Category : A Collection of Games for DOS and Windows
Archive   : NH313386.ZIP
Filename : README.PC

Output of file : README.PC contained in archive : NH313386.ZIP
NetHack is Copyright (C) Stichting Mathematisch Centrum, Amsterdam
NetHack may be freely redistributed. See license for details.

Installing NetHack 3.1 for the PC
(last revision: 1993 June 09)

Hello ..., welcome to NetHack!

The current (Version 3.1, patchlevel 3) official binary distribution of
NetHack 3.1 runs on 286* or greater PC compatibles running MS-DOS or
PC-DOS version 3.0 later.

*This file is also included in the 386 binary distribution. Please
see the readme.386 file for information specific to that binary.

How to set up the game:

In order to install this version of NetHack, you will need a PC
compatible with a 286 or faster processor running MS-DOS or PC-DOS
3.0 or later with 640k or more of RAM and perhaps 1.5M of free disk
space. NetHack consumes a lot of RAM and the more it has available
the faster it runs; it is therefore recommended that you do NOT use
it in conjunction with large memory-resident programmes, or RAM
disks that consume significant amounts of base memory.

The most straightforward method of setting up the game is to put all of
the NetHack files into a single directory - C:\GAMES\NETHACK would be
a typical choice. Whenever you are in this directory you can then run
NETHACK. If you add this directory to your PATH, you will not even
have to CD first.

At this point, on a thoroughly clonal machine, you should have a
playable game, but you quite likely want to poke around in NETHACK.CNF
with a text editor to set up both pragmatic things (like where to
store saved games) and Fun Stuff like the name of your character and
your cat. If your machine is not a solid clone, this step can save
your metaphorical bacon by eliminating some otherwise reasonable
assumptions about how things work inside....
With luck the comments in NETHACK.CNF should be adequate to
figuring out how things work.


If you have problems with this package, or in general with NetHack on
the PC, you can try contacting one of the following people:

Kevin Smolkowski Internet: [email protected]
207 E 5th
Eugene, OR 97401

Paul T Winner [email protected]
Compuserve 73207,226
Bug reports [email protected]

Please mention that you are using the 'official' nh3.1.3 binary, and
whether you use a disk cache, ramdisk, EMS or other such
dis-enhancement as well as the EXACT error message and diagnostic code.

Frequently asked questions:

You asked:

I try to start up NetHack on my 8088 machine, but all I
get back is the dos prompt.

Our installation expert replies:

It's like this, NetHack has become so large, and contains so
many feature laden adventures that it requires more processor
power than your machine can muster. Rather than cripple the
game for the rest of us, we chose to support only those machines
upon which the game was playable. Sure we could make it so it
would run on your laptop, but it would take 3 minutes a move and
you would just gripe more.

You asked:

Wow this is a really neat game. Is there any way to explore it
without dying so much?

Our staff schizophrenic replies:

Gentle Reader, I fear this is a most delicate question. It is a
frequent theme in fantasy literature that it is far easier to be
granted a wish than it is to decide upon a good wish to make. But I
am no djinn, and I am willing to advise you on this point as well.
And so I shall make the observation that, no matter what transpires,
you will always die the same amount, viz: once. Perhaps what you want
is a way to avoid dying so soon?
As it happens, this latter can be accomplished. Death, as it
transpires, is characterisable as _finitely avoidable_ in NetHack, for
there is a Mystic Prompt known to those who have read the Man Page of
Doom, the words of which, it is sometimes whispered, are as follows:
Die? [yn]
The benefit of being asked this question at the, shall we say,
appropriate, crucial moments is available -- for a price.
Classically, an acceptable consideration would be the player's soul;
but since according to the hallowed doctrines of most major religions,
@-signs don't have souls to sell, we will be contented with your
score.... For lo! The game contains an X command, and by the
strangely inexplicable power of the elder gods this X standeth for the
word Discover (or EXplore, in the ancient tongue), and the typing of
this Mystic Device shall effect the deal as described above,
paragraphs 2 and 3.
Furthermore, and alternately, IF YOU ORDER IMMEDIATELY at the
command line and, since NetHack is freely distributable, SEND NO MONEY
NOW. As a variation on this theme, the -D flag will put the game into
its debugging mode, IF you are a wizard... "Speak, wizard, and enter",
to paraphrase the Old Master.

You asked:

Ok the game works. Where do I begin to learn how to play?

A passing strange person replies:

Of course it works. What do you think I am, a radio?
Once you've got into the game, some good commands to try (and
they don't even count as moves!) are ? and /. At risk of sounding
like marketing blurb, the HELP key (which on your terminal will be
marked with a question mark - and be warned that you may have to
depress the shift key to activate this function!) gives you instant
access to our online help facility. It's kind of a menu with lovely
options like "c" (where you get to see MY NAME in the history of
NetHack!), "i" (which gives you all the important legal blurb which
tells you about your rights and responsibilities as a NetHack
licensee), and the more boring items "a" and "b" which merely explain
all the commands and the display symbols and uninteresting stuff like
that. What the hell. It's there, you can use it.
The / key is pretty good, too. If there's something on the
screen that you don't know what it is, well, it's probably a letter or
a symbol or something. That's wisdom, see? But to get onto the
Eternal Verities, suppose you want to know what it MEANS? Aha! Hit
/, say "y", I want to specify it by cursor (cursors are blinking
underscores, and if you're British like me you can curse them with
your numeric bloody keypad, too -- Americans needn't understand this
joke), whatever it is, and then you can point out the object of your
confusion and have it explicated in frabjous detail. Helps you avoid
getting your face et, sometimes, that. Always nice, not having your
face et.
Oh, right, I almost forgot. There's the Guidebook, too, for
the quiche-eaters in our midst.... You may have got one with your

You asked:

Can I run this game on a two floppy PC?

Our entire staff choruses:

Basically the game has gotten too huge. Well, if you had
really LARGE floppies, and a lot of EMS so that it doesn't have to
swap code in from disk all the time (which would be REALLY slow), I
suppose you could, a bit, maybe. There's some support for it, since
it used to be feasible, but really, today, I wouldn't want to try.
And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that because of the
overlays the game file is kept open all the time, so you aren't free
to swap disks once the game is loaded.
Sorry 'bout that.
It *might* still be possible to compile a stripped-down
version of the game that wouldn't need to be overlaid.... But we
haven't tried even that approach for a long time, and there are no
guarantees at all. Of course, if you succeed in pulling it off, let
us know; but don't get your hopes up.

You asked:

ARGH! The game is *so* slow. What can I do?

A sales representative replies:

Buy a faster machine. Get a faster hard disk! Technology,
technology and Yankee know-how, technology and, let's be honest,
we're both people of the world, Japanese production techniques, are
the answers to all our needs!
What's that you say? You want to use THIS machine? And your
recommendation to the free computers for employees programme depends
on my proving it can be done? Ah. That puts a different complexion
on matters. May I use your phone...?
* * *
Yeah, yeah, ok. Uh-huh. Right. Catch programmes? Cache. Right.
And TSRs. Yeah, ok. Right. Thanks, Lesley.
* * *
Great tech support, there. Yeah, so the word is, you've got to get
everything out of RAM that you can. It's as simple as that. All the
TSRs, everything. Even RAMdisks. Ignore that little line in
nethack.cnf, that is for amiga's or some other beasties.

Some reports of a faster game with a cache program, but we cannot
recommend one brand other another. Read your cache manual.

It's still too slow, you say? Well, what do you want from me?
This game, if you just look at the .EXE file, it's, what,
TWICE the size of free memory on this aging old machine of yours. And
all of that code, ALL of it, mark you, is muscle. No fat on this
babe. The programmers, they tell me that this thing peaks at
thousands of overlay transfers per second! Imagine that! Whatever it
means. So shut up! We're doing our best! Shut up! Look, I'll sell
you my sister. My sister, and my brother... and my budgie. Just
recommend us to the VP-$$$. Here, take my watch, it's a gift....

You asked:

What has been done to speed up the game?

Our High Priest replies:

We sacrificed a goat. And a sheep. Well, a picture of a sheep. And
an okapi, I think it was. Something striped. Then we burned Donny
Osmond and Ozzy Osbourne records, both at once, it made these weird
purple sparks, and the smoke formed an image of Elvis riding a whale.
Pretty good ritual that, almost as much fun as using EDT all day,
hitting ^Y, and issuing an EDIT/RECOVER. Those were the days. Yeah,
and we ate pizza, a lot of pizza, and drank more sacramental coffee
than you can probably imagine. Plus, we sent a lot of electronic
mail. Megabytes of it.
Then we decided to try being systematic.
So we made more coffee, and sat down to look at why it was so
slow. Well, let's see.
The trouble, of course, was that this game is now so huge.
It's actually bigger than the memory on the PC. So whatever we did,
it had to use overlays. That was a given. And the other constraint
was that we couldn't hack up the sources too much, since there were
other groups working on the same programme for other computers, and if
we'd made a divergent version, we would have lost access to their
bugfixes, and all the future nifty developments. So that was out.
So we made more coffee.
There were some things we could do, do for people with money
behind their computers; we could put in support for '386 processors,
and for EMS, stuff like that. Well, we did that, but it still didn't
help with low-end machines.

So next we looked at the source code.
And this was where experience and the twisted genius of Stephen
Spackman paid off. Because we realised that what we needed to do was to
split up the code between the overlays along the lines of which
routines called each other the most frequently, rather than according
to which modules they "belonged" to. But we couldn't change the code
around to fix that, remember.
So we cooked up this scheme where different parts of the
different source files can be compiled separately. So each file can
be compiled three, four, sometimes five times, to make lots of little
slices, which are then linked together according to their call
patterns. And then we spent a lot of time staring at dynamic
profiles, trying to decide what belonged together. We even
wrote programs that scanned our call graph output and told us
what overlays were being used a lot and where the interoverlay
calls were coming from and all that. Life was glorious. Little
used routines were stashed off in distant overlays while code that
was being called millions of times (really!) was placed in the
root. Still a bit of a delay while changing levels, but that is
'cause NetHack is saving everything at this point in case your
game dies of some unknown cause. (See about using this bit
of insurance later on in this file).

So finally we had a game where the worst case, the worst case,
where the level is packed with monsters trying to eat your face and
your machine is only an 286 clone, was about a couple of seconds per
turn. Not good, but better than the old hack was *without* overlays
(thanks to the vast improvement in code quality provided by the main
development team while we PC types were working on this), and
marginally tolerable. Better, of course, much better, on a faster
But then, this game keeps on growing....
So could it go faster? Sure it could. We never did implement
transient dynamic linking, for instance. And we could have done stuff
by replacing the linker - or the compiler. But anything new you do,
it's not going to be obvious. The obvious stuff we tried before we
started, if you see what I mean. At this point, any significant
improvement is likely to constitute, how shall I put this? A
commercially viable technique? And likely to come from a true
BitWarrior, a NetHacker born.

You asked:

What is the minimum amount of memory I can run PC NetHack in?

An arrogant experimentalist replies:

"Can" is such an interesting term. I've noticed your distinct
propensity to word your questions in the vaguest manner possible. Do
you always have this problem, or only when I put the words into your

Our testing, no means complete mind you, is that you need at least
1 meg of memory to make it playable. 540K of free ram and a 384K
disk cache seems to be the minimum ticket to see the show.

You asked:

Zounds, my man! How in the name of all that's pompous can one
get 540K of user RAM free on one's machine? Surely one can't
be expected to use a computer without one's Pop-Up-Ducky
programme, one's resident Latin Grammar Checker, one's TSR
edition Who's Who? We are talking, you understand, of the
bare necessities of civilised existence!

Our resident iconoclast replies:

Er, yeah. Well, safe sex an' all that, you might wanna keep your
virus protection in place, mate. But the rest you can chuck, along
with the horse.
Now, don't panic, chum, don't take a fit. If you need that
stuff when you work, that's one thing. But when you're playing
NetHack, that's all the fun you need, right? So what you do is, you
take a floppy disk, you format it bootable, and on that you put your
COMMAND.COM, and a minimal CONFIG.SYS; just what you need to boot.
Oh, yeah, and an AUTOEXEC.BAT that sets up the path to your
So when you want to play NetHack, you put this floppy in the
drive, and reboot. Presto! 540K free, and away you go with the game.
Time to do some work? Save the game, take out the floppy, reboot, and
back comes your pop-up duck.
Just 'cause you got a hard disk, no law says it's from it you
have to boot. And just 'cause you boot from a floppy, there's no
reason not to run programmes on the hard disk.

You asked:

I run Microsoft Windows on my machine, how do I set up NetHack?

Our $180.00 per hour phone consultant responds:

"Thank you for calling NetHack support, all of our support
engineers are currently busy, if you can stay on the line, you
call with be answered in the order it was received."
"Hello! Whats that? You have a problem setting up NetHack
under Windows? Perhaps you failed to notice a nethack.ico file?
And then building on your errors you completly overlooked the
nethack.pif as well. Interesting isn't it? Don't you think I
have better things to do then answer the same question day after
day, when will you users ever learn. We designed this graphical
user interface thingy to make you more productive, not sit around
all day playing games. What!? Monitored? What do you
mean my calls are monitored and I should be polite. Oh, sorry
about being a bit stuffy a while back. Why sure you can play
NetHack under Windows. We even provide a icon file (nethack.ico)
and a sample pif file (nethack.pif). Should work fine." (click!)

You asked:

What's this about a 386 specific version of NetHack?

The winner of our Richard Stallman thinkalike contest responds:

Fight look and feel! Break free from the commercial software
prison. Run the 386 version of Nethack compiled with DJGPP,
the gnu licensed c compiler. Nethack in protected mode,
no overlays, no funky memory managers. Even works under Windows.
Available with source, free from your local archive site. Get
yours today!

You asked:

I was playing along with my 400 hitpoint level 8 Barbarian
named Gorp and my dog Gumby, having a wonderful evening bashing
heads, eating eye corpses, and generally running amok in the dungeon
and all of a sudden the (1) the lights go out, (2) I hit the power
cord with my sword, (3) lightning struck, or (4) the game actually
crashed. Now what do I do?

Our resident disaster recovery expert replies:

WHAT? Damn, hmmm, lets see now. Where is the plan, you
know what I mean, the PLAN! Wait, now calm down, let me think.
Hmm. Hmm. Oh yea! You have INSURANCE don't you. I mean you
compiled the game with INSURANCE didn't you. Well then you are
in safe hands, so to speak. Included at no extra charge to you
is a smaller programme called recover.exe. Its sole purpose in
life is to save your behind in cases like this. Don't go
getting the idea that you can cheat by turning off your machine
just when you are about to die and using it to resurrect your
Wizard. The recover program can tell you are cheating and will
delete your high score list and give you bad luck for twenty
To use it after a crash just go to your NETHACK directory and
check to see if you have a bunch of files ending in a number.
Like so: LEVELS.0 LEVELS.1 LEVELS.2 and so on. Now run the
recover programme giving it the name of your NETHACK directory
as well as the basename part for the level files.

Example you say:

recover -d \games\nethack levels


Good enough?


Throughout this document, the word "NetHack" refers to a rather jolly
game involving a small @-sign getting its face et by dragons, and is
in no way to be construed as relating to the theory or practise of
gaining unauthorised use of or access to data or data processing
equipment (except maybe if a few of us play the game at work,
something which I want to go on record as saying is very, very naughty
indeed and not the sort of thing you want to get involved with at
all), and if any security-establishment types are reading this,
remember it's YOU folks who do the cloak-and-dagger stuff, we're
responsible professionals with real jobs and self respect and stuff
like that.

Secondly, all references to animal sacrifice, Donny Osmond, dynamic
linking, Microsoft Corporation, okapi, claviprondrophony and so forth
are made purely for the entertainment of the reader and if you think
we meant something by it, that's your problem. Research has shown
that what people say and what they mean have so little to do with each
other that you can actually get PAID to figure out why people say,
"can you reach the salt?" when as a matter of fact they don't give a
pair of dingo's kidneys what the answer to the question is, so long as
someone provides them with some small white crystals in the near
future and look! you came up with *that* interpretation all by
yourself now didn't you.
Special thanks to stephen p spackman who wrote the original version
of this text and who will live forever in our memories. (Nope, he
isn't dead, just moved on to a higher calling).

This document is Copyright (C) 1991 Stephen P Spackman and Kevin D
Smolkowski (1993). It constitutes part of the documentation of the PC
version of the NetHack game, and may be distributed freely subject to the
same terms set forth in the NetHack license. Thank you for having a very
nice day indeed. Hack On!

  3 Responses to “Category : A Collection of Games for DOS and Windows
Archive   : NH313386.ZIP
Filename : README.PC

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: