Elf (starting race)
Racial benefits and restrictions
Elves have intrinsic infravision and they receive sleep resistance at experience level 4. From an attribute perspective, elves excel mentally, with the highest intelligence and wisdom of all races. Their strength is capped at 18, the lowest of all races. They also have the lowest constitution of all races, capped at 16. The following table outlines their maximum (unaided) attribute levels.
|Regular item||Substitute||Affected roles|
|spear||elven spear||none currently|
|short sword||elven short sword||none currently|
|helmet||elven leather helm||none currently|
|cloak of displacement||elven cloak||Ranger|
|cram ration||lembas wafer||Ranger|
Of the classes Elves can pick, only Rangers are currently affected.
The elven cloak is noted in the source as an intentional downgrade.
Elves' low strength and constitution can make them more difficult to play than other races; these restrictions limit both their carrying capacity and their damage bonus.
Long after an elf reaches his cap, other players will be eating giant corpses and otherwise raising their strength far above 18, toward 18/50 or 18/**. Meanwhile, the weight limit will force the elf to make difficult decisions regarding inventory management, and which items to keep in his bag of holding, or leave behind altogether in a stash.
Therefore it is beneficial to have gauntlets of power. They boost strength to 25, and might make a good wish, but they are not an option for those who like to wear gauntlets of dexterity, such as some elf Wizards.
In older versions of NetHack, the elf was actually a separate role. All other roles belonged to humans. The quest artifact of an elf was a crystal ball called the Palantir of Westernesse; it does not exist in the current version.
Elves in Variants
In UnNetHack, elves don't regenerate health ("you feel itchy") while touching iron with bare skin. Iron weapons are fine, if you are wearing gloves. However, rings are worn under gloves, so gloves don't make it safe to use iron rings. Amulets are fine, so long as they are worn over a shirt or some from of body armor. This change is somewhat balanced by the fact that in UnNetHack, you get a 1 AC bonus for each piece of correct racial armor worn.
In dNethack, Elves have Low Light Vision 3, but lack infravision. They are the only race that are fully protected by Elbereth. They can be Convicts, Binders, Pirates, and Nobles, in addition to the roles available to them in vanilla. Many Elvish characters receive the Elvish Racial Quest instead of the normal role-specific quest. Nobles, Priests, Rangers, and Wizards all receive this quest.
The Elves sat round the fire upon the grass or upon the sawn
rings of old trunks. Some went to and fro bearing cups and
pouring drinks; others brought food on heaped plates and
"This is poor fare," they said to the hobbits; "for we are
lodging in the greenwood far from our halls. If ever you are
our guests at home, we will treat you better."
"It seems to me good enough for a birthday-party," said Frodo.
Pippin afterwards recalled little of either food or drink, for
his mind was filled with the light upon the elf-faces, and the
sound of voices so various and so beautiful that he felt in a
waking dream. [...]
Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to
himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained
in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The
nearest he ever got was to say: "Well, sir, if I could grow
apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was
the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean."