The Air Elemental FAQ List
By David Goldfarb
HTML Conversion by Kate Nepveu
Last Updated April 23, 2002.
- What are air elementals? Why are they so
Air elementals are animated embodiments of the element air. They
engulf unwary adventurers and pummel them with flying debris.
Nethack 3.3.0 introduced a new speed system; as a side effect of
it, air elementals (which are naturally at the highest speed
possible) get several attacks to an adventurer's one. Since they do
a lot of damage, death can be fast. [Note: in version 3.4.0, the
Dev Team has compensated for this somewhat by reducing the damage
- Where do they show up?
They can be randomly generated in the dungeon (where they can be
quite deadly to early-middlegame characters); also a number of them
are guaranteed to show up in the endgame on the Plane of Air. Ones
in the dungeon typically have about 50 hit points; in the Plane of
Air, about 150. (Of course, an adventurer in the endgame will be
much better prepared to face them than one in the middlegame.)
- Since they're so dangerous, can I genocide
No. The game does not allow you to genocide any kind of
elemental. Blessed-genocide of E only kills stalkers; not very
- What can I do about them, then?
They have no specific Achilles heel. However, there are several
things you can do. Listed here roughly from least to most
- Slow them down with a wand or spell of slow monster.
- Polymorph yourself into something too large to be engulfed.
Monsters that are large enough include: any D (dragon or baby
dragon); earth, air, fire, or water elemental; any H (giant
humanoid), as well as giant zombie, giant mummy, ettin zombie, or
ettin mummy; black, red, golden, or guardian naga; trapper; lurker
above; any v (vortex).
- Wear a ring of conflict to make them attack other monsters
instead of you.
- Zap a wand of opening, cast a spell of knock, or ring the
blessed Bell of Opening to make them unengulf you. (Of course they
may just re-engulf you right away.)
- When engulfed, teleport yourself out, using any of various
means. (Not allowed on the Plane of Air! Also, even in the main
dungeons, you may not end up far enough away to do much good.)
- Send them away before they engulf you, with a wand of
teleportation or a spell of teleport away. [Note: in 3.4.0 you can
now send them away even after they have engulfed you,
making this a more effective option.]
- Level teleport away, then come back when better prepared. (Not
allowed on the Plane of Air!)
- Have a really good AC (-40 or better) to reduce the
damage taken. [With the elemental's attack doing less damage, in
3.4.0 this is now an even more effective tactic.]
- Tame them with a scroll of taming or spell of charm monster.
The tamed elementals will then attack the other monsters instead of
- Zap them with a wand or spell of sleep to immobilize them and
stop them from attacking. (The spell is usually more likely to
- Soften them up from a distance with ranged weapons and spells.
(A level 30 character can cast magic missile at their class's
minimum fail rate even if restricted in attack spells; and the
missiles will average 56 damage.)
- Have half damage reduction from the Orb of Fate or Master Key
- Zap them with a wand or spell of polymorph. (Whatever they
change into will probably be easier to deal with.)
- Zap them with a wand of death or finger of death spell.
On the Plane of Air, where the air elementals are most numerous
and dangerous, you can avoid encounters with a teleport trick. The
plane itself (like all of the endgame) is a no-teleport level. But
you can deliberately let a fog cloud, steam vortex, or energy
vortex engulf you, and then zap a wand of teleport at it. It will
teleport and take you along. You can't control the destination, but
if you know where the portal is you can keep zapping till you end
up near it. [Note: in 3.4.0 this no longer works -- the vortex will
be teleported but you will not.]
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