Imperial elven armor

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[   imperial elven armor  
Appearance runed plate mail
Slot body armor
AC 6 (6 DR)
  • MC3
  • can be enchanted to +7
Base price 9000 zm
Weight 110
Material wood
[   imperial elven helm  
Appearance runed faceless helm
Slot helm
AC 2 (4 DR)
  • MC2
  • can be enchanted to +7
  • covers the face entirely
Base price 900 zm
Weight 30
Material wood
[   imperial elven gauntlets  
Appearance runed gauntlets
Slot gloves
AC 2 (4 DR)
  • MC1
  • can be enchanted to +7
Base price 900 zm
Weight 15
Material wood
[   imperial elven boots  
Appearance runed armored boots
Slot boots
AC 2 (3 DR)
  • MC1
  • stealth
  • can be enchanted to +7
Base price 900 zm
Weight 25
Material wood

Imperial elven armor is a rare type of armor that appears in dNetHack and notdNetHack, and found nearly exclusively by Madmen and Anachrononauts on their quests.


Imperial elven gear is only spawned in three ways - the Anachrononaut Quest, the Elf Madman Quest, and on specific non-randomly generated monsters. This gear also counts as future tech, so only Tourists may wish for it normally. All pieces are typically made of wood, though can be rarely be made of mithril, silver, copper, gold or bone with probabilities identical to normal non-cloth elven gear. All pieces are inherently magical.

Imperial elven gear comes in two subtypes: upgradeable and non-upgradeable.

Upgradeable gear

Upgradeable armor pieces mostly occur in fixed locations in the game, and have story-line reasons why they were damaged and need repairs.

  • For Elf Madpeople specifically, there is a full set of thoroughly burnt rotted imperial elven gear in their quest. This armor is always made of wood and bright green. It is located directly under - but not in the inventory - of Lady Constance. This set begins with no upgrades.
  • There is a full set of thoroughly rotted imperial elven gear on each lower filler level for Anachrononauts (including Androids), with a small chance to find extra pieces lying around those same levels. Those sets are also random colors, instead of always bright green. These armors have no upgrades already applied, but can be upgraded as normal by anyone with the capabilities. This can be any material possible with the usual odds, and thus will almost always be wood.
  • Star-emperors and empresses have a full set of gear, and unlike other sources of upgradeable gear these have some upgrades already applied. The boots have the speed and kicking upgrades. The gloves have the dexterity, strength, increased damage, and grappling upgrades. The body armor has the flying, fast healing, sickness resistance, and medium armor upgrades. Finally, the helm has the breathlessness, and accuracy upgrades. These monsters are found inside mind flayer crystal skulls.
  • Puppet-emperor Xeleth and Puppet-empress Xedalli each have a set of technically-upgradeable golden gear that already has all possible upgrades applied. However, this set is also self-cursing and infested with byakhee larvae. If the PC were to equip the full set of gear they would take around 52 points of damage per turn from the biting and stinging larvae, and would likely be unable to quickly remove it due to its self-cursing behavior. These enemies are also exclusively found on the Planes for Elf Madpeople, and therefore out of reach for normal runs anyway.

Non-upgradeable gear

Non-upgradeable gear is found in the inventories of certain monsters, typically with upgrades already applied. Unlike upgradeable gear, this gear is missing features simply because it is less sophisticated, and cannot be upgraded any further no matter what you do.

  • Star-elves have a full set of imperial elven gear, with a random material following the usual odds. The gloves have the dexterity upgrade, the body armor has the sickness resistance upgrade, the helm has the breathlessness, blindness resistance, and accuracy upgrade, and the boots have no upgrades.
  • Carcosan courtiers in the future - in either Anachrononaut quest, specifically - have a 5% chance to have a plain golden set of imperial elven armor with a smattering of upgrades. The boots have speed, the gloves strength, the helm the same as Star-elves, and flying, sickness resistance, and reflection on the body armor. These are useful intrinsics to have, but Anachrononauts are guaranteed upgradeable imperial elven gear as well; if the player desires better versions of this gear can be assembled.


The main draws of imperial elven gear are their upgradeable abilities. Each piece can be upgraded separately, using an upgrade kit in conjunction with a specific item to add a new property to that specific piece of gear. All upgrades are slot-specific, must be worn to apply their effects, and do not stack with the same upgrade or other sources of the same property (except where specified). Any upgrade kits or items spent are consumed upon applying the upgrade.

If imperial elven gear is found in a bones level, it will have the same upgrades and upgradable status as in its source game.

To upgrade a piece of gear, you must have learned how via some source. Otherwise, upgrade kits will simply not display the prompt. There are only four ways to have the ability to upgrade imperial elven armor: You must have started as an Anachrononaut, opened your quest box as an Elf Madperson, bound Dantalion at any point (this is a permanent knowledge unlock, Dantalion does not have to still be bound), or have seen a Star-elf, Star-emperor, or Star-empress as a Tourist. For other roles, or for non-Elf madpeople, the only option for learning how to upgrade imperial elven gear is Dantalion.

The upgrade prompt will offer to "repair" a piece of imperial armor, and the armor must not be worn while upgrading. Upon choosing a piece of gear, it will ask which item to use to 'repair' the armor piece - if no items in your inventory are valid upgrade materials, this will abort the repair process with nothing consumed.

Upgrade materials must be type-identified to be offered as choices - so an unidentified ring of increase damage will not work with gauntlets, for example, but once it's been identified it will display as a possible option. Some upgrades can take two or more items as possible materials - for example invisibility on the armor can come from a cloak of invisibility, a ring of invisibility, or even a wand of make invisible. These upgrades can still only be applied once, even if you try with the other possible materials. No upgrades are mutually exclusive - with sufficient upgrade kits, it is possible to have all upgrades at once.

Any upgrades that apply an enchantment-scaling bonus use the enchantment of the imperial elven armor piece, rather than the upgrade material consumed. All upgrade materials only check the base item type and identification status, so even wands with expended charges, negatively enchanted items, or anything else. No traits of the original item are kept and used for anything after the upgrade completes.

There is no way to know what upgrades result from which items in-game, to know which items can be used to upgrade gear, or even to know which properties (aside from the ones that have obvious on-wear or inspect effects) a given piece of armor has. However, the below table summarizes all possible upgrades for each piece of gear. Separate recipes for the same upgrade are included as separate entries for ease of sorting.

armor slot property granted upgrade material in-game upgrade name
helm breathlessnesss amulet of magical breathing life support subsystem
helm see invisible ring of see invisible crystal eye
helm telepathy helm of telepathy extrasensory perception subsystem
helm telepathy amulet of ESP extrasensory perception subsystem
helm teleport control ring of teleport control teleportation control subsystem
helm protection from shape changers ring of protection from shape changers self-bored lens
helm life sense (shows living monsters in line of sight, even if blind) wand of draining life-sign sensor
helm blindness resistance (ala the Eyes of the Overworld), protects vs. attacks to the eyes, enables protection vs. mind flayer attacks, and +1 AC and DR. crystal helm visor
helm increased accuracy (+enchantment to accuracy) ring of increase accuracy targeting subsystem
body armor flying flying boots moth wings
body armor sustain ability ring of sustain ability stasis subsystem
body armor fast healing (heals 1 HP/turn, stacks with regeneration, no hunger cost) ring of regeneration medical subsystem
body armor fast healing (heals 1 HP/turn, stacks with regeneration, no hunger cost) amulet of wound closure medical subsystem
body armor reflection amulet of reflection reflective chestplate
body armor reflection shield of reflection reflective chestplate
body armor reflection jumpsuit reflective chestplate
body armor sickness resistance healer uniform sealed bodyglove
body armor sickness resistance amulet vs. sickness sealed bodyglove
body armor half physical damage cloak of protection ballistic base layer
body armor half spell damage cloak of magic resistance dispersive underlayer
body armor half spell damage orihalcyon gauntlets dispersive underlayer
body armor displacement cloak of displacement holographic projector
body armor invisibility cloak of invisibility active camouflage system
body armor invisibility ring of invisibility active camouflage system
body armor invisibility wand of make invisible active camouflage system
body armor bonus AC (+enchantment to AC specifically, stacks with normal AC/DR from enchantment) ring of protection deflectors
body armor counts as medium armor, gaining 1/2 dex bonus (normally heavy armor, no dex bonus), also gives +1 AC and DR. elven mithril coat mithril articulation
gloves swimming water walking boots swimming webs
gloves 25 strength when worn gauntlets of power power servos
gloves bonus dexterity (+enchantment to dexterity) gauntlets of dexterity dexterity servos
gloves bonus damage (+enchantment to damage) ring of increase damage microtargeting servos
gloves ability to fire aura bolts from your hands wand of magic missile missile projectors
gloves grapples struck targets (only when struck by the gauntlets, not a melee weapon) amulet of strangulation grappling servos
boots jumping jumping boots jump jets
boots very fast speed speed boots speed boosters
boots very fast speed wand of speed monster speed boosters
boots very fast speed ring of alacrity speed boosters
boots teleportitis wand of teleportation blink subsystem
boots teleportitis ring of teleportation blink subsystem
boots counts as kicking boots when kicking kicking boots concussive impactors


Practical usage

In most cases, the practical limitations on your upgrades come from the number of upgrade kits in the game rather than the materials to upgrade with. Quite a few can spawn in the Caves of Law and as the random tools in the Gnomish Mines, but besides those you would have to find them pretty much randomly. As such, it's important to ration your upgrade kits, and use them wisely on useful upgrades.

Notable upgrades include half physical damage and half spell damage on your armor for general purpose use, flying on your armor and very fast speed on your boots to free up an armor or ring slot (a must-have for most builds using a full set of imperial elven armor), and sustain ability on your armor to free up a ring slot. Equally powerful but more situational upgrades include 25 strength on your gauntlets for melee builds (nearly a must-have for them, mediocre otherwise), sickness resistance and fast healing on your body armor (helpful for nearly everybody, but less impactful some other upgrades), and breathlessness on your helm (again, helpful but less impactful).

Even partially upgraded imperial elven gear, assuming you manage to get the powerful upgrades at least, is likely better than the majority of other available armors out there - since this is balanced out by its extreme rarity. It is notably missing magic resistance, free action and possibly drain resistance, but otherwise can supplant nearly all of an ascension kit armor-wise. You still have a free cloak slot, most likely for a cloak of magic resistance if you don't have that slotlessly, plus a free shirt slot and two free ring slots for free action (chef's choice for the second ring). Imperial elven helms and boots are likely the most supplantable, since the helms don't provide any crucial intrinsics (and the boots only really necessitate a speed upgrade), so if you're running short on upgrade kits you can forgo those pieces in favor of another helm or pair of boots you already possess. Helms of drain resistance and boots of speed are practical alternatives, or helms of brilliance for would-be casters. No set bonus is granted for wearing all 4 items, after all.

Obtaining black-market copies

Practically speaking, the only way for non-Elf-Madperson non-Anachrononaut roles to get imperial elven gear is by finding them in bones, or off a Star-elf or their grown-up forms (Star-emperors and Star-empresses). Unfortunately, there is no way to force a Star-elf spawn in a way that includes its inventory aside from wishing for figurines, which only works for Tourists (non-Tourists will always have their figurines "warp strangely" and fail). Figurines of Star-emperors and empresses always "warp strangely" even for Tourists. They cannot be candled or reverse genocided. There are only 2 possible ways for them to spawn for other roles:

  • Star-elves and their grown-up forms can be found very rarely (124 for Star-elves, 148 for Star-emperors, 148 for Star-empresses, 112 chance for any) in crystal skulls, and they will have their inventory.
  • If a non-Madperson Elf findes the Stranger in bones, the "yellow nasties" it spawns can include a dream-leech Star-elf with its inventory.

Crystal skulls do not spawn naturally as objects, and are only found on mind flayers (1120 chance), master mind flayers (190 chance), or alhoons (guaranteed). The master mind flayers that spawn at level generation in R'lyeh are guaranteed to have crystal skulls as well, making the R'lyeh have a total of 5 guaranteed crystal skulls, as well as 2 earlier in the Lost Cities on the alhoons.

For sufficiently dedicated adventurers who check all 7 of those, they have a ~45% chance to find a crystal skull containing a set of imperial elven armor, but only a ~25% chance to get useful and upgradeable armor. The armor can then be removed from the skull via a trephination kit with charges - removing the armor directly from the summoned monster will cause it to vanish when that monster does. Note that the material can be random, and therefore potentially metallic. However, this is still of middling use considering it cannot be further upgraded without Dantalion - or for Tourists, by making prolonged eye contact with your summon. For sufficiently determined adventurers, it is nonetheless still technically possible and potentially strong, despite only being doable in under a quarter of games.

For extremely affluent Tourists with plenty of wishes available, wishing for imperial elven gear (most likely the body armor) is still an option. This requires at least one wish for each piece of gear, but does not solve the problem of your inability to upgrade them. You can wish for a figurine of a Star-elf to grant you the ability to upgrade it as well (if you don't already have Dantalion), but the armor they have is unupgradeable and therefore not worth your time. If this is your chosen route, wishing for mithril imperial elven armor is likely your best bet. Mithril grants an outstanding 9/9 base AC/DR, up from the 6/6 of wood, for only 146 weight (36 more). Furthermore, the body armor offers most of the majorly impactful upgrades. If you have the materials and upgrade kits available, this might actually even be worth your time and wishes.