Dragon scale mail
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<color> dragon scales
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Dragon scale mail, commonly abbreviated DSM and also known as dragon mail, is a type of body armor that appears in NetHack. It is the strongest single piece of armor available in the game. Its base AC reduction is 9, it weighs only 40, provides a useful extrinsic, is inherently erodeproof, and doesn't hinder spellcasting. It does not however provide any magic cancellation, and should hence be complemented by a high MC cloak.
Dragon scales are body armor that might be dropped by a dragon. They have a base AC reduction of only 3, but are otherwise identical to the dragon scale mail of the same color. They can be converted into dragon scale mail.
- 1 Effects
- 2 Acquiring scales and scale mail
- 3 Strategy
- 4 Variants
- 5 Encyclopedia entry
- 6 References
The following table shows the extrinsic abilities provided by each color of dragon scales or dragon scale mail:
Black, gray, and silver dragon scale mail have a base price of 1200 zm, and their scales are 700 zm. Other varieties are 900 zm for the mail and 500 zm for the scales. Gray, silver, and yellow dragon scales are the only ones whose resistances cannot can be obtained as intrinsics.
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.
Uncontrolled polymorphing while wearing dragon scales or dragon scale mail turns you into a dragon of the same color. This, and purposeful polymorph into a dragon of the same color, will revert your scale mail back to its scale form, but leave its enchantment unchanged. If the dragon scales are enchanted above +3, it is possible that they will evaporate while attempting to return them to dragon scale mail. While polymorphed, the scales will show up as "(embedded in your skin)" and will not function as armor: the base AC and enchantment of the scales will not lower your polymorphed AC, and they cannot be targeted by a scroll of enchant armor. Your shirt and cloak will tear as normal. If you polymorph again while in dragon form, there is a chance that you will turn into a different large monster, destroying your armor in the process.
Since scales and mail are never generated randomly, they cannot be obtained by polypiling.
Acquiring scales and scale mail
There are two main ways to acquire dragon scale mail: either wish for it directly, or obtain dragon scales and then upgrade them to scale mail. When wishing, make sure of your spelling and wording, or you may end up with a scroll of mail.
There are two other ways to obtain DSM. The first is to find it in a bones pile, which is obviously unreliable. The other option is to kill one of the player monsters on the Astral Plane, who have a chance of wearing dragon scale mail. This method is almost completely useless, since any adventurer reaching the Astral Plane will probably have DSM already.
Making dragon scale mail from scales
Dragon scale mail can be easily made from dragon scales:
If the scroll is blessed, the mail gains 1 point of enchantment and becomes blessed. Beware; if the scales are already above +3, reading a scroll of enchant armor, even in an attempt to upgrade them to mail, may vaporize them as with most other armor.
Acquiring dragon scales
Dragon scale mail is simple to acquire: kill dragons of the color you want until one drops scales, and make mail out of them as described above.
Here are some methods of generating dragons:
- Polymorph pets on a polymorph trap until one becomes the desired dragon, then leave it behind for a while to go wild (or just kill it and make up for the luck loss).
- Reverse genocide dragons.
- Allow a monster of the appropriate alignment to summon nasties until the desired dragon is created (note that this can never produce Blue, Gray, or White). Be prepared to deal with whatever else is summoned!
- Polymorph into a female dragon of the desired variety, lay some eggs (#sit command), let them hatch and slowly grow up into adult pet dragons. Killing them with a monster's passive attack or a trap avoids penalties.
- Seek out the dragons found in the Castle, in Fort Ludios, and in some quest levels.
- Confused loot thrones to create Throne Room monsters (farmable prior to 3.6.0).
If you want to reverse-genocide dragons to kill, but aren't strong enough to beat them in normal combat, you can force them to engage you in a "cage match" where they can't fight back.
Dig a 3x3 square in the rock behind a closet, or use a boulder to block the entrance. Stand on a scroll of scare monster (Elbereth will fade immediately if you attack, but a permanent engraving is an acceptable alternative if you can rely on pets to kill the dragons for you). The scroll will prevent the dragons from attacking you in melee, but they also won't use their breath weapons while in melee range. Beware of digging monsters breaking your setup.
If you manage to get to the castle without dragon scale mail, the room with the wand of wishing in a chest includes a guaranteed scroll of scare monster on the floor. It is cursed, so attempting to pick it up will destroy it. There are two positions in the room where a dragon can breathe at you, which you can block off with boulders generated by a scroll of earth from Sokoban. The walls are undiggable, negating the threat of disruption.
The Sokoban scroll of scare monster can also be used, although you'll have to move it out of the closet by digging a hole below it and letting it fall through. Hopefully it lands somewhere a boulder fort can be arranged (in place of walls); if not, you can move the scroll into a more suitable position by kicking it (it will be stopped by either a wall or a monster) or, if it gets stuck, digging a hole once more (except on the lowest level).
Gray or silver?
Gray and silver are widely considered the two best types of dragon scale mail, but players disagree as to which is more useful in particular circumstances. Gray provides magic resistance which protects against monster spells and polytraps; silver provides reflection which protects against wands and breath attacks. Since both are extremely useful, it's best to find a source of magic resistance or reflection and then get the dragon scale mail that grants the other intrinsic.
In general, one will always want GDSM or SDSM. However, there are some corner cases where one might use another color:
- Wishless ascensions: Of course, one can obtain DSM without wishing via reverse genocide. However, some unlucky characters may find neither the scroll nor enough magic markers to write one. In this case, it is worth enchanting the first dragon scales found, simply for the AC benefit and weight reduction.
- Foodless ascensions: While players attempting a foodless ascension can get most resistances through crowning, this may be undesirable (or even impossible for foodless atheists). The extra extrinsic may thus be worthwhile, particularly if the player already has MR and reflection from other sources. One advantage of gaining extrinsics from DSM over rings is that you have to identify the rings first. The three most desirable colors are:
- Red dragon scale mail, to protect against the fire traps in Gehennom, can be superseded by the ring.
- Green dragon scale mail, to protect against spiked pits, poisoned missiles, and poison melee attacks, can be supplanted by an alchemy smock, by the eponymous amulet or ring, and for some roles by leveling up.
- Sleep resistance, from orange dragon scale mail, protects against traps, wands, and thrown potions. It is granted to elves at level 4, but otherwise cannot be entirely superseded by a ring of free action, making that DSM also useful.
- If you really hate acid attacks: Short of self-polymorph or the MC 1 alchemy smock, yellow dragon scale mail is the only way to obtain acid resistance. Acid attacks are rarely threatening, however.
Getting dragon scale mail is a bit different in SLASH'EM. Baby dragons take much longer to grow up, and it is not feasible anymore to polymorph pets into dragons for their death drop (due to polymorph working like it does for player characters). However, there are many dragons in the Wyrm Caves, and there are the guaranteed gray dragon scales in the Lawful Quest and the gray dragon scale mail worn by One-eyed Sam. The last two may be somewhat difficult to liberate from their previous owners, and the law quest one is generated cursed -9.
Some of the gnolls can be generated with dragon scale mail: gnoll warriors may be generated with orange dragon scale mail, chieftains may get blue dragon scale mail, and shamans may get either red or silver dragon scale mail.
SLASH'EM's used armor dealers can sometimes enchant armor for you. Using this service on dragon scales will turn them into dragon scale mail, providing a way for illiterate characters to obtain dragon scale mail without violating conduct. However, the player is far from guaranteed to find a shopkeeper who offers the appropriate service: only 25% of armor dealers will offer it.
New colors in SLASH'EM
While still less useful than GDSM and SDSM, these two new dragon scale mails are still worth using for some players. Drain resistance is a lot more important in SLASH'EM, given the abundance of wands of draining and the breath of deep dragons in its later game; a player who has magic resistance and reflection from other sources may well consider deep dragon scale mail as an option. Meanwhile, shimmering dragon scale mail provides a way for players to get displacement and MC 3 at the same time without sacrificing their cloak slot. Finally, due to the presence of shoggoths and giant shoggoths with their high speed and massive acid damage, yellow dragon scale mail is also a viable option.
In SporkHack, all colors of DSM save gray and silver have some kind of secondary effect. Spork also adds an additional color, gold, which acts as a permanent light source.
|SporkHack secondary extrinsic
|passive blinding attack
|passive poison attack
|passive slow attack
|+1d6 to all melee damage
|freezes water and lava under foot
|stun and confusion resistance
New colors in SporkHack
|radius 2 light
In dNetHack, shimmering dragon scales/mail and deep dragon scales/mail are also added. All old DS/DSM have additional properties too.
|dNetHack additional extrinsics
|very fast speed
|half spell damage
|free action, hallucination resistance
|flying (scales and mail only, not shield), protects from sliming
|magical breathing, swimming, and protects inventory from water damage.
|infinite range see invisible
In addition, dragon scale shields can now be made. They are made by reading a scroll of enchant armor while confused, and will harden worn dragon scales into a shield. They grant the same extrinsics that the same color of mail does, except that red dragon scale shields do not grant flying.
Also, dNetHack silver dragon scale mail/shields is much more valuable. Amulets and shields of reflection no longer reflect dragon breath, but SDSM/SDSS do.
In UnNetHack, dragon scale mails have AC 5 (down from 9) and dragon scales have AC 1 (down from 3).
The powers of dragons and thus their scales and scale mails is randomized each game:
|Powers (randomized each game)
(*) Dragons described as "glowing" always emit light, and wearing their scales or scale mail grants radius 2 light, like SporkHack.
(**) The dragon with the "stone" power has lava breath, not stoning. However, wearing its scales or scale mail confers stoning resistance.
Before wishing for dragon armor, note the new rules for wishing in UnNetHack. In particular, wands of wishing only have 0-2 charges (plus 1 wrest), and only wishes from wands can grant wishes for magical items. Dragon scale mails, magic markers, scrolls of genocide and scrolls of enchant armor all count as magical items. However, dragon scales are considered non-magical items and can thus be obtained from any wish source.
Any dragon armor can be wished for by appearance, so wishing for "guivre scale mail" (from a wand of wishing) or "guivre scales" will always work.
To wish for dragon armor by its power, the corresponding armor must be formally identified first, e.g. by using a scroll of identify on dropped dragon scales (the matching scale mail will be identified with it). The name of the power (from the table above) can then be used in the wish, e.g. "reflecting dragon scale mail".
- Dragon scale mail in FIQHack weighs 300 when carried (150 when worn).
- White dragon scale mail protects your inventory from water damage.
- Shimmering dragon scale mail provides displacement and stun resistance.
- Blue dragon scale mail gives 100% resistance against slow monsters.
Colored DSM (all except silver/gray) have new benefits, in addition to the standard ones above:
- Red: infravision, warning, see invisible
- White: automatic searching, swimming, magical breathing
- Orange: free action
- Black: drain resistance
- Blue: speed
- Green: sickness resistance
- Yellow: stoning resistance
NetHack Fourk, xNetHack, EvilHack, and Hack'EM implement the dtsund dragon-scaled armor patch. In these variants, dragon scales are cloaks instead of body armor. Dragon scale mail is removed; instead, a set of dragon scales can be fused into a suit of body armor by reading a scroll of enchant armor while wearing the scales over the armor. Scrolls of enchant armor will always target worn dragon scales instead of other worn items. Any body armor infused with dragon scales confers 3 extra AC and the scales' extrinsic. If the armor is already dragon-scaled, fusing another set of scales will replace the previous color.
If the scroll is blessed, the fused armor becomes blessed and has its erosion repaired (but it is not made erodeproof). If the scroll is cursed, the fused armor becomes cursed and loses a point of enchantment.
If you read a scroll of enchant armor while wearing scales without body armor, you polymorph into the matching type of dragon. (If you have polymorph control, you choose whether to transform.) If you read it while confused and wearing both scales and body armor, the scales fuse into the armor, and then you polymorph into a dragon.
In xNetHack's implementation of dtsund-DSM, the additional extrinsics that were added to most scales in 3.7.0 only apply to dragon-scaled armor, not to the scales by themselves.
In Hack'EM's implementation of dtsund-DSM, dragon-scaled armor provides an additional extrinsic and a passive attack. In the table below, a set of scales provides only the primary extrinsic, while a suit of dragon-scaled armor provides all three benefits. Passive attacks marked with an asterisk (*) may affect attackers' items.
|very fast speed
|stability (hurtling resistance)
|protection from cancellation
|+1d6 melee damage
|stealth, warning, and see invisible
|confusion, stunning, and slowing
|scares like a mirror
|freeze water and lava underfoot
Stephen had argued, and the expert armorer had grudgingly
admitted, that dragonscale shield or armor, provided it proved
feasible to make at all, ought to offer some real, practical
advantages over any metal breastplate or shield -- gram for
gram of weight, such a defense would probably be a lot
tougher and more protective than any human smiths could
make of steel.
[ The Last Book of Swords: Shieldbreaker's Story,
by Fred Saberhagen ]