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) Arrow.png
Name arrow
Appearance arrow
Damage vs. small 1d6
Damage vs. large 1d6
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 2 zm
Weight 1
Material iron

An arrow is a projectile that can be thrown but is best used with a bow. It is easy to obtain a large supply of arrows by untrapping an arrow trap. In addition to regular arrows, there are elven arrows, orcish arrows, silver arrows, and ya (Samurai arrows).

Using arrows

Although not necessary to throw or fire arrows, the best use of arrows is with an appropriate launcher.

The character must wield a bow and then throw arrows for them to be most effective. This process can be streamlined by quivering arrows and then using the fire command, but this is simply a convenience and is not necessary. However, crossbow bolts will not be fired from a wielded bow—they must be used with a crossbow instead.

The range for an arrow is \lfloor \frac{Strength}{2} \rfloor +1 when you are wielding a bow[1][2], and \lfloor \frac{Strength}{4} \rfloor when you are not[3]:

Strength: 3 4, 5 6, 7 8, 9 10, 11 12, 13 14, 15 16, 17 18–18/31 18/31–21 22, 23 24, 25
Range of arrow (with wielded bow) 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Range of arrow (without wielded bow) 0 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6

Along with other cursed missile weapons or launchers, cursed arrows occasionally "slip from your hand" when you throw or fire them, and end up on the ground.

Since arrows are used with a bow, they are affected by bow skill.

Max Role


The number of arrows shot at once depends on the character's bow skill. You will shoot 1 arrow at a time at unskilled or basic skill, up to 2 arrows at skilled, and up to 3 at expert. There is a +1 bonus for rangers, and an additional +1 for elven characters shooting elven arrows from an elven bow, orcish characters shooting orcish arrows from an orcish bow, and samurai shooting ya from a yumi. This means, for example, an elven ranger using elven arrows and an elven bow can fire up to 5 arrows at once.

Average damage calculation

The average damage calculations in the following table do not include bonuses from weapon skills or from using a blessed weapon against undead or demons. However, these bonuses apply per arrow, so they may cause far more damage than when attacking in melee.

The calculations for poisoned arrows assume the monster is not poison resistant.

Weapon Number of arrows fired at once
1 1d2 (average 1.5) 1d3 (average 2) 1d4 (average 2.5)
+0 arrows \frac{1+6}{2}=\bold{3.5} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 1.5=\bold{5.25} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 2=\bold{7} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 2.5=\bold{8.75}
+7 arrows \frac{1+6}{2}+7=\bold{10.5} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 1.5=\bold{15.75} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 2=\bold{21} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 2.5=\bold{26.25}
poisoned +0 arrows \frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}=\bold{7} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 1.5=\bold{10.5} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 2=\bold{14} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}\right )\times 2.5=\bold{17.5}
poisoned +7 arrows \frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7=\bold{14} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 1.5=\bold{21} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 2=\bold{28} \left (\frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7\right )\times 2.5=\bold{35}


Along with crossbow bolts and darts, arrows are liable to break when fired or thrown. This destroys the item, with no message. The item simply disappears. This chance of breaking is reduced by the item's enchantment and your Luck. Compare this with daggers, which cannot break when thrown.

Projectiles have a probability of disappearing after use. For uncursed projectiles, this depends on the net enchantment/erosion of the item. +0 projectiles have 2/3 probability of disappearing, +1 have 1/2 probability, and +2 or greater reduces the chance of breaking to 1/4.

For blessed projectiles, there's an additional possibility of being saved due to Luck, as follows:

Luck prob of save
0 - 2 .25
3 - 5 .49
6 - 8 .74
9 - 12 .98


Arrow longevity

On average, you will get \frac{1}{p} uses out of each arrow, where p is the probability of that arrow breaking on a given shot. The average total number of uses you will get is simply that number multiplied by the starting number of arrows; for instance if you have 50 arrows, each with a one in four chance of breakage per shot, you will on average get a total of 200 uses. However, the distribution is fairly wide, so your results may vary significantly from this; the standard deviation for number of uses is \frac{\sqrt{A(1-p)}}{p}, where A is the starting number of arrows.

The following charts show the expected average uses of arrows, where the player is assumed to be collecting up all the arrows which did not break.

Encyclopaedia entry (arrow)

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

[ The Arrow and the Song,
           by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ]

Elven arrow

) Elven arrow.png
Name elven arrow
Appearance runed arrow
Damage vs. small 1d7
Damage vs. large 1d6
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 2 zm
Weight 1
Material wood

An elven arrow is a projectile for use with a bow. It appears as a runed arrow when unidentified. When fired by an elven player from an elven bow, there is a +1 arrow racial bonus for arrows fired. Elven weapons are not made of metal and will not corrode or rust. They are, however, susceptible to rotting attacks.


  • Elven arrows are generally the weapon of choice for most bow users, and when playing as an elf doubly so. Due to their relative abundance, with the high number of elven creatures that spawn in the game, and that they deal slightly more damage, elven arrows are the best choice for all but orcs and samurai.


In SLASH'EM, an non-cursed elven arrow has a 1 in 3 chance adding an additional shot to the multishot roll, meaning a player that would normally only shoot 1 arrow will shoot d2 arrows 33% of the time, a player that would normally shoot d2 arrows will shoot d3 arrows 33% of the time, etc.[4] This bonus does not apply to dark elven arrows.

Orcish arrow

) Orcish arrow.png
Name orcish arrow
Appearance crude arrow
Damage vs. small 1d5
Damage vs. large 1d6
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 2 zm
Weight 1
Material iron

An orcish arrow is a projectile for use with a bow. It appears as a crude arrow when unidentified. It is slightly less effective than a regular arrow. When fired by an orcish player from an orcish bow, there is a +1 arrow racial bonus for arrows fired.


  • Orcish arrows are often spawned poisoned, allowing a 10% instant death chance against many early game monsters. This overcomes the lower damage, though this often makes them worse to be on the receiving end than even Elven arrows without poison resistance.
  • Orcish arrows are generally useless to all but orcs—whose multishot bonus can make up for the lost damage—as they have less damage, and are uncommon to find after the very early game. If lacking in arrows, usually not a problem with the abundance of arrow traps, orcish arrows can at least fill the quiver slot to keep more preferable fodder from breaking in use.
  • Orcish rangers are in a particular position to gain a benefit of orcish arrows, though even then, due to their rarity, other types should be found.

Silver arrow

) Silver arrow.png
Name silver arrow
Appearance silver arrow
Damage vs. small 1d6+(1d20)
Damage vs. large 1d6+(1d20)
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 5 zm
Weight 1
Material silver

A silver arrow is a projectile for use with a bow. It deals the same base damage as a regular arrow, but can also cause silver damage.


  • Silver arrows can clear a five-lane highway through silver hating monsters, but unfortunately, they are fairly rare—only twelve in a thousand randomly spawned weapons will be silver arrows. Fortunately, however, with maximized Luck even a small stack can last a fairly long time.

Wielding a silver arrow and stabbing monsters with it does not do silver damage. Nor does throwing the arrow. Only shooting the arrow with a bow deals silver damage. This is considered a bug by the DevTeam.


) Bamboo arrow.png
Name ya
Appearance bamboo arrow
Damage vs. small 1d7
Damage vs. large 1d7
To-hit bonus +1
Weapon skill bow
Size one-handed
Base price 4 zm
Weight 1
Material metal

A ya is a Japanese arrow that appears in the starting inventory of samurai. When unidentified, it is a bamboo arrow.

Being arrows, ya should be fired using a bow. They deal more base damage than any other arrow, and are also the only arrows to have a to-hit bonus. When fired by a samurai from a yumi, there is a +1 arrow bonus, similar to a racial bonus.


Ya are a real world arrow type used by Japanese archers, around 85-110 centimeters (33-43 inches), compared to the 75-90 centimeters (30-35 inches) of the normal arrow. They were made to be fired from a yumi, though in NetHack, there's no penalty for another bow, simply not a bonus.

The yumi itself is a very large bow, to deal with these large arrows, standing 212-245 centimeters (83 to 96 inches) tall, and being around 25% over the height of the archer (a longbow, in comparison, stood roughly as tall as the archer).

The to-hit bonus may suggest that the arrows were supposed to have a bodkin point, a common medieval war-time arrow by no means specific to the Japanese. This is an arrow head type made for penetrating armor, and in particular, chain or ring mail.

Encyclopedia entry

The arrow of choice of the samurai, ya are made of very
straight bamboo, and are tipped with hardened steel.


  1. dothrow.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 943
  2. dothrow.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 961
  3. dothrow.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 963
  4. dothrow.c in SLASH'EM 0.0.7E7F2, line 175

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