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The Knight is one of the player roles in NetHack. They start as melee fighters with an affinity for riding, and have the potential to become powerful spellcasters later in the game. Knights are always lawful humans.

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.

As Knights start off with many items, a unique but useful pet, but also have a code of conduct, balanced stats and can easily get overencumbered in the early game by their heavy load, they are a balanced to medium difficulty role.

Starting equipment

The starting pet is always a pony with a saddle.


At experience level 7, Knights gain intrinsic speed.


Knight skills
Max Skills

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.

Special Rules

Knights have a special inherent ability to jump, which is restricted to destinations two squares horizontally and one square vertically away, or vice versa, like the knight piece in chess. A knight wearing jumping boots or casting the jumping spell is not bound by these restrictions.

Knights may use the turn undead command.

Knights do not reduce the tameness of a steed when mounting it.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Knights now take no penalties for casting clerical spells while wearing metal body armor, similarly to SporkHack.

Knights follow a code of conduct, and take a -1 penalty to alignment record for the following actions:

  • Attacking a sleeping, paralyzed, or fleeing monster in melee, even if the monster continues to attack while fleeing. This penalty doesn't apply if the monster has stolen from you. Monsters getting dressed (e.g., "the soldier puts on a crested helmet") are considered paralyzed for this purpose. Projectiles, wands, and spells don't apply this penalty.
You caitiff!
  • Eating while satiated.
You feel like a glutton!
  • Digging down in a shop, if the shopkeeper is alive.
You feel like a common thief.


Main article: Knight quest

The Knight quest sees you fighting Ixoth for The Magic Mirror of Merlin.

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


Early game


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 is typically 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 gain intrinsic speed at XL 7.

The Knight's starting lance is a useful means of ranged attack, but is also very heavy - Knights do 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 and lighter ranged option.

Attacking from range with the lance works like most polearms, in that the player character must be able to see the target square; see the article on pounding for details. In addition, 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 - and it risks your hard-to-replace lance breaking - 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 - but it's not very high quality, adding up to only 7 AC total. Plumbing the Gnomish Mines for a mithril-coat and dwarvish iron helm is risky; without infravision, a dark level blunts your advantages of being able to jump away from threats and pound with your lance from a distance. Upgrade when you can, using a pet to curse-test items in case they're positively enchanted, and find some sort of cloak to protect your body armor from rust monsters and rust traps.


An early-game Knight will have difficulty casting spells. You don't start the game with any, your low intelligence makes reading non-blessed spellbooks dangerous, and your starting helmet and body armor aren't conducive to spellcasting.

Knights looking to start casting early will have to play more carefully than usual. Outside of an early wish for SDSM, the next best option - crystal plate mail - is both rare and incredibly heavy. Studded leather armor is the most practical spellcasting-friendly armor, though it 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 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.

Your steed
Main articles: Riding and Saddle

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.[1][2] 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: pets' maximum HP are reduced while starving, leaving them at low remaining HP once fed. If short on food in general, 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 resets 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 likely 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 past Mine Town or below DL 7, be especially careful 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!

Mid game


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 the lance's 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 it 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 barracks such as those in Fort Ludios and the Castle good places to look for a replacement or spare lance.


At this point, you may 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, then defeat them up close (e.g., with jousting or Excalibur).

Late game


Knights with Expert skill 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 consistently last throughout Gehennom, and Knights can mount them without decreasing their tameness. However, players will have to decide if they are worth the risks—a wish for a blessed figurine gives an 80% chance of obtaining a tamed ki-rin at best, and despite their good natural AC they are not immune to death and disintegration rays, which player reflection will not save them from. In addition, their lack of poison resistance will likely spell their doom on the Plane of Fire unless the player can successfully avoid the poison cloud plumes.

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Ki-rin now have poison resistance, and are no longer considered animals. They also now have the ability to cure themselves using their horns, like unicorn horns. As they do not leave corpses, they do not drop their horns either.


A late-game Knight can amass a formidable array of spells and large energy pool. However, unlike a Priest or Wizard, your quest artifact doesn't grant any form of energy recovery, and your natural energy regeneration is as slow as anyone else's, so conserve spells for when they'll be most effective.

With the Magic Mirror, a high-level Knight casting magic missile can deal over 100 damage, or more if they can arrange for their spell to rebound off a wall. This makes magic missile a potential alternative to the traditional wand of death for dispatching the Wizard of Yendor and high priest of Moloch. However, if the Wizard steals the Mirror, he gains magic resistance and complete immunity to magic missile and death rays, so keeping the Mirror in your bag is a safer option. As with all roles, don't count on a quest artifact as your only source of magic resistance.



See Knight/SLASH'EM.


In UnNetHack, a Knight can also be a lawful dwarf. Knights wearing 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.


In FIQHack, Knights can be dwarves as well as humans. Knights are always warned before violating their honor code, and Dragonbane is the guaranteed first sacrifice gift for them.

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 ]