Delayed instadeath

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In NetHack, a delayed instadeath is an effect that causes an instant death after some period of time, regardless of how many hit points you have at the time. These effects are generally treatable, so long as you are prepared and act quickly.

List of delayed instadeaths

Below is a list of delayed instadeaths and their cures. These are each considered a major trouble by your god, so praying safely (e.g. while outside of Gehennom) can counteract most of them unless otherwise stated.

  • Stoning - Footrice attacks, footrice eggs and being hit by a footrice corpse can all inflict delayed stoning on you, removing any intrinsic speed when it occurs and killing you in a few turns. Stoning can be cured by: eating the tin or corpse of a lizard or any acidic monster, quaffing a potion of acid, casting stone to flesh on yourself, or polymorphing into a monster with stoning resistance.
  • Sliming - Being attacked by a green slime or eating their glob can cause you to slowly become a green slime yourself. Sliming can be cured by: burning it away with any source of fire (e.g. a wand of fire, scroll of fire); wearing an amulet of unchanging; polymorphing into either a green slime, a fiery monster (fire vortex, flaming sphere, fire elemental, or salamander) or a polyform with a fire breath attack via the #monster extended command (e.g. red dragon, hell hound); casting the spell of cure sickness; invoking the Staff of Aesculapius; or wearing an amulet of life saving, which allows you to survive as a green slime and treats it as being polymorphed (unless they are genocided).
  • Sickness - You can become fatally sick by food poisoning from eating an old corpse, and you can become diseased from the sickness attack of Juiblex, Scorpius, Demogorgon, or Pestilence, or as one of the effects of applying a cursed unicorn horn. The former will kill you in 10-19 turns, while the latter gives you anywhere between 20 and (19+Con) turns before you die instantly.
    • Sickness can be cured by: applying a non-cursed unicorn horn, quaffing a potion of extra healing or full healing (or healing if blessed); quaffing holy water, unless you are chaotic; casting cure sickness; eating a non-cursed eucalyptus leaf; invoking the Staff of Aesculapius; the healing effect of sitting on a throne; being healed by a nurse attack; or polymorphing into either a monster with sickness resistance or a monster of your own race (including failed polymorphs that have the same effect and adjust your attributes).
    • Food poisoning can additionally be cured by inducing vomiting, which is possible by eating a non-cursed tripe ration, a rotten egg, or overeating while you are unbreathing (or with a 120 chance otherwise).
  • Lava - Falling into lava with fire resistance will cause you to gradually sink until you fall completely below its surface and die - if you do not have fire resistance, you instead die immediately. Sinking into lava is fixed by: zapping a charged wand of cold downward, breaking a charged wand of cold, or teleporting yourself.
  • Strangulation - This is induced by wearing an amulet of strangulation, which will gradually constrict your throat and kill you, either by robbing you of oxygen or cutting off the bloodflow to your brain (i.e., you cannot avoid dying via magical breathing or being in an unbreathing form). Strangulation can be cured by removing the amulet if applicable (though most such amulets are cursed).
  • Drowning - The attacks of giant eels, electric eels, krakens, couatls, and pythons can drown you if you are adjacent to a pool of water. This is not strictly "timed" like other delayed instadeaths: If any of the listed monsters land a touch attack, they will wrap themselves around you, similar to a grabbing attack from other monsters such as owlbears. However, if you are next to a square of water, the monster will immediately drown you the next time they land this attack.
    • You can prevent these monsters from grabbing you in the first place by: wearing a cloak that is greased (which can wear off) or an oilskin cloak (always works if non-cursed, 23 of the time if cursed), genociding the offending monsters (which cannot be done with couatls), and keeping out of melee range of drowning monsters.
    • If you have already been grabbed, prayer will not cause the monster to let you go, though a successful prayer will prevent the monster from attacking further if you are already constricted. You can prevent death from being drowned in this state by: killing the attacking monster; putting them to sleep; scaring them; teleporting them (or yourself on a level that allows it, applicable mostly to swamps or a level with a Fake Wizard's Tower; freezing the nearby water into ice; plugging it with boulders from a non-cursed scroll of earth; polymorphing the attacker into a form without a drowning attack or ability to move over water; having breathlessness (though your inventory will be subject to water damage); or causing conflict (with a low chance).
  • Digestion - The attacks of purple worms, trappers and lurkers above will engulf you and subject you to their stomach acids, which will eventually kill you via HP loss or complete digestion; being digested while polymorphed will return you to normal form and cause the monster to spit you out. The exact time of death is somewhat random and is determined based on your constitution, your AC and the monster's level, with better stats and AC allowing you to live longer - specific messages will also be printed if you are 1 or 2 hits away from being completely digested. Prayer will not force the monster to spit you out, though successful prayer will prevent further digestion from occurring.
    • While being digested, you can prevent death by killing the engulfing monster, or else forcing your way out via the following methods: wearing a ring of slow digestion; zapping the spell of knock or a wand of opening; taming the monster via a magic harp, scroll of taming or spell of charm monster; or zapping a wand of digging (which also sets the monster's HP to 1). Wearing a ring of slow digestion can also prevent digestion in the first place, since you will be immediately spit out.



In dNetHack, strangulation is made into a delayed instadeath in all cases, including eating an amulet of strangulation.


In FIQHack, zombies can cause a delayed instadeath with their attacks: If a zombie strikes you enough times in a short enough period, you will be afflicted with a fatal zombification disease that will kill you when a timer runs out.