Roguelike Inventory Management for Life: Travel Light

“The shit you own ends up owning you.” – Tyler Durden

Smart inventory management is crucial, whether you’re a normal person trying to live whatever a normal life is, or your trying to ascend in Nethack. Like all prudent management, balance is the key of success. The goal is to carry what you need and leave what you don’t. It’s simple, but it’s hard.

Determining what’s important at any given time is a challenge, but a few guidelines will keep you mobile, alive, and, hopefully, at least relatively comfortable. Things change quickly, and supplies and relationships go bad – choose things that are useful, compact, and that last.

Remember, living roguelike is more about function than comfort. Freedom isn’t always comfortable, so appreciate the sensual pleasures when you can, but don’t cling to them as necessary.


Take honest inventory of your needs. In order to make progress, we need a few basic things. Situations are different, but the requirements remain the same:


We need to know what exactly we are doing, and preferably why. Do you know where you’re headed, why, what it’s going to cost, and how you’re going to get the money? Do you know what supplies you have and what supplies you need? Have you made the necessary alliances and chosen an effective strategy?

Basic supplies

matchesFood, water, shelter, rest, morale, and social needs. They are different for all of us, and we should learn the difference before a need and a desire. Fulfill your needs to the point that they are no longer a distraction, and determine which desires you can do without and work on overcoming them.


Every trade, from cat theft to writing to gun slinging to office work, requires tools. Get the best tools you can reasonably afford, and take the appropriate time to maintain them.



Take Inventory

mapFigure out what you need from the above list, and try to dedicate the day to fulfilling the most pressing issue. Figure out what exactly you have and how much of it you actually need. Get rid of things that don’t bring some sort of tangible or emotional purpose. Hoarding is an addiction, and a dramatically inconvenient one. Holding onto junk bogs down our bodies, minds, and souls, and uses up intellectual energy we can’t afford to waste.

If you are carrying or holding onto something that doesn’t seem to have a purpose, it’s probably time to reflect on whether or not maintaining it is useful. Use the intellect – being sentimental or overly emotional doesn’t serve to make us free. If you’re harboring something you don’t need, put it somewhere safe, lower your investment, or dump it. It’s tough at first, but you’ll be much stronger for it.


TL;DR: Develop Appraisal Skills

Inventory management, gaming or otherwise, is a game of appraisal and assessment. Determining the relative worth of our possessions, information, and alliances is a skill, not a gift. Introspecting on our goals, maintaining a proper perspective, and controlling emotionalism will gradually help us to realize what we need to hold onto and what we need to let go. We should always fill our backpacks with what we need for the trip ahead, but bear in mind that we have to carry that backpack wherever we go.


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