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) Bow.png
Name bow
Appearance bow
Damage vs. small 1d2
Damage vs. large 1d2
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 60 zm
Weight 30
Material wood

A bow is a type of weapon that appears in NetHack. It is a one-handed launcher made of wood and designed for arrows, and is used by wielding it in your hand, then using t or f to shoot your arrows.

In addition to the regular bow, there are elven, orcish, and Japanese bows. The Longbow of Diana is an artifact bow.


Human Rangers start the game with a +1 bow and two separate stacks of +0 and +2 arrows.[1]

Forest centaurs have a 12 chance of being generated with a bow and arrows.[2] Hunters are always generated with a bow and arrows, and warriors have a 13 chance of generating with a bow and arrows.[3][4] Finally, monsters capable of using weapons that have not been generated with one may receive a bow and some arrows.[5]

The fake bones pile in the Rogue level has a chance of containing a +1 bow and a stack of arrows.

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.

The themed room containing the ghost of an adventurer and their "bones" pile has an independent 920 chance of including a bow and arrows in the pile.

Bow skill

Max Role

The following launchers use the bow skill:

  • bow
  • elven bow
  • orcish bow
  • yumi

The following types of ammo use the bow skill:

The bow skill is only exercised when you fire arrows from a wielded bow.


Main article: Arrow

The enchantment of a bow contributes to its to-hit (accuracy), but not to damage; the arrows' enchantment contributes to both accuracy and damage. Wearing gauntlets of power and firing a bow gives a -2 to-hit penalty.


As bows are one-handed, you can switch to one without removing your shield, and wielding a cursed bow will still leave one hand free. Their enchantment is generally not important compared to that of the arrows fired from it.


The bow first appears in Hack 1.21, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack, and is included in the initial item list for Hack 1.0. From Hack 1.0 to NetHack 3.2.3, Cavemen started with a +1 bow and a stack of +0 arrows as a secondary weapon;[6] NetHack 3.3.0 replaced this with the modern sling and a stack each of flint stones and rocks.[7]

The defunct Elf role would start with a +1 bow and a stack of +0 arrows as their secondary weapon from NetHack 1.3d to 3.0.10;[8] from NetHack 3.0.0 to 3.0.10, the game changed this to an elven bow and elven arrows if TOLKIEN is defined at compile-time.[9]



SLASH'EM makes bows two-handed weapons and adds a new type in the dark elven bow. The missile flurry technique only works with bow weapons, and grants a bonus shot with them for several turns depending on its level.

In the Yeoman quest, several bows can be found in a 2x2 room at the north of the inner ward, each with one silver arrow.


dNetHack adds several artifact bows:

  • Plague is a chaotic-aligned bone bow that confers poison resistance and sickness resistance while wielded; it grants +1d5 to-hit and +1d7 poison damage to arrows fired from it, and such arrows are treated as poisoned (similar to dipping in a potion of sickness). When invoked, arrows fired from Plague are treated as filth-crusted instead for the next 13 turns, with the filth having a 15 chance of instantly killing non-resistant monsters - instantly killing a monster causesa virulent explosion that deals 6d6 damage to surrounding monsters, with its size loosely dependent on the killed monster's size.
  • Epoch's Curve is an unaligned wooden bow that appears as a "white ash longbow" when unidentified; it grants +5 to-hit and +1d6 to damage, and conveys teleport control while wielded. Invoking Epoch's Curve causes it to teleport: if not wielded, it teleports away on its own; if on a no-teleport level, it first tries to warp you one level above, and warps you to the level below if that fails. Arrows fired from it that do not break return to you after five turns.
  • The Bow of Skadi is a lawful bow that Valkyries receive as their crowning gift; it grants +1 to-hit and +1d24 cold damage to arrows fired from it, and arrows that hit a target cause a 6d6 freezing explosion centered on that target, using up the arrow. The bow can also be read to learn the cone of cold spell.


In EvilHack, the playable centaur race always starts with knowledge of all bow and crossbow-related weaponry, and gains a multishot bonus with either.


In addition to SLASH'EM changes, SlashTHEM adds Straightshot, an artifact bow with +10 to-hit and +3 damage bonuses that serves as the first sacrifice gift for Rangers.

Encyclopaedia entry

"Stand to it, my hearts of gold," said the old bowman as he passed from knot to knot. "By my hilt! we are in luck this journey. Bear in mind the old saying of the Company."
"What is that, Aylward?" cried several, leaning on their bows and laughing at him.
"'Tis the master-bowyer's rede: 'Every bow well bent. Every shaft well sent. Every stave well nocked. Every string well locked.' There, with that jingle in his head, a bracer on his left hand, a shooting glove on his right, and a farthing's-worth of wax in his girdle, what more doth a bowman need?"
"It would not be amiss," said Hordle John, "if under his girdle he had four farthings'-worth of wine."

[ The White Company, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ]