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Paralysis is a magically-induced inability to move. Depending on the length and cause, paralysis can be quite dangerous, as monsters may get many free turns.



Wearing a ring of free action protects against all forms of paralysis ("You momentarily stiffen."). The paralyze monster spell can be limited to one turn by having magic resistance.

You will likely encounter many thrown potions of paralysis throughout the game. In certain cases, such as when in crowded conditions on the Astral Plane, getting paralyzed for five turns can be deadly. The danger is so great that some players will even wish for a ring of free action if they have not found one by the time they reach the Astral Plane. If you have one, you should definitely wear it for the Sanctum and Astral Plane.

Most of the other causes of paralysis are easily preventable with good tactics. You can completely prevent paralysis from hitting floating eyes by not hitting them in melee unless you have reflection. Gelatinous cubes generally paralyze you for a short enough time as to not be dangerous unless you are in a crowd, but you can kill them with missile attacks if you're worried. Shade attacks are blocked by magic cancellation, so wearing a good cloak will prevent them from being a hazard. Finally, don't quaff unidentified potions that might be paralysis (price 300).

Monster paralysis

Monsters can also be paralyzed in NetHack, a prime example being when pets hit a floating eye. You can wake them up with nonmagical or uncharged drums or horns. In the case of floating eyes, zapping a wand of make invisible at the eye can help prevent paralysis.


A similar condition, helplessness, is caused by the following actions:

This state is identical to paralysis except for the fact that it cannot be prevented by a ring of free action or any other means. However, all means of inducing this state require some deliberate action on the player's part, so the state is always avoidable.


  1. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 2405

See also