Cockatrice

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A cockatrice, c, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is an oviparous, omnivorous animal that can be seen via infravision, and is the namesake monster of the cockatrice monster class.

The cockatrice and chickatrice, collectively referred to as footrices, are among the more complex creatures in Nethack: both monsters can turn you to stone instantaneously if your bare skin makes contact with their body or corpse, and this applies to other monsters as well.

A cockatrice has a bite attack, as well as a touch attack that can initiate stoning: to turn a player character to stone, the cockatrice's touch attack must land, and there is a 13 chance of the cockatrice hissing - if hissing occurs and you do not have stoning resistance, there is a 110 chance that you will begin turning to stone. This effect will always occur on a new moon unless you are carrying a lizard corpse in open inventory. Turning to stone this way is a delayed instadeath: you lose any intrinsic speed, and have a limited amount of time to cure the stoning before it turns you into a statue.

Cockatrices possess poison resistance and stoning resistance. Eating a cockatrice corpse or tin will instantly turn you to stone unless you have stoning resistance - if you have stoning resistance, YAFM is printed and the meat has a 13 chance of conveying poison resistance. Cockatrice eggs are also similarly dangerous: if a character eats one or is hit by one thrown by a monster, they suffer gradual stoning as with the aforementioned touch attack.

According to the definition in monst.c, eating cockatrice meat should convey stoning resistance, but this is not yet implemented.[1][2]

Generation

Randomly-generated cockatrices are always hostile. A chickatrice can grow up into a cockatrice, and a cockatrice egg will hatch into a chickatrice.

Hostile cockatrices can be generated with the summon nasties monster spell.

The cockatrice nest special room contains several cockatrices and cockatrice eggs.

A character that is not stoning resistant and is killed by HP damage from a cockatrice will leave a statue instead of a ghost if a bones file is created.

Strategy

Both the chickatrice and cockatrice are generally considered serious nuisances, since they are the source of many stupid and annoying deaths, the likes of which are listed below.

Cockatrices are stronger, slightly faster at 6 speed, much more common, and much likelier to drop corpses, but they tend to appear somewhat later than chickatrices. Use any and all ranged attacks at your disposal to bring down a cockatrice before it can get into melee range. Magic cancellation will not protect you against any of the stoning attack's stages, but good AC will prevent the cockatrice's touch attack from landing, and cancellation will prevent the cockatrice from hissing - note that it does not cancel any of the other stoning qualities of a cockatrice or its corpse, including the stoning caused by bare-skinned contact.

Lizard corpses are among the most reliable cures for sudden stoning, as is the potion of acid (particularly for vegetarians and vegans); eating the corpse or tin of an acidic monster will also cure stoning, but you are not remotely guaranteed to get to such food in time. You can prepare for the speed loss ahead of time by applying a tinning kit to create a quantum mechanic tin or keep a charged wand of speed monster in a bag or other container.

Do not attack a cockatrice if you are polymorphed into a form that uses bite, touch, sting, or tentacle attacks and is not stoning resistant - additionally, do not attack in the form of a monster that uses kicks if you are not wearing boots, and do not attack in the form of a monster that uses claws if you are not wearing gloves. Additionally, avoid riding while fighting a cockatrice if your steed is not stoning-resistant and has attacks that will cause it to touch the cockatrice - remember that attacks that miss you will sometimes fall upon your steed!

As a weapon

If a character has gloves, they can pick up and wield a footrice corpse as an extremely powerful weapon - but it can easily backfire on a character that does not treat it with caution. Monsters with gloves or stoning resistance can also wield cockatrice corpses to use against you or other monsters.

Monsters hit with a cockatrice corpse turn to stone instantly, while a character hit by a wielded cockatrice corpse is subjected to delayed stoning and loss of intrinsic speed as above.[3][4] The corpse can be weaponized to dispose of almost any monster that lacks stoning resistance, up to and including powerful demon lords and princes - footrice corpses are nicknamed rubber chickens by players who like to use it in this way. However, you will instantly turn yourself into a statue if you fall or lose your gloves while wielding the corpse.

One of the better methods of preventing YASD from a carried corpse is to unwield the corpse immediately after threats are dealt with, especially in areas where you have not checked for traps. Keep a carried cockatrice corpse out of inventory slots that you use frequently, especially for food; gaining the food appraisal intrinsic warns you before eating dangerous food, including food that will petrify you, and can save you from an otherwise-fatal fat-fingering. For extra safety, you can simply bag the corpse or else drop it altogether.

Additionally, keep away from sinks, foocubi and monsters with theft attacks (e.g. nymphs) if at all possible even while levitating - it is worth noting that a monster without gloves that steals your wielded corpse will turn themselves to stone, and a foocubus will always ask to take off your gloves if you are at 20 charisma. When wielding and using a footrice corpse, be prepared to switch to your main weapon when necessary: in addition to monsters that resist stoning out right, golems that are subjected to stoning will turn into stone golems.

Take note of footrices killed near enemies that can wield weapons and either wear gloves or possess stoning resistance, and be on alert for messages involving the corpse being wielded - if a moat is nearby, you can use it to dispose of the corpse by throwing it in (while wearing gloves) or kicking it in (while wearing boots). If you cannot kill a monster wielding the corpse, levelport or otherwise escape the level and wait around 200-250 turns for the corpse to rot away. Using a bullwhip or grappling hook to snag a wielded footrice corpse will turn you to stone if you do not have gloves, but using a bullwhip to pick a corpse up off the ground is fine.[5][6][7]

Footrice eggs

Cockatrice eggs can be stockpiled and used as makeshift "grenades" to instantly stone particularly troublesome monsters. One of the easier methods to obtain them is to lay them while polymorphed into a female cockatrice; it is also possible (but tedious) to obtain them via polypiling meatballs. Keep in mind that breaking your own laid eggs costs you 1 point of Luck per egg (up to a maximum of 5 at once).

Like real eggs, cockatrice eggs need some special care, and an egg that is carried in open inventory will hatch after a short while - stashing the egg in a container (e.g. a sack) until their hatching time passes will ensure that you are not surprised by the hatchling and possibly stoned. You can test for a rotted cockatrice egg after retrieving it from the container by picking up more than one egg after; if they stack in your inventory, they will not hatch.

As a wish

A footrice corpse or stack of footrice eggs is a good wish when dealing with especially tough monsters, or else where looking to deal with a significant horde as fast as possible (e.g. on the Astral Plane). The most ideal wish for the former is a a blessed partly eaten chickatrice corpse (chickatrices are lighter than cockatrices, and partly eaten ones are lighter still) - it is always worth banking a wish or two just in case of an unexpected deadly encounter. Remember that your quest nemesis and the Riders are all immune to stoning.

Below is a quick list of stoning candidates:

As a pet

As pets, footrices are somewhat notable, though not especially desired: fully grown cockatrices in particular can easily defeat non-resistant monsters with a single bite, making it easy to retrieve loot from their statues. They are also omnivores, making them easier to feed directly in lieu of them eating their own kills (which naturally leave very few corpses).

Footrice-induced deaths

Below is a non-exhaustive list of methods in which you can be killed by a live footrice, its corpse or its eggs, and methods of preventing these deaths - wearing an amulet of life saving will save you if you are petrified. All methods assume you are not stoning resistant, and are instantly fatal unless otherwise noted:

  • Live footrices:
    • Be hit by its touch attack, which has a 110 chance of inducing delayed stoning if it hisses.
    • While not wearing gloves, attack one using weapon or claw attacks while unarmed, or else with a touch attack.
    • While not wearing gloves, attack one with a wielded potion.
    • While not wearing gloves, attempt to saddle one or untrap it from a pit or spiked pit.
    • While not wearing gloves or a cloak, grab and bearhug one (i.e. as a salamander).
    • While not wearing boots, kick one (including via keyboard command or monster attack).
    • While not wearing a helm, headbutt it as a monster.
    • Bite or sting it as a monster, including the seduction attack of a foocubus (which is AT_BITE).
    • Suck its brain with tentacles as a mind flayer or master mind flayer - if your life is saved, you suffer gradual stoning afterward.
    • Engulf and digest it whole.
    • Ride a tame steed onto a polymorph trap and turn it into a footrice.
  • Footrice corpses:
    • Be hit by a monster wielding one - this causes delayed stoning.
    • Without gloves, pick one up.
    • Without gloves, try to throw it, fire it, wield it, put it into or take it out of a container.
    • Without gloves, snag a wielded one with a bullwhip or grappling hook - using the bullwhip to pick one up from the ground is fine.
    • Without gloves, steal one (e.g. as a nymph).
    • Without gloves, sacrifice it regardless of if it is on an altar or in your inventory.
    • Without gloves, apply a tinning kit to one.
    • Without gloves, move onto, teleport onto or stop levitation on a square containing one while blind and not using m.
    • Without gloves, near look via : while blind and feel a corpse on your square.
    • Without gloves, be expelled onto a square containing one by an engulfing monster while blind and and not using m.
    • Without boots, kick one or trip over it due to fumbling.
    • Without a helm, throw one upward via < and have it land on your head - the cause of death is listed as "petrified by elementary physics" (what goes up, must come down).
    • With gloves, fall down a pit, spiked pit, hole, or trap door while wielding one.
    • With gloves, falling down the stairs while burdened, fumbling or punished and wielding one unless you are flying.
    • Having your gloves removed by a nymph or foocubus, or else having them destroyed, while wielding one.
    • With gloves, falling onto a sink while levitating or flying and wielding one.
    • With gloves, faint from hunger and fall onto your wielded corpse.
    • Without gloves, polymorph from a form with stoning resistance to one without stoning resistance while wielding one.
  • Footrice eggs:
    • Be hit by one thrown by another monster - this causes delayed stoning, as with being hit by a wielded footrice corpse.
    • Without a helm, throw one upward via < and have it land on your head, which does not cause delayed stoning.

Footrices and golems

Golems other than the stone golem that are stoned by one of the above methods will instead become an animated stone golem - this includes you if you are polymorphed into such a golem.

Early characters that cannot deal easily with hard hitters and/or lack reliable damage output would do well to avoid accidentally creating an annoying (or even lethal) obstacle out of a paper golem or straw golem. Conversely, stronger golems including the iron golem can be reduced to mere nuisances with a footrice corpse or egg.

History

The cockatrice first appears in Hack 1.21 and Hack for PDP-11, which are based on Jay Fenlason's Hack, and is included in the initial bestiary for Hack 1.0. In Hack 1.21, the cockatrice uses the C glyph; in Hack for PDP-11 and Hack 1.0, the cockatrice uses its current glyph.

From this version to Hack 1.0.2, a successful hissing was an instadeath, and the only safe way to fight a cockatrice was with ranged weapons. Hack 1.0.2 also introduces the effects of the new moon.

Hack 1.0.3 includes both gradual stoning and turns the dead lizard into a cure for the affliction.

Cockatrices are subject to a few bugs:

Origin

A cockatrice is a mythical beast that features prominently in medieval bestiaries and English folklore, and is first mentioned in the 14th century John Wycliffe translation of the Bible, with the word used for the translation of various Hebrew words for "asp" and "adder" in the Book of Isaiah. The cockatrice appears as a two-legged serpentine creature with a rooster's head and bat wings; it is said to hatch from a rooster's egg, especially one incubated by a serpent or toad. and is reputed to be capable of killing with as little as a look, touch or breath.

The cockatrice has significant overlap with the mythical snake known as the basilisk: basilisks are said to be so full of venom that they leave a wide trail of deadly venom in their wake, and can similarly kill with a gaze; medieval bestiaries attribute chicken-like traits to the basilisk and popularized the idea of them being born from a chicken hatching the egg of a serpent or toad, which is the reverse of the cockatrice. Both also share a weakness to "weasels" (likely the mongoose, which had some immunity to snake venom) as well as their own reflected gazes and the crowing of roosters, and are likely based off the Nile crocodile - as a result, the basilisk and cockatrice referred to interchangeably (for example, the encyclopedia entry that both share in variants of NetHack), and many languages still translate the term "cockatrice" as "basilisk" in some form.

Modern incarnations of the basilisk and cockatrice, such as those seen in Dungeons & Dragons and various other fantasy media, characterize the creatures' lethal venoms as a petrifying substance that turned victims to stone, and later works portray them as distinct creatures: the modern cockatrice is a somewhat more bird-like creature as opposed to the fully lizard-like or serpentine basilisk. The cockatrice of Dungeons & Dragons debuts in the original 1974 white box as a weaker form of basilisk with a stoning touch and the ability to fly, and is further differentiated in later editions.

Cockatrices can be found in almost any region, and typically prefer temperate or tropical regions, where they reside either underground or above ground in plains; some scattered numbers of cockatrices could be found in the Elemental Plane of Earth. Their beaks inflicted minor damage, but their bite could permanently turn creatures to stone - for a time, the petrifying aura could penetrate the Astral and Ethereal planes, much like basilisk gazes. Cockatrices are immune to their own petrifying bite and that of other cockatrices, but they are not immune to petrification through other means unlike in NetHack. A cockatrice is very territorial and ferociously attacks perceived threats; flocks of cockatrices often attempt to overwhelm or confuse their opponents, and frequently flew at their faces.

Messages

The cockatrice touches you!
A cockatrice landed its touch attack.
You hear the cockatrice's hissing!
This follows the above with a 13 chance; this will always cause gradual stoning to begin on a new moon if you are not carrying a lizard corpse, and otherwise has a 110 chance to trigger it.
You hear a cough from the cockatrice!
As above, but the cockatrice is cancelled, and nothing happens.
You turn to stone...
You were instantly turned to stone by contact with a cockatrice or its corpse, or by throwing a cockatrice egg up and having it land on your head while you are not wearing a helm.
This tastes just like chicken!
You ate a cockatrice corpse with stoning resistance.

Encyclopedia entry

Once in a great while, when the positions of the stars are
just right, a seven-year-old rooster will lay an egg. Then,
along will come a snake, to coil around the egg, or a toad,
to squat upon the egg, keeping it warm and helping it to
hatch. When it hatches, out comes a creature called basilisk,
or cockatrice, the most deadly of all creatures. A single
glance from its yellow, piercing toad's eyes will kill both
man and beast. Its power of destruction is said to be so
great that sometimes simply to hear its hiss can prove fatal.
Its breath is so venomous that it causes all vegetation
to wither.

There is, however, one creature which can withstand the
basilisk's deadly gaze, and this is the weasel. No one knows
why this is so, but although the fierce weasel can slay the
basilisk, it will itself be killed in the struggle. Perhaps
the weasel knows the basilisk's fatal weakness: if it ever
sees its own reflection in a mirror it will perish instantly.
But even a dead basilisk is dangerous, for it is said that
merely touching its lifeless body can cause a person to
sicken and die.

[ Mythical Beasts by Deirdre Headon (The Leprechaun Library) and other sources ]

References

Parts of this page are based on a spoiler by David Corbett. The original license is unknown.