I was recently playing a game of nethack and I was doing really good, and decided to go up to sokoban. I was walking around when suddenly some Hill Orcs spawned and I was able to take them out, and they didn't seem to spawn that close, but soon afterwards, an ant that seemingly came out of nowhere killed me in one hit with a poisoned bite. The ant seemed to just appear right next to me, but it probably just moved diagonally from behind a boulder that was next to me. Even if that's the case, it still spawned pretty close to me. I've also had other instances where somewhat strong/exotic monsters spawned on sokoban. So i was wondering two things:

1) Why do the enemies spawn so close in sokoban?

2) Why do different/stronger enemies spawn on sokoban? Since I'm going upwards and the Dungeon Level is decreasing, shouldn't the monsters spawning be weaker?

  • 2
    In NetHack 3.6, the actual DL isn't used anymore; going further into Sokoban increases the effective DL instead of decreasing it, even though the "actual" DL is lower.
    – Wooble
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 15:01
  • 1
    I think enemies can spawn anywhere you can't see. Sokoban allows them to spawn closer than normal because of the number of boulders blocking vision.
    – Sconibulus
    Commented Sep 23, 2016 at 18:12

2 Answers 2


This problem is a combination of 2 things - that Sokoban is quite a small, closed in level (hence your surprise Ant problem) and that Hill Orcs always spawn in a big group. Beyond this, Sokoban itself isn't notable.

  • Then why do I see enemies here that don't normally spawn in other places? (example: Yeti's, solder ants (I've seen ants in other places but not soldier ants), etc.)
    – mdlp0716
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 16:23
  • See @geoffspear's reply to your original post - the effective DL is higher even if the displayed DL is lower.
    – mfcrocker
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 8:08

Much like Ft Ludios, Mime's End, the Big Room, etc., Sokoban is a "bonus" challenge level that is not meant to be easy due to the density of guaranteed items (not to mention all the random items that accompany the monsters) in such a small area. You have to earn those items.

Also, each level of Sokoban has at least one threshold that triggers monster generation (if you have ESP and a means of blinding yourself, you'll see that the rooms you are trying to get to start out almost empty and fill as you near your goal). It's usually about the third-to-last hole.

And, if you are like me, sometimes I get a bit tired of the repetition and go on autopilot (forgetting how many moves I'm actually making). Time is a factor in when monsters get generated on any level. Perhaps the surprise comes from that. This game is notorious for killing the inattentive.

  • Do you have a source for this? I'm not seeing anything in special-casing monster generation in src/makemon.c, and the only Sokoban-related special case in src/trap.c is to stop applying the Sokoban special rules once the last pit has been filled.
    – Mark
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 1:44
  • Not from coding, just experience with hundreds of games, so it might not be a real "thing." . I'm not trying to tell you why the sky is blue, just that it appears that way. And, . What good would knowing why help in this case? Unless you're looking for a way to cheat, probably better just to expect those kind of things to happen and prepare accordingly.
    – slowball16
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 20:28
  • Also, yetis and soldier ants aren't that high a level considering that Sokoban is comparable to DL7-14. No more surprising than an owlbear centaur, or elven monsters would be at that level. Be glad its not mind-flayers.
    – slowball16
    Commented Oct 1, 2016 at 21:09

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