Scare

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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.[1]. 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[2] the monster is next to Elbereth, the hero is playing a tooled horn etc.

Methods[edit]

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[3] N 1-10 (6/7)
1-100(1/7)
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[4] N 1-10 (6/7)
1-100(1/7)
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[5] N 1-10 (6/7)
1-100(1/7)
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[6] Y Untimed Can affect any monster. Uses up scroll. Breaks illiterate conduct.
Cast cause fear[7] Y Untimed Can affect any monster.
Improvise on a tooled horn or an uncharged frost horn or fire horn[8] 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[9] 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[10] 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[11] N 1-100 (1/4)
Untimed(3/4)
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[12] 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[13] Y (1/2)
N (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[14] 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[15] Y Untimed Works only on L M W V Z   undead.
Hit undead with a clove of garlic[16] N 2d4 Works only on L M W V Z   undead.
Read the blessed Book of the Dead as a non-chaotic[17] N Untimed Always available once acquired. Works only on L M W V Z   undead.
Stand on an altar[18] N 1-10 (6/7)
1-100(1/7)
Works only on V vampires
Get the "This water gives you bad breath!" effect from a fountain[19] 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[20] N 1-100 (1/3)
Untimed (2/3)
Happens only 4% of the time.
Shatter a monster's weapon[21] 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[22] 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[23] N Untimed You must have an item stolen first.
Encounter a l leprechaun with more gold than you[24] 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[25] 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[26] N 3d6 Happens 1/33 of the time. Slows down nurse dancing.
Fail to displace a pet[27] N 1-6 Only affects pets.
Attack a pet[28] N 10*(1-damage done) Only affects pets. Attacking a pet reduces tameness. Accidentally killing your pet will reduce your alignment.
Kick a pet[29] N 1-(damage inflicted) Only affects pets. Kicking a pet reduces tameness. Accidentally killing your pet will reduce your alignment.

Effect[edit]

If you are grabbed or engulfed by a monster, it will release or expel you when you scare it[30].

A fleeing monster will usually try to get further away from you[31] unless it is trapped[32]or eating[33]. However, it will retrace its steps only around 25% of the time.[34] So if you scare a monster in a narrow corridor, it will have nowhere to go, and just stand still, attacking you.[35]

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[41] 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)[42].

Monsters will still use ranged attacks while fleeing.

A monster will stop fleeing when any time has expired. If the scaring is untimed, it will stop fleeing 4% of the time on each move it makes, if its hit points are at maximum[43].

Strategy[edit]

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.

References[edit]

  1. Monmove.c, line 357
  2. Monmove.c#line513 resets scaredness after each monster movement.
  3. Monmove.c, line 267: Sanctuary
  4. Monmove.c, line 142: Elbereth
  5. Monmove.c, line 140: dropped scroll of scare monster
  6. read.c, line 857: read scroll of scare monster
  7. read.c, line 858: cast cause fear
  8. Music.c, line 420: tooled horn
  9. Music.c, line 459: leather drum
  10. Music.c, line 447: drum of earthquake
  11. uhitm.c, line 2462: camera or broken wand of light
  12. apply.c, line 728: mirror
  13. artifact.c, line 854: Magicbane
  14. pray.c, line 1736: turn undead ability
  15. zap.c, line 157: spell or wand of turn undead
  16. uhitm.c, line 805: clove of garlic
  17. spell.c, line 297: blessed book of the dead
  18. monmove.c, line 144: altar
  19. fountain.c, line 326: fountain
  20. uhitm.c, line 445: hit points
  21. uhitm.c, line 634: shattered weapon
  22. muse.c, line 539: monster uses defensive item or feature
  23. mhitu.c, line 1312: monster stole from you
  24. monmove.c, line 737: leprechaun moves away from you
  25. mon.c, line 478: sea monster
  26. mhitu.c, line 1412: nurse
  27. uhitm.c, line 333: displace a pet
  28. uhitm.c, line 995: attack a pet
  29. dokick.c, line 68: kick a pet
  30. monmove.c, line 215: scaring a monster releases you
  31. monmove.c, line 716: monster runs away
  32. monmove.c, line 614: trapped monsters can't run away
  33. monmove.c, line 621: eating monsters don't run away
  34. monmove.c, line 935
  35. Nitrohack fixes this bug.
  36. monmove.c, line 644: pets have special movement
  37. monmove.c, line 644: shopkeepers have special movement
  38. monmove.c, line 658: guards have special movement
  39. monmove.c, line 665: covetous monsters have special movement
  40. monmove.c, line 685: aligned priests have special movement
  41. monmove.c, line 979: impaired monsters may attack you
  42. monmove.c, line 548: Sanctuary, Elbereth and scare monster prevent attacks altogether
  43. monmove.c, line 356: ending an untimed scare