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Lava is a dungeon feature found in places such as the Valkyrie and Monk Quests, the Plane of Fire, and one of the big rooms.


Stepping into lava without fire resistance will result in instant death, while falling into lava with fire resistance gives you a few turns in which you can escape before sinking below the surface and dying. Sinking into lava is fatal even with magical breathing; in the latter case, the cause of death is "dissolved in molten lava". Riding a non-flying/levitating steed over lava will instantly kill your steed, destroy your saddle, and then leave you in the lava.


Escaping lava

If you find yourself stuck in lava, you can free yourself by teleporting out, praying, jumping out, or getting engulfed. You can also freeze the lava with a cold attack (e.g. applying a wand of cold) and then dig yourself with a pick-axe or other similar tool; for this to work, you must freeze all adjacent squares of lava as well, or the lava will pour into your hole.

It may be possible to walk out, but not guaranteed. It takes d4+3 moves to escape lava, and d4+11 moves to sink below the surface. However, every move that you don't try to escape (because e.g. you were fighting) adds d4 more turns of being stuck. Spending more than one move on anything than escaping may leave you with too little time to save yourself. Note that once you're stuck, gaining levitation does not help you escape by itself. However, zapping a wand of opening downwards while levitating will free you. (If you use the wand without levitation or flying, you will just get stuck again. Note also that you cannot put levitation or water walking boots on while your feet are stuck.)

Crossing lava

You can cross over lava using many of the same techniques as for crossing a moat, but with added attention to the burning hazard.

You can walk directly on the lava using fireproof water walking boots; walking over lava without fire resistance will deal 6d6 damage per move. Even if you and your water-walking boots are both fire-resistant, other flammable objects are likely to burn if you carry them while walking on lava.

You can turn lava into normal floor tiles with a ray of cold. e.g. from the cone of cold, a frost horn, or cold-based breath attacks from monsters such as winter wolves. You can also fill the lava with boulders, but there is a 90% chance the boulder will sink into the lava without a trace.

You can avoid contact with lava entirely by levitation, flying, jumping, teleport, riding a flying or levitating pet, or polymorphing into a creature with one of these abilities. Throwing an iron ball you're chained to can also pull you over lava.

Even if you have flying or levitating, lava is not considered a safe location to teleport to by the game. Choosing to teleport onto lava when you have teleport control will deposit you on a random "safe" square instead.


In NetHack 3.4.3, Lava is subject to bug C343-231:

Time is distorted while sinking into lava.

Certain actions which do not take any time on the turn counter, such as entering an invalid extended command, will still decrement the variable which tracks how far you have sunk into lava. Thus, you may sink to your death sooner than expected, possibly even the same turn you stepped into the lava. Be careful what you do in this situation, and take action to stop sinking as soon as possible. This bug is fixed in NetHack 3.6.0, and in the version of 3.4.3 on

Lava in 3.4.3 is also subject to bug SC343-18:

Escaping from lava can leave hero outside of time.

After jumping to the surface of lava, you could remain on the surface indefinitely as long as you didn't move. After the fix, remaining in place will cause you to start sinking again.



Lava appears far more often in UnNetHack, particularly in Gehennom in the form of both level-bisecting rivers and encircling seas. Lava also appears in Moria. A player should assume they will need to possess a way to bypass or freeze lava.

Encyclopedia entry

You are on the edge of a breath-taking view. Far below you
is an active volcano, from which great gouts of molten lava
come surging out, cascading back down into the depths. The
glowing rock fills the farthest reaches of the cavern with a
blood-red glare, giving everything an eerie, macabre appearance.
The air is filled with flickering sparks of ash and a heavy
smell of brimstone. The walls are hot to the touch, and the
thundering of the volcano drowns out all other sounds.
Embedded in the jagged roof far overhead are myriad twisted
formations composed of pure white alabaster, which scatter the
murky light into sinister apparitions upon the walls. To one
side is a deep gorge, filled with a bizarre chaos of tortured
rock which seems to have been crafted by the devil himself.
An immense river of fire crashes out from the depths of the
volcano, burns its way through the gorge, and plummets into a
bottomless pit far off to your left. To the right, an immense
geyser of blistering steam erupts continuously from a barren
island in the center of a sulfurous lake, which bubbles
ominously. The far right wall is aflame with an incandescence
of its own, which lends an additional infernal splendor to the
already hellish scene. A dark, forboding passage exits to the

[ Adventure, by Will Crowther and Don Woods. ]

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