This is a guide to how to ascend your Nethack character (you win!) in the best game ever made. This is not a typical walk through that you can get for another game. Nethack has way too many random elements to make that possible, each game is unique. What this guide will do is:
If you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
The guide assumes you have tried to play the game several times and have at least seen Mine Town and/or the Oracle at least once. I highly recommend reading (and have on hand):
As you find situations that you have not yet encountered, you can also consult the collections of spoilers at...
and the "official information" (use the source Luke!) from...
or simply ask the question on line on the newsgroup (news:rec.games.roguelike.nethack). If you follow basic net etiquette, you will find the people on line will be glad to help you.
Be aware that there is always more than one way to do something in Nethack and be flexible. Winning Nethack also requires a thoughtful balance between risk and caution. You can die as often from too much caution as from too much risk.
To win the game, you must...
Everything else that this guide explains is not necessary to win. It is highly recommended, but not necessary to win. Other than these steps, there are a lot of different ways to do almost everything.
The basic outline of Nethack has been described in a message posted by Nathan T Moore on rgrn (http://www.nethack.de/spoiler/things_todo_towin.txt). That "uber short walkthrough" briefly describes major steps of the game. This guide has expanded on that outline as well as describes several alternative methods to get you to your first ascension. Much of the initial information in this guide will provide both strategy and tactics for the overall game.
A key note, ascending a character in Nethack takes a long time - a "fast game" can be over 40,000 turns. The shortest ascension I've heard about is around 8500 turns - the longest is well over 300,000 turns. There is no time limit, take as long as you need to do the job properly.
To simplify the organization of the guide, it tends to describe the steps from start to finish. When you play the game, you are not usually restricted in doing steps the same way they are described in the guide. For example, you can establish a stock pile on one level and return to it several times to heal, identify items, make new useful items, or restock. Once you get what you need, then go back to do the next task or continue through the dungeon. Keep this in mind when you read this guide.
Remember, if your character dies, you have to start over at the beginning, so be careful. If you get into a situation you don't seem to be able to handle - take some time to analyze it or ask for help on line. Don't be afraid to...
and come back when you can handle it better.
This introductory section is by no means complete but includes general comments related to each of the actions that you must do. More specific material is covered in later sections and this describes typical events, not all possible outcomes.
Start the game.
See the section below on "Choosing a Character" for more details.
Enter the quest.
Getting the experience level is pretty straight forward if you survive between 20,000 and 30,000 turns or so. A few other things you should have by this point include:
There will be plenty of sections to address how to get each of these. It is recommended to do the Gnomish Mines, Sokoban, and optionally Medusa, the Castle, and Fort Ludios prior to starting the quest. Doing these generally depends on the difficulty of your quest, your luck, what you needed to do to level up, and what you may need to complete the quest.
Getting to be piously aligned should be a non-problem if you avoid killing peaceful monsters and other actions that hurt your alignment. See the prayer spoiler (http://steelypips.org/nethack/pray.html) for a detailed list of what to do or not do.
Complete the Quest.
One level in the dungeon (between levels 11 and 16) will have magic portal to the quest home level. You get a telepathic message from the Quest Leader each time you enter this level. Search the level for the portal (or use a trap location method) and enter it. Find the quest leader and if you meet the criteria in the previous section, he will give you permission to proceed.
Find the down stairs and do what it takes to get to the quest nemesis on the goal level. Most (all?) of the quest nemesis monsters will take one or two hits from you and then teleport to the up stairs. Follow the nemesis and do what it takes to kill it and retrieve the bell, quest artifact, and any other items you might want. You might want to eat the nemesis if you are missing an intrinsic as well.
Return to the main dungeon. A thorough review of the gazetteer (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/gazetteer/quest/) is highly recommended as well.
Visit Vlad the Impaler.
Well, to get here, you should be through 30,000 to 60,000 turns and done the following ...
Vlad is reached from a second set of up stairs between levels 34 and 42. He is not too hard to kill. Be sure to pick up the guaranteed items you might need as well.
Visit the Wizard of Yendor.
You are now through 40,000 to 80,000 turns. Highly recommend you postpone killing him until you are ready for the ascension run. This includes:
Perform the invocation.
Even if you walk, it should only take a thousand turns or so from when you kill Rodney to be back at the vibrating square. Apply the uncursed candelabrum, bell, and book in that order to open the doorway to Moloch's Sanctum. The area around you will turn into rings of fire traps and a moat.
Retrieve the Amulet of Yendor.
The path to the temple is pretty straight forward - the gazetteer can show you the way. Fight your way steadily to the temple. Find the secret door and enter. The high priest will then get mad and you can kill it (an instant kill is best if you can arrange it). Take the amulet and start back up.
Sacrifice the Amulet of Yendor on the right temple.
Move briskly up from level to level. With paths dug between stairs it has taken me 2000 turns to walk from the Sanctum to the Plane of Earth. Before you enter the plane of earth, make sure you...
Getting through each level is a section to itself. When you are done it completely, you can cheer for your success.
There have been first ascensions with almost any character type. However, you see some roles appear again and again. I did a short survey of five recent YAFAP's on rgrn (about two weeks of posts). They included...
So, we have two Valkyries, two Wizards, and a Barbarian. Three females and two males. All three alignments as well. Pretty evenly split between fighters and spell casters. One thing in common is a relatively easy quest nemesis. Because of this distribution, I won't recommend one type over another. Instead, I will ask you to do some research on the benefits and drawbacks of each character type. Spoilers to help you do this include...
If you tend to have problems in the Gnomish Mines, you may want to pick a dwarf or gnome. They have infravision (to see warm monsters in the dark) and have more peaceful monsters in the Mines.
A strategy that is hard to acquire, but extremely valuable during the game is to learn how to avoid a fight. What? Why should you avoid killing every monster in the dungeon? There are two main reasons:
These two reasons are true throughout the game - not just for the early character. The sooner you practice this strategy, the sooner you will win the game.
Let's expand on the tactics to do this. If you are leading the way down a hallway, displace your pet (move onto its square) to get in front of you. Something like this...
# # o o @ to d d @ # # # #
The pet takes out the orc (and eats it) and then moves on.
This also works with monsters in front and behind you. Displace the pet to face the stronger monster. Use Elbereth to scare the other one if needed. Read the Elbereth spoiler (http://steelypips.org/nethack/elbereth_faq.html) carefully to see how to do it and the limitations. When the first is gone, displace the pet to face the weaker monster and take care of it. Note - this is most effective early in the game. I have lost too many pets that got between me and a strong monster late in the game when I am resistant to almost anything and the pet isn't.
In a diagonal hall, you can keep your pet in front of you by blocking the path back like this...
#k k #d# @ ###
it takes a lot longer to move down the hall this way, but is a helpful technique if needed.
In a room, dance around the pet - move diagonally around the pet to keep the pet between you and the monster trying to attack you. Something like this...
........ ........ ........ ....k... ........ ........ ....d... to ....dk.. to ...@dk.. ....@... ....@... ........ -------- -------- --------
and the pet will gladly kill the monster for you.
Use the speed system to get away from slow monsters. For example, a kobold is about half as fast as you are - you can move twice to get away when almost cornered. One of my favorite early wands is the wand of speed. I speed up both the pet and myself to make us both more effective.
You can also use Elbereth to buy time, make the monsters retreat, and provide a path for you to get past (especially if you are fast). I had a situation like this when I was separated from the pet (and trying to get back to the pet).
--.--|# ### # # # ### N #@# r rr#
I wrote Elbereth in the dust. That scared the monsters and bought me time. Wrote it again and again until there were about 5 on the square (a few smudged). The naga (N) had moved back a couple squares by that point. I dropped a single arrow on the Elbereth square to stop the rats behind me and moved forward. I wrote Elbereth repeatedly (one at a time) until the naga was scared and moved away from the path to the room above. I ran past the naga and made it to the up stairs. I came back w/ my pet later & they all died quite nicely.
Be sure to make notes of your game. If the game prints out a message, take note of what it means. For example, if "You hear someone counting money", a vault is on the level - take note and come back later with a pick axe to bring out the Zorkmid's if you need them. There is not a good "sounds" spoiler, the closest is the room spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/room-342.txt) - perhaps someone will write one :-). What I have had to do for most cases is to search the source code for the phrase mentioned and read the code to see what it means. If you do this, search for one or two words of the phrase (and omit "you hear") - you will find more than one. Keep track of the prices of items (see next section).
The first few levels should have some stores. You will not have one on level one, both levels two and three are guaranteed to have a store if there is a room with only one door (and no stairs). Stores get much less frequent as you go down deeper into the dungeon. This is one of the places where each game in Nethack will play differently each game. You will get lucky and unlucky with each game you play. The room spoiler (see above) has more details on the odds.
The first use of a store is to get more items. Early in the game, I let my pet steal items from the store. It will only bring out items that are not cursed (uncursed or blessed). Dropping gold in the store establishes credit with the shop keeper and the pet can bring it out to restore your purse.
You can speed the process of removing items with a magic whistle or by carrying items near the door and feeding the pet food they like (e.g., tripe for cats and dogs) after they drop the items outside the store. Remember, an item in the door and the square immediately inside the store can be picked up without paying as well.
Later in the game, if there are still items I need, I will just pay for them with excess zorkmids. I could spend the time to get a pet to bring the items out, but it just doesn't seem to be worth the effort.
The second use of a store is to "price id" the items in the store and your items. The shopping spoiler (http://steelypips.org/nethack/shopping.html) has a very nice scenario of trying to price id several items - it is definitely worth a read. In general though, you want the really cheap items (e.g., scroll of identify) or really expensive items (e.g., wand of death).
You read a lot of posts on rgrn that describe problems when identifying items. As a suggestion, try to use only safe methods to identify items and wait if you don't have a safe method. Doing this will help avoid "yet another stupid death". Let's describe several safe ways to identify items - fully or partially.
More good summaries of identification strategies are at (http://www.nethack.de/spoiler/identify_tips.txt) and at (http://www.steelypips.org/nethack/id_faq.html). The latter one is really extensive.
There are many different methods of managing your character in the early part of the game (the first few thousand turns). Most are variants on the general strategy of...
The variations described below tend to focus on the fighting strategy. This is because you improve by fighting, but monsters improve as you go deeper and as your experience level goes up. I find this a delicate balancing act and recommend you pick a strategy that fits your level of risk taking and general comfort level.
the conservative method - Fight most of the monsters with help of your pet and when you run out of monsters on a level, go on down. The dungeon level and your experience level will be roughly equal for the first few levels. This improves your HP and power (makes you more dangerous) and more likely to survive a battle with the monsters you find on early levels. Many people have had YAFAP with this method - it worked for them and can work for you. However, if your armor does not improve, you can also die an early death to the first fast or strong monster you face.
the explorer - explore all the rooms in each level and go down in a systematic fashion. Pick and choose your battles. One of the goals here is to get a good selection of equipment early in the game. Several experienced players do this in the early game and take what the game gives them.
the semi-pacifist - I get a lot of negative comments by suggesting this option. This is an option that you should consider if the other methods do not work for you. As a strategy, let your pet kill almost all the monsters. You will descend at a rate that has your pet a "normal" one (cat, dog, horse) at dungeon level 3 or 4, a large pet (large cat, large dog, war horse) at dungeon level 5 or 6. The idea is to make it safely to the temple in Mine Town (DL 5-8) with a large pet, with experience level at or near one and pay the priest to improve your armor class to zero or below. Then you start to fight selected monsters to improve your HP and #enhance your skills. This is a very risky method - you have little or no margin when you have to fight.
the balanced method - explore each level fully before going down to the next level. Let your pet kill about half of the monsters so it gets experience as well - that way it lives longer to help you. Your experience level will be less than the conservative method. Your pet won't grow past small until level 5 or 6 and may not get large until levels 8 through 10.
There is a broad range of options between these strategies as well. A fighting character may do better with the conservative approach because they improve HP faster than the other monsters. Other characters can do better with the balanced approach because the pet lives longer and helps more. No matter which strategy you choose, don't hesitate to bypass or retreat from a dangerous situation and come back when you are ready for it.
This is an attempt to summarize ways to move through the dungeon to meet the specific needs you might have. Sometimes you want to go slowly and safely, sometimes fast is better. You need several methods to solve each problem.
As a general rule, as soon as you find the down stairs, go down and up right away (w/o the pet). This does two things for you - first, if you fall through a trap door you know where the up stairs are, and second, you create the initial monsters for that level while your experience is lower.
When you have time to go more slowly, let your pet go ahead of you to find those traps you want to avoid. For example, in a dark area you can search more often if you hear "rumbling in the distance" - an unseen boulder trap was tripped. Move the boulder to disarm it (unless you want to use it).
On some levels, you have a twisted path between the up and down stairs. In the mid to late game, you can dig a direct path between the up and down stairs. This can greatly speed your passage if you walk up with the amulet. If you make it two squares wide, it allows you to pass by monsters (instead of killing them) as well as serve as a reminder if your mind gets sucked by a mind flayer. It does take a number of turns to complete, take that into consideration (e.g., have food). If you don't want to spend as much time on this, you may want to do this only in the maze levels (below Medusa).
If you want to go down levels quickly, try the following strategy once you have a wand of digging or a good pick. Dig a hole within a few squares of the up stairs. A sequence of these will allow you to drop down several levels in a relatively short time. Since you found the up stairs on each level, you can find it relatively quickly when going back up later.
There is a complementary method you can apply when coming up through unmapped levels in Gehennom. If you find a teleporting monster (e.g., a higher level lich) and it gets into trouble, it will teleport to the up stairs. Use telepathy to find where that monster has gone. Follow it there and chase it up another level. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Crossing water can be done in several ways - levitation by blessed potion, boots or ring; boots of water walking; swimming with an amulet of magic breathing (items safe in an oilskin bag); freezing the water [snow boots help]; teleport (if allowed); or jumping to cross short distances. All but swimming works for lava as well (make your boots fire proof if needed).
When you get teleport control, a cursed or confused teleport provides a quick way to move between a number of levels. Get teleport control by eating the Wizard of Yendor (gives you aggravate monster if human), tengus (not certain), or with the ring. The only real limitation is that you can only move within the part of the dungeon you are currently in (e.g., the Main Dungeon, Gehennom).
Level teleport is also possible using two artifacts - the Orb of Fate and the Eye of the Aethiopica. The former can be invoked for level teleport. The latter can take you to the closest level of an already visited branch of the dungeon (main, Gnomish Mines, Sokoban, Quest, Gehennom).
On the ascension run, if you are in a real hurry, have plenty of food, and can teleport with control, you can go directly to the up stairs with teleport spell (or ^T), scroll, or wand of teleport. The spell (or ^T) takes 100 from your food (3 per C ration, 4 per K ration) as well as some energy, so use it with some care. On the non teleport levels, try a cursed gain level potion for a quick exit (especially from Moloch's Sanctum).
You can find a magic portal with a crystal ball, reading a scroll of gold detection when confused [or a cursed gold detection scroll], the Amulet of Yendor (on the planes it gets warm when near), or by searching. If you know you are near, try a wand of secret door detection or the bell of opening as well.
You can find secret doors with a wand of secret door detection or the Bell of Opening. Both are handy in Moloch's Sanctum when you tend to be in a hurry.
There are a few items that are not "required" but are so essential to survival that you should take special care to get these items before entering Gehennom.
Magic cancellation affects the chance of a set of special attacks (fire, cold, paralysis, and so on). Check the armor spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/armr-342.txt) near the end for more details as to which attacks this prevents. The chance for success is based on the following tests:
The cancellation level is none - 100% pass, level 1 - 67% pass, level 2 - 35% pass, level 3 - 2% pass, or monster cancelled (say by wand) - 0% pass. If all the tests pass, the special effect occurs. This is also independent of your resistance. For example, if you hit a fire trap and have third level magic cancellation (MC3), there is a 98% chance of no effect (all items safe). There is also the 2% chance that your scrolls / potions would be affected - but if you are resistant to fire - you won't suffer the attack to your body.
You get MC3 from the following items: mithril, oilskin cloak, cloak of magic resistance, elven cloak, robe, and cloak of protection. MC2 is available from: plate mail, crystal plate mail, and other cloaks (except the mummy wrapping), and a cornuthaum. A few other armor items provide MC1. If don't have one of these, try to pick up an elven cloak from one of the dead elves and use it unless you get a better item (e.g., cloak of magic resistance).
Reflection protects from ray attacks (Fire hits you, but fire reflects...). Reflection comes from only four items - amulet, shield, silver dragon scales, and silver dragon scale mail. The amulet is available 50% of the time in Sokoban. The shield is available either 25% or 75% of the time in Perseus's statue (percentage varies by layout of Medusa's level). To get scales, you generally need to get lucky when killing a silver dragon. Generally if you don't have this by the time you reach the castle, spend a wish or polymorph items to get it.
Magic resistance protects from magical attacks, polymorph traps, and teleportation traps. Magical attacks include the finger of death and destroy armor. This is extremely valuable as you start to face higher level monsters and as the traps get worse as you descend. It is available only from gray dragon scales, gray dragon scale mail, a few artifacts, and the cloak of magic resistance.
You can get these first three essential needs satisfied by two items - a cloak of magic resistance, and any item providing reflection. The best two is generally the cloak with silver dragon scale mail, since that leaves the amulet open for life saving and your left arm open for a second weapon (or shield). Another common choice is to use gray dragon scale mail with the shield or amulet of reflection and one of the good cloaks for magic cancellation. In general, use what you have and wish for a missing item if necessary.
The bag of holding makes inventory management far more simple than doing without it. Again, it is not required, but considered by many essential for survival. I ascended twice with sacks during the 2003 devnull tournament (http://nethack.devnull.net/) , but that required very careful item management and I do not recommend it. When uncursed, items within it weigh 1/2 and when blessed they weight 1/4. Sometimes a character is unlucky and doesn't find a bag of holding before the castle - then they spend a wish on a blessed greased bag of holding. A few cautions:
With a few exceptions you will lose the bag and everything in it to a "magical explosion". Just don't do it.
In addition to your bag of holding, I strongly suggest a sack or preferably an oilskin sack. Put one or two spare holy water potions and your wands of cancellation into this bag. You can also put your bag of holding in here if you want (to protect it from curses), but I prefer to keep the bag of holding out for when I need an item quickly. This sack named BACKUP holds the items needed to uncurse (or bless) your bag of holding when it gets cursed. Do not put this sack into your bag of holding.
In general, keep a few essential items outside of these two bags and keep everything else in these bags. That way, your scrolls, potions, rings, wands, and other items will stay uncursed (or blessed) and be safe from damage from special attacks.
Not essential, but highly recommended is keeping your character very fast and unburdened. Very fast means you move about 1.67 times faster than normal, fast means about 1.33 times normal speed. Being encumbered slows you down to 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 th the resulting speed. Fast and very fast characters get more hits per monster turn, and can outrun dangerous monsters as well.
A wand of speed monster can make you and your pet fast (permanent). Speed boots (when worn), potion of speed (temporary), or haste self spell (temporary) make you very fast. For most of the game you also need to stay unburdened to stay alive - drop items you don't need, establish stock piles, and keep several items in the [blessed] bag of holding.
The short form - you are what you eat.
Eating resistant items (monsters or rings) is the usual way to get a resistance permanently. This is one place where I continually look up in the monster manual to check if the corpse is safe to eat and what resistance I can get from it. The sooner you get the resistances - especially poison, the better your character will be.
The food spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/food-342.txt) will also tell you the chance of getting the resistance and the message you get when you get the resistance. The chance is based on monster level - for example, a black dragon will always give you disintegration resistance. You get the resistance when you finish eating - not when you start or get interrupted. For this reason, some people will tin the monster and eat from the tin instead. The dragon resistance spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/drgn-342.txt) provides additional information on how to get the resistances.
Telepathy is most often received by eating a floating eye. Then you can put on a blindfold or towel to see the thinking monsters in the current level.
Other methods to get intrinsics include #sitting on a throne, eating special monsters or rings, a few armor or weapon items, wearing rings, level up for some characters and so on. Consult the intrinsic spoilers (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/intr-342.txt and http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/rint-342.txt)
Your character starts with a "naked" armor class (AC) of 10. You can improve your naked AC through by #chatting with priests (see "The Protection Racket" section for more on this) or possibly when you #pray at a coaligned altar. The effects of better AC makes the monsters less likely to hit you and can reduce the effect of each hit.
Better armor (down to AC:0) makes the monsters less likely to hit you. Negative AC reduces the effect of each hit randomly between zero and the AC level (result increased to 1 hit point if needed). You can wear up to seven (boots, cloak, gloves, hat, shield, shirt, suit) items that can improve your AC.
The general method is to try each uncursed item on (in a safe area) to see the effect on you and your AC and keep the better stuff. If the item is something you want to keep through to the end of the game, enchant it to safe levels when you get the chance. The armor spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/armr-342.txt) goes into many specifics on the effects of each item, erosion, enchantment, and magic cancellation. The following goes into more of the strategy and tactics of armor selection.
Fighters can generally use all the armor they choose to carry. Spell casters need to avoid metal which hurt the spell casting rates. They may have to depend more on divine protection and a collection of leather items until they get better choices in the middle to end of the game. Monks have a special restriction as well, body armor puts a huge penalty on the to hit rates.
Boots improve your AC by one or two before enhancement. Perhaps the most valued boots are speed boots which makes you "very fast". You may want to wish for blessed fixed +2 speed boots with the castle wand before descending deeply into Gehennom. You can use other boots to get stealth, levitation, water walking, jumping, or kicking effects.
Cloaks tend to be used to get magic cancellation (MC) as well as the modest AC improvement. The AC improvement is one except for robe and magic resistance (two) and protection (three) before enhancement. Getting to the third level of magic cancellation can be considered "almost essential" for an ascension bound character. The 2% success rate with MC3 can still be annoying, but far better than a 35% or higher success rate.
After MC, there is no clear consensus on which cloak is better. It really depends upon your goals and tolerance for risk. The cloak of magic resistance provides both MC and MR, so it is a good choice. Some want the oilskin cloak to avoid drowning by krakens. Some want the robe for the bonuses for spell casting. An elven cloak is good if you don't have stealth some other way. A cloak of displacement or invisibility work early in the game when you don't have the attributes another way and don't need the higher level of MC. Even the "useless" mummy wrapping has a use - when you are invisible, put an uncursed one on to become visible to shop keepers.
In a similar manner, gloves improve your AC by one. The two "good" gloves are the gauntlets of power and dexterity. Generally these are used by fighters and spell casters respectively for the bonuses (e.g., power gives 25 strength = +3 to hit, +6 to damage).
Most helmets provide one or two levels of AC improvement before enhancement. For most characters, get one of several iron helmets to protect from falling rocks, and piercers. If you need it, the helm of telepathy or brilliance are better than most others because of the benefits, but are far less likely to be found than the other helmets. If a spell caster makes it to the castle without one, it might be a good wish for a blessed fixed +2 helm of brilliance.
For the early fighting character, a shield is a valuable addition. The Valkyrie starts with an enhanced small shield which helps a lot. Later, if you choose to keep wearing a shield, try to get a shield of reflection. The Perseus statue on Medusa's level often has a cursed one you can use. This can free up the amulet slot for life saving or magic breathing (in lieu of reflection). The spell caster must be more choosy - the small shield is the only one without metal - enchant it well if you use it.
By itself, an unenhanced shirt does not improve your AC and is a detriment if not covered when visiting a shop. The main reason to wear a shirt is to add 1 to 5 to your AC by enhancing it. A secondary reason to wear a shirt is to give curses another target than the items you want to keep uncursed.
Late in the game - almost all characters use enhanced dragon scale mail, usually gray or silver. Use gray for magic resistance and silver for reflection. If a dragon dies and drops scales - enchant them to make dragon scale mail. Remember that dragon mail has no magic cancellation - you will need that from another source.
Early in the game - if you do not need to cast spells, mithril (elven or dwarven) is an excellent choice. It is 1/3rd the weight of plate mail, within one or two AC of the improvement, and provides MC3. The spell caster is better off with a number of other armor items and do what it takes to get dragon scales.
Another improvement you can make to armor is to grease the following items:
In mid to late game, it is also helpful to prevent erosion of your armor items. In addition to the temporary protection of grease, you can read
The "protection racket" is a generic term applied to the method used by characters to improve their naked armor class by chatting to priests when your experience is low. From the "Donating to priests" spoiler (http://steelypips.org/nethack/340/prst-340.txt)...
400*XL (experience level) to (600*XL)-1 A possibility of receiving protection as detailed below; if protection not granted, same effects as the next case.
The "next case" is a message indicating your selfless generosity and an alignment adjustment if the priest is coaligned [and several other conditions].
For the first donation, the AC improvement is two to four. From naked AC 2 to 9, the AC improvement is one. At naked AC -9 to 1, a 1/(10-AC) chance of one AC improvement. So, for the XL:1 character, 2000 Zm can be good for 6 to 8 levels of AC improvement. For the XL:5 character, 2000 Zm can be good for only 2 to 4 levels of AC improvement. For the XL:14 character, you need 5600 Zm for each attempted improvement.
Let's combine methods from the previous two sections to get your character to various levels of armor class. You can generally pick and choose items to fit your needs. Keep the iron items limited (or take them off) if you need to cast spells. All these assume no erosion or other penalties to your armor items. Try to get your items greased (by wish or can of grease) and fixed (by wish, confused enchant armor, or confused cursed destroy armor) at the better armor levels. If you get lucky with good enhancement of one piece of armor, you don't need so much of the other armor enhancements. All of the higher level combinations should include third level magic cancellation, magic resistance, and reflection; choose items appropriately.
You can of course do better - I had one ascension with AC:-51 - but that is generally not needed.
A good weapon in the early game is one you can wield well and improve with. Check the #enhance list for the skills you can advance - don't spend time with weapons that don't help you. Also, use the weapons spoiler http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/weap-342.txt) for details on the extent you can train with each weapon and how effective the weapon is on both small and large monsters.
In particular note that some items that you might consider "the same" are in different skill groups. The dagger and knife are an example of that - a Valkyrie can become expert in dagger but is unskilled in knife.
Silver items (daggers, saber, spear, arrows, and rings) provide a bonus when striking many of the monsters found in Gehennom.
Two weapon combat (#twoweapon) is a technique valued by many players. It has two disadvantages:
You also need to train both weapons prior to the two weapon combat. You get no further improvement on these skills while wielding two weapons. #enhance your abilities in each weapon before you start to #twoweapon. Then improve #twoweapon to the highest level through use.
Artifacts as described in the spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/art1-341.txt) provide enhancements beyond the normal weapons they represent. For example, Excalibur - a lawful long sword has bonuses to hit and damage to all monsters. It also makes you resistant to level drain, provides automatic searching, but makes generated demons hostile. For the lawful character, get to experience level 5 and dip your long sword into fountains to get this if you want it. You may want to engrave Elbereth nearby before you #dip so monsters that appear can be scared.
Magicbane is an especially valuable athame (dagger skill) that gives magic resistance, catches curses, and with 40% of hits apply a variety of special effects to the monster being hit. Enchantment affects the special effects, +2 is a good compromise but check the spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/art2-341.txt) for details on the effects as well as a good guide to which artifact you should use.
You need to address both wielded weapons and long range needs. Daggers, knives, darts, shuriken, stones, bolts, and arrows can be quivered. Stones are more effective when wielding a sling, arrows with bows, and so on. A higher level character (enhanced plus higher dexterity) can fire more than one item in a turn - an effective attack against stronger monsters. You enhance these skills in a way similar to the other weapons.
The final complement to your weapons are fighting wands and spells. Fighters can use wands to offset their poor spell casting skills. Especially late in the game, keep a few wands in your main inventory so you can take action without wasting time getting the wand out of the bag.
A few characters deserve the instant kill almost any time you encounter them. Rodney is one, higher level lich's and other monsters that summon nasties deserve the same treatment. Demogorgon is a special case, and is one of the nasties that can be summoned - check the Demogorgon FAQ (http://steelypips.org/nethack/demogorgon_faq.html) for details on surviving and then taking out the big bad D.
Some of the ways to deliver the instant kill include:
There is an instadeath spoiler (http://steelypips.org/nethack/instadeath.html) that is focused on how you die instantly. If you can deliver those same methods to a monster, you can use them too.
Orcus has a guaranteed wand of death. The hard part is you need to take it away from him before he uses all the charges (or recharge it if used up). The wand of death is useless against the undead, but does a good job on Famine, Pestilence, the High Priest in the Sanctum, Rodney, and Vlad.
The c corpse is a particularly dangerous weapon - to both you and to most of the monsters that you use it against. A few cautions:
This is a particularly helpful weapon against the named demons in Gehennom (except Juiblex).
When you read about ascensions, one of the things that are pretty uniform are the high levels of hit points (HP) that the character attains. Level gain is only one way to do this. Other methods include:
In the early game, a blessed full heal can add a substantial percentage boost to the character's hit points. In the late game, you need to add a hundred hit points or more and require one of the latter two methods or a pile of alchemized blessed full healing potions.
In the early game, the pet you start with is stronger than you are. Let's do a quick comparison of the cat, dog, horse, and your starting character.
The speed boost is the most important difference. The speed difference basically means that your pet gets in three or four hits per two of your turns. You usually can't fix that difference w/o speed boots or a wand of speed - look for both of these as you go along.
A pacifist (or semi-pacifist) playing style relies on the pet to take out the monsters for the main character. This will result in a stronger pet than you would get from a fighting strategy. Let's compare your large pet and your character early in the game.
At this point, your pet is strong enough to take on most of the monsters you will encounter in either the Gnomish Mines or Sokoban. However, they won't fight the store keepers nor priest unless it is a warhorse. Note they may die after repeated battles - take them away to recover or heal them if needed.
If you want a stronger pet for the mid to late game, you need a better method. There are basically four methods available:
Posts that mention strong pets often mention purple worms (Burrrrp!), Archons (can wear armor and wield good weapons), ki-rin and dragons (riding). I have also found that trolls (T) may not be as strong, but live well since they regenerate.
I tend to prefer pets that are fast - they have to keep up with me. For a purple worm, I find I have to keep using the magic whistle and make sure it is done eating before changing levels. You may want to avoid strong pets that can go wild and resist taming. Higher level liches are a prime example of this (you tame the lower level one and it gets resistant when it levels up).
There are a few special tools that almost every character should collect. Most are "nice to have", but a couple are almost essential (but relatively easy to get). Details for these are also in the tools spoiler (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/tool-342.txt).
Four bags are available - sack, bag of tricks, oilskin sack, and bag of holding. Use naming to help identify them.
The candles can be bought at the lighting store in Mine Town, but occasionally appear in the dungeon as well. I had one game where the store had only five candles and had to pick up others as I moved on down. Make sure you have seven of them. I suggest you apply them to the candelabrum as soon as you find it - the candles are harder to lose that way. Polymorph tools or wish for candles (one wish is good for up to 7) if you must.
The crystal ball can search for any symbol on the map (except stairs), but makes you immobile for 1 to 10 turns. Keep your intelligence high and apply only in a relatively safe situation. If it fails, the best result is nothing - it can explode or blind, confuse, or hallucinate you.
Use the can of grease to your armor and weapons to protect them from rust, corrosion, and from grabbing attacks. Grease on armor can wear off on 50% of the attacks, so a mind flayer can remove the grease and suck your brains in one turn if you are unlucky. Try to kill mind flayers and grabbing monsters at a distance. You can also #untrap squeaky boards with grease to gain a small amount of experience. Grease your bag to help prevent accidental potion dilution or scroll blanking.
Lamps are oil, magic, or brass. Name an unknown lamp and see if you find one that doesn't have the same name. One of the two is magic. The magic lamp will never run out of oil - some characters use it for that purpose and not the wish. Rub a blessed magic lamp to get an 80% chance of a wish from a djinni, it is only a 5% chance of a bad outcome (hostile monster).
The leash and magic whistle are valuable to keep the pet close to you. Remember to remove the leash when trying to BUC test items with the pet. Magic whistles will also self identify if you have a pet when applied (and it works).
Magic markers are generated with 25 to 99 charges. They can be recharged once with a blessed scroll of charging (generally taking it to 50 charges). Higher level scrolls and spells take more charges on average. The charges are used in a complicated formula described in the scroll and spell book spoilers. This is a pretty popular wish if you need more scrolls like enchant armor.
Get a mirror from a nymph. Use to either scare the monster approaching you or to reflect the gaze attacks (e.g., Medusa turns to stone). A cursed one only works 1/2 as often as an uncursed or blessed one.
Musical instruments have a few helpful effects:
You can use the bugle, tooled horn, wooden or magic harp to open the drawbridge at the castle.
The stethoscope is a pretty valuable tool to...
There are other situations where you get a humorous message as well. Apply only once per turn if you want to avoid losing that turn.
The tinning kit (preferably blessed) converts corpses into healthy food and provide the same intrinsic as eating the corpse. A blessed tin opens in one turn and is not poisonous or rotten. For example, use a blessed tinning kit on giant zombie corpses and eat the tin to get some nutrition and a strength boost.
The towel is slightly better than a blindfold. Put it on to make you blind (for telepathy or make you resistant from gaze attacks). The towel can also clean your hands. Keep it blessed if you can so it is safe to put on / remove late in the game.
The unicorn horn can be used to cure sickness, restore lost strength and other attributes, cure blindness, confusion, hallucination, and stunning. Success rates are higher when blessed (80%) than uncursed (67%) for curing a single problem. Get the horn from any dead unicorn.
The wishing spoiler (http://www.nethack.de/spoiler330/wishing-330.txt) goes into far more details than needed for the ascension guide. You should still read it to understand the chances of each item and enchantments. By the way, don't try to wish for a wand of wishing or a magic lamp - nice try, but you won't get one.
There are certainly a number of strategies that rely on the use of a particular item. The strategy listed here won't recommend those items such as a blessed ring of polymorph control which has a variety of special uses. Having said that, let's focus on the essentials first and then the nice to have items.
As mentioned in another part of the guide, the "essentials" are magic cancellation, magic resistance, reflection, a bag of holding, a good weapon, and great armor. The choice you make should be based on the situation - what you have and what you still need. In one game, you may wish for an artifact while another game you have a good one and wish for gray dragon scale mail instead.
The list below has common selections so you can cut/paste them and end up spelling it right each time :-). The value two can be replaced by three if you don't mind a little more risk at getting only one item (or no enhancement) - read the spoiler for the details.
Most of the role appropriate weapons come from sacrificing or praying at altars - if you really want those, try those methods first. You can do without an artifact - I ascended with a rogue wielding a +2 silver dagger and six quivered daggers, but it tends to make the game harder.
Some nice to have items (not essential but VERY helpful to ascend) include...
In case you don't know, you can get wishes from...
Only the first method is "safe", the others have a non-zero chance of bad effects.
Alchemy refers to the method of mixing (#dip) potions to produce other [more valuable] potions. One of the potion spoilers (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/pot2-342.txt) provide a list of the possible combinations. For the potions listed, the guide includes the mixture as well as the general effects used by the ascending character.
To a lesser extent...
Note that you can mix more than one potion at a time to get several of the new potions. The potions you #dip get converted to be the new diluted and uncursed potion and one of the "into potions" gets used up. A final note - acid, cursed potions, and 10% of any other mixture will explode - using up one of each potion and causing one to ten hit points of damage.
Like wishes, applying a magic marker to write a scroll or spell book is a choice you make depending on the situation. I will assume you have used a scroll or spell of identify to determine how many marker charges you have left. I also assume you know the identity of the scroll you are writing. The chances of a non-wizard guessing a scroll or spell book is too low to waste marker charges. Let's start again with the essential items and then some of the nice to have items.
The primary essentials are blessed enchant armor and blessed enchant weapon scrolls. They both take 8 to 15 marker charges (average of 12). Monitor the remaining charges as you use them.
Some of the nice to have scrolls include:
Spell books require 5-10 charges per level and have the same problems with writing them. The wizard can get most from an altar so write one if you get unlucky with the gifts from your god.
Obviously, it is better to prevent problems, but you need one or more methods to cure problems when they do occur. Here are common problems and at least on or more method to cure each one. Consult the trouble spoiler (http://www.helsinki.fi/~vviitane/spoilers/trouble) for more solutions as well.
Buying time in fights - read a scroll of earth to build a fort, teleport the worst monster away (only works 1/13 times for Death, Pestilence, or Famine), teleport yourself (doesn't work on no teleport levels), retreat to a corridor or knight's move from a door to fight one monster at a time, engrave Elbereth (some monsters don't respect it).
Cursed item or Punishment - best to "not do that" (try on cursed items or read the punishment scroll). Lots of ways to fix this. Most common is to remove the curse (scroll, spell, holy water) and remove. Curses are removed if you enchant the item as well. You can use the ball as a weapon if you like, the chain is pretty worthless.
Blindness, Confusion, Hallucination, Sickness - best to apply the unicorn horn (not cursed) until cured. You can also quaff extra or full healing if you need a "no fail" method (say when fighting Demogorgon or Pestilence).
Stoning - Avoid by scaring the monster (several methods) so you don't get attacked. Best solution is to just eat a lizard or acidic corpse. Other methods work in special circumstances.
Sliming - Avoid by killing at a distance or zap with a wand of cancellation. If slimed, protect your gear and put yourself on fire (variety of methods).
As an alternative to taking good notes or using altars to determine BUC status, you can record information in the game by naming items. Here are some examples:
Be inventive and let the game help you keep the information you need to win. Here is a great example provided by Tina Hall. Which set of scrolls would you rather have?
a scroll of enchant armor 2 cursed scrolls of enchant armor 2 scrolls of enchant armor 2 uncursed scrolls of enchant armor a scroll of enchant armor or a scroll of enchant armor named !c. 3 scrolls of enchant armor named C 4 scrolls of enchant armor named !c..
With the latter combination you can make a good guess that the single one is blessed and the stack with 4 is uncursed. Next read a blessed scroll of remove curse, and rename the group of three to merge with the set of four (as well as for other cursed items). Now you can dip the uncursed items in holy water to make them all blessed scrolls (7 identified as blessed, one still with the !c. name).
Most of the guide has been focused on trying to give you techniques on playing better. This section instead looks at mistakes that cause "Yet Another Stupid Death" or a close escape from a dangerous situation.
Perhaps the most reviled action is called "save scumming" - using a copy of the save file to restore a recently killed character. That character is dead, start another one and learn from your experience.
There are other actions that can be considered abusive including:
Doing these things will not make you a better player. There are plenty of ways to get the same kind of effect within the game, you just have to think how to do it. Play the game in the spirit it was intended to be played or do something else.
You have been here before and died several times trying to get the famed Amulet of Yendor. This time, take it a little more slowly to start. Let your pet kill more of the monsters than you do. Avoid fights if you need to. Try on the armor that your pet determines is not cursed. Explore the levels fully. Visit any stores you find and see if you can identify important items by price.
By the time you make the "first major decision", try to get your armor up at least two or three levels with armor selections and get your pet to be "large". If the pet dies, try to get your hit points up to at least 50 to compensate.
At dungeon level 2 through 4, you will find two stairs down into the dungeon. One takes you to the Gnomish Mines, the other continues down the main dungeon. The first major decision made by characters is to ...
Based on the same YAFAP's, the consensus appears to go do the Gnomish Mines first and then Sokoban, but others will suggest Sokoban first. Let's go over the advantages and disadvantages of each and let you decide.
Gnomish Mines first - the main advantages of visiting the Mines first include:
The disadvantage with the Gnomish Mines is that level for level, it tends to be more dangerous than the main dungeon. It has more monsters on average per level, more traps, and wide open areas. Some levels are dark as well but infravision tends to mitigate that problem. Check the detailed strategy below for guidance on when to proceed and when to retreat.
Sokoban first - the main advantages of visiting Sokoban first include:
The main disadvantage is that the entry to Sokoban is often deeper than Mine Town (levels 6-10 vs. 5-8) and you will see stronger monsters on the way.
I have done it both ways and can't strongly recommend one over the other. Another choice is to make it to Mine Town, pay the priest for protection if you can, and then do Sokoban and Mine's End in that order. That gets the primary benefits earlier in the game. If you survive that sequence, you have a character likely to make it safely to Medusa's level.
The Gnomish Mines tend to have more wide open spaces - with a few corridors or small gaps in them. A level will generally be completely lit or unlit - act appropriately. Entering with a large pet is far safer than without, but a competent character can descend without one.
When you enter a level, check the situation. If you enter in a wide open area use some of the following tips to survive.
If the stairs are in a relatively small room or corridor, you can move some distance away and use the same techniques used in the main dungeon. Don't hesitate to retreat to a safe area and come back later; Mine Town is not a destination you should die for.
Since the level is relatively open, you might want to spend a little time to gather the weapons and unused armor and put into a pile with Elbereth underneath. That will tend to keep the monsters from picking up the loot and using it again.
A few levels down, you will enter Mine Town. There are currently seven different layouts with different combinations of stores. Check the Gazetteer if you need to know which way to go to the stores and the temple. #chat with the priest to buy protection (if you can). Use the stores to do more price id, theft, and purchases.
A large pet (cat, dog, horse) will kill one or more guards, but may die if you let it continue. Use a leash or magic whistle if needed to control the pet and check with a stethoscope if you have one. A stronger pet will kill the shop keepers and priest; again control it to meet your needs.
If your armor class is at zero or below, preferably at -4 or so, it is likely safe to descend further into the mines. More doesn't mean you will survive though. I had AC:-14 on one game but died not to the monsters, but to an instant death. YMMV. If not, you may want to...
Eventually you should get to a level where you can proceed safely.
If you descend further into the mines, you will find levels similar to those above Mine Town. The Mines' End is one of three different layouts. Each include a guaranteed luck stone and valuable gems. The "wine cellar" also has some guaranteed potions. The catacombs has guaranteed scrolls and spell books. Again check the Gazetteer for details if needed.
On the Mines' End levels with both a luck and lode stone, make sure you kick the gray stones before picking them up. The lode stone will always give you a Thump! for a message. There is a problem with at least one gem position - you can't kick the gem to check (it wouldn't move because of the wall). In that case, search all the gem locations to see if you can determine it separately. If all else fails, it is a 1/2 chance of getting it right - if wrong, use one of the techniques to remove the cursed lode stone and drop it.
I have made it back to Mine Town at most five times in a complete game. Don't worry if you find yourself returning to do special actions. Don't forget to buy candles before the last time you leave.
As mentioned above, there are a number of benefits of solving the puzzles in Sokoban. There are spoilers (http://steelypips.org/nethack/soko-331.html) that show at least one solution. I consider Sokoban to be a good break in the early to mid game. The bag or amulet almost always get used for some time during the ascension.
For this guide, I'll mention a few strategies that are helpful in solving the puzzles and for the area in general:
When you finally make it to the top, pick up your bag of holding or amulet of reflection and leave the way you came.
You enter what seems to be an older, more primitive world. That is your greeting to the Rogue level on levels 15 to 18 of the main dungeon.
From the gazetteer (http://www.spod-central.org/~psmith/nh/gazetteer/rogue.html): "This level is an homage to NetHack's ancestor, rogue(6);like the levels in rogue, its layout is a 3*3 grid, each space of which can contain either a room or a corridor node. There are no doors, but there may be secret doorways; each room is either lit or unlit."
There are a few additional rules you should be aware of:
Otherwise, the rogue level is not particularly harder or easier than the regular dungeon. The movement difference is annoying
If you want a souvenir, you have a 50% chance of an identified "cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor" in a fake bones pile.
The big room isn't in every Nethack game (only 40% chance) and turns out to be one of the more difficult levels in the game [based on when you find it]. The main problem is the wide open space with 28 random monsters (a typical level starts with a handful). Your strategy then becomes how to survive until all the monsters are gone (or peaceful). Some strategies that work pretty well include...
This is a place where it pays to be patient. In one big level, I had to come back four or five times before enough monsters were gone that I could cross safely between the stairs.
The fort is not in every Nethack game either. You get to the fort from a magic portal in a vault between dungeon level 11 and Medusa's level. Consult the gazetteer if you want the details of how the portal is created and the layout of the fort itself.
When you arrive, "You penetrated a high security area! An alarm sounds!". If you have telepathy, try it a moment to see how many monsters there are to take out (over a hundred). Needless to say, you have entered a pretty high risk area. If you don't have reflection (and preferably magic resistance), I recommend leaving right away and coming back when better prepared. The only exception that seems to make sense is to put on a ring of conflict and wait until the dragons are dead. A few trolls should be present as well - be prepared for them to come back to life. All the usual suggestions for fighting work here as they do in other areas - the focus here is on what to do specifically in the fort.
The first area you find looks like this...
.Zoo.| .....| ..-S-- ..|... ..|.X^
Where a Zoo is in the room above the portal room, S represents a secret door, the ^ represents the magic portal, and the X is a pretty good place to fight from (one monster at a time, adjacent to the portal). Engraving Elbereth on the fighting spot can also help by scaring monsters (but not for the soldiers). After killing the first two dozen monsters, you can search through the loot for interesting items and move forward to a similar position near the next door. If you can, pick up a C or K ration so you can eat quickly - the fighting ahead will take a while.
By the time you make it to the second fighting position, many of the soldiers from the barracks should be out and the four dragons are raging. Again, take your time to kill the monsters coming through the door one at a time. This will take a long time.
Not recommended - if you want excitement and have all the resistances (and reflection), stand in front of the door and let the monsters shoot at you (and hit the monsters in front of you). I might do that - only for a single turn to pick up a useful wand if dropped by one of the dead monsters.
When the flow of monsters abate, you have gotten rid of one half to two thirds of the monsters. Congratulations. Search the loot for interesting items if needed. If the dragons are still around, you can kill them singly to eat the corpses for the intrinsics and get some scales to turn into scale mail. You should move faster than they do so avoiding them can be a strategy as well.
Beware of the moat - if you have not seen Medusa's level, this may be your first time facing monsters in the water that can kill you in a single turn. Kill at a distance (stones or wands are good) or freeze the water to make it safer.
The barracks on the far right may have a few chests to loot and may have some lagging soldiers to take care of.
The entry to the center section is through a secret door on the right end. You need a good way to cross water - a boulder will do or one of the usual methods. Don't forget to take care of the eels in the moat if you need to. Beyond the secret door is a large throne room w/ Croesus.
Croesus is not too hard, but I don't suggest melee unless your armor is in great shape (AC:-20). He is fast and in melee, he gets 4 hits per turn w/ 1-10 HP damage each! You will also have perhaps 40 monsters in the room with him, so be prepared for a big battle. You may want to zap wands or throw the weapons from the outer room across the moat and through the door to kill monsters to thin the group before you enter. Once the last group of monsters is gone, the active part of the battle is over. Do another search for loot, work the throne, and get ready to check out the vault.
The main part of the vault is 60 squares with gold (600 - 899 Zm each) on each square. In addition to the gold, expect on average 7 spiked pits and 14 land mines. You can boost your luck and untrap the land mines, but note that is recommended for Rogues and Rangers only (they have better chances to succeed). One suggestion is to use auto pickup on gold in the vault and take the damage from the land mines. If you do that, turn off auto pickup if you normally have it off when done. An alternative is to walk between the traps (when you can), taking the gold & just skipping the land mine squares. That would get you most of the gold without any of the pain. Each corner tower has diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and amethysts. Kick the door down to enter diagonally to avoid a trap in front of the door if needed.
So - for the benefit of 30 to 50 thousand Zorkmids, a dozen known (but not identified) gems, and a big pile of armor, weapons, and food (C and K rations), you have to risk loss of life in a long battle. I recall being there several times, each time was a hard battle but worth the time and effort. But, if you want a lower risk ascension, pass the Fort by and do it another game.
The quest consists of a set of challenges appropriate for the character you have selected. Use the gazetteer for reference if needed. Enter through the magic portal and make your way to the Quest Leader to get permission before descending into the other quest levels. The nemesis is between 4 and 5 further levels down. Get the Bell of Opening and Quest Artifact from him and return to the leader to get them identified.
The next few paragraphs provide some strategy for each quest. A few common things first:
You should read the next section and decide how much of the "three tough levels" you want to do before or after the Quest. The quest artifact may make those levels much easier and the castle wand of wishing could help improve your kit enough to ease the Quest. The Valkyrie or Wizard should try to do the Quest first if you can because of the artifact benefits. The Monk and Samarai should probably do the opposite because of the preparation needed to survive the nemesis. For the rest, I can't make a firm recommendation at this point since it depends so much on the nemesis, your equipment, and the value of the artifact.
Archaeologist - A lot of mummies and snakes, but you should be able to handle them. There are four altars that can be used. The Minion of Huhetotl is pretty mean - AC:-2, melee at 8d4 and 4d6 as well as random spells. The orb is pretty good - magic resistance and telepathy, plus half spell damage.
Barbarian - A lot of ogres, trolls, random O and T monsters. I didn't find these monsters too hard on my ascension. An altar to use if desired. Thoth Amon is a spell caster, AC:0, two spells per turn, plus only 1d6 melee. He goes down pretty easily, but you will likely have several items to uncurse. The Heart of Ahriman conveys stealth when carried and toggles levitation when invoked. Oh well.
Caveman / Cavewoman - several tight squeezes will require careful management of the equipment. You might want to leave a stock pile and travel light to make it easier. Monsters should not be a problem. The Chromatic Dragon is a pretty tough customer, AC:0, random breath, magic spell, two 4d8 bites and a 1d6 sting. Bring good armor and reflection to ease the battle. Eat the corpse to get a resistance. The Sceptre of Might conveys magic resistance and has bonuses when wielded. Invoke it to toggle on/off conflict.
Healer - you better have a good way to cross water; you could get lucky and cross by swimming but I would not recommend it. The rats and snakes should not be a problem but there are enough dragons mixed in that might make you flee. A couple altars to use if desired. The Cyclops is relatively tough in melee, AC:0 and two 4d8 attacks. The Staff of Aesculapius is pretty nice - double damage plus level drain on living monsters, protects from level drain, and can heal several problems when invoked.
Knight - most of the monsters are not bad, but acid resistance would help with the ochre jellies. Ixoth is pretty tough, fire breath at 8d6, bite at 4d8, claw at 2d4, and a spell each turn. Bring fire resistance, magic resistance, and reflection if you have it to make it easier. You could get fire resistance by eating the corpse, but I would not recommend it (get it before). The Magic Mirror of Merlin is a source of magic resistance and causes double damage from several spells.
Monk - monsters are elementals; they could be a problem for a character with weak armor. A couple altars are available. Master Kaen is very tough - AC:-10, two 16d2 claw attacks, and a spell attack each turn. An instant death might is a good choice if you can arrange it, but he gets magic resistance as soon as he picks up the artifact. Don't bother eating the corpse - you should already have poison resistance. The eyes of the Overload provides magic resistance, conveys X-ray vision when worn, and enlightens you when invoked.
Priest / Priestess - zombies and wraiths abound. Expect to gain a couple levels from wraith corpses from the number of monsters you find. Nalzok is relatively tough, AC:-2, attack at 8d4 and 4d6 plus a spell. Bring good armor. The Mitre of Holiness provides fire resistance, and half damage from undead (except a the Horsemen and a few other ones). Also increases intelligence and wisdom like a helm of brilliance.
Ranger - expect to get a lot of arrows. Monsters should not be a problem, mostly centaurs. Don't let them gang up on you and you should be OK. Scorpius is best killed at a distance due to the illness attack, bring several healing methods if needed. The Longbow of Diana confers telepathy and when wielded provides reflection and increased to hit bonus. Invoke it to make more arrows.
Rogue - a Rogue must be resourceful. There are two main problems - getting rid of the chameleons in a safe manner, and getting to the nemesis (and out safely). I had to come back a couple times when the chameleons got too tough. To get to the Master Assassin, you can either polymorph to a Xorn to go through the walls, or dig a hole from above and drop into the center section (return with cursed gain level). The Master Assassin goes down pretty easily (as a Xorn, you might only have 50 HP), thrown daggers work well.
Samurai - the monsters should not be a problem, try to take them on one at a time. You do get some loot in the Shogun's castle. Ashikaga Takauji is somewhat tough - especially wielding the artifact. The Tsurugi of Muramasa acts like a luck stone and has a 5% chance of instant kill in addition to various damage bonuses. An instant kill is suggested if you can arrange it.
Tourist - A few challenges with zoo, barracks, and graveyards; be prepared. If you are at XL 12 or 13, you can lure a wraith to the main dungeon to kill and get your experience up to level 14. The Master of Thieves should be not to hard, AC:0, and two hits at 2d6 per turn. In one game, he slept until I zapped him with a death wand. The Platinum Yendorian Express Card provides magic resistance and telepathy, plus half damage from spells. Keep it blessed and invoke it to act as a scroll of charging. Very handy for all those wands and other chargeable items.
Valkyrie - Some have said the most dangerous part of this quest are the drawbridges. Expect to come out a lot stronger (and with fire resistance) if you can eat all those giants. Lord Surtur is somewhat strong, AC:2 with two attacks at 2d10. Good armor to protect you and a strong attack will kill him without too much problem. The Orb of Fate provides warning, half damage from spells and physical attacks, and is a luck stone. Invoke it for level teleport.
Wizard - Monsters are not too much of a problem. The Dark One should not be too hard with AC:0, two hits at 1d6 and a spell. Hurry back to the up stairs and finish him off there if he runs away. Once you get the Eye of Aethiopica, expect to have to bless a few items. The Eye can be carried for magic resistance and energy regeneration plus half spell damage. Wear the Eye for telepathy and invoke to do a special level teleport between dungeon branches.
Three special levels, Medusa, The Castle, and the Valley of the Dead can appear on consecutive levels or be separated by one or more maze levels. The first time visitor to these areas tends to consider them in order - this guide tends to be written with that in mind. However, there is no reason you cannot move between these levels as needed to meet your objectives. A few alternate scenarios follow.
You have completed the quest, have the bell and candles, but don't have an easy way to cross water. Dig a hole to go past Medusa. Come back up to kill Medusa and check the statue of Perseus. If you still don't have water walking, go into the Castle and use the wand of wishing for a ring of levitation. Clean up the Valley of the Dead and Medusa's Island level, put the items you don't want to carry into a cache and then go deep into Gehennom.
You are at XL:12 or 13 - need to get the last two before doing the quest. Take care of the monsters in Medusa's level, The Castle, and the Valley of the Dead until you reach XL:14. Then do the quest and come back. Finish cleaning up these areas, then use the wand of wishing to complete your ascension kit and go down.
By the time you reach Medusa's Island, you should have good enough equipment to kill her. The problem I almost always have is I lack a way to cross the water safely. The three methods I try to get are:
If I don't have one of these methods, I will usually turn back and spend a few thousand turns to look for them.
Now, you don't have to do that. There are other techniques described in the moving strategies section that work as well (teleport is not allowed). Use another method to get past Medusa's level (usually by digging). There is a pair of water walking boots guaranteed in Vlad's Tower, Perseus's statue has a 25% or 75% chance of cursed levitation boots (chance varies by level layout), and the wand of wishing is guaranteed in the Castle. But note, I recommend a sure method of levitation before entering the Valley of the Dead, so however you do it, take care of this now.
Another problem I have on less than half the visits to Medusa's Island is the Titan. Here's a short quote from the YAAP for my wizard to explain...
"I hate titans. An invisible one summoned monsters & cursed two armor and the towel I used to see him. Teleported him away to clean up the mess and finally took him out. Medusa went down in one hit. The statues were no help. Prayed to remove the curses & got Stormbringer [and crowned - no message?!]."
The titan does not appear on the level with the circular island in the middle - I prefer that level. In the other level, the titan may be peaceful (it has happened to me twice) so you might not have the problem. As I noted above, make it a priority to take him out quickly if it is hostile and fix up the damage he causes.
This is often the first level where you encounter monsters that can drown you. A swamp can occur before, but is not likely. Try to kill them at range (rocks) or avoid them when possible (warning, telepathy). If you fight in melee, and the eel wraps itself around you, you have one turn to fix this problem. Take a moment to check which sea monster is holding you before using one of the few suggestions that follow:
For best safety, avoid the problem but be prepared in any case. Identify the rescue items and keep a few in your main inventory before crossing the water.
An annoyance you might encounter is a hostile gremlin. If hostile, in a few turns, the level will be flooded with a herd of 1 HP gremlins. If it is after midnight while playing, save and come back in a safe time period. Otherwise, they go down in one hit each and just get in the way.
As I noted above, killing Medusa should not be a big problem. Get blind first (towel or blindfold are my favorite methods) and use telepathy to enter the room with her. Medusa is sleeping when you enter the level. The squeaky board traps or titan can wake her up however. If you want a low risk experience, apply the mirror you should have by this point. She does go down pretty quickly to ranged attacks or melee with a strong weapon. She sometimes has a wand (lightning in one game) and will sometimes kill herself with the reflections.
Once Medusa is dead, you get to view her statue safely. If an Archaeologist, you will take an alignment hit if you break most of the statues on this level (they are "historic"). Loot the statues if you need the items, but remember you don't always get them. I also tend to pick up the stones and move them off the down stairs just to be neat, but that is not required.
The castle is a good place to stock up before you enter the Valley of the Dead. It has a guaranteed wand of wishing, but it also has over 28 monsters in the throne room (EHLMNORTXZ), 40 soldiers from the two barracks, four sharks, four giant eels, and four dragons near the back hall. There is also a tall, thin maze on both ends - up stairs on the left and the return from the VotD on the right.
Depending on your level, some of the monsters may teleport to greet you. Do not be in too much of a hurry to leave the area next to the up stairs in case you need a fast get away. Having magic resistance will prevent the destroy armor spells from taking effect as well. On one game, I had to come back with a c corpse to take care of the demi lich and the friends he brought with him.
Once you are relatively safe from the early arrivals, you have two choices - go in the front door (drawbridge) or the rear (moat and pits). If you are careful, you can go in through the drawbridge and avoid the use of levitation or other water crossing method. I will describe that first, then an alternative front entry, and then describe the rear entry.
Stand a knight's move away from the drawbridge and get out a musical instrument (you brought one - right?). If you god has already given you the tune, apply the instrument, say no to "improvise", and you will get the choice to play the pass tune directly. The door opens and the monsters start to flow out. You can fight from the location you are at until the flow of monsters disappear. If want the option to avoid a particularly nasty monster trying to come out, you can close the drawbridge (play the tune again), but this will destroy the items on the bridge and the closed door. Warning - stepping onto the drawbridge while monsters are present can be dangerous - a wand of striking will destroy it and kill you.
If you do not know the tune, you can solve a mastermind game. Play five notes (A through G) and Nethack will respond with clicks (right note, wrong space) and gear turns (right note, right space). Get all five right and the drawbridge opens - and the game remembers you know the pass tune. Handle the fighting as described above.
If you want to enter through the front door but do not want to bother with the drawbridge, you could just blow up the drawbridge with a wand of striking (stand back). Then use a handy boulder (e.g., scroll of earth) to fill the moat or cross using levitation or water walking. If you use a boulder, you can use the knight's move location to fight as described above as well.
To go into the back entrance, you need to cross the moat to the top or bottom of the castle and cross to the right side. A door at the rear of the castle opens to a corridor that has several trap doors to drop you into the Valley of the Dead. Don't fill in all these trap doors unless you can level teleport with control. Levitation or jumping is pretty much needed to cross this area. As you move towards the main room, monsters will tend to fall in the first trap door and enter the Valley of the Dead. Kill them now if you can so they can't mob you when you descend.
Either way you enter you should clean out the monsters in the main room and the barracks. This gives you access to the two long side halls. One tower at the end of these halls has the wand of wishing - close and lock the door, and make your wishes.
The dragons are in short side halls off of the back hall. If you stand in the middle, a blast from one dragon will often destroy the door behind you and they all come out. Stand to the side of the door to take them on one at a time if you can, get the scales if needed, and eat the corpses you need (when not satiated) to get needed resistances.
That sequence wraps up the major fighting. You may want to go through all the loot from the monsters and the back hall rooms to find helpful items. For example, I usually take a handful of K rations and put them into the bag, the rest go into a pile near the up stairs. The same with wands, potions, and scrolls. If you need to blank potions or scrolls, you also have plenty of water to work with.
Drop through one of the trap doors to enter the Valley of the Dead. You will land on or near the up stairs. If you fill all the trap doors, you have to use controlled level teleport to go down. The up stairs back to the castle are one way - they bring you back to the right side of the Castle (w/o down stairs).
You arrive at the Valley of the Dead... The odor of burnt flesh and decay pervades the air. You hear groans and moans everywhere. Those are the words that greet you. In addition, there are three graveyards, ghosts, vampire bats, mummy's, zombies, vampires, and a lich (plus whatever monsters fell in from the Castle). You arrive on or near the up stairs at the lower right of the level. The down stairs are in the upper left corner past Moloch's temple.
This is an area where you can generally pick and choose your battles. Each graveyard is widely separated from the next and with care (don't hit the squeaky board) you can move through without waking too many monsters at once. Don't try to lure the wraiths to the castle level for corpses - the castle level won't leave many corpses either. Another suggestion - check the chests after all the monsters are gone from an area, if your luck is poor, a trap can ruin your day....
In Moloch's temple, you have another chance to #chat with a priest for protection, and use the altar for BUC testing. Do not bother praying or sacrificing on the altar - your prayers won't help you on any level from here on down (except in Vlad's tower). I also tend to leave a pile of items in the corner to reduce the burden for the trip down. - mainly items picked up crossing this level that I might want later. Other players will consolidate the loot found here with the cache in the main dungeon.
You generally do not want to come back after entering Gehennom. I got a lot of criticism for saying that, but I am trying to emphasize the need for thorough preparation at this point. If you forgot something, you can always come back to get it (with level teleport or a few thousand turns of walking), but this is a good place to assess your condition before continuing. Get your gear fixed up, check that you have everything you need to survive (and to do the invocation if you don't plan to come back), and then go down from the Valley of the Dead to enter the mazes.
The maze levels in Gehennom are annoying but not to hard for the properly prepared player. About half of the levels in Gehennom are mazes only. Special levels for Asmodeus, Baalzebub, and Rodney's tower have a fixed area with the maze surrounding it. You may get lucky and find the down stairs within a few squares of the up stairs. You may have to cross most of the level to go between stairs as well.
A few things to note about the mazes:
As a fighter, I have two general strategies in the mazes:
#1 move quickly through the level, digging where necessary until I find the down stairs. Then make a relatively direct path between the stairs and continue down. (or have an effective way to teleport directly to the up stairs)
#2 magic map (or search exhaustively) the levels where the stairs to Vlad's tower can be found (9th to 13th levels) until I find the second up stairs. After killing Vlad, switch back to #1. You end up repeating this technique on the level with the vibrating square.
If you fall into a trap door and go down several levels, you may want to go back up immediately since you want to move quickly when ascending with the amulet (and need to map enough of each level to do so).
Another suggestion is to spend magic marker charges to write scrolls of magic mapping and use them instead. A magic mapping scroll only uses four to seven charges so it can be used for the last few charges or be a relatively cheap use of several blank scrolls.
The spell caster can use the spell of magic mapping if available or use one of the fighter methods as well.
There are four levels in Gehennom where you have a guaranteed named demon. This guide describes them in the order you usually find them - the first three will appear before descending to the level with Orcus. Since three of the four appear relatively close to the down stairs, one method of handling them is to level teleport below them and then go up and find them. You have the option of going down right away and fighting near the stairs on the level below [so they won't teleport away], or find the up stairs on this level when the demon teleports there using telepathy.
When you meet some of the named demons, you may have a chance to avoid battle. The demon will teleport close to you and try to get a bribe. If you wield Excalibur, the named demon will always be angry and start fighting. If you are polymorphed into a demon he will not demand a bribe. Otherwise, he will demand a portion of your visible gold. Pay what he asks for and he will disappear; pay a little less and he will either scowl and disappear or get angry. If you want to pay him, carry a little gold (but not none). It is your choice.
Asmodeus' Lair is long and skinny. The entrance on the right end and a counter clockwise path through rooms to the down stairs (and Asmodeus) on the left end. The rest of the level is a maze. He has strong armor (AC:-7), has a couple wands (cold & fire), and attacks with a 4d4 claw and cold spells (be resistant). If angry, he will likely teleport away several times before you can take him down unless you use an instant kill method. It is tedious to walk to the up stairs to kill him since the level is non teleport (to you) and the walls of the lair are undiggable.
Juiblex lives in a swamp. As soon as I get to that level, I make sure my main inventory includes a cure for sickness and a digging wand. Unlike Asmodeus, the first time that Juiblex appears, you may get immediately engulfed (and sick). If engulfed, zap the wand of digging, kill Juiblex (it will have one HP left), and cure the sickness. I also battled Juiblex from the outside - didn't take too long to go down (about three rounds of melee) and no illness. Cross the level in a safe manner - levitation is a good choice, the up stairs are on the right side of the level, the down stairs on the left.
Baalzebub's Lair is again long and skinny, but has added long corridors on the top and bottom (that go nowhere useful). The entrance is on the left end with a branching path to a room on the left end and stairs down. Search for secret doors as needed. The rest of the level is a maze. Armor is pretty strong (AC:-5), his poisoned bite attack drains strength (be resistant) and he can stun you. If you fight him, keep the unicorn horn ready to fix problems, and you may wish to fight blindfolded. Same as with Asmodeus - it is a long walk to the up stairs due to undiggable walls and the non teleport level.
Orcus Town has a fixed layout for most of the level with a maze and the up stairs on the left. The area is diggable, so one technique is to dig a path to the right as you enter until you reach the fixed layout. He carries a wand of death - use reflection. He has five attacks per turn - three physical, one spell, and a strength draining poisoned bite. The spells may summon nasties, I have had to fight Yeenoghu and Orcus in one battle more than once. Others get those two plus Demogorgon. A c corpse is highly recommended to kill Orcus quickly before the battle gets out of hand and so you get to use all the charges from his wand. This level can be one of the more "exciting" battles of the game.
Somewhere in a Gehennom level (9 through 13) you will find a second up stairs. Vlad's Tower is not part of Gehennom, so prayer can be done successfully [if needed]. Many secret doors on these levels, use a Stethoscope. wand, or search to find them. The candelabrum is heavy - you may want to get unburdened before entering.
The bottom level has some ordinary loot, go around counter clockwise to the central room.
The middle level has a guaranteed amulet of life saving (and one of strangulation), water walking boots, and a spell book of invisibility. The path on the middle level is roughly S shaped.
The top level has six vampires and Vlad. Each monster has a chest. Vlad starts at the throne in the center with the Candelabrum. Relatively poor armor (AC:-3) compared to other monsters, has a relatively weak attack (1d10), but his bite can drain levels. Pick a suitable method to end his life and relieve him from the Candelabrum. You can #sit on the throne for its usual effects.
Finding the Vibrating Square is a pretty tedious task. It is on the lowest regular level of Gehennom (no down stairs until you do the invocation) - between levels 19 and 23. You may have to stand (or float) over every square to find it. It may be under a boulder or some other loot. You get a break that it won't be within ten squares of the up stairs, four of the left or right side of the map, and three of the top and bottom. The only clue you get for it is... "You feel a strange vibration under your feet [claws, whatever]".
At this point, I make a path to the up stairs, engrave Elbereth on the Vibration Square, drop the Candelabrum and Bell, and get ready to visit Rodney.
Entry to Rodney's Tower is one to four levels above the Vibrating Square and is through a magic portal. The magic portal is surrounded by four squeaky boards, a ring of diggable walls, a moat, and a ring of open space. The rest of the level is maze. There is a fake tower w/ an amulet in the center instead of the magic portal. Beware of the kraken - they can drown you if you are not careful.
The bottom level is a set of connected rooms, travel is roughly counter clockwise. Room walls are undiggable and the doors are all secret doors. The hive is a place to get food (and strength boost if needed). The center room has another diggable tower w/ moat (krakens and giant eels) and ladder to the middle level.
The middle level has a large zoo to add to your excitement. The path is serpentine along the right side, through the zoo, and then along the left side. If unlucky, the monsters in the zoo have been awakened by a spell - in that case, a spot near the door is good to fight from. If lucky and you have stealth, make a quiet entry to the zoo and kill several monsters to clear a path. Now is a good time to pick up a c corpse, put on a levitation ring, and continue.
The top level is annoying since you have to find the secret door into the tower room - it is not at the same place each game. The tower has another moat - this time with four giant eels, four krakens, and a couple piranhas. I find it satisfying to put on a blindfold, wield the c corpse, and make underwater statues. If lucky though, you can just zap a digging wand to open the center area and shoot another wand (or spell) through the gap to wake up Rodney. I strongly suggest an instant kill (c corpse is good), but do it when he is on dry land, not over the moat.
If you make a mistake and lose the book in the moat, get out a wand of cold, freeze the water and pick up the book from the surface. You can help prevent that by freezing the moat before you visit Rodney. If wielding the c corpse, do appropriate actions to make it safe. Make your way down through the tower and back to the vibrating square.
From this point on, Rodney can cause further problems at any time. The problems include...
The remaining steps should be done quickly and safely to minimize the opportunities for damage. You don't want to die at this point because you hurried too much.
At the vibrating square, get the invocation artifacts together. Apply the candles to the candelabrum if not already done. If any of the three artifacts are cursed, uncurse them before the next step. Apply the candelabrum (to light it), apply the bell, and read the book. A region around you will be replaced by fire traps and a moat, and you are now standing on the stairs down.
You don't need the invocation artifacts at this point, but in recent games I have kept the bell and/or candelabrum (if unburdened) to help search for the secret door into the temple. Go down and follow a serpentine path until you reach a graveyard. Most of the doors you pass through are secret. There are doors in and out of the graveyard. Use them to fight one monster at a time if your HP levels drop, or if you feel secure, bull through the mob the best way you can.
After the graveyard, there is a short hallway with secret door near the end. I try to lock the door behind me, but that does not always work. You may get hung up here as the monsters from the main room get near. The priests also start to summon insects [and if extinct, snakes] to fill the areas. Move to the left in a methodical manner. Use the insects to help block the higher level monsters from hurting you.
The temple walls are undiggable and surrounded by a ring of fire traps. A single secret door is the only entry. Find the door with one of several methods (e.g., Bell of Opening, wand of secret door detection, stethoscope, searching) and enter the temple. When you enter, the high priest will get angry and the battle begins.
The high priest has relatively poor armor (varies, AC:5 to AC:3), but casts two spells and two physical attacks per turn. Just like any other temple battle, you will get zapped by Moloch when you hurt the high priest. An instant kill is suggested. Pick up the amulet and name it THE REAL ONE (so you don't get it confused with a fake).
If you want to spend a few turns in relative safety, close and lock the door as you enter, and get your equipment fixed before leaving. Use the altar to do BUC testing if desired. A cursed gain level potion is handy at this point - to avoid the hordes outside. Otherwise return the way you came in.
There are other possibilities in the Sanctum.On one ascension I had, a high level lich summoned Yeenoghu who disappeared for a few turns and then came back. When Yeeoghu was dead, I found he had the Amulet of Yendor. It would not go into my bag so I named it THE REAL ONE and went up without the long battle. Others have reported finding a peaceful high priest outside of the temple. In that case, you can avoid going into the temple as well.
Ascending through Gehennom with the Amulet of Yendor can try the patience of any player. A "mysterious force" surrounds you 25% of the time and keeps you on the same level (all alignments) or throws you back one (all alignments), two (neutral or lawful), or three (lawful) levels. To give you an idea how much this affects you, a 21 level climb could have 10 additional levels to climb. I find it extremely annoying to have to cross a non teleport level several times. The force can affect you until you reach the Valley of the Dead.
As you are ascending, move up in a systematic manner. Stop at any stock piles you may have set up. Kill Rodney when he appears - instant kills are suggested. He can steal the Amulet of Yendor (and a few other items) from you, make sure you have it each time you leave his corpse. Bless your items and fix anything you need and make sure you have everything you need before entering the planes.
Beware, there will be no return! Still climb? y
You do have the real Amulet of Yendor, don't you? If so, you enter in the lower right of the level (otherwise you escaped the dungeon - don't do that). Rodney will appear (with a spellbook of dig) plus you have a minotaur (wand of digging) and Elven King (pick axe). Instant kill is good w/ Rodney, you have more time with the other two monsters. There a set of small caverns, one has the magic portal. Use any method to find it and make your way there (digging). The monsters include earth elementals, rock trolls, stone giants, and a variety of other appropriate monsters.
A recent change to nethack is to add stunning effects to the use of expired spells. If you read gold detection scrolls when confused to find the portal, it can be better to be confused by a potion (booze, confusion) and not use an old spell.
Before you enter, start flying or levitating. If you have a ring of conflict, that might be a good choice as well - the Air Elementals still pack a punch. You enter on the left side of the level. Find the portal (confused gold detection is good) on the right side of the level and start moving towards it. An occasional teleport (wand or spell) can help keep the way clear for your movement. Polymorph will likely get you a safer monster as well.
If engulfed by an Air Elemental, try to take care of it quickly. With speed 36, it is at least twice as fast as you and hits with 1d10 each of its turns. A wand of digging is useless on air elementals, but a slow monster wand will get you expelled. On the other hand, getting engulfed by a steam vortex or fog cloud is a time to rest and recuperate. Use the time wisely and break out when you want to.
The plane of fire is not too tough. If you are short on methods to find the magic portal, just keep moving and check for the message that says a monster disappears. If you are very fast and can levitate, you can move in relative safely and lead a group of monsters around the level. The magic portal should now be visible, go to it and jump in.
The plane of water has some air bubbles that move randomly around the level. You enter in one and the magic portal moves randomly in another air bubble. After making it through fire, this level gives you a time to rest, recuperate (if needed) and get ready for the Astral Plane. Be aware of the krakens and other grabbing monsters - use the techniques from other areas to stay safe.
The slow method is to just stay in your air bubble. It will eventually merge with the one with the magic portal and give you a chance to enter. It might take several hundred turns to do this (a couple C or K rations). The faster method is to use a trap detection method (e.g., confused gold detection) to find the magic portal and levitate to the general area you saw it. Since it moves around, you have to keep moving too. When very fast, the same technique of moving to keep the monsters behind you works here too. I will sometimes wield the amulet of yendor so I get the hot/cold messages when near the portal.
Entering the astral plane at the lower part of the level, you have some decisions to make. A guardian angel is generated with reflection, a shield, and sword (long sword, silver saber, or artifact). If you wear the ring of conflict, you get up to four hostile angels, otherwise you get one tame. It is not as strong as I would like, but a pet at this point can certainly help get in the way of hostile monsters.
Take a moment to get blind and use telepathy to see which rider is where. You can't tell which direction has the altar you want from here - I suggest you go a direction where you have adequate preparation for that demon. For example, if you have lots of food, a battle with Famine is not too bad. Remember that a wand of death is an instant kill for both Pestilence and Famine; but strengthens Death. All are resistant to stoning so a c corpse is out for them as well. Teleportation of the riders will almost always (12/13) bring them next to you - don't do that.
In a way similar to the battle in Moloch's Sanctum, the priests will summon insects (and then snakes). Again, use these weaker animals to protect you from the stronger monsters. Try to take out the named demons with ranged weapons or wands. Use teleportation wands to clear paths for movement (but not on the demons). Make your way into the first temple - if the monsters get scared, you are in the right place. If not, make your way to another temple or do a last minute conversion.
In the correct temple, make your way safely to the altar, sacrifice the real Amulet of Yendor, the choir will sing, and the ascension is done. Celebrate the accomplishment - you've earned it.
The people who helped put this together through their valuable feedback include:
Richard Bos, David Damerell, Dayv!, David Goldfarb, J-Mag Guthrie, Tina Hall, Arien Malec, Eva Myers, Dylan O'Donnell, Kathrin Paschen, Rast, Darshan Shaligram, and Anand Srivastava.
and to the authors of spoilers referenced for information that helped me get through the first few ascensions.
Also, thanks to Seth Golub for creating txt2html which was used to convert the original text into the HTML version.
Maniac's Ascension Guide by Mark Johnson; (c) 2002, 2003, All Rights Reserved.
If you make modifications to the guide, please post a message on news:rec.games.roguelike.nethack describing the change and rationale. Thanks.