The Quest is a great journey upon which all seekers of the Amulet must embark. It is the only way to obtain the Bell of Opening, an item that is necessary to have in order to get the Amulet, so it is impossible to win NetHack without completing the Quest.
Somewhere above the Castle, between the dungeon levels 11 and 16, 6 or 7 levels below the Oracle, you will receive a message from your quest leader, pleading for your help. Search the level, and you will find a magic portal to a new branch of the dungeon. Assuming you are of at least 20 alignment and experience level 14, you will be allowed to undertake the quest to recover a magic artifact stolen from your people. The entrance to the quest proper will be a down stair on the same level as your quest leader. On the bottom level you will encounter your quest nemesis, with the artifact and a silver bell. Once this task is complete, you are ready to return to your mission to get the Amulet.
The exact composition and inhabitants of the Quest depend on your role, but all Quests share some common features. The Quest always takes place in a separate branch of the dungeon with five (sometimes more) levels:
- Home level: The first level has a layout that is mostly the same in every game played as a given role. It contains your Quest leader (see below) and several Quest guardians, friendly monsters present to add flavor. From the home level, you can return to the Dungeons of Doom through a second magic portal, or you can embark on the Quest through a down staircase on the level. Before you can go down the staircase, or proceed on the Quest in any way, you must receive permission from the Quest leader. (If you meet the requirements, simply walk up to the leader and #chat if (s)he doesn't initiate conversation automatically.) The home level prohibits teleporting, and the walls and floor are non-diggable.
- Upper filler level: The second level is a randomly-generated filler level. Depending on your role, it may be a room-and-corridor level, a cavern, or a special type of level.
- Locate level: The third level also has a layout that is mostly the same for your role, and a message will be displayed each time you enter it until the Quest nemesis is killed. The walls and floor are non-diggable. Other than that, there is nothing special about it.
- Lower filler level(s): Below the Locate level are one to three more filler levels, which may be the same as or different from the upper filler level.
- Goal level: The last level is the "Goal" level. Like the Home level, its layout is mostly fixed, and a message will be displayed each time you enter it until the Quest nemesis is killed. The nemesis is generated asleep or meditating, carrying the Bell of Opening, and the Quest artifact is on the floor of the space the nemesis occupies. The walls and floor are non-diggable. The Goal level in the Rogue and Samurai Quests is no-teleport.
Every time you enter the quest portal level, you'll get a purely cosmetic message about your leader needing your help. If you want to switch it off, #chat with your quest leader while you are carrying the silver bell and the quest artifact.
Monster generation in the Quest is biased toward monsters that fit the theme of the Quest ("quest monster"): undead for the Priest Quest, centaurs for the Ranger Quest, leprechauns and nymphs for the Rogue Quest, etc. There will still be randomly-generated monsters, however. Internally, every role has two enemy monsters, and two enemy classes. Typically these enemy classes are the classes of the enemy monster, but that is not mandatory. For example the Rogue quest has leprechauns as first enemy, but nymphs as associated class.
This "biased" part of monster generation is not subject to extinction where it specifies an individual species, as opposed to a monster class. If an individual monster has been genocided, monsters of the associated class will be generated instead. If the class has also been genocided, the quest monsters will be replaced with ordinary random monsters. It is possible to make use of this mechanism by genociding a quest enemy monster to increase the number of monsters of the associated class. This is useful for Wizards, Cavemen and Knights. Wizards have xorns as quest monster, and wraith as associted class, thus a genocide of xorns will increase the number of wraiths in the quest, which can be eaten for experience (at the price of making polymorphing into a xorn impossible). Cavemen have bugbears as the quest enemy and humanoid as the associated class: hence genociding bugbears will increase the number of mind flayers in the quest, who can be eaten for intelligence. This makes the quest dungeon a very dangerous place, however. Knights have quasits as the quest monster and minor demons as the associated class: genociding quasits will increase the number of tengus, which can be eaten for teleport control.
The locate and filler levels are eligible to leave bones; the home and goal levels are not.
Quest leaders and nemeses
The quest leader is the non-player character who verifies that you are ready to undertake the quest and assigns you the mission. If you attack the quest leader, have converted your alignment, or fail the alignment test more than seven times, you will be expelled from the quest and the magic portal will be removed. If you can branchport back in, you can still pacify him or her and obtain permission to do the quest; otherwise, the game is unwinnable.
All quest leaders are generated meditating, and those of some roles sit on a throne. To make them move away before you can get permission, you need to become at least fast, move next to them on a free turn, and either #chat to them or say no at the prompt whether to melee them.
The quest nemesis is the non-player character you must defeat to reclaim your quest artifact and the Bell of Opening. It's possible to ascend without killing your quest nemesis, but this is exceedingly rare.
|Archeologist||@ Lord Carnarvon||& The Minion of Huhetotl|
|Barbarian||@ Pelias||@ Thoth Amon|
|Caveman||@ Shaman Karnov||D The Chromatic Dragon|
|Healer||@ Hippocrates||H The Cyclops|
|Knight||@ King Arthur||D Ixoth|
|Monk||@ The Grand Master||@ Master Kaen|
|Priest||@ The Arch Priest||& Nalzok|
|Ranger||@ Orion||s Scorpius|
|Rogue||@ The Master of Thieves||@ The Master Assassin|
|Samurai||@ Lord Sato||@ Ashikaga Takauji|
|Tourist||@ Twoflower||@ The Master of Thieves|
|Valkyrie||@ The Norn||H Lord Surtur|
|Wizard||@ Neferet the Green||@ The Dark One|
Quest difficulty statistics
The following table is an attempt to quantify quest difficulty by role based on statistics from nethack.alt.org, as of June 21, 2013. The count of players who died in the quest does not include players who completed the quest first.
|Role||Completed quest||Died in quest||Total||Completion rate (%)|
In addition to the quests above, SLASH'EM also has quests for the new roles of SLASH'EM and for the different alignments. For a general overview, see SLASH'EM quests and alignment quest. For individual quests, see:
- Flame Mage quest
- Ice Mage quest
- Necromancer quest
- Undead Slayer quest
- Yeoman quest
- Lawful Quest
- Neutral Quest
- Chaotic Quest
Also, the quest entry level can be deeper.
In addition to quests for the new roles in dNetHack, there are also alternative quests for some role/race combinations, as well as alignment quests accessible to all players.
- Anachrononaut quest
- Binder quest
- Convict quest
- Noble quest - default; see Racial quests
- Pirate quest
- Troubadour (Bard) quest
Some role/race combinations in dNetHack get special alternative quests with unique quest artifacts:
- Dwarf Noble quest
- Dwarf Knight quest
- Gnomish Ranger Quest
- Elvish Racial Quest - elf priests, rangers, and wizards
- Drow Racial quest - female drow priests, rangers, rogues, and wizards
- Hedrow Racial quest - male drow priests, rangers, rogues, and wizards
- Drow Noble Quest
- Male Drow Noble Quest
See here for a table of combinations that indicates which ones have special quests.
The Drow racial quests are interesting in that they give the player the option of changing sides after meeting their nemesis, and killing their original quest leader to get a different quest artifact. Either the original or the traitor's quest artifact can then be traded for another artifact, so male and female drow each have a total of four options for their quest artifact. The Drow Noble quests are an exception; nobles cannot change sides.
The dNetHack alignment quests are similar to those in SLASH'EM: three branches connected to the main dungeon by portals, which all players can enter regardless of alignment, with unique enemies carrying alignment keys and useful artifacts. However, the dNetHack alignment quests are much longer than those in SLASH'EM, consisting of multiple levels instead of a single one. Instead of just one artifact key per alignment, each dNetHack quest has three associated alignment keys, for a total of nine. Three alignment keys are needed in order to access Gehennom. These can be any of the nine, so players can explore one quest in its entirety or try out portions of more than one quest. There is a special Junethack trophy for those who manage to find all nine keys.
The Silver Key, an artifact found at the end of the Neutrality Quest, can be used instead of the Bell of Opening to perform the invocation. Therefore it is possible for characters to ascend even if they are expelled from their role quests, if they are able to survive the Neutrality Quest. Binders are an exception: they will never be permanently expelled from their role quest, but will find the Hand Mirror of Cthylla (which cannot be used for the invocation) in place of the Silver Key. Anachrononauts are also special: due to the lack of their quest artifact they will be unable perform a full-scoring ascension if they fail their role quest, but they can still perform a half-score ascension by using the silver key to complete the invocation ritual.
Many, possibly most, Tours are organized as a Quest. This
is like a large-scale treasure hunt, with clues scattered
all over the continent, a few false leads, Mystical Masters
as game-show hosts, and the Dark Lord and the Terrain to
make the Quest interestingly difficult. [...]
In order to be assured of your future custom, the Management
has a further Rule: Tourists, far from being rewarded for
achieving their Quest Object, must then go on to conquer
the Dark Lord or set about Saving the World, or both. And
why not? By then you will have had a lot of practice in
that sort of thing and, besides, the Quest Object is usually
designed to help you do it.