People of secondary interest to NetHack
This article is a list of various notable people of secondary interest to the game of NetHack, explaining each person's works and the contributions to the game that they inspired.
Douglas Adams (11 March 1952 – 11 May 2001) was an English author, screenwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist. Adams is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a work of science fiction comedy which originated in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy and developed into a "trilogy" of five books that sold more than 15 million copies in his lifetime and generated several adaptations. These stories chronicle the adventures of one Arthur Dent, though to be the last survivor of the Earth's destruction by a Vogon constructor that was making way for a hyperspace bypass - he is rescued from Earth's destruction by Ford Prefect, a humanoid alien writer for the in-universe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the pair travel around the galaxy.
In NetHack, there are a few references to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with the most primary one being the towel, a multipurpose tool. While not as ridiculously useful as in The Hitchhiker's Guide, it still has various relevant applications: among them are blinding yourself, wiping glop or grease off your person, removing engravings on the floor, and wetting the towel to whip at monsters.
NetHack: The Next Generation
In 1994, Sebastian Klein released NetHack: The Next Generation, a variant of NetHack 3.1.3 that draws much more heavily from the works of Douglas Adams and adapts them to the Whole Sort of General Mish Mash that is the variant's geek culture influence.
Frank Herbert (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was an American science fiction author, best known for the 1965 novel Dune and its five sequels. He also wrote short stories and worked as a newspaper journalist, photographer, book reviewer, ecological consultant, and lecturer.
Dune is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time and considered to be among the classics of the genre. Set in the distant future, it explores various themes: humanity's evolution; planetary science and ecology; and the intersection of religion, politics, economics and power in a future where humankind has undertaken the colonization of space.
The most noteworthy features adapted from Dune are the long worm, its teeth and the crysknives that can be fashioned from them. A quote from Frank Herbert's The Dosadi Experiment also provides the encyclopedia entry for the gas spore and its fellow spheres.
Michael Moorcock (b. 18 December 1939) is an English writer of science fiction and fantasy who has published literary novels, and is also a successful musician. His best selling works are the "Elric of Melniboné" stories centered around the titular sorcerer, who is a deliberate reversal of clichés associated with Tolkien-inspired fantasy adventures.
As emperor of Melniboné, the frail and anemic albino Elric can call upon Arioch - a Lord of Chaos, Duke of Hell and the traditional patron of their rulership who alternates between aiding Elric and antagonizing him. Elric is also the wielder of the demonic black blade Stormbringer, which is similarly his greatest asset and greatest hindrance: it confers enough strength and vitality for Elric to shake off his otherwise-required herbal regimen - as well as augmenting his fighting prowess - but the blade instead feeds on the souls of intelligent beings. A recurring theme in the relationship between sword and wielder is how this codependency brings doom to everything Elric holds dear, despite his best intentions.
A significant amount of Moorcock's influence on fantasy is based in his portrayals of the metaphyisical conflict between Law and Chaos - among many other things, this has partly and indirectly influenced the chaotic alignment's portrayal in NetHack. Stormbringer is the weapon gifted to a crowned chaotic character, who their god declares a soul-stealer for "the Glory of Arioch"; this may also reflect Elric's role as the Eternal Champion.
John Holbrook "Jack" Vance (August 28, 1916 – May 26, 2013) was an award-winning American mystery, fantasy, and science fiction writer who published most of his work under the name Jack Vance. Among Vance's many achievements are the 1984 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; Guest of Honor at the 1992 World Science Fiction Convention in Orlando, Florida; becoming the 15th Grand Master of the The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1997; and induction into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.
Jack Vance's main influence on fiction that is most relevant to NetHack is the "Vancian" magic system, which can be seen in Dungeons & Dragons - the magic system in use is explicitly inspired by Vance's Dying Earth series, where magic users forget learned spells immediately upon casting them, and must re-study in order to cast them again. A Vancian-style system for spellcasting was present in NetHack from versions 1.3d to 3.2.3 - this system was phased out with the integration of the Wizard Patch and its revamp of spellcasting into NetHack 3.3.0.
Vance's works have had other varying, indirect influences on NetHack as well: The Monk quest artifact, The Eyes of the Overworld, is derived from the story of the same name written by Vance. The encyclopedia entry for the sandestin uses an excerpt from another of his stories, Rhialto the Marvellous. Many other monsters and features in variants of NetHack were indirectly influenced by Vance and his works as well.
Influence on variants
Vecna, a highly-notable D&D villain whose name is an anagram of Vance, appears in SLASH, SLASH'EM, SlashTHEM, and EvilHack. In D&D lore, he is an incredibly powerful wizard-turned-lich who was betrayed and destroyed by his right-hand servant Kas. Only Vecna's left hand and eye remained, which he never recovered even after resurfacing as a demigod - these became powerful artifacts, and at least one can be obtained in each of those variants, typically only by killing Vecna.
The term "grue" originated in Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, used to describe a human-bat hybrid predator. The "grue" is most famously remembered as the darkness-dwelling monster in the 1977 computer game Zork - the devnull tournament had an homage to Zork as one of the many challenges, and the Grue itself is an actual monster in dNetHack.
Fritz Reuter Leiber Jr. (December 24, 1910 – September 5, 1992) was an American writer of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. He is considered one of the fathers of "sword and sorcery" fiction, coining the term in response to a 1961 letter from Michael Moorcock in the fanzine Amra. Moorcock initially proposed the term "epic fantasy" as a name for the sort of fantasy-adventure story written by Robert E. Howard - Leiber replied in the journal Ancalagon by suggesting "sword-and-sorcery as a good popular catchphrase for the field".
Leiber's greatest influence on the "sword and sorcery" genre is the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories about a barbarian-and-thief pair of unlikely heroes found in and around the city of Lankhmar - the two titular characters were based on Leiber and his friend Harry Otto Fischer. Numerous writers have paid homage to them and its characters: Terry Pratchett's city of Ankh-Morpork in particular bears more than a passing resemblance to Lankhmar - Pratchett asserted this was unintended on his part, though he does lean into it with the inclusion of the swordsman-thief "The Weasel" and his giant barbarian comrade "Bravd" in the opening scenes of the first Discworld novel.
Most of Leiber's influence on NetHack is naturally related to the Rogue role - The Master of Thieves serves as the Rogue quest leader, likely in acknowledgement of the above connection to Pratchett. The pantheon consists of Issek, Mog, and Kos, which are derived from the setting of the Fafhrd stories. SLASH 6 has the artifact rapier Scalpel, modeled after the Gray Mouser's weapon of choice - the artifact still exists in the data of SLASH'EM.