The guidebook has relatively little to say about Knights:
Knights are distinguished from the common skirmisher by their devotion to the ideals of chivalry and by the surpassing excellence of their armor.
- 1 Starting equipment
- 2 Intrinsics
- 3 Skills
- 4 Special Rules
- 5 Quest
- 6 Rank titles
- 7 Strategy
- 8 Variants
- 9 Encyclopedia entry
- 10 References
- +1 long sword
- +1 lance
- +1 ring mail
- +0 helmet
- +0 small shield
- +0 leather gloves
- 10 to 20 uncursed apples
- 10 to 20 uncursed carrots
At experience level 7, Knights gain intrinsic speed.
Knights start with Basic skill in longsword, lance, and riding, and their special spell is turn undead. Knights begin with knowledge of all weapons and non-magical armor.
In addition, there are special rules of conduct for a Knight:
Honor in combat
Knights take a −1 alignment penalty for each turn that they attack sleeping, paralyzed, or fleeing monsters in melee ("You caitiff!"), even if the monster continues to attack while fleeing. The only exceptions to this rule are monsters that just stole something. Monsters getting dressed (e.g., "the soldier puts on a crested helmet") are considered paralyzed for this purpose. Spells are not counted towards this penalty.
Knights also suffer this alignment penalty for using a poisoned weapon (e.g. a poisoned dart or arrow) in combat.
Frugality in food
There is a −1 alignment penalty for eating while satiated. ("You feel like a glutton!")
There is a −1 alignment penalty for digging down in a shop. This does not apply if the shopkeeper has been killed. ("You feel like a common thief.")
The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:
- XL 1–2: Gallant
- XL 3–5: Esquire
- XL 6–9: Bachelor
- XL 10–13: Sergeant
- XL 14–17: Knight
- XL 18–21: Banneret
- XL 22–25: Chevalier/Chevaliere
- XL 26–29: Seignieur/Dame
- XL 30: Paladin
Since they start with a +1 long sword and can attain Expert skill with them, Excalibur is a natural goal for most early-game Knights, and should be sought out once they hit experience level 5; more cautious Knights may choose to wait until they train up their STR and CON and/or hit XL 7 for intrinsic speed. The Knight's starting lance is a useful means of ranged attack, but is also very heavy - Knights will not start with high STR and/or CON as consistently as other roles like Valkyrie and Samurai, and can easily become encumbered early on. Stashing the lance may be a good idea, especially if you find a wand or other reliable ranged option.
To attack from range with the lance, you will need to see the square you are attacking. See pounding.
In addition to using it at a range like most polearms, attacking in melee with the lance can joust opponents, stunning them and pushing them one square away (which is the perfect range for another round of pounding). At starting skill levels, though, you will rarely succeed in jousting, so it is usually preferable to switch to your sword for melee.
The Knight starts with a fuller set of armor than most - most notably including leather gloves - and their primary concern should be quickly finding better-AC armor, particularly boots and a replacement for their ring mail. Unless they are concerned about early spellcasting, rustproof armor like mithril-coats will be sufficient. Silver dragon scale mail is the preferable choice for early wishes from magic lamps or a lucky fountain dip.
Knights looking to start casting early will have to play more carefully than usual - studded leather armor is the most practical spellcasting-friendly armor, but has the same base AC as ring mail.
The Knight's special jump can be a handy escape tool early in the game - it can provide an extra opportunity to engrave Elbereth or find some stairs, but it does cost nutrition for each jump. Between this and the starting supply consisting of low-nutrition items (whose uses are explained #Your Steed below), the first priority should be stocking up on permafood in general.
Your starting pony is likely your best asset for getting around quickly, and can finish off fleeing monsters for you in order to avoid early alignment record penalties. It is also a powerful pet in its own right and worth training until it grows up into a horse; remember that riding sets your movement speed to that of your mount, and riding a horse is equivalent to having very fast speed while unencumbered. The starting pony can also be used to liberate items from early shops with no penalty.
For Knights planning to make extensive use of their steed, be sure to bless your saddle as soon as possible with spare potions of holy water, and read its article (as well as the riding article) for more detailed strategies regarding caring for your saddle.
Failed mounting attempts will deal 10–14 HP of damage. This is enough to finish off a sufficiently weak and/or beginning character that attempts riding too early. (Sometimes instantly!)
Ponies are vegetarian, and thus gain more nutrition from vegetables and fruit such as your starting food unless starving. The tradeoff is that finding more food for your steed will be somewhat more difficult; #chatting to it regularly (using >) is ideal to monitor its status.
If your pony ever comes close to starvation, it will also accept "people food" such as food rations. Be sure to heal a starving horse as soon as possible after feeding it: a pet's maximum HP are reduced while starving, leaving them at low remaining HP once fed. If short on such food, one unorthodox method of dealing with this is to leave the level just before the horse is confused from hunger, let it go feral, and then return after the point where it would normally have starved. Taming the now-feral horse will reset its hunger level to satiated.
One good early strategy is to feed your pony 9 apples as soon as it drops an item. This will increase its tameness to the point where you will be able to mount it without slipping and also increases its apport. If the sum of your mount's tameness and your XL is greater than or equal to 20, you will not slip when you mount unless there is another problem (e.g., rusted body armor).
Another strategy is to avoid mounting your pony until it has gained a significant amount of HP, usually enough to grow up into a horse. By that point, you will have gained a few levels yourself. Steeds are less likely to kill monsters while being ridden, and only counterattack if a monster attack targeting you falls upon them instead. When in combat with your steed, it is best to dismount and let your horse handle weaker monsters such as lichens and molds (which they will gladly snack on after).
Upon descending below Mine Town or below DL 7, be especially carefuly of polymorph traps. If you have magic resistance, it will protect both you and your steed from transformation. In addition, be wary of wearing an unknown ring of conflict, as putting one on will cause your steed to buck you off immediately!
A decently-enchanted Excalibur is more than enough to carry most Knights throughout the entire game. Some mid-level knights may decide to joust long-term after training the skill sufficiently—they should find a luckstone to maintain positive Luck if they haven't already. Due to its weight, improving your carrying capacity in some way ahead of time is also recommended.
Knights with Expert skill in lances will want to use their main weapon on weaker monsters to further lower the chances of the lance breaking; invisibility is a good way to keep foes off-balance and wandering aimlessly, ideally into pounding range. Soldiers are sometimes generated with lances, making Fort Ludios and the Castle a perfect place to look for a replacement or spare lance.
At this point, you will want to begin stashing treasure and other excess items regardless of whether or not you utilize your lance–being encumbered slows you down and bars you from jumping, and more pertinently makes it difficult to evade foes or run them down before they can deal too much damage. Maximizing your speed is extremely important for combat from this point, especially if mounted—a bag of holding can easily do most of the work in that regard. If you make the choice to press on while encumbered, be prepared to shed excess items (e.g. stashing them in a sack that can be dropped at a moment's notice) when dealing with particularly troublesome enemies.
The quest nemesis Ixoth is a rather tough opponent—although he can be dealt with by using Elbereth or paralysis, his spellcasting ability is annoying to deal with unless you have magic resistance, and may warrant postponing the quest until after you clear the Castle. Repeatedly jousting Ixoth on a warhorse with expert skill is also a viable strategy for dealing with him.
Black dragons are likely the worst threat any committed rider can encounter; even if you are immune to disintegration, your mount won't be unless it has reflection somehow, and the saddle will end up disintegrated if hit by the dragon's breath. Your best tactic is to use your speed to close in while avoiding the dragon's line of fire and defeat them up close (e.g. with jousting or Excalibur).
Knights with expert in lances using a very fast mount can potentially deal severe damage to minotaurs, dragons and high-level demons through jousting and pouding without losing a single hit point.
If you wish to bribe Asmodeus and/or Baalzebub in Gehennom, be sure to unwield Excalibur before entering their lairs - if Excalibur is wielded when a demon prince is generated or warps to demand a bribe from you, they will become hostile.
By the time a player approaches Gehennom, maintaining a steed (like any other pet) is likely to be more trouble than it's worth. For those still committed to riding, ki-rin are perhaps the only steeds that can be truly useful throughout Gehennom, and Knights can mount them without decreasing their tameness. However, they are unlikely to be worth the trouble for most—a wish for a blessed figurine gives an 80% chance of obtaining a ki-rin at best, and they are not immune to death and disintegration rays, nor will any reflection you possess save them.
In UnNetHack, a Knight can also be a lawful dwarf. Knights carrying any body armor heavier than studded leather armor receive a weight reduction for it equal to half the difference; this allows them to carry more while wearing heavy armor before becoming burdened.
Here lies the noble fearless knight,
Whose valour rose to such a height;
When Death at last had struck him down,
His was the victory and renown.
He reck'd the world of little prize,
And was a bugbear in men's eyes;
But had the fortune in his age
To live a fool and die a sage.