Monster attribute

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This article is about innate attributes of monsters. For player attributes (or "stats") such as strength or intelligence, see Attribute.

Monster attributes are properties that NetHack monsters can have, depending on their individual "species".

The attributes of a monster describe, in non-quantitative terms, what that monster is ordinarily like:

  • Humanoids have a head, arms, and a torso.
  • Snakes and fish lack feet.
  • Ghosts and vortices do not have solid bodies.

Within gameplay, monster attributes also determine many aspects of monster behavior.


On this wiki, the term "monster attributes" is usually used to describe monster properties that are qualitative and innate.

Qualitative properties are descriptive and non-numerical. Quantitative properties such as monster difficulty and weight are excluded from the category of monster attributes. In the source code, attributes are defined by Boolean flags rather than variables, which means that they are either present or absent for any given monster.

Innate properties are characteristic of all monsters of that type from the moment they are generated. Properties like intrinsic speed or acquired invisibility that monsters can obtain from items or spells are not considered monster attributes.

Significance for gameplay

Monster attributes influence:

How a monster is able to interact with items and with its environment:

  • Monsters that are humanoid have arms, so they are able to wield weapons if they have a weapon attack.
  • Monsters that are strong get a bigger carrying capacity and can use two-handed weapons.
  • Monsters that are slithy lack feet, so they cannot kick or wear boots.
  • Tunneling monsters are able to dig through solid rock, break closed doors, and cut down trees. These are subdivided into those that require a tool (pick-axe, mattock, or axe) and those that do not.
  • Flying monsters can pass over some traps and obstacles without being affected by them.
  • Monsters that are whirly or amorphous can move through iron bars.
  • A monster's diet is defined by attributes. Monsters may eat meaty food items and corpses (carnivore), fruits and vegan corpses (herbivore), both (omnivore), or metallic items (metallivore). Or they may be unable to eat any item, nor have any need to do so (inediate).

How the player may interact with the monster:

  • Eating a monster that is human will incur a penalty for cannibalism if you are playing as a human. Likewise, eating monsters that are dwarves will be cannibalism for dwarves, and eating elves will be cannibalism for elves. Orcs are an exception; they will not be penalized for eating other orcs.
  • Acidic or poisonous monsters leave corpses that may be risky to eat without the proper resistances.
  • Monsters that are kebabable or thick-skinned are affected differently by certain weapons.

How monsters tend to behave toward the player:

  • Monsters that are covetous are motivated by their desire for your quest artifact or for one or more of the unique items. They will pick up the item if they find it on the floor. If the item is in the possession of you or a monster, they will attack whoever has it, teleporting back and forth from the stairs.
  • Monsters with the follower attribute will pursue you to a new level if they are on an adjacent tile when you leave the level (by staircase, level teleport, trapdoor, etc.)

How and where monsters are generated:

  • Gold lovers may be generated with gold in their inventory.
  • Strong humanoid monsters may be generated with a two-handed weapon, which they are able to wield.
  • Some monsters are characteristically generated in groups of various sizes.
  • Some monsters may not be generated in Gehennom, while others are only generated in Gehennom.
  • Eggs belonging to oviparous monsters may be found randomly generated, and hatch into their corresponding juvenile forms.

Monster attributes and monster classes

Monster attributes sometimes correlate to monster class, but not strictly. To illustrate:


If you polymorph into a monster, the attributes of that monster determine many of the properties of your new form.

Many useful intrinsic properties—including see invisible, regeneration, magical breathing, flying, teleportitis, infravision, reflection, and most resistances—can be obtained temporarily by polymorphing into monsters with the right attributes. See property for more details on how to obtain these intrinsics through polymorph.

Not all monster attributes translate into positive intrinsics. Polymorphing into a monster without eyes will cause you to be blind, as long as you remain in that polymorph form.

Polymorphing into a strong monster sets your effective strength to 18/**.[1]

Discovering monster attributes

It is helpful to know the attributes of a given monster when you are trying to decide how to fight or avoid it, or determine whether it would make a good pet or polymorph form. Some of the most important attributes can be learned simply by experience, by paying attention to how the monsters behave in-game. If you don't mind being spoiled, however, you can find a list of the attributes of any given monster in the information table in its respective article on this wiki.

See also

Template:Attributes – has a comprehensive table of all attributes, by their name in the source code and how they are indicated in the monster information table