The minotaur, H, is an especially deadly NetHack monster. Minotaurs are notoriously difficult to kill and deal out incredible amounts of damage, leading to many deaths by their hands even by experienced players. They are also infamous for being one of the few monsters to ignore Elbereth.
Fortunately, they are never randomly generated. There are zero, one, or two generated on each maze level (including the Catacombs variant of Mines' End) and one on the Ranger quest home level. They can also be summoned by the Summon nasties monster spell, and finally, as a valid polymorphable form, are an unlikely but nonetheless possible result for that gnome lord who jumped into a polymorph trap.
To estimate how badly you can expect to be stomped, see armor class.
Minotaurs are carnivorous. They cannot wear armor or wield weapons. They will open unlocked doors, but are stopped by locked doors and boulders, and, as they do not fly, all traps will affect them. Since they are not intelligent, they cannot make use of unicorn horns, amulets, potions of gain level, or unlocking tools.
Some minotaur-repellent ideas, roughly in decreasing order of effectiveness (the last three options are virtually last-ditch efforts):
- Taming, by whatever means, is guaranteed to work. Minotaurs have zero magic resistance.
- A minotaur is a worthy candidate for a wand of death charge. If not magic resistant or reflecting, be careful where you aim - fire in a panic and you might eat the rebound. Note that this will not work in SLASH'EM - minotaurs gain intrinsic resistance to death magic.
- If a minotaur has interrupted your dig for victory, zap a wand of digging straight down (unless on the Castle level).
- A very fast spellcaster, preferably armed with jumping, might be able to keep a distance and pick the minotaur apart. Be careful not to get backed into a corner.
- An expert archer or dagger-thrower can do the same thing.
- Attack wands are another option; watch when they run out of charges. If the minotaur is in a maze, use rebounds to deal double damage, but only if you are resistant.
- A wand of slow monster (or the equivalent spell) will reduce a minotaur's speed to 10. Any unencumbered character can outrun a monster with speed 10, and if you're forced to melee it, you'll only take about 2/3 as much damage.
- If you have free action, wield a potion of paralysis and smash it over the minotaur's head, buying yourself a few (approximately 3-12) turns to kill it, run, or prepare some of the other options mentioned here.
- Build a boulder fort and pick it apart.
- Build an acid blob fort to buy yourself time to either dig down or combine inventory items (performing alchemy, or writing a scroll of taming).
- Zap the minotaur with a wand of teleportation. You will probably have to deal with the minotaur later, though.
- Zap the minotaur with a wand of sleep and run/dig/teleport. You will probably have to deal with the minotaur later, though.
- Zap the minotaur with a wand of sleep and try to kill it in melee before it wakes back up. Make sure you have an escape item in case this doesn't work.
- Engage the minotaur head-on. Unless you're well-kitted, this is probably a bad idea.
- Throw a potion of paralysis at the minotaur, buying yourself a few free hits or a few turns to run. Thrown potions are quite likely to miss.
Minotaurs can easily be tamed, but do not make viable pets by the time you encounter them. On the upside, they have strong attacks and can get up to 22 hit dice with 176 hit points. On the downside, they cannot make use of any equipment, have no resistances, can be swallowed by digesters, and will eat shapeshifter corpses. However, a spellcaster that can reliably cast charm monster may want to tame minotaurs simply to avoid fighting them.
As of version 4.0.0 of UnNetHack, minotaurs respect Elbereth.
Minotaurs are not affected by scrolls of scare monster or Elbereth since version 3.0.5. This behavior was explained in following way:
/* Note: minotaurs must be immune to scare monster * to avoid abuse from creating them and taking * their wands, then polymorphing 60 or so * wands to get wishing... */
Version 3.0.8 made it impossible to produce wands of wishing from polymorph; in 3.1.0, this note was removed but minotaurs continued to ignore Elbereth. This behavior remains unchanged in vanilla NetHack.
The encyclopedia entry is correct about the myth.
Poseidon, to punish Minos, king of Crete, made the queen fall in love with a bull. She ordered the construction of a hollow wooden cow so that she could mate with the bull. The child that was born had the body of a human and the head of a bull. As it grow up, it became ferocious and a man eater. Minos was forced to keep it alive in the labyrinth and feed it.
The etymology of Minotaur is from Minos the king and "taur" meaning bull in greek.
The Minotaur was a monster, half bull, half human, the
offspring of Minos' wife Pasiphae and a wonderfully beautiful
bull. ... When the Minotaur was born Minos did not kill him.
He had Daedalus, a great architect and inventor, construct a
place of confinement for him from which escape was impossible.
Daedalus built the Labyrinth, famous throughout the world.
Once inside, one would go endlessly along its twisting paths
without ever finding the exit.
[ Mythology, by Edith Hamilton ]