- This page describes a priest as a player character. For the monster, see aligned priest.
Priest (priestess if female) is one of the roles in NetHack, capable of playing any alignment as a human, or restricted to chaotic as an elf. A priest's religion is chosen randomly from the pantheons of the other roles. A human priest is therefore capable of representing any of the gods in the game (who send mortals after the amulet, that is.) According to the guidebook:
Priests and Priestesses are clerics militant, crusaders ad- vancing the cause of righteousness with arms, armor, and arts thaumaturgic. Their ability to commune with deities via prayer occasionally extricates them from peril, but can also put them in it.
The main disadvantage of the Priest is his weapon skill set. Priests cannot gain skill in any edged weapons, and can only reach basic skill in ranged weapons. Combined with lack of attack spell-casting skills, it is hard for priests to find a good way to kill monsters. (In SLASH'EM they can reach skilled in long sword )
Other than attack spells, Priests are decent spell-casters. They can advance to expert in clerical, divination and healing, but are restricted in other classes. Note that their spellcasting is based on Wisdom, not Intelligence.
The starting equipment is definitely an advantage of the Priest. They get a spell-casting set of two spellbooks (random from their schools) and a robe, as well as a +1 mace and small shield as with aligned priests, which more than suffices for the beginning. This is complemented with a sprig of wolfsbane (handy against lycanthropy), a clove of garlic and some holy water. They may also start with a random tool, such as an oil lamp or magic marker.
You can identify which weapons, armor, and rings are safe to equip without having to drag everything to an altar, and your robe gives you some leeway in terms of wearing metal items and still being able to cast. Try on every noncursed piece of equipment you find; you may get lucky and find something like speed boots or a +4 ring of gain strength which makes your early game much easier. Even gauntlets of power are worth considering, as your starting spells are rarely so crucial that you don't have time to remove an item to cast them. Beware the helm of opposite alignment.
The mace you get in the beginning works fine in the early game, but is certainly insufficient later. It may be worth trying to obtain an artifact weapon, but most of them are restricted and will need to be granted by your god for them to be of much use. The exceptions are Mjollnir (may be granted to neutral priests or wished for by any), the Sceptre of Might (may be wished for by a lawful priest, and gives magic resistance, but will blast you), and the mighty Staff of Aesculapius (may be wished for by a neutral priest, gives hunger-free regeneration and level-drain resistance, but will also blast you.).
Priests can reach skilled in polearms; it may be worth training this skill against large, slow monsters (like mumakil), whom you can outrun as they close to attack range, and sea monsters, who cannot hit you if you are not next to the water.
In SLASH'EM priests get the Disrupter (Mace) as their first sacrifice gift, which is very useful in their quest as it grants +5 to hit and +30 to damage against the undead. It is not terribly useful as a main weapon, but makes a good secondary weapon to use against liches and vampire mages.
Lawful priests can try to use the Skullcrusher (Club) that can be gotten by sacrifice. If you are good at unmounted polearm tactics, the Reaper (Halberd) can be another option. The previously-good wish, the Sceptre of Might, is a much weaker weapon in SLASH'EM. It now does a flat +3 to hit and +5 to damage against cross-aligned, instead of double damage.
Chaotic priests can use the Bat from Hell (Club) which can by gotten by sacrifice. They can also use the Plague bow or the Hellfire crossbow, both may be obtained through sacrifice. All the arrows shot by the Plague are poisoned and all bolts shot by the Hellfire explode dealing fire damage.
You should not have any problems with skill slots, as you don't learn many weapon skills and can advance them quickly in the quest thanks to all the wraith corpses. Hence you can advance spell-casting skill slots as soon as possible. If you run into problems, clerical spells should take precedence, as the spells most useful to you belong there.
In the late game you can learn simple attack spells (like force bolt or drain life) and cast them with 0% failure rate, especially with the Mitre of Holiness. Magic missile is especially useful at high levels, as its damage scales up with your level (and, due to the wraiths in the quest, it is easy, if a little tedious, to increase your level to deal more damage).
You should turn undead only if you are 100% positive that there are no non-undead monsters nearby.
Nalzok, the Priest quest nemesis, is quite tough, but he respects Elbereth and the scroll of scare monster. Beware the bullwhip-wielders (you may lose your weapon). Most of the quest is, however, rather boring and extremely profitable. All the levels contain several graveyards with wraiths (lure them out), and chests full of goodies. The Locate level may also contain several sleeping foocubi, which you should not disturb until you are able to utilize them without the risk of negative effects.
The quest artifact is The Mitre of Holiness. While even an ordinary helm of brilliance is a great thing, the mitre additionally allows you to regain your power, gives fire resistance and halves damage from undead. However, unlike many quest artifacts, it doesn't confer magic resistance, so you have to get that from a different source.
The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:
- XL 1-2: Aspirant
- XL 3-5: Acolyte
- XL 6-9: Adept
- XL 10-13: Priest/Priestess
- XL 14-17: Curate
- XL 18-21: Canon/Canoness
- XL 22-25: Lama
- XL 26-29: Patriarch/Matriarch
- XL 30: High Priest/High Priestess
In SLASH'EM, priests get the "Blessing" technique, allowing them to bless/uncurse items without holy water. Also, they can reach skilled in long sword and use of the Excalibur becomes an option (Excalibur is much more powerful in SLASH'EM as it always does +10 damage).
[...] For the two priests were talking exactly like priests,
piously, with learning and leisure, about the most aerial
enigmas of theology. The little Essex priest spoke the more
simply, with his round face turned to the strengthening stars;
the other talked with his head bowed, as if he were not even
worthy to look at them. But no more innocently clerical
conversation could have been heard in any white Italian cloister
or black Spanish cathedral. The first he heard was the tail of
one of Father Brown's sentences, which ended: "... what they
really meant in the Middle Ages by the heavens being
incorruptible." The taller priest nodded his bowed head and
said: "Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason;
but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that
there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is