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For the item in SlashTHEM, see bag of digestion.

Digestion is a damage type that occurs in NetHack, and is primarily dealt by certain engulfing attacks.


The following monsters have digestion attacks:

If a digestion attack hits you and you are engulfed, a delayed instadeath begins: while you are engulfed by that monster, you will continue to take damage on each of that monsters turn's, accompanied with messages about being digested; to survive, you must escape or kill the engulfing monster before it fully digests you. As with other engulfing monsters, melee attacks, spells and wands are guaranteed to hit the engulfing monster.

The better your AC, the longer you will take to digest - the number of monster hits required before you are totally digested is:

8 + \frac{Con}{3} + d(\frac{25 - monsterLvl}{2} + 1) - AC

Digestion can be completely prevented by wearing a source of slow digestion, which causes a monster to immediately regurgitate you. Spinning a web while being digested will force the monster to spit you out; zapping a wand of opening or casting the spell of knock will also force them to spit you out. Zapping a wand of digging or dig spell while inside a digesting monster will reduce its HP to 1 and immediately expel you. Pacifying or the monster, e.g. by reading a scroll of taming or casting charm monster, causes it to regurgitate you.

If you are wearing an amulet of life saving and are totally digested, or else are in explore mode or wizard mode and choose not to die, you will be revived as normal and regurgitated.[1] This also applies if you are fully digested while polymorphed, which returns you to normal form and causes the monster to spit you out.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

White dragon scales and white dragon scale mail also confer slow digestion.


Against monsters, digestion attacks will instantly kill monsters of large size or smaller; larger monsters are unaffected. Monsters killed this way do not leave corpses, and death drops that rely on a corpse being left (e.g. unicorn horns and worm teeth) will not be generated. A monster that swallows a chameleon whole with a digestion attack will polymorph, including you if you are in the form of one via polyself; a worn source of protection from shape changers will prevent this polymorph. Attempting to digest a Rider will kill the digesting monster instead, including you if you are in the form of one via polyself, and leave the Rider unharmed.

If you are polymorphed into a digesting monster, killing a monster of your race with the digestion attack is not considered cannibalism.


Though a potential source of instadeath, player that encounter digesting monsters are typically more than capable of escaping such a fate. Purple worms are the fastest monsters with a digesting attack, making them the most threatening to deal with on paper; lurkers and trappers have a much slower speed of 3. In practice, a player encountering a digesting monster will generally be well-equipped and at worst have a wand of digging, unless the monster was an adult worm summoned by an early shrieker. As being engulfed guarantees that melee attacks and spells will hit the engulfing monster, even a character with modest speed and damage output can likely finish them off before the instadeath occurs.

Digestion attacks are a particular concern with pets: a single hit from a lowly trapper can fell an Archon among other powerful pets that are small enough to be eaten. A character relying primarily on their pets to do damage (e.g. a pacifist) wants to be particularly cautious of all digesting monsters. Conversely, this is what makes the purple worm in particular a very powerful pet: it can immediately eliminate most high-threat-level monsters if they are small enough, and can rapidly gain levels by swallowing wraiths whole, though they will encounter trouble against common monsters such as the various giants that are too large to engulf. While trappers and lurkers above can do the same as purple worms, their low speed and tendency to hide makes them generally impractical as pets.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

As of commit cf1c725, shriekers will summon baby purple worms instead of adult ones if the latter would be generated out-of-depth. As of commit 1a2d844, digestion will not affect incorporeal monsters such as wraiths.


In NetHack 3.6.1 and previous versions, including some variants based on those versions, if you were being digested by a monster and life saving was triggered by some other cause of death, you would be totally digested on the next hit from its digestion attack; this bug was fixed in NetHack 3.6.2 via commit 858e9ce.


<Foo> digests you!
You take damage from digestion.
<Foo> thoroughly digests you!
You take damage from digestion, and will die in 2 more hits.
<Foo> utterly digests you!
You take damage from digestion, and will die in 1 more hit.
<Foo> totally digests you!
You died from being digested.
You get regurgitated! Obviously <foo> doesn't like your taste.
You were expelled due to a worn source of slow digestion.
<Foo> very hurriedly regurgitates you!
You were expelled due to life saving activating after being digested.
You <jump/fly> through an opening in the new statue of <foo>.
You turned a monster that was digesting you to stone.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

As of commit beb99c0, there are different messages that distinguish between animals that engulf you (which covers all digesting monsters) and other monsters:

<Foo> <lunges forward and> swallows you whole!
You were engulfed by a purple worm.
<Foo> <lunges forward and> encloses itself around you!
You were engulfed by a lurker above or trapper.
A monster with a digesting attack (including you if you are polymorphed into a monster with one) killed another monster by digesting them.
Unfortunately, digesting any of it is fatal.
While polymorphed, you tried to digest one of the Riders.
<Foo> belches feebly, shrivels up and dies!
A monster with a digesting attack tried to eat Famine.
<Foo> coughs spasmodically and collapses!
As above, with Pestilence.
<Foo> vomits violently and drops dead!
As above, with Death.


Variants of NetHack may give digestion attacks to new or returning monsters and adjust or expand the attack's mechanics.


In SLASH'EM, digestion attacks will not instantly kill monsters if the target needs an enchanted weapon to hit and the attacker does not hit as a strong enough weapon. This makes pets with enchantment resistance much more capable of surviving against purple worms and other digesting monsters.

All of the above information also applies to SlashTHEM.


In GruntHack, dragons can digest monsters and the player, making them much more difficult to fight in melee - this also makes them much better pets compared to vanilla NetHack.


In dNetHack, the dark young and darkness given hunger also have digestion attacks. Shambling horrors can roll digesting attacks among their randomized attack routine.


In EvilHack, dragons are capable of digesting monsters as in GruntHack, making them fearsome enemies and desirable pets. Shambling horrors can also roll digesting attacks among their randomized attack routine.

Monsters will wear the ring of slow digestion, which prevents them from being digested and instantly killed; spiked barding and Ithilmar can also prevent the monster wearing it from being digested. Phasing prevents you or any monster with the property from being engulfed at all.

Some of the stronger monsters in the game are generated with a ring of slow digestion - this includes player monsters on the Astral Plane in order to weaken "purple rain" and other similar strategies for trivializing the level.