You feel tough! You must be leading a healthy life-style. July 26, 2013 5:35 PM   Subscribe

So, how about Mefi Nethack?

I've been having fun over at lately, both playing and watching others play. I'm curious about how many of you play Nethack or would be interested in doing so, to get an idea for permutations such a group could take: IRC channel (if none such exists already, please inform me if so), possibly a private server, maybe even just a monthly tourny on a public server. I think if enough people are interested, we can see what our options are. What do you think?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing to Etiquette/Policy at 5:35 PM (71 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

I have not played nethack in YEARS but would love to do so again.
posted by pointystick at 6:25 PM on July 26, 2013

Is this something I have to be sober to do? Because I don't understand this post at all. What are you wanting from me?
posted by cjorgensen at 6:57 PM on July 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

What's Nethack? Is it like QWOP?
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

I love nethack and already idle in a nethack IRC channel (#nethack on My time is limited for the next couple months probably (new job, been busy) but I am SO down for this.
posted by yaymukund at 7:12 PM on July 26, 2013

Gawd, I hate that game. Stupid darn litches. Hate those guys. That game just sucks and I always die for some stupid reason.

when do we start?
posted by octothorpe at 8:38 PM on July 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

What do you think?

I think your hands are glowing red and you're confusing me. And I can't take this damn ring off and my dog keep biting me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:42 PM on July 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

> I think your hands are glowing red and you're confusing me. And I can't take this damn ring off and my dog keep biting me.

What tripe.
posted by boo_radley at 8:55 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think your hands are glowing red and you're confusing me. And I can't take this damn ring off and my dog keep biting me.

(blinks, takes another drink)
posted by kimberussell at 9:18 PM on July 26, 2013

What tripe.

I thought it was pretty rational.
posted by bleep-blop at 9:21 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm obsessed with Nethack. Sign me up.
posted by gentian at 9:32 PM on July 26, 2013

I have never played nethack in my life. I'm guessing that it's a huge time suck?
posted by arcticseal at 11:30 PM on July 26, 2013

I'd like to be involved. Did you see this old thread - we band of @-signs?
posted by sock of ages at 12:09 AM on July 27, 2013

That I did, which I took as an encouraging sign, though that tourny was in 2007. That could provide some good guidelines for a new match.

I mentioned an IRC channel because it is possible at to watch others play. Chatting in IRC while playing, or watching others play, Nethack can be a lot of fun. I'm glad to see this level of interest so far!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:49 AM on July 27, 2013

Oh, also:

I have never played nethack in my life. I'm guessing that it's a huge time suck?

For the unfamiliar, Nethack is a dungeon crawler that I think fits the bill for "easy to learn, difficult to master". The definitive guidebook is here, but new players can really just jump right into this game with the basic controls and a tab open to the aforelinked Nethack Wiki for reference.

I recommend trying it out offline to get comfortable with the controls, which doesn't take very long, really. As far as it eating up a lot of time, don't worry. You'll die so many times, so suddenly and quickly, that you needn't worry about having to pull yourself away to attend to real life because you're in the middle of trying to Ascend. Well, not at first anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:14 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

> What's Nethack?

It's the game I installed on this department's very fancy color printer (used for pseudo-3D reconstructions from CT scans) when I discovered it was running full FreeBSD Unix internally just to get the print spooler. (Root password was "password".)
posted by jfuller at 9:12 AM on July 27, 2013 [17 favorites]

I haven't played NH in a long time. I went to and had a saved game there. It must be years old. I don't remember it at all.

So I'm a 17th level Tourist, -37 AC, 176 HP. Using +6 Greyswandir and +7 Silver Saber. Magic lamp, blessed PYEC, you name it. Full ascension kit, I think. Bell and candles, SDSM, CoMR, 5 !oFH, 2 countem 2 "oLS.

I'm standing on the altar at the Valley. I have a pet Olog-hai named Fluffy (possibly my starting cat), and a pet zruty named Zamboni. There's a pile of spellbooks and robes under a heap of 47,626 gp. I assume Fluffy killed and ate the priest. There's nothing to do but run Gehennom and the endgame, but, but... ugh.
posted by bleep-blop at 9:52 AM on July 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

I'm definitely in for this, whatever *this* turns out to be
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:16 AM on July 27, 2013

I finally broke down and installed nethack from the Ubuntu repo at 8 this morning. It's now a little after 5 in the afternoon and I've pretty much shot my entire day. Thanks again, Metafiter!
posted by double block and bleed at 2:11 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sole "install" is telnet in Terminal, but I have a fun little tiled version that I don't play with offline often enough.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:55 PM on July 27, 2013

Finally, a thread in which I can bemoan my unseemly death from the combination of blindness trap + a newt (seriously?!) and everyone will understand whereof I speak.

Talk about Yet Another Stupid Death.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:29 PM on July 27, 2013

Nethack falls squarely within the realm of "games I have spent far more time reading about than actually playing."

I kinda expected the thread to be about making a Metafilter-themed version, to be honest. ^^
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:48 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hopefully not a derail but some enterprising reporter needs to track down the devteam and find out what the hell they've been doing for the last decade. I would contribute to a Kickstarter for such an endeavor.
posted by octothorpe at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

posted by Eideteker at 6:30 PM on July 27, 2013

Nethack falls squarely within the realm of "games I have spent far more time reading about than actually playing."

The first time I read the list of known bugs it just about incapacitated me with laughter. I still chuckle when I read it. I've never played the game once.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

For the unfamiliar, Nethack is a dungeon crawler that I think fits the bill for "easy to learn, difficult to master".

Except it isn't very easy to learn.
posted by kenko at 7:19 PM on July 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

I kinda expected the thread to be about making a Metafilter-themed version

eat tin of beans
"You feel full of hot air"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:48 PM on July 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I kinda expected the thread to be about making a Metafilter-themed version, to be honest.

Oddly enough, there's been a bit of chatter and dev stuff happening with a few regulars on Mefightclub regarding a RL-specific dev library called libtcod; nobody's making a Mefi roguelike, precisely, but it's apparently a pretty neat library and a surprisingly approachable tutorial, so if you're familiar with or willing to learn a bit of Python you could very well take a basic stab at it yourself.

It's really only other creative projects and the Steam Sale recently that have kept me from doing so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:47 PM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I've been playing Crawl for the last couple years, and find it hard to go back to Nethack... I tend to really miss the autoexplore button, and Gehennom is just soooooo long.)
posted by kaibutsu at 2:27 AM on July 28, 2013

Oh Geez. I would totally do this.

My first nethack experiences (in college), were actually playing slash'em. I'm pretty sure the addition of sokoban to nethack started in slashem, and I'm unreasonably proud that back when new sokoban levels were released I solved em myself and posted the solutions.
posted by Phredward at 6:07 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you may be the first person I've met who's solved Sokoban without some kind of guide. Hell, I might have even used your guide without knowing it. The circle of life!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:13 AM on July 28, 2013

eat tin of beans
"You feel full of hot air"

Well, of course you do. This is Metafilter, you're supposed to put those things on a plate and not eat them straight from the tin like you're some masked vigilante in an Alan Moore comic.

Or am I overthinking this?
posted by radwolf76 at 6:31 AM on July 28, 2013

In a proper Mefi Nethack, you'd hope you had e.g. a silver plate around so you could identify the beans' alignment before eating them, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:21 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's my computer that should be thanking you, as you saved it from being thrown out of a goddamn window.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 AM on July 28, 2013

My old copy doesn't work now that I'm on mountain lion :/
posted by klangklangston at 9:07 AM on July 28, 2013

Hmm. I see a port for Android though — could I connect through my phone?
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 AM on July 28, 2013

klangklangston, would one of the nethack apps on the app store work?

If you're comfortable with the terminal version, it's also available via homebrew. That would probably be simplest if you're playing on a server (e.g.
posted by yaymukund at 12:20 PM on July 28, 2013

I have been playing *hack since my dad introduced me to Hacklite on an Amiga 2000 in 1990 or so. (Before that it was Adventure (colossal cave) on CP/M). I love it, despite the fact that after 23 years of playing I'm still not very good at it.

This looks like a good way to waste time I don't really have.
posted by deadwax at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2013

I would be up for this nonsense.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:12 PM on July 28, 2013

I have not played nethack in YEARS but would love to do so again.

This seems like one of the few places this would be appropriate:

Me too! Me too! Meeee tooooo!!!!!!

posted by yohko at 7:57 PM on July 28, 2013

*looks at todo list*

On second thought, this is a terrible idea and I am shocked that you would suggest such an awful thing.

When do we start?

posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing

Ah, clearly you are a nymph trying to seduce more adventurers into playing nethack.
posted by yohko at 8:05 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yay, I ascended the Tourist. Apparently that savegame was sitting there for 4 years. No pets made it with me, though. Fluffy polymorphed into a Vampire Lord and chewed up all of hell before falling in the Sanctum to a nalfeshnee. I think Zamboni died quickly on the plane of Air, but I was too busy getting torn apart by dragons and elementals to notice how. (I will never try Air again without levitation. Fortunately I was ridiculously over-prepared in other areas that I didn't have to shamefully burn a wish.)

Gehennom is just soooooo long.

It's pretty bad. For a long time I didn't know the trick of buying clairvoyance from the priest in the Valley which makes it about 200 times easier.
posted by bleep-blop at 10:26 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

JHarris used to write the awesome Roguelike-focused column @Play at the dear departed GameSetWatch. I imagine he might have some opinions.
posted by Magnakai at 6:14 AM on July 29, 2013

I used to be addicted to this, to the point where I'd wake up in a cold sweat after an ASCII nightmare (a glowing orange D in the corner!) with my fingers twitching. I haven't played in years now - quitting Nethack was a prereq for finishing my PhD - and I fully intend to keep it that way.

Please post details about when / where / how.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:01 PM on July 29, 2013

JHarris used to write the awesome Roguelike-focused column @Play at the dear departed GameSetWatch. I imagine he might have some opinions.

I imagine he's digging his way out of the pizza mines and his resources are perilously low since he isn't already on this thread.

& &

H @ DD D

posted by ersatz at 10:58 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am so in on this plz.
posted by twiggy32 at 5:18 PM on July 30, 2013

Yes. Depending upon the times that we are on and if not being there for a session means I've already died.
posted by Splunge at 5:36 PM on July 30, 2013

And I may be the only one here that hopes it's a Zangband version.
posted by Splunge at 5:38 PM on July 30, 2013

I posted something to projects recently ( which might be useful for people who can't install Nethack locally. I'm with kaibutsu though. I only really play Crawl now. The interface is just a little less brutal. And it's actually being changed/developed.
posted by aychedee at 8:10 AM on July 31, 2013

Yes, I want to identify my possessions.
posted by ceiriog at 8:56 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, seeing how this seems to have a respectable amount of interest, how about we try a tournament? We could decide on a date, have it perhaps at, and open an IRC channel. Thoughts?

Personally, I'm going to be pretty busy for the next week, but maybe Friday Aug 9? Unless you wanted a few more days for limbering up and what have you. Registration on is pretty painless and it's a stable server anyway.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:57 PM on July 31, 2013

This thread has gotten me to play that stupid, stupid game again. My neutral monk is up to level 11 and has finished the gnome mines and sokoban and has two large mean cats at his side and a ring of slow digestion to help keep my vegan status. Almost managed a stupid death by attacking a blue jelly but got saved by an amulet of life saving which is a waste of a good amulet but I've got the amulet of reflection now anyway.
posted by octothorpe at 8:07 AM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hell yeah, neutral monk 4 lyfe!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:12 AM on August 1, 2013

I've never had much luck with any classes other than Monk or Valkyrie.
posted by octothorpe at 10:06 AM on August 1, 2013

Yeah, those are the Easy Mode classes.

Tourist and Archeologist, on the other hand ... good luck!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always had an easier time playing Barbarians myself (close enough to Valkyries) and Wizards were my favored class. But for the challenge of it, Archaeologists were worth the effort. Swashbuckling Indiana Jones types, with their jaunty fedoras and bullwhips - unfortunately none of them ever got very far. (Mines, Sokoban, one made it almost to the castle IIRC...) Tourists, even worse. (Credit card???)

Ugh, I'm getting twitchy fingers again. Must resist...
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:31 PM on August 1, 2013

Oh, hey. I thought people usually MeMailed me when there was a Nethack thread on a subsite I don't often visit.

When you get to the Plane of Fire, be careful. I actually lost my last character there, he got bogged down running from Archons and couldn't find the damn portal. Was a bit humbling to lose a late game character after years and years of ascensions, but fun too.
posted by JHarris at 3:50 AM on August 2, 2013

I run neutral monks too! I haven't played for years, though, and never ascended. Made Gehennom once. I've been hankering to play a bit, lately...
posted by corvine at 6:01 AM on August 2, 2013

The Android port (the more-recent/higher-voted one) is possibly the best way to pass time on the subway that I've found so far. I don't think I've gotten so absorbed in even the best of books (what, is it my station already?).

Can anyone recommend a decent guide that's more "here's how not to die" (strategy guide) than the "here's what everything means" guide Marisa linked? Looking for more info like "here's why you should/should not pick $class" "why shrines are a joke" etc etc.
posted by Eideteker at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2013

Elbereth is a joke in your town.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:35 AM on August 2, 2013

There is such a guide Eideteker. There is me. Ask me a question.

I think posted such a guide here, or maybe as part of @play, at some time. Here's some things:

1. First of all, remember to PRAY. That's Ctrl-p. If you're in trouble (very low hit points, are poisoned, are turning to stone, any of a long list of things), then if it's bad enough, your luck isn't negative, you haven't prayed recently, and your god isn't angry with you, praying will cause your god to give you a helping hand. It is the newbie hacker's best friend, so don't forget about it! You want to leave a few hundred turns between prayer attempts.

2. In Nethack, your equipment matters more than your level. If you have a lot of great stuff you can survive surprisingly far even at low level. You need to find out what stuff is, or make good stuff by whatever means. The sooner you get that stuff, the better you'll probably do.

3. Part of that is the difficulty of identifying things. One of the most important tips I can offer is, look out for very cheap (less than 30ZM) scrolls in shops, as they have a very good chance of being Identify. Identify scrolls are the primary way to identify things in the game, but they themselves must be identified to be useful. The sooner you learn what Identify scrolls are, the better.

4. All monsters have a difficulty rating, going from 0 or 1 to nearly 50. When the game generates monsters on a level, it tries to generate them of a difficulty that's the average of your level and the dungeon level. (Note: this is slightly different from what I've said before, where I said it was based on level. I think I was wrong there.) The thing is, there are a few spikes in that difficulty graph, monsters that are ranked at lower difficulty than you'd expect, like hill orcs (who are generated in groups) and especially soldier ants, which are by victim the deadliest monster in the game. Soldier ants are difficulty 6. You really want to be prepared by the time they generate, because they're generated in groups, are much faster than you, bite fairly hard, and have a poison attack that can instakill.

5. Partly because of that, but also just in general, building intrinsics is one of the major objectives in the early game. Intrinsics are abilities or flags that your character has innately. You can also get some of them from equipment, but it's best to have them all the time if possible, which means you can't lose them, or at least not easily. Poison resistance you're going to need as early as you can get it, partly because of the soldier ant thing.

6. Beyond that, you need a good armor class. That means a low armor class -- Nethack uses old school D&D reckoning, where the lower your AC is the better. A low armor class smooths over many problems; monsters hit less often, and if it's really low, when they do hit they do less damage. The best armor in the game is Dragon Scale Mail, of various different colors. Of them all, aim for either Gray Dragon Scale Mail (to get magic resistance) or Silver Dragon Scale Mail (to get reflection).

7. How to get that? One way that works more often than you'd think is to get a wish out of the Minetown lighting store. This location has candles that you'll need near the end of the game, but in the meantime there's also a very good chance one or more lamps are generated here. Check the price on each (stand on it and press Alt-C, or alternatively pick each up and see how much the shopkeeper says it is). If one is in the 60+ price range it is almost certainly a magic lamp. Buy it immediately, the (a)pply it to light it. If it is a magic lamp, it will never burn out.

What you want to do then is find out it's blessed/cursed status. Drop it on the altar that's always in Minetown to find this out. Your top priority should be getting it to blessed, then Rubbing it with Alt-R. (On telnet, such as playing via, instead of using the Alt key press # then enter "rub") Rubbing a blessed magic lamp has a 80% chance of getting your a wish, then you can wish up Blessed +2 Gray Dragon Scale Mail, which will boost the survival chances of anyone but a Monk tremendously. (5% of the time it'll be hostile, so be prepared to bug out. Note, if the lamp is uncursed, the chances of getting a wish will only be 20%, and if it's cursed the odds of a hostile genie are 80%! GET IT BLESSED.)

8. The blessing engine:
- How do you bless things? Dip them (Alt-D) in holy water. If it's uncursed it'll become blessed, if it's cursed it'll become uncursed. Most items work much better, or their bad effects become much less, when blessed!
- How do you find out if it's holy water? Water is always the clear potion. Drop it on an altar; holy water is merely blessed water.
- What if you can't find any water that is holy? Drop your potions of water on an altar that matches your alignment (use : while standing on it to discover is alignment) and pray to bless them. Once you have one potion of holy water, you can make more (at the cost of the original potion) by dipping other potion of water into it. If multiple water potions are in a stack, you can dip them all at once and make more holy water than you originally had.
- What if you don't have much, or any, water potions at all? You can make water potions, when on a fountain, or if you can stand on a pool of water without falling in (with water walking boots), by dipping other potions. It usually takes two dips to dilute potions completely.

9. I tend not to use it, but for a newbie hacker, engraving Elbereth is a lifesaver. If you're standing on the word Elbereth most non-human or minotaur monsters will not attack you in melee. But how to engrave it?
Press Alt-E (or #engrave) to engrave on the floor. If you use your fingers, however, the result will last at MOST one turn, because the word will be messed up by random air currents almost immediately. You need to engrave it more permanently.
- You can use a weapon, but it'll dull it by one plus per letter, and it'll take a while to boot.
- You can use a magic marker, but it'll use charges from it that would be better applied to writing scrolls (beyond the scope of this discussion).
- Best is to write using a wand of fire or digging; those will only use one charge and make a reasonably permanent engraving. Engraving with wands is also a pretty good way to identify some of them.
Note: SPELLING MATTERS. Although even monsters without eyes will respect Elbereth, they will also somehow know if you enter it wrong.
posted by JHarris at 9:51 AM on August 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

In re Elbereth: Athames don't dull when you write with them, which is a real plus for wizards.
posted by Etrigan at 11:05 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, JHarris! Getting started tips are totally what I need. I know I'm going to die, but I'd like to have some fun along the way.
posted by Eideteker at 11:37 AM on August 2, 2013

Just have to second JHarris' about making holy water. It is incredibly easy. Potions and fountains are abundant, hold off on praying (if you can) until you find a co-aligned altar, and you're golden.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:00 PM on August 2, 2013

Stupid Unicorns, where are you?
posted by octothorpe at 5:52 PM on August 2, 2013

BTW, the poison resistance thing is why Barbarians are better than Valks as far as ease of ascent for beginners go, because they start out with it. One choice and a whole class of early game enders, including soldier ants, killer bees and Uruk-Hai, become much lesser threats. Healers (otherwise a difficult class) and Orcs (limited in available roles) also start with poison resistance. Monks get it at level 3. If you can last long enough, Tourists get it at level 20, and all classes get it when crowned.

The problem about poison resistance for other classes is, you usually get it by eating poisonous monsters, but many corpses that could give it to you are themselves poisonous, and will drain Strength when munched until you get the resistance, in turn reducing your melee damage and (significantly) making it much harder to carry around items without being burdened, which makes early game survival harder by slowing you down. This is why an early-game ring of poison resistance is a good find, not because you'll be wanting to keep it on for long periods, but because you can use it to get intrinsic poison resistance with much less risk. When you get it normally, the message is "You feel healthy." When you get it after already having it from an item, "You feel especially healthy."

The safest monsters to eat to try to get poison resistance are blobs and blob-likes (some inflict damage though), molds (same, but not yellow, and violet fungus isn't great either), shriekers, cave spiders (oddly, they don't have poisonous corpses, giant spiders do though), flesh golems, pyrolisks, quasits, centipedes, golden or red nagas and all naga hatchlings. Note some of these monsters do damage from acid when eaten. Unicorns can also grant it, but you run a serious risk of getting teleportitis. Complete details are here, on the Nethack Wiki.

Once you get an (uncursed) unicorn horn, it becomes much easier to get poison resistance, because poison from poisonous corpses is never deadly, and you can keep applying the horn until you get your Strength back. (Killed unicorns always drop an uncursed horn.) Note that this isn't the same as food poisoning, which is what you get when you wait too long to eat most corpses, and can easily be deadly. Unicorn horns can help with that too, but it's a lot more dire if it doesn't work in time, and merely old food won't give you poison resistance.
posted by JHarris at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unicorns can also grant it, but you run a serious risk of getting teleportitis.

I believe you mean tengus (tengi? tengera?).
posted by Etrigan at 7:03 PM on August 2, 2013

Any monster that can teleport can give you teleportitis if you eat one, that is to say, intrinsic teleportation. Tengus are included, but they are also the only monster you can eat that can grant you teleport control. (Well, you can also get it by eating the Wizard of Yendor, but there are reasons you might not want to do that.)
posted by JHarris at 7:51 PM on August 2, 2013

I've never come down with teleportitis from a unicorn that I can recall. The wiki agrees:
It may be gained by eating a leprechaun, nymph, tengu, or Wizard of Yendor corpse...
posted by Etrigan at 8:16 PM on August 2, 2013

That is odd, as I think I've actually gotten it from a unicorn before, personally. But the page on unicorn also doesn't mention teleportitis. Of course, unicorns can be tough opponents in the early game, but if you can kill it you can eat it, possibly for poison resistance.
posted by JHarris at 9:10 PM on August 2, 2013

I don't think anyone has linked to the Object Identification Spoiler. Read it, love it, live it. It explores specifically price identification in shops (too) heavily because no other spoiler had done that when it was written—but it covers all the other bases as well. It's kind of an interesting read for its conversationally comprehensive style.

For new-ish players, I think probably the most important identification trick is how to E)ngrave-ID wands. Well, also using pets to pick out what stuff is safe (ish) to W)ear or P)ut on. But mostly the wands.

Another link, here's a Gazeteer which is a good map-based spoiler.
posted by bleep-blop at 5:07 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nights like this remind me why I put a lunar phase entry on Conky to begin with.

(Be careful!)
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:26 PM on August 6, 2013

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