A Nethack wish in real life
If you could have one Nethack wish in real life, what would you wish
for? This discussion has come up a couple of times - the most recent
incarnation is here
on Google Groups. The precise wording of the question was:
Lets imagine that you are outside and find a smooth stick. You,
just playing around, pick it up and say "Zap!" Next thing you
know, you have a handful of dust and there is a booming voice
from the sky saying "You wrest one last charge from the worn out
wand! The wand of wishing crumbles to dust! For what do you
In this discussion, I'm going to assume the following:
- It was not Friday the 13th when you got the wish, so your luck was
at least zero.
- You are a level 1 character. Your class is indeterminate, but
Tourist seems most plausible unless you fit one of the other classes
(e.g. Archaeologist or Healer).
- You are (as far as you know) the only person to be getting a wish
or finding Nethack items, and you don't expect to find any more.
Thanks to Nikita Kazeev for several suggestions which didn't come up
in the original Usenet discussion.
Items which in some way lengthen your (effective) lifespan are a very
popular thing to wish for. The most obvious is an amulet of life
saving (with the intent to wear it oneself all the time). We have to
ask how well it works against death from old age, though. The best
case would be that it makes you 18 again and hence effectively almost
doubles your lifespan. However, in Nethack using up an AoLS only frees you from
sickness if it would otherwise kill you next round, which suggests
that if you have more than one life-threatening condition, only the
one which actually killed you will be removed.
You might also want to give your AoLS to someone who needs it, or to
sell it for a vast sum of money. The problem here is that it would be
hard to convince anyone that it would work. Mark Grant suggests that
the way around this is to "find some rich guy who's dying and tell him
you'll save his life for a few million dollars payable upon
survival". This strategy would also work for a wand of undead
turning, with the added advantage that you could repeat the process
until the wand ran out of charges.
It was suggested at a Nethack meet that there exist rich people who
are gullible enough to buy an AoLS without any sort of proof that it
works, but if you are skilled enough at conning people to pull this
off, you could just as well sell them a cheap plastic imitation.
Another approach is to wish for some means of curing sickness, such as
a blessed unicorn horn or holy water. These have the advantage that
they can be used an unlimited number of times, unlike the AoLS which
is strictly a one-use item. If all effects of old age fall under the
heading of "sickness", then these items effectively grant eternal
youth. Holy water has the further advantages that you can make
infinite amounts of it and that you can trivially demonstrate its
magical properties by dipping items in it and watching them glow
blue. It has the disadvantage that if you're chaotic, drinking it
will not cure your sickness, and will have a small chance of killing
you. (Holy water does 2d6 HP of damage to chaotics, and a human
tourist starts with 10 HP.) Since it's not clear whether in Nethack,
"chaotic" means "evil" or "strong individualist who is somewhat
distrustful of society", it may be safest to wish for a blessed
unicorn horn if you suspect you are chaotic.
A blessed luckstone might save your life by protecting you from
accidents, and would also be generally beneficial.
There are also items which do not directly extend your lifespan but
allow you to do more in the same amount of time: speed boots and tins
of orange dragon meat (for the sleep resistance). We can try to
calculate which of the life-extending items provide you with the most
extra free time.
- The orange dragon meat provides you with 8 free hours every day to
do whatever you want (that doesn't involve interacting with anyone
- Speed boots make you 2/3 faster than normal. This could mean that
they reduce your lifespan, making you "live fast, die young", but then
nobody would consider them worth wishing for. So I'll assume that it
means that you live 5 subjective hours for every 3 hours that pass in
the outside world, you still need to spend 1/3 of your time asleep, and
your objective lifespan is not reduced by this acceleration. (I'm
also ignoring the problem of getting out of phase with the world if
you are asleep for 8 subjective hours and awake for 16.) This means
that you get 16*2/3 = 10 2/3 extra (subjective) hours awake every
- If the amulet of life saving completely removes the effects of
aging, making you 18 again, then it is better than orange dragon meat
or speed boots, but if not, then it isn't very useful as a
life-extending item. You might still want it as an insurance against
accidental death or to sell, though.
Lots of Money
Whatever you wish for, you can try to sell it. As mentioned above,
you could get a lot of money for an amulet of life saving if
you could convince the recipient that it worked. Wands would be easy
to demonstrate, but they don't seem to have any advantage over guns
and they have a limited number of charges.
You can simply wish for gold, which will gain you 5000 zorkmids. We
can't know what the exchange rate for zorkmids is, but we can assume
that they are pure gold and try to calculate their value that way.
5000 zorkmids weigh 50 "units", and since an apple weighs 2 units, a
unit must be about 100 grams, and wishing for gold will give you 5
kilograms of it. The price of gold is approximately 360 US dollars
per troy ounce (see http://www.kitco.com/charts/livegold.html),
and a troy ounce is 31.10 grams, which means that wishing for gold
gets you about $60000 worth of it.
You can also wish for gems e.g. "2 blessed diamonds". If we assume
that a Nethack diamond weighs 100 grams, then this is likely to be the
best way of getting money from your wish - 100g is almost as much as
the world's largest cut diamond, the Cullinan
I. Also, proving that your 100g diamond was real would be
considerably easier than proving that your magic items really were
Wish for gauntlets of power to have Strength 25 whenever you're
wearing them, or two blessed potions of gain ability to give a smaller
boost to all stats. Two blessed potions of gain level would provide a
good HP boost, but unless your Constitution is very high potions of
full healing would probably be better. A helm of brilliance,
gauntlets of dexterity and a ring of adornment have also been
mentioned, but unless you wish for them at +1, there is a risk that
they will be +0 and therefore useless.
You could wish for a blessed figurine of your favourite monster, but
there is a 10% chance that the resulting monster will be hostile,
which for any reasonably "interesting" monster, would be fatal. One
way to get around this is to wish for a blessed figurine of a kitten,
and have some tripe on hand before activating it. Though Nethack's
kittens are much stronger than real kittens, it would not be likely to
kill you in the one round before you fed it, and perhaps it would grow
up into a Nethack-style large cat.
Another possibility is a dragon egg, because dragons are invariably
tame if they hatch while you are carrying the egg.
Some people seem to want a nymph or foocubus. You could also get
multiple hostile nymphs by reverse-genociding them (this does not work
for foocubi because they are not genocidable), but unless you want
them constantly stealing from you, you had better be able to play the
harp well enough to pacify them. Note that unless you have very high
Intelligence and Charisma, sleeping with foocubi is potentially
Nikita Kazeev suggests that a church would be keen on an angel
(preferably peaceful rather than tame, since in Nethack "tame" means
"attacks everyone but its owner"). If we understood how a quantum
mechanic renders the position and velocity of macroscopic objects
uncertain, we could probably win a Nobel Prize in physics.
Just For Fun
- Two blessed scrolls of genocide, to wipe out mosquitoes or deadly
bacteria. Note that genociding all insects or all bacteria could have
side effects and it might be better to target particular species with
- A blessed stethoscope, to be able to tell how badly injured
someone is in zero time.
- A wand of opening in case you are ever locked out of somewhere
you need to enter. It has limited charges, so use only when
absolutely necessary. A skeleton key lasts forever, but I cannot
imagine it being able to open electronic locks. A spellbook of Knock
would be nice if not for the unfortunate fact that a human Tourist
starts with only 2 Pw and therefore cannot cast spells.
- Spellbooks of create monster, charm monster, polymorph and finger
of death have also been mentioned, but since even a human Wizard
starts with only 8 Pw, you would definitely be unable to cast these
- If Earth is considered to be one huge level, a blessed scroll of
magic mapping or gold detection, or a potion of object detection.
- A blessed tin of floating eye meat, or in a similar vein, any
colour of dragon meat for the intrinsic.
- If you need to carry lots of stuff, a blessed bag of holding will
boost your carrying capacity more than gauntlets of power.
- A ring of levitation, conflict, invisibility or polymorph
(dangerous because of the risk of system shock).
- An amulet of ESP or magical breathing.
- Jumping boots.
- Quest artifacts (in particular the Platinum Yendorian Express
Card) have been mentioned, but this is unwise, because you can't wish
for your own quest artifact, and another class's quest artifact will
blast you every time.
- 2 blessed dilithium crystals - perhaps you could construct a Star
Trek warp drive with them, or perhaps they would be worth a lot of
money as a unique item.
- Any cursed wearable item, to play a practical joke on someone.
- A drum of earthquake.
- A wand of death could be useful to murder someone while making
their death appear natural. A wand of polymorph sounds like a fun
alternative, but remember that you cannot determine what your victim
will turn into.