Standard strategy - SLASH'EM

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This page is designed as a supplement to the Standard strategy page for vanilla NetHack. It offers general tips on surviving SLASH'EM, YASDs, and appropriate spoilers. Reading this guide will diminish the challenge of playing SLASH'EM, but not by much. The simple fact is that SLASH'EM is a much harder game designed for hardcore NetHack players seeking a new level of challenge.

Choosing a role and character

The five new roles in SLASH'EM – Undead Slayer, Flame Mage, Ice Mage, Yeoman, and Necromancer – as well as the five new races – Vampire, Doppelganger, Lycanthrope, Hobbit, and Drow – each have their own abilities and weaknesses. In addition, the existing races and classes have been partially redefined. See the specific pages on these races and classes for information on their new attributes and basic strategy guides.


One of the main differences between vanilla NetHack and SLASH'EM is the addition of a new kind of action, techniques. Techniques are actions that are free to use, but always require a certain amount of turns to become available again. Most classes have class-specific techniques and some races have race-specific techniques. It is important that new SLASH'EM players experiment liberally with techniques. The game will seem much more balanced with them. When you find yourself in a sticky situation in vanilla NetHack your standard responses are to check your inventory and your spell list. In SLASH'EM, you will want to get in the habit of checking for available techniques. You will kick yourself for every death you suffered as a doppelganger that could have been prevented with a simple liquid leap.

Other abilities

Not all class and race-dependent abilities are listed under Techniques, however. Doppelgangers, Werewolves, Flame Mages, and Ice Mages will gain the ability to Polymorph themselves into various forms at different levels. This ability is accessed from the keyboard with the Youpoly command, #youpoly. Watch for the level-up message "You feel your choices improve!"

The early game

As with vanilla NetHack, your early game will be about equipment, experience, and resistances. However, the early SLASH'EM game is harder than early vanilla NetHack, for several reasons.


First, the experience table is different. Familiarize yourself with it and turn on showexp from the options to help you keep track. Early levels take more experience points to acquire – usually twice as many. You will want to hang around bashing newts until you reach experience level two on dungeon levels one and two before descending to dungeon level three. The tradeoff for this is a much more satisfying late game in which it is actually possible to gain experience levels through battle.


Second, SLASH'EM adds a new stratum of monsters. Not only do these monsters disorient you just by being unfamiliar and occasionally having unexpected dangerous attacks (such as the kamadan's sleep-gas breath or the asphynx and basilisk with petrification), it is important to remember that 9 times out of 10 they are simply harder than the corresponding NetHack monsters. The designers of SLASH'EM did not simply sprinkle new monsters in at random; the monsters they have added are almost invariably more difficult than the other monsters that you will encounter at the corresponding dungeon/experience level. Anything that you see that you don't recognize should be treated with caution until you know how tough it is. You are going to be killed by rabbits.

One surprisingly dangerous group is the spark, arc, and lightning bugs. These travel in packs and can detonate your wands and rings with their bite. You will learn to fear them the first time that they get your ring of polymorph control or incite a shopkeeper to attack you by catching them in the blast of your exploding wand of magic missile. Genociding x isn't just for water cooler laughs any more. Note that exploding wands now have the same wand-specific effects as breaking them yourself.

Be advised, too, that SLASH'EM monsters can look the same as vanilla NetHack creatures – or even as other SLASH'EM monsters. That rabbit can be rabid; that relatively harmless (perhaps even tasty) black pudding may actually be an unstoppable giant shoggoth. Also, the soldiers carry guns now. And grenades. Finally, BEWARE OF WERECREATURES. Due to changes to the polymorph function in SLASH'EM, werecreatures killed in animal form will revert to human form, from which they can often polymorph back into animal form on the next turn. Wererats and werejackals now pose significant threats to even decently-armed characters... and the new werepanthers and weretigers are threatening even in the mid-game.


Third, in SLASH'EM, all lock-picking devices can break, so stock up. When you get your alignment key later on (see below) you can sidestep this.

Spell schools

Finally, if you are a magic-user, you may be completely thrown by the radically different spellcasting system. See Spellcasting (SLASH'EM) to get yourself oriented with this before you start building up proficiencies that may not end up where you expect.

Moldy corpses

On the other hand, the problem of nutrition is mollified slightly in SLASH'EM through one of the game's most interesting innovations: moldy corpses. Corpses left on the ground can decay and be replaced by various Fs which you can farm and eat for sustenance or intrinsics. Black mold and disgusting mold have passive poison attacks but are not poisonous to eat. Note that the proliferation of Fs makes the vegetarian conduct easier to play. It also helps in maintaining herbivorous pets.

Shopkeeper services and new shops

You are also going to be able to benefit from the new shopkeeper services as soon as you've managed to put away a little gold. To access these, simply press p in the shop when you have no unpaid merchandise in your inventory. The services vary by shop, but can include charging for spellbooks, rustproofing for weapons or armor, and, in all shops, identification. Identification, though expensive, is the most important. Through judicious identification and bartering with your collection of gems, you should be able to raise enough cash to identify everything in your inventory on the way back up from the bottom of the Gnomish Mines. On later levels, when gold is plentiful, you can sink your extra cash into having shopkeepers identify your wands for you. Note that you can't identify something that the shopkeeper owns without buying it first. (?) Charisma affects the price of shopkeeper services, making it a somewhat more valuable attribute in SLASH'EM. Since you need more gold earlier on, the usefulness of gems is also increased.

Two kinds of new shops have been added to SLASH'EM: frozen food outlets and pet stores. Neither is exceptionally useful, but both have their advantages. A frozen food outlet will contain tins and ice boxes with randomly generated numbers of corpses. The use of the tins is obvious, but the ice boxes can also help you out – especially if they come right around the midgame – with picking up intrinsics. A large enough store will almost certainly have a few tengu corpses. Keep your eyes peeled for kamadan corpses, various molds, fire and snow ants, giants, mind flayers, and other interesting creatures. You could also feed the corpses to your pet or pull them out of their containers and start up a fungus farm if you need veggies.

Pet stores will contain various figurines, saddles, leashes, and whistles. They're a good source of magic whistles and saddles. The figurines make good polyfodder, though remember that polymorphed objects in SLASH'EM do not stay that way (see below).

The mid game

By the mid game, many of the main challenges of the early game that are unique to SLASH'EM will be behind you. You will be better equipped to deal with most monsters even if they are more difficult. At level 16 you will begin profiting from the revised experience tables. This is a good thing.

Drain resistance

The mid game does present you with a new challenge, however: whereas in vanilla NetHack the main auxiliary defensive categories are intrinsic resistances, magic resistance, and reflection, SLASH'EM adds a fourth: drain resistance. This is because, in addition to the usual sources of level drain in vanilla NetHack (vampires and wraiths, Cyclops, etc.), you will also be confronting deep dragons, which can drain life through their bite attack, and wights. But more dangerous still – and impossible to defend against with a preventative genocide – is the new wand of draining, which intelligent monsters will use against you. Nothing is more frustrating than being hit by a series of level drains from a wand-armed centaur that you didn't see because you were scrolling through battle spam. Furthermore, if you should run across the Guild of Disgruntled Adventurers, there will without question be necromancers with draining wands in their inventory. (It should also be mentioned that One-eyed Sam's weapon, Thiefbane, drains levels, in addition to canceling and beheading.)

Thus, drain resistance in SLASH'EM is more valuable than in vanilla NetHack, but is not as important as magic resistance or reflection. You should prioritize your combination of armor, amulets, weapons, and artifacts to grant you these attributes first. Extrinsic drain resistance can be gained through an amulet of drain resistance, through deep dragon scale mail, or through certain weapons (as before). Note that Undead Slayers and Necromancers both have intrinsic drain resistance, as do player Vampires.

The alignment quests

Sometime between levels 15 and 19 you may trip over a magic portal leading you to an alignment quest. These are not like the class quests which are restricted to certain heroes. Rather, they are three distinct levels each "themed" according to the three alignments. They are the venues in which you will search out the three alignment keys, two of which are practically necessary for victory. Vlad's Tower now has six indestructible doors arranged in such a way that you will need at least two of the three keys to break in.

The alignment quests are difficult. Either be spoiled before you attempt them or wait until you're highly confident in your suite of resistances. Then just keep your wits about you. Read the signs and try to figure out what's going on with each one. Each alignment quest nemesis carries an alignment key and an unusual artifact. In addition to needing the keys for Vlad's Tower, you can take your co-aligned key as an unbreakable key for the rest of the game. Cross-aligned keys will blast you.

The quest

With these difficulties in mind, it should also be added that some of the features of SLASH'EM are going to start making your life easier around this point. For one thing, you can do your class quest at level 12 rather than 14, though as before you may not necessarily want to do it as soon as it becomes available. (Incidentally, drain attacks will work exceptionally well against your quest nemesis.)

New special levels

You will also start to realize that SLASH'EM contains additional special levels, one of its most exciting features. Some of these levels will prove difficult and will yield little net benefit (the Rat King, for instance, is much tougher than you expect an r to be, even if it is purple). Others will provide huge reserves of treasure and equipment at the price of modest challenge (Grund the Orc King). Others are commercial, such as the much-beloved shopping mall. Note that special levels may replace existing levels (like the big room), be accessed by magic portals, or be accessed by a second down staircase (like the entrance to the Gnomish mines).

There is also an additional level at the end of the gnomish mines, Ruggo the Gnome King. This level will contain a healthstone, an item whose properties you will want to acquaint yourself with. Healthstones are always generated cursed. You are also going to want to watch out for gnolls hiding in Ruggo's throne room.

If you haven't gotten a wish by the dungeon level 30s, keep your eyes peeled for the Sunless Sea, which is guaranteed to contain a magic lamp. The wand of wishing in the castle is still there, of course, but you won't see it until several levels later.

Guaranteed altars

Most players that make stashes like to do so at altars for easy BUC testing. This is less important for Priests or those with the Identify spell and enough skill to cast it (a harder feat in SLASH'EM since it's a level 5 spell now.) Vanilla only has guaranteed altars in Minetown and some role quests before Gehennom, leaving a long stretch without altars in the midgame for many characters. The midgame is even longer in SLASH'EM, but there are also two new predictable altars, one just before level 20, the other just after level 30. Here are the guaranteed altars in SLASH'EM:

  • Minetown 5-8 levels away from 1 (also a temple, also in Vanilla)
  • The Lawful Quest on level 15-19 (coaligned, with attending Priest, but not a temple)
  • The Temple of Moloch on level 32-35 (to Moloch)
  • The Valley of the Dead on level 43-48 (also in Vanilla)
  • Orcus Town on level 44-53 (also in Vanilla)
  • Moloch's Sanctum on level 59-64 (also in Vanilla)

The black market

On either level 22 or 23 you will hear whispers on the dungeon level like "Food rations? Only 900 zorkmids." This means that the magic portal to Sam's black market is on the level. Magic markers, magic lamps, ascension kit items, and sometimes even wands of wishing are all plausible merchandise at the black market, not to mention scores of potions and scrolls. Finding and exploiting the black market is an excellent goal between completion of the Gnomish Mines and attempting the quest.

You will need to figure out a strategy for the market. Robbing it is incredibly tempting, though if you kill Sam you will of course accrue the murder penalty (and some heavily enchanted speed boots and grey dragon scale mail). It's also a great place to blow all that gold from Fort Ludios (which, incidentally, can now occur as late as the low 40s), though you'll be surprised at how fast it goes. Keep in mind that you are quite vulnerable while you're shopping in the market – monsters will be generated and can track you from anywhere on the level. We're talking mind flayers here.

Sam can be dealt with in any number of ways. The easiest is to use the guaranteed scrolls of earth from Sokoban and wall off the lower-left corner of the shop with boulders, then zap Sam with a wand of teleportation after you have gathered everything that you want from his shop and dropped it within your corner. This is an extremely low-risk strategy that only requires one (non-cursed) scroll of earth and a wand of teleportation (if you can manage to kill a shopkeeper, they are guaranteed to have one). Note that when you escape, you will need to be prepared to fight off a horde of soldiers, but this should be doable for a well-armed or clever player, and is an excellent source of K-rations, C-rations, and bullets.

If you want to kill Sam for his gray dragon scale mail, shield of reflection, and Thiefbane, the easiest route is to polymorph into a giant shoggoth and devour him. Other methods include capturing him in a boulder fort and hit him with highly enchanted missiles (though you'll have to be quite high level to hit him), or emptying several wands of draining on him. His cronies will come after you but they are no match for a giant shoggoth, who is also immune to the cockatrices' petrification (being acidic) and the rhaumbusun's paralyzing gaze (being blind). Alternately, conflict will handle them nicely.

Artifacts and equipment

By the mid game, you should also be benefiting from the new equipment options in SLASH'EM. This means healthstones, gauntlets of swimming, magic candles, new wands and spells, the ring of gain dexterity, etc. Learning how to use the potion of invulnerability – at least one is guaranteed to be found on many special levels – is strongly recommended. You will also want to start getting acquainted with the new artifacts, either through wishes or, if you're lucky, sacrifice gifts. One of the best parts of SLASH'EM is the provision of new sacrifice gifts that are not weapons. These range from artifact armor such as the monk's Gauntlets of Defense to the coveted Wallet of Perseus. These equipment artifacts seem to be more often available for lawful and neutral characters, making those alignments significantly more desirable than they are in vanilla NetHack, in the opinion of some.

The new artifact weapons tend to have high damage modifiers that are not doubled. This makes them excellent mid and early game weapons that you may want to replace later on. Also take note that more classes now have certain guaranteed first sacrifice gifts, such as the Rogue's Bat from Hell and Necromancer's Serpent's Tongue – both formidable pieces of equipment. This makes the impetus to get the first sacrifice gift that much higher. However, gods now have new techniques to protect their altars.

Note, that now unicorn horns are reliable only when highly enchanted, not just blessed.


Altar sacrifices can also yield pets dispatched by your god, minions. These pets may prove useful, not just for basic defense, but for assassinating shopkeepers (though you cannot bring them into the black market and, since they cannot be retamed, they are likely to go feral while you're in there). Receiving a minion, unlike receiving an artifact, does not change your prayer timeout status (you can safely pray if you have just received a minion). Minions are a unique category of pet. They will not track BUC status for you and do not seem to be willing to be ridden. Note that gods can also attack you with minions if you steal an altar from them.


Polymorph works quite differently in SLASH'EM, in that all polymorphs are temporary. This means that monsters that have been transformed through any means (a trap, a wand, a spell, etc.) as well as objects will eventually revert back to their original state. Monsters that are killed while in an alternate form will return to their original form with their HP reduced, just like the hero. No more turning shopkeepers into goblins for you. Note that this makes lycanthropes and shapeshifters much more dangerous, as they can polymorph at will between forms. The ring of protection from shape changers is commensurately more useful in this game. Polymorphed pets will also eventually revert to their former state, as will polymorphed objects. However, polymorphed objects can sometimes be fixed in their new forms by being dipped in a potion of restore ability.

The late game

One of the main innovations of SLASH'EM is its significantly extended Dungeons of Doom act and shortened Gehennom. This is a good thing. You will find no pure maze levels in Gehennom – each one is either the lair of a demon prince or attached to the Wizard's Tower. The SLASH'EM late game is quite a bit more difficult than vanilla NetHack's version, partly because of new super-monsters like giant shoggoths, star vampires, ghoul queens, leprechaun wizards, gug packs, the various jewel golems, gnoll chieftains and gnoll shamans, and planetars and solars, but also because of the new demon princes: Demogorgon and Dispater. You will need a strategy for Demogorgon, the most dangerous enemy in the game. Consider waking him up with a wand while standing on Elbereth, judicious use of sleep (possibly as a drow), or being an Undead Slayer or Necromancer. Do not underestimate Dispater, who will batter you in the passage leading up to his staircase. Save your wands of striking and magic missile and throw them to anything you can't handle on your own.

The end game

Other than the presence of the new high-level A beings, which are always terrifying, the SLASH'EM end game is not substantially different from the vanilla NetHack end game. The Amulet of Yendor can no longer exert its mysterious force, thankfully, but it also disables your teleportation power. Also, watch out for an army of deeper ones and deepest ones on the Plane of Water. Genocide is advised.

Even with spoilers, ascension in SLASH'EM is extremely difficult. Break out the liquid fire!

Appendix 1: Wish list

Although your early game priorities in SLASH'EM remain the same as in vanilla NetHack – magic resistance, reflection, and intrinsic resistances – some of the newly added artifacts make early artifact wishes more tempting. Be aware of the increased artifact blasts though (8d6 for unintelligent, 8d10 for intelligent), which may wipe out a character who finds an early wand of wishing. The following are some prime candidates for wishing if you find one early on or have wishes to burn when you reach the castle:

Quest artifacts

Beware of powerful artifact blasts from all of these

  • The Stake of Van HelsingUndead slayer quest artifact, lawful for wishing purposes; Wooden stake (uses dagger skill) with +12 damage modifier that gives slotless magic resistance. Damage bonus against vampires with a chance of instakill. Prefer it to the Sceptre of Might, which has been weakened in SLASH'EM.
  • The Great Dagger of GlaurgnaaNecromancer quest artifact, chaotic for wishing purposes. Mediocre as a weapon (+8 to hit, +4 damage and level drain against cross-aligned monsters, which is distinctly inferior. The invoke to gain an energy boost helps out spellcasters (even non wizards), if you can stand the artifact blast.

Stormbringer), but it is the only artifact that chaotics can wish for that provides slotless magic resistance.

Other artifacts

  • Gauntlets of Defense – Halves physical damage and acts as gauntlets of dexterity. Note that high dexterity further improves AC in SLASH'EM. These are a good early game wish, but if you have done or can do the Chaotic Quest, wish for normal gauntlets of dexterity instead. Half physical damage sources do not stack, and the Hand of Vecna, which provides the same property, will always be found there.
  • The Wallet of Perseus – deluxe unaligned bag of holding, reduces weight of contents to 1/3 or 1/6 of normal, depending on BUC
  • The Bat from Hell – chaotic baseball bat (club) with +20 damage modifier
  • Doomblade – chaotic short sword with +10 damage modifier, plus an extra 5d4 damage 25% of the time. Wish for it instead of the Bat if your role is restricted in clubs.

Mundane items

Note that some artifacts that make it onto wish lists in vanilla NetHack have had their power decreased, specifically The Sceptre of Might, which is now almost useless as a weapon, providing +5 damage as opposed to double damage.

Appendix 2: Alignment comparison

As in vanilla NetHack, the basic alignment comparison breaks down as follows: chaotics avoid the murder penalty, lawfuls avoid the dangerous late and end game monsters like the As and titans. Neutrals have not much, though slightly better artifact wishing potential.

In SLASH'EM, all of that holds. Not only do lawfuls avoid combat with the old and new angelic beings, but can have work for you: your god will send you minions up to Solars and Planetars, generally from sacrifice. They will make short work of the Wizard and the late-game heavies. However, lawful characters rarely have the possibility of developing attack magic in SLASH'EM. The days of the magic missile-shooting knight with a damage-doubling Magic Mirror are past. And although their artifact potential is weaker than other alignments, lawfuls have easy access to Sunsword from sacrifice minions. This is advantageous since in the late game, the only hostile spellcasters they will encounter are all undead, with the exception of the Wizard.

Neutrals still have the artifact advantage. They are the only alignment able to receive the new armor artifacts from sacrifice. A neutral who spends a sufficient amount of time sacrificing can obtain artifact speed boots, gauntlets of dexterity and an artifact shield of reflection, possibly eliminating the need to find these common ascension kit items. However, only the Gauntlets have a particularly useful artifact property, namely half physical damage, while Whisperfeet merely provide stealth and act as a luckstone, and Mirrorbright only provides hallucination resistance. These are all useful but minor or supersedable properties. Also, neutral artifact weapons remain somewhat weak in SLASH'EM, particularly in comparison to the chaotic artifacts.

The advantage of being chaotic in SLASH'EM lies mainly in their weapon artifact potential. Chaotics can receive some very powerful artifacts with broad damage bonuses: The Bat from Hell, a baseball bat (club) providing a flat +20 damage against all monsters; the Doomblade, an orcish short sword providing a flat +10 damage against all monsters, with 25% chance of an additional 5d4, and Serpent's Tongue, a permanently poisoned dagger. Also, unlike in vanilla, in SLASH'EM chaotics can wish for a magic resistance-granting quest artifact: the Great Dagger of Glaurgnaa. It also drains levels, like Stormbringer, although only against cross-aligned mosnters. Chaotics are not only shielded from the penalty for murder, but have better means to go about it and better motivation to do it. In particular, those who are willing to kill One-Eyed Sam can get most of a well-enchanted ascension kit, although doing this requires extreme caution and quite likely polymorph or a boulder fort.

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