NetHack is a roguelike game, but there is one special level that is more like Rogue than the others. This Rogue level is a reincarnation of the original Rogue. The welcoming message you receive is: You enter what seems to be an older, more primitive world.

This special level is somewhere in each dungeon, between levels 15 and 18 of the main dungeon. Here is a list of traits from the older Hack and Rogue games that you can also find in the Rogue level of NetHack.

  • The level consists of a 3 x 3 grid, each cell of which may contain a room or a corridor node.
  • All monsters are represented as uppercase letters.
    • NetHack achieves this by not spawning any lowercase-letter monsters at this special level. It is still possible to bring lowercase-letter monsters like pets from other levels to this level.
  • Doors, represented by + (plus sign), act like open doorways, meaning that you can not walk diagonally through them. There is no way to close or destroy these doors.
  • There are no DECgraphics or color. Rogue and Hack lacked these features. NetHack, at least when playing the tty port, disables these options during the special level.
    • IBMgraphics has an interesting effect. Especially for DOS users, NetHack replaces several characters with the ones used in a DOS port of Rogue. See IBMgraphics#Rogue level for more information.
  • Stairs are represented as % (percent sign).
    • Hack uses < (left angle bracket) and > (right angle bracket), like NetHack normally does.
    • In Rogue, there was always one stairway: down if you had not found the Amulet of Yendor, or up if you found it. Hack and NetHack introduced an innovation where old levels were saved to disk, allowing you to freely travel up and down. Thus, the roguelike level of NetHack contains two percent signs.
  • Food is represented as : (colon).
    • Hack uses % (percent sign).
    • Since NetHack uses : (colon) for food and corpses at this level, some players might mistake these things as newts or other lizard-like monsters.
    • Monsters do not [appear to] leave corpses. The original "Rogue" game did not implement corpses.
  • Armor is represented as ] (right square bracket).
    • Many players don't even notice the difference because NetHack uses the similar-looking [ (left square bracket).
  • Zorkmids and gold pieces are represented as * (asterisk) instead of $ (dollar sign).

There will also be a named ghost on this level, guarding a fake "bones pile," possibly including a cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor. By default the ghost will be named either Michael Toy, Kenneth Arnold, or Glenn Wichman, but the ghost's name can be changed using the environment variable ROGUEOPTS. For example, if the variable is set to name=X, then the ghost's name will be X. The loot being guarded by the ghost includes:

  • d7 food rations (75% chance)
  • either a mace (enchantment +1 to +3) or a two-handed sword (enchantment -1 to +3)
  • a +1 bow
  • 25 to 34 +0 arrows
  • either a ring mail (enchantment +0 to +2; 1/3 chance of being rustproof) or a plate mail (enchantment -1 to +3; 1/3 chance of being rustproof)
  • an identified cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor (50% chance)

Each of these items except the food and the amulet has a 75% chance of being cursed. In Rogue, the player's starting weapon was a mace, which accounts for its presence here.

The Rogue level is eligible to leave bones files, and may contain the Quest portal.

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