Death resistance

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Death resistance is an "informal" property that appears in vanilla NetHack, and protects against most magical sources of instant death.


Monsters with death resistance are immune to the instant death effect of the touch of death monster spell,rays from a wand of death and rays from the finger of death spell. This property does not have its own flag like other resistances, and is instead governed by various other sections of code tied to those attacks and spells.

If a monster is nonliving, a major demon, a vampire in one of their shapeshifter forms, or has player-style magic resistance (either from possessing a magic missile attack or an extrinsic source of magic resistance), they are unaffected by the above spells and attacks[1] - monsters will not actively use the touch of death or other monster spells against other monsters. Death is not special-cased to resist death magic in this manner, but will instead absorb it and empower itself.[2]

The player character will also resist death magic if are polymorphed into a death-resistant monster;[3][4][5] magic resistance will save them from death rays and the touch of death, but will not block a death ray zapped directly at themselves.[6][7]



In SLASH'EM, death resistance is a "formal" property governed by the MR_DEATH flag in monflag.h - this also applies to SlashTHEM. A monster that has the death resistance property and is hit by a touch of death or a death ray will resist the instant death effects of those attacks, but will still take damage.

This property can be found on various monsters in the dungeon, including some of the more powerful ones. As in NetHack, you cannot obtain this specific property as an intrinsic from a corpse or through any external source, but can polymorph into a monster that has the property. Death resistance will not protect you from a death ray zapped at yourself.

The following SLASH'EM monsters possess death resistance, and are listed in rough order of their appearance in monst.c:


In dNetHack, the spirit Ose grants a character that binds her immunity to death effects, including from zapping a wand of death at themselves - the character's steed can gain this immunity if they also have Berith bound.

In addition to the same monsters as NetHack, various other monsters in dNetHack are made immune to death magic, and some are even empowered by it:


In FIQHack, death resistance is one of the properties that can be conferred by quaffing or dipping into a potion of wonder.


In EvilHack, magic resistance still prevents the instadeath effects of death rays or death touches, but no longer offers complete protection against them: the target will still take significant damage and have their maximum HP drained. Half spell damage combined with magic resistance can reduce this damage further. The Gauntlets of Purity offer complete protection from death magic while worn.

In addition to the same monsters from NetHack, the following monsters in EvilHack are also immune to death magic:


SlashTHEM also features death resistance as a property, with the same effects as in SLASH'EM.

In addition to the listed SLASH'EM monsters, the following monsters introduced in SlashTHEM have death resistance:


  1. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 3671: monster qualities that confer immunity to death rays
  2. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 4156: Death is empowered by death magic
  3. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 2449: zapping self with death while in nonliving/demon form
  4. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 3841: death rays while in nonliving/demon form
  5. src/mcastu.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 380
  6. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 3485: anitmagic is checked here, but not when zapping self
  7. src/mcastu.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 391