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Your starting race can be one of: human, dwarf, elf, gnome or orc. All roles can choose to be human, whereas the other races are restricted to only some of the roles. Your race affects your starting and maximum attributes, the belligerency of monsters, and the safety of sacrificing particular races. Your starting race will also affect what constitutes cannibalism, as well as what creatures can be safely genocided.

Polymorphing into an elven, dwarvish, etc. monster will not affect the above. However, your god will never gift you an artifact that attacks your current form.

Humans can be any alignment (subject to your chosen role allowing that alignment), but for the others, your race indirectly determines your alignment: dwarves are always lawful, gnomes are always neutral, and elves and orcs are always chaotic.

In general, dwarves are strong, elves and gnomes are smart, orcs are poison resistant, and humans are good all-rounders.

Racial intrinsics

Race intrinsics Notes
Dwarves none Double digging speed
Elves sleep resistance at level 4 Multishot bonus for elven arrows from elven bows
Gnomes none Can use uncursed touchstones as blessed
Humans none No infravision
Orcs poison resistance at level 1 Cannibalism is ok. Multishot bonus for orcish arrows from orcish bows

Maximum attributes

Your race limits your inherent attributes. Equipped magic items (such as gauntlets of dexterity) ignore these limits.

Race Strength Dexterity Constitution Intelligence Wisdom Charisma
Human 18/** 18 18 18 18 18
Elf 18 18 16 20 20 18
Dwarf 18/** 20 20 16 16 16
Gnome 18/50 18 18 19 18 18
Orc 18/50 18 18 16 16 16

Reference: role.c, line 405.


The guidebook offers the following advice about the starting races:

Dwarves are smaller than humans or elves, but are stocky and solid individuals. Dwarves' most notable trait is their great expertise in mining and metalwork. Dwarvish armor is said to be second in quality not even to the mithril armor of the Elves.

Elves are agile, quick, and perceptive; very little of what goes on will escape an Elf. The quality of Elven craftsmanship often gives them an advantage in arms and armor.

Gnomes are smaller than but generally similar to dwarves. Gnomes are known to be expert miners, and it is known that a secret underground mine complex built by this race exists within the Mazes of Menace, filled with both riches and danger.

Humans are by far the most common race of the surface world, and are thus the norm by which other races are often compared. Although they have no special abilities, they can succeed in any role.

Orcs are a cruel and barbaric race that hate every living thing (including other orcs). Above all others, Orcs hate Elves with a passion unequalled, and will go out of their way to kill one at any opportunity. The armor and weapons fashioned by the Orcs are typically of inferior quality.


SLASH'EM has new races, as well as changes to allowed alignments and statistics of original races. New races are:

Slash'EM Extended

Slash'EM Extended has all of SLASH'EM's races, as well as added ones not present in other variants. In this variant, every race has maximum stats of 25 for every stat, and every combination of role, race, alignment and gender is possible. Here is the list of all the added races.


dnethack adds the following new races:

  • Clockwork automatons - unliving constructs that may upgrades themselves.
  • Drow - Dark Elves, with special racial equipment and powers.
  • Half-dragons - powerful, but slow human hybrids with a (randomized) breath weapon.
  • Incantifiers - expert spellcasters that eat only magic.
  • Vampires - powerful undead that start with flying and regeneration, but must feed on blood to sate their increased hunger.

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