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Nymphs are monsters that appear in NetHack. There are three distinct types - the water nymph, wood nymph and mountain nymph. All three types of nymph compose the nymph monster class, and they are almost entirely identical.


Nymphs all share the same base attributes. They lack any damage-dealing attacks and have poor AC, but are nevertheless very dangerous monsters that teleport frequently while moving. Nymphs are capable of charming you into removing your armor and stealing it or other items before attempting to teleport away. They also teleport at random while moving and are capable of using items they pick up or steal - putting on armor and amulets, zapping wands and quaffing potions. Eating a nymph's corpse has a chance of giving you teleportitis.

The water nymph shares the same qualities and attributes as her other counterparts, but can also swim and freely cross water.


In addition to random generation, nymphs are the first quest enemy class for Rogues, with a 14% chance of being generated in the quest branch. The Rogue quest home level also has nine guaranteed water nymphs, and each of the filler levels has two water nymphs.

Nymphs have a 50% chance of being generated with a mirror, and an independent 50% chance of carrying a potion of object detection.[1] Nymphs are generated asleep 80% of the time; however, if you have the Amulet of Yendor or summon one via a fountain, they are guaranteed to be awake.[2]

Additionally, when you dip an item into a fountain or quaff from one, there is a 130 chance of summoning a water nymph.

Ringing a cursed bell (including a cursed uncharged Bell of Opening) has a 14 chance of summoning a random type of nymph, unless any type of nymph is genocided or extinct; the summoned nymph will not have an inventory.[3]


Nymphs generally should not be approached unless you can reliably dispatch them before they steal any items; in most cases, it is preferable to leave them asleep if possible and avoid them. It may be advisable to leave the items you least want stolen in a chest or other container elsewhere before nearing or pursuing a nymph. When dealing with an awake nymph, remember that she is as fast as your unburdened character at base speed.

Elbereth can ward off awakened nymphs and give you some valuable space. Applying a mirror at a nymph will cause her to steal the mirror and teleport away, which can preserve your more valuable or dangerous items. Nymphs also have a chance to be tamed using a wooden harp, but in practice this requires impractically high dexterity and experience level.

Ranged attacks are the most ideal for killing nymphs before they can close in on you - the exception to this is the force bolt spell or wand of striking, which can kill the nymph but will break any fragile items she was carrying, such as a mirror. Breaking mirrors results in a −2 Luck penalty, which can be dangerous because it reduces accuracy, and negative Luck outweighing positive Luck prevents prayer from being successful until the negative Luck times out. It is also ideal to keep your pet nearby, especially if you are an early-game Wizard - a pet can hold the nymph at bay and hopefully kill her for you, but keep in mind that they can still steal items from your pet, including saddles.

Wands in general are useful against nymphs, but can be stolen and potentially used against you - a wand of teleportation or digging all but ensures that she will escape you several times. Polearms or lances can be effective, but you will likely need at least fast speed to consistently keep them one square away while you attack. A wand of sleep can stop a nymph long enough for you to kill her, hopefully before the combat awakens her; a wand of cancellation will make the nymph "plain", which renders her harmless, but she will still teleport away after unsuccessfully attempting to steal from you.

Removing unwanted items

Nymphs and their theft attacks can be used to get rid of cursed items, usually by stashing or dropping every other item besides the ones you want removed. You can then let the nymph steal them, and optionally retrieve the items if you want to uncurse them later. Punished players can also use this to untether themselves from their heavy iron ball.


As a polymorph form, becoming a nymph will not affect your armor, and grants two unique abilities:

  • You can remove an iron chain with the #monster command.
  • You can steal gear from monsters without killing them.

To steal, attack the monster; if you are wielding a weapon, you will attack with that weapon and also make a steal attempt, but you will not attack bare-handed if not wielding a weapon. If the theft attack hits, you will steal from them—this does not anger peaceful monsters. ("You smile at <monster> seductively.") If the attack misses, the monster will treat it like any other missed attack, and peaceful monsters will likely become angry. Be sure to check the AC of pets or peaceful monsters before stealing from them.

If you are invisible and the monster cannot see you, the seduction attack will not work[4] - you will still steal items, but also make a regular attack even without a weapon, possibly angering the monster.

As pets

A tame nymph is not a particularly good pet due to her weak attributes, especially in a no-teleport level - there may very occasionally be a situation where one can be used to steal items from other monsters, though this can often fail.

When a nymph attempts to steal from a peaceful monster, it will attack her - as nymphs are incapable of attacking, she will just keep attempting to steal until successful, then teleport away. After teleporting away, she will quickly drop whatever she stole; you will have to find her new location and retrieve those items, and you may have to fight the monster in question regardless.


Nymphs are first introduced in Hack for PDP-11, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack.

From Hack 1.0 to NetHack 2.3e, nymphs used the N glyph. The three distinct subtypes of nymph were introduced in NetHack 3.0.0, and all three were moved to the n glyph.


A nymph is a minor female nature deity in ancient Greek folklore, and belief in nymphs survived in many parts of Greece up to as recently as the early 20th century. Usually depicted as beautiful maidens, they were not necessarily immortal, but lived much longer than humans. Nymphs are generally regarded as personifications of nature and typically tied to a specific place or landform.

They are often divided into various broad subgroups, such as the Meliae (ash tree nymphs), the Naiads (freshwater nymphs), the Nereids (sea nymphs), and the Oreads (mountain nymphs) - the three types of nymph in NetHack (wood, water and mountain) are split in a rough analogue to this. The motif of a sleeping nymph in a grotto or spring came to prominence in European sculpture during the Renaissance, based off a widely-considered forged report in the 15th century of a similar Roman statue at a fountain near the Danube.

In the 1st Advanced edition of Dungeons & Dragons, nymphs had no offensive capabilities of their own, but displayed the ability to charm and immobilize onlookers to much more severe degrees than displayed in NetHack - looking at one could cause permanent blindness, and the sight of a disrobing nymph could kill an onlooker outright. Nymphs were able to teleport short distances via a dimension door spell, hence their teleporting abilities in NetHack.


Nymph polyself

You smile at <monster> seductively.
You attacked a monster that can see you, and it is of the opposite gender.
You talk to <monster> seductively.
As above, but the monster cannot see you.
You smile at <monster> engagingly.
You attacked a monster that can see you, and is not of the opposite gender.
You talk to <monster> engagingly.
As above, but the monster cannot see you.
You pretend to be friendly to <monster>.
You missed on your stealing attack.



In SpliceHack, nymphs hate iron and take bonus damage from iron weapons, and they introduce themselves with classical Greek-style names while charming you.


In xNetHack, nymphs also hate the touch of iron, and take an additional d6 damage when struck with an iron item - players polymorphed into nymphs take d3 damage when handling iron items. xNetHack nymphs also introduce themselves with classical Greek-style names before charming you.


In SlashTHEM, polymorphing into a mountain, water or wood nymph sets your carrying capacity at 4000 and sets your charisma to 18.

Encyclopedia entry

A female creature from Roman and Greek mythology, the nymph occupied rivers, forests, ponds, etc. A nymph's beauty is beyond words: an ever-young woman with sleek figure and long, thick hair, radiant skin and perfect teeth, full lipsand gentle eyes. A nymph's scent is delightful, and her long robe glows, hemmed with golden threads and embroidered with rainbow hues of unearthly magnificence. A nymph's demeanour is graceful and charming, her mind quick and witty.

"Theseus felt her voice pulling him down into fathoms of sleep. The song was the skeleton of his dream, and the dream was full of terror. Demon girls were after him, and a bull-man was goring him. Everywhere there was blood. There was pain. There was fear. But his head was in the nymph's lap and her musk was about him, her voice weaving the dream. He knew then that she had been sent to tell him of something dreadful that was to happen to him later. Her song was a warning. But she had brought him a new kind of joy, one that made him see everything differently. The boy, who was to become a hero, suddenly knew then what most heroes learn later -- and some too late -- that joy blots suffering and that the road to nymphs is beset by monsters."

[ The Minotaur by Bernard Evslin ]