Conducts are various limitations players may set to themselves in order to make the game more challenging. The game keeps track of your conducts and shows them at the end of the game. You may also see them any time by using the extended command #conduct. Note that conducts only apply to actions in game; a priest obviously believes in a god but does not automatically lose atheist conduct, and classes that begin the game with learned spells do not automatically lose illiterate conduct.
The "official" conducts are the conducts that the game tracks.
When you start the game, the list of conducts looks as follows:
Voluntary challenges: You have gone without food. You have been an atheist. You have never hit with a wielded weapon. You have been a pacifist. You have been illiterate. You have never genocided any monsters. You have never polymorphed an object. You have never changed form. You have used no wishes.
Vegans refrain from eating anything which comes from an animal. Vegans may eat:
- food rations, cram rations, K-rations, C-rations and lembas wafers
- melons, oranges, carrots, pears, apples, bananas, kelp, eucalyptus, garlic, wolfsbane, and user-defined fruit
- the corpse of any monster (or a tin of its 'meat') represented by b, j, or F.
- tins of spinach.
There are other monsters which are classified as vegan food, but which don't leave corpses: all v and y, elementals, all ' except flesh and leather golems (which are obviously also not vegetarian), and ghosts. You can eat such monsters when polymorphed into something with a digest attack. The same goes for monsters that leave vegetarian corpses.
Vegetarians may, on top of vegan foods, eat:
- brown puddings, gray oozes and green slimes
- eggs, pancakes, fortune cookies, candy bars, royal jelly and cream pies
- wax candles (but not tallow candles)
All other comestibles break the conduct.
All of the food restriction conducts make it much harder to gain intrinsics, as the main source of intrinsics is eating corpses. When paired with other conducts such as polyselfless and/or atheist, it can make gaining some intrinsics impossible.
Being an atheist means that you are not involved with religion in any way. You must not drop any objects on an altar while nonblind, pray, turn undead as a priest or knight, offer to gods (with the exception of offering the Amulet of Yendor to complete the game), or even chat with priests. Atheists may, however, make use of holy or unholy water if they obtain some without praying.
The worst problem for a late-game atheist character is likely to be the lack of divine protection. Holy water and an artifact weapon can be wished for or obtained in other ways, and Luck can be maximised by throwing valuable gems to a coaligned unicorn in lieu of sacrificing.
Christian Cooper's NetHack page includes a patch enabling atheist characters to win the game without sacrificing the Amulet of Yendor.
4.0% of all winning accounts on NAO have an atheist ascension.
A pacifist is a player who does not directly kill any monster. A pacifist may, however, use a wielded weapon if they take care not to kill the victim.
Never hit with a wielded weapon
This is mostly self-explanatory. Throwing weapons, firing missiles and using wands is allowed. Hitting with other objects than weapons does not break this conduct. Thus you may very well use a cockatrice corpse as a weapon should you acquire one. Pick-axes, unicorn horns, and grappling hooks, however, do count as weapons, even though they are shown in the tool-category. Applying a bullwhip only breaks conduct if the target is not wielding a weapon. When trying to maintain a weaponless conduct, one should be very careful when wielding a pick-axe for digging.
Being illiterate means that you do not read or write anything. This includes scrolls, spellbooks and even fortune cookie messages and t-shirts. Scrolls of mail (e.g. from users viewing your game on NAO) also break the conduct, so it is advisable to turn off this option when attempting to be illiterate. Using a magic marker is also banned. Reading random engravings you may encounter does not break this conduct. Engraving anything but an x, such as Elbereth, also breaks this conduct.
Never polymorph an object
"Polyless" conduct means never causing an object to be polymorphed via spell, wand, or potion of polymorph. Polymorphing monsters does not break this conduct. However, if a monster drops carried objects as a result of polymorphing, they will also get polymorphed.
This conduct is comparatively easy: 42.3% of all winning accounts on NAO have a polpiles-less ascension.
Never change form
"Polyselfless" conduct means never changing into another monster, including from lycanthropy. Becoming a new man/woman/orc/etc does not count as changing.
This conduct is relatively easy: 73.5% of all winning accounts on NAO achieve it.
Genocideless conduct is pretty obvious; refrain from causing genocide. Reverse genocide does not break this conduct.
Fully 33.1% of all winning accounts on NAO achieve this conduct at least once.
Two wishing-related conducts are tracked: wishing for anything and wishing for artifacts. If you wish for, say, a silver dragon scale mail, you still have the artifact-wishless conduct. However, if you wish for any artifact, you lose both conducts, regardless if the wish was granted.
Unofficial conducts are conducts that are not tracked by the vanilla version of the game. They are enforced by the players themselves only.