From NetHackWiki
(Redirected from Balrogs)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A balrog, &, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is the most physically imposing of the non-unique major demons, and has flight, fire resistance and poison resistance.

Unlike most other major demons, balrogs are incapable of summoning other demons; they share this property with foocubi.


Balrogs are only randomly generated in Gehennom normally, but are also a valid form for polymorph. They are eligible to summon via gating by other major demons, including demon lords and princes. A balrog is guaranteed to appear on the Plane of Fire.[1]

All balrogs are armed with a whip and broadsword.[2]


Balrogs are easily among the more intimidating threats in Gehennom, with a solid base AC of -2, powerful weapon attacks and high monster magic resistance - they also have no spellcasting or gating ability, and are very slow. For balrogs in their natural habitat, players are likely to have good AC themselves by this point, along with any combination of at least one silver weapon, a source of cold damage, and fast or better speed; balrogs that are the result of early polymorph traps can be a nasty unexpected surprised and possibly spell doom for an unlucky player.

While balrogs are capable of disarming you or even stealing your weapon with their bullwhip, due to the way monsters prioritize weapons a balrog will only wield the bullwhip if it somehow loses its broadsword, unlike a horned devil. In general, this is most likely to occur if their broadsword is destroyed (e.g. via shattering blow) or else stolen (e.g. by any type of nymph).

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 93b9467c, balrogs prefer to use a bullwhip if you are wielding something.

As a pet

Balrogs are among the best choices for a pet that are obtainable from a polymorph trap. In addition to the above qualities, balrogs are also inediate and strong, and their flight lets them easily avoid traps and cross moats. A properly equipped balrog is a handy shop-raiding pet that can steamroll through shopkeepers, and their strength also makes them good for credit cloning. Their high monster MR does mean that they will often resist a wand of speed monster unless they zap it at themselves, and their very low speed makes it less effective for them. Balrogs can only wear boots and gloves, though their natural AC will make up for most of the unusable armor slots.

Balrogs are rivaled in terms of pet quality and popularity by Archons and titans: Archons are considered better due to their spellcasting and easier to manage, but can usually only be obtained as a pet by wishing for a blessed figurine of one; titans are also spellcasters that can be created by polytraps as well, but are not inediate and must be kept well-fed (which is typically not an issue in the late game). Balrogs are more available in comparison to both - demon gating in particular is available to players that polymorph into other major demons - but they are still somewhat difficult to obtain, and a player will need to actively keep their pet balrog's health up since they lack spellcasting or regeneration.


The balrog originates from the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth setting. It first appears in print in Tolkien's high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, where the Fellowship of the Ring encounter one in the Mines of Moria; other balrogs appear in other works within the setting, such as The Silmarillion.

Balrogs are tall and menacing, and can shroud themselves in fire, darkness and shadow - they are armed with fiery whips "of many thongs" and occasionally use long swords, which correspond to the bullwhip and broadsword they receive in NetHack; in The Silmarillion, and some of Tolkien's earlier writings also mention steel claws and iron mail. Balrogs were only rivaled by dragons in their capacity for ferocity and destruction: Early writings portrayed them as numerous and roughly twice the size of humans, and they were occasionally killed in battle by Elves and Men; they served as fiery demonic servants of Morgoth, armed with fiery whips of many thongs and claws like steel. Later Balrogs were far more sinister and powerful, owing to their origins as formerly-divine Maiar that were corrupted by Melkor before the World's creation, and could not be as readily vanquished.

One example of the later Balrogs is fought by Gandalf and the Fellowship at the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, and is known as Durin's Bane; it is the model for all other Balrogs that appear in NetHack and other fantasy works, and the encyclopedia entry is an excerpt from the in the books. Durin's Bane was a survivor of the War of Wrath that escaped the defeat of Morgoth and hid at the base of a mountain within Khazad-dûm; it earned its name from killing the Dwarf-King of Khazad-dûm, Durin VI, when it was found by a troop of mithril-mining dwarves that had dug too deep. Durin's Bane was exceptionally powerful and endowed with magical prowess: it used a flaming sword ("From out of the shadow a red sword leapt flaming") and a many-thonged whip that "whined and cracked", and appeared "like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater". When Gandalf eventually defeated the monster and threw it from a mountain peak, it "broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin", but in the process had injured Gandalf severely enough that he succumbed to his wounds before his eventual resurrection as Gandalf the White.


Several variants include the Orc Temple variant of Mines' End created by Khor, which features a cursed figurine of a balrog - the engravings in the temple refer to it as "Dagul", and the figurine itself is seated on an altar to Moloch that is surrounded by squeaky board traps and hidden in a room surrounded by lava. The room itself is only accessible via a well-hidden secret passageway.


In SLASH'EM, balrogs may turn traitor when tame.

A balrog named Njalnohaar appears as an assistant monster in the black market.


In UnNetHack, Durin's Bane is a unique balrog with somewhat higher stats and better equipment that appears on the second floor of the Ruins of Moria branch.

The black market in UnNetHack also features the same balrog assistant in the map borrowed from SLASH'EM.


In dNetHack, three balrogs appear within one of the rooms in Demogorgon's lair if his dwelling appears as the third Abyss level.

Durin's Bane is the quest nemesis for the dwarven Noble, and is much more powerful compared to its appearance in UnNetHack.

The November NetHack Tournament

In The November NetHack Tournament, a statue of a balrog named "The RNG" appears in the DevTeam Office.


In SpliceHack, balrogs are given a new item to replace their bullwhips in the flaming lash. The black market in SpliceHack also features the same balrog assistant in the map borrowed from SLASH'EM.


In EvilHack, balrogs are stronger and faster, and their broadsword and bullwhip are frequently enchanted - both weapons also have the fire object property. Bullwhips are also placed ahead of broadswords in monster weapon preference, ensuring that balrogs wield them in order to potentially disarm you.

A balrog guards the hidden treasure room in the Valley of the Dead, and another appears in the eastern part of the Stronghold of Kas within Vecna's Domain. One of the Fake Wizard's Tower maps has a 12 chance of containing a balrog within the tower, while the other map places a guaranteed balrog in its tower.

Two artifact weapons are associated with balrogs: Dramborleg is a mithril dwarvish bearded axe that favors dwarves and instantly destroys any balrog it hits, while Angelslayer is an unaligned trident that has a 120 chance of being generated on a balrog.

Encyclopedia entry

... It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as
if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped
the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed
about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming
mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand
was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it
held a whip of many thongs.
'Ai, ai!' wailed Legolas. 'A Balrog! A Balrog is come!'

[ The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]