Pudding farming was a farming strategy prior to NetHack 3.6.0. It is no longer an effective strategy, as nearly all of its benefits have been eliminated.
The strategy involved finding a black pudding (or occasionally brown pudding) and dividing it repeatedly before killing any of the puddings. Players used to do this to generate large numbers of death drops and corpses (for sacrifice). Expert pudding farmers could actually fill entire levels with the divided puddings and obtain several hundred pages of items from the result. Some even automate the process. Farming is sometimes called "divide & conquer" or "divide & ascend" tactic.
Creating a large number of puddings does not in itself violate any conducts. Some activities related to pudding farming do, however:
- In order to get death drops from puddings, you have to kill them yourself. This violates pacifist conduct, and means most pacifists cannot benefit much from pudding farming.
- Eating brown puddings violates vegan conduct. Eating black puddings violates both vegan and vegetarian conduct.
- In order to get an iron "weapon" guaranteed to do 1 damage, you need a thoroughly corroded -3 dagger or knife, violating weaponless conduct. Non-weapon objects such as keys will do 1d2 damage. A careful pudding farmer could still use such an object, though.
- Sacrificing the puddings obviously violates atheist conduct.
Pudding farming is slow
Pudding farming is a slow process, especially at the start. The wielding of a weapon that deals any significant amount of damage tends to kill the puddings faster than they can divide, as divided puddings have half the HP of the original. Pudding farmers prefer weapons that deal low damage (or even non-weapon iron items) when splitting puddings. A weapon used in this manner is often named a "Puddingbane". A typical Puddingbane has its enchantment reduced to -3 from engraving and is thoroughly corroded by the black puddings themselves.
Critics decry the act as scumming because it allows one to (relatively) quickly obtain all of the possible benefits of sacrifices and causing items that were normally extremely rare to be common. For example, amulets of life saving could become as common as the player would like them to be.
- Farm over an altar, the corpses can be sacrificed without moving them.
- Consider naming puddings. This will cause them to form separate piles which is especially important if some of the puddings are too old to be sacrificed.
- The ideal spot is a level with an altar and a sink.
- Since not every dungeon contains such an ideal spot, you can also transport puddings:
- Lead or split them onto holes, if there is a lower altar. Monsters learn about traps, so you will have split off a new pudding before it will fall down easily again.
- Carry a corpse to your target level and zap undead turning at it.
- Tame one, take it anywhere in the dungeon, then un-tame it at a nearby trap (or just abandon it on the level until it goes untame).
- Polyself into a black pudding near the altar, have a monster melee you with an iron weapon, and untame the split-off pet.
- Use Elbereth squares (ideally with the word burned) to control Pudding movement.
- Farm as a master mind flayer. They deal little damage to the headless puddings, and kill intruders quickly.
- Don't extinct puddings - the remaining ones then will no longer split.
- If you only need one item class, farm in the appropriate place: Gehennom for weapons, armor, tools, gems, wands, rings, amulets, food and the rest of the dungeons for spellbooks, food, potions, scrolls.
- Two-weapon -3 iron junk with a +10 long sword.
- Brown puddings are an inferior livestock for pudding farming; while black puddings are guaranteed to leave a corpse, the smaller brown puddings are not, and they will therefore have a lower chance of death drops. Furthermore, brown puddings are less valuable for sacrifice, and slightly harder to start with since they cannot be obtained from sinks. If you've somehow extincted or genocided black puddings, however, brown puddings are a viable alternative.
- Make pudding 'stockades': black puddings cannot go through diagonal tunnels or through other monsters. Dig out a few holes in diagonal passageways; splitting will fill them up, but the puddings cannot leave. Then if you clear the level, you will have a few left for future farming. This does not work with brown puddings because they can use diagonals.
- Puddings can go through doors, but most other monsters cannot:
- You can create a 'stockade' from a room with a locked door, and some other monster (preferably peaceful) to block the door. This will work with brown puddings.
- Shopkeepers will block a door if you are invisible.
- Make a 'sieve': dig all the walls in the farming room, and at least one around that, and replace with locked doors.
- Other monsters may be hard to kill with Puddingbane, or detrimental to attack and/or sacrifice.
Intention of the DevTeam?
Some in RGRN have requested that the DevTeam put some cap against the process of pudding farming. There are a few different ways that this might be done, e.g. the RGRN thread "Is NetHack too easy? (spoilers)" from January 2006. Ideas included having puddings become more powerful as you kill them, preventing cloned puddings from dropping corpses and items, and forcing pudding division to count for extinction.
Pudding farming is not a modern invention; this post from 1993 talks about farming brown puddings. In October 16, 2006, the Shrewd Dude posted a guide, How to Raise the Perfect Pudding. In 13 years, players have invented many strategies for more effective pudding farms, but they have also become bored. Jove stated in reply, "The DevTeam has arranged an automatic and savage punishment for pudding farming. It's called pudding farming."
In Nethack 3.6.0, the DevTeam made several changes which rendered pudding farming completely ineffective - puddings no longer drop corpses at all (and thus cannot drop items either), and cloned puddings give significantly fewer points.
Pudding farming in SLASH'EM is a lot less productive than in Vanilla, reducing its use and/or scumming ability greatly. First, the puddings will never drop items, so they can only be used for their corpses. Getting resistances, sacrifice gifts and prayer rewards is still a big help, however. Thus, brown puddings are actually a viable alternative to their black cousins, since they are considerably safer, and provide the same benefits. A brown pudding farm will require more puddings to provide these, however, since they do not always drop corpses and have a lower chance of granting intrinsics. Also note that your god will often send you minions: you must deal with those, or else have your entire crop of pudding killed (tip: put on a ring of aggravate monster and hit it with your Puddingbane until it untames). Thus, while it might be useful for sacrifice gifts and resistances, pudding farming is no longer potentially game-breaking, as it is in vanilla.
Remember that in SLASH'EM, corpses will sometimes be overgrown by molds, including lichens. So, after you've farmed all you want for resistances and sacrifice gifts, you may continue farming for a non-rotting food supply.
Puddings in UnNetHack have their maximum hit points halved as well as their current hit points, making pudding farming much harder. Like SLASH'EM, puddings in UnNetHack also never have death drops.