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The xorn is a monster that appears in NetHack. It is the only member of the ​X xorn monster class.

The xorn is notable for its ability to phase through walls and eat metal. Xorns are also unbreathing and resistant to fire, cold, and stoning.

Xorns are kebabable, granting a +2 to-hit bonus when using a weapon that uses the spear or javelin skills against them. They are also susceptible to digging attacks, granting a +2 to-hit bonus to when using pick-axes or dwarvish mattocks to attack them.


Xorns are rarely randomly generated, and typically will not be encountered until the Castle, where at least one xorn will appear.

Xorns are the second quest monster for the Monk quest and Wizard quest; they also function as the Monk's second quest monster "class", and are thus slightly more common for them than Wizards.

Xorns can also be generated on the Plane of Earth by digging with a pick-axe.


Xorns have a decent AC of −2 and four attacks including an extremely nasty bite, and their phasing can make them difficult to evade;however, they move at a slow 9 speed and respect Elbereth. As such, they can be dispatched with sufficient caution - however, players should not use non-disposable iron projectiles against xorns. Xorns are lethal menaces to Monks lacking in AC and/or a reliable source of damage, especially during the quest where their phasing can thwart boulder fort strategies employed against Master Kaen.

Monster xorns cannot cross the water in the castle level, but heroes polymorphed into xorns can - it is often enough to lure them across the drawbridge and raise it behind you. Xorns also cannot be destroyed by the drawbridge 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.


Due to their unusual abilities, xorns are one of the most useful monsters to polymorph into for various applications:

Xorns cannot wear body armor or cloaks, and morphing into a xorn will destroy them if you are wearing any - as such, be sure to remove these items before making the transformation. Note that you can cross water while polymorphed into a xorn, while other xorns cannot.

If you return to normal form while phasing through a wall adjacent to open space, you will be able to move into it. However, if you return to normal form while phasing through the middle of solid stone with no adjacent space, you will be unable to move - you can teleport out, pray (since being stuck in a wall while non-phasing is a major problem), or re-polymorph yourself into a xorn or earth elemental.


The xorn is introduced in Hack for PDP-11, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack.

In NetHack 3.4.3, xorns were 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 player 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 originally comes from Dungeons & Dragons, where it also eats stone in addition to metals, which might explain the message present in the code for eating flint stones.



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


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


In SlashTHEM, xorns are additionally lithivorous and can eat stone 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.