Binder (dNetHack role)

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The Binder is a role specific to dNetHack. Binders are 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 abilities of dNetHack Binders are almost completely dependent on what spirits they have bound.

Binders always follow the gnostic alignment: only peasants 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

Dwarvish Binders start with the following:

Elven Binders start with the following:

Vampire Binders start with the following:

Female droven Binders start with the following:

Male droven Binders start with the following:

Other Binders start with the following:

Other unlisted racial modifications are sizing for gnomes and chiropterans, iron items converted to mithril for yuki-onna, spellbooks for incantifiers, and any racial items substitutions for equipment like knives to orcish daggers.


Binders are almost completely dependent on the spirits they bind. 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. For information about the spirits possible to bind, see Spirits (dNetHack).

Binders have a certain number of spirit slots for them per level, while non-Binders can bind a maximum of one Spirit of the Near Void at a time. Binders learn a certain number of seals of spirits of the Near Void as they level up, eventually learning all 31.

Level range Binder rank title Max spirits bound Total seals known Spirit die size
1 Exile 1 3 1
2 5
3 Heretic 2 7 2
4 10
5 12
6 Cultist 14 3
7 17
8 19
9 21
10 Binder 3 24 4
11 26
12 28
13 31
14–17 Akousmatikoi 5
18–21 Mathematikoi 4 6
22–25 Doctor 7
26–29 Unbinder 5 8
30 Gnostikos 9

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.


Binders cannot advance any skills innately - their bound spirits 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 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 spirit Numina allows access to all skills up to Skilled, but does not grant bonuses in any skill.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Does spirit binding raise skill ranks (as well as unrestricting the skills) for non-Binders?"


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.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Clarify spellcasting armor penalties, special spell, casting stat?"

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 invoke the double-bladed Pen. 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

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"More regarding binders and alignment record, please? E.g., any alignment boost - as with chaotics - for same-race sacrifice?"

All Binders worship the Void, a distant deity not recognized by any of the world's 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 (including 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

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Are some neutral beings on the Astral Plane friendly to Binders, or are they all (effectively?) renegades?"

The true pantheon is revealed only when the player reaches the Astral Plane:

  • Mundane (Lawful): Yaldabaoth
  • Gnostic (Neutral): the Void
  • Xaotic (Chaotic): Pistis Sophia

(All angels and priests encountered on the Astral Plane will be of either one of these or Moloch.) Binders may only ascend at the gnostic high altar, even with a helm of opposite alignment. It is a Bad Idea to try to ascend at a non-void altar.

Prayer and Sacrifice

The Void cannot become angry at all. This makes prayer much safer, since a prayer too early will not anger the Void (but it still fails and won't grant protection). You can still make unholy water, it just will not anger the Void as a side effect.

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

Binders may sacrifice without any negative consequences for same-race sacrifice, and cannot permanently convert to another alignment.


The Binder quest sees you fighting Acererak. Unlike other roles, the quest reward may be given before you actually complete the quest through sacrificing, but otherwise Acererak will generate with the Pen of the Void.

A Binder cannot be permanently barred from the quest. Bad alignment will just send them away, but the number of failed attempts has no effect. This is to make the game always winnable, since the Silver Key doesn't appear for Binders.


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 The Gnomish Mines, or any level you've fully explored, are good places for binding. It's possible to die from failing to bind Amon at level 1. Amon's taboo is prayer, which some races like clockworks may rely on. Remember that you can still hurt yourself with reflected fire breath. Darkvision is helpful for the 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. One of the better level 1 spirits.
Buer Very easy, just draw the seal anywhere No offensive powers, but increases survivability immensely. Martial arts means that you don't have to start searching for a better weapon just yet. Quite possibly the best early-game spirit possible.
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. Synergizes well with Buer or Eurynome for increased unarmed damage.
Eden You need a fountain to bind Eden, which may only come at the Oracle or Minetown. Remember you can #untrap water/rust traps that you may find in the mines. Reflection prevents death by GWTWOD. Branchport becomes usable as soon as the mines are entered. Eden's offensive power is strong, but works best on slow targets. Overall, perhaps better as a second spirit than as a first spirit.
Enki A large room isn't that hard to find. Enki's Geyser is acceptable damage, and he gives you multiple early-game weapon options. His teleportation can be used to escape in a pinch, but is not quite as useful in the Mines.
Eurynome Shallow water can be used to bind Eurynome, or the ground floor of the Windowless Tower. If you're careful with the taboo, Eurynome's unarmed damage can be quite nice. In a pinch, her Shape the Wind can help you.
Huginn and Muninn Just draw the seal anywhere. Their melee power doesn't require an attack roll, but blinds the target - unfortunately 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. Magic resistance makes the lower mines substantially safer.
Shiro You need 8 rocks to bind him, which is (only) 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 filling the holes.
Tenebrous Any corridor can be used to bind Tenebrous. Tenebrous grants multiple attack powers that work vs. a variety of targets. However, his mark is difficult to hide, as it requires you to stand in darkness. Moreover, his early-game weapon skills and actives aren't always incredibly effective.
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 passed, so he does not block the use of any early shops you may find.

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. Branchporting can be quite helpful to travel around.
Mother Magic resistance is almost essential if you haven't found another source yet.
Tenebrous This spirit grants drain resistance. His Echos of the Last Word power is also useful for countering liches and vampires. Helpful for the quest, so that Acererak can't drain you to death.

Late game

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



A subset of melee combat, but can be equally as effective.

  • Buer grants regeneration, improves your barehanded attacks to martial arts, and grants skill in bare-handed combat.
  • Eurynome increases the size of your unarmed attack's damage-dice and grants skill in bare-handed fighting.
  • 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. This can let you name (the) Grandmaster's Robe once you reach level 30.
  • Miska will still grant extra attacks, but to prevent his arms from choosing weapons, you must have no valid weapons or weapon-tools in open inventory.


Binders don't strictly use either their wisdom or intelligence for spellcasting; it depends on what spirits they have bound. Wisdom spirits are Amon, Buer, Mother, Simurgh, and Dahlver-Nar, and intelligence spirits are Andrealphus, Naberius, Paimon, and Acererak. If the Binder has more wisdom than intelligence spirits they'll use wisdom, and vice versa. Ose overrides this and makes them use charisma regardless of any other bound spirits. 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 bound, 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).


  • 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.
  • Andrealphus's Teleport power allows you to easily relocate yourself, and his Transdimensional Ray can send away monsters that get too close for comfort.
  • Astaroth grants skill in crossbows and shuriken, which opens up more weapon possibilities.
  • Dantalion's Dread of Dantalion power frightens nearby enemies, potentially giving you some additional breathing room. His damage bonus applies to all attacks, including ranged ones, unlike a standard strength bonus.
  • Orthos's Exhalation of the Rift knocks back targets in a 3-square wide line, allowing you to keep your targets at range.
  • Nudzirath makes certain kinds of ammo explode, and can be helpful with a droven crossbow.


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.