Riding in a feature in NetHack that requires a saddle and a suitable choice of pet, and also has a skill associated with it. While any character is capable of riding, it tends to be commonly associated with Knights, who begin the game with a saddled pony and Basic level in the riding skill.
- 1 How to ride
- 2 Riding skill
- 3 Movement limitations and other properties
- 4 Strategy
- 5 Messages
- 6 Variants
- 7 References
How to ride
To ride a monster, you must use the #ride command in the direction of a tamed saddled monster, and use the command again while riding to dismount. You must be in a humanoid form that is not too big or small to fit on a saddle in order to ride. Riding a monster will decrease its tameness with each mount, unless you are a Knight.
Eligible monsters for saddling and riding include:
Monsters are saddled by standing next to them and applying a saddle in their direction—it is possible to saddle a non-tame monster, but this is much more difficult than saddling a pet, and you will not be able to ride the monster until it is tamed. Minions cannot be saddled regardless of eligibility.
Conditions for mounting
You cannot attempt to mount a steed if any of the following conditions apply:
- You are already riding.
- You are hallucinating.
- Your have wounded legs.
- You are in a form that is non-humanoid, slithy, too small, or too large.
- Your encumbrance is stressed or worse.
- You are blind and not telepathic.
- You or your steed are trapped or immobilized, or you are punished or engulfed.
- Your steed lacks a saddle, or is a minion.
- You are currently underwater.
- You are levitating and cannot come down at will.
- You are wearing eroded metallic body armor.
If none of these conditions apply, but you are not a Knight and the attempt untames the steed, then your attempt fails and makes the steed peaceful or hostile as appropriate, also causing them to free themselves from any leash applied to them.
- You gain a bonus or penalty based on your skill level in riding:
- If you are confused, fumbling or glib, you take a -20 penalty; this normally does not matter, since you will automatically fail your attempt if any of these apply.
- You gain a +10 bonus for wearing gloves with the randomized appearance of riding gloves.
- You gain a +10 bonus for wearing boots with the randomized appearance of riding boots.
- If your steed's saddle is cursed, you take a -50 penalty; this typically does not matter, since you will automatically fail your attempt if this applies.
If your attempt fails, you will slip while trying to get on your intended steed and lose 10–14 hit points. If an attempt fails while you are levitating and able to come down at will, you will not take any damage.
The following information pertains to an upcoming version (3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.As of commit ac5b92d3, a greased saddle will always cause you to slip off.
The riding skill is not required to ride a monster, but has an effect on your ability to fight and perform other actions while riding. The success of saddling, mounting, dismounting, and goading the steed to gallop are determined by your skill level in riding.
It takes 101 steps while riding to exercise the riding skill by 1 percent (e.g. it takes 2020 steps to train the skill enough that you can go from Unskilled to Basic)—keep in mind that most ridable monsters are faster than the "default" speed of 12.
Bonuses and penalties
While riding, your carrying capacity will be set to maximum, and your movement speed is set to that of the steed (e.g., a horse is as fast as a character wearing speed boots, and a warhorse is even faster). However, many of your other actions—fighting, quaffing, reading, zapping, and engraving while riding—still rely on your own movement speed.
Your steed will be more passive while riding—it will not pick up items, will not react if riding over cursed items, and will not actively attack monsters. However, monster attacks have a chance of falling upon your steed, which always causes them to counterattack - this has a 1⁄2 chance of occurring for orcs, and a 1⁄4 chance otherwise. You can also use polearms effectively at close range while riding.
A character riding at Unskilled level has a −2 to-hit penalty—Basic skill reduces the penalty to −1, and twoweaponing always adds an additional −2 to-hit on top of any other penalties. Riding at Skilled level or higher gives a +1 damage bonus, and Skilled level also gives a +1 to-hit bonus to non-twoweapon combat. Higher skill ranks also improve rates of success for saddling, mounting, dismounting, and goading the steed to gallop.
A minimum of Basic skill is required in order to pick objects up from the floor while riding. You cannot eat food that is on the ground, though a tinning kit can still be applied to corpses without dismounting.
Movement limitations and other properties
While riding, you cannot dip objects in pools unless you are on a flying or swimming steed; dipping into fountains will work as normal. Levitation will always dismount you, with the exception of The Heart of Ahriman: invoking the artifact while riding will levitate the steed along with you.
Kicking while on your steed will prompt you if you want to kick your steed - kicking a steed or whipping it has a chance of cauing it to gallop, which increases its base movement speed by 3⁄2 (or 50%) before applying variance. Beware that your steed may untame and/or buck you off if unsuccessful.
Setting traps while riding has a chance of failure, but the chance can be greatly minimized with good Luck, and you will be warned before applying the trap—fumbling or using a cursed trap will increase the chance of failure. Failing to set a beartrap causes it to drop harmlessly to the floor, but failure to set a land mine will detonate it instead.
Falling off your steed
If you ride a non-flying steed downstairs while burdened, you will fall off the saddle and injure both legs. Although you can still move around within a level while your steed is eating, you cannot take a staircase to another level until it is no longer in the eating state.
If you are riding on a steed that is not flying, moving over ice has a chance of causing you to slip off your saddle, and riding down stairs while burdened or else removing the saddle while you are on it (i.e. via the knock spell or wand of opening) will always cause you to fall off; both of these cases will leave you with wounded legs. If your steed consumes a corpse that causes them to polymorph into an illegible form for riding - including the temporary polymorph from eating a mimic - you will be harmlessly forced off your steed.
Theft attacks from monsters such as nymphs and foocubi that hit your steed can steal the saddle off their backs, forcibly dismounting you if you were riding them at the time. Engulfing attacks that hit you will forcibly dismount you from your steed if you are riding.
Riding over traps
Your steed will be subject to the traps that you ride through—however, tameness is not decreased by riding into traps (even known traps), unlike other methods of leading a pet into a trap.
If you ride into a pit, your steed will be damaged by the fall. If you ride into a polymorph trap, your steed will polymorph; if the steed's new form cannot be saddled, this will cause you to dismount automatically, and if you land on the polymorph trap you will polymorph as well. A source of magic resistance (e.g. a cloak of magic resistance) or an amulet of unchanging will protect both you and your steed from polymorph traps.
Most players who elect to ride often or in the long run should consider carrying a stethoscope to monitor the health of their mount by applying it to them using >. Be sure to run away or heal your steed if they are in trouble—if you teleport while riding, your steed will be teleported with you. You can also heal your steed with a spell of healing or extra healing by specifying > as the direction of the spell; spellcasting steeds can heal themselves even while you are riding them.
In addition to food for your steed, other items are worth keeping on hand for the long-term rider—a wand of speed monster can increase their speed further, and a wand of undead turning may be ideal for worst-case scenarios if your fallen steed leaves behind a corpse.
If riding with the skill at Unskilled level or restricted, you can apply a bullwhip downward to snag items—there's a chance that the whip will instead slip loose or whip your steed into galloping, decreasing its tameness as normal. While Basic skill is sufficient for most use cases, Skilled is nice to have for better to-hit, and higher skill ranks improve rates of success for riding-related activities—though their success rates can also be bolstered via improving dexterity and charisma.
Choices of steed
The notable choices of steed from those eligible are as follows:
- Horse: Ponies are 16-speed monsters that can grow up into a 20-speed horse and then a 24-speed warhorse, which can be further increased to 32 via wand of speed monster—Knights in particular always start with a saddled pony. While easy to tame or pacify, and capable of doing solid damage with their high speed and kicking, horses are herbivorous and thus somewhat difficult to keep fed once tamed.
- Unicorn: All unicorns have the same base speed as the warhorse and similarly solid damage, but taming one initially is somewhat more difficult. They have intrinsic poison resistance and the ability to cure many other status ailments using their horn.
- Dragon: All dragons are carnivorous and thus easy to keep fed, and can be acquired via egg, including ones laid while polymorphed into a dragon. They are capable of flight and have good AC, but have low movement speed at 9 (12 after gaining intrinsic speed). Dragons also have valuable intrinsics based on their color—gray and silver dragons are notable for their immunity to death rays, and silver dragons can additionally reflect other rays aimed at you.
- Jabberwock: The jabberwock lacks the dragon's breath weapon, scales and intrinsics, but has stellar hit dice and damage with 4 2d10 attacks, as well as a better base speed of 12 (18 when fast).
- Ki-rin: Ki-rin are naturally fast at 18 base speed, capable of flight, and can cast healing spells on itself. However, they are very rare and difficult to tame—they are also inediate and thus cannot be fed, meaning that they will eventually untame. As such, they are primarily if not entirely sought out by Knights. Due to their high monster magic resistance, they will always resist conflict unless drained below level 15.
- Centaur: Mountain centaurs are the strongest type of centaur, but overall they are are still slower than warhorses and unicorns (20 base speed vs. their 24). In exchange, centaurs are omnivorous and thus much easier to keep fed, and can even equip a shield of reflection and a weapon. As with most meat-eating steeds, they are at serious risk if allowed to eat a corpse that shapeshifts them - their maximum level and HP are quite low, meaning that a long-term centaur steed will require wraith corpses and gain level potions to keep up.
- Leocrotta, mumak, and mastodon: While most quadrupeds are not particularly noteworthy as steeds, the leocrotta is quite fast with a natural speed of 18 (best among its monster class) and has solid hit die. The mumak and mastodon are much slower (9 and 12 base speed), but have incredibly powerful headbutt attacks.
The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.
Several changes made to the upcoming version of NetHack also affect the viability of certain steeds:
- Ki-rin now have poison resistance, and are no longer considered animals. They also now have the ability to cure themselves using their horns like unicorns, but their horns will not drop.
- Riding while wearing an amulet of flying will cause the steed to fly as well. Among other things, a mountain centaur with a source of reflection, a unicorn horn and an artifact weapon can be a somewhat viable competitor to the ki-rin if leveled significantly enough.
- As of commit 8d2407f8, pets can now gain intrinsics from corpses, making riding potentially far more viable in the long term and bolstering the longevity of certain steeds.
- Pets will no longer eat corpses that make them polymorph, unless they are starving or on the verge of becoming untame.
Intrinsics and your steed
While player magic resistance also protects the steed as well, player reflection does not. In addition, jumping conveyed from jumping boots allows you to jump while riding, but speed and water walking conveyed via boots have no effect on the steed.
A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:
"We need an exhaustive table clarifying which intrinsics and extrinsics transfer to your steed and under which circumstances. Is there a consistent, intuitive rule that can be applied?"
- You've been through the dungeon on a <steed> with no name.
- You dismounted an unnamed steed.
- It felt good to get out of the rain.
- As above, while hallucinating.
Both lines are a reference to the song "A Horse with No Name".
- src/steed.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 96: Ixoth and the Chromatic Dragon can be saddled, but as they are untameable, they cannot be ridden
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- src/steed.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 363:
exercise_steedfunction; increment is postfix rather than prefix, so it takes 101 turns rather than 100
- src/mhitu.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 403: comment states that orcs like to steal and eat horses
- src/weapon.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 1468
- src/steed.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 378:
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