Spellbook of fireball

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spellbook of
+   fireball   Light green spellbook.png
Appearance random
Abundance 2.03%
Base price 400 zm
Weight 50
Turns to read 12
Ink to write 20–39
Spell type attack
Level 4
Power cost 20 Pw
Direction ray/distant

Fireball is a medium-level attack spell. The spellbook is fireproof: reading a scroll of fire, standing on a fire trap or being hit by a fire ray won't destroy this spellbook. This protection ceases if the spellbook is blanked, though.


Unskilled or basic

This spell fires a ray. NetHack will prompt you for a direction in which to cast the spell. When the ray hits an obstacle or monster, it explodes affecting the square hit and all 8 adjacent squares.

Skilled or expert

You may choose a location at which to cast explosions of fire, but:

  • this location must be no more than 10 squares away;
  • it must be an open space;
  • you must either see the chosen square normally (it must be lit and in the line of sight) or see a monster on it via intrinsic or extrinsic telepathy, infrared vision, a blessed potion of detect monsters or its spell equivalent (warning will not suffice)[1].

The last two conditions do not need to be met if you are engulfed[2]. In this case, the explosions will be centered around yourself, and nothing will be affected outside the engulfing entity[3].

If there is a wall on the straight line between you and your target, the spell will explode around the square immediately before the first wall[4]. Otherwise, the explosions will be centered around the location you chose. 2 to 9 explosions follow; the first is in the center, the subsequent ones randomly at any of the nine squares around that point. Each explosion affects the surrounding squares, as when unskilled/basic[5].

Fire explosion effects

  • Monsters are hit for 12-72 damage: this is doubled if they are cold resistant.
  • You take 6-36 damage if you hit yourself and aren't fire resistant (and un-slime yourself)
  • Ice melts into a pool of water.
  • Pools evaporate to leave a pit, but moats do not.
  • A fountain dries up.
  • There is no effect on other water squares.
  • A closed door is destroyed: this will halt a ray.
  • Scrolls or spellbooks in an affected square may be destroyed. Scrolls of fire, spellbooks of fireball and the Book of the Dead will resist.
  • Potions in the explosion zone may boil and explode.
  • Does NOT destroy boulders


Message Reason
"<Monster> is caught in the fireball!." You cast the spell and hit a monster.
"You are caught in the fireball!" You cast the spell and hit yourself, or while engulfed.
"Steam billows from the fountain." You cast the spell at a fountain
"The water evaporates." You cast the spell at a pool
"Some water evaporates!" You cast the spell at a moat
"You hear hissing gas." You cast the spell at water out of sight
"The door is consumed in flames!" You cast the spell at a door
"You smell smoke." You cast the spell at a door out of sight
"You see a puff of smoke." You destroyed a spellbook or scroll
"You smell a whiff of smoke." You destroyed a spellbook or scroll, out of sight
"Your mind fails to lock onto that location!" You tried to cast the spell at a location out of sight
"The spell dissipates over the distance!" You tried to cast the spell over too great a distance
"You're joking! In this weather?" You tried to cast the spell underwater
"You had better wait for the sun to come out." You tried to cast the spell at skilled/expert, on the Plane of Water


Advancing to skilled deprives you of the ability to explode fireballs in dark squares, but otherwise massively increases the destructive power of the spell. Enhancing to expert skill gives no benefits over skilled for this spell. In several variants and 3.6.0 (but not 3.6.1), fireball and cone of cold can target any monster you can see, or sense with telepathy/monster detection/similar, up to 10 squares away disregarding walls or other obstacles, making the spell incredibly effective, especially if combined with skilled detect monsters. Beware that the spell will not go through walls even when skilled/expert, but may instead hurt you if you are standing too close to the wall that separates you from your target. See above.

Blasting an enemy with fire will destroy potions and scrolls they are carrying and often damage their armor. You are likely to destroy any fountains you hit.

The minimum safe range for this spell if not fire resistant or carrying flammable items is 3 spaces away, however this can still kill monsters standing next to you if the random explosions are positioned favourably. It is advisable to have a light source for this spell. A lamp works well enough, but a spell or wand of light will let you illuminate much more distant targets.

Use this wiki to determine which monsters are fire resistant before you let fly and expend 20 power. Add cone of cold to your repertoire for an equivalent attack option for killing fire resistant monsters, and to preserve any scrolls and spellbooks your targets possess.

Unskilled fireball, while nominally a ray, is very unlike two other damaging ray spells, cone of cold and magic missile:

  • the damage does not grow with experience level and always equals 12d6
  • monster MR can halve the damage
  • fireballs cannot bounce
  • fireballs cannot miss

With that in mind, this spell is preferable to the two others if your level is low, or if the enemy has negative AC but low MR, or in the open rooms with several monsters but no walls to bounce from. Fire and cold resistance of the targets is also very significant.

See also

This page is based on a spoiler by Dylan O'Donnell. The original license is:

Redistribution, copying, and editing of these spoilers, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. The original contributors to any spoiler must continue to be credited.
  2. Any modifications to the spoiler must be acknowledged and credited.

This page may need to be updated for NetHack 3.6.2.

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 {{nethack-362}} or {{noversion}} as appropriate.