Healing is recovery of lost hit points and is vital to your survival in NetHack.
You heal naturally over time, at a rate which increases with your constitution and experience level. Wearing a ring of regeneration causes you to heal 1 HP per turn in addition to your natural healing but also increases your food consumption by 50%. Being polymorphed into certain monsters (notably all V, L, T, and werefoos) also gives you regeneration, as does wielding the Staff of Aesculapius, the healer quest artifact (see below for its other healing effect).
However, there are many other possible ways to heal yourself, listed here in rough order of most to least common. Some may have other effects besides just healing, and many can increase your maximum HP if you are close to it—see the specific articles for more details.
- potion of healing – you gain 6d4 hitpoints if uncursed, or 8d4/4d4 if blessed or cursed, respectively.
- potion of extra healing – you gain 6d8 hitpoints if uncursed, or 8d8/4d8 if blessed or cursed, respectively.
- potion of full healing – you gain 400 hitpoints, regardless of BUC status.
- healing spells – the spells of healing and extra healing have the same effects as the uncursed potions, except that they cannot cure certain problems that the potions can, and spells will never increase your maximum HP. Cast at . to heal yourself.
- prayer – having less than 6 HP, or less than or equal to 1/7 of your max HP, is considered a major problem. A successful prayer will return your HP to maximum.
- invoking The Staff of Aesculapius – this heals half the HP you would need to return to full health. The usual artifact invocation timeout applies, so doing this too often is unwise.
- eating a nurse corpse or a tin of nurse meat – this fully restores your HP (unlike the potion of full healing, there is no limit; you can restore several million HP this way if your maximum is high enough). Note that even a blessed tin will take 2 turns to open and eat, and also that eating nurse meat is considered cannibalism for human characters. Cannibalism is probably preferable to dying, but using nurse meat as a human in a non-emergency situation is definitely not a good idea.
- eating a noncursed lump of royal jelly – you gain d20 HP, among other effects. This is rarely enough to be very important, but it does come in handy if you get hungry on the Astral Plane, as you can heal yourself while eating.
- levelling up – when your experience level increases by any means, you gain hitpoints equal to your gain in maximum HP. This could potentially give you enough HP to survive another hit, if you saved that potion of gain level until the last minute.
- being lifesaved – if you die and are revived by an amulet of life saving, your hitpoints are restored to their maximum.
- consorting with a foocubus – may occasionally make you "feel restored to health", raising your HP to their maximum.
- being hit by a nurse – if you are wearing no armor and wielding no weapon, being hit by a nurse heals you. This is usually rather impractical in combat, but can be used to your advantage by nurse dancing.
- sitting on a throne – one possible effect (1/13 chance) is that you have your HP restored to their maximum, and increases the maximum slightly if close to or at it. This is usually a bad idea if you are low on HP, as another possible effect is an electric shock that deals a fair amount of damage.
- quaffing unholy water – if you are chaotic and quaff a potion of unholy water, you gain 2d6 hitpoints ("You feel quite proud of yourself"). Note that the same is not true of holy water (it has beneficial effects to non-chaotics, but doesn't restore any health), and that quaffing unholy water while lawful causes you to lose 2d6 hitpoints. (Neutrals get neither damage nor beneficial effects.)
- zapping yourself with wands – if you happen to be polyselfed into an iron golem, a wand of fire heals you by 12d6 hitpoints; if polyselfed into a flesh golem, a wand of lightning heals you by 2d6 hitpoints (in either case, you get the message "Strangely, you feel better than before"). The usual item destruction will still occur.
Your pets regenerate slowly by themselves at a rate of one point per 20 turns, but if they have taken a lot of damage you'll probably want to help them heal up. Here are several ways to do that:
- Cast a spell of healing or extra healing at them.
- Wield a potion of healing, extra healing, full healing, restore ability, or gain ability, and hit your pet with it (you'll need to use the 'fight' command—push F and then the direction of the monster). This will increase its hitpoints to its maximum at the cost of tameness (it's not smart enough to know that you hit it to heal it). You can also throw the potion, which will not decrease tameness, but this has a chance of missing and wasting the potion, whereas the potion is still unharmed if you miss while striking in melee.
- Some intelligent pets may be able to cast the monster spell 'cure self' on themselves, but you cannot influence this happening.
- Intelligent pets will pick up and wear amulets of life saving if they are not already wearing an amulet, which have the same effect as they would on a player.
Caution: whacking a pet with potions counts as abuse in addition to the loss of tameness. If you commit abuse three times, your pet is guaranteed to become un-tame when life-saved, revived, or unstoned.
SLASH'EM adds several other ways to heal yourself and others:
- healing hands (Knight technique) - If not sick or slimed, your HP is increased by 4 * TechLvl
- surgery (Healer technique) - If not sick or slimed or if you are not carrying a scalpel, HP is increased by 5-9 + TechLvl, plus an additional 1d2 * TechLvl if you have a medical kit.
- wand of healing - Heals 5d6 HP
- wand of extra healing - Heals 6d8 HP