Monster attacks in a structured list

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This list was originally written up by R. Dan Henry in response to a thread started by The Sheep concerning monster attacks.

[The chaotic nature of The Sheep's list is something] of a problem in a list, especially for someone trying to determine if his own idea is new and should be added or is already covered. Note the following organization attempts to cover the suggestions in the thread that are attacks (there were a fair number of things in the far broader class of "things monsters might do" -- I have dropped these as another subject) and mostly classifies by effects, not by in-game description. Summoning, animating objects, cloning oneself, etc. are not attacks, nor is healing the character an attack, although it is useful to consider how an ally might do so. Since that is essentially simply reversing various attack types, I do not think that deserves a separate listing, just a note of reminder. I have been fairly broad in my consideration of what is "an attack", but it must have some potential to harm the target of the attack.

Firstly, I suggest breaking things down into several categories [an attack can combine categories, of course]:


Attack Types


Damage is any harm done to the character's person, expressed as a change in some value representing a character's ability (binary conditions are considered separately under Part 3 as "Status" changes). Any damage can be of one of the three following types:

  • a)Temporary -- as long as the @ does not die, this damage will eventually go away on its own. In roguelike games, most damage is of this type.
  • b)Semi-Permanent -- it only goes away once an appropriate restorative measure is taken. Angband stat drains are semi-permanent, Crawl stat drains are temporary.
  • c)Permanent -- the loss is permanent. The only way to increase the value diminished by the damage is to do so as if the value had always been this low. Permanent damage of most kinds should be very rare, but might be good for some ultra-rare monster or powerful unique. If each hit from Ghrashnar the Unspeakable reduces your total hit points by one forever, you will pay Ghrashnar some respect. Hunger attacks are typically permanent.

Damage can also be:

  • I) Instantaneous. All damage is delivered when the hit is made.
  • II) Progressive. The typical roguelike poison is Progressive. Damage is done over time; curatives may allow prevention of ever taking full damage. For some attacks this could be done until the attacker is killed/wounded/stunned/some other requirement (e.g., drowning, garroting, some magic).
  • III) Delayed. No damage is done when the victim is hit, only later does it take effect. Preventive measures might occur in the meantime. Delayed could be, oh, alien/giant wasp lays eggs in you. Sometime later, chest explodes for 1d8 damage per egg. As far as I know, no pure Delayed damage is done in any existing roguelike, however ADOM and POWDER have poison that has both a Progressive and a Delayed component.

Damage types:

  • 1) Hit points
  • 2) Stat loss
  • 3) Maximum hit point reduction (e.g. Crawl rotting)
  • 4) Mana drain
  • 5) Drain experience/level
  • 6) Drain satiation (hunger attack)
  • 7) Drain "sanity", "morale", or other game specific value
  • 8) Drain life span (aging)
  • 9) Adds to corruption/mutation/degeneration value
  • 10) Drain piety

Inventory Manipulations

A hero is only as good as his weapons, or so some believe and among those believers are monsters who steal, destroy, or otherwise screw around in their target's pack.

  • 1) Stealing
    • a) Goes into monster inventory and may be used by monster
    • b) Goes into monster inventory but is not used by monster
    • c) Goes into monster stomach inventory, destroyed if not recovered after a certain time interval
    • d) Item is removed from game
    • e) Item is removed to another area (Demonic Thieves may send their loot to a room in the special Demon Crime Level)
    • f) Item is dropped on floor below player or nearby (a disarming or "knock your hat off" attack)
    • g) Reverse theft -- adds (bad) item to player inventory. Could just be cheap, heavy stuff to encumber you.
  • note 1: In either a or b, recovery is normally as simple as killing the monster.
  • note 2: Monster may only steal certain types of items, such as only gold.
  • 2) Splash Attacks (named for typical acid splash)
    • a) Attacks items worn/equipped and/or unequipped inventory (attack effects may differ between equipped and unequipped items)
    • b) Probably attacks only certain items types: metal, wood, leather, armor, boots, whatever
    • c) Attacks usually check each item independently, but could have it randomly attack a number of items, so the "carry lots" method actually helps protect rare excellent item.
    • d) Attack may continue over several rounds as part of a "status" (e.g. Crawl Sticky Flame is hard on scroll collections)
    • e) Attack may destroy outright or "damage" (reduce item hit points or produce, e.g., "Rusty" status)
  • 3) Exotic Item Attacks
    • a) Polymorphs item
      • i) Randomly
      • ii) Specific transformations like (anything -> gold) or (potion -> potion of filthy water)
    • b) Removes blessing and/or curses item
    • c) Disenchants items
      • i) Subtracts "pluses"
      • ii) Drains charges of charged items
      • iii) Really powerful might de-ego items or even blank artifact powers
      • iv) Good news: might also disenchant curses
    • d) Enchants items (reverse of c, usual risks of overenchanting*)
    • e) Unequips or equips item (e.g., Hypnotoad makes you wield the cursed Amulet of Stupidness...)

(*) If game does not have risks associated with overenchanting items, this does not constitute an attack.

Player (or Monster) Status

An attack can cause a target to have a special "status" applied to it. Some status types like "poison" are often just ways to have Progressive damage as described above. Such effects are not included here, as they were covered above. Here is a list of player status types a monster attack might cause. Effects of a status depend on implementation in a specific game.

  • 1) Hallucinations (screen display doesn't match reality)
  • 2) Fear, Panic, Terror, Trouser Soiling
  • 3) Confusion, Drunkenness, Vertigo, Nausea
  • 4) Blindness, Deafness, Numbness
  • 5) Death (use sparingly if at all) or Death's Door (leave one hit from death)
  • 6) Rotting, Disease, Illness (often a Progressive damage status, but can include other things like retarding/preventing regeneration; a Poison status can also have this effect)
  • 7) Cursed, Damned
  • 8) Sleep, Paralysis, Petrifaction
  • 9) Slow, Sluggish
  • 10) Adds/Removes a mutation/corruption/cyberware patch. Or causes polymorphing (change of whatever game allows polymorph player to change)
  • 11) Cancels/reduces duration of beneficial spell(s)/status(es)
  • 12) Shuffle stats (okay, it isn't really a "status" -- I cheatified this one) -- can include "stats" like mana, hit points, anything that measures on approximately the same scale in your game.
  • 13) Seduced, Charmed, Hypnotized, Brainzapped -- player either does or cannot do some action for some period of time like giving his gold to the attacker or not being able to attack his attacker. Includes complete Possession.
  • 14) Stunned, Dizzy, Knocked About A Bit
  • 15) Silent, Quiet, Mute
  • 16) Amnesia (may include loss of skill/spell knowledge)
  • 17) Body Swap/Mind Swap - Monster AI is now the @ and the player is running the attacker. Good for cheesy sci-fi roguelikes, I guess.

Player Location/Movement

  • 1) Player is teleported
    • a) Random, long-range
    • b) Random, within current room or player's or attacker's vision
    • c) To monster (nets, whips, gravity beams)
    • d) To another dungeon level
    • e) To a completely different game location (e.g. the Abyss)
  • 2) Player and attacker change places
  • 3) Knock-back: player moved in direction opposite attack, collisions may result in additional damage
  • 4) Player is knocked down. Probably some penalties until a turn taken to stand up.
  • 5) Player is pinned/grabbed/grappled. Cannot move until some condition met. Can otherwise act to fight back/escape.
  • 6) Player is engulfed by the monster. Moves with the monster, isolated from dungeon until monster or player dies or player gets out.
  • 7) Reeling In: player moved in direction towards attack (slower version of 1c)

Other Considerations

Player Defense

Various attacks interact with player defenses in different ways. Since this depends in part on the combat model used by your RL engine, this list is perhaps the least generally applicable part, but it may be useful, especially if you are still working out your combat model.

  • 1) Armor
    • a) Armor has a chance to negate the attack
    • b) Armor will reduce the damage
    • c) Armor has a chance to reduce the damage
    • d) Armor is ineffective
    • e) Various parts of the damage use different options from a-d (e.g. armor helps hit points against flame, but does not reduce scroll destruction)
  • 2) Evasion (it is assumed evasion always requires a roll for success)
    • a) Evasive capability of player can negate attack
    • b) Evasive capability of player can reduce damage
    • c) Attack cannot be evaded
    • d) Various damage effects of attack mix and match from a-c
  • 3) Resistance
    • a) Worn items grant resistance
    • b) Intrinsics* grant resistance
    • c) Spells or other effects grant resistance
    • d) Carried items grant resistance
    • e) Multiple resistance do (not) increase resistance
    • f) Various damage effects of attack mix and match a-d
  • 4) Vulnerability
    • a) Worn items cause vulnerability
    • b) Intrinsics* cause vulnerability
    • c) Spells or other effects cause vulnerability
    • d) Carried items cause vulnerability
    • e) Multiple vulnerabilities do (not) increase vulnerability
    • f) Various damage effects of attack mix and match a-d
    • So, for example, you can have electrical attacks that do simple hit point damage, but are distinguished by ignoring armor or even increasing vulnerability based on the amount of metal worn (or carried).
  • 5) Oddities
    • a) Damage is fractional. E.g., Painfest does half your current hit points.

(*)-Intrinsics can include any @ feature: race, sex, class, stats, etc.


  • 1) Attack requires proximity (monster adjacent to player) Range=1
  • 2) Attack requires close proximity (Range=0). Usually only given to traps, but a "floor mimic" that can share a square with another creature could use this.
  • 3) Attack has range>1. Can be as low as range=2 for pole arms on up to maximum detection range.
  • 4) Attack can skip over monsters. Allows attacks from behind allies/guards.
  • 5) Attack beams through monsters. Allows attacks that kill the sword fodder in order to get to @.
  • 6) Attack had a radius (ball spells)
  • 7) Attack passes through walls (Ouch.)
  • 8) Attack is passive. It is activated by player attacks:
    • a) Melee attacks
    • b) Ranged physical attacks
    • c) Magical attacks
    • d) Combinations of a-c

Side Effects

This covers things that are not crucial to the attack from the target's POV, but influence others.

  • 1) Effects on Attacker
    • a) Costs mana (spells)
    • b) Costs hit points (fire elemental hurling parts of itself). This can be all hit points for, e.g., bee stings.
    • c) Costs item/charges (archery, wand use)
    • d) Vampirism: attacker gets (some of) hits/mana/etc. done to target
    • e) Power Theft: allows attacker to use some ability of the target (spell, skill)
    • f) Status Change: some status of the attacker changes (e.g., an invisible attacker becomes visible, using its breath weapon makes a monster "tired")
  • 2) Effects on Others*
    • a) Morale boost/drain (awesome spell rallies followers)
    • b) Damage ally (necromancer drains power from henchman)
    • c) Moves ally (the "throw my buddy" attack)
    • d) Enrages allies (use of "War Criminal" attack style)
    • e) Alerts others (noisy attack)

(*) Additional to basic effects if caught in an area attack. Those within attack suffer as player with whatever necessary adjustments for monster/player inequalities.

  • 3) Effects on Items*
    • a) Destroys items on floor
    • b) Moves items on floor (tornado)
    • c) Polymorphs items on floor
      • May be random
      • May be set effect, like POWDER having electrical attacks change a Rapier to a Lightning Rapier
    • d) Enchants/Disenchants items on floor
    • e) (Un)blesses/(Un)curses items on floor
    • f) Add/drains charges to/from items on floor

(*) For items caught in area of attack

  • 4) Effects on Terrain*
    • a) Leaves an effect on (a) square(s) (clouds, webs)
    • b) Transforms terrain (ultraheat transforms ground to lava)
    • c) Destroys doors, traps, and/or walls
    • d) Changes lighting status to light, to dark, or inverts

(*) For terrain caught in area of attack

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