A pacifist player nearly always uses a passive way of killing monsters, such as with a pet, or with a ring of conflict for larger groups. Wands of teleportation are used much more often, to move a difficult monster somewhere else instead of killing it.
Breaking the conductEdit
Obviously, if you get experience for the death of a monster, you break the conduct. However, there are a few corner cases where it isn't obvious if you will lose conduct or not.
- You lose conduct if you apply a drum of earthquake or wand of digging and monsters die falling into holes right under them as the pits as created.
- Displacing your pet onto a trap and killing it breaks conduct only if the trap was known.
- Displacing a pet into water or lava while you are levitating or flying.
- Monsters caught in stinking clouds get angry at the hero even if he did not create the cloud (possible in bones files). Presumably, you lose pacifist, too.
- Reflecting Medusa's gaze.
- Causing a system shock on a monster from a failed polymorph. Beware trying to use a wand of polymorph to make a powerful pet.
- Passive attacks are still attacks. Monsters killed from a passive attack while you are polymorphed will still give experience and break conduct.
- Causing a monster that has engulfed you to be killed by your god's bolt of lightning or disintegration beam 
- The main method for killing monsters while being pacifist is to have your pet do it.
- In SLASH'EM, spell beings will give you experience for their kills and will also break pacifist conduct.
- Genocide is allowed.
- Monsters dying from pits you dug as long as they didn't die on the turn the pit was created. Peaceful monsters that don't die will be angered, however.
- Monsters drowning in the moat created by the invocation ritual or from pools created by a fountain do not break conduct.
- Engulfers will move around randomly if you are generating conflict while engulfed, possibly causing them to move into water or lava and die. This does not break conduct.
- If there is no available square on your new dungeon level for your pet or any follower monster, it instantly vanishes. This does not break conduct. (Beware: the game can crash if the follower has an invocation item!)
- Reflecting a wand or breath attack can kill the attacker. This does not break conduct.
The beginning of a Nethack game is widely considered to be the hardest phase of the game. On top of that, the pacifist conduct is one of the more difficult conducts in Nethack. Hence, pacifist characters are especially sensitive to starting conditions, and any advantages available at the start of the game are of greater importance than usual.
One critical source of initial advantage is your starting choice of race and role. The majority of reported pacifist ascensions have been accomplished with gnomish Healers. This is because gnomish Healers enjoy several key benefits at the start of the game. These include healing potions and spells, infravision, stone to flesh, and the large proportion of peaceful monsters in the Gnomish Mines.
The typical course of a pacifist game is as follows. For much of this section, it is assumed that you are a gnomish Healer, although other scenarios are discussed from time to time.
For gnomish Healers, especially aspiring pacifists, the protection racket is the best starting strategy. To avoid an early death, you should raise your maximum hit points as soon as possible. The easiest way, if you are a Healer, is to quaff the potions of healing and extra healing in your starting inventory. Before doing this, however, you may want to pray to your god first, since praying can increase your maximum hit points. Note that praying at experience level 1 will not increase your maximum hit points if you already have more than 15 max HP, which is why it is important to pray before quaffing healing potions.
If you do decide to pray first, wait until 300 turns have elapsed, and then throw items upwards < repeatedly until you are at 5HP or below. (Don't kick walls if there are sleeping nymphs or zoo monsters on the level.) Praying under these conditions will maximize the chances of gaining hit points.
It is tempting as a Healer to save the healing potions for emergency use, but this is a mistake. Increasing your hit points is much more useful, and your healing spell is usually adequate in emergencies.
Nutrition may be a problem for players who are not accustomed to relying on their pets. Since you are dependent on your pet for survival, you will need to spend time luring or herding your pet in the direction that you want to go, and this extra time contributes to hunger. The nutrition article contains some hints on how to stay healthy. In particular, if you are having problems with nutrition, try to save your prayers for emergency situations when you are weak or fainting from hunger. Note that healers start with the stone to flesh spell, and should use this spell as a food source as soon as enough experience levels are gained to cast it (see below).
As indicated above, most gnomish Healers should make the protection racket their first priority. Most of the monsters in the Gnomish Mines will be peaceful, and with infravision even the darkened mines levels are survivable. A gnomish Healer with 25-30HP and a medium sized dog or cat should have no trouble getting to Minetown.
Healers start with a large amount of gold, often enough that the protection racket can be accomplished without additional gold. However, additional gold is helpful, because even an XL1 character might need up to 3200 gold pieces to buy 9 points of protection. Also, 600 gold pieces will be needed in order to level up at the Oracle. The best way to get more gold is by credit cloning. Find any shop that will buy spellbooks, and drop all your gold in the shop to establish credit in the shop. Wait for your pet to steal the gold out of the shop. Sell your spellbooks (for gold) and buy them back again (using your credit) repeatedly until the shopkeeper runs out of money. If you run out of credit before the shopkeeper runs out of money, drop your gold again and repeat. Since credit cloning works best when you already have a lot of gold, try to do all your credit cloning before you buy protection.
After the protection racket, the next goal for a pacifist gnomish Healer is to get to the Oracle with sufficient gold. By buying a major consultation and a minor consultation (in that order), a level 1 character can reach experience level 3. This will allow you to cast stone to flesh to turn boulders into huge chunks of meat, which represent a plentiful source of food.
If your starting power level is less than 5, you may wish to gain a level or two at the Oracle even before performing the protection racket, to enable you to cast healing spells. Each additional level means a longer period of time before you can purchase the last few points of protection; balance this against the benefits of level gain in your situation.
Eventually, even at XL1, you will reach a point in the dungeon where the random monsters are too strong for domestic pets to handle. Standard strategies such as Elbereth can help to protect both you and your pet, but after a while you will still need to upgrade your pet in order to get any further. A little bit of luck is required here, as not every game will provide the resources you need. (Pacifists don't get death drops.)
If you get a wish early in the game, you should wish for a blessed figurine of an Archon (after making sure you can recharge your wand, if the wish is from a wand of wishing). This will make the rest of the game much easier. One possible metastrategy is to play a large number of characters until one of them gets an early wish.
Barring an early wish, a polymorph trap is a good way to improve your pets. If you hunt for one, the lower mines levels are probably the best (and safest). Each eligible level has 54% chance of at least one. You need either magic resistance, an amulet of unchanging, a leash, or a magic whistle in order to polymorph your pets effectively. If you can't find a polymorph trap, try to find a spellbook of charm monster or scroll of taming, which will let you produce new pets. If you encounter chameleons, you can have your pets eat the corpses in order to (potentially) turn into something better. Reverse genociding chameleons, though possible, is risky and not generally recommended unless nothing else is available. As a last resort, you can smash a potion of polymorph or zap a wand of polymorph on your pet(s), but this has a chance of killing the pet and breaking pacifist conduct. Note that a wand of polymorph is often best saved for polypiling rather than used on your pets.
A carefully played pacifist character with either a pet Archon and/or the ability to cast charm monster should find that, aside from the few specific problems which are listed below, the Castle and Gehennom levels are no harder than they would otherwise be with a regular, non-pacifist character. Whistling your pet into the castle (at the towers) will net you a lot more scrolls and potions than a more direct approach, without any risk to your character. A leash and/or magic whistle are very helpful, and if you make it through the Castle without one, consider wishing for a magic whistle, or polypiling for one.
Pacifist players who have made it to the Wizard's tower usually employ one of the following two strategies to deal with the Wizard of Yendor and the various monsters in the endgame: either have a well-equipped pet Archon on a leash, or a posse of pet purple worms on hand.
The Wizard of Yendor starts out as a level 30 monster, and increases by one level each time he reappears. A pet Archon will reach level 28 without help, but after that you will need to give it potions of gain level to raise its level. The Archon will not attack the Wizard unless the Wizard is no more than one level higher than the Archon, so plan accordingly. If your Archon is not already high level (mid 30s), you may want to save up several wishes so that you can wish for potions of gain level if needed. Another possibility is to use a level draining artifact to lower the Wizard's level, but take care not to kill the Wizard in the process (check with a stethoscope).
A pet purple worm can instakill most monsters by eating them, but they will usually never reach high enough level to attack the Wizard of Yendor without conflict. If you rely on purple worms, a ring of conflict is essential. (Conflict also works with pet Archons, but it is risky until they reach level 25, because the Archons might start attacking you.)
A high level pet Archon with reflection and good weapons and armor (e.g. +7 Frost Brand, AC:-25) will quickly kill pretty much every monster you encounter, even in the endgame, except for footrices and monsters that have digestion attacks. Using a leash or two is highly recommended, especially in the Elemental Planes, since otherwise you will be in bad shape if you enter one of the portals without your pet(s).
Specific problems and solutionsEdit
Weak monsters such as geckos can die if you accidentally hit them. This causes you to lose pacifist conduct and represents a major threat to any would-be pacifist. Players should prepare themselves for a lot of frustation. At the start of the game, there is nothing you can do except play very carefully, using movement commands which do not attack, such as m, g, capital vi movement keys, and _. Once you get a cream pie, you should wield it. A character wielding a cream pie does no damage upon hitting a monster, regardless of any damage bonuses you may have. However, if you hit anything, the cream pie will splat. Feel free to wield a whole stack, only one will splat.
If you have a pet that can kill Keystone Kops, you should find a suitable shop and steal a gold piece several times to build up a stockpile of cream pies. Dig a pit in front of his door to keep the shopkeeper inside. If he approaches you after you rob the shop, you can pay the shopkeeper to appease him. Rinse, repeat, lather.
If you don't have a cream pie, wielding a Puddingbane will make sure the damage is limited to 1 even if you have a damage bonus from rings or strength. Do not use a non weapon object unless your strength is 15 or lower, otherwise the damage will be increased by your strength bonus. However, even a single point of accidental damage can still kill weak monsters.
On rare occasions, it is helpful for a pacifist to use weapons to attack monsters. If you have a stethoscope, you can selectively reduce monsters to very few hit points or even one hit point using a weak weapon or non-weapon such as a Puddingbane. This helps your pet kill floating eyes if you have a blindfold. Later, once you get a level draining artifact, you can use it to drain high level monsters to the point where your pet will attack it.
Here is a full list of pacifist methods for gaining experience:
- Quaffing potions of gain level
- Eating wraith corpses
- Lying with foocubi
- Talking with the Oracle
- Eating tripe
- Quaffing from sinks
- Untrapping squeaky boards
Potions of gain level are usually best saved for a pet Archon. Chatting with the Oracle is useful in the early game, but only works once per game. This leaves eating wraith corpses and consorting with foocubi as the primary level-up methods for a pacifist. Wraiths can be reverse genocided or lured from a graveyard level such as the Valley of the Dead (use level teleport for maximum speed, or charm monster). Tripe rations are a handy way to regain levels lost to level drain.
If you run across any wraith corpses in the dungeon, you should eat them, as it will make it easier to enter the Quest later on. However, unless there is some need to gain levels (for example, to cast charm monster), you should avoid actively gaining experience until you go on the Quest, in order to keep the difficulty of random monsters low.
Most of the time, gaining levels is not a big challenge compared with all of the other difficulties of pacifism, and in general if you are opportunistic with wraith corpses and foocubi summoning via sinks you should have no trouble. However, if your game is lacking in sinks and wraiths, you may have to take matters into your own hands. Perhaps the easiest solution is to polypile or wish for a magic marker and reverse genocide wraiths. Other methods include letting water demons hit you to summon foocubi, farming for potions to alchimize by repeatedly #looting a throne, or wraith farming with the Book of the Dead.
In order to fully take advantage of what your god can do for you (fix problems) you'll need to have an alignment greater than zero. When you start the game your alignment is set to zero, so it should be increased before you run into your first major trouble. Also, your alignment must be 20 before you'll be allowed on the quest.
With neutral characters, it is a bit more difficult. The easiest technique to get the first couple of points of alignment is to pray after the 300th turn with a minor trouble, since your initial prayer timeout is set to 300. This will only work for the first two points of alignment.
After that, you can get more alignment by giving priests gold. Giving a priest of your alignment (hope for a co-aligned minetown altar) 600 times your level in gold will raise your alignment two points, but only if you don't have more than 2 times that amount of gold in your inventory at the time. So stash away all the gold you're not giving to the priest in a bag, then give to charity!
You can get a slightly better deal once you've bought the first 9 points of protection from that co-aligned priest. After that, if you spend 400 times your level in gold you have a decreasing chance of getting an extra point of protection. If you don't get that protection, the check is done again to see if this amount is more than half your current gold. If it is, then you get two points of alignment instead.
Sacrificing unicorns of other alignments is probably the next easiest way to raise your alignment as a neutral character.
Neutral atheist non-healer pacifists have an especially hard time raising their alignment. The only method available to them is to anger a cross-aligned priest. Ben Hiles has ascended an atheist pacifist Gnomish Wizard this way.
Finally, a helm of opposite alignment can open up other dieties' methods of gaining alignment, such as casting healing spells on pets, provided you do not mind losing your protection and can uncurse it.
If a monster engulfs you, [a]pplying a tooled horn will cause the monster to expel you. Pacifists should thus make it a priority to find a tooled horn. Other escape methods such as teleportation, ring of slow digestion, wand of slow monster, wand of opening, cloak of displacement, wand of digging, and the knock and slow monster spells can also be used in various situations.
Air elementals are dangerous opponents, since they are fast and often re-engulf you immediately after you escape. On a no-teleport level, zapping the air elemental with a wand of teleportation will move it out of your way. On levels that permit teleportation, you must zap yourself and not the air elemental in order to teleport outside of the monster.
Pets cannot be engulfed except by monsters with digestion attacks; however, a pet which is engulfed by a digestion attack suffers instadeath. Fortunately, the only monsters with digestion attacks are trappers, lurkers above, and purple worms. All three of them move slowly if at all, so they are easy to avoid if you have telepathy or (to a lesser extent) warning. Another option, if you don't intend to have any pet purple worms, is to genocide them.
Most pets will not attack cockatrices. If you are unable to obtain a stoning resistant pet such as a Yellow Dragon or a (Winged) Gargoyle, cockatrices will be very annoying obstacles. Taming, teleportation, genocide, conflict, Elbereth cages, and luring a wounded cockatrice into a pit are about the only ways to get rid of them without a pet that is willing to attack them. The easiest solution is to simply genocide them. In a normal game, genociding cocktrices is usually not a good idea, as their corpses are immensely useful against very difficult enemies. This is not true in a pacifist game, as your pets will not wield cockatrice corpses if they have an artifact or no gloves, and the conduct keeps you from using it yourself. Additionally, any cockatrice corpses left on the ground could potentially be wielded against you by a soldier wearing gloves. The only potential uses for cockatrices in a pacifist game are with conflict, and deliberately stoning a weak pet golem to get a stronger stone golem.
High level monstersEdit
A ring of conflict will cause your pets to attack other monsters (and you) regardless of any differences in monster level. If you don't have conflict, you will have to spend some effort to raise your pets' levels, since without conflict a pet will not attack monsters more than one level higher than it. Another option is to turn the monster into a green slime and either have a pet kill it or simply run away. It is possible to slime the Wizard of Yendor and polymorph into a nymph to steal the Book of the Dead. This has the added advantage of the Wizard not reappearing until after performing the invocation ritual.
A pet Archon will reach level 28 without any special effort. After that, the only way to raise its level is to give it potions of gain level. Of the monsters normally encountered in the game, only Asmodeus, Baalzebub, Orcus, the Wizard of Yendor, and the Riders are above level 29. It is usually best to bribe Asmodeus and Baalzebub, since otherwise they are fairly hard to kill. Asmodeus, in particular, is level 49, which is very difficult to handle without conflict. Orcus and the Riders are level 30 and thus require a level 29 Archon to kill -- give your Archon one potion of gain level.
The Wizard of Yendor starts at level 30, but each death of the Wizard or his clones increases the level of his next appearance by one. For this reason, it is a good idea to ensure that your Archon is several experience levels higher than the Wizard before beginning the ascension run, or have a level draining artifact on hand to use against him (check his level and hit points periodically with a stethoscope to make sure you don't kill him). As usual, if the level draining artifact is your quest artifact, be prepared as it will eventually be stolen by the Wizard if left out long enough. The most convenient source of gain level is probably #looting Vlad's throne repeatedly - about 2-4% of all monsters generated will carry such a potion.
Another option is to tame liches and grow them into arch-liches; a fully leveled arch lich is level 37, sufficient to attack the Wizard for several incarnations. Arch liches have the additional advantage of being covetous; once wounded both the Wizard and the tame lich will teleport to the upstairs (if it exists) and will continue to fight. Monsters will not escape upstairs or cast healing spells if you are not nearby, so the two will continue to fight until one of them dies - typically the Wizard, as an arch lich has more damaging attacks. An arch lich specifically wants the book of the dead and will therefore pick it up after the Wizard dies, but it may be difficult to get the book back; the lich will still drop carried items due to being tame, but tends to immediately pick the book up again.
Without a large supply of potions of gain level, it is always possible that the Wizard will reach a point where a pet Archon will refuse to attack him without conflict. The easiest way to get a level 49 pet is to tame a purple worm and farm for wraiths with the cursed Book of the Dead. Purple worms will gain a level whenever they swallow a wraith, ignoring corpse dropping odds. Beware the by-product arch-liches, and that the Wizard will haunt you unless you steal the book without killing him. Once at level 49, the pet worm will always be able to quickly kill the Wizard and will have enough HP to survive most combat. You still need to keep it away from disintegration blasts, polymorph traps, shapeshifters, and the Riders.
Polymorph traps, level teleporters, and trap doors are dangerous for pacifists. A polymorph trap can turn a strong pet into a weak pet. Level teleporters (and trap doors) can separate you from your pet. If you have a trap detection method, it might be a good idea to search each level for dangerous traps and disable them, or keep your pets away. In most cases, it is enough to put a cursed object or a boulder and an Elbereth-engraving on the trap, or to dig a pit.
In the main dungeon, most traps can be avoided by walking in corridors instead of rooms. Digging your own corridors is a relatively safe method of travel, but tedious and usually not necessary. In Gehennom, try to stay in front of your pet at all times by using the layout of the maze to block your pet from walking in front of you. This will ensure that you encounter dangerous traps before your pet steps into them; once you find a dangerous trap, you should disable it immediately. Be aware, however, that when dangerous monsters are in the vicinity, you will want to keep your pet in front of you instead, so switch between the two modes of exploration as appropriate. Extrinsic telepathy is extremely valuable here, as is magic mapping.
Water and lavaEdit
Most pets, except for flying pets and a few that can survive under water, will die if you displace them into water or lava. If they die in this way, you will lose pacifist conduct. Be especially careful with pets on levels with water or lava. If you are not able to play with the necessary amount of caution, one alternative is to make sure all your pets can fly (and abandon the ones that can't).
Monsters with special abilitiesEdit
Many special abilities, such as mind flayers' brain-sucking attack and touch of death, won't work on your pet. Major exceptions include a cockatrice's stoning attack or a black dragon's breath attack, which can kill your pet instantly. Pets will not attack a footrice unless they are stoning resistant or you are causing conflict. The way to deal with cockatrices is to have a stoning resistant pet, teleport them, tame them, cancel them, or use genocide. Stoned pets may be recovered by the stone to flesh spell.
A floating eye's gaze attack will affect pets. Keep any pets without reflection away from floating eyes until you obtain an expensive camera, wand of make invisible, or some other means of neutralizing their gaze attack. You can wake pets up with a leather drum, a tooled horn, or depleted drum of earthquake or magical horn.
Medusa is another special case. If you reflect Medusa's gaze, you will lose pacifist conduct, so don't do that. Standard techniques for dispatching Medusa include using a pet with reflection, cancelling or blinding Medusa, or blindfolding yourself and dropping a wand of death in her path for her to use.
- Eye of the Aethiopica
- Orb of Fate
- Platinum Yendorian Express Card
- Pacifists rely on wands more than usual, especially wands of fire and lightning, which can engrave Elbereth, and wands of teleportation, which can move monsters out of the way. Being able to recharge wands is good.
- Also confers telepathy and magic resistance.
- Allows unlimited use of the Orb of Fate to search for traps. (A regular crystal ball will also work, but unless your intelligence is at least 20, a regular crystal ball has a chance of exploding when used.)
- If you're not a Healer, a level draining artifact may be worth a wish.
Useful non-artifact wishes include the usual ascension kit equipment, plus any of the following depending on your situation:
- blessed figurine of an Archon
- blessed spellbook of charm monster
- blessed magic whistle
- blessed ring of conflict
- A pacifist Archeologist by Marvin
- A pacifist Rogue by Marvin
- A pacifist Monk (and 8 other conducts too) by Brad Sagarin
Pacifism is the most difficult conduct: only 0.8% of all winning NAO accounts have a pacifist ascension.
- Pacifist FAQ by Steve Relles