Coven leader

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A coven leader, @, is a type of monster that appears in dNetHack and notdNetHack. The coven leader is a strong human woman that is capable of flight and spellcasting, can be seen via infravision and will seek out and collect items, particularly magical items. She is a lord to her fellow witches, and cannot be tamed.

A coven leader has a single weapon attack, and will attempt to cast spells clerically once during each of her turns: she can cast psi bolt, acid rain, evil eye, curse items, summon alien, summon devil, touch of death, and drain life, with an equal probability of each. A coven leader can only cast spells if her familiar is present, but is able to do so without any cooldown - if her familiar is killed, she gains +8 encouragement to damage and to-hit, and will eventually summon another familiar to replace the lost one.


Coven leaders are not randomly generated, and are not a valid form for polymorph.

At level creation, a single coven leader is generated in the Temples of the Old Gods within the Neutral Quest, with nine apprentice witches and three witches accompanying her. A witch's familiar is generated alongside the coven leader at the same level as her.

A coven leader is always generated with black high boots, a plain dress, a black set of leather armor, a black magic-resistant cloak (not a cloak of magic resistance), a black pair of gloves, a witch hat, and a quarterstaff.


The coven leader requires the most care of the witch battalion by far, on top of the familiars' open wounds spells cutting at you from across the river. Dealing with the witch battalion generally requires that characters have a high amount of HP and a source of half spell damage.


Witchcraft refers to the alleged use of supernatural or magic powers primarily to inflict harm and misfortune upon others, with practitioners of the art known as "witches". European belief in witchcraft traces back to classical antiquity, with medieval and early modern European cultures playing host to witch hunting: the accused "witches" were usually women believed to have used black magic or maleficium against their own community, with the accusations borne of social tensions and believed by some anthropologists to have been focused on supposed enemies of the Church. Witchcraft is also generally considered malevolent in many indigenous belief systems, with people seeking healers and medicine people for protection against witchcraft. Believed to be driven by evil spirits or substances, suspected historical witches were intimidated, banished, attacked or outright killed - often they would be formally prosecuted and punished if they considered or simply believed to be guilty, resulting in tens of thousands of executions.

Witchcraft in its modern context generally refers to followers of certain types of modern paganism, who self-identify as witches and use the term witchcraft for their beliefs and practices, though some other neo-pagans avoid the term due to its negative connotations. Witches are also depicted in various forms of media as practitioners of magic that can range from empowered humans to almighty sorcerers to monstrous hag-like beings, and there are many instances of a witch "species" separate from mundane humanity. Witches in fairy tales and cartoons, particularly of the "monster" variety, are often depicted as long-nosed crones that are malevolent and seen as hideous witch croaky voices and shrieking laughs - they often wear distinct pointed brimmed hats and are sometimes depicted taking flight, with the stereotypical witch using a broom; many of these qualities are sometimes omitted or even subverted in modern depictions.

The witches of dNetHack are mostly based on cultists from the Cthulhu Mythos, such as Keziah Mason from the 1933 H.P. Lovecraft short story "The Dreams in the Witch House", who is depicted as a servant of the alien "Outer Gods". Keziah Mason was an old woman who lived in a house in Arkham during the 1692 Salem witch trials, and was one of the many accused witches arrested - in her testimony to the judge, Keziah spoke of "lines and curves that could be made to point out directions leading through the walls of space to other spaces beyond", as well as describing a pitch-black man later revealed to be an avatar of Nyarlathotep. Keziah later disappeared mysteriously from Salem Gaol, leaving behind "curves and angles smeared on the grey stone walls with some red, sticky fluid" that were inexplicable even to the most studied clergymen of the time. Protagonist Walter Gilman, who moved into her former home, begins having bizarre dreams where he falls under Keziah's influence.