A zorkmid is a single unit of currency. A gold piece, $, has the value of 1 zorkmid.
"Gold piece" and "zorkmid" are used similarly but slightly different throughout NetHack. For example, when you pick up money lying on the floor, you receive the message, "# gold piece(s)", but when you pick up an item in a shop, you receive the message, "x- an [item] (unpaid, # zorkmids)". The difference is that the zorkmid is the currency and gold pieces are the coinage.
Gold pieces are a special type of object: they have weight and take up an inventory slot when dropping items, but have no BUC status. The inventory slot they occupy is never fixed, it is just the next available letter. If there are no free inventory slots the gold pieces go into #. Their symbol is $, although this should not be taken to mean the zorkmid exchange rate is pegged to the US dollar. The abbreviations zm and zk are sometimes appended to a number as a currency symbol.
A gold piece weighs 0.01 "weight units". Since these units have no name, it is common to consider 100 gold pieces the base unit of weight. All weight figures given in spoilers and on this wiki are in units of 100 gold pieces.
Gold and monsters
Monsters that love gold have a 1/5 chance of being generated with some in their inventory. The amount of gold given is determined by die roll: the number of dice rolled is the current dungeon level, with the usual adjustments for players carrying the Amulet or in the endgame. If the monster already has some items in its inventory these dice are 5-sided, otherwise they are 10-sided. Thus a monster on Dlvl:10 with no items might get 10d10 zorkmids, whereas a monster on Dlvl:20 with some items might get 20d5 zorkmids.
There are two exceptions to the above formula. Leprechauns always receive gold, and always roll a number of 30-sided dice equal to the dungeon level; priests always get gold and receive 20–29 zorkmids. Another less exceptional case is an ordinary soldier - 12/13 of the time they miss their roll for gold.
The name "zorkmid" is a reference to the currency used in the text adventures series Zork, made by Infocom, where the currency used by the monarchy of Quendor is the zorkmid, and often carries a likeness of the most recent (and last) ruler of Quendor, Lord Dimwit Flathead.
Generally speaking, gold becomes pretty useless after the early game. Some ways to use gold are listed below, roughly sorted from most to least commonly done:
- Buy items from shops,
- Activate an Elbereth engraving: if any item is on top of it, monsters will not go there,
- Buy intrinsic protection or clairvoyance from any temple priest,
- Buy alignment from a co-aligned temple priest,
- Clone credit to get more gold from shopkeepers,
- detect mimics in a shop by throwing a gold piece at the wares,
- Pay off some named demons in Gehennom to avoid fighting them,
- Buy experience points ("consultations") from the Oracle,
- Weight-test items, e. g. suspected levitation boots or a loadstone in a chest,
- Generate an endless supply of throne room monsters by #looting the throne while confused and carrying gold,
- Pacify shopkeeper,
- For style points, #chat with the high priest on the Astral Plane right before ascending,
- Bribe soldiers to pacify them (but not the minetown watch),
- Detect monsters in dark corridors by throwing a gold piece; you get a hit/miss message if there is one,
- Feed a pet metallivore, or eat gold if polymorphed into one,
- Make a leprechaun teleport,
- Polymorph it for a gold golem,
- Distract orcs and other gold-loving enemies with strategically placed piles.
- Exercise wisdom with minor oracularities if your conducts don't allow much else.
Encyclopedia entry (for "gold")
A metal of characteristic yellow colour, the most precious
metal used as a common commercial medium of exchange. Symbol,
Au; at. no. 79; at. wt. 197.2. It is the most malleable
and ductile of all metals, and very heavy (sp. gr., 19.3).
It is quite unalterable by heat, moisture, and most
corrosive agents, and therefore well suited for its use in
coin and jewelry.
of the English Language, Second Edition ]