The Black Mother

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The Black Mother is an unaligned deity in dNethack. She is unique in that she does not have "proper" altars, and can be sacrificed to regardless of alignment or current deity.

Sacrificing to the Black Mother

To make offerings, you must sacrifice to a special monster called a mouth of the goat. One mouth is found in the upper right room of the 6th level of the Lost Cities, and another in the bottom left on the 7th level. These monsters have an innate insight limit of 60, and will accept your sacrifices on her behalf; if you cannot perceive the mouth, then you must stand on its square and offer corpses there. If you can, any square adjacent to the mouth is acceptable.

The main benefit of sacrificing to the Black Mother is to get access to the unique boons she grants. She has a prayer timeout as normal, along with the possibility to be angered, but has different versions of an artifact gift or other favor.

A mouth of a goat will attempt to eat any corpse that is dropped on its square; this does not count as a proper offering unless you #offer it yourself, so it will not be eligible for gifts, but it will mollify anger or reset prayer timeout, and will not anger your god. The message given when a corpse is eaten in any way is "A mouth forms from the mist and eats a <foo> corpse!".

Sacrifice Rules

The Black Mother has unique rules for accepting offerings.

  1. She does not eat her own minions. She will reject any goat spawn, any centaurs, any nymphs, any unicorns, any mi-go, dark young, blessed, swirling mists, dust/ice/thunder/fire storms, or mouths of the goats themselves. Attempting to sacrifice one will anger her and cause the sacrifice to revive adjacent to you.
  2. Attempting to feed a Rider to her angers her and revives the corpse.
  3. She will not eat the true Amulet of Yendor. ("The Amulet proves inedible.") Cheap plastic imitations cannot be offered.
  4. She WILL eat 'old' corpses, unlike other gods, but with minimal corpse value for luck and prayer timeout purposes.
  5. The Black Mother frowns upon same-race sacrificing for non-chaotics. However, no demons will ever be summoned as a result of the offering. Anachrononauts and Binders have no penalty for same-race sacrifice, even if not chaotic.

If the corpse has not been revived at this point, the sacrifice is accepted. This can appease the Black Mother, but anger the character's normal deity. Non-chaotic characters will be severely punished by their god for offering to the Black Mother. Each sacrifice will hurt their align record, increment their gods anger by 1, reduce wisdom by 1, and reduce luck by 1. In practice, it's not easily doable to sacrifice as a non-chaotic character due to the anger effects you receive on each sacrifice. Even if not chaotic, Binders and Anachrononauts are immune to this effect.

Regardless of your standing with your own god, a sacrifice now functions almost identically to a normal offering. It will attempt to mollify her if she is angry. If you're in good standing, then it will reduce your prayer timeout to the Black Mother. If neither of these apply, a sacrifice will pacify all of her children on the level (anybody she would not accept as an offering, and any mistweavers) and begins checking for gifts and blessings.

Gifts and Blessings

The Black Mother does not give gifts like a normal deity. Instead, she will first attempt to give the character a holy symbol of the black mother. This is a tool-class item that has multiple effects, but the primary effect is the unlocking of further gifts. Any sacrifice eligible for a gift first checks to see if you have a holy symbol in your open inventory. If you don't have one, then you have a 1 / (10 + gifts given by any god) chance to receive one. This gifting counts as an artifact gift for the first symbol given, but not for any symbols past that. If you want another symbol, then you will have to bag or drop any current ones you have.

If you have a symbol in your inventory, then you have the standard chance of receiving a "gift". However, instead of an artifact being given, she will attempt to apply the drooling object property to your equipment. This property checks your weapon, gloves, and boots for eligibility, and uses the same odds as your chance of getting an artifact from a normal sacrifice.

  • If you are wielding an item, either a weapon or an artifact of any kind, and the item does not already have the sizzling or drooling properties, then it will choose the wielded item.
  • If you are wearing gloves, know martial arts, are not wielding a weapon, and the item does not already have the sizzling or drooling properties, then it will choose your gloves.
  • If you are wearing boots, know martial arts, are not wielding a weapon and not wearing gloves, and the item does not already have the sizzling or drooling properties, then it will choose your boots.

If there is an eligible item, then it will apply the drooling property. In the process, this will remove the acrid property, cure erosion, and make the item erodeproof. It will not reset the enchantment of the item. This counts as an artifact gift for future purposes.

If you would have been eligible, but there were no items to drool on, and you have not already received the Red Word of Knowledge, then you will receive the Red Word instead.

Holy Symbol of the Black Mother

The Black Mother provides her devotees with a holy symbol ("tarnished triple goat head" when un-identified) to prove their faith.

Applying a holy symbol will attempt to pray to the Black Mother. This will anger non-chaotic gods, but function as a normal prayer using your prayer timeout with the Black Mother. This will function in Gehennom, and allows Anachrononauts to pray.

Burying a holy symbol, possibly via dropping it into a pit and covering it with a boulder, will begin a timer for 250+d250 turns. When the timer runs out, the floor will "boil to a black mist" and a hoofprint will be burned into on the floor. This summons a mouth of the goat at that spot, allowing you to continue your worship there.

If you are holding a holy symbol in open inventory, any time you kill a monster on an eligible sacrifice spot, they are considered sacrifices even if you didn't #offer the corpse.

Again, you are only eligible for further non-symbol gifts with a holy symbol in your inventory, and only the first holy symbol given counts against your future gifts.

Drooling object property

Each turn, an item with this property appearance may change appearance. The adjectives used can shift to 'drooling', 'staring', 'lashing', or 'stormwrapped', with its abilities changing as the name changes.

  • Drooling: Deals 2x acid damage
  • Staring: Adds study to the target (reducing its AC and increasing the damage it takes on the next attack) by the base damage rolled that turn, plus the enchantment of the item.
  • Lashing: Deals 2x poison and 4d4 physical damage
  • Stormwrapped: Picks a random elemental damage type and deals a variable amount of damage of that type. It has even odds of 3d10 fire damage, 3d8 cold damage, 3d8 shock damage, or 4d4 acid damage.

When a monster is killed by a drooling weapon and leaves a corpse, it will be automatically sacrificed to the Black Mother. This will not give gifts, but can mollify the Black Mother. However, this will still anger either your god or the Black Mother herself as normal, depending on your alignment and the sacrifice. Be careful killing monsters like Riders with a drooling weapon.

Red Word of Knowledge

The Red Word is one of the words of creation, part of the same set as the words in the Mithardir quest. Reading the word has the following effects:

  • Gives a permanent +2 to your Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, surpassing racial maximums but not exceeding 25.
  • Applies a passive bonus of +3 to your pet cap, on top of the Charisma bonus.
  • Provides an active ability to speak the Red Word on an rnz(100) timeout. Priests receive a -20% discount to this timeout. Speaking the word causes all monsters you can see to make an MR check (no bonuses from item class). On a fail they attempt to flee, are permanently crazed, and try to disrobe. Peaceful and tame monsters are still subject to the effects.

Blessings of the Black Mother

If you did not receive an artifact gift, but are still in good standing, you may receive a generic blessing from the Black Mother. This has a chance of roughly 1/(30+experience level), biased to be more likely with higher luck.

First, the Black Mother may gift a tame minion, which will be one of the minions she summons when angered. Otherwise, one of the following effects occurs:

  • Acts as a blessed scroll of remove curse, unpunishing you as well, with the message "You feel like someone is helping you."
  • Fully maximizes your luck with the message "You feel very lucky."
  • Grants the acrid object property to a wielded weapon. The weapon must not be an artifact, be a proper weapon or weapon tool, and not have the sizzling or acrid property already. This will repair erosion and erodeproof the weapon, but not repair any enchantment. If the property was not granted, the boon is lost. This gives the message "Acid drips from your weapon."
  • If you are sterile, cures sterility with the message "You feel fertile." If you were not sterile, the boon is lost.
  • Gifts you 1d8 potions of goat's milk, with the message that "Some potions appear at your feet!". This effect has a triple chance of occurring compared to the other effects.

Goat's Milk

Potions of goat's milk are a reasonably common reward for interacting with the Black Goat. For all intents and purposes they are normal potions, but always appear as a "black potion" when unidentified. This appearance may be shared with another randomized potion.

When drunk, they function as an advanced potion of full healing. If they are blessed, they will restore all lost levels, but otherwise will always restore one even if uncursed. They also restore one ability score if uncursed and all if blessed, and always cure one morgul shard. However, drinking goat's milk will decrease your sanity by d20, and give you the goat-ridden madness if you did not already have it.

Cursed potions have none of the above effects, but are instead spoiled. A spoiled potion deals a flat 40 damage and gives you food poisoning.

Madness of the Black Mother

Any being maddened by the Black Mother has tentacles growing out of their head. This applies to some of her chosen children, and you as well if you have the goat-ridden madness.

If you have the madness, your brain occasionally sprouts writhing masses of tentacles. The madness triggers when a monster (hostile or peaceful, but not tame) is adjacent to you, and a sanity roll fails.

The outburst initially gives the message "Lashing tentacles erupt from your brain!" and deals 4d4 damage to you, scaled by your current HP percentage. This also drains 4d4 nutrition. The tentacles erupting will reduce your sanity by 4d4, but only by 1 per outburst when your sanity is below 50. The only upside of the lashing tentacles is the damage it deals to enemies. It will make a 4d4 poisonous tentacle attack to all non-tame monsters adjacent to you as a free action.

On enemies, the madness will trigger every single turn, but does not damage them. The enemies also don't always make 4d4 poisonous tentacle attacks, but have their own versions. The enemies that have attacks are:

  • Swirling mists: 3d8 hungry mist that splashes you with water
  • Dust storm: 3d8 blinding hungry mist
  • Ice storm: 3d8 freezing hungry mist
  • Thunder storm: 3d8 shocking hungry mist
  • Fire storm: 3d10 fiery hungry mist
  • Mouth of the goat: 4d4 elemental acid hungry mist
  • Blessed: 5/8 chance of 4d4 poisonous tentacles, 1/8 chance of 4d4 study gaze, 1/8 chance of 4d4 physical weapon attack, 1/8 chance of 5d8 clerical spellcasting
  • Mistweavers: 4d4 poisonous tentacle

These attacks will trigger against all adjacent monsters hostile to the attacker.