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This article is about the player role. For other uses, see Wizard (disambiguation).

The wizard is one of the roles in NetHack. Wizards can be either neutral or chaotic, and can be humans, elves, gnomes or orcs. The guidebook says of them:

              Wizards start out with a knowledge of magic, a selection  of
         magical  items,  and a particular affinity for dweomercraft.  Al-
         though seemingly weak and easy to overcome at first sight, an ex-
         perienced Wizard is a deadly foe.

Wizards are relatively poor fighters with low HP and strength, but are the best spellcasters in the game. All categories of spells are unrestricted to them. They can also write unidentified scrolls and spellbooks (with a magic marker) more easily than any other class. Wizards with high intelligence are granted reduced-hunger casting. Wizards cannot use two weapons. Wizards' special spell is Magic missile, and they have no bonus or penalty for emergency spells.

Wizards can get Expert in the weapon skills of dagger, quarterstaff, and dart, as well as the attack, divination, escape, and matter spells. They can also become Skilled at Cleric, Healing, and Enchantment spells.


Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:

  • XL 1-2: Evoker
  • XL 3-5: Conjurer
  • XL 6-9: Thaumaturge
  • XL 10-13: Magician
  • XL 14-17: Enchanter/Enchantress
  • XL 18-21: Sorcerer/Sorceress
  • XL 22-25: Necromancer
  • XL 26-29: Wizard
  • XL 30: Mage

SLASH'EM adds the Rank titles Warlock/Witch (XL 14-17), bumps Enchanter/Enchantress to XL 18-21, Sorcerer/Sorceress to XL 22-25, and removes the rank title of Necromancer (presumably, to avoid confusion with the new Necromancer role).




  • Human wizards have the highest strength, making it easier to reach the encumbrance cap
  • They can be either neutral or chaotic.


  • The only race that doesn't have infravision, making the mines much more dangerous.
  • You are going to have a hard time getting through the Mines since both the dwarves and the gnomes will be after your blood (the dwarves because you're not lawful, and the gnomes because you're human).
  • Their intelligence is only average, although that can be solved by wearing a helm of brilliance.
  • Many later monsters are human, which cannot be sacrificed (unless you are chaotic) or eaten. The latter matters mostly for the nurse healing effect.



  • Elves will always be generated peaceful. By the time a wizard encounters elves, they might be relying on invisibility or Elbereth to avoid combat, both of which are useless against (non-undead) elves.
  • Gain sleep resistance at level 4.
  • Highest Intelligence and Wisdom, can forgo a helm of brilliance for the higher AC of an elven leather helm.
  • Infravision.
  • Starts with an instrument, useful to scare monsters or to dig for victory.


  • Can only be chaotic, making the mines very difficult.
  • Very low strength and constitution, to the point where levitation or gauntlets of power are required to reach the maximum possible carrying capacity.



  • Gnomes in the mines are almost always peaceful, relieving some of the problems of that branch.
  • Higher Intelligence than humans, although only average wisdom.
  • Good strength and average constitution, they can hit the encumbrance cap without aid.
  • Can use uncursed touchstones as if blessed, if you find an early touchstone this can get you a lot of gold early on, which could be used for divine protection in Minetown
  • Infravision


  • Can only be neutral, so no murder or gnomish sacrifice.



  • Orcs start with poison resistance, preventing certain YAADs and opening up more monsters as edible.
  • No cannibalism penalty, so you can eat anyone with impunity! You can even eat cats and dogs!
  • Good strength and average constitution, they can hit the encumbrance cap without aid.
  • Infravision.
  • Since they are always chaotic, and orcs are plentiful in the early and mid games, it is easy to convert any altar via sacrificing your own race.


  • Low Intelligence and wisdom makes spellcasting very difficult and the helm of brilliance essential, not to mention making hungerless casting impossible without it.
  • Can only be chaotic, making the mines difficult.


Wizard skills
Max Skills

Wizards start always with Basic skill in Quarterstaff, Attack spells and Enchantment spells. This is independent of the category of the random spellbook, because the spellcasting skills are hardcoded in the function skill_init in WEAPON.C.


It takes 6 skill slots to reach Expert in daggers, and 20 slots to max out all the spellcasting skills: 3x2 slots for the Skilled spells, 4x4 slots for the Expert spells, minus the 2 points already in attack and enchantment. This means that a level 30 Wizard who chooses to enhance all spellcasting skills to maximum should have 3 slots free to spend on other skills, such as unrestricted artifact weapon skills.

As part of skill slot management, a Wizard should defer enhancing any spell skill until there comes a point when doing so would provide an in-game benefit. The benefits from enhancing a spell skill are that it lowers spell failure rates, and (depending on the spell) sometimes augments the effects of a spell. When advancing spell skills, it is a good idea to check which spells you have in each school, and make sure that at least one of your spells would benefit from being enhanced, before using up the skill slot.

It is important to note that a great many spells enjoy augmented effects when advancing from Basic to Skilled (notably, fireball, cone of cold, remove curse, and detect monsters), but only two spells enjoy augmented effects when going from Skilled to Expert (namely, jumping and protection), and of these two, Wizards can only become Expert in jumping. Therefore, for spells other than escape spells, a Wizard gains no benefit from advancing to Expert unless there is a currently known high level spell (e.g. finger of death, cancellation, polymorph) whose failure rate would be lowered by such advancement.

In particular, there is almost never any need to advance divination spells to expert, since all divination spells have the same effects at skilled as at expert, and none of the divination spells are of very high spell level. The same goes for enchantment spells and healing spells (except for the useless restore ability). The skill slots saved thereby are valuable to have available for weapons, especially early in the game.


Main article: Wizard quest

The Wizard quest sees you fighting the Dark One for The Eye of the Aethiopica.

Starting equipment

A wizard begins the game with:[1]


  • Before a decent supply of better thrown weapons is found, a Wizard may find it useful to cast force bolt at a boulder or statue, pick up the resulting stones (as many as can be carried while staying unburdened), and quiver them. Thrown stones can kill many low-level monsters before they reach the Wizard, and inflict substantial damage on those that are not killed outright. Of course, stones should be replaced with darts, daggers, or other missiles as they become available.
  • Wizards should dump their quarterstaff early on for any kind of non-cursed dagger unless trying for the Staff of Aesculapius via wishing. Note, though, that many Wizards start with such poor fighting skills that hitting with a dagger, with Unskilled ability in daggers, can be very difficult before experience level 5 or so. Two tricks are to name Sting and train it on goblins for the +d5 to hit bonus, or allow yourself to be engulfed by a fog cloud and strike automatically from inside.
  • They can and should reach expert in dagger. They need not enhance even their attack spell until this is done. At expert, it is possible to throw up to three daggers in a turn, so it is recommended to acquire a good number of daggers that stack together. Wizards may find it worthwhile to make a brief sortie into the Gnomish Mines, where daggers are plentiful. Also, daggers have a bonus to hit, which makes it easier to train with using them. Elven daggers are especially useful. Note that the Gnomish Mines can be dangerous for low-level Wizards, and deeper descent should perhaps be postponed until after Sokoban has been completed.
  • Since survival is so much more important than sorcery, early game wizards should try on each and every non-cursed piece of armor they find to reduce armor class as quickly as possible. They rely on volleys of daggers instead of attack spells. The metal armor can then gradually be replaced with leather and/or dragon armor. In this sense, the early game wizard is the most un-magical of all roles.
  • Compared to Wizards, roles such as the Valkyrie or Barbarian are almost mono-chromatic in combat--they bash with their primary weapons and only switch tactics for special occasions. Wizards need to develop a much more diverse toolkit, since so many monsters are resistant to one or more forms of magical attack. A fire resistant opponent may be especially vulnerable to cold attacks; an opponent with reflection can probably still be stoned by a cockatrice corpse. The wizard player should read the wiki entries for new opponents to learn their immunities and weaknesses (so as to not waste time zapping demons with finger of death) and never be reluctant to make a tactical retreat and come back better-prepared. Ultimately, nothing has "stab resistance"—even shades will succumb to an enchanted or silver weapon—so a wizard should always have a good physical combat option to fall back on.
  • They should sacrifice as soon as they find an altar, as their first guaranteed gift is Magicbane which is an excellent weapon, and in addition is an athame with which you can engrave Elbereth in the stone in one move, without dulling. It is also great as wielding it catches 95% of all curses, e.g. when confronting a spellcaster. Actually at high levels and after the quest, spells are much better for attack than any weapon. Some people keep Magicbane wielded at all times, and use spells for attack; others go for Frost brand or, if neutral, The Staff of Aesculapius. The Sokoban scrolls of earth can be used to safely convert the minetown altar and get Magicbane.
  • The Wizard quest is fairly easy, the Dark One is a pushover, and the reward--The Eye of the Aethiopica--is so fantastically useful that a Wizard should probably go on the quest as soon as possible. One of the many things the Eye does is vastly enhance strategic mobility through the Mazes of Menace--in particular, getting the player out of trouble in an instant. Many Wizards set up a base camp on level 1 of Sokoban and leave most of their worldly possessions there, going back whenever they need to read a spellbook or pick up more food. Note that adjacent monsters may follow the wizard through the Eye's magical portal, but this also has its uses--such as luring Wraiths out of a graveyard level.
  • If you have found the quest portal, but are not yet level 14, be aware that the first level of the quest, the Lonely Tower, is often well-provided with wraiths. You may be able to gain a few levels and reach XL 14 before you meet your quest leader.
  • They should try to read any non-cursed spellbook as soon as they find it. They will be warned of any chances of failure. They also have higher intelligence which makes it easy to read spellbooks. Combining the two they can start reading uncursed level 1 spellbooks at XL1.
  • If a wizard starts with a wand of polymorph, they may consider polymorphing their starting force bolt spellbook. Since it is blessed, the resulting polymorphed books will also be blessed and will automatically be readable (though not necessarily castable) to the wizard. Adding a new spell to your repository never causes the book to be too faint to be read anymore, even if it has been polymorphed or read four times. However, multiple polymorphing will eventually destroy the spellbook. They can polymorph their starting kitten at the same time, often ending up with something much stronger for an early pet.
  • In the mid-game it is common for wizards who have the correct spells, (magic missile and create monster) to find an altar with a priest(ess) and continually create monsters and offer the high level ones to their god to increase luck, and hit points. The large number of monsters killed also means a large number of items which usually results in a few good potions, scrolls, wands and some other magical items.
  • The helm of brilliance is a favourite helmet for spellcasters, and wizards should have it. For the early and mid game, their spellcasting failure rates are usually low enough to cast any spell they need without boosting their intelligence past 18. They will also have little need for the enhanced Power recovery, since their quest artifact gives much faster recovery anyway. However, a +5 helm of brilliance, will boost the energy recovery amount, from 1d3 to 1d4. This seems like not much, but as a percentage is quite a boost. The cornuthaum and the elven leather helm can be good enough for the mid game.
  • Wizards depend on spellcasting and spellbook reading, but start with no food, so they often have hunger problems in the early game. Remember to always eat corpses and #pray when Weak — saving your food rations for when you cannot pray. Note that not only can wizards begin with a ring of slow digestion, they can also begin with hungerless casting as long as they have 17 or greater Intelligence.
  • Because there can be so much variation in the starting equipment, it makes them a common class for reroll scummers.
  • It is a good idea to go down to the Oracle level and break the "historic" statues there in search of spare spellbooks, then come back up to the Gnomish Mines.
  • Some people advocate deliberately keeping your experience level low in the early game, but this is contentious. Increases in monster difficulty due to a higher experience levels are roughly balanced out with the benefits that come with the higher experience level, such as higher maximum power. That said, gaining levels deliberately is a sucker's game because monsters get harder, but wizards profit less from skill slots or increase your damage output than do fighter classes. The easiest way to prevent yourself from over-leveling is to allow your pet to kill as many monsters as is feasible, although one would be wise to still gain a few levels for the additional survivability and spell power capacity. These constraints are loosened when you learn magic missile, get Magicbane, or obtain some other offensive upgrade.



In SLASH'EM, Wizards start with four spellbooks, with one book chosen randomly from each of:

  • force bolt or sleep
  • resist poison or resist sleep
  • detect food, detect monsters, light, knock or wizard lock
  • magic missile, confuse monster, slow monster, cure blindness, endure heat, endure cold, insulate, create monster or healing


Wizards in SLASH'EM are a bit more difficult then in vanilla. In vanilla, once you get Magicbane you are likely to be on the road to ascension. Here, you had better stay sharp even after you get Magicbane. Keep your pet around you for longer. A good advice would be to stay careful and keep your pet until AC <-10, level >10.

An additional difficulty is that you don't have enough slots for all the extrinsics you would want. Dragon scale mail interferes with spell casting now and aren't worth it for the Ascension kit. In addition you have to deal with the create pool spell and more serious level drain attacks.

Some possible equipment choices:

  • robe of protection: The highest natural AC for the suit slot without spellcasting interference. It can be upgraded from plain robes with 50% chance. The robe of power is useless for a Wizard, unless wearing metallic armor. Robes take the suit slot here, so you can't attempt to wear a robe of power on top of dragon scale mail.
  • Wielding Nighthorn: It confers reflection, but it is two-handed, so if it get cursed, you can't cast spells any more. Also, it is lawful, it will blast you for sure.
  • Depending on your situation you could live dangerously, and forfeit reflection or drain resistance.

Bad ideas:

  • Wielding the Staff of Aesculapius: It doesn't confer drain resistance in SLASH'EM. Furthermore, it is two-handed, if it get cursed, you can't cast spells any more.

Nice wishes:

the wallet of Perseus (unaligned) can help overcome the initial low carrying capacity of the Wizard, without wearing gauntlets of power.


In Sporkhack, a wizard starts with a cloak of protection instead of a cloak of magic resistance. In addition, a wizard also begins with a spellbook of protection.

Encyclopedia entry

Ebenezum walked before me along the closest thing we could
find to a path in these overgrown woods. Every few paces he
would pause, so that I, burdened with a pack stuffed with
arcane and heavy paraphernalia, could catch up with his
wizardly strides. He, as usual, carried nothing, preferring,
as he often said, to keep his hands free for quick conjuring
and his mind free for the thoughts of a mage.

[ A Dealing with Demons, by Craig Shaw Gardner ]


  1. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 160
  2. u init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 931
  3. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 930
  4. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 932
  5. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 941
  6. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 933
  7. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 946
  8. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 928
  9. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 929
  10. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 934
  11. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 935
  12. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 925
  13. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 956
  14. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 965
  15. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 919
  16. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 936
  17. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 750
  18. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 728
  19. u_init.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 729

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It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

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