Aligned priest

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

Aligned priests and aligned priestesses, @, tend the temples of NetHack. They always appear as "priest[ess] of (deity)". Priests tending temples are always peaceful (except for the high priest of Moloch); however several priests of Moloch appear in Moloch's Sanctum and several assorted hostile priests appear on the Astral Plane.

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


Aligned priests are 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: Temple

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 makes them 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, the priest will "give you two bits for an ale" (two zorkmids) if they have at least two gold (or one bit if 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, the priest 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 lesser 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.) 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. (See Protection racket)

"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 lesser than 0, it is reset to 0
  • Otherwise, you gain 2 alignment points.

However, in the following cases the effects described above shall 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 makes 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 reconvert the temple's altar to the priest's religion and pacify them, they still get angry on chatting.

If the priest is sleeping or cannot move, #chatting to the priest wakes them 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 cannot save you from their attack.

Killing a temple priest safely

Attempting to convert the temple's altar angers 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 is not adjacent to you, then read the scroll. Optionally, push the boulders to confine the priest to one particular square. Drop a scroll of scare monster 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 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 lets you do so, though their god will still strike you with lightning.

Killing a co-aligned priest does not give you a Luck penalty beyond that imposed for murder, but it removes all your protection. But that's generally a bad idea anyway. A better approach is to trap them. (Just make sure they can see you; mummy wrapping if need be shall do fine.) Killing a cross-aligned priest does 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 produces 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 lets you convert the altar safely without committing murder or dealing with lightning strikes. 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. 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 them to make it safe to approach and charm them. You can't buy protection from that priest after you convert the altar: chatting with them merely angers them.

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 3×3 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 off 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 back, 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 the priest is a Bad Idea, as it makes them hostile.


In SpliceHack, donating an amount greater than 900 times your experience level will teach you the blessing technique, if you do not already know it. Donating exactly 900 times your experience level will not work.

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 ]


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