Cult (dNetHack)

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Cults are a feature in dNetHack, notdNetHack and notnotdNetHack that center around sacrifice to "lesser" or less-involved deities. Theoretically, all cults can be all be joined regardless of alignment, but each cult has an alignment of deities that accept worship of the cult god alongside them; gods of mismatched alignments regard it the same way as sacrifice to a rival deity.

There are currently three cults, with one for each alignment: lawful, neutral, and chaotic.


Cults differ from a normal religion in a few key ways:

  1. Rather than giving gifts randomly when the conditions are met, valid sacrifices to a cult deity build up favor, which functions similarly to piety from FIQhack. Using the holy symbol to acquire a boon spends accumulated favor. These holy symbols may be (a)pplied to access a menu where you can select boons, so long as you have the favor and devotion for it.
  2. There are two types of boons: major and minor. Minor boons only cost a small amount of favor to be granted, but major boons require an amount of lifetime favor (referred to as 'devotion') to be earned before they are eligible for selection. Claiming any boon reduces your favor by its cost, but your devotion remains the same. The devotion threshold for major boons to be offered goes up with the more major boons claimed.
  3. Favor is accumulated more slowly while you have existing favor. The exact formula for diminishing returns is cult-dependent, but the more favor you have, the less favor (and by extension devotion) you get from most sources. To maximize devotion, and therefore major boons, spending accumulated favor often is required.
  4. The cult item will change appearance depending on your current favor and devotion, allowing you to see at a glance your current progress towards minor or major boons.
  5. Receiving any boons taxes your sanity. Expect to go at least somewhat insane if you go all in on occultism.
  6. A helm of opposite alignment will allow you to sacrifice to a cross-aligned cult god. However, the most powerful boons from each cult will sacrifice enemies as part of their function, which forces you stay that alignment forever or risk divine punishment. However, Binders, Anachrononauts, and Madpeople that follow the path of detestation can freely interact with all cults as they wish, as they will never suffer the effects of cross-aligned sacrifice.

The Black Mother

The Black Mother, also called "The Black Goat" or simply the "Goat", is the chaotic aligned cult deity. Joining her cult requires offering items at one of her 'altars', of which there are two guaranteed ones in the game - on back to back levels deep in the Lost Cities. Altars to the goat can also rarely be found in garden special rooms in the main dungeon. However, they are not normally visible under 60 insight. When on a level containing one, you will occasionally hear a 'viscous liquid dripping' onto the altar, or see the viscous liquid dripping if you have line of sight to the tile it's located on. This will mark the tile with an I for an unseen monster, and #offering while standing on that square will function as an altar. Normal altars that profess to be for the Black Mother are not an actual means to communicate with her, though they may exist on the same square.

Both levels also contain a substantial portion of her followers, which will be permanently pacified if you make any offering to her while on the same level as them. The twelfth level of the Depths contains an altar to Goat in the top-left corner, and the thirteenth in the bottom-right corner. The former level is mostly covered in grass and contains various goat spawn & witches, and the goat spawn count as Her followers. The latter is primarily occupied by Migo that worship the Goat, with the altar being located behind a massive horde of them.

After making sufficient offerings to the Black Goat, a 'tarnished triple goat-head' will be dropped at your feet, signifying your full membership in the cult. When identified, it will reveal itself to be a holy symbol of the Goat herself. It can be applied to interact with the cult from then on, or buried in the ground to grow another altar somewhere else in the dungeon. If the symbol is lost or destroyed, a new one can be acquired by offering at an altar again.


Yog-Sothoth, sometimes called simply Yog, is the neutral aligned cult deity. Unlike the other two cults, Yog-Sothoth does not have a direct cult item to commune with it. Instead, it is communed with by binding its seal. The seal takes the place of an alignment spirit, and the cult membership is considered 'active' while it is bound to your soul. While bound, you will gain blood-sucking tentacles that passively drink from hostile monsters adjacent to you. Allowing these tentacles to feed will raise your favor with Yog-Sothoth, allowing you to commune with it via an active spirit power. This active power simply cannot be used without enough favor for at least a minor boon, instead of changing appearance with favor and devotion gained.

Yog-Sothoth's seal can be learned in one of three means.

  1. Invoking the Silver Key on a proper altar to Yog-Sothoth, which are only found in R'lyeh. This is guaranteed to occur in every game, but never for Binders.
  2. Standing in the center of a circle of standing stones, a rare inclusion found in the wild Outlands of the Neutral Quest. This is not guaranteed to occur in every game, and is entirely random.
  3. Solving a hyperborean dial, a puzzle item that when completed, teaches the character the seal. This item can only be solved by sleeping for a long period of time with it in your inventory, and requires 6 progressively longer naps to make progress. The time necessary goes down substantially with intelligence, and is halved if you possess extrinsic narcolepsy (from an amulet of restful sleep). Dials do not randomly generate, but one is guaranteed in both the Binder & Madman quest.

The Silver Flame

The Silver Flame is a lawful aligned cult deity. It is the only cult that can always be found in the main dungeon, but it cannot be joined until the player has at least 10 insight. In addition, it has more stages of cult boons than the other two cults. When joining, the base boon object property will be applied to an eligible weapon in your inventory (if you lack any, you cannot join), and favor & devotion are used to acquire subsequent upgrades or spread the Silver Flame to other items.

To find the Silver Flame's location, one must look in a mirror with above 10 insight. If in the main dungeon, you will receive a message indicating the silver light "above", "below", or some cardinal direction away from you. The SIlver Flame's location is randomly placed anywhere in the main dungeon, and those messages will tell you which directly to search. Once you are on the level with it, the directions will get more specific the closer you are to the correct square. Applying the mirror on the correct square with an eligible item will transform the square into the cult item (a purified mirror, which appears as a silver disk when unidentified) and grant the Flame to the chosen item.