Scaring monsters, causing them to flee, can be useful in many cirumstances. A fleeing monster will generally try to move away from your position in a random direction. However, it can still use ranged attacks, including offensive wands and breath weapons, and melee attacks if the monster happens to be next to you.
Technically, NetHack has two different properties: scared and fleeing. Fleeing behavior is what players generally see. It is caused by scaredness and has 4% chance per turn to wear off, unless it has a predetermined duration.. It is usually the reason when liches, named demons etc. won't follow you down the stairs. Scared prevents all attacks and is probed by a stethoscope. It lasts only the one turn the monster is next to Elbereth, the hero is playing a tooled horn etc.
This table does not describe every nuance of each method; see the pages of the individual methods for full details.
|Scare Method||Monster can Resist?||Turns||Advantages||Limitations|
|Sanctuary in a co-aligned temple||N|| 1-10 (6/7)
|Most comprehensive effect.||Does not work on A angelic beings, @ high priests, or & Riders. Does not work if you have sinned or worse. Affects only hostile monsters.|
|Stand on Elbereth||N|| 1-10 (6/7)
|No tools or skills required, although some items increase its reliability.||Requires suitable terrain. You cannot engrave with anything (other than a few wands) while levitating. Most types of engraving degrade. Does not work on blinded creatures with eyes, @ humans or elves, A angelic beings, H minotaurs or & Riders. Breaks illiterate conduct if you engrave it yourself. Affects only hostile monsters. May be compiled out on your version.|
|Stand on a dropped scroll of scare monster||N|| 1-10 (6/7)
|Fast deployment. Portable. Using it does not break illiterate conduct.||Requires suitable terrain. Needs to be re-blessed to be reusable. Can be burned by fire. Does not work on blinded creatures with eyes, @ humans or elves, A angelic beings, H minotaurs or & Riders. Affects only hostile monsters.|
|Read a noncursed scroll of scare monster||Y||Untimed||Can affect any monster.||Uses up scroll. Breaks illiterate conduct.|
|Cast cause fear||Y||Untimed||Can affect any monster.|
|Improvise on a tooled horn or an uncharged frost horn or fire horn||Y||Untimed||Always available once acquired. Can affect any monster. Works while engulfed. Tool can be used to play passtune.||Awakens sleeping monsters. Instruments cannot be used underwater.|
|Apply a leather drum||Y||Untimed||Always available once acquired. Can affect any monster. Works while engulfed. Larger area of effect than tooled horn.||Awakens sleeping monsters. Instruments cannot be used underwater.|
|Apply a drum of earthquake||Y||Untimed||Affects entire level when charged. Works while engulfed. Works as leather drum once charges are used.||Creates an earthquake when charged. Awakens sleeping monsters. Instruments cannot be used underwater.|
|Blind a monster by applying an expensive camera or breaking a wand of light||N|| 1-100 (1/4)
|Constant 25% chance of failure. Does not affect shopkeepers, y lights, A archons, monsters that are blind, have no eyes or are protected from blinding by an artifact. Attack blinds the affected monster. Cameras cannot be used underwater.|
|Apply a mirror at a monster||N||2d4||Always available once acquired. Some useful special cases.||Cannot affect humanoid monsters, blind monsters (with or without eyes), u unicorns or monsters that are asleep. Constant 20% chance of failure. Some useless special cases. Mirrors do not work underwater..|
|Hit the monster with Magicbane||Y (1/2)
|3||Always available once acquired. Can affect any monster. Works while engulfed.||The effect occurs only occasionally, and you cannot choose when.|
|Use turn undead ability||Y||Untimed||Available only to priests and knights. Cannot be done in Gehennom. Works only on L M W V Z undead or i & demons at level 16 or higher. Will destroy undead instead at higher experience levels. Makes you helpless for 5 turns, and you can be freely attacked by non-undead monsters during that time. It is therefore usually a good idea to engrave Elbereth before you begin using this ability.|
|Use wand of undead turning or spell of turn undead||Y||Untimed||Works only on L M W V Z undead.|
|Hit undead with a clove of garlic||N||2d4||Works only on L M W V Z undead.|
|Read the blessed Book of the Dead as a non-chaotic||N||Untimed||Always available once acquired.||Works only on L M W V Z undead.|
|Stand on an altar||N|| 1-10 (6/7)
|Works only on V vampires|
|Get the "This water gives you bad breath!" effect from a fountain||N||Untimed||Affects all monsters on the level.||One of several fountain effects; cannot be predicted.|
|Reduce a monster to less than half hit points||N||1-100 (1/3)
|Happens only 4% of the time.|
|Shatter a monster's weapon||N||2d3||Shattering only occurs 2.5% of the time (and that's assuming you're using a two-handed weapon in which you're skilled), less if your weapon is eroded, and even upon a successful shattering the monster only flees 75% of the time. You must be wielding a two-handed weapon, or be a samurai wielding a katana with nothing in your other hand.|
|Cause a monster to use a defensive item or dungeon feature||N||3-33 (depends on hit points)||Usually you don't want the monster to use up (charges in) its items.|
|Have an item stolen by a monster with a steal item attack||N||Untimed||You must have an item stolen first.|
|Encounter a l leprechaun with more gold than you||N||2||Leprechauns are not technically scared, however the intent and result are similar to the case of stealing an item, and much of the movement code is shared. It is harder to acquire the leprechaun's gold, and leprechauns are rarely dangerous anyway.|
|Encounter a ; sea monster out of water||N||2||These creatures are vulnerable when out of water and always flee when they are.||These creatures are only ever generated to initialize watery levels. The only time you are likely to see them out of it is due to a polymorphed monster or reverse genocide.|
|Be healed by a @ nurse||N||3d6||Happens 1/33 of the time. Slows down nurse dancing.|
|Fail to displace a pet||N||1-6||Only affects pets.|
|Attack a pet||N||10*(1-damage done)||Only affects pets. Attacking a pet reduces tameness. Accidentally killing your pet will reduce your alignment.|
|Kick a pet||N||1-(damage inflicted)||Only affects pets. Kicking a pet reduces tameness. Accidentally killing your pet will reduce your alignment.|
A fleeing monster will usually try to get further away from you unless it is trappedor eating. However, it will retrace its steps only around 25% of the time. So if you scare a monster in a narrow corridor, it will have nowhere to go, and just stand still, attacking you.
The following monsters have special code to handle their movements, and will not always move away from you while scared:
A fleeing monster may attack you in melee if it blunders into you when you are invisible or displaced, or it is confused, stunned, blinded or cornered. Monsters will never melee when adjacent to a square they think is protected by sanctuary, Elbereth or a scroll of scare monster (or an altar if a vampire).
Monsters will still use ranged attacks while fleeing.
There is no single perfect method of scaring enemies; all methods either allow monsters to resist or have significant exceptions. Thus it pays to keep multiple methods available. For example, sanctuary or Elbereth will not scare a ki-rin, but because this angelic being is not humanoid, applying a mirror will scare it 80% of the time. A high level player might scare it with a spell of cause fear, but this will be successful less frequently than the humble mirror.
Typically, in the early game, you can rely upon Elbereth, until you start meeting hostile @ humans or elves. Lower difficulty monsters in this group typically have little or no magic resistance and can be scared by an instrument, spell or wand. Later in the game, higher difficulty A angelic beings and @ humans or elves have higher resistance and are thus harder to scare; of course, you will need to scare monsters less frequently to survive at that point.
The utility of scaring a monster depends on its behaviour. If you want to avoid a monster's melee attack, scaring is is very useful. This makes it ideal for creatures such as c cockatrices and h master mind flayers. Once you have magic resistance and cold resistance however, scaring an L arch-lich is of dubious benefit.
Because monsters with an untimed flee will flee until their hit points recover, it is worth considering attacking an enemy briefly in these cases to ensure it leaves you alone for as long as possible.
- Monmove.c, line 357
- Monmove.c#line513 resets scaredness after each monster movement.
- Monmove.c, line 267: Sanctuary
- Monmove.c, line 142: Elbereth
- Monmove.c, line 140: dropped scroll of scare monster
- read.c, line 857: read scroll of scare monster
- read.c, line 858: cast cause fear
- Music.c, line 420: tooled horn
- Music.c, line 459: leather drum
- Music.c, line 447: drum of earthquake
- uhitm.c, line 2462: camera or broken wand of light
- apply.c, line 728: mirror
- artifact.c, line 854: Magicbane
- pray.c, line 1736: turn undead ability
- zap.c, line 157: spell or wand of turn undead
- uhitm.c, line 805: clove of garlic
- spell.c, line 297: blessed book of the dead
- monmove.c, line 144: altar
- fountain.c, line 326: fountain
- uhitm.c, line 445: hit points
- uhitm.c, line 634: shattered weapon
- muse.c, line 539: monster uses defensive item or feature
- mhitu.c, line 1312: monster stole from you
- monmove.c, line 737: leprechaun moves away from you
- mon.c, line 478: sea monster
- mhitu.c, line 1412: nurse
- uhitm.c, line 333: displace a pet
- uhitm.c, line 995: attack a pet
- dokick.c, line 68: kick a pet
- monmove.c, line 215: scaring a monster releases you
- monmove.c, line 716: monster runs away
- monmove.c, line 614: trapped monsters can't run away
- monmove.c, line 621: eating monsters don't run away
- monmove.c, line 935
- Nitrohack fixes this bug.
- monmove.c, line 644: pets have special movement
- monmove.c, line 644: shopkeepers have special movement
- monmove.c, line 658: guards have special movement
- monmove.c, line 665: covetous monsters have special movement
- monmove.c, line 685: aligned priests have special movement
- monmove.c, line 979: impaired monsters may attack you
- monmove.c, line 548: Sanctuary, Elbereth and scare monster prevent attacks altogether
- monmove.c, line 356: ending an untimed scare