Monday, May 6, 2019

Rogue: Savescum Lite

I’d reached my limit for playing Rogue completely honestly, and accepted that I’m just not going to beat it without some cheating. For now I’m sticking to my original rule – that I must play earnestly for 30 minutes before saving is permitted, and any restarts or restores will restart this timer.

Even with this allowance, it means I have to survive in Rogue for 30 minutes before I’m allowed to make any saves, and even this is quite a task, thanks to Rogue’s brisk gameplay.

During my first game with this rule, I avoided using potions and scrolls unless my inventory was full, made sure to explore each of the nine sectors in every map, and starting around level 7, I searched with each step into a new sector, to reduce the chances of stepping into a trap, which can be game ruining. This did slow the pace of the game down somewhat. By the time I hit level 10, my 30 minutes had elapsed, and I made my first save and backup.

One really good thing that happened was that when I read a scroll to save inventory space, it turned out to be an enchant weapon scroll. I had two of them, so I read the other, permanently upgrading my mace to +3.

But some bad things happened too.
  • I equipped plate mail that turned out to be cursed -3. That wasn’t too bad, but the Rust Monsters made it nearly useless and still unremovable.
  • I got stung by ants several times, reducing my precious strength to 11.
  • I ran out of food on level 9, and was weak with hunger by the time I made my save.

That last point was a real problem. I saved and then used this temporal anchor to inventory the level and my stock. There was only one ration on this floor, and it was a good walk away, near the stairs, at which point I’d be passing out every few steps from hunger, and I had no way to remove the curse on my armor or restore my strength to its original state. To have any real chance of victory, I’d need the RNG to be cooperative on the next few floors and give me a potion of restore strength, a scroll of remove curse, and several rations, and I was stuck on a rough starting point.

So I restarted. This next time, I played similarly, and I still got stung by ants several times, and even sprung a dart trap, bringing my strength down to 6. But around level 8, my inventory was full, and to save space I drank an unidentified potion which turned out to be one of restore strength!

On entering the last unexplored room in the level, 29 minutes had elapsed since the start of this run. I had 3 rations, wasn’t hungry, could soon descend to level 9, and then save my game under better circumstances than the last time. But there was a dilemma; I had a full inventory, and there was a scroll in this room. If I wanted this scroll, I’d have to pick something from my inventory to drop or consume, but what? I wasn’t going to just around for the 30 minute mark to hit and savescum there, that would break my “earnest play” rule, and partly defeat the purpose of my savescum restrictions in the first place.

I decided to abandon a two-handed sword, because in my experience, enchanted weapons are rare (I’m not sure if I ever encountered one), and I figured my already enchanted mace was preferable to an unenchanted two-handed sword.

So I did it, descended, and saved once the 30m timer hit.

As my rules don’t prohibit me from restoring a save as often as I want to, I took this opportunity to take inventory, by using my identify scrolls and reloading. I had:
  • 3 rations of food
  • 2 scrolls of remove curse
  • 2 scrolls of identify
  • A scroll of enchant weapon
  • A scroll of hold monster
  • 2 potions of strength
  • 3 potions of healing
  • 2 potions of poison
  • A potion of magic detection
  • A potion of confusion
  • +1 ring mail (equipped)
  • A +1 mace (equipped)
  • A +0 short bow
  • 37 +0 arrows

Something didn’t seem right, though. Didn’t I start with a +1, +1 mace and a +1 bow? With a backup save in tow, I tried saving again and reloading, and made an unpleasant discovery.

My mace turned into a +0! Turns out that when you save, your weapons lose an enchantment.

Annoying, but not necessarily the end of the world. I still had an unused scroll of enchant weapon in the backed up save file which I could use to restore one of those weapons, and with any luck (and I had unlimited luck) I might discover more of them in the lower levels. Just the price of savescumming, I guess. I have to wonder, though, is a bug, or by design? If by design, then it’s a clever way to fight savescumming abuse.

Level 9 would also contain an additional food ration, and nothing else, but the RNG had been plenty generous with the last eight levels. And with this being my new anchoring point, I’d have plenty of chances to replay from a good position, and to get lucky again with the levels yet to come.

Of particular note is that I had two potions of strength, enough to raise me to the maximum level of 18. Terrific if I could manage to keep my strength, and I now had ample opportunities to try.

One other benefit of savescumming is that the function of unidentified potions, scrolls, rings, and wands are pretedermined and baked into the save file. Every time I’d encounter an unrecognized item, I could identify it once, and rest assured it would be the same thing in future lives.

Rust monsters, giant ants, and the occasional poison dart trap continued to be great nuisances, though not deadly. Death came at the hands of centaurs, trolls, and invisible stalkers, once my strength had been drained enough that my +2 enchanted mace wasn’t enough to deal with them. My salvation, I figured, must be to once again locate a potion of restore strength.

Quite a few attempts later, things finally went smoothly for 30m, a period of time that went by less briskly thanks to the need to search every step. I found a studded leather armor, which turned out to be cursed, but it would make acceptable rust monster bait, and I also found a scroll of enchant armor, which was wasted on this suit, and another scroll of enchant weapon, which I used right away to bring my mace to +2.

Things weren’t perfect, mind you. Searching every step is tedious, drains food pretty quickly, and it still doesn’t guarantee finding traps. At one point I was forced to step through a trap because it blocked the only passage out of a room, and sure enough, it was a strength sapping trap. Ants would drain it further, with my heavily rusted suit of cursed armor unable to defend against their blows. But my luck turned around on level 13, when I found another potion of restore strength, and between it and the next level, another three scrolls of enchant weapon! A nymph also dropped a scroll of enchant armor, and another potion of add strength brought me to 18/39, representing “exceptional” strength in D&D format.

This time, when the 30m timer hit and I felt I was in good shape, I saved *before* going down the stairs to level 15 instead of after. I figured I could really use the extra dice rolls. After backing up and restoring, my +2 mace had become a +0 mace, but my scrolls could make it better.

Restoring, I decided to play one last round from this point to see what awaited. Giant ants weren’t spawning any more, and I didn’t see any rust monsters in level 17 either, so I put my enchanted ring mail back on and buffed it with the scroll. I even found two more strength potions, buffing me to 18/89. The next level down, I got shredded by a xorn.

I was full health four turns ago!

This feels disheartening. I’ve had unrealistically good luck to make it this far with these kind of stats, and the xorn still ripped me to bits like it was nothing. And even worse things await farther down below. What does it actually take to beat this game?

My inventory:
  • 3 rations of food
  • A scroll of remove curse
  • 2 scrolls of identify
  • 3 scrolls of enchant weapon
  • A scroll of hold monster
  • A scroll of enchant armor
  • 4 potions of healing
  • A potion of magic detection
  • +1 ring mail
  • -2 studded leather armor (equipped)
  • A +0 mace (equipped)
  • +0 short bow
  • 37 +0 arrows
  • 10 +0 darts


  1. Rogue and it's descendants are just brutal games...

    Have spent many an hour on Hack and NetHack... you can build a super powerful character and he is dead in under 60 seconds!

    CRPG Addict spent a huge amount of time to win NetHack.

  2. You're fighting fair. Never fight fair, except as a last resort.


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