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Zen is a particularly challenging unofficial conduct. It means wearing a blindfold or towel, or being polymorphed into a blind monster throughout the whole game.

Breaking the conductEdit

Players have to set their own rules.

A zen game is flawed if a nymph or monkey steals your blinding item and you immediately put on another one, without looking at your inventory.

Reading the Book of the Dead on the vibrating square is allowed, as you cannot win the game without doing so.

Some factsEdit


Only samurai, rogues, wizards, and tourists can start with a blindfold or towel, and therefore attempt zen conduct. Start scumming for one is not cheating. Generally, a samurai is considered the easiest role for zen conduct due to their good starting armor and strong melee combat skills, which are important in the early parts of the game. A wizard can start with several helpful items for the early game as well, such as a wand of fire or lightning for reliable engraving of elbereth or a ring of warning. A rogue or tourist is going to have a difficult time due to weaker melee skills and a lack of strong starting gear.

Object appearancesEdit

Until you have seen them, objects show up only as "a potion", "a ring", "a long sword" etc. A gray stones or rock is a "stone", glass or gem is a "gem". Only amulets and food are treated as seen.

An elven or orcish shield is just a "shield", and a shield of reflection is a "smooth shield". Even an artifact is "a long sword".

You cannot class-name such objects, and any individual name will not be displayed (but will affect stacking). You can dip items in holy/unholy water when blind, thus "a cursed scroll". Poisoning and erosion status is shown. Dilution is only displayed if you know the appearance. Erodeproofing and charges are only shown if formally identified (even if you erodeproofed it yourself).

A full list of ways to make an object "seen" without breaking the conduct. (Spells are only possible as a wizard's starting spells.)

  • A blessed potion of object detection makes the appearance of all objects on the current dungeon level known. This includes your and monsters' inventories, buried objects, and recursively the contents of containers.[2]
  • A wand of probing non-recursively makes any objects it is zapped at, containers' contents, and monsters' possessions seen. You can zap yourself.[4]
  • The appearance of your and your pet's starting inventories[5]
  • Eating one of a stack will make the remaining tins "seen".
  • Eggs laid by you[6]
  • The special attacks of the Tsurugi of Muramasa and Vorpal Blade always tells you the artifacts's appearance.[7] The gift you would recieve on crowning as neutral or chaotic are made "seen" if you are already holding it.

You hear the appearance of a scroll a monster is reading, so you can name another one later. Since you cannot generally "see" the result of the scroll directly, scrolls will not usually auto-identify. The same is true for potions, you will hear the potion being quaffed, but will not see the result.

In case a nymph steals your blindfold: the inventory i and #name commands also reveal object appearances.

If the farlook command ; does not tell you the appearance even though it is known, the object is buried or carried by a monster.

Polymorphing any object, alchemy, and #dip-cancelling a potion will render it unseen.


The pay command only works if you can see the shopkeeper, either by telepathy or monster detection, or if he is angry. Alternatively, you may drop enough gold to cover your purchase and then teleport or phase out, even without teleport control. The practical result of this is that a player will typically have no way to get an item out of a shop until telepathy is acquired. Since bumping into a shopkeeper will anger them, even when using the m command, which nearly always results in your death, a player is best advised to simply avoid shops until they can properly use them.

Selling works as normal.

Shops will be important for identifying the appearance of large numbers of items, especially scrolls and potions. A container to place the items in and a pet to steal the container back will speed of the process of re-acquiring items you've just sold to the shopkeeper for identification.



A zen player will find exploration slow and tedius, especially in the early game. It is recommended that a player use the search command with every step, or almost every step. This will be the only way to get any sort of warning of an approaching monster, and it will speed up the "mapping" of the level as the search command will check each adjacent square for walls, items, or creatures while just moving will only check the square you're about to step on. Moving blindly will anger a peaceful creature if you attempt to blindly walk onto them without using the safe-move function. This is extremely important when dealing with shopkeepers while still lacking telepathy. A zen tourist will have a slightly easier time passing through the gnomish mines by using the starting scrolls of magic mapping, and it is recommended that they save the scrolls for that purpose as standard dungeon levels are easier to explore.

Early Game

The most challenging part of a zen ascension is the immediate start of the game. The player must fumble about the dungeon with no idea of the location of monsters, and no identification of those monsters they do locate. Often, your first indication of the presence of a monster will be "it hits!" A player's primary goal will be to acquire a source of telepathy as soon as possible. The likely source will be a floating eye. Thankfully, being blind a zen player will be immune to the floating eye's paralysis. A floating eye has a difficulty rating of 3, so will begin appearing when the average of the player's dungeon level and experience level is 3. A player should use that information to their advantage by not proceeding much farther into the dungeon beyond what is required to generate a floating eye. A wizard fortunate enough to start with the detect monsters spell will have a much easier time locating an eye, but for the rest this will be blind luck. No pun intended.

Alternative sources of telepathy are prayer on a co-aligned altar with at least 6 Luck, a helm of telepathy, or an amulet of ESP. Getting enough Luck without a luckstone can be challenging in the early game, and the two items that grant extrinsic telepathy are not particularly common, so not many games will have this as the first source of telepathy.


It is advisable for a zen player to start without a pet, set via the options file. A pet is extremely difficult to keep track of and distinguish from hostile monsters in the early game, and a player will run a serious risk of killing the pet accidentally. An alternative is to quickly ditch the starting pet on DL1 and proceeding into the dungeon, returning to retame the pet when telepathy is acquired. Eventually, a zen player should acquire a pet for stealing items from a shop. (see the section on shopkeepers)


A lawful or neutral zen player should be especially careful of committing accidental or intentional murder, as this will cause the loss of intrinsic telepathy.

Still to do:

  • Early game
  • Shopping
  • Identification, BUC, and stacking
  • Genocides
  • Equipment
  • Nymphs

The difficulty in zen comes in that it is like a mixture of other conducts with additional twists to make it even harder. While blind, you may not read, though you may still use scrolls after you get the shopkeepers to name them to you (you only need to know those magic words). You cannot use altars to find the BUC status of an object because you do not see if the objects glow and in what color. You also do not see what your objects look like by their material or color, so all potions are only shown as "a potion", wands as "a wand" and so on.

Notable AscensionsEdit

Only a handful of people are known to have ascended zen games and most of them have been zen samurai; this post to RGRN announces the first known ascended zen tourist. João Santos is the only person known to have completed zen ascensions in all four of these roles.


  1. quest.c#line186,quest.c#line200
  2. Detect.c#object_detect
  3. Shk.c#line2165
  4. Zap.c#line378, Zap.c#line1527, Zap.c#line2114
  5. u_init.c#line988,dog.c#line167
  6. sit.c#line298
  7. Artifact.c#line1048,Artifact.c#line1065,Artifact.c#line1098,Artifact.c#line1116