Gnomish Mines

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The Gnomish Mines is a branch of the main dungeon, usually used by adventurers to gain experience and useful tools. The Mines consist of eight or nine levels in total, including the special levels of Minetown and Mines' End.


The entrance to the Gnomish Mines will always generate somewhere on dungeon levels 2-4. All levels in the branch are eligible to load bones, and all levels can leave bones with the exception of Mines' End, as well as the top level if it generates on DL 3 (which is too shallow to qualify).

With the exception of Minetown and Mines' End, all the levels are simple caverns containing 7 G gnomes, 2 h dwarves, a G gnome lord, 2 random gnomes and one random humanoid. This random humanoid can occasionally be a mind flayer or even a master mind flayer, even if it would otherwise out-of-depth: class-based monster selection, which determines which humanoid monster should be generated, can sometimes completely ignore the difficulty of a monster that it produces. Mind flayers generated this way are referred to as "minesflayers".

Gnomish Mines levels will have 6 random traps, one tool, 3 random gems or piles of gems, and 3 random objects. Typically, any random h will be lawful and any random G will be neutral. These filler levels have a 50% chance each of being dark.


Player gnomes and dwarves entering the Mines will usually be left alone by the native gnomes and dwarves. Likewise, lawful humans will often be ignored by the dwarves, although the gnomes will still be hostile to neutral humans.

The Mines are rich in tools, loot, and other resources, but also very dangerous to the unprepared. It is easy to get in over your head in this environment of traps and large open spaces. (Try hitting a trap door, another trap door, and then a polymorph trap in quick succession. Now you're a newt surrounded by an angry mob, unable to move and armor on the floor). The mines can set you well on the way to success, but you have to learn how to move cautiously, and be willing to back off and try again later rather than press on to a glorious death.

As you explore the Mines, remember that a mines level is often substantially harder than a level of the main dungeon. A typical gambit is to go to the first level of the mines and grab a dwarvish mithril-coat from somebody there, then go down to the Oracle levle and gain experience along the way, then go back to the Mines and continue to the end. Weak characters might prefer to do Sokoban before going deeper in the mines. Because many mines levels are dark, having a light source on hand can make exploration a much safer and faster endeavor.

The following tips are geared towards the newer player, who is apt to have the most trouble in the mines, and will apply more to human, orcish, and elven characters than to dwarves and gnomes.

General tips

Some general pointers will help make your biggest problem in Minetown where to put all your loot.


Make judicious use of Elbereth. New players are most likely to run into trouble in the mines, and new players often haven't really absorbed the power of the E-Word. Mine denizens will generally respect Elbereth and avoid attacking you hand-to-hand. You still have to worry about missiles and spells, but Elbereth can be a lifesaver none the less. Read the article on this carefully--engraving with fingers is fast but not durable, engraving with blades, when done correctly, is semi-permanent but slow. Use the ":" command to inspect your handiwork without eroding the letters.


Use stairs to control the crowds. You will tend to get swarmed as you enter each new level. Stay close to the upstairs--stay on the upstairs if you can--and run upstairs to heal if you are in trouble. And of course you can engrave Elbereth on the stairs.


Keep your pet nearby. Your pet is a tremendous resource in the early game in general, and in the mines, even more so. Your pet is very possibly stronger in a fight than you are right now, is willing to attack peaceful monsters (which means you get their stuff), and is absolutely invaluable for curse-testing the weapons and armor you pick up. If you are separated from your pet, for example by a trap door, make getting back to it a priority. You may very well find a leash in the mines--use it.


Avoid traps. The mines are loaded with them, and they can just ruin your game. Watch where other creatures walk (including your pet) and try to limit your travels to those squares only. If you are not starving, search before stepping on uncertain squares. You can even engrave with your fingers to mark out safe passages through the levels if you are weak and one good arrow trap could mean the end.

Gray stones

Be careful of gray stones. This applies everywhere, of course, but such stones are more common in the mines. Kick any gray stone before picking it up, or else you might get a load stone, which can be a real pain.

Stages of the mines

Conceptually, it can be helpful to divide the Mines into four stages. When you mount an expedition into the mines, understand your objective and act accordingly.

The first level

The first stage is an initial reconnaissance of the first level. You will be greeted by a pack of gnomes and probably a dwarf or two, most of whom will be carrying gear that you want. The point of this short sortie is not to clear out the first level, but to score a few quick kills and grab some loot (including yummy corpses if you need the food and are of an appropriate race to eat them). Depending on how hard the fight is, you can escape back into the main dungeon and use your pet to curse-test your new possessions. A typical recon of the mines can net you a helmet, boots, a supply of daggers or other missiles, and, if you are fortunate, such items as a mithril-coat or pick-axe. The haul may make you sufficiently strong to attempt further explorations of the mines.

Upper mines

The second stage is the upper mines as far as Minetown. These levels can vary a great deal in difficulty, so you have to watch your stats and not get overwhelmed. Levels may be dark, which makes them considerably tougher, so that should affect your calculations as well. Clear out levels methodically, avoiding traps and accumulating loot. You will have more armor and weapons than you can carry and you will want to consolidate them into piles as you go down, partly to keep new monsters from using them, and partly to sell to the shopkeepers in Minetown if you are short on cash. Keep using your pet to check loot, and trade up on weapons and armor as you go.


The third stage is Minetown itself. Minetown has its own rules and regulations, and you should be prepared for it by studying up. The hostile monsters here are not particularly harder than in the upper mines, and traps are fewer, but the town watch is a complicating factor, particularly with respect to your pet. For whatever reason, pets have a habit of overestimating their abilities and attacking the watch, then getting themselves killed--and this is probably a big loss for you at this stage. So you may want to leash your pet, shut it in a room, or even leave it on the level above (but be careful about letting it go feral). You probably do not want to tangle with the watch yourself. The watch captain is strong and the penalties for murder may be unappealing to you. Once you've cleared out the hostiles, Minetown is a godsend for the weary explorer, with a guaranteed temple for testing items and buying protection, shops for buying, selling and price-identifying items, lockable rooms for protecting stashes, and other resources such as fountains. Minetown may be your "base camp" for further explorations for a long time to come. If you are going to be moving into Minetown for a while, read up on stashes and take the time to set up a good one, perhaps buying a container in the shops, or even lugging one down from the main dungeon.

Lower mines

The fourth stage is the lower mines, all the way to Mines' End, and it is much more dangerous to most players than the upper mines. This danger is due to traps, which start to get particularly nasty. Polymorph traps can turn you into a weak monster or a gnome into a minotaur. Trap doors can cut you off from your pet and your escape path. Even if you swept through Minetown without much trouble, you may want to leave the lower mines until you have magic resistance, and poison resistance is really a must-have. You may want to wear "junk" armor if you are not magic-resistant, so that those polymorph traps can't destroy your only mithril and your best cloak.



In SLASH'EM, gnome and dwarf characters entering the Mines will find that the normally peaceful gnomes and dwarves have been transformed into hostile undead, with only a few survivors. When a map is generated when the player's race is gnomish or dwarvish, the following substitutions are made for monsters generated along with the level:[1]

Note that these substitutions only affect monsters explicitly specified as part of level generation - if a random h or G is called for, that monster will be generated as normal, even if the monster chosen is one of the above monsters.

Some of the substitutions are rare or impossible:

  • Dwarf kings are never explicitly generated in the mines, so war orcs will never be seen.
  • Dwarf lords are also never explicitly generated, so dwarf mummies will not be found.
  • Two gnomish wizards are generated in all variants of Minetown, as well as in The Gnome King's Wine Cellar variant of Mines' End. These wizards will be replaced with orc shamans, but otherwise this substitution will not be seen.
  • A gnome king is found in the Bazaar Town map of Minetown and The Gnome King's Wine Cellar and The Mimic of the Mines variants of Mines' End. These will be replaced with ogres, but the substitution is otherwise unused.

In addition to making the Mines more difficult for characters who would otherwise find them mostly peaceful, this can also make it more difficult for dwarvish and gnomish characters to get their hands on a pick-axe, as far fewer ordinary dwarves will be generated, and the greater number of possible monsters in the main dungeon makes them rarer there than in vanilla NetHack. Fortunately, the dwarf thieves in Minetown will generate as normal, and between them have a 716 chance of producing at least one pick-axe, and a 3964 chance of producing at least one dwarvish mattock or pick-axe.


In FIQHack, the upper levels of the Mines are always lit, and the lower levels are always dark.

Encyclopedia entry

Made by Dwarfs. The Rule here is that the Mine is either long
deserted or at most is inhabited by a few survivors who will
make confused claims to have been driven out/decimated by humans/
other Dwarfs/Minions of the Dark Lord. Inhabited or not, this
Mine will be very complex, with many levels of galleries,
beautifully carved and engineered. What was being mined here
is not always evident, but at least some of the time it will
appear to have been Jewels, since it is customary to find
unwanted emeralds, etc., still embedded in the rock of the
walls. Metal will also be present, but only when made up into
armor and weapons (_wondrous_).

[ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones ]


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