There are three drawbridges in NetHack - one in the Castle, and the other two on the Valkyrie quest. They are widely considered extremely dangerous, however this is something of a myth. Indeed, with a little caution the drawbridge can be a valuable tool.

A closed drawbridge is represented by #, and an open one is represented by ..

Opening and Closing[]

The castle drawbridge is opened by playing the passtune on a musical instrument. The passtune can be given to you by your god while praying on an altar, or deduced by playing a game of musical mastermind in front of the drawbridge (gears = right note, right position; tumblers = right note, wrong position).

Strangely, manipulating the drawbridge in this way does not advance the turn-counter.

The drawbridge can also be opened by wand or spell of opening and by the Bell of Opening.

The drawbridge can also be closed by a wand or spell of locking.


If a drawbridge (open or closed) is hit by a force bolt (from the spell or a wand of striking) then it is destroyed. Any non-phasing monster in either the "open" square or the "closed" square (the portcullis or the moat) is very likely to die. Drawbridge death is irrespective of hit points or armor class. However, those flying or levitating have a greater chance of survival.

Note that it is only those two squares that are at risk. It is a myth that you can be hit with flying metal at a greater range. (Dbridge.c#line896 and Dbridge.c#line908)


Once you have the passtune, the drawbridge can be opened and closed instantly and at will by playing the instrument again. Anything standing on the moat or portcullis squares will be killed (and you will even gain experience for the kill). If a flying monster survives, you can just try again, taking zero game time. This is a fairly safe way of clearing out the hordes of monsters in the castle courtyard. Do note however that this will destroy any possessions carried by the monsters you crush.

If you stand in a line with the drawbridge and the castle fountain, then soldiers inside may try and zap you with wands of striking, inadvertently destroying the drawbridge. For this reason, you should stand a knight's move away from the drawbridge when using it to crush the inhabitants.

Exercise caution when crossing the drawbridge. You never know when a monster with a wand of striking may be lurking. Some players prefer to destroy the bridge when they're done crushing things.

The drawbridges in the Valkyrie quest[]

The drawbridges in the Valkyrie quest cannot be opened or closed with the passtune. Other methods still work: a wand of locking or wizard lock spell will close them, while a wand of opening, knock spell, or the Bell of Opening will open them. They are subject to being destroyed by force bolt or a wand of striking, with the same risk of instadeath as the Castle drawbridge.

Fort Ludios[]

The door beyond the moat of Fort Ludios is not a drawbridge, but an ordinary door.


dbridge.c contains the source code for handling drawbridges.