In Nethack, kraken releases you
October 4, 2017 12:17 PM   Subscribe

The dev team thinks of everything (SLYT). Because it's been a while since anyone's mentioned Nethack, here's a short, fun video explaining why its multiplicity of options is as freeing to the player as it is confusing — and why there's nothing else quite like it.
posted by BlackLeotardFront (28 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my favorite NetHack stories is of a friend. He was playing, and killed a troll. He stuck the body in his backpack for later consumption, and pretty promptly forgot about it.

Sadly.

I say sadly, since it eventually regenerated in the backpack, and instakilled him by clawing the back of his head off from said backpack.
posted by Samizdata at 12:33 PM on October 4 [13 favorites]


If he'd have prayed to the third shrine of Oblique (unless he was a master elf OR had a centaur mount) then he could have asked for a wish to bless the sack with smelly, which repels troll corpse regen. Surprised he didn't know that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:38 PM on October 4 [9 favorites]


An interesting take. Haven't seen Mr. Wendal before but his takes are interesting and philosophical.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:39 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


If he'd have prayed to the third shrine of Oblique (unless he was a master elf OR had a centaur mount) then he could have asked for a wish to bless the sack with smelly, which repels troll corpse regen. Surprised he didn't know that.

He hadn't hit proper NetHack grognard status at that point.
posted by Samizdata at 12:48 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


I say sadly, since it eventually regenerated in the backpack, and instakilled him by clawing the back of his head off from said backpack.

There's a few ways to get rid of trolls permanently, like sacrificing its corpse at an altar. If you don't kill it right on the altar, you have to carry it over there, but they're real heavy so sometimes you might do that trek heavily encumbered and thus very slow, so it's a pretty common occurrence that they come back to life on the way there. I'm absolutely certain that has happened to me a bunch of times, and didn't result in instadeath*. Though the troll might get some attacks in and could quite plausibly kill an unlucky adventurer conventionally** before they had a chance to react.

* instadeath is a specific term for stuff that kills you regardless of hit points. Note the lack of trolls on that list!

** i.e., hitting, clawing, and biting them until they die
posted by aubilenon at 12:51 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


hmm. I would have to try the troll rises from the dead in your backpack - didn't think it was an instakill either. Now, drowning works, (except for water trolls, because TDTTOE) tinning and eating are the usual go-tos.

Sadly, TFA (TFV?) just notes all the hand crafted messages, but that doesn't convey the depth and variety in those messages. It is amazing - normal, blind, hallucinating - the vast number of YAFMs there meant a great deal of thought.
posted by k5.user at 1:02 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


troll rises from the dead in your backpack

This sounds like the English translation of either the worst or best kung-fu technique ever.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:14 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


Damn. I've failed everyone with my lack of camel caps. Would that this were on the list of instadeaths.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:19 PM on October 4


Do trolls wear out? I seem to recall killing one repeatedly until it just stopped returning.
posted by ubiquity at 1:21 PM on October 4


I believe there's a back-off/decay value that plays into the probability of resurrection. (ie the more times you kill the troll, the lower the probability it will revive.).

(abuse edit window: I think that was added to prevent XP abuse from repeatedly killing trolls.. Same thing about nurses disappearing, *cubi eventually wearing out, etc)
posted by k5.user at 1:30 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


And, in addition, you can genocide a species by killing it really often.

Ah, nethack, where you can have proxy wars... where your tamed dragon kills a quest nemesis one turn before the crowd of monsters he summoned surrounding you kill you. Yes, that happened to me. RIP.
posted by flamewise at 1:45 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


Ah, nethack, where you can have proxy wars... where your tamed dragon kills a quest nemesis one turn before the crowd of monsters he summoned surrounding you kill you.

Speaking of tamed dragons, there's nothing more infuriating than your tame black dragon stepping on a polymorph trap and turning into a grid bug.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:50 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


I believe there's a back-off/decay value that plays into the probability of resurrection. (ie the more times you kill the troll, the lower the probability it will revive.).

Apparently it's simpler than that. They just come back 75% of the time.

And, in addition, you can genocide a species by killing it really often.

Troll regeneration does not respect monster extinction (which is what it's called when after 120 of a monster are created, most sources for monster creation won't generate any more of that monster ever again)
posted by aubilenon at 2:07 PM on October 4 [3 favorites]


step step step step step step step step step step step step step step step pant gasp pant okay I'm here

If he'd have prayed to the third shrine of Oblique (unless he was a master elf OR had a centaur mount) then he could have asked for a wish to bless the sack with smelly, which repels troll corpse regen. Surprised he didn't know that.

This person is JOKING, these things are not in the game. (I am sorry to spoil the joke, but with NetHack, it's kind of necessary that players don't learn to rely on false information.)

On the troll "instadeath," what is more likely is the player was super burdened from carrying the troll. It's very important to avoid Burdened or Stressed status to play successfully, as NetHack simulates those by, essentially, giving the player fewer moves per time unit. Although the troll's revival would have lessened the player's stress, if they didn't notice the troll's weighing them down, it's possible they were already stressed or so. And being weighed down decreases healing, I'm pretty sure, so they were probably still wounded from the first encounter with the troll, and so were quick to perish in one turn via HP loss when they went up against Troll 2. ("They're eating her! And they're going to eat me! OH MY GOOOD")

I am not aware of a diminished chance of troll revival with number of kills, but it's not really necessary, as trolls have a random chance of *not* reviving each time they are killed, and eventually the law of averages will keep the troll in the afterlife. Some other ways to stop the troll from coming back or escaping it when it does are: eating it (but be careful not to choke!), sacrificing it, cancelling it with a Wand of Cancellation (used on either the troll or the corpse), putting it on another level and not being on that level when it revives, or polymorphing it either while it's alive or dead. I think trolls killed by fire will also not regenerate or revive, as per D&D tradition.

BTW, killing lots of a type of monster does not genocide it. The condition it causes is called extinct, which means that it won't show up for random generation and many forms of summoning, and many preset versions of that monster won't appear, but it can still appear in certain ways.
posted by JHarris at 2:08 PM on October 4 [19 favorites]


Saw this here as I was polishing-up my weaponless monk strategy. Well into my third decade on the game and have finally managed to achieve a middling proficiency. Ascensions and everything! All it took was the endless unrestricted hours of retirement. Nethack: The game that keeps on giving ... and killing.
posted by jim in austin at 2:24 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


Given what "releasing the kraken" has come to mean in our household since the birth of the Littlest Naberius, I find this very, very disturbing...
posted by Naberius at 3:09 PM on October 4


I just found out that a grid bug is a Tron reference, and that they therefore can't move on diagonals. I've always wondered what they were.

This made me smile, and I don't know why.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:14 PM on October 4


The most interesting part of this video for me was the identification of one of the fundamental points that distinguishes Nethack from traditional games. In most games, the model of interaction is that the player first selects a noun from many choices and then invokes a verb from just a few choices (usually there's only one option). E.g. the player walks over to a door (selecting a noun), and then presses a button to open the door (invokes a verb). Or the player maneuvers close to an enemy (selecting a noun) and then presses a button to swing her sword (invokes a verb). Even in traditional adventure games, the player doesn't really select verbs. It's just combining nouns: the player chooses a key from their inventory and uses it on a door, and the game, unprompted, decides that you wanted to use the "unlock" verb.

In Nethack, the model is completely reversed. The player first selects a verb and then chooses a noun. The more verbs the game objects support, the more real and alive the game world feels. The "verb-first" paradigm puts the focus on interactivity and gives players tremendous feelings of agency and freedom. "Noun-first" gameplay by comparison is much more of a passive, consumption-focused model of interaction. You're just a tourist, only able to interact with the world in the very limited ways the designers have deigned to allow.

An interesting distinction is that in a "noun-first" game, it's easy for designers to add more nouns to the game; you just have to make sure a new object reacts in an appropriate way to the very limited set of verbs the player has at her disposal. Which essentially means that you shouldn't be able to walk through stuff and that stuff responds somehow when you shoot at it. In a "verb-first" game, it's easy to add new verbs (you just update the appropriate objects to respond to the new verb), but hard to add new nouns, because new nouns have to interact with the world in a natural way in many different contexts.

There's nothing limiting this paradigm to just the rogue-like genre. There's no reason you can't design a verb-first game with accessible controls and modern visuals. We've spent many years streamlining noun-first games into the ultra-polished form that we have today. I think it's about time to start mining the uncharted verb-first territory.

Just as an aside, there are two new interfaces that game designers are struggling with because they're ill-suited to traditional noun-first game design: touch screens and virtual reality. Touch screens are terrible for games that are based on moving a character using on-screen controls. VR is bad for games where you're doing a lot of walking or running around because most people get motion sick from the visual confusion of seeming like you're walking when you aren't. But I have to wonder. It seems like verb-first games are ideally suited for both these interfaces!
posted by zixyer at 3:57 PM on October 4 [9 favorites]


This guy's vid on Blade Runner actually makes a ton of sense to me. Never thought of it!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:17 PM on October 4


This guy's vid on Blade Runner actually makes a ton of sense to me. Never thought of it!

Well after reading your comment, I watched it (v. interesting), and then at the end it suggested I watch this which is about a whole nother aspect of interactivity, unrelated to number of verbs available or ways you can combine items or whatever.
posted by aubilenon at 5:28 PM on October 4


JHarris forgot one other way of making sure trolls stay dead, which is to can them.

Nethack has a tinning kit, which you can use if you're too full to eat that elf corpse. Just tin it and eat it later! Or can that troll, or... can the corpse of Rodney after you've killed him for the umpteenth time. One of my favorite ascensions was having a tin of Wizard of Yendor meat in my bag at the end.
posted by fnerg at 9:21 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


In throne rooms etc I usually find it most convenient to just lock them in chests.
posted by aubilenon at 9:23 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


I thought about including that, but then realized that I wasn't sure if in 3.6 trolls could burst out of locked chests, and just decided to err on the side of caution.
posted by JHarris at 9:43 AM on October 5


Here's the Nethack Wiki's page on Trolls, including the big list of how to keep 'em from reviving. Notably, fire doesn't seem to enter into it.
posted by JHarris at 9:47 AM on October 5


I'm a little surprised kitchen sinks don't have a garbage disposal
posted by aubilenon at 10:07 AM on October 5


I'm a little surprised kitchen sinks don't have a garbage disposal

Keep kicking them, you'll find the answer..
posted by k5.user at 10:52 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Verb-first games might be the exception now, but they were more common when NetHack and its predecessors were created. Parser-based text adventure games (usually called Interactive Fiction nowadays) were quite popular. They usually had a VERB NOUN basic command structure, which sometimes led to a frustrating "guess the verb" problem, when you knew what object you wanted to used, but not how to get the game to understand what you wanted to do with it.
posted by aneel at 1:07 PM on October 22 [1 favorite]


It's not just text games - LucasArt's adventure games had a verb first interface adapted from the parser-based adventure games. Monkey Island, for example. Your verb list is somewhat constrained, but you're still picking the verb first and then clicking on what you want to do that to.

Full Throttle, a little later, flipped to a noun-first interaction so they could hide the verbs most of the time. But once you picked your noun, the full set of verbs appeared and you could try any of them with that object. That said, the "full set" was down to four, sort of a "how would you like to interact" mode: eyes (usually look), mouth (talk, or eat/drink), foot (kick, usually), and hand (which could have a variety of outcomes). It's sort of intermediate between the "lots of verbs" old style and the "one action for everything" model, and it worked really well.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:29 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


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