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.
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.
There are several ways to gain an experience level, ranging from obvious to somewhat obscure:
- Experience points (mostly from killing monsters).
- Quaffing a blessed or uncursed potion of gain level.
- Eating a wraith corpse.
- Chance from incubus or succubus encounter.
- Chance when polymorphing into your own race.
- Chance of regaining a lost level when praying successfully at a coaligned altar.
- Regaining a lost level when quaffing a potion of full healing. Up to half of your lost levels can be regained this way.
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.
It's also possible to lose your hard-earned experience levels:
- Level drain attacks
- Chance from foocubus encounter
- Chance when receiving a god's anger from incorrect prayer or sacrifice
- Chance when polymorphing into your own race
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. You will be just one experience point away from regaining the lost level. 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.
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|
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.
- 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.
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.
- exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 142
- exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 163
- exper.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 133
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