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The Very Basics
Firstly, learn how to move your character, fight monsters and go up and down stairs. Take advantage of diagonal movement keys. Pressing ? brings up on-line help which discusses the basics of playing the game and how to move your character.
One helpful hint is to press O and set the num_pad option. This lets you use the number pad to move your character.
The first lesson a new player should learn is to take it slowly! Never use the auto-repeat feature that keyboards have; press each key deliberately and carefully and take your time. Move using _, g and G to move safely down corridors. Use > and < to go down and up stairwells. If you can't find the stairwell, search along walls (s) until you find a doorway; you may need to search around 10 times on a bit of wall before you find one. If the door is locked and you don't have an unlocking tool, you can kick (k) the door down, although it is preferable to leave the door locked and come back later when you have found an unlocking tool.
The goal of the game is to get the Amulet of Yendor which is on level 50 or so of the dungeon, so head down slowly and explore the dungeon carefully. For now, your main goal is survival.
When you come across a monster, first look it up in this wiki to determine whether it is a good idea to fight it. Moving into it will fight it. When fighting, watch your HP (health). When it goes below half of its maximum, run away to heal (don't wait until you have only 1HP left!). Healing occurs slowly as you explore the dungeon or rest (.). When you have killed a monster, you will usually want to eat its corpse, although make sure that you check that monster's entry in this wiki to determine if its corpse is safe to eat. If you don't eat corpses, you'll probably die of hunger.
In the first few dungeon levels, don't eat kobold corpses, don't eat corpses that you didn't kill the last 50 turns, and don't attack floating eyes with melee.
If your HP gets below 6, you are "weak" with hunger or otherwise in a bad situation, use the extended command "pray". Don't do this more often than once every 1000 turns. Engraving "Elbereth" on the ground (type E then - then "Elbereth") will stop most monsters attacking you.
The Early GameEdit
The goals of the early game are completing the first two dungeon branches and gathering basic supplies and resistances. You may find some nice armor or sacrifice for a shiny artifact weapon, but such luck does not always happen.
- Gain magic resistance and reflection. These two defenses counter many powerful attacks that would otherwise severely damage you, kill you, or harm your equipment. They cannot be gained intrinsically, and must be provided by worn or carried equipment. Because they are so vital to survival, are rarely randomly generated, and often come packaged with other useful attributes, many early wishes are spent to gain one or the other.
- Gain poison resistance. Without poison resistance, any poisoned attack or trap has a chance to be instantly fatal. Several classes acquire poison resistance intrinsically early, but others will want to consume monsters that provide a safe chance at this valuable resistance. A unicorn horn, tinning kit, ring of sustain ability, or source of restore ability can help you by allowing you to consume poisonous corpses without suffering ability damage.
- Complete Sokoban. Sokoban has wands, rings, and one of either a bag of holding or an amulet of reflection, both of which are quite useful. It is also no-teleport, which makes cornering unicorns for horn harvesting or gem tossing very easy.
- Complete the Gnomish Mines. The Mines are the first branch, but some players consider it to be dangerous, as it is inhabited by swarms of dwarves and gnomes. Individually, they are slow and weak, but they tend to gang up, and may be generated with wands that will kill you very, very fast. However, Minetown may contain many shops and is guaranteed to contain a temple, so it is an excellent place for price identification, BUC testing, donating to a priest, and finding useful loot. Particularly dangerous traps may be generated below Minetown, so it is not recommended that you venture down unless you have some method of dealing with them. However, there is a luckstone at the bottom of the Mines, which is a useful thing to carry around once you can get your luck up.
- Gather useful knick-knacks. Any pieces of your ascension kit are great, but you'll want to gather other things that will be useful later on. Potions can be alchemized or watered down for blessing, scrolls can be blanked, and extra magic armor and tools can be saved for later polypiling.
The Mid GameEdit
The mid game involves the remainder of the Dungeons of Doom, including the Quest and Castle. You will get a wand of wishing during this portion of the game, so you'll be able to flesh out your equipment.
- Reach level 14. This is required to enter the quest, but can take some time. Leveling to 13 and 14 by killing monsters is a painful and slow process. Hopefully, you will find some wraiths or potions of gain level, or make potions via alchemy. If not, you may end up clearing the Castle and the Valley before you can enter your quest.
- Kill Medusa. You can dig past her island, but you'll eventually have to come up back past her. Perseus's statue can contain some useful goodies, and the boots in particular can help with the castle. You'll need to have reflection or be blind to face Medusa's stoning gaze.
- Do the Quest. Some quests are very easy, some are ungodly hard. Either way, you'll have to do it at some point, and the quest artifact is almost always very useful, and you'll need to retrieve the Bell of Opening from your nemesis to complete the game.
- Conquer the Castle. You'll need some way of getting in. Any source of levitation, a tonal musical instrument, or some way to smash the drawbridge plus jumping will do the trick. A musical instrument has the advantage of allowing you to grind just about every inhabitant of the castle to mush without any risk to yourself, but you'll want levitation or jumping to reach the weapon and armor storerooms. The castle can be very risky if you have not genocided liches and do not have magic resistance. It's not uncommon for the castle to contain one or more teleporting, nasty summoning, armor destroying, equipment cursing, touch of death using arch-liches, so be careful! There is a wand of wishing in one of the corner towers, which should fill most gaps remaining in your equipment.
The Late GameEdit
You should have most (if not all) resistances, good stats, and excellent equipment by this point. Wands are twice as likely to be generated in Gehennom as in the rest of the dungeon, so you may find many wands useful for the end game.
- Go through Gehennom. This portion of the game is composed almost entirely of mazes, which can be frustrating and boring to map. There are some ways to ease the pain. Digging a path between the upstair and downstair when possible can help to reduce mysterious force induced headaches and Rodney visitations during the ascension run. Powerful demons make their homes in Gehennom. Though most heroes have sufficient firepower by this point to tear through the hellish overlords, if you get yourself into a pickle, your god will be unable to help you while you are in the fiery depths. Be prepared to face Juiblex, Orcus, Baalzebub and Asmodeus, and possibly a much nastier foe (Demogorgon) if you are unlucky.
- Kill Vlad. The upstairs to his tower is located between the 9th and 13th level of Gehennom. Once you do find it, the tower has a couple of nice goodies, notably an amulet of life saving. Vlad himself is a pushover, hardly more powerful than a vampire lord, but carries the Candelabrum of Invocation, which is required for the invocation ritual.
- Find the vibrating square. The vibrating square is located at the very bottom of Gehennom, and is not marked on the map in any way. Since this can take some time to find, you'd rather do it before drawing the ire of the Wizard of Yendor. Once you do find it, it is recommended that you mark it in some way so that you don't have to go through the hassle again.
- Optionally, the player may wish to dig some form of straight path in between staircases of each level (particularly the maze levels), to speed up travel.
The End GameEdit
The first step in the end game is killing the Wizard of Yendor. He is the single most persistent and irksome enemy in the game, so before slaying him, you should have everything arranged. Remap any levels lost to amnesia (hopefully none), pack the wands, scrolls, potions, rings, and tools for your ascension run, and take a deep breath.
- Kill the Wizard of Yendor. The portal to his tower is located in one of two fake towers. His tower is fairly straightforward, but the man himself is a pest. He can curse your inventory items, summon nasties or a clone of himself, and use touch of death. He can also steal your quest artifact, the invocation items, and the Amulet of Yendor. Once you kill him, he will not leave you alone until the end of the game; if he doesn't simply reincarnate to face you again, he may throw any number of maledictions in your direction. However, you need the Book of the Dead he carries to...
- ... perform the invocation and retrieve the Amulet. Once you've killed the Wizard, you should have all three invocation items, allowing you access to the Sanctum. Once you hack your way through the undead and priests standing in your way, you will face the High Priest of Moloch. Kill him to retrieve the Amulet. From here you can return to dungeon level one and take the upstairs to begin the final test.
- Pass through the elemental planes. The Wizard can reappear at any point up to the Astral Plane, so don't let your guard down. Levitation is very useful here, as is a way of detecting the portals (confused gold detection is popular). Conflict can also help to keep the masses of super-elementals off your back, especially on the Plane of Air, where the air elementals can chew through your health in an incredibly short time.
- Welcome to the Astral Plane! There are many creative strategies for dealing with the hordes of angry priests and angels, as well as the formidable Riders. Good luck and godspeed.
- A newbie-friendly and almost completely accurate [walkthrough], commented until the Gnomish Mines (sorry, link is dead)