Experience level

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Your experience level in NetHack is a measure of the overall power of your hero and progress of your adventure. The more experienced you are, the better you become at both fighting and magic.

Experience points (XP) are the units that you accumulate to increase your level. Depending on the showexp option, you may see a display of your XP or only see your current experience level.

You start at level 1 and can reach a maximum level of 30. Monsters also have an experience level defined, but it can only be seen with a wand of probing, stethoscope, or Magicbane. These will also show your own level unless you are polymorphed. In that case, you could work backward from spell failure rates.


Gaining an experience level will have a number of effects on gameplay:

  • Increases your maximum hit points
  • Increases your maximum energy
  • Increases your skill slots by one
  • Increases your chance of hitting in combat
  • Increases your chance of successfully learning a spell from spellbook
  • Decreases your spell failure rate
  • Increases damage done by certain spells (e.g., magic missile)
  • Increases difficulty of monsters generated
  • Changes your rank, based on your role (and possibly gender)
  • Characters at level 12 or more can teleport at will if they have teleportitis
  • Characters at level 14 or more can attempt the Quest
  • Increases your chance of converting an altar
  • Increases your chance of successfully playing certain musical instruments
  • Scrolls will have more meaningful error messages once you aren't considered a beginner anymore ("You have a strange feeling, then it passes.")

Experience level has no direct effect on your attributes.

Gaining levels

There are several ways to gain an experience level, ranging from obvious to somewhat obscure:

You may never gain more than one experience level at a time; killing a water demon at XP1:0 will only put you on 2:39, not 4:169 as might be expected. (You can, however, gain multiple experience levels in a single turn, as for example when a beginner character manages to destroy many creatures at once with an exploding gas spore.)

If you are already at level 30, experience points will not raise your level. Except for polymorph, the "Gain level" methods above will cause your maximum HP and energy to increase.

Losing levels

It's also possible to lose your hard-earned experience levels:

Drain resistance protects against all these except polymorph. If you kill anything after losing an experience level you immediately gain it back, but only one level can be restored in this way. A blessed potion of full healing will also restore a lost level, but only up to half of those lost. For this reason care should be taken when fighting wraiths.

When losing a level, your HP and maximum HP are both decreased by the same amount you would have gained by gaining a level, down to a minimum of one. Energy and maximum energy work similarly, down to a minimum of zero.[1] You will be just one experience point away from regaining the lost level.[2] Being drained below experience level one is deadly, although an amulet of life saving can rescue you, leaving you at level one with no experience.[3]

There are several uses for intentionally lowering your level; these are typically referred to as "drain for gain".

Experience points required per level

Level NetHack - XP required SLASH'EM - XP required dNethack - XP required
1 0 0 0
2 20 40 20
3 40 80 50
4 80 160 100
5 160 320 200
6 320 640 400
7 640 1280 800
8 1280 2560 1600
9 2560 5120 3200
10 5120 10000 6400
11 10000 20000 10000
12 20000 40000 14000
13 40000 80000 19000
14 80000 150000 25000
15 160000 250000 32000
16 320000 300000 41000
17 640000 350000 52000
18 1280000 400000 65000
19 2560000 450000 80000
20 5120000 500000 97000
21 10000000 550000 117000
22 20000000 600000 140000
23 30000000 650000 166000
24 40000000 700000 195000
25 50000000 750000 227000
26 60000000 800000 263000
27 70000000 850000 303000
28 80000000 900000 347000
29 90000000 950000 395000
30 100000000 1000000 450000

The following graphs show the amount of XP required for each level. These should clearly illustrate the significant difference between the leveling curve in SLASH'EM and NetHack.

Slash'em XP amount required for each levelNetHack XP amount required for each level


Welcome to experience level <x>.
You have gained a level.
Aloha level <x>.
You have lost a level as a Tourist.
Sayonara level <x>.
You have lost a level as a Samurai.
Farvel level <x>.
You have lost a level as a Valkyrie.
Fare thee well level <x>.
You have lost a level as a Knight.
Punardarsanaya level <x>.
(in UnNetHack) You have lost a level as a Monk.
Goodbye level <x>.
You have lost a level as any other role.


Monsters also have experience levels, but they are largely a function of their maximum hit points. When a monster (usually a pet) kills a monster, it gains a few maximum hit points. As opposed to players, it does not gain current hit points from the maxHP increase. See also growing up.


Using draw blood to make a potion of vampire blood drains an experience level, and you are put at the minimum experience for the new level. Killing a wimpy monster won't get the level back.

As opposed to vanilla, in SLASH'EM a character will usually gain enough experience to reach XL30 naturally without pudding farming or other degenerate means. This advantage is slightly balanced by the higher experience requirement at low levels; thus most early characters will be about one level lower than their vanilla counterparts.


  1. exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 142
  2. exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 163
  3. exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 133

External links

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