Aligned priest

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

The aligned priest and aligned priestess, @, are a type of monster that appear in NetHack. They are servants of the gods that tend to their temples, and are always referred to as "priest[ess] of <deity>".

An aligned priest has a strong weapon attack, a kick attack and will attempt to cast clerical monster spells once per round of combat. Aligned priests have shock resistance.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Aligned priests are referred to as aligned clerics.


Priests tending to temples are always generated peaceful, and will always appear near the altar within their temples outside of bones files. Several hostile priests may appear in the locate level of the Priest's quest, and several assorted hostile priests are also generated on the Astral Plane; co-aligned hostile priests that generate this way are described as "renegade". Aligned priests can grow up into high priests.[1]

Aligned priests cannot be fully revived in any way: using a revival methods on an aligned priest's corpse or stone-to-fleshing a statue merely produces a human zombie.[2]

Occurrence of temples with priests

Main article: Temple

Every Minetown variant (with the exception of Orc Town) has a temple of a random alignment, and the Valley of the Dead has a temple of Moloch. There are also guaranteed temples with accompanying priests on locate level of the Knight quest (neutral), the locate level of the Priest quest (unaligned), and the home level of the Caveman quest (co-aligned).

Starting inventory

Aligned priests are always generated with a mace of an enchantment from +1 to +3, which has a 12 chance to be made cursed.[3] small shield, 20–29 zorkmids, and one of the following cloaks: a 67 chance of a robe, a 221 chance of a cloak of protection, and a 121 chance of a cloak of magic resistance.[4] Aligned priests generated within a temple additionally receive 2–4 spellbooks, and their cloaks are non-cursed if the temple is co-aligned with you, or cursed otherwise.[5]


If you #chat to a temple's priest, you can donate gold for a variety of effects. If you have no gold in open inventory and are co-aligned, the priest will "give you two bits for an ale" (two zorkmids) if they have any gold, or one bit if they only have that; they 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, the priest will prompt you for a contribution to the temple, with the accompanying effect depending on the amount of gold you offer:[6]

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 one third of your visible gold (before donation), 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 one third of 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.) This can be done with a peaceful priest at a temple to any god, so long as it is not desecrated. (See also the article on protection rackets.)

"Thy devotion has been rewarded."

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

If this is more than one third of your visible 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.

Hostile priests

A hostile priest cannot be used for services, and there are several circumstances under which an otherwise peaceful priest will become hostile:

  • If a priest is not in their temple or the temple has been desecrated, #chatting to the priest will make them hostile. This primarily occurs with temple priests in bones files and peaceful co-aligned priests on the Astral Plane; a temple's priest will become hostile if you have desecrated the temple yourself, even if you reconvert the temple's altar to the priest's religion and pacify them.
  • If the priest is sleeping or cannot move, #chatting to the priest wakes them up from sleep or paralysis and makes them hostile.


Despite lacking in armor, aligned priests are deceptively strong with their weapon attack and an arsenal of highly dangerous clerical spells - this includes the ability to confuse, blind or even paralyze an unfortunate player, as well as swarming them with insects. Accidentally angering a peaceful priest may be a game-ending mistake, especially since a scroll of scare monster cannot save you from their attack. Furthermore, since aligned priests cannot be "properly" revived, be sure to keep any strong pets away and not activate conflict anywhere near the priest if you want to obtain their services.

As the earliest a hostile priest can possibly generate is the locate level of the Priest quest, the player should ideally have at least one means to address some of the status spells (e.g. a unicorn horn) by then, as well as poison resistance to avoid dying at the hands of Team Ant and the other a they create. A source of magic resistance or a ring of free action is one of the better options to have, as even an otherwise-capable player character can be decimated if the priest paralyzes them at a bad time.

One of the quickest ways to deal with a hostile priest is to petrify them with a wielded cockatrice corpse. A strong pet can also aid in killing the priest, but can just as easily be killed by a powerful swing from their mace unless the pet has good AC and/or HP.

Killing a temple priest safely

For those looking to convert a temple's altar, in addition to the above information, there are a few major obstacles:

  1. Directly attacking a priest is a Bad Idea, as their god will strike you with lightning (which can be deflected if you have reflection).
  2. Attempting to convert the temple's altar will anger the priest.
  3. Killing a priest that was initially peaceful carries the standard Luck and alignment penalty for murder.

A good way to convert a temple is to use a scroll of earth (which can be obtained from Sokoban); you will also need a form of reflection (which can also be found in Sokoban). Stand in the temple so that the priest is not adjacent to you, then read the scroll; optionally, push the boulders to confine the priest to one particular square. Then, drop a scroll of scare monster on your fighting spot to protect you from any summoned ants.

Now you can blind yourself and zap or fire things at the priest without the risk of being paralyzed or getting hit with the mace; be sure to have telepathy so you can aim properly, and remember to have reflection for the god's lightning strikes! If you lack reflection and/or shock resistance, but have a ray attack, you might want to bounce them off the temple's walls towards the priest from outside instead - keeping the walls between you and the altar will help avoid the lightning.[7] 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.

If you wish to kill a temple's priest yourself and avoid the penalty for murder, polymorphing the priest into a non-human is an option, although it is quite risky - their god will still strike you with lightning, and their decent monster magic resistance may foul the attempt and simply leave you with an angry priest. Also note that you will lose any protection obtained from donations if you directly murder a co-aligned priest.

Still another way is to poison the priest with a scroll of stinking cloud - the rub is that you need to be able to see the center spot you are targeting the cloud on, but you will also want shelter from the god's lightning, which may originate from positions other than the altar.[8]

Trapping an aligned priest with boulders

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

As of commit 200cc21, priests gain the ability to break boulders that block their path, and can no longer be trapped.

In some temples, depending on the temple size and the location of the altar, you can trap a temple priest using a scroll of earth, so you can convert the altar safely without committing murder or dealing with lightning strikes[9]. The priest needs to see you, so wear a mummy wrapping if you are invisible. Beware that a dwarf or other digging monster may free the priest, though the priest will usually stay inside the temple area including the diggable walls.

Once you have converted the altar, you can read a confused scroll of taming for a chance of pacifying the priest (still behind the boulders) after converting the altar, or you can cast sleep at them to make it safe to approach and charm them. Remember that you cannot buy protection from that priest afterward, as chatting with them will merely anger them.

To understand why these step-by-step instructions work, keep in mind that a priest tending to an altar moves according to two rules:

  1. When the priest wants to move, they will pick a random adjacent spot on a 3×3 grid centered on the altar.
  2. A priest will not move into your line of fire unless they are already in it.

By taking advantage of the second rule, you can try to steer the priest around.

Step 1

To trap the priest, first step onto the altar. (In the images below, you are green and the priest is white.)


Step 2

Pick a spot where you want to priest to go two spaces from the altar, marked with an x below. Wait on the altar by pressing '.' until the priest moves to a spot one diagonal step from the x. Then step off the altar onto a spot a knight's move away from both the x and from the priest.


Step 3

Wait until the priest moves to the x. If they move somewhere else, start over with step 1. With the priest on the x, move back onto the altar. If the priest doesn't move, then read an uncursed (or preferably blessed) scroll of earth. Otherwise, start over with step 1.


Step 4

Now you probably want to trap the priest in a corner. Move the boulder as shown in the left image, and then as shown in the right image.



Step 5

Then, wait until the priest moves away from you. Then move as shown in the left image, and then push the boulder as shown in the right image. The priest is now trapped.



You may be able to use this method in larger temples if you first place walls of boulders two or three steps from the altar, with additional scrolls of earth.



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

The Lawful Quest contains a coaligned priest in a room with a coaligned altar, but it is not a temple - this is a trap designed to trick you into chatting with the priest, which will make them hostile.


In SpliceHack, donating an amount greater than (but not equal to) 900 times your experience level will teach you the blessing technique if you do not already know it.

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 ]