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A stethoscope is a tool used to determine the status of a monster and to listen to dungeon acoustics. It mimics the real life medical instrument used by doctors to examine a patient's heartbeat, hence Healers in NetHack get a stethoscope as part of their starting inventory.
The stethoscope is used by applying it in a direction; this can be to yourself, to a square next to you, or up or down. Its use is free once per turn, meaning that it doesn't count as your action for that turn. Applying it twice in a row will cost you the turn. A cursed stethoscope has a 1/2 chance (50%) of just sounding your own heartbeat.
When applied to a monster, the stethoscope shows you the name, alignment, experience level, hitpoints, armor class, and miscellaneous attributes of the target. Such attributes are generally impairments, but can be any of: tame, peaceful, eating, cancelled, confused, blind, stunned, asleep, can't move, meditating, scared, trapped, fast, slow, concealed, invisible, held by you, swallowed you, engulfed you, holding you, or carrying you.
When applied to yourself, you are given an accurate appraisal of your alignment, your level, HP, and AC, and any of: dying from food poisoning, dying from illness, solidifying, becoming slimy, being strangled, nauseated, confused, blind, blinded by sticky goop, covered by sticky goop, stunned, injured leg(s), slippery hands, trapped, fast, very fast, concealed, invisible, holding <monster>, or held by <monster>.
When applied to walls, you listen to dungeon sounds, finding the secret doors and the hollow tunnels hidden behind them. If a secret door or passage is there, you are guaranteed to find it.
- "The <monster> interferes"
- You applied the stethoscope while engulfed by a whirly monster.
- "You barely hear faint splashing"
- You applied the stethoscope up or down while underwater.
- "You hear the crackling of hellfire"
- You applied the stethoscope to the floor of the castle, beneath which lies Gehennom.
- "The <floor> seems healthy enough"
- You applied the stethoscope down.
- "You hear your heart beat"
- The stethoscope is cursed.
- "You hear a faint typing noise"
- You applied the stethoscope to a square outside the map.
- "The invisible monster must have moved"
- You applied the stethoscope to an I which represents a monster which is no longer there.
- "You hear a hollow sound. This must be a secret door/passage!"
- You applied the stethoscope to a wall concealing a secret door/passage.
- "You hear a voice say, "It's dead, Jim."
- You applied the stethoscope down, to a corpse, while hallucinating.
- "You determine that this/that unfortunate being is dead."
- You applied the stethoscope down, to a corpse.
- "The <monster> appears to be in excellent health for a statue"
- You applied the stethoscope at a statue.
- "The <monster> appears to be in extraordinary health for a statue"
- You applied the stethoscope at a statue trap.
- "You hear nothing special."
- You applied the stethoscope at something else (e.g. a boulder).
Unlike Magicbane and the wand of probing, a stethoscope does not show items in the monster's inventory. However, unlike the wand, a stethoscope never runs out of charges and can be used for free. Its advantage over Magicbane is that its probing qualities can be used reliably and without needing to attack the monster to be probed (or throw it up and let it hit you in the head if probing yourself.) On the other hand, it only can be used on your own square and the eight squares immediately surrounding it, while both Magicbane and the wand of probing are effective at long range (though in Magicbane's case, it has to be thrown to be used as a ranged probe, which is rather risky as it leaves you without it and gives other monsters an opportunity to pick it up and wield it.)
Although a stethoscope is not essential for survival, it becomes an excellent source of tactical data when used early and often. Therefore, it is one of the most frequently used tools, and it's a good idea to #adjust the stethoscope's inventory letter to something memorable like the letter s.
An important use of the stethoscope is to keep your pet healthy. Consistently using the stethoscope allows you to gauge the experience levels your pet is gaining and determine when it has reached its maximum XL. This information becomes invaluable when attempting the protection racket, since you are completely dependent on your pet. The stethoscope also enables you to escort your pet to a safe area when its hit points are critically low, using either a whistle or a leash.
Another use is to determine hostile monsters' armor class and to infer the enchantment of the armor on their corpse.
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