Elf (starting race)

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For other uses, see elf.

You can play NetHack as an elf @. Elves are always chaotic. They can be Priests, Rangers, or Wizards. Playing as a random elf is a good way to focus on a small number of roles. According to the guide book:

Elves are agile, quick, and perceptive; very little of what goes on will escape an Elf. The quality of Elven craftsmanship often gives them an advantage in arms and armor.

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.

Strength Dexterity Constitution Intelligence Wisdom Charisma
Elf 18 18 16 20 20 18

Elven items

Main article: Elven item

Regular items in an elf's starting inventory are replaced with equivalent elven items as follows:[1]

Regular item Substitute Affected roles
dagger elven dagger Ranger
spear elven spear none currently
short sword elven short sword none currently
bow elven bow Ranger
arrow elven arrow Ranger
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.[1]

Elves have a +1 multishot bonus and a +1 damage bonus when firing elven arrows from an elven bow.[2][3]


Elves have poorer strength and constitution than other races, which limits their carrying capacity and maximum HP. Even at maximum strength and constitution, elves can carry 100 units less than other races.

However, elves' high wisdom or intelligence can help them cast spells they are less skilled at.

Elven priests and wizards start with a nonmagical instrument, which can be invaluable for scaring monsters or playing the passtune at the Castle.


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.



In SLASH'EM, elves are always lawful or neutral, and they have access to far more roles than in vanilla. The drow race is a chaotic counterpart to these elves.


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 1 AC bonus for each piece of correct racial armor worn.


In dNetHack, elves have Low Light Vision 3, but lack infravision, and are the only race that are fully protected by Elbereth. Their dexterity is capped at 20, but their other physical stats are as low as in vanilla. They can be Convicts, Binders, Pirates, and Nobles, in addition to the roles available to them in vanilla. Evlish Nobles, Priests, Rangers, and Wizards may all receive the Elvish Racial Quest instead of the normal role-specific quest.


In xNetHack, elves take an extra die of damage when hit with iron weapons or objects - this includes the standard gnomish aklyses and orcish daggers, making it quite a challenge to survive the early game.


In EvilHack, iron prevents elves from regenerating health as in UnNetHack, and they also take additional damage for being hit with iron weapons.


In SpliceHack, elves take extra damage from iron weapons and objects as in xNetHack.

Encyclopedia entry

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."

[ The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]


  1. 1.0 1.1 src/u_init.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 199: Race-based substitutions for initial inventory
  2. src/dothrow.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 167: multishot bonus
  3. src/uhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.6, line 848: damage bonus