User:Tjr/12-conduct ascension

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In the future, I might write an article how to go for a 12-conduct ascension. That means every single conduct at once. Until then, these are my collected notes. Everybody, feel free to edit.

Placeholder paragraph about specific difficulties (beyond what the conduct pages say, in particular beyond pacifist).

Specific difficulty of a 12-conduct ascension

We should write here what makes it especially difficult to ascend a 12-conduct. There have been quite a lot 10-conducts for example. But why is this so much more difficult. People should get an idea just by reading what challenges have to be overcome how hard it is. Each challenge should link to its own section where (possible) solutions are offered.

Lessons from one early 12-conduct game

for others: buc early, get several pets, don't waste scare mosnter, don't run too far from your pets so you don't get cornered, name monster inventory items, autopickup projectiles, move only with "safe" commands, don't carry junk. Get a tin whistle from mine town. Is it better to go down with or without the pet? Don't waste time - complete each level so you won't have to come back. BUC-test in corridor ends. Stay out of monsters' line of fire, and especially don't get your pet hit with ranged attacks. Why didn't Jspeed fountain-dip the cursed magic whistle instead fo the dunce cap? Sokoban: drop stuff under boulder; cursed object in front of the pits, autopickup food, displace/whistle pets into the zoo. Don't whistle your good pets on a poyltrap. Leave them on a different level if need be.

Early game: don't wander too far from your pet. The travel command is dangerous.

Lesson: make corridors with /dig, not > if stuck between mosnters. Jspeed discarded a titan, went for marilith & jabberwock & pet foocubus. He dropped a dupe down the sink. He doesn't fully explore levels, perhaps b/c of food problem and magic whistle. Dark mines: wall walking. And he's an orc - with infravision.

ways to exercise: WIS minor oracularity, castle tune finding, foocubi, quest eviction; STR: the door resists, DEX: locks, #untrap

Monster behind boulder: 55 turns total. Next time, throw the BoH with =SD and armor on the boulder, then wait there.

Always lock up the mine town watch. Sometimes, they wander into sight while you're making pools.

Try to have enough HP for a land mine on quest home. Take those healing potions out first.

Lesson: polymorph for a pet incubus. Monsters split tame puddings, but give them a puddingbane. Ring of PC might be superfluous if throne farming for potions. Other people's bonse aren't that bad.

Drafts for a future 12-conduct article

tasks in this game:

  • scare tool
  • scare monster scroll (price-ID in container, then BUC change)
  • pets survival
  • Oracle level-up
  • magic whistle,
  • polymorph trap
  • polymorph for polyself
  • holy water,
  • ring of polycontrol, for nutrition recharge. (Not so important.)
  • unholy water
  • two unihorns
  • speed intrinsic
  • got pick axe
  • make a stack of cream pies
  1. untrapping large boxes 15 times

while read YORN ; do screen -S naopaci12 -X stuff '#U .y' ; done

  1. dual slow digestion

while sleep 0.7 ; do screen -S naopaci12b -X hardcopy dual.txt ; TURN=$( grep -Ea 'HP.*Pw.*AC.*Xp.*T' dual.txt | sed -E 's/.*Xp:[0-9/ ]*T:([0-9]*).*/\1/' ) ; REMAINDERLEFT=$[$TURN - 4 - 20 * ( ($TURN - 4 ) / 20) ] ; REMAINDERRIGHT=$[$TURN - 12 - 20*( ($TURN - 12) /20) ] ; ONTURN=$[ $REMAINDERLEFT * $REMAINDERRIGHT ] ; if [ $ONTURN -eq 0 ] ; then echo stay ; else if [ $REMAINDERLEFT -lt $REMAINDERRIGHT ] ; then echo Right hunger $[ $TURN + 20 - $REMAINDERRIGHT ] ; else echo Left hunger $[ $TURN + 20 - REMAINDERLEFT ] ; fi ; fi ; done

  1. how to start up nethack for that

screen -S tjr -c ~/.screenrc-pacifist telnet


  • likelyhood of good items: magic whistle, magic lamp, eucalyptus leaf, stethoscope, leash, enough candles, bag of holding, touchstone.
  • gem page text sucks, needs rewrite


Almost 8 hours of game play per game to get to the Oracle and below town, just to get killed with projectiles, after seeing three pets dies. That's not a good way to ascend. Lesson: Take better care of pets, go slow enough for them to heal. Things get easier once you have several. Perhaps also reroll for a scaring tool.


  • untrap chests 15x until you level up and max your Luck. That's 0.1% residual chance of a trap. You're dead if one of your startscummed-for items gets busted.
  • record everything - fountains, chests, altars, shops(wares and gem type), picked-up-state of scrolls, sinks, "vlad was here", etc. Uses of these: fountains -> unholy, altar -> bad luck for dilution or use-testing sustain ability, chests can have potions or eucalyptus, shops for price-ID and cream pies, picked-up state in case it's scare monster, to make them stack; sinks to gain alignment and for the ring. Known but hidden doors to use-test ring of searching.
  • track traps on levels with a fixed number of traps which are deep enough to have a polytrap, e.g. oracle and lowermines
  • track pet tameness
  • Pick up all food, because it's a potential pet. Name eggs by turns so you know when it's unhatchable - you want to carry a hen's egg for stackability testing, and to attract your pet.
  • Keep track of nutrition: displacing, and stressed, and turns you're without slow digestion, or wearing jewelry etc.
  • Since your pet healing rate is the limit to how fast you can go, a red/brown mold can really ground you. Don't push forward faster than you really should.
    • You have to play conceptually fast. Get as many subgoals done per trip as possible, and plan ahead. Basically, you have to learn to think in terms of pet healing rate instead of turns or time. But Game-time speed runs prepare you somewhat for this line of thinking.
  • Remap movement keys to avoid bump-kills. Make a macro that masks the difference between tooled horns and leather drums.
  • Attributes: a) exercise: doors and boulders for strength is worth it. Perhaps locks and instruments for dex if bored. Wisdom is unimportant, and you gain it for free from Foocubi, but you could donate to the Oracle. Don't search known but unrevealed secret doors because you need to use-test a ring of searching. b) Alchemized blessed gain ability will take care of everything else. You quaff it at XP4, before leveling up further for the quest. Next, you can either cursed-unicorn your stats and level down (to avoid trappers etc. when throne farming), or you could level up for teleport control. Drain for gain is where rings of increase constitution etc are useful.
  • Don't let pets play unnecessarily, you might need the apport.
  • Polytrap: don't displace (hunger), leave others on a different level and visit every 50 turns; protect it with a boulder made by digging monsters. Throw coins to make a boulder fall down the stairs, if necessary.
  • Lock shop doors. That keeps your price ID alive when you late come back with a balrog.
  • If you don't get a magic whistle -- crossing water, especially if your pets can't. Branchporting will do for a while, but not the endgame.
  • Huh, scare scrolls don't protect your pets. That means you have to exclude engulfers while farming by not leveling up. The "easiest" one is difficulty 12.


  • start the game with those vitals you cannot make and are unlikely to be found: Ring of slow digestion, holy water, one of scare monster and polymorph control (both for nutrition).
  • If you want to reroll for anything else, a horn or drum is by far the most important. The spells of charm monster, identify, or healing are nice, but overrated since you will always be in metal armor anyway. Perhaps sleep is the only really useful thing.
  • Table of probabilities of finding various items.

Starting out

Phase: before Oracle.

  • Top priority: Level up for the hit points. Gather $600 for the Oracle, then race down.
  • explore fully until mines level, you won't ge going here again. Besides, you want your starting pet to grow up - the rather safe environment helps.
  • dip fountains for unholy water only if safe, i.e. you know the way down and have a scaring tool, or you have a magic whistle with a balrog attached.
  • wield a scroll until you get cream pies
  • push boulders to train up strength. Important for carrying capacity, and leave some to run around in circles.
  • Try to clear out wimpy monsters, because you'll be dead if you meet them while your pet is goofing off. Later, this becomes less practical as more difficult monsters spawn, and irrelevant when you get a magic whistle.

Oracle and Mines

  • bats are the deadliest monsters because you cannot toot your horn in advance, and you cannot run away.
  • You likely want to #quit if you've cleared the mines and still have neither a magic whistle nor eucalyptus. Kick, then cut down those trees. Disregarding main dungeons shops, that's a 48,3% chance. The rest above level 16 (including Sokoban and Quest) won't give you one either, with 68.7% chance, and best bets still in the Quest. (Combined: 33.2%, total above medusa around 30.3%). Chance of no stethoscope >=level16: 47.6%

throne farming

  • Write a bot. Really. Still takes a few days.
  • preparing the arena: see below. Check for polytraps on the level.
  • lug all potions to your farming level, since you will need them here.
  • to make pets move onto their scare scrolls, put a chest (sack) full of junk on top of the scare scroll, but no cursed objects.
  • Level appropriately or drop extra scare monster to protect pets from engulfers.
  • Don't extinct domestic animals. "Stash" a few in some Sokoban level, just in case.
  • Cockatrices: Yellow dragon patrolling outside. Pet Xorn/vortex/winged-gargoyle in the farm etc. don't work.
  • If farming the quest throne, make sure you lock up the apprentices and Neferet, but not into a room with a polytrap.
  • Quest versus dungeons: Quest is non-tele (preserves tele charges), undiggable (preserves boulders but not your wands), has water, is easy to leave with the chest by #chatting to Neferet, but also generates a lot of useless xorns and bats later on.
  • Goal: 1) potions ID, 2) alchemized see invisible, gain ability; and some acid to cure stoning. 3) lots of wands of digging, tele, and a few speed monster for pets and death for medusa. Digging wands are your plan for gehennom, so pack lots of them. 4) >50 booze for 30k turns nutrition, 250 blessed full healing to survive Astral without decent armor, lots of gain level: 19 per pet balrog, and enough cursed gain level to avoid mapping gehennom. You save levitation to mass-alchemize gain level.
  • Pet-test the armor and wear it to see its enchantment, and price-ID some of the weapons. I found a +5 orcish helm that way. Unenchanted junk can be disposed of in a cursed bag of holding, using no game time to actually destroy it.
  • Once you have speed (from a dead monster's wand), you can walk up to Neferet on a free turn and #chat (or decline to attack her) to make her start moving around.
    • Do this before you reach XP level >=14, else you risk destroying the quest portal if she throws you out for lack of alignment record.

Surviving monsters

  • especially frail before the Oracle. That's why you race to level up, and quaff gain level for sleep resistance in case a monster has a wand of sleep.
  • Always know where your pet is, and stay close.
  • Stay near your pet, because it will run off periodically. Especially before you get any kind of whistle. Kicking at empty space is a pseudo-tin-whistle. You have a bit more leeway with a scaring tool as long as you are in rooms, but not in corridors.
  • Avoid at all cost to get into a dead-end corridor with a monster chasing you. This applies even after getting a scaring tool.
  • Keep at least one pet leashed, in case you hit a trap door. Getting separated from your pet is the number one cause of death.
  • Toot horn when going around corners. Especially if there are weapon-wielding enemies around.
  • Know which monsters typically spawn in groups - you can hold off a single monster by running in circles, but you have to gamble if you're facing a group.
  • Mimics: throw gold, and let them recloak
  • dance around pet to bring it between monsters and yourself, provided your pet is not out of its depth. You can't in corridors, which makes them much less safe.
  • until you get a scaring tool, doors are your escape mechanism. Especially with a key.
  • Prepare the area for when you get isolated from your pet. There isn't much you can do without a scare tool (drum, horn, mirror). You can run in circles around boulders or loops of corridors with kicked-down doors, lure monsters onto traps (but name them since they learn), cast your second spell, kick empty space to attract your pet. Try to save your scroll of scare monster until you can re-bless it.
  • Have an idea in what health your pet is.
  • Gas spores: stay away once your pet is buff enough to attack one. You won't survive.
  • Pet management: 1) magic whistle or blessed eucalyptus, 2) horn or drum to shoo it away, 3) tin whistle from the mine town watch or a bell to substitue for 1, or even kicking around.
  • Every bit of speed helps. Engrave-ID all wands, and put on unidentified $50 boots.
  • Even with a drum, stay near your pet. You never know when you step on a sleeping trap.
  • After the mines, your main offensive and defensive item is a magic whistle with several balrogs attached. They will appear between you and enemies, and they will kill them fast enough. To keep it that way, don't dilute your fighting force with bad pets.


  • Track it, and avoid losing nutrition at all cost. Displacing pets, wearing jewellry, and getting your ring of slow digestion stolen all decrease it.
  • Two viable strategies: Polyself, or liquid diet. Polymorphing into a new elf requires a ring set if you want to keep doing it indefinitely, and you have to be able to deal with your stats random walking. Which likely means throne farming anyway. The liquid diet strategy means creating lots of monsters at a throne, and alchemizing blessed booze from their potions. You need a few pet balrogs, a scroll of scare monster, holy water to rebless it, two unicorn horns, unholy water to curse one of them, the Sokoban scroll of earth, and a throne, preferrably on a shallow, undiggable, no-teleport level. Speed is necessary to get Nefert off her guaranteed throne. You can confuse yourself with forgotten spells instead of the cursed unicorn horn, but there is a significant nutrition gap until that becomes available.

Potion strategy

  • Finding holy water: pet test for curses, and either stackability testing, dipping your quarterstaff, or price-ID to find out if it's holy.
  • Price-ID everything, but try not to use up anything.
  • Identification: Price-ID, dipping unihorn, monster inventory items (including nymphs) at a throne, alchemy output, preplaced potions at the wine cellar. If nothing else helps, throw it upwards to breathe the vapors unless you can rule out polymorph.
  • Kill a shopkeeper to ID healing. Wand shop or Izchak.
  • Lug your entire supply to your throne level.
  • Levitation can in principle be alchemized if you're willing to blast some 190 potions. You're not.


  • bat. Shouldn't have bought things, instead saving for the Oracle and inscreased survivability.
  • hobbit came around a dark corner and 1-shotted me. The fault was running around on a dark level for too long, while my pet was goofing off. I had been trapdoored several levels down and couldn't find my pet on return.
  • Water demon. No, a wand of teleportation does not make it safe. You will spend ages trying to get your pet to follow, while the demon keeps making a bee line for you.
  • Killed by a fox while on a sleeping trap, on the oracle level even.

Discussion on IRC

Basically, the first step is to find out what you need (for 12-conduct).

You're in for a huge amount of frustartion. I suggest you try with a few non-startscummed (or bones-stuffed) games first. well, atheist pacifist alone would be a good prep, and an illiterate ascension, and a game-time speed run. Once you have combined pacifist atheist illiterate, you might as well go the whole way.

I "wrote" an object generation spoiler to scratch just this itch. It lets you compute how often you'll get what you need, hence what you need to startscum for. In my opinion, it boils down to: you need 0) an elven wizard (some people do orcs), 1) a ring of slow digestions, 2) a scroll of scare monster, 3) at least one of holy water or a ring of polymorph control. So you're in to about 6000 startscummed games per game played.

In the end, I decided not to scum for a drum/horn. I case it's a mistake, I'll notice that by dying. Those games aren't wasted, because it will give me practise. So I don't lose anything by not scumming for a drum/horn

The second step is to ask paxed for permission. I got shown out of because my script was taxing the server too much. (which is another reason to practise with bones-stuffed games or make-believe games first)

The third step then is to construct a reroller. I deleted mine in one of my "no more nethack" binges, so you'll have to write it. This takes some patience, but it's nothing compared with the amount of patience you need for the farming in a 12-condcut attempt. You can try pexpect (google for it), it's what the big minds recommend. Or, if you can't really code, you can use GNU screen to read the screen (-X hardcopy) and type things automatically (-X stuff jjjkkkjjkhlhh). That's how I did it. I used a simple bash shellscript to drive screen to drive nethack. Grep is a good way to test if nethack is displaying what you want it to display. And, BTW, you might want to edit your nethackrc to suppress anything you can, e.g. the character selection prompt or any startup messages. you can grap tjr12a's nethackrc

You have to play with !bones if you want people to admire your acheivement. There's no other way to exclude seeded ascension kits etc.

Basically, if you want to write a start scumming bot the shell script way, this dual-slow-digestion mini-script (above) can show you how to read stuff from nethack and check for favorable output.

The fourth step is to "play", err, work. Since you're in for a lot of frustration, you might as well analyze each death and figure out how to prevent it. Roughly, (1) drums and horns (and mirrors) are your friend, (2) learn to dance around your pet for protection, (3) you're basically game-time speed running sinc eyour pets are slowsing you down that much, (4) you need to have a magic whistle, mine's end, the sokoban scrolls and bag, speed, and a throne (preferrably not quest home), and a cursed and a non-cursed unihorn, and a lot price-IDd potions set up until turn 15000. (5) David Damerell's object identification spoiler is your friend. It pays to memorize all the intricacies and quirks, since you will never, ever get a formal identification or altar test. To max your Luck, combine it with gem pricing, the shopkeeper ID thing in

You can easily get gain level pots by throne farming >> only if your pets kill monsters fast enough. I've had trouble getting to those potions consistently.

thrones don't break a conduct, but they are a rare resource you need for farming. they are your only way to generate lots of monsters. So you want several on different dungeon depths. The castle throne in particular is your source of poison resistance (i.e. green dragon scales, made from dragons) you need to know the details of boulder fort care for that (i.e. get visible while you're summing. in an ideal world, reflection comes from the shield. you won't be casting spells beyond 2k turns, anyway. you can get the shield from perseus' statue, or if you're lucky an aleax, or medusa's random A. if you want to scum for books, charm monster and light are better IMHO. sleep won't serve you beyond your 2k turns. lit corridors stay lit. getting surprised by badass or bumpkill monsters is one of the bigger dangers. to compensate, you can play elf/orc, throw gold pieces down corridors to get a "you miss" message, and you can keep a pet army attached to your magic whistle. and you can remap the movement keys to cut down on bump kills. fast monster are particularily insidious, until you have an army of balrogs.

I'm a bit torn whether you have to fully explore every level because the big problem is not having enough items. On the one hand, items are definitely your weak point. On the other hand, it just takes too damn long. You can always come back later, once you have several non-eating pets and a way to make nutrition. So I tend to explore levels in one circle (take every right turn etc), then descend.

Avoiding traps is somewhat of a problem. Even harder is finding your first polytrap. Useful things are 2 leashes with pets on them (they whine), or a crystal ball. Or just step on every square in the lower mines. See my object ID page for where to look for polytraps.

Nutrition can come from 4 things: (1) feel like a new elf (needs =poly and =PC), (2) alchemized blessed booze (needs a throne farm setup, a unihorn, lots of potions, and holy water), (3) dual =SD, (4) find a horn of plenty and the PYEC in a bones pile. But dual slow digestion is way too tedious for my taste.

Ways to gain alignment record: 1) find a helm of opposite alignment (and a way to uncurse it). Steal things from shops as a chaotic, then repay as a lawful. 2) sleep with foocubi. You need to that anyway to level up (since your potions of gain level are needed cursed for the ascension run and/or to level up pets) or 3) play a healer, get alignment by healing up your pets, and then die because of lack of MR/=SD/...

!lg * nconducts=12 turns>18000 gmax=name Once you've got a feeling what's important, you might want to watch a few of those ttyrecs, too.

Initial considerations posted to RGRN

'A wizard seems the only possible role. Please ignore the monk stuff.'

Hi, is it possible to do a 12-conduct ascension without bones stuffing? If yes, how, and has it been done? (I'm not saying I will definitely try.)

I can find a statement of intent [1] and an excellent discussion how to go about it [2] along with a NAO account [6]. Also, Shawn Moore did a 12-conduct ascension by stuffing bones, which doesn't really count [7]. There are no 12-conducts on NAO; Tenaya11 and Thewumpus come closest.

Problems I do not know how to resolve:

  • Survive the early and mid-game without Elbereth
  • Making holy water
  • Trap detection, in order to protect pets from polytraps, substitute

for fire/sleep/poison resistance.

  • Gaining alignment unless chaotic
  • Sokoban mimics attract and kill my pets early in the game. I could

lure them around at best.

  • Obtaining stuff early enough: scrolls of scare monster, a magic

whistle, an instrument horn, a magic flute, a source of polymorph, magic resistance, and enough wands of teleportation.

  • What if a red/brown mold or a jelly blocks a critical corridor,

especially in Sokoban?

  • Efficient travel, unless wizard or valkyrie. No cursed scrolls of


Problems that have impractial solutions:

  • Get rings of polycontrol and slow digestion before starving.

Rerolling a wizard works, but you wouldn't survive without Elbereth.

  • Identifying the ring of polycontrol, unless you also have a ring of

polymorph, a spare throne, or means of enlightenment.

  • Enough pets. Throwing food at domestic animals and dancing on a

polytrap are very slow.

  • Get a pet that can kill the Rodney, named demons, and arch-liches

reliably. Purple worms are too slow in practise, and you can't charm monsters.

  • Armor class. Looks like pet-testing the Ludios and castle armys'


  • Getting magic resistance early enough unless a wizard. Needed for

polytrap dancing.

  • Gehennom mapping. Your purple worm would kill teleporting monsters.
  • Fighting cockatrices. You can teleport Medusa, but not all the c's

out there.

  • Getting enough items. Death drops and detect treasure are

impossible. That leaves me with 1) bones loitering, and 2) collecting potions of object detection from nymphs for Gehennom.

  • identifying amulets, most importantly unchanging. Use-testing, curse

status, and probabilities go only so far.

  • protecting polytraps. Boulders and scrolls of scare monster work,

but are scarse.

  • levelling up. Sinks and magic fountains are not too plentiful, so

I'd let a water demon hit me to summon foocubi. This is harmless only if you have Elbereth.

Solutions to problems not discussed in [2], [3], [4], [5]:

  • Getting a pet that actually fights: polymorph starting kitten into a

vampire or demon in the Mines, once you can.

  • Unholy water: fountain quaffing.
  • Getting wands and potions: throne farming. Get a monster to read a

scroll of earth, confuse yourself with a cursed unihorn, stand on scare monster, and have your non-eating pets fight. Best done in the quest to reduce bad spawns.

  • bump kills: use the _ and HUKILMJN commands

Do you have any ideas how to solve these difficulties?

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]


My point is I can't rely on finding just the right jewelry. Rerolling is the only exception. A 12-conduct game needs solid planning for adverse circumstances.

Problem: Fighting cockatrices. Just leave them alone, and they will fill up your throne farm. Solution: tame new monsters periodically, have one yellow dragon on your team. Don't have more because it will dilute your living fort. Keep in mind your stoning resistant pet will die every now and then.

It is really necessary to "protect" the polytraps because you're too weak to fight a gnome-turned-wolf if all you have is a kitten. Push a boulder onto the trap and leave the level. Don't dig down on them - you might need the trap to recharge nutrition after you find a ring of polycontrol, and digging pits is a no-no for pacifists because peaceful monsters will fall in and cost you alignment record.

Without a pick-axe or teleportation, sessile monsters with passive attacks sometimes have been a bad problem for me. Often enough, my previous pacifists get a wand of teleportation only after Sokoban and Mine Town. (A pick-axe won't help you back out of Sokoban. Anyway, your pets need to be large to go get one in the Mines.) Unless you can pre-damage the exit-blocking jelly safely and enough so your cat will kill it in one turn, it's basically game over.

Efficient travel is necessary. Hunger is a timer on your life. That's why playing a few game-time speed runs is good preparation. If your pet can't always take care of the monsters spawned in the meantime, you don't have Elbereth, and you can recharge nutrition only so many times, then efficient travel sounds much more attractive. Do the quest for the Eye of the Aethiopica. ... So, just walk. Don't have a horde of pets after you get a magic whistle, or more than 3 pets before.

The late-game problem is: A hasted purple worm still won't defend me from the minotaur while it's eating a newt. Orcus cannot be swallowed. That why you need non-eating pets. Go for several balrogs. Multiple, to make levelporter traps less harmful. Most other polytrap output typically won't survive Gehennom. (Give vampire lords an elven cloak for the castle liches. That's about as far as they will last.) A neat polytrap trick is to split tame puddings. That depends on the chance of healer bones with lots of meatballs, though: you need to raise tameness of the new clones to 20 before it's a good idea to turn them into non-eating pets. Domesting animals will start failing below dungeon level 10. To whistle only one pet on the poltrap, leave the others on another level and visit every 74 turns. An abandoned pet loses one point of tameness on turn 75, see Dog.c#line448. That's important for non-eating pets. Non-eating pets are much more effective because they will actually fight, not eat when you most need them.

Pacifist 101: The boundary between pure player skill and flaky luck is somewhere between level 10 and the quest portal. Further down, tame domestic animals seem to wear out faster and faster, until you finally can't even make new ones grow up before they die. A quick dive down to a polytrap is safe enough, but prolonged exposure leaves you defenceless. The solution: you improve pets with a polymorph trap, ideally into a balrog, or into things like a red demons, jabberwock, mind flayer, winged gargolye. Arch-liches are useless. Naturally, this procedure takes very long and can go wrong, especially if you insist on an ascension quality pet. This means you have to find a leash or magic whistle above that boundary, and it also handicaps classes that don't start with magic resistance. (A partial solution to the magic whistle problem is eucalyptus. Lock up your pet herbivores and kick both trees in mine town until you get fruit. Then cut them down with an axe for another shot at fruit. Also, don't let your pet horse eat the sokoban food, which can be eucalyptus.)

Raise your stats before you level up. Magic fountains are typically available long before alchemy. You need the potions for alchemy and pets, anyway.

Monsters *can* used ranged attacks while adjacent, but somehow I've never had it happen while they were also scared. I'm not vouching this scroll+fort idea will absolutely always work, but I've never had it fail. (Unfortunately, a player's relfection does not protects the scroll he's standing on.)

What's wrong with death drops? You don't get any.

If your game doesn't have 7 candles, it's unwinable. There is no way to make candles without violating a conduct.

Tenaya recommends

Tenaya recommends not exploring on the same level with your worms. Leave them behind while you scout ahead and just make sure they don't go feral. Maybe use a demon (i.e. non-eater) for your full-time bodyguard. Only add one thing: in looking at Conducty's dump log, one can notice that his inventory is full of wands of sleeping and teleportation; and for good reason.

Trap protection: play slowly, but not too slowly.

Yes, you can survive without Elbereth. Use your pets.

Tame all domestic animals and leave them all on a safe level (upper Sokoban or some locked room) to go feral and collect later as needed.

Don't map Gehennom, just locate the stairs.

Getting wands and potions: Just grind away in the quest and let a purple worm eat the xorns and wraiths. I think both of them carry loot.

Here is my advice: don't use up all of your pets. You don't need to have your purple worm be massive until you need to kill something big. Until then use a balrog to collect as much loot as possible. If you see a graveyard room or some wraiths, let them live (err, unlive) until you need to buff up a purple worm. You will need to conserve your purple worm resources for Rodney and the endgame.

Another kind of general statement: once you have the Polyring/PCring engine in place, there is no limit on the game. If you are willing to do the ring trick every 17,000 turns then you can spend as long as you like doing whatever you like in the game.

Problem: You'll burn though boatloads of wands of teleportation on the ascension run because you can't contract teleportitis. Solution: Use a dual =SD ring set, but you'll need those wands for Astral. You can take off slow digestion for periods of time; it's no big deal. Doing so just means that you need to do your polyself sooner.

Running out of holy water loses the game if you aren't near the end. That's why (dilutable) potions are precious.

Two of the named demons can be bribed, remember, and Juiblex is trivial to kill with a pet. That leaves just Orcus: conflict, leave him scared but alive?

Juiblex with 1 HP will still swallow you.

Testing the early game

This is an inexperienced write-up.

I've done some testing, here are the results:

Surviving Sokoban and then Mine Town without Elbereth turns out to be surprisingly easy. Learn the crucial and subtle art of luring pets (and opponents) around. Many of the tactics are documented in Maniac's Ascension Guide: Dance around your pets, put them between you and the attacker. If you suspect a monster ahead, travel with one pet going ahead in the corridor. As opposed to Maniac's, you never lead. Beware dead ends - run in circles if your pets goof off while a monster is chasing you. Doors and keys are important escape items. Don't displace your pets too often - in this test, that made me hungry by turn 10254. Pick up all food and tame as many animals as you can because your pets will eventually hit a trap door or die.

You can't protect your pets with Elbereth from the Sokoban mimics. Two fully grown cats/dogs can handle them one at a time, but you are dead if they wake them up right next to you. Alone, you throw gold at them, lure them to a better position, let them recloak while you are around a corner, and go get your pets. As always, you displace one pet into the zoo, but this time you retreat behind the other one instead of waiting on Elbereth.

A level 3 wizard can normally only survive for long below Mine Town if treading on a string of Elbereth, or by extension on scare monster. (The same thing goes for bones, BTW.) You won't find two scrolls, you're lucky if you find one, but you really need scare monster eventually for your throne farm or as escape item. So you should collect all scrolls. Instead of drop-testing, you stash them in chests. As soon as you can, you should price-identify the scrolls, one by one in a container, and bless one of each $100 type. That way, you get to keep your first and only scroll of scare monster. If your pet likes a clear potion you find and dipping doesn't wet your starting quarterstaff, it's holy water.

I'm not sure if it's worth continuing down the Mines unless you have both a scroll of scare monster and a stack of holy water. (Update: it is, once you get armor and pets) Essentially, the numbers suggest a 12-conduct run is scumming for holy water, scare monster, rings of slow digestion and polymorph control, a magic whistle or a leash, and some means of polymorph. Why deal with out-of-depth levels if you can just retry?

I haven't tested any further, especially not the thorny issue how to get an industrial-strength pet. (Update: two polytrap balrogs)

Some more testing results.

This is an inexperienced write-up.

I settled on a female chaotic elf wizard and would be rerolling for holy water, slow digestion, and polymorph control. This is about the maximum you can reroll for. The wizard is because of the cloak and the starting gear, the elf because of infravision and sleep resistance, and females get more matching foocubi from water demons. Branchporting, ESP, intrinsic warning, and teleport control are good but less important arguments. In (46+-10)% of all games, a scroll of scare monster will show up by Sokoban and Mine Town, the rest I will #quit. So I simulated this with a bones file and played like in my previous test report. (Perhaps I should also consider restarting if no magic whistle shows up.)

Much of this post is about strategies for when you don’t get the perfect set of equipment. You never will get all of it early unless you stuff a bones file, as Eidolos did.

Polytrap dancing

The first task is to get a pet good enough to survive any further down. In this game, a good deal of luck gave me a magic whistle and three known polytraps. I did eventually use up two of them for nutrition.

You want to find polytraps fast to secure them before a gnome turns into a black dragon. A nearby boulder works, or you leave the level quickly after use. What are good strategies to locate them, especially if you don’t have the luxury of a herd of pets, an amulet of ESP + blindfold, a leashed pet, a ring of searching with high Luck, a crystal ball, or a wand of secret door detection?

All eligible squares in each single ordinary room or an entire open level are equally likely to have a trap. Polytraps aren’t that rare: Each mines filler level has expected 0.737 polytraps and 54.4% chance of at least one. In normal rooms and corridor levels, there are expected 0.0182 polytraps per room, roughly 0.14 per level, and 13% chance of at least one on levels 8-11; 0.0219, 0.16, 15% on 12-17; 0.0273, 0.20, 18% on 18-23; 0.0365, 0.27, 23% on 24-29. The wizard quest home has expected 0.84 polytraps and 59.5% chance of at least one. “Roughly” means I counted the rooms per level in a few wizmode games.

It’s best to displace the correct pet onto the trap despite the cost in nutrition. You can always use up the trap for nutrition and search exhaustively for another one. Before Gehennom, I believe a mix of eating and non-eating pets works best. Eventually, you will also want a stoning-resistant one in case you need to stay on one level for a long time. One option for Rodney is a wraith-powered purple worm, but I’m not sure if an alchemized titan isn’t better. It helps to keep track of pet tameness and abuse count, especially if you split puddings. You don’t want your titan to be resurrected hostile.

I’m going to start taming and locking away spare cats/dogs/ponies. This could help getting a purple worm later on.

In this game, a huge streak of luck gave me a titan, a balrog, and some weaker ones. They wielded the unicorn horns I wanted to have, which might be a blessing in disguise. At least, my magic whistle turned into an instakill weapon and a replacement for Elbereth spam.

Is it worth the bother to price-identify enchanted weapons for pets?

What are your ideas of the “best” polytrap pet?


The second task is to find a source of polymorph. Surprisingly, many games do not have any sinks at all. The chance of a ring of polymorph in Sokoban, the Mines, or the first 10 levels is only around 50%. In this game, I used up spare polytraps until I could throne farm for a wand of polymorph.

Throne farming

You still can’t get any death drops, but monster inventory items can be safely and quickly made as common as you like, once you can loot a throne while confused.

So the third task is to find one, preferably at a shallow dungeon level. The chance of a random throne room is 95-97% above Medusa, and 70-75% above level 14. Both are within reach if you have a good polytrap pet. If there is none or you need silver/green/red dragon scales, you may have to clear the Castle (see below). It would help if someone could find a way to get Neferet the Green off her seat before quest permission.

You need powerful pets, the scroll of scare monster, holy water to pick it up afterwards, an uncursed scroll of earth from Sokoban, a reusable source of confusion, some gold, and optionally a cursed bag of holding. Farming is heavy lifting for your pets, so they should regenerate or heal themselves. At least one should be non-eating so it will actually fight. If your starting spells have not yet expired, a cursed unicorn horn can provide confusion.

Dispose of all chests. The scroll of scare monster (and you) goes on the throne. You need to discourage monsters zapping fire at you, so you need a boulder fort to keep monsters adjacent. Give a wimpy monster an uncursed scroll of earth and a metal helmet if needed. Earth counts as “ranged” attack; so just let it tickle you.

Paste to farm as usual.

Don’t overwork your pets. If you lack a stethoscope, you may have to wizmode-test how fast you can go. Don’t whack pets with healing potions; that counts as abuse.

You get lots of healing potions, gain level, wands of teleportation and sleeping, wands and potions of polymorph, and other stuff this way. See the monster inventory spoiler for the full list. Most things have some specialty use.

In this test drive, I saved some typing work with a constructed bones file.

Fountains, object identification, armor class, alchemy, Luck, and other housekeeping chores

The fourth task is to prepare for the more dangerous sequel.

You price-identify and use-test what you find, carefully not to waste anything monsters’ inventories won’t replenish. Potions: price-grouping; food store; #dip a unihorn, a poisoned, a non-poisoned missile, and an amethyst; apply oil; nymphs bring object detection; monster inventory; alchemy products. Don’t accidentally polymorph objects. It is hard to tell monster detection and gain energy apart without wasting them. See the wiki for rings and amulets.

All the usual chores apply: make pools near your main stash, type-named gems and unicorns, stealing for cream pies, escape items, collect one of everything in case you get mind flayed, drop holy water and a cursed object on your stash, etc.

You have to pet-test and try on all armor you come across. It takes the least amount of testing if the likelihood of a cursed object in the stack is 50%. That means 5 pieces of armor, with known-uncursed, marked junk on top for pets to play with or (not) wear themselves. If applicable, binary search to single out one cursed object, then swap it out for one untested piece of armor. A stethoscope can tell you the total enchantment of what you later find on a monster’s corpse. In the test run I didn’t manage to get below AC -2 while wearing silver dragon scales. Helpful people on IRC have told me this is normal.

Before you level up, you might want to max out your stats. You gain more power and health points this way, and you need less foocubi. With Luck and safety measures in place, I usually quaff from each fountain until I know if it is magic. A sack protects things from curses; lots of individually named gems distract nymphs; the magic whistle or The Scroll deal with snakes. (Don’t drown your pets.) Speed boots let you exploit a free turn. It is wise to continue dipping on shallower dungeon levels: You need unholy water anyway, the enlightenment effect is useful to identify jewelry, and you may depend on water demons to summon foocubi.

Alchemized full healing takes the place armor class normally would. Use up gain level, not gain energy. Magic fountains probably become available before blessed gain ability. You also might want huge amounts of holy water for The Scroll, one blessed see invisible, and a few enlightenment for later. Object detection probably is best saved for maze levels.

Much later, when you need a buff pet and can cancel, you can use the multistep recipe for gain level. Levitation is the only input you cannot directly make from monsters’ potions. If you dip stacks of water into anything else, you need “only” expected 190 tries to get levitation. Save two blessed bottles for the endgame to free up a ring or armor slot. (Random water alchemy becomes remarkably efficient with huge stacks, even better than polymorph. But we’re not extincting djinn here.)

Gaining Alignment

Gaining alignment is the hardest task. Even with a helm of opposite alignment, the only ways to gain alignment repeatedly without breaking any conducts are:

  • Foocubi interaction as a chaotic,
  • Stealing as a chaotic, repaying as a lawful,
  • Angering a cross-aligned priest, if you start with charm monster,
  • Healing spells on pets as a lawful, if you start with any,
  • Untrapping peacefuls from pre-existing pits as a lawful.

Foocubi are the only method you can rely on. Ways they can be created:

  • Kicking sinks, if your dungeon has any.
  • Randomly in the dungeon. Protect them.
  • Monsters reading or zapping create monster. Assuming experience level 3 and dungeon level 13, 0.41% of all spawns are incubi. You need about 19 cursed scrolls per foocubus.
  • Graveyard population in the Valley of the Dead. Expect about 0-2 such demons.
  • Demon summoning. Water demons work well above dungeon level 16 provided you have a plan for Yeenoghu and Juiblex.

The main problem is protecting the demons from your pets, while protecting yourself with your pets. In my test game, I played through the last three methods. Creating monsters was an accident waiting to happen. Besides, those damn monsters just didn’t want to read, and I didn't have a stethoscope to make them.

Going to the Valley of the Dead didn’t work out well. I would have returned by a level teleport trap. Medusa stoned my balrog, and I fell through a trapdoor and got stomped by the minotaur. Finally, in the Valley, I couldn’t spot a matching foocubus. Worse, the lich made sure battle ensued, and I would not be able to level up a purple worm later.

Interestingly, water demons were easiest.

Water demons summon foocubi

When a demon hits the player, it has a 1/13 chance of summoning a demon. Usually, the result is the same species, but there is a 1/7 chance of a random demon. Above dungeon level 16, these are predominantly foocubi. Incubi get summoned twice as often as succubi, due to rn2(2) in Makemon.c#line1336. The least difficult summoning demons are water demons, which coincidentally can be released from fountains.

Have reflection, over 100 hit points, and a good supply of holy water, healing potions, and wands of teleportation if you try this. You need to lock your pets away; else they will kill your entire crop of demons. Movement tactics are a bit tricky. You need to avoid getting surrounded away from The Scroll. The biggest problem is the abysmal healing rate of a low-level wizard. While you are waiting, random monsters will spawn, you need to patrol with one of your pets, and it will kill some of those precious foocubi. It is a good idea to leave a few water demons on a different level as a backup.

Also, you need a good plan for Yeenoghu and Juiblex.

I was not sure my pets were high-level enough to attack Yeenoghu and Juiblex. My plan was to take a water demon down to Mine’s End to my pets as fast as possible (zapping a wand of digging). I would chase the named demons up the stairs with a silver wand while standing on The Scroll. It turned out silver damage was enough to kill them, but a towel worked perfectly fine. To return, I would have displaced my pets onto the level teleport traps, and finally used one myself. (With teleport control from leveling up. Even without telecontrol, it is unlikely to land on the demons’ level, and I could have tried again or quaffed cursed gain level.) Such return plans were not even necessary: my titan and my balrog reliably killed both named demons.

All in all, demon farming proved to be remarkably safe.


At this stage of the game, a ring of levitation provides a fast method to travel down with several pets. Float over your hole, assemble them around you, and remove the ring. Wands of digging are available at a throne. Pick-axes don’t work because you can’t guarantee you will back to fetch your pets within 74 moves, and tameness cannot be increased for some pets. On the other hand, if you fall down a trapdoor in the early game and lose sight of your pet, you are likely hosed.

Medusa can shoot herself with a wand if you are blindfolded, or invisible and reflecting. Without ESP, it takes some practice to pull off.

This is how far my test game has progressed. I’m still not quite sure what pets I will take to Gehennom, and from where to get the patience polytrap dancing for a specific monster takes. Avoiding battles seems like a good basic plan.

Resistances and trap detection

If you have reflection and poison resistance, only traps remain an issue with resistances. Unfortunately, trap detection is very limited, and extrinsic-granting jewelry is not that common. (In my test game, I am missing poison, conflict, polymorph, free action, and less important ones.)

Perhaps advancing slowly and carefully is the only option for a long time.

Poison: Avoid orcish line of fire. Magic cancellation helps cut down on instadeath from poisoned weapons. Dispose of all poisoned weapons. Orcs could even be extincted at a throne. Testing for poison resistance gear is not that obvious: You can alchemize poison using a non-recipe, and quaff it.

Traps: Rings of levitation and searching can help evade some traps in Gehennom.

Extrinsics: Various combinations of rings, amulets, dragon scales, a shield of reflection, an alchemy smock, and Firebrand yield the three crucial extrinsics poison, fire, and reflection. Dragon scales of choice can be made at the Castle throne. If the game gives you nothing, a foolhardy way to get a guaranteed shield of reflection is to summon an archon out of sight. It takes around 23 cursed scrolls or 22 wands on the castle level, which even has an Elbereth you can use.

Good ideas that don’t work

Magic trap taming an archon is remotely possible, but more than foolhardy. If your AC is -4, it deals around 31 damage per turn. The trap has 59% chance of taming it before exploding. It takes expected 12.2 tries for either to happen, not counting the chance to escape the trap. For an archon to spawn on the Castle level, you need to create expected 297 monsters, that means 22.8 cursed scrolls read by monsters. Also, it summons lots of nasties itself. Now imagine the beating your pets are going to take.

Purple worms can be leveled up using the cursed Book of the Dead. You have to do it on dungeon level 1; else you get tough zombies and dead pet worms. (You might even extinct master lichs that way.) Given how easily worms die, they might be a bit flaky as a Rodney tool. Leaving them behind most of the time sounds like a plan. (In this game, I don’t have conflict, and it doesn’t seem likely I will get it.)

Doesn’t fit elsewhere

Reading Tenaya’s log, I was struck how similar his approach was to what I did in my 8- and 11-conduct runs. Independently coming up with similar ideas means good ideas.

Misc notes

Here are some last minor points because I want to throw my notes away.

  • Somebody on IRC suggested I level up beyond XP30 for the hit points. I could try that. If it spells too much trouble for my pets, I could get level drained and keep the boost.
  • I can make potions of speed and wands of tele. If I get jumping boots, pets could be less crucial on the Astral Plane.
  • Pet testing: Pet in a corner in Sokoban. I block one square, stash+boulder another one, the test items block the third adjacent square.
  • Inventory full of wands of sleep and tele. Triple bounces: off wall and then off me, for high-MR monsters.
  • Give a few water demons cursed teleportation scrolls as a backup in case my crop gets killed.

And I forgot to mention one thing that I often use; a wand of undead turning! (Though it's not guaranteed that your pet will still be tame after resurrection, but it mostly works well.) A wand of undead turning also means you cannot heal up your pets with healing potions because that counts as abuse.

  • I cut out a lot of info about purple worms because I didn't have good results with them.

Any named demon will try to fetch the Amulet. The problem is either how to kill the demon afterwards, or how to transport and protect the demon until it retrieves the Amulet. Unfortunately, Juiblex and Yeenoghu have already been "used up" while farming water demons. Asmodeus at level 49 is particularily hard to kill and easy to pay off. Perhaps Orcus would work. The question how to survive the Sanctum still needs some thought.

Feedback to this draft

Please feel free to improve this notes collection. It's not yet an article. Contradictions are because the notes were collected at different times.

The thing is, the early game / midgame distinction is superceded by (1) trying to get a powerful pet, (2) trying to collect magic whistle, rings, and certain useful items, (3) trying to get a farm set up for nutrition, (4) farming and alchemy, (5) quest, (6) exploring the rest of the dungeons, (7) the big unknown methods how to tackle gehennom and related challenges

Early game could correspond to finding a polytrap and making 2-3 good pets. (Nutrition is definitely another phase.) The start would have to be, start with =oSD and other stuff you cannot make, keep an eye out for itmes (since you won't have the nutrition / pet health to collect it on a second trip), keep pet alive and tame a second one, go for the oracle (increased survaivability from level up), dive into mines, find poly trap, have a way to repeat the trap with it.

A magic whistle isn't just nice, it's the difference between starvation and making it to a farm in time. You absolutely need it to make an ascension quality pet. Before you get a magic whistle, you can arrange boulders around the polytrap so that your leashed pet has to move over the trap, but that method takes too long to go for a balrog.

After getting a pet that secures your immediate survival, next goals could be: collecting things you need to farm for booze. Collect way to make nutriton (polyself ringset, extra ring of =SD, collect all potions and price-ID them (drink fruit juice, booze only when blessed), get a magic whistle or at least 2 leashes, try on all armor, get a stethscope if you can, get 2 unihorns and curse one, price-ID every single randomly generated item (because that will help you know what you find in your throne farm), get the luckstone and some gems and toss them at a coaligned unicorn, get a decent collection of escape items, a mummy wrapping, the three intrinsics (see invisible, invisible, speed), collect all potions that could be levitation (for multi-step alchemy), just generally clear the dungeon without ever going out of your way. Level up to level 4 for sleep resistance, but be sure to keep any foocubi safe.

Trap avoidance: Marvin recommends moving in a small number of patterns, so that you minimize the tiles you step on. Ebonhack seems to implement breadcrumbs, but I haven't been able to get it to work. Three contradicting goals: Find a polytrap as fast as possible in a location near some stairs, don't die to a trap, and formally identify all traps that could level teleport or polymorph your bodygaurds.

Example games

The best way to learn is to watch a ttyrec of a pro, and try to predict what they are going to do next.