I've started Nethack, gotten frustrated, and stopped many many times, but now I'm finally starting to get the hang of it.
I finally ascended! My character was a neutral Valkyrie, character level 23. By the start of Gehennom she had all the important intrinsics and most of an ascension kit put together, and by the end she'd enchanted everything up to crazy level. Final kit was +5 GDSM (wished for), +5 helm of brilliance (found), +4 gauntlets of strength (wished), +4 speed boots (wished, then later found), +1 very burnt oilskin cloak (which saved my life once from a kraken), amulet of reflection (Sokoban), ring of free action, ring of levitation, +6 Mjollnir and +6 silver saber. I didn't get a magic marker until halfway through the mazes, and I'd left my blanked scrolls up on Dlvl 7 or something, so I didn't wind up writing anything until the run back. One more enchant weapon and 3 enchant armor scrolls, and I had more than enough AC to finish the game.
The hardest part was actually Fort Ludios; one stupid soldier was waiting in the lobby, and when he blew his bugle every single enemy dogpiled in the big room waiting for me. As soon as I opened the door a barrage of thrown weapons greeted me. Someone had a wand of lightning, so the few monsters that might have respected the E word couldn't see it. Getting through that took awhile.
I hadn't found any genocide scrolls the whole game, and didn't want to chance my one magic marker trying to write one. While mind flayers caused me much grief and disenchanters were annoying, liches were the biggest problem. Before heading on to the Planes I sat on the upstair and tried to zap my last wish out of my wand of wishing for I swear about 300 tries... and then a master lich teleported right next to me and immediately summoned a black dragon and TWO master mind flayers (among others). Luckily I was able to kill the lich and teleport away. I maneuvered so that the mind flayer was between me and the black dragon, and its disintegration breath killed it. Five zaps later and I wrested my last wish, a ring of conflict.
The elemental planes were a snap, since I'd come prepared with booze to confuse and 4 gold detection scrolls. An archon in Plane of Air dropped Sunsword, which I stashed away in my bag for points. The ring of conflict made it that much easier, though I took it off right before I went to Astral. Went left first, and dodged past Pestilence as someone summoned a crapload of bugs, which I easily mowed through. Pestilence fortunately got left behind in the throng. I zapped a wand of teleport when an angel got in the way, then shot a stray Minotaur with a wand of death when he decided to stand on top of the altar.
There is an altar to Odin (neutral) here. Well, that was easy enough.
So yeah. Didn't wish for artifacts, and didn't genocide.
- I've died within the first turn from trying to mount a steed and failing
- I've died within 10 turns of starting from eating a poisonous corpse
- I died rapidly once by falling into a pit trap from Dlvl 1 down to Dlvl 4... without my pet, of course
- I died once from stepping on a fire trap with a full inventory of scrolls and potions. Went out in a blaze of glory!
- After being bitten by a wererat once, I had my back to an immovable boulder with just a few HP left. At that moment, the RNG decided to turn me into a rodent and I was able to slip past the huge rock to freedom. Of course, without any equipment I didn't last long...
- I killed off a very promising barbarian once by eating a corpse that was just a couple turns too old, and not realizing I could #pray to save myself
- Most of my deaths when first starting were from either starving or trying to eat rotten food.
Important things to remember
- Set autopickup for these items: $"=/!?+ (that's money, amulets, rings, wands, potions, scrolls, and spellbooks). This isn't just handy, but it also saves you a turn. Press @ to turn OFF autopickup before you enter a store. (The Windows port of Nethack doesn't have the defaults set intelligently. Uncomment the line in defaults.sh with OPTIONS=autopickup.)
- You can't carry everything with you. Everything weighs you down, including money. Find a box somewhere, move it to a convenient spot, burn Elbereth underneath it, and put your stuff in it. Lock the box with a key if possible.
- Always always always test any equipment for curses before you try it on. Yes, shopkeepers will stock cursed goods. No, they won't let you have it for free even if the item is welded to your skin.
- Poisonous corpses and food poisoning from old corpses are not the same thing. The former CAN kill you, the latter WILL kill you.
- Learn how to use the Q and f commands to ready projectiles and fire them. Rocks don't cost money and can help soften up some enemies before they get close enough to use their special attacks. Darts and daggers are even better.
- Don't eat nymph corpses until you have some method of teleport control (like from a ring or a Tengu corpse). After you do, chow down until you get teleportitis. Having the RNG ask you where you want to teleport to when you're cornered with 15 HP left is a godsend. Being able to clean out an entire shop's inventory just by waiting until you can teleport to the stairs is also very nice. Confusing the heck out of the native monsters is also a nice perk.
- Don't eat cats, kittens, dogs, or puppies. If it could have been a form of your starting pet, it's probably not good to eat it.
- Unless you're Chaotic, avoid killing shopkeepers (even angry ones) or other formerly peaceful humans. The luck penalty is unfortunate, but regaining telepathy is the real pain.
- When you're done digging with your pick-axe, don't forget to wield your main weapon again. Don't wait until you stumble upon the next enemy.
The following items are essential for any character. Pick one of each up as soon as you see it:
- A bag of holding. Well, any bag will do at first, as long as it's not a bag of tricks or a cursed bag of holding. Even a simple sack keeps your precious potions and scrolls from self-destructing when you stumble into a fire trap or monster with a wand of fire.
- A stethoscope. This handy object lets you check for hidden doors and passages with 100% accuracy, or view the HP and some information about a creature next to you. You can use it once per turn for free-- you won't use up any time doing so.
- A unicorn horn. It cures most status ailments and restores stat loss (like the Str loss from poison or the Int loss from Mind Flayers). Bless it as soon as you can to make it work faster, and keep a spare around.
- A pick-axe (unless you're a spellcaster with a spellbook of digging). It takes several turns to dig through rock, but if you're going back and forth between two places you can open up shortcuts easily. You can also destroy those annoying boulders with ease. Also, statues commonly contain spellbooks or other useful items if you can "open" them up with a pickaxe. If you're doing lots of digging make sure you've got plenty of food. Hard labor does make one hungry.
- A cloak. Almost any cloak will give you 2 or 3 magic resistance, which helps you shrug off many special attacks altogether. Dwarven cloaks are plentiful once you hit the mines. Make sure it's not cursed.
- A towel, or a blindfold in a pinch. You might not have intrinsic telepathy by the time you get one, but you will eventually. When you blind yourself with this, you'll be able to see most of the monsters in an entire level (the ones without brains won't show up).
- A skeleton key. It's nice being able to unlock chests and boxes without breaking their contents. It's also kinda nice to be able to unlock doors without breaking them down, especially shop doors. But the real handy part is being able to lock trolls and your spare junk inside chests.
- A magic whistle, and/or a leash. The former is handy when your stupid pet won't stand next to you when going between levels, and the latter is handy to have applied if you fall down a hole into another level (but the pet will get in your way more). Both are handy when stealing (erm, rightfully appropriating) from shops.
- A wand of fire. Assuming you're not confused, you can burn Elbereth into the ground permanently within a single turn, with no chance of failure. Handy for protecting stashes or yourself.
- A magic marker. If you find one, keep it. Trust me.
- A luckstone, preferably blessed. This maintains your good luck after you've sacrificed to your god and thrown gems to unicorns.