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The members of the vortex monster class will all engulf you and cause an appropriate type of damage, except dust vortices, which will blind you, and fog clouds, which will do physical damage. Once you can survive their engulfing long enough to get yourself expelled with your horn or drum, their greatest danger is transporting you into lava or into a black dragon's disintegration blast.


Fog cloud

Fog clouds offer a good opportunity for weapon training. While you are engulfed, your attacks are guaranteed to hit, avoiding the normal trouble non-warrior roles can have with the −4 Unskilled to-hit penalty. Despite messages like "You are laden with moisture and can barely breathe", they are not very dangerous because of their low speed. Pacifists might have problems with them if they can't move away since they mustn't destroy them.

As of NetHack 3.6.0, vampires and vampire lords can transform into fog clouds; they will rise up in their normal form when killed.

Dust vortex

As with fog clouds, dust vortices offer a good chance for beginning characters to train their weapon skills, particularly up to NetHack 3.6.0 since they dealt no physical damage. In NetHack 3.6.1, dust vortices are able to deal 1d6 physical damage if their attack fails to engulf you because you had been engulfed by them recently.[1]

Ice vortex

Ice vortices are not overly threatening: they lack a passive attack, and while they are quite fast, their cold attack does very modest damage to non-resistant characters, and is harmless to resistant ones.

Energy vortex

The energy vortex is a very dangerous monster to encounter for players who lack shock resistance, possessing both passive and active shock attacks. The passive attack is only triggered by melee attacks; ranged attacks, even when engulfed, are perfectly fine. This includes repeatedly throwing and picking up your melee weapon, if you have no more powerful alternative. It is sometimes necessary to use wands to survive an unfortunate energy vortex encounter. Normally, neither engulfing nor passive shock attacks will destroy your rings or wands; however, after the vortex releases you, its engulfing attack gets temporarily (for 1-2 turns) converted to a shocking touch attack, which can explode your items.

While engulfed, the energy vortex will drain your power 75% of the time, similar to an anti-magic field. If it drains your power below zero, it will reduce your maximum power. This can be particularly devastating if you can't kill it quickly; it can drain your max power all the way down to zero. Cancelling the vortex will prevent this, but magic cancellation will not, nor will magic resistance.

The energy drain attack was implemented in NetHack 3.6.0, where it was 4d6, making it even more dangerous.

Steam vortex

Steam vortices are not too threatening. They do somewhat more damage than ice vortices while being marginally faster, but overall, even non-resistant characters will have fairly little trouble with them. Resistant characters will find them completely harmless.

Fire vortex

In contrast to steam vortices, fire vortices can be quite dangerous: their passive attack will deal at least 9d4 damage to non-resistant characters and can destroy items, and they have the highest base level of any vortex. If you lack resistance, it is worth looking for an alternative to attacking them in melee - even if that just means throwing your melee weapon at them.

Body parts

Vortex also refers to the grouping of body parts for the forms of vortices. It affects the messages referring to the appropriate body parts as follows:[2]

Body part[3] Description
Arm Region
Eye Eye
Face Front
Finger Minor current
Fingertip Minor current
Foot Lower current
Hand Swirl
Handed Swirled
Head Central core
Leg Lower current
Light headed Addled
Neck Center
Spine Currents
Toe Edge
Hair Currents
Blood Life force
Lung Center
Nose Leading edge
Stomach Interior


"You are freezing to death!"
You have been engulfed by an ice vortex.

Encyclopedia entry

Swirling clouds of pure elemental energies, the vortices are
thought to be related to the larger elementals. Though the
vortices do no damage when touched, they are noted for being
able to envelop unwary travellers. The hapless fool thus
swallowed by a vortex will soon perish from exposure to the
element the vortex is composed of.


UnNetHack included the anti-matter vortex in versions prior to 4.0.0.


This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.1. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-361}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.