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A shade,  , is a type of undead monster that appears in NetHack. They are capable of phasing and see invisible like other ghosts, and are dangerous due to their two attacks: a paralysis attack, leaving the player vulnerable to other more dangerous creatures, and slowing attack that removes intrinsic speed (both the indefinite-duration fast and temporary very fast forms).

Shades can only be harmed with blessed weapons, silver objects, certain artifact weapons, and magic. Mirrors count as silver objects for this purpose, but will only deal 1 point of damage and break if used to attack them.[1][2]


Orcus-town is the only place where shades appear. Six shades are generated on the level upon entering in normal circumstances - two are placed next to Orcus, and the other four are placed randomly in the town.[3]


Silver weapons and Sunsword will do their full damage[4] (base + enchantment) to shades in addition to the (if applicable) d4 blessed damage and d20 silver damage against undead. Other physical items will have their base damage and enchantment zeroed,[5] and deal only the component of their damage that comes from being blessed[6][7] or having artifact weapon bonus damage of a type that shades are not resistant to.[8][9][10] If your attack does non-zero damage, then it may also be eligible for bonus damage from increase damage, strength and skill.[11] Note that the double damage of artifacts which would otherwise deal damage that shades are vulnerable to (Fire Brand and cross-aligned Sceptre of Might) is applied after the base and enchantment is zeroed.[12] In contrast, Mjollnir does most of its bonus damage as additive shock damage, which is effective against shades.

Magical attacks, such as force bolt, magic missile, and fireball, or their wand equivalents, are also effective against shades.

In addition to one of the above sources of damage, MC3 and free action are highly recommended in the presence of shades. If you have made it this far without any of those available to you, or else you do not want to fight them (e.g. during a speed ascension), you can scare away the shades using an applicable instrument, such as a bugle or tooled horn.

Players who wish to fight them but lack another effective attack can use the Bell of Opening or any other silver item against them. Unarmed combat with blessed gloves or a silver ring and no gloves can also work, as does wielding the silver ring, though this is comparatively much slower. A non-weapon silver object will not break weaponless conduct.

Encyclopedia entry

Shades are undead creatures. They differ from zombies in
that a zombie is an undead animation of a corpse, while a
shade is an undead creature magically created by the use
of black magic.


  1. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 1353
  2. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 880
  3. dat/gehennom.des in NetHack 3.6.6, line 398
  4. src/artifact.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 332: Sunsword is the only artifact with a damage bonus specifically against undead
  5. src/weapon.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 301
  6. src/weapon.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 321: In dmgval(), this damage bonus comes after zeroing the base damage and enchantment
  7. src/weapon.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 389: non-weapon damage
  8. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 816: bonus damage from artifact_hit() is applied after dmgval()
  9. src/artifact.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 1174: adding the artifact bonus
  10. src/artifact.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 752: whether artifact special damage applies; shades are affected by "generalist" artifacts
  11. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 1096
  12. src/artifact.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 859