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For the monster class, see Xorn (monster class).

A xorn, X, is a type of monster that appears in NetHack. It is the only member of the xorn monster class. The xorn is an unbreathing metallivore that is notable for its ability to phase through walls while moving, which a character can use while polymorphed into a xorn.

A xorn has three claw attacks and a strong bite, and possesses fire resistance, cold resistance and stoning resistance.

Weapons that use the pick-axe skill gain +2 to-hit against xorns.[1]


Randomly generated xorns are always hostile.

Xorns are the second quest monster class for Monks and the second quest monster, meaning that they make up 635 of the monsters that are randomly generated on the Monk quest. Several xorns are also generated on each floor of the quest branch at level creation: four are generated on the home level, two are generated on the upper filler level, three are generated on the lower filler level(s), and nine are generated on the locate and goal levels.

Xorns are also the second quest monster for Wizards, and make up 24175 of monsters randomly generated on the Wizard quest. Two xorns are generated on each of the lower filler level(s) at level creation.

Xorns are likely to be generated in the throne room of the Castle at level creation.

The Wizard of Yendor may create a clone of himself in the guise of a xorn via the Double Trouble monster spell.[2]

Digging with a pick-axe or dwarvish mattock on the Plane of Earth has an effective 16 chance of generating a xorn on each adjacent square.[3]


Xorns have a solid AC of −2 and an extremely nasty bite, and their phasing can make them difficult to evade. However, they move at a slow 9 speed and respect Elbereth, so they can be dispatched with sufficient caution. Xorns can be lethal to characters with poor AC who try to out-melee them, particularly Monks embarking on their quest: their phasing can also thwart boulder fort strategies employed against tougher monsters such as Master Kaen. Avoid using non-disposable iron projectiles against xorns if possible, and be sure to take as much advantage as possible of their MR score of 20 and their lack of resistance to sleep or poison.

Characters trying to avoid xorns at the Castle can exploit their inability to cross water by luring them across the drawbridge and raising it behind them. Xorns cannot be destroyed by drawbridges under normal circumstances due to their phasing - however, if there are two phasing monsters on both squares of the drawbridge (the portcullis and the moat in front), one of them will be killed if the drawbridge is raised.

Wizards looking to farm wraiths may consider a strategic genocide of xorns so that more wraith-class monsters will generate - they will no longer have access to phasing via xorn polyform, but in return can farm wraiths freely without worrying about graveyards, especially once they retrieve The Eye of the Aethiopica.

As a polyform

Xorns are one of the most useful monsters to polymorph into for various applications:

Xorns can wear all non-torso armor: be sure to remove any body armor (including cloaks and shirts) before polymorphing into one. Be mindful of where you are when your polyself is potentially about to expire: In addition to the perils of returning to normal form while crossing water, you may find yourself stuck in a wall if you are phasing through one when you return to normal form. If you are returned to normal while inside a wall, you can move out of the wall if you are adjacent to an open square, and will otherwise be unable to move at all - you can escape from being trapped in rock by doing any of the following:


The xorn first appears in Hack for PDP-11, which is based on Jay Fenlason's Hack, and is included in the initial bestiary for Hack 1.0.

In NetHack 3.4.3 and earlier versions, including some variants based on those versions, xorns are subject to a few notable bugs:

  • Xorns could be created in inaccessible areas, such as outside the Sokoban walls. This was bug C343-151.
  • When a character polymorphed into a xorn returned to their normal form and was in open space, they would be stuck in a pit that doesn't exist; this was bug C343-17.


The xorn originates from Dungeons & Dragons, where it debuts in the 1st Edition Monster Manual of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Xorns come from the Elemental Plane of Earth and are depicted as odd and radially-symmetrical creatures: a large mouth sits at the top of their rocky body, surrounded by three long arms interspersed with their three eyes and three stumpy legs. All of their limbs are evenly spaced, and their arms end in sharp talons.

Like many creatures from their Elemental Plane, xorns can travel through ground and stone as if it were water. Xorns encountered outside their home plane are not especially peaceful, but only attack if something else attacks them first or impedes their scavenging. The usual xorn diet consists of stone and minerals, as well as some types of metals - this may explain the unused message present in the code of NetHack for eating flint stones.


The debris from your digging comes to life!
Xorns were generated from digging using a pick-axe or dwarvish mattock.


In variants that incorporate the Convict role, one or two xorns are generated on the lower filler level(s) of the Convict quest at level creation.


In SLASH'EM, xorns hit as +2 weapons.

Xorns are the second quest monster for Ice Mages and the second quest monster class, meaning that they make up 635 of the monsters that are randomly generated on the Ice Mage quest. Several xorns are also generated on each floor of the quest branch at level creation: four are generated on the home and locate levels, three are generated on the upper filler level, two each are generated on the lower filler level(s), and five are generated on the goal level.

Using the xorn polyform to walk through the waters of the Castle moat is a Bad Idea compared to vanilla NetHack: the moat is now full of amnesia-inducing Lethe water. A character polymorphed into a xorn can still use their phasing ability combined with any form of levitation, flight or water walking to breach turrets safely.


In dNetHack, the Elder Elemental Eye can protect against xorns at any level of reinforcement.


In addition to SLASH'EM details, xorns in SlashTHEM are lithivores and can eat stone in addition to metal. Xorns are also no longer the sole monster in their monster class, and in particular they can grow up into greater xorns.

Xorns still make up 24175 of the monsters randomly generated on the Monk and Ice Mage quests, and will appear alongside the other random X that make up 6175 of monsters randomly generated there.


In Hack'EM, xorns can also eat hard gems in addition to metal.

Encyclopedia entry

A distant cousin of the earth elemental, the xorn has the
ability to shift the cells of its body around in such a way
that it becomes porous to inert material. This gives it the
ability to pass through any obstacle that might be between it
and its next meal.