|Religion in NetHack|
Alignment in NetHack is a trichotomy: lawful, neutral or chaotic. The following things have an alignment:
In addition to your character's alignment (whether you are lawful, neutral, or chaotic), your character also has an alignment record, a number referred to as u.ualign.record in the source code. Some spoilers refer to this number as your "alignment", creating ambiguity.
Altars to the evil god Moloch are considered unaligned—that is, not lawful, neutral or chaotic. Additionally, some artifact weapons are non-aligned; this only means that they express no preference for the alignment of their wielders, not that they are in some way allied to Moloch.
The interactions between objects of different alignments are many and varied. Two things are "co-aligned" when their alignments are the same, or "cross-aligned" when they are different.
- 1 Your alignment
- 2 Monster alignment
- 3 Altar alignment
- 4 Artifact alignment
- 5 Dungeon alignment
- 6 Origin
- 7 SLASH'EM
- 8 References
You choose your alignment during character creation. If you choose any race except human, your alignment is assigned implicitly: dwarves are lawful, gnomes are neutral, and elves and orcs are chaotic. Humans may explicitly choose their alignment, although most roles have restrictions on permissible alignments. For example, Barbarians cannot be lawful, Cavemen cannot be chaotic, and Knights must be lawful.
There are two ways to change your character's alignment. Wearing a helm of opposite alignment changes your alignment temporarily, and sacrificing at a cross-aligned altar under certain circumstances can convert your alignment permanently. If you permanently change your alignment before doing your quest, however, the game will be unwinnable.
A monster's alignment is entirely different from the player character's alignment or alignment record, and is used primarily to determine whether it is peaceful or not toward you. Monsters can be lawful, neutral, or chaotic; the Wizard of Yendor and priests of Moloch are unaligned.
Alignment is determined by the integer maligntyp of struct permonst declared in permonst.h; a positive integer is lawful, 0 is neutral, and a negative integer is chaotic. Thus, while monsters of the same type actually have the same alignment, some lawful monsters are more strongly lawful than others, for instance, while some chaotic monsters are more strongly so than other chaotic monsters. A neutral monster in this context is simply any monster that is neither lawful nor chaotic.
White unicorns are lawful, gray ones are neutral, and black ones are chaotic. Unicorns are especially important, as your god expects you to respect co-aligned unicorns, and sacrificing cross-aligned ones is highly valued.
Co-aligned altars can be used to pray and offer sacrifices to your god. Cross-aligned altars can be converted, but this is not always wise if there is an attendant priest.
Most artifacts have an alignment. If the artifact is not intelligent, then you have only a 1⁄4 chance of being blasted if you have a different alignment from the artifact or have a negative alignment record, or are in the form of something the artifact specially attacks; damage is 4d4 (2d4 if you have magic resistance). If you have enough HP to survive the blast, you will be able to use the artifact.
Intelligent artifacts can emit much stronger blasts; they might also "evade your grasp", meaning that you are unable to use them.
- Gnomish Mines: lawful
- Oracle: neutral
- Sokoban: neutral
- Medusa's Island: chaotic
- Vlad's Tower: chaotic
- All other levels: unaligned (no particular alignment bias)
The three alignments of NetHack probably originate from the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. D&D gods have a specific alignment, and their worshipers are also of that alignment. Later D&D editions include a second axis of alignment: good, neutral, or evil. This results in nine combinations, such as "chaotic good" or "true neutral".
Before D&D introduced the good–evil axis, some players had equated "lawful" with "good" and "chaotic" with "evil"; games like ADOM follow this idea. Perhaps this is why D&D added the second axis. Many computer games, like NetHack, did not include this complication.
Unlike D&D, which has numerous plots, NetHack always follows the same story of taking that Amulet of Yendor from Moloch. Thus, in NetHack, alignments can be compared by how they relate to that story.
For a lawful character, think law and order. Perhaps the surface world has evil Knights and Samurai supporting tyrannical empires, but it is hard to believe that our Knight or Samurai seeking the Amulet is anything but good. They avoid murder and shoplifting, the Knight keeps a code of conduct, and the Samurai maintains honor. Perhaps other lawful roles need not act so good.
A neutral character does not much care about alignment. Most of the special effects of alignment are for lawful or chaotic characters. The neutral character just wants to obtain the best artifacts and win immortality. He or she might be planning from the start to take a helm of opposite alignment to the Astral Plane and just offer the Amulet to the closest high altar.
A chaotic character aims for convenience and cares not for order. In contrast to the lawful characters' like of social settings and orderly group activity, chaotic characters prefer individual action and are perhaps most suited to a one-player game like NetHack. Chaotic characters can keep pets as well as lawful and neutral characters can, before they take out Stormbringer.
Every elf is chaotic. NetHack's elves may be the size of humans, but they are not of Tolkien. Of elves, the rec.games.roguelike.nethack FAQ says that "there's hundreds of years of tradition of the land of Faerie being one where human concepts of law simply do not apply".
Demons would seem to be a special case. They are evil almost by definition, and yet both lawful and chaotic (but not neutral) variants exist. If you polymorph into a demon, no matter what its alignment, you will be damaged by holy water and healed by unholy water, and be unable to pray to any but a chaotic god. It appears that for demons, "lawful" is equivalent to the D&D alignment "lawful evil", and "chaotic" to "chaotic evil", instead of the good–evil axis that describes players and other monsters. D&D divides its fiends into lawful evil "devils" and chaotic evil "demons", but NetHack makes no such distinction.
"Unaligned" implies that Moloch and his followers subscribe to some alien morality completely removed from the lawful-neutral-chaotic trichotomy. However, a reference in the source (unused in vanilla NetHack) lists the guiding principle of unaligned as "evil". If taken as canon, this means that chaotic and evil are indeed distinct from each other. This would explain why actions such as abusing Elbereth and killing your pet are frowned upon by even chaotic gods.
In SLASH'EM, lawful characters get much more powerful minions than others, and they can get minions by praying with low HP as well as sacrifice. However, lawful characters will anger their god if they drink a potion of vampire blood.
Elves are always lawful or neutral. There are also five new races in SLASH'EM; their alignments are as follows:
- Drow: chaotic
- Doppelganger: neutral or chaotic
- Hobbit: lawful or neutral
- Lycanthrope: chaotic
- Vampire: chaotic
There are also many more special levels and dungeon branches in SLASH'EM. Their alignments are as follows:
- Gnomish Mines: lawful
- Mall: lawful
- Oracle: neutral
- Sokoban: neutral
- Grund's Stronghold: chaotic
- Lawful Quest: lawful
- Neutral Quest: neutral
- Chaotic Quest: chaotic
- Wyrm Caves: chaotic
- Black Market: chaotic
- Lost Tomb: chaotic
- Spider Caves: chaotic
- Sunless Sea: chaotic
- Temple of Moloch: chaotic
- Giant Caverns: chaotic
- Medusa: chaotic
- Vlad's Tower: chaotic
- Frankenstein's Lab: chaotic
- All others: unaligned
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