(Let's Play!) Sporkhack


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Nethack is a classic roguelike game, probably one of the most popular activities for bored tech geeks ever, not counting looking at porn. The last official update by the startlingly prescient DevTeam was in 2003, and since then a number of other individuals have made modifications to the open source game to produce several variants. Sporkhack is one such variant. I honestly favor it mostly because of the reduced tedium it gives me in Gehennom, but it also corrects some of the more outrageous bugs and abuses in vanilla Nethack.

Nethack has a reputation for being a very, very, VERY hard game. This is technically true, but Nethack is also almost always fair, too. Barring a truly rare and unfortunate turn of the RNG, every game is winnable from the start and any deaths the player characters experience are the player's own fault.

In this thread, my objectives are as follows:

#1: I want to make the thread entertaining for readers, whether they are experienced roguelike players or complete newbies.

#2: I want to encourage new players to give this free game a shot. You lose nothing, and can expect hundreds of hours of fun. The first character will involve many more screenshots and text as I explain the controls to these potential new players; experienced players please bear with me.

#3: I want to ascend at least one character so non-players can see the end of the game, and I want to kill off many more. Readers can request class/race/alignment/gender combinations, and when the current character's game ends, I'll go with whatever people are requesting for the next character.

Vanilla Nethack can be downloaded here, and Sporkhack can be downloaded from here.

I'll call the first character Armok in honor of the last excellent roguelike I played for a Let's Play. Anybody who wants to name the next character can suggest something, and I'll pick whichever one looks good.

We'll have Armok be a barbarian this game. Barbarians are very strong in the early game, because they have powerful starting melee attacks, a good number of hit points, and most importantly innate poison resistance. They suffer later on due to poor magic skills and lack of good ranged attacks, but an amusing PC death is not necessarily a bad thing.

Barbarians can be either humans or orcs. Orcs can see in the dark and suffer no penalty for cannibalizing other orcs, but they are dumb. Armok is no moron.

I'm pretty sure the original Armok was male, so this Armok will be male, too. Gender is 99% cosmetic in Nethack anyway.

Barbarians can be either neutral, in which case they'll worship Crom, or chaotic, in which case they'll worship Set. Properly choosing your alignment to match your play style is absolutely crucial to enjoy the game!

Lawful gods expect the player to cut down hordes of enemy monsters, mounding up their corpses on their altar as blood sacrifices.

Neutral gods expect the player to cut down hordes of enemy monsters, mounding up their corpses on their altar as blood sacrifices.

Chaotic gods expect the player to cut down hordes of enemy monsters, mounding up their corpses on their altar as blood sacrifices.

That's pretty much it! Sure, neutrals can wish for better artifacts, and chaotics can profitably commit human sacrifice, etc., but as long as you can make a big enough mound of corpses as blood sacrifices to your blood god, you're in good shape.

Armok is neutral. All enemies must be slain with equal fervor.

And here we have the opening story explaining why our hero is descending into these dungeons at all. Moloch has stolen the Amulet of Yendor and given it to his High Priest(ess) at the very bottom of this dungeon, and it is up to Armok to get it back! On the way, we can expect him to exterminate thousands of monsters who rise up to attack him, or possibly just don't move out of the way fast enough.

Game… Start!

Most of the display is easy enough to read with a little practice. The "Hello Armok" bit at the top is the most recent (and at the moment, only) displayed message, which reports most things that happen in the PC's line of sight. The white square a little below it is the room Armok starts in, and the little dots just mark out the dimensions of each tile. Armok always occupies exactly one tile, as do monsters. Sometimes there are items on a tile, too, but monsters never share the same tile.

The white @ is Armok himself. @ usually refers to humans and elves, but it also represents the PC. If you get a chance to genocide some monsters, NEVER do @. That's what we call a Bad Idea.

The lower-case d right next to Armok is a dog or dog-like monster. We'll take a closer look at it in a moment; don't worry about it attacking in the meantime, because Nethack is a turn-based game. The clock does not advance and monsters do not act unless the player moves or acts.

Across the bottom is Armok's stats. Most of these will be pretty familiar to anybody who has played D&D, but I'll run through them anyway.

First we have Armok's name and title. First-level barbarians are plunderers. The title will get much cooler as Armok levels up. Next are the six cardinal statistics, strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. Armok starts with strong physical stats and rather poor mental stats, but he can exercise or abuse his stats as he continues through the game to correct his weaknesses… or squander his advantages. Last word on the first line is neutral, which is Armok's alignment.

On the second line of Armok's stats, we have his current location (Dungeons of Doom level 1), the amount of money in his money pouch (zilch, nada, sucks to be him), his hit points (keep these up in order to not die), and his power (used to cast magic). Next is his armor class, which starts at 10 and improves as it goes down, eventually dipping deep into the negatives. Exp:1 is his experience level (hit points and power go up when he levels up), and T:1 refers to the number of ticks of the game clock that have gone by since the start of the game.

Before we send Armok off killing monsters, there are two commands which are vital to learn. The first one is the farlook command, which lets you look at anything displayed on the screen to get some basic information on it. To use it, press the semicolon button, then press the arrow keys to move the cursor around. Once the cursor is on the thing you want to look at, press the period button. If we try looking at the d-monster next to Armok, we get this:

This particular d is our tame little dog, Idefix. Barbarians always start with a pet little dog, which loves the taste of flesh. Fortunately, it will be satisfied with the flesh of our enemies for the most part. Pets are very helpful, frequently growing to be stronger than the PC himself. They'll (sort of) follow the player around and serve many useful purposes, not least of which is killing stuff for you. You should never kill your pet; this pisses off your god something fierce and you will pay for it later. Eating your dog is also a definite no-no, since your god will curse you to inspire psychotic hatred in all enemies, transforming them from a mad death mob into a horrifying unappeasable zerg swarm.

A barbarian's first dog is always named Idefix, but if and when Armok gets another pet, I'll have him name it after readers who post in this thread.

Anyway, the second vital command that you should get comfortable with using is the inventory command. Intuitively enough, to look at your inventory you press i.

As you can see, Armok started with two weapons, ring mail, food, and an oil lamp. Two-handed weapons are generally stronger than one-handed weapons, but one-handed weapons allow use of a shield. Barbarians should usually use their starting two-handed weapon, with other roles favoring other fighting styles. Ring mail is low-quality armor that only gives 3AC, but it's better than nothing. Food is handy to start with, and oil lamps give light for a limited time (the lamp starts off, and doesn't start getting used up until it gets lit).

All in all, barbarians get a fairly consistent starting inventory.

Note that each item follows a letter. The food ration, for instance, follows the letter d. This letter allows you to select an item out of your inventory when you have a reason to use it. You can 'eat' the food ration, for instance by pressing e (the eat command) followed by d, which selects the food ration. If you tried using the eat command on, say, the axe, you would usually get the message "You can't eat that!" We'll save this food ration for later, though, because Armok isn't hungry yet. He's raring and ready to go!

The i command does not cost any time on your clock, so you should learn to use it early and often. It is vexing to die to monsters only to realize you had the means to defeat them or get away from them sitting unused in your inventory, so be sure to be intimately familiar with your stuff at every point in the game.

The final commands you'll want to know is, of course, how to move around. The arrow keys move you in the direction they point, and Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End move you diagonally. If you try moving into a tame pet, it will try to move out of the way, usually swapping places with you. If you try moving into a hostile monster, you attack it. Pretty intuitive, I think.

Time to move out. The two gaps in the wall of the room are passageways, so we'll pick one and go.

And so we come to our first fight…! F is for fungus, and this green one here is a lichen. Can the mighty Armok handle this horrible monster? DARE WE FIND OUT?


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Oh, who am I kidding. Lichens can't hurt you. At most, they'll grope feebly at you and try to stick to you so you can't run away, but they're physically incapable of killing you.

It's dead. Lichens give surprisingly good xp, too; in spite of the fact that they're almost completely helpless, they give 4 times the xp of most of the other monsters this early in the game. They also sometimes drop a lichen corpse (presumably when they don't, you pulverized them too hard to scrape any edibles up) which is a useful source of food. Lichen corpses at room temperature stay fresh enough to eat safely for the entire game. Armok can pick up the lichen corpse by moving into that tile and pressing the comma button, which I suppose represents his hand scooping across the floor.

The brown ) in the room is a stack of arrows. Armok has no bow to shoot them with, but he'll scoop them up and take them along anyway.

Meandering along to the next room, Armok finds a large box. Suspecting a trap, he uses the extended command #untrap. Extended commands are commands that don't get a letter all to themselves, like [e]at or the like. You have to spell them out, starting with the # key, although usually Nethack will guess what you want within a couple of letters. Anyway, #untrap will check for traps, and if Armok finds one, he has the choice of whether he wants to disarm it.

It is generally good style to check each container a few times before opening it, because a PC is not guaranteed to search successfully and there is no risk of setting a trap off accidentally just by searching. If Armok had found a trap, he could either try to disarm it (risking setting it off) or leave it alone (presumably to come back later). He didn't find a trap, though, and when he used the #loot extended command on the box, it turned out to be empty. Disappointing…

Traps are fairly uncommon, but containers are common enough that you'll run into at least a few during the course of a normal game. Consequences for springing one range from mildly annoying (a few turns of being stunned) to catastrophic (heavy damage, kiss some valuable equipment goodbye).

The > symbol here is the down staircase for the level; under each down staircase is a corresponding < symbol on the level below that lets you back up. Going up from the first level is the same as quitting the game, unless you've collected all the MacGuffins you need to win. Our goal is down, but we'll usually want to clear out the current level before heading down, since monsters get harder the lower you go and there could be useful equipment in the hidden nooks of any level.

Colons represent lizard-type monsters, presumably because L and l are taken by far more deserving monsters. The gold : is a newt, which is the weakest lizard. These two are easily handled even though it is two against one.

Oops! Looks like Idefix found a trap door for us. The brown ^ is a trap door, which dumps whatever steps on it onto a random location in the floor below, in this case dungeon level 2. This can get pretty annoying if it drops you into a swarm of enemy monsters. Idefix is now on a different dungeon level, and when he cannot smell Armok nearby he will grow slowly more feral as time passes. Fortunately, Armok will surely catch up before Idefix can get too skittish. In the worst case, Armok can be attacked by his starving ex-pets if he abandons them for a long time.

The brown [ is studded leather armor, the base AC of which is no better than the ring mail we have. It could also be cursed, which would be bad news, so we'll grab it and continue on. The $ is, intuitively enough, money.

Here we have the first dark room in the dungeon. Armok is a human, and humans cannot see in the dark, but there's just barely enough faintly luminescent fungi around for him to make out what is inches in front of his eyes. The brown + to the south is a closed door, and to the left is a boulder. He can open the door with the o key followed by the direction (a low-strength character may have to try several times, and doors can be locked). He can push the boulder by trying to move into it, although it will stop rolling if it hits a wall and a monster on the other side will push back to make it stop.

Here's the aftermath of Armok dealing with a locked door. You cannot [o]pen a locked door without a key or similar tool, but you can [k]ick it. Kicking a door will destroy it, making it into a normal passageway. Doors do have a variety of defensive uses, most particularly blocking the passage of monsters that don't have hands, so it is generally preferable to open a door like a civilized adventurer rather than smashing it like the killing machine you are.

The level looks pretty well explored, so Armok will be heading down now.

Briskly exploring dungeon level 2, Armok hears something almost… human.

This sort of message means that a shopkeeper has spotted Armok and it calling him over in hopes of selling something. So many adventurers have tried to penetrate the dangers of the Dungeons of Doom that a number of enterprising shopkeepers have set up shop on random levels in order to cheat, err… that is, sell valuable equipment to them. Let's round the corner and see what's for sale.

A general store! The proprietor's name is Inuvik, and he's quite strong enough to handle any fool first-level barbarian who tries to steal without paying, or even more stupidly attack him. General stores have more-or-less random wares to sell, and they will buy almost everything at a lower price. It is very helpful to find an early shop like this, and general stores are the most useful even if they don't happen to start with anything useful.

What does Inuvik have for Armok today?


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Let's take a look at this Inuvik, first.

Egads! An elf! For reference sake, elves in Nethack are the same horrible anthrophagic swarm-attackers that they are in Dwarf Fortress, except equipped with mithril armor and higher-quality weapons. They are immune to sleep effects, which means they can fire off that wand of sleep at you while their buddy is eating your face without putting that buddy of theirs to sleep. Killed an early valkyrie of mine recently, too.

That said, Inuvik here is peaceful unless Armok does something to piss him off. And Armok does not wish to piss off Inuvik at this time. Inuvik can still perform some useful services, and the whole horrible-death thing is a good thing to avoid, too.

Looks like there's some potentially good stuff in the shop, but we don't really want to pay for it unless it is definitely uncursed. There may also be a mimic or two hiding amongst the wares, probably as a prank planned by a psychotic elf. We should find Idefix and bring him in to sniff the place over.

Turns out Idefix was on his way already. We found an uncursed scale mail, which is 1AC better than the ring mail we have, and we also found an unmarked tin containing some sort of food or food-like substance that we can check out later. There was also this whistle, but sadly it produced the "high whistling sound" characteristic of the virtually useless tin whistle rather than the "strange whistling sound" characteristic of the rare and valuable magic whistle.

There are also a number of food rations here and a crystal plate mail that Armok cannot HOPE to afford a tenth of yet. They'll have to sit until later, if ever. There's also a balsa wand, which we will definitely be back for at some point, and an unlabeled scroll which is a scroll of blank paper. Idefix refused to step on the red = in the corner, so it is either a cursed ring (rings are represented by an equal sign) or a mimic disguised as a ring. Armok has no particular interest in finding out.

Armok can pay the shopkeeper with the [p]ay command, which prompts the player to decide whether or not they want an itemized list. If the list is itemized, Armok then chooses yes or no for each unpaid item in his inventory, and if it is not, then he just forks over the cash for all of it. The [p]ay command normally only works in shops, and even then only when the PC is holding stuff owned by the shopkeeper.

Armok's looking a little better off now, but the real benefits of a general store will come later on.

And Armok gains a level of experience! Lichens are surprisingly good xp.

Notice the big bump in hit points. Aside from this obvious effect, gaining a level gives you a +1 bonus to hit, gives you a skill point you can apply to weapon or magic training, and causes slightly more powerful monsters to start spawning. Some classes may also gain special abilities at certain levels, but that won't happen for a barbarian like Armok for quite some time.

Armok is standing over an unidentified puce potion now (represented by a purple exclamation point), and in the room to the right is a green % (% is food, so this is probably some vegetable food) and brown and red * symbols. The latter two are gems, which may be incredibly valuable but are more likely worthless glass. If we don't know for absolute sure what they are, Inuvik the shopkeeper will tell us they are worthless glass and try to buy them from us at the worthless glass rate. If we then try to buy them back, he will assure us that they are valuable gems and charge the valuable gem rate. We'll pocket them for now, but eventually we'll want to sort out and trash the glass.

We should not [q]uaff the unidentified potion. Potions can be used by quaffing them, but some of them are very bad and most of the rest are only useful in specific circumstances. Once we have a collection of potions and a way to mitigate the effects of the bad ones, we can start trying to figure out what they are so we can use them.

We continue charging idly through the level, killing that which gets in our way, and we run into a brown d. Is this a dog-friend of Idefix? Nope… It's a hostile jackal. Jackals are weaker than little dogs, but they often attack in groups. They are a serious threat to a starter tourist or cleric, not much so to a starter barbarian.

Continuing on, we find the staircase to the next level down. We also find a white #, which is a sink, and a yellow + that represents a spellbook. Spellbooks allow a PC to learn the spell inscribed on the pages, but Armok will need to do quite a few mental exercises before he can hope to understand the formulae therein, and he's wearing too much metal armor to hope to actually cast anything anyway. Casters need leather and cloth armor. That said, spellbooks are good vendor trash, often fetching a fairly high price in the early game.

The sink is a more interesting feature, but sadly not one that Armok dares use right now. You can [q]uaff from a sink, but only a fool quaffs from a sink, since it has almost exclusively bad effects. You can also [k]ick a sink, and while this has a number of beneficial effects, it can also injure Armok's legs. Also, it can summon a succubus that will rape him to death or a nigh-unstoppable (at this point) high-level black ooze that will split into a large swarm of black oozes if he tries to fight it. So, yeah. Sinks are something you come back to later.

Armok found another large box in this room, and while he was going through the #untrap ritual Idefix stepped on some sort of trap trigger. I don't know what it was, but the click means it jammed or ran out of ammunition.

The box proved to be locked. Armok does not yet have a key to unlock it with, but he can try to #force it to get whatever goodies are inside anyway. There are some risks involved, such as damage to the contents of the box or the destruction of the weapon he is using to force it open. The former is an acceptable risk, but risking the latter with his two-handed sword is NOT. He will be switching to his hand axe for the job.

To [w]ield a particular weapon, check your nventory and find the letter representing it. The axe is b, so Armok can use w on b to switch to that weapon. You can wield any item as a weapon, but actual weapons are considerably better at actually hurting things, and fragile objects can break if smashed into a monster.

The box is pried open without any damage to the axe, fortunately. We will still have it for the next locked box. This large box contained 37 gold zorkmids and 2 blue gems, which Armok pockets and continues on.

After heading back to the shop to check the prices of some stuff, Armok realizes that he is hungry. His hungry state appears as a status effect in the last line of his stats. Being hungry has no negative effects, but it serves as a warning that the PC is close to being weak. The complete hunger gauge is as follows:

Do You Want Your Possessions Identified? y/n

Eating moves you up the scale, and the passage of time moves you down the scale. Certain actions, such as wearing rings and amulets or casting spells, moves you down the scale faster. The Ring of Slow Digestion makes you move down the scale much slower than normal. A weak character will suffer a strength penalty, and a fainting character will alternate between fainting and fainted. A fainted character is helpless and any nearby monsters will beeline in to dine on his emaciated flesh. If you somehow avoid getting killed by monsters while fainted, if you stay so hungry long enough YOU DIE!

On the other end of the scale, if you eat so much as a wafer-thin mint while oversatiated you instantly choke and die. The game will not tell you if you are oversatiated, simply continuing to display satiated instead, so it is probably a bad idea to eat stuff while satiated.

Anyway, if shopkeepers see you looking hungry, they'll jack up the prices on all their food because they know they have you over a barrel. Rather than risk that kind of crap, Armok opened up the unidentified tin of food. It turned out to be newts, which are safe to eat. After opening it, he gets one chance to change his mind and throw it away in case it is a dog or human or something, but that's not really an issue with newt meat. The tinning process also neutralizes any poison or acid in the corpse, but not the ability of some meats to petrify. Never eat a tin if the meat smells "unfamiliar"!

Too bad it wasn't spinach, the best food to find in a tin. Armok now has 3 lichen corpses and 1 food ration. The broiled newts didn't provide much nutrition, so Armok ate one of the lichen corpses to ward off hunger from coming back until he's done in the shop.

That settled, it is time to repeatedly set down and pick up the unidentified potion and spellbook to figure out what Inuvik is willing to offer for them. The jerk knows exactly what they are, but he's not telling… at least not directly.


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Obnoxiously enough, a gecko comes up from behind while Armok was messing with Inuvik. Geckos are green : slightly stronger than newts, but not much.

The gecko corpse drops right where you see the gecko, which is the only spot in Inuvik's shop that doesn't make the corpse Inuvik's property the moment it hits the ground. Even though you killed the former owner, any corpse and possessions of the fallen are the property of the shopkeeper unless you're willing to fork over the cash.

Anyway, sell prices are 75 or 100 for the puce potion and 113 or 150 for the yellow spellbook. The higher price is 'real' sell price, but the shopkeeper will occasionally offer you less in hopes that you are stupid. Sell prices are normally half of the 'base' buy price, but unlike the buy price they are not modified by our charisma of 7. Two more factors modify the base price: you get a penalty if you look gullible (usually by being a tourist), and you get a penalty if the shopkeeper is racist against your kind. So… Is Inuvik the shopkeeper a racist douchebag who will only pay a human 1/3 value, or is he willing to part with the whole 1/2 value? It might take some experimentation to find out.

Spellbooks are always valued in multiples of 100 zorkmids, so we must be getting a 1/2 value offer for this one—there is no base 450gp spellbook in the game. Therefore, Inuvik the green elf is not racist against me, so we can conclude that the puce potion is worth 200 and the yellow spellbook 300. This makes the yellow spellbook level 3, so we'll #name it 'yellow L3'. We'll likewise #name the puce potion 'puce 200'. Since we just remembered, we'll also #name the whistle 'mundane'; we don't have to own it to name that class of item, and we'll be able to recognize all future useless tin whistles since they'll be 'mundane' now too.

The #name extended command can be used on either a class of items (like all yellow spellbooks, which always hold the same spell) or a specific item (a thoroughly rusty tin opener named Vladbane). The use above is the former, and it makes it easy to recognize an an item you've already seen if you find it later.

The potion could be useful, but it is not safe to try it and see without extensive preparations. The 200gp potions are the most dangerous. We will keep it. The spellbook is useless until late game, at which point the buy price will be a pittance. Better to sell for 150 now and use the money to buy food.

We sell our junk items, plus the book, for 215 gold.

We'll also check and see if the ring is a mimic… Turns out to be agate. Buy price is 300 zorkmids, which is too expensive for a probably-useless cursed ring, at least until the gold starts flowing like water.

We buy 4 food rations for 268 zorkmids. This settles our food supply for quite some time. Time to bop over to the down staircase.

Oh, crap. That was stupid and careless.

Armok blundered into an acidic green mold, corroding his sword. Corroded weapons are effectively -1 to hit and to damage. Eventually we can fix this, but for now we're just going to have to suck it.

The purple x is a grid bug, which was what I was charging Armok blindly toward. Grid bugs are one of the weakest monsters in the game, and the green mold was lurking silently in a dark corridor. This sort of thing is a common source of Yet Another Stupid Death; if the green mold had been a floating eye instead, Armok would probably be dead now rather than just having a damaged sword.

The carelessness is probably because the last game I played was a gnomish healer, who had a permanent light source and infravision for most of the game. Armok has neither of these things, so he blunders around when in the dark. Hopefully I will be more careful after this stern warning!

XP level 3! Also, there's Idefix. We'll want him to catch up before we go downstairs.

Here we are on the downstairs, ready to go down. Idefix MUST be right next to us, whether orthogonally or diagonally. If he is not next to us, we will leave him behind, where he cannot help us fight monsters or check items for curses. This is easy enough with just Idefix, but if we get a lot of pets or particularly slow pets, it can be a hassle getting them to stand in the right place.

The blue e is a floating eye. Floating eyes are PURE DEATH. They are completely helpless on their own like this, with no actual attacks of their own, but if you dare attack them in melee… They have a passive gaze attack that will paralyze you for a ridiculously long time. In the 300 or so turns it'll take you to stop being helpless, there's ample time for a few newts or jackals to wander over and chew you to death. These things are a big cause of newbie deaths.

We can safely kill this one if we have a stack of daggers or rocks to throw, and we can even melee it if we cover our eyes with a blindfold (if you can't see it, it can't see you). We don't have any of this stuff, so… run away from the helpless floating eyeball!

Sometimes you find random graffiti like this in the dust. This is just a random joke, but sometimes the graffiti is fairly significant. The letters have been disturbed because Armok has stepped on them; letters traced in the dust will be scuffed into illegibility very quickly. Letters actually carved into the floor with a sharp blade or a hard gem will only scuff as dust settles into it, and letters BURNED into the floor will never fade.

Looks like when he went for the gold, Armok stepped on a squeaky board. This is a relatively harmless trap (^) that wakes up nearby monsters and causes them to come and check out the spot where they heard the noise. A few pre-placed squeaky boards in the game are actual bad news, since they're placed near particularly dangerous boss fights, but this one is completely harmless.

Idefix eats a jackal corpse that Armok killed. Most pets need to eat, too; if you leave them hungry too long they'll go crazy and start lashing out randomly, and eventually starve to death if they don't find food. Dogs won't eat vegetables and will avoid human rations unless starving, but they'll insatiably gobble up all the animal corpses they find. They permanently gain an extra hit point and get a little tamer every time they eat something, so we should be happy to let Idefix do so as long as he doesn't steal a particularly special corpse.

Z is for zombie. Zombies are slow but the big ones hit hard. This one is just a zombie orc, so no big trouble. Zombies often come in groups. However, if the zombie leaves a corpse, Armok should not eat it even if he is starving. Zombie corpses are disgusting and putrefied. They are worth no nutrition, and if Armok is fool enough to sample it he will be infected with food poisoning that will kill him in 20 ticks unless he has a way to cure it. It usually takes 60 to 80 ticks for a corpse to rot enough to cause food poisoning, but zombie corpses are rotten from the start. Poison resistance does not help prevent food poisoning, for some reason.

This zombie was good for XP level 4.

This sleeping trap (blue ^) is much more dangerous than the squeaky board. It put Armok to sleep for around 15 ticks, which was harmless just now but would give a lot of free hits to anything he was fighting had he blundered into it in combat. Building up sleep resistance will eventually render it harmless, but sleep resistance is best built up by eating elves, and elves won't start appearing for several dungeon levels.

That isn't to say that these traps can't be a valuable resource…


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Monsters are just as vulnerable as the player, and the game tracks which traps the monsters have seen in operation. That grid bug won't step on that trap again (and not only because we're about to go over there and squish it while it sleeps), but a jackal that comes by later will probably blunder right into the trap, too. In some situations, you can be alerted to the presence of a particularly dangerous trap by the mountain of monster corpses sitting on it.

Looks like we've pushed a boulder into a corner. We can only pass through doors from the location occupied by the boulder, so we're going to have to kick the door down rather than opening it normally. In a total emergency, such as the door being on the opposite side of the boulder, we can drop ALL our stuff and wriggle underneath the tiny gap the boulder leaves, but this is a bad position for a monster to catch you in so we'll just kick the door down instead.

We know that this level doesn't contain a shop, since 1) we haven't found a down staircase yet, and this is the only place left it could be and 2) we haven't heard any of the standard shop sounds on this level. If you have any reason to think you might be dealing with a shop, you do not want to damage the door and should try to find the down staircase elsewhere first.

Sure enough, here's the staircase down. The white * is a stack of rocks (not enough of them to kill the floating eye, unfortunately) and the green b is an acid blob. Acid blobs are relatively harmless wandering blobs. They have no offensive attacks, but if you attack them you'll get splashed with their acid. This acid would cause Armok to suffer fairly serious damage and possibly corrode his sword even more. This acid can even kill pets, which is bad news because Idefix is a moron that will belligerently attack anything he thinks he can beat. We'll head down now before Idefix can get himself burned.

Egads! A pony! u is for horse… for some reason. Brown u's are domesticated horses that can be tamed by throwing them vegetables, but since this one is peaceful I'll leave it alone. Peaceful monsters will wander randomly unless you pick a fight with them. Idefix might attack it, but even if it fights with Idefix it won't bother me. Ponies are actually quite a bit stronger than little dogs like Idefix, but they are harder to keep fed. If I try to tame it and bring it with me, it will probably starve to death shortly thereafter.

If you try to move through a space occupied by a peaceful monster like this pony, the monster won't trade places like your pet will. The game asks for confirmation if you want to attack it (hint: no), and if you choose 'n' it will remain peaceful. You will usually get this confirmation request, but if you are confused or stunned and you blunder into a peaceful high priest or watch captain… Have a nice death!

Thanks, but no.

After a bit, Idefix checks out some chain mail on the floor of a nearby room and decides it is safe enough to wear. That's another 1AC, bringing Armok down to AC5.

The lowercase green l is for leprechaun. No other monster uses the lowercase l, so they are easy to identify. Leprechauns are especially annoying monsters in that instead of dealing damage, they steal gold. You can get the gold back by killing the leprechaun, but… They're bloody fast. They can usually take two or three turns for each one of Armok's, and they'll spend most of them running away. If they do steal some of Armok's cash, they can even teleport away with it, leaving him to futilely chase them all over the level. This leprechaun is probably asleep, so hopefully we can leave it alone.

Incidentally, it turns out that there was a secret door in the north wall just to the left of the leprechaun. You can earch an area by pressing the 's' button. It may take a few tries. I had to come back and risk waking the leprechaun after determining that the corridor to the east did not lead to the down staircase.

TWO down staircases! Blasphemy! Or… One of them is the entrance to the Gnomish Mines! Well, let's check this one here.

Turns out that the first staircase lead to the normal dungeon level 5. There was another oil lamp in the first room, and then I used the 'd' key to have Armok [d]rop an item. When prompted for which item, I pressed '$' to have Armok drop all his gold on the floor. Now to head back upstairs…

And kill the leprechaun! Leprechauns can only teleport when they steal gold, so if you have no gold they can only run away. This one died instantly, and we took its gold. The leprechaun also left a corpse, but Armok has no interest in eating it now. Leprechauns are pet-safe food, but PCs run the risk of contracting teleportitis, which is ANNOYING. Teleportitis randomly teleports you to a random safe tile on the same level. This can whisk you out of a sticky situation, but it is far more likely to jerk you away from the down staircase and throw you all the way across the map. Constantly.

Be careful where you leave your gold, though… There are monsters that love to eat gold that they find, and if you left it on the ground they'll happily sneak up from behind and leave you penniless. Some of them can go right through the walls. Monsters won't move around unless you're actually on their level, though, so the gold Armok left downstairs is safe until he goes back down.

Y is for yeti… But since we aren't deep enough to start running into actual yetis yet, we'll have to make do with this cute little monkey. This one is peaceful and will probably play with Idefix (read: be killed and eaten by Idefix), but hostile monkeys will try to steal stuff and run away with it. Mercifully, they are not smart enough to actually use equipment, so at least they won't start blasting you with your own stuff. A nuisance, but not a serious threat.

Welcome to the Gnomish Mines! The Gnomish Mines are much different than normal dungeon levels. They have wide open spaces where monsters can come at you from every angle, and are therefore much more dangerous than the main dungeon. And that's before you consider the non-trivial possibility that the gnomes may be generated with lethal attack wands! The dread Gnome with a Wand of Death is so rare that I've only actually ever seen it this early in the game one time out of all the times I've played, but at this level wands of sleep, fire, cold, lightning, and even the humble magic missile are all probably game-ending as well.

This particular level of the Mines is dark. Darkness is bad, particularly so for a human. Armok cannot see the gnomes, but they can see him. And if he cannot see the gnomes, he could be seconds from death. Descending into the Gnomish Mines so early is borderline suicide for one of the weaker roles, like tourists or clerics. Barbarians can handle it… probably. I usually prefer to go down a little bit farther in the main dungeon first, and then come back when I feel a little more secure.

So why should Armok bother with the Gnomish Mines, anyway? There's just a bunch of angry gnomes swarming all over the place, right? Gnomes are worthless and deserve only death, but it's not like they're elves or something, right? For starters, there's quite a bit of marginally adequate armor just sitting around waiting to be liberated from its careless current owners. We only have body armor now, but could stand to have a helmet, boots, and cloak, all of which we can find here in the Mines. There are also some random tools on each Mine level, which could be totally useless like the tin whistle in the general store upstairs or could be totally awesome like a bag of holding or a magic marker. The biggest reason to go down, though, is Minetown. Minetown is a community with a guaranteed altar and usually several shops. Altars are extremely handy for a variety of reasons, and the shops contain a variety of potentially useful items, including one that is required to finish the game.

So… Into the Mines, or onward to the Oracle and Sokoban instead? Next time…

Comments on the updates so far are welcome; I do expect that later updates will have fewer screenshots, though, simply because there isn't as much stuff that the reader has never seen before.

Mr. Sanity

Happy daycycle!
With one breath, I have to thank you for cluing me in on this Nethack descendant. With my next breath, I have to curse you for eating away at time I don't even have! Now I'm sneaking in moves at work while troubleshooting people's problems.

I vote for the Mines! Life is too good for Gnomes to be having any of it!

Benny the Gnome Bard

Ziven Mad Scientist!
Validated User
With one breath, I have to thank you for cluing me in on this Nethack descendant. With my next breath, I have to curse you for eating away at time I don't even have! Now I'm sneaking in moves at work while troubleshooting people's problems.

I vote for the Mines! Life is too good for Gnomes to be having any of it!
Hey.... :(

Go for the mines, so my kinsmen can pick over your bones


Cheese Striver
Validated User
It's been years since I've played this, but I think I used to make a beeline for Sokoban. And if I remember correctly, it was confusing as all get out. :) Looking forward to seeing your take on it.


thermonuclear catsplosion
Validated User
Gnoooomes! Kill the gnomes!

I always hew a path through the Gnomish Mines first. I'm also ravaged to death by gnomes about a third of the time, but it's fun.
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