Riding

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Riding in a feature in NetHack that requires a saddle and a suitable choice of pet, and also has a skill associated with it. While any character is capable of riding, it tends to be commonly associated with Knights, who begin the game with a saddled pony and Basic in the riding skill.

How to ride

To ride a monster, you must use the #ride command in the direction of a tamed saddled monster, and use the command again while riding to dismount. You must be in a humanoid form that is not too big or small to fit on a saddle in order to ride.

Riding a monster will decrease its tameness with each mount, unless you are a Knight.

Suitable steeds

Eligible monsters for saddling and riding include:

Monsters are saddled by standing next to them and applying a saddle in their direction—it is possible to saddle a non-tame monster, but this is more difficult than saddling a pet, and you will not be able to ride the monster until it is tamed.

Conditions for riding

The chance of your attempt to mount your steed succeeding is (5 × (your experience level + steed's tameness)) percent; if your attempt fails, you will slip while trying to get on and lose 10–14 hit points.[1] You cannot attempt mount a steed if any of the following conditions apply:

You will always fail and slip if any of the following apply:[2]

Invoking the Heart of Ahriman while riding will levitate the steed along with you.

Riding skill

Riding
Max Role
Basic
Skilled
Expert

The riding skill is not required to ride a monster, but has an effect on your ability to fight and perform other actions while riding. The success of saddling, mounting, dismounting, and goading the steed to gallop are determined by your skill level in riding.

It takes 101 steps while riding to exercise the riding skill, and thus takes 2020 steps to train the skill enough that you can go from Unskilled to Basic[3]—keep in mind that most ridable monsters are faster than the "default" speed of 12.

Bonuses and penalties

While riding, your carrying capacity will be set to maximum, and your movement speed is set to that of the steed (e.g., a horse is as fast as a character wearing speed boots, and a warhorse is even faster). However, many of your other actions—fighting, quaffing, reading, zapping, and engraving while riding—still rely on your own movement speed.

Your steed will be more passive while riding—it will not pick up items, will not react if riding over cursed items, and will not spontaneously attack monsters. However, monsters have a chance of attacking your steed instead of you, causing your steed to counterattack. You can also use polearms effectively at close range while riding.

A character riding at Unskilled level has a −2 to-hit penalty—Basic skill reduces the penalty to −1, and twoweaponing always adds an additional −2 to-hit on top of any other penalties. Riding at Skilled level or higher gives a +1 damage bonus, and Skilled level also gives a +1 to-hit bonus to non-twoweapon combat.[4] Higher skill ranks also improve rates of success for saddling, mounting, dismounting, and goading the steed to gallop.

Basic skill is required in order to be able to objects up from the floor while riding, and you cannot eat food off the ground; strangely, tinning kits can still be used on corpses without dismounting.

Riding over traps

Your steed will be subject to the traps that you ride through—however, tameness is not decreased by riding into traps (even known traps), unlike other methods of leading a pet into a trap. If you ride into a pit, your steed will be damaged by the fall. If you ride into a polymorph trap, your steed will polymorph (most likely into something that can't carry you); if this occurs and you hit the ground, you will polymorph as well. A source of magic resistance (e.g. a cloak of magic resistance) or an amulet of unchanging will protect both you and your steed from polymorph traps.

Movement limitations and other properties

You cannot dip objects in pools unless on a flying or swimming steed; dipping into fountains will work as normal. Setting traps while riding has a chance of failure, but the chance can be greatly minimized with good Luck, and you will be warned before applying the trap—fumbling or using a cursed trap will increase the chance of failure. Failing to set a beartrap causes it to drop harmlessly to the floor, but failure to set a land mine will detonate it instead.

If you ride a non-flying steed downstairs while burdened, you will fall off and injure both legs. Oddly, you cannot use stairs while your steed is eating, even though you can still move around within the level itself.

Shopkeepers will block the entrance to their shops while you are riding. If you get past them in some other way, however, they will be happy to do business with you without forcing you to dismount.

Invoking conflict while riding may cause your steed to throw you off, subject to your steed's magic resistance stat.

Strategy

Most players who elect to ride often or in the long run should consider carrying a stethoscope to monitor the health of their mount by applying it to them using >. Be sure to run away or heal your steed if they are in trouble—if you teleport while riding, your steed will be teleported with you. You can also heal your steed with a spell of healing or extra healing by specifying > as the direction of the spell; spellcasting steeds can heal themselves even while you are riding them.

In addition to food for your steed, other items are worth keeping on hand for the long-term rider—a wand of speed monster can increase their speed further, and a wand of undead turning may be ideal for worst-case scenarios if your fallen steed leaves behind a corpse.

If riding with the skill at Unskilled level or restricted, you can apply a bullwhip downward to snag items—there's a chance that the whip will instead slip loose or whip your steed into galloping (decreasing its tameness).[5][6] While Basic skill is sufficient for most use cases, Skilled is nice to have for better to-hit, and higher skill ranks improve rates of success for riding-related activities—though their success rates can also be bolstered via improving dexterity and charisma.

Choices of steed

The notable choices of steed from those eligible are as follows:

  • Horse: Ponies are 16-speed monsters that can grow up into a 20-speed horse and then a 24-speed warhorse, which can be further increased to 32 via wand of speed monster—Knights in particular always start with a saddled pony. While easy to tame or pacify, and capable of doing solid damage with their high speed and kicking, horses are herbivorous and thus somewhat difficult to keep fed once tamed.
  • Unicorn: All unicorns have the same base speed as the warhorse and similarly solid damage, but taming one initially is somewhat more difficult. They have intrinsic poison resistance and the ability to cure many other status ailments using their horn.
  • Dragon: All dragons are carnivorous and thus easy to keep fed, and can be acquired via egg, including ones laid while polymorphed into a dragon. They are capable of flight and have good AC, but have low movement speed at 9 (12 after gaining intrinsic speed). Dragons also have valuable intrinsics based on their color—gray and silver dragons are notable for their immunity to death rays, and silver dragons can additionally reflect other rays aimed at you.
  • Jabberwock: The jabberwock lacks the dragon's breath weapon, scales and intrinsics, but has stellar hit dice and damage with 4 2d10 attacks, as well as a better base speed of 12 (18 when fast).
  • Ki-rin: Ki-rin are naturally fast at 18 base speed, capable of flight, and can cast healing spells on itself. However, they are very rare and difficult to tame—they are also inediate and thus cannot be fed, meaning that they will eventually untame. As such, they are primarily if not entirely sought out by Knights. Due to their high monster magic resistance, they will always resist conflict unless drained below level 15.
  • Centaur: Mountain centaurs are the strongest type, but are still slower than warhorses and unicorns (20 base speed vs. their 24). However, they are omnivorous and thus much easier to keep fed, and can even equip a shield of reflection and a weapon. However, they are at serious risk if allowed to eat a shapeshifter's corpse.
  • Leocrotta, mumak, and mastodon: While most quadrupeds are not particularly noteworthy as steeds, the leocrotta is quite fast with a natural speed of 18 (best among its monster class) and has solid hit die. The mumak and mastodon are much slower (9 and 12 base speed), but have incredibly powerful headbutt attacks.

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.

Several changes made to the upcoming version of NetHack also affect the viability of certain steeds:

  • Ki-rin now have poison resistance, and are no longer considered animals. They also now have the ability to cure themselves using their horns like unicorns, but their horns will not drop.
  • Riding while wearing an amulet of flying will cause the steed to fly as well. Among other things, a mountain centaur with a source of reflection, a unicorn horn and an artifact weapon can be a somewhat viable competitor to the ki-rin.
  • Per this commit, pets can now gain intrinsics from corpses, making riding potentially far more viable in the long term and bolstering the longevity of certain steeds.
  • Pets will no longer eat corpses that make them polymorph, unless they are starving or on the verge of becoming untame.

Intrinsics and your steed

While player magic resistance also protects the steed as well, player reflection does not. In addition, jumping conveyed from jumping boots allows you to jump while riding, but speed and water walking conveyed via boots have no effect on the steed.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"We need an exhaustive table clarifying which intrinsics and extrinsics transfer to your steed and under which circumstances. Is there a consistent, intuitive rule that can be applied?"

Messages

You've been through the dungeon on a <steed> with no name.
You dismounted an unnamed steed.
It felt good to get out of the rain.
As above, while hallucinating. Both lines are a reference to the song "A Horse with No Name".

Variants

SLASH'EM

SLASH'EM allows the player to eat food off the ground while riding. It also introduces Pegasus, a good steed candidate.

Slash'EM Extended

In Slash'EM Extended, there are far fewer restrictions on suitable steeds. If the monster is tame, the player can apply a saddle and try to ride it; it doesn't matter if the monster is amorphous, whirly, unsolid, small, or a form that can't normally be ridden. While most such monsters don't make good steeds, high speed pets such as air elementals may actually be worthwhile to ride, especially if it's moving faster than a player on foot.

Saddling a foocubus is possible, where in NetHack it does not work and results in YAFM—doing so in Slash'EM Extended still abuses the player's wisdom.

References

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

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.1. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-361}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.