In NetHack, various types of electrical attacks deal shock damage:
- Zapped or broken wand of lightning
- Mjollnir's lightning strike bonus
- Melee attacks of grid bugs and electric eels
- Explosion attack of shocking spheres
- Engulfing and passive attacks of energy vortices
- Lightning breath of blue dragons and the Chromatic Dragon
- The lightning monster spell
- Lightning bolt sent by a god through an altar in a temple, against a hero who attacks the attendant priest
- Lightning from divine wrath
- Lightning strikes in the clouds on the Plane of Air
- Surges of electricity from container traps
- Electric shocks from sitting on a throne
Ray attacks that deal shock damage are lightning. For example, the game will say that a blue dragon "breathes lightning". However, not all attacks described as 'lightning' are rays. For example, an angry deity may smite you with "lightning", but this is a localized attack that targets the hero, not a directional ray. These types of lightning may be blocked by reflection, like a ray, but since they are non-directional they cannot be redirected to hit other monsters, unless there is a monster engulfing the hero.
Rings and wands
In addition to lowering hit points, most shock attacks have a chance of destroying rings and wands carried in your open inventory. Rings and wands will not be destroyed if they are stored inside a container.
The ring of shock resistance and wand of lightning, as items that are specially linked to lightning, are immune to shock damage, and can be kept in open inventory without being destroyed by shock attacks.
The only item-destroying shock attacks that aren't blocked by reflection are those from: electric eels, container traps, Mjollnir, and unusually high-level grid bugs. All of those are not a common occurence and can usually be avoided, so you don't need to keep backup rings if you're careful (but it still never hurts).
Most attacks described as "lightning" are accompanied by a flash of light that blinds the player when they hit. This happens even if the lightning bolt is reflected.
Damage to yourself or your inventory can be prevented or minimized by the following:
- Resistance: Intrinsic or extrinsic shock resistance prevents or reduces hit point loss from shock attacks. It does not prevent blindness from lightning flashes or prevect wands and rings from being destroyed.
- Reflection: Many shock attacks described as lightning, including lightning rays, can be reflected away, preventing damage to yourself and your items. Reflection will not prevent blindness, however.
- Magic cancellation: High MC can protect your inventory from melee shock attacks. It does not prevent damage from passive or engulfing shock attacks, or from lightning. Nor does it prevent blindness.
- Blindness: Being already blinded by a blindfold or towel, or a self-applied cream pie or expensive camera, will prevent the longer-lived blindness caused by lightning. You may prefer to let yourself be blinded, though, if you have one or more reliable cures available, or if you have telepathy.
Polymorphing has a chance of damaging or even destroying targets, including the player. This effect is called "system shock", but it is not related to shock damage and is not prevented by shock resistance.
SLASH'EM also includes a new lightning spell that the player can learn.