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A shield is a form of armor that appears in NetHack, and is one of seven armor slots available to the hero and certain monsters.


Wearing a shield is incompatible with wielding a two-handed weapon or performing two weapon combat; wearing a shield also prevents the hero from dealing staggering blows, and prevents a Monk from receiving a to-hit bonus for martial arts.

Wearing any shield reduces the hero's spellcasting success rate - the small shield has the lowest reduction.

Any monster with hands that can wear armor and is not wielding a two-handed weapon can wear a shield.[1]

If the hero or a monster is subject to a blast of disintegration and they do not have reflection, any shield they are wearing will be destroyed first without affecting them or their worn body armor.

List of shields

Shield Unidentified Description Cost Weight AC Material Special properties
Small shield small shield 3 30 1 wood Lower spellcasting penalty than other shields.
Elven shield blue and green shield 7 40 2 wood Can be enchanted to +7.
Orcish shield red-eyed shield 7 50 1 iron
Uruk-hai shield white-handed shield 7 50 1 iron
Large shield large shield 10 100 2 iron
Dwarvish roundshield large round shield 10 100 2 iron
Shield of reflection polished silver shield 50 50 2 silver Provides reflection.


Any shield that is non-cursed is safe to try on. In the early game, obtaining armor class is a priority, and most shields are useful to that end: the starting +3 small shield of a Valkyrie is a significant advantage over other roles, to the point that a non-Valkyrie hero who finds Valkyrie bones often benefits from wearing the shield, even if it is cursed. Monks have more than a few advantages from not wearing shields, including better to-hit and staggering blows.

In the mid-game, the relative value of armor class declines enough that most players in roles that can two-weapon (including Valkyries) will gladly give up a few points of AC from their shield for the damage increase - spellcasters focused on constant combat or utility spells may also forgo shields as well.

Popular shield choices from the mid-game to the ascension run are:

  • shield of reflection -- reflection is an important extrinsic property
  • small shield -- minimal spellcasting hindrance
  • elven shield -- has a niche use for its ability to be safely enchanted to +7

Heroes who keep a strong pet often give them a shield of reflection.