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NetHack is old. The first version came out in 1987. NetHack is complex. It can take years of play to see it all. NetHack is random. It is one of the three founding roguelikes and will sometimes generate levels that seem flatly impossible. But they never are.NetHack has been described as a puzzle game hiding inside a roguelike's skin. Whereas the archetypal Angband or Dungeon Crawl hero is a Knight in Shining Armor who slays countless evil creatures and becomes powerful like unto God, the archetypal NetHack hero is a cunning trickster (or...hacker) who sets traps, fights in unconventional ways and never,everplays fair. After the very first few levels, killing monsters for XP becomes unprofitable (or even disadvantageous). Instead, power comes from your ever expanding collection of items which can be wielded, worn, thrown, rubbed, dipped, engraved, snapped, pointed, combined, cast, eaten, read, or applied, singly or in combination.The advantage of NetHack`s focus on items is that it reduces the impact of luck. By carefully hoarding your resources, (almost) nothing is inescapably fatal. The downside of NetHack's focus on items is that it reduces the impact of luck. Once you've learned some effective tactics, multiple playthroughs can start to feel similar, or even repetitive.Still, for a free game (in the sense of both "free beer" and "free speech") that can take up to a decade to beat for the first time, you could do worse.NetHack is cross-platform; it's safe to bet that if you're using an operating system that's still being developed, there's a port for it. In fact, Linux distributions tend to feature ports of it in their software repositories, and anyone with the proper programming skills can make ports or modifications because it is free and open-source software, released under the terms of the NetHack General Public License.You can play it online here.If NetHack's rather archaic graphics intimidate you, you can always try Vulture, an isometric GUI that more or less takes the original and spits out detailed graphics, sounds, and all around allows for an easier experience when learning how to play. The site currently has builds for vanilla NetHack, SLASH'EM and UnNetHack, with the SporkHack variant coming soon. Additionally, the NetHackWiki has a list of other alternate graphical tilesets.
There is a large box named "Tropes" here, loot it? [ynq] (q) y
You carefully open the large box...—More—
Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: The IRC channel for NetHack often combines this with the in-game symbols used to represent the various items; so a late-game Ascension kit might contain (among other things) [oMR, "oLS, a cursed !oGL and plenty of /oD.note Translation; Cloak of Magic Resistance, Amulet of Life Saving, cursed Potion of Gain Level and plenty of Wands of Death.
Inverted with characters who have very high charisma (even low level tourists wearing a Hawaiian Shirt). They get discounts.
All Animals Are Dogs: The only way to tame most monsters is by reading a scroll of taming or casting charm monster (or in some cases by wishing for a figurine), but throwing food (especially treats) to an already-tamed monster will increase their tameness, regardless of what kind of animal it is (as long as it's food they'll eat).
And if the monster is a domestic type, (cats, dogs, horses) you can throw food at the non tame ones to tame them. If you throw food that they don't eat (fruit to cats and dogs, meat to horses) then that will make them peaceful if they were hostile, and hostile if they were peaceful (due to them being irritated at you pelting them with food)
Anti-Magic: Magic resistance, a property given by a few rare items, has this effect. Since it neutralizes unintentional polymorphing, "pure magic" attacks (including Wands of Death), and many other nasty things, it's extremely useful.
Arbitrary Skepticism: Invoked by players doing Atheist conduct—never pray or otherwise interact with gods—despite the goal of the game being to retrieve an amulet for your god and become a demigod yourself.
Artifact of Death: Try to use an artifact under the wrong circumstances (like being the wrong alignment) and it may "blast" you, possibly killing you. Also, though not really an artifact, weaponized cockatrice corpses can turn most enemies to stone with a single smack; but of course they can also turn you to stone if you're not extremely careful.
Artistic License Biology: The game's concept of "nutrition" is probably the wackiest thing of all; unless you find a Ring of Slow Digestion, you'll need to eat the equivalent of dozens of dragon corpses to complete the game without starving—even if you're a gnome—but drinking is entirely optional and Nobody Poops. Specific tropes:
All Animals Are Dogs: Tamed beasts all act like loyal canines: they follow you around, attack perceived threats to their master, can be put on a literal leash, and so on.
Diurnal Nocturnal Animal: Animals only sleep in special circumstances that have nothing to do with time of day (even though the game does check the time of day for other reasons).
Imprinting: If an egg hatches while you're carrying it and you are male.
Bandit Mook: Leprechauns and nymphs are primarily interested in your gold and inventory items, respectively. They also like to teleport away after stealing something, which complicates retrieval. Nymphs can even steal cursed weapons/armor/etc. welded to you and can undo chains attached to you, which makes them useful for removing such items. Just remember to put away anything dangerous first....
Bare-Fisted Monk: Despite not being able to effectively use weapons, monk characters can become extremely powerful and deadly. (Sadly, a bug makes them deal 1 point of damage 25% of the time.)
Bear Trap: These can be encountered as a hidden trap, which do some damage, but more annoyingly hold you in place for a few turns until you pull free. You can also disarm them, lug them around and re-set them to be triggered by monsters.
Berserk Button: Among the fanbase—never kill Izchak the Shopkeeper. He's named in honor of the late Izchak Miller, a founding member of the NetHack dev team. Extinctionists will spare him from their rampages, and in some segments of the fanbase it's considered poor form (at best) to steal from his shop.
This used to be the case, but modern players don't seem to care as much. (This is in keeping with the Hacker Ethic: the older generation, who are likely to have known Miller personally, hold to this, while to newer players it's an arbitrary rule with no reasonable justification and thus not worth respecting. Just don't tell anyone if you break it.)
In fact, blinding yourself while you have telepathy protects you from many forms of visual attacks. The downside is that it makes you more vulnerable to mind flayers, you can't see mindless creatures like undead, and traversing unexplored parts of the dungeon is more annoying.
Block Puzzle: Sokoban, a four-level puzzle in which you push boulders to plug holes in the floor. The game mechanics change somewhat, though: You can't push the boulders diagonally or fly over the holes in the floor, and trying to cheat (by creating/destroying boulders or trying to bypass the pits at the end of each level) nets you a Luck penalty.
And if you're being digested by a monster at the time, then the lightning will hit the monster you're inside of, almost certainly killing it instead of you. If the monster survives the bolt, it gets hit by the disintegration beam too (although the only monster in Vanilla that engulfs and resists lightning also resists disintegration). You even get experience and break any Pacifist conduct for doing so.
Bonus Boss: Demogorgon is the strongest monster in the game, but you might not encounter him, since he can only be summoned by another demon prince. Even if you do, you might be able to run away, in which case you probably should.
Bottomless Bladder: The PC isn't required to sleep and recovers from wounds without having to rest. In fact, the only source of restful sleep is delivered by an amulet of restful sleep, which can be used to heal, but is mostly just there as a hazard.
Averted with SLASH'EM. There are toilets, but their use isn't obvious at first. If you're Satiated and sit on one, you "take a dump" and lose some nutrition, along with being cured of sickness. It is extremely likely someone will never use it anyway, but it's there.
Breakable Weapons: A variant: you cannot break melee weapons through fighting with them (though you have a small chance of shattering your opponents' weapons, depending on your skill and what each of you is wielding), but using bladed weapons to force locks can break them. Missile weapons have a chance of being "lost" (i.e., disappearing from the game) when they are used.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Applying a stethoscope to listen to the very bottom of the screen gives, "You hear a faint typing noise."
Bucket Helmet: A rare variant on standard metal helmets, prized for being slightly lighter than its equivalents.
Cannibalism Super Power: The standard means of acquiring elemental resistances, poison immunity, teleportation, etc. is to eat the corpses of monsters that have these abilities.
Cherry Tapping: Typically "Vladsbane", named for one boss so wimpy he can be dispatched with a rusted tin opener or thrown magic marker.
Chest Monster: Mimics lurking in stores are common killers of low-level characters.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Unicorns are color-coded by alignment: black = chaotic, grey = neutral, white = lawful. Many other monsters, particularly dragons, are coded by properties: monsters with fire attacks (pyrolisks, hell hounds, red dragons) are usually red, monsters with cold attacks (blue jellies, winter wolves, white dragons) are usually blue or white, etc.
Color-Coded Stones: The game plays this one dead straight, with a few exceptions—there's two possibilities each for turquoise and aquamarine (green or blue), and fluorite is randomly assigned either green, blue, white or violet. All gems are just "<color> gem" until identified, so an unidentified "red gem" can't turn out to be sapphire, which is a blue gem.
Well, if one Bag of Holding is put inside another ordinary bag first, there is a chance it will go into another Bag of Holding without them both disappearing in an explosion. And, that chance gets larger as more bags are used to nest it. So, it can be done, and is for players who are trying to finish the game with a ludicrous amount of stuff.
Commonplace Rare: Two of the most useful items in the game are: a magic marker and a can of grease. Both are disgustingly uncommon. * The most useful item in the game is easily a Wand of Wishing. Which you will then use to wish for grease and magic markers. Grease is mostly valuable because it is rare—its effects are important but mostly supersedable (armor can be made permanently damageproof and there's a cloak and a bag that are effectively permanently greased. You'll still have to avoid melee with mind flayers). Magic markers, however, let you write powerful and valuable magic scrolls on junk parchment (and are used up in the process), making them quite desirable.
Another inexplicably uncommon item: shirts. T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts have no armor value in and of themselves, but can be enchanted to give a valuable extra few points of protection and worn under standard issue shining armor. If you can find one. Wishing or polymorphing may be necessary.
Damage Discrimination: Averted; if you're facing a mob of enemies, anyone between your character and a missile-user (up to and including dragons) stands a chance of getting hit. Also, if you wear a ring of conflict, any nearby creatures will start attacking each other.
Deader Than Dead: The Auto-Revive up there? It doesn't work if you genocide your own race or class, or get your brain eaten. Well, technically it does, but you just die again.
Death by Sex: The Succubus takes off your gloves. You turn to stone because the gloves are the only thing protecting you from the petrifying capabilities of the corpse you're holding. The Succubus takes off your water-walking boots. You drown. Also, a level drain when you're at level 1 will end you.
Deus Sex Machina: With proper preparation (or, as many like to say, "protection"), seducing succubi and incubi can permanently raise your level or stats and is generally a great resource.
Becomes funny when you realize that most every bug listed seems to be a case of The Dev Team Thinks of Everything. You can't rub a touchstone on gold? Why bother in the first place?
Another one might be: Lit potion may survive hero dying from splattered oil burning on the floor. Who the heck noticed that?
Also: Sunsword does not work as expected against shades. You aren't running into shades until you are well on your way to Ascending and someone actually took the time to figure that out.
A few do seem to be genuine mistakes, such as "candles are fireproof"... how in the world did that happen?
Diagonal Speed Boost: Naturally, as it's a Roguelike. The "grid bug conduct" challenge is for your player to ignore the diagonal speed boost, which makes the game a lot harder.
Disc One Nuke: In a few ways, be it an early wish or polymorphing.
Some players regard "Elbereth" as a disk one nuke. Writing Elbereth in the dust with their fingers will protect the player from almost all early monsters, and many later ones.
Magicbane takes this up to 11 because it always engraves successfully, in only one action, without using any charges. (In addition to protecting against most traps and hostile spells.) Wizards can get it very easily, but already start the game magic protected.
Due to class special abilities, a Rogue on the very first turn can throw up to 2 daggers at a time. Developing the skill can increase that to up to 4 daggers at a time. Enchanting the daggers (or finding enchanted daggers), plus strength damage bonus, means a Rogue is almost guaranteed to be a long range killer by machine-gunning daggers. This is why Rogues start with a stack of daggers. The drawback is the Rogue Quest, which should make any Rogue a part time alchemist.
Some of the other classes can do the same, but have to find the daggers on their own, as well as develop the skill from scratch. Other than the Ranger they don't get the bonus toss and none of them can get a backstab bonus four times with one attack from nine squares away.
Excalibur is a very powerful weapon that can be acquired as early as level 5, and without much effort (be Lawful, find a longsword, and dip it into a fountain a few times). This is especially easy to pull off if you're a Knight or a Valkyrie, both of which start the game with a longsword.
Do Not Drop Your Weapon: Averted; you can un-equip enemies with a bullwhip. One of the few useful applications for a bullwhip, since it is a pretty lousy weapon. Warning, though, enemies can do the same, so if Magicbane is your only source of Magic Resistance, and somebody with a touch of death is around....
The player, however, can drop their weapon by eating greasy food without gloves on, and forgetting to use a towel or something to wipe off the grease, leading to Yet Another Stupid Death.
Dungeon Bypass: Pick-axes can be used to tunnel around enemies and to dig a hole through the floor of one dungeon level down to the next, letting you bypass entire levels at a time (although you will have to deal with the bypassed levels on the way back up—unless you've got another cunning plan).
Dungeon Shop: An important source of items, and (possibly even more importantly) clues as to what the items are (since their appearance is randomized for each game and use-testing can be a very Bad Idea).
Easter Egg: "You pick up the trapper's tongue. But it's kind of slimy, so you put it back down."
"That would be an interesting topological exercise." Put a bag inside itself.
Too many to list. Most actually overlap with The Dev Team Thinks of Everything in that the player is trying to do something strange, but the game gives an appropriate response instead of simply giving a generic you-can't-do-this response.
Elemental Embodiment: Some show up as normal enemies; they can also be summoned, much to the chagrin of anyone messing around with sinks or fountains.
Any non-undead pet has the innate ability to detect cursed items and will try its best never to step on them, or to do so only "reluctantly".
Also, when you put a leash on them they will whine or act nervous whenever there's a trap nearby, although normally they wouldn't notice.
Fair Weather Mentor: The player, almost inevitably. You'll love your pet and give them easy kills and fresh corpses to help level them up, and they'll fight on your behalf... but when food starts getting scarce or you find yourself cornered by a level draining foe, it's every man for himself. There's no penalty for starving your pets to death or abandoning them when the going gets tough except the loss of the pet. Just don't Eat the Dog unless you really have to.
Fake Difficulty: Despite NetHack's awesomeness, it is hard not to admit that the game definitely has a share of it. Namely:
Guide Dang It: It would be difficult-shading-into-impossible to win without reading spoilers on some of Nethack's more arcanemechanics. Like all good things, they have their own wiki. Some of the variants, including Slash and SLASH'EM, assume you have memorized the guide and up the difficulty to match.
Selective Memory: The game provides almost no useful information about how various spells and items work, what dangers some special monsters present, etc. But how come? Does your character know absolutely nothing about Mazes of Menace? Even if so, why does he/she know nothing about items they bring with them? Well, their types and blessed/cursed status is revealed, but no information is provided about how they actually work.
Random Number God. If he gets angry, you are screwed. Well, experienced players have demonstrated that most games are winnable, but you also have to be a very experienced player to agree with it.
Unwinnable by Design: Changing alignment before the Quest, killing the quest leader, or failing the quest's level/alignment test 7 times all make it impossible to get the Bell of Opening (required to reach the Amulet of Yendor's level). There's some cases of Unwinnable by Mistake and Unwinnable by Insanity, too. The Book of the Dead can be destroyed by jumping into lava without fire resistance but with an Amulet of Life Saving.
Interface Screw: Most noticeable with the Hallucination effect, which makes it impossible to tell what objects or enemies really are. But some aspects of this are a permanent issue, such as the fact that in ASCII mode, dwarf kings (usually-peaceful, low-threat enemies) and mind flayers (horrendous Demonic Spiders) look exactly the same, and can only be distinguished by /-examining every purple "h" you see. As noted above, there are variants and alternate tile-sets available that eliminate this problem.
Filk Song: Filk singer Rob Balder wrote a song about the game. You can listen to one version of it here.
Final Death: All deaths are final, unless you have a certain rare item...
Foe-Tossing Charge: The game has many instances when the player is surrounded by monsters and only needs to pass through. In such situations, this trope can be imagined very easily. Especially if you have a wand of teleport. Especially if you have an extra one, so you can break it in two and teleport anything within range.
Flat Earth Atheist: The "atheist" conduct involves not using any of the religious elements of the game (except for sacrificing the Amulet of Yendor, and even then, there's a patch to eliminate this, too), satisfying the technical specs of this trope. Of course, actually playing this way pretty much requires you to either know not to do these things, or die before you get to do them.
Forgot to Feed the Monster: While food (corpses) is very common and you usually don't have to actively feed your pets, it is possible for them to starve to death. Can also be reversed—when you're hungry, your pet might eat food before you can. Your pets will also go feral if you leave them on a different level for too long.
Fourth Wall Mail Slot: On some Unix systems, if you receive a new email while playing, the email is brought to you on a scroll in-game, delivered by the mail daemon.
Gender Bender: Wear unidentified amulets or mess around with polymorphing at your own risk.
Genie in a Bottle: In magic lamps as well as (sometimes) actual bottles. Possible source of a wish, if handled correctly.
Get Back Here Boss: Demon lords and the more powerful types of liches can teleport around at will, and will use this ability to run off and heal. Generally speaking, they always run off to the upstairs, meaning once they start that nonsense, you should be running that way, too.
Glass Cannon: The Wizard class starts out physically weak but with some powerful equipment and spells. Just don't let stuff get close enough to beat on you.
Gone Horribly Right: With work, it's possible to genocide a whole range of creatures, the weaker ones. Overdo the blessed scrolls of genocide and all that's left are the very toughest creatures, which aren't genocide-able. The final stages of the game become even more exciting, and frequently, much shorter, too.
Gratuitous Japanese: Playing a Samurai, the game feedback will call certain items by the Japanese name (helmet -> kabuto) or a rough Japanese equivalent (booze -> sake), even though they're literally the same item behind the scenes. The samurai Quest is particularly full of this.
Not all of it is accurate Japanese, mind. "Shito" is probably just a misspelling of "shōtō"note 小刀; used in NetHack for knife, actually means a short sword, but no one seems to know what word the devs were going for with "gunyoki".
If you tell a vault guard your name is Croesus, he will assume you are the Croesus, his boss, and (if the real Croesus is still alive) will let you get back to stealing all his gold. Even if you're the wrong gender and/or the wrong species to pass as Croesus. You can also deter the guard by being unable to speak (he leaves, saying "I'll be back when you're ready to speak to me!") or by eating a mimic corpse while hallucinating, which disguises you as an orange: "Hey! Who left that orange in here?".
The numerous soldiers and monsters in the Castle will make no attempt to stop you as you stand outside messing around with a bugle, obviously trying to guess the Song In The Key Of Lock that opens the drawbridge. Once you know the tune, you can play it to lower the bridge, play it again to raise the bridge and crush any mooks that were trying to cross, and repeat; they never catch on, and will continue marching to their doom until they've all been squashed.
Hailfire Peaks: The Valkyrie Quest has both lava and ice in the same map. Explained as the result of Fire Giants invading the naturally frosty Valkyrie homeland.
For those who don't know where to look for the cause of death... he died by kicking a wall.
Sometimes, figuring out just how to reproduce a specific death can be a non-trivial exercise in itself. ("turned to slime by a scroll of genocide", anyone?)
It's even possible to have 'elementary chemistry' as a cause of death, if you're careless with acid.
Tossing a dead cockatrice in the air and catching it on your head nets the epitaph "petrified by elementary physics". Tossing a heavy object in the same way will get you "killed by elementary physics" instead.
Healing Factor: Trolls usually revive themselves at full health shortly after death. The only way to prevent this is to eat the corpse, though sometimes they revive mid-meal.
Helpful Mook: Nurses are the Genuinely Gentle kind. If you disrobe and sheathe your weapon, they'll heal you with their attacks. Succubi can be the Accidentally Assisting kind if you play your cards right.
Hoist by His Own Petard: The easiest way to kill Medusa is with a mirror of some kind. This includes any item that provides reflection. This works similarly on Floating Eyes; using a mirror on one makes it freeze from its own gaze.
Also applies to Croesus, who lives in Fort Ludios. Fort Ludios has two important choke points (the door out of the room you start in, and the door to the fort itself), presumably because they would help against a larger invading army. Unfortunately for him, he didn't count on lone adventurers using that choke point to kill off all his soldiers one by one.
And anyone (character or monster) using a beam-weapon wand runs the risk of getting hit with a ricochet-blast off the nearest wall.
Holiday Mode: Date, time, and phase of the moon may all affect the game.
On Friday the 13th, the start-up message says "Watch out! Bad things can happen on Friday the 13th", and your luck factor is reduced.
On a full moon, the start-up message says, "You are lucky! Full moon tonight", and your luck is increased, but dogs may be less friendly, and werecreatures are usually in animal form, especially at night.
During the new moon, cockatrices are more dangerous.
Between 10 pm and 6 am, some creatures are slightly more dangerous.
From midnight till 1 am, undead do twice as much damage, and you get a different message when entering graveyards.
Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Pestilence, and Famine (referred to as The Riders) make an appearance as endbosses in the Astral Plane. War is the player.
Hollywood Chameleon: Chameleons in NetHack can disguise themselves as other creatures, and even gain the abilities of whatever they mimic.
I Fought the Law and the Law Won: The Keystone Kops will spawn in large numbers if you rob a store. They are among the only monsters in the game that can never be rendered permanently extinct. No matter how many armies of them you defeat, there'll always be another pack ready to jump you NEXT time you step outta line.
If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: Thanks to bones files, you may find the remains of previous, unlucky heroes (usually a corpse and a restless shade, but sometimes a statue or a slime), complete with their whole inventory. Fraught with some danger, though—each item has a random chance of being cursed.
Implacable Man: Subverted. Once you're high level and well-tooled for melee with AC in the negatives and a ring of regeneration, you can smite an entire room of trolls and dragons, taking blows and regenerating the damage faster than they can dish it out. Then in walks a gnome who puts you to sleep with his wand and beats you to death with his tiny crossbow.
Improvised Weapon: Speaking of beating things to death, you can wield nearly any item and use it for the blunt-force trauma if nothing else.
Infinity+1 Sword: Grayswandir, a silver saber which deals double damage to all monsters (instead of just some like other artifacts), plus extra damage to silver-hating monsters.
Although there are other far more powerful attacks in the game. Especially ranged attacks that can kill enemies before they get close enough to hurt your character. See Storm Damage.
That doesn't include the attack spells. Some of which have an area effect repeated multiple times. Like fireball, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
The Rogue level is nothing compared to being confused, stunned, or most especially, hallucinating. When confused or stunned, moving takes you in the wrong direction most of the time. When hallucinating, every item and creature appears to be some other random thing (some of which aren't normally found in the game).
Blinded can sometimes be worse. Being blinded in a shop will guarantee you YASD. The same with Temples and Towns.
Inventory Management Puzzle: You can carry a lot of swag, but eventually, you have to start caching, and if you want to be 100% certain of not losing a cache, you either have to bury it or put it in a locked chest, on a scroll of scare monster, on a dungeon tile which has had "Elbereth" etched into it. And even then, there's probably some way it can go wrong...
Invisibility Cloak: Available as both a cloak and a ring, as well as intrinsic invisibility conferred by wand (permanent), and potion or spell (temporary). Note that it doesn't make you completely unfindable; monsters will try to guess your location and attack where they think you are. All of the above items can also be used by monsters, making the "See Invisible" intrinsic very important.
Kick the Dog: You can do this if you like, literally even. You Bastard. Seeing as your pet is your loving sidekick and in fact one of your more useful assets, this is usually an accident when it happens. On occasion, you do have to go so far as to Shoot the Dog if it turns on you. Offering your pet on an altar gets your patron god angry at you, by the way. And if you eat the corpse of a dog or a cat, everything in the dungeon will be aggravated at you... well, even more so.
The Last Straw: If you're satiated, then eating anything—even an insubstantial wraith corpse—has a chance of causing you to choke to death... and that wraith corpse doesn't give the player a warning beforehand. Amulets of Magical Breathing prevent this, at least.
Lethal Joke Item: Quite a few examples. T-Shirts seem silly and useless, but they fill a unique equip slot and can be enchanted to provide several free armor points. Expensive Cameras blind and scare monsters—including some very high-level ones that are hard to fight by other means. Even Wands of Nothing (which do nothing) are useful because they can be reliably polymorphed into much better wands.
Level Grinding: The "pudding farming" method allows you to collect massive amounts of hit points—as well as really good loot.
Also contains Anti-Grinding—leveling up too much before you find good equipment is a good way to get yourself into trouble.
Level Scaling: Bases the level of enemies you'll face on the average of your character level, and the depth you've reached in the dungeon.
Logical Weakness: Tridents have a to-hit bonus against aquatic monsters. Axes do extra damage to Wood Golems. Clay Golems can be destroyed in one shot if you've read the original folk tale and erase the runes on their foreheads. The list goes on...
Luck-Based Mission: Luck plays an important role in NetHack; if the Random Number God wants to kill you, it probably will, because, at any given moment, there are many things that can go wrong. Taking precautions that will let you survive its wrath is an important part of the game.
Christian Bressler, aka 'Marvin the Paranoid Android' Ascended 23 times in a row over a three month span on the public server NAO, mostly to show that any individual game could be won. Including one of every class for the first 13, then he started doing conducts.
Adeon, another NAO player, Ascended 29 times in a row over the course of just barely more than one month.
ais523 did prove that it's theoretically possible to die before you have control of your character, the very definition of an unavoidable death. Grayswandir was generated on the upstairs, he picked it up due to autopickup, and it blasted him. He did some calculations and estimated a 1 in 3 million chance (roughly) of this occurring.
One of the various traps that an adventurer can encounter is a pit. Sometimes, this pit has spikes. Sometimes, these spikes are poisoned. And sometimes, poison is instantly lethal. Therefore, characters who don't possess poison resistance could theoretically die at any given moment, should they wander into a trap such as this.
The truly paranoid will try to only step where they've seen other monsters step safely, or search when that's not possible.
MacGuffin Delivery Service: A viable strategy for obtaining the Amulet of Yendor. Allowing a covetous monster, such as Yeenoghu or Juiblex, to steal the Amulet of Yendor for you, may be easier than fighting through Moloch's Sanctum.
Macrogame: Bones files — a good argument for playing on an online server.
Magikarp Power / Lethal Joke Character: The tourist character class. All the "weak" character classes have this to some extent - but it's most noticeable with the tourist, who might be the easiest role to win with if you survive past the Quest. But that's a big"if." The Tourist starts with a stack of throwing darts, a flashy camera, some money, a pile of food, two healing potions, and some scrolls that are useful only in the endgame. They does not start with any melee (or non-expendable) weapon, any spells, any armor, or decent combat stats in case he comes across either of the above, and shops will vastly overcharge him for the first half of the game. The throwing darts they do have are a ranged weapon, and can be upgraded with a poison, but they aren't very useful compared to other class' weapons. If a tourist survives to the quest, though, their reward is effectively an infinite-use blessed scroll of charging (which also grants magic resistance, super-telepathy, and half damage from enemy magic just by having it in your inventory), which means double or triple the duration of most wands, easy creation of +4 or +5 rings, and infinite uses of most tools (including a food generator, an enemy tamer, and some that mimic offensive wands). And to top it off, your useless starting shirt and scrolls become valuable in the endgame, and the stats that start the highest for him are the hardest ones to increase later on.
Magic Pants: Averted: if you change into a much larger form, then the armor you're wearing will be torn apart and destroyed.
And if you turn into something exceptionally weak and puny, you'll be half-squashed by the same armor and unable to move.
Actually, there are no pants in NetHack whatsoever. This still confuses newbies.
If you sit on a cockatrice corpse, you don't turn to stone, so you must be wearing pants. Since they don't tear apart or anything, they must be magic. So the pants are magic, but it's averted with the rest of your clothing.
Mailer Daemon: A literal one; it delivers messages from other users on the system.
The daemon normally appears and disappears within one turn without giving a chance for the player to interact with it. However, a Crazy-Prepared player can kill it, preventing further messages from being delivered; to do this, the player needs to stone-to-flesh a statue of a mail daemon, which is not something that occurs naturally but needs to be wished for, and to be prepared to kill the resulting daemon in one turn as it otherwise disappears with a cry of "I'm late!".
Make a Wish: The most certain, and in some cases only, way of getting some desirable rare items. On the other hand, it may be much more useful to wish for an item with an important Mundane Utility.
The Sokoban branch. Interestingly, the Mini-Game is done with the same mechanics as the rest of the game, with only minimal changes (boulders can't be pushed diagonally, and you can't fly over holes in the floor).
And certain other things (i.e. using spells to get rid of boulders) will give you a luck penalty.
One way to enter the Castle is by winning a game of Mastermind.
In the endgame, wielding the Amulet of Yendor lets you play hot/cold to find the hidden portals to the next level.
"Mother, May I?" with the Quest Leader.
Minesweeper in the Ft. Ludios treasure room. (Although this may be more of a Shout-Out.)
Metagame: Many sort-of-intentional deaths are caused on the first few levels by people repeatedly seeking some early advantage, such as quaffing from fountains (it's supplication to the Random Number God for a wish, in case you're curious), or kicking sinks for a ring and then dying if a foocubus/black pudding comes up and they can't handle it (or don't want to waste time handling it). This is a form of startscumming, and not everyone thinks it's a-OK.
Mighty Glacier: Mūmakil. Their cousins baluchitheria, as well, to a degree, but those are slightly faster and, although tougher, less offensively strong.
Mini-Dungeon: The game has a few side branches, such as the gnome mines and a couple of towers.
Money for Nothing: There are things that are worth spending gold on, but the fact that you can kill almost anything you gave your gold to means that generally, once you're done with getting your protection, you're more or less done with money as well.
Monsters Everywhere: Horses, bees, trolls, elves, snakes, demons—and everything in between—grows out of rock. Or perhaps they are spawned by the evil Wizard. But why then does he spawn a puny rat to defeat the hero that just killed five dragons without breaking a sweat? Maybe to maintain a certain ambiance? Kitten and Vampire Lord fights side by side!
Munchkin: Not playing this way is practically suicide.
Mushroom Samba: The hallucination effect. It's a temporary status effect obtained by drinking a certain type of potion, eating the corpses of some monsters (including several fungus monsters), or being hit by an exploding black light. It causes nearby monsters and items to appear as random other items or monsters that don't actually exist. It also gives alternate messages for most visual and audio messages.
Quaffing a cursed Potion of Gain Level on dungeon level 1 is a failsafe way to exit the Dungeons of Doom. If the player's not carrying the Amulet of Yendor, he/she just "feels uneasy." If he does have the amulet, it's up and out. The Dev Team Really Does think of everything.
Nerf Arm: Cream pies are surprisingly useful as weapons, and you can eat them.
Nintendo Hard: To the point where there is no shame in dying on the second or third level if you're a new player. One can die in less than 50 turns if they don't know what they're doing, and it's not unheard of for players to die on their first turn (but you have to try fairly hard to do that).
Non-Human Undead: Zombie and mummy giants, elves, dwarves, orcs, and gnomes along with the regular ol' human variant. You can also zap most corpses with wands of undead turning to bring monsters and animals back to life.
Nostalgia Level: The Rogue level, a reference to the original Rogue, is presented in black and white, with different symbols for various features and objects, and even some changes to game mechanics (such as monsters not leaving corpses).
The Nudifier: The scroll of destroy armor (and the destroy armor spell used by certain monsters).
Oh, Crap: Many players have this reaction when they realize they will die in a fight or other bad things.
Olympus Mons: A high-ranking angelic being and an uber-powerful undead mage can both be your pets, despite possibly being powerful enough to destroy your character several times over. With a bit of work, even two of the horsemen of the apocalypse can be brought under your control.
A Wand of Death, the Finger of Death spell, a bad roll on a poison check, doing anything that involves your bare skin and anything even tangentially related to a footrice including the contents of their eggs, hitting a Floating Eye in some cases, encountering a soldier ant/leocrotta/mūmak/minotaur when unprepared for melee, Medusa's gaze. A drowning attack is technically a two-hit kill but feels like a one-hit kill.
Carrying pet treats in open inventory (tripe for dogs/cats, pears/apples for horses) means your pet will stay much closer to you.
Tossing your pet a treat reinforces its recent behavior. You can train your pet to steal from shops!
A leash physically keeps your pet close to you, even when going up/down stairs or dropping through holes. (You can use multiple leashes, too.)
A tin whistle will kind of call your pet to you. A magic whistle will teleport your pet(s) to your side if they're anywhere on the level.
#chatting to your pet can tell you about their condition.
Pets are reluctant to step on a square with a cursed item on it (unless there's food there they want.) This can identify cursed items. It can also be used to control a tame animal's movement.
You can 'a'pply a bullwhip at a humanoid pet to take their weapon away. (For replacement with a better weapon.) You can also prepare and leave weapons, armor, and tools for your humanoid pets to pick up and use.
Wand of probing tells what a monster (tame or otherwise) is carrying.
A stethoscope tells an animal's basic Hit Points and its speed.
Spells of healing and extra healing can be used to heal pets.
Breaking a potion of regular, extra, or full healing can heal pets.
Saddles permit horses, dragons, and some other monsters to be ridden.
Player Data Sharing: Bones files allow the corpses/graves of previous player characters to show up.
Randomly Generated Loot: He holds domain over the loot, like any good roguelike's RNG. Some items get blessed or cursed, a few items get fireproof or rustproof, and a few items get a numeric bonus, like a stack of +1 darts.
Rare Candy: Potions of gain level and wraith corpses give level-ups. Potions of gain ability (especially blessed) and the "gain ability" effect of magic fountains increase stats.
Ret Gone: A scroll of genocide not only kills all monsters of a given type, it removes them from reality. If you genocide cockatrice and you were holding a cockatrice in your hand and three of their eggs in your backpack, they'll all vanish. If you had a tin filled with red dragon meat and you genocide red dragons, that tin mysteriously becomes empty. And you'll find yourself unable to polymorph into one now, even if you had already done so before. Also, if you genocide your own race/role while polymorphed, the game will say "you feel empty inside". Try to turn back and you will die. If you quit before dying, the game will read "quit while already on Charon's boat."
Required Secondary Powers: Scrolls of fire and books of fireball can't burn, Wands and books of cancellation can't be canceled, wands, potions, and books of polymorph can't be polymorphed. The idea being that immunity to the effect they contain is necessary to contain it in the first place.
Revive Kills Zombie: Pestilence (one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse) takes severe damage if you throw healing potions at him (However, his magic resistance is so high that he will always resist this effect unless you level-drain him first). Inverted for Death, who is healed by instadeath spells.
Save Game Limits: The game only allows one savefile per character. If you want to make backups to protect against crashes, you'll have to do that manually. Any other use of backups is considered very bad form.
Save Scumming: Like just about any roguelike, NetHack erases your save upon death. Instead, some players will "start scum," repeatedly starting and quitting the game until one gets a favorable set of starting equipment or stats. This is usually done with wizards, due to the ridiculous magical items a lucky wizard can start the game with (pre-ID'd to boot). A little over 50% of all NAO games are turn-0 quits, a good portion of those wizards.
Schizophrenic Difficulty: Despite dangers like arch-liches, mind flayers, and Rodney chasing you, the game gets much, much easier after the first dozen levels or so due to the necessity of being Crazy-Prepared and to vastly overpowered early monsters like soldier ants, leocrottas, and chameleons.
Schmuck Bait: Played with. Most unidentified scrolls have gibberish names like "ZELGO MER" or "XIXAXA XOXAXA XUXAXA," but one of them is titled "READ ME." Whether it's actually Schmuck Bait depends on whether it turns out to be a helpful scroll or, say, a scroll of destroy armor (which destroys some of your armor).
Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: Where you end up if you teleport by accident into a vault. Sure, there's a guard who comes along to check it, but if you refuse to give up all your gold or keep saying you're Croesus, you're stuck inside until you starve to death.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Lots of them, and the game keeps track of which restrictions you've managed to not yet break. The players have invented some extra-ridiculous challenges like Zen, which requires you to blind yourself for the entire game.
Shapeshifter Mode Lock: This will happen if you genocide your race/role while polymorphed. Try to change back and you will die. Also, Amulets of Unchanging can be worn for this effect.
Shoplift and Die: The trope was once named Izchak's Wrath, after the only non-random shopkeeper in NetHack.
Shout-Out: The Rogue level re-skins most of the game's graphics in the style of NetHack's famous ancestor.
It might actually be impossible to visit Fort Ludios in a given game.
Silver Has Mystic Powers: Vampires, werewolves, and a few other enemies take bonus damage when hit by anything made of silver (even if it isn't a weapon). Shades can only be harmed by silver.
Skeleton Key: Any key found will unlock any door or chest (older versions had different kinds of keys that could only open corresponding types of locks).
Songs in the Key of Lock: One way of getting into the Castle. A (possibly unintended) side effect allows you to easily kill off most of the monsters in the castle: Playing the pass-tune again closes the drawbridge, and any monster on the drawbridge will be crushed to death when it closes. Wash, rinse, repeat. This also destroys any loot they're carrying, though.
Stat Death: If your Intelligence drops below 3 (usually by mind flayer attack, although there are other ways to do this), you "die of brainlessness".
Stealth Pun: A very stealthy one is the reason why demons are represented by the "&" character: It refers to the concept of a "daemon" in POSIX operating systems, which is a program that runs in the background. When launching a program from a command line, you can specify that it shall run in the background by appending a "&" to the command.
Stock Animal Diet: Horses eat apples and carrots. Thus, a Knight starts the game with apples and carrots, to feed its pet pony. Horses can also eat other vegetarian food, such as lichen corpses.
Stuck Items: Cursed armor can't be removed, and cursed weapons can't be un-wielded. There are several ways of dealing with these problems, only one ("remove curse") obvious.note For example, if it's made of stone, you can cast stone-to-flesh and eat it. Eating cursed food will make you sick, but at least the bigger problem is dealt with.
Taken for Granite: From the cockatrices, one of the game's many Goddamned Bats. If you manage to kill the 'trice, you can then wield its corpse, turning its power against your enemies. Make sure to wear gloves, though, and don't trip.
Technical Pacifist: See Pacifist Run, above, and note that the requirement is that you don't personally kill anything. Leading an army of high-level pets through the dungeon and letting them slaughter everything you meet is just fine.
Tech Points: You need both "skill slots" (gained through Experience Points) and a certain number of successful uses of the item/spell in question to advance a skill.
Too Awesome to Use: Averted with a vengeance, since you practically have to use powerful items early and often to survive at all. If you come in with the hoarding attitude, it can take a while to get used to the idea that it's OK to use two charges from your wand of fire on dungeon level three as long as you don't die.
One clear example, the scroll of Scare Monster. You get one, maybe two uses before it crumbles to dust. Early on engraving Elbereth in the dust works almost as well, and is repeatable. Late game opponents aren't affected by the scroll.
Touch of Death: A couple of high-level monsters can do this. Getting the proper preventative gear is a early-game priority.
Trial-and-Error Gameplay: The player is supposed to make out most gameplay mechanics this way. In a game with an immense game world, permanent death, and most errors leading to said permanent death. No wonder that players doubt the possibility of Ascending without reading spoilers. The game does provide an Oracle, a special monster which gives valuable advice about the game, but it has great limitations on its consultations.
Turn Undead: Available through a spell, a wand, and a class attribute. Due to liberal application of Just for Pun, you can also use it to revive corpses. Very useful when your highly leveled-up pet gets killed. Although beware, it won't necessarily revive tame.
Underground Monkey: The standard game is constructed entirely of ASCII characters, leading to a lot of creature-overlap. You definitely still don't want to confuse a dwarf king with a mind flayer (both are a purple h). Or a mordor orc with a floating eye (one a dark blue 'o', one a dark blue 'e'.) Major variants contain MONSTERCOLOR option that allows player to change the interface, or alternate tilesets can be installed to supply more information.
Unicorns Are Sacred: Killing a unicorn of your alignment incurs a sizable penalty to your Luck Stat. Sacrificing a unicorn of your alignment is generally a good way to suffer Yet Another Stupid Death, by way of invoking your god's wrath—and if it's on a cross-aligned altar, it'll change your Character Alignment, which is one of the easiest ways to render the game Unwinnable. Sacrificing a unicorn of any alignment on an altar of the same alignment will also invoke that god's wrath. On the other hand, sacrificing a cross-aligned unicorn on a co-aligned altar pleases your god.
Unidentified Items: The Trope Codifier. It also has a spell (either by direct casting or by scroll) for the purpose of identifying unknown items, and a separate one for checking if it's cursed. Equipping an unknown amulet without checking either is a good way to end up with an Amulet of Strangulation that you can't un-equip in time.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: Averted. If a critter has it, you can kill him and use it. (An exception being said critter's body; you may or may not get a corpse.)
Averted only if it's not used on or against you first... This is particularly frustrating with Auto-Revive, as monsters can use it too. Or the Wand of Death. Or that potion of gain level. The monsters would love a chance to use their equipment. And they'll pick it up off the floor to hand it to you.
Monsters have a starting inventory and also death drops ("That was my prized wand of nothing, You Bastard! I was saving that!" grunts the orc), though sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference if the monster dies without a chance to use the item.
Video Game Caring Potential: Helping a monster out of a pit might make it peaceful, and you also might get an alignment boost if you're Lawful.
Videogame Cruelty Potential: Have a chat with the nurses. They're not mean! They'll go right on trying to get you to take off that armor and put away that weapon. They'll heal you! And they'll keep trying to heal you even as you chop them up and tin them with your tinning kit.
Videogame Cruelty Punishment: Your patron god has very firm ideas on what is and is not right action. This doesn't mean you're supposed to be well-behaved. It means you're not supposed to be caught.
Or, in some people's minds, it means surviving the very wrath of God. Which is doable. You can survive the lightning bolt with an amulet of reflection, and the wide-angle disintegration beam by eating a black dragon's corpse. And best of all? If you do, your god says "I believe it not!"
Walk on Water: Obtaining the appropriate magic item allows you to do this.
Warp Whistle: The wizard's quest artifact, the Eye of Aethiopica. Invoking it lets you travel to any dungeon branch.
We Buy Anything: Averted. Most shops specialize and will only buy what they sell, and all shops have a limited amount of money with which to buy stuff from the PC, although shopkeepers will offer store credit instead when they can't pay you in cash anymore.
Played straight in that any shop will sell the player anything that comes into the shopkeeper's possession. This can be useful for price identification.
Weak, but Skilled: Several classes. Also a good mindset for the player themselves, especially in the early game.
Weaponized Offspring: It's possible for a female character polymorphed into a monster to lay eggs. Cockatrice eggs can be thrown in order to stone an enemy. Throwing eggs you laid results in a luck penalty though. Alternatively a character that finds an egg can carry it with them, and it may become a tame monster upon hatching.
Weapon of X-Slaying: Orcrist and Sting (orcs); Ogresmasher, Giantslayer, Werebane, Demonbane, Dragonbane, and Trollsbane (Exactly What It Says on the Tin); Scepter of Might (non-coaligned monsters); Sunsword (undead); Vorpal Blade (jabberwocks - it always decapitates them, instead of the normal 5% chance per attack).
A Winner Is You: If you fight, sneak, and fast-talk your way through 45 to 53 levels of Everything Trying to Kill You, both ways, plus 5 bonus endgame levels, over what can be weeks of playtime and hundreds of thousands of moves, you get this:
An invisible choir sings, and you are bathed in radiance...—More— The voice of [your God] booms out: "Congratulations, mortal!"—More— "In return for thy service, I grant thee the gift of Immortality!"—More— You Ascend to the status of Demigod[dess]...—More— Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] _
With This Herring: The Tourist class is the most obvious example, but several other classes qualify.
Wizard Needs Food Badly: In an exception to Bottomless Bladder, the PC needs to eat, with the PC fainting if s/he gets hungry enough, and eventually dying of starvation. If your character class is a Wizard or Valkyrie, or your character race is Elf, the game will actually use this phrase, in one of the game's many Shouts Out.
You Will Not Evade Me: Once you've found him and woken him up, The Wizard of Yendor will reappear periodically wherever you are, and taunt you for thinking you could elude him (if he was alive and on a different dungeon level). A slightly different taunt appears if he was killed instead (he revives after a while). Several high-level monsters, including the Wizard, will teleport to your location if you try to run away from the fight but are still on the same level. All of them combine this with Get Back Here Boss, for maximum annoyance.
You fall below the bottom of the page!
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n) _