Movement tactics

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This page may need to be updated for NetHack 3.6.0.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

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Most of your turns are spent moving around the dungeon, so it is wise to do so quickly and efficiently. The rules of movement in roguespace are eventually intuitive, but like all things in NetHack, there are tricks and exceptions.

Roguespace cardinal directions

Main article: Direction

There are 8 cardinal directions in NetHack.

Certain ranged attacks of monsters only work when in line with you along one of the cardinals. These include thrown projectiles, breath attacks, venom, and zapped wands. Other attacks, such as a pyrolisk's gaze, Medusa's stare, and spells, can work from any position within a certain range. In the following example, you are safe from the yellow dragon, but not from the pyrolisk:


Moving north-east on the next turn keeps you out of the dragon's reach.

Fighting in corridors

In the following example, killer bees are moving towards you:

|.......|    ----------
|.......|    |....a...|
|.......|    |..aa.....
|.......|    ----------

If you stay where you are, they will swarm around you on 6 of the possible 8 sides and very likely finish you off. If you move into the corridor, only one can be adjacent to you at once, allowing you to pick them off one at a time. Corridors are thus an excellent place to fight.

Be aware that corridors are not lit (though see the lit_corridor option), so monsters may be approaching you in the dark parts!

Diagonal movement

If you are using the arrow keys to move, you are as good as dead. Switch to either the numpad or the yuhjklbn keys, and you have access to diagonal movement, which can as much as double the efficiency of your moves (moving two spaces north, then two spaces east can be accomplished by moving two spaces northeast).

Reaching the door in 3 moves:

---------   ---------   ---------   ---------
|..q....|   |.......|   |.......|   |.......|
|....@..|   |...q.@.|   |....q.@|   |.......|
|.......+   |.......+   |.......+   |.....q@+
---------   ---------   ---------   ---------

Reaching the door in 2 moves:

---------   ---------   ---------
|..q....|   |.......|   |.......|
|....@..|   |...q.@.|   |.......|
|.......+   |.......+   |....q.@+
---------   ---------   ---------

Clearly, making good use of diagonal movement will save your life - possibly more than any other single playing tip.


For some reason, escaping a beartrap is 5 times more likely when moving diagonally than when moving orthogonally.[1]

Do not attempt to jump out of beartraps. You will severely damage your legs and reduce your HP.


Doorways cannot normally be passed diagonally. This creates a tactical challenge when escaping through one, but since the restriction applies to monsters too, it can be useful for creating bottlenecks.

In Fort Ludios, standing on the square shown allows you to kill soldiers as they come through the door one at a time, while also protecting you from thrown potions and wand zaps from the horde (since you are not in line with any of them along a cardinal direction).


Conversely, a broken doorway can be passed diagonally. Consider breaking doors (by kicking or with a wand of striking) if you want to slip past a monster blocking the other side. Pets, including leashed ones, also pass through doorways easier if the door has been broken.

Certain actions can override the restriction on diagonal movement through doorways, such as failing to disarm a dart or arrow trap diagonally from the doorway.

Passing small gaps

In the following mine level, the character can only move southwest if his or her total inventory weight is 600 or less. Otherwise, "You are carrying too much to get through."

-. ----------

This limit applies to all tight gaps, not just those in the Gnomish Mines. Note that monsters of size Large or above also cannot pass through such small gaps. This can be useful for escape and/or attack.

Northwest danger

If using the vi-keys, be cautious when moving northwest (y) around peaceful creatures. y is also the command to say yes to a question such as "Really attack Izchak?", and it's nearly always a good idea to answer no. Setting the paranoid_hit option (available if your game was compiled with the 'paranoid' patch) to true will help, as this will require you to explicitly type "yes" to hit peacefuls.

Hit and run

Main article: hit and run

Hit and run is a common tactic that allows weaker players to fight stronger foes, as long as they are faster. The concept is to time your moving and hitting such that you always attack on the turn that your opponent doesn't get a move. If skillfully executed, even powerful foes such as mumakil or dragons can be killed by a weak player. This is also an excellent way to train weapons and get experience in the early game, particularly against black puddings and mimics.

Moving without attacking or picking up objects

Main articles: m and g

Especially when you are blind in cockatrice territory, or if you are playing a pacifist, you might prefer a command m that neither picks up nor feels objects on the floor, and mostly avoids attacking monsters. "Mostly" means the interaction with warning is buggy: if the warning symbol does not cover a non-displayed I remembered monster position, moving with m attacks anyway; it also attacks a monster engulfing you.

The g, G, and capital YUHJKLBN keys can be used to autopickup loot mostly without attacking.


Boulders can be pushed around, but are otherwise impassable to characters carrying items. If your inventory is completely empty or you are 850 or more units below your carrying capacity,[2] "you can squeeze yourself into a small opening" and occupy the same square as the boulder.


Main article: Jumping

Knights can jump naturally, but only in the shape of a chess knight's jump. Casting the spell of jumping allows you to jump to the following locations, depending on your skill in the escape category (unskilled, basic, skilled, or expert):


Jumping boots let you jump as if casting the spell unskilled. All types of jumping require that you can see the target square, happen in one turn, and consume d25 nutrition.[3] This means jumping is faster than walking with speed boots.

You can jump out of pits, webs, and lava, and also beartraps, but doing the latter wounds one of your legs for 500 to 1499 turns and causes d10 damage.[4]

Moving through crowds

Teleport control allows instant movement to any square on any teleport-enabled level. For non-teleport levels, teleportation still works on monsters, so zapping a wand of teleportation at a crowd is the best way to clear a path through them.

A ring of conflict can also help, firstly by distracting monsters from you, and secondly by reducing, through combat, the HP of any monster you do have to kill to get past.

The Plane of Air

Movement on the Plane of Air is controlled only if you are levitating or flying. Otherwise, only 1 in 4 of your attempts to move is successful. [5]


  1. hack.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 1250
  2. hack.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 287
  3. apply.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 1363
  4. apply.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 1318
  5. hack.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 903

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