Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Hack: Eat your greens

As of the last post, I had an save backup on level 9, which teems with creatures capable of permanently draining your strength, killing you instantly with a stoning gaze, or killing you very slowly with a venomous sting. 

I learned through testing that the scroll of resurrection protects you from death for a duration of no more than 40 turns after reading it, and the "resurrection" means teleporting somewhere random in the level with a scant amount of HP and dropping all of your stuff where you died, making the usefulness of this spell quite limited, suited only to a desperate escape. I didn't test to see if it can save you from slow poison, but my guess is you'd just still be poisoned when you resurrect.

I did figure out, far later than I should have to be honest, that the cockatrice can be instantly killed with a mirror, so I began carrying one. It only works in rooms with non-magical light, though.

I carried this gear:

  • Tinderbox
  • Lantern
  • Mirror
  • +4 long sword
  • Bow
  • 23 arrows
  • Wand of light
  • Wand of magic missiles
  • Wand of trap detection
  • Scroll of resurrection
  • Scroll of confuse monster
  • +1 splint armor
  • +0 battered shield


This left essentially no room for extra torches, oil, or food, but I left a stockpile of things at level 9's entrance:

  • 3 rations
  • 32 torches
  • 2 scrolls of remove curse
  • 60 crossbow bolts
  • Cross
  • Potion of monster detection
  • Scroll of charge wand
  • Unidentified blackened ring


And a few useful-seeming things could be purchased at the store here (plus several unmentioned useless-seeming or redundant things):

  • 2 rations
  • 3 miscellaneous food items including steak and tripe
  • 2 torches
  • Potion of object detection
  • 2 scrolls of enchant weapon
  • Two-handed sword
  • 2 scrolls of resurrection


Level 11 is where I finally found a big store with multiple potions of gain strength. I made a save point here.

Three of them, to be exact.

Finally, I could wear my armor and carry some extra gear beyond a basic survival kit. I could also, and indeed did, go back to earlier levels to pick up the junk I had left behind and trade it at the level 9 store for some of their supplies. And when I ate the steak, it granted me another strength point, bringing me up to 18, and a 1350hg carrying capacity! Discounting the capacity reserved for the weight of my armor, this effectively doubled compared to the start.

The next several levels weren't much of a struggle. At this point, the majority of rooms were dark, so my wand of light helped avoid any unpleasant surprises, and I found a spare around level 14. The wand of trap detection got put to use at the start of each level, not only just revealing traps, but also indirectly revealing secret rooms. Purely muscular enemies like octopuses, minotaurs, and trolls were no problem against my +4 longsword, so long as I made sure to fight them one at a time. "Fakers" are just mimics, and posed no problem either, having no special abilities except disguise, and being no stronger up close than any other beefy opponent. "Xerps" can do some nasty damage with a bouncing magic missile attack, but engaging at an angle, if you can makes it less likely to hit you on the rebound.

I did have one setback when I stupidly removed my armor in the presence of an armor-rusting oxidizer and a wraith. Turns out removing armor costs several turns, and wraiths can level drain! Not only did the quick-moving oxidizer land an armor-damaging hit before I got it off, but the wraith drained me. Twice.

Level 17 is where my light magic expired, and also the level that did me in, when I entered a room that "smelled funny." Previously I'd been in rooms that were colorfully lit, or that made me feel "strangely happy," and assumed it to just be flavor text. Not here.

Should've remembered Zork.

My next handful of lives and deaths:

  • My armor got oxidized to the point of uselessness. I went back up to buy something new, but during the ascent got instakilled by a cockatrice in a dark corridor.
  • I bought a steak on the level 11 shop and ate it immediately for a strength boost. As I left the store, a cockatrice was waiting right outside and instakilled me.
  • I identified and donned a ring of stealth, which had been quite useful in Rogue but also the side-effect of making me get hungry faster. On the way back down from a food shopping trip, I ran headfirst into an 'unox' and oxidizer, so I removed my armor to fight. Turns out the 'unox' hits quite hard and had seen me. It leveled me as I took the armor off.
  • An 'energar' zapped me with a paralyzing electric blast followed by several rounds of lightning and more paralyzing blasts. I ran out of HP without even getting to make a move.

  • I drank a potion of blindness bought in a shop, and got chewed to death by various unseen nasties as I tried to skedaddle back to higher, safer ground. This one's honestly on me - I should have known better than to quaff strange potions this deep so late in the game.


I made a save on level 16, after finding a 'food mart' where I ate some strength-boosting spinach, and accumulating some cool stuff:


  • Potion of monster detection
  • Lantern
  • Mirror
  • Tinderbox
  • Cross
  • 7 flasks of oil
  • 13 food rations
  • +3 bow
  • +4 long sword
  • 20 arrows
  • Wand of trap detection
  • Ring of +2 protection
  • Ring of stealth
  • Scroll of resurrection
  • Scroll of light
  • Scroll of confuse monster
  • Scroll of teleportation
  • +1 plate armor
  • +0 shield

On the floor:

  • Short wand (unidentified)
  • +1 splint armor
  • 2 food rations
  • 38 torches
  • 2 scrolls of resurrection
  • Potion of restore strength
  • Scroll of remove curse
  • 62 arrows


Lots of stuff remained in the shops above, like scrolls of magic mapping, two more steaks, healing potions, and quite a few unidentified wands, and an unidentified ring and scroll, but cash was running out.


Exploring level 17, I found some gems and a multi-use scroll of identify, which helped me buy several wands, and to identify a few whose effects I couldn't determine from use. These wands, apart from the random effect conjuring Wand of Wonder which I didn't trust, proved quite handy in surviving the next few levels. There are enemies you just don't want to go toe-to-toe with, and sometimes using the bow isn't a good option either because the enemy is too fast or there's nowhere to retreat to.

  • A host of monsters represented by capital letters including Ugods, Zelomps, and Rock Lobsters are just dumb melee beasts who can barely harm me at this point.
  • Minotaurs, Land sharks, and Wumpuses can hurt me, but I'll kill them long before they kill me.
  • Phase shifters aren't especially strong, but annoying as they'll turn invisible when you hit them and only turn visible when they try to hit you, usually successfully.
  • Hydras are bad news up close, and have a nasty habit of appearing in places where you can't easily make distance. But they move slow and are susceptible to magic.
  • Vampires became my most feared enemy, because they're fast, strong, and drain levels on a hit, and I couldn't figure out a way to use crosses against them. Using a wand of slow monsters seems to even the odds.
  • Dragons are another 'eater' enemy, and the first one I encountered ate me in the dark. I cut my way out before the digestion killed me, but it was a close call.


My first of many post-save deaths came on level 21, when  I found a sleeping dragon in a bright room, and thought I could plink it to death with arrows as I had in Rogue. Big mistake.

But the real pisser was an 'Argus' whose magic froze the game.

I saved just before level 21, now pumped full of brawn thanks to all the spinach, steak, and potions I'd been consuming and finally able to carry lots of stuff. I'll need it.

1 comment:

  1. Nice progress! I never made it anywhere near that far. But I also don't think I knew how to or could save a game through permadeath. I may have to revisit this sometime!

    I have my copy of Hack saved to Google drive as I moved it down the years from the original 5.25" floppy copy... It says it is version 1.01 and has instructions from Don Kneller in a text file that came along with it. It also includes brief TXT file with what appear to be some old usenet posts dating to 1985.

    From the contents listing:

    HACK -- 'AMULET OF YENDOR' adventure game 320k V1.0.1
    This Dungeons & Dragons type adventure comes from the Stichting Mathematisch
    Centrum in Amsterdam. Originally running on a Unix machine it was converted
    to MS-DOS by Don Kneller. This adventure game is played on 20 levels
    against many monsters and very powerful magic. You can be an explorer, warrior,
    magician, tourist, knight or a caveman with all their associated powers.

    I haven't tried loading it up in a DOS Box. But I am tempted...


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