Polymorph control

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Polymorph control is an intrinsic/extrinsic, most commonly obtained by wearing a ring of polymorph control, that allows you to choose what form you want to take when you polymorph. You will be asked "Become what type of monster? [type the name]". You can then choose to polymorph into a monster. Polymorph control will also allow you to decline a change in form brought upon by lycanthropy ("Would you like to become a wolf?" (or jackal, rat, etc.))

Polymorphing into your own species will cause you to "feel like a new (wo)man!" or whatever species, and cause random change to your scores. There is a 20% chance that this will happen in spite of polymorph control, even if a different monster is chosen.

Strategy

There are many reasons players may want to change to monster form.

Advantage in combat

See also: Monsters (by speed)

Some species have higher speed; polymorphing into one lets you move, attack and react faster to enemies -- in short, deal more damage per turn. Some species also have multiple or additional attacks, dealing extra damage. High-level monsters have a lower base AC; turning into one effectively gives you an AC bonus. Rehumanizing is in effect a free amulet of life saving. Polyself has vastly improved the record for game-time speed ascensions.

Possible choices include:

  • Master mind flayers have 0 base AC and can fly. They have five brain-sucking attacks; each one causes d10 damage to monsters with brains. This is one of the best forms to rack up damage in melee, and they can wear a cloak or armor for magic cancellation.
  • Jabberwocks likely deal the most damage per turn of all polyforms (without an enchanted artifact weapon), and can fly. However, they cannot wear armor, and a wielded cockatrice corpse does not petrify enemies.
  • Minotaurs are a good compromise between speed and damage output.
  • Titans can fly, have base AC -3, and are faster than the other recommendations. As giants, they can also manipulate boulders, and cannot be engulfed.

Out of the above monsters, only master mind flayers are medium-sized, and thus can wear all forms of armor. Jabberwocks and minotaurs are large, and titans are huge, so they cannot wear torso armor. They cannot benefit from the extra AC of that armor, nor from the magic resistance, reflection or magic cancellation they provide.

Pay attention to the base level of the species, as this determines your resulting HP. If it is not enough to survive combat, you may need to increase it. This is only worthwhile if you plan to be unchanging, as the increase is lost when you transform back. You also regenerate HP at the same rate as your species, so having regeneration or healing magic is useful.

Be careful when using a form that has a contact attack. Attacking a footrice will cause stoning and biting a green slime causes sliming. Forms with many such attacks, such as mind flayers, may also suffer multiple splashes of acid when attacking jellies.

Special abilities

When polymorphed into certain species, you can use their abilities with the #monster command:

Laying eggs

Females who polymorph into oviparous monsters can #sit to lay eggs, which hatch into pets of the same species. This can be used to gain pets of powerful species, such as dragons and purple worms, although they usually hatch into baby forms that take a while to grow up.

You can then kill the dragons after they grow up and take their scales. However, dragons only leave their scales 1/3 of the time.

Another tactic is to lay cockatrice eggs and use them later to petrify enemies. Note that your luck is penalized by -1 each time you break your own eggs, to a maximum of -5.

Gaining intrinsics

Most of your attributes are reset when you return to original form, but you keep any intrinsics gained while in monster form. For example, if you eat poisonous corpses that damage your strength, you may gain poison resistance and still keep your original strength when you change back.

Another way to gain intrinsics is to polymorph into a metallivore or gelatinous cube and eat rings and amulets. This way, you do not have to wear those items to enjoy their benefits. Note that some items cannot be eaten, some intrinsics cannot ever be gained, and some items have unwanted side effects. For example, eating a ring of regeneration will convey both intrinsic regeneration... and intrinsic hunger! Interestingly, it is possible to get both intrinsic polymorphitis and polymorph control from rings, allowing you to polymorph from time to time like a shapeshifter monster.

It may also be useful to gain intrinsics of a species, if only temporarily. For example, you might turn into a silver dragon if you face a Gnome With the Wand of Death. Or you might turn into a winged gargoyle to pick up a cockatrice corpse without gloves. The xorn's phasing ability can be used to move quickly on non-teleport levels, such as to get the Castle's wand of wishing without having to fight the army inside.

Some more esoteric uses include turning into a nymph to steal items from other monsters; or a cockatrice to petrify monsters that attack you physically. Turning into a demon allows you to summon tame demons as you attack enemies bare-handed.

Other uses

Some players turn into an air elemental to travel, especially on the hectic Elemental Planes. Their base speed is 36, the highest of all monsters, and is further increased if the player has extra speed. They are permanently blind and cannot wear armor or use most items, so this strategy requires care. It is frequently used by players attempting speed ascensions.

Turning into a pudding and then getting yourself split by an enemy's iron weapon will create a tame pudding. You can then strike it until it turns against you and then commence pudding farming.

Good choices for self polymorph

A ring of polymorph and a ring of polymorph control allows a low level character to become more powerful. Good options for polymorphing include:[1]

Hit dice Armor class
  • greater than 14 = Excellent
  • 12 to 14 = Very good
  • 9 to 11 = Good
  • 7 to 8 = Mediocre
  • 5 to 6 = Poor
  • 1 to 4 = Very poor
  • less than -3 = Excellent
  • -3 to -2 Very good
  • -1 to 0 Good
  • 1 to 3 Mediocre
  • 4 to 6 Poor
  • 7 to 10 Very poor
Creature Pros and cons
A Aleax
g gargoyle If you are turning into stone, polymorphing into a gargoyle will stop the stiffening process. Also useful for safely killing cockatrices.
  • + Good attacks (2d6+2d6+2d4).
  • + Excellent armor class (-4).
  • + Strength 18/**.
  • + Can wear all armor.
  • + Stone resistant, doesn't breathe, doesn't eat.
  • - Poor hit dice (6).
  • - Slower than normal speed (10)
g winged gargoyle If you are turning into stone, polymorphing into a winged gargoyle will stop the stiffening process. Also useful for safely killing cockatrices.
  • + Very good attacks (3d6+3d6+3d4).
  • + Good hit dice (9).
  • + Very Good armor class (-2).
  • + Fast (15), strength 18/**.
  • + Can wear helm and boots.
  • + Stone resistant, doesn't breathe, doesn't eat.
  • + Winged gargoyle can fly and lay eggs (although these mostly turn into regular gargoyles).
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak
Adult Dragons (various) Black dragons have a powerful disintegration breath attack which can instantly kill any foe, including extremely tough baddies such as Master Kaen and Demogorgon. Silver dragon is arguably the best general-purpose fighting dragon form due to its intrinsic reflection. Gray dragons have magic resistance, but the benefits are lessened since polymorph traps are no longer a dangerous threat (due to you having polymorph control). It is possible albeit difficult to create silver or gray dragon scale mail by polymorphing into one of these forms. Unless you are a female character initially, you'll have to polymorph repeatedly until you turn into a female form of the dragon, and then #sit to produce eggs. Raise the pet baby dragons until they turn into adults, and then have them killed. They might leave dragon scales, which can be turned into dragon scale mail using a scroll of enchant armor.

If you lack poison resistance, you can easily gain it by polymorphing into a green dragon and eating poisonous corpses. Although the green dragon is poison resistant, you can still permanently gain the intrinsic by eating poisonous corpses ("You feel especially healthy.").

  • + If already wearing dragon scales or mail, you become that dragon.
  • + Good attacks (B+3d8+1d4+1d4).
  • + Excellent hit dice (15).
  • + Good armor class (-1).
  • + You will have an intrinsic depending on your color.
  • + You can fly and have strength 18/**.
  • + You can lay eggs to produce good pets.
  • + You have a breath weapon (although it has limits).
  • - Cannot wear any armor nor wield any weapon. (Dragons can however wear rings on the foreclaws and an amulet)
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor (except dragon scale mail), and cloak.
  • - Don't attack cockatrices (except yellow dragons which are resistant to stoning).
H titan
  • + Good attacks (W2d8+M0d0)
  • + Very fast.
  • + Excellent hit dice (16).
  • + Very good armor class (-3).
  • + Strength 18/**.
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
J jabberwock
  • + Excellent attacks (2d10+2d10+2d10+2d10).
  • + Excellent hit dice (15).
  • + Very good armor class (-2).
  • + You can fly and have strength 18/**.
  • + You can wear boots, shield, helm
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
  • - Don't attack cockatrices.
& marilith
  • + Excellent attacks with weapons (W2d4+W2d4) plus claws (2d4+2d4+2d4+2d4).
  • + Excellent armor class (-6).
  • + Low base level (7) allows low level characters to stay polymorphed for the normal duration
  • + Fire and poison resistant, see invisible.
  • +/- mediocre hit dice (7)
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
  • - Cannot wear boots
h master mind flayer
  • + Brain sucking does excellent (5d10) damage against monsters with brains. Beware of monsters with helmets!
  • + You gain nutrition without risk of choking when sucking brains
  • + Good hit dice (9).
  • + Good armor class (0).
  • + You can fly.
  • + Can wear all armor.
  • - Comparatively weak attack against non-brained monsters (1d8), although you can wield a weapon
  • - Don't attack cockatrices.
  • - Often an early genocide choice.
L lich,

L demilich,
L master lich,
L arch-lich

  • + Good attacks (1d10C+M0d0m, 3d4C+M0d0m, 3d6C+M0d0m, 5d6C+M0d0m).
  • + Good, very good and excellent hit dice (11, 14, 17, 25).
  • + Good, very good and excellent armor class (0, -2, -4, -6).
  • + Can wear all armor.
  • + Cold, sleep, poison resistant; master lich is fire resistant; arch-lich fire and shock resistant.
  • + Doesn't breathe, doesn't eat, undead, regenerates.
  • - Often an early genocide choice.
  • - Slow
V vampire,

V vampire lord

  • + Will drain levels from most other monsters.
  • + Good and very good hit dice (10, 12).
  • + Mediocre and good armor class (1, 0).
  • + Can wear all armor.
  • + Sleep and poison resistant.
  • + Fast, strength 18/**.
  • + Doesn't breathe, doesn't eat, undead, regenerates.
  • + You can fly.
  • - Don't attack cockatrices.
  • - Vulnerable to silver.
c cockatrice
  • + You can lay eggs to produce good pets.
  • + You can stone most other monsters.
  • + Poison and stone resistant.
  • - Poor hit dice (5) and poor armor class(6).
  • - You will drop your weapon and all armor.
n wood nymph,

n water nymph,
n mountain nymph

  • + You can steal objects from other monsters.
  • + You can remove an iron ball and chain.
  • + You can teleport.
  • + Doesn't eat, can wear all armor.
  • + Water nymph can swim.
  • - Very poor hit dice (3) and armor class (9).
w purple worm
  • + You can engulf and digest most other monsters.
  • + You can lay eggs to produce good pets.
  • + Excellent hit dice (15).
  • - Poor armor class (6).
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
  • - You will drop your weapon, gloves, shield, helmet, and boots.
  • - You can be stoned by engulfing cockatrices or Medusa.
  • - Not good for attacking groups of monsters.
& succubus,

& incubus

  • + You can steal objects from other monsters.
  • + Good armor class (0).
  • + Doesn't eat, can fly, can wear all armor.
  • + Fire and poison resistant.
  • - Poor hit dice (6).
b gelatinous cube
  • + You can eat organic rings.
  • + You can paralyze most other monsters.
  • + Fire, cold, shock, sleep, poison, acid, and stone resistant.
  • - Poor hit dice (6) and very poor armor class (8).
  • - You will drop your weapon and all armor.
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
r rock mole
  • + You can eat metallic rings and amulets.
  • + You can dig through walls.
  • - Very Poor hit dice (3).
  • - You will drop your weapon and all armor.
U umber hulk
  • + Can dig through walls.
  • + Can confuse most other monsters.
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
  • - Don't attack cockatrices.
X xorn
  • + You can eat metallic rings and amulets.
  • + You can phase through most terrain.
  • + Good attacks (1d3+1d3+1d3+4d6).
  • + Very good armor class (-2).
  • + Strength 18/**.
  • + Fire, cold, and stone resistant; doesn't breathe.
  • - You will break your shirt, body armor, and cloak.
Z skeleton
  • + You can wear all types of armor
  • + Very good hit dice (12)
  • + Strength 18/**.
  • + Cold, sleep, poison, and stone resistant; doesn't breathe
  • - Poor armor class (4), but this is negated with good armor
  • - Slow (speed 8)

SLASH'EM

In SLASH'EM, polymorph control is an intrinsic which is given to a doppelganger at level 9. For this reason, Doppelgangers are an excellent race choice for newer players, as polymorph control makes them extremely powerful relatively early in the game.

Furthermore, the number of attractive polymorph targets in SLASH'EM is significantly higher. Some worthwhile forms (in addition to those listed above):

  • Giant shoggoths are about the most powerful form, making short work of just about any monster, including One-eyed Sam. They are stoning resistant, can eat metal, are quite fast and have teleport control. Unfortunately, they are also blind, and have no hands. Thus, they make poor traveling forms, but are excellent for problem-solving.
  • Crystal golems are too large to wear body armor, but intrinsically possess magic resistance, reflection, fire, cold, sleep and shock resistance. They will always have 300 hp as well. While their melee attack only does the damage of your wielded weapon/bare-handed combat abilities, they also possess a random breath weapon, possibly including disintegration.
  • Master mind flayers are still a good choice, but in SLASH'EM they oddly have fewer brain-eating attacks than normal mind flayers.
  • Fire vampires and star vampires are breathless, regenerating, flying, and make excellent fighting forms. Fire vampires can wear all types of armor, give out radius 2 light, have 24 speed, a base level of 12 (same as a vampire lord), a base AC of 0, and additional attacks including a fire touch and level-draining bite. Star vampires can wear all types of armor excluding body armor (shirt, suit/robe, cloak), have 18 speed, base AC of -5, a base level of 18, and can easily mow down enemies, doing up to 12d6 damage with six tentacle attacks per turn. Note that if you are playing the vampire race, any attempt to transform into any vampiric form will always result in failure, with the "You feel like a new (wo)man!" message and its attendant effects.
  • Gugs can wear all regular things, and have a paralyzing attack and 18 speed.

Note that in SLASH'EM, forms that have a contact attack (bite, tentacle, claw, touch, etc.) will refrain from using that contact attack against a monster with a passive stoning attack (cockatrice, chickatrice, basilisk, or asphynx), but you still need to exercise caution. Contact attacks will be disabled ONLY if: (1) you attack with a wielded weapon, and (2) the monster is in the same form for the first attack and subsequent attacks. Thus, clawing, biting, or butting a cockatrice without wielding a weapon will stone you, but hitting one with a sword as a master mind flayer or vampire will not; that is, unless the cockatrice was polymorphed into (for example) a troll, and an early attack caused the troll to drop below 1 hp and revert to cockatrice form, in which case the subsequent attacks will still hit the cockatrice and result in a stoning instadeath. This latter case may be a bug. Note further that this limits polyself options for doppleganger monks who are attempting the weaponless conduct; they will always attempt their contact attacks.

References

  1. http://ccphys.nsu.ru/~zvold/nethack/spoilers/32poly.txt

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