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Not to be confused with the ASCII tombstone that the game prints when a character dies.

A headstone is a dungeon feature represented by |.

When the player character dies and leaves a corpse, a grave is created with the tombstone bearing the character's name and manner of death. The name of a previous character may also be used for random corpses.

Graves may also be randomly generated, in which case grave-robbing may be worthwhile. Those in a graveyard are empty.

Graves can only occur on an open, non-trapped floor square.

If you attempt to pick up from a grave with no items on it, you will get a YAFM: "You don't need a gravestone. Yet."


Bad effects

Digging into a grave may result in an alignment penalty:[1]

Samurai −1 if lawful, +1 if chaotic "You disturb the honorable dead!"
Archeologist −3 if lawful, +3 if chaotic "You feel like a despicable grave-robber!"
Other −1 if lawful and alignment record > −10 "You have violated the sanctity of this grave!"

The owner of the grave may be:[2]

25 A very old corpse "You unearth a corpse."
15 A zombie "The grave's owner is very upset!" (if hallucinating: "Dude! The living dead!")
15 A mummy "You've disturbed a tomb!" (if hallucinating: "I want my mummy!")
15 Nothing "The grave seems unused. Strange...."


Graves from dead players never contain treasure; the player's items are left on top of the grave.

Randomly generated graves may contain treasure if you dig for it. Treasure is generated this way in the same way as the rest of the level,[3] except it is cursed.[4]

  • 13 chance of a pile of gold (the gold is not buried which may be a bug)
  • 0–4 randomly generated objects


You cannot engrave on a grave with your finger. Engraving with a hard object generates a ghoul (once per grave – "you disturb the undead!") and abuses wisdom.[5] Elbereth is ignored on headstones; this is to prevent cheeky players from naming themselves Elbereth to leave behind a permanently warded square when they die.


Player graves are inscribed with the cause of death. Randomly generated grave inscriptions include various epitaphs, randomly selected from a list. Starting in NetHack 3.6.0, this list is found in dat/epitaph.txt, which is much too long to present in its entirety here. The 3.6.0 epitaphs come from the custom epitaphs used on NAO.

The epitaphs in 3.4.3 are all present in 3.6.0, and are listed here:

  • Saved by the bell. (There is also a bell on top of the grave.)[6][7]
  • Go away!
  • 1994-1995. The Longest-Lived Hacker Ever
  • Be careful, or this could happen to you!
  • Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice
  • Beware of Electric Third Rail
  • Caution! This grave contains toxic waste
  • Here lies an Atheist, all dressed up and no place to go. (Thurmont, Maryland)
  • Here lies Ezekiel, age 102. The good die young. (East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia)
  • Here lies Johnny Yeast. Pardon me for not rising. (Ruidoso, New Mexico)
  • Here lies my wife: Here let her lie! Now she's at rest and so am I. (John Dryden's epitaph for his wife)
  • Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas instead of the brake. (Uniontown, Pennsylvania)
  • I made an ash of myself. (Julian Skaggs of West Virginia, who was cremated)
  • Look out below!
  • Made in Taiwan
  • Note -- there are NO valuable items in this grave
  • Og friend. Og good dude. Og died. Og now food (possibly a reference to Internet Oracle lore, or to Cavemen's ability to commit cannibalism without penalty)
  • He always lied while on the earth and now he's lying in it
  • Please don't dig me up. I'm perfectly happy down here. -- Resident
  • Postman, please note forwarding address: Gehennom, Asmodeus's Fortress, fifth lemure on the left
  • Mary had a little lamb/Its fleece was white as snow/When Mary was in trouble/The lamb was first to go
  • Rest in peace
  • Rest In Pieces
  • R.I.P.
  • Soon ripe. Soon rotten. Soon gone. But not forgotten.
  • Soon you'll join this fellow in hell! -- the Wizard of Yendor
  • Sum quod eris (Latin: "I am what you will be"—dead.)
  • The Grave of the Unknown Hacker
  • We weren't sure who this was, but we buried him here anyway

Some 3.6.0 additions include:

  • Don't be daft, they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist- (Alleged last words of General John Sedgwick, killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 9, 1864; in fact he completed the sentence)
  • Audi Partem Alteram (Latin: "Listen to the other side")
  • Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (Horace: "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country"; quoted as "the old Lie" by Wilfred Owen in "Dulce et Decorum Est)
  • Auri sacra fames (Latin: "Accursed hunger for gold")
  • Auribus teneo lupum (Latin: "I hold a wolf by the ears", or a tiger by the tail)
  • Obesa Cantavit (Latin: "The fat lady has sung")


UnNetHack includes a large number of new headstone messages including one that reads "Apres moi, le deluge." ("After me, the flood"; attributed to Louis XV, also the motto of 617 Squadron, RAF "The Dam Busters") which will have a scroll of flood on top of it. Additionally, if you kick a headstone, you have a 15 chance of kicking it over (destroying it).

Digging up a grave may reveal a large box that turns out to be a coffin with a vampire inside.


  • make_grave generates a headstone with a (random or given) epitaph. Graveyards and bones files call this function directly.
  • mkgrave may generate treasure and the "saved by the bell" grave. Randomly generated headstones call this function.

Encyclopedia entry

"Who'd care to dig 'em," said the old, old man,
"Those six feet marked in chalk?
Much I talk, more I walk;
Time I were buried," said the old, old man.

[ Three Songs to the Same Tune, by W.B. Yeats ]