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As NetHack is a fantasy adventure game, religion ties in closely with its mythological themes. The very mission of the game is to recover The Amulet of Yendor for your god. This article is a portal to detailed articles about the religious aspects of the game which affect gameplay.

General description


In NetHack, there are four religious rituals: prayer, sacrificing, turn undead, and donating money to a priest. Dropping items on an altar while not blind also counts for the purposes of the atheist conduct.

Prayer (#pray) may cause beneficial outcomes, from restoring your HP to uncursing your item or making water holy. However, prayer never improves your relationships with your god. For example, if your god is angry with you, you cannot mollify him or her by prayers. There are several conditions that must be met for prayer to be safe.

Sacrificing (#offer) a corpse on a coaligned altar (e.g. lawful altar if you are lawful) can improve your relationships with your god, including your luck. It can also grant you an artifact weapon. Sacrificing on a coaligned altar is always safe, provided that you are not sacrificing a coaligned unicorn (white for lawful, gray for neutral, black for chaotic), a former pet of yours, or a member of your own (starting) race. (The last is safe for chaotic players, but the other two are not.) Sacrificing on an altar that is not coaligned may convert it (if your alignment is positive and you are not in Gehennom) or may instead lower your luck; if your alignment is not positive it may instead convert you. (Converting before the Quest makes it impossible to win the game.) Finally, sacrificing the Amulet of Yendor on the coaligned altar on the Astral Plane wins the game.

Turn undead (#turn) allows Knights and Priests to frighten or even destroy (if they are lawful or neutral) or pacify (if they are chaotic) nearby undead creatures by calling upon the power of their deity. It should not be confused with the spell of turn undead, which causes only minor damage to undead creatures. Like prayer, turning works only under specific conditions.

To donate money (#chat), you must stand in the square adjacent to a peaceful priest in a temple. His alignment is not important. Donating 400 times your experience level (or more, but less than 600 times your experience level) grants or improves intrinsic protection. Other sums of money may grant temporary clairvoyance, improve your alignment record, or exercise your wisdom. Donating $0 or less to a coaligned priest is a Bad Idea. For more information, see the chatting section in the Aligned priest article.

Monsters cannot pray, sacrifice, turn undead, or donate money. (Players can still do these things while polymorphed, however.)


There are several parameters which determine your relationships with your god.

Parameter Range Initially Normally Ideally Safe pray interval
Alignment Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic May be any Same as initial value No "best" alignment any
Alignment record negative infinity to 10+(Turns/200) 0 or 10, depending on the role near the maximum maximum zero or positive
Anger 0 to infinity 0 0 0 0
Prayer timeout 0 to 23500 300 often 0 0 at most 0/100/200 if you have (only) no/minor/major problems
Luck -13 to 13 0 zero or positive 13* zero or positive

* There is an obscure bug where certain favorable events occur most likely if your Luck is 7.

Alignment determines to which of three gods you serve. There are three alignments: lawful, neutral, and chaotic. Monsters, artifacts, altars and even the dungeon itself can have an alignment as well. Some entities loyal to Moloch are unaligned. You choose (or let the game pick) your starting alignment, however, not all roles can serve all gods. You can change it temporarily by wearing a helm of opposite alignment, or permanently only once by sacrificing on a non-coaligned altar when your alignment record is negative. The helm removes any intrinsic protection, and permanent change of your alignment additionally sets your alignment record to zero. If you permanently change your alignment before starting your quest, your quest leader will never send you to the quest, therefore you cannot win.

Your alignment record is a number which affects your chance of praying successfully (the higher the better he responds to your prayers; if negative, he only smites you) and your ability to enter the quest (you cannot if it is under 20). Its maximum is initially 10 and increases by 1 every 200 turns. It has no lower bound. Initially your alignment record is 0 or 10, depending on your role. There are many actions which affect it positively or negatively. Since killing hostile monsters usually improves your alignment record, it is normally near the maximum. If you "feel guilty", "are feeling like an empty coward" etc., this means you violated your role conduct and got an alignment penalty. You can approximately determine your alignment with enlightenment or a stethoscope. If your alignment is negative, you can improve it by sacrifices (see Altar#Ordinary sacrifice).

Anger is a number which measures how angry your god is with you. Positive anger causes several bad effects. Most notably, your prayers become useless and only cause your god to smite you, and Luck times out twice as fast. Anger is from 0 to infinity, initially 0. It is normally 0. You can anger your god by "wrong" praying or sacrificing (most notably praying too often), or displacing your pet into a damaging trap, killing it. There are only two ways to mollify your god: sacrificing sufficiently powerful monsters at a coaligned altar (see Altar#Ordinary sacrifice), or finding a non-coaligned altar and sacrificing either a unicorn of the same alignment or your former pet. The cross-aligned unicorn sacrifice also causes the altar's god to smite you. You can approximately determine anger by enlightenment.

The prayer timeout refers to how much time you need to wait before your god will accept another prayer. You can safely pray if it is at most 0, 100, or 200, depending on which problems you have (see prayer). Initially set to 300, it decreases each game turn by one until it becomes zero, and increases when you pray, typically by several hundred turns. The exact prayer timeout increase is random each time; if 1) you had been crowned and/or 2) have killed the Wizard of Yendor or done the Invocation ritual, significantly larger values will be more likely. Getting an artifact by sacrificing or being granted a wish also increases the prayer timeout as if you had prayed. You can decrease it or get a clue about it by sacrificing on a co-aligned altar (see Altar#Ordinary sacrifice): a "hopeful feeling" means it is still positive, "reconciliation" means you just made it zero.

Luck is always between -13 and +13. Initially it is zero. To safely pray, your Luck must be zero or positive; otherwise prayers only cause your god to smite you. Luck has too many other effects to enumerate. Unless you have a luck item in your main inventory, your positive or negative luck times out at a rate of one point per 600 moves (300 if you are wearing the Amulet of Yendor, or if your God is angry). With luckstone, your positive/any/negative/ Luck never times out if the luckstone is blessed/uncursed/cursed. Sacrificing at a coaligned altar may increase your luck, depending on the corpse's difficulty, in which case you "see a four-leaf clover".

Altars and priests


Main article: altar

Altars are high-bandwidth connections directly to your god. They are either aligned or unaligned. Aligned altars are either lawful, or neutral, or chaotic.

There are three uses of altars:

  • If you drop items onto an altar while not blind, you will know their beatitude. Any altar can be used for this purpose. Note however that if you drop a fragile item (e. g. potion, mirror, crystal ball...) while levitating, it will break.
  • Sacrificing. There is no way to sacrifice unless you stay over an altar.
  • Prayer. While you certainly can try to pray everywhere, prayers while standing on altar cause better or different outcomes.

Priests and temples

Main article: aligned priest
Main article: Special room#Temples

A temple is a room with an altar and a priest. Not to be confused with the player role, priests are generated peaceful and will stay at the temple (unless angry), most of the time at or near the altar. Altars in temples can have any alignment or be unaligned. The tending priest has same alignment (or lack of it) as the altar.

In a temple, you can donate money to its priest, provided he or she is peaceful, and the altar had not been converted/destroyed/desecrated. His alignment is not important in most cases.

If you try to convert an altar in a temple, the priest will get angry and will not accept donations anymore.

Distribution of altars, priests and temples

Main Dungeon

Each non-maze, non-special level in the Dungeons of Doom above the Castle has a chance of including off-temple altars or at most one temple. Their alignment is independently distributed with equal chances of being lawful, neutral, and chaotic. There are no altars in special rooms other than temples (shops, beehives, zoos etc.), or at special levels (Oracle, big room, rogue).

Contrary to popular belief, a rooms-and-corridor type filler level can feature altars or a temple between Medusa's lair and the Castle.

Gehennom and Dungeon Branches

There is one temple in Minetown with equal chances of the three main religions, and no other temples, priests, or altars in Gnomish Mines.

There are no temples, priests, or altars in Sokoban, Fort Ludios, or Vlad's Tower.

There are temples or off-temples altars on fixed-layout levels in some quests.

There are exactly three altars in Gehennom:

  • Unaligned temple with peaceful priest at the Valley of the Dead (1st level of Gehennom),
  • Unaligned non-temple altar at Orcus-town (approximately middle of the Gehennom),
  • Unaligned temple with hostile[1] high-priest in Moloch's Sanctum (bottom level of the Gehennom).

Above the first level

At the Astral Plane, there are three temples which are randomly assigned to lawful, neutral and chaotic alignments (one of each), and many off-temple aligned priests, some of which are hostile.

Otherwise, there are no altars, priests, or temples.

Other issues


Main article: god

Each role has its own pantheon of gods - one for each alignment. Priests are assigned the pantheon of another role at random.


Main article: atheist

Players may choose to forego all of the above religious activities, with the exception of sacrificing the Amulet of Yendor on the co-aligned altar on the Astral Plane. This is a voluntary conduct.


  1. created peaceful, but grows hostile once you enter

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