So you're playing NetHack and want to be a wizard. The first step in this is to select 'n' at the very first prompt to ensure that you will be a wizard. Sure, playing random can be fun at times - but if you really want to be a wizard, this is the best choice.
Shall I pick a character's race, role, gender and alignment for you? [ynq]
There are a large number of possible roles (classes, professions, or guilds - call it like you want to). Wizard is just one of them.

Pick a role for your character

a - an Archeologist
b - a Barbarian
c - a Caveman/Cavewoman
h - a Healer
k - a Knight
m - a Monk
p - a Priest/Priestess
r - a Rogue
R - a Ranger
s - a Samurai
t - a Tourist
v - a Valkyrie
w - a Wizard
* - Random

Once again, the key is to select the wizard. Type 'w' here. This will bring you to the race selection page. In NetHack, any race other than dwarf may become a wizard. This gives you the choice of:

Pick the race of your Wizard

h - human
e - elf
g - gnome
o - orc
* - Random

At this point, you will become a wizard - there is no question of that. The selection of the race is one that requires some thought.

Humans have the advantage here of being able to select either neutral or chaotic at the start of the game. This is not particularly useful, however human wizards may get the strength up to a maximum of 18/** without any additional help. On the flip side, the maximum intelligence and wisdom for a human is 18.
Elves seem to be the most natural choice for a wizard. Elves start out with infra-vision and later get sleep resistance (level 4). Furthermore elves have a maximum intelligence and wisdom of 20, though have a cap of 18 on strength and 16 on constitution (other races have 18). This will make for a character that has more energy (spell casting power) but less hitting power (hand to hand). To an extent this isn't too bad, but does become an issue. Elves are also restricted to chaotic alignment. Furthermore, Elves start out with a random musical instrument.
Starting out with Infra-vision (as the elf) the gnome has the ability to recognize gems with the use of an uncursed touchstone (races other than gnome that aren't an archaeologist need it to be blessed in order to identify gems). Gnomes have a max intelligence of 19, and max wisdom of 18. Strength is capped at 18/50. Gnome wizards must be neutral.
Orcs are the odd choice here - starting out with infra-vision and poison resistance and an exemption for penalties relating to cannibalism or eating domestic animals. These are nice bonuses, and help with the ever present wizard problem - food. Orcs have a max intelligence and wisdom of 16 and strength max of 18/50. Orc wizards must be chaotic.

Speaking of stats and races, the wizard starts out with the stats of

  • STR:  7 (10%)
  • INT: 10 (30%)
  • WIS:  7 (10%)
  • DEX:  7 (20%)
  • CON:  7 (20%)
  • CHA:  7 (10%)
  • REM: 30
The REMaining points (in this case 30) are distributed between the stats based on the percentages given.

Wizards start out with 11 hp unless human, in which case it is 12 hp. The hp gain per level is +d8 until getting to the high levels, where it goes up by one. Elves, Gnomes and Orcs have a +1 modifier here, while humans have a +d2. At high levels, the increase is +1 for Elf and Human, and +0 for Gnome and Orc. The constitution bonus also plays a role here with a +1 for 15-16 CON, +2 for 17 CON, +3 for 18 CON, and +4 for 19 and higher CON. One will note that the cap of 16 CON for elves here.

The spell point power for a wizard starts out with 4 + d3 with a modifier for racial bonuses of +2 for Elf and Gnome, and +1 for Human and Orc. Spell point power goes up by:(WIS / 2) + X where X is normally 2 for a wizard, though high level wizards have a 3 here. Elves get another +2 bonus, while Gnomes and Humans have a +1 bonus and Orcs have no bonus. The final value of this is multiplied by 2x for being a wizard. For high level characters, the spell point power goes up by 12.

All wizards start out with a quarterstaff and a cloak of magic resistance. The cloak is useful across levels, however the quarterstaff may later be exchanged for a more useful weapon. Wizards also start with 3 random scrolls, 3 random potions, 2 random rings, and a random wand. Wizards start out with a 20% chance of a Magic Marker (useful for writing magic scrolls - it will have between 29 and 99 charges) and a 16% chance of a blindfold. All wizards start out with a spell book of Force Bolt and a spell book of level 1-3 that may be of any school.

At level 15, wizards gain the ability of warning, and at 17 gain the ability of teleport control. Wizards also get a warning if there is a chance of failure when reading a spell book. Wizards may use the teleport intrinsic at level 8.

So, why play a wizard - they excel at casting spells. This is especially true of the "Magic Missile" spell, though for wizards this is more just a technicality. Wizards are penalized heavily for wearing a shield or metallic armor. In theory, the 'best' set of armor for a spell caster is:

  • shirt
  • dragon scale mail
  • robe
  • helm of brilliance
  • gauntlets of dexterity
  • high boots (iron shoes or kicking boots are bad)

Wearing robes make it more likely to cast a spell - even with some metal armor on.

A cornuthaums gives a wizard clairvoyance and +1 charisma - other classes lose clairvoyance and one point of charisma if they wear a wizard's hat - it looks silly. The cornuthaums may be enchanted up to +5 without risk of it being destroyed as a wizard. The other choice helmet for a wizard is a helm of brilliance which gives you a bonus to intelligence and wisdom equal to the enchantment on the armor. The helm may be enchanted up to +3.

The standard gift weapon artifact for a wizard is Magicbane which is an athame that has an entire spoiler file written about its power (it can be quite confusing). It has a chance to probe, stun, scare or purge a monster, grants magic resistance, and protects against curses. Magicbane has the unique nature of it to be better without enchantment (much math indicates that +2 is best level of enchantment for magical effects - the difference between +0 and +2 is 4% chance of probing rather than stunning). Magicbane is recommended as early game for wizard, though Frost Brand or Grayswandir may be more useful for a wizard in the late game.

The quest artifact for the wizard is The Eye of Aethiopica which is an amulet of ESP. When carried around, this gives magic resistance and speeds up energy regeneration (much of the time of wizards spent resting for energy to be rejuvenated). Furthermore, it reduces damage to the player by spells. When worn, it acts as a normal amulet of ESP (along with being carried). When invoked, it creates a portal to the nearest dungeon branch that has already been visited. This won't work if the amulet is carried or in the endgame levels.

Wizards are able to advance skills associated with all schools of magic and start out with basic skill knowledge in attack and enchantment spells.

Of the wish list items that appear as "High Priority", a "blessed ring of slow digestion" has appeared in NetHack 3.3 which is very nice for wizards. Being a ring, there is a chance that this may appear in the starting inventory. With the sink method for identifying rings, the ring of slow digestion has the message "The ring is regurgitated!" and returns the ring to your inventory. Other nice items for a wizard include "blessed rustproof +2 gauntlets of dexterity". Furthermore, "blessed +2 silver dragon scale mail" is a nice item for a wizard - many things give magic resistance to a wizard (gray dragon scale mail is often suggested for other classes), but the amulet is of reflection is not likely to be the best item choice, nor the polished silver shield - thus the silver dragon scale mail.

True Rumours:
They say that a clever wizard can have stats: 18/** 24 18 24 24 24.
The gauntlet of power is not good for a wizard to use - it raises the chance of spell failure. This would give a wizard 25 strength. Furthermore, several enchanted items are here to boost the stats.
They say that a wizard is even more powerful the second time around.
They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle.
This refers to the ability to teleport. Eating a tengu gives the player the ability to teleport - but randomly. Teleport Control allows a wizard to control this "teleportitus".
False Rumours:
Only a wizard can use a magic whistle.
Any player may use a magic whistle, which will summon one's pet.
Only real wizards can write scrolls.
Any player may write on a blank scroll.

Oh, you mean the wizard. Well, for that you need to know a bit about the install of NetHack that you have. In most cases, the wizard is compiled with required login of 'wizard' - only that login may use the debug commands. Given a UNIX system where you have root, its a simple matter of running NetHack, identifying the login and creating it:

Only user "wizard" may access debug (wizard) mode.--More--
Entering discovery mode instead.
To (attempt) to play the debug mode:
% /usr/games/nethack -uwizard -D

As the wizard you get the following:

Debug-Mode Quick Reference:

^E  ==  detect secret doors and traps.
^F  ==  do magic mapping.
^G  ==  create monster.
^I  ==  identify items in pack.
^O  ==  tell locations of special levels.
^T  ==  do intra-level teleport.
^V  ==  do trans-level teleport.
^W  ==  make wish.
^X  ==  show attributes including intrinsic attributes.

#levelchange == change experience level
#light sources == show mobile light sources
#monpoly_control == control monster polymorphs
#poly == polymorph self
#seenv == show seen vectors
#stats == show memory statistics
#timeout == look at timeout queue
#vision == show vision array
#wmode == show wall modes
The source code

So You Want to Be a Wizard
by Diane Duane
Delacorte Press, 1983

So You Want to Be a Wizard is a young adult fantasy novel from back when young adult was still a new(ish) idea, and it is arguably one of the books that helped to define the category. It begins a series that is formally known as the Young Wizards, although most people will not have a clue what that means -- most fans simply refer to them as the So You Want to Be a Wizard books.

The story starts with thirteen-year-old Nita Callahan running from bullies, and escaping into the public library. This is a familiar haunt -- very familiar -- so when a book she hasn't seen before snags her hand she takes note. It's one of the "So You Want to Be a..." career books for kids, but instead of talking about being a bus driver or a doctor it gives instructions on how to be a wizard. The book claims to have a spell on it that makes it visible only to those who are predisposed to magic, and given how quickly Nita succeeds in the first exercises, it appears that its judgement of her was correct.

She soon starts to run into other wizards, starting with Kit, a boy from her school that has his own problems with bullies and who has a reputation for being weird. They start to hang out, practicing spells to protect them from bullies, learning to talk to the trees, rocks, and cars. Unfortunately, one of their 'beginner' spells goes wrong, and they accidently summon a sentient white hole. While Khairelikoblepharehglukumeilichephreidosd'enagouni (Fred for short) is a nice guy, he can't seem to stop producing random matter, and he really doesn't belong on Earth. Their mini-quest to return him to his home nebula quickly escalates into a battle against the ultimate evil.

Because this is a old-fashioned young adult book, there isn't a lot of government oppression, school cliques, or love interest. There is bullying, parents that don't understand what's going on, and as always in YA fantasy, adults who are quite a bit less useful than one might hope. It still appears to be popular with young readers, although it is becoming a bit harder to find. Reading reviews online, I find frequent references to people finding it when looking for "more books like Harry Potter". Aside from 'kids doing magic', I don't really see a lot to connect them except that they are both good YA fantasy.

The magic in these books is a chaotic mix of traditional magic and the modern world, with some very powerful spells, such as talking to plants and rocks, requiring nothing more than meditation, while other spells require intricate patterns drawn on the ground or collections of random ingredients, including batteries, computer equipment, and rowan branches. I personally do not find this very satisfying, but the characters, the adventures, and the humor make up for the slightly incoherent metaphysics.

In 2012 a revised "New Millennium Edition" was published; I have not read this, but I understand that the technology is updated a bit (the kids have cell phones now), and the story is moved from 1983 to 2008. There are apparently small changes throughout the story, some factual corrections (the original has the gravity of Mars wrong, for example), but overall no major changes. Or so I've heard.

ISBN: 0152047387
ISBN13: 9780152047382
AR reading level: 5.9

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