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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NetHack 3.0: Ascended!

I don't know why it highlights the Amulet of Reflection specifically. I was wearing lots of stuff.

If I die tomorrow, I want my obituary to read:

Chester Bolingbroke died yesterday at his home in Salem, Massachusetts. He was 40 years old. Chet recently ascended in NetHack after spending more than 250 hours over the past year trying.

It very nearly didn't happen. After Ellasar's death at the hands of the Wizard of Yendor, I engaged the game with renewed vigor. A switch had turned in my mind, I feel like I "got" the game for the first time, and my entire playing style changed. My next character, Amalek (I continued to play elves) got to Level 24. Reuben, just after him, made it to Hell. I had maybe a dozen characters who still died in the teens, but for the most part I was able to make it much further than before.

Then came Jo'Ash. By the time he got to the castle level, he had a near-perfect ascension kit. He'd received wishes from both a fountain and a throne, which had granted him a Ring of Teleport Control and a Cloak of Magic Resistance. He had found two Scrolls of Genocide, which were blessed and ready to go. He had every possible intrinsic except for teleportitis. The wand of wishes awaited him in the castle. He was on his way.

While trying to fight the sea monsters in the castle's moat, he blundered into the water and drowned.

I'd absolutely had it at that point. I was resolved never to play NetHack again, and I got a "final rating" posting half-typed. But a couple days later, I was waiting for a routine to process on my computer, and I thought, "what the hell." I fired it up again and selected the next name in my biblical list: Gideon.

Gideon turned out to be my first character to defeat the Wizard of Yendor, my first character to place his hands on the Amulet of Yendor, and my first character to ascend--all at once. It's like I spent a year struggling to play "Frere Jacques" on the piano, and then all of a sudden I blazed through Rachmaninoff's piano concerto number 3. Does this happen for a lot of people? Does the game generally get easy after you get the Amulet, or did I just play a lot more carefully?

I didn't take my first screen shot for Gideon until the castle level, but I recall that by the time he made it to the castle, he had all the intrinsics I wanted except shock resistance, teleport control, and invisibility. But he had rings for all of these things. He'd received the Ring of Teleport Control as a wish for sitting on a throne. Naturally, he had telepathy and a blindfold, a unicorn horn, a pick-axe, and several wands of fire, lighting, and digging, all of which could be used for ELBERETH. He had found a ton of Scrolls of Enchant Armor on the way down, so though he was wearing his original mithril chain, he had an AC of -17 (some enchanted gloves, boots, cloak, shield, and helmet contributed to that, too). He was up to Level 16 thanks to some wraiths he'd defeated and eaten somewhere. Oh, and he'd already found a Scroll of Charging and blessed it.

I didn't have a Scroll of Genocide yet, so I couldn't clear out the liches in the castle courtyard, but I did have a Ring of Levitation. I used it to attack from the rear, killing the enemies whose bodies and equipment I wanted to save, but leading others (like liches and rust monsters) into the trap doors. It worked like a charm.

Adios, jackass.

When I got my hands on the Wand of Wishing, it turned out to have two charges. I used them for an Amulet of Reflection and a Cloak of Magic Resistance. Then I recharged the wand with my scroll and wished for Speed Boots and 3 Blessed Scrolls of Genocide. The latter was a bit of a risk, but I got them all.

I thought I was ready to head into the depths at this point, but I decided to explore the level below the castle to see if I could get some final potions, scrolls, and what have you. The moment I arrived, I put on my blindfold and saw all the liches and rust monsters I'd just finished flushing down the trap.


Rather than waste time thinking about it, I genocided both classes. I still had one blessed Scroll of Genocide left.

After exploring the level, I used a cursed Scroll of Teleportation to level-teleport myself down to Level 50, where I'd found the Wizard of Yendor the last time. When I checked my telepathy, it appeared to be the same layout as the previous journey, with a little chamber in the middle of the level surrounded by a moat, but instead of the Wizard of Yendor, a demon called Demogorgon was there.

I was confused, but I thought maybe this version occasionally replaced the Wizard with a demon. I hacked my way into the chamber and soon found myself on the verge of death. Despite my magic resistance and reflection, Demogorgon was capable of causing deathly illness. My teleportitis saved me, by whisking me away from him, but to cure the sickness that was only a few moves from killing me, I had to waste one of the Potions of Holy Water I'd been saving to bless or uncurse things.

I tried to genocide demons, but I was told that wasn't possible. The game still forced me to use the scroll, so I chose to apply it to vampires instead.

At last!

While Demogorgon blundered around looking for me, I sneaked into the chamber and found the "Amulet of Yendor" in the middle. I was psyched. I finally had my hands on it! But something about the process bugged me, so I Googled around until I found some information specific to this version, and I discovered what you probably already know: it was a fake. This version has several levels with chambers near-identical to the Wizard of Yendor's, but with demons inside instead of the Wizard. The Wizard doesn't automatically appear on Level 50. It was just a coincidence last time.

So, no problem. I started exploring until I found the stairs, and began working my way up the levels. On each new level, I put on my blindfold, and if I saw a demon in the center instead of the Wizard...

The demon is the ampersand. Note that there's no vampire with him because I genocided them.

...I kept moving on without bothering the demon.

Always nice to find the up staircase on these lower levels.

Some things happened while I was moving upward that probably made my later ascension possible. First, I got the invisibility intrinsic from an invisible stalker and the shock resistance intrinsic from a gelatinous cube. This freed up that ring hand for a Ring of Protection. More important, I found another Wand of Wishing. Stupidly, I didn't use my first wish for a Scroll of Charging to ensure I got at least three wishes out of it, but it did have two. I received a Wand of Death and two more blessed Scrolls of Genocide. I later ended up somewhat wasting the scrolls on puddings and umber hulks, but the wand was vital.


The Wizard of Yendor finally appeared on Level 41. I carved my way into his chamber and immediately blasted him with the Wand of Death, killing him in one hit. At last, I had killed the Wizard, and I had my hands on the real Amulet of Yendor!


I soon found some of the "features" of possessing the Amulet of Yendor. Level teleporting no longer works, but balancing that, the Amulet occasionally lets you see parts of the level you haven't explored, making it easier to find the stairs. Most important--and worst--the Wizard comes back to life and dogs you all the way to the surface, alternately attacking you and cursing your stuff from afar. I soon began to realize that my stuff was getting cursed. My unicorn horn started stunning me instead of curing blindness and confusion (it was during one of these episodes that I decided to genocide umber hulks to avoid any more confusion). I could no longer put my sword down. My food turned rotten. It sucked a bit.


The Wizard appeared in person a few times, but I just used the Wand of Death to blast him out of existence again. This worked until it ran out of charges on an upper level. Even then, I didn't have much trouble killing him with my sword, though he had an annoying way of jumping around and summoning allies.

In the high 30s, I found myself in the tower of Vlad the Impaler. It was a needless detour. I discovered that I couldn't climb higher than Level 38 from within the tower, so I had to go back down to 40 and find another staircase. Vlad himself was embarrassingly easy to kill. His chambers held all kinds of treasure chests, but I didn't have a lockpick or any extra weapons to risk forcing the chests.

Vlad's chambers.

Once I got to Level 30, though, I'd already explored and mapped them, and I knew where the stairs were. I think in later editions of the game, you "forget" the upper levels after you get the Amulet, but not this one. Moving up from that point was a breeze, especially with my teleportitis kicking in now and then. I stopped at a lawful altar on the way up, got some holy water, and uncursed my sword, but for the most part I made a beeline for the exit. (Would anything have happened if I'd offered the Amulet in sacrifice on this altar?)

The Wizard appeared again on Level 1, just at the stairs, but I decided to climb out rather than fight him.


I knew that this game wasn't like Rogue, where it ends the moment you climb the Level 1 staircase, but part of me still hoped. Instead, I found myself on a level tagged "EndLevel" with a host of nasty creatures--dragons, trolls, ogre lords, giants, nagas, and lots of others--in between me and the end.


The thing was, by now, with my hit points over 100, armor class at -15, and what turned out to be a +4 longsword, none of these creatures was particularly intimidating. I'd already genocided the tough ones. My invisibility kept them from all rushing me at once, so I could dance around and take them on individually. In fact, the only thing I really worried about was the Wizard of Yendor showing up and either killing me or cursing my stuff. I had to kill him twice on the level before the end, and he had me down to 6 hit points at one place.

I also had to be careful not to do what Jo'Ash did and fall into the moat. These sea monsters have a way of suddenly moving while you're attacking them, and if you're not paying attention, you'll "attack" an empty square and end up moving into the water.

The last real "battle" of the game was with a room full of ogre lords, which is a really pathetic monster at this point, although I suspect there would have been a room of liches if I hadn't genocided them all.

Ogres? Please.

The end of the level presents you with three altars (I assume; I never made it down to the chaotic one), and you have to offer the Amulet on the one that matches your alignment. (What happens if you offer it on a contrary one?) Once I identified the right altar...

And killed the succubus next to it...

I stood atop it and "offered" the Amulet to Solonor Thelandira. This was the end game text:

An invisible choir sings, and you are bathed in radiance. "Congratulations, mortal! In return for thy service, I grant thee the gift of Immortality!" You ascend to the status of Demigod.


The game gave me a look of my equipment and intrinsics, and then it was all over.


So...wow, right? I was so excited that I called Irene at work to tell her. Her reaction was...not satisfying...so I leave it to you.

Looking back at my NetHack career, I can identify six mistakes I made that needlessly prolonged my ascension:

1. I had been playing with a Rogue mentality, always feeling that I needed to drive forward. If I found a shop on Level 3 but didn't have enough gold to buy all the stuff I wanted, I never came back. I used altars for anything I had at the time, but left them behind in my relentless drive downward. Only in the last couple months did I come to realize that until I reached the castle level, the entire dungeon from Level 1 to Level 28 was my playground, and nothing said I couldn't go back and forth as my heart desired, killing respawning enemies, finding loot, and making use of shops and altars throughout the game.

2. I prioritized the wrong stuff. I was in the usual CRPG mold, always worrying about the best weapon and such. As far as I'm concerned, the most important things in NetHack are 1) a blindfold and telepathy; and 2) a Ring of Teleport Control and teleportitis. With these items and abilities, you can evade and escape any monster.

3. I was always expecting to die. I succumbed to my fears and expectations of roguelikes, and every time I entered a dungeon, I was poised to record my level and method of death. I didn't believe that every character could ascend. This perversely made me almost impatient to die with certain characters. I'd avoid really thinking about my situation and finding creative ways out of death because I assumed if my character wasn't skilled enough to pummel the red dragon to death, he'd just die somewhere else anyway.

4. I tried to kill everything. Again, I was playing with a normal CRPG mentality. I didn't yet realize that discretion is the better part of valor. No reason to run around trying to slay every last leprechaun, or to engage nymphs that aren't actively seeking to kill you.

5. I waited to long to cave and look at spoilers. If I hadn't looked at spoilers, this posting would have been about Gideon dying at the hands of Demogorgon or something. Spoilers were vital in telling me what to eat, how to test for various types of unidentified equipment and conditions, how to effectively wish, how to use the altars, and so forth. It would have taken me four times as long or more if I tried to figure it all out on my own. For regular CRPGs, I'm still very anti-spoiler, but I recognize the wisdom of capitulating on this one.

6. I wasn't patient enough. My rule towards the end of the game--especially on the last level--was a full breath in between ever move. No matter how many times I said it to myself, I had trouble internalizing that this is not a game where you can just go charging down corridors.

I didn't make any of these mistakes with Gideon, in particular the last one. In real life, three days passed from the time I found the Amulet of Yendor to my ascension. I forced myself to play very slowly and carefully, and only for about 30 minutes at a time, lest I get impatient and do something stupid.

The name "Gideon" now has a special place in my world. Gideon the Demigod. He'll be my default character from now on.

That I finally ascended this week is not a coincidence. When I first posted about this version of NetHack last year,  I set a goal to ascend within a year, and I've made that goal with 13 days to spare. It's only because I saw this deadline coming that I've invested so much time in NetHack over the past three weeks. Ironically, I was only recently making fun of someone for simply "deciding" to put in the time and ascend. I suggested that the randomness of the game would naturally thwart such plans. It's amazing how much of a difference a few weeks makes in one's perspective.

Looks like I have two GIMLETs to do now!

129 comments:

  1. Congratulations! Now that you've ascended, doesn't it feel worth it?

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    1. I'm wrestling with that. Maybe I'll have a conclusion in my final rating.

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  2. "Her reaction was...not satisfying...so I leave it to you."

    Man, I feel that we readers need to do something for Irene in thanks for being so patient. Guess the only thing I can promise is my money when your book is released.

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    1. There's also that other book Chet mentioned a while back.

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    2. I forgot about that! I need to find that post again.

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    3. I actually deleted the posting. A little too much personal information.

      But if you're looking to help, you could always click on a damned ad every once in a while.

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    4. I look at them, does that count? ;)

      Honestly, the ads usually show things I'm not interested in: like random online free-to-pay games.

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    5. Full Sail University is offering bachelors' degrees in music composition. You know you want one.

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  3. Congratulations and welcome to the next roguelike on your list - The Land, mwahahahaha ;)
    (that is, if you can find documentation for it - from what I recall, it's completely uplayable without)

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    1. Oh. From what is stated here http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.org/index.php?title=The_Land , it seems like my intel on this game is 4 years dated. Not surprising, since when I couldn't find any docs for it, I just gave it up completely.
      It also seems like you're either some years late to play this (original release is stated to be 1985) or should wait till you get to 2009 (latest version).

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    2. Wow, once again I learned something I would have never guessed but am very interested in. I never knew one of my favorite series of fantasy novels ("The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" by Stephen R. Donaldson) had been made into a game. :) From what I read, it seems to be somewhat disappointing, in that it is simply another Rogue-like, but definitely interesting none the less. :)

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    3. Well, it's not a traditional roguelike, more of the ToME/ADoM variety (and probably the first one in that) - it has an overworld, towns, npcs, lore etc. Just the world is randomly generated and death is permanent. It's also uses graphic tiles instead of ascii (although the CGA version I tried would probably be better off with ascii ;))
      All in all it seemed like a pretty interesting game when I first tried it, just all those esoteric terms it used for character classes and many other things made no sence without docs and docs were nowhere to be found. Now that a VGA version and an official FAQ are available, I'm really tempted to give it another try.

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    4. Hmmmm, i browsed through the FAQ and it seems like memory once again failed me on both counts - death isn't permanent and the world is fixed. Why it's considered a rogulike then is beyond me.

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    5. Ah, got it: world and towns are fixed, but dungeons, enemies and loot are random. Still, without permadeath it makes it arguably more early-TES-like than roguelike ;)

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    6. All good to hear. I wasn't looking forward to a "real" roguelike again so soon.

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    7. Addict: Nethack is regarded as the hardest one to come out for a very long time (IVAN is harder as I recall, but it isn't for a longggg time). Most would be closer to Rogue or easier, though you'll have to adapt your playstyle. (ADOM randomly regenerates each level every time, so you can't cache stuff or go back to shops, but food doesn't drive you forwards, for example)

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    8. There is one optional dungeon in ADOM that regenerates levels each time you visit. All other dungeons generate once and remain static.

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    9. In ADOM you have to be careful where you put your stashes because monsters can and will pick them up, so you need to take care to lock them up or put them someplace where they wont be disturbed.

      I hear DCSS is harder than nethack but I can never get into nethack to validate that. When I try to play it, I just run into a wall of demotivation that has nothing to do with the difficulty of the game but how the game is presented. I think it is a difference in interfaces and commands, where I grew up on the Moria branch which has a certain way of handling commands that I have grown used to. In my old age trying to jump into nethack I end up feeling like it is to much work to retrain my instincts as to how commands work. Nethack is to similar to the branches I am used to for me to not use the same pathways in my brain.

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    10. Opps, sorry, I got ADOM mixed up with Angband. Stupid RLs that start with A. Anyway, *bands generate each level randomly, which makes them a lot less fun for me.

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    11. In the later Zangbands at least you could turn on level memory. I do like the way Adom and DCSS handle it with level memory and the one dungeon or branch that is so close to chaos that in that one place there is no level memory. Having a game with the option to go into both styles of play is always welcome to me.

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    12. I only played vanilla Angband as I recall, possible one other one. I never tried ZAngband as I assumed it would use *band style levels and not *hack style ones.

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  4. Holy God Damn!

    Nice job man, I can't believe you pulled it off!

    Totally sweet post to read. Your persistence is remarkable.

    This, more than anything else, makes you a -legit- addict.

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  5. Interestingly, the following quotes:

    "This perversely made me almost impatient to die with certain characters."

    "I tried to kill everything."

    "I wasn't patient enough."

    Encapsulates a lot of my difficulty winning games.

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  6. This is a very significant accomplishment! Congratulations. The 'be patient' rule should go into your general 'what CRPGS teach us' list because it's a very useful skill that daily stress tends to rob us of. Take a deep breath and consider your plan. In real life you only get one shot to ascend and the perils are many.

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  7. Dammit!

    Now I have to go play Angband again.

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    1. A good time to do that is at the same time Chet picks it up; share in misery. Reading this post also instills in me a desire to pick up a roguelike, but the time investment drives me away every time.

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  8. Your first ascension mirrors mine in many ways. It happened when I stopped playing the same way I always had, acted more thoughtfully, and most importantly, took notes.

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  9. There's still a few things you could possibly take note of, too. For instance, unicorn horn would have fixed your Demogorgon illness, x-rations (C or K) are almost always fine to use, umber hulks are incredibly useful in Hell/Gehennom...

    Still. Fantastic work, Chet. I do wonder if this will encourage you to run up the latest version just to see how it compares (or, indeed, if you'll slip Nethack into your accomplished basket and never look at it again like I did with Zeliard... The last level in that game still haunts me to this day with its Wizardry-like illogic in hidden walls and invisible air currents and such... in a sidescrolling platformer! Ugh...)

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    1. Oh, man. I wish I'd known about the unicorn horn thing.

      I don't know about later versions, but the Wizard cursed my entire stack of C-rations here, and every one I ate was bad.

      One thing I'd do differently if playing again is cache unicorn horns. I killed maybe half a dozen of them, but I only kept one in inventory. When it was cursed, it really screwed me for a while.

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    2. I gave up Zeliard in the invisible air current stage, there was a jump I just couldn't make (a rat or something attacked you mid-air) and you'd fall down half a level. I'd already consulted a walkthrough to know my way around the currents. Really too bad, since the game was quite excellent up to that point.

      Well, I couldn't help commenting on Zeliard there, but huge congratulations on ascending Nethack, mr. Addict! I've never accomplished that myself - I recall making it to Hell in a earlier and later versions but that's it. Couldn't agree more about "be patient".

      --Eino

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  10. Congratulations. Huzzah!

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  11. Congratulations are definitely in order! I personally can't stand roguelikes, but I definitely enjoyed reading about your Nethack struggles. Your blog posts even led me to browse the Nethack wiki out of curiosity. Among the many things I learned is that yes, I never, ever want to touch this subtle, intricate, and brutally merciless rougelike.

    You play these games so people like me don't have to!

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  12. Congratulations!

    And on a related note: it's funny that a guy who - historically - was known as Warlord of Wallachia and the Impaler Lord, beloved by his people and dreaded by his enemies, is such a pushover in Nethack.

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    1. Yeah, what's up with that? When I genocided vampires and was told that I couldn't genocide Vlad, I got chills. How badass must he be, I thought, if I can't even genocide him? When I first saw him in his tower, I thought, "Damn it. This is where I die." And then he went down in like four hits without doing anything to me. What was the point?

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    2. I looked him up on the Nethack wiki and, to add insult to injury, here's what they have to say about him: "Jokes abound of fighting him with thoroughly rusty thoroughly corroded tin openers, or not moving every second turn while fighting him, or a variety of other absurd scenarios normally resulting in YASDs and still easily triumphing over this."

      Poor Vlad...

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    3. Oh yeah. I used to kill him in the most insulting way possible. I've killed him with a pick-axe a lot. I know I've bashed him to death with a lamp before (after I'd rubbed it, forgetting I was still wielding it). I'm pretty sure I've kicked him to death. I did the tin opener thing, as it was the closest you could get at the time to a rusty spanner.

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    4. They should go and make him super tough in UnNethack, Nethack4 or Slash'em.

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  13. As a follower of your blog from (almost) the beginning, I know how exciting this is for you. Congratulations, man. That is one gaming achievement that I know you'll treasure.

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  14. Congrats! How do you feel about roguelikes now that you have this spike of dopamine?

    I fear going back in time to some older roguelikes might be a bit of a letdown. Then again the Moria Angband varients are more straightforward dungeon crawls where you kill loot gain levels, rinse and repeat. Those kinds of games can be refreshing if addictive, diablo famously takes these elements from this branch of roguelikes.

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    1. I'm still not a huge fan, but I "get" them better, I think. I have a lot of thoughts to write up about this for the final posting on this edition.

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  15. Always good to see YAFAP.

    The !WoD is almost always the best bet with Rodney. Next time round maybe we'll hear a tail of victory by rubber chicken ;)

    We have artifacts, branching dungeons and class questing to look forward to soon.

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  16. Ave Gideon, morturi te salutant!

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  17. I was so excited when I read the title of this post, I started celebrating at work and had to try to explain to my coworker how monumental this was. I can't wait to tell my roommate about it! Congratulations!!

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    1. I'm flattered you take such pride in my accomplishments!

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  18. This post makes me absurdly happy. I've never even touched a rogue-like before. Thanks, Chet.

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  19. Holy moly, congrats! I thought this kind of stuff never really happened in real life :)

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  20. Congratulations! I also can't stand roguelikes, but this made for a very enjoyable reading.

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  21. Massive congratulations. Most importantly, it frees you up to chew through more games! KoL had a short reign on top of the "hours played" list.

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    1. It probably never should have been there. My NH total was already well above 100 by then, but I hadn't done a final tally yet.

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  22. I have been reading your blog for a long time, but haven't bothered to comment before. This, however, calls for an exception: Congratulations on your Nethack ascension, it's a mighty feat!

    I have invested more gaming hours in Nethack than in any other game, played it from the late 1980's to 2000's (although much less frequently these days), have ascended a few (but not too many) times.

    I'll be looking forward to your Nethack GIMLET, it'll be interesting to see how you rate the game.

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  23. Wow, congratulations!!

    I should take heart from your ascension and get back to my own attempts.

    It will be interesting to see what you think of the upcoming changes in the next few versions over the years...

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  24. And another avid reader bothering to comment:
    Holy Hell, Congratz! You are now my personal god among gamers.

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  25. Congratulations, Chet!!! This is an amazing accomplishment. I feel like you deserve a ribbon or medal to emblazon on your home page or something.

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  26. Congratulations! I know you're against save scumming for good reasons, but have you considered taking backups in the interest of coming back to certain decisions and trying them differently after winning?

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    1. No. Too tempting. Maybe in the next version, now that I've won.

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  27. Congrats! A few notes, should you ever decide to return:

    1) If you have intrinsic teleporting, I'm pretty sure the 3.0 line allowed you to trigger teleportation (I think the default binding was Ctrl-T). It had a food cost, but you can imagine how useful it is.

    2) Gray dragon scale mail is a frequent wish, and I think it was in 3.0 as well, as it's very good armor with intrinsic magic resistance. That frees up your cloak slot for a cloak of displacement.

    3) Similarly, a shield of reflection is awesome and frees up your amulet slot for an amulet of life saving, which is exactly what it sounds like. I believe there's one in Vlad's tower, which is the point of that side excursion.

    4) You can kick chests open. You risk hurting your foot (one of the stupidest ways to die!) and it'll often break fragile stuff inside the chest, but it's better than leaving behind unopened chests (especially ones that include an amulet of life saving).

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    1. Oh, and I think that version of Nethack also included magic markers, which are awesome as well.

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    2. I thought about the dragon scale male--you can actually create it in this version by polymorphing a dragon corpse. But I never found a polymorphing item with this character, and since my regular armor was +7 already, I thought there were more important things to wish for. Good points in general, though. Should have thought of the shield of reflection.

      Kicking chests has always struck me as a futile enterprise. It works extremely rarely, and more often you end up injuring yourself and having to wait around for the injury to heal and your dexterity to return to normal. I probably would have done it except by this point in the game, I wasn't as interested in finding new stuff.

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    3. Oh, and CTRL-T! How did I miss that before?! That would have changed everything!

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    4. I didn't realize until this last posting that you didn't know about that, otherwise I would have pointed it out earlier. It's not even a spoiler, it's just part of the interface. As you'd imagine, it makes a huge difference in your ability to survive once you have teleport control.

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    5. The manual is long and hard to get through? That is why so many people don't know about Elbereth, even though it is in the manual.

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  28. That is amazing. Congratulations! If I ever play, I will remember the lessons you learned.

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  29. Congrats on ascending. :) A few additional notes:

    - As you noticed, you can't level teleport with the amulet. In later versions, it has a bunch of other nasty effects, plus the wizard is trying to kill you to get it back. This means you want to minimize the amount of time you spend walking around with it in your inventory. Just as the dungeon between the surface and the castle is your playground, so should be Hell! The run to the up stairs on level 1 becomes a lot faster and a lot easier if you've explored all of Hell first.

    - You might want to look for an artifact weapon. I forget which ones were in 3.0, but in later versions they really turn up your melee damage potential.

    I believe the calling out of the amulet of reflection is because it gives you points. Gems, gold, and artifacts also give you points, if you haul them all the way to the end. There are spoilers out there that document the points/weight ratio of everything, if you should want to maximize your potential points haul.

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    1. A minor addendum to the above, continuing on the "the dungeon is your playground" theme. Walking around the maze to get from one staircase to another is annoying, but if you've got a pickaxe, you don't need to. Just dig a straight line passage between them. This is useful in the main dungeon too.

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    2. -I found the pick-axe enormously useful, but that only works in the maze when you've already mapped it and know where the exit is.

      -It occurred to me later that I could have made things easier by delaying getting the Amulet until I'd already mapped the levels above it. If I had died and continued to play, I'd definitely do that next time. Great points.

      -As I said elsewhere, I only rarely found artifact weapons in this version of the game, but maybe I could have wished for them.

      -Maybe if I kept playing, I'd care, but winning the game is already hard enough without worrying about "points," too!

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  30. Congratulations! A much deserved victory!

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  31. Congrats from me as well! Your posting might change my anti-spoiler stance in regards to Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, which I intend to tackle sometime later this year. I don't know if it's as crucial to know what flies and what doesn't in that one yet, but I will keep in mind that it belongs to a breed of games which might warrant foregoing spoilers in favor of sanity (and practicability).

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  32. Congrats! I definitely chuckled when I saw the title of this post. :)

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  33. Huge congratulations! It's been really interesting to watch this all unfold, having almost no proper roguelike experience myself. You can tell that the structure of the game is central to the experience you've had. It's refreshing that roguelike elements are seeing a bit of a resurgence.

    Regardless, congrats! You deserve it!

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  34. Congratulations! Without an artifact weapon, too. And surviving an unexpected Demogorgon encounter. Impressive.

    Getting stuff cursed can be a problem on the Amulet run. I usually carried some blessed scrolls of remove curse in a sack (_not_ in a bag of holding) for emergency uncursing. In later versions there is also an artifact weapon which absorbs most curses.

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    1. I have very rarely found artifact weapons in this version. I'm thinking they didn't become a big deal until later.

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    2. You can get an artifact by offering enough corpses on a coaligned altar. Sting - one of the lesser ones - can be created just by naming an elven dagger (not sure about an ordinary dagger). A knight can obtain Excalibur by dipping a longsword in a fountain. You can also wish for artifacts.

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  35. Congratulations!

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  36. Congratulations - now you have several years of games to get through before 1993 and Nethack 3.1! I think ascending after 250 hours is not bad at all. I had to really, really study the spoilers to make it happen, and after several years of play I've only pulled it off a few times - and only with the easier classes. Good work!

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    1. Ascending after 250 hours is only "bad" when you think of the other things I could have done with those 250 hours.

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    2. There are also a lot worse things that could have been done with those 250 hours. Kind of evens out when you think of it that way.

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    3. That gives me an idea to use with Irene.

      Irene: "You really spent 250 hours on A GAME?! Are you crazy?!"

      Me: "I could have been KILLING KITTENS for 250 hours! Is that what you'd rather I did?!"

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    4. That is 250 hours you didn't spend drinking, getting high, cheating on your wife, brawling, dealing drugs, robbing banks, making an ass of yourself at a party, running for political office, posting YouTube comments, etc.

      Heck, by MMO standards you haven't even started playing at 250 hours.

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    5. Yea as Canageek points out there are so many more fun options to spend your time with ;-p

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    6. Oh god, imagine when he hits the later JRPGs, when 250s gets you to the intro, and not much else, due to the 20 hour cutscenes? :D

      Which was the final fantasy game that is famous for not getting good until you are about 20 hours in?

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  37. Congratulations! The first-time encounter with Demogorgon almost always ends badly (even with spoilers) so that is particularly noteworthy. I think you'll find the later versions more complex but easier.

    Your next major roguelike SHOULD be Moria, and it should have an earlier date than August 1992. Angband was inspired by a port of Moria. Therefore, from a CRPG archeology standpoint, you clearly should not play Angband before Moria. Keeping Angband in 1992 is proper, but Moria should move ahead of it. Although Wikipedia is far from an authoritative source, they do agree with me on this.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moria_(video_game)

    Moria was being played on university campuses throughout the late 80s. I think I remember you saying that you were unable to locate a version earlier than 8/1992, and I can't provide an earlier version unfortunately. But I would recommend bumping Moria up to 1990 or 1991. This will have two benefits: 1) restoring the historical timeline, and 2) allowing you to spread the roguelikes out over multiple years rather than having both Moria and Angband crammed together.

    Playing in the proper order (and with a break between them) will allow you to see how Angband improved on Moria, while also not overdosing on roguelikes (since the two games share many similarities).

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  38. Does the game generally get easy after you get the Amulet, or did I just play a lot more carefully?

    Most roguelikes seem to have a "tipping point" where you have so much Stuff and Resources that any obstacle you come across is naturally easier.

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  39. I'm glad you had fun, though your entries reinforce my negative views of NetHack. Worst is the need to read spoilers--my favorite part of CRPGs is the sense of discovery. In CRPGs prefer early game to late game because I find learning how to play the most fun part of the game. Reading spoilers ruins this, at least for me.

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    1. Due to the tactical, strategic, and procedural nature of roguelikes spoilers are a bit different.

      Because of the procedural generation aspect you will always be discovering whats around the corner and it can't be spoiled like a typical walkthrough does for static games.

      Learning the tactical aspects of items/monsters and what resistances you need are what does get spoiled when reading spoilers. So if you want to have a mystery as to what type of breath attack a white dragon does or how hard it hits you avoid online spoilers. If you want to learn by trial and error the use of an item you avoid spoilers. There is a valid philosophy that this kind of information would be included in the manual of other games and looking them up does not ruin the tactical and strategic fun of acquiring them and picking the correct time to use them.

      Then there are the closed source games that it becomes a community effort to discover. ADoM comes to mind as an example, where a single person does not have time to learn every aspect of the game from scratch and the community as a whole posts their findings. When you are in early enough on this community effort you do get a real feel of exploration when someone posts a new discovery and the community works to check it out and define the details of the discovery. I imagine NetHack was this way back in the day.

      The biggest problem with a group discovery method is the unfortunate tendency of some people to condescend to new people attempting to join the group who commit the crime of asking a question that was discovered long ago by the earlier group.

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    2. If learning to play the game is the most fun part, then Nethack should be perfect. It is all about laerning how to play the game. The Addict just spent almost 250 hours learning how to play the game.

      Don't think of the online resources as spoilers but information that other adventurers have gathered before you. If you are about to explore unknown territories it is a good idea to study the experiences of earlier explorers.

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    3. As I discovered, you can spend hours reading the NetHack wiki and still not "get" the game.

      Before I looked at the spoilers, I thought they'd ruin the game for me, but I soon realized that wasn't the case. Like UbAh says, it's more like reading the manual for a traditional game. The spoilers tell you the rules, but only playing the game tells you how they interact.

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    4. I'm surprised no one has simply used a reverse compiler on ADOM or such. They are tricky to use from what I understand, and it takes a lot of work to figure out what all the values mean (unless they left the debug symbols in) but it would be a fun challenge.

      Yeah, from what I understand Nethack wasn't designed to be beaten unspoiled, and there is a bit of debate of how feasible that is. There is one person reputed to have done it that I know of, but she took a lot longer then 250 hours.

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  40. Congrats. I'm glad you made your goal (and with time to spare).

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  41. Amazing effort Chet! You are indeed a Demigod!

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  42. Wow, amazing news, and right before the deadline. (Clap clap clap) !!!

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  43. Congratulations!

    Now with such an impressive list of games ahead of you, put nethack away with a happy warm glow of someone who has worked hard to complete a very difficult task. No really, put it away. Clean it off your disk(s). Unbookmark the spoiler links. Forget about it. Hopefully you will make it at least a few months before it worms back into your brain and starts to eat away at your time playing other, lesser games. You might even get a chance to work on your book... for a while....

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    1. You're assuming a level of addiction that I never developed. I can understand WHY people become addicted to the game, but the bug didn't bite me. It won't be any problem at all for me to move on.

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    2. Well, I thought that was true, but now I have this barbarian character on Level 17, and it seems a shame not to see how far he'll go.

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    3. "Well I was addicted but not THAT addicted, and I'm not addicted anymore. I really am not. Nope. Now, some OTHER people.." ... "I can play a bit, doesn't mean I'm addicted."

      --Eino

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  44. I definitely rememeber playing Moria on my Amiga in the 1980s, certainly no later than 1989, and probably a little earlier. This site:

    http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.org/index.php?title=Moria

    says that it was actually first created in 1983, but wasn't ported to other systems (like the PC) for several years.

    Regular Wikipedia says that the last release of Moria by the original author was 4.7, in 1986 or 1987. That's probably the version I'd pick to play, even though I see much more recent versions here:

    http://beej.us/moria/

    Getting a copy of 4.7 might be awkward, though; it looks like the ftp server for the official maintainer's archive is down. His page is here:

    http://www.remarque.org/~grabiner/moria.html

    but his FTP server doesn't seem to be answering anymore.

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    1. Crud, sorry, I was trying to reply to Dave with this comment. Please mentally move it up the list a few spots. :)

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    2. I think my problem was finding the older versions of the game. It floated up on my list a couple of years ago, but unlike NetHack, I couldn't find files from the versions released that year, so I moved it to the earliest version I could find, which was 1992.

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    3. Whether you choose to move Moria forward or Angband backward, it would just be more historically accurate to play Moria before Angband.

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    4. I added notes to those games to make sure I play them in the right order in 1992. Thanks!

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  45. Odd. Blogger's tracker shows that the Final Rating post for Dragon Wars is up, but clicking the link presents a Blogger "Not Found" error. Damn you Internet, getting my hopes up and all!

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    1. Same thing is happening for to me too. I wonder if he started his post but never finalized it so blogger has the link and no content. Or more likely Blogger is being a pain in the ass to him at the moment. Hopefully it didn't eat any work he doesn't have saved elsewhere.

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    2. No, that was my error. I meant to schedule it to publish at 17:00 today, but I actually hit "publish" before setting the schedule.

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    3. Are you holding out on us man!?! You know what happens when addicts know your holding out what they are addicted to.

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    4. I figure if I issue a post more than every 36 hours, it's too much.

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    5. Yea if we all OD then you will have to build your customer base up again.

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  46. Congratulations!

    I never got even remotely close, though ADOM was my roguelike of choice, so I guess getting close in Nethack would be pretty unfair to any proper fan of the game. That being said, the only way I managed to "beat" ADOM was through save scumming, so there's also that :D

    By the way, I seem to be getting your postings "in advance" via RSS now. I already got the "review" of Dragon Wars on Feedly. Did you maybe accidentally publish it, then reverted it to draft, to be posted on a schedule? :D

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    1. "EDIT:" NVM about the extra post in Feedly, I just read your other reply.

      I'm working my way through M&M, by the way, also posting on a schedule. I managed to get back to Sorpigal, purely by accident.

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  47. Oh, you know, I forgot to say something in my post about Moria: congratulations! You have climbed a mighty mountain.

    In all the years I've played Nethack, off and on, I have never once ascended without savescumming. I'm not sure how many hours I've put in, but I think it must be several hundred, and I've never once actually beaten it fairly.

    I was one of the ones leaning on you about spoilers, awhile back, and I'm glad you finally took our collective advice. As I was saying at the time, the game was really intended for that... you were supposed to be in a computer lab, with everyone playing, swapping tips, and generally learning what was going on.

    Now that we all have mighty workstations at our desks, and don't need to share time in minicomputers anymore, wikis and chat boards are the approximate equivalent.

    For this game, looking things up is not cheating. Not even a little bit.

    Anyway, congrats! Even if Irene isn't impressed, I am. That's a mountain I've never been able to climb.

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    1. Thanks. I feel fine with my decision to look at spoilers. I'm glad I resisted savescumming, but I'm not going to spend 250 hours on future editions, so I can't promise I'll ALWAYS resist it.

      Delete
    2. Well, later versions get much harder in the endgame, so I could totally see savescumming, just to see what was there.

      However, you also finished Knights of Legend, which struck me as extremely masochistic, so perhaps you'll resist temptation. :) I'd never be able to, which might be why I've never won Nethack fairly.

      If you liked Nethack, by the way (you haven't actually said that you liked it, just that you beat it :) )... you will probably really, really enjoy Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup. The character types in that game play so differently that learning that game well must be at least five times as complex as Nethack, maybe more. Might be a good game for down times.

      That said, it could ruin you for Moria and Angband, which are excellent games, just single-person projects. DCSS is being written by a big team, so they've got *tons* of content in it. Tackling big projects like that is much less scary than it was in the 1980s, and there is just a crapton of stuff to see and do.

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    3. Playing chronologically he will hit Moria and Angband before the current iteration of DCSS. Moria will be more like his backtracking posts as its release date on unix is way back there compared to his current games.

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    4. Now that you've beat Nethack once, I suspect all future versions will be a *lot* easier.

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  48. Congrats on the Epic win!
    Now for some racist comments.
    I've always hated elves.. I'm an elf-hater, if I was a fantasy shopkeeper I would have "No Elves" painted over my door why? Call it human envy.
    In the old days Elves and all their bonuses were countered by fragility and in some cases perma-death (no resurrections at all).
    Over the years and various games the elven drawbacks seem to disappear, while the bonuses and perks stayed.
    They are quite often overpowered.

    loving the blog as always!

    Now let's see you win with the worst character =)

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    1. It's funny you say that because the elves in Lord of the Rings always piss me off (the movies, that is; I never finished the books). Especially the scenes that show them striding along through the forest with their stupid serene faces, perfect strides, and billowy clothes. It's like a whole race of Stepford wives.

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  49. Congrats! I've been reading all your Nethack exploits over the past few days, finding it completely engrossing. The closest thing I've ever come to this kind of accomplishment is winning Spelunky once (0.99.5, if that enhances the cred-factor at all; given that we're talking about Nethack here something tells me it really, really doesn't!)

    I also save-scummed my way through Alphaman once, which I'd recommend as a fantastic roguelike just to play for the sheer joy of its off-kilter content - if your schedule for 1995 isn't looking too crowded already, that is. :) I described it somewhere else as "post-apocalyptic, day-glo pulp pop culture ephemera stuffed into a blender with Elvis, a roguelike and a surprisingly nuanced berries system (!)." It draws heavily from Gamma World, and surely every geek on Earth has a soft spot for Gamma World, right?

    Definite plans to keep up with this blog in the future, and to delve into the archives at the first possible chance. And I've only just thought to whitelist you on adblocker, so I'll try to paw at some adverts by way of penance. Keep up the great work!

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    1. Thanks, 'Nym. Glad to have you with us, and I appreciate the occasional revenue.

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  50. Dude, awesome. I've hauled thing thing out every few years since high school, and never gotten very far; I just don't have your patience. This is a really impressive accomplishment. Really, I can't see too many harder games on your list, after this one. (I can name two, but neither anywhere nearby: Iter Vehemens ad Necem (IVAN) and Jagged Alliance: Unfinished Business).

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  51. Congratulations, dear Addict!
    In 1993 I bought the game "The Settlers" for my Amiga. On the first page of the manual it was written that this game could be turned into a science - and that was very true! There were so many different buttons to push and knobs to turn, every single one of them making you just a little bit better and a little bit closer to perfection. And it seems as if this is also true for this game. Mastering this game, assimilating the necessary state of mind, is a significant achievement. Sadly not as significant to many people as, say, understanding Bayesian statistics, but significant to a vibrant, proud community. I might try the game myself one day, though I fear that I would not enjoy these games for long, but I'm always willing to learn more.
    I have to say that it certainly feels like you have climbed the highest mountain in the world.

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    1. That's an interesting way to look at it. Regardless of its triviality, I have learned the intricacies of a system--a process that might help with other, more substantial, endeavors.

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    2. Or, you know, if your ever trapped in a cave with random mythological creatures, you know to eat your kills while they are fresh. I always find that to be good advice.

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    3. There's an interesting fantasy setting there--a world where killing and consuming the heart of a foe grants its attributes. It would create an interesting social dynamic. Entire races would be subjected to genocide if they had desirable traits. Anyone know of anything series like that?

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    4. Well... there's...
      1) Megaman
      2) Digital Devil Saga
      3) Kirby
      4) Fallout: New Vegas
      5) Super Mario Bos. (shells of Koopas only)
      6) Baroque (eating hearts only recovers stamina)
      7) NWN 2: Mask of the Betrayer

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    5. I actually meant books and such, not games. I realize I never said that anywhere.

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    6. Ah... Not that many. For Japanese manga, Dragonball Z has such a trope with a creature named 'Cell'. But it eats the whole thing and not just the heart.

      For a tabletop pen-&-paper setting guide, there's a spell that does just that: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/e/enemy-s-heart

      Supernatural, the TV series, have heart-eating werewolves.

      I can't remember but I'm sure that I read some Meso-American folklore on the proto-culture of the Native American tribes. They believe strongly in eating the hearts of their enemies to grow stronger physically and wearing their shrunken heads to gain more protection from the spirit world.

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    7. Eating the heart of the animal you just hunted to gain power from its spirit is Native American-ish. Not shrunken heads though, that's a different continent.

      I have heard that some cannibal cultures believed to gain power from heating parts of their enemies.

      In fiction you have the xenomorphs and genestealers which gain power from taking desired traits from the genes of others (did the original starship trooper bugs do this too?)

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    8. Can't you just look at the real world for this? How many animals are going extinct because people think eating them will make them more virile or that they are aphrodisiacs?

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