In NetHack, altar farming, sometimes referred to as altar scumming in more extreme forms, is the act of camping by an altar within the Mazes of Menace for an inordinate amount of time for the purpose of obtaining numerous sacrifice gifts and favors. As with some other forms of farming, some players may consider this to be against the spirit of the game.
Monster creation does happen over time, but normally not fast enough for the purposes of altar farming. Players who want to try altar farming will usually need a way to spawn a large number of strong monsters very quickly. Useful tools for accomplishing this include:
- Being on a lower dungeon level or having a higher experience level (makes stronger monsters spawn)
- Using wands or scrolls of create monster, the spell of create monster, or a bag of tricks to manually create monsters.
- Having a werecreature summon help or a spellcasting monster cast the summon nasties monster spell
- Being chaotic (allows for same-race sacrifices)
Of course, just because you can create an extremely high number of monsters doesn't mean you'll live to sacrifice them all - various monsters that are either horrifically strong or else capable of instantly killing you must dealt with promptly. Other tools must also be on hand to manage all their death drops:
- Low AC to take numerous strong physical attacks
- A strong weapon to kill monsters quickly
- Sacrificing can give you an artifact weapon to use for further farming
- Gloves to handle cockatrice corpses
- Magic resistance to resist the destroy armor and curse items monster spells
- Reflection to resist attack wands and dragon breath]]
- Escape items if too many monsters spawn or the ones spawned are too much to handle
- A container for storing useful death drops and keeping them out of monsters’ hands
- Means of curing lycanthropy if using werecreatures for farming
- Plenty of food or a ring of slow digestion if you’re following a food-related conduct
- Food also helps save corpses for sacrificing that you’d otherwise have to eat (unless you want their intrinsics)
Sacrificing for gifts
One of the benefits that can be gained from altar farming is sacrifice gifts; with the extremely high number of sacrifices coming in, artifact weapons are much easier to come across, and you can get multiple in case you don’t get the one you want. Of course, the more gifts you receive, the longer it’ll take for you to get your next one. Grayswandir, Vorpal Blade, Magicbane, Fire/Frost Brand, and Stormbringer are all in reasonable reach with the use of altar farming.
Sacrificing to pray
The other benefit of altar farming is that it can very quickly get rid of your prayer timeout so you can repeatedly pray for gifts, favors, and other boons. The ones that are the most worth pursuing include:
- Removing curses without spending holy water
- Increasing your max HP (by bringing yourself to low HP before praying)
- Gaining intrinsic telepathy, speed, stealth and intrinsic protection
- Obtaining spellbooks (you’ll usually get ones in schools you’re not restricted in)
Staying at a high enough level of luck for the best outcomes usually involves carrying around a luckstone, but be careful! If your luck’s too high, there’s a chance you’ll get crowned instead, greatly slowing down the rate at which you can pray. Once you're at max luck, you can avoid crowning by breaking a mirror and putting away your luckstone before praying, and by not making sacrifices once your prayer timeout has expired. You can also prevent crowning (even with maximum luck) by ensuring that your alignment record is below 20 when you pray. This can be checked by using a stethoscope, wand of probing, or enlightenment on yourself and ensuring that you are not piously aligned.