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Farming is a general gaming term used to define any kind of repetitive behavior designed for a specific benefit, usually in the form of better loot or an increased level and stats. Opinions on the practice vary widely, from being a common and accepted practice to being discouraged as against the spirit of the game.

In a game like NetHack, some of these opinions are more polarized than usual, due to the age of the game as well as the ways in which some of the more common methods of farming can trivialize much of the gameplay (e.g., by removing most of the challenge from assembling an ascension kit). However, there are still elements of the game that can pose a significant threat to all but the most dedicated farmers, and players electing to farm for a given purpose must weigh the amount of time and resources spent in return for the desired reward(s).

Changes to farming in NetHack

The types of farming possible in NetHack are many and varied; major changes made by the DevTeam in the transition from NetHack 3.4.3 to 3.6.0 were designed to address certain exploits and other methods that certain kinds of farming were reliant on. These changes limited the benefits that can be derived from most of them - and in a couple of cases, rendering them completely useless. For example, many farming methods rely upon cloned monsters; in 3.6.0, a bitfield labeled mcloned is added that tracks how the monster was generated; among other things, this prevents the splitting of monsters if the split monster is rendered extinct (though the splitting itself does not respect extinction).[1][2]

List of current farming methods

The methods listed in this section are usable in current versions, though they may undergo significant changes as the game is updated.

Altar scumming

Main article: Altar farming

Hanging around an altar and sacrificing anything that comes along is a natural part of many legitimate games of NetHack, but some feel that taking this to extremes is scumming, particularly when combined with any of the other applicable farming methods detailed below.

Gremlin farming

That's a lot of gremlins...

While gremlins normally stop dividing once their hit point maximum falls to 1, it's possible to induce them to divide indefinitely by using a ring of conflict. This works because whenever a monster kills something, such as another gremlin, its hit point maximum is increased, which allows it to divide again.[3] Since on average a gremlin gains more than one maximum hit point when it kills another gremlin, more gremlins can easily be created provided they are given enough time to heal and divide. As indicated previously, gremlin division also does not respect extinction.

Gremlins will not death drop most items due to their size, but can still drop valuables such as gems, rings, and even the normally-rare magic marker. Cloned monsters in 3.6.0 and later versions cannot leave death drops at all and give diminishing experience returns;[4][5] gremlin farming is thus much less effective for loot, but still viable as they leave corpses that can be used for sacrificing.

To "breed" gremlins effectively, the following steps are advisable:

  • Use an open, watery level. You need lots of pools for the gremlins to divide in, and an open area for conflict to be most effective.
  • Try to keep the level clear of other monsters and traps. Remember that fully divided gremlins only have one hit point, and therefore die very easily.
  • Don't keep the ring of conflict on all the time. Instead, only put it on for one turn, take it off again immediately, and wait several turns for the surviving gremlins to fully heal and divide before putting it on again. This also keeps you less hungry and the gremlins less vulnerable to attacks by other monsters.
  • Don't do this at night. Even if you stand on Elbereth or a scroll of scare monster, the gremlins will still sometimes hit you when you wear conflict, risking your intrinsics in the process.

Medusa farming

Characters with a source of reflection or a mirror and the stone to flesh spell can easily stone and revive Medusa as many times as they like. No death drops are generated this way, but it does provide an easy source of experience points.

This trick has also been nerfed in NetHack 3.6.0, as repeatedly killing a revived monster eventually starts yielding diminishing XP rewards.

Quest farming

Giant farming

If you are playing as a Valkyrie, you can hang out on the home level of your quest and kill giants for strength gain and death drops. This can be done easily by waiting in the building with the Norn using the numeric prefix command and then venturing out to kill and consume a giant when you become hungry.

Throne looting

#Looting a throne while confused will generate a throne room monster and give it a fraction of your gold if no chest is on the level; a forgotten spell is a reliable, unlimited source of confusion. If throne monsters are rendered extinct, ordinary random monsters are generated instead. In 3.6.0 and later versions, creating a monster now has a 10% chance of marking the throne as "looted", which will prevent it from any new monsters; additionally, confused looting now consumes a turn. Throne looting is thus still possible, but is no longer farmable to anywhere near the same extent.

Werecreature farming

Since werecreatures in their animal form can summon animals when attacking you, they can be used as a inexhaustible monster source. A reasonably safe farm is somewhat tedious to set up, but it can be a viable (and conduct-proof) alternative to the usual monster creation methods, since it has not yet been nerfed as of 3.6.1.

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A farm made out of a closet

The main idea is to trap the werecreature in a locked space connected diagonally to a door. Since monsters cannot move diagonally through a doorway, but can attack, you can easily "switch" the monster creation process by moving in and out of the doorway. You can use an existing closet as the base -- simply dig a square to the side, trap the monster there, and block the original closet square with a boulder. If you have a wand of locking, you can construct the farm in pretty much any room (including near an altar).

Luring the werecreature into the trap can be troublesome. The easiest way is to temporarily tame it, but illiterates may find it difficult. Since werecreatures are not followers, moving them between levels without taming is also difficult. (You can get them to fall down holes, or kill them and undead turn their corpse.)

Once in place, you just need to endure its attacks. You will inevitably be infected by lycanthropy, so you need some way of managing it: either Werebane, an amulet of unchanging, or a ring of polymorph control (make sure to turn paranoid_confirmation:Were-change on if using the ring). It helps to have a means of curing it, as well (like prayer). Anyway, after a few turns of attacking you the monster will summon help, after which you should step aside and deal with them.

Summoned monsters can be used for most usual purposes (food, death drops, sacrifice, etc.) but note that being infected with lycanthropy makes eating them cannibalism and reduces the chance of a prayer boon, because your god will prioritize fixing the lycanthropy first. If you have Werebane, however, this is not a concern.

All three kinds of werecreatures can be used, but wererats summon rats which have poisonous attacks and rarely leave corpses, and werewolves can summon winter wolves whose rays of cold can cause unwanted destruction (like the death of the original werewolf). If you can deal with them, however, they can give cold resistance (but mind the cannibalism penalty). Wolves leave corpses very often but are tougher in general, making werejackals an optimal choice for low-level characters.

Overall, it's a tedious and somewhat situational strategy, but if you're sacrificing for a powerful artifact and have gotten Werebane instead, it can be considered.

Wraith farming

First, retrieve the Book of the Dead. This works best if you refrain from killing the Wizard of Yendor, because then he won't randomly appear until you perform the Invocation Ritual. Reading the cursed Book can summon wraiths (as well as other undead, including liches, so genocide what you cannot deal with). However, it also marks the current level as a graveyard. This means that you should lead wraiths to another (nongraveyard) level before killing them for their corpses. Recall that eating a wraith corpse at experience level 30 will still increase your maximum HP and power.

Vault guard farming

Since guards generate without limit, it is possible to farm guards by entering a vault and killing guards. You can summon guards if you are inside a vault by blowing a cursed tin whistle (which you can obtain from the first guard that comes). Killing the guards yourself will subject you to a murder penalty (if you are not chaotic) and decrease your alignment record (for killing a peaceful monster, regardless of your alignment). If have a helm of opposite alignment and are or can become chaotic, you can avoid the murder penalty and reset your alignment record when you are done farming by putting on or removing the helm.

You can also have a strong pet kill guards for you to avoid penalties, but you will not receive death drops this way, limiting spoils to the offensive items, defensive items, and miscellaneous items that guards may generate with. You may want to use the menu_search key binding (default :) to search for items when you are in the pick up menu to avoid scrolling through a list of the dead guards' junk weapons and armor.

List of deprecated methods

Due to the major divergence between versions, the following methods detailed below are either mostly inapplicable to current versions, or else severely reduced in effectiveness. They are still applicable to 3.4.3 at latest, as well as many variants based on pre-3.6 versions; changes made from the 3.6 series forward and their effects on the strategy are noted where appropriate.

Kraken farming

In 3.4.3, kraken can be killed trivially when on dry land, and their corpses can be revived using undead turning. This means you can continue killing the same monsters near-indefinitely, racking up a very high score with very little effort. To get the most out of such farming, you can trap kraken by digging walls in the following pattern:

This allows a farmer to repeatedly cast undead turning and finger of death along the diagonals with copy-and-paste - kraken are huge monsters, and so cannot squeeze diagonally between walls.

3.6.0 and later versions make this strategy vastly more dangerous, if not impossible - kraken will no longer revive while on land, and leaving them in water puts the player at risk of instadeath by drowning attack.

Pudding farming

Main article: Pudding farming

In 3.4.3, a common tactic was to advance your character to the point where they could easily defeat black puddings, then carefully use weak weapons to divide them without killing them; this allowed players to "farm" by killing as many puddings as they wish for death dropped items, and their corpses can be sacrificed for a variety of benefits. Players can continue this process (and even automate it) until they possess thousands of hit points, maximum AC, and hundreds of wands of wishing—at a point where a player is considering this and has the means to do so, the primary obstacle is the amount of effort they are willing to dedicate (which ironically proved an effective deterrent).

3.6.0's changes rendered this method of farming completely ineffective by removing the majority of its benefits. One such major change is the mcloned bitfield that tracks cloned monsters, used to prevent them from leaving death drops of any kind. Another such change is the addition of globs, which replace regular corpses as the remains of black puddings; these are left behind in a special method similar to golems, and thus puddings can no longer provide any death drops or sacrifice material.

Throne farming

Throne farming was once perhaps the fastest way in the game to generate lots of monsters, and the only method available without breaking any conducts; monster generation would also not use up a turn or risk any damage to the throne, allowing indefinite farming for whatever items you desire (from dragon scales to convert into mail to various potions, wands and scrolls. This is no longer possible as of 3.6.0, since confused looting now uses up a turn and has a 110 chance of marking the throne as "looted", preventing further monster generation from that throne.

For 3.4.3, earlier versions and some variants based on them, undiggable no-teleport levels work best to prevent monsters from ruining your setup; at most, you will only have to use up one charge from a wand of teleportation to send a troublesome monster off. Each quest home level generates the quest leader on a suitable throne - you can make them wander away if you move adjacent on a free turn, and then say no to the "really attack?" prompt. You might want to engrave concentric circles of Elbereth (as done when farming dragon scales) and/or use a boulder fort to protect yourself from ranged attacks. Illiterate conduct players can get a monster to read the scroll of earth, then stand on a scroll of scare monster and confuse themselves, using a cursed unicorn horn if they did not start with a spell to forget.

At this point, the only threat left is the potential of sickness; the chance of dying to terminal illness can be almost completely removed by polymorphing into a ghoul to gain sickness resistance beforehand, or applying a preferably-blessed unicorn horn to cure it. Unattended copy-paste farming is only possible if you confuse yourself with an expired spell or are permanently a ghoul; setting menustyle=traditional in your config file can make the paste script execute the spellcasting faster.

Death farming

This is only borderline scumming, as any character capable of doing it is more than capable of ascending. The goal might be to gain large numbers of exotic items to ascend with, to gain billions of points, or (most commonly) to impress onlookers.

  1. Eat rings of increase damage until you have a high enough intrinsic damage bonus to kill Death in one hit (+60 should work).
  2. Clear the Astral plane of all distractions.
  3. Increase your polearm proficiency to skilled.
  4. Trap Death in a corner on the Astral plane, like so:

In this example, Death is trapped between blue jellies and a boulder. He cannot move, but you can hit him with a polearm while he is in line of sight. Once he's dead (in one hit), attempt to push the boulder over his corpse. This will revive him. You can then repeat the procedure. You can work out the exact sequence of key strokes used in a complete cycle of this process (in this case, for example, "aahy.jyk"), and copy this line a few thousand times in a text editor, then paste the whole lot into the NetHack interface.

The result will be many thousand death-dropped items and a very high score. If the number of death-dropped items exceeds 32,767 on the same square, the game will probably crash,[6] so periodically checking Death's square and redistributing the items (possibly by teleporting them away, or polymorphing them together) is necessary. This is because the number of items present on a square is stored in a signed short when the items are listed.

This method no longer works as of 3.6.0, because Riders can displace other monsters; thus, the jelly fort will not work to contain Death. It is still possible to kill Death (or other Riders) arbitrarily many times, but not with this method of automation. Additionally, revived monsters give diminishing experience points and score, down to 164 of the base value, which means that it will take much longer to achieve billions of points.