Altars are dungeon features which appear with regularity in the Drakalor Chain, represented by dark grey, light grey or white underscores ("_"). They are the PC's conduit to the gods of Ancardia. A smart adventurer can use them in many ways.
Alignment plays a decisive role in dealings with altars: a dark grey altar (described as being made of obsidian) is claimed by the chaotic deity of the PC's race; a light grey altar (described as being made of granite) is claimed by the neutral deity; a white (marble) altar is claimed by the lawful deity. In most cases the PC should only deal with altars of their current deity's alignment. This means either converting the altar, or converting the PC to that alignment.
Being so close to beings of absolute power carries certain risks. Be careful. It is possible to shatter an altar if the PC kicks it (or steps on it while wearing a certain pair of boots), which enrages the deity of that alignment (decreasing piety with it by 10000). At the same time, piety with other deities increases and alignment changes accordingly; if neutral altar is shattered then alignment decreased -200 and other deities gain 100 piety, and if another altar is shattered alignment is changed by 1000.
If the altar in question is that of a chaotic deity, standing on it is very dangerous—any nearby intelligent chaotic monster will take the opportunity to sacrifice the character to its unholy master, even if the PC is chaotic. This effect does not require the chaotic monster to be standing adjacent to the altar in question; PC deaths by sacrifice can occur whenever the monster in question can see the player—this has been confirmed at a range of four tiles away from the altar.
Intelligent monsters of neutral alignment might sacrifice chaotic PCs if they stand on a neutral altar, but not neutral PCs—even if the monster is hostile to them. Hostile intelligent lawful monsters will also sacrifice chaotic and neutral PCs, but there are vanishingly few of these—dwarves are the only ones to be found randomly.
Avoid walking on the altar when monsters are around, as it is possible, even for a Lawful PC, to be sacrificed on a neutral altar.
The safest way to deal with altars is when there are no monsters around. Being invisible does not prevent monsters from sacrificing the PC.
When trying some of the more questionable procedures altars can be used for, additional precautions should be taken, as described below.
Altars can be found as random dungeon features in dungeons that support these; some examples of dungeons that don't support random features are the ID, Minotaur Maze, Pyramid and Dwarven Graveyard. There is always a special chaotic altar in each of the elemental temples, and an altar is always located in Dwarftown: if the PC enters Dwarftown while lawful, said altar is generated lawful; if (s)he is neutral or chaotic, the altar is generated neutral.
An altar of a co-aligned deity will reveal the status of any item that is dropped on the altar, i. e. whether they are blessed, uncursed, or cursed. Dropping items on a non-co-aligned altar will result in an annoyed deity and rats being summoned; item destruction might also occur.
Item sacrifices are one of the few ways to improve your standing with your deity.
The procedure is simple: stand on the altar, use the "O" command and select the item to be sacrificed. If the item in question is too worthless, the deity won't accept it, and it will end up lying on the altar, ignored. All deities will always accept gold and food. The piety gain received through a sacrifice depends on its worth. Depending on the race of the PC, deities will appreciate some kinds of gifts more than others (it is believed to be at least 50% increase in value):
Humans : tools of all kind Trolls : rocks, the larger the better Hurthlings : cooked meals Gnomes : gems Dwarves : gold High Elves and Gray Elves : magical rings Dark Elves and Mist Elves: magical wands and books Orcs : melee weapons Drakelings : musical instruments Ratlings : artifacts
(Source: ADOM manual)
Most of these sacrifices are not practical, as they are either too rare or are of low value to begin with (e.g. rocks).
The fact that Dwarves get a 50% bonus for sacrificing gold, which is already valuable for any character's deity, means that they typically need (only) 65000-70000 gold to be crowned.
The value of food sacrificed is generally based on its satiation value, though corpses seem to have a fixed value equivalent to 370 gold—same as a large ration. Cooking the food/corpse (where possible) doubles the piety value yielded. The fact that Hurthlings get a 75% bonus to cooked food sacrifices means that they can yield a value equivalent to about 1300 gold for an uncursed cooked corpse. (In theory, 60 blessed and cooked corpses should be enough for a Hurthling to get crowned.)
Sacrificing artifacts which either autocurse or contain Essence of Chaos and Corruption will draw the PC's alignment towards lawful. If this results in the PC being converted, the deity will of course be angered instead by the PC's betrayal.
Certain items will not be accepted by the deity, or even destroyed, accompanied by a divine lecture. If the PC attempts to sacrifice any food sold by ratling traders, the deity will destroy the entire stack out of annoyance. If the PC sacrifices any crowning gift given to them by that deity, the deity will become very angry, meaning a huge piety drop.
Though sacrificing stomafillia herbs usually increases piety quite significantly, the PC can only offer up to approximately 10 herbs before the deity protests "*NO MORE VEGETABLES!*" (as of ADOM v. 1.2.0). If more herbs are offered in one huge stack initially, the whole stack is taken, but piety gain is capped at around 10 blessed stomfillia value.
The gods of Ancardia tend to like sacrifices of flesh and blood even more than gold. A live sacrifice is performed by using the "O" command while a monster in the PC's line of sight is standing on the altar. If the god accepts the sacrifice, piety gain is approximately worth 1400 gold pieces. Thus live sacrifices are more practical early on, when PC can not easily generate huge amounts of gold. There are several caveats, however, connected to the type of monster that is to be sacrificed. Note that these caveats also apply if the PC sacrifices the corpse of a creature (which gives at least 3x less piety than sacrificing it live)
Lawful deities will become angry if a lawful creature is sacrificed, but will accept others gladly. Neutral deities will accept both lawful and chaotic creatures, but will throw a fit when a neutral creature is sacrificed. Both cases of anger can lead to a conversion of the altar (see below) and divine retribution in general, so beware. With few exceptions, animals and ratlings are neutral, and some human enemies are neutrally aligned as well. Chaotic deities don't care about the alignment of the creature sacrificed—blood tastes fresh regardless of where it comes from.
Speaking of blood, neither the Undead nor Constructs can be sacrificed. Neither is it possible to sacrifice creatures that are the offspring of breeders or that have been summoned. Animated trees are also refused: "*MORTAL, I AM NOT BUILDING A BLOODY GARDEN UP HERE! NO MORE TREES!*"
Orb guardians can not be sacrificed, with chaos gods claiming they are more valuable than the PC and others screaming "TAKE IT AWAY!"
It is possible to transform these unsuitable creatures into chaos beings by luring them into corruption traps over and over—these are not considered bred or summoned. This is not normally considered practical or, more importantly, safe; it is merely possible.
Neutral deities may also be angered with Druid PCs that sacrifice Animals, even if the animal is chaotic and hostile. This may happen with Chaos lizards and Chaos rats, and can convert the altar as if those creatures were neutral.
Modifying alignment using altars
If the PC finds an altar that is not of their own alignment, they can try to modify their own alignment to fit with that of the altar. The safest way to do so, which works unless the PC is already of a high level, is to sacrifice one gold piece at a time until the PC is converted.
Converting an altar
This is the riskiest thing one can do with an altar. There is a risk of angering gods and changing your own alignment if you are not careful enough, because the PC is potentially dealing with an altar of not of their alignment, and because the PC likely is sacrificing to a rival deity.
There are two essential cases for converting an altar by sacrificing a monster:
- PC and altar are co-aligned: the monster and the PC must also be co-aligned; in this case the altar might move toward chaotic (L to N, N to C). This might require several attempts as the first few might be accepted by the altar's god (the first offer typically results in a warning).
- PC and altar are cross-aligned: the altar might move one step towards the PC's alignment. Sacrificing a co-aligned monster on a cross-aligned altar can move the altar towards the PC's alignment, although the first such offer from a non-chaotic PC will result in a warning.
Converting an altar involves some uncertainty, since gift acceptance depends on the PC's piety with the god. For example, if the PC is neutral, the altar is lawful, and the PC's standing with the lawful god is very good, live sacrifices are most likely to go to the lawful god. Very large amounts of gold can bypass this restriction, and such sacrifices are a safer way to bring the alignment of the altar towards the alignment of the PC.
Be wary of converting altars using creatures, as mistakes can lead to undesirable results. As such, one should only risk tinkering with altars if:
- A blessed scroll of uncursing is stored nearby, which can be used to remedy inventory cursing—items desired to remain blessed should be stored alongside that scroll
- Only artifact or superfluous equipment is worn. This is a way to get some use out of clothes [+0, +0], and putting a si in the missile slot works too. Artifacts cannot be turned to dust by any deity, and if the PC is wearing artifact equipment only, dooming will not occur.
- Some way to deal with the consequences of summoning is available, even if it is only a source of teleportation—though summoning will only occur if the deity is extremely angry.
The PC should also avoid converting the altar in Dwarftown as this will turn Ruun hostile. Whilst not a threat by himself, killing him in self-defence will turn the entire city hostile; hence, this should usually be avoided at all costs (though he can be lured into and left in a level that the PC will never need to visit again, such as the Ogre cave when it is cleared).
Altars can be kicked down by the PC. Molochs are the only other creatures which are capable of destroying altars. Note that it is possible to kick items from the altar without destroying the altar; the altar itself will only be kicked if it is empty. A careful player can use this method to clear an altar of items without risking stepping on it.
Orb guardians cannot be sacrificed, though generally even very troublesome monsters can be sacrificed. This includes the greater daemon that attacks Dwarftown during one of Thrundarr's quests, and MaLaKaI, should an altar be created on the SIL.
Sacrificing a creature will only yield a fraction of the experience points that could have been gained by killing the creature in question. This will similarly diminish the accuracy of the "One kill on the average seems to be worth..." estimation in the monster memory.
Sacrificing a creature does count as a kill, so this is not a way to get rid of cats. It will also impose the usual alignment penalties on the PC (mainly for sacrificing lawful creatures, such as blink dogs or white unicorns).
Note that all Eternal guardian's reincarnations can be freely sacrificed. Since experience gains for normal EG kills are quite significant, even fractions of it retain their value. If altar is generated in near vicinity of down staircase, player may repeatedly anger Eternal guardian and sacrifice his hostile copies indefinitely. Some attention should be paid to predict his diagonal movement as otherwise he simply may avoid moving on altar compromising the strategy. Players should also be wary of alignment hits "awarded" for each sacrifice.
The altars in the elemental temples can only be converted from chaotic alignment by a neutral or lawful champion. But even being a champion does not guarantee success, and there is still a significant threat of converting the PC and turning them into a Fallen Champion instead.
Also bear in mind for Lawful or Neutral PCs that sacrificing companions (regardless of their alignment) is treated as a chaotic act, and will anger your god. This can also convert the altar in question.