Levitation

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Levitation is a property by which you lose contact with the floor. It allows free movement horizontally (i.e. north, south, east, west, and diagonally), but not up or down. (NetHack is different in this respect from the Dungeons and Dragons games, for example, in which levitation only allows controlled movement up and down, but not horizontally.) Levitation (or flying, an improved version) can be useful (in fact, almost necessary to win the game); but it can also be very detrimental if you have no control over when it ends. While riding, levitation causes your steed to levitate as well.

Levitation can be gained extrinsically by wearing a ring of levitation or levitation boots. The Heart of Ahriman can be invoked to toggle levitation, or dropped to turn it off. Levitation can also be gained as a temporary intrinsic property by casting the spell of levitation, by quaffing a potion of levitation, or by eating a ring of levitation. Polymorphing yourself into eyes or spheres will also levitate (or more precisely, float) you.

Because levitation causes you to lose contact with the ground, many actions become impossible:

The major difference between levitation and flying is that flying leaves you with control over your vertical movement, so that most of the actions listed above are still possible.

However, there are benefits from being out of contact with the ground, as well:

  • you cannot fall into a pool or moat, or lava (and travel will move over such terrain);
  • you are unaffected by the normal effects of ice;
  • you float right over ground-based traps (squeaky boards, holes, trap doors, bear traps, pits and spiked pits), except in Sokoban;
  • although you can trigger land mines, it is with only a 1 in 3 chance, and even if you do you are not caught in the resulting explosion;
  • fumbling does not make you slip, trip, or make noise;
  • although there is no ground on the Plane of Air, levitation nevertheless allows you to control your movements there;
  • your encumbrance is calculated as if you had a Strength of 25;
  • xans cannot reach your legs to attack them;
  • level teleporting to a level between -1 and -9 causes you to escape the dungeon safely, rather than fall to your death;
  • you do not erase engravings with movement, or even attacks, meaning that you can fight while levitating over an Elbereth without damaging it;

However, flying does smudge Elbereth.

A few other actions are affected by levitation:

  • If underwater (perhaps surviving there with an amulet of magical breathing), starting to levitate causes you to instantly surface.
  • Prior to version 3.6, levitation repelled the water on the Plane of Water, allowing you to move outside air bubbles there without drowning (as opposed to water walking).
  • Uncontrolled teleportation will only teleport you above lava if you are levitating extrinsically.
  • Due to a bug, attempting to engrave with an empty wand will check to see if you wrest the wand before attempting to engrave. This allows repeated attempts to wrest in zero time; levitation makes it more comfortable because you don't have to abort writing each time. Some players consider doing this cheating.
  • You have a 3 in 8 chance of avoiding being killed by a drawbridge.
  • Dropping fragile items may break them.
  • When throwing objects, or performing other similar actions like kicking, you are propelled in the opposite direction (known as "hurtling"). (This is not affected by whether you are on the Plane of Air at the time.) The distance you move depends on the weight of the object you throw; all the movement is done instantly, but you are then helpless for 1 turn for every square you move (or would have moved, if you collide with something first). Throwing while levitating gives a Luck penalty in Sokoban.
  • Untrapping containers will always make you try to remove a trap.

Generally speaking, you cannot cancel levitation voluntarily once it starts. A few sources of levitation can be ended voluntarily by pressing > ("levitation at will"): the Heart of Ahriman, a blessed potion, or a spell cast at skilled level or higher. These source will also grant control over pre-existing intrinsic levitation. Levitation gained extrinsically can be ended by removing the item that grants it, although equipment that grants levitation is often generated cursed. Most forms of levitation are ended by levitating over a sink; it ends timeouts except for those gained by eating the ring or polyself, and unequips items that grant levitation even if they are cursed or worn under other items. Cursed levitation items are also considered a major trouble, and so it is sometimes possible to pray to uncurse them.

Strategy

Beware crossing lava or water using a non-blessed potion of levitation or unskilled or basic spell of levitation: the effect wears off after a random and highly variable time (as little as 10 turns if you're unlucky), and if it times out at an inopportune moment, you could die instantly.

It is virtually impossible to complete the Elemental Planes without levitation (unless you have some means of flying). Generally, the ring of levitation is considered the best source, as it does not take up an armor slot, lasts until it is taken off, and can be easily removed and put back on again. (However, it is vulnerable to lightning attacks—be careful if you don't have reflection.) Other good sources include levitation boots, the Heart of Ahriman (usually only applicable if you are a barbarian or happen to find it in bones), and the skilled levitation spell (unskilled is very dangerous, as it may give you as little as 10 or as many as 149 turns per cast, and cannot be voluntarily ended). If you do not have any of these available by the time you get to the Planes, a single blessed potion of levitation quaffed right as you reach the Plane of Air will give you at least 250 turns of levitation, which is plenty to get you through all three of the remaining Elemental Planes as long as you don't dawdle.

If you have some means of flying, levitation is usually unnecessary.

While levitating, engravings in the dust will never degrade. Therefore, writing Elbereth in the dust and then levitating is a powerful way to melee monsters—so imbalanced that wizards cannot start with a ring of levitation. If you are already levitating, a wand of magic missile can be used to engrave in the dust. This consumes one charge, but since wands of magic missile are virtually useless as attack wands, this is usually a good use of the charge.