Nurse dancing

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Nurse dancing is a minor tactic in NetHack. If you are naked and wielding nothing, a nurse will heal you instead of hurting you. Your max hit points may also increase. This is faster on a no-teleport level such as the Castle or Sokoban as the nurse is prevented from teleporting away.

The usual method of nurse dancing is to use a cursed scroll of genocide to create multiple nurses around you in one of the aforementioned non-teleport levels.

Details of a nurse's attack

If you are wielding an item (weapon or not) or wearing any armor, the nurse will hit you for damage. Healers will not take damage; instead, the nurse will simply ask for your cooperation.[1]

If you are unarmed and unarmored[2] (quivered weapons, and worn rings, amulets, and eyewear are okay), a nurse's attack will heal d7 HP,[3][4] exercise strength with 1-in-3 probability,[5] exercise constitution with separate 1-in-3 probability,[6] and cure sickness of any type.[7] There is also a chance that the nurse will raise your max HP by one.

On a given heal, there is only a 1-in-7 chance that the nurse will even try to raise your max HP.[8][9] In that case, you will get an increase of 1 to max HP if (2*XL)d10 + 5*XL (XL being your experience level) is greater than your current max HP.[10] This means you'll always get a max HP raise when your max HP is less than 7 times your experience level; above that, the chance of success gradually decreases. The theoretical maximum is 25 times your experience level; however, at higher experience levels the chance of success starts to drop sharply past the 16*XL point. At XL 30, with 500 HP you will pass the check 1/6th of the time; with 550 HP (the maximum HP cap is 750) the chance is 1-in-1400, making nurses unusable at or near this point. If you are polymorphed, you will always gain a point of max HP to your polyself when the nurse tries to give you one;[11] these bonus HP will be lost if/when you polymorph again or return to your base form.

After each heal, there is a chance of something happening to the nurse. With 1-in-33 probability, the nurse will attempt to teleport away;[12] she will also flee for 3d6 turns. Furthermore, if she tried to raise your max HP (successfully or not), there is a 1-in-13 chance that that nurse will vanish from the game world permanently.[13][14][15]


The best place to nurse dance is in a no-teleport level where dangerous monsters are rarely generated. Sokoban is usually used for this purpose. Both variants of level 3 have an upstairs room which is relatively small and has one door that can be closed and locked, with a scroll of scare monster in front. Note that monsters can be generated in the locked room as well, so also engrave Elbereth on the up stairs. Nurses ignore Elbereth, and most monsters generated in Sokoban respect it, but be wary of the various types of elves. Placing a scare monster scroll on the upstairs will not work because the nurses will flee from it.

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.

The scroll on the ground no longer scares any @ monster or any unique monster. The strategy advice should be updated as appropriate.
Ready to go nurse dancing. Both the door and staircase are protected with burned Elbereth and some dropped rocks to keep E active. Character is naked and has just read a cursed scroll of genocide. Because this is Sokoban, the nurses can't teleport away and are trapped in the room, where they will repeatedly hit the character until they vanish.

Monsters with wands can zap them at you from outside the viewing range of Elbereth. If you have an amulet of reflection, consider wearing it instead of an amulet of life saving. Failing that, if your quest artifact provides magic resistance, acquire it before nurse dancing to protect yourself from wands of death. Elemental wands could still ruin your day, though.

If you have a pet that is high enough leveled to attack a nurse, lock it outside of the room or leave it on level 4 and visit it every 74 turns to prevent it from going feral.

The best way to generate nurses to dance with is by reading a cursed scroll of genocide. This will send in 4 to 6, giving an average of 65 maximum hit points per scroll. Nurses are only randomly generated one at a time, and usually in areas fraught with danger. Be absolutely certain that the scroll is cursed, as a genocide cannot be undone. Reverse genocide does not violate the genocideless conduct.

If you can manage to avoid becoming permanently invisible, nurses will have an easier time finding you again after they stop fleeing. Unless you find an extrinsic source of invisibility early on, this is probably not worth forgoing the considerable advantages of being invisible. A mummy wrapping is useless for this purpose as nurses will not heal you while you are wearing one.

If you have a spare wand of speed monster, consider zapping the nurses with it: this will make them hit you more often, expediting the process.

Once you are satisfied with your max HP, if you are non-human, or a Caveman, and have a tinning kit, consider killing the remaining nurses yourself instead of letting them poof. A blessed tin of nurse meat will restore you to full HP and takes two actions to eat. Finally, don't forget to re-equip yourself after everything is done!


This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

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

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.