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A skeleton, Z, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is a magically-animated undead creature that is part of the zombie monster class. Skeletons resist cold, sleep, poison, death magic, and stoning - they also count as thick-skinned, specifically due to lacking any organic parts.

A skeleton has a weapon attack and a slowing touch that can remove intrinsic speed. Chatting to a skeleton will freeze you in place for a few turns regardless of hostility, and free action will not prevent this.[1]


Skeletons are not randomly generated, and only appear in Orcus-town, where five will be generated on level creation.[2] Skeletons are always created hostile, and are valid targets for polymorph, e.g. polymorph traps. Polypiling multiple objects made of bone, such as unicorn horns, may also create a skeleton, similar to how golems generate from polypiling other materials.

A normally-generated skeleton has a 14 chance of generating with leather armor, and an independent 14 chance of either a knife (23 chance) or a short sword (13 chance);[3] they will not be given a random offensive item.

Skeletons do not leave a corpse upon death.

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.

As of commit f0698e1d, bone devils summon skeletons instead of summoning demons.


Skeletons are not a great threat compared to the shades in Orcus Town - their AC is mediocre, and they also lack an MR score. However, their ability to nullify speed still makes them dangerous; their stoning resistance also means that they can wield footrice corpses, so be careful not to leave any near one.

Skeletons make decent pets if you happen to obtain one: they are strong breathless and inediate, can wield weapons and use their touch attack to slow monsters, and have valuable resistances. Unfortunately, they are also slow themselves and cannot wear armor, despite potentially generating with some.


The skeleton first appears in NetHack 3.1.0.


A skeleton is the structural frame that supports the body of most animals. There are several types of skeletons, such as the exoskeleton (the stable outer shell of an organism); vertebrates have an endoskeleton with a vertical column, which forms a support structure inside the body and is typically composed of bone and cartilage (a rigid connective tissue). Animated skeletons often appear as a type of physically manifested undead in fantasy, gothic and horror fiction, and mythical art. Most such undead are human skeletons, but they can be from any creature or race found on Earth or in the fantasy world.

Animated human skeletons have been used as a personification of death in Western culture since the Middle Ages, perhaps influenced by the valley of the dry bones in the Book of Ezekiel. Paintings of The Grim Reaper and Death of the biblical horsemen of the Apocalypse have depicted them as skeletons.

Undead skeletons are used extensively in many fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons. The basic skeleton is of the humanoid type and is commonly employed as a low-level undead enemy - they occasionally appear in groups, and are commonly armed with medieval weapons and sometimes armor. Skeletons debut in the 1st Edition Monster Manual of Dungeons & Dragons, where they appear in burial grounds, dungeons and other forsaken areas, and are enchanted with necromantic energy by a powerful evil magic-user or cleric. Skeletons could be given simple commands of 24 words or less by whoever animated, and would attack until they were destroyed; they were immune to mind-affecting spells and cold, and could only be damaged reliably by blunt weapons and fire. Holy water could damage skeletons, and non-evil priests like paladins or clerics could repel or destroy them outright.


The skeleton rattles noisily.
You chatted to a skeleton.
You freeze for a moment.
You paralyzed yourself for a few turns as a result of the above.


In variants that include the Convict role, a skeleton is generated on the upper filler level(s) of the Convict quest at level creation.


In SLASH'EM and [[SlashTHEM, skeletons require a +2 weapon or better to deal damage to them.

A sleeping hostile skeleton is always generated within the prison in the north half of Grund's Stronghold at level creation.


In dNetHack, skeletons are resistant to piercing and slashing weapons and vulnerable to blunt weapons.

Skeletons appear as the first quest monster for Binders, and three skeletons are generated as attendants to the third altar on the goal level of the Binder quest. Three skeletons appears accompanying a death knight within one of the rooms in Demogorgon's lair if his dwelling appears as the third Abyss level.

The presence of a dread seraph on a level causes corpses to rise from the dead as zombies or skeletons. The bones files of players killed by dread seraphs leave behind skeletons instead of ghosts.


In xNetHack, skeletons can be summoned occasionally by bone devils, and may drop skeleton keys made of bone upon death.

If you chat to a skeleton while hallucinating, the resulting bone-rattling will not immobilize you.


In SpliceHack-Rewrite, skeletons have their knife and short sword replaced with a parazonium and gladius, with the same odds of generating with each weapon.


In SlashTHEM, in addition to SLASH'EM details above, the second version of the Mine king level has three skeletons hidden in closets.


In Hack'EM, skeletons have the same odds of generating with a parazonium or gladius as in SpliceHack-Rewrite, and may also drop skeleton keys upon death like in xNetHack.

Grund's Stronghold contains the same sleeping skeleton as in SLASH'EM.

Encyclopedia entry

A skeleton is a magically animated undead creature. Unlike
shades, only a humanoid creature can be used to create a
skeleton. No one knows why this is true, but it has become
an accepted fact amongst the practitioners of the black arts.


  1. src/sounds.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 720
  2. dat/gehennom.des in NetHack 3.6.7, line 405
  3. src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 476: the case covers the zombie monster class, but skeletons are the only ones to generate with and wear armor