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The ranger is one of the player roles in NetHack. Rangers can be either neutral or chaotic, and can be humans, elves, gnomes, or orcs.

Rangers can get expert in dagger, sling, dart, boomerang, spear, bow and crossbow, and also in divination spells. Rangers cannot use two-weapon combat.

The guidebook entry for the ranger has this to say about them:

Rangers are most at home in the woods, and some say slightly
         out of place in a dungeon.  They are, however, experts in archery
         as well as tracking and stealthy movement.

Starting equipment

A Ranger's starting equipment depends heavily on their race:

Human Gnome Elf Orc
Melee weapon +1 dagger +1 dagger +1 elven dagger +1 orcish dagger
Launcher +1 bow +1 crossbow +1 elven bow +1 orcish bow
Primary ammo 50-59 +2 arrows 50-59 +2 crossbow bolts 50-59 +2 elven arrows 50-59 +2 orcish arrows
Secondary ammo 30-39 +0 arrows 30-39 +0 crossbow bolts 30-39 +0 elven arrows 30-39 +0 orcish arrows
Cloak +2 cloak of displacement +2 cloak of displacement +2 elven cloak +2 cloak of displacement
Food 4-8 cram rations 4-8 cram rations 4-8 lembas wafers 4-8 tripe rations

two stacks of 1-2 random foods

A chaotic Ranger, regardless of race, has a 1% chance each of their primary and secondary ammo stacks being poisoned.



Ranger skills
Max Skills

Rangers start with Basic skill in Dagger and the category of their starting launcher (either Bow or Crossbow).

Special rules

Rangers have a role bonus for multishot which applies to stackable ranged weapons except daggers. Skill and racial bonuses apply as normal.

Rangers have a bonus to their chance of disarming floor traps.

Rangers have a +2 penalty with emergency spells.


Early game


If you're not a gnome, the Mines will be fairly dangerous. However the resident gnomes and dwarves will have plenty of ranged weapons and armor that you might want. It will be hard to attack enemies from a distance on dark levels, especially for players without infravision.

It is important to remember that enchanted arrows and arrows which have been blessed break less often than other arrows. High luck substantially reduces breakage of blessed projectiles, so a luckstone is essential for long term arrow use. (With maximum luck and blessed arrows enchanted to +2 or higher, arrows break only very rarely.) This makes Mine's End a hazardous but very important destination. This also makes obtaining holy water a high priority.


Accumulate a stack of daggers to save your arrows from breaking. You can discard these after you have a large stack of blessed, +6 or +7 arrows.

Use your +2 arrows first; not only do they do more damage, but they are less likely to break (uncursed +2 arrows breakage rate is 25%, while +0 is 67%). Note that while arrows are made of metal (which can corrode), elven arrows are made of wood, so regardless of strategy, it's a good idea to keep a few elven arrows to dispatch acidic monsters and rust monsters. Elven rangers have the advantage of having such arrows from the start of the game.

Consider poisoning your arrows by dipping them in a potion of sickness. This will cause d6 damage and will instantly kill 10% of the time if your target is not poison resistant. Some will become unpoisoned, however, giving you two stacks of arrows, some poisoned and some not. Use the unpoisoned arrows when attacking targets which are not vulnerable to poison. When you intend to enchant your arrows further (or most of your arrows have become unpoisoned), poison the unpoisoned arrows and put them back into the quiver. Note that getting potions of sickness is not difficult; 1/4 of random alchemy results become sickness, so dipping a couple of random potions together should get you a potion of sickness.

You can acquire more arrows from dead bodies or by untrapping arrow traps.

Keep in mind that Rangers can throw or fire up to 4 ranged weapons at once (except for daggers) giving them on an average 2.5 times the damage as the same weapon in melee. Unskilled or Basic skill can randomly hurl up to 1 extra weapon, 2 extra for Skilled and 3 for Expert. See multishot for details.


Rangers are extremely unlikely to cast spells in the early game, so metallic armor is fine.


A good strategy is to maintain a distance from opponents: most monsters are much poorer at ranged combat than a starting Ranger. Humans, Gnomes and Orcs start with a cloak of displacement which helps with this strategy.

Levitating while firing your arrows or daggers will make you fire only one missile. Also, you are paralyzed when you hurtle in the opposite direction from your shot; this lasts at least as long as you would take walking, so this is a dangerous way to run away.

Mid game


The Quest is a bit tough, and the reward is not too great. The Longbow of Diana provides reflection, but you will want an alternate source of reflection before going on the Quest anyway, to defend against the large number of centaurs armed with wands, and it lacks the racial multishot bonus that non-human rangers enjoy. However, it does provide telepathy when carried in open inventory and gives the Wizard something else to steal (a quest artifact) other than the Amulet of Yendor.


You can get several hundred arrows from the first level of the Ranger quest off of dead centaurs and untrapping the two arrow traps before the quest boss' lair. Also, the Ranger quest artifact, The Longbow of Diana, can be invoked to summon arrows of its corresponding blessed/cursed status. If you prefer to use a crossbow as your primary ranged weapon (likely for the multishot bonus as a gnome), you can also get a few hundred crossbow bolts from the plains and mountain centaurs in the quest.

If you have skill slots to spare, consider switching to darts as your primary ranged weapon. They are as lightweight and plentiful as arrows, don't require a wielded launcher, and despite their low base damage benefit from high Strength, unlike arrows or bolts: at a Strength of 18 darts do as much damage as elven arrows, and with 25 Strength from gauntlets of power, each dart will deal an additional 4 damage over that. The only downsides are a lack of silver damage and, for non-humans, having to disregard the racial multishot bonus.

Wishing for Magicbane (even if you're not neutral) may be a good idea because daggers are one of the few weapons Rangers can get expert in. Non-cursed athames (including Magicbane) may also be used to engrave Elbereth on the ground without dulling the blade. In addition to decent damage, it also dispenses useful magical effects on opponents (cancel, probe, stun, and scare).

Getting an artifact from your god will unrestrict the associated weapon skill. If you cannot wish or sacrifice for artifacts then spears, tridents and crysknives are all within the Rangers' skillset. You can deal significantly more damage by firing arrows in point-blank range, though.

Be careful around water: you don't want your +7 elven arrows to fall in!


Should you require extra AC, a small shield gives +1 AC and doesn't impede your Divination spells too much once you've trained. A shield of reflection can also be useful for its extrinsic, opening up your amulet slot for life-saving (or ESP, but ESP is granted by your quest artifact). Rangers cannot two-weapon, and probably should not be using two-handed weapons at this stage of the game.

A robe will likely be helpful for spellcasting.


Once you have blessed your arrows and have holy water to spare, you can start blessing spellbooks and learning some of the divination spells. A good spell to practice with is light as it's easy to cast and does not take up a lot of power.


Because so many things need to be enchanted (e.g., melee weapon(s), arrows, silver arrows, silver dagger/spear etc), scrolls of enchant weapon are at a premium. Consider putting magic markers and wands of polymorph high on your list of priorities. (Enchanting bows is usually a waste; it only helps your to-hit calculations, not damage, and most players hit every round anyway by the time they get around to enchanting things.)

Late game


Raising your experience level past 15 may be useful for spellcasting, but otherwise it's probably not worth the trouble. HP can be raised through alchemy and nurse-dancing.


You will want a good melee weapon because you will likely be levitating a lot in the endgame. That makes it dangerous to fire projectiles.

Having a silver backup weapon such as a silver dagger or silver spear is a good idea. While Rangers can't use silver sabers without penalty (unless they are gifted Werebane by their god, unrestricting it), silver daggers and spears can be thrown at incoming silver vulnerable creatures to soften them up. Silver arrows are precious and should be used only on especially nasty creatures; however, blessed silver arrows enchanted to +2 will last you a long time if you have high luck.

Remember that range is your best friend. Nasties on the upstair? Get just close enough, your maximum range, and fire away. They will not flee upstairs as you are too far away, they will not summon monsters at that range and they will not attack you.


Most of the spells Rangers will cast are not useful in battle, so a shield of reflection or elven shield might be useful additions to your ascension kit.


Rangers can become useful spellcasters, particularly with divination spells. Some of the best spells in the game are magic mapping, identify and detect unseen. Among the non-divination spells, jumping is useful on the Astral Plane as well as to keep a distance from foes. Healing may be useful if you have a pet. Unfortunately, Rangers often have poor Pw growth, so you may spend some time waiting before being able to cast again.

Below is a table of all possible spells a Ranger can get at least Basic at.

Skill Spells
Basic healing, cure blindness, cure sickness, extra healing, stone to flesh, restore ability, jumping, haste self, invisibility, levitation, teleport away
Expert detect monsters, light, detect food, detect unseen, clairvoyance, identify, detect treasure, magic mapping

Rangers use intelligence as their spellcasting stat.

Skill slot management

Rangers may find themselves short on skill slots. A starting ranger will likely want to advance skill with their starting bow. Shortly after that, the ranger might want to advance skill in dagger and their melee weapon (e.g., spear). Later, a ranger will likely want to advance skills in spellcasting and either shuriken or dart. Consider if you'll continue to use a weapon class before advancing to expert in order to save skill slots.

Rank titles

The status line shows you to be one of the following ranks when you reach the specified experience level:

  • XL 1-2: Tenderfoot
  • XL 3-5: Lookout
  • XL 6-9: Trailblazer
  • XL 10-13: Reconnoiterer/Reconnoiteress
  • XL 14-17: Scout
  • XL 18-21: Arbalester
  • XL 22-25: Archer
  • XL 26-29: Sharpshooter
  • XL 30: Marksman/Markswoman


Main article: Ranger quest

The quest sees you fighting for The Longbow of Diana, the artifact bow that creates arrows when invoked and grants ESP when carried. It also provides reflection when wielded. The Ranger quest is arguably one of the harder ones since centaurs are very fast and use projectiles. In addition to that, all of the quest levels are full of traps. It is advised to have speed boots when going on the quest so that the centaurs don't hit you as much per turn. Be sure to also have reflection (centaurs are intelligent enough to use wands), having magic resistance also helps a whole lot. The quest is full of items, however. You will probably find lots of scrolls and plenty of potions as well.

The easiest way to fight centaurs is using ranged attacks. Poisoned arrows work extremely well, even unenchanted ones. Keep your distance away from enemies, only switching to your melee weapon when fighting wimpy monsters (such as scorpions or bats).

Once in Scorpius' cavern, checking the maximum range you can fire, get that distance from the upstair and wound and wake him up. A good spray of +2 arrows will finish him off after he teleports to the stairs. If he attacks you, be sure to remember to cure the sickness!



See Ranger(SLASH'EM)


In Unnethack, rangers are restricted to skilled in spear.

Encyclopedia entry

"Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters -- but hunters
ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many
places, not in Mordor only.
If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played
another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls
and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands
beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North
would have known them little but for us. Fear would have
destroyed them. But when dark things come from the houseless
hills, or creep from sunless woods, they fly from us. What
roads would any dare to tread, what safety would there be in
quiet lands, or in the homes of simple men at night, if the
Dunedain were asleep, or were all gone into the grave?"

[ The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]

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