Originally posted to /r/nethack.
I’ve been trying on and off to ascend in NetHack for years now. I was just running one of my best games yet…
I started with a dwarven Valkyrie to make things easy. The RNG gave me 18/02 STR and 20 CON for my starting stats, so I had plenty of carrying space. This proved to be important when I ran into a huge general store early on. I purchased a leash from the shopkeeper and then used my little dog to rob him blind. By stealing high-level spellbooks and other expensive items and then selling them back to that same shopkeeper, I was able to build up enough cash to buy a plate mail from him. Together with some other armor, this brought my AC down to -5 by dungeon level 2. I was also able to identify lots of items in the process, including most notably an amulet of ESP which I again stole from the same shop.
From that point, I sailed along down to the Oracle level in no time. I made sure to let my little dog attack enemies so that I had a nice big dog (weird how that doesn’t work in real life). When I hit experience level 5, I went dipping for Excalibur in the Oracle’s fountains… and dried all of them up. I wasn’t terribly pleased with this, since I had just quit a Knight run recently after drying up 7 fountains dipping for Excalibur and ending up with a cursed thoroughly rusty long sword welded to my hand. Fortunately, I did manage to get Excalibur out of a fountain on another dungeon level in this run.
At this point, I was pretty sure the RNG was smiling upon me this day. Little did I know that all things balance out in the end.
I stashed a bunch of junk on the first level of Sokoban, including an unidentified amulet that didn’t seem to do anything obvious (put a mental pin in that), and headed back up to do the Mines. After shredding my way through all the hostile monsters and some of the peaceful ones, I made it to Minetown. The temple turned out to be cross-aligned, unfortunately, and I didn’t want to deal with a hostile priest. This was a problem since I hadn’t found any other altars in the dungeon, meaning I had no way to sacrifice or make holy water. Without holy water, I had no way to make blessed scrolls of identify, and so I held out on reading scrolls of identify at all and left anything I couldn’t figure out unidentified. (Big mistake…)
By the time I came back up from the mines, I had swapped my plate mail for a dwarven mithril coat (worse AC but way lighter) and had found some jumping boots. I still didn’t have poison resistance, which was somewhat concerning, but I was well kitted-out enough in all other respects that I wasn’t too worried.
My next stop was Sokoban, where I breezed through the puzzles with a couple hints from the wiki. When I finished the top level, I put on a ring of invisibility, left my dog on the floor below, and set to clearing out the treasure zoo critters. They were already awake and escaping the zoo on their own—probably from when I gave myself aggravate monster by eating a dwarf corpse back in the mines (oops). I blindfolded myself, let the monsters line themselves up in the hall on the right side, and turned them extra crispy with a wand of lightning. From this, I was able to get intrinsic poison resistance, invisibility, and see invisible.
The prize from Sokoban was a bag of holding. Together with my starting stats from earlier, this let me carry ridiculous quantities of stuff. I made sure not to stick my engraving-disappearing wands in the bag (because I’ve already ruined a run doing that in Sokoban before…) and went back down to sort through my loot. I figured out that a pair of boots I had were speed boots. I dug up that unidentified amulet from before and stuck it in my bag of holding, along with tons of other junk.
Well, I was riding high. I had all the intrinsics I wanted to have by this point, very fast speed, a good artifact weapon, reasonably low AC, plenty of escape items, offensive wands, and my starting pet was still alive—and I never had to pray once, to boot. I was ready to head for Medusa. I exited Sokoban, went down one dungeon level…
And a forest centaur steps into view and immediately Wand of Deaths me.
There was no way I could have had magic resistance or reflection by this point. There were no opportunities for wishing in Minetown, and I didn’t get an amulet of reflection from Sokoban. Without holy water, there wasn’t even any plausible chance of getting a friendly djinni from quaffing.
What I did discover, on the DYWYPI screen, was that the mystery amulet in my bag was an amulet of life saving. If I had been wearing that, I would have had one turn to figure out that I needed to zap a wand of digging downward, leaving my poor dog behind while I hoped really hard that Perseus had a shield of reflection.
Moral 1 of the story: This game is stupid.
Moral 2 of the story: Use those scrolls of identify. Don’t hoard them.
Also, fun fact: I named my dog in this game Brian, then looked it up later and found out that is the name of the dog in Family Guy. I have never watched Family Guy. I had just picked the name because it seemed like a name no dog would have—go figure.