Racial equipment

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The array of weapons, armor, and other items available in NetHack and its variants include many items that are associated with one of the starting races, and may be considered racial equipment. Items may be linked to a specific race because (1) they are described as belonging to (made/used by) that race (e.g. dwarvish and elven mithril-coats) and/or (2) because they are more likely to be part of the starting inventory of monsters and players of that race (e.g. the aklys and crossbow for gnomes) than other pieces of equipment.

Racial equipment is an informal concept in vanilla. In the objects code, there are no variables (besides the object names) that mark items as belonging to any particular race. Racial associations only impact gameplay (1) during character generation, when some roles may receive racial substitutes for standard items (e.g. an elven dagger or orcish dagger instead of a regular dagger), and (2) when firing racial arrows from a racial bow: some races get bonuses (for example, to-hit, damage, or multishot) when using a matching bow and arrows. Apart from this case, there is no in-game incentive to use racial equipment. Players might choose to use items specifically associated with their race out of personal preference, or adherence to an unofficial conduct. A pragmatist, however, would probably ignore racial associations and pick the option with the best properties (often weapons or armor of dwarven or elven craftsmanship).

Some variants (e.g. UnNetHack) add other incentives to use race-specific equipment. Wearing your race's armor may grant an extra point of AC per article, or give you a bonus to charisma.


No items in NetHack are specifically said to be unique to the human race. Perhaps humans make the items that are not specifically described as elven, dwarvish, gnomish, or orcish.

The fact that human craftsmanship in NetHack does not seem worth mentioning might be in keeping with humans' general averageness as a starting race.


Elven weapons are described as "runed" and are made of wood, which is intrinsically rustproof. As a general rule elven armor has lower AC values than its dwarven equivalents, but all types of elven armor can be safely enchanted to +7. With the exception of the mithril coat, all elven armor is non-metal, and susceptible to rotting and fire.

Elven weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Dagger elven dagger ) runed dagger 1d5 vs. small, 1d3 vs. large
Short sword elven short sword ) runed short sword 1d8 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear elven spear ) runed spear 1d7 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Broadsword elven broadsword ) runed broadsword 1d6+1d4 vs. small, 1d6+1 vs. large
Bow elven bow ) runed bow Elves get +1 to-hit, multishot, and damage bonuses
Arrow elven arrow ) runed arrow 1d7 vs. small, 1d6 vs. large

Elven armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Helm elven leather helm [ leather hat 1 AC
Body armor elven mithril-coat [ pre-identified 5 AC, MC2
Shield elven shield [ blue and green shield 2 AC
Cloak elven cloak [ faded pall 1 AC, MC1, stealth
Boots elven boots [ random appearance 1 AC, stealth

The elven cloak replaces the starting cloak of displacement for elven Rangers.

Other elven items


Dwarvish armor options generally offer some of the highest base AC values in the game. The dwarvish mithril-coat is inferior only to the iron and crystal plate mails, and dragon scale mail, but its good weight-to-AC ratio gives it an advantage over the plate mails. The dwarvish cloak is a possible exception to the advantages of dwarvish armor, with its base AC of zero. The dwarvish mattock is one of the most powerful non-artifact weapons.

Dwarvish weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Short sword dwarvish short sword ) broad short sword 1d7 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear dwarvish spear ) stout spear 1d8 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Pick axe dwarvish mattock ) broad pick 1d12 vs. small, 1d8+2d6 vs. large

Dwarvish armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Helm dwarvish iron helm [ hard hat 2 AC
Body armor dwarvish mithril-coat [ pre-identified 6 AC, MC2, enchantable to +5
Shield dwarvish roundshield [ large round shield 2 AC
Cloak dwarvish cloak [ hooded cloak 0 AC, MC1

While not explicitly described as dwarvish, iron shoes are often worn by dwarves.


There are no "gnomish" items; however, there are weapons that gnomes are often found carrying:

Gnomish rangers start with a crossbow and bolts instead of the usual bow, which could mean that gnomes prefer this weapon.

In UnNetHack non-player gnomes have a chance of being generated with a candle, especially if on a dark level of the mines. Gnomes in dNetHack may get a "gnomish pointy hat" (which appears as a conical hat) which contains a candle and can be used as a temporary light source.

Slash'EM Extended and SLASHTHEM add gnomish "armor":

  • Gnomish helm ("little red hat")
  • Gnomish suit ("little blue vest")
  • Gnomish boots ("little black boots")

These items have a low AC, which is slightly higher for gnomish players.


Orcish armor and weapons are characteristically described as "crude". The base AC of orcish armor is generally one point less than that of its generic equivalent—even studded leather armor is better than an orcish ring mail.

Orcish weapons

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Dagger orcish dagger ) crude dagger 1d3 vs. small, 1d3 vs. large
Short sword orcish short sword ) crude short sword 1d5 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Spear orcish spear ) crude spear 1d5 vs. small, 1d8 vs. large
Bow orcish bow ) crude bow Orcs get +1 multishot bonus when using orcish arrows
Arrow orcish arrow ) crude arrow 1d5 vs. small, 1d6 vs. large

Orcish armor

Type Name Symbol Appearance Notes
Ring mail orcish ring mail [ crude ring mail 2 AC, MC1
Chain mail orcish chain mail [ crude chain mail 4 AC, MC1
Cloak orcish cloak [ coarse mantelet 0 AC, MC1
Helm orcish helm [ iron skull cap 1 AC
Shield [ / [ red-eyed shield / white-handed shield 1 AC