From NetHackWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
) 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 designed for arrows that is made of wood.

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 a stack of arrows.[2] Hunters are always generated with a bow and arrows, and chieftains, pages, roshi, and warriors have a 13 chance of generating with a bow and arrows.[3][4]

A humanoid monster with a weapon attack, the ability to wield weapons and no other ruleset governing its monster starting inventory has a chance of generating with a bow and a stack of 3-14 arrows, unless they are being generated on the Rogue level: the base odds are 114 for normal monsters, 112 for a monster that is a lord or nasty, 110 for a monster that is an overlord or both a lord and nasty, and 18 for a monster that is both nasty and an overlord.[5]

One of the weapons guarded by the ghost on the Rogue level is a +1 bow with an accompanying stack of arrows, each of which have a 34 chance of being cursed.[6]

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 bow skill is only exercised when firing arrows from a wielded bow.

The following launchers use the bow skill:

  • bow
  • elven bow
  • orcish bow
  • yumi

The following types of ammo use the bow skill:


Main article: Arrow

Bows are used by wielding them and then using t or f to shoot arrows. 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, a character can switch to one without removing their 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 and Hack for PDP-11, which are based on 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 start with a +1 bow and a stack of +0 arrows as their secondary weapon[7] - NetHack 3.3.0 replaces this with the modern sling and a stack each of flint stones and rocks.[8]

The defunct Elf role starts with a +1 bow and a stack of +0 arrows as their secondary weapon from NetHack 1.3d to NetHack 2.3e[9][10] - from NetHack 3.0.0 to 3.0.10, these are replaced with an elven bow and elven arrows if TOLKIEN is defined at compile-time.[11]



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 the technique's 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.


In dNetHack, The Fire Crystal increases a character's skill cap for bows by 1 while carried.

Eve is a spirit that grants skill in bows while bound.

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 those 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: the instakill causes a 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 the character one level above, and warps them to the level below if that fails. Arrows fired from it that do not break return to the character 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 the arrows cause a 6d6 freezing explosion centered on any target they hit, using up the arrow. The bow can also be read to learn the cone of cold spell.

The November NetHack Tournament

In The November NetHack Tournament, the deathmatch opponent will always generate with a bow and a blessed and erodeproof stack of 20-29 +4 or +5 arrows if they represent a character that is a barbarian, knight, or ranger.


In notdNetHack, in addition to dNetHack details, Eve is generated with a bow and arrows when summoned by an Illithanachronounbinder.


In EvilHack, centaur Rangers start with the same bow and arrows as human Rangers. All centaur characters start with knowledge of all bow-related weaponry, and gain a multishot bonus when firing with any type of bow.

Gnoll hunters always generate with a bow and arrows, and player monster rangers that are humans or centaurs will generate with two stacks of arrows for their bows. Sergeants and lieutenants that are dwarven or human and generated in the Castle at level creation will each have a bow and arrows.


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 ]