Drain life (monster attack)

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In NetHack, drain life is a monster attack damage type that may reduce the experience level of the defender.


When a drain life attack hits, it has a 1 in 3 chance of taking effect. It may be prevented by drain resistance, magic cancellation, or if the attacker is a cancelled monster.[1][2][3]

The precise effects then depend on whether it is a monster or a player that is hit.

Versus players

The player's experience level is reduced by 1, killing them if their level reaches 0; their experience is reduced to the maximum for his new level. Maximum and current hit points are reduced by the same amount as they would have been increased had the player gained a level. They cannot be reduced below one hit point.[2][4]

On monsters

The monster's level is reduced by 1, killing them if their level reaches 0; their maximum and current hit points are reduced by 2d6. If its hit points are reduced below 1, it dies.[1][3]

Monsters with the attack

The following monsters have this attack by default:[5][6][7]

Additionally, if the compile-time option SEDUCE is not defined, the seduction attack of the following monsters becomes a drain life attack:[8]


Drain life is represented by the macro AD_DRLI.[9]


With magic cancellation changes in 3.6.0, drain life attacks have become a little less preventable. Thankfully, most of the time you don't need to worry about it, since the first lost level is immediately regained due to the experience gained when the attacker is killed. If you expect to get hit many times, you can temporarily equip MC3 items or wield one of the drain resistance artifacts; MC3 will reduce the level drain chance to 130, which is good enough for most purposes. If you do somehow lose two levels at once, you can regain the second one by drinking a blessed potion of full healing (which will also have its usual effect).


  1. 1.0 1.1 mhitm.c, line 991 monster draining a monster
  2. 2.0 2.1 mhitu.c, line 1130 monster draining a player
  3. 3.0 3.1 uhitm.c, line 1467 player draining a monster
  4. losexp in exper.c player loses a level
  5. Vampires in monst.c all V have a drain life attack
  6. Wraiths in monst.c all W have a drain life attack
  7. monst.c, line 2731 Demogorgon has a drain life attack
  8. monst.c, line 2554 foocubi have a drain life attack if SEDUCE is not defined
  9. monattk.h in NetHack 3.4.3, line 52: AD_DRLI macro

This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.0. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-360}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.