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When discussing NetHack, instadeath stands for instantaneous death that occurs in zero time and allows no intervention - these effects do not count as HP damage and thus cannot be survived through self-polymorph.

List of instadeaths

The causes of instadeaths are:

  • Turning to stone (unless stoning resistant), which can be caused by:
    • Touching a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse without worn gloves
      • Passing a square with a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse while blind and not levitating is considered as touching the corpse.
    • Eating a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse, or eating the corpse of Medusa
    • Kicking a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse without worn boots
    • Trying to sacrifice or tin a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse without worn gloves, even if it is already lying on the altar
    • Falling into a pit, hole, or trapdoor while wielding a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse
      • Includes deliberately flying down a hole, although flying over a pit is safe
    • Falling down stairs due to being burdened while wielding a cockatrice or chickatrice corpse
    • Attacking a cockatrice or chickatrice while either not wielding a weapon and not wearing gloves, or while polymorphed into a creature with a contact attack
    • Meeting Medusa's gaze, unless the character is blind or has reflection
      • A character with invisibility is not protected from Medusa's gaze and also cannot kill her with the reflected gaze.
    • Being hit by a thrown cockatrice egg
  • Being hit by a death ray while not having magic resistance, and not polymorphed into a demon or undead monster. This can be achieved by:
    • Zapping yourself with a wand of death or a finger of death — this will kill you even if you have magic resistance. ("You irradiate yourself with pure energy!")
    • Zapping a wand of death or finger of death, and being hit by the ray reflecting off a wall or a monster's reflection. Reflection will protect against this.
    • Having a monster zap you with a wand of death. Reflection can also protect against this.
  • Being touched by the touch of death while not having magic resistance, not polymorphed into a demon or undead, and not hallucinating.
  • Being fatally poisoned by a monster attack, a poisoned weapon, or a spiked pit, unless you have poison resistance. (Quaffing a potion of sickness or eating a poisonous corpse will never instakill you, but may kill you by HP loss or strength drain.)
  • Choking on your food
  • Starving to death, which is usually much more easy to avoid than other cases of instant death.
  • Drowning in a body of water
    • If you fall into a body of water with no adjacent land, you'll drown unless you are breathless or amphibious.
    • Falling into water with excessive encumbrance may drown you even if there is adjacent land. There is a chance that you drop some inventory instead.
  • Standing near a collapsing drawbridge
  • Genociding your own race by reading a scroll of genocide or sitting on a throne. Reading a non-cursed scroll of genocide while confused always results in self-genocide.
  • Falling into lava without fire resistance
  • Intentionally level teleporting yourself to level 0 or any negative-numbered level — level 0 is nowhere, −1 to −9 are "above the clouds", and −10 and above are Heaven. Teleporting to a level "above" 0 will not instakill you if you are levitating or flying, but the game will end anyway by escaping the dungeon.
  • Being hit by a disintegration breath (from a black dragon or the Chromatic Dragon) without reflection or disintegration resistance. If you are wearing a shield, it disintegrates, saving you; otherwise, if you are wearing body armor, that and any cloak disintegrate, again saving you (but likely leaving you with a very poor armor class and vulnerable to the rebound).
  • Being hit by a lightning bolt from an angry god without reflection or shock resistance
  • Being hit by a wide-angle disintegration beam from an angry god without disintegration resistance. Reflection and armor will not protect you in this case.
  • Being level drained below experience level 1
  • Eating any of the Riders' corpses (note that food appraisal does not warn you)
  • Digesting any of the Riders
  • Having your brain eaten by a mind flayer
  • Offering the Amulet of Yendor to Moloch on the unaligned high altar in the Sanctum

The following will instantly kill the player in most situations, but are not instadeath since they deal HP damage equal to twice the player's maximum HP instead of simply killing them. A player polymorphed into a monster will survive and return to their base form.

Dying on turn one generates the message "Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 zorkmids." This is a reference to the board game Monopoly.

Instakilling monsters

In many situations, it is very helpful for a player to have a way to instantly kill other monsters. Here are some methods of instantly killing monsters, listed roughly in order from most common to most obscure. Not all methods work on all monsters; for example, undead monsters resist death rays.

  • Zap a monster with a wand of death or finger of death
  • Hit a monster with a poisoned weapon (10% chance)
  • Zap a monster with a wand, potion, or spell of polymorph (small chance of fatal system shock)
  • Hit a monster with a wielded or thrown cockatrice corpse or cockatrice egg
  • Disintegrate a monster with a black dragon's disintegration breath
  • Engulf a monster with a swallowing monster such as a purple worm or trapper
  • Open, close, or destroy a drawbridge on top of a monster
  • Attack a monster with Vorpal Blade or the Tsurugi of Muramasa (5% chance per hit for most monsters, Vorpal Blade is a 100% chance if the monster is a jabberwock)
  • Displace a pet into water or lava
  • Cause a monster engulfing you to be struck by a lightning bolt from an angry god
  • Cause a monster engulfing you to be struck by a wide-angle disintegration beam from an angry god (requires it to survive the aforementioned lightning bolt, generally by being shock resistant)
  • Polymorph into a sea monster with a drowning attack, and repeatedly attack monsters while being in water (breathless monsters will survive this type of attack). The chance of wrapping around a target monster is only about 10%, but if it's successful, the next melee attack will instakill the monster.



SLASH'EM features several new instadeaths. They are:


dNetHack features the following insteadeaths:


FIQHack does not have poison instadeath. Instead, you suffer permanent attribute loss, which cannot be cured by a unicorn horn or potion.

See also

  • Delayed instadeath, which also results in sudden death but allows for emergency intervention.
  • Trickery, which ends a game instantly as an anti-cheating measure and is not considered death

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

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.