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NetHack Dungeon Overhaul Proposal

About This Document

Compiled by Jonadab

Version 0.1.0

This is a preliminary proposal. It is expected that several rounds of revisions will be required.

This version of the proposal was revised in 2017, after making the original, obsolete 2014 version of the proposal public. This revised version will include changes needed because the state of the art has changed in three years (e.g., 3.6 has already addressed certain issues and added certain features, such as wide mazes), as well as changes due to feedback from other variant developers and interested parties. However, this is still a preliminary draft and by no means final. It is my hope that others will write their own proposals, leading to further revisions and refinements.




IRC log of #nethack4 from 2014 March 16:

  • 16:39 < dtsund > More globally, I think I'd like to see some competing total writeups for dungeon-overhaul
  • 16:40 < ais523 > that's a good idea, I think
  • 16:40 < ais523 > although, I haven't been thinking that much about the big picture
  • 16:40 < jonadab > dtsund: remind me where the current writeup is, and I'll consider writing up an alternative.
  • 16:40 < ais523 > I care more about gehennom-overhaul
  • 16:40 < dtsund > jonadab: There isn't one
  • 16:40 < ais523 > jonadab: there isn't one yet
  • 16:40 < jonadab > Oh, ok.
  • 16:40 < dtsund > Also, I think it'd be best to write them blind
  • 16:40 < jonadab > So we can then compare them? You may be right.
  • 16:40 < dtsund > Then each person can make a second draft based on ideas from the others
  • 16:41 < dtsund > s/based on/based on and incorporating/
  • 16:41 < ais523 > I like this idea
  • 16:41 < ais523 > we could even make it a big thing
  • 16:41 < ais523 > Design a Dungeon week

At the time, it didn't happen. Better late than never.

Starting Assumptions

These are some assumptions I'm working from.

  • It's good for the player to have meaningful choices. Choices are meaningful if the options are genuinely different, even (perhaps especially) if they are roughly equivalent in terms of approximate balance.
  • Early-game balance should not be greatly disturbed, and In particular we do not want to make the early game any harder for new players; and if we decide that we want to make the early game easier for new players to learn, we would do that in some other way that does not involve dungeon layout changes.
  • Late-game balance isn't very good and is going to be disturbed anyway, due to other changes, so additional disturbances due to dungeon layout changes are acceptable. We'll then proceed to adjust the late-game balance as necessary until it is reasonably close to appropriate.
  • Every single level of Gehennom being a maze is boring.
  • The total number of wishes in the game should be about the same as in 3.4, but they should not be given to the player all at once at the castle (because then the rest of the game is boring).
  • Stairs (and ladders, etc.), trapdoors, and holes will have (stored at generation) a specific destination, enough info to nail down branch, level, and coordinates. Thus it will be possible to have stairs in more than one location on a level, which lead to different places: either to different coordinates on the same destination level, or to different levels in different branches. This requires infrastructure changes, but I think it allows us to do some very nice things with the dungeon structure overall.
  • The Inhell() function will be able to handle more than one branch (or "sub-branch" if you prefer) being considered hellish or "part of Gehennom".
  • It's good for non-randomly-generated levels to have multiple variants. This enhances game-to-game variety and thus replay value, even if only by a little. However, it's even better for a special level to have significant random components within it, hopefully something more impactful than a maze around the edge.
  • We still want a "chokepoint" that has to be passed when going from mid-game to late-game. (In 3.4, this is the Castle and the Valley of the Dead.)
  • The quest will be considered separately as part of a role-balance review or "class overhaul", so it is not necessary for this proposal to go into detail about each role's quest.

Opening Remarks

My guiding philosophy for this proposal has been to put forward carefully measured changes that I believe will make the experience of playing the game better.

My thinking is that Slash'em already exists, and so NetHack does not need to be that. Thus, I have not included every idea that I could come up with, or every idea that I think would be cool.

Rather, I have looked at each section of the dungeon and asked questions like "What is boring or unenjoyable about this part of the game? Why might an experienced player wish he could skip this part? What is unbalanced? What is unfair? What is too easy? What is too hard?"

Having asked these questions, I then attempted to answer them and to address each problem with a possible solution. Someone else may come up with a better solution, but I believe that just about every proposal in this document is better than making no change at all. Each thing that I propose is intended to address some perceived deficiency in the experience of playing through the game.

The rest of this document is written breadth-first, starting with generalities then following them with multiple sections that flesh them out to the next level, recursively.


The early dungeon will effectively be rather similar to version 3.6, with a handful of minor changes. The number of bones-ineligible levels will be significantly reduced (but, by default, players will still not get bones on most of the special levels with important features that would be disrupted; players who are willing to play through bones even on these levels will need to set a bones option to a non-default value to enable that). Some of the special levels will have changes, but nothing that alters their overall position or function in the dungeon.

The mid-game dungeon will have a few more changes. Some of these will be intended to relieve monotony; others will be geared toward accommodating what we want to do lower down, for the late game. The mid-game will finish up (after Medusa) with a small handful of maze levels (perhaps 3-4), followed by the terminus, which will have several variants (one of which will be the existing, familiar Castle of Yendor). The terminus will grant fewer wishes on average than previously, potentially leaving the player wanting some of the things that can be found below.

Gehennom is where the really big changes are, including all-new filler level generation algorithms. The middle portion of Gehennom will now feature alternative paths, allowing the player to choose which dangers to face (and which loot to pursue). As a result of this, the total number of levels in the game will increase, but the minimum number of levels that the player must traverse will not increase very much, if at all. Gehennom will contain a number of potential wish sources to make up for the reduction at the terminus. Several of the special levels in Gehennom will be found at different depths than previously, and there are a couple of new ones.

Changes have also been made to the Sanctum and to the Elemental Planes, in order to make them more interesting and less anticlimactic. As a consequence they are also somewhat more dangerous than in previous versions, but not beyond what a late-game character should be able to handle, provided the endgame is approached with caution and respect; and it is hoped that they will be less tedious (due to the removal of Summon Ants).

Section Overviews

Early Dungeon

The overall structure of the early dungeon is to be very similar to 3.6.

The Gnomish Mines will have very similar overall structure to version 3.6, although I do propose (below) some changes to the details of individual levels.

Sokoban, likewise, does not need to change its overall structure. I do propose that there be a larger number of possible variants for each level in Sokoban, and I propose some tweaks to make traditional completion of Sokoban feel somewhat more genuinely optional, so that players who do not care for it have better freedom ("strategic headroom") to skip it. Completing Sokoban will still be beneficial, but I aim to make it feel less mandatory.

The levels with the branch stairs to enter the Mines and Sokoban both can already occur at a range of depths, so they can both be made bones-eligible simply by removing the branch stairs and saving a normal non-special bones level, since the extra set of stairs is quite literally the only special thing about the level. Remove the stairs, and ipso facto the resulting bones level becomes a normal bones level. Bones will still never be loaded at the depth where the branch stairs are found, but some other player will have the branch entrance at a different depth and thus be able to load the bones as a normal level at their original depth.

Regular filler levels in the early Dungeons of Doom will be room and corridor levels, much as before, possibly with a small number of minor enhancements (such as the occasional non-rectangular room, see existing implementation in either Fourk or UnNetHack, or possibly both, as they differ not only in implementation but also in results).

Special levels in this part of the Dungeons of Doom will be very similar to version 3.6.

Delphi barely needs to change at all, being one of the better special levels and Working As Intended. I particularly like that Delphi is not instantly recognizable when you reach the level; in fact, I frequently recognize Delphi by the sounds before reaching the visually recognizable portion. Since reaching it is often an important milestone (both for the guaranteed fountains and also because it signals the Sokoban entrance, if not because of the actual Oracle), this lack of instant recognition provides a meaningful sense of searching, watching for signs, and thus anticipation. This is good. I do think Delphi could do with having multiple versions (possibly including one where the Oracle's area is a diamond shape rather than an orthogonal rectangle), but the basic idea should remain the same.

The main change for the Big Room is that it should be guaranteed NOT to occur before or on the same level with the entrance to Sokoban. (The rationale here is that players should have the option to complete Sokoban early, before entering the Mines, and having the Sokoban entrance be in the Big Room makes that difficult, especially for new players. More experienced players should be finding their challenges somewhat deeper into the dungeon or may choose to skip Sokoban altogether.)

When I wrote my original proposal in 2014, I concluded that adding more BigRoom variants was unnecessary, due to the fact that more than half the time it's not generated at all anyhow; thus, when the Big Room is generated, it naturally feels like variety. Combined with the fact that there are already several versions of it, I decided no further versions were needed. However, I have since added several additional versions of the Big Room to Fourk, purely because I could, and I now feel that in general, having more versions of special levels is in general a good thing. The Big Room isn't a high priority for this, but that doesn't mean there's no value in it at all.

Middle Dungeon

The lower portion of the Dungeons of Doom is to contain a wider variety of special rooms than in 3.6.

As before, in any given game, there shall be at most one Tribute level in the middle dungeon; however, the Rogue level show now be only one possibility. Each possible tribute level shall be designed to look and feel like one roguelike game (other than NetHack itself), but the player shall only encounter at most one of these tributes per game. For example, sometimes the player might encounter a Moria tribute level instead, or sometimes the tribute level might simply not be generated.

Quest branch and level changes are to be dealt with on a role-by-role basis in the Class Overhaul proposal or elsewhere; they are beyond the scope of this document.

The level with the quest portal can be made eligible for bones by the simple expedient of removing the portal (if it still exists when the player dies) and storing a normal bones level. Bones from a quest portal level would just be normal bones and could be loaded any time the new game wants a normal level at that depth. This change should not be significant to the character in the new game, since the only really special feature of the quest portal level is the portal itself, which will have been removed. The same approach also works for the level with the Ludios portal.

As before, bones will not be loaded when generating the quest portal level; but since the quest portal is not always at the same depth, this will not prevent a given bones file from ultimately being loaded in some game or another. Again, the same is also true of the Ludios portal level.

Medusa's Island is to have a larger number of variants (instead of four, at least six) and is to occur 3-5 levels above the terminus of the Dungeons of Doom (i.e., there should be 2-4 levels between Medusa and the final level at the bottom). I thought about removing the no-teleport restriction from Medusa's Island either entirely or removing the restriction only when Medusa has been killed but concluded that having a non-teleport water level between the upper and lower dungeons is strategically significant and should be retained. Players who dig past Medusa should need to find a way to traverse it (typically, levitation; or levelport; or scrolls of earth; or whatever) before they can return upstairs e.g. to get the stuff they left in their stash or to revisit Minetown. This makes bypassing the level by digging past it a tradeoff that has a downside. So Medusa's Island stays no-teleport, even when Medusa has been killed, the same as in 3.6.

The levels between Medusa and the terminus are to be mazes and are to have item generation and monster generation probabilities that are different than the rest of the Dungeons of Doom and also different from Gehennom (the details can be worked out later). Some of these mazes may have passage widths or corridor widths of more than 1 tile.

The terminus of the Dungeons of Doom is to occur at roughly the same depth as in version 3.6, or maybe very slightly lower to accomodate an extra maze or two, but no more. I know some variants (notably Slash'em) move it significantly lower, but I do not believe this is the correct solution to making Gehennom less boring.

You'll note that I have not called the terminus "the Castle". This is because there are to be several versions of it. In addition to The Castle of Yendor (which is very similar to the Castle from version 3.4), I suggest Aladdin's Palace (which contains a magic lamp and probably also a scroll of wishing), Doctor Jeckyl's Laboratory (which has a lot of potions and at least one scroll of wishing), and the Ken Arnold Memorial Library (predictably rich in books and scrolls, including at least one scroll of wishing and at least one of each of the 300zm scrolls). There are also some other alternative castles available, which may be worth including. (Fourk has a couple more, which were cherry-picked from another variant that may have got them from Bilious; there may be others.) I am open to suggestions for more versions, if they are both genuinely different from the others and yet also similarly balanced in terms of difficulty and loot.

All versions of the terminus will have several things in common. The terminus will always be at the bottom of the main dungeon, below the maze levels, and will contain some mechanism for entering the Valley of the Dead (and thus Gehennom), usually in the form of trapdoors or holes (which can be flavored in various ways, e.g., in the Library there are holes in the bathrooms). It will always contain a chest on a burned Elbereth square, which contains something important the player is very likely to want. It should always offer the player at least one wish. The terminus will always feature threatening monsters, including a high probability of several types of monsters the player will likely not have seen up to this point.

Late Dungeon

Gehennom is to start with the Valley of the Dead, as before; although there will now be several (at least four) versions of the Valley map. Below the Valley, much is to change.

The special levels will each have multiple variants (except for Vlad's), and they will appear in different places from version 3.6. Gehennom is now to be divided into three major portions, Upper, Middle, and Lower Gehennom.

The mazes are entirely gone from Gehennom (banished to the much smaller maze zone above the Castle). Filler levels in Upper and Lower Gehennom will be generated using a new algorithm, based on the new Gehennom cavern generator (per ais523), with some adjustments, as seen in Fourk. One advantage of this algorithm is that it naturally provides variety as the depth parameter changes, so that near the top of Gehennom the levels are fairly open (almost as much so as in the Mines) and at the bottom they are much more cramped (but still feature small open areas in their topology, so that the player can still be surrounded).

There can now be lakes of water and/or lava, with probabilistic bias toward water at earlier levels and lava deeper in; the probability will also be slanted toward larger quantities of liquid terrain at deeper levels. In some cases it may be necessary for the player to cross water or lava, but usually it will be possible to go around. The probability numbers are to be tweaked so that levels with no water or lava occur sometimes, but levels with multiple regions of water or lava also occur. Lava should generally be lit, but water and floor areas should usually be dark, and corridors in Gehennom should always be generated dark.

Monster generation in Gehennom is to change somewhat. Item generation in Gehennom is to change significantly. Also, at least one monster will gain an additional attack, in order to make the lava more interesting. (One idea for this is to give salamanders a two-turn attack that grabs you and then drowns you in lava, similar to what eels can do in water except that it also destroys your entire inventory even if you are lifesaved or have magical breathing and fire resistance.)

Because Gehennom is no longer composed mostly of mazes, there will be fewer minotaurs and therefore somewhat fewer wands of digging. To compensate for this, the "it only digs one tile down here" effect is gone: wands of digging in Gehennom work just like they do in the main dungeon (except in non-diggable areas on special levels, of course).

Upper Gehennom is to begin with the Valley of the Dead and features up to two additional special levels: the Garden of Temptation (which is new and has only a 50% chance of being generated) and Orcus Town (which is similar to 3.6 but now has multiple versions; also, the filler content on the left side uses the new generator, so it's not a maze). The remainder is filled in with filler levels. (The main reason for moving Orcus Town to an earlier place is to prevent it from being too greatly overshadowed by Lower Gehennom's Black Market.)

The entrance to Vlad's Tower will be in Upper Gehennom, on one of the filler levels. Vlad himself is to be buffed up and given a draining attack that works both at range and point-blank (probably flavored as spitting vampire blood, which works like venom in the sense that it is never left laying around on the floor as an object the player can pick up or handle). The level with the ladder to Vlad's Tower is eligible to leave bones, but the ladder will be removed, creating a normal bones level, similar to what was done for Mines and Sokoban branch stairs.

I can't think of a good set of alternate versions of the Vlad's Tower levels that preserves the general feel of the branch and yet is still genuninely different, on a level-by-level basis, from the existing versions. Unless someone else can come up with such a set, I propose that Vlad's Tower be left as an exception to the "special levels should have alternate versions" rule. Think of it as the exception that proves the rule. The loot in Vlad's Tower is also basically unchanged, or perhaps buffed slightly.

Middle Gehennom is to feature two sub-branches, which run parallel to each other; the player can choose whether to traverse one of them or both. The last level in Upper Gehennom (i.e., Orcus Town) is to have two sets of downward branch stairs, one of which leads to the Fire Pits sub-branch and the other to the Swamp of Death sub-branch. These sub-branches are each to contain the same total number of levels, including two demon lairs each and several (maybe 3) branch-themed filler levels (fire-themed or swamp-themed as the case may be), and the down stairs at the bottom of each of them should lead to the same level, the start of Lower Gehennom.

Trapdoors, holes, and levelport traps near the bottom of Upper Gehennom can potentially deposit the player in either the Fire Pits or the Swamp of Death, but only on the first level of either, which is a filler level. Levelport by other means (such as with a scroll), however, can drop the player onto any level in Middle Gehennom; which sub-branch the player lands in is random, even with teleport control. (Branchport, however, instead of listing one option for Gehennom, will now list Upper Gehennom, The Fire Pits, Swamp of Death, and Lower Gehennom as distinct branches.)

The Fire Pits are to be fire themed and will be the easier of the two paths, but less rewarding. The filler levels in the Fire Pits will be more than half lava and be inhabited mostly by fire-resistant monsters, many of which have fire attacks (some of which, hopefully, are only partially resistable with fire resistance; the "wand balance" proposal would help significantly here). To make the lava even more interesting, at least one monster will be given an attack that takes advantage of it. Perhaps Salamanders will have a drown-in-lava attack similar to the eels' drown-in-water attack. Two demons will have lairs here, but these lairs are redesigned to fit the fire/pit theme. The first demon lair in the Fire Pits is either Asmodeus or Baalzebub (equal chance), and the second is either Yeenoghu or Dispater (equal chance).

The Swamp of Death will be swamp themed and will be more dangerous, but also more rewarding, than the Fire Pits. There will be more monsters and more dangerous monsters here than in the Fire Pits. Two demons have lairs here: the first is Juiblex, and the second is Demogorgon, whose lair contains a guaranteed magic lamp and possibly also a scroll of wishing and various other loot. In general, Swamp of Death levels should have more and better items available than the Fire Pits levels, but be inhabited by more challenging enemies. Particularly common enemies in the swamp are to include various water monsters (including ones with drowning attacks), snakes (including pythons), couatls, jabberwocks, and on-average higher level demons than in the Fire Pits, and a higher percentage of spell casters. Liches, if they haven't been genocided, should be more common in the Swamp of Death than elsewhere. Tengu should probably also be common in the Swamp of Death (because the prospect of tengu corpses may provide an extra incentive for taking the more difficult path).

Lower Gehennom consists of a mixture of filler levels (several of which contain embedded features: this is where the Wizard's Tower and fake wizard towers live) and special levels, chiefly the Black Market. The last level in Lower Gehennom appears like an ordinary (new ais-caverns style) filler level, but instead of being generated with a down stair it contains the Vibrating Square, which works just about the same as in 3.6.

Moloch's Sanctum will dispense with most of the riff-raff (possibly by giving the level a flag that causes clerical spellcasters to avoid Summon Insects) and make the High Priest himself much more dangerous. My original (2014) thinking for this was a special attack that turns random tiles in your general vicinity to lava, as well as a melee attack that does shock damage (which is partially resistable but can still destroy rings and maybe wands) and the destroy armor monster spell. Salamanders with their new drowning attack, to make the lava even more dangerous, can be considered if additional difficulty is wanted, but that may not be necessary. I am not firmly settled on this specific proposal for making the High Priest of Moloch more dangerous; I am willing to consider other means of doing so.

Summary of a Typical Structure of Gehennom:

  • Upper Gehennom (5-6 levels)
    • Valley of the Dead
    • Filler (possible Vlad's entrance)
    • Garden of Temptation OR filler
    • Filler (possible Vlad's entrance)
    • Orcus Town
  • Middle Gehennom (5-6 levels each on two paths)
    • Fire Pits (easier path)
      • Fire Filler
      • Asmodeus or Baalzebub
      • Fire Filler
      • Yeenoghu or Dispater
      • Fire Filler
    • Swamp of Death (challenge path)
      • Swamp Filler
      • Juiblex
      • Swamp Filler
      • Demogorgon
      • Swamp Filler
  • Lower Gehennom (12-14 levels)
    • Black Market
    • Filler
    • Wizard's Tower Levels
    • Filler
    • Fake Tower Levels
    • Filler
    • Vibrating Square Level
    • Moloch's Sanctum

In some cases "Filler" may allow for more than one consecutive filler level. In some cases "Filler" may also be zero levels, if all the filler levels for the sub-branch in question are elsewhere. For example, in Upper Gehennom, there are 5-6 levels total, and the Garden of Temptation, if generated, can be anywhere between the Valley and O-Town. Any of the filler levels can have the entrance to Vlad's Tower, even the one that replaces the Garden when it is not generated. Note, however, that both sub-branches in Middle Gehennom have the same number of levels (to keep numbering consistent) and always start with a filler level.

End Game

The end game is still to contain five planes representing the five elements (earth, fire, water, air, and aether), but the order of the first four planes is to be randomized, and some of the planes themselves have been redesigned. Whether travel back to previous levels is still impossible here is an open question. (I can see arguments either way.)

The Amulet of Yendor is still required in order to reach the end game.


Gnomish Mines

The entrance to the Gnomish Mines is to occur at the same depth as in version 3.4. The branch is to be the same length as in 3.4 and contain two special levels, Minetown and Mine's End, each at the same depth as in 3.4.

Filler levels in the Gnomish Mines are to be very similar to version 3.4. The first level of the Mines is to be lit, guaranteed, but subsequent levels have the same lighting odds as in version 3.4.

Monster generation in the Gnomish Mines is to be very similar to version 3.4, and item generation may also be rather similar to 3.4, except where changes are needed for balance reasons. For reasons discussed later (under Sokoban), I propose that each filler level in the Mines receive a 50% chance of an additional random ring and, independently, a 50% chance of an additional random wand.

Rather than having Gnomes carry light sources, as so many variants do, I propose that (non-undead) dwarvish monsters in the Mines sometimes carry one, usually a candle, occasionally a brass lantern. The flavor explanation for this is that while Gnomes do not need light for anything (they live exclusively underground and have a magical affinity with the earth that lets them feel things like minerals at a distance), dwarves do need it for some things. Dwarves can see better underground than a human (because, infravision), well enough to get around and to defend themselves, but they need light e.g., to appraise gem qualities. This is why they carry light sources in the Mines in particular. Perhaps they buy them in Minetown. The real (play balance) reason for giving light sources to dwarves, not Gnomes, is that dwarves are fewer in number than Gnomes, so it's a less drastic change. This is also the reason for only giving them light sources sometimes, and only in the Mines, and usually just a single candle. This proposal is not strictly required in order to ensure enough candles: another source of candles is added later. Note too that NetHack4 currently gives stacks of candles to Gnomes, so for NetHack4 this actually brings us back closer to vanilla.

Minetown in principle is to be roughly the same as in version 3.4, with a few tweaks. The randomly-generated portions of Frontier Town, Town Square, Alley Town, College Town, and Bazaar Town are now cavern-like, rather than being composed of rooms and corridors. Additionally, all doors in Minetown are well-oiled, so you will not hear them open from outside line-of-sight. Due to these two changes, players arriving via the stairs may not always immediately know that they have reached the Minetown level.

Perhaps a more controversial change, I propose that one general store be guaranteed to be generated in Frontier Town, Town Square, and Bazaar Town. This is intended to ensure (barring bones -- more on that in a moment) that the player always has the option to do price-checking in a reasonably convenient manner that does not require credit cloning. Just needing to drag everything to the level is enough hassle. The reason for excluding College Town from this list is simply that the guaranteed book shop allows price-checking scrolls, which is adequate to bootstrap the identification process. (The other three Minetown variants already guarantee the general store, so no change is required there.)

Additional changes are proposed mainly in order to meaningfully differentiate the various Minetown versions from one another. It is my hope that this can be done without altering the overall balance quality of Minetown. These changes are detailed later, in the proposed levels section of this document.

I am tempted to say that Minetown bones are not loaded by default; players who want to be able to encounter bones in Minetown must set the bones option to 2. In some ways this complicates the meaning of the setting (for all other levels, 1 means load bones only if the level was bones-eligible in 3.4.3; setting it to 2 means they can be loaded even on levels that were not eligible in 3.4), but in other ways it would seem to make the setting simpler, because Minetown really is an anomoly, and allowing bones there seems inconsistent with 3.4.3's general philosophy of making special levels bones-ineligible if they contain important things. Minetown contains the only guaranteed aligned altar in the game (for most roles), and so it really belongs, conceptually, in that category of levels where bones are not loaded by default. Still, I am willing to be pursuaded either way on this issue. (Personally, as a player, I would in any case set the bones option to 2.)

Mine's End is to be similar to 3.4, except that the Mimic of the Mines will be adjusted (so that what it offers is more closely balanced against the other versions, both in terms of challenge and also reward), and at least one new variant is to be added. These enhancements are detailed in the proposed levels section, below. All versions of Mine's End are now eligible to save bones, but bones are not loaded for Mine's End unless the bones option is set to 2. With a default setting of 1, the player will never see Mine's End bones.

Dungeons of Doom, Early

The basic room-and-corridor design for main-dungeon filler levels is largely unchanged for version 4.4, with only minor enhancements.

Falling rock traps should not be generated in the main dungeon until dungeon level four. This gives both the player and their starting pet a chance to kill enough monsters to level up a couple of times and thus have enough HP to not die instantly. (In other branches, falling rock traps can be generated at any dungeon level, as before. Currently this is only relevant for the first Mines level.)

One enhancement that is easy to make, adds a little variety and visual interest to the layouts, and does not disrupt game balance to any significant extent, is to allow some rooms to have a non-rectangular shape. As I currently envision it, this works as follows: when a level is being generated, each room that is created is checked to see if it is eligible to be shaped. In order to qualify for this, a room's dimensions must provide for at least four floor tiles in each direction (horizontal and vertical), or six tiles in each direction including walls. Smaller rooms are simply made rectangular as in version 3.4.3. Additionally, shops are always rectangular (mainly because I don't want to calculate the effect of smaller floor area for shops on game balance; but also because I don't want to try to understand the shopkeeper code well enough to know if non-rectangular shops would reveal bugs in it). Once a room is determined to be both large enough and not a shop, it gets a percentage chance to be a non-rectangular shape (currently I am thinking about one chance in five, which with many rooms not being large enough will lead to an expectation of a bit less than one shaped room per level, average). The zoo-filling code may need to be adjusted to deal with shaped rooms, but I believe that code is easier to work with than the aforementioned shopkeeper code, and I think shaped zoos will be reasonably interesting and not a balance problem. Other special room types can be decided on a case-by-case basis as to whether they can be shaped or not.

The following shapes are available: rectangle with one corner cut out ("L"); rectangle with two adjacent corners cut out ("T"); rectangle with two non-adjacent corners cut our ("S/Z", a shape that will remind some people of Tetris); rectangle with all four corners cut out ("+"); rectangle with rounded ends ("oval"); rectangle with a wall-edged rock pillar taken out of the middle ("O"); or a rectangle with both rounded ends and a pillar in the middle ("stadium"). This last shape ("stadium") is only available if the room is large enough to support both modifications; otherwise it reverts to one of the simpler shapes. The size of each cutout in each dimension is randomized. For shapes with no directly adjacent cutouts ("L", "S/Z", and "O"), each cutout measures at least two tiles and not more than half the room's size (rounded down) in each dimension. For the others ("T", "+", "oval", and "stadium"), each cutout measures at least one tile and not more than a third of the room's size (rounded down) in each dimension.

The code that decides where the doors go may need to be adjusted to handle shaped rooms. Also, the code that decides where to place vaults may benefit from being adjusted, as a vault may fit near some of these shapes where it wouldn't fit if the room were a full rectangle.

The design of the regular room-and-corridor levels could be improved in a number of additional ways, but these changes should be adquate for the time being. More can be done in some later version, but honestly at this time I feel that it is more important to focus most of the effort on other areas of the game, particularly Gehennom.

That leaves early special levels.

Delphi is fine as it stands, except that the Oracle should charge less. (Players reaching this depth in the dungeon should be able to afford at least one major consultation, if they have picked up all the gold so far.) Also, the Oracle's repertoire of consultations should be expanded somewhat; the NH4 bug tracker has a ticket for this.

The Big Room, if generated (same probability as in 3.4), should be at least two levels below Delphi. I don't care whether this is accomplished by changing the max depth of Delphi or the min depth of the Big Room. One way or the other, it should be possible to reach the Sokoban entrance without going into the Big Room.


The level below Delphi now contains three up stairs. The regular one leads to the Delphi level. The second one, a branch stair, leads to Sokoban, as before. The third one, also a branch stair, now leads to a second optional branch that runs parallel to Sokoban and connects to the Sokoban zoo at the top. This new branch, which I am provisionally calling Nabokos (from a shortened form of Nabokodrosoros, a Greek name for the ancient Babylonian king more popularly known in modern times as Nebuchadnezzar), is more difficult (from a character survival standpoint) and less rewarding than Sokoban but allows the final prize to be claimed without pushing boulders around. Nabokos is discussed in its own section, below.

Each level of Sokoban is to have at least three versions, preferably four; but the hard ones from Slash'em shall NOT be adopted. (They work very well in Slash'em, but we're not trying to be Slash'em.) Instead, some new Sokoban levels have been drawn up, which are comparable in difficulty to the existing ones. I am tempted to also replace the widely disliked "Soko2a" (level 2 version B on Steelypips).

There are several reasons why I feel more variants of the Sokoban levels would be a Good Thing:

  1. The levels are of entirely fixed design with no random component at all to their layout or terrain. One of the most important things that gives NetHack its high replay value is that randomly generated content makes the game different every time. Having entirely-non-random levels undermines that somewhat. Non-random level layout is desirable in some cases, with Sokoban being a rather obvious example; but in such cases the "same every time" aspect can be and should be mitigated somewhat by having multiple variants of each level. Such variety is good provided that balance and playability are maintained, because it increases replay value.
  2. The Sokoban levels occur fairly early in the dungeon and are often strategically advantageous to enter as soon as possible, and so players tend to encounter them frequently. In this regard, Minetown is similar; the old dev team appears to have realized this, and so Minetown has way more than two variants; and while it is arguable that not all of the Minetown variants in NetHack 3.4 are as genuinely different from one another as would be ideal (an issue addressed separately below), the total amount of variety is still quite a bit more than for e.g. the first level of Sokoban. Also, most of the Minetown variants have at least minor random components, typically around the stairs, which serves to mitigate the sameness somewhat. (That approach -- random generation of at least part of each level -- could also be used for Sokoban, but it would be a much more radical change than what I am proposing here.)
  3. The levels are physically small and so the entire level is instantly recognizable and becomes extremely familiar after a relatively small number of sightings, exacerbating the game-to-game "sameness" issue.
  4. It doesn't increase difficulty significantly. As a tautology, players fall into one of two categories: either they routinely consult spoilers for Sokoban or else not. Sokoban puzzle difficulty is more or less irrelevant for those players who do use spoilers (and it may be reasonably assumed that spoilers will quickly emerge for the new puzzles); and for players who do not use spoilers, the difficulty of each puzzle itself, and the number of puzzles that must be solved in each game, are more important to overall difficulty than the amount of game-to-game variety. (There is a third category, players who make their own spoilers. But these players are clearly the exception.)

The fourth level of Sokoban will probably have only three versions (bag, amulet, and ring), unless someone can think of a fourth prize that matches well (balance-wise) against the other three, in terms of being preferred by a similar percentage of the player base. (The other option would be to maintain an even number of variants for Soko4 and place the amulet in half of them and the bag in the other half, leaving out the ring.)

The new possible Sokoban prize that I propose is a ring of polymorph control. I feel that this provides a character survival benefit intermediate in value between the bag of holding and the amulet of reflection; additionally, I feel that it provides a fun/convenience benefit intermediate in value between the amulet and the bag. Thus, on both scales it is a middle ground. Like both of the others, it is an item that can be obtained elsewhere but can often be difficult to find in the early game. It is not actually needed, but it can be really handy and in particular could be handy below Minetown (where polytraps can occur with some frequency) but is certainly not required.

Because some players dislike it, I would like to make traditional completion of Sokoban, according to the Sokoban rules, feel somewhat more genuinely optional. To this end, several concessions are offered.

In the first place, players can choose to complete Nabokos (see next section) instead of Sokoban and still claim the final prize (the bag of holding, amulet of reflection, or ring of polymorph control) from the Sokoban zoo, without pushing a single boulder.

Additionally, the luck penalties for breaking the Sokoban rules shall only apply if the character is NOT carrying a luckstone. Any player who has been to Mine's End and picked up the luckstone there should be able to breeze through Sokoban using a pick-axe and the two provided scrolls of earth, with no luck penalty. (A player who happens upon a luckstone on the floor before reaching the Sokoban entrance can do the same thing.) Additionally, once a given Sokoban level has been completed, its luck penalties and other Sokoban-specific restrictions (e.g., against rolling boulders diagonally) shall be lifted.

Third, as discussed elsewhere in this proposal, the average number of wands and rings in the Mines will be very slightly increased, so that players who choose to forego Sokoban (possibly completing Nabokos instead) will not be missing as large a percentage of the available wands and rings in the early game. I propose that each filler level in the Mines has a 50% chance of an additional random ring and, independently, a 50% chance of an additional random wand. (It is understood that players who do both Sokoban and the Mines will thus get a few more rings and wands in the early game than was typical in version 3.4; but I do not believe this difference will be significantly unbalancing, since rings and wands also occur as death drops anyhow and become more common later in the game.)

Finally, the statue of Perseus is now guaranteed to contain both a shield of reflection and a bag (usually a plain sack or in one variant an oilskin sack), so players who press on can be assured of finding both these items there. The amulet of reflection or the bag of holding from Sokoban would be nicer, and could be obtained without going so deep, but it is possible to live without. In 3.4.3, if you skip Sokoban, you risked facing the Castle with no bag and/or no reflection. This is now no longer the case.

All four Sokoban levels are to be made bones-eligible. However, the bones option shall default to 1, which means "only load bones on normal levels" (where "normal" levels are mostly the levels where bones were possible in NetHack 3.4.3). If the bones option is set to 0, that means never load bones at all, and setting it to 2 means they can be loaded (very nearly) anywhere. Only players who have deliberately set the bones option to 2 can ever see Sokoban bones. By default, Sokoban bones will not be loaded.

Finally, every version of every Sokoban level is to be given a name, which is to show up in #overview by default, once the level has been visited, unless the player renames it (using #annotate). This minor change has no impact within the game itself but is intended to facilitate conversations about the game. Currently we find ourselves referring to things like "Sokoban level 2a", which indeed is slightly ambiguous since not all spoilers present the levels in the same order. (In particular, Steelypips and the wiki are at odds about this nomenclature.) Giving them all official names does away with that.

The proposed new levels will be given names later in this document, as they are presented. However, I propose here names for the existing levels:

Wiki Steelypips Boulders Per Room Proposed Name
1a l1 verB 4/3/1/4 Setting That Aside
1b l1 verA 2/3/5 Kick It on Over
2a l2 verB hard to subdivide Boulders All Around
2b l2 verA 3/2/7/8 Twenty Lucky Rocks
3a 13 verB 3/6/2/5 Way Up There
3b 13 verA 3/2/4/2/2 Squeeze Me In
4a 14 verA 5/5/7/1 Left Holding the Bag
4b l4 verB 1/7/12 Upon Further Reflection

Note that these names are provisional suggestions. I'm not attached to these specific names. Someone may be able to think of better names for some of them. Also, we may consider removing the widely disliked Boulders All Around from the game, in favor of one of the suggested new levels proposed later.


Nabokos is a new branch that runs upward, parallel to Sokoban (the entrance is on the same level with the Sokoban entrance, in the main dungeon directly below Delphi). The branch is five levels tall -- one level taller than Sokoban, so that its top level is directly above the Sokoban zoo. There is an additional branch stair running from the Sokoban zoo upward to the fifth level of Nabokos (also connected back in the other direction; the top level of Nabokos thus has two down stairs, a regular one and the branch stair to Sokoban), thus providing a "back entrance" as it were to Sokoban, allowing yet another way for players who dislike Sokoban to skip it. This stair is the sole reason Nabokos exists. It is not intended that any rational player should feel compelled to complete both Sokoban and Nabokos. (It is inevitable, purely because both branches exist, that some players will feel compelled to complete both; I very likely will myself, because I have a tendency to want to be fully thorough; but it is intended that this be a strictly irrational compulsion and not strategically jusifiable.)

The five levels of Nabokos are intended to be more difficult than Sokoban or even than normal main-dungeon levels at a similar depth, but not so difficult as to be unreasonable, especially for a player who has already tackled the Mines.

Nabokos is designed to only be worth completing for players who wish to obtain the Sokoban prize without pushing around boulders. There are no items generated on the floor in Nabokos, only whatever you can get from the monsters, and there are no notable dungeon features other than the stairs (no altars, no fountains, etc.), and the branch is biased toward monsters that provide mostly uninteresting (or no) inventory: a disproportionate percentage of the monsters generated here are insects, exploding spheres, lights, mummies, zombies, imps, kobolds, rodents, orcs, piercers, quadrupeds, vortices, bats, and chameleons, though other monsters can occasionally be generated (at random) as well. Players who complete Sokoban should be able to skip Nabokos without really missing anything much. (The reverse is not so true, due to the rings and wands and perhaps the food.)

Each level of Nabokos is composed of about 8-10 rooms packed close together and joined by very short (1-4 tile long) corridors, making the entire level just a bit larger than a fourth-level Sokoban level, with similar amounts of floor space. Each room is populated, initially at level generation time, with 2-5 monsters. There are no special rooms in Nabokos, no vaults, and mineralization is lighter (fewer buried coins and gems) than in the main dungeon.

Nabokos does contain traps. Each level has 3d3 traps placed randomly. These will not be statue traps (because there are no items, on the floor, including statues) and will also not be rolling boulder traps (because there are no items on the floor, including boulders), but there can be any other type of trap appropriate for the level depth. Doors may also be trapped per the usual probabilities. There are no chest or box traps simply because there are no items on the floor (containers would count as items), and as noted stairs are the only dungeon furniture.

The monster generation rate in Nabokos is the same as in the main dungeon, in number of monsters per dungeon level per unit time.

Several sample Nabokos levels are included in the proposed levels section at the end of this document.

Dungeons of Doom, Lower

Below the Sokoban entrance, the player may begin to encounter a wider variety of special rooms than was common in version 3.4.3.

Shaped rooms, mentioned previously, can occur here with the same rules as earlier.

The bug that causes antholes and cockatrice nests to barely ever be generated will be fixed, and their minimum starting depth will be reduced. I can imagine a player reaching dungeon level 12 and still being unprepared to deal with ants, but such a scenario would necessarily be abnormal in some way, perhaps due to conduct play, poor strategy, or RNG disfavor realized through multiple trap doors. In a typical game, it is reasonable for antholes to start showing up as early as DL11 or two levels below Delphi, whichever is earlier. Cockatrice nests should be possible by DL14, if not sooner.

Dragon halls, if we don't wish to reserve them for Gehennom, seem like an obvious enhancement and could feature (sleeping) Great Dragons, normal adult dragons (and possibly baby dragons, maybe even dragon eggs) of the same color, and thematic loot. Great Dragons are a step up from normal adult dragons. Besides having higher stats and so being harder to kill, they also have more powerful attacks, possibly including attacks that are only partially resistable and/or not rendered entirely harmless by reflection (like what the wand balance proposal suggests), or themed melee attacks (e.g., for red dragons a melee attack that does fire damage) that cannot be reflected. Thematic loot would include gold and gems of course but also some items themed to the element corresponding with the dragons' color, e.g., fire-themed items (scroll of fire, wand of fire, ring of fire resistance, potions of oil or booze, and maybe even a spellbook of fireball) if the dragons are red, poison-themed items if the dragons are green, acid-themed if yellow, etc. Dragon halls can start occuring a few levels before Medusa and should be given priority (for being generated) over the low-level "easy" special room types. For example, if a leprechaun hall would be generated, but the dungeon level is deep enough for a dragon hall, the dragon hall should be generated instead of the leprechaun hall.

Statue halls are another possibility: the walls would be lined with statues, a few of which would be statue traps. These would mainly be for flavor, however; the gameplay significance of statue traps that are obvious and can be easily avoided is basically nil.

Additional types of special rooms should also be added if we can think of more good ones. (I like the way Brogue has puzzle rooms, but the specific details of how they work in Brogue are not a good fit for NetHack, so if we wanted to do something like that we would have to design them basically from scratch. As yet I have not thought through exactly how something like that might work in NetHack.)

Tribute Level

There will now be a "bank" of several possible tribute levels, each one being a tribute to a particular roguelike game other than NetHack. In any given game you get one. The Rogue level is retained as one of these possibilities.

Each tribute level will have its own floor layout style designed to look like the other game's levels, its own symbol mappings to resemble the other game, its own monster generation rate and set of rules for which monsters can generate, its own object generation rules, and its own set of special features.

The Rogue level itself does not need to change, IMO. It's unique enough to be interesting for some players and, being only one level, is and quick to breeze through for the rest. Also, the fact that it has not kept up with all the most recent changes in the game is kind of the point here; updating and enhancing the level as part of a dungeon overhaul seems like it would spoil that dynamic. In particular, the Rogue level should be exempt from the new "non-rectangular rooms" feature. The main special feature of the Rogue level is the guaranteed fake bones pile with the cheap plastic amulet.

An Angband tribute level might be reasonable to introduce as another possibility. It should obviously be larger than a normal NetHack level and scroll as you explore it and will use a generation algorithm designed to make it look like a typical Angband level. The list of possible monsters and items will be chosen to coincide as much as possible with things that could also be seen in Angband.

Would a Crawl tribute level be practical at all? ADOM? Larn? Others? These are questions I cannot answer, because I am not enough of a gamer to have played all the games.

Medusa's Island

Instead of 1-4 levels above the Castle, Medusa's Island now occurs 3-5 levels above the terminus. (This means that it can potentially occur immediately below the Tribute level, if the Tribute level is as deep as it can possibly be and Medusa's as shallow as it can possibly be.)

There are now four distinct versions of this special level. All four are water themed, and all four contain Medusa and a statue of Perseus, which contains a shield of reflection (always), a sack (or in one version an oilskin sack), a blessed +2 scimitar, and a percentage chance of a pair of levitation boots.

Unlike in version 3.4, the random statues on Medusa's level (i.e., all the statues created when the level is generated except for Perseus) have the usual chance of containing a spellbook, just like the statues on any other level. In conjunction with other changes, this will help to mitigate the strategic impact of fixing C343-149.

Medusa's Island also becomes eligible to leave bones. However, the bones option shall default to 1, which means "only load bones on the levels where they were possible in NetHack 3.4.3 (except for Minetown)". If the bones option is set to 0, that means never load bones at all, and setting it to 2 means they can be loaded anywhere (except for the very few levels that will remain entirely ineligible for bones). Only players who deliberately set the bones option to 2 will ever encounter Medusa's Island bones.

Amazing Maze Zone

The levels below Medusa but above the terminus of the Dungeons of Doom will be maze levels, but they can have corridor widths and/or wall thicknesses other than 1. (I have a basically working patch for generating them, although it was written against an old nicehack and will need to be updated before it will apply cleanly to anything current.)

Monster generation here is random but is biased toward the creation of certain types of monsters, notably minotaurs.

Item generation in the mazes can also be biased in different directions than elsewhere, as needed for balance. For example, the frequency of spellbooks could be cranked up a bit here if, after fixing C343-149, it becomes evident that more spellbooks are needed. Finding desired items makes mazes feel less boring.

The last maze level before the terminus contains an historic statue of Theseus, which contains a mace. For flavor reasons this mace is always positively enchanted, although at this depth in the dungeon that is unlikely to be strategically important.


The terminus, or final level of the Dungeons of Doom, occurs at the same depth as in 3.4. There are several versions. All of them are considered a "graveyard" level whether they contain any undead or not, and all of them are non-teleport and have undiggable walls and floors.

Castle of Yendor

This is essentially the same as the Castle in 3.4, except that the wand of wishing cannot be recharged. (See Object Behavior, later in this document.) This still makes the Castle of Yendor the most wish-intensive terminus, with a minimum of two wishes (one of which must be wrested) and possibly as many as four (ditto). Getting the Castle of Yendor is the new equivalent of getting the wand at the full (0:3) in version 3.4.3.

Aladdin's Palace

You start on an island near the south edge of the map and must cross the water (there is a drawbridge to your north) to reach the Palace proper. The water contains a dozen random ;. The central area (behind the portculis) contains a hostile djinn, four hostile palace guard captains (similar to regular captains), four hostile palace guards (similar to lieutenants), a mumak, a monkey, and 18 throne-room monsters, as well as a throne. Doors at the back lead to barracks full of soldiers, which may also contain chests (with normal random-chest contents). Doors at the east and west ends of the room lead to the wings. Each wing consists of a central hall and three rooms (front, back, and end). The central hall of each wing contains three random traps, a trap door leading to the Valley, and two xorns. One of the two end rooms contains a chest, sitting on burned Elbereth, which contains gold, about twelve stacks of gems, two smoky potions, a magic lamp, an amulet of life saving, two +5 rustproof scimitars, 3d3 random scrolls, two random wands, and three random items. The front and back rooms of each wing are store rooms, provisioned with armor, tools, potions, and spellbooks. The back rooms each contain an exit to the outside, and behind the palace there are four dragons and a jabberwock. The water also wraps around back, so some of the sea monsters can find their way there. A map of this level is included under Proposed Levels, below.

The Ken Arnold Memorial Library

The player arrives on the level outside the building and must enter through the double doors at the front (west end). Most of the loot is books and scrolls, with maybe a handful of wands. The chest contains a pair of lenses, 2-3 markers, and an athame. There may also be a scroll of wishing in the chest, if it is decided that it's worth adding that to the game just to include a wish on this level. Defending monsters are mostly spellcasters. It is dangerous to use conflict here because of the peaceful Librarians. A map of this level is included under Proposed Levels, below.

Doctor Jeckyl's Laboratory

The laboratory contains a veritable ton of potions (some random, some of guaranteed type, and some of guaranteed appearance, including typically 40-50 smoky potions, good for about one wish collectively on average), a few books and scrolls, a wand each of polymorph and death, and assorted boots and cloaks. Flavor items include alchemy smocks, cans of grease, tinning kits, stethoscopes, a couple of ice boxes, and eleven sinks. A map of this level is included under Proposed Levels, below.

Valley of the Dead

The Valley of the Dead now comes in several variants, but in principle they are all similar. All versions contain corpses, graveyards, a temple of Moloch, one-way stairs back up to the terminus, and the bidirectional stairs downward that are the entrance to Gehennom proper. The version in 3.4.3 is retained and is typical. For branchport purposes, the Valley is considered part of Upper Gehennom. The new versions of this level are included under Proposed Levels.

Upper Gehennom

Counting the Valley of the Dead, Upper Gehennom is typically five levels long (with perhaps a small amount of random variation; maybe in some games it could be six levels long). Besides the Valley, there can be up to two additional special levels in this section: the Garden of Temptation (positioned randomly) and Orcus Town (which is now always the last level in Upper Gehennom).

The Garden of Temptation is a new level, which has a 50% chance of being generated in any given game (otherwise, it's replaced with a filler level). The Garden features a lake, a number of pools and fountains, numerous trees, statues (mostly of nymphs and foocubi; there is also one statue of Aphrodite), nymphs, foocubi, and sundry. If adding new monster types is permitted, I'd throw in sirens (dangerous if you're standing close to water, because they can charm the player and lure him into water, resulting in drowning while helpless) and maybe also satyrs (basically like nymphs on steroids). The lake contains a submerged magic lamp, and some flavor text hints at this. The nymphs (but only the ones created when the level is generated) each get a ring, which is either a ring of adornment (50%) or a random ring.

Orcus Town is similar to 3.4 but now comes in several variants. The other notable thing about it is that it now has two down stairs (near one another, both near Orcus' starting position): one down stair leads to the Fire Pits, and the other leads to the Swamp of Death.

Filler levels in this section are generated randomly, using the ais caverns algorithm or some variation on that. It's possible (but not particularly likely on any given level), for there to be some regions of water or possibly even lava. (The likelihood is based on how far below Terminus the level is, so the same formula that produces low probabilities here yields rather higher chances in Lower Gehennom.)

Vlad's Tower

As noted previously, the entrance to Vlad's Tower will now occur in Upper Gehennom, just 1-4 levels below the Valley.

Combined with the reduced wish count at the Terminus, this means the player will typically be a little less prepared than before when facing him, but not so much as to entirely ameliorate Vlad's obvious balance issues. Consequently, he will still need a little buffing.

In addition to increasing Vlad's basic stats (hitpoints, AC, etc.), I recommend giving him a venom-style "vampire blood" non-reflectable spitting attack that drains levels (if the target is not drain resistant), which is not blocked by MC and is usable both at range and also point-blank. One reason I propose this is that it has reasonably good flavor justification. Another reason is, draining attacks are under-represented in NetHack generally, especially ranged ones, so having more of them is good. (However, I don't want to go off the deep end and adopt Slash'em's wand of draining, because that's just crazy.) A third reason I propose this is that it makes Elbereth tactically ineffective against him, without having him ignore it outright: he'll refrain from melee and instead use the spitting attack, which drains levels. With this modification, Vlad is still pretty much a joke for lawful longsword-wielders, but other characters will need to take him somewhat more seriously than before. Beating him to death with a rusty tin opener will not be so easy.

The first level of Vlad's tower should be bones-eligible (I have no idea why it wasn't already), and bones should be loaded there unless the player has entirely disabled the loading of bones. That is, this level is no longer considered "special" for bones purposes.

The last level is not bones-eligible because of the Candelabrum. This could be resolved, if desired, by removing any extant Candelabrum from the level when bones are saved (this is already done anyway, in case you happen to have carried the thing to any bones-eligible level) and then adding it back in when the level is loaded, at Vlad's location if he is present or a random location on the level otherwise. None of the other properties of the level are so important that they would necessarily need to be preserved in bones. As usual, bones for these levels are not loaded by default; the user must set the "bones" option to 2 to enable loading of bones on traditionally-ineligible levels.

I can't think of a good reason to significantly alter the loot in this branch. The guaranteed items here are, in any vaguely recent version of NetHack (certainly since well before version 3.4.0) mostly strategically insignificant pure-flavor items (e.g., a mundane longsword), which are fine. The major exceptions to this are on the middle level, which contains two potentially important items (life saving, water walking); however, it is my opinion that the presence of these in Vlad's tower doesn't really alter the overall game balance much, because there are numerous other ways to obtain them in most games (not least, they are both commonly achieved results when polypiling). So my current thinking is to leave them stand as-is. However, if more books are needed for balance reasons, due to the fixing of C343-149, some could be added here.

I have elected NOT to add a wish-granting item to Vlad's Tower. Upper Gehennom, being within half a dozen levels of the Terminus, really only needs one magic lamp at most, and the Garden is not only a more flavor-appropriate place for it but also allows it to be "hidden" better (so that the player must actually do something to obtain it, beyond just walking in and picking it up) and furthermore is not guaranteed to be generated in every game, making the lamp less than guaranteed, which IMO is good. We should have, in Gehennom, one magic lamp that is less than guaranteed but significantly more likely than random generation; and if we are indeed going to have a magic lamp that only appears half the time, Upper Gehennom is the ideal place for it, since it's so soon after Terminus, where the user probably just received at least one wish. This is potentially a little rough on a player who gets the Library variant of Terminus (thus no wish there) and no Garden, but I think the better solution to that (if it is deemed to require a solution) is to manufacture a flavor-appropriate way to put a wish into the Library; this possibility is discussed separately.

Also, with the new way we are doing wishes, virtually none of them are actually guaranteed. A magic lamp grants only 80% of a wish on average, for instance. This fact will already need to be taken into consideration when balancing the new Gehennom, so the possibility of no lamp at Terminus and also no Garden and thus no lamp in Upper Gehennom doesn't really break anything additional, provided it's uncommon. With four variants of Terminus and the Garden generated half the time, I calculate a one-in-eight chance that the player gets Library and no Garden; this is very comparable to the probability that the player gets no wish from Aladdin's Palace or the Laboratory. So even if we do not put a wish in the Library, I will still recommend putting the Upper Gehennom lamp into the Garden and not putting any into Vlad's.

Middle Gehennom

The Fire Pits

The Fire Pits are the easier but less rewarding path through Middle Gehennom. (That's relative. They're likely harder than the mazes that they're replacing from 3.4, if nothing else simply because they're pretty "open"; although, due to the rock outcroppings blocking line-of-sight, the player may not be able to see everything when arriving on the level.) The overall theme of the levels is fire, and basically every monster in the branch is fire-resistant.

The filler levels on this branch are generated with a new algorithm. (Samples are included in the proposed levels section below, and the code that generated them is appended also.) Each level is more than half lava, but there are also sections of rock and also some open floor areas. Because of all the lava, these levels are pretty well lit. Traversing these levels may sometimes require teleport or levitation or some other way to cross lava. (The level generator doesn't guarantee that crossing lava is required; it just frequently works out that way.) In rare cases, digging or phasing through (or teleporting past) rock may be required. The rock outcroppings often block or partially block your view of other parts of the level.

Each filler level is generated with a number of ground-based fire-resistant monsters and also a number of flying fire-resistant monsters. Some monsters are more probable than others. Red dragons and fire elementals are so likely as to be virtually guaranteed. Purple L are rare but possible. Xorns can be generated in the rock.

The sections of rock MAY be wallified around their edges, but I haven't yet decided whether this is desirable. The samples are shown without wallification.

At level generation, monsters are placed where they can be reached by levitating (or, in the case of xorns, by walking or phasing) from either the up stair or the down stair. However, sections of the map can be generated that cannot be reached (other than via teleport) without traversing both lava and rock. Whether it is desirable to prevent monsters from subsequently being generated in these places is an open question, but on the whole, since teleport and digging are both allowed, I think it's ok.

There are two special levels in the Fire Pits sub-branch, both demon lairs. Both of these are non-teleport until the unique named demon in question is killed but lose their non-teleport status thereafter. The first one is either Asmodeus' Lair or Baalzebub's Fortress, both of which are redesigned to fit the Fire Pits theme, and each of which now comes in two variants. The second special level is either Yeenoghu's Plaza or Dispater's Gauntlet, both new.

Random item generation in the Fire Pits can, if desired, be given different probabilities from the rest of Gehennom. For example, it seems logical that potions would not be generated in the Fire Pits, because liquids (other than lava) would be in danger of evaporation here. This would extend to death drops, as well as floor items and possibly polymorph results as well. Perhaps even monster starting inventory should be restricted.

Asmodeus' and Baalzebub's Lairs currently each come in two variants.

Version A of Asmodeus' Lair is based loosely on his lair from version 3.4.3, but with some adjustments to better fit the branch theme. Notably, the interior of the walled lair contains a mixture of ordinary floor and lava. Specific trap positions are no longer guaranteed, and the inhabitants of the level now fit with the Fire Pits theme. Of course, the exterior portion of the level, surrounding the walled lair, is no longer a maze but instead is based on the Fire Pits generator. As before, the walls are undiggable. Asmodeus stands on the down stairs, which are inside the building. The up stairs are outside the building, on the western side of the level. Samples are included below.

Version B of Asmodeus' Lair is also a walled building, with a mixture of floor and lava inside, surrounded on the outside by the usual Fire Pits filler material (lots of lava with some areas of rock and/or floor). Two "secret" doors near the east end of the building provide entry to the lair proper. The walls are undiggable. Asmodeus stands on the down stairs, which are inside the building. The up stairs are outside the building, on the western side of the level. Samples are included below.

Both versions of Baalzebub's Lair consist of a walled building embedded in rock, surrounded by fire-pit filler. The down stair is inside the building, and Baalzebub is near it. The walls are undiggable but contain doors; the player must dig or phase through the surrounding rock in order to reach the doors. In addition to normal Fire Pits monsters, both versions of Baalzebub's Lair are also guaranteed to have at least three xorns. Version A of the lair has the building oriented east-to-west; the player (if coming from above) must enter on the west end and pass through an outer chamber and an entryway in order to reach the inner chamber where the demon prince resides over the stairs. Version B has the building oriented north-to-south, with entrances at both the north and south ends. In this variant, the player must traverse lava in the outer chamber in order to reach the central chamber.

Asmodeus' Lair and Baalzebub's Lair are equally likely. In any given game the Fire Pits will contain one of them, on the second, third, or fourth level of the five-level branch. (The first level is guaranteed filler.)

The second demon lair in the Fire Pits branch, occuring on the third, fourth, or fifth level (and always below the aforementioned first demon lair) is either Yeenoghu's Plaza or Dispater's Gauntlet. Again, the two are equally likely.

Yeenoghu's Plaza is a roughly square building taking up the middle portion of the level, stretching across it from north to south. To the west and to the east are normal Fire-Pits filler material, containing the up stairs and the down stairs, respectively. Secret doors allow access to the interior of the building, which contains a number of walled rock pillars and a randomized mixture of lava and floor. Yeenoghu himself is hiding behind a pillar, in one of several tactical positions chosen so that the player cannot easily traverse the building from door to door without being seen at some point. He is set to ambush mode, i.e., he waits until he has you in line-of-sight and then attacks immediately. (For ambush mode, it does not matter if he can actually see you or not. He expects you to come, and as soon as you pass within his line of sight, he attacks.) The middle portion of the level, including the entire building and the rock at the map edges to the north and south of it, is undiggable and unphaseable. However, if the areas to the east and west of the building happen to contain rock, it is diggable and phaseable. Samples of this level are included below.

Dispater's lair is a Gauntlet. It, too, makes use of the aforementioned "ambush mode". The central part of the level is a building containing a winding hallway with numerous branches. Each branch contains a demon set to ambush you; one of these demons (at random) is Dispater. There are also several "cages" (separated from you by iron bars), which are infested with things that have ranged attacks that can go through the bars. The up stairs are somewhere to the west of the building, and the down stairs are somewhere to the east, and all the walls and rock in the building itself (and the rock at the map edges to the north and south of it) are undiggable and unphaseable. Samples of this level are included below.

The Swamp of Death

The Swamp of Death is intended to be the more difficult but also more rewarding path through Middle Gehennom. In addition to being charactarized by a lot of open spaces, traversing the swamp means dealing with multiple consecutive water-intensive levels, with the dangers that entails.

Monster generation per turn will be cranked up significantly in this section; the flavor explanation for this is, swamps are just teeming with of all kinds of weird life (and decay, and death, and undeath); the gameplay reason is even simpler: this is supposed to be the harder path.

Additionally, the random monsters in this branch lean toward the rather nasty, and the guaranteed demon-lair bosses are also more dangerous than their fire-pit-dwelling brethren. Monsters you can expect to see a lot of in the Swamp include sea creatures (; and N plus water demons and water trolls), couatles, dragons, water and air elementals, decay-themed monsters (gas spores, green slimes, jellies, and molds), snakes (especially pythons and water moccasins), and certain demons (notably nalfeshnees, balrogs, foocubi). There may also be random g, both kinds of mind flayers, random L, random &, crocodiles, chameleons, sandestins, purple worms, random i, vampire lords, random O (living in swamps as a subtle reference to Shrek), water nymphs, and occasional titans. Salamanders may also be included in the Swamp as a bad joke (because of the real-world amphibious creature by the same name).

The filler levels on this branch are mostly water with a few small island scattered about. (Samples are included in the proposed levels section, below, and the code that I used to generate them is also included, further below. The prototype level generator does populate the levels with a selection of branch-themed monsters, although in actual practice a small number of completely random monsters would be generated as well.)

The Swamp of Death sub-branch contains two demon lairs.

The first demon lair is Juiblex's Quagmire. This level has a more random layout than previously and will benefit from the branch-wide monster generation adjustments; but otherwise it basically resembles his old swamp.

The second demon lair in the Swamp of Death is Demogorgon's Bayou Village. It too is mostly swamp but with six embedded "huts" scattered randomly around the level. The up and down stairs are in two of the huts. A third contains the only guaranteed magic lamp in Middle Gehennom, a tempting prize for those who dare; Demogorgon also starts in this hut, but since he starts awake it is unlikely he will stay put. The other three huts are decoys and contain a nalfeshnee, a balrog, and another major demon (perhaps a bone devil).

Samples of both of these lairs, and the code that generated them, can be found below.

The Swamp of Death contains two new types of traps that do not occur elsewhere. The first and simpler of these is the anoxic pit, a type of pit whose interior is lacking in oxygen, due to the accumulation of swamp gas. Falling into an anoxic pit starts a short timer, which will kill you by asphyxiation if you don't get out of the pit. (It is not necessary to leave the tile; you just have to get out of the pit.) Being unbreathing or having magical breathing makes you immune to this effect.

The other new type of pit in the Swamp of Death is quicksand. When not known, quicksand looks like normal ground, but if stepped on it behaves in much the same way as lava (sans fire damage), drowning you on a short timer if you don't get out. Like lava, levitating works great if you aren't stuck but will not unstick you if you are. Unlike lava, quicksand cannot be converted into normal ground by freezing it. However, zapping a wand of digging downward will convert it into a hole, dropping you and any sunken items through to the level below. Teleport (if the level allows) or phasing (ditto) will get you out. Unbreathing or magical breathing will prevent you from drowning in the quicksand (buying time so that you can e.g. dig down with a pick-axe, which would otherwise be too slow) but will not unstick you directly. Quicksand cannot occur on levels with an undiggable floor and is only generated in the Swamp of Death branch.

It is tempting to add a type of monster (other than the unique named demons in their layers), generated only in this branch, with an illness attack; but I'm not sure whether that is really necessary.

Random item generation in the Swamp of Death can, if desired, be given different probabilities from the rest of Gehennom. From a gameplay perspective, this would be a logical place to crank up the probability of rare or particularly desirable items, in order to tempt more adventurers to their doom, bwaahahaahahaha.

Lower Gehennom

Continuing downward from either the Fire Pits or the Swamp of Death will land the intrepid adventurer in the Black Market, which is to be imported from Slash'em and/or UnNetHack and modified to suit. One important modification is that there will be two up stairs, one leading to each of the Middle Gehennom sub-branches. Another modification is that the level must be traversed (if nothing else, the Amulet must be carried across it on the ascension run). Both of the up stairs will be at the western end of the level, and the down stair will be near the eastern end. Prices in the Black Market are obscene enough to allow the player to spend all the gold in the game on just a small percentage of the total inventory; but Gehennom contains enough gold to allow the player to buy items of particular interest (e.g., missing pieces of the ascension kit). The Black Market is specifically guaranteed to contain at least seven wax candles, just in case.

Some additional changes to the Black Market will be needed to make waltzing out with with all the stuff scot free considerably more difficult than in Slash'em. Games in which the player does so are intended to be very much the exception rather than the rule. If we balance the Black Market as intended, the player will in most games be able to buy a couple of things but leave the rest of the inventory on the floor and the shopkeeper peaceful. To this end, the entire level is considered part of the shop. The level is non-teleport for the player. There is more than one keeper so that they can cover at least both of the up stairs ("zone defense", as it were). (Two keepers could be a married couple, or three could be siblings, allowing the down stairs to be covered as well.) Additionally, the keepers can teleport at will (even though the player cannot), and if there are unpaid bills they go straight for the stairs. Cursed gain level won't work in the Black Market, because it's the top of the Lower Gehennom branch. Zapping a wand of digging downward will make the staff hostile, and you have to come back up through eventually in order to ascend; the keeper(s) will certainly remember you. The keepers will have a metric trainload of hitpoints and a full set of intrinsic resistances (including slow digestion, to thwart purple-worm antics) and crazy-high monster MR (high enough to always resist conflict, as well as polymorph). Black-market shopkeepers are incredibly dangerous when hostile, capable of one-shotting many late-game characters. (Perhaps at some point in the backstory these shopkeeper each ate fifty rings of increase damage then killed Chuck Norris and Kirby and absorbed their powers, or something.) Also, Black Market shopkeepers are immune to stoning and genocide. Basically, there is not supposed to be an easy way to kill them. Pet-based shop schenanighans should also be thwarted if possible, especially ones that otherwise would trivially allow the entire inventory to be cleared out. (Perhaps the stairs should be blocked if any monster on the level is carrying unpaid black market inventory, but in that case it would be necessary to think through the balance implications of hostile covetous monsters that might pick things up.)

Moving on from the Black Market, the down stairs lead into the rest of Lower Gehennom. The new cavern generator that ais created, which I have lightly modified (mainly to add regions of water and lava) is designed so that it can generate around an embedded special center. In Lower Gehennom we take advantage of this to embed all three levels of the Wizard's Tower as well as the Fake Towers. There will also be several pure filler levels in this section, which will be handled entirely by the new cavern generator. Because of the greater dungeon depth here, the probability on any given level of water and especially lava is much higher than in Upper Gehennom.

The Wizard's Tower has been partially redesigned. Several features of the original Wizard's Tower, notably including the zoo on the middle level, were clearly intended to be obstacles that must be overcome as victory conditions but in practice were much too easy for any character sufficiently advanced to be even contemplating the possibility of awakening the Wizard. This problem may not be entirely solvable, but that has not stopped me from trying to at least mitigate it somewhat. Additionally, the physical size of the tower itself has been somewhat reduced, to allow greater variety in the surrounding filler.

The Wizard of Yendor, when he first appears at the top of his tower, is carrying a magic lamp and a magic marker. Each time he appears again (after you've killed him; but NOT counting duplicate appearances from Double Trouble) he carries at least one candle and at least one spellbook. The book is mainly for flavor. (The player probably has all the books they need by now, but it just "feels right" that the Wizard would be carrying such a thing.) The candle however serves a purpose: this is another way the player can always obtain enough of them to do the invocation, in case killing dwarves in the Mines was undesirable, or perhaps some players will want to brag that they got all seven of their invocation candles by killing the Wizard repeatedly.

There is also a guaranteed magic lamp in Lower Gehennom itself, in the Fake Tower that doesn't have a portal. It is guarded by a new always-hostile unique named demon created especially for the purpose. Possible names for this demon include Therion, from a Greek word meaning beast, Daimonion, from the Greek word for demon, Mashchith, from a Semetic word meaning destroyer (though that one might ought to be an A rather than &), Gozer, from a popular eighties movie, or we could take the opportunity to reference another roguelike game or a worthy work of fantasy fiction that NetHack doesn't already reference. This special guardian, generated asleep or meditating, should be rather fast and have a fair quantity of hit points and be capable of spellcasting and also have powerful melee attacks (enough to be dangerous to even a well-buffed late-game player character, if not treated with proper respect). It should be resistant to stoning, teleportation, polymorph, and at least partially to wand/finger of death, should have intrinsic slow digestion (so a purple worm won't eat it), and if possible should be carrying the magic lamp in its inventory before the player arrives. Digging into the tower should wake it up, if that isn't too much trouble to implement.

The bottom level of Lower Gehennom will be just like the filler levels except that it will contain the Vibrating Square in lieu of a down staircase. The Vibrating Square will work as in version 3.4.3.

Moloch's Sanctum

The Sanctum will be tricky to get right. If we don't get it exactly right, there are several things that could go horribly wrong with it. One danger is that we could make the Sanctum genuinely too hard for some roles, so that a player who has overprepared and comfortably defeated the Wizard may still have quite serious difficulty getting the Amulet even one time in three. (This is perhaps the least of the dangers.) Another danger is that we could cause players to feel compelled to drudge through otherwise unnecessary tedium earlier in the game in order to prepare for the Sanctum. (This is perhaps the worst of the dangers.) Finally, there is the risk of introducing sudden deaths that feel really unfair because even fully spoiled players aren't sure how they could have prevented them.

The problem with the existing implementation, of course, is exactly the opposite: the Sanctum itself is tedious and potentially quite boring, as well as horribly anticlimactic. The major danger to the player character in the 3.4.3 Sanctum is that the constant blocking of his path (by monsters that are otherwise no threat at all, including lots of ants, which the player has been comfortably one-shotting for most of the game now) will gradually, as the player struggles step by step to make his way toward the up stair over the course of thousands of turns, either delay the player so long that the Wizard of Yendor shows up again or else wear down the hit point counter through protracted attrition until the supply of blessed potions of full healing and amulets of life saving is eventually exhausted, an undeniably tedious fate that the game can do without.

So even at the risk of perhaps going too far and making one of the aforementioned mistakes, I feel that it is worth exploring wholesale changes to the strategic design of the Sanctum. If the changes turn out to be unbalanced and we need to scale them back somewhat in a future version, so be it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

This, then, is what I have come up with so far.

In the first place, most of the riff-raff in the Sanctum is to be cleared out. There will no longer be a dozen unaligned aligned priests casting Summon Insects constantly.

In their place, we have the High Priest of Moloch, who will be buffed until he is an actual threat. In addition to better resistances, more speed, and other basic stat buffing, he is to receive a special attack, unique to him, that causes random tiles in the general vicinity of the player to become lava. Preference is given to floor tiles with no trap on which nothing currently is standing, but if those run thin on the ground, other tiles are fair game as well. (Stairs, ladders, portals, high altars, and rock and walls that are both undiggable and unphaseable are exempt.) For obvious reasons, the High Priest of Moloch has permanent intrinsic lava-walking (as from fireproof water-walking boots, but inherent to his person).

Clearly, the various lava bugs, especially the one that causes non-time-consuming actions (like checking inventory) to consume time while sinking into lava, will need to be fixed, if they haven't been already.

Additionally, the High Priest now has a melee attack that does shock damage. This can be partially resisted, but it can still potentially destroy rings and wands. He can also cast the Destroy Armor monster spell, destroying a random piece of the player's worn armor, as well as Curse Items. Whether he should be able to Summon Nasties and/or gate in demons is an open question. Finally, the High Priest also now has a confusion attack.

The physical layout of the level itself is of relatively minor importance, but out of thoroughness I have included two suggestions for new variations on the layout. All three versions of the level (the one from 3.4.3 and the two new ones) are divided into two main areas: a series of connected smaller rooms and corridors, on the east side, and a much larger, roughly circular room on the west side with a rectangular temple embedded. The up stairs are always in an "entry area" near the southeast corner of the level, and a secret door leads out to the hallways and small rooms. In all three cases it is possible to skip some of the rooms, but it is not possible to skip the graveyard room, which is always the largest of the rooms on the east side of the map. A vertical stripe of unphaseable rock separates the east and west sides of the map, penetrated only by a single corridor, which leads to the larger room on the west side. The temple itself is always surrounded by fire traps and contains the high altar and the high priest, who waits for you to enter the temple and then becomes hostile.

The two new maps are included later.

Elemental Planes

There are still five planes, and they are still named for the Classical "elements". The order of the first four (air, water, fire, earth) is now randomized, determined at game start. The astral plane (named from Latin "aster", meaning star, because in Classical philosophy the celestial bodies such as stars and planets were assumed to be made of a fifth element not found on Earth) is still always last.

As before, the planes can only be traversed once, because the portals are one-way. (There has been discussion about changing that. I haven't decided yet whether I think it should be changed or not, and I do think further discussion on the matter is worthwhile; but I think it's a matter that can be decided independently of this dungeon overhaul, so this proposal does not address it.)

The player can only enter the first elemental plane by carrying the Amulet of Yendor out of the dungeon, using the exit on dungeon level 1, which can only be used once; exiting without the Amulet gives the same results as in version 3.4.3.

The first four planes are now eligible to leave bones. However, with the default bones option value of 1, such bones will not be loaded. Only players who deliberately set the bones option to 2 can ever see bones on any of the elemental planes.

Leaving bones on the final (Astral) plane is a special case. Ultimately, I would like to see characters who have died here be one of the dangers the player must face as he passes through, but this would be different from a traditional bones level in several ways. First, the entire level would not be saved, just the character (and perhaps pets). Second, more than one of them would be loaded, and they could be loaded any time the game wants to generate a player-character monster on the Astral Plane -- not just at level creation time, but also later. Third, loading the characters would not remove them from the pool; the same player characters could continue to hassle future adventurers. Statistics could be kept on them, and those that have killed more adventurers could be retained for longer; those that after a couple dozen tries don't manage any adventurer kills could be removed from the pool as failures. Finally, a player who has reached the Astral Plane should be given the option to voluntarily join their ranks, as an alternate way to end the game, without suffering defeat. However, this is all a lot of work to implement, and I propose that it be postponed for a subsequent release. For now, we can simply leave the Astral Plane ineligible for bones.

For thematic reasons, oppositely aligned planes (earth versus air and fire versus water) will now suppress attacks and other actions related to their opposite element. For example, a wand of fire won't do anything useful on the plane of water, and a scroll of earth won't do anything meaningful on the plane of air. (Flavor messages will be needed.) Cold attacks are considered aligned with water and thus are suppressed on the plane of fire, and lightning attacks are considered aligned with air and are suppressed ("grounded") on the plane of earth.

Conversely, the elemental associated with each plane will be stronger and more dangerous on that plane than anywhere else in the game. This has already been somewhat the case for air elementals, but now it is expanded to cover all elementals, when on their own plane. The astral plane has no oppositely-aligned element (the aether of which the heavens are made is above such petty rivalries), so all types of attacks are possible there. There also is no associated elemental. (I thought about adding an aether elemental but can't come up with a good design for one, and on the whole it seems unnecessary.)

Genocide is now ignored on the Planes. The flavor reason for this is simple: you have left the mortal world and entered the elemental planes, the very fabric from which the universe is constructed. Monsters that are genocided are wiped out from the entire dungeon, perhaps even from the entire world or universe, but the Planes are not part of the dungeon or part of the world and, indeed, not part of the physical universe. You have left the Mortal Plane. The gameplay reason is, otherwise, everyone would just genocide elementals before doing the ascension run. Also, genocide is very powerful, and this is a way to gently nerf it just a little. Via genocide you can still play the rest of the game without facing your personal bugaboo, whatever that may be, but if you want to actually win the game, you have to face your terrors on the Planes. This is, after all, the end game.

The Wizard of Yendor is now guaranteed to appear on the first elemental plane, whichever that may be; he is not necessarily guaranteed on the plane of earth if it is not first. (The guaranteed monster with the pick-axe is still always on the Plane of Earth.)

The Plane of Air requires few other changes. I believe it is working largely as intended. For consistency with the other planes, earth-based actions (such as reading a scroll of earth) do not work here (and any boulder that arrives via the portal instantly disintegrates). Similarly, being on the plane of air is instantly fatal for earth elementals (they lose their cohesion and disintegrate, or something; in the case of polyself, you revert to your natural form). Additionally, it may be that some of the monsters on the plane may have lightning attacks that can destroy wands and rings, even if you have reflection and shock resistance. (Balance testing will be required to determine whether this change is viable.) Air elementals here are stronger than anywhere else in the dungeon; in practice this mostly means they take more hits to kill.

The Plane of Water needs several changes. In the first place, it is no longer possible to levitate "over" the water outside the bubbles, since the entire plane is filled with the water. When in the bubbles, you need levitation or water walking or flying or floating or swimming (or a steed that has one of these properties) or magical breathing to avoid drowning, since you are on the interior surface of an air bubble, with water beneath you (or, in the case of magical breathing, you would be submersed). Thus, the bubbles on the plane of water are like water terrain elsewhere in the game, and the area outside the bubble (which ideally should have a distinct glyph, or at least a different color) is surfaceless water with no air above it, so anything occupying those tiles is fully submerged at all times. With this change, swimming monsters (or ones that are capable of swimming to the surface, at any rate) can swim right into the bubbles unimpeded, and flying monsters (e.g., couatles) can only occur within the bubbles but cannot leave them. Secondly, the portal no longer moves. Its position is randomized, but it is stationary. As mentioned above, nothing that relies on fire will work on this plane. This includes most light sources (Sunsword works fine, as do spells and wands of light; magic lamps are negotiable, depending on whether we consider their ability to give light to be part of their magic). It also includes wands, scrolls, and spells of fire; fire horns; and all attacks that do fire damage, whether from monsters or the player. Fire traps are not generated, and the fire-trap effect of magic traps does not occur. Fire elementals and fire vortices and flaming spheres (and possibly also salamanders) cannot survive on the level: entering the plane of water is fatal for them. Their inner fire, which is their life force, is extinguished. On the other hand, water elementals, not really a threat elsewhere, become on the plane of water a force to be reckoned with. Normally slow, they get 36 movement points per turn when in the water terrain that only occurs here (outside the bubbles only; inside the bubbles, they get their normal amount of movement points). Additionally, their melee attack, when used anywhere on the plane of water, does double damage and can also deal a staggering blow, stunning and knocking the target back. Beware of being knocked out of the bubbles (if you don't have a way to survive that) and be careful about getting surrounded. I was tempted to also give them an engulfing attack (usable only on the Plane of Water) that drowns you on a short timer (unless you are unbreathing or magical breathing), but that can be held in reserve pending play testing -- if the level is too easy without it, it can be added, otherwise not.

The plane of fire is completely different from the one in version 3.4.3. That version wasn't a bad design, but now between the Fire Pits and the High Priest of Moloch, lava has become old hat for a player who reaches the Planes, so the plane of fire now instead features a new kind of terrain, more in keeping with the other planes: this terrain is creatively entitled "fire", and being in this fire terrain is indeed like being on fire (not just on the surface but to the core of your being) and entirely surrounded by flames. Being in this fire terrain does fire damage every turn, which is only partially resistable for the player. Non-fireproofed items (including ones in your inventory) are damaged just by being here. Potions boil. Paper objects burn. Taking a potion of full healing out of your bag, with the intention of quaffing it, will simply result in a boiled potion. Similarly, taking out a scroll of portal detection isn't going to help you. Keeping items in a container does protect them. Fire traps are not needed here, because they would be redundant. Being suspended entirely in burning flame also means there is no floor, much like on the plane of air, with similar implications for movement. Additionally, there are now clouds of smoke on the plane, similar in principle to stinking cloud except that they do not time out, don't do damage directly, are opaque (i.e., they block vision), and are non-stationary, drifting in a manner similar to the bubbles on the plane of water. The fire elementals, for their part, get 36 movement points per turn when in the fire terrain (whether or not the tile has a smoke cloud; i.e., pretty much everywhere on the plane) and are also harder to kill here than anywhere else in the game. Their attacks are only partly resistable, but the real danger is that they will block your path and prevent you from reaching the portal before the terrain itself burns you to death. Fire elementals, because they do not show up on telepathy, can easily sneak up on you here unless you have warning (or stay clear of the smoke, which may not be practical). No monsters can be generated on this plane unless they are fire resistant, and even fire-resistant monsters take damage from the terrain unless they are basically made out of fire or otherwise strongly themed with it (flaming spheres, fire vortices, fire elementals, probably salamanders, maybe red dragons). Fire vortexes can be generated, even though the plane is clearly outside of Gehennom. Entering this plane is instantly fatal for water elementals (they boil away to nothing or something), and the fire damage will soon kill anything that's not fire resistant, how long that takes depending on hit points. This does create difficulties for getting most pets through the plane alive. I'm not sure if that counts as a balance problem or not. It doesn't make getting a pet through impossible, just challenging.

The plane of earth is conceptually similar to the one in version 3.4.3, but there are a couple of new challenges. First, any non-rock terrain on this plane is subject to cave-ins, which can happen at any time, converting it back into rock. If this happens on the tile where the player is standing, the player can become embedded in the rock, in addition to sustaining damage. Wands of digging are not considered to be air-based (they're magic based), so they do work here, and zapping one at yourself will free you from being embedded. Alternately, if you dig an adjacent tile, freeing yourself by walking out works the same as on any other level. Earth elementals, unlike their counterparts on the other planes, remain slow here; but they get a large boost in the hitpoint department when generated here, and their melee attack, when used on the plane of earth, causes stoning (the delayed version, like from a hissing attack; this effect of their attack does not occur anywhere else in the game, only on the plane of earth), so the player will want to carry lizard corpses or have some other way to deal with stoning.

The last of the five planes is always the astral plane, and it does receive a few enhancements. The "Summon Insects" motif is abolished. Nothing could be more anticlimactic than to finish out the very end of the game surrounded by ants. The aligned priests can stay for flavor reasons, if they can be kept from filling the level with insects; and the random A are still present; but the real challenge on the Astral Plane comes from other sources...

The "player-character" monsters on the Astral Plane are now always of quite high level, generated with stats and equipment comparable to what you'd expect a typical player to have at this stage of the game. Most have reflection and a full set of elemental resistances; many also have player MR (either from GDSM or cloak), low AC, high HP, fully enchanted weapons, and so forth. Any objects that the AI knows how to use, which a late game player would likely possess, should be given to these characters: amulets of life saving, potions of full healing, chickatrice corpses, and anything else the AI can use against the player can all be in the offing. If the wand balance proposal is implemented (so that reflection and resistances don't make attack wands completely non-threatening to the player), then these players should each get several attack wands. If a ranger character is generated, said character should multifire from a large quiver of +7 arrows.

But the big threat will be the other three Riders. In the first place, they now have actual hit points. A normal player should not be able to kill them in two hits, even if wielding the blessed +7 Excalibur and a blessed +7 katana with expert skill. The riders' speed is also increased, perhaps to 24. (If it wouldn't be a major hassle to implement, I'd say they should be riding unique colored warhorses; but at the very least they should have speed equivalent to someone riding a warhorse. Otherwise, why are they called riders?)

Famine gains the ability to destroy any food carried in open inventory and to use his hunger attack from up to five tiles away (as well as when adjacent).

Death, in addition to his existing attack on Max HP, now gains three more attacks: a normal weapon attack (sword); a hunger attack similar in principle to Famine's (but of lesser degree, usable only in melee); and an illness attack (plague), which is identical to the one Pestilence had in version 3.4.3.

Speaking of which, there is no separate rider named Pestilence. (There isn't one in the source material. Pestilence is simply one of the tools the Death rider uses.) Instead, the first rider will now be implemented, Conquest (a.k.a., the rider on the white horse). Conquest carries a bow and has a unique multifire arrow attack, usable both at range (unlimited range, as long as there's a straight-line path) and also point blank, that never runs out of ammo and always treats the target as having an AC of 0, regardless of the target's actual AC. In order to simplify the implementation of preventing anyone else from using his attack, these special arrows always break on impact, whether they hit the player or a monster or a wall or the ground or whatever. (From an implementation perspective, this is similar to venom, which is never left laying around as an object on the floor that the player can mess with.) The number of arrows Conquest fires per action, and the amount of damage they do, is subject to balance testing; but it should be enough to make him just a little scarrier than the new improved Death. Note that Death is now the only rider that must be adjacent in order to attack. The standard strategy will likely involve never being adjacent to Death, never being in a straight line with Conquest, and being satiated before approaching Famine. Of course, this may be more easily said than done.

There are also now three major ways to successfully complete the game on the Astral Plane. The traditional way is to offer the Amulet of Yendor to a (preferably co-aligned) diety in exchange for immortality. A second and more difficult ending involves keeping the amulet for yourself, establishing yourself as master over all other mortal creatures (and, particularly, the ones on the Astral Plane). The third possibility is to destroy the amulet, which can only be done on the Astral Plane; this breaks the power of the gods over mortal creatures forever, so in some ways it is the most satisfactory ending, although it does not provide your own character with immortality.

The traditional win, by offering the amulet to a diety in exchange for immortality, is unchanged from version 3.4.3.

To keep the amulet for yourself, it is necessary to assert your dominance over the Astral Plane by killing everything. The other Riders do not have to be dead all at the same time, but you have to kill them each at least once, and there cannot be anything else left alive on the Plane. When these conditions are met, #invoke the amulet to claim it. You don't get an invisible choir or bathed in radiance, but the other three Riders cower in terror before you. Your diety, rather than granting you immortality, curses your name and attempts to strike you with lightning and a wide-angle disintegration beam, but if you survive these trivial attacks you become the dominant power in the universe, for as long as you can hold onto it.

To destroy the amulet and set all mortals free from the gods' divine interference, simply sacrifice each of the three high priests on his own altar (surviving any incidental consequences of doing so), then gather the other three riders around you (they must each be within your line of sight and alive; but it's alright if they have been killed previously, as long as they aren't still dead) and #invoke the amulet. Dieties of all three alignments will smite you, but if you survive that, the other three riders will join you in defying the gods, and the amulet will be broken, taking much of the gods' power with it.

Non-Level Changes

Object Probabilities

In the interest of keeping the late game interesting, there should be objects that are very rarely encountered above the Valley but can be expected, in a typical game, to be found in Gehennom. Some of these should be particularly useful items, and some should be random-appearance items that need to be identifed.

I propose that the following existing items should be made much less common outside Gehennom and, in compensation, they should become significantly more common in Gehennom. (It is, of course, still possible to wish for them.)

  • silver weapons; among other things, the sabers found outside Gehennom should generally be made of steel, and dart and arrow traps in Gehennom should sometimes produce silver darts and silver arrows. Grayswandir and Werebane can still be obtained via sacrifice.
  • magic markers; some roles may still get these in starting inventory, which means they can sometimes be found in bones; but apart from that they should not be generated outside Gehennom. In Gehennom, they should be somewhat more common than in 3.4.3.

Additionally, the following already-rare items should be made somewhat more common in Gehennom:

  • boomerangs; a player who collects them all should be able to get a stack of a dozen or so by game's end. Since they now stack and multifire, this may be useful.
  • saddles: the median Gehennom should have about two of them, though of course there are no guarantees
  • magic horns (including plenty), magic flutes, magic harps, and drums of earthquake. A typical Gehennom should have 3-5 items from this category, sitting on the floor waiting to be picked up.
  • potions of gain ability and maybe gain energy
  • crystal balls, if they can be made useful for something other than polyfodder; I believe somebody had a proposal for that, but I don't recall the details.

Object Behavior

Wands of wishing are not rechargeable. They are generated with the same 1-3 wishes as before, so with the wrest you get 2-4 wishes from a wand of wishing, and that's it. The reasoning behind this is that after getting 5-7 wishes, you basically want for nothing and the rest of the game can't really offer you anything that you want or need, but you have to slog through the rest of it anyway. Boring. Two wishes will generally leave you wanting more, and even four may leave you hankering for another marker or something, so there's still something you can hope to find during the remainder of the game.

There are other object behavior changes I'd like to make, but most of the rest do not fall under the purview of the dungeon overhaul. This one does, in my opinion, because in normal play (in 3.4.3 or in 4.3) something like 95% of all wands of wishing are the Castle wand, and thus this change can be considered part of the Castle wand nerf.

New Objects

I also propose that a handful of new random-appearance items be added that can ONLY be found in Gehennom (or via wishing or bones), to ensure that the player will still have meaningful identification to do. Some of these items should be useful, and some should be potentially dangerous.

Careful attention will have to be paid here to balance, and so I am refraining from making specific suggestions on the theory that item details are really a separate issue from the dungeon overhaul.


Non-Teleport Levels

Overall, fewer non-teleport levels will need to be traversed when walking from the top of the dungeon to the bottom, or from the bottom to the top. (This will greatly reduce needless tedium for players who make multiple trips back and forth, e.g., ferrying items to and from a stash.) As a consequence of this, the ascension run will need to be rebalanced; but that probably needs done anyway; frankly the final run was already not terribly well balanced in 3.4.3; this will be exacerbated if the mysterious force is defanged, as several people are likely to propose, and so rebalancing will be required. (One obvious possible rebalancing measure would be to have the Amulet suppress teleportation within a level, in addition to levelporting; however, I am not convinced that is the best approach; it should hopefully be possible to do significantly better.)

Most of these changes will be in Gehennom, simply because that's where the largest concentration of non-teleport levels was until now.

Levels that will lose their non-teleport status when their boss is killed include Orcus Town, Asmodeus' Lair, Baalzebub's Fortress, Yeenoghu's Plaza, Dispater's Gauntlet, Juiblex' Quagmire, Demogorgon's Bayou Village, and the entire Wizard's Tower plus the fake one the first time the Wizard is killed (but, you still can't straightforwardly teleport between the tower itself and the area outside it).

Levels that will definitely retain their non-teleport status throughout the game include Medusa's Island, the Sanctum, and all five of the Planes.

The Terminus will probably end up being permanently non-teleport as well, simply because it is not clear what the objective criterion would be for having "completed" it. If someone can define clearly in terms that the game can be programmed to understand what it means for the player to have fully completed the Castle, then I would be happy to have the non-teleport restriction lifted once that is done. (In human terms, it means you've cleared out all the major threats and can trivially go where you like and do what you want on the level; but I don't know how to tell the game how to recognize when that is the case.)

The Valley of the Dead is an open question, hinging largely on whether we consider it acceptable to encourage players to eliminate the unaligned priest there, effectively penalizing those who do not. My instinct is against this, because I feel that it is bad game design to penalize the player for not killing a peaceful monster. (It's bad enough that killing a peaceful priest is the only reliable way to get a robe without spending a wish, not to mention the books that they tend to carry.) However, I can see the argument both ways, particularly since the Valley is always directly below the Terminus, which would make two permanent non-teleport levels in a row, which is annoying, particularly being positioned right smack dab in the middle of the dungeon where they are typically traversed many times per game. I'm torn on this one.

The Black Market is also an open question. Either it can be permanently non-teleport, or it can lose its non-teleport restriction when the proprietors are all killed. The latter would make killing the proprietors and escaping easier if the they several powerful allies (as in Slash'em), but at this time I do not know whether that will be the case in NetHack4; it is not what I propose (see the Black Market section, above). I would like to keep the number of permanent non-teleport levels to a minimum, but the Black Market is inherently difficult to balance well, and I do not want to make it unnecessarily easy to abuse. Additionally, I am concerned that if killing the proprietors makes the level allow teleport, some players will feel obligated to do this in order to speed up the ascension run. If these concerns cannot be effectively addressed in some other way, my vote would probably end up being to make the Black Market a permanent non-teleport level.

Non-teleport restrictions on quest levels can be considered on a case-by-case basis as part of the role/class overhaul. Because the Quest is a separate branch, it is not necessary to traverse the quest when traveling around the rest of the dungeon. Additionally, the number of non-teleport levels in the quest already varies by role in version 3.4 (the Samurai quest, for example, has twice as many non-T levels as the Valkyrie quest), so if the decision is made separately for each role now, this will not represent a significant change of policy. Also, this proposal is long enough without adding to it by addressing quest-specific issues.

Sokoban is an interesting case, because on the one hand it is a branch (and theoretically an optional one at that), and so it would never need to be traversed, especially once it is completed. In some ways, it is perhaps the single most obvious case where the non-teleport restriction is crucial to a game mechanic, and so it makes sense that the entire branch is categorically non-teleport. On the other hand, a lot of players like to put a stash there, and so they do end up traversing it (or portions of it) repeatedly. On the gripping hand, some players like to take advantage of its non-teleport status for dealing with certain kinds of monsters (e.g., unicorns). Also, the levels are small enough that traversing them on foot (once the boulders have been dealt with) is easy. Additionally, there's no boss monster, so the "take away the restriction when the boss is killed" mechanic does not fit here. An additional mechanic would be needed, unique to Sokoban, for removing each level's non-teleport restriction when the puzzle is completed. There are arguments to be made either way, but on the whole I think my preference is for the whole of Sokoban to remain permanently non-teleport.

Fort Ludios fundamentally doesn't matter at all, because nobody ever traverses it more than a couple of times (to carry out the loot) once Croesus is dead. Plus, of the optional branches, Ludios is by far the most genuinely optional. I suppose since we already need (for the sake of the demon lairs if nothing else) to implement levels that lose the non-teleport restriction when a boss is killed, adding this feature to Fort Ludios does no harm, so we may as well. (Croesus, of course, is the boss here.)

Vlad's Tower, likewise, is seldom traversed repeatedly; additionally, it is small enough not to be a very big deal, but for the sake of consistency it should probably lose the non-teleport restriction when Vlad is killed. I can't think of any compelling reason NOT to do this.

Non-Bones Levels

The bones option now has three settings:

  • 0 means never load bones
  • 1 means load bones on most eligible levels (default)
  • 2 means load bones on all eligible levels

The default bones setting, 1, is very similar to 3.4.3. Personally, as a player, I would set this option to 2, because I feel that bones make the game more fun, even if they do sometimes also make it harder. But I am fully aware that many players would not want important levels to be messed up by bones, which is why I propose splitting the setting to 0=never, 1=usually, 2=even on important levels, with 1 being the default.

The following levels are never saved or loaded as bones, regardless of how the bones option is set:

  • Levels 1-2 in the Dungeons of Doom
  • Quest Home (probably)
  • Quest Goal
  • Terminus (maybe)
  • Vlad's Tower, top (probably)
  • Wizard's Tower, top
  • Vibrating Square Level
  • Moloch's Sanctum
  • Astral Plane (probably)

The following levels are never loaded as bones; they can be saved as bones, but their special feature is removed, creating a normal bones level:

  • Level with the branch stairs to the Mines
  • Level with the branch stairs to Sokoban
  • Level with the magic portal to the Quest
  • Level with the magic portal to Fort Ludios
  • Level with the ladder to Vlad's Tower.
  • Fake Wizard's Tower, with portal (probably). This means that via bones, you can get a level that looks like a Fake Tower level but is just an "extra".

The following levels are eligible, but bones will only ever be loaded for these levels if the player sets the bones option to the non-default value of 2:

  • Level 3 in the Dungeons of Doom
  • Minetown (probably)
  • Mine's End
  • all Sokoban levels
  • Fort Ludios
  • Quest Locate
  • Medusa's Island
  • Terminus (probably)
  • Vlad's Tower, bottom
  • Wizard's Tower, bottom
  • Black Market
  • Plane of Water
  • Plane of Air
  • Plane of Fire
  • Plane of Earth

All other levels are eligible for bones, which can be loaded unless the player sets the bones option to 0.

Wish Sources

The goal is to provide the player with roughly the same number of wishes as in 3.4 but to spread them out more. Currently I have the following:

Terminus (1.25ish):

  • Castle of Yendor contains a non-rechargeable wand.
  • Aladdin's Palace contains a magic lamp
  • Dr. Jeckyl's Laboratory averages 40-50 smoky potions and a magic marker.
  • Ken Arnold Memorial Library might not have any wishes, unless we want to implement a scroll of wishing; but it contains at least two magic markers

Upper Gehennom (0.5):

  • The Garden of Temptation (present in 50% of games) contains a (submerged) magic lamp.

Middle Gehennom (1):

  • Demogorgon's Bayou Village contains a magic lamp

Lower Gehennom (1+):

  • The Black Market is likely about as good as a wish.
  • One Fake Tower has a magic lamp (the other has a portal).

Wizard's Tower (1):

  • The Wizard of Yendor, the first time he appears, carries a magic lamp and two markers.

It is tempting to also add a second wand in the very late game (perhaps in the Sanctum, or have Rodney drop it the second or third or fourth time he is killed). The reasoning here would be to provide "emergency wishes" for use on the five Planes, when spending multiple turns rubbing might be out of the question. However, I am not sure whether this is necessary or even a good idea.

Closing Remarks

I have not, in this proposal, attempted to reddress every problem with the game. Several things that are quite thoroughly broken are not addressed here at all. The player's alignment record, for example, was clearly supposed to be a significant factor in the game, but in practice its only real impact is to place a lower bound on speed runs. The need to eat is intended to force the player deeper into the dungeon as food supplies run low, but in practice it only ever does this in the very earliest part of the game, because later on food is essentially infinite. (If you want to see a roguelike that gets this *right*, play a few games of Brogue. The specific way in which it is handled in Brogue is not applicable to NetHack, because the two games are different in a number of other ways; but the fact that another game does get this right demonstrates that it is possible.) The manner in which score is kept is arbitrary to an extent that makes score almost entirely meaningless.

Perhaps the worst of all is the difficulty curve, which is entirely the wrong shape, almost exactly the opposite of what it should be. The problem with game difficulty is not that it is too hard, nor that it is too easy, but rather that the most difficult part of the game is the first part, and the easiest part is very late. Games are supposed to get more difficult as you progress through from beginning to end (and merely surviving any given portion by the skin of your teeth, using up all available resources, is supposed to make subsequent parts even harder, so that as a player's skill progresses he gets better at the parts of the game he has already seen and thus more able to face subsequent portions, allowing him to make more and more progress), but NetHack gets very much easier as the game progresses (and so many new NetHack players make very little apparent progress in terms of the dungeon depth they usually reach until, all of a sudden, they have a "lucky game" wherein they don't die in the early game and in many cases go on to ascend the first time they ever get past about quest depth; and then like as not their very next game they die on dungeon level three or four, which seems to imply that skill is barely relevant at all, to how far a player can get, although of course experienced players know that skill is in fact highly relevant to how frequently a player can reach the end game; nonetheless, the difficulty curve clearly needs work).

The failure to address these concerns is not an oversight. I have not addressed them because I believe the solutions would primarily consist of changes to other aspects of the game than dungeon and level design. Thus, they are beyond the scope of this document. I also believe that fixing most of these problems is a more difficult problem than merely overhauling the dungeon and level design, and so they can reasonably be postponed until after the dungeon overhaul is implemented, on the low-hanging-fruit principle.

With that said, there remain several things in this proposal that I am still personally rather disatisfied about.

The worst of these, in my view, is Asmodeus' Lair (both versions, but especially the one that is similar to his old lair from 3.4.3). Baalzebub's Fortress (again, both versions) is only a little better. It is my sincere hope that someone else's proposal will contain something better for these lairs, ideally something that would actually be genuinely interesting to play through. The Fire Pits branch is not meant to be as exciting as the Swamp of Death (since for balance reasons it is intended to be less challenging), but I would like it to be at least a little interesting, and I am not sure my proposal for the first demon lair in the branch achieves as much of that as would be ideal.

I am also concerned about the Wizard's Tower. I believe it needed a lot of revision, and I have done a little. I feel that I have made only incremental improvements to the individual levels in the Tower, when a more qualitative improvement to the entire thing would have been better. Again, I am hoping someone else can pick up the slack.

My design for the Black Market is tentative and incomplete and in need of review. Careful consideration should be given to what does and doesn't work in variants that already have a Black Market (particularly Slash'em and Un), something I am not in a position to evaluate, never having reached the Black Market in any variant that has it.

With a fresh perspective, you may spot other weaknesses in various aspects of my proposal, but these are the ones that I am keenly aware of myself.

I am looking forward to revising the thing after seeing what some other people have come up with, and I hope that at least some portion of this document proves useful.

Proposed Levels

Minetown Level Changes

Most of the changes here are intended to make the various versions of Minetown more meaningfully distinct from one another.

In terms of Minetown's overall role in the dungeon as a whole, very little has changed, apart from converting the areas outside the town proper from rooms to caverns. (Implementation-wise, this can be done by generating a normal cavern map sans stairs, then overwriting the central portion of it with the embedded town and placing the stairs in the areas outside the town. Finally, each section of outer town wall edged by a contiguous line of open floor gets exactly one door.)

As discussed previously, doors in all versions of Minetown are considered to be "well-oiled", meaning that you can't hear a door open and thus know there's a door before you see it. This change is intended to make Minetown less instantly recognizable when arriving via the stairs. (However, checking via telepathy, if you have the ability to do so, will still show the shopkeepers and aligned priest.)

Frontier Town

  1. general store, now guaranteed.
  2. deli, now only a 50% chance
  3. tool shop, now guaranteed.
  4. light shop, guaranteed

Instead of the eight guaranteed gnomish monsters (five in guaranteed positions, three random) and one dwarf, Frontier Town now features three random G in random positions, two dwarves and a dwarf lord in the marked positions, one randomly-positioned hobbit within the town, and two random h outside the above mapped area. The dwarf lord is the h in the room to the west of the temple.

As discussed previously, the area outside the shown map is now cavern-like, rather than rooms and corridors.

The guaranteed dwarf starting in the temple means Frontier Town now has a higher than average chance of dug-out temple walls, making it more difficult to lock monsters out of the temple in this variant. The chance of a deli has also been reduced. To compensate for these things, the area outside the map contains a guaranteed oil lamp and a cursed touchstone (both positioned randomly), and the tool shop is now guaranteed.

There are now only two watchmen (compared to four before), and there is still one watch captain. The flavor explanation is that, being a frontier town, this one is still getting established and can't afford to hire as many watchmen. It's also harder to keep perishable goods stocked on the frontier, hence the reduced chance of a deli. Of course, frontier pioneers always need tools, so there has to be a tool shop.

Town Square

  1. general store, now guaranteed
  2. light shop, guaranteed
  3. tool shop, 90% chance
  4. deli, 90% chance

As discussed previously, the area outside the shown map is now cavern-like, rather than rooms and corridors.

Other than that, Town Square is largely unchanged from version 3.4.3. The two G in the temple are Gnomish wizards, the one in the room south of the temple is a Gnome lord, and the other marked G are Gnomes. There are three more Gnomes and a dwarf outside the mapped area.

As before, there are four watchmen and a watch captain.

Alley Town

  1. tool shop, 30% chance
  2. light shop, guaranteed
  3. wand shop, now 80% chance
  4. general store, guaranteed
  5. tool shop, 40% chance
  6. deli, now only 50% chance

As discussed previously, the area outside the shown map is now cavern-like, rather than rooms and corridors.

The chance for the wand shop to exist has increased, because this is the major key thing differentiating this version of Minetown from the others. To compensate for this, the level now features two small groups of random a and one small group of soldier ants, all of which can be either inside or outside the town, at random. The two G in the temple are Gnomish wizards, as before. The three Gnomes that were previously guaranteed in specific rooms are gone, and the Gnome lord is positioned randomly within the town. The area outside the map still has three Gnomes and a dwarf.

To compensate for the reduced chance of the deli, there are now 2-3 "custom fruit" (slime molds by default) positioned at random anywhere on the level.

As before, there are four watchmen and a watch captain.

College Town

College town, with its guaranteed book shop, is deemed to already be adequately differentiated. Also, the ability to price-check scrolls in the book shop allows scrolls of identify to be identified, starting the process of item identification; thus, the general store does not need to have its chance-to-exist increased to 100% as we have done with the other Minetown levels. Consequently, I do not propose any changes to College Town, except that the area outside the shown map is now cavern-like, rather than rooms and corridors, as previously discussed. Apart from that, College Town is unchanged from version 3.4.3.

Grotto Town

Grotto Town is deemed to be already adequately differentiated and does not need to change at all.

Bustling Town

Bustling Town is deemed to be already adequately differentiated and does not need to change at all.

Bazaar Town


A bazaar is a gathering of many vendors, so we differentiate the bazaar town by increasing the number of shops possible:

  1. tool shop, 30% chance
  2. deli, 50% chance
  3. tool shop, 50% chance
  4. light shop, guaranteed
  5. general store, now guaranteed
  6. deli, 50% chance
  7. armor shop, 30% chance (new)
  8. weapon shop, 30% chance (new)
  9. jewelry shop, 15% chance (new)
  10. scroll shop, 10% chance (new)

Increasing the chance of the general store from 60% to 100% makes this level significantly more shop-rich. The added small chances of armor, weapons, jewelry, and scroll shops, while further differentiating this level from the others, also exacerbate this shop-richness. To compensate for this, the level is also made richer in difficulty, by adding some extra monsters. In addition to the five marked G and one marked n (which are the same as in 3.4.3) and the monkeys (also unchanged), the town now contains two more n, randomly positioned, and three winter wolves (marked as d). The area outside the map still contains three Gnomes, but the dwarf has been upgraded to a dwarf lord.

As discussed previously, the area outside the shown map is now cavern-like, rather than rooms and corridors.

Mine's End Levels

The Mimic of the Mines

The Mimic of the Mines has been enhanced so that it is more in keeping with the other Mine's End levels, in terms of both the degree of danger and also the amount of loot.

The map itself is unchanged, except that the position of the up stair is now randomized: the stairs can be placed on any non-trapped floor tile that has at least three adjacent floor tiles.

Four of the seven "secret" places will now each contain a different type of gray stone, so that all four types are represented; each of these spots will also have some gems. The remaining three spots will have mimics. Which place is which remains random as before.

The level now also contains three randomly-positioned mimics, a tinning kit, 50% chance of a horn of plenty, three random tools, eight random items, and a 75% chance of a polymorph trap (randomly positioned), in addition to everything that was there in version 3.4.3.

The Gnome King's Wine Cellar

This level is unchanged from version 3.4.3. It still contains the six potions of booze, a potion of object detection, two random potions, and so on and so forth.

The Catacombs

This level is unchanged from version 3.4.3. It still contains the five random scrolls, four random spellbooks, and everything else that it had before.

The Gnomish Sewer

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The entire level is dark. The three spots marked ; are deep water and contain electric eels; one of them also contains a (submerged) wand of cold, which can be fetched in any of the usual ways for getting things out of water. The luckstone and the loadstone (one each) and the gemstones and glass (similar amounts to the other Mine's End levels) are all positioned randomly, along with several piles of coins, seven random rings, four random objects, a rotted pair of high boots, three rust traps, six random traps, six sewer rats, three random r, two shriekers, four random F, four random S, two crocodiles (or if they can be called "aligators" so much the better), at least six and possibly as many as nine random ; (positioned in water but otherwise at random), a 50% chance of a chameleon, a 75% chance of a purple worm, and a 5% chance of a gremlin. The up stair can also be positioned randomly. The random ; try to respect difficulty level when the level is generated, to the extent that this is possible.

Some of the random gems and glass, and maybe some of the gold, can be embedded in rock. I'm tempted to say that some of the randomly-positioned objects (especially the rings) can be submerged in random water tiles if the RNG happens to plonk them there, but that's negotiable. Flavor-wise it seems almost mandatory, but I'm not sure whether it would be balanced from a gameplay perspective, which is more important.

The Bottom of the Barrel

The fifth version of Mine's End is based on a randomly generated map (using the same algorithm as filler levels in the Mines), but with no down stair. The level contains a luckstone, a touchstone, a loadstone, two random potions, two random scrolls, one random book, one random wand, two random rings, three random tools, eight random gems, a tattered cape, a +2 elven mithril coat, two chests (with normal random chest contents), two boulders, two statues, ten random traps, three chameleons, eight monkeys, twelve random monsters, and a fountain, all positioned randomly.

Teleport is permitted. The floor is of course undiggable.

Sokoban Levels

Sokoban Level 1C ("Boomerang Boulders")


Sokoban Level 1D ("Easy Peasey")

  ------   ----

Sokoban Level 1E ("First Things First")

    -----  ----

Sokoban Level 2C ("Fly on the Wall")

 |.0.--..0..--        |..^|
 |0.0--00.0.|         --|^|
 |.00..0....--  --------|+|
 |......0.0.>|  |.........|
 --0----------  |.........|
  |..|          |....<....|
 --..-------    |.........|
 |.0.0.0...|    |.........|
 |.........|    -----------

(Yes, one of the boulders can't be moved to the pits.)

Sokoban Level 2D ("Boulder Halls of Zim")

   ---------    |.........|
  --.......|    |.........|
  |..0.0.0.--   |.........|
  ---..---..|   |.........|
    |..| |..|   |....<....|
 ----.----.0|   |.........|
 |.0.0.0.|..|   |.........|
 |........00|   |.........|

Sokoban Level 2E ("Two-Phase")

 |..^^.|^|....-..| |...0..|

Sokoban Level 3C ("Bring 'em on Down")

 ---------------   -----------
 |.............|   |.........|
 |....0..|0..0.|   |.........|
 |.0..----.0.0.|   |.........|
 |---..........|   |....<....|
 |..0..0.|0.00.|   |.........|
 |.0.0...|.....|   |.........|
 |....0---------   |.........|
 |.0..0.0.|        |.........|

Sokoban Level 3D ("Slot Machine")

  |..0..0.|       |.|

Sokoban Level 3E ("Through the Cracks")

---0-- |...........|^|

Sokoban Level 4C ("Open at the Top")

 ------------------    ----
 |..0..|.....|....|     |^|
 |....0|0..0..0...|     |^|
 |.0..0.......-----     |^|
 |.....|.00.00|         |^|
 |....0--.....|         |^|
 -----.--------   ------|^|
  |....0....|   --|.....|^|
  |.00..0.0.|   |.+.....|^|
  |-.----...|   |-|.....|^|
  |..0...0.--   |.+.....+.|
  |.>...0..|    |-|.....|--
  |.....----    |.+.....|
  -------       --|.....|

Sokoban Level 4D ("Collecting Marbles")

 ----.--   ----         |.|
 |.0...-----..|         |.|
 |......0..00.|         |.|
 --.0.....|.0.|         |.|
  --....0.|...|         |.|
   |0----.--.-|   ------|.|
  --.0.--..0..| --|.....|.|
  |...........| |.+.....|.|
  |0.0---.--.-| |-|.....|.|
  |...|.0..0..| |.+.....+.|
 --.---..0..0.| |-|.....|--
 |.0..| |.+.....|
 |.>..|.......| --|.....|
 --------------   -------

Note that I do not expect both 4C ("Open at the Top") and 4D ("Collecting Marbles") to be used, unless someone can think of a fourth prize that balances reasonably against the first three (amulet of reflection, bag of holding, ring of polymorph control). Additionally, it may be suitable to rename whichever of them is chosen to reflect the prize it holds (the ring of polymorph control), e.g., the level could be named "Everything Under Control".

Medusa's Island

Medusa's Island A ("The Squeaky Boards of Medusa")

The map is the same as the first version of Medusa's Island in version 3.4 (the one with the I-shaped building in the middle), but the statue of Perseus is now guaranteed to contain the shield, sack, and scimitar. The levitation boots are still present only 25% of the time, as before. This is the easiest version of Medusa's Island and so has the lowest probability of levitation boots. As mentioned earlier, the random statues now have the usual chance any random statue would have of containing a spellbook.

Medusa's Island B ("Titan Hall")

The map is the same as in version 3.4, but the statue of Perseus is now guaranteed to contain the shield, the scimitar, and the sack. The levitation boots are still only present 75% of the time, as before. For non-lawfuls, this is probably the hardest version of the Island, and so it has the highest probability of levitation boots. As mentioned earlier, the random statues now have the usual chance any random statue would have of containing a spellbook.

Medusa's Island C ("Medusa and the Storm Giants")

The walls are undiggable, but the floor is normal. Medusa is standing on a random engraving at the point marked @, surrounded by the random statues and the statue of Perseus. Rooms 1, 3, and 5 each contain a storm giant and two nymphs; these storm giants each have a 50% chance to get a wand of lightning or, failing that, an 80% chance of a random wand; this is in addition to whatever inventory they get normally. Room 2 contains a chest (with normal random chest contents) and two random monsters. Room 4 contains a scroll of earth. Room 6 contains three cockatrices (near the middle of the room), a couple of wands of striking, and a collection of sleeping Yendorian army troops; all three of the doors to this room are generated locked. The water contains the usual collection of aquatic monsters (similar to the other Medusa's Island levels), and the level also contains several random monsters. The statue of Perseus contains a shield of reflection, an oilskin sack, a blessed +2 scimitar, and possibly levitation boots (50% chance for the boots).

Medusa's Island D ("Dances with Demiliches")

The walls are undiggable, but the floor is normal. Medusa is standing on the down stairs, surrounded by the random statues, the statue of Persues, two statue traps, two water nymphs, and two cockatrices. The entry rooms at the east and west ends of the building each contain two centaurs and a demilich with a wand of sleep, fire, cold, or lightning (equal chance of each type). The long narrow rooms to each side of Medusa's room each contain ten random monsters and five almost-random traps, which cannot be trapdoors, pits, levelporters, or holes. The water contains the usual collection of aquatic monsters (similar to the other Medusa's Island levels), and the level also contains two dragons of random color and several additional random monsters that can be placed anywhere. The statue of Perseus contains a shield of reflection, a sack, a blessed +2 scimitar, and a 50% chance of levitation boots.


The Castle of Yendor

The Castle of Yendor is very similar to the Castle in version 3.4.3. The most notable change is that, since wands of wishing cannot be recharged, you get 2-4 wishes from the Castle wand instead of the 5-7 you get in previous versions.

Aladdin's Palace


The & is a djinn, which is guaranteed to be hostile. The four @ nearest the djinn are the palace guard captains, and the other four are palace guard lieutenants; all eight marked @ are guaranteed to be carrying two scimitars each, in addition to whatever items their rank (captain or lieutenant) would normally get. The main room also contains a mumak, a monkey, and 18 throne room monsters. The barracks are populated normally. The chest behind the throne, and any chests in the barracks, contain normal chest contents. One of the end rooms (east or west) contains a chest on burned Elbereth; this chest contains gold, a dozen stacks of gems, two smoky potions, a magic lamp, an amulet of life saving, two +5 rustproof scimitars, 3d3 random scrolls, two random wands, and three random items. The moat contains at least a dozen random sea monsters (;). The # to the east and west of the stairs are trees, and the one in the wall is of course the drawbridge. The central hall of each wing (where the xorns are) contains a trapdoor (leading to the Valley), three random traps, and two additional palace guards (soldiers). Nothing prevents the traps from being in front of doors. All floors and walls are undiggable, but only the front wall is unphaseable. I have resisted the urge to add any unique named monsters to the game for this level. They all went someplace and left the djinn and palace guards in charge.

Doctor Jeckyl's Laboratory


The tiles marked # are sinks, and the ones marked \ are benches. Benches are a new type of furniture. Any object sitting on a bench (if it's on the tile, it's assumed to be on the bench) is out of reach for tiny monsters (except for ones that can fly). Sitting or resting on a bench provides regeneration (i.e., you heal one movement point per turn), but this only works on turns when you #sit or rest and only as long as you remain on the bench. Of course, benches in the Laboratory are presumed to be lab benches, and each of them has two or three stacks of potions (see below for details). Three of the benches also each contain one tinning kit each.

The marked traps are fire traps (representing bunsen burners). Positioned randomly around the level are six magic traps, six rust traps, four sleeping gas traps, four sqeaky boards, two teleportation traps, and four trap doors, which lead to the Valley.

Monsters wandering around the level include two mind flayers, two disenchanters, four werewolves, two glass golems, a flesh golem, five random golems, three skeletons, six random e, two gargoyles, a winged gargoyle, two doppelgangers, a salamander, a chameleon, two lizards, three newts, three random S, a field worker, a physician, a thief, a wizard, four humans, four random B, three random jellies, four random P, six random F, two quantum mechanics, a scorpion, three xans, two stalkers, a trapper, eight giant rats, a little dog named Einstein, and six random monsters.

Room 1 contains two alchemy smocks, a can of grease, a pair of mud boots, a pair of buckled boots, a pair of leather gloves, and two random objects.

Room 2 contains two pieces of cloth, a cursed can of grease, a pair of lenses, a brass lantern, a pair of riding boots, and a random object.

Rooms 3 and 6 each contain a positively-enchanted alchemy smock, a towel, 1+1d2 random books, two stacks of random scrolls, a random wand, an oilskin bag, an oilskin cloak, a stack of candles, and six random tins (contents of each determined independently). Additionally, room 3 contains two pair of gloves and a mirror, and room 6 contains a pair of hiking boots and a tin opener.

Rooms 4 and 8 each contain an icebox (stocked in the usual way), a pair of high or low boots (equal chance of each), a shirt, a stack of candles, two random scrolls, a slime mold, and two random objects. Additionally, room 4 contains a wand of polymorph and a pair of jungle boots, and room 8 contains a wand of death and an orange.

Rooms 5 and 7 each contain an alchemy smock, a large box (with contents according to the usual rules), a stethoscope, an expensive camera, a random object, and a chest. Each of these chests contains 1d3 random books and two random tools; one of these chests is on burned Elbereth and also contains a magic marker. Additionally, room 5 contains a disarmed bear trap and a clove of garlic, and room 7 contains a random instrument and a pair of gloves.

The following potions are guaranteed (with beatitude according to the usual probabilities). Most of the stacks are sized according to the usual rules for stack generation, but the eleven guaranteed large stacks of smoky potions have 2+1d3 potions in each stack.

  • smoky - 11 stacks of 2+1d3
  • bubbly - 4 stacks
  • effervescent - 3 stacks
  • milky - 1 stack
  • water - 6 stacks
  • acid - 4 stacks
  • hallucination - 3 stacks
  • gain energy - 3 stacks
  • oil - 2 stacks
  • healing - 2 stacks
  • paralysis - 2 stacks
  • speed - 1 stack
  • see invisible - 1 stack
  • sickness - 1 stack
  • confusion - 1 stack
  • restore ability - 1 stack
  • gain ability - 1 stack
  • gain level - 1 stack
  • sleeping - 1 stack
  • blindness - 1 stack
  • invisibility - 1 stack
  • monster detection - 1 stack
  • levitation - 1 stack
  • polymorph - 3 potions
  • enlightenment - 1 potion
  • random - 8 stacks, each of a random type

The Ken Arnold Memorial Library


There are twelve doors, all marked +. The rest of the tiles marked + each have a 4/5 chance of a random spellbook. The ones marked ^ are holes, which lead to the Valley. The up stair is somewhere outside the building. All walls and floors are undiggable. The # inside the building are sinks, and the # outside the building are trees. There is an incubus in the room with the sinks on the north side of the map and two succubi in the one on the south side of the map. The tiles marked ? each contain a scroll. The scrolls along the edges of the fountain area just inside the entrance are random scrolls. The four at the very back are one each of the 300zm scrolls (charging, genocide, punishment, and stinking cloud). The eighteen scrolls along the north and south edges of the eastern room are one each of the other eighteen types of scrolls (excluding mail). A player who identifies all of the scrolls in the library will have every type of scroll identified and be able to write any scroll with a marker.

The marked @ are Librarians, which have custom chat text. They are each generated wearing a dress shirt, which can be worn in the shirt slot without causing the "Tourist" problem when shopping. (Dress shirts are not generated randomly, so the only ways to get one are to wish for it or take it from a Librarian or find it in bones.) Librarians are always generated peaceful but may attack under the influence of conflict or can be angered in most of the same ways as any other peaceful monster; they hit pretty hard (in melee) for this stage of the game and should be considered dangerous if provoked. Librarians may be generated with wands and may be capable of spellcasting (depending on balance considerations yet to be determined). Their difficulty number should probably be about 20. They are not randomly generated and so will generally only be seen here. Unlike shopkeepers, Librarians do not mind if you read the books or take them with you. (Checkouts are automatic; presumably the ILS is magical in nature. The game will be over before the books are due back.) Apart from flavor, the most important function of the Librarians is to make conflict a little bit dangerous to use here.

The library building also contains four random L, two titans, two golden nagas, four vampire mages, two barrow wights, three random "player character" monsters, and six random traps, all positioned randomly. Outside the library there are four random dragons (or perhaps six).

Both of the spots marked ( have a chest. One contains random chest contents. The other is on burned Elbereth and contains a pair of lenses, 2-3 markers, an athame, and possibly a scroll of wishing (see below).

The most flavor-appropriate way I can think of to include a wish here is to add a Scroll of Wishing to the chest. If included, it would be a non-stacking (so you can't wish for more than one), non-randomly-generated (and not generated by polymorph) random-appearance scroll (the new label could be RATSANOPU) that cannot be written (or requires prohibitively many charges) and gives you one wish when read if non-cursed and non-impaired. If the scroll is cursed, you are not prompted but still get a random wish item. If you read the scroll while confused, you mispronounce the magic words, and a random tame monster is generated. Whether it is worth adding an item to the game simply to add a wish to this level is an open question, however. It may be that the two magic markers, combined with a significant collection of books and scrolls, can adequately compensate for the lack of a wish.

Valley of the Dead

Version A

Version A is the same as the Valley level in 3.4.3:

|>.^S.|..|.....|  |.....-|      |................|   |......^........| |...|
|---|^|.--.---.|  |......--- ----..........-----.-----....---........---.-.|
|   |.|.|..| |.| --........| |.............|   |.......---| |-...........--|
|   |...S..| |.| |.grave.-----.......------|   |--------..---......------- |
|----------- |^| |-......| |....|...-- |...-----................----       |
|.....S....---.| |.......| |....|...|  |..............-----------          |
|.....|.|......| |.....--- |......---  |....---.......|                    |
|.....|.|------| |....--   --....-- |-------- ----....---------------      |
|.....|--......---...-|     |...--  |.......|    |..................|      |
|.._.......||........-|    --...|   |.......|    |...||.............|      |
|.....|...-||-........------....|   |.grave.---- |...||.............--     |
|.....|--......---...^.......--------..........| |.......---------...--    |
|.....| |------| |--.......--|   |.........----- -----....| |.|  |....---  |
|.....| |......--| ------..| |----.........|       |.--------.-- |-.....---|
|------ |.grave..|  |.|....| |.....----....---------...........---.........|
|       |........|  |...|..| |.....|  |-.............--------...........---|
|       --.....-----------^| |....-----.....----------     |......<..----  |
|        |..|..............| |.|..........|.|              |.|........|    |

Version B

  ----------   ------------                     -------------- -------------
---........-----..........----------           --............--|...........|
|..<...............................------     --..............||....._.....|
|........------..........---.--.........----- |..............--|...........|
--.....---    ----..------....---...........---...graveyard..| |...........|
 --..---     --......--....----..............|...............| |...........|
--.....--   --......--....--.................|...............| |...........|
|..--...|   |.....---.....|..................|..............---------+-----|
|.----..|   |......-......|.................--.........................S...|
|.....--....| ---.......-----...........---........