The Convict is a role added in the Convict Role patch and also in UnNetHack, Slash'EM Extended, SLASHTHEM, dNetHack and DynaHack. It was designed to be more difficult than Tourist (statistically the most difficult class in vanilla NetHack), a goal at which it succeeds handily.
Convicts always start out as chaotic. In the original patch they can be humans, dwarves, gnomes, or orcs. UnNetHack adds vampires as a starting option, and dNetHack adds elves, vampires and incantifiers. Slash'EM Extended unrestricts all race and alignment combinations.
A Convict also starts chained to an iron ball and with a sewer rat named Nicodemus (reference to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH) as a pet, which can grow up to be unusually large. Additionally, convicts can pacify and tame other rats by #chatting with them.
Convicts gain intrinsics at these experience levels:
The convict quest sees you fighting Warden Arianna for the Iron Ball of Liberation, a heavy iron ball that grants magic resistance, stealth, searching and warning. When invoked, it allows phasing for a limited time. The downsides are its weight (almost as heavy as a normal iron ball) and the fact that it chains itself to the player every time its power is invoked.
- Lawful: Ilmater
- Neutral: Grumbar
- Chaotic: Tymora
Ilmater is the god of martyrdom and perseverence. His followers seek to ease the suffering of others, even if it requires enduring suffering themselves. He is described as similar to the god Issek in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber.
Grumbar is the Elemental Lord of Earth, known for constancy and changelessness, but also indifference. He is influenced by the god Grome in the Elric series by Michael Moorcock.
Tymora is the goddess of good fortune, invoked by risk-takers and adventurers. She is inspired by the Greek goddess Tyche.
The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:
- XL 1-2: Detainee
- XL 3-5: Inmate
- XL 6-9: Jail-bird
- XL 10-13: Prisoner
- XL 14-17: Outlaw
- XL 18-21: Crook
- XL 22-25: Desperado
- XL 26-29: Felon
- XL 30: Fugitive
Convicts start the game on the verge of becoming hungry, with no food in their inventory and no ability to pray for food. Their ability to descend through the dungeon looking for food is also limited by the iron ball chained to them, as they face death from falling down the stairs. It is advisable to always wield the ball before attempting to descend, as that will reduce the damage to 1-9 (average 5) instead of the 1-26 (average 11) you will take if the ball falls on you. You should wield the iron ball most of the time anyway, as it makes a superb weapon, doing d25 damage (average 13), which is higher than any non-artifact, even a dwarvish mattock – if you can hit with it. For a convict (and a convict only), fighting with the iron ball advances flail skill, which can eventually reach expert.
The early game is dominated by a desperate search for food. It is therefore critical to get the most out of any food they do find. Convicts burn nutrition at half the normal rate while hungry or worse, meaning that you should wait to eat food rations and the like until you are at least weak with hunger. Convicts are also immune to sickness from level one, enabling them to eat tainted corpses. In particular this allows them to eat corpses left by zombies and mummies, and to finish every last bite of their kills without worrying about how long the corpse has been lying there.
Races that are normally friendly to them (e.g. gnomes and dwarves to themselves and each other) are hostile to the Convict. This may influence the decision whether to do the Gnomish Mines or Sokoban first. The Minetown watch will also be hostile to Convicts, making the mines an even less appealing early destination. However, a short foray into the mines can yield good armor and numerous edible corpses.
The convict's difficulty in obtaining food and equipment is compounded by the fact that shopkeepers who see his striped shirt will not allow him to enter their shops (and will remember him if he later removes or covers the shirt). An exception to this is the Black market, where the convict will receive a reduction in prices instead.
Once he manages to free himself from his heavy iron ball, a convict will need another weapon to fight with. A convict has a guaranteed first sacrifice gift called the Luck Blade, a chaotic short sword which also acts as a luckstone. Given that he will only be able to reach basic, however, this is likely to only be a viable weapon in the early game.