Starting a game of Nethack gives you one immediate goal; don't die. After you make it through the survival phase, you can start gathering your kit for going deeper. The survival phase is made easier by selecting strong characters such as a barbarian or a Valkyrie, who start out with good strength, and good equipment. I was reminded that this character selection still doesn't make you invincible, or prevent random acts of Nethack God.
My Valkyrie was tooling around on the first few levels trying to find an altar and a box or chest when she ran into a few lower-level nasties, one of which being a Homunculus. No big deal. Homunculi are very minor foes, and I dispatch them with enough regularity that I thought nothing of the presence of one. After picking on the jackals I attacked the Homunculus, which would fall to about 2 hits. However, the Random Nethack God decided that it rather liked that particular Homunculus. I couldn't hit him for the life of me (unfortunate pun). After a few dagger swipes flew by him, he decided he should put me to sleep. I survived my unfortunate nap, though the jackals attacked as I slept, but when I awoke Mr. homunculus decided I could use some more rest.
Hilde is dead! Long live Hilde!
Deciding Hilde hadn't quite earned a name for herself, I restarted with the same name, and warily began my descent.
After a bit of exploration, my pet cat Rex fell protecting me from a werewolf. Poor little guy. It was important I find good equipment quickly, and a pet is good for making sure I don't use any cursed items. Two levels down I ran into a large dog, who was happy to join me after I fed him some tripe. Rex II did a lot of fighting for me (I wanted to keep from leveling up before I got better equipment) and always yipped happily after a battle. A few levels down I find an armor shop, and manage to distract the shopkeeper long enough for Rex II to make off with some nice plate mail. All this while I'm fighting melee with my dagger, and throwing daggers at enemies, although with Rex II as tough as he was, I wasn't really doing much fighting. I found a neutral altar (I'm lawful), but there weren't enough monsters around for me to confidently claim it for my god. Instead I lugged a chest from upstairs down to the altar room, and started my dungeon clean-up. Picking up, and checking every item before storing it in the locked chest.
I do a bit of clean up on the previous 4 levels, lugging weapons, armor, and potions down to my small base where I can make sure they're not cursed, and try them out. I add a few daggers to my throwing daggers pile, and safely add enough armor to get my armor class down to 5. I find an unidentified wand and zap a nearby newt who reacted by turning into a motherfucking black dragon! I freeze up instantly as I realize that it'll only take one blast of its disintegration ray to end my quest. I frantically check my inventory for something that'll help, but I'm not far enough along to have identified stuff I'd just be reading scrolls and hoping one is a scroll of teleport. Then I realize that what got me into this mess will get me out of it! I zap the same wand at the black dragon who (hilariously enough) turns into a lizard. Rex II is emboldened by this return to form, and quickly kills the lizard. I grab the corpse because they never go bad, and can keep me from turning to stone should I happen upon a cockatrice. I eye Rex II holding my new wand of polymorph and give him a zap! *poof* Rex II the giant ant? Nah. *poof* Rex II the garter snake? Hell no. *poof* Rex II the fire elemental? Lets go down the list... Big? Check. Tough? Check. Badass? Check. Made of fire? Double check! I wander the level looking for something for Rex II to attack, and a hapless imp crosses our path. Rex II hits the imp who bursts into flames, and quickly dies. Awesome.
We make it to the mines and (being a dwarf) the gnomes don't much mind my presence. This is good and bad. Since the gnomes are not that tough, they're good for easy experience, and usually have a few daggers (which I need for throwing). Attacking them unprovoked would cause a hit to my alignment. Lawful characters can't go around wasting peaceful monsters. Fortunately, Rex II had no such inhibitions and, with a little coaxing, took care of all the gnomes all the way down to the mine town.
The temple in town is chaotic, and I'm not even thinking about taking on the priestess. I've had far too many problems with the town temple to convert it lightly. As I walked from shop to shop checking out the goods, I wondered if Rex II was tough enough to try to take on some shopkeepers. Pets killing shopkeepers is a good way for lawful characters to get lots of stuff, and strong pets are a good way for early characters to get lots of stuff. Pets know how tough their enemies are, and choose their battles, so who they take on is a good indicator of their strength. Rex is still tough, I guess he's not just as tough as I thought. As I came to Izchak's lighting shop, I saw three lamps just begging to be rubbed. As I entered Rex II decided he was tougher than Izchak, and wasted him in a 5 turns! Killing Izchak is in bad form! I mourn Izchak for a few turns, and then check his pockets, and help myself to the three lamps and some candles. I begin rubbing the three lamps, and get lucky. A djinn pops out, and offers to grant me a wish! After some careful reflection, I decide that Blessed +2 Gray Dragon Scale Mail is a good fit for my current situation. This pushes my armor class down to -5.
We encounter a pony, and one carrot later, I've got a pet pony. Sadly, I have no experience riding, and have heard that horses are hard to feed. I realize I'm kind of enjoying letting Rex II do all my dirty work. This is my first time letting a pet do most of the work, usually I just kill everything myself. I guess this is how people play as archaeologists and tourists. I zap my wand of polymorph at my little pony, and suddenly I have a pet lich. Liches are undead wizards, and are most hated by NetHack players. It is recommended that they be genocided if you get the chance. Liches are known for doing things like destroying your armor, cursing your items, summoning monsters, teleporting away, drawing monsters to you, and in its final form, casting the instadeath spell touch of death. Now one is my pet. Huh. It's probably more more trouble than it's worth. I'd rather have a Dragon. I zap lich, who responds by shuddering. Oh. Liches have magic resistance. Well, I guess I've got a pet lich. Better make sure I don't lose track of him, otherwise he'll go feral, and attack me. (and probably win)
Lichy is a bit tougher than Rex II, and decides to kill the deli shopkeep. I mourned for a few turns, and picked up some food rations. We continued further down the mines with little problem, it was a bit tougher to keep track of two pets without a magic whistle, but I managed. Somewhere along the way Rex II discovered a polymorph trap, and turned into a Black Naga. Pretty strong monster, but not as good as a fire elemental. We made it to the bottom of the mines, and I set about searching for the luckstone, and a few fakes later I found it. On my way back up to the mining town Rex II must have found a level teleport trap, because he disappeared. Back in town I realized I had two wands of create monster, and wanted Mjollnir, so I entered the now haunted temple, and a few zaps and offerings later, I had some godly luck, and Mjollnir. I didn't care about the haunted temple because I didn't intend on using it as a base very much. Lichy had grown into an Arch Lich, and could now teleport at will. Cool. I won't have to worry about him keeping up when I navigate levels. Maybe a Lich makes a better pet than I thought.
[to be continued...]