Conducts are various limitations players may set to themselves to make the game more challenging. The game keeps track of your conducts and shows them at the end of the game. You may also see them any time by using the extended command #conduct. Conducts only apply to actions in game; a priest "should" believe in a god but does not automatically lose atheist conduct, and classes that begin the game with learned spells can play illiterate.
The "official" conducts are the conducts that the game tracks.
When you start the game, the list of conducts looks as follows:
Voluntary challenges: You have gone without food. You have been an atheist. You have never hit with a wielded weapon. You have been a pacifist. You have been illiterate. You have never genocided any monsters. You have never polymorphed an object. You have never changed form. You have used no wishes.
Vegans refrain from eating anything which comes from an animal. Vegans may eat:
- food rations, cram rations, K-rations, C-rations and lembas wafers
- melons, oranges, carrots, pears, apples, bananas, kelp, eucalyptus, garlic, wolfsbane, and user-defined fruit
- the corpse of any monster (or a tin of its 'meat') represented by b, j, or F.
- tins of spinach.
When polymorphed into something with a digest attack, vegans may consume monsters that leave vegetarian corpses, as well as corpseless monsters such as ghosts and yellow lights, which are hardly even food. Additionally, vegans may eat jewelry. The exceptions are flesh and leather golems, which are obviously also not vegetarian.
Vegetarians may, on top of vegan foods, eat:
- brown puddings, gray oozes and green slimes
- eggs, pancakes, fortune cookies, candy bars, royal jelly and cream pies
- wax candles (but not tallow candles)
All other comestibles break the conduct.
All of the food restriction conducts make it much harder to gain intrinsics, as the main source of intrinsics is eating corpses. When paired with other conducts such as polyselfless and/or atheist, it can make gaining some intrinsics impossible.
An atheist hero is not involved with religion in any way. You must not drop any objects on an altar unless blind, #pray, #turn undead as a priest or knight, #offer to gods (with the exception of offering the Amulet of Yendor to complete the game), or even #chat with priests. Atheists may, however, make use of holy or unholy water if they obtain some without praying. You may engrave on an altar to decrease Luck or wisdom, or destroy it with a wand of digging or a drum of earthquake.
4.0% of all winning accounts on NAO have an atheist ascension.
Most religious benefits can be replaced:
- Holy water is most easily made with a confused scroll of remove curse.
- Luck can be maximized by throwing valuable gems at a coaligned unicorn.
- An artifact weapon can be wished for. Other sources include dipping for Excalibur, finding one in bones or randomly generated, or simply doing without.
- Divine protection: enchant your armor to compensate partially. In theory, you can also eat rings of protection.
- Blessing/curse identification can either be done with a pet or by formally identifying objects. Both methods have drawbacks that characterize an atheist game -- see below.
- Emergency prayer is not a reliable substitute for an escape item to begin with, but atheists need to be especially well-prepared and cautious.
An "uncursed scroll of enchant armor" and a "scroll of enchant armor named uncursed" WILL NOT STACK FOR BLESSING, unless you formally BUC the second one. Formal and informal BUC together give you 10 states to worry about. Don't indiscriminately fully identify items, to make sure your inventory stacks appropriately.
Items which are formally IDed are formally BUCed, but an item can be formally BUCed without being formally IDed, e.g. by dipping it in (un)holy water.
If the BUC of a formally BUCed item changes, you will know immediately (e.g. a lich curses it). If the item is merely informally BUCed, you will not get any warning. This makes spellcasting monsters and Rodney's harrassment particularly nasty for atheists. It is a good idea to formally BUC your unicorn horn, bag of holding, and luckstone. At least retest your unicorn horn after a fight with a cursing monster.
- Everything in Curse-testing EXCEPT altar testing. Do not drop items on an altar. Do not even go near one. You do not want to drop something on it by mistake.
- Scroll of identify. If you identify an item, it will no longer stack with unIDed items of its type and BUC. A stack of "Q - 15 daggers named +0 probably uncursed, maybe blessed" (enchantment derived from price ID) will automatically merge with any more +0 uncursed daggers you pick up, identifying their BUC for free. If you identify your stack of daggers "Q - 15 uncursed +0 daggers", that won't happen.
- Scroll of remove curse. Read a uncursed one and none of your worn or wielded items remain cursed. Read a blessed one and none of the items in your inventory stay cursed.
- Uncursed potions of water have a base cost of 5, blessed and cursed ones both have a base cost of 100.
- Potions of water or juice are uncursed if made by #dipping a unicorn horn into confusion, hallucination, blindness, or sickness. Exception: a cursed horn makes cursed juice.
- Unicorn horns dropped by unicorns will always be uncursed (and +0).
- If you pick up a scroll of scare monster from the ground, you know for a fact that its uncursed, though you don't know whether the scroll was blessed (and therefore safe to pick up once more).
- Use the item and see what it does. Don't do this unless you know it won't hurt you or waste resources unduly.
- Relative frequency. For most items, uncursed is more common. If you have two stacks of teleport scrolls, the stack of 15 is probably uncursed, whereas the stack of 2 is probably either cursed or blessed.
- Watch your stacks. "a scroll labeled HACKEM MUCHE" and "a scroll labeled HACKEM MUCHE" will stack, unless they are of different BUC. If you pay attention, and subsequently BUC one of the stacks, (say it turns out to be uncursed), then you know for a fact that the other is either blessed or cursed and can name it accordingly.
A pacifist is a player who does not directly kill any monster. A pacifist may, however, use a wielded weapon if they take care not to kill the victim.
Never hit with a wielded weapon
This is mostly self-explanatory. Throwing weapons, firing missiles and using wands is allowed. Hitting with other objects than weapons does not break this conduct. Thus you may very well use a cockatrice corpse as a weapon should you acquire one. Pick-axes, unicorn horns, and grappling hooks, however, do count as weapons, even though they are shown in the tool-category. Applying a bullwhip only breaks conduct if the target is not wielding a weapon. When trying to maintain a weaponless conduct, one should be very careful when wielding a pick-axe for digging.
Being illiterate means that you do not read or write anything. This includes scrolls, spellbooks and even fortune cookie messages and t-shirts. Scrolls of mail (e.g. from users viewing your game on public servers) also break the conduct (although this is a bug), so it is advisable to turn off the mail option when attempting to be illiterate (except on NAO, where this bug is fixed). Using a magic marker is also banned. Reading random engravings you may encounter does not break this conduct. Engraving anything but an x, such as Elbereth, also breaks this conduct.
Never polymorph an object
"Polyless" conduct means never causing an object to be polymorphed via spell, wand, or potion of polymorph. Polymorphing monsters does not break this conduct. You don't need to worry about polymorphing previously carried items dropped by the monster as a result of polymorphing; they will not be polymorphed. However, there may be objects on the floor below the monster which you cannot see.
This conduct is comparatively easy: 42.3% of all winning accounts on NAO have a polypile-less ascension.
Never change form
"Polyselfless" conduct means never changing into another monster, including from lycanthropy. Becoming a new man/woman/orc/etc does not count as changing, and neither does turning into a pile of gold/orange by eating a mimic corpse.
This conduct is easy to break inadvertently by wandering into an unknown polytrap. Nevertheless, it is relatively easy: 73.5% of all winning accounts on NAO achieve it.
Fully 33.1% of all winning accounts on NAO achieve this conduct at least once.
Wishless, artifact wishless
Two wishing-related conducts are tracked: wishing for anything and wishing for artifacts. If you wish for, say, a silver dragon scale mail, you still have the artifact-wishless conduct. However, if you wish for any artifact, you lose both conducts, regardless if the wish was granted.
Unofficial conducts are conducts that are not tracked by the vanilla version of the game. They are enforced by the players themselves only.
It is theoretically possible to explore the entire dungeon, and not come across seven candles. Izchak's lighting shop is guaranteed, but it is not guaranteed to have enough of them. If you have explored all branches of the dungeon and still not enough have been generated, you will have to obtain the remainder through one of the following means:
- Wishing for them: violates wishless conduct
- Polymorphing tools: violates polypileless conduct
- Death drops: violates pacifist conduct
In effect, a lack of candles can make a game unwinnable without violating one of these three conducts.
This problem is solved by several variants. AceHack and NetHack 4 allow for gnomes to death-drop candles even if killed using a pet (and thus, spare candles are obtainable without breaking pacifist conduct); likewise, wax golems drop candles no matter how they die, in the variants in which they exist. GruntHack guarantees at least seven candles in the lighting shop. UnNetHack includes wax golems and sometimes generates gnomes with candles in their inventory.