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The Knight is one of the player roles in NetHack. Knights are always lawful humans. According to the guidebook:

Knights are distinguished from the common skirmisher by their devotion to the ideals of chivalry and by the surpassing excellence of their armor.

Starting equipment

The starting pet is always a pony with a saddle.


Knights can identify all weapons and non-magical armor from the beginning. They also have a special intrinsic ability to #jump like the knight piece in chess. They are able to #turn undead, and their special spell is turn undead.

  • At experience level 7, Knights gain intrinsic speed.


Knight skills
Max Skills

Knights start with Basic skill in Longsword, Lance, and Riding.


Main article: Knight quest

The quest monster is a quasit. The quest nemesis is a dragon called Ixoth. He is a rather tough opponent, although he can be dealt with by using Elbereth or paralysis. Knights receive the Magic Mirror of Merlin after the quest, which allows them to become powerful spellcasters.

Rank titles

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

Code of conduct

There are special rules of conduct for a Knight:

Honor in combat

"You caitiff!"

Knights take a −1 alignment penalty for attacking sleeping, paralyzed, or fleeing monsters (even if the monster continues to attack while fleeing) except when the monster just stole something. Monsters getting dressed (e.g., "the soldier puts on a crested helmet") are considered paralyzed.

The alignment penalty occurs each turn you attack when the monster is still sleeping, paralyzed, or fleeing.

If the monster is a weak one then it is a good idea to dismount and let your horse finish it; your horse will get an additional HP.

Knights also suffer this alignment penalty for using a poisoned weapon (e.g. a poisoned dart or arrow) in combat.

If you use spells, your alignment record will be unaffected.

Frugality in food

"You feel like a glutton!"

There is a −1 alignment penalty for eating while satiated.

Honorable shopping

"You feel like a common thief."

There is a −1 alignment penalty for digging down in a shop. This does not apply if the shopkeeper has been killed.



Knights can jump to get out of trouble. It costs some nutrition, but can provide an extra opportunity to engrave Elbereth, or to find some stairs. Many Knights perish when they forget about this ability.

The horse

One good strategy is to feed your horse 9 of your starting 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. Feeding it after it drops an item will also increase its apport. As the game progresses, keep in mind that many things can cause a mount attempt to fail causing you to lose 10–14 HP. Thus it is a bad idea to attempt a mount with fewer than 15 HP. You want your pony to kill some things to build more hit points and grow into a faster mount, and it is less likely to kill a monster while you are riding it. If you find a harmless monster like a yellow mold or a lichen, then dismount and let your pony dispatch it. If the sum of your mount's tameness and your XL is greater than or equal to 20, you will not slip when you remount unless there is something else causing a problem (e.g., rusted body armor).

If your horse has been repeatedly hit and you are mounted, flee. If you aren't mounted but you have a magic whistle, use it to get your horse out of danger. Obtain a stethoscope as soon as possible. If your horse is low on hit points then look for a safe place (telepathy is great for checking if there are no monsters around), remove your armor and cast healing spells on it (direction is ">" if you are riding it). If you are riding, your mount will not attack peaceful monsters such as watch captains or shopkeepers that might out-match your steed.

As you descend below Mine Town or below DL 7, polymorph traps become a concern. If you have magic resistance, it will protect both you and your pet from transformation. A ring of polymorph control will protect you, but will not protect your pet from being changed into a random monster that will likely not take a saddle.

Keeping the horse fed

Because pets feed mostly on the corpses of fallen monsters and few of them are vegetable, horses are harder to keep fed than other pets. One of the two primary sources of food for a horse is the food the knight gets in his initial equipment. Any vegetarian food will keep a horse fed for 4–5 times as long as it would keep you fed,[1] with exceptions for starving pets.[2] For that reason, do not eat carrots and apples except in an emergency; for example, being blinded in a dangerous situation, which can be remedied by eating a carrot. Lack of people food is usually not an emergency. Find other sources of food or wait until you become weak and then pray. Carrots and apples can be used to reward a horse who has stolen an item from a shop, encouraging it to steal more items, with no alignment record penalty.

The other primary source of food for horses is corpses from creatures like lichens and molds (except yellow molds).

Monitor your horse's hunger status by chatting to it regularly. It is not necessary to dismount to chat with your horse, just chat in the down direction (">"). If it "whickers," it is fine, but if it "whinnies," it is hungry. If it ever comes close to starvation ("you feel worried about your horse" or "your horse is confused from hunger"), it will also accept "people food" such as food rations. You should heal a starving horse as soon as possible after feeding it; a starving horse has its maximum HP reduced to one third of its original. While feeding it restores its maximum HP, the horse will still have to heal its current HP from the one-third level.

If you're short on people food, one way to restore your horse's nutrition is to let it go feral. Once a horse whinnies, you have fewer than 500 turns before it becomes confused, and 750 turns before it starves. Ideally, you want to leave the level shortly before it becomes confused and loses its max hit points, and then not return until after it would have starved. If your horse would have starved while not on the same level as you, it will become feral and hostile. Throwing appropriate food at the hostile horse will turn it into a satiated new pet. NetHack doesn't keep track of your former pet's nutrition.

Taming another horse by throwing it an apple is tempting but the food problem will become even more acute. Taming a third horse is definitely unwise. Pacifying a hostile horse by throwing it food they will not eat (such as a food ration) will stop the horse from fighting you and give you an opportunity to come back later to pacify it.

The saddle

The Knight's pony starts with a saddle. If your saddle becomes cursed and you aren't riding you will be unable to mount your horse, and if you are riding then you can't dismount. Reading a spell of remove curse or zapping a wand of cancellation downwards doesn't work. If it is safe to do so, praying to your god may dismount you. Zapping a wand of opening or casting knock downward will throw you from your mount and remove the saddle. Nymphs and foocubi can steal a cursed saddle from your mount, even while you are riding it. Wearing a ring of conflict may also cause your mount to throw you from the saddle, though this leaves the saddle attached to your mount.

Once you have potions of holy water to spare it is a good idea to use one of them to bless your saddle. It is best to use your lance and speed to keep monsters that curse from ever coming in contact with you. Your saddle's worst nemesis is black dragons. By the time you meet one of them you will probably be immune to disintegration, but your mount won't be (unless it has reflection), and the saddle will suffer its fate. Saddles are nearly as difficult to replace as lances. It is usually a good idea to quickly close with black dragons while avoiding being directly in line with them, joust them and then finish them before they recover.

The lance

The Knight requires special tactics to be successful. If it is a full moon, Knights can start using the lance from the start. Otherwise, Knights should wait until they have positive luck to start jousting. With positive Luck, Knights should apply the lance at range, and then attempt to joust when the monster closes to melee range. Using this tactic with expert lance skill on a very fast mount, it is possible to deal with Minotaurs, dragons and high-level demons without losing a single hit point.

Since in the weapon charts the lance seems to do less damage than the long sword and there is no lance artifact weapon, people playing Knights tend to discard the lance and rely on the long sword. However, when you account for the effects of jousting the lance causes considerably more damage than a regular long sword, and even compares favorably with Excalibur.

Against a normal-sized opponent the long sword does 1d8 damage (average 4.5), while the lance causes 1d6 damage (3.5 on average) plus an additional 2d10 damage when jousting (11 on average). Thus, including skill bonuses, at Unskilled level the average damage is 3.5 + 11 × 0.2 − 2 = 3.7, at Basic 7.9, at Skilled 11.1 and at Expert it is 14.3. By comparison, Excalibur at Expert skill does 1d8+1d10+2 HP of damage for an average of 12. Against a large opponent, after factoring in jousting and skill bonuses the lance inflicts on average 4.7 HP damage at Unskilled level of expertise, 8.9 at Basic, 12.1 at Skilled and 15.3 at Expert. Excalibur does on average only 14 HP (at expert skill) against large opponents. It is true that Excalibur gets a +5 to hit bonus, but this is irrelevant for high level characters with enchanted weapons and Expert level of expertise, since they hit every round anyway.

In addition, the lance allows attacking non-adjacent opponents (pounding), and a successful joust pushes the opponent one square away (possibly for another round of pounding) and stuns it. In fact, an unencumbered Knight on a fast mount with a lance is possibly the only character who can kill Demogorgon in melee combat without resorting to tricks like Elbereth or polymorphing; on a successful joust he will not be able to attack a second time or teleport before the Knight finishes him. At high skill levels the lance is ideal for dealing with situations where you find yourself surrounded by one layer of monsters: every joust (and you will be getting a lot of them) will push a monster one square away, meaning there is one less monster who will attack you this round and possibly allowing you to slip away. At base skill levels you will rarely succeed in jousting, so if foes get next to you, jump away. As an aside: you don't get paralyzed when you apply your lance on a floating eye.

Even if you use the lance as your primary weapon, it is still worth keeping Excalibur. Lances occasionally break, and Excalibur confers incidental attributes such as level drain resistance. In addition, Excalibur exhibits less variance in damage compared to the highly variable damage inflicted by jousting. Excalibur twoweaponed with another highly enchanted weapon can also do more damage than a lance.

To make full use of your lance you need two things: light and speed. You will be unable to apply your lance if you cannot see your foe. Detecting it by telepathy doesn't work, so having a light source is important.

Caring for your lance

Lances can break and are difficult to replace. If your luck is positive, the probability of it breaking is very low. If it is not a full moon, you should use the lance only for pounding (not for close combat) until you can increase your luck. Once you get to Expert skill level with the lance there is no point in using it on weak monsters; shift to the sword to avoid breaking your lance. Until you can get it rustproofed (or at least covered with grease) don't wield it in places likely to have rust traps (e.g. most levels of the Gnomish Mines), unless you have a supply of potions of oil. Soldiers are sometimes generated with lances in their inventory, making Fort Ludios and the Castle a perfect place to look for a replacement or spare lance.


Your mount's speed is very important for a Knight. If you are faster than your opponent and you joust it, it will be unable to hit back. In this way, you can attack a monster without it ever being able to attack. Being encumbered slows you down and bars you from jumping. Fight while encumbered is a significant disadvantage; drop everything you don't need to have on hand for a combat as soon as you see a monster. At 7th level you will become fast, but this makes little difference if you are riding. Your pony will get faster when it grows into a horse, and your horse will get faster still when it grows into a warhorse.

Become invisible

Monsters will detect you only if they move adjacent, but if you stay at a distance of two squares you will remain undetected (even if carrying a light!) and they will move aimlessly while you apply your lance on them again and again until they are killed.


Because they don't have carnivorous pets eating any egg they can find, Knights have a higher chance than other roles to get dragon eggs and, once they hatch, a tame dragon as a pet. Dragons can be saddled and ridden and thus are more useful to Knights than to most other classes.

Once acquired a dragon must be grown. It will gain 1d(victim level + 1) HP every time it kills a monster. It will increase its level by one for every 8 HP gained. Therefore once the egg is hatched you should go to lower dungeon levels and avoid killing monsters but let the dragon do it (dismount if you are riding it).

When growing your dragon, you should note:

  • A mounted pet will attack any monster whatever his level when the monster's attack goes astray and falls on the pet instead of you
  • An unmounted pet will attack any monster on its own initiative, provided that the monster's level is not two or more above that of the pet. Also, monsters don't attack unmounted pets unless attacked first.
  • When riding you get better control of your pet's whereabouts, what it is engaging and when. Nothing is more frustrating than having a dragon get killed because it engaged the Oracle or the watch captain at a moment when it was low on HP.
  • Because your mount is only targeted by "stray attacks", the danger of it getting killed is less when mounted than when dismounted where it will have to fight monsters alone without your assistance and getting the full share of their blows.
  • If you are riding there will be almost no chance of you becoming separated (e.g. due to a trap door or a level teleport trap) from your mount.

You have to decide if you will change mounts from horse to dragon.


  • Dragons can reach level 22 and 176 HP
  • They have the same immunities (poison, disintegration, electricity) as other dragons of the same species.
  • Dragons can fly, allowing the Knight to cross obstacles impassable to horses. Also, burdened Knights no longer need to dismount before going downstairs.
  • They are carnivorous and thus easier to keep fed. (This also means that they will gladly eat up any safe fleshy corpse you ride over unless they're already eating).


  • Dragons are quite slow compared to horses (and especially warhorses), so when mounted you will travel at its speed. Indeed it is faster to walk while being intrinsically fast. Make sure to zap it with a wand of speed monster to improve this somewhat.
  • You will also have to decide what to do with your horse. It may steal kills from your much slower dragon, preventing its growth.

An excellent option for a Knight is a ki-rin, giving you the best of both worlds; ki-rin are fast, fly, don't eat, and will heal themselves. As Knights do not decrease tameness when they mount something, they do not have the problem other classes have of keeping the ki-rin tame. Furthermore, ki-rin will resist conflict (unless level drained), so they will not buck you while you are riding. The hard part is to get a tame ki-rin; they're rare and have a high magic resistance; that makes them hard to tame even if you do find one, and your best bet of getting a tame ki-rin is to spend a wish on a blessed figurine of one. Beware of letting your ki-rin attack fire elementals on the Plane of Fire. You will probably need to find a way to let it heal on the Astral Plane.



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;[3] this allows them to carry more while wearing heavy armor before becoming burdened.


See Knight/SLASH'EM.

Encyclopedia entry

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.

[ Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra ]


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