Stealing from shops

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In NetHack, players can steal from shops to obtain desired items without paying zorkmids for them.

Shopkeeper prevention

It is possible to steal from shopkeepers. However, they have ways to prevent some methods. Here is a list of some ways that shopkeepers normally prevent you from taking their items without payment:

  • Use a charge from an unpaid item. The shopkeeper will charge a usage fee. You now owe the shopkeeper money, as if you were carrying an unpaid item. Shopkeepers also charge you for reading their spellbooks.
  • Try to walk out of the door with an unpaid item. The shopkeeper will stand on the entrance square, blocking your path. Because it is a door, you cannot walk through diagonally.
  • Use a pick-axe to dig a hole out of the shop. If the shopkeeper is adjacent, he or she will grab your "pack", thus taking everything in your inventory! This is punishment for making a hole in the shop floor.
  • Teleport, throw, or kick any items out of the shop. The shopkeeper will charge you for the items, as if you now own them.
  • Walk out through a gap in the wall. Shopkeepers configure their shop walls to magically heal. Even if a dwarf or umber hulk came by and left a gap while entering or exiting the shop, the gap will heal after 5 turns, assuming that there is no monster in the way.[1][2]
  • Try to trap the shopkeeper with a bear trap or landmine. The shopkeeper will disarm and pick up the trap after 5 turns.

Indirect theft

For those who prefer not to steal directly, there are a few options for all the fun of theft and minimal risk.

Using your pet

Shopkeepers in NetHack, when it comes to taking items, do not care about any creature or monster other than you. Thus, a common practice is to let a monster or pet pick up items and drop them either outside the shop or in the square right in front of the doorway, which is considered outdoors. To obtain the shopkeeper's gold, sell valuable items back to him and repeat. This technique is sometimes known as shoplifting. The process of robbing a shop with the aid of a pet can be sped up considerably:

  • Train your pet, raising its apport. When the pet drops an item near you, reward it with a treat. Tripe rations and meatballs are treats for carnivorous pets, while apples and carrots are treats for herbivorous pets. Bananas are treats for primates. Stand in the door, and use 's' or '.' until your pet drops an item in the square directly in front of the door. This square is not considered part of the shop, so items there are free. By standing in the door, your pet cannot escape, and will bring the shop to you.
  • Use a magic whistle to teleport your pet out of the shop as soon as it picks something up.
  • Put all the light items you want to steal (like scrolls, rings and gems) in a sack or bag of holding (as much as your pet can carry[3]) so it only needs to steal that one item. It can also be sold for the value of the sack and everything inside. Consider putting all your gold into the sack to build large amounts of credit.
  • Drop items you don't want as far away from the entrance as possible, best with a cursed item on top of the pile. Things you want go near the entrance, in sight. That way, you can stand by the door and your pet will pick up nearby objects.

Use a strong pet to kill the shopkeeper

If you have a strong pet, they may be able to kill the shopkeeper for you. Large cats and dogs will not attempt this unless you have fed them wraith corpses to level them up beyond their natural growth limit. A fully-grown warhorse will attack shopkeepers but may well lose the fight. Better pets (as from a polymorph trap) can often kill the shopkeeper easily. As always in NetHack, neither the shopkeeper nor your god will punish you for your pet's actions, although it is considered very bad form to allow Izchak to die, even if playing an extinctionist. This is a faster way of obtaining all the shopkeeper's property than shoplifting, and the only way to get the wands most shopkeepers have in their personal inventory. The disadvantages are that the pet might die and that the shopkeeper will no longer be available for price identification.

Credit cloning

Main article: Credit cloning

Another method of indirect theft is credit cloning: dropping gold in the store to establish credit, and then getting monsters or pets to take the gold back outside for you to repeat.

Gelatinous cube engulfing

Additionally, a gelatinous cube's engulf ability can be used to completely clean out a shop's inventory of non-organic items by piling them all on a single-square near the entrance. The cube can then be lured onto the item pile, and back outside the shop again, where it can be killed to retrieve the stolen inventory. This technique works best in shops that specialize in weapons or armor, or have enough floorspace to safely store any desired organic items far away from the hungry cube.

Direct theft

When you leave the shop without paying off debts in most cases, an alarm sounds and the Keystone Kops are summoned.

  • Kill the shopkeeper: This carries the usual murder penalties, as well as being somewhat suicidal for a weak character. The presence of some items - especially a wand of death or (wand-shattering!) Mjollnir - will make this safer; indeed, this can be the best way for you to obtain such expensive items. Cockatrice corpses also work well.
  • Teleport the shopkeeper: This works if you want to avoid Kops and murder, and angers the shopkeeper unless he lands in his shop. Grab all the items you want, teleport the shopkeeper, then make a run for it, or dig down with a slow implement like a pick-axe. Note that the shopkeeper will be angered if he is teleported out of his shop by any means, even if you are not (directly) related - a quantum mechanic hitting the shopkeeper during conflict will result in the shopkeeper becoming angry at you.
  • Polymorph the shopkeeper: For a weaker character, a properly identified wand of polymorph can be used to polymorph and then kill a shopkeeper. This allows the player to take all the items for free and carries no penalties (except for the 1-in-25 chance of system shock, which counts as murder, and the risk of creating a monster that could kill you.) Note that due to their 50 MR and 12 HD, shopkeepers will resist the wand half the time, potentially leaving the character facing a still-human and now angry shopkeeper.
  • Dig out of the shop with unpaid items: If you have no means of protection from the shopkeeper, you should use a fast method, like a wand of digging (not a pick-axe). If you can surround the shopkeeper with traps, monsters, or boulders, the shopkeeper will be unable to reach you and you can slowly dig out; keep in mind, though, that shopkeepers are generated with a wand of striking and sometimes also a wand of magic missile. You can also surround yourself with boulders and dig your way out. Finally, if the shop is large enough, even a slow implement like a pick-axe will allow you to escape. If you dig a hole downwards, the shopkeeper may follow you through your hole. If the shop is too small to use your wand of digging, you can still zap it horizontally, walk out, and let the Kops shield you from the shopkeeper when you zap it down.
    Reading the source, it seems the shopkeeper will always grab your non-worn/wielded items and fall down with you unless:
    1. there is no available square next to you where he could teleport to
    2. you are not in a radius 5 square centered on the shopkeeper
    3. he cannot move.[4][5][6]
  • Jump out of the shop: This is done with a spell or with boots of jumping, or when playing as a knight. This only takes you a few squares away, however, so you'll want to get away quickly. Don't bump into the wall or the shopkeeper. You could dig out in advance a lit landing space diagonally outside the door, and steal by jumping two squares diagonally through the doorway.
  • Walk through the shop: If you're polymorphed into a xorn or some other creature that can walk through walls, just pick up the items and walk through the wall of the shop.
  • Teleport out of the shop and/or steal one, get one free: You just need to have some method of teleportation, such as intrinsic teleportitis, a wand of teleportation, a spell, or a scroll of teleportation, ready to take you and your unpaid items out of the shop. Wands or scrolls are easier to control as teleportitis might send you out of the shop before you're ready. A riskier method of teleportation for characters with low intelligence is to read a low-level spellbook and hope that it sends you out of the shop. However, the few turns of paralysis that follow make it potentially treacherous. A cursed scroll of teleportation (resulting in a level teleport) is a safer option, especially when paired with teleport control. If you can control teleporting, a good strategy to keep everyone happy is to take a cheap item and then teleport out as far away as possible. Fend off any Kops that come and when the shopkeeper nears, teleport back into the shop and steal everything. Then go back out and meet the shopkeeper and pay for the cheap item you stole originally. The shopkeeper will be happy again even though you've just taken the entire stock. Instead of paying, you can also tame him, provided you have several scrolls and can really afford to take a few hits, especially after his wands are empty. Also you can try to teleport the shopkeeper with a wand of teleportation and hide away with all non-paid items.
  • Walk out of the shop: If you are fast or very fast, you can use your extra moves to walk out without the shopkeeper blocking the door. You can also use a boulder to occupy the square the shopkeeper would use to block your exit, then leave while pushing the boulder out of the shop. Finally you can break the door (and be prompted to pay 400zm) which will enable you to walk out diagonally.
  • Block the door with a trap or pit: Set a landmine or bear trap just inside the doorway (where the shopkeeper would normally stand to keep you from leaving). The shopkeeper will avoid that square for 5 turns before removing the trap. You can either walk over the trap, or jump over it. If the trap is still present when the shopkeeper's alarm sounds, the trap will not be removed and the shopkeeper will be stuck in his shop until he is pacified (or another monster sets off the land mine). Alternatively, digging a pit on this square will prevent the shopkeeper from blocking the doorway and they will be unable to pursue once you exit the shop.
    Shopkeepers can't remove webs, and you can spin webs when polymorphed into a giant spider or cave spider. Spinning a web where the shopkeeper usually stands will prevent him from guarding the exit and chasing thieves until you or another monster destroys the web.
  • Levelport: Pick up all the items you would like to steal and levelport, e.g. through a cursed or confused scroll of teleportation or a cursed potion of gain level. The typical alarm will sound and the keystone kops will be after you on the level that the shop is located. Controlled levelporting is safe, as long as you can deal with the enemies if you go back to the shop level. Uncontrolled levelporting carries the usual risks.
  • It is possible to accidentally steal from a shop if you have uncontrolled teleportitis. This can be avoided by dropping gold in the shop to establish credit. Any items taken out of the shop without paying will be deducted from your credit.
  • Put the shopkeeper to sleep: A wand of sleep can put shopkeepers to sleep, but the sleep ray can miss, and even if it hits the shopkeeper has a 50% chance of resisting. A magic flute cannot miss, although the shopkeeper has a slightly higher chance of resisting the effect.

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.

Shopkeepers will now remove pits and webs as well.

Bug exploits

  • 200 rock steal: The maximum number of items you can be charged for in a shop is 200. Anything you pick up after your shopping bill reaches 200 item slots will be given to you for free ("You got that for free!").[7][8][9] See here for a comic-style walkthrough.
    The simplest way to exploit this is to find 200 rocks, name them each a different thing so they don't stack, place them in a bag of holding to reduce weight, and throw the bag into a shop. Once you pick it back up everything else you pick up is free. You can then easily sell the expensive items back to the shopkeeper repeatedly [no pet-steal necessary] to bleed him dry of cash, and build up enough credit for the price of the bag and rocks. The naming portion of the setup can be automated by a paste script as follows: assuming inventory letters of B for BoH and S for stack of rocks, start by #name-ing with the (y)es option the stack of rocks "1", then paste the string (minus quotes): "aBi*<CR>1S<CR>#n<CR>yS". That is, (a)pply the (B)ag, put (i)n (*)gems. (1) from (S)tack. and (#n)ame onl(y) the (S)tack ____. The game should be waiting for a new name for the stack, at which point you can type whatever number comes after the current stack name. Repeat with paste, name, enter, paste. The exact sequence will probably have to be adjusted as your burden level crosses boundaries, depending on your Term width, adjust as necessary. For the Healers or others with stone to flesh as an option, you can get a very significant weight reduction by using meatballs instead. You can also use scrolls of mail, but mail is priced at zero, so you will actually need about 210. After giving you the first few scrolls for free, the shopkeeper will mark them up to about 7 zorkmids each.
    This bug has been corrected in development versions of SLASH'EM 0.0.8. (based on #nethack's Rodney)
  • Overflowing the debt counter, which is stored in a signed integer. You can do this by angering the shopkeeper, putting up a boulder fort, and repeatedly dropping and picking up your gold. However, this strategy is extremely time consuming - even with 100000 gold, it would require more than 20000 turns.

Consequences of theft

Indirect theft carries no in-game consequences. Tedium and the chance a gecko will kill you if you are holding down the '.' key are the chief dangers.

Direct theft, however, is dangerous. First of all, successfully stealing from a shop summons Keystone Kops – they are numerous, but for higher level characters they are merely more of a nuisance. The larger worry is the shopkeeper, who tends to be both high level and equipped with dangerous wands, usually a wand of striking and/or magic missile. One extremely helpful technique is to dig a series of pit traps outside of the entrance to the shop – this will hinder the shopkeeper if he tries to leave the shop and pursue you. However, be careful when doing this in Minetown, as the watchmen will become hostile if they fall into your pit traps.

The Keystone Kops are only summoned if you leave the shop without paying with the shopkeeper present. Killing the shopkeeper, or teleporting him out of his store, does not generate Kops.

Theft carries a -1 alignment penalty for lawful characters and a +1 alignment bonus to chaotic non-rogue characters.

See also


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

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.