A variant (also sometimes known as a fork, mod, or patchset) is a copy of NetHack to which substantial code changes have been made.
Most variants make changes to the gameplay, but this isn't a requirement: NitroHack, for instance, is a variant which makes huge code changes but does not change gameplay at all.
The NetHack General Public License allows anyone to create a variant, provided that they use the same license. Then, features from that variant may be reused in other variants!
Variants are distinct from patches. A variant typically contains a large amount of changes and has a broader goal, whereas a patch does one specific thing and contains only the changes required to make it work. Some variants were formed by applying multiple existing patches to the vanilla source code.
A variant is either distributed as a very large patch against vanilla NetHack (uncommon nowadays), or as a separate source code distribution such as a public Git repository.
If you are thinking about making a variant, consider consulting active variant developers on Freenode for advice and early feedback on your ideas.
- 1 Actively-developed variants
- 2 Variants not actively developed (but still played)
- 3 Historically significant patches
dNethack is a variant that does five main things: it greatly increases the number of artifacts, implements new monsters, re-organizes and expands the dungeon, attempts to re-balance armors, item appearances, and intrinsics to make more choices viable in the late game, and replaces the Elbereth mechanic with warding signs. It also incorporates the Pirate and Convict patches, and makes a few minor changes in existing classes and items.
Most new artifacts have custom effects and/or invocations. Most new monsters have new attacks or other code support. Dungeon changes include: multi-level alignment “quest” branches, additional side branches off the main dungeon, and a shortened Gehennom, with demon lairs randomly drawn from a small pool and fewer straight-up maze levels.
Discuss the variant at irc://freenode/dnethack. It is playable at a specifically dNetHack server (dnethack.ilbelkyr.de) or, more commonly, via ssh email@example.com (USA) or the nethack.dank.ninja server.
GruntHack is a variant intended to extend and enhance the game's existing behavior rather than altering it in any thoroughly substantial way, such as objects of the same object type being made from different materials and occasionally possessing non-standard powers, monsters having different races and using more tactics when fighting other monsters, and more intelligent pet behavior.
Though it enables the player to become significantly more powerful than in vanilla, a number of its changes add significant challenges to the early and late game, making it one of the most difficult variants.
NetHack 4 is a merge of AceHack and NitroHack, and the official successor to both projects. It aims for gameplay similar to NetHack but with an improved interface. It combines the interface improvements and gameplay changes of AceHack (see its section) with the persistent inventory, larger message box, new status display, new options interface, fully remappable keys, new main menu and other features of NitroHack.
For command-line Git access, use git clone nethack4.org/media/nethack4.git.
NetHack Fourk is an experimental fork of NetHack 4. It has four main types of changes: balance adjustments and formula tweaks; differentiation of similar monsters, objects, and levels; consolidation of boring things; and monster letter reorganization. A lot of game mechanics work slightly differently than players tend to be used to. See the changelog for details.
FIQHack is a variant of NetHack 4 that has 3 main focuses: improving convenience and quality of life, improving monster AI and behaviour, and improving monster/player symmetry (i.e. making things behave the same for both). Aside from this, there have also been various other gameplay tweaks, as well as improvement of code quality.
A comprehensive changelog of every notable change in FIQHack can be found in its article.
Slash'EM Extended is a variant of SLASH'EM and its official successor.
Compared to SLASH'EM, Slash'EM Extended contains many new roles and races for the player to choose from, many new special levels, a lot of new monsters, and other changes (similar goals to the original SLASH'EM, which also aimed at adding lots of stuff, so this has even more). The main dungeon is a bit shorter in Slash'EM Extended than in SLASH'EM but the Gehennom is longer (making their lengths more like in vanilla NetHack), and the demon/devil lairs appear in a random order. And most importantly, Slash'EM Extended is hard as hell!!!
UnNetHack is a variant whose main intent is to put more randomness, challenges and fun into NetHack. UnNetHack incorporates many changes from other variants and patches as well as its own to form a fun and balanced variant. In the era of NetHack 3.4.3, it was described as “how NetHack would look today if the DevTeam didn't stop releasing”, but then the DevTeam did keep releasing, and brought in content from UnNetHack to boot. It is the most famous and popular of the actively developed variants, and frequently shares with and borrows from other variants.
Discuss the variant at irc://freenode/unnethack.
xNetHack is the first variant to be based on NetHack 3.6.
Its main goals are to fix balance problems in vanilla and remove sources of frustration, as well as experimenting with YANIs from the community. It also follows a unique development model of remaining up-to-date with the latest code added to vanilla, rather than being based on a static release; consequently, new features and improvements in vanilla always get included in xNetHack soon after they are added.
Some of its features include special rooms in maze levels, an overhauled spellcasting system, several new conducts, and several UI enhancements. It can be played on the Hardfought server.
SpliceHack is a variant that was unintentionally released only a few hours before 3.6.1.
The main goal of SpliceHack is to make the game much more interesting and dynamic by adding additional content, while being as accessible as possible to those used to playing vanilla NetHack. A secondary goal is to maintain a level of balance and difficulty that is similar to vanilla. The variant is updated frequently, and YANIs are actively incorporated into the code. The author has described it as what SLASH'EM might look like if SLASH'EM had been based on NetHack 3.6.1.
SpliceHack features a large number of new monsters, items, locations, and effects. It also includes a number of extensible and dynamic features, such as monsters that are random fusions of other monsters and allowing pets to gain resistances through corpses. It can be played on the Hardfought server.
EvilHack is the third variant based off of NetHack 3.6.
EvilHack was designed from the outset to be a much more difficult game to win than vanilla NetHack. The inspiration for this game mainly comes from the variants GruntHack and SporkHack, incorporating many of the same features that make those variants difficult in their own right. Some of those features have remained the same (for example, SporkHack's reflection changes), but many have been altered to set them apart and provide the player with a new experience. Elements from other variants have been included as well, such as from Slash'EM, SpliceHack, UnNetHack, and xNetHack. There is also a significant amount of custom content that has been developed that is not found in any other variant. More custom content will be added as development continues, mainly in the way of optional branch quests.
EvilHack features new races and roles, new items (including object materials and object properties), an improved monster AI, a revamped Gehennom, several new monsters, and adds exciting and challenging experiences to virtually every aspect of vanilla NetHack. It can be played on the Hardfought server.
notdNetHack is a dNethack fork that seeks to add more depth to the existing content of dNetHack while balancing and trimming out some of its points of failure. notdNetHack attempts to add fully complete features and content that feel like they belong with the existing dNetHack base while not being afraid to be different.
DNHslex is a variant of dnethack maintained by AmyBSOD. It adds more variety by enabling all role/race/gender/alignment combos for playing, allowing many more monsters and items to be randomly generated, and adding new monsters from other NetHack variants as well. Apart from a bunch of monster shoes from SLASH'EM it tries to remain true to the spirit of dnethack.
It is playable on the em.slashem.me server.
GnollHack is a variant of NetHack developed by Sound Mind Games, a Finnish nonprofit organization. It adds numerous monsters and items, changes spellcasting, and adds Gnolls as a playable race (replacing Gnomes). It has a forum here.
Variants not actively developed (but still played)
Slash'EM or SLASH'EM, officially SuperLotsaAddedStuffHack - Extended Magic, used to be the foremost variant. This game and its ancestor variants are now part of vanilla NetHack's game history, because of the reuse of certain SLASH'EM code in NetHack 3.3.0.
SLASH'EM puts more effort into killing the hero; plenty of games end on dungeon level 1. There are more than plenty of new monsters, items and magic. The dungeon features several new one-level dungeon branches for the hero to die in. Three new portals lead to quests for artifact keys. The player also has a larger choice of races and roles than in vanilla, and that alone is enough to make an experienced NetHack player rethink strategy.
Although SLASH'EM itself is no longer developed, its official continuation is SLASH'EM Extended.
SporkHack is a variant actively developed and tested until December 2011; development was started up again in July of 2017 by community members Tangles and K2. The stated purpose of the variant is to try to bring more challenge to the vanilla game for experienced players, as well as to make things less boring for all players. A patch and a Windows binary are available from the home page; the patch can be applied to a standard NetHack 3.4.3 distribution. SporkHack contains "more interesting" Caveman and Knight roles, and a number of balance adjustments throughout the game to spells, monsters and items... as well as intangibles such as the "to hit" formula. There are also cosmetic changes, for example the master lich is a green L.
Latest development of SporkHack includes bugfixes and functionality enhancement; no changes affecting gameplay or the original authors intent have been made at this time. The repository for version 0.6.5 can be found on GitHub.
The latest developed version (0.6.5) can be played online at the hardfought.org public server via ssh firstname.lastname@example.org (discussion in #hardfought on Freenode). The older version (0.6.3) can be played online on the em.slashem.me public server using ssh email@example.com.
DynaHack is an experimental variant of NetHack. It mainly merges the new content and challenges of UnNetHack (up to version 4.1.1) onto NitroHack as a base, with its new resizable ASCII interface. It also includes the save system, many bug fixes and selected interface changes from NetHack 4, magical equipment from GruntHack, changes from other variants, and some original changes to add variety and fairness to the gameplay.
Coming from Japan, NetHack brass (developed by Kōcha Yōkan, which roughly translates to "tea-flavored gelatinous cube") is lesser known among NetHack players who do not speak Japanese. The game is in English but most of the community uses Japanese. NetHack brass adds no new races or roles, but it has a few new items and a redesigned Gehennom. Its major features include the new #skills system and tweaks to how heroes gain experience levels and attributes. Minetown is now filled with shops, while the top of Sokoban offers prizes but permits the player to choose one and only one.
Despite the many changes in this variant, they do not feel so drastic, and NetHack brass feels more like vanilla than the other variants.
AceHack is a variant of NetHack that has similar gameplay to NetHack 3.4.3 but an improved interface, e.g. walking into doors opens them automatically, background colors to distinguish tame/peaceful/hostile monsters and stairs under items, describing what's under the cursor while moving it in farlook, and warning before moving into lava. It also includes gameplay changes such as rerolling for items and attributes during character generation, auto-identifying some items under circumstances where the identity is unambiguous, making floating eyes unhittable instead of paralyzing, replacing Stormbringer's disabling of the peaceful attack warning prompt with aggravate monster when wielded, and replacing map and item identity amnesia with draining of skill and spell training.
|NetHack: The Next Generation|
NetHack: The Next Generation was a variant that has mostly fallen into disuse. TNG contains several strange new monsters and items, but is mostly remembered for the Geek class and the Douglas Adams themed monsters.
nethack.alt.org, commonly abbreviated to NAO, is one of the oldest NetHack public servers, and by far the most popular. For many years, they maintained their own variant of NetHack, based on NetHack 3.4.3. It is meant to provide identical gameplay to vanilla 3.4.3. The changes they do include are bugfixes, interface improvements, removal of exploits, changes to allow tracking more statistics, a few popular patches, and minor miscellaneous improvements. It was long regarded as the best one to use if you wanted something as similar as possible to vanilla NetHack 3.4.3 but with the bugs fixed. However, it has largely been displaced by NetHack 3.6.1, which incorporates all of the bugfixes and nearly all of the quality-of-life improvements.
NitroHack is a variant that aims to be a modern, network-capable fork of the classic game.
It features native netplay via its client (connect to nitrohack.org), and can support any client that can speak its new JSON-based protocol; a web client is planned. It uses an enhanced version of the Curses interface, has fully remappable key controls and character display, dungeon overview, and UI improvements from AceHack. It also records full play logs, allowing players to view interactive replays of current and finished games. Its savegame code is notoriously buggy, though.
Development of NitroHack has stopped in favor of NetHack 4, itself a merge of AceHack and NitroHack. NitroHack also lives on in DynaHack, another modern variant that is based on NitroHack. Both NetHack 4 and DynaHack thankfully fix the buggy savegame code of NitroHack.
SlashTHEM (github page) is a variant of Slash'EM Extended version 75. It's name is short for “Super Lotsa Added Stuff Hack—The Heavily Extended Mod”. SlashTHEM is much easier to play then Slash'EM Extended, and one of its goals, is to be as easy as Slash'EM.
UnNetHackPlus is a variant whose main intent was to put more randomness, challenges and fun into UnNetHack (i.e. the same intent as UnNetHack). UnNetHackPlus incorporates many changes from other variants and patches as well as its own to form into a fun and balanced variant. It is the only known variant that outright removes Sokoban. Its biggest improvements live on, having been implemented in UnNetHack and DynaHack.
Historically significant patches
The biodiversity patch by Nicholas Aodhagan Webb adds several monsters to the game, adjusts some monster behaviors and adds a few other features. This patch is about populating the dungeon with monsters, not about changing the dungeon. It even adds more trees.
There are many new scares down there. If you are sufficiently powerful, then you can fight through it all, but it will be far more difficult than the boring and relatively benign mazes of vanilla. Type carefully, and do not step into the river that causes amnesia. At Moloch's Sanctum, the high priest of Moloch is Cthulhu...
These days, more players choose SLASH'EM 0.0.7E7, which has most of the new items and monsters from this patch, but not the changed levels. Until the levels are integrated, one can play SLethe which includes the new levels. There is a 0.0.7E7F3 SLethe playground on em.slashem.me.
A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:
A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:
" There are probably other "historically significant patches" floating around out there that aren't documented here; the Bard Patch comes to mind."