Cheating

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Cheating is the act of doing things not intended by developers or considered to be against the "spirit" of the game. Metagaming, as used within the nethack community, is a synonym for cheating.

Not cheating

  • Using explore mode or wizard mode, providing any resulting ascensions are not claimed as genuine.
  • Engraving Elbereth, as this is an intended gameplay feature.
  • Price identification.
  • Modifying the source code. NetHack's developers intended for the game to be modified. (Note, however, that this creates a new game, or at least a new fork of the game. Beating a modified game is not the same as beating NetHack, but either way it is not cheating.)
  • Credit cloning. This feature is probably a conscious side effect, given how carefully crafted the shopkeeper code is and that rogues start with a sack.

Degenerate behavior

The legitimacy of most of the actions in this section is unclear and often subject of some controversy. Most people would not refer to them as "cheating", but rather as "degenerate behavior" even if not approving of them.

Farming

Farming is considered by some to be against the spirit of the game. There are no rules or protections against these actions, so other people may consider them to be a legitimate strategy.

Out of game notes

This is a controversial topic. Some players take minor notes, such as which levels have altars or shops, where the stash is, etc. (it is a game feature in UnNetHack and indeed in NetHack 3.6.0), but other players believe too many out of game notes constitutes a mild form of cheating. Taken to an extreme, it can nullify amnesia, or lead to the use of wikis.

Reading spoilers

NetHack is a difficult game, by design. Knowing how to bypass every single problem presented is considered by some to be against the spirit of the game. Explore mode was implemented to allow newer players to experience the game without having to constantly worry about losing their character.

Other people consider spoilers to be a kind of "manual" that is missing from NetHack. Because of that and because so many players choose to spoil themselves, the community usually does not consider spoilers to be degenerate behavior. When posting spoilers in a public discussion forum, it is often considered good form to warn others, so they don't inadvertently spoil themselves.

Probably cheating

  • Exploiting a bug
  • Changing the system clock to obtain a more advantageous moon phase.

Bones stuffing

Bones stuffing consists of playing a game for the express purpose of gathering useful items (up to and including a full ascension kit) and then deliberately committing suicide with the intention of leaving a bones pile for another character to exploit in some pre-designed manner. Sometimes the practice is taken to such extremes that the true identities of randomized items are engraved on the floor to aid subsequent characters.

Bones stuffing is not considered bug exploitation and technically speaking is within the rules of the game, but most regard it as violating the spirit of the game. For example, a pacifist character who ascends using an ascension kit obtained via bones stuffing would not generally be considered to have ascended legitimately.

It is important to observe that under normal circumstances, encountering and exploiting bones piles is a legitimate action, even in borderline cases such as bones piles containing full ascension kits. The difference is that bones stuffing involves deliberate suicide of a character, whereas a normal bones pile is a result of an honest (albeit failed) attempt to survive.

Bones stuffing on a multi-user system is less likely to succeed, as it is possible that another player will get the benefit of your bones pile.

Nethack.alt.org provides an option not to load any bones files.

Identification of items in bone level based on dumplog

It is also possible to record the inventory of all characters who leave a bones file (or check logs on NAO). In this way, the player manages to easily gain knowledge he or she should not have.

Definitely cheating

None of the methods of cheating described below are intended to be possible on a multi-user system. The file permissions will prevent you from fiddling with the game files, and you will not be allowed to play in wizard mode. Abusing the random number generator, however, may be possible if it has not been specifically patched.

Save scumming

Save scumming is the practice of copying a NetHack save file from the NetHack playground, so that if the character dies or suffers a calamity, the game can be restored by copying the file back into the playground. This directly bypasses a major design decision of the game - to disallow saving-and-restoring.

Quit scumming

Some players believe that the object identification game is the heart of NetHack, which makes it all the more remarkable that an unscrupulous player can completely short-circuit this aspect of the game through a technique derived from save scumming. Simply save your game, make a backup copy of your save file, and restart. Then quit the game, and you can have all of your possessions identified. Restore your backup, and you've completely eliminated one of the deepest elements of NetHack. (This method of cheating can be used even on a multiuser system by saving the game, then reloading the save in explore mode, choosing to keep the original save, then quitting and continuing the original game outside explore mode. The DevTeam consider this to be a bug, and intend to patch it in the next version.)

Resetting individual levels

You can revert an individual dungeon level to a previous state using the following technique:

  • While playing, locate the directory containing your save files.
  • Look for a file named "[user name]-[player name].[dungeon level]".
  • Copy that file into a different directory.
  • When you want to revert the level, delete the original file and replace it with the copy. The level will be in the same state it was when you copied it.

In this way, you can duplicate money, items, pets, and monsters.

You must not save and restore between copying out and copying in. If you do, the process ID in the level file will not match the ID of the current process. The game will detect the manipulation (the level file might even belong to a different game) and declare a trickery.

Selectively deleting bones

It is possible to delete bones files. If you do this selectively, deleting only the ones that you think will kill you again, this is cheating. If you always delete all bones files including ones you would be glad to find, this is not cheating as it is the equivalent of playing every game on a fresh install.

NetHack has a limited ability to detect cheating done by fiddling with the game files. If it finds something suspicious, a death by trickery is likely.

Wizard mode bones

Should a wizard mode character die, and remain dead (as the player is given a possibility to resurrect him/her), the player can choose to leave a bones file of him for others to find, including characters not in wizard mode. Thus, the player can, in wizard mode, wish for practically every item in the game, drop the items to the ground, and commit suicide. He/she will then proceed to create a normal character and find the bones file left by the character in wizard mode. However, there are some items that will not be the same. The invocation artifacts and the current class's quest artifact will be replaced with normal items of the same type, and the Amulet of Yendor will be replaced with a cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor.

Abusing the random number generator

A sufficiently determined player can find the seed of the random number generator after starting the game and then use it to his or her advantage — for example to gain an unlimited number of wishes from a fountain.

Hangup saves

Deliberately provoking a hangup save can be used to "awake" on a sleeping gas trap, to escape holes you dig, to avoid dropping scrolls of scare monster or inserting a wand of cancellation into a bag of holding when you realize you accidentally selected your entire inventory, or to obtain a price quote for objects a shopkeeper would not normally sell.

This page may need to be updated for NetHack 3.6.0.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to {{nethack-360}} or {{noversion}} as appropriate.