Spellbook of drain life

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spellbook of
+   drain life   Light green spellbook.png
Appearance random
Abundance 1.01%
Base price 200 zm
Weight 50
Turns to read 2
Ink to write 10–19
Spell type attack
Level 2
Power cost 10 Pw
Direction beam

A spellbook of drain life allows you to learn the drain life spell.



Casting it at a monster drains one level from it, does 1d8 × 2 damage, and decreases the monster's maximum HP by 1d8 (with spell bonuses applicable to both). The base damage and HP reduction is doubled if you are a Knight carrying the Magic Mirror of Merlin. The monster's location will be revealed, if it is unseen.[1] If the monster resists the spell through monster magic resistance, it will not be level drained, will suffer only 25% damage to its current HP, and will suffer no damage to its max HP.[2][3] Monsters with drain resistance are not affected at all.


If the spell is cast at an object, the object will resist 90% of the time if it is an artifact, or 10% of the time otherwise. If the object does not resist, its charge or enchantment is reduced by 1. An object cannot have its charge or enchantment reduced below zero, and any objects with negative enchantments are unaffected.


Casting the spell at yourself drains one experience level with the usual message, as if you were hit with a monster's drain life attack, unless you are drain resistant. Losing a level reduces your maximum hit points and your hit points by the same amount, down to a minimum of one. If you are drained below experience level 1, you die.


<Monster> suddenly seems weaker!
A monster was hit with a drain life spell and did not resist.


Drain life is not a great attack spell. It does not deal much damage, and you will not gain as many experience points since they are based on the monster's experience level before dying. On the other hand, it is worthwhile for extended battles with certain very tough opponents that are covetous and teleport away to heal themselves, but are not 100% magic resistant, such as Master Kaen. Though they may heal their HP, they cannot recover their drained levels and will eventually die.

It can be used to kill enemies behind boulders without breaking the boulder, making it invaluable in Sokoban if you do not have magic missile or projectiles.

This spell is also commonly used to reduce the enchantment of a weapon from +6 to +5, from where you may safely re-attempt to enchant it to +7, and also to reduce armor from +4 to +3 for the same purpose (+5 for elven armor). It works on Magicbane too, but usually requires several attempts, and is done to change the additional effects it has upon striking enemies.


In NetHack 3.4.3 and earlier versions, this spell could be used to reduce your level in a controlled way in order to get massive amounts of maximum HP, maximum Pw, and intrinsic protection. This strategy was known as drain for gain.


SLASH'EM introduces wands of draining, which have the same effects as this spell when zapped.


This page is based on a spoiler by Dylan O'Donnell. The original license is:

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