Monsters are non-player characters in Angband and its variants. Encounters with monsters are the backbone of the game; it is mostly by killing monsters that the player gains experience and becomes more powerful. Monsters are also a leading source of objects and gold.
All monsters have a number of important properties, specific to either the individual monster or to the monster race it belongs to. The hit points of a monster indicate its health; if they fall below zero, the monster dies. The speed of a monster determines how often it gets a turn. The native depth of a monster determines which parts of the dungeon a monster is likely to appear in, and can also affect the power of the monster's spells and attacks. Armor class determines how difficult a monster is to hit in melee or ranged combat.
Nearly all monsters have at least one melee attack with a given attack method, power and effects; many monsters have multiple attacks, all of which they can use in a single round. Many monsters also have spells or spell-like breath attacks, as well as a spell frequency which determined how often these abilities are used.
Monsters often have resistances, immunities or vulnerabilities to particular damage types or status effects; these affect how much damage the monster takes from an elemental attack or whether it is susceptible to a status effect. Less obvious monster attributes include vision, which indicates the maximum range at which it can detect the player, alertness, which determines the default sleepiness of a monster, and rarity, which affects the commonness of the monster.
Each monster is worth a specific amount of experience, which the player gains upon killing the monster; some variants allow the player to gain experience by merely damaging the monster, without requiring a kill. The monster may also drop a given number of objects upon death; these objects may be fully random, semi-random, thematic, or specific to a monster. Some monsters exclusively drop gold, some never drop gold, and some may drop either gold or other objects; some monsters drop nothing at all.
Most of a monster's attributes are determined directly by the monster's race, although some attributes can be random or change during play. The full list of monster attributes varies from variant to variant.
Each individual monster is an instance of some specific monster kind. These monster kinds are known as races, although they do not necessarily represent distinct species or ethnicities; human novice mages and human novice priests, for example, are two separate monster races. Most of a monster's attributes are determined directly by its race; two monsters of the same race are not necessarily completely identical, but are close enough they can generally be treated as interchangeable. Monsters of the same race are always represented in the game by the same symbol (letter-color combination, such as y for blue yeeks, or tile if tilesets are used); although multi-hued monsters may change colours on the map, and multi-character monsters may change letters on the map. It is possible for distinct races to have identical symbols, although maintainers generally attempt to keep this as rare as possible.
Monster races can be grouped into base types or species, such as orcs ('o') or yeeks ('y'); two races of the same base type generally share the same display letter but not the same color. Species, unlike races, are mostly notional groupings of limited importance. They do have some effects on gameplay; they are used for spells that summon similar monsters (in this context they are often called kin), escorts of powerful monsters usually consist of lesser monsters of the same species. monster pits are often populated by species, and default display letters determine which monsters are affected by genocide. Most variants have a one-to-one correspondence between monster species and monster default display letters, but Vanilla Angband does not; it allows monsters to belong to a base type without sharing the base type's default letter, and even to use the default letter of a different base type.
Monster races may also be flagged as belonging to an additional grouping such as evil monsters, animals, demons or undead. These categories determine which monsters are affected by slays; they may also have additional effects, such as automatic nether immunity for undead monsters or vulnerability to Holy Orbs for evil monsters. A single race may belong to any number of such groupings, or to none of them.
Some monsters are completely individual, and never generate again once they have been killed. These special monsters are called unique monsters or simply uniques. Uniques are typically among the toughest monsters at their native depth, although they are also the most rewarding to kill; they tend to drop the best treasures, and are often worth more experience than other monsters. Especially in variants, uniques may also have special themed object drops, such as the unique Arthur Pendragon dropping the artifact sword Excalibur.
Uniques often have special properties just by virtue of being uniques; these vary greatly from variant to variant, but usually include at least immunity to genocide. Traditionally, uniques can only be killed by the player, although they can be damaged by other monsters. Uniques do not belong to other monster races; from the game's point of view, each unique is a monster race of its own.
In Vanilla Angband and nearly all variants, the player's ultimate goal in the game is to kill a specific unique (such as Morgoth, Lord of Darkness, or the Serpent of Chaos). Many variants also have side quests featuring uniques, although not all quests involve a unique.
Packs and escorts
Many monsters, such as zephyr hounds, always or nearly always appear in groups or packs. A monster pack consists of several related monsters spawning together; packs often have special AI, allowing the monsters in them to apply group-based tactics and strategies. Typically, all monsters in a pack belong to the same race, although in Vanilla Angband 3.5.0 and up friends from other races can also be specified. Standard terminology differs between variants; group is generally used in Vanilla Angband, while pack is preferred in Chengband and Chengband-derived variants like FrogComposband.
Strong monsters, especially (but not exclusively) uniques, often generate with an escort of lesser monsters from the same species. Escorts may also share pack AI. Angband 3.5.0 deprecated special escort generation in favor of the "friends" code also used by other groups.
Angband 4.2.0 reworked group mechanics, introducing monster roles within groups and turning groups into official units with their distinct AI. Similar pack mechanics previously existed in Chengband and variants developed from it. There are significant differences between Chengband's pack AI and Angband's group AI; Angband allows group members to have more roles (Chengband only distinguishes the leader), but Chengband allows multiple types of pack AI and the possibility of the pack switching between them.
Upon encountering a monster, the player should always assess whether a fight with them is desirable or best avoided. This begins with identifying the monster's race; attacking a monster in any way will reveal its race, as will targeting a monster (typically done with the '*' key) or using the Look command on the monster. Experienced players can often guess the race from the symbol, although this is not completely safe and errors can be costly. The monster list, available as both a subwindow and as an independent command, displays the races of all monsters nearby; in areas full of monsters, this is almost always the most convenient way to assess all of them at once, but many old variants and Angband versions lack the monster list.
Pressing 'r' in a targeting prompt or Look prompt displays everything a character knows about the race of the monster viewed. This is called monster recall or monster lore; it can be very useful or almost completely useless, depending on the variant and version and on how much the character has learned. Unless easy-lore options are used, monster lore is often almost completely empty when the game begins; but in Vanilla Angband 3.1.0 and up, the monster's native depth is always displayed even if no other information is known. Since native depth is a rough proxy for danger level, this provides a quick way to estimate how dangerous a monster is; unfamiliar out-of-depth enemies should be approached with great care or not at all.
Monster health bars
During a fight, a player should pay close attention to both their own HP and the HP of the monster fought. The monster's health can be roughly tracked through a health bar (or status bar), which is added to the sidebar once a monster is attacked or inspected.
The monster health bar is a single sidebar line 12 columns wide, wide enough to accommodate either 9 or 10 stars, depending on variant. The stars are colored asterisks which indicate both the current health of the monster (as a percentage of its maximum HP) and its current status (whether it is asleep, frightened or affected by other temporary status effects); the health is indicated by the number of stars present, while additional information is revealed by the color. Color schemes, and priority calculations where multiple colors would apply, vary somewhat between variants but not very much.
|Example health bars (FrogComposband; colors ordered by priority)|
|U[*********] Monster is invulnerable|
|U[*********] Monster is paralyzed or sleeping|
|U[*********] Monster is confused|
|U[*********] Monster is stunned|
|U[*********] Monster is afraid|
|U[*--------] Monster is below 10% health|
|U[**-------] Monster is below 25% health|
|U[*****----] Monster is below 60% health|
|U[*********] Monster is below 100% health|
|U[*********] Monster is at full health|
|U[********-] Monster is at full health but has reduced max HP|
|U[---------] Monster's status and location are unknown|
If the player loses HP rapidly while the monster remains near full health, disengaging from the fight is likely to be a good idea.
Monsters can harm the player in melee, with spell attacks, or with innate spell-like attacks such as breaths or arrows; the player can harm monsters through melee, ranged combat, spells, magic devices and activations. Some variants open additional possibilities.
How often monsters get a turn compared to the player (or each other) depends on their relative speeds. In Vanilla Angband turn frequency is fully predictable, but some variants have energy randomness which adds unpredictability. Being faster than an enemy is a key advantage, especially in variants with no energy randomness; it gives more turns, opens new tactical options and eliminates any risk of a dangerous double-move.
Monster melee attacks
Each monster attack, or blow, has a method describing the type of blow (hit, punch, bite, sting, gaze, claw, etc.). Nearly all attacks also have damage dice and an effect, describing what the blow does if it connects; blows with no effects are pure flavor and do nothing at all. The effect may be simply raw damage; it can also be elemental damage, induce status effects, or be a special effect such as stealing, stat drain, charge drain, experience drain or an earthquake. PosChengband 7.0.0 and up, and descendants such as FrogComposband, allow a single blow to have multiple effects; in this case, the damage dice are attached to effects rather than blows. It is possible for an effect to have no damage dice, but damage dice always need a corresponding effect.
Monsters can have multiple blows, all of which they will use in any given round of melee; each blow may have a distinct method, effect and damage dice. Traditionally, monster blows per round are capped to 4, although Vanilla Angband no longer strictly applies this.
Monsters, like the player, can miss in melee; the accuracy of a monster hit depends on the attack method, the level of the monster (usually identical with its native depth), and the armor class of the player or target monster.
Appropriate tactics for a fight greatly depend on both the monsters fought, and on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the player character. Immobile monsters, and monsters with no spell or breath attacks, are often best killed from range even on melee-oriented characters; likewise, melee with monsters who hit to confuse or paralyze should be avoided unless the player has appropriate resistances. Summoners, and large monster groups (whether packs or simply unrelated monsters in the same area), are often best fought in anti-summoning corridors; this ensures the player only has to worry about one or at most two monsters at any given time.
Detecting monsters in time, either through detection spells or through telepathy, is the key to monster handling; it allows the player to avoid dangerous areas and to plan for fights instead of blindly plunging into them. Knowing the surrounding terrain, and having the ability to manipulate it, also always helps in a fight.
Trickshots and line-of-sight asymmetry can allow the player to harm monsters with no risk of any retaliation; this is especially common in Vanilla Angband and in Rocketband. Some players consider this an exploit, while others view it as an integral part of the game. In FrogComposband, this approach can backfire badly when used against monsters with healing or summoning spells; line-of-sight asymmetry is also more difficult to achieve in FrogComposband, although still possible with care. Even when there is no intention to take advantage of asymmetries, line of sight should always be managed carefully; having many high-level monsters in line of sight simultaneously can lead to death.
With dangerous or exceptionally annoying monsters, the best approach is frequently to simply not fight. Stealthy characters can sneak about collecting loot, picking fights only against monsters they can comfortably handle. Some variants allow pacifist characters who avoid combat altogether; this is more typical of Sil and Sil-Q, but even Vanilla Angband has been won with only 4 monsters killed.
Generally, the player always recovers from damage taken much faster than monsters do; even monsters flagged as having fast regeneration can be out-regenerated by the player. As a result, hitting a strong monster a few times and then disengaging to continue the fight later often allows the player to whittle the monster's health away over time; but care should be taken not to die to a double-move or a failed teleportation attempt. Whether disengaging should involve a self-teleport or teleporting the monster away depends on the variant, version and situation on the level; self-teleports into unknown or potentially dangerous areas are relatively safe in some variants, but frequently lethal in others. Diving makes self-teleports more dangerous.
Monsters with healing spells can regain health extremely rapidly, but only in combat; monsters do not use spells unless actively engaged in a fight.
Some monsters have the ability to breed explosively - they can multiply very fast, and fill entire rooms with new monsters of the same race. Breeding monsters are often relatively harmless but extremely annoying; some breeders, such as Hummerhorns in Vanilla Angband or Unmakers in ZAngband-based variants, can also be highly deadly.
It is best to kill breeders before they multiply out of control, ideally while they are still sleeping. In variants with special quest levels (which often stipulate the need to clear the entire level of monsters), breeders only rarely appear in such situations but should always be the player's top priority when they do.
Even in extreme cases, an entire dungeon level will never be filled with breeders; Angband and most variants apply a limit of no more than 100 breeders at a time. Players sometimes deliberately let harmless breeders multiply so they can be killed for experience; this is referred to as farming, and many variants discourage this approach. In Vanilla Angband, farming is not specifically discouraged, but soon becomes an extremely slow way to level up.
Pets and friendly monsters
In Vanilla Angband and most variants, all monsters are hostile to the player. Variants derived from ZAngband allow pets and friendly monsters, which are on the player's side, as well as the possibility of converting hostile monsters into friendly monsters or pets.
In general, the difference between pets and friendly monsters is that pets require upkeep, can be commanded, can be dismissed, are sufficiently loyal to take damage from the player without turning hostile, and can be used as mounts if suitable for riding. Friendly monsters do not require upkeep, cannot be commanded or dismissed, will turn hostile if damaged by the player, and cannot be used as mounts. Both pets and friendly monsters will fight hostile monsters.