Topic 003 - NetHack Shoplifting Primer

started 1999-02-11

  1. Locate a shop
  2. Abuse store credit
  3. Get your pet to fetch things
  4. Get your pet to kill the shopkeeper
  5. Teleport out of a shop
  6. Dig your way out
  7. Pacify the shopkeeper
  8. Neutralize the shopkeeper
  9. Kill the shopkeeper
  10. Other strategies
  11. What if I die when robbing a shop?


This miniature strategy guide uses shoplifting tactics to help illustrate NetHack's game-playing depth.

I'd like to thank the following people for their contributions:

Spoiler Alert

This page reveals NetHack secrets. Don't read it if you are new to NetHack and don't want the game "spoiled".

1. Locate a shop

In NetHack, shops at scattered randomly throughout the dungeon rather than being located on "ground" level as in Angband or ADOM. The first step to shoplifting is therefore locating a shop.

Where can shops appear?

Fish Rundle writes:

Shops are random but with a diminishing returns on probability as you descend the dungeon. The chances of running into a shop on level 2 or 3 is very large indeed but the chances of running into one on levels 15-20 is extremely small.

How do you know if you're on a shop level?

2. Abuse store credit

First of all, you might not even need to rob from the shop; you can try "scamming" it instead. The idea here is to get the shopkeeper to give you store credit. You do this by dropping your gold inside a shop and then leaving. You then wait for a pet or monster to pick up the gold and bring it out to you. I've never tried this, but these guys have been nice enough to write in about it:

David Joa writes:
  1. Drop your gold in the shop to establish a line of credit with the shopkeeper.
  2. Buy stuff using your credit.
  3. Lure in a monster like an orc or a dwarf.
  4. Wait for the monster to pick up the gold.
  5. Lure the monster out of the shop.
  6. Kill it to get your gold back.
  7. Repeat.
Jeremy Weiss writes:

I've had great success with a slight twist on the above "line of credit" strategy.

  1. With your pet still outside the shop, close the door and pick up everything in the shop. Pile all your unpaid stuff in a corner away from the door (don't drop any tripe rations - pay for these and hold on to them).
  2. While still standing on your pile, drop and sell as many of your own items as you can (you'll get them back in the end).
  3. Move to a spot that's two or three squares from the door and drop your gold, establishing a line of credit.
  4. Let your pet into the shop. Chances are there will be at least one cursed item in your pile, so there will be only one item for your pet to steal: the large pile of gold you just dropped.
  5. Get the pet to drop the gold in the space next to the door or outside the shop. Pick up the gold.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5, if possible tossing the pet a treat when it drops the gold in front of you. Play "fetch the gold" to build up basically as much credit as you want.
  7. You can now convert your credit into cash by repeatedly buying and selling back items. If you've built up enough credit, you'll walk away with all the shopkeeper's merchandise...and all his gold!
Clive writes:

If you get your hands on a blessed bag of holding, and only hang on to enchanted items as much as you can identify them as such, then it doesn't take long to dry out the shopkeeper's gold supply, AND build credit for every must-have item in the shop.

3. Get your pet to fetch things

NetHack lets you have pets. Unlike in many Roguelike games, pets can follow you to different levels and gain experience. Pet acquisition and management is certainly worth a topic in itself.

Once you have a pet, robbing the shop is pretty easy, but requires patience:

The main advantage of using a pet to rob a shop is that it's very safe:

If you get bored waiting for your pet you can also take a break for a while and come back later.

Williemm posted these tips on the forum:
  • Stand at the door and when the pet picks up something use a magic whistle and the pet will be on the doorstep or outside.
  • For the outside pet you wait until the stuff is dropped and get the pet back into the store.
  • For the doorstep pet use the magic whistle to get the pet outside.
  • To get treats for pets use stone to flesh spell on rocks to get meatballs.
  • Rocks can be polypiled into even better food although you might lose a few rocks.
  • The best pet for making rocks is the umber hulk.
  • The rock mole makes rocks but eats all the gems which the umber hulk just drops.
  • Another really cool pet is the cockatrice which converts monsters into statues which can then be pick axed into rocks and whatever loot the monster was carying.
  • There is no better feeling than walking around with a flock of cocatrices that can convert a gang of monsters into statues.
  • You still have to kill the stoning resistant and acid bearing monsters.
  • Cockatrices have a real hard time taking care of acid bearing monsters and regular doses of acid keeps you limber.
  • Cockatrices will kill themselves on peaceful monsters so you need a more powerful pet to clear out the peaceful monsters that you should not kill or anger your god.
  • Put the more powerful pet on another level, to let the cockatrices turn monsters into stone, instead of just killing them.
  • With cockatrices and the two spells is possible to get 30 or more tripe rations out of a violet fungus.

Training Your Pet

You can "tame" your pet by feeding it often. The more tame it is, the more likely it is to drop stuff at your feet. In this way, you effectively "train" your pet to rob shops. Neat, huh?

There are NetHack spoilers out there that talk about pet-taming. Here are some insightful player comments:

Art Stretton writes:

One of the things that endeared me to Nethack was that you could train pets to be more efficient at stealing from shops.

I have only been able to train dogs and cats using tripe rations. On the turn immediately after the pet drops an item on the door square as you're standing in the doorway, you need to toss them a tripe ration and they need to ingest it. Not all situations are conducive to increasing the "training" level of your pet. They simply train on another spot other than the door square if the treat ingestion is delayed to even just one more turn.

The effect of training is that a higher percentage of items that the pet picks up are returned and dropped on the door square. The percentage approaches 100% after three or four rounds of training.

The down side of training is that it also increases the tendency of the pet to follow closely to you and the pet will not tend to venture as deep into the shop. This requires that you manage the spatial arrangement of the items in the shop to keep the high value items within the range that the pet frequents.

4. Get your pet to kill the shopkeeper

Jason Hommel says you can use your pet as a murder weapon:

Have a high level pet kill the shopkeeper.

Low level characters can aquire high level pets by:

  1. Polymorphing your pet with a wand. Random; doesn't always work well. Use in conjunction with poly piling armor so as not to waste charges.
  2. Having your pet stand or jump onto a polymorph trap. Good pets: trapper, energy vortex, Air Elemental, Ettins, Trolls, Ogres, Giants, especially pets that can use armor and weapons!
  3. Most reliable way: Need two things: 1. Scroll of taming or spellbook of "charm monster" that you can cast. 2. Scroll of genocide. Read a curse scroll of genocide. Pick a high level monster like "silver dragons". Silver dragons will be sent in. Immediately read a scroll of taming, or cast "charm monster". A whole troop of silver dragons or whatever will kill all shopkeepers; priests, etc. Unfortunately, having high level pets kill aligned priests can anger your god. This is very effective way to get armor/reflection; because along the way some of your dragons may die, or not all will be tamed the first time. The silver dragon scales can also be enchanted to become mail armor, very good armor.

To get unholy water, to curse things, like the genocide scroll:

  1. Remove armor and drop all items so as to prevent them from getting cursed.
  2. Wield a potion of water.
  3. Make yourself confused by:
    • Cast a spell you've forgotten (best way)
    • Quaff a potion of confusion (uses up a potion which can become a holy water later) or
    • Eat a rotten egg (can kill you if it's a cockatrice egg).
  4. Read a scroll of "remove curse" when confused.

[I'm not sure how unholy water ties into shoplifting, though... --Trav]

Fish Rundle writes:

Might I also suggest (if you just want the armor) instead of charm, a spell (or two) of fireball centered on the fire resistant player (all fire vulnerable goodies stowed away). Make sure all vulnerable armor is fireproofed beforehand via confused enchant armor. A ring of conflict, robe of displacement, and invis might also be a necessity here though.

[Maybe I'm dense, but I don't understand what that has to do with shoplifting either. Could someone please enlighten me? --Trav]

Steve C explains why we need unholy water:

To get a cursed scroll of genocide, you'll probably need to dip a scroll of genocide in a potion of unholy water. Which is why it explains how to make one.

Then when you read the cursed scroll of genocide, it creates a bunch of that type of monster instead of killing them all. Then you tame the monsters and have very powerful pets to kill the shopkeeper easily.

5. Teleport out of a shop

If you don't have a pet or the patience to use him, then you might want to think about using teleportation to escape from a shop.

Escaping from shops is risky because it causes Keystone Kops to appear and chase after you. Also, the Shopkeeper will get mad and might chase you down. Shopkeepers and viscious; they are very hard to kill. As soon as you escape a shop, you should try to exit that dungeon level as soon as possible. For that reason, you should explore and clear the rest of level before you rob the shop.

To escape using teleportation, you first need to acquire the ability to teleport.

Once you are in the shop and have teleportation ability, then:

The mad dash...

Teleportation has some inherent risks that other forms of escaping don't.

Tips on making teleportation safer:

Bennett writes:

You can also use boots of jumping to 'jump' out the door of a shop. Of course, the shopkeeper gets angry, but it's easy enough to run away most of the time if you have magic resistance.

6. Dig your way out

If you can't teleport, you can try digging. This is harder to pull off than teleporting because shops and shopkeepers have evolved over the different versions of NetHack to protect themselves specifically against theft-by-digging. It's been a long time since I escaped by digging, but I'm pretty sure it can still be done...

First, you need to get a digging implement:

Sneak the implement inside the shop (or just walk in if you have some sort of digging ability)

If you manage to find yourself in a shop with a digging implement, then:

Fish Rundle writes:

Once upon a time you could dig your way out of a shop but now the Shopkeeper will grab your backpack and fight you on the next level. One technique I have yet to try is to:

  1. Collect the goodies.
  2. Confuse yourself.
  3. Read a scroll of create monster.

This will create a protective ring of acid blobs which should allow you to dig undisturbed by the pesky shopkeeper.

Gabe writes:

If you want to dig your way out of a shop without having your backpack snatched. If you have a pick axe, dig a trench around the shop keeper (who will be standing by the door if you have picked something up) He won't get mad at you for digging pits. Then go to the far corner and dig yourself down, and he won't grab your backpack. Safer and easier than acid blobs.

7. Pacify the shopkeeper

There are supposedly ways of calming down an angry shopkeeping. I've never tried any, but here are some tips from people who have:

Art Stretton writes:

One aspect of shops that I didn't see mentioned was the pacification of shopkeepers.

Most times a shopkeeper will be mollified if you pay for the stolen items (once you work your way back to him through all the Kops).

Other times you may use taming (either a spell of charming or a scroll of charming) to bring an angry shopkeeper back to a peaceful state.

David Joa writes:

If you have teleportation and taming scrolls (or teleportitis, charm monster spell, etc.) and can survive one or two turns next to an angry shopkeeper:

  1. Sell everything in your inventory.
  2. Pick it up again, along with whatever else you want to steal.
  3. Teleport out of the shop.
  4. Tame the shopkeeper to calm him down and banish the Kops.
  5. Repeat for as many times as you can teleport/tame.

It usually doesn't take very many cycles to relieve the shopkeeper of all his gold. This is especially effective if you have teleport control (to teleport one square outside of the shop) and magic resistance (to survive the angry shopkeeper's wands).

8. Neutralize the shopkeeper

If you're feeling brave, you can try to trivialize or immobilize the shopkeeper long enough for you to slip past him. This is seldom easy, and will often backfire, causing him to attack (and usually kill) you.

Steve writes:

I had on a ring of conflict. An eye came into the shop and the shopkeeper attacked it and froze. I just skipped past and out the door. Lucky....can't really plan this.

9. Kill the shopkeeper

As a last resort, you can try to kill the shopkeeper. Unless you have a particularly effective trick up your sleeve (see some ideas below), prepare for a hard and most likely short fight.

Fish Rundle writes:

You can't slow the shopkeeper or any humanoid with a wand or spell of slow monster. Monster means monster... This also holds true for a scroll of scare monster.

Every once in a while you can pick up a wand that costs $666. This is a wand of death. Of course a wand of wishing is also supposed to cost 666 but in all my years of play, I've never seen one in a shop.

Rob writes:

Scroll of Stinking Cloud kills shop keepers with unbelievable reliability. Just hide in a corner so he can't zap you with his wand.

Lee Morris writes:

Put the shopkeeper to sleep if you have a wand of sleep or a spell of sleep, then kill him and take his gold and whatever items you want from him.. i did this by accident one time and ive used it ever since 8-)

Clive writes:

Shopkeepers CAN be killed, they're generally about 11th level, so if you are 11th or higher, with a good AC and weapon set up, it's not so hard. Start with a ranged hit of any kind (showing up at the door with a pick axe or mattock, then backing off a few squares can help line up a good shot), then use wands of destructive energies (fire, lightning, etc) to blast through the kops AND hit the shopkeeper (if they show - I forget if they do on simple assaults also, or only when you steal something). Use any and every trick in the book to get free hits of any sort on the shopkeeper before you have to go toe to toe with him. Quaffing blessed potions before you pick the fight can give you the edge you need also.

Jonathan writes:

Sometimes, in a shop, there are insanely priced wands lying around. When and if you find one, line yourself up with the shopkeeper, and zap the wand. The wand can be one of two things, a wand of wishing, or a wand of death. If it's a wand of death, the game will ask you what direction. type the direction of the shopkeeper. If it's a wand of wishing, first ask for two scrolls of charging, charge the wand once(if needed), and then wish for a wand of death.

Although I've been able to kill shopkeepers before (when I had really high level characters), 99% of the time when I attack a shopkeeper I end up getting slaughtered. Be forewarned!

10. Other strategies

Ivan Ginev writes:

Make someone do it. This works especially with dwarves, because they have pickaxes and mattocks, and sometimes make openings in the shop walls and take items from inside.

Trav asked: How do you make the dwarf dig a hole in the wall?

Well, it happens eventually, if you stay long enough (10,000+ turns) on a level. You, know many rock piercers and dwarves appear and they start digging through the whole dungeon. You may get a message "The acoustic changes drastically" or something similar.

Fish Rundle writes:

An interesting strategy which is worth considering: Steal now, pay later.

After successfully robbing a shop, note the number of Zorkmids that are taken and after you have aquired that many gold pieces go back, wail your way through the Kops and pay the shopkeeper. This is why when you try to pay for something in a shop in Minetown and a second shopkeeper is in view, the game askes you to select one.

If you are lawful, you take an alignment hit for stealing from a shop so steal now pay later is best attempted only if you have an aligned altar waiting for you where you can do sacrifices. If you are neutral, you take an initial alignment hit when you steal the stuff which is then negated when you pay the debt. If you are chaotic, you lose alignment points only when you pay the debt.

Pierce Baker writes:

The easiest, safest and quickest way to steal from a shopkeeper is to polymorph into Xorn and simply walk out of the shop with the entire shop inventory. It works great, since you can avoid the shopkeeper by staying in the walls until you are close to the stairs. Even better, Xorns have large carrying capacities due to their strength, so its the perfect stealing technique!

Daniel writes:

With a scroll of earth at the exit of the shop can make you both trap the shopkeeper and steal everything. When I did the shopkeeper didn't get angry.

If you are not carrying anything you can squeeze past boulders, and by throwing stuff "into the boulder" you can get them out of the shop. beware of "weak items" like potions as they break when thrown, that can be fixed with a bag.

Caradoc provided a variation of Fish Rundle's acid blob digging strategy:

Must be at least 4 spaces square.

  1. Pick up the goods.
  2. Stand in far corner.
  3. Throw something at shopkeeper.
  4. Wait till shopkeeper is away from door.
  5. Get drunk.
  6. Read CREATE MONSTER. This will fill the shop with acid blobs, which will surround the shopkeeper.
  7. Hack your way through the acid blobs and out, avoiding the shopkeeper.

(This method has the advantage of the shopkeeper not chasing you.)

Matt writes:

I have not done this recently (so don't know if it still works in recent versions), but if you had a wand of teleportation it used to be the case that you could enter a shop, pile all the shop items into one pile, and then zap the pile with your wand. The items would then get teleported to random places on that level and you could leave the shop (the shopkeeper does not get angry) and go look for the items. A nice safe way to rob a shop.

Soren writes:

Another technique that has worked for me in the past (particularly if I accidentally sell my bag of holding and the shopkeeper wants $100000 to get it back) is to pick up a really cheap item, bring enough gold to pay for it (sell some of your stuff if you need to, you'll get it back), and teleport out of the shop. Fight off any nearby Kops and wait until the shopkeeper gets away from the shop (telepathy is great to know when he's out of the way), then run back around him into the shop (or teleport back in if you have teleport control) and grab all the stuff. Then go pay him for the cheap item you stole, and you have the rest of the shop free.

Naturally, if you have bad luck in where you get placed or where the shopkeeper runs, you may die, but you keep the shopkeeper peaceful and have a better chance of surviving than trying to kill him.

Soren writes:

If you're very fast (from speed boots, potion of speed, or spell of haste self, but not intrinsic speed from /oSpeedMonster or eating a quantum mechanic), it is actually possible to walk right out the door of a shop with unpaid merchandise, right under the shopkeeper's nose. Simply pile the item or items you wish to steal next to the square just inside the door (where the shopkeeper stands to block your way out), make sure you don't have any unpaid debt, and step to the square on the opposite side of the pile to the door.

..@| <--you
..?| <--items
..@+ <--shopkeeper and (open) door

Make sure you can carry all the items without being burdened, or it might not work. Turn on autopickup for all types of objects you're trying to steal, then wait for the shopkeeper to move away from the door. When he does, step onto the square (picking up all the items), then move onto the square in front of the door, then right out the door.

..@| <--you (next moves down and right)
.@.+ <--shopkeeper, open space, open door

If he moves back, drop the items and try again (you may have to try a couple of times, as when you get free moves is fairly random).

It should be noted that a swarm of Kops will be generated right next to you and next to the shop, which will probably make it quite difficult to get away. It's probably a bad idea to try this if you don't have good armor class or magic resistance to protect from the shopkeeper's wands.

There are probably even more ways to rob shops that aren't mentioned here.

If you know of one [or more], please let me know so that I can add it to the site. Thanks!

11. What if I die when robbing a shop?

Even if you die, it's not the end of the world, because future characters can come along and grab your items (if this becomes a bones level).

Topic 003 - NetHack Shoplifting

started 1999-02-11