Dragon scale mail

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[[[[[[[[[Black dragon scale mail.pngBlue dragon scale mail.pngGray dragon scale mail.pngGreen dragon scale mail.pngOrange dragon scale mail.pngRed dragon scale mail.pngSilver dragon scale mail.pngWhite dragon scale mail.pngYellow dragon scale mail.png
<color> dragon scale mail
Appearance <color> dragon scale mail
Slot body armor
AC 9
Special <Varies by color>
Base price (red, blue, white, orange, yellow, green) 900 zm
(black, gray, silver) 1200 zm
Weight 40
Material dragon hide

Dragon scale mail, also known as dragon mail and commonly abbreviated as DSM, is a type of magical body armor that appears in NetHack. It is made of dragon hide.


Dragon scale mail is not randomly generated, though they can be wished for or found in bones.

Dragon scale mail can be created by reading a non-cursed scroll of enchant armor while wearing a set of dragon scales: the scales will transform into dragon scale mail if the scroll enchants them, and a blessed scroll will add one point of enchantment.

Player monsters that are not monks generated on the Astral Plane have a 19 chance of generating with dragon scale mail as their initial body armor before role-specific replacements.[1]


While worn, all forms of dragon scale mail confer 9 base AC, the most of any single piece of body armor. Dragon scale mail also confers an extrinsic property while worn, based on the color of the armor:

Color Extrinsic
Blue shock resistance
Black disintegration resistance
Gray magic resistance
Green poison resistance
Orange sleep resistance
Red fire resistance
Silver reflection
White cold resistance
Yellow acid resistance

Uncontrolled polymorphing while wearing dragon scale mail will turn the wearer into that color of dragon and revert the mail back to scales.[2][3] Black, gray, and silver dragon scale mail have a base price of 1200zm, and all other types of dragon scale mail have a base cost of 900 zm.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Gold dragon scale mail is added per commit 5a09a01a along with the corresponding dragons, and acts as a light source while worn. Per commit ef1eeed7, they and other dragon scale mail types that are not gray or silver grant additional extrinsics while worn - the dragon scale mail extrinsics for 3.7 as of this commit are listed below:
Color Extrinsics (NetHack 3.7.0)
Blue shock resistance, very fast speed
Black disintegration resistance, drain resistance
Gray magic resistance
Green poison resistance, sickness resistance
Gold light source, hallucination resistance
Orange sleep resistance, free action
Red fire resistance, infravision
Silver reflection
White cold resistance, slow digestion
Yellow acid resistance, stoning resistance


Dragon scale mail is the strongest and most sought-after type of armor in NetHack: it provides a stellar amount of AC for only 40 units of weight, is made of an intrinsically erosion-proof material, and does not block spellcasting - even the least useful dragon scale mail is likely to do much more for a character than most other body armor. One of the few things it does not provide is magic cancellation, which can be remedied with other armor or items such as a high-MC cloak.

The most common methods of obtaining dragon scale mail are:

  1. Wishing for it directly - dragon scale mail is a common early game wish, especially when a character find a random wand of wishing.
  2. Acquiring dragon scales in some manner and making them into mail using a scroll of enchant armor.
  3. A lucky player may happen across the bones of a former character with dragon scale mail in them, though whatever killed that character will likely be trouble for them as well.

When wishing for your preferred dragon scale mail, make sure to spell out and phrase the wish properly, or you may end up with a scroll of mail. Take care to avoid polymorph traps and other sources of polymorph while wearing dragon scale mail, especially if you lack a source of magic resistance: while dragons are decent polymorph forms, the loss of body armor and AC is quite annoying even at best - re-crafting the dragon scale mail will also take another scroll, and scales with an enchantment of +4 or above risk being evaporated entirely.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Overhaul the sections below to reflect DSM changes and extrinsic resistance buffs.

Gray versus silver

Main article: GDSM versus SDSM

The most coveted varieties of dragon scale mail are silver (for reflection) and gray (for magic resistance), though players disagree as to which of the two is more useful in particular circumstances. The article linked at the top of this section goes in-depth with regards to which choice may be most appropriate for a given character and/or scenario, particularly in regards to early game wishes and availability of other sources for either property.

Other colors

Even with the popularity of characters using gray or silver dragon scale mail, there are certain builds and strategies where another color is preferred. Some examples of these use cases are listed below:

  • For wishless ascensions, while it is possible to obtain obtain DSM without a wish via reverse genocide, some unfortunate characters may not find the scrolls or a means to write one in a timely manner - in such cases, it is worth enchanting the first set of dragon scales found, even if only for the AC benefit and weight reduction. This may also be an option for players whose characters lack a bag of holding and want to manage their inventory weight without resorting to constant stash trips.
  • Players attempting foodless or even vegetarian conducts can get most resistances through crowning, though this may be undesirable in some circumstances e.g. foodless atheist play (which makes crowning impossible). Such characters that have magic resistance and reflection from other sources may consider the following colors of dragon scale mail:
    • Red dragon scale mail protects against the fire traps in Gehennom - while it can be superseded by the ring of fire resistance, the ring must generally be identified in some way first.
    • Green dragon scale mail protects against instadeaths and extra damage from spiked pits, poisoned missiles and poisonous melee attacks. The ring of poison resistance and amulet versus poison similarly warrant identification of some form as with red dragon scales: green dragon scale mail can also be superseded by reaching a given experience level for certain characters or roles, or else finding an alchemy smock. It may be a likely candidate for a foodless atheist that obtains an early wish, especially if using a role/race combo that does not gain eventual access to the property.
    • Orange dragon scale mail protects from sleeping gas traps, sleep rays, and thrown or boiled potions of sleeping. Elven characters can obtain sleep resistance at experience level 4, but the property lacks other sources and can only be partially covered by a ring of free action.
  • Yellow dragon scale mail is a very rare consideration: though acid resistance is difficult to obtain short of polymorph or else an alchemy smock, acid attacks are themselves rare and not often a threat, and acidic passives can be avoided with most forms of ranged attack.
  • Black dragon scale mail is similarly rare: the only sources of disintegration resistance are the black dragon itself, but a character with reflection can trivialize the threat of their breath attack, then consume their corpse or tin for insurance should they lose their reflection somehow.
  • Reflection-less play changes considerations significantly, and may open up the possibility of using different colors for harder-to-obtain properties: characters that already have magic resistance covered may consider black dragon scale mail in particular to avoid being surprised by an offscreen disintegration blast - the property is still supersedable afterward by eating a black dragon corpse or tin (with the exception of foodless or vegetarian conducts), and some players may opt to genocide black dragons instead.

Pets and DSM

Humanoid pets, on the other hand, will appreciate certain "off-meta" colors of dragon scale mail more, depending on their own intrinsic resistances:

  • Mind flayer pets are especially vulnerable to passive attacks due to their multiple hit dice, and yellow dragon scale mail in particular may be worth considering for them.
  • If you lack a spare reflection source, black dragon scale mail can protect a humanoid pet against a black dragon's breath weapon.


Dragon scale mail first appears in NetHack 3.0.0. From this versions to NetHack 3.0.10, including variants based on those versions, there is only one type of dragon scale mail: it provides fire resistance while worn, and is created by polymorphing the corpse of any dragon.

NetHack 3.1.0 introduces the different colors of dragon scales and dragon scale mail except for silver, and establishes the current methods of creating dragon scale mail. Silver dragons, silver dragon scales and silver dragon scale mail are introduced in NetHack 3.3.0.


Main article: Dragon-scaled armor

In some variants, dragon scale mail is phased out in favor of dragon-scaled armor, whose implementation is based on a proposal by dtsund. Instead of being made into mail of its own, the dragon scales are treated as a cloak, and reading a scroll of enchant armor melds them onto a worn set of body armor, generally augmenting that armor by adding its AC and conferred extrinsic properties to it.

Scrolls of enchant armor will always target worn dragon scales instead of other worn items: a blessed scroll will bless the body armor that the scales are melded to and repair any erosion (but will not erodeproof it), while a cursed scroll will cursed the body armor and lower its enchantment by 1 point. If the armor is already dragon-scaled, fusing another set of scales replaces the previous color. If reading a scroll of enchant armor while wearing scales without body armor, your character will polymorph into the matching type of dragon, with polymorph control allowing you to choose whether to transfor - if read while confused and wearing both scales and body armor, the scales fuse into the armor before your character polymorphs into a dragon.

Dragon-scaled armor is implemented in NetHack Fourk, xNetHack, EvilHack, and Hack'EM - these implementations differ from the proposal and from each other, and are covered in detail by the article linked above.

Several variants also give dragon scale mail additional properties while worn, and may even introduce other forms of dragon scale armor. Variants with object properties and/or partial intrinsics can also shift the use of other colors of dragon scale mail as well, generally creating more useful options.


SLASH'EM introduces two new types of dragons, and thus two types of dragon scales and dragon scale mail:

Color Extrinsic
Shimmering displacement
Deep drain resistance

SLASH'EM also makes several changes with regards to how dragon scale mail can be made or obtained:

  • Baby dragons are more common to encounter in the dungeon, but take much longer to grow up into adult form, and polymorphing for monsters works as it does for the player character, meaning that pets cannot be polymorphed for their death drops.
  • The Wyrm Caves guarantees the appearance of several dragons within the level, providing a plentiful source of various scales.
  • Shopkeeper services from used armor dealerships may include the ability to enchant armor - this allows another method besides wishing for illiterate characters to obtain dragon scale mail, though only 14 of such shopkeepers offer it.
  • There are sources of guaranteed gray dragon scales/dragon scale mail in the Lawful Quest and the black market, respectively, though both are quite difficult to liberate from their owners.
  • Some gnolls can be generated with dragon scale mail:
    • Gnoll warriors have a 120 chance of receiving orange dragon scale mail.[4]
    • Gnoll chieftains have a 110 chance of blue dragon scale mail.[5]
    • Gnoll shamans have a 110 chance of silver dragon scale mail, and otherwise have a 15 chance of generating with red dragon scale mail.[6]

Though gray and silver are still popular colors of dragon scale mail, strategic uses of other colors are more common as well, especially for characters that seek to obtain magic resistance and reflection by other means: SLASH'EM features several more level-draining threats, such as the wand of draining and the breath weapon of deep dragons; shimmering dragons are tougher to hit than other monsters, while making displacement obtainable without sacrificing the cloak slot typically used for MC3; and stronger acidic threats such as the shoggoth and giant shoggoth make yellow dragon scale mail's acid resistance much more viable.


GruntHack's implementation of object properties makes it possible for dragon scale mail and other magical items to have an additional property, unlike implementations of object properties in later variants. Since it is possible and commonplace to wish for an item that provides both magic resistance and reflection (e.g. usually "blessed greased +3 dragonhide cloak of magic resistance and reflection"), the remaining properties are usually covered via other wishes.

The result is that the choice between gray and silver dragon mail (or most other colors) for wishes is rendered moot: assuming a first wish to cover both magic resistance and reflection such as the example provided, yellow dragon scale mail of decay (which adds drain resistance) is the most common secondary wish for most characters, as it blocks two of the most pressing remaining threats: drain life and acid blast, which hostile spellcasters of certain levels can have access to. Most characters that obtain wishes can also tailor their dragon mail choices to fit other desired builds - characters playing races that cannot wear body armor, such as giants, will have to consider a different series of wishes altogether for their property coverage.


SporkHack adds gold dragon scale mail, which act as a permanent light source while worn. Most sets of dragon scales and dragon scale mail are also given a secondary extrinsic:

Color Extrinsic Secondary extrinsic
Blue shock resistance speed
Black disintegration resistance passive blinding attack
Gold light source none
Gray magic resistance none
Green poison resistance passive poison attack
Orange sleep resistance passive slow attack
Red fire resistance +1d6 to all melee damage
Silver reflection none
White cold resistance freezes water and lava under foot
Yellow acid resistance stun and confusion resistance


In dNetHack and notdNetHack, dragon scales can made into dragon scale shields as well as dragon scale mail - reading a scroll of enchant armor while confused will harden worn dragon scales into a shield. All dragon armor and corresponding scales are given one or more secondary properties similar to SporkHack and other variants, with some being exclusive to particular types of scales or armor. Dragon scales and dragon scale mail also weigh 150 aum. Deep dragons and shimmering dragons are added along with their scales and armor.


In UnNetHack, dragon scale mail confers only 5 base AC. The powers of dragons and their scales (and thus scale mails) are also randomized in each game:

Appearances Powers (randomized each game)
tatzelworm "magic"
amphitere "reflecting"
draken "fire"
lindworm "ice"
sarkany "sleep"
sirrush "disintegration"
leviathan "electric"
wyvern "poison"
glowing* "stone"**
guivre "acid"
chromatic all

A glowing dragon will always emit light within a 2-square radius of itself - glowing dragon scales (and glowing dragon scale mail) do the same while worn. The dragon that produces stone dragon scales will always have a breath weapon that creates lava.

UnNetHack also makes significant changes to wishing rules: In particular, wands of wishing only have 0-2 charges (plus 1 wrest), and only wishes from wands can be used for magical items such as dragon scale mail, magic markers, scrolls of genocide, and scrolls of enchant armor.

Dragon scales are still non-magical items as in NetHack, and can be obtained from any wish source in UnNetHack - any set of dragon scales can be wished for by appearance (e.g. wishing for "guivre scales", or "guivre scale mail" from a wand of wishing, will always work). To wish for dragon armor by its corresponding power, the armor must be formally identified first, e.g. by using a scroll of identify on dropped dragon scales (which identifies the matching scale mail along with it) or by witnessing the dragon use its breath weapon. The name of the power can then be used in the wish, e.g. "reflecting dragon scale mail".


FIQHack implements the shimmering dragon and its scales (and scale mail). Dragon scale mail now weighs 300 aum, and the weight of all worn armor is halved.

Dragon scale mail (and corresponding scales) confers additional benefits while worn:

Color Extrinsic Secondary extrinsic
Blue shock resistance speed, slowing resistance
Black disintegration resistance drain resistance
Gray magic resistance none
Green poison resistance sickness resistance
Orange sleep resistance free action
Red fire resistance infravision, warning, see invisible
Shimmering Displacement stun resistance
Silver reflection behaves like vanilla reflection (reflects dragonbreath and rays from wands used at Skilled or higher)
White cold resistance automatic searching, swimming, magical breathing, wetproof inventory
Yellow acid resistance stoning resistance

Encyclopedia entry

Stephen had argued, and the expert armorer had grudgingly
admitted, that dragonscale shield or armor, provided it proved
feasible to make at all, ought to offer some real, practical
advantages over any metal breastplate or shield -- gram for
gram of weight, such a defense would probably be a lot
tougher and more protective than any human smiths could
make of steel.
[ The Last Book of Swords: Shieldbreaker's Story,
by Fred Saberhagen ]