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Contents of the GUIDEBOO.TXT file

A Guide to the Mazes of Menace
(Guidebook for NetHack 3.1)

_E_r_i_c _S. _R_a_y_m_o_n_d
(_E_x_t_e_n_s_i_v_e_l_y _e_d_i_t_e_d _a_n_d _e_x_p_a_n_d_e_d _f_o_r _3._0 _b_y _M_i_k_e _T_h_r_e_e_p_o_i_n_t)
_T_h_y_r_s_u_s _E_n_t_e_r_p_r_i_s_e_s
_M_a_l_v_e_r_n, _P_A _1_9_3_5_5

1. Introduction

You have just finished your years as a student at the local
adventurer's guild. After much practice and sweat you have fi-
nally completed your training and are ready to embark upon a
perilous adventure. To prove your worthiness, the local guild-
masters have sent you into the Mazes of Menace. Your quest is to
retrieve the Amulet of Yendor. According to legend, the gods
will grant immortality to the one who recovers this artifact;
true or not, its recovery will bring honor and full guild member-
ship (not to mention the attentions of certain wealthy wizards).

Your abilities and strengths for dealing with the hazards of
adventure will vary with your background and training.

_A_r_c_h_e_o_l_o_g_i_s_t_s understand dungeons pretty well; this enables
them to move quickly and sneak up on dungeon nasties. They start
equipped with proper tools for a scientific expedition.

_B_a_r_b_a_r_i_a_n_s are warriors out of the hinterland, hardened to
battle. They begin their quests with naught but uncommon
strength, a trusty hauberk, and a great two-handed sword.

_C_a_v_e_m_e_n and _C_a_v_e_w_o_m_e_n start with exceptional strength and
neolithic weapons.

_E_l_v_e_s are agile, quick, and sensitive; very little of what
goes on will escape an Elf. The quality of Elven craftsmanship
often gives them an advantage in arms and armor.

_H_e_a_l_e_r_s are wise in medicine and the apothecary. They know
the herbs and simples that can restore vitality, ease pain,
anesthetize, and neutralize poisons; and with their instruments,
they can divine a being's state of health or sickness. Their
medical practice earns them quite reasonable amounts of money,
which they enter the dungeon with.

_K_n_i_g_h_t_s are distinguished from the common skirmisher by
their devotion to the ideals of chivalry and by the surpassing

NetHack Guidebook 1

NetHack Guidebook 2

excellence of their armor.

_P_r_i_e_s_t_s and _P_r_i_e_s_t_e_s_s_e_s are clerics militant, crusaders ad-
vancing the cause of righteousness with arms, armor, and arts
thaumaturgic. Their ability to commune with deities via prayer
occasionally extricates them from peril-but can also put them in

_R_o_g_u_e_s are agile and stealthy thieves, who carry daggers,
lock picks, and poisons to put on darts.

_S_a_m_u_r_a_i are the elite warriors of feudal Nippon. They are
lightly armored and quick, and wear the _d_a_i-_s_h_o, two swords of
the deadliest keenness.

_T_o_u_r_i_s_t_s start out with lots of gold (suitable for shopping
with), a credit card, lots of food, some maps, and an expensive
camera. Most monsters don't like being photographed.

_V_a_l_k_y_r_i_e_s are hardy warrior women. Their upbringing in the
harsh Northlands makes them strong and inures them to extremes of
cold, and instills in them stealth and cunning.

_W_i_z_a_r_d_s start out with a fair selection of magical goodies
and a particular affinity for dweomercraft.

You set out for the dungeon and after several days of
uneventful travel, you see the ancient ruins that mark the en-
trance to the Mazes of Menace. It is late at night, so you make
camp at the entrance and spend the night sleeping under the open
skies. In the morning, you gather your gear, eat what may be
your last meal outside, and enter the dungeon.

2. What is going on here?

You have just begun a game of NetHack. Your goal is to grab
as much treasure as you can, retrieve the Amulet of Yendor, and
escape the Mazes of Menace alive. On the screen is kept a map of
where you have been and what you have seen on the current dungeon
level; as you explore more of the level, it appears on the screen
in front of you.

When NetHack's ancestor _r_o_g_u_e first appeared, its screen
orientation was almost unique among computer fantasy games.
Since then, screen orientation has become the norm rather than
the exception; NetHack continues this fine tradition. Unlike
text adventure games that input commands in pseudo-English sen-
tences and explain the results in words, NetHack commands are all
one or two keystrokes and the results are displayed graphically
on the screen. A minimum screen size of 24 lines by 80 columns
is recommended; if the screen is larger, only a 21x80 section
will be used for the map.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 3

NetHack generates a new dungeon every time you play it; even
the authors still find it an entertaining and exciting game
despite having won several times.

3. What do all those things on the screen mean?

In order to understand what is going on in NetHack, first
you must understand what NetHack is doing with the screen. The
NetHack screen replaces the ``You see...'' descriptions of text
adventure games. Figure 1 is a sample of what a NetHack screen
might look like.

The bat bites!

|....| ----------
|.<..|####[email protected]$.|
|....-# |...B....+
|....| |.d......|
------ -------|--

Player the Rambler St:12 Dx:7 Co:18 In:11 Wi:9 Ch:15 Neutral
Dlvl:1 G:0 HP:9(12) Pw:3(3) AC:10 Xp:1/19 T:257 Weak
Figure 1

3.1. The status lines (bottom)

The bottom two lines of the screen contain several cryptic
pieces of information describing your current status. If either
status line becomes longer than the width of the screen, you
might not see all of it. Here are explanations of what the vari-
ous status items mean (though your configuration may not have all
the status items listed below):

Your character's name and professional ranking (based on the
experience level, see below).

A measure of your character's strength, one of your six
basic attributes. Your attributes can range from 3 to 18
inclusive (occasionally you may get super-strengths of the
form 18/xx). The higher your strength, the stronger you
are. Strength affects how successfully you perform physical
tasks and how much damage you do in combat.

Dexterity affects your chances to hit in combat, to avoid

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 4

traps, and do other tasks requiring agility or manipulation
of objects.

Constitution affects your ability to withstand injury and
other strains on your stamina.

Intelligence affects your ability to cast spells.

Wisdom comes from your religious affairs. It affects your
magical energy.

Charisma affects how certain creatures react toward you. In
particular, it can affect the prices shopkeepers offer you.

Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic. Basically, Lawful is good and
Chaotic is evil. Your alignment influences how other mon-
sters react toward you.

Dungeon Level
How deep you have gone into the dungeon. It starts at one
and increases as you go deeper into the dungeon. The Amulet
of Yendor is reputed to be somewhere beneath the twentieth

The number of gold pieces you have.

Hit Points
Your current and maximum hit points. Hit points indicate
how much damage you can take before you die. The more you
get hit in a fight, the lower they get. You can regain hit
points by resting. The number in parentheses is the maximum
number your hit points can reach.

Spell points. This tells you how much mystic energy (_m_a_n_a)
you have available for spell casting. When you type `+' to
list your spells, each will have a spell point cost beside
it in parentheses. You will not see this if your dungeon
has been set up without spells.

Armor Class
A measure of how effectively your armor stops blows from un-
friendly creatures. The lower this number is, the more ef-
fective the armor; it is quite possible to have negative ar-
mor class.

Your current experience level and experience points. As you

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 5

adventure, you gain experience points. At certain experi-
ence point totals, you gain an experience level. The more
experienced you are, the better you fight and withstand mag-
ical attacks. Many dungeons show only your experience level

The number of turns elapsed so far, displayed if you have
the time option set.

Hunger status
Your current hunger status, ranging from Satiated down to
Fainting. If your hunger status is normal, it is not

Additional status flags may appear after the hunger status:
Conf when you're confused, Sick when sick, Blind when you can't
see, Stun when stunned, and Hallu when hallucinating.

3.2. The message line (top)

The top line of the screen is reserved for messages that
describe things that are impossible to represent visually. If
you see a ``--More--'' on the top line, this means that NetHack
has another message to display on the screen, but it wants to
make certain that you've read the one that is there first. To
read the next message, just press the space bar.

3.3. The map (rest of the screen)

The rest of the screen is the map of the level as you have
explored it so far. Each symbol on the screen represents some-
thing. You can set the graphics option to change some of the
symbols the game uses; otherwise, the game will use default sym-
bols. Here is a list of what the default symbols mean:

- and |
The walls of a room, or an open door.

. The floor of a room, or a doorless doorway.

# A corridor, or possibly a kitchen sink or drawbridge (if
your dungeon has sinks).

< A way to the previous level.

> A way to the next level.

+ A closed door, or a spell book containing a spell you can
learn (if your dungeon has spell books).

@ A human (you, usually).

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 6

$ A pile of gold.

^ A trap (once you detect it).

) A weapon.

[ A suit or piece of armor.

% A piece of food (not necessarily healthy).

? A scroll.

/ A wand.

= A ring.

! A potion.

( A useful item (pick-axe, key, lamp...).

" An amulet, or a spider web.

* A gem or rock (possibly valuable, possibly worthless).

` A boulder or statue.

0 An iron ball.

_ An altar, or an iron chain.

} A pool of water or moat or a pool of lava.

{ A fountain (your dungeon may not have fountains).

\ An opulent throne (your dungeon may not have thrones ei-

a-zA-Z and other symbols
Letters and certain other symbols represent the various in-
habitants of the Mazes of Menace. Watch out, they can be
nasty and vicious. Sometimes, however, they can be helpful.

You need not memorize all these symbols; you can ask the
game what any symbol represents with the `/' command (see the
Commands section for more info).

4. Commands

Commands are given to NetHack by typing one or two charac-
ters; NetHack then asks questions to find out what it needs to
know to do your bidding.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 7

For example, a common question, in the form ``What do you
want to use? [a-zA-Z ?*]'', asks you to choose an object you are
carrying. Here, ``a-zA-Z'' are the inventory letters of your
possible choices. Typing `?' gives you an inventory list of
these items, so you can see what each letter refers to. In this
example, there is also a `*' indicating that you may choose an
object not on the list, if you wanted to use something unexpect-
ed. Typing a `*' lists your entire inventory, so you can see the
inventory letters of every object you're carrying. Finally, if
you change your mind and decide you don't want to do this command
after all, you can press the ESC key to abort the command.

You can put a number before most commands to repeat them
that many times; for example, ``10s'' will search ten times. If
you have the number_pad option set, you must type `n' to prefix a
count, so the example above would be typed ``n10s'' instead.
Commands for which counts make no sense ignore them. In addi-
tion, movement commands can be prefixed for greater control (see
below). To cancel a count or a prefix, press the ESC key.

The list of commands is rather long, but it can be read at
any time during the game through the `?' command, which accesses
a menu of helpful texts. Here are the commands for your refer-

? Help menu: display one of several help texts available.

/ Tell what a symbol represents. You may choose to specify a
location or type a symbol (or even a whole word) to define.
If the help option is on, and NetHack has some special in-
formation about an object or monster that you looked at,
you'll be asked if you want ``More info?''. If help is off,
then you'll only get the special information if you expli-
citly ask for it by typing in the name of the monster or ob-

& Tell what a command does.

< Go up a staircase to the previous level (if you are on the

> Go down a staircase to the next level (if you are on the

Go one step in the direction indicated (see Figure 2). If
there is a monster there, you will fight the monster in-
stead. Only these one-step movement commands cause you to
fight monsters; the others (below) are ``safe.''

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 8

y k u 7 8 9
\ | / \ | /
h- . -l 4- . -6
/ | \ / | \
b j n 1 2 3
(if number_pad is set)

Figure 2

Go in that direction until you hit a wall or run into some-

Prefix: move without picking up any objects.

Prefix: move far, no pickup.

Prefix: move until something interesting is found.

G[yuhjklbn] or [yuhjklbn]
Prefix: same as `g', but forking of corridors is not con-
sidered interesting.

. Rest, do nothing for one turn.

a Apply (use) a tool (pick-axe, key, lamp...).

A Remove all armor. Use `T' (take off) to take off only one
piece of armor.

^A Redo the previous command.

c Close a door.

C Call (name) an individual monster.

^C Panic button. Quit the game.

d Drop something. Ex. ``d7a'' means drop seven items of ob-
ject _a.

D Drop several things. In answer to the question ``What kinds
of things do you want to drop? [!%= au]'' you should type
zero or more object symbols possibly followed by `a' and/or

Da - drop all objects, without asking for confirmation.
Du - drop only unpaid objects (when in a shop).
D%u - drop only unpaid food.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 9

^D Kick something (usually a door).

e Eat food.

E Engrave a message on the floor. Engraving the word ``El-
bereth'' will cause most monsters to not attack you hand-
to-hand (but if you attack, you will rub it out); this is
often useful to give yourself a breather. (This feature may
be compiled out of the game, so your version might not
necessarily have it.)

E- - write in the dust with your fingers.

i List your inventory (everything you're carrying).

I List selected parts of your inventory.

I* - list all gems in inventory;
Iu - list all unpaid items;
Ix - list all used up items that are on your shopping bill;
I$ - count your money.

o Open a door.

O Set options. You will be asked to enter an option line. If
you enter a blank line, the current options are reported.
Entering `?' will get you explanations of the various op-
tions. Otherwise, you should enter a list of options
separated by commas. The available options are listed later
in this Guidebook. Options are usually set before the game,
not with the `O' command; see the section on options below.

p Pay your shopping bill.

P Put on a ring or other accessory (amulet, blindfold).

^P Repeat previous message (subsequent ^P's repeat earlier mes-

q Quaff (drink) a potion.

Q Quit the game.

r Read a scroll or spell book.

R Remove an accessory (ring, amulet, etc).

^R Redraw the screen.

s Search for secret doors and traps around you. It usually
takes several tries to find something.

S Save the game. The game will be restored automatically the
next time you play.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 10

t Throw an object or shoot a projectile.

T Take off armor.

^T Teleport, if you have the ability.

v Display version number.

V Display the game history.

w Wield weapon. w- means wield nothing, use your bare hands.

W Wear armor.

x List the spells you know (same as `+').

X Enter explore (discovery) mode.

z Zap a wand.

Z Zap (cast) a spell.

^Z Suspend the game (UNIX(R) versions with job control only).

: Look at what is here.

; Show what type of thing a visible symbol corresponds to.

, Pick up some things.

@ Toggle the pickup option on and off.

^ Ask for the type of a trap you found earlier.

) Tell what weapon you are wielding.

[ Tell what armor you are wearing.

= Tell what rings you are wearing.

" Tell what amulet you are wearing.

( Tell what tools you are using.

$ Count your gold pieces.

+ List the spells you know (same as `x').

\ Show what types of objects have been discovered.

(R)UNIX is a registered trademark of AT&T.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 11

! Escape to a shell.

# Perform an extended command. As you can see, the authors of
NetHack used up all the letters, so this is a way to intro-
duce the less useful commands, or commands used under limit-
ed circumstances. You may obtain a list of them by entering
`?'. What extended commands are available depend on what
features the game was compiled with.

If your keyboard has a meta key (which, when pressed in com-
bination with another key, modifies it by setting the `meta'
[8th, or `high'] bit), you can invoke the extended commands by
meta-ing the first letter of the command. In OS/2, PC, and ST
NetHack, the `Alt' key can be used in this fashion.

M-a Adjust inventory letters (the fixinv option must be ``on''
to do this).

M-c Talk to someone.

M-d Dip an object into something.

M-f Force a lock.

M-i Invoke an object's special powers.

M-j Jump to another location.

M-l Loot a box on the floor.

M-m Use a monster's special ability.

M-n Name an item or type of object.

M-o Offer a sacrifice to the gods.

M-p Pray to the gods for help.

M-r Rub a lamp.

M-s Sit down.

M-t Turn undead.

M-u Untrap something (usually a trapped object).

M-v Print compile time options for this version of NetHack.

M-w Wipe off your face.

If the number_pad option is on, some additional letter com-
mands are available:

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 12

j Jump to another location. Same as ``#jump'' or ``M-j''.

k Kick something (usually a door). Same as `^D'.

l Loot a box on the floor. Same as ``#loot'' or ``M-l''.

N Name an item or type of object. Same as ``#name'' or ``M-

u Untrap a trapped object or door. Same as ``#untrap'' or

5. Rooms and corridors

Rooms and corridors in the dungeon are either lit or dark.
Any lit areas within your line of sight will be displayed; dark
areas are only displayed if they are within one space of you.
Walls and corridors remain on the map as you explore them.

Secret corridors are hidden. You can find them with the `s'
(search) command.

5.1. Doorways

Doorways connect rooms and corridors. Some doorways have no
doors; you can walk right through. Others have doors in them,
which may be open, closed, or locked. To open a closed door, use
the `o' (open) command; to close it again, use the `c' (close)

You can get through a locked door by using a tool to pick
the lock with the `a' (apply) command, or by kicking it open with
the `^D' (kick) command.

Open doors cannot be entered diagonally; you must approach
them straight on, horizontally or vertically. Doorways without
doors are not restricted.

Doors can be useful for shutting out monsters. Most mon-
sters cannot open doors, although a few don't need to (ex. ghosts
can walk through doors).

Secret doors are hidden. You can find them with the `s'
(search) command.

5.2. Traps (`^')

There are traps throughout the dungeon to snare the unwary
delver. For example, you may suddenly fall into a pit and be
stuck for a few turns. Traps don't appear on your map until you
see one triggered by moving onto it, or you discover it with the
`s' (search) command. Monsters can fall prey to traps, too.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 13

6. Monsters

Monsters you cannot see are not displayed on the screen.
Beware! You may suddenly come upon one in a dark place. Some
magic items can help you locate them before they locate you,
which some monsters do very well.

6.1. Fighting

If you see a monster and you wish to fight it, just attempt
to walk into it. Many monsters you find will mind their own
business unless you attack them. Some of them are very dangerous
when angered. Remember: Discretion is the better part of valor.

6.2. Your pet

You start the game with a little dog (`d') or cat (`f'),
which follows you about the dungeon and fights monsters with you.
Like you, your pet needs food to survive. It usually feeds it-
self on fresh carrion and other meats. If you're worried about
it or want to train it, you can feed it, too, by throwing it

Your pet also gains experience from killing monsters, and
can grow over time, gaining hit points and doing more damage.
Initially, your pet may even be better at killing things than
you, which makes pets useful for low-level characters.

Your pet will follow you up and down staircases, if it is
next to you when you move. Otherwise, your pet will be stranded,
and may become wild.

6.3. Ghost levels

You may encounter the shades and corpses of other adventur-
ers (or even former incarnations of yourself!) and their personal
effects. Ghosts are hard to kill, but easy to avoid, since
they're slow and do little damage. You can plunder the deceased
adventurer's possessions; however, they are likely to be cursed.
Beware of whatever killed the former player.

7. Objects

When you find something in the dungeon, it is common to want
to pick it up. In NetHack, this is accomplished automatically by
walking over the object (unless you turn off the pickup option
(see below), or move with the `m' prefix (see above)), or manual-
ly by using the `,' command. If you're carrying too many things,
NetHack will tell you so and won't pick up anything more. Other-
wise, it will add the object(s) to your pack and tell you what
you just picked up.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 14

When you pick up an object, it is assigned an inventory
letter. Many commands that operate on objects must ask you to
find out which object you want to use. When NetHack asks you to
choose a particular object you are carrying, you are usually
presented with a list of inventory letters to choose from (see
Commands, above).

Some objects, such as weapons, are easily differentiated.
Others, like scrolls and potions, are given descriptions which
vary according to type. During a game, any two objects with the
same description are the same type. However, the descriptions
will vary from game to game.

When you use one of these objects, if its effect is obvious,
NetHack will remember what it is for you. If its effect isn't
extremely obvious, you will be asked what you want to call this
type of object so you will recognize it later. You can also use
the ``#name'' command for the same purpose at any time, to name
all objects of a particular type or just an individual object.

7.1. Curses and blessings

Any object that you find may be cursed, even if the object
is otherwise helpful. The most common effect of a curse is being
stuck with (and to) the item. Cursed weapons weld themselves to
your hand when wielded, so you cannot unwield them. Any cursed
item you wear is not removable by ordinary means. In addition,
cursed arms and armor usually, but not always, bear negative en-
chantments that make them less effective in combat. Other cursed
objects may act poorly or detrimentally in other ways.

Objects can also become blessed. Blessed items usually work
better or more beneficially than normal uncursed items. For ex-
ample, a blessed weapon will do more damage against demons.

There are magical means of bestowing or removing curses upon
objects, so even if you are stuck with one, you can still have
the curse lifted and the item removed. Priests and Priestesses
have an innate sensitivity to curses and blessings, so they can
more easily avoid cursed objects than other character classes.

An item with unknown curse status, and an item which you
know to be uncursed, will be distinguished in your inventory by
the presence of the word ``uncursed'' in the description of the
latter. The exception is if this description isn't needed; you
can look at the inventory description and know that you have
discovered whether it's cursed. This applies to items which have
``plusses,'' and items with charges.

7.2. Weapons (`)')

Given a chance, almost all monsters in the Mazes of Menace
will gratuitously kill you. You need weapons for self-defense
(killing them first). Without a weapon, you do only 1-2 hit

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 15

points of damage (plus bonuses, if any).

There are wielded weapons, like maces and swords, and thrown
weapons, like arrows. To hit monsters with a weapon, you must
wield it and attack them, or throw it at them. To shoot an arrow
out of a bow, you must first wield the bow, then throw the arrow.
Crossbows shoot crossbow bolts. Slings hurl rocks and (other)
gems. You can wield only one weapon at a time, but you can
change weapons unless you're wielding a cursed one.

Enchanted weapons have a ``plus'' (which can also be a
minus) that adds to your chance to hit and the damage you do to a
monster. The only way to find out if a weapon is enchanted is to
have it magically identified somehow.

Those of you in the audience who are AD&D players, be aware
that each weapon which exists in AD&D does the same damage to
monsters in NetHack. Some of the more obscure weapons (such as
the _a_k_l_y_s, _l_u_c_e_r_n _h_a_m_m_e_r, and _b_e_c-_d_e-_c_o_r_b_i_n) are defined in an
appendix to _U_n_e_a_r_t_h_e_d _A_r_c_a_n_a, an AD&D supplement.

The commands to use weapons are `w' (wield) and `t' (throw).

7.3. Armor (`[')

Lots of unfriendly things lurk about; you need armor to pro-
tect yourself from their blows. Some types of armor offer better
protection than others. Your armor class is a measure of this
protection. Armor class (AC) is measured as in AD&D, with 10 be-
ing the equivalent of no armor, and lower numbers meaning better
armor. Each suit of armor which exists in AD&D gives the same
protection in NetHack. Here is an (incomplete) list of the armor
classes provided by various suits of armor:

dragon scale mail 1
plate mail 3
bronze plate mail 4
splint mail 4
banded mail 4
elven mithril-coat 5
chain mail 5
scale mail 6
ring mail 7
studded leather armor 7
leather armor 8
no armor 10

You can also wear other pieces of armor (ex. helmets, boots,
shields, cloaks) to lower your armor class even further, but you
can only wear one item of each category (one suit of armor, one
cloak, one helmet, one shield, and so on).

If a piece of armor is enchanted, its armor protection will
be better (or worse) than normal, and its ``plus'' (or minus)

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 16

will subtract from your armor class. For example, a +1 chain
mail would give you better protection than normal chain mail,
lowering your armor class one unit further to 4. When you put on
a piece of armor, you immediately find out the armor class and
any ``plusses'' it provides. Cursed pieces of armor usually have
negative enchantments (minuses) in addition to being unremovable.

The commands to use armor are `W' (wear) and `T' (take off).

7.4. Food (`%')

Food is necessary to survive. If you go too long without
eating you will faint, and eventually die of starvation. Unpro-
tected food does not stay fresh indefinitely; after a while it
will spoil, and be unhealthy to eat. Food stored in ice boxes or
tins (``cans'' to you Americans) will usually stay fresh, but ice
boxes are heavy, and tins take a while to open.

When you kill monsters, they usually leave corpses which are
also ``food.'' Many, but not all, of these are edible; some also
give you special powers when you eat them. A good rule of thumb
is ``you are what you eat.''

You can name one food item after something you like to eat
with the fruit option, if your dungeon has it.

The command to eat food is `e'.

7.5. Scrolls (`?')

Scrolls are labeled with various titles, probably chosen by
ancient wizards for their amusement value (ex. ``READ ME,'' or
``HOLY BIBLE'' backwards). Scrolls disappear after you read them
(except for blank ones, without magic spells on them).

One of the most useful of these is the _s_c_r_o_l_l _o_f _i_d_e_n_t_i_f_y,
which can be used to determine what another object is, whether it
is cursed or blessed, and how many uses it has left. Some ob-
jects of subtle enchantment are difficult to identify without

If you receive mail while you are playing (on versions com-
piled with this feature), a mail daemon may run up and deliver it
to you as a _s_c_r_o_l_l _o_f _m_a_i_l. To use this feature, you must let
NetHack know where to look for new mail by setting the ``MAIL''
environment variable to the file name of your mailbox. You may
also want to set the ``MAILREADER'' environment variable to the
file name of your favorite reader, so NetHack can shell to it
when you read the scroll.

The command to read a scroll is `r'.

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NetHack Guidebook 17

7.6. Potions (`!')

Potions are distinguished by the color of the liquid inside
the flask. They disappear after you quaff them.

Clear potions are potions of water. Sometimes these are
blessed or cursed, resulting in holy or unholy water. Holy water
is the bane of the undead, so potions of holy water are good
thing to throw (`t') at them. It also is very useful when you
dip (``#dip'') other objects in it.

The command to drink a potion is `q' (quaff).

7.7. Wands (`/')

Magic wands have multiple magical charges. Some wands are
directional-you must give a direction to zap them in. You can
also zap them at yourself (just give a `.' or `s' for the direc-
tion), but it is often unwise. Other wands are nondirectional-
they don't ask for directions. The number of charges in a wand
is random, and decreases by one whenever you use it.

The command to use a wand is `z' (zap).

7.8. Rings (`=')

Rings are very useful items, since they are relatively per-
manent magic, unlike the usually fleeting effects of potions,
scrolls, and wands.

Putting on a ring activates its magic. You can wear only
two rings, one on each ring finger.

Most rings also cause you to grow hungry more rapidly, the
rate varying with the type of ring.

The commands to use rings are `P' (put on) and `R' (remove).

7.9. Spell books (`+')

Spell books are tomes of mighty magic. When studied with
the `r' (read) command, they bestow the knowledge of a spell-
unless the attempt backfires. Reading a cursed spell book, or
one with mystic runes beyond your ken can be harmful to your

A spell can also backfire when you cast it. If you attempt
to cast a spell well above your experience level, or cast it at a
time when your luck is particularly bad, you can end up wasting
both the energy and the time required in casting.

Casting a spell calls forth magical energies and focuses
them with your naked mind. Releasing the magical energy releases
some of your memory of the spell with it. Each time you cast a

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NetHack Guidebook 18

spell, your familiarity with it will dwindle, until you eventual-
ly forget the details completely and must relearn it.

The command to read a spell book is the same as for scrolls,
`r' (read). The `+' command lists your current spells and the
number of spell points they require. The `Z' (cast) command
casts a spell.

7.10. Tools (`(')

Tools are miscellaneous objects with various purposes. Some
tools, like wands, have a limited number of uses. For example,
lamps burn out after a while. Other tools are containers, which
objects can be placed into or taken out of.

The command to use tools is `a' (apply).

7.10.1. Chests and boxes

You may encounter chests or boxes in your travels. These
can be opened with the ``#loot'' extended command when they are
on the floor, or with the `a' (apply) command when you are carry-
ing one. However, chests are often locked, and require you to
either use a key to unlock it, a tool to pick the lock, or to
break it open with brute force. Chests are unwieldy objects, and
must be set down to be unlocked (by kicking them, using a key or
lock picking tool with the `a' (apply) command, or by using a
weapon to force the lock with the ``#force'' extended command).

Some chests are trapped, causing nasty things to happen when
you unlock or open them. You can check for and try to deactivate
traps with the ``#untrap'' extended command.

7.11. Amulets (`"')

Amulets are very similar to rings, and often more powerful.
Like rings, amulets have various magical properties, some benefi-
cial, some harmful, which are activated by putting them on.

The commands to use amulets are the same as for rings, `P'
(put on) and `R' (remove).

7.12. Gems (`*')

Some gems are valuable, and can be sold for a lot of gold
pieces. Valuable gems increase your score if you bring them with
you when you exit. Other small rocks are also categorized as
gems, but they are much less valuable.

7.13. Large rocks (``')

Statues and boulders are not particularly useful, and are
generally heavy. It is rumored that some statues are not what
they seem.

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NetHack Guidebook 19

7.14. Gold (`$')

Gold adds to your score, and you can buy things in shops
with it. Your version of NetHack may display how much gold you
have on the status line. If not, the `$' command will count it.

8. Options

Due to variations in personal tastes and conceptions of how
NetHack should do things, there are options you can set to change
how NetHack behaves.

8.1. Setting the options

Options may be set in a number of ways. Within the game,
the `O' command allows you to view all options and change most of
them. You can also set options automatically by placing them in
the NETHACKOPTIONS environment variable or a configuration file.
Some versions of NetHack also have front-end programs that allow
you to set options before starting the game.

8.2. Using the NETHACKOPTIONS environment variable

The NETHACKOPTIONS variable is a comma-separated list of in-
itial values for the various options. Some can only be turned on
or off. You turn one of these on by adding the name of the op-
tion to the list, and turn it off by typing a `!' or ``no'' be-
fore the name. Others take a character string as a value. You
can set string options by typing the option name, a colon, and
then the value of the string. The value is terminated by the
next comma or the end of string.

For example, to set up an environment variable so that ``fe-
male'' is on, ``pickup'' is off, the name is set to ``Blue
Meanie'', and the fruit is set to ``papaya'', you would enter the

% setenv NETHACKOPTIONS "female,!pickup,name:Blue Meanie,fruit:papaya"

in _c_s_h, or

$ NETHACKOPTIONS="female,!pickup,name:Blue Meanie,fruit:papaya"

in _s_h or _k_s_h.

8.3. Using a configuration file

Any line in the configuration file starting with ``OP-
TIONS='' may be filled out with options in the same syntax as in
NETHACKOPTIONS. Any line starting with ``GRAPHICS='', ``MON-
STERS='', or ``OBJECTS='' is taken as defining the graphics, mon-
sters, or objects options in a different syntax, a sequence of

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 20

decimal numbers giving the character position in the current font
to be used in displaying each entry. Such a sequence can be con-
tinued to multiple lines by putting a `\' at the end of each line
to be continued. Any line starting with `#' is treated as a com-

The default name of the configuration file varies on dif-
ferent operating systems, but NETHACKOPTIONS can also be set to
the full name of a file you want to use (possibly preceded by an

8.4. Customization options

Here are explanations of the various options do. Character
strings longer than fifty characters are truncated. Some of the
options listed may be inactive in your dungeon.

Use BIOS calls to update the screen display quickly and to
read the keyboard (allowing the use of arrow keys to move)
on machines with an IBM PC compatible BIOS ROM (default off,
OS/2, PC, and ST NetHack only).

Name your starting cat (ex. ``catname:Morris''). Cannot be
set with the `O' command.

Save game state after each level change, for possible
recovery after program crash (default on).

Use color for different monsters, objects, and dungeon
features (default on for microcomputers).

Have user confirm attacks on pets, shopkeepers, and other
peaceable creatures (default on).

Use a predefined selection of characters from the DEC VT-
xxx/DEC Rainbow/ ANSI line-drawing character set to display
the dungeon instead of having to define a full graphics set
yourself (default off). Cannot be set with the `O' command.

Offer to identify your inventory and intrinsics when the
game ends (default on).

Name your starting dog (ex. ``dogname:Fang''). Cannot be
set with the `O' command.

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NetHack Guidebook 21

Set your sex (default off). Cannot be set with the `O' com-

An object's inventory letter sticks to it when it's dropped
(default on). If this is off, dropping an object shifts all
the remaining inventory letters.

Name a fruit after something you enjoy eating (ex.
``fruit:mango'') (default ``slime mold''. Basically a nos-
talgic whimsy that NetHack uses from time to time. You
should set this to something you find more appetizing than
slime mold. Apples, oranges, pears, bananas, and melons al-
ready exist in NetHack, so don't use those.

Set the graphics symbols for screen displays (default `` |--
------||.-|++.##<><>\^"_\\#{}.}..## #}|-\\/*!)(0#@*/-\\||\\-
//-\\| |\\-/''). If specified, the graphics option should
come last, followed by a string of 1-69 characters to be
used instead of the default map-drawing characters. The
dungeon map will use the characters you specify instead of
the default symbols. Remember that you may need to escape
some of these characters if, for example, you use _c_s_h.

The DECgraphics and IBMgraphics options use predefined
selections of graphics symbols, so you need not go to the
trouble of setting up a full graphics string for these com-
mon cases. These two options also set up proper handling of
graphics characters for such terminals, so you should speci-
fy them as appropriate even if you override the selections
with your own graphics string.

Note that this option string is now escape-processed in con-
ventional C fashion. This means that `\' is a prefix to
take the following character literally, and not as a special
prefix. Your graphics strings for NetHack 2.2 and older
versions may contain a `\'; it must be doubled for the same
effect now. The special escape form `\m' switches on the
meta bit in the following character, and the `^' prefix
causes the following character to be treated as a control
character (so any `^' in your old graphics strings should be
changed to `\^' now). Also note that there are more symbols
in a different order than used for NetHack 3.0.

The order of the symbols is: solid rock, vertical wall, hor-
izontal wall, upper left corner, upper right corner, lower
left corner, lower right corner, cross wall, upward T wall,
downward T wall, leftward T wall, rightward T wall, no door,
vertical open door, horizontal open door, vertical closed
door, horizontal closed door, floor of a room, dark corri-
dor, lit corridor, stairs up, stairs down, ladder up, ladder

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 22

down, trap, web, altar, throne, kitchen sink, fountain, pool
or moat, ice, lava, vertical lowered drawbridge, horizontal
lowered drawbridge, vertical raised drawbridge, horizontal
raised drawbridge, air, cloud, under water, vertical beam,
horizontal beam, left slant, right slant, digging beam, cam-
era flash beam, left boomerang, right boomerang, four glyphs
giving the sequence for magic resistance displays; the eight
surrounding glyphs for swallowed display; nine glyphs for
explosions. An explosion consists of three rows (top, mid-
dle, and bottom) of three characters. The explosion is cen-
tered in the center of this 3 by 3 array.

You might want to use `+' for the corners and T walls for a
more aesthetic, boxier display. Note that in the next
release, new symbols may be added, or the present ones rear-

Cannot be set with the `O' command.

help If more information is available for an object looked at
with the `/' command, ask if you want to see it (default
on). Turning help off makes just looking at things faster,
since you aren't interrupted with the ``More info?'' prompt,
but it also means that you might miss some interesting
and/or important information.

Highlight pets when color is turned off (default off).

Use a predefined selection of IBM extended ASCII characters
to display the dungeon instead of having to define a full
graphics set yourself (default off). Cannot be set with the
`O' command.

Ignore interrupt signals, including breaks (default off).

Display an introductory message when starting the game (de-
fault on).

Show corridor squares seen by night vision or a light source
held by your character as lit (default off).

Set your sex (default on, most hackers are male). Cannot be
set with the `O' command.

Set the characters used to display monster classes (default
[email protected] \&;:~]''). This string is subjected to the same

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 23

processing as the graphics option. The order of the symbols
is ant or other insect, blob, cockatrice, dog or other can-
ine, eye or sphere, feline, gremlin, humanoid, imp or minor
demon, jelly, kobold, leprechaun, mimic, nymph, orc, pi-
ercer, quadruped, rodent, spider, trapper or lurker above,
unicorn, vortex, worm, xan or other mythical/fantastic in-
sect, light, zruty, angelic being, bat, centaur, dragon,
elemental, fungus or mold, gnome, giant humanoid, invisible
stalker, jabberwock, Keystone Kop, lich, mummy, naga, ogre,
pudding or ooze, quantum mechanic, rust monster, snake,
troll, umber hulk, vampire, wraith, xorn, yeti or ape or
other large beast, zombie, human, ghost, golem, demon, sea
monster, lizard, long worm tail, and mimic. Cannot be set
with the `O' command.

The number of top line messages to save (and recall with ^P)
(default 20). Cannot be set with the `O' command.

Set your character's name (defaults to your user name). You
can also set your character class by appending a dash and
the first letter of the character class (that is, by suffix-
ing one of -A -B -C -E -H -K -P -R -S -T -V -W). If [email protected] is
used for the class, then a random one will be automatically
chosen. Cannot be set with the `O' command.

Read the NetHack news file, if present (default on). Since
the news is shown at the beginning of the game, there's no
point in setting this with the `O' command.

Send padding nulls to the terminal (default off).

Use the number keys to move instead of [yuhjklbn] (default

Set the characters used to display object classes (default
``])[="(%!?+/$*`0_.''). This string is subjected to the
same processing as the graphics option. The order of the
symbols is illegal-object (should never be seen), weapon,
armor, ring, amulet, tool, food, potion, scroll, spell book,
wand, gold, gem or rock, boulder or statue, iron ball,
chain, and venom. Cannot be set with the `O' command.

Specify the order to list object types in (default
``\")[%?+/=!(*`0_''). The value of this option should be a
string containing the symbols for the various object types.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 24

Specify the type of your initial pet, if you are playing a
character class that uses both types of pets. Possible
values are ``cat'' and ``dog''. Cannot be set with the `O'

Pick up things you move onto by default (default on).

Force raw (non-cbreak) mode for faster output and more bul-
letproof input (MS-DOS sometimes treats `^P' as a printer
toggle without it) (default off). Note: DEC Rainbows hang
if this is turned on. Cannot be set with the `O' command.

Make the space bar a synonym for the `.' (rest) command (de-
fault off).

Prevent you from (knowingly) attacking your pets (default

Control what parts of the score list you are shown at the
end (ex. ``scores:5 top scores/4 around my score/own
scores''). Only the first letter of each category (`t',
`a', or `o') is necessary.

Show your accumulated experience points on bottom line (de-
fault off).

Show your approximate accumulated score on bottom line (de-
fault off).

Suppress terminal beeps (default on).

Sort the pack contents by type when displaying inventory
(default on).

Boldface monsters and ``--More--'' (default off).

Show the elapsed game time in turns on bottom line (default

Draw a tombstone graphic upon your death (default on).

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 25

Provide more commentary during the game (default on).

Select which windowing system to use, such as ``tty'' or
``X11'' (default depends on version). Cannot be set with
the `O' command.

9. Scoring

NetHack maintains a list of the top scores or scorers on
your machine, depending on how it is set up. In the latter case,
each account on the machine can post only one non-winning score
on this list. If you score higher than someone else on this
list, or better your previous score, you will be inserted in the
proper place under your current name. How many scores are kept
can also be set up when NetHack is compiled.

Your score is chiefly based upon how much experience you
gained, how much loot you accumulated, how deep you explored, and
how the game ended. If you quit the game, you escape with all of
your gold intact. If, however, you get killed in the Mazes of
Menace, the guild will only hear about 90% of your gold when your
corpse is discovered (adventurers have been known to collect
finder's fees). So, consider whether you want to take one last
hit at that monster and possibly live, or quit and stop with
whatever you have. If you quit, you keep all your gold, but if
you swing and live, you might find more.

If you just want to see what the current top players/games
list is, you can type nethack -s all on most versions.

10. Explore mode

NetHack is an intricate and difficult game. Novices might
falter in fear, aware of their ignorance of the means to survive.
Well, fear not. Your dungeon may come equipped with an ``ex-
plore'' or ``discovery'' mode that enables you to keep old save
files and cheat death, at the paltry cost of not getting on the
high score list.

There are two ways of enabling explore mode. One is to
start the game with the -X switch. The other is to issue the `X'
command while already playing the game. The other benefits of
explore mode are left for the trepid reader to discover.

11. Credits

The original _h_a_c_k game was modeled on the Berkeley UNIX _r_o_-
_g_u_e game. Large portions of this paper were shamelessly cribbed
from _A _G_u_i_d_e _t_o _t_h_e _D_u_n_g_e_o_n_s _o_f _D_o_o_m, by Michael C. Toy and

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 26

Kenneth C. R. C. Arnold. Small portions were adapted from _F_u_r_t_h_-
_e_r _E_x_p_l_o_r_a_t_i_o_n _o_f _t_h_e _D_u_n_g_e_o_n_s _o_f _D_o_o_m, by Ken Arromdee.

NetHack is the product of literally dozens of people's work.
Main events in the course of the game development are described

Jay Fenlason wrote the original Hack, with help from Kenny
Woodland, Mike Thome and Jon Payne.

Andries Brouwer did a major re-write, transforming Hack into
a very different game, and published (at least) three versions
(1.0.1, 1.0.2, and 1.0.3) for UNIX machines to the Usenet.

Don G. Kneller ported Hack 1.0.3 to Microsoft C and MS-DOS,
producing PC HACK 1.01e, added support for DEC Rainbow graphics
in version 1.03g, and went on to produce at least four more ver-
sions (3.0, 3.2, 3.51, and 3.6).

R. Black ported PC HACK 3.51 to Lattice C and the Atari
520/1040ST, producing ST Hack 1.03.

Mike Stephenson merged these various versions back together,
incorporating many of the added features, and produced NetHack
1.4. He then coordinated a cast of thousands in enhancing and
debugging NetHack 1.4 and released NetHack versions 2.2 and 2.3.

Later, Mike coordinated a major rewrite of the game, heading
a team which included Ken Arromdee, Jean-Christophe Collet, Steve
Creps, Eric Hendrickson, Izchak Miller, John Rupley, Mike
Threepoint, and Janet Walz, to produce NetHack 3.0c.

NetHack 3.0 was ported to the Atari by Eric R. Smith, to
OS/2 by Timo Hakulinen, and to VMS by David Gentzel. The three
of them and Kevin Darcy later joined the main development team to
produce subsequent revisions of 3.0.

Olaf Seibert ported NetHack 2.3 and 3.0 to the Amiga. Norm
Meluch, Stephen Spackman and Pierre Martineau designed overlay
code for PC NetHack 3.0. Johnny Lee ported NetHack 3.0 to the
Macintosh. Along with various other Dungeoneers, they continued
to enhance the PC, Macintosh, and Amiga ports through the later
revisions of 3.0.

Headed by Mike Stephenson and coordinated by Izchak Miller
and Janet Walz, the development team which now included Ken Ar-
romdee, David Cohrs, Jean-Christophe Collet, Kevin Darcy, Matt
Day, Timo Hakulinen, Steve Linhart, Dean Luick, Pat Rankin, Eric
Raymond, and Eric Smith undertook a radical revision of 3.0.
They re-structured the game's design, and re-wrote major parts of
the code. They added multiple dungeons, a new display, special
individual character quests, a new endgame and many other new
features, and produced NetHack 3.1.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

NetHack Guidebook 27

Ken Lorber, Gregg Wonderly and Greg Olson, with help from
Richard Addison, Mike Passaretti, and Olaf Seibert, developed
NetHack 3.1 for the Amiga.

Norm Meluch and Kevin Smolkowski, with help from Carl Sche-
lin, Stephen Spackman, Steve VanDevender, and Paul Winner, ported
NetHack 3.1 to the PC.

Jon Watte, with help from Ross Brown, Mike Engber, David
Hairston, Michael Hamel, Jonathan Handler, Johnny Lee, Tim Len-
nan, Rob Menke, Andy Swanson, and especially from Hao-yang Wang,
developed NetHack 3.1 for the Macintosh.

Timo Hakulinen ported NetHack 3.1 to OS/2. Eric Smith port-
ed NetHack 3.1 to the Atari. Pat Rankin, with help from Joshua
Delahunty, is responsible for the VMS version of NetHack 3.1.

Dean Luick, with help from David Cohrs, developed NetHack
3.1 for X11.

From time to time, some depraved individual out there in
netland sends a particularly intriguing modification to help out
with the game. The Gods of the Dungeon sometimes make note of
the names of the worst of these miscreants in this, the list of

Richard Addison Eric Hendrickson Mike Passaretti
Tom Almy Bruce Holloway Pat Rankin
Ken Arromdee Richard P. Hughey Eric S. Raymond
Eric Backus Ari Huttunen Frederick Roeber
John S. Bien John Kallen John Rupley
Ralf Brown Del Lamb Carl Schelin
Ross Brown Greg Laskin Olaf Seibert
David Cohrs Johnny Lee Kevin Sitze
Jean-Christophe Collet Tim Lennan Eric R. Smith
Steve Creps Merlyn LeRoy Kevin Smolkowski
Kevin Darcy Steve Linhart Michael Sokolov
Matthew Day Ken Lorber Stephen Spackman
Joshua Delahunty Dean Luick Andy Swanson
Bill Dyer Benson I. Margulies Kevin Sweet
Mike Engber Pierre Martineau Scott R. Turner
Jochen Erwied Roland McGrath Steve VanDevender
Mike Gallop Norm Meluch Janet Walz
David Gentzel Rob Menke Hao-yang Wang
Mark Gooderum Deron Meranda Jon Watte
David Hairston Bruce Mewborne Tom West
Timo Hakulinen Izchak Miller Paul Winner
Michael Hamel Gil Neiger Gregg Wonderly
Jonathan Handler Greg Olson

Brand and product names are trademarks or registered trademarks
of their respective holders.

NetHack 3.1 January 25, 1993

 December 5, 2017  Add comments

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