Racial equipment

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The array of weapons, armor, and other items available in NetHack include many items that are associated with one of the starting races, and are informally considered racial equipment.


In NetHack, items may be linked to a specific race:

  1. They are described as belonging to (made/used by) that race (e.g. dwarvish and elven mithril-coats), or
  2. They are more likely to appear in the inventory of monsters and players of that race (e.g. the aklys and crossbow for gnomes) than other pieces of equipment, often because of the first point.

Racial associations only impact gameplay during character generation, where some roles may receive racial substitutes for standard items (e.g. an elven dagger or orcish dagger instead of a regular dagger), and when calculating bonuses such as for example, to-hit, damage or multishot when using a matching bow and arrows. In the objects code, there are no variables (besides the object names) that mark items as belonging to any particular race.

While there is no in-game incentive to use racial equipment, players may choose to do so out of either personal preference or adherence to an unofficial "racial" conduct; beyond this, most players will use the best options available to them.

List of equipment by race

Below is a concise list of weapons and other equipment sorted by their associated race.


No items in NetHack are specifically said to be unique to the human race. Perhaps humans make the items that are not specifically described as elven, dwarvish, gnomish, or orcish.

The fact that human craftsmanship in NetHack does not seem worth mentioning might be in keeping with humans being generally "average" as a starting race.


Elves are allergic to iron, so they do not use it in their items.

Elven weapons are described as "runed" and are all made of wood, which does not rust or corrode but is vulnerable to rotting or burning by passive fire attacks; these weapons are likely based on the ironwood found in Dungeons & Dragons media. Elven shields are also made of wood.

As a general rule, elven armor has slightly lower AC values than its dwarven equivalents, but all types of elven armor can be safely enchanted to +7.

Elven weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Dagger elven dagger ) runed dagger 1d5 vs. small, 1d3 vs. large
Short sword elven short sword ) runed short sword 1d8 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear elven spear ) runed spear 1d7 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Broadsword elven broadsword ) runed broadsword 1d6+1d4 vs. small, 1d6+1 vs. large
Bow elven bow ) runed bow Elves get +1 to-hit, multishot, and damage bonuses
Arrow elven arrow ) runed arrow 1d7 vs. small, 1d6 vs. large

Elven armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Helm elven leather helm [ leather hat 1 AC
Body armor elven mithril-coat [ pre-identified 5 AC, MC2
Shield elven shield [ blue and green shield 2 AC
Cloak elven cloak [ faded pall 1 AC, MC1, stealth
Boots elven boots [ random appearance 1 AC, stealth

The elven cloak replaces the starting cloak of displacement for elven Rangers.

Other elven items


Dwarvish armor options generally offer some of the highest base AC values in the game. The dwarvish mithril-coat is inferior only to the iron and crystal plate mails, and dragon scale mail, but its good weight-to-AC ratio gives it an advantage over the plate mails. The dwarvish cloak is a possible exception to the advantages of dwarvish armor, with its base AC of zero. The dwarvish mattock is one of the most powerful non-artifact weapons.

Dwarvish weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Short sword dwarvish short sword ) broad short sword 1d7 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear dwarvish spear ) stout spear 1d8 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Pick axe dwarvish mattock ) broad pick 1d12 vs. small, 1d8+2d6 vs. large

Dwarvish armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Helm dwarvish iron helm [ hard hat 2 AC
Body armor dwarvish mithril-coat [ pre-identified 6 AC, MC2, enchantable to +5
Shield dwarvish roundshield [ large round shield 2 AC
Cloak dwarvish cloak [ hooded cloak 0 AC, MC1

While not explicitly described as dwarvish, iron shoes are often worn by dwarves.


Crossbows and crossbow bolts are explicitly noted as gnomish racial weapons[1] - Gnomish Rangers will start with a crossbow and bolts, rather than the usual bow and arrows, and are currently the only case where such a substitution applies.[2] Gnomes also receive a +1 multishot bonus when firing bolts from of a crossbow, and have a lower minimum strength threshold to fire multiple bolts at once. This also creates an unfortunate situation for gnomish Rangers, as their quest artifact the Longbow of Diana does not grant multishot bonuses when firing from it, and they must train up the separate bow skill in order to utilize it.

While player and non-player gnomes do not have any other racial equipment, the aklys is heavily associated with them due to the frequency of gnomes wielding one, especially in the early game within the Gnomish Mines. An aklys is often considered to be the only suitable melee weapon for a gnomish racial ascension. Non-player gnomes generated randomly outside of the Rogue level qualify for the default weapon sets generated in the monster starting inventory of non-strong humanoids that can wield weapons:[3] a stack of darts, a crossbow and some crossbow bolts, a bow and 3-14 arrows, a stack of daggers, or an aklys, with an equal probability of each and increased odds for gnome lords and gnome kings.


Orcish armor and weapons are characteristically described as "crude". The base AC of orcish armor is generally one point less than that of its generic equivalent—even studded leather armor is better than an orcish ring mail.

Orcish weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Dagger orcish dagger ) crude dagger 1d3 vs. small, 1d3 vs. large
Short sword orcish short sword ) crude short sword 1d5 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear orcish spear ) crude spear 1d5 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Bow orcish bow ) crude bow Orcs get +1 multishot bonus when using orcish arrows
Arrow orcish arrow ) crude arrow 1d5 vs. small, 1d6 vs. large

Orcish armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Ring mail orcish ring mail [ crude ring mail 2 AC, MC1
Chain mail orcish chain mail [ crude chain mail 4 AC, MC1
Cloak orcish cloak [ coarse mantelet 0 AC, MC1
Helm orcish helm [ iron skull cap 1 AC
Shield [ / [ red-eyed shield / white-handed shield 1 AC


Many variants add more types of race-specific equipment, and some provide additional incentives to use them, such as an extra point of AC per article or a bonus to charisma. This can also overlap with object materials systems where objects can be composed of different materials depending on whether they were, for example, dwarvish-made versus elven-made.


In SporkHack, monsters that wear armor matching their race, including the player character, gain a bonus point of AC.

SporkHack also adds gnomish armor:


In UnNetHack, non-player gnomes have a chance of being generated with a candle, especially if on a dark level of the Gnomish Mines.

Monsters that wear armor matching their race, including the player character, gain a bonus point of AC.


In dNetHack, on top of equipment being race-specific, it can also come in different sizes as well. This means that giants will often be generated with huge weapons, while gnomes can only equip small-sized armor and are generated with small weapons. Gnomes and other small monsters require both hands to wield medium weapons above a certain size (i.e. long swords are two-handed for gnomes, but short swords can be used with one hand).

All player and monster gnomes start with 'gnomish pointy hats' that can be used as a temporary, candle-like light source. Player gnomes also have bullwhips or clubs replaced with an aklys, and crossbows replacing normal bows; they can always train club and crossbow to expert regardless of role.


In EvilHack, you and other monsters gain a bonus point of AC for each piece of race-specific armor worn, and armor made of a certain material also has certain effects depending on which type of monster wears it. This is done in order to further flesh out various monster types, including many of the new monsters as well as racial monsters (which are implemented in a somewhat similar manner to GruntHack).

  • Dwarves
    • Iron shoes are now dwarvish boots; dwarvish mithril-coats are also changed to dwarvish chain mail, which when made of mithril function very similar to mithril-coats.
    • Dwarves gain the dwarvish bearded axe, a type of axe that can be generated as a weapon for player and non-player dwarves. Its damage is comparable to a long sword, and it can also be used to disarm monsters and remove their weapons or shields, similar to bullwhips.
    • Starting inventories for player dwarves have race-based substitutions that replace regular helmets with dwarvish helms and long swords with dwarvish bearded axes.
    • Non-cloth items of dwarven make have the following material distribution:
      • 60% iron
      • 20% steel
      • 15% mithril
      • 3% silver
      • 1% gold
      • 1% platinum
  • Elves
    • Iron is a hated material for elves in EvilHack - wearing or wielding anything made of iron that touches the skin will prevent hit point regeneration for player and monster elves and cause 1d8 physical damage on initial contact; player elves wielding iron without gloves incur a -1 Luck penalty. Iron also deals +1d8 bonus damage to any elven monster it hits, and elves will avoid using items made of iron where possible.
    • Elves are given the elven long sword, which has a base material of wood like other elven weapons rather than iron. The elven long sword is also lighter than a normal long sword, with damage closer to that of the katana, but is vulnerable to erosion from burning and rotting.
    • Starting inventories for player elves are adjusted so that weapons and armor are not made of a harmful material; most of this is handled by expanding race-based substitutions for elves, and any iron weapons not covered by those substitutions (e.g. the mace of an elven Priest) are given a special case that converts them to copper.
    • Mithril armor also grants MC3 when worn by elves, compared to MC2 for other races.
    • Non-cloth items of elven make have the following material distribution:
      • 60% normal base material (e.g. wood for elven weapons and shields, metal for elven chain mail)
      • 20% wood
      • 10% copper
      • 5% mithril
      • 3% silver
      • 2% gold
  • Orcs
    • Mithril is a hated material for orcs in EvilHack, in the same vein as elves - wearing or wielding mithril that makes skin contact deals 1d8 damage and prevents passive regeneration, and wielding mithril without gloves incurs a -1 Luck penalty. Mithril deals +1d8 bonus damage to orcish monsters, and orcs will avoid mithril items when possible. Orcish Knights can still gain access to the mithril Dirge via same-race sacrifice and wield it safely with some form of gloves, which all Knights start the game with.
    • While there are additionally race-based substitutions to replace any starting item made of mithril with an iron equivalent for player orcs, there are currently no items that qualify for this substitution, since the material of starting items is generally fixed.
    • Scimitars and iron shoes generated on orcs are replaced with orcish equivalents - orcish scimitars deal slightly less damage against small monsters, and orcish boots that have a lower base AC than iron shoes, but grant the same AC when worn by orcs. Player and non-player orcs can also generate with orcish long swords, which deal slightly less damage against large monsters compared to normal long swords. Finally, the orcish morning star is a significantly weaker form of morning star that is most often generated in the hands of goblin outriders and goblin-captains.
    • Armor made of bone and stone grants MC3 when worn by orcs.
    • Non-cloth items of orcish make have the following material distribution:
      • 65% iron
      • 25% bone
      • 10% stone
  • Gnomes
    • Gnomish Rangers will get The Crossbow of Carl as their quest artifact, whichis a very close equivalent to the Longbow of Diana: it weighs the same in gnomish hands as a normal bow would when carried by other races, can be invoked to create crossbow bolts, and grants gnomes their racial multishot bonus when firing bolts from it.
  • Hobbits
    • Starting inventories for player hobbits will use elven gear where possible, which parallels the tendency of non-player hobbits to use elven weapons and armor themselves.


SlashTHEM adds gnomish armor similar to SporkHack:

These items have no base AC, though gnomish players gain a +2 AC bonus for each piece of gnomish armor they wear.