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The monk is one of the player roles in NetHack. The monk is always human, and can be lawful, neutral or chaotic. He or she is a martial-artist conforming to the "Shaolin Monk" stereotype. From the guidebook:

Monks are ascetics, who by rigorous practice of physical and
mental disciplines have become capable of fighting as effectively
without weapons as with. They wear no armor but make up for it
with increased mobility.

The Monk is a good choice for a player who wants to practice both magic and hand-to-hand combat, but isn't interested in using weapons. It is a good class with which to achieve conducts.

Monks know all nonmagical armors from the start. Their special spell is restore ability. When crowned they get a spellbook of restore ability instead of the standard crowning sword.

Starting equipment


Monks gain intrinsics at these experience levels:[6]

In essence, Monks automatically acquire all of the intrinsics granted by crowning (and then some) by the time they reach Level 17. That and their nearly worthless crowning gift of a spellbook of restore ability suggests that a Monk should probably avoid being crowned so as to preserve a shorter prayer timeout.

Code of conduct

The things that make a monk unique are the penalties imposed for non-Monkish behavior:


Monks feel guilty about eating non-vegetarian food, and suffer a small alignment penalty (-1 alignment) for doing so. As compensation for this, they gain intrinsics rapidly as they level up. The penalty can be considered a fair price for getting otherwise tricky to find intrinsics, such as telepathy or disintegration resistance. Because of these intrisics, many players who want to play a vegetarian, vegan, or foodless character choose monk. However, in general monks should not feel required to maintain the vegetarian conduct. Unless they eat enough meat to make their alignment negative they shouldn't have any problems.

No body armor, no shield

Monks are penalized for wearing body armor (all armors and mails; this doesn't include robes, cloaks and shirts) with a -20 to-hit penalty.[7] Other types of armor (boots, gloves, and helms) carry no penalty. For a low-level Monk it is virtually impossible to hit while wearing body armor. However, some players start using body armor once they have reached a high experience level with enough dexterity, strength and luck to overcome the to-hit penalty. The armor penalty doesn't apply if you are polymorphed, so a monk that gets his hands on a ring of polymorph control can turn into, say, a vampire lord and have no problem hitting while wearing armor.

Monks get additional hit bonus when not wearing a body armor nor a shield and not wielding a weapon. This bonus is experience level / 3 + 2.

Wearing a shield or body armor makes a Monk incapable of dealing a "staggering blow", reducing his or her effectiveness in martial arts.


Monk is the only role other than Wizard that can achieve at least a Basic proficiency in every magical school. They can also advance to Skilled in Clerical and Escape spells and Expert in Healing. This broad array of possible spells is useful for any Monk, but especially for one attempting a weaponless conduct.

Their starting robe gives Monks a massive bonus to spellcasting as well, twice what any other role gets from wearing one. Even taking into account base spellcasting penalties, a Monk will still enjoy a better total bonus with a robe than even a Wizard.

Since any Monk planning to make heavy use of spellcasting lacks a Wizard's inherent access to hungerless casting and accelerated energy regeneration, it is definitely worth identifying a ring of slow digestion and, for a neutral Monk with a wish to burn, acquiring The Eye of the Aethiopica. NB: the Eye confers its benefits when carried, so you will get blasted less frequently than with other intelligent artifacts.


Monk skills
Max Skills
Grand Master

Monks start with Basic skill in Martial arts and Healing spells. The initial spellcasting skills are hardcoded in the function skill_init in WEAPON.C, so even Monks starting with other spellbooks than healing start unskilled in Clerical or Enchantment , but still basic skilled in Healing.


Main article: Monk quest

In the Monk quest, the player fights Master Kaen for the Eyes of the Overworld.

Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:[8]

  • XL 1-2: Candidate
  • XL 3-5: Novice
  • XL 6-9: Initiate
  • XL 10-13: Student of Stones
  • XL 14-17: Student of Waters
  • XL 18-21: Student of Metals
  • XL 22-25: Student of Winds
  • XL 26-29: Student of Fire
  • XL 30: Master


No weapon

A Monk is probably the best role for attempting a weaponless conduct. There is no actual penalty for using weapons; however, this can still be considered a restriction because Monks can attain proficiency in very few weapon skills, but can train up to Grand Master in martial arts. On the other hand, a highly-enchanted double-damage weapon like one of the Brands, even at Unskilled, will do significantly more damage than martial arts at Grand Master level. See The Monk FAQ for an in-depth comparison of average damage. Monks not attempting the weaponless conduct may want to switch to using an artifact weapon once they get something powerful enough (and once they are high enough level to hit monsters even with the Unskilled to-hit penalty). Alternatively, using their existing weapon skills, a fully enchanted silver spear wielded with gauntlets of power can also be effective, especially in Gehennom against the numerous silver-haters.


One of the key parts of playing the monk is the starting alignment choice. Playing as a lawful monk is the most difficult, as it has a tough code of conduct. It does, however, offer access to long swords and possibly Grayswandir via sacrifice. Lawful offers no half spell damage or half physical damage artifacts though, an important consideration given a monk's AC challenges. Neutral is relatively easy to play and has good sacrifice gifts. Then again, weaponless monks don't need sacrifice gifts, so that may not be an advantage depending on your conduct. The half spell and melee damage from wishing for the weighty The Orb of Fate is worth considering. The magic resistance, energy regeneration and branchporting of The Eye of the Aethiopica can be transformative on a neutral Monk's game, but beware the intelligent artifact blast in both cases. As of version 3.6.0 The Eye of the Aethiopica only confers magic resistance when worn, thus is less desirable since Monks will generally want to wear an amulet of reflection. Playing chaotic is probably the best for a new player, because the conduct is easy. Beware of angry gods, though. Chaotic ones are the most difficult to mollify. Additionally, chaotic monks can wish for the half physical damage The Master Key of Thievery and can get daggers, a plentiful, unbreakable and effective ranged weapon, unrestricted via sacrifice. Unrestricting daggers also makes wielding Magicbane a viable alternative source of magic resistance for the chaotic monk.


In UnNetHack, monks get a bonus point of AC while confused as a reference to the idea of drunken boxing.


In SLASH'EM, monks also have the largest number of techniques of any role. Most of these are martial arts-themed offensive moves that make the monk a more balanced role.

They don't suffer to-hit penalty for wearing body armor (unless fighting bare-handed).

Their first sacrifice gift are the Gauntlets of Defense.


In dNethack, monks continue to gain intrinsics after level 17:

Their crowning gift is the Grandmaster's Robe, which improves their unarmed attacks while worn.

Encyclopedia entry

One day, an army general invited the Buddhist monk I-Hsiu
(literally, "One Rest") to his military head office for a
dinner. I-Hsiu was not accustomed to wearing luxurious
clothings and so he just put on an old ordinary casual
robe to go to the military base. To him, "form is void".

As he approached the base, two soldiers appeared before him
and shouted, "Where does this beggar came from? Identify
yourself! You do not have permission to be around here!"

"My name is I-Hsiu Dharma Master. I am invited by your
general for a supper."

The two soldiers examined the monk closely and said, "You
liar. How come my general invites such a shabby monk to
dinner? He invites the very solemn venerable I-Hsiu to our
base for a great ceremony today, not you. Now, get out!"

I-Hsiu was unable to convince the soldiers that he was
indeed the invited guest, so he returned to the temple
and changed to a very formal solemn ceremonial robe for
the dinner. And as he returned to the military base, the
soldiers observed that he was such a great Buddhist monk,
let him in with honour.

At the dinner, I-Hsiu sat in front of the table full of
food but, instead of putting the food into his mouth, he
picked up the food with his chopsticks and put it into
his sleeves. The general was curious, and whispered to
him, "This is very embarrassing. Do you want to take
some food back to the temple? I will order the cook to
prepare some take out orders for you." "No" replied the
monk. "When I came here, I was not allowed into the
base by your soldiers until I wear this ceremonial robe.
You do not invite me for a dinner. You invite my robe.
Therefore, my robe is eating the food, not me."

[ Dining with a General - a Zen Buddhism Koan ]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 83
  2. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 652
  3. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 938
  4. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 658
  5. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 659
  6. attrib.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 49
  7. uhitm.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 267
  8. role.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 157

External links

This page may need to be updated for NetHack 3.6.0.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to {{nethack-360}} or {{noversion}} as appropriate.