Priest (priestess if female) is one of the roles in NetHack, capable of playing any alignment as a human, or restricted to chaotic as an elf. A priest's religion is chosen randomly from the pantheons of the other roles. A human priest is therefore capable of representing any of the other roles' gods in the game.
The guidebook has this to say about Priests.
Priests and Priestesses are clerics militant, crusaders ad- vancing the cause of righteousness with arms, armor, and arts thaumaturgic. Their ability to commune with deities via prayer occasionally extricates them from peril, but can also put them in it.
- 1 Starting equipment
- 2 Intrinsics
- 3 Skills
- 4 Special rules
- 5 Strategy
- 6 Rank titles
- 7 Quest
- 8 Variants
- 9 Encyclopedia entry
- 10 References
Priests start with the following items:
- a blessed +1 mace
- a +0 robe
- a +0 small shield (like those of aligned priests)
- 1–2 cloves of garlic
- 1–2 sprigs of wolfsbane
- 2 random spellbooks of level 3 or lower (suitable for priests: clerical, divination, or healing spells)
- 4 potions of holy water
- a chance at one of the following:
- If an elf, a random non-magical instrument.
Priests start with Basic skill in Mace and Clerical spells. The spellcasting skill is always Clerical, no matter what spellbooks a character starts with, because the initial spellcasting skills are hardcoded in the function skill_init in weapon.c and are independent of the starting inventory. Their special spell is remove curse.
Priests automatically see the beatitude of all objects. If no BUC is shown, that means the item is uncursed. (You can force the game to include the "uncursed" descriptor by setting
!implicit_uncursed in your options.)
As the guidebook (somewhat obtusely) alludes to, Priests can also #turn undead.
One disadvantage of the Priest is their weapon skill set. Priests can't gain skill in any edged weapons, and can't multishot any ranged weapons. Combined with no skill in the attack spells, this makes it hard for priests to find a good way to kill monsters.
Instead, a Priest's best ranged option early game is the aklys, which they can pick up in the mines and can advance to up to Expert. Skill and enchantment investments on the aklys can be useful for the entire game.
The starting +1 mace is slightly better than a +0 long sword at Basic skill against small monsters. It is much less effective against large monsters, but these typically appear later. Like any character, a Priest will want to sacrifice for an artifact weapon as soon as possible.
Metallic armor and shields are worth wearing to get your AC down; your starting spells don't generally need to be cast quickly, so when you do need to cast them you can find a quiet spot and disrobe. You will want to switch to non-metallic armor with a good AC as it becomes available.
A priest starts with a robe which aids spellcasting, and can use their potions of holy water to bless spellbooks they find, thus gaining more spells. However, they may have better uses for holy water.
The most useful combat spells that a priest can start with are protection and healing. Utility spells, especially identify, can also give a priest a significant advantage once they are able to cast them.
Priests' ability to tell the beatitude of items and their starting holy water gives them advantages in the early game:
- They can identify which weapons, armor, and rings are safe to equip even if they have lost their pet. Another character who cannot pet-test must drag everything to an altar.
- They can more easily get the more useful blessed effects of scrolls such as identify, genocide, enchant armor, and enchant weapon.
- They can remove curses with holy water or by blessing scrolls of remove curse.
- They can get an early wish if they find a magic lamp; they may wish to go to Mine Town early to see if there is one to buy.
- Priests can easily uncurse items they find in bones files.
Consider stashing at least one of your starting potions of holy water as early as possible, to keep from losing it to cold/fire/lightning attacks. As long as you have one potion, you can make more at will.
If you manage to get an early wish, dragon scale mail is generally more useful than a weapon, because AC and non-metallic body armor are useful things for a priest to have.
Priests are well suited to the atheist conduct, because they need not use altars to ascertain beatitude.
Lycanthropy can be dealt with using your starting wolfsbane. Removing curses is easy with the starting holy water.
Using #turn will break atheist conduct, as will using #chat on a priest (monster).
The quest has mostly weaker zombies and only a few strong monsters, and the large number of graveyards contain many boxes full of items. There is more treasure on this quest than any other. Drain resistance or at least magic cancellation of 3 is useful to prevent level drain from wraiths and vampires. If you aren't level 14 yet but you have a means of creating monsters, you can gain levels by creating wraiths on the home level and luring them back through the portal.
The unaligned altar can be converted and used for sacrificing, but monster generation is low and most generated monsters are undead and cannot be sacrificed. In version 3.6.0 and later, you can get corpses by kicking the trees on the home level to summon killer bees.
Some priests that get to the Castle will be strong enough to face the monsters in direct combat, or use the passtune to crush more difficult monsters with the drawbridge.
Except for attack spells, Priests are decent spell-casters. They can advance to expert in clerical, divination and healing, but are restricted in other classes. Note that their spellcasting prowess is based on Wisdom, not Intelligence (but the odds of learning a new spell still depend on Intelligence). Even with attack spells restricted, the simpler ones (i.e., level 3 and below) may still be of use.
Skill slots are not in short supply; a Priest has few weapon skills, and may gain many levels from wraith corpses in the quest. Advancing divinations to Skilled enhances the effects of spells like detect monsters, detect treasure, and identify, but advancing the school to Expert only improves spell failure rates.
You can learn simple attack spells (like force bolt or drain life) and cast them with 0% failure rate. Magic missile is especially useful at high levels, as its damage scales up with your level - which can easily be increased due to the wraiths in the quest.
The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:
- XL 1–2: Aspirant
- XL 3–5: Acolyte
- XL 6–9: Adept
- XL 10–13: Priest/Priestess
- XL 14–17: Curate
- XL 18–21: Canon/Canoness
- XL 22–25: Lama
- XL 26–29: Patriarch/Matriarch
- XL 30: High Priest/High Priestess
Nalzok, the Priest quest nemesis, is quite tough, but he respects Elbereth and the scroll of scare monster. The quest is rather boring, but extremely profitable. All the levels contain several graveyards with wraiths and chests full of goodies. The locate level may also contain several sleeping foocubi, which you should not disturb until you are able to utilize them without the risk of negative effects. Given all the graveyards and sleeping monsters, some source of stealth is advisable before attempting this quest.
The quest artifact is The Mitre of Holiness, which has a great base item in the helm of brilliance; the Mitre additionally allows you to #invoke it to regain your power, gives fire resistance and halves damage from the undead and most demons. However, unlike many quest artifacts, it doesn't confer magic resistance, so you have to get that from a different source.
- blessed +0 mace
- blessed +0 robe (note that in SLASH'EM, an ordinary robe does not enhance spellcasting; that requires a robe of power)
- blessed +2 small shield
- 1–2 blessed cloves of garlic
- 1–2 blessed sprigs of wolfsbane
- spellbook of healing
- spellbook of force bolt, sleep, resist poison, resist sleep, detect food, detect monsters, light, knock, or wizard lock
- random blessed scroll
- 4 potions of holy water
- 10% chance of magic marker, otherwise 10% chance of light source (50% chance of oil lamp, 50% chance of torches)
Priest spell skills are different than in vanilla. Also of note, they can become skilled in long sword.
In SLASH'EM, Priests get Disrupter as their first sacrifice gift, which is very useful in their quest as it grants +5 to hit and +30 to damage against the undead. It is not terribly useful as a main weapon, but makes a good secondary weapon to use against liches and vampire mages. Make sure to enchant it to be able to hit undead with enchantment resistance!
Lawful Priests can try to use Skullcrusher, which can be gotten by sacrifice. If you are good at unmounted polearm tactics, then Reaper can be another option. The previously-good wish, the Sceptre of Might, is a much weaker weapon in SLASH'EM; it now does a flat +3 to hit and +5 to damage against cross-aligned, instead of double damage.
Chaotic Priests can use the Bat from Hell, which can by gotten by sacrifice. They can also use Plague or Hellfire for ranged combat; both may be obtained through sacrifice. Arrows shot from Plague are automatically poisoned, and bolts shot from Hellfire explode and deal fire damage.
Priests get a +20 bonus to effective XL when writing scrolls. Thus at XL30 they can always write unknown scrolls.
Turning undead has been buffed compared to vanilla.
[...] For the two priests were talking exactly like priests,
piously, with learning and leisure, about the most aerial
enigmas of theology. The little Essex priest spoke the more
simply, with his round face turned to the strengthening stars;
the other talked with his head bowed, as if he were not even
worthy to look at them. But no more innocently clerical
conversation could have been heard in any white Italian cloister
or black Spanish cathedral. The first he heard was the tail of
one of Father Brown's sentences, which ended: "... what they
really meant in the Middle Ages by the heavens being
incorruptible." The taller priest nodded his bowed head and
said: "Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason;
but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that
there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is