GDSM versus SDSM

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Gray dragon scale mail (GDSM) and silver dragon scale mail (SDSM) are considered the two best suits of armor in the game. GDSM provides magic resistance and SDSM provides reflection, but it is not always clear which is better in any particular situation. If you intend to wish or reverse-genocide for dragon scale mail, you will need to decide which one is more appropriate.

Which armor is better largely depends on both playing style and one's current situation. A player who has one extrinsic should almost always wish for the armor which provides the other, but when one has neither, it is dependent upon things such as current HP, conducts, pets, and general style. For example, if you get an early wish and are not adhering to any conducts or time-consuming strategies, SDSM is often better. This is because reflection provides immediate protection against the commonly encountered attack wands and breath weapons, while a player with only GDSM is not protected against rays of fire, lightning, cold, sleep, and disintegration unless they have already attained the proper resistances.

Sometimes the armor that would be most useful immediately is not the one that you intend to include in your ascension kit. In this case, you must choose between maximizing immediate utility, and conserving wishes in the long run.

Gray dragon scale mail

  • Magic resistance protects against many monster spells, including particularly nasty ones such as destroy armor and touch of death.
    • Monsters capable of casting the more dangerous spells (such as golden nagas and liches) usually only appear relatively close to the castle. There, you will have more opportunity to wish for magic resistance.
    • Bear in mind that attack spells generally require the monster to be in melee range, so careful use of missile attacks and/or Elbereth can mitigate this danger to some extent.
  • Magic resistance protects you from wands of striking, which cannot be reflected.
    • Wands of striking do much less damage than the elemental wands, and will not damage your equipment.
  • Magic resistance provides protection from teleport and level-teleport traps, which can place unwary characters in dangerous situations.
    • Level teleporters are more likely to take you up. Fully exploring levels top-down makes those destinations safe.
  • Magic resistance provides full protection from polymorph traps, and allows you to safely displace your pets onto them.
    • SDSM provides partial protection against polytraps: you will turn into a silver dragon, trashing your shirt and cloak but keeping your armor. This will not protect you or your armor against subsequent polymorphs while in silver dragon form. Polymorphing in this way will revert your scale mail back to scales, negating much of its AC bonus, but not the extrinsic. Also, neither suit protects against polymorphs caused by lycanthropy.
      • Low-level players will rehumanize quickly, and a silver dragon is a good fighting form until then.
      • Lycanthropy can be almost completely prevented by magic cancellation, and cured e.g. by prayer.
  • Reflection is usually easier to obtain without wishing than magic resistance, particularly because of the possible amulet of reflection in Sokoban and the possible shield of reflection on Medusa's Island. Spending a wish or genocide scroll on GDSM makes it easier to obtain both properties, since magic resistance would usually be obtained by wishing for a cloak of magic resistance or quest artifact anyway.
    • Medusa's shield only comes rather late in the game, and close to the Castle wand of wishing.
  • Obtaining magic resistance from your suit frees up your cloak slot. This allows you to wear something more useful, such as a robe or oilskin cloak.
  • Crowning, should the player have access to it, will protect against the wands that magic resistance gives no defense against.
    • The player still needs to protect their items in open inventory from damage. It is difficult to crown without obtaining a luckstone. Crowning does not grant disintegration resistance.
  • Chaotic players cannot get magic resistance by wishing for another role's quest artifact.
    • Chaotic monks and wizards are still guaranteed a magic resistance artifact in their own Quest.

Silver dragon scale mail

  • Reflection protects you and your equipment from wands and breath attacks of fire, cold, and lightning, which are rather common and can deal tremendous amounts of damage.
    • You can protect scrolls and potions against only fire and cold by placing them in a container. Rings and wands kept at the ready will still be vulnerable to lightning. In particular, only SDSM protects your escape items.
  • Reflection protects you from a black dragon's disintegration breath.
    • A shield will be disintegrated first, which usually gives you enough time to escape or leave the line of fire.
    • Disintegration resistance can also protect you and your armor, but is difficult to obtain without defeating a black dragon.
  • Reflection protects you from wands and breath attacks of sleep.
  • Accidentally attacking a floating eye will not paralyze you.
  • While both suits protect against a wand of death, reflection gives a chance of killing the zapper on a rebound, preventing him from wasting valuable charges.
    • This does not apply to Orcus, who is a demon and therefore immune to his own wand of death.
  • Obtaining reflection from your suit frees up your amulet and off-hand slots. This allows you to wear another amulet (such as life saving), and potentially allows two weapon combat and combat spellcasting.


In the early game, the player has few, if any, elemental resistances and low max HP. This makes silver dragon scale mail almost invariably the better choice at this point in the game. Players who reach the Castle and obtain the wand of wishing have a wealth of resources at their disposal, and can be more flexible with their ascension kit.

In the end game as well, SDSM is usually the better choice. The table below attempts to clarify the decision by prioritizing the need for Magic resistance (MR), Reflection (R), Magic cancellation (MC), Two-weaponing (2w), and spellcasting in the endgame. It attempts to make the amulet slot available for an amulet of life saving, the shield hand free for two-weaponing, and the cloak slot open for a robe or cloak of protection. For those labelled "medium" under the spellcasting column, a robe is prioritized. A shield of reflection is avoided due to encumbrance; moreover, it is avoided for two-weaponers and spellcasters. While ascending from the Sanctum with the Amulet of Yendor, your quest artifacts cannot be relied upon for protection as long as the Wizard of Yendor may steal them; that is also taken into account here.

Role quest artifact (2w) Spellcasting GDSM vs SDSM in the endgame
Ascending from the Sanctum Astral Plane (no Rodney)
Archeologist MR (carried) y medium SDSM (R)

Cloak of magic resistance (MR)(MC1)*
Amulet of life saving


Quest artifact (MR)
Robe (MC2)
Amulet of life saving

Barbarian y low SDSM (R)

Cloak of magic resistance (MR)(MC1)*
Amulet of life saving
Two-weaponing or two-handed artifact weapon

Caveman MR (mace, wielded) low GDSM (MR)

Shield of reflection (R)
Cloak of protection (MC3) or robe (MC2)
Amulet of life saving

Healer high same as Barbarian

(Two-handed artifact weapon)

Knight MR (carried) y medium SDSM (R)

Cloak of magic resistance (MR)(MC1)
Amulet of life saving


Quest Artifact (MR)
Robe (MC2)
Amulet of life saving

Monk MR (lenses, worn) medium same as Knight

(Beware of Monk to-hit penalties for wearing body armor)

same as Knight

(Beware of Monk to-hit penalties for wearing body armor. Note that Monks also receive a much larger spellcasting bonus for wearing a robe.)

Priest +1 MC (helmet, worn) high GDSM (MR)

Shield of reflection (R)
Robe (MC2)
Quest artifact (+1 to MC up to MC3)
Amulet of life saving

Ranger Reflection (bow, wielded) medium GDSM (MR)

Quest artifact, wielded (R)
Cloak of protection (MC3) or robe (MC2)
Amulet of life saving

Rogue y medium same as Barbarian
Samurai y low same as Barbarian

(Two-handed artifact weapon)

Tourist MR (carried) y medium same as Barbarian same as Knight
Valkyrie y low same as Barbarian
Wizard MR (amulet, worn) high SDSM (R)

Magicbane, wielded (MR)
Cloak of protection (MC3)
Amulet of life saving

/*A neutral character may use Magicbane instead if they have received it--this is asterisked only for neutral roles. Artifacts received through wishing--which may provide reflection or magic resistance--are not taken into account in any case.

Conclusion: GDSM is a solid choice for cavemen, priests, and rangers. For all other roles SDSM seems to be the more versatile choice--especially once wishing for additional MR artifacts is taken into account.


In general, one will still want to wish for GDSM or SDSM as a first wish in SLASH'EM, and all the above arguments apply much the same. However, lawful characters will prefer GDSM since they have access to minions including movanic devas beginning at level 7 and monadic devas beginning at level 10, both of whom have a 25% chance of being generated with a shield of reflection, which can be obtained by allowing the minion to be killed (easily accomplished by bringing them near the Oracle) or by stealing it while polymorphed into a nymph, pixie, quickling, or brownie. Conversely, non-lawfuls will prefer SDSM as any elven cloak has a 1/4 chance of being upgraded to a cloak of magic resistance if #dipped in a potion of gain level, or upgraded with the gnome's tinker technique.

Additionally, two types of dragon scale mail become useful in the later game, if one has other sources of magic resistance and reflection. These are deep dragon scale mail which provides drain resistance, yellow dragon scale mail which provides acid resistance, and shimmering dragon scale mail which provides displacement. Drain resistance is a somewhat vital property in SLASH'EM, with wands of draining being a prominent factor in the late game. However, SLASH'EM provides numerous other ways to get it, in addition to wielding Excalibur or Stormbringer. These include an amulet of drain resistance, some new artifact weapons, being a lycanthrope, necromancer, or undead slayer, or wielding the Hand of Vecna (which is an item all adventurers will want to get anyway). Acid resistance is more desirable in SLASH'EM because of monsters with very powerful acid attacks, including the feared giant shoggoth, and the lab coat (SLASH'EM's version of the alchemy smock doesn't provide MC 3. Finally, shimmering dragon scale mail makes it possible to get displacement without the cloak, which also doesn't provide MC 3.


In GruntHack, thanks to object properties, the discussion of GDSM vs. SDSM is superfluous. As you can wish for a dragonhide cloak of magic resistance of reflection which gives you an AC 9 cloak with both properties, yellow dragon scale mail is usually a better choice, especially given that spellcasters may cast acid blast at you.

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