Saturday, February 18, 2023

Hack: Dubious actions

Shortly after I made my last post, I had an idea. One of the challenges you face in a Hacklike is identifying items when there aren't nearly enough scrolls of identify to go around. The most straightforward method is to just use the strange item and see what happens, but the effect isn't always obvious - what, for instance, does the scroll that turns your hands blue actually do?

The shop at the beginning of the game offers random magic stuff, mainly as a way of dumping your extra gold, but I realized, unlike items you buy in the dungeon's shops, these items all come identified. Would it be so egregious to use it repeatedly to gather data?

And so I did. I couldn't figure out the effects of all of the magic items, and these lists are probably not 100% complete, but I definitely made some findings that will be helpful in the future:



Item Message Effect
Potion of alcohol "This tastes like liquid fire!" Confusion for ~10 turns
Potion of blindness "The world goes dark." Long blindness
Potion of confusion "What? Where am I?" Confusion for ~20 turns
Potion of extra healing "You feel much better"
Potion of extra hit points "You feel unusually powerful" Heals 150% HP
Potion of forgetfulness "You feel very forgetful" Lose current map
Potion of fruit juice "This is fruit juice."
Potion of gain level "You feel more experienced." Level up
Potion of gain strength "You feel stronger!" Strength increases
Potion of healing "You begin to feel better"
Potion of invisibility "You turn invisible" Invisible for ~100 turns
Potion of monster detection "You sense monsters." Shows monsters on map
Potion of object detection "You sense objects." Shows items on map
Potion of paralysis "You are frozen!" Paralyzed briefly
Potion of poison "The potion was poisoned!" Gradual strength loss and death
Potion of restore strength "You feel great!"
Potion of second sight "Everything seems to glow for a second."
Potion of speed "You are moving faster" Speed for ~45 turns



Item Message Effect
Scroll of charge wand "You can charge a wand!" Add charges to a wand
Scroll of confuse monster "Your hands start glowing blue." Confuse monster on hit
Scroll of create monster
Creates a monster
Scroll of damage weapon "Your weapon glows black." Weapon degrades
Scroll of destroy monsters "You hear a distant scream." Destroy all monsters in the room
Scroll of enchant armor "Your armor glows purple." Armor upgrades
Scroll of enchant weapon "Your weapon glows green." Weapon upgrades
Scroll of fire "The scroll erupts in a tower of flame!"
Scroll of genocide "Behold, a scroll of genocide!" Pick a monster to genocide
Scroll of gold detection "You sense gold!" Shows gold on map
Scroll of identify "This is an identify scroll." Identify an item
Scroll of light "The room is lit." Illuminates dark rooms
Scroll of magic mapping "You found a map!" Shows level map
Scroll of remove curse "You feel like someone is helping you."
Scroll of resurrection "This scroll seems blank." Auto-resurrect on death once
Scroll of rust armor "Your armor rusts!" Armor downgrades (no effect on leather)
Scroll of scare monsters "You hear a strange warbling noise." Monsters flee
Scroll of teleportation
Teleport to a random room in the current level



Item Effect
Wand of cancellation
Wand of create monster Creates a monster
Wand of death Death ray bounces
Wand of digging Digs out a tunnel
Wand of fire Bolt of fire bounces
Wand of frighten monster Monster runs
Wand of light Illuminates dark rooms
Wand of magic missle Magic missile bounces
Wand of monster invisibility Invisible monster
Wand of sleep Sleep ray bounces
Wand of speed monster Faster monster
Wand of striking Damage monster
Wand of teleport monster Teleport monster randomly
Wand of trap detection Reveal all traps on the level
Wand of wonder Random effect



Item Effect
Ring of adornment
Ring of aggravate monster Cursed
Ring of another chance Auto-resurrect on death once
Ring of berserking Cursed
Ring of fire and cold resistance
Ring of gain strength Strength bonus
Ring of hunger Cursed
Ring of increase damage
Ring of increase hit points HP bonus
Ring of monster creation Cursed
Ring of poison resistance
Ring of protection AC bonus
Ring of protection from magic
Ring of regeneration
Ring of searching
Ring of stealth
Ring of teleportation Cursed, periodic random teleportation

Major note to self - never equip an unidentified ring.


With that task out of the way, I started anew, rolled until I got 180gp, and entered the dungeon with this gear:

  • +1 ring armor
  • Shield
  • Long sword
  • -1 crossbow, probably cursed
  • 60 crossbow bolts
  • Tinderbox
  • 20 torches
  • 7 rations
  • Scroll of enchant weapon, which I used to upgrade the longsword
  • Scroll of confuse monster


Significant events on the way to level 6:

  • A scroll shop on level 2 provided cash and another weapon enchantment scroll.
  • On level 3, I used an unorthodox approach to fighting acids - rather than use a crossbow and risk being stuck with a cursed weapon, I fought them up close, armor off, with a crossbow bolt in hand!
  • Later an orc dropped his bow and arrows, which I used on acid blobs for the rest of the level.
  • Two more scrolls of enchant weapon on level 4 boosted my sword to +4.


I'd like to say that my run through level 6, now with an anchor save backup on level 5, was particularly exciting, but I made it through mostly without real incident. I did get eaten by one grabber in the dark, but hacked my way out of its belly. I did get my strength sapped by an ant, but it came back. I even got robbed, but all the robber took was a few arrows. The biggest hiccup was that, while searching for secret doors at one point, I accidentally searched 1,010 times instead of 10 times, wasting a whole lot of time and two rations.

Level 7 is where I died, stupidly, yet agonizingly, from drinking a poisoned potion. Quaff one of these and you lose a point of strength every few hundred turns or so, and eventually die, all while being told "you are dying of slow poison." I tried seeing if I could purge myself by overeating rations, and vomit I did, but remove the poison it did not. I'm not sure what you're supposed to do to stop this or how you'd go about preventing this - are you just supposed to avoid potions altogether? There aren't nearly enough scrolls of identify to ensure you can identify poison (or that all-important potion of gain strength), and in this game I hadn't even found one yet! All I could think to do, moving forward, was avoid that particular potion color, which is hardly in the spirit of Roguelike play, but a reasonable alternative hadn't presented itself.


Level 9 introduced some new baddies:

  • Jaguars move fast and hit faster. The first one destroyed my shield and brought my HP down from 60 to 20.
  • Centaurs are bow-users who can hit you twice per turn. Alone they're not so tough, but they make a bad situation worse, and they can do some hurt sniping you in the dark.
  • Killer bees are quick, poisonous multihitters.
  • Vipers occasionally hit you with poison, only this time poison means permanently losing 3 strength points over the next 300 turns. Crap.
  • Ghosts move about randomly and paralyze you with their screams. But they aren't invisible.
  • Neptos are pretty rare, and I can't tell if they have special properties. They hit moderately hard and aren't particularly fast.
  • Cockatrices' hits produce scary messages like "you feel real drugged out," and might kill you instantly with a random stoning effect! Even after surviving a fight, you may still get an ominous "you are slowing down" message sometime later - I'm not sure what it means, which if anything makes it more ominous.


Needless to say, I lost a life fighting a cockatrice here. And another as I ran into a jaguar and cockatrice in a dark room, with a viper having followed closely behind. Yet another death happened deeper down from "slow poison" - I'm not even quite sure which enemy was the source of it, but the situation had been looking pretty hopeless as repeated strength-sapping stings and bites forced me to abandon my armor as well as a good amount of helpful tools well before its course turned fatal.

I made my next save just before level 9, and went in with a few items intended to get me out of jams - namely, a scroll of resurrection, which I am not completely sure of how it works or what its limitations are, and a scroll of monster confusion. Within level 9, I found multiple useful things - a scroll of teleportation, a wand of light, a wand of trap detection, and a wand of magic missile, which became my best friend for quickly eliminating cockatrices and vipers. All these things, though, left me with little room for food, or spare torches, or capacity to carry junk back to the store. God I missed all those strength potions from the last run.

At some point, the swaths of poisonous creatures gave way to more conventionally strong ones, most of which I could beat pretty easily with my +4 long sword. Giant bears can 'hug' you and keep you from moving, sort of like the grabbers. Snowmen do multi-hitting ice attacks, like queevolts and their electric attacks from earlier. Wraiths and "teleporters" have properties unknown to me yet, but are hard to hit. An oxidizer was the one enemy that did anything permanently bad; rusting my armor before I had a chance to remove it. But nothing really compelled me to use my emergency consumables.

And then, an exploding ice ball enemy didn't just freeze me. It froze the actual game!

As in, keystrokes stopped doing things.

If I felt even a little bad about backing up a save before, I sure don't now.


  1. You know, you don't need to spend time creating item lists from scratch. These are already listed on spoiler sites. And honestly, these aren't even spoilers, they're information that should be in the manual.

    1. I like doing it. But in this case, I also don't think the extant Fenlason version has been 'spoiled', so to speak. The source code is lost, and all Nethack versions are derived from Brouwer's version, which makes extensive changes.


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