Role difficulty/Variants

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Some NetHack variants add many roles of their own, and often change the behaviour of existing roles, substantially changing the information about role difficulty. This page contains the new information.

SLASH'EM roles

SLASH'EM has several new roles with varying levels of difficulty. Also, some of the original roles are more or less difficult in SLASH'EM than in vanilla NetHack, due to differences in starting equipment, skills, abilities, and the character of the game. Below is a rough, subjective ordering of difficulty of various SLASH'EM roles, incorporating some stats on ascensions from the SLASH'EM server at

Rank Role Notes Ascension rate*
1 Valkyrie Starts with spear instead of long sword, but still the easiest; Mjollnir much more powerful in SLASH'EM 24%
2 Samurai Fast speed more important in early game where you must flee often; Snickersnee and Excalibur make powerful weapon combo; charged 2x more in shops 13%
3 Knight Start with plate mail, long sword, Str 18/**; much weaker as a spellcaster than in Vanilla 10%
4 Monk Powerful techniques and automatic AC bonuses as level increases 6%
5 Yeoman Two powerful guaranteed sacrifice gifts: Sword of Justice and Reaper N/A
6 Barbarian Charged 3x more in shops N/A
7 Rogue Ultra-powerful guaranteed sacrifice gift: Bat from Hell Charged 3x more in shops 4%
8 Caveman Gets underground vision but the Sceptre of Might is considerably weaker N/A
9 Wizard Starts with more but lower-level spells 5%
10 Undead Slayer Slow, weak fighter whose main advantages (drain resistance and immunity to sickness) are less important in early game than late game N/A
11 Ranger Bows require two hands to wield in SLASH'EM 1%
12 Flame Mage Starts with a hell hound pup and a wand of fire but otherwise far weaker than Wizard N/A
13 Priest Can now use long swords effectively N/A
14 Ice Mage Starts with a winter wolf but weaker than either Wizard or Flame Mage 3%
15 Necromancer First sacrifice gift Serpent's Tongue moderately good, otherwise like Undead Slayer with drain resistance and immunity only mattering late in game N/A
16 Archaeologist Fedora acts as luckstone N/A
17 Healer First sacrifice gift will not be a weapon N/A
18 Tourist Starts with more gold and scrolls of magic mapping N/A

Note: Ascension rate equals the percentage of games for each role that ended in ascension on as of Feb. 13, 2013, given that (1) the race was not Doppelganger (too easy) or Vampire/Lycanthrope (too difficult), (2) the player had achieved at least one ascension on the server, and (3) at least 20 qualifying games had been played for that role. N/A indicates a sample size of < 20.

In SLASH'EM, race is often more of a factor than role in determining success. In particular, Doppelgangers are far and away the most powerful race to play, Drow are extremely hardy in early game thanks to their barehanded sleep attack, and Vampires and Lycanthropes are extremely challenging.

dNetHack roles

Ascension rate was obtained from on 2023-12-23.

Role Starting Difficulty Quest Difficulty Ascension Difficulty Notes Ascension Rate
Archeologist Normal. The starting +2 bullwhip makes an ok early weapon, the starting pickaxe simplifies exploration and allows early vault access, the starting touchstone allows early identification of valuable stones. Normal. The Minion of Huhetotl hits quite hard and can cast spells, but he can be warded off. Normal. Archeologists have no major advantages or disadvantages going into the end game. 0.48%
Anachrononaut Easy. Good AC and strong weapons make short work of early monsters. Lack of prayer means that mistakes can be fatal, though. Very Hard. Abundant mind flayers, which can't be genocided due to the nature of the quest. Beware of long-ranged death from mind blasts. Additionally, enemies in the quest tend to use future tech weapons, which are very high damage. Easy. Future tech complements the standard ascension kit well. 0.47%
Barbarian Easy. Strong starting weapon and stats makes up for bad AC. Normal. Thoth Amon's spellcasting can pose a problem to non-magic resistant Barbarians, but his HP is unimpressive and a fast Barbarian can catch him off guard and kill him with the bonus melee attacks. Easy. The Barbarian's iterative attacks and full BAB gives them nearly unrivaled damage output. The quest artifact is very powerful, providing several necessary resistances and giving unlimited uncursing. MR and reflection are also provided, leaving the armor slots open for something like dNetHack's improved crystal plate mail, eilistran armor, or another colour of dragon scale mail. 1.74%
Binder Hard. Bad starting weapons, bad AC, lousy stats. Lucky draws for the first three spirits simplify the early game, otherwise progress slowly through the dungeon and let your pet do the bulk of the fighting. Hard. The Binder needs to convert three temples, and thus have to deal with the three angry aligned priests, which are powerful on their own rights, as well as the minions summoned by the altars. The nemesis himself, Acererak, is a very tough foe with life-draining attacks and spell casting. Easy. Once a Binder reaches the level cap and unlocks all their spirits, they become extremely powerful. A Binder with Gauntlets of Power and melee spirits bound rivals the Barbarian's damage output. A Binder's overall power increases strongly with character level, unlike other roles who's overall power depends more on the equipment they find. Orcish Binders almost don't need equipment. 0.25%
Caveperson Normal. Decent starting weapon and stats makes short work of early enemies. Hard. The Chromatic Dragon possesses over 500 HP, -20 AC, very damaging attacks and various spells, including summon nasties. She can be warded off with a scroll of scare monster, but even then it can take a very long time before she finally goes down, and during this time the scroll can be destroyed by a stray fire bolt. Normal. Cavepersons have no major advantages or disadvantages going into the end game. 0.69%
Convict Hard. Low starting nutrition and bad starting alignment makes early starvation a distinct threat. The heavy iron ball deals a lot of damage but has bad to-hit. Easy. Warden Arianna's combat power is unimpressive, though the various prison guards and the lava demon around her lair can hit hard. Normal. Convicts don't become unusually powerful, though the artifacts they pick up on the quest greatly increase their carrying capacity, and allow them to phase through walls, which opens up some unique options. 0.44%
Healer Hard. Low damage starting weapon, low to-hit due to stats, and bad AC makes melee difficult. No offensive spells or starting ranged weapon makes melee difficult to avoid. Healing spells increase survivability, but low starting food makes starvation a worry. Hard. There are several dragons in each level, which can pose a problem for Healers lacking a decent weapon. More dangerously, the quest nemesis can wield the artifact against you, but he can be warded off. Hard. The quest artifact is a good weapon, but is two-handed and thus can be a liability in the lategame. Healers are saddled with a 1/2 BAB, which means they may have trouble hitting things in melee, even at level 30. Finally, they may have trouble casting attack spells, due to their low skill caps in those schools. 0.21%
Knight Easy. Decent starting weapon and armor. The starting long sword gives easy access to Excalibur. Hard. There is a unique red dragon on the quest home, and the quest nemesis is a spell casting nymph. Easy. Their quest artifact lets them cast very damaging magic missile and cone of cold spells. Blessed Excalibur is fine endgame weapon, as is the Rod of Seven Parts. 0.31%
Monk Easy. Punch all the things. The need to avoid body armor means AC will be bad. The possible starting spells (healing, sleep or protection) all help with greatly increasing early game survivability. Normal. Master Kaen hits very hard, can cast spells and cannot be warded off with regular wards. Going toe-to-toe against him is usually suicide, so a Monk will need ways to damage him without retaliation. However, a well-enchanted Premium Heart, a means of sleep, and ideally free action can possibly make the quest easier. A triple Gorgoneion on the upstair might help as well. Normal. Martial arts are only so-so by default, but can be improved through artifacts. Monks are likely to be gifted artifact armor, most of which is quite good. 0.34%
Madman Very Hard. The Madman begins the game stuck in a straitjacket (which prevents the use of hands), their gods start angry at them, they don't have a traditional pet, and occasionally find monsters disguised as other monsters. While skillful play can allow surprising progress to be made even in the face of all of these disadvantages, the Madman may ultimately depend on the RNG to provide a means of escaping the jacket. Playing as a Vampire can help the madman survive the early game. Normal. The madman needs a unicorn horn and a decent weapon to take on the quest, and care must be taken around the quest enemies. However, the nemesis, while resilient, is not a serious threat. Normal. Madmen have no strong pluses or minuses going in to the late game. They do, however, need to be careful about gaining too much insight too quickly. Madmen are a bit more incentivized than other roles to explore the depths of the Neutral Quest, which can be painful to vampires due to the amount of silver-damage found in the upper sections of the Neutral Quest. However, they also obtain a lot of the same rewards from their quest. 0.88%
Noble Normal. Starts with a +2 rapier, but only so-so AC. First Gift is a 2x damage melee weapon. Hard. The quest nemesis is a team of 4 adventurers, resulting in a surprisingly high damage output. Normal. The 2x damage First Gift and artifact cloak quest item can help the Noble fill out their ascension kit more easily than normal; however, they don't really increase the Noble's power beyond that of other well-prepared roles. 0.79%
Elven Noble Easy. AC starts ok and has room to be easily improved. The +2 starting spear makes short work of early enemies. The First Gift is a 2x damage melee weapon. As an Elf, can use Elbereth. Normal. The quest nemesis is a spell casting wraith with a draining gaze; however, it is able to be warded off. Normal. Your racial artifacts are quite strong, but your limited spell casting will make it difficult to eliminate dangerous enemies from a distance. Wands, strong pets, and warding will be of value to you in the late game. 0.75%
Female Droven Noble Easy. Very good starting AC, if only so-so weapons (The +2 whip is ok but not great, the crossbow is more powerful but will run out of ammo quickly). First gift is a 2x damage two-handed sliver melee weapon. Light-blindness does make the Gnomish Mines far more dangerous for drow than for other races. Insanely Hard. Abundant mind flayers, which can't be genocided due to the nature of the quest. Beware of long-ranged death from mind blasts. The nemesis is an Elder Brain, who will absolutely destroy unprepared characters, with powerful mage 'and' divine spells and a '2-square' reaching intelligence-draining attack. It's almost impossible to do without a wand of death for the nemesis, and a crystal helm (which blocks all head tentacle attacks) will help you keep your intelligence. Standing just out of range and spamming the fire storm spell can make this quest considerably easier. Normal. The 2x damage First Gift and artifact cloak quest item can help the Noble fill out their ascension kit more easily than normal; however, they don't really increase the Noble's power beyond that of other well-prepared roles. unknown
Male Droven Noble Easy, very similar to default nobles. The +2 starting rapier makes up for only so-so AC. First Gift is a 2x damage melee weapon. Normal. The quest nemesis can't be warded away, hits hard, and has a disease causing melee attack, but she is not resistant to death rays. She is equipped with both a wand of death and an amulet of life saving. Normal. The 2x damage First Gift and artifact cloak quest item can help the Noble fill out their ascension kit more easily than normal; however, they don't really increase the Noble's power beyond that of other well-prepared roles. unknown
Dwarven Noble Normal. Decent starting weapon but only so-so AC. As a dwarf, the mines are safer. First gift is good artifact armor, which also confers MR. Easy. Other than the Watcher in the Water, which can largely be avoided, there is little challenge to this quest. The hordes of orcs will be low level and a good source of random items, and Durin's Bane can be warded against or even simply tanked out if necessary. Normal. The artifacts from your Quest work well together and can bear you through much of the game if they need to. The lack of ranged weaponry, however, can lead to some dangerous situations in Gehennom, so a good selection of wands or some other source of ranged damage may be necessary as well. 1.19%
Priest Normal. Decent starting weapon, and the ability to know BUC enables easy AC improvement. Normal. The high volume of undead can be taken care off with turn undead. The nemesis hits quite hard and can cast spells, but he can be warded off. Normal. The quest artifact is a bit weak, but that can be compensated for without too much trouble. The low skill caps can be troublesome, but Priests are at least a 3/4 BAB role. Priests can also invoke artifacts a bit more frequently than other roles. Priests also always receive the to-hit bonus granted by artifact weapons, even when attacking foes it would not normally apply vs. 0.53%
Pirate Normal. High starting weapon skill and the flintlock can win most early game fights. Easy. A Pirate that can survive against the soldiers and skeletal pirates will find no problem fighting Blackbeard's ghost. Normal. The Pirate's special rules for artifacts constrain them a bit, but their skill caps are fine, their crowning gift is decent, and their quest artifact converts some enemies into weaker pirate enemies. By the end of the game, they should have plenty of artifacts to choose from for their weapons. Getting expert saber is nice, but skilled-expert axe, flail, spear, trident, crossbow, and more means that almost artifact can be used well in the right hands. The sacrifice gift helps you identify these. 0.72%
Rogue Normal. The starting stack of daggers can be thrown to take out enemies from afar. Furthermore in dNetHack, the daggers can be dipped in the potion of sickness for a very damaging ranged option. Rogues can also have a small stack of daggers coated with paralysis venom (#dip into a potion of paralysis) to deal with more dangerous enemies. Normal. The Master Assassin is not a threat, however the cruel level design means a Rogue needs to be prepared when entering the quest. Normal. Rogues have a very damaging attack option in the form of highly enchanted thrown daggers, that can serve as the main weapon during the endgame. 0.57%
Ranger Normal. The cloak of displacement and bow can help easily avoid and take out early game foes, but the limited supplies of arrows must be managed carefully. Easy. Scorpius's disease attacks can be mitigated with a unicorn horn, and outside of it he's not very impressive in melee. Easy. Rangers can fire very damaging volleys of arrows from their quest artifact. Depending on alignment, the quest gift will be a small stack of unbreakable artifact ammo. 0.44%
Gnome Ranger Normal. The cloak of displacement and crossbow can help easily avoid and take out early game foes, but the limited supplies of bolts must be managed carefully. Gnomes take the quest early, however. Easy. Gnomes can enter the quest at level 6, and can easily complete the quest at that level. The quest can be reached from the Gnomish Mines by dropping down through any hole. The quest artifact is very powerful. Easy. The quest artifact is as good as the normal Ranger quest artifact, and helps stretch ammo supplies. The two bolts are each almost as powerful as a full volley from the Longbow. 0.22%
Samurai Easy. Very good weapons, very good armor. Normal. Ashikaga Takauji's instakilling attacks pose a very grave threat, but he's not magic resistant and thus should be taken out in one turn with a wand of death. Normal. The quest artifact is quite good, but is two handed and should be replaced during the lategame. 0.09%
Tourist Hard. They must rely on their limited supply of darts in order to fix their lack of melee weapons and bad AC. The weapons that they can become somewhat proficient on (unicorn horns and sabers) are also hard to find in the early game. Easy. The Master of Thieves poses no threat to Tourists that can make it to the quest. Easy. Tourists have unlimited charging from the quest artifact, and can wish for future tech from the Anachrononaut role. Tourists are, however, a 1/2 BAB role, and therefore can have trouble hitting high AC opponents, so care must still be taken. 0.65%
Troubadour Hard. No starting weapons (unless you're an orcish troubadour), bad weapon skills and weak AC means they have to rely on buffing pets and have them do the fighting. On the upside, Troubadours gain EXP observing their pets kill enemies. Troubadours can also build up skill with thrown daggers, which helps a lot in this phase of the game. Normal. Aglaope's main strategy is teleporting you to her, clawing and robbing you before teleporting away to heal. Troubadours possessing teleport control and an engagement ring can chase after her and beat her face in safety, otherwise she can be a very annoying foe. By this point, the Troubadour should probably be using a stack of daggers as their main attack. Hard. Troubadours' bad weapon skills continue to be a liability in this phase of the game, as as a 1/2 BAB role they may have trouble hitting high AC enemies. By this point their pets are probably very impressive, however. A crystal armored Tulani Eladrin with an artifact weapon, buffed by your beastmaster skill and your songs, can kill almost anything in the game. The Troubadour may also wish for a Throne Archon figurine. 0.77%
Valkyrie Normal. Average weapon, average armor and good stats give them an average early game. Easy. With fire resistance, the quest level and the nemesis's weapon poses little threat. Flying/levitation is essential to get past the lava pools. Easy. With all three Valkyrie weapons (Sol Valtiva, Mjollnir, and the Bow of Skadi) Valkyries have access to the three major elemental damage types. They can use Mjollnir and the Bow of Skadi in gehennom, and Sol Valtiva against angels and other non-fire-resistant foes. Lawful Valkyries can also use the Rod of Seven Parts. 0.58%
Wizard Hard. Low damage starting weapon, low to-hit due to stats, and bad AC makes melee difficult. Force Bolt can easily kill most early game threats, but weak power supply limits its use. Furthermore, most early game AC solutions hamper with spellcasting, so a Wizard looking to improve their AC usually have to give up Force Bolt. Their first gift, Magicbane, is a very decent melee weapon though. Normal. The Dark One's Flesh to Stone spell can cause delayed instant death, so several lizard corpses/stone to flesh spell is crucial. His other spells can be threatening, but with Magicbane most of them should be nullified. Easy. With the various attack spells (finger of death, magic missile and fireball/cone of cold), late game Wizards should be able to demolish everything in their way. 0.18%
Incantifier Wizard Easy. The massive quantities of power make casting spells incredibly easy. Once he is confident, a incantifier wizard can easily clear the mines. Make sure to grab any enchanted items, and stash it for food later. Incantifier wizards can also quickly improve their AC by keeping an eye out for enchanted gear. And make sure to watch your HP, as incantifiers don't naturally regen health. Easy. Intrinsic magic resistance is nice, and the starting robe is quite useful for casting harder spells later. Keep an eye out for rings with positive extrinsics, and consider eating some to gain it. Rings of regeneration are very useful, as the extra hunger penalty doesn't seem to affect an incantifier For the quests, make sure to bring lizard corpses in addition to acid, to prevent the Dark One's Flesh-to-Stone spell. Lizards provide some resistance versus this, even if you can't eat them. Easy. Easy permanent intrinsics via ring eating, and the massive mana pool and spellcasting bonus provides easier casts of high-level spells. 0.13%