How to add special attacks to monsters

Monster special attacks

Monster creatures in C:DDA not only can do simple melee attacks, they have a wide array of attack-type actions.

Depending on the intended effect, these can be valid use_actions for tools and weapons, hardcoded special attacks, any normal physical attack or even spells. Also, depending on the kind of attack, these can be cooldown-based, conditioned or occur on death.


Adding special_attacks to monsters

Monster special attacks can be defined either as old style arrays, new style objects, or a combination of both. However, it is recommended to avoid the use of the old style in favor of the new style.

Old style array

Generally hardcoded special attacks are declared this way, although it can also be used for JSON-declared attacks too. It contains 2 elements, the id of the attack and the cooldown:

"special_attacks": [ [ "ACID", 10 ] ]

New style object

It contains either:

Depending on the kind of attack, it may contain additional required members. Example:

"special_attacks": [
    { "type": "leap", "cooldown": 10, "max_range": 4 }

In the case of separately defined attacks the object has to contain at least an id member. In this case the attack will use the default attack data defined in monster_attacks.json, if a field is additionally defined it will overwrite those defaults. These attacks have the common type monster_attack. Example:

"special_attacks": [
    { "id": "impale" }


special_attacks may contain a mixture of the old and new style:

"special_attacks": [
    [ "ACID", 10 ],
    { "type": "leap", "cooldown": 8, "max_range": 4 },
    { "id": "impale", "cooldown": 5, "min_mul": 1, "max_mul": 3 }

This monster can attempt an acid attack every ten turns, a leap with a maximum range of 4 every eight and an impale attack with 1-3x damage multiplier every five turns.

Hardcoded special attacks

These special attacks are mostly hardcoded in C++ and are generally not configurable with JSON (unless otherwise documented). JSON-declared replacements are mentioned when available.

  • ABSORB_ITEMS Consumes objects it moves over to gain HP. A movement cost per ml consumed can be enforced with absorb_move_cost_per_ml (default 0.025). The movement cost can have a minimum and maximum value specified by absorb_move_cost_min (default 1) and absorb_move_cost_max (default -1 for no limit). The volume in milliliters the monster must consume to gain 1 HP can be specified with absorb_ml_per_hp (default 250 ml). A list of materials that the monster can absorb can be specified with absorb_materials (can be string or string array, not specified = absorb all materials) and forbidden with no_absorb_materials (can be string or string array, not specified = absorb all materials specified by absorb_materials).
  • ABSORB_MEAT Absorbs adjacent meat items (maximum absorbable item volume depends on the monster’s volume), regenerating health in the process.
  • ACID Spits acid.
  • ACID_ACCURATE Shoots acid that is accurate at long ranges, but less so up close.
  • ACID_BARF Barfs corroding, blinding acid.
  • BIO_OP_BIOJUTSU Attacks with any of the below martial art attacks.
  • BIO_OP_DISARM Disarming attack, does no damage.
  • BIO_OP_IMPALE Stabbing attack, deals heavy damage and has a chance to cause bleeding.
  • BIO_OP_TAKEDOWN Takedown attack, bashes either the target’s head or torso and inflicts downed.
  • BLOW_WHISTLE Blow a whistle creating a sound of volume 40 from the position of the monster.
  • BOOMER_GLOW Spits glowing bile.
  • BOOMER Spits bile.
  • BRANDISH Brandishes a knife at the player.
  • BROWSE The monster will eat harvestable foods from BROWSABLE trees and plants when they’re in season.
  • BREATHE Spawns a breather. Note: breather hub only!
  • CALLBLOBS Calls 2/3 of nearby blobs to defend this monster, and sends 1/3 of nearby blobs after the player.
  • CHICKENBOT Robot can attack with tazer, M4, or MGL depending on distance. Note: Legacy special attack.
  • COPBOT Cop-bot warns then tazes the player.
  • DANCE Monster dances.
  • DARKMAN Can cause darkness and wraiths to spawn.
  • DERMATIK Attempts to lay dermatik eggs in the player.
  • DISAPPEAR Hallucination (or other unusual monster) disappears.
  • DOGTHING The dog thing spawns into a tentacle dog.
  • EAT_CARRION The monster will nibble on organic corpses, including zombies and plants, damaging them and filling its stomach if it has the EATS flag.
  • EAT_CROP The monster eats an adjacent planted crop or CATTLE flagged comestible.
  • EAT_FOOD The monster eats an adjacent non-seed food item (apart from their own eggs and food with fun < -20). If paired with the EATS flag, this will fill its stomach.
  • EVOLVE_KILL_STRIKE Damages the target’s torso (damage scales with monster’s melee dice), if it succeeds in killing a fleshy target the monster will upgrade to its next evolution.
  • FEAR_PARALYZE Paralyzes the player with fear.
  • FLAMETHROWER Shoots a stream of fire.
  • FLESH_GOLEM Attacks the player with 5-10 bash, has a chance to inflict downed if the attack connects. Also roars menacingly for some reason.
  • FLESH_TENDRIL Spawns gangrenous impalers or crawlers, pulls targets close when 4 > range > 1, either flings or grabs them when adjacent.
  • FORMBLOB Attacks a neighboring tile, effect depends on the tile’s inhabitant: spawns small slimes depending on its speed if empty, slimes players/NPCs, speeds up friendly slimes, heals brain slimes, converts nonfriendly flesh/veggy non-huge monsters to slimes of appropriate size. Decreases in size if it did any of those and its current speed is below a threshold.
  • FUNGUS Releases fungal spores and attempts to infect the player.
  • FUNGUS_BIG_BLOSSOM Spreads fire suppressing fungal haze.
  • FUNGUS_BRISTLE Performs a barbed tendril attack that can cause fungal infections.
  • FUNGUS_CORPORATE Used solely by Crazy Cataclysm. This will cause runtime errors if used without, and spawns SpOreos on top of the creature.
  • FUNGUS_FORTIFY Grows fungal hedgerows, and advances player on the Mycus threshold path.
  • FUNGUS_GROWTH Grows a young fungaloid into an adult.
  • FUNGUS_HAZE Spawns fungal fields.
  • FUNGUS_INJECT Performs a needle attack that can cause fungal infections.
  • FUNGUS_SPROUT Grows a fungal wall.
  • FUNGAL_TRAIL Spreads fungal terrain.
  • GRAZE The monster eats grass, shrubs and flowers.
  • GENE_STING Shoots a dart at the player that causes a mutation if it connects.
  • GENERATOR Regenerates health, hums.
  • GRENADIER Deploys tear gas/pacification/flashbang/c4 hacks from its ammo.
  • GRENADIER_ELITE Deploys grenade/flashbang/c4/mininuke hacks from its ammo.
  • GROWPLANTS Spawns underbrush, or promotes it to > young tree > tree. Can destroy bashable terrain or do damage if it hits something.
  • GROW_VINE Grows creeper vines.
  • HOWL “an ear-piercing howl!”.
  • JACKSON Converts zombies into zombie dancers (until its death).
  • KAMIKAZE Detonates its defined ammo after a countdown (calculated automatically to hopefully almost catch up to a running player).
  • LEECH_SPAWNER Spawns root runners or root drones, low chance of upgrading itself into a leech stalk.
  • LUNGE Performs a jumping attack from some distance away, which can inflict downed to the target.
  • MON_LEECH_EVOLUTION Evolves a leech plant into a leech blossom if no other blossoms are in sight.
  • MULTI_ROBOT Robot can attack with tazer, flamethrower, M4, MGL, or 120mm cannon depending on distance.
  • NONE No special attack.
  • PAID_BOT For creature with the PAY_BOT flag, removes the ally status when the pet effect runs out.
  • PARA_STING Shoots a paralyzing dart at the player.
  • PARROT Parrots the speech defined in speech.json, picks one of the lines randomly. speaker points to a monster id.
  • PARROT_AT_DANGER Performs the same function as PARROT, but only if the creature sees an angry monster from a hostile faction.
  • PHOTOGRAPH Photographs the player. Causes a robot attack?
  • PLANT Fungal spores take seed and grow into a fungaloid.
  • PULL_METAL_WEAPON Pulls any weapon that’s made of iron or steel from the player’s hand.
  • RATKING Inflicts disease rat.
  • RATTLE “a sibilant rattling sound!”.
  • RESURRECT Revives the dead (again).
  • RIOTBOT Sprays teargas or relaxation gas, can handcuff players, and can use a blinding flash.
  • SCIENCE Various science/technology related attacks (e.g. manhacks, radioactive beams, etc.).
  • SEARCHLIGHT Tracks targets with a searchlight.
  • SHOCKING_REVEAL Shoots bolts of lightning, and reveals a SHOCKING FACT! Very fourth-wall breaking. Used solely by Crazy Cataclysm.
  • SHOCKSTORM Shoots bolts of lightning.
  • SHRIEK “a terrible shriek!”.
  • SHRIEK_ALERT “a very terrible shriek!”, louder than SHRIEK.
  • SHRIEK_STUN “a stunning shriek!”, causes a small bash, can cause a stun.
  • SLIMESPRING Can provide a morale boost to the player, and cure bite and bleed effects.
  • SMASH Smashes the target, sending it flying for a number of tiles equal to (melee_dice * melee_dice_sides * 3) / 10. JSON equivalent is "smash".
  • SPIT_SAP Spits sap (acid damage, 12 range).
  • SPLIT Creates a copy of itself if it has twice the maximum HP that it should normally have. This can be achieved by combining this with ABSORB_ITEMS.
  • STARE Stares at the player and inflicts ramping debuffs (taint>tindrift).
  • STRETCH_ATTACK Ranged (3 tiles) piercing attack, dealing 5-10 damage. JSON equivalent is "stretch_attack"
  • SUICIDE Dies after attacking.
  • TAZER Shocks the player.
  • TINDALOS_TELEPORT Spawns afterimages, teleports to corners nearer to its target.
  • TRIFFID_GROWTH Young triffid grows into an adult.
  • TRIFFID_HEARTBEAT Grows and crumbles root walls around the player, and spawns more monsters.
  • UPGRADE Upgrades one of the non-hostile surrounding monsters, gets angry if it finds no targets to upgrade.
  • VINE Attacks with vine.
  • ZOMBIE_FUSE Absorbs an adjacent creature, healing and becoming less likely to fuse for 10 days.

JSON special attacks

These special attacks are defined in JSON, and belong to the monster_attack type, melee attack_type. These don’t have to be declared in the monster’s attack data, the id of the desired attack can be used instead. All fields beyond id are optional.

field description
cooldown Integer or Variable Object, see the doc for more info, amount of turns between uses.
damage_max_instance Array of objects. See also
min_mul, max_mul Sets the bounds on the range of damage done. For each attack, the above defined amount of damage will be multiplied by a
  randomly rolled multiplier between the values min_mul and max_mul. Default 0.5 and 1.0, meaning each attack will do at least half of the defined damage.
move_cost Integer, moves needed to complete special attack. Default 100.
accuracy Integer, if defined the attack will use a different accuracy from monster’s regular melee attack.
body_parts List, If empty the regular melee roll body part selection is used. If non-empty, a body part is selected from the map to be targeted using the provided weights.
  targeted with a chance proportional to the value.
condition Object, dialog conditions enabling the attack - see for the potential conditions - note that u refers to the monster, npc to the attack target, and for x_has_flag conditions targeting monsters only take effect flags into consideration, not monster flags.
attack_upper Boolean, default true. If false the attack can’t target any bodyparts with the UPPER_LIMB flag with the regular attack rolls (provided the bodypart is not explicitly targeted).
range Integer, range of the attack in tiles (Default 1, this equals melee range). Melee attacks require unobstructed straight paths.
grab Boolean, default false. Denotes this attack as a grabbing one. See grabs for further information
grab_data Array, grab data of the attack. Read only if grab: true, see grabs for the possible variables.
hitsize_min Integer, lower bound of limb size this attack can target (if no bodypart targets are explicitly defined)
hitsize_max Integer, upper bound of limb size this attack can target.
no_adjacent Boolean, default false. The attack can’t target adjacent creatures.
dodgeable Boolean, default true. The attack can be dodged normally.
uncanny_dodgeable Boolean, defaults to the value of dodgeable. The attack can be dodged by the Uncanny Dodge bionic or by characters having the UNCANNY_DODGE character flag. Uncanny dodging takes precedence over normal dodging.
blockable Boolean, default true. The attack can be blocked (after the dodge checks).
effects_require_dmg Boolean, default true. Effects will only be applied if the attack successfully damaged the target.
effects Array, defines additional effects for the attack to add. See for the exact syntax. Duration is in turns, not in movement points
self_effects_always Array of effects the monster applies to itself when doing this attack.
self_effects_onhit Array of effects the monster applies to itself when successfully hitting with the attack.
self_effects_ondmg Array of effects the monster applies to itself when damaging its target.
throw_strength Integer, if larger than 0 the attack will attempt to throw the target, every 10 strength equals one tile of distance thrown.
miss_msg_u String, message for missed attack against the player.
miss_msg_npc String, message for missed attack against an NPC.
hit_dmg_u String, message for successful attack against the player.
hit_dmg_npc String, message for successful attack against an NPC.
no_dmg_msg_u String, message for a 0-damage attack against the player.
no_dmg_msg_npc String, message for a 0-damage attack against an NPC.
throw_msg_u String, message for a flinging attack against the player.
throw_msg_npc String, message for a flinging attack against an NPC.


Under the hood an attack with monster_attack type, bite attack_type - if you want to define multiple separate bites for a monster you’ll need to do a proper definition using an id as well. Makes monster use teeth to bite opponent, uses the same fields as “monster_attack” attacks. Monster bites can give infections, and for humanoid enemies (human bodytype) require the target being grabbed. If hitsize_min is undefined it will default to 1 (disqualifying bites on the eyes and mouth).

Field Description
infection_chance Chance to give infection in a percentage. Exact chance is infection_chance / 100.

Grab attacks

Any melee/bite-type JSON attack can function as a grab, which leads to special behavior in addition to the base attack functions: Grabs are not allowed to hit an already-grabbed bodypart, filtered by any effect on the BP having the GRAB flag, instead they will attempt to retarget to another limb. A successful (not-dodged) grab will apply an instance of its grab_effect (which should have the GRAB effect flag) with the intensity defined by grab_strength and will gain the target bodypart’s grabbing_effect to facilitate targeted grab removal (see later). The attack’s behavior is determined by the grab_data array, using the below variables:

field description
grab_strength Optional integer. The strength of the grab effect applied on a successful grab, defaults to the monster’s own grab_strength.
grab_effect Optional string. ID of the effect to apply on a successful grab (defaults to grabbed). The effect id null will apply a null effect without a bug message, allowing for e.g. pull attacks without grab effects and is exempt from the usual retargeting/grab_filter application rules.
exclusive_grab Optional bool, default false. If true the attack will attempt to break all GRAB-flagged effect one by one ( on a puller grab_strength / 2 in effect intensity roll), and fail if it can’t remove all - used for ranged pulls and grabbing.
drag_distance optional int, default 0. If higher the monster will attempt to drag on a successful attack - moving away and moving their target to its previous position as many times as the defined distance with it. This will be disabled by seatbelts unless respect_seatbelts is false. Drag movement costs the same amount of move points as it would as normal movement, but happens in the same turn as part of the attack.
drag_deviation optional int, default 0. Deviation of the monster’s pathing from their target’s opposite tile - 0 always drags directly opposite, 1 chooses randomly from the monster’s and opposite tile’s common neighbors, 2 lets the monster drag towards any of its neighboring tiles not occupied by itself or its target. Dragging direction is randomized every drag step.
drag_grab_break_distance optional int, default 0. Drag steps after which the dragged character gets a chance to break the grab using the normal grab break calculations.
drag_movecost_mod optional float, default 1.0. Move cost modifier for every step of dragging - per default the monster spends moves for each drag step, but will still complete the drag, leading to them “catching up” on their move debt afterwards. Internally a move cost of 0.0 will prevent movement, so use a slightly larger value.
respect_seatbelts Optional bool, default true. When false drags/pulls can tear you out of your seatbelt, damaging the part in question.
pull_chance Optional integer. Percent chance for a connecting attack to initiate a pull, moving the target adjacent. Pulls are prevented by seatbelts.
pull_weight_ratio Optional float. Ratio of weight the monster can successfully pull when succeeding the pull_chance roll or when dragging (requires a non-zero drag_distance ). Default 0.75.
pull_msg_u/npc Optional strings. Message to print on a successful pull.
pull_fail_msg_u/npc Optional strings. Message to print on a failed pull attempt - either because of too high target weight or because of other grabs holding them back.

GRAB-flagged effects prevent movement for monsters and characters as well, and might have additional debuffs like every effect. Grab break attempts happen effect by effect on non-attack movement or waiting in place, with the chance affected by limb scores, stats, and the existence of grab break MA techniques. A successful grab removal removes the effect in question from the limb, as well as the bodypart’s grabbing_effect from whichever monster has the latter. If all grabs are broken movement is allowed on the same turn.


The monster fires a gun at a target. If the monster is friendly, it will avoid harming the player.

Field Description
gun_type (Required) Valid item id of a gun that will be used to perform the attack.
ammo_type (Required) Valid item id (not ammo_type) of the ammo the gun will be loaded with. Note: the monster itself should also have a starting_ammo field with this ammo. For example: the monster is defined with "starting_ammo": {"50bmg": 100} so it can shoot "ammo_type": "50bmg" when using the gun attack.
max_ammo Cap on ammo. If ammo goes above this value for any reason, a debug message will be printed.
fake_str Strength stat of the fake NPC that will execute the attack. 8 if not specified.
fake_dex Dexterity stat of the fake NPC that will execute the attack. 8 if not specified.
fake_int Intelligence stat of the fake NPC that will execute the attack. 8 if not specified.
fake_per Perception stat of the fake NPC that will execute the attack. 8 if not specified.
fake_skills Array of 2 element arrays of skill id and skill level pairs.
move_cost Move cost of executing the attack.
condition Object, dialogue conditions enabling the attack. See for the possible conditions, u refers to the monster.
require_targeting_player If true, the monster will need to “target” the player, wasting targeting_cost moves, putting the attack on cooldown and making warning sounds, unless it attacked something that needs to be targeted recently. Gives “grace period” to player.
require_targeting_npc As above, but with NPCs.
require_targeting_monster As above, but with monsters.
target_moving_vehicles If true, the monster will “target” moving vehicles even if it cannot see the player.
targeting_timeout Targeting status will be applied for this many turns. Note that targeting applies to turret, not targets.
targeting_timeout_extend Successfully attacking will extend the targeting for this many turns. Can be negative.
targeting_cost Move cost of targeting the player. Only applied if attacking the player and didn’t target player within last 5 turns.
laser_lock If true and attacking a creature that isn’t laser-locked but needs to be targeted, the monster will act as if it had no targeting status (and waste time targeting), the target will become laser-locked, and if the target is the player, it will cause a warning. Laser-locking affects the target, but isn’t tied to specific attacker.
range Maximum range at which targets will be acquired.
range_no_burst Maximum range at which targets will be attacked with a burst (if applicable).
description Description of the attack being executed if seen by the player.
targeting_sound Description of the sound made when targeting.
targeting_volume Volume of the sound made when targeting.
no_ammo_sound Description of the sound made when out of ammo.

“spell” Monster Spells

Casts a separately-defined spell at the monster’s target. Spells with target_self: true will only target the casting monster, and will still be casted only if the monster has a hostile target.

Identifier Description
spell_data List of spell properties for the attack.
min_level The level at which the spell is cast. Spells cast by monsters do not gain levels like player spells.
cooldown Integer or a Variable Object, see the doc for more info. How often the monster can cast this spell.
monster_message Message to print when the spell is cast, replacing the message in the spell definition. Dynamic fields correspond to <Monster Display Name> / <Spell Name> / <Target name>.
condition Object, dialogue conditions enabling the attack. See for the possible conditions, u refers to the casting monster and npc to the target unless the spell allows no target (in which case only self-conditions can be defined).
allow_no_target Bool, default false. If true the monster will cast it even without a hostile target.


Makes the monster leap a few tiles over passable terrain as long as it can see its destination. It supports the following additional properties:

Field Description
max_range (Required) Float, maximal range of the jump. Respects circular distance setting!
min_range (Required) Float, minimal range of the jump. Respects circular distance setting!
prefer_leap Leap even when adjacent to target, will still choose the closest acceptable destination.
random_leap Disregard target location entirely when leaping, leading to completely random jumps.
ignore_dest_terrain Leap even if the destination is terrain that it doesn’t usually move on.
ignore_dest_danger Leap even if the destination is tiles that it would usually avoid, such as fire or traps.
allow_no_target Default false. Prevents the monster from using the ability without a hostile target at its destination.
move_cost Moves needed to complete special attack. 100 move_cost with 100 speed is equal to 1 second/turn.
min_consider_range Minimal distance to target to consider for using specific attack.
max_consider_range Maximal distance to target to consider for using specific attack.
condition Object, dialogue conditions enabling the attack. See for the possible conditions, u refers to the monster.
self_effects Array of effects to apply after a successful leap.
message String, message to print when the player sees the monster jump (or land).

Monster defensive attacks

A special defense attack, triggered when the monster is attacked. It should contain an array with the id of the defense (see a full list below) and the chance for that defense to be actually triggered. Example:

"special_when_hit": [ "ZAPBACK", 100 ]
  • ACIDSPLASH Splashes acid on the attacker.
  • NONE No special attack to the attacker.
  • ZAPBACK Shocks attacker on hit.