Like most demons, the pit fiend is normally only generated in Gehennom, but is also a valid polymorph form and so may appear in other branches of the dungeon due to polymorph traps. Pit fiends are also eligible for gating by other major demons, and may appear as the minion of a chaotic god.
The pit fiend has a naturally low AC of -3 and three attacks per turn; the third hit is a grabbing attack, which can be especially perilous if you encounter them far earlier in the game than normal due to monsters polymorphing. They are quite slow at 6 speed however, however - Elbereth can be useful to drive them off and kite them, and you can also teleport yourself if grabbed, allowing you to escape or else prepare a means of fighting back (e.g. with a wand of cold or silver weapon).
In Gehennom where they normally occur, they are not as much of a threat - most players at this point will have a silver weapon or two, a few methods to deal cold damage, and better AC themselves along with a much more reliable hit-rate.
The pit fiend first appears in NetHack 3.0.0.
- How pitiful. Isn't that the pits?
- You saw a pit fiend fall into a pit, or fell into one while polymorphed into a pit fiend.
In SLASH'EM, pit fiends may be generated as peaceful minions for a chaotic player at experience levels 28 to 30 while sacrificing. A pit fiend named Hilvuuloth appears as one of the assistants of One-eyed Sam.
In NetHack Fourk, pit fiends are instead given a single claw attack and a new pit-creation attack in order to "live up to their name". Fourk also adds more pit-based puns to the game's message output.
The attack creates several pits around the target, always including one directly under them; if a square selected for pit creation already has one, it will become a hole. Most types of non-floor terrain, dungeon features and some kinds of existing traps are exempt from pit creation. Among other things, this makes wielding footrice corpses much more dangerous around pit fiends without levitation or flight.
In xNetHack, a different type of pit-creation attack inspired by Fourk is given to pit fiends, replacing their grabbing attack from vanilla. The attack has them stomp the ground to create a pit right under you, then grab and throw you into it; if the attempt to create a pit fails (usually due to the square in question being ineligible), the pit fiend "looks rather piteous".
Preexisting pits may rarely turn into holes; while the attack only works on "normal" terrain types, preexisting traps generally do not block the attack. Levitating or flying does not block the attack either, but you will avoid any damage taken from the pit itself and immediately float out of it.
In EvilHack, pit fiends can also stomp to create pits, with the implementation borrowed from xNetHack; said attack is adjusted to occur randomly 50% of the time, with the damage increased to 4d4.Their base experience is also adjusted, and they now have a slightly higher speed of 9.
In dNetHack, the pit fiend's second weapon attack is replaced with a claw attack, and instead of a grabbing attack it has a spellcasting attack and a poisonous bite that reduces strength. dNetHack also adds a stronger variant in the Nessian pit fiend, which additionally has a passive attack that deals fire damage to melee attackers; they are the second-strongest non-lord demons.
Pit fiends are commander-rank demons that appear in various lairs all over Gehennom, and generate with huge tridents; Nessian pit fiends generate with maces and battle-axes, and primarily appear in Nessus at the court of Asmodeus. Eight pit fiends known as the Ashmadia (singular "Ashmade") accompany Asmodeus and a Nessian pit fiend known as Asemadeva, the Ninth Ashmade within his court; Asmodeus can also form pit fiends and other demons from his shed blood, although pit fiends will only appear once he has taken very heavy damage.
Pit fiends are among the more powerful of devils, capable of
attacking twice with weapons as well as grabbing and crushing
the life out of those unwary enough to enter their
- src/trap.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 1226
- src/trap.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 2469
- NetHack Fourk commit 17ac4d7: "Make pit fiends live up to their name." - GitHub
- xNetHack commit d027e7b: "Give pit fiends a pit-creation attack" - GitHub
- EvilHack commit 8a2d4cd: "Give pit fiends a pit-creation attack." - GitHub