Certain high-level monsters are covetous, in that they desire one of the unique items or your quest artifact. Such monsters are marked by a distinctive movement pattern which involves constantly warping to and from the up staircase, and will attack any monster carrying the item(s) they covet. Obviously, covetous monsters will pick their desired items up off the ground, whether it is you or a dying monster that drops them.
Some covetous monsters also possess an attack which enables them to steal coveted items from your inventory. The quest artifacts of other roles are immune to this theft, as is yours if it is stashed in a bag. There is no defense against this theft for items in your main inventory; this is especially troublesome if your only source of magic resistance is your quest artifact, and means that the unique items will always be vulnerable, since they cannot be bagged.
Coveted items and the monsters who covet them
The following items are coveted by various monsters:
|Your quest artifact||All quest nemeses|
|Bell of Opening||No one in particular|
|Candelabrum||Vlad the Impaler|
|Book of the Dead||Orcus, Master lich, Arch-lich|
|Amulet of Yendor||Asmodeus, Baalzebub, Demogorgon, Dispater, Geryon, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu|
|All of the above||Wizard of Yendor|
Only quest nemeses and the Wizard of Yendor have stealing attacks. On one-twentieth of the hits from such an attack, the monster will look for one of the above items in your inventory; if it finds one it will steal it and, if capable, teleport away.
The Wizard of Yendor is most notorious for this; if he casts Double Trouble, his double has a chance of carrying a cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor which can be confused with the real amulet if it is stolen.
Covetous monsters behave quite differently from lesser denizens of the dungeon, owing both to their generally powerful natures and their insatiable desires for their respective items.
Covetous monsters do not deign to walk from place to place as other monsters do. When a covetous monster wants to attack, he simply appears adjacent to you, or as close as he can get if there's no open space next to you. This type of teleportation (often informally described as "warping") is not influenced by non-teleport levels.
A damaged covetous monster will warp to the up stairs to heal. The damage does not need to be critical; even a few HP lost will send it fleeing. While healing, the monster may occasionally appear for a quick attack or two before returning to the stairs. It will not resume a sustained assault until fully healed.
If a covetous monster succeeds in stealing one of your items, it will teleport away. This is not a warp, but a standard teleport which can be blocked by a non-teleport level or the teleport suppression effect of the Amulet of Yendor. Even if the monster successfully teleports, it will usually warp right back to you to continue its assault.
If you pursue a covetous monster to the up stairs, it will escape to the level above. When you follow, it will immediately warp to the new up stairs to continue healing. You may end up chasing it all the way to dungeon level 1 (monsters cannot escape the dungeon entirely).
Covetous monsters ignore Elbereth when warping to the up stairs. They follow the normal rules for respecting Elbereth in all other situations.
Covetous monsters place obtaining their coveted items over all other priorities, including attacking the hero. A covetous monster will attack a monster who happens to hold the item they covet. The item-stealing attack itself has no effect in monster-on-monster combat, so the attacker will have to kill its target to get the item. However, covetousness will never induce a monster to attack the high priest of Moloch or the Wizard of Yendor.
Covetous monsters cannot be tamed by any means (however, you can obtain a tamed Master/Arch-lich by either taming a lower lich and letting it grow up, or polymorph another pet). The Wizard and all quest nemeses cannot even be pacified.
The amulet-stealing attack
While other monsters covet your quest artifact and the Invocation items, only the Wizard of Yendor and your quest nemesis can actually steal them. On one out of twenty hits, this attack tries, in order, to steal first the Amulet, your quest artifact, the Bell of Opening, the Book of the Dead, and finally, the Candelabrum of Invocation. The attack will only ever steal one item, and always tries to steal items in this order, regardless of what items the monster itself covets. The rogue quest leader is also capable of stealing covetable items should he be angered, since he is actually the tourist quest nemesis.
Interestingly, monsters that are not the Wizard can be fooled by "fake" items. That is, if you have both the real Amulet and a fake amulet, or if you have both the Bell of Opening and a normal bell, a monster trying to steal the artifact may in fact steal the fake. Specifically, it will steal whichever item comes first alphabetically in your inventory, so you can arrange for the monster to always steal the fake item this way.
Unfortunately, this is almost certain to be irrelevant. The Wizard specifically cannot be faked out in such a manner, and the only other monster with an amulet-stealing attack is your quest nemesis. Since your quest nemesis always starts with the Bell of Opening, and you can't get the Amulet until you have it, the opportunity for this situation will basically never arise. The one exception might be those who choose to steal the Bell from their quest nemesis through polyself into a nymph: they might want to carry a normal bell to prevent their quest nemesis from stealing the Bell of Opening back, as unlike the quest artifact the Bell cannot be bagged.
A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:
"Oups, it seams in Slashem at least, that engraving or scare monster on the upstairs doesn't work."
Because they flee at the slightest scratch, are much more mobile than most players, and are invariably high-level and so have a lot of hit points, covetous monsters can be very frustrating to deal with. The easiest option, if you have teleport control, is to teleport to the up stairs before the monster does. If the monster respects Elbereth, engrave it, and you can safely dispatch the monster when it follows. If not, you have at least cut off its escape route and forced it to fight you to the death.
If you can jump it is possible to move into a position a knight's move away from the stairway and wait. The covetous monster cannot attack you in melee and is less likely to go upstairs. It can however summon nasties. Then, wait until the monster teleports next to you and jump at the stairway.
If porting to the stairs is not an option (because you lack control, are on a no-port level, or another monster is already on the up stairs), but the monster is a Follower, you could also flee to the down stairs, head down when the monster is next to you, and hope you land on the up stairs. Also, it is possible to kill some of the weaker or slower covetous monsters before they can warp back to heal; silver weapons or projectiles with a multishot bonus can work particularly well for this. In SLASH'EM, sufficiently enchanted firearms work well for this.
Engraving a permanent Elbereth on the up stairs will prevent them from retreating altogether. If it's a semipermanent engraving, it will always erode, when the monster warps to it.
They can be prevented from teleporting by wielding a potion of paralysis, and hitting them with it while wearing a ring of free action. This should provide enough time to be able to dispose of them while they are paralyzed.
Covetous monsters are defined by one of the following flags in monst.c: M3_WANTSARTI, M3_WANTSCAND, M3_WANTSBOOK, M3_WANTSAMUL, or M3_COVETOUS.
There is also a M3_WANTSALL flag. It has the same value as M3_COVETOUS, but is not used by any monsters. It seems likely that M3_WANTSALL was intended to indicate monsters that are capable of stealing all of the major items, whereas M3_COVETOUS was intended as a mask to check if a particular monster is capable of stealing at least one major item. If this is the case, the Wizard of Yendor should be specified as M3_WANTSALL instead of M3_COVETOUS. However, since the two symbols have the same value, the mistake does not actually affect gameplay.
It's not uncommon for the Wizard of Yendor to appear in Moloch's Sanctum, and immediately engage the high priest of Moloch for the Amulet. Since neither combatant does much physical damage (The wizard is entirely incapable of dealing damage to monsters), both can heal themselves, and covetous monsters can't steal from other monsters, this is generally a stalemate. The demon princes, however, are mostly quite capable of taking out the high priest.
One exploit of this behavior, often used by speed runners, is to lure a named demon (usually Asmodeus) into the Sanctum. He will quickly dispatch the high priest, retrieve the Amulet, and then return to attack the hero. The player can thus retrieve the Amulet without moving more than one space from the up stairs.