Binder (dNetHack role)

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The Binder is a new role specific to dNetHack. Binders are a new type of spellcasters who conduct rituals and observe special conducts in return for power. They face a difficult early game, but can eventually achieve great power.

The Binder is based on the class of the same name from the DnD 3.5 Tome of Magic. Tome of Magic Binders were, in turn, based on medieval magical traditions such as that found in the Lesser Key of Solomon. The abilities of dNetHack Binders are almost completely dependent on what spirits they have bound.

Binders always follow the gnostic alignment: no creatures are naturally friendly towards them. They can be of any race. Their quest artifact is The Pen of the Void.

              Binders are peasants who have come under the influence of
         the spirits of the outer void. The begin with substandard weapons
         and a small supply of stolen food. Over time, they can gain 
         significant power.

Binders are poor fighters initially, starting with poor quality weapons and low ability stats. The spirits they bind give them great flexibility in the mid- to late game.

Starting equipment

Each binder starts with the following:


Binders are almost completely dependent on the spirits they bind. In game terms, a spirit is a package of:

  • One or more mandatory conducts, known as taboos. Breaking a taboo will drain a level, but leave you one experience point away from the next one (as all level drains do). Note that this level drain ignores drain resistance.
  • Zero or more skills (typically at least one), which are permanently unrestricted and which may be advanced further while the spirit is bound.
  • Zero or more active powers (typically at least one), which may be used up to once every 25 turns by means of the command ^F or #power.
  • Zero or more passive powers (typically at least one), which are used automatically.
  • A mark which, if not concealed, will cause priests and shopkeepers to ban you from their establishments, or worse.
  • Shopkeepers that see 2 or more marks will permanently ban the player even if the marks are covered at a later time.

Binding is done by engraving the spirit's seal in a square, stepping to one side, and #chatting to the seal. In order for the binding to be successful, most spirits' seals must be drawn in a specific location, or when a specific type of item is lying on the square.

Bindings expire after 5000 turns, or when the taboo is broken.

As Binders level up, both the maximum number of spirits bound and the size of the damage dice used by most spirit powers increase. Spirits can be learned in any order.

Level Title Max spirits bound Die size
1–2 Exile 1 1
3–5 Heretic 2 d2
6–9 Cultist 2 d3
10–13 Binder 3 d4
14–17 Akousmatikoi 3+1 d5
18–21 Mathematikoi 4+1 d6
22–25 Doctor 4+1 d7
26–29 Unbinder 5+1 d8
30 Gnostikos 5+2 d9

Spirit summary table

File:Binder Spirits online.ods

The above file is copied from the development notes for the Binder role, and may be useful as a quick summary of what each spirit does.

Gnosis Premonition

A binder of 2nd level or higher without any spirits bound can temporarily bind any spirit whose seal they know for 5 turns. This power may be used once every 125 turns. Spirits bound with Gnosis Premonition are not unbound if their taboo is broken.

Gnosis Premonition is used via ^F or #power.

Basic spirits (the 31 spirits of the near void)

These spirits are learned in random order as Binders increase in level. Other roles may learn of these spirits by finding an engraved seal in a binder bones level or from a few artifacts.

Ahazu Amon Andrealphus Andromalius
Astaroth Balam Berith Buer
Chupoclops Dantalion Echidna Eden
Enki Eurynome Eve Fafnir
Huginn and Muninn Iris Jack Malphas
Marionette Mother Naberius Orthos
Ose Otiax Paimon Shiro
Simurgh Tenebrous Ymir

The following table shows how many of these spirits the binder knows at each level.

Level Total Seals Known
1 3
2 5
3 7
4 10
5 12
6 14
7 17
8 19
9 21
10 24
11 26
12 28
13 31

Quest spirits (the two spirits of the gate)

These two spirits are learned as part of the Binder quest. They share a separate slot, distinct from the slots used to bind the 31 basic spirits.

  • Dahlver-Nar: You learn this spirit's seal when you are admitted to the Binder quest. Being admitted to the quest also automatically binds this spirit into your quest slot. This binding will time out normally, that is, after 5000 turns.
  • Acererak: This spirit's seal is learned after you kill your quest nemesis, who is Acererak himself.

Alignment spirits (the five spirits of conflict)

These spirits are learned as part of the Alignment quests. They share a separate slot, distinct from the slots used to bind the 31 basic spirits and the one used to bind the Quest Spirits.

  • Cosmos: Cosmos is learned from the Black Crystal at the end of the Chaos quest. She allows you to use lawful artifacts safely.
  • Miska: Miska is learned from the Rod of Seven Parts at the end of the Law quest. He allows you to use chaotic artifacts safely.
  • Nudziarth: Nudziarth is learned from the hand-mirror of Cthylla at the end of the Neutral quest. He allows you to use neutral artifacts safely.
  • The Alignment Thing: The Alignment Thing is a hidden alignment spirit which can be learned by obtaining a particular item from all three alignment quests.
  • The Unknown God: The Unknown God is a hidden alignment spirit which can be learned during the Neutral quest.

Crowning spirit

This spirit is gained by getting crowned as a Binder. It occupies its own slot and can never be unbound.

Level 30 spirit (the numberless spirits of the outer void)

This spirit is learned by a 30th level Binder. If bound, the binding will not expire naturally, but can be broken by dropping below 30th level. It too occupies its own slot.

Summary of binding requirements and taboos

Spirit Binding requirement Taboo
Ahazu Bottom of pit Becoming weak with hunger
Amon Level without altar Prayer or Donating to a priest
Andrealphus Corner of room Breaking worked walls
Andromalius Any two of a list of items Using an item marked as stolen
Astaroth A rusted, corroded, burnt, or rotted item Deliberately breaking a mirror, wand, or potion
Balam An ice square Sacrificing an intelligent being
Berith A cavalry item or a blessed silver ring on left finger Killing a pet or former pet
Buer No requirement Using death magic
Chupoclops A grave or corpse of your race Using Wards
Dantalion A throne Destroying thrones
Echidna A cave level Breaking or eating eggs
Eden A fountain Destroying trees or fountains
Enki A square at least 2 squares away from any walls Refusing foocubi (an engagement ring is ok)
Eurynome A water square Resting with '.'
Eve A tree Eating fruit
Fafnir A vault or 1000 gp per level Having 0 gold in open inventory
Huginn and Muninn No requirements, drains 1 int and wis Being put to sleep, suffering from amnesia
Iris A stinking cloud Looking in a mirror or other reflective surface (including enemies)
Jack Not in Gehennom or endgame Entering Gehennom or the endgame, dying.
Malphas A fresh corpse Harming a crow
Marionette A graveyard level Using curse removal
Mother A source of blindness Using genocide
Naberius 14 int and wis Failing to drink at least 1 booze per level
Orthos A hole Spending too much time in the dark
Ose Two adjacent squares of water, able to submerge in water Falling into water
Otiax A locked door Locking a door
Paimon A spellbook Reading a scroll while confused
Shiro 8 stones Using a mummy wrapping
Simurgh A level open to the sky Falling through holes or down stairs
Tenebrous A dark square Spreading light
Ymir A rotting poisonous corpse Sacrificing or eating giants


Binders do not receive intrinsics from leveling up, nor do they receive intrinsics from crowning. Many spirits, however, grant intrinsics while bound.

Intrinsic Spirit
Acid resistance Echidna
Blindness resistance Dantalion
Cold resistance Amon
Confusion resistance Numina
Death resistance Ose
Disease resistance Iris
Disintegration resistance Orthos
Drain resistance Tenebrous
Engulf resistance Ahazu
Fast healing Buer
Fire resistance Fafnir
Free action Eurynome
Half spell damage Balam
Half physical damage Eve
Hallucination resistance Huginn and Muninn
Invisible Shiro
Life saving Jack
Magic resistance Mother
Poison resistance Ymir
Punishment resistance Malphas
Reflection Eden
Resist ability damage Dahlver-Nar
Resist leg injuries Acererak
See invisibility Naberius
Shock resistance Astaroth
Sleep resistance Chupoclops
Stealth Shiro
Stoning resistance Marionette
Stun resistance Numina
Teleport control Andrealphus
Theft resistance Andromalius
Thick skin Enki


Binders can advance in no skills innately, their bound spirits again determine what their abilities are.

Most spirits unrestrict one or more skills. While that spirit is bound, the binder receives a +1 skill rank bonus in the noted skill, and can advance the skill to Skilled (for a cumulative maximum score of Expert).

Skills are permanently unrestricted, but if the Binder advances beyond Basic, they lose access to those additional skill ranks while not bound to the spirit. Skills will be restored to the previous skill level when and if the spirit is rebound. When the spirit is unbound, the skill slots are freed up to allow enhancing other skills, but spirit-specific skill levels will be restored if you rebind the spirit. The special level 30 spirit Numina allows access to all skills, but does not grant bonuses in any skill.

Skill Spirit
Attack spells Naberius
Axe Marionette
Boomerang Enki
Bow Eve
Broadsword Dantalion
Cleric spells Amon
Club Ymir
Crossbow Astaroth
Dagger Andromalius
Dart Enki
Divination spells Mother
Enchantment spells Simurgh
Escape spells Andrealphus
Flail/heavy iron ball Ahazu
Hammer Enki
Harvest Eve
Healing spells Buer
Javelin Enki
Knife Chupoclops
Lance Berith
Long sword Eden
Mace Tenebrous
Martial arts Buer
Matter spells Iris
Musicalize spells Orthos
Pickaxe Fafnir
Polearms Shiro
Quarterstaff Naberius
Riding Berith
Saber Berith
Scimitar Dantalion
Short sword Enki
Shuriken Astaroth
Sling Enki
Spear Huginn and Muninn
Trident Ose
Two-handed sword Dantalion
Unarmed strike Eurynome
Unicorn horn Buer
Whip Balam


Binders have very bad starting stats. While most classes have 75 stat points distributed among the six ability scores, binders have only 55. They start restricted in all skills, giving them −2 to-hit and −4 to damage, on top of their already substandard ability scores.

They start with a base 11 HP, with a racial bonus: +2 for humans, +4 for dwarves, and +1 for gnomes. You gain 1d10 each level below level 15, and 2 HP thereafter.

They start with a base power of 5, with a racial bonus: +2 for gnomes and +1 for humans. You gain 1 energy each time you gain a level.

Invocation Ritual

Binders use the Book of the Dead and Candelabrum of Invocation, but don't have the Bell of Opening. Instead, they must have Otiax bound (not into the Pen) and use the double-bladed Pen's "Void Chime" ability. This duplicates the effect of ringing the bell, and the binder can then light the Candelabrum and read the Book in the normal way.

Binders cannot get the Silver Key; instead they get the Hand-Mirror of Cthylla, which cannot perform the invocation as the Key can. For this reason, a Binder must complete the quest to ascend.

Binders and religion

All Binders worship the Void, a distant deity not recognized by any of the worlds religions. For this, they are hunted by the servants of law, chaos, and neutrality alike, and are listed as belonging to the 'gnostic' alignment.


All binders must deal with two sets of gods over the course of the game.

The Order of Seropaenes

No altars to the Void will be generated in the dungeon. At the beginning of the game, lawful, neutral, and chaotic gods are chosen from among the viable PC alignment-role combinations. Each god is chosen from a different pantheon.

Altars belonging to these gods may be converted as normal, resulting in altars to the Void. Binders cannot convert to another alignment using these altars, nor can other classes convert to the Void using a binder-converted altar in a bones file.

Hostile quest guardians and player monsters belonging to the roles corresponding to the chosen gods will appear in the binder quest.

The Binder pantheon

The true binder pantheon is revealed only when the player reaches the Astral Plane. Binders may only ascend at the neutral high altar, even with a helm of opposite alignment. It is a Bad Idea to try to ascend at a non-void altar.

  • Lawful: Yaldabaoth
  • Neutral: the void
  • Chaotic: Sophia


The Void does not become angry if prayed to before the prayer timeout has elapsed (though, neither does it grant protection). Binders may therefore pray with less uncertainty of the outcome.

Moloch is unable to block the influence of the Void; Binders may therefore pray as normal within gehennom.

Binders may sacrifice any creature on an altar without negative consequences for "same race".

Active powers

Binders also receive active powers from their spirits. Each power may be used once per 25 turns, but requires no energy.

Ability Spirit Effect
Abduction Ahazu Attempt to remove single adjacent monster from the game. You must have injured the monster with a melee attack or a thrown or fired projectile.
Fire Breath Amon Breath a ray of fire.
Transdimensional Ray Andrealphus Fire an invisible beam that passes through walls, teleports struck monsters, and moderately damages them.
Teleport Andrealphus Hungerless teleport.
Jester's Mirth Andromalius Immobilize single adjacent monster with laughter.
Thief's Instincts Andromalius Detect nearby secret doors, traps, etc.
Astaroth's Assembly Astaroth Projects an invisible beam up to 5 spaces in the chosen direction. A electrical explosion centers on the first target struck. This explosion looses 1 die of damage per square traveled. You gain increase AC in inverse proportion to the damage dealt by the explosion.
Astaroth's Shards Astaroth Fires a barrage of shuriken along random ranks. You take damage as well.
Icy Glare Balam Deals ice damage in a ~45 degree wedge. Blinds you for 5 turns.
Balam's Anointing Balam Makes an ice-damage touch attack against a single adjacent creature. Target may be killed outright (10% chance).
Blood Mercenary Berith Fires an invisible beam in a chosen direction. Damage is non-elemental, but must be financed by your visible gold.
Sow Discord Berith Monsters on the level attack each other for a short period of time.
Gift of Healing Buer Heal single adjacent target. May also be used to heal yourself.
Gift of Health Buer Clear most status ailments from single adjacent target. May also be used to remove status ailments from yourself.
Throw Webbing Chupoclops Throw a ball of webbing in a chosen direction.
Thought Travel Dantalion Teleport to chosen creature you can sense telepathically.
Dread of Dantalion Dantalion Cause all monsters in line-of-sight to flee from you.
Earth Swallow Shiro Targets one adjacent square. Digs a pit and then fills it with a boulder.
Echidna's Venom Echidna Spit acid in the chosen direction.
Suckle Monster Echidna Attempt to suckle chosen adjacent monster on your blood. You take damage equal to the target monster's level +1. Monsters must not be mindless and must be an animal or monstrous (snake-like or have no hands).
Purifying Blast Eden Powerful multi-hit attack. Deals 10d damage with a 25 square knockback, followed by a 10d fireball fired along the same line. The blast must charge for 5 turns after the direction is specified, during which the character is immobile.
Recall to Eden Eden Attempts to remove 1 adjacent target from the game. Probability of success is based on your relative HP totals.
Stargate Eden Branchport. Drains your energy.
Walker of Thresholds Enki Teleport to a chosen doorway.
Vengance Eurynome Damage all adjacent creatures that have damaged you with their attacks.
Shape the Wind Eurynome Creates a number of temporary pets.
Thorns and Stones Eve Creates a small stack of ammunition for your currently wielded ranged weapon.
Barrage Eve Fire a large number of your currently quivered items.
Breath Poison Fafnir Create a stinking cloud centered on a chosen point.
Ruinous Strike Fafnir Destroy single adjacent wall or trap. Damage single adjacent nonliving monster or destroy single adjacent golem.
Raven's Talons Huginn and Muninn Damage and blind single adjacent sighted monster, or moderately damage sightless monster.
Horrid Wilting Iris Moderately damage single adjacent monster, and heal yourself for a like amount.
Horrid Rainbow Iris Turn away of slay nearby humanoids and animals.
Refill Lantern Jack Add fuel to a wielded oil lamp.
Hellfire Jack Subtract fuel from a lit, wielded oil lamp to invoke a moderately damaging fireball at a chosen point.
Call Murder Malphas Create a tame crow.
Root Shout Marionette Dig out a line and moderately damage creatures caught in the blast.
Yank Wires Marionette Fling yourself around the dungeon. Distance is based on strength.
Disgusted Gaze Mother Heavily damage one target monster with a bolt of lightning. May paralyze a nearby target. You drop your wielded weapons.
Bloody Tongue Naberius Frighten one adjacent target.
Silver Tongue Naberius Pacify one adjacent target.
Exhalation of the Rift Orthos Fire a line of wind in a chosen direction. Wind throws back creatures and damages them.
Querient Thoughts Ose Potentially damage and put to sleep all hostile, non-mindless creatures on the current level. Power is guaranteed to affect telepathic creatures.
Great Leap Ose Level teleport. Costs a lot of nutrition.
Master of Doorways Otiax Open a door through just about anything. If targeted at a creature, deals damages them, with a chance of causing instant death.
Read Spell Paimon Cast a spell from a wielded spellbook. This spell is not subject to spell failure and does not require magical energy.
Unite the Earth and Sky Simurgh Fill target adjacent pit with water, or grow a tree in target open square.
Hook in the Sky Simurgh Rise up to the dungeon level above you.
Enlightenment Simurgh Cast enlightenment.
Damning Darkness Tenebrous Spread darkness in nearby squares. Damage monsters standing on lit squares, and moderately damage creatures standing on unlit squares.
Touch of the Void Tenebrous Drain a level from one adjacent creature.
Echos of the Last Word Tenebrous Remove single adjacent life-drain or genocide resistant creature from the game.
Poison Gaze Ymir Damage single target creature with a poisonous gaze.
Gap Step Ymir Begin levitating. The natural duration of the levitation effect is equal to 5+Ymir's remaining binding period. You can also cease levitating with '>'.
Moan Dahlver-Nar Frighten and confuse nearby creatures.
Swallow Soul Acererak Kill single adjacent creature.
Identify Inventory Numina Identify items in your pack.
Clairvoyance Numina Map nearby area via clairvoyance.
Find Path Numina Detect the presence of nearby magic portals.


The Binder quest sees you fighting the Acererak. Unlike other roles, the quest reward may be given before you actually complete the quest through sacrificing. The item is the Pen of the Void.


Early game

In the early game you want spirits with offensive powers that do not require attack rolls, as the early game Binder is pretty weak and has difficulty hitting targets. Your limited resources will also make some binding conditions difficult to meet. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will start the game knowing any of these, but the odds of knowing or quickly learning at least one are pretty good. Also a object to engrave with is needed so you want to find one fast.

Spirit Binding notes Other notes
Amon There must not be an altar on the same level as you. The first mines level can be a good place to bind this spirit. Amon's taboo is prayer; also, you can hurt yourself with reflected fire breath. His ability to see in the dark can be very useful for dark mines.
Andrealphus Very easy, all you need is the corner of a room. Very good for increasing your survivability, not so good for killing enemies. Probably the best level 1 spirit.
Astaroth Very easy, all you need is the rusty equipment you start out with. Relatively short-range attack.
Buer Very easy, just draw the seal anywhere No offensive powers, but most low-level enemies can't out-damage Buer's HP regeneration rate. Likely the best choice for binder incantifiers (since they don't regenerate HP normally). He grants skill in martial arts, so you don't need any weapon. You can just unwield the starting knife and punch monsters to death.
Echidna Can be bound on the first mine level. Her offensive power requires a to-hit roll; her reflexive attack is low-damage but early-game enemies don't have a lot of HP.
Eden You need a fountain to bind Eden, minetown or the Oracle level may therefore be required. Remember you can #untrap water/rust traps that you may find in the mines. Eden's offensive power is strong, but works best on slow targets. In all perhaps better as a second spirit than as a first spirit. He also grants the very useful Reflection intrinsic.
Huginn and Muninn Just draw the seal anywhere Their melee power doesn't require an attack role, but blinds the target, rendering them immune to wards.
Mother You need a way to blind yourself, which is RNG-dependent Her gaze attack is powerful, and paralyzes close targets. She also grants magic immunity.
Shiro You need 8 rocks to bind him, which is 3 more than you start with. He grants invisibility and stealth, which are useful for avoiding foes, and his stone choir ability augments the offensive power of early game characters fairly well. He can also be used to cheat at Sokoban, by using his Earth Rend power to fill the holes.
Ymir You need the rotting corpse of a poisonous monster, so any kobold with do (wait at least 50 turns unless the corpse is from a zombie). His mark isn't visible until at least 5000 turns have past, so he does not block the use of any early shops you may find.
Tenebrous Any corridor can be used to bind Tenebrous Tenebrous's mark is difficult to hide, as it requires you to stand in darkness.

Mid game

At this point in the game, you will find that the damage output of your offensive spirit powers starts to lag behind enemy HP totals. Spirits' secondary powers, as well as the skills they grant, become correspondingly more important. By this point, you can probably bind any spirit you want.

Spirit Notes
Eden Since this spirit grants reflection, it may be necessary to keep it bound until you can find an alternate source of reflection.
Mother Likewise, this spirit grants magic resistance.
Tenebrous This spirit grants drain resistance. His Echos of the Last Word power is also useful for countering liches and vampires

Late game

At this point, you should probably have mastered an additional means of fighting, beyond your spirit powers.

Melee Binder

Perhaps the most natural endgame strategy, the Melee Binder favors spirits that improve close-range combat.

  • Six spirits (Amon, Chupoclops, Iris, Naberius, Otiax, and Simurgh) grant extra melee attacks.
  • Miska allows twoweaponing. The Pen can be used in the off-hand, and is likely the strongest off-hand weapon available to any Binder.
  • Additionally, Echidna, Eden, Eurynome, and Fafnir grant retaliatory attacks against foes that strike you in melee.
  • Marionette causes your weapon attacks to strike two squares instead of one.
  • Finally, Ahazu effectively reduces enemy HP by 10% in melee combat.

Hand-to-Hand Binder

A subset of Melee Binders, Hand-to-Hand Binders favor spirits that improve unarmed attacks.

  • Buer grants regeneration, improves your hand-to-hand attacks to martial arts, and grants skill in hand-to-hand fighting.
  • Eden causes your unarmed attacks to count as silver.
  • Eurynome increases the size of your unarmed attack's damage-dice and grants skill in hand-to-hand fighting.
  • Marionette provides stoning resistance, protecting you from c-related YASDs.
  • Dahlver-Nar increases the damage dealt by your unarmed attacks as you take damage.
  • If both Buer and Eurynome are bound, you can advance your hand-to-hand fighting skill up to Grand Master. If only one is bound, you are limited to Expert.

Spellcasting Binder

The spellcasting binder chooses spirits that grant access to magic skills and enhance spellcasting

  • Being able to advance at least one of the magic skills is probably important:
  • Other spirits grant useful abilities
    • Huginn and Muninn: Adjust both Int and Wis to 25, although binding them does drain 1 point from your true ability scores.
    • Paimon
      • When bound into the Pen of the Void, Paimon grants 1 or 2 energy per successful melee attack with the Pen.
      • When bound normally, Paimon can increase the lifespan of spellbooks by draining enemies' lives into the books. Paimon can also be used to cast spells directly from books, without using energy.
    • The Unknown God: Increases energy regeneration rate, you recover 1 energy per turn.

Binders don't strictly use either their wisdom or intelligence for spellcasting, but it depends on what spirits they have bound. Wisdom spirits are Amon, Buer, Mother, and Simurgh, and intelligence spirits are Andrealphus, Naberius, Ose, and Paimon. If they have more wisdom than intelligence spirits they'll use wisdom, and vice versa. If they've got equal, then they'll use the max of the two scores. If they have none bound, they will use the minimum of the two scores. With Numina, they will use the max with either equal numbers of int and wis spirits or one less for either (2 and 3, or 3 and 4, but not 2 and 4).

Projectile Binder

  • Andrealphus's Teleport power allows you to easily relocate yourself, and his Transdimensional Ray can send away monsters that get too close for comfort.
  • Dantalion's Dread of Dantalion power frightens nearby enemies, potentially giving you some additional breathing room. He also improves the damage dealt by ranged weapons.
  • Eve's barrage power allows you to put a lot of ammo in the air when it counts. Her Thorns and Stones power creates ammo for your current weapon.
  • Orthos's Exhalation of the Rift knocks back targets in a 3-square wide line, allowing you to keep your targets at range.