Drow (starting race)

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Drow, also known as dark elves, are a possible starting race that appears in some variants of NetHack, with their implementation varying widely depending on the variant.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Major cleanup, probably split a la Vampire (starting race) - discuss the latter idea on the talk page"


In SLASH'EM, the drow race is most noted for their bare-handed sleep attack. While SLASH'EM's regular elves are lawful or neutral, drow are chaotic. Drow are elven, but they are unlike other elves.[1]

According to the Guidebook:

Drow are the dark elves of the sunless realm. Well-suited to the dungeon environment, they have much in common with standard elves, but their specialty is their sleep attack.

When engaging in bare-handed combat, a drow character's melee attacks will sometimes put monsters to sleep; this makes them an excellent choice for new SLASH'EM players. Like other elves, player drow gain sleep resistance at experience level 4.[2] Unlike other elves, drow do not have infravision, nor are they infravisible themselves.

Drow are dark elves, more at home in the dungeon than on the surface. Drow can take the roles of Barbarian, Flame Mage, Ice Mage, Necromancer, Priest, Ranger, Undead Slayer, or Wizard; they are always chaotic.

During the early game, drow characters survive well if they fight bare-handed, and can keep monsters asleep with repeated strikes - this also enables them to more effectively fight multiple opponents or flee into a corridor, but monsters with sleep resistance must be dealt with differently. Drow with high bare-handed combat skill can even take down shopkeepers in hand-to-hand battles without taking a hit. The trade-off for this remarkable power comes later, when drow find their maximum attribute scores limited the same as standard elves.

Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha
18 18 16 20 20 18

A droven Barbarian is an easy race-role combination that allows the player to begin fighting bare-handed before switching to a better weapon like a battle-axe or an artifact weapon.

It is not possible to twoweapon as a drow, though the option, annoyingly, still appears.



Drow in dNetHack are significantly different from their appearance in SLASH'EM.

Racial benefits and restrictions

Drow may be any role that regular elves can be in dNetHack (Anachrononauts, Binders, Convicts, Healers, Madpeople, Nobles, Pirates, Priests, Rogues, Rangers, Troubadours (Bards), or Wizards). Alignment depends on gender: female Drow start the game as chaotic, male Drow start the game as neutral. Male Drow are often referred to as "hedrow".

Drow can see perfectly in the dark, but can't see into lit areas. Worse, they're virtually blind in the light, unable to see anything that's not directly on their square; this differs from ordinary blindness in that they can still read scrolls, tiles, and other inventory items, as well as engravings at their feet. On the other hand, light-blindness won't trigger intrinsic telepathy even if they have it, making it all too easy to inadvertently attack pets and other peacefuls. They can create a patch of darkness using the #monster command, or must explore lit rooms slowly. Using the #monster command consumes 10 power; if the player has less than 10 maximum power, then it costs all of what they have. As a result, the first couple dungeon/experience levels can be slow, waiting for your power to recharge.

Drow receive either a cave spider or a baby crocodile as a starting pet. They may also saddle and mount giant spiders, crocodiles, giant turtles, riding lizards and salamanders. Drow Nobles receive either a saddled giant cave spider or a saddled riding lizard, depending on gender.

Drow casting the "summon insects" monster spell will instead summon spiders.

Drow start with strong racial weapons and armor, though these items have some significant drawbacks as well.

Maximum stats

Instead of improved elven Wisdom, drow receive a bonus to maximum Charisma. Otherwise they have the same limits as elves (including boosted Dexterity).

Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha
18 20 16 20 18 20

Droven items


Droven armor (both droven plate mail and droven chain mail) is made of a material that degrades when exposed to light, eventually evaporating completely. Fixed droven armor still evaporates, but will regenerate while in the dark. Unfixed droven armor does not regenerate. Cloaks with magic cancellation protect against the light, so a MC3 cloak is a virtual necessity when exploring lit rooms. It is worth it to try to keep your starting armor intact. Both armors are non-metallic, low weight, and offer high AC. Droven chain mail also boosts spellcasting. Most drow begin play with one of these types of armor.

All Drow start with a droven cloak made of spiderwebs. These cloaks offer no AC but give level 3 magic cancellation. Droven cloaks can be (a)pplied to an adjacent square to create a web there. Each use of the cloak lowers its magic cancellation by 1. If it reaches MC0, the cloak is used up. The cloak may also be applied at an existing web to remove the web and restore MC to the cloak.


Droven weapons deal high damage, but are made of fragile obsidian, meaning they will shatter if thrown or (in the case of droven crossbow bolts) fired. All starting droven weapons are coated in sleeping poison.

The lone exception to this is the droven crossbow, which is made of more durable stuff. Droven crossbows also bear the silver holy symbol of Lolth, so they deal an additional 1d20 silver damage if used to bash silver-hating creatures.


All drow also begin play with a droven signet ring. This is a new randomized appearance for rings, so its magical properties vary from game to game, but all signet rings function as poison-injection rings: when #dipped into an eligible potion, the ring absorbs 30 doses of poison, which can be inflicted on opponents through barehanded combat while wearing the ring. If two signet rings are worn, both apply their poison. The signet rings given to starting drow are pre-loaded with sleeping poison.

Signet rings are guaranteed to be of a valid type for starting players. All drow can reach grand-master level in unarmed fighting.

Signet rings also bear specific crests, and sometimes the holy symbols of drow deities. Rings engraved with the holy symbols also count as silver rings when attacking silver-hating monsters. Rings that have a spiderweb design on them add +5 to unarmed attacks.


Lolth is the primary drow goddess. When engraved, the name "Lolth" is a drow-specific alternative to elves' full-power Elbereth (i.e. vanilla NetHack 3.4.3 Elbereth). Like full-power Elbereth, it works on the vast majority of monsters, but not on shopkeepers, guards, the Wizard of Yendor, blind monsters, peaceful or tame monsters, the @ human or elf monster class, and the Riders (and any monster that revives like a Rider). Like Elbereth, it doesn't work on the elder priest, Great Cthulhu, Chokhmah Sephirah, and Lamashtu. Like Elbereth, it only has a chance of affecting some other monsters: it has a 12 chance of working on Chaos, a 13 chance of working on Demogorgon, and a 19 chance of working on Asmodeus. Unlike Elbereth, Lolth does work on lawful minions, angels, and minotaurs. The downside compared to Elbereth is that if the monster is higher level than you, it will drain your alignment record, and it won't work if it is 0 or less.

Lolth does not work in the future (i.e. in the Anachrononaut quest). Lolth also does not work for characters of gnostic (void) alignment, i.e. Binders.

A user has suggested improving this page or section as follows:

"Lolth also only works when following certain drow gods - detail which gods they are."


dNetHack's drow race is based on SLASH'EM's drow. The bare-handed sleep attack that the SLASH'EM drow are known for became the poison-injecting signet rings.

Encyclopedia entry

Myths exist for a purpose - To explain the unexplainable.
Because man fears the unknown.

Murdering our kin. Our children.
Butchering our towns.
Devouring our flesh.
Enslaving our people.
Whispering of incest.
Desecrating our lands.
These mythical black demons with red eyes, embodying all
the sins of men.

But what if those demons truly exist?
What are they, who are they?
Do they dream?
Do they hate and love?
Do they have their own demons that represent
everything they despise and fear?

[ Drowtales, by Kern, Kite, and Bandit, Drowtales.com ]

Also known as dark elves, drow are a depraved and evil
subterranean offshoot of the elvish species.

White is the most common hair color among drow, but almost
any pale shade is possible. Drow tend to be smaller and
thinner than other sorts of elves, and their eyes are often
a vivid red.

[ DnD 3.5 SRD ]


Drow can play as either a Convict, Infidel, Knight, Monk, Priest, Rogue, Ranger, or Wizard. With the exception of the unaligned Infidel, drow are always chaotic. They are considered an elven subrace: their starting attributes and caps are the same as other elves, they share an aversion to iron, and other elves count as the same race for purposes of cannibalism and sacrifice. Drow can move through webs effortlessly like spiders are able to.

Drow start with sleep resistance and ultravision (allowing them to see in the dark as if it were lit), gain intrinsic poison resistance at experience level 5, and intrinsic searching at experience level 9. Drow characters have a natural ability to cast an aura of darkness (via #monster (command)) for 10 energy, as long as they are not impaired (e.g. stunned or confused).

While drow can tolerate being in the light, they suffer various penalties while in it: their hit points regenerate three times slower, spell power regenerates two times slower, and to-hit suffers a −3 penalty across the board. In darkness, drow receive a ((XL/ 3) + 2) bonus to-hit when using drow weaponry or attacking bare-handed. Drow racial armor and weapons are made of adamantine (weapons and heavy armor) or spider silk (light armor).

Depending on the role, Drow may start with a large spider instead of the typical pet for that role. They are the only race that can tame spiders and cave lizards using food, as well as using them as steeds.