I won a game of NetHack for the first time on May 25, 2016 at 22:34 PDT. I was playing version 3.4.3 as a chaotic male elven priest.
You made the top ten list! No Points Name Hp [max] 1 5968868 david-Pri-Elf-Mal-Cha ascended to demigod-hood. 389 
Since then, I've ascended twice more:
I had been playing the game off and on for at least twelve years. I don’t know how long exactly, but I remember upgrading to version 3.4.3, which was in 2003. I for sure played on demidevimon and that computer was turned off in 2008.
It took me so long in part because I didn’t use any spoilers, nor save-scumming. I beat it fair and square. I didn’t read any documentation about gameplay beyond the Guidebook; even when I found myself idly browsing Dungeons & Dragons monsters I would do a ctrl-F to see if NetHack was mentioned so I could skip that part of the article. (I think only once I read a hint about dragon scale mail, but that’s one of the smaller mysteries.) I don’t know if this is how most people do it, but it’s a little unreasonable to play this way! In NetHack, once your character dies, that’s it—that game is permanently lost and you have to start over from the beginning in a new random dungeon. There are a lot of deep mechanics that only reveal themselves after many repetitions. There are some instant-death scenarios that appear for the first time 20 or so hours into a game. When I finally determined to finish the game (still years before I actually did), I kept copious notes and decided to only play on explore mode (which lets you recover from death) until I had won the game that way. Only after I had won once, using explore mode, did I go back to playing in the standard mode.
I was further motivated to finally finish by the release of version 3.6.0 in December 2015, the first new release in 12 years. I was worried that there would be new gameplay that would invalidate the knowledge I had acquired. I pinned my version at 3.4.3 until I had finished.
That I first won as a priest was surprising. I would always let the game randomly roll my character (“race, role, gender and alignment”) and then play as far as I could. Priest was not one of my better classes (that would probably be wizard, barbarian, or tourist). My other two priest plays on the high score list had far less auspicious ends:
17 15951 david-Pri-Elf-Fem-Cha died in The Gnomish Mines on level 10 [max 11]. Killed by a spotted jelly. -  22 9694 david-Pri-Hum-Fem-Neu died in The Gnomish Mines on level 6. Killed by a panther. - 
If you want to play this way, my spoiler-free advice is read the Guidebook, use explore mode, and keep a text file where you note every detail you learn and every unknown message you see.
My .nethackrc, nothing fancy.Back
I made screenshots of the last part of the game I won.
Here I am before the Wizard of Yendor. My stats are good; all are maxed or above-maxed except for charisma. My 18/02 strength game from a +2 ring of gain strength and my 24 intelligence and wisdom came from enchanting to +4 the Mitre of Holiness (which is a helm of brilliance). I had had good luck with some nurses and gained about 75 HP.
I one-shotted the wizard with a wand of death.
At the entrance to Moloch’s sanctuary.
Just after recovering the amulet.
About to ascend to the elemental planes. I’d managed to add +4 to my armor. I wanted to bring a pet with me, but the best I could do was this stone golem (polymorphed from a little dog).
The elemental planes had been hard on me. The stone golem died on the plane of earth. I had run for my life from an archon on the plane of air, and it followed me through the portal to the plane of fire. +5 of my AC came from a pair of speed boots, which I had swapped for a pair of levitation boots. I actually burned a charge on my wand of wishing just to defeat some more archons that appeared on the plane of fire.
I savvily hid my ring of conflict inside a bag of holding in order to get my angel companion.
Here’s what all I was carrying:
Amulets b - the Amulet of Yendor j - an amulet of life saving w - an amulet of life saving F - a blessed amulet of life saving (being worn) Weapons a - a rustproof +5 mace r - the blessed rustproof +5 Stormbringer (weapon in hand) Armor c - a blessed +3 silver dragon scale mail (being worn) s - a greased +5 pair of speed boots (being worn) x - a blessed greased fireproof +5 pair of leather gloves (being worn) O - a blessed fireproof +4 cloak of magic resistance (being worn) U - a greased burnt +0 pair of levitation boots W - the blessed greased +4 Mitre of Holiness (being worn) Comestibles Q - a partly eaten food ration Scrolls D - a scroll of create monster Spellbooks P - the Book of the Dead Rings g - a blessed ring of slow digestion (on left hand) K - a ring of regeneration M - a blessed +2 ring of gain strength (on right hand) Wands d - a wand of wishing (1:0) t - a wand of teleportation (0:6) v - a blessed wand of sleep (0:5) y - a wand of light (0:10) A - a blessed wand of death (0:2) H - a wand of polymorph (0:3) L - a wand of digging (0:7) Tools f - the Candelabrum of Invocation (7 candles attached) i - a tooled horn k - a skeleton key l - an expensive camera (0:44) u - a blessed +4 unicorn horn z - a blessed bag of holding C - a blindfold T - a magic whistle X - the Bell of Opening (0:2) Y - an oil lamp Gems Z - a blessed luckstone
Contents of the bag of holding:
Coins a - 359 gold pieces Amulets b - an amulet of ESP c - an amulet of magical breathing Weapons d - the rustproof +0 Dragonbane Scrolls e - a blessed scroll called stinking cloud f - a blessed scroll of blank paper Spellbooks g - a spellbook of extra healing h - a spellbook of force bolt i - a spellbook of light j - a spellbook of magic missile k - a spellbook of remove curse l - a spellbook of sleep m - a spellbook of protection n - a spellbook of identify Potions o - 2 potions of holy water p - a potion of unholy water Rings q - a ring of teleport control r - a ring of conflict s - a ring of protection from shape changers t - a ring of teleportation Wands u - a wand of digging (0:2) v - a wand of digging (0:5) w - a wand of digging (0:1) x - a wand of create monster y - a wand of enlightenment (0:1) z - a wand of digging A - a wand of digging (0:5) Tools B - a magic marker (1:4) C - an oil lamp Gems D - 2 jade stones E - 10 rubies F - 3 citrine stones G - 5 sapphires H - 4 agate stones I - 7 opals J - 9 diamonds K - 5 obsidian stones L - 3 aquamarine stones M - 2 dilithium crystals N - 3 jet stones O - 9 black opals P - 10 emeralds Q - a jasper stone R - 4 fluorite stones S - 3 topaz stones T - 12 garnet stones U - 13 amethyst stones V - 2 turquoise stones W - 6 jacinth stones X - 6 chrysoberyl stones
The spells I knew:
Name Level Category Fail a - detect food 2* divination 0% b - healing 1 healing 0% c - knock 1* matter 0% d - cone of cold 4 attack 23% e - detect monsters 1 divination 0% f - sleep 1 enchantment 0% g - restore ability 4* healing 0% h - wizard lock 2* matter 0% i - slow monster 2* enchantment 0% j - force bolt 1 attack 0% k - remove curse 3 clerical 0% l - levitation 4* escape 23% m - identify 3 divination 0% n - protection 1 clerical 0% o - magic missile 2 attack 0% p - jumping 1 escape 0% q - charm monster 3* enchantment 0% r - light 1 divination 0% s - drain life 2* attack 0% t - detect treasure 4* divination 0% u - stone to flesh 3* healing 0% v - fireball 4* attack 23% w - turn undead 6 clerical 0% x - magic mapping 5* divination 0% y - extra healing 3 healing 0% z - dig 5 matter 51% A - create monster 2 clerical 0% B - clairvoyance 3 divination 0%
I was wielding the +4 Stormbringer. My best ranged attack was a magic missile spell.
I first headed to the path on the right. I learned on this playthrough that you can dig pits in the floor on the Astral Plane. This level is all about bottlenecking monsters to keep the dangerous ones away from you. One of the best things that can happen is when a priest summons insects, which occupy a square, cannot damage you much, and are vulnerable to sleep and to pits. Unfortunately pits don’t affect angels nor the major demons Famine, Death, and Pestilence. Famine pursued me from the center path to the right; I had to abandon going to the right and double back toward the center. I nearly died in the upper pit; I got stuck in it trying to escape and Famine was hitting me for about 40 HP a turn. I at last remembered either my expensive camera or my tooled horn to get Famine to run away so I could escape. Luckily I got both Famine and Pestilence to hang out in the room on the right and not bother me for a while.
I tried to sneak my ring of conflict back on, which caused me to lose my pet angel and become surrounded by hostile angels. (“The invisible guardian Angel of Manannan Mac Lir rebukes you, saying: "Since you desire conflict, have some more!"”) Luckily I did it in a corridor so they couldn’t surround me completely.
The situation with the pits made me glad I had the jumping spell. I normally consider that spell useless, but without it I would not have been able to get over the pits without swapping my speed boots for levitation boots.
I charged up the center. I had wished for a scroll of stinking cloud and centered it over the dark room in the center, but I don't know if it did anything. I got up to the altar and locked the door behind me. Unfortunately, it was neutral.
My fully enhanced detect monsters spell was useful, allowing me to keep an eye on the major demons for a few dozen turns at a time. Notice that Famine and Pestilence are still milling about to the right. I was worried about Death on the left because I forgot what his attack is. But the fighting in the center had left a boulder, thrown by a giant or titan.
I lured Death into the center, ran behind the altar, then pushed back the boulder to seal him in. I had hoped the purple worm would eat Death, but no such luck.
The next altar was also the wrong alignment. I don’t know of a way to tell the alignment of the altar or of the high priest/priestess without standing right on it.
I had forgotten my sleep spell so I took an opportunity around here to re-read the spellbook.
A wand of enlightenment told me I could safely pray, but I didn’t try it.
Third time’s a charm. During my exit from the lawful altar, Famine started coming over to the left. I think I got a lucky kill on him with a magic missile. You can see he had resurrected and was in pursuit when I made it to the altar.
There had been a titan in this room that kept summoning monsters. I got lucky and he summoned a cockatrice which started petrifying everything around him (you can see the statues). Pestilence was coming towards me when an angel missed me with a wand of death and hit Pestilence instead, killing him. I didn’t know a wand of death worked against Pestilence. I took my opportunity, stepped over the corpse and sprinted toward the altar.
Double-checking that this is in fact the correct alignment. I had through carelessness offered the amulet at the wrong altar in an explore-mode game.
“Do you want your possessions identified?” never sounded so good.
Here are my final attributes.
I don't know why I said
“Do you want to see your conduct?”.
Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n) y Amulets j - an amulet of life saving w - an amulet of life saving F - an amulet of life saving (being worn) Weapons a - a rustproof +5 mace r - the rustproof +5 Stormbringer (weapon in hand) Armor c - a blessed +3 silver dragon scale mail (being worn) s - a greased +5 pair of speed boots (being worn) x - a blessed greased fireproof +5 pair of leather gloves (being worn) O - a fireproof +4 cloak of magic resistance (being worn) U - a greased burnt +0 pair of levitation boots W - the blessed greased +4 Mitre of Holiness (being worn) Comestibles Q - a partly eaten food ration Scrolls p - a cursed scroll of create monster Spellbooks P - the Book of the Dead Potions m - a potion of holy water q - a potion of full healing G - a blessed potion of full healing Rings g - a blessed ring of slow digestion (on left hand) K - a ring of regeneration M - a +2 ring of gain strength (on right hand) Wands d - a wand of wishing (1:0) e - a wand of make invisible (0:2) h - a wand of create monster (0:14) o - a wand of enlightenment (0:0) t - a wand of teleportation (0:6) v - a blessed wand of sleep (0:0) y - a wand of light (0:8) A - a blessed wand of death (0:1) E - a wand of create monster (0:6) H - a wand of polymorph (0:3) I - a wand of sleep (0:3) J - a wand of magic missile (0:4) L - a wand of digging (0:5) N - a blessed wand of magic missile (0:0) R - a wand of speed monster (0:0) S - a wand of speed monster (0:5) Tools f - the Candelabrum of Invocation (7 candles attached) i - a tooled horn k - a skeleton key l - an expensive camera (0:42) u - a +4 unicorn horn z - a blessed bag of holding C - a blindfold T - a magic whistle X - the Bell of Opening (0:2) Y - an oil lamp (lit) Gems Z - a luckstone Contents of the bag of holding: 359 gold pieces an amulet of ESP an amulet of magical breathing the rustproof +0 Dragonbane a blessed scroll of blank paper a spellbook of sleep a spellbook of extra healing a spellbook of force bolt a spellbook of light a spellbook of magic missile a spellbook of remove curse a spellbook of protection a spellbook of identify a potion of unholy water a ring of conflict a ring of teleport control a ring of protection from shape changers a ring of teleportation a wand of digging (0:2) a wand of digging (0:5) a wand of digging (0:1) a wand of digging (0:3) a wand of digging (0:5) a magic marker (1:4) 2 jade stones 10 rubies 3 citrine stones 5 sapphires 4 agate stones 7 opals 9 diamonds 5 obsidian stones 3 aquamarine stones 2 dilithium crystals 3 jet stones 9 black opals 10 emeralds a jasper stone 4 fluorite stones 3 topaz stones 12 garnet stones 13 amethyst stones 2 turquoise stones 6 jacinth stones 6 chrysoberyl stones Do you want to see your attributes? [ynq] (n) y Final Attributes: You were the Glory of Arioch. You were piously aligned. You were fire resistant. You were cold resistant. You were sleep resistant. You were disintegration-resistant. You were shock resistant. You were poison resistant. You were level-drain resistant. You were magic-protected. You saw invisible. You were telepathic. You were warned. You had infravision. You were invisible to others. You were stealthy. You had slower digestion. You were protected. You were very fast. You had reflection. Your life would have been saved. You were extremely lucky. You had extra luck. Bad luck did not time out for you. Good luck did not time out for you. You survived. Do you want an account of creatures vanquished? [ynq] (n) y Vanquished creatures: Orcus Yeenoghu Juiblex The Wizard of Yendor (6 times) Pestilence (twice) Famine 2 high priests 10 mastodons Medusa Croesus 3 Archons 15 iron golems 2 master liches 6 ki-rin 5 storm giants 8 titans 2 glass golems 5 balrogs Nalzok 16 purple worms 7 gray dragons 4 silver dragons 20 red dragons 7 white dragons 5 orange dragons 20 black dragons 9 blue dragons 15 green dragons 21 yellow dragons 28 minotaurs 12 jabberwocks 27 baluchitheria 28 Angels 20 demiliches Vlad the Impaler 17 stone golems 10 master mind flayers 23 Olog-hai 6 Nazguls 14 pit fiends 2 sandestins 8 hell hounds 13 titanotheres 14 trappers a baby silver dragon a baby white dragon a baby orange dragon 7 guardian nagas 20 disenchanters 55 vampire lords 5 skeletons a shopkeeper 39 aligned priests 23 captains 6 shades a water troll 3 clay golems 8 nurses 15 ice devils 3 nalfeshnees 7 lurkers above 3 Aleaxes 6 frost giants 15 ettins 3 golden nagas 7 black puddings 47 vampires 18 lieutenants 121 ghosts 2 archeologists a cavewoman a samurai a wizard 4 queen bees 17 winged gargoyles 15 mind flayers 18 giant mimics 23 zruties 23 fire giants 20 ogre kings 5 ice trolls 36 rock trolls 23 umber hulks 10 flesh golems 17 Elvenkings 4 doppelgangers 12 hezrous 19 bone devils 9 large mimics 4 wumpuses 10 fire vortices 3 baby purple worms 13 long worms 26 couatls 41 stalkers 20 air elementals 37 fire elementals 36 earth elementals 22 water elementals 9 hill giants 7 giant mummies 5 black nagas 19 xorns 39 giant zombies 10 elf-lords 36 sergeants a water demon 15 barbed devils 10 vrocks 9 salamanders 16 wargs 4 winter wolves 9 hell hound pups 22 small mimics 9 glass piercers 16 warhorses 12 steam vortices 32 xans 3 ettin mummies 9 ogre lords 27 quantum mechanics 54 trolls 4 sasquatches 3 wood golems 3 erinyes 4 mariliths 2 djinn 4 sharks 6 electric eels 11 gelatinous cubes 9 pyrolisks 7 large dogs 9 freezing spheres 12 flaming spheres 14 shocking spheres 10 large cats 6 tigers 16 gargoyles 2 dwarf kings 12 tengu 25 ochre jellies 26 leocrottas 12 energy vortices 2 mountain centaurs 12 stone giants 8 elf mummies 5 human mummies 3 red nagas 13 green slimes 15 pit vipers 12 pythons 22 cobras 161 wraiths 17 carnivorous apes 63 ettin zombies 8 leather golems 4 Grey-elves 113 soldiers 4 watchmen 13 horned devils 13 succubi 8 incubi 17 chameleons 5 crocodiles 52 giant beetles 9 quivering blobs 34 cockatrices 19 wolves 19 winter wolf cubs 7 lynxes 4 panthers 107 gremlins 9 spotted jellies 60 leprechauns 8 orc-captains 10 iron piercers 7 mumakil 14 giant spiders 17 scorpions 15 horses 3 ice vortices 11 black lights 23 vampire bats 9 forest centaurs 9 gnome kings 8 orc mummies 4 dwarf mummies 6 ogres 10 brown puddings 19 rust monsters 24 owlbears 13 yetis 5 gold golems 4 werewolves 3 Green-elves 8 giant eels 24 lizards 21 chickatrices 5 dogs 5 dingos 4 housecats 10 jaguars 8 dwarf lords 9 blue jellies 6 white unicorns 5 gray unicorns 10 dust vortices 12 ravens 12 plains centaurs 8 gnome mummies 11 snakes 3 water moccasins 9 apes 209 human zombies 6 rope golems 3 Woodland-elves 44 soldier ants 20 fire ants 27 bugbears 19 lemures 2 quasits 5 wood nymphs 15 water nymphs 13 mountain nymphs 14 Mordor orcs 43 Uruk-hai 5 orc shamans 18 rock piercers 5 rock moles 6 ponies 15 fog clouds 25 yellow lights 3 shriekers 12 violet fungi 31 gnome lords 15 gnomish wizards 7 kobold mummies a red naga hatchling 4 black naga hatchlings a guardian naga hatchling 12 gray oozes 9 barrow wights 54 elf zombies 38 ghouls 7 straw golems 5 paper golems 3 jellyfish 52 giant ants 4 little dogs 15 floating eyes 5 kittens 29 dwarves 3 homunculi 7 kobold lords 10 kobold shamans 56 hill orcs 27 rothes 8 rabid rats 3 centipedes 11 giant bats 2 Kop Sergeants 3 monkeys 63 orc zombies 64 dwarf zombies 4 wererats 4 werejackals 22 iguanas 118 killer bees 5 acid blobs 13 hobbits 29 manes 4 large kobolds 46 hobgoblins 6 giant rats 12 cave spiders 2 brown molds 7 yellow molds 3 green molds 3 red molds 72 gnomes 12 Keystone Kops 10 garter snakes 64 gnome zombies 9 geckos 15 jackals 4 foxes 2 kobolds 15 goblins 11 sewer rats 7 grid bugs 8 bats 10 lichens 53 kobold zombies 12 newts 4748 creatures vanquished. Do you want a list of species genocided? [ynq] (n) y Genocided species: hobbits dwarves bugbears dwarf lords dwarf kings mind flayers master mind flayers liches master liches arch-liches jellyfish piranhas sharks giant eels electric eels krakens 16 species genocided. Do you want to see your conduct? [ynq] (n) n Goodbye david the Demigod... You went to your reward with 5968868 points, The Candelabrum of Invocation (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points) Stormbringer (worth 8000 zorkmids and 20000 points) Dragonbane (worth 500 zorkmids and 1250 points) The Book of the Dead (worth 10000 zorkmids and 25000 points) The Mitre of Holiness (worth 2000 zorkmids and 5000 points) The Bell of Opening (worth 5000 zorkmids and 12500 points) 13 amethyst stones (worth 7800 zorkmids), 12 garnet stones (worth 8400 zorkmids), 10 rubies (worth 35000 zorkmids), 10 emeralds (worth 25000 zorkmids), 9 diamonds (worth 36000 zorkmids), 9 black opals (worth 22500 zorkmids), 7 opals (worth 5600 zorkmids), 6 jacinth stones (worth 19500 zorkmids), 6 chrysoberyl stones (worth 4200 zorkmids), 5 sapphires (worth 15000 zorkmids), 5 obsidian stones (worth 1000 zorkmids), 4 fluorite stones (worth 1600 zorkmids), 4 agate stones (worth 800 zorkmids), 3 citrine stones (worth 4500 zorkmids), 3 aquamarine stones (worth 4500 zorkmids), 3 topaz stones (worth 2700 zorkmids), 3 jet stones (worth 2550 zorkmids), 2 dilithium crystals (worth 9000 zorkmids), 2 turquoise stones (worth 4000 zorkmids), 2 jade stones (worth 600 zorkmids), 1 jasper stone (worth 500 zorkmids), 3 amulets of life saving (worth 450 zorkmids), 1 amulet of ESP (worth 150 zorkmids), 1 amulet of magical breathing (worth 150 zorkmids), and 359 pieces of gold, after 84214 moves. You were level 27 with a maximum of 389 hit points when you ascended. You made the top ten list! No Points Name Hp [max] 1 5968868 david-Pri-Elf-Mal-Cha ascended to demigod-hood. 389  2 2764296 david-Wiz-Elf-Fem-Cha died on the Plane of Fire. Burned by molten lava. -  3 2199104 david-Bar-Hum-Mal-Neu died on the Astral Plane. Killed by an Angel of Crom, while helpless (with the Amulet). -