Aligned priest

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This article is about the monster. For the role, see Priest.

Aligned priests, @, tend the temples of NetHack. They will always appear as "priest of (deity)". Priests tending temples will always be peaceful (except for the high priest of Moloch); however large numbers of priests of Moloch appear in Moloch's Sanctum and a large number of assorted hostile priests will appear on the Astral Plane.

Interestingly, aligned priests can grow up into high priests.[1]


Aligned priests will be generated with a mace, small shield, 20-29 zorkmids, 2-4 spellbooks, and with one of robe (6/7 chance), cloak of protection (2/21 chance), or cloak of magic resistance (1/21 chance).

Occurrence of temples with priests

Main article: Special room#Temples

Besides random generation, there are two levels which always generate temples: Minetown has a temple of a random alignment, and the Valley of the Dead has a temple of Moloch. Depending on your role, there may also be a temple in your Quest. However, as these levels are eligible to leave bones files (and the temple in Orcish Town is abandoned), it is possible not to find a peaceful aligned priest in a given game. If the temple in Minetown bones file has been converted, the priest may be peaceful, and wandering about the level. However, #chatting to a wandering priest will make him hostile; see the discussion of chatting below.

Chatting to a priest

If you #chat to a priest, a variety of effects can result. If you have no gold in open inventory and are co-aligned, they will "give you two bits for an ale" (two zorkmids) if they have at least two gold (or one bit if they have exactly one gold), and will "preach the virtues of poverty" if they have no gold; if you are cross-aligned, they will ignore you. If you are carrying gold in open inventory, they will prompt you for a contribution to the temple; depending on the amount of gold you offer one of several events will happen:[2]

Offer Effect
0 or less If the priest is co-aligned, you lose one alignment point.

"Thou shalt regret thine action!"

Positive but less than 200 times current experience level If this is less than half your visible gold, nothing happens.


Otherwise, exercises wisdom.

"I thank thee for thy contribution."

At least 200 but less than 400 times current experience level "Thou art indeed a pious individual."

If this is more than half your visible gold, you are granted 500-999 (more) turns of clairvoyance. If additionally the priest is coaligned and you have sinned or worse, you gain one point of alignment.

"I bestow upon thee a blessing."

At least 400 but less than 600 times current experience level

If you have never bought intrinsic protection, earn 2-4 points of protection. Otherwise if you have less than 9 protection, or less than 20 with a 1-in-current-protection chance, earn an additional point of protection; if not, fall through to next case. Note that these limits make no distinction between protection bought and protection granted as a favor. (This is the preferred way to obtain protection.) For clarity: you can buy protection at any temple with a peaceful priest, be it to your god, a rival god, or to Moloch, but not at a desecrated temple.

"Thy devotion has been rewarded."

At least 600 times current experience level "Thy selfless generosity is deeply appreciated."

If this is more than half your gold and the temple is co-aligned:

  • If you have not performed this action in the last 5000 turns, and your alignment is less than 0, it is reset to 0
  • Otherwise, you gain 2 alignment points.

However, in the following cases the effects described above will not happen:

If a priest is hostile, it is useless to chat to them.

If a priest is not in their temple or the temple has been desecrated, #chatting to the priest will make them hostile. The message you get when entering the temple indicates the state of affairs. This usually applies only to priests in bones files and the peaceful coaligned priests on the Astral Plane, as the priest will already be hostile if you have desecrated the temple yourself. Even if you re-convert the temple's altar to the priest's religion and pacify them, they will still get angry on chatting.

If the priest is sleeping or cannot move, #chatting to the priest will wake him up from sleep or paralysis and again makes them hostile.

Also, chatting to a scared priest (e.g. you are standing on scroll of scare monster) also make them hostile. Note that a scroll of scare monster will not save you from their attack.

Killing a temple priest safely

Attempting to convert the temple's altar will anger the priest. Directly attacking a peaceful priest is a bad idea, as their god will strike you with lightning; however, the bolt can be deflected if you have reflection. Thus, one of the better ways is to let your pet kill the priest, if it's powerful enough.

A good way to convert a temple is to get a scroll of earth (two are guaranteed to be generated on the first level of Sokoban), get reflection (also possibly from Sokoban), stand in the temple so that the priest(ess) is not adjacent to you, then read the scroll. Optionally, push the boulders to confine the priest to one particular square. Engrave or burn an Elbereth on your fighting spot to protect you from the summoned ants. Now you can blind yourself (be sure to have telepathy) and zap or fire things at the priest without the risk of being paralyzed or getting hit with the mace. You will still get the god's lightning strikes! If you lack reflection and shock resistance, but have a ray attack, you might want to bring the temple's walls between you and the altar, and use bounces instead. Once the priest is killed, you can start sacrificing. If you are playing a chaotic human, you should try to #offer the priest's corpse, since it will have a 100% chance of converting the altar.

Alternatively, you can petrify the priest with a wielded cockatrice corpse.

Still another way is to poison the priest with a stinking cloud. Be careful, you need to see the center spot, but you want shelter from the god's lightning, which may originate from positions other than the altar.[3]

If you wish to kill a priest yourself and avoid the penalty for murder, polymorphing the priest to a non-human will allow you to do so, though their god will still strike you with lightning.

Killing a co-aligned priest(ess) will not give you a Luck penalty beyond that imposed for murder, but it will remove all your protection. But that's generally a bad idea anyway. A better approach is to trap him (just make sure he can see you, mummy wrapping if need be will do fine). Killing an aligned priest that is NOT co-aligned with you will not remove your intrinsic protection.

Aligned priests cannot be fully revived in any way: zapping turn undead at an aligned priest corpse merely produces a human zombie,[4] while casting stone-to-flesh on a statue of one will produce a generic "aligned priest," who only gets angry when #chatted to. Therefore, if you want protection, be sure to lock any strong pets away and not be causing conflict.

Trapping an aligned priest with boulders

You can trap a temple priest with a scroll of earth as follows.[5] This will let you convert the altar safely without committing murder or dealing with lightning strikes. Beware if a dwarf or other digging monster frees the priest, but he will usually stay inside the temple area including the diggable walls. You can read a confused scroll of taming for a chance of pacifying the priest (still behind the boulder) after converting the altar, or you can cast sleep at him to make it safe to approach and charm him. You can't buy protection from that priest after you convert the altar: chatting with him will merely anger him.

To understand why the step by step instructions work, keep in mind a priest (still tending an altar) will

  1. pick a random spot on a 3x3 grid centered on the altar, and try to move there, and will
  2. not move into your line of fire unless they are already in it.

The last part is how you steer the priest around.

Step onto the altar.


Step away and wait for priest to go to the x.


Move onto the altar, if the priest stays put then read an uncursed or preferably blessed scroll of earth. Otherwise, start over.


Move boulders here and here.

-+---- -+----
|..0.| |..0.|
|.0@0| |0@.0|
|@0_0| |@0_0|
|.000| |.000|
------ ------

Then, when the priest moves down, here and here. Priest is now trapped.

-+---- -+----
|@.0.| |..0.|
|0..0| |@..0|
|.0_0| |00_0|
|@000| |@000|
------ ------


In SLASH'EM, it is not possible to buy protection at a priest of Moloch.

The Lawful Quest contains a coaligned priest in a room with a coaligned altar, but it is not a temple. #Chatting with him is a Bad Idea, as it will make him hostile.

Encyclopaedia entry

[...] For the two priests were talking exactly like priests,
piously, with learning and leisure, about the most aerial
enigmas of theology. The little Essex priest spoke the more
simply, with his round face turned to the strengthening stars;
the other talked with his head bowed, as if he were not even
worthy to look at them. But no more innocently clerical
conversation could have been heard in any white Italian cloister
or black Spanish cathedral. The first he heard was the tail of
one of Father Brown's sentences, which ended: "... what they
really meant in the Middle Ages by the heavens being
incorruptible." The taller priest nodded his bowed head and
said: "Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason;
but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that
there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is
utterly unreasonable?"

[ The Innocence of Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton ]