to need to, uh, sacrifice some of our...well, some of our gold. To a priest. No, not you, Priest--the priest of our alignment, in a temple. How much? Well, if we're level 15 when we get there, about 85 hu...zzahs. Sit down, everyone! 85 "huzzahs!" That's all it will take!
 
Now here's the good news: some of you already have these intrinsics, and some of you gain them as you level up! For instance, you, Barbarian--you're already resistant to poison, and you're going to get speed at Level 7 and stealth at Level 15. Archaeologist, you start with stealth and speed, and you get "searching" at Level 10; that means you won't have to deliberately search for traps. So we just have to figure out...What's that, Valkyrie? "See invisible?" Yes, that would be a good one, but unfortunately none of you have...Really? Elf, you say? And he starts with searching? And sleep resistance? And speed? Wow. Rogue, see if you can get him back, will you? I hope he didn't hear our plan.
 
The important thing is that we can accomplish this if we work together. None of this solo adventuring stuff. That's what gets so many people killed. Then we have to fight their ghosts. No, we're going to enter the Mazes of Menace as a unit--a conquering army that will--


52 comments:

  1. The man is serious about his ascendancy.
    I guess someone made the mistake of saying "you can't do that".

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post. Too bad Office autocorrect mucked up your mock-up at the end :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thanks for letting me know. I meant to do that from print preview, not normal view. Fixed.

      Delete
  3. This entry shows that you're a very good writer. Funny and evocative. Almost made me start a game of Nethack, in fact.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chester's Eleven, huh? Great post, it was very entertaining.

    So the Elf did hear the plan? Good luck to him, he's gonna need it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elf heard the plan. All my characters are going to be Elves for the rest of this edition. Once I had my "to do" list mapped out, I realized that the Elf got me further on the intrinsics--and he has some that are very difficult to get otherwise--than any other character.

      Delete
  5. If you want to know what happens after an ascension (in one of the more recent versions of NH, at least), when the staff of the dungeon have to prepare it for new players: "Behind the Scenes"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's very well done. I didn't understand a lot of it because I haven't ascended, so I'll remind myself to go back and read it again later.

      Delete
  6. A truly epic post. Thank you, Sir Addict.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. I hope you never become "Désenchantée" with my blog.

      Delete
    2. Oh, never mind. That's Mylene Farmer.

      Delete
    3. Hahahahahah wow, what a very specific reference. Great song though.

      Delete
  7. THIS is why i love reading your articles. you sir, are a funny, funny man. I would never have thought of something like this.
    oh, scroll up to your "first task" toward the end of the paragraph you said "gold old fashioned fighting" i know, auto-correct and all. just pointing it out.
    now on another note....god i hate nethack, it hooks you in for just a few minutes diversion while youre waiting for the wife to get out of the shower and then 12 hours later youre still playing, stinking of your own sweat because you skipped your shower to play nethack "just one more level". and for a beginner like me, all those little characters are like greek. you have no idea what any of them mean. there are so many commands to memorize that you get lost on what to do/when to do it. not to mention every key has two totally different functions. did i mean to press "w" or "W". but god youve got to love it too. its like that chick that you know is gonna give you something, but you go out with her anyway. nice work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked it, and thanks for the correction. I hate it when I do things like that.

      Your metaphor reminds me of a NetHack 2.3e posting I did almost two years ago:

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2011/01/nethack-enough-for-now.html

      Read the first few sentences.

      Delete
  8. Oh man, that was hilarious. I loved it. I loved it so much I'm tempted to link to a site of Nethack cbeabtencul that I know of. However, in respect to Chet's new rules I won't, however if you google Kevin T. Anderson you might find it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate your restraint. I can't even imagine what that would look like.

      n@n

      ?

      Delete
    2. You asked for it. ROT13ed so as to not get people clicking on it accidentally, and so your blog doesn't get hit by filters: uggc://tevtoregm.pbz/

      I should note: I got two artists mixed up. The above is by Håkan Ackegård. Fredrik K T Andersson is another artists who has a habit of drawing risque art in a similar style, but without the cession with srznyr obaqntr. That said, he has his own focuses in his art, which is at Elfwood: uggc://naqreffba.rysjbbq.pbz/ and his webcomic at uggc://jjj.cnja.fr/ (Both ROT13ed to be on the safe side, as there is a fair bit of nudity in both, though no sex)

      Delete
  9. I've never liked Nethack enough to play it enough to ascend. This post makes me want to like it enough to play it enough to ascend. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've always wanted to like it enough to make me want to ascend, but I've never succeeded in accomplishing the attainment of that desire.

      Delete
  10. Holy spoiler warning. I only read a little ways before I realized what you were posting here. I guess I'll be avoiding future Nethack posts by The Addict.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what part you're referring to specifically, but my understanding is that the endgame is entirely different in the later versions, so unless you're playing this version specifically, you're probably safe.

      Delete
    2. Addict, You seem to define spoiler differently. There is a great deal of spoiler content in this post, which readers should expect based on how much is revealed about other games in your posts. But I would also say that you have been receiving and using spoiler content about Nethack for quite a while, especially if you are using a wiki.

      Delete
    3. I don't think my opening was clear. By posting that quote from Wikipedia--along with a lot of the discussion from my last NH posting--I was trying to convey that I had, at last, caved and looked at some spoilers.

      Delete
    4. Oh, I see. I think that's a wise choice. You have invested enough time in the game to grasp how difficult a completely spoiler-less ascenscion would be. You've also gotten a sense of how the early Nethack communities on university campuses shared information on discussion boards and by word of mouth, rather than by reading a manual.

      To fully grok Nethack you need to remember that it was a work in progress for decades -- an evolving entity that grew up alongside the 'Net. We played on small local servers at first, often without official approval from sysadmins. They would turn a blind eye (if you got them addicted also) but using University resources for games could not be sanctioned. This added a further element of illicit pleasure to our addiction.

      We were coders contributing to the greatest game the world had ever seen, and our contributions live on.

      Two suggested assignments for you:
      1) Read about Izchak Miller and the Dev Team
      2) Learn how to use a magic marker to its fullest potential
      2a) Learn how to create a blank scroll

      Delete
  11. Ha, this was a great thing to wake up to this morning! Good luck Elf!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Looking forward to more of this. Glad that you aren't too upset over the loss of your barbarian to move on.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The best laid plans of mice and men...

    All I can do is wish you luck. It's a good plan, but it's still only a plan :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The overall point I was trying to make is that you have to have a plan. As Glenn pointed out, I banged on down to Level 28 without the stuff or attributes I needed. It's a miracle I made it that far.

      That kind of playing is probably only possible with the barbarian, since he carves out huge swaths in his path. I've since found that playing an elf (or a lot of other characters) forces you to take a lot more care.

      Delete
    2. That idea has been floated many times. That I know of nothing has ever come of it.

      Delete
    3. Valk could probably do it too. Most of my best characters are valks, because their crazy low AC means I can wade into rooms of monsters without taking a hit.

      Delete
  14. Actually, this whole Name/URL posting method is to annoying. I'm sticking to my G+ account from now on :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Is there a gameplay mode that allows you to take a party into the dungeon? Or was this poetic licence?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was just poetic license. It would be a lot of fun, though. Cooperative NetHack.

      Delete
  16. Never could wrap my brain around Nethack. It seems like more of a series of in-joke learn by dying puzzles disguised as a roguelike RPG. I prefer the more straightforward bash and go ones like Angband and it's derivatives. Especially if they've got random mutations...*shrugs*

    ReplyDelete
  17. I apologize for bringing up the stupid candles in your previous post, CRPG Addict. I honestly did try to look up the differences between 3.0.9 and the most recent one and had a hard time finding them, and assumed incorrectly.

    You can imagine my frustration at finding out about that detail long after I'd started playing. For some reason I find it particularly egregious a requirement.

    I'm glad you looked up some spoilers though, and I hope you don't feel too defeated for doing so. Hopefully they will help you on your quest!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I would actually recommend genocide for mind flayers, not for liches. Liches are drain-heavy bastards who can go invisible.. but mind flayers can one-hit-KO you if you don't have the right equipments.

    I have a little mini-spoiler for you too, though I'm not sure which edition of Nethack it comes into. Fvaxf ner nznmvat, cnegvphyneyl va rneyl yriryf. Lbh pna iveghnyyl VQ nalguvat ivn n fvax. Boivbhfyl vs lbh unir na nygne gb qebc vgrzf bagb gb VQ phefrq fghss, gung'f tbbq - ohg gur znwbevgl bs evatf lbh svaq va rneyl yriryf graq gb or dhvgr penc nalubj. Fybj qvtrfgvba/frnepuvat evatf jvyy nyjnlf whzc onpx hc guebhtu fvaxf, naq cerggl jryy rirelguvat ryfr jvyy tvir n urnil uvag nf gb jung gurl ner (r.t. n evat bs ertrarengvba tvirf 'Gur fvax ybbxf nf tbbq nf arj.'.) Tvira gur znwbevgl bs hfrshy evatf jvyy or rapunagrq gbb cbbeyl, vg bsgra cnlf gb whfg guebj lbhe evatf qbja va guvf snfuvba vs lbh qba'g trg na nygne va gur svefg 5 yriryf be fb, nf vqragvsl fpebyyf ner bsgra sne gbb inyhnoyr gb jnfgr ba jung raqf hc orvat n phefrq evat bs uhatre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, but you have to keep external notes then as you can't (N)ame them.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps this is 3.43 specific, but the last time I played (Windows 7 has a bit of a fit running Nethack, and I find it just too difficult to play hjkl/tilebased/mouse version) - but I've always had the game ask 'what sort of ring'. More importantly, as the majority of rings are quite useless IMO (yes, I know that having a spare ring of adornment is a free out to a nymph in an early level, but I've never actually WORN a ring of constitution, say.. and the X resistances are much better found as intrinsics which come randomly from black puddings, or a dozen other monsters to nibble at) I find I'm only ever really looking for a shortlist of rings anyhow..

      Delete
    3. Canageek is right, at least as regards 3.0.9. I think the overall problem is that I rarely find multiple rings of the same type in a single game. I'd rather wait until I get a Blessed Scroll of Identify (which is comparatively easy to come by).

      Delete
    4. Mind flayers are easily dealt with from a distance in many ways, even for a melee class. SlashEM adds some other monsters worthy of genociding, but Liches are by far the greatest threat in Nethack due to their summoning, draining, and destroy armor capabilities.

      Delete
  19. Based entirely upon this post, I am now convinced that the game needs a "Mastermind" class. I don't know exactly what it would do, but it should be totally based upon Tim Hutton's character in "Leverage"

    "To pull this off, we need a dungeon. So lets go steal one."

    ReplyDelete
  20. CRPGA, do you have a link to download the 3.0.9 executable that you are playing? I'd love to check out the version you are on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, god. I remember it being a nightmare to find it. I was trying to find the last 3.0 version--3.0.10--and I was never able to. Rather than try to track it down again, why don't you just send me an e-mail (crpgaddict@gmail.com) and I'll send you a .zip file with the version I have.

      Delete
  21. When you finish with this version of nethack I think you should see about going onto roguelike radio and having a chat with those guys regarding your experiences with the early roguelikes.

    Actually now that you are going back to do some games you missed because of your dos only rule I would love to see you play some Moria. Just to get a feel for how things diverged from rogue to Nethack to Moria/bands and the rare Omega here and there.

    ReplyDelete
  22. After reading all this stuff about nethack, i find myself admiring ADOM so much less.
    It is still a favorite, but up to know i didn't know it was so heavily influenced by nethack. I had the impression that most of the cool features (corpse-eating,thousands of different ways to die,altars,praying and so many others) in ADOM where innovations.
    Now i see that most of them are directly "copied" from nethack.

    Wow. I should try this game sometime.

    PS.
    All articles about nethack were great! Comments too.

    ReplyDelete
  23. UnNetHack is the premier NetHack fork going right now. They did a good job with it.

    NitroHack has a substantially improved console gui that I really like, but it can be a bit glitchy at times. And the devs abandoned it, but you can still pick up a copy from google's cache.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This has been one oft THE greatest reads in your blog so far. Wonderfully written. I'm afraid your prose will be the most interesting thing I ever found in a roguelike, by reading your nethack entries so far it seems more and more unlikely to be enjoyable for me. You see, I even found Diablo too random and boring in the end. When I play an RPG I want things like a story, and after that a relatively coherent design for dungeons and overworld. Even Wizardry had a kind of theme or layout for some levels. And I would hate to play through the same levels with the same monsters over and over and over and...Yes this happens also in Wiz or M&M because you die often, but nowhere near that painfully often when compared to nethack from reading your experience. I think the whole concept is lost on me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm not sure most readers realized that I paraphrased the entire thing from Ocean's 11.

      Delete
    2. If only the party size was 11 instead of 1...

      Delete
    3. I've never seen that movie, so, no, no I didn't.

      Delete
    4. I thought it sounded a lot like Ocean's Eleven, good movie. Anyway your interesting posts on Nethack got me to try it. It's brutal, and so many things going on its a but overwhelming. Think I'll have to follow your posts of it abd dream.

      Delete
  25. Fantastic read Addict, simply marvelous.

    Though one thing does irk me to no end: "This isn't some Japanese eroge game."

    Eroge is already short for "erotic game" (ge = geemu = game), so saying "eroge game" is like saying "ATM machine" (which you deftly avoided, I noticed). Not quite enough to ruin the whole thing, but close. =)

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.