Flying is an intrinsic property much like levitation. However, while flying, unlike while levitating, you maintain control over your vertical movement, so you can pick up items on the floor, go down stairs, use ranged weapons without hurtling in the opposite direction, and so on. Broadly speaking, flying gives almost all of the benefits of levitation with none of the downsides.
There is one big downside, however: the only ways to gain flying in vanilla NetHack are by polymorphing into a flying monster or riding a flying monster. Thus, in most games, flying will never be gained and levitation will be used instead for the short periods of time necessary to cross water or lava and avoid traps.
The effects of flying are:
- You can pass over pits, holes, trap doors, squeaky boards, bear traps, water or lava safely. (Pits and holes in Sokoban will still trap you.)
- You can descend into holes with the > command ("You jump through the trap door."). For example, you can descend into the valley of the dead from the castle.
- Land mines have a chance of not being triggered, and will not wound your legs.
- Improved chances of avoiding death by drawbridge.
- You can move freely over ice or on the Plane of Air.
- Wounded legs do not reduce your carrying capacity.
- No ill effects from descending stairs when encumbered, fumbling or punished.
- You are out of reach of xans' attacks.
- You escape the dungeon rather than dying by level teleporting to levels between -9 and -1.
- You can dip objects into pools and moats, unlike with levitation.
- You cannot pick up items trapped in a pit.
- You cannot snag underwater items with a bullwhip - put on a levitation item if needed.
You can acquire this property by polymorphing into a flying monster:
- killer bee
- queen bee
- winged gargoyle
- mind flayer
- master mind flayer
- lurker above
- any monster represented by v, y, B, D, E, or V.
There are some flying monsters which you cannot polymorph into:
- Vlad the Impaler
- Wizard of Yendor
- The Riders
- Mail daemon
- Minion of Huhetotl
You can also fly by riding a flying monster:
Displacing flying monsters
You can sometimes displace flying monsters by kicking them. If the "foo swoops, nimbly evading your kick" then it is moved to a vacant square randomly selected from those nearest to you. (This means that on sufficiently crowded levels, it is possible for a flying creature to swoop through a wall. This is possibly an effect of bug C343-38; it is hard to tell from its description.)
Looting in a pit
You can loot containers in a pit, despite the fact that you can not reach them.
In the source code, a monster is defined as flying if it has the M1_FLY flag. Note that flying is different from levitation, and monsters represented by an e levitate rather than fly, even though they possess the M1_FLY flag.
Now, you can also snatch items from pits while flying, with the fishing pole.
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