The Knight is one of the player roles in NetHack. Knights are always lawful humans. According to the guidebook:

Knights  are  distinguished  from  the  common skirmisher by
         their devotion to the ideals of chivalry and  by  the  surpassing
         excellence of their armor.

Starting Equipment[]

Starting pet is always a pony with a saddle.


Knights can identify all weapons and non-magical armor from the beginning. They also have a special intrinsic ability to #jump like the knight piece in chess. They are able to #turn undead, and their special spell is turn undead.

  • At Experience Level 7 knights gain intrinsic speed.


Knight skills
Max Skills


Main article: Knight quest

The quest monster is a quasit. The quest nemesis is a dragon called Ixoth. He is a rather tough opponent, although he can be dealt with by using Elbereth or paralysis. Knights receive the Magic Mirror of Merlin after the quest, which allows them to become powerful spellcasters.

Rank titles[]

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

  • XL 1-2: Gallant
  • XL 3-5: Esquire
  • XL 6-9: Bachelor
  • XL 10-13: Sergeant
  • XL 14-17: Knight
  • XL 18-21: Banneret
  • XL 22-25: Chevalier/Chevaliere
  • XL 26-29: Seignieur/Dame
  • XL 30: Paladin

Code of conduct[]

There are special rules of conduct for a knight:

Honor in combat[]

"You caitiff!"

Knights take a -1 alignment penalty for attacking sleeping, paralysed or fleeing monsters (even if the monster continues to attack while fleeing).

If monster is a weak one then it is a good idea to dismount and let your horse finish it: your horse will get an additional HP.

Knights also suffer this alignment penalty for using a poisoned weapon (e.g. a poisoned dart or arrow) in combat.

Frugality in food[]

"You feel like a glutton!"

There is a -1 alignment penalty for eating while satiated.

Honorable Shopping[]

"You feel like a common thief."

There is a -1 alignment penalty for digging down in a shop.


The Lance[]

The knight is perhaps the easiest class in the game if you apply the proper tactics. There are more tactics you can use than just fighting on foot with a sword and trading blows with monsters. Knights should joust by fighting mounted with a lance, using skillful retreats and the lance's special abilities. Using this tactic, you should be able to deal with Minotaurs, Dragons and ArchDaemons without losing a single hit point.

Since in the weapon charts the lance seems to do less damage than the long sword and there is no lance artifact weapon, people playing knights tend to discard the lance and rely on the long sword. However, when you account for the effects of jousting the lance causes considerably more damage than a regular long sword, and even compares favorably with Excalibur.

Against a normal-sized opponent the long sword does 1d8 damage (average 4.5), while the lance causes 1d6 damage (3.5 on average) plus an additional 2d10 damage when jousting (11 on average). Thus, including skill bonuses, at Unskilled level the average damage is 3.5+11*0.2-2=3.7, at Basic 7.9, at Skilled 11.1 and at Expert it is 14.3. By comparison, Excalibur at Expert skill does 1d8+1d10+2 HP of damage for an average of 12. Against a large opponent, after factoring in jousting and skill bonuses the lance inflicts on average 4.7 hp damage at Unskilled level of expertise, 8.9 at Basic, 12.1 at Skilled and 15.3 at Expert. Excalibur does on average only 14 HP (at expert skill) against large opponents. It is true that Excalibur gets a +5 to hit bonus but this is irrelevant for high level characters with enchanted weapons and Expert level of expertise, since they hit every round anyway.

In addition the lance allows attacking non adjacent opponents (Pounding) and a successful joust pushes the opponent one square away (possibly for another round of Pounding) and stuns him thus making him fight at a severe disadvantage. In fact an unencumbered Knight on a fast mount and a lance is possibly the only character who can kill Demogorgon in melee combat without resorting to tricks like Elbereth or polymorphing: on a successful joust he will not be able to attack a second time or teleport before the Knight finishes him. At high skill levels the lance is ideal for dealing with situations where you find yourself surrounded by one layer of monsters: every joust (and you will be getting a lot of them) will push a monster one square away, meaning there is one less monster who will attack you this round and possibly allowing you to slip away. At base skill levels you will rarely succeed in jousting, so if foes get next to you, jump away. As an aside: you don't get paralyzed when you apply your lance on a floating eye.

Even if you use the lance as your primary weapon, it is still worth keeping Excalibur. Lances occasionally break, and Excalibur confers incidental attributes such as level drain resistance. In addition, Excalibur exhibits less variance in damage compared to the highly variable damage inflicted by jousting.

To make full use of your lance you need two things: light and speed. You will be unable to apply your lance if you cannot see your foe. Detecting it by telepathy doesn't work, so having a light source is important.

Caring for your Lance[]

Lances are difficult to replace and lances can break. If your luck is good, the probability of it breaking is very low. At the beginning use it only for pounding, not for close combat (especially on Friday the 13th) until you can increase your luck. You can switch weapons with the command 'x'. Once you get to Expert skill level with the lance there is no point in using it on weak monsters; shift to the sword to avoid breaking your lance. Until you can get it rustproofed (or at least covered with grease) don't wield it in places likely to have rust traps (eg most levels of the Gnome Mines), unless you have a supply of potions of oil. Soldiers are sometimes generated with lances in their inventory, making Fort Ludios and the Castle a perfect place to look for a replacement or spare lance.


Speed is more important for a knight than for other classes. If you are faster than your opponent and you joust it, it will be unable to hit back. In this way, you can attack a monster without it ever being able to attack. Being encumbered slows you down and bars you from jumping. Never fight while encumbered; get a bag, put everything you don't need to have on hand for a combat into it, and drop it as soon you see a monster. At 7th level you will become fast, but becoming very fast (eg by getting boots of speed) will make your jousting much more effective.

Don't charge your opponent unless there is a very good reason: it will probably get an attack before you can begin to joust it.

Become invisible[]

Monsters will detect you only if they move adjacent, but if you stay at a distance of two squares you will remain undetected (even if carrying a light!) and they will move aimlessly while you apply your lance on them again and again until they are killed.

The Horse[]

You don't want to mount your pony as soon you enter the dungeon, because there is a high probability you will fall. This causes you to lose up to 20 HP, which could be fatal to a level 1 Knight. Wait until you are at least level 2 or 3 before you mount it, and whatever your level, do not mount it when your current HP is 20 or less. You also want your pony to kill some newts and jackals in order to build more hit points. If you find a harmless monster like a yellow mold or a lichen, then dismount and let your pony dispatch it.

If your horse has been repeatedly hit and you are mounted, flee. If you aren't mounted but you have a magic whistle, use it to get your horse out of danger. Get a stethoscope as soon as possible. If your horse is low on hit points then look for a safe place (telepathy is great for checking if there are no monsters around), remove your armor and cast healing spells on it (direction is ">" if you are riding it). As soon as you can see invisible or get telepathy then make your horse invisible; monsters will attack it less.

Keeping the horse fed[]

Because pets feed mostly on the corpses of fallen monsters and few of them are vegetable, horses are harder to keep fed than other pets. One of the two primary sources of food for a horse is the food the knight gets in his initial equipment. Any vegetarian food will keep a horse fed for 4-5 times as long than it would keep you fed[1], with exceptions for starving pets[2]. For that reason don't eat carrots and apples except in an emergency; for example, being blinded in a dangerous situation, which can be remedied by eating a carrot. Lack of people food is usually not an emergency. Find other sources of food or wait until you become weak and then pray. Carrots and apples can be used to reward a horse who has stolen an item from a shop, encouraging it to steal more items, with no alignment penalty.

The other primary source of food for horses is corpses from creatures like lichens and molds (except yellow molds).

Monitor your horse's hunger status by chatting to it regularly. It is not necessary to dismount to chat with your horse, just chat in the down direction (">"). If it "whickers," it is fine, but if it "whinnies," it is hungry. If it ever comes close to starvation ("you feel worried about your horse" or "your horse is confused from hunger"), it will also accept "people food" such as food rations. You should heal a starving horse as soon as possible after feeding it; a starving horse has its maximum HP reduced to one quarter of its original. While feeding it restores its maximum HP, the horse will still have to heal its current HP from the one-quarter level.

Taming another horse by throwing it an apple is tempting but the food problem will become even more acute. Taming a third horse is definitely unwise.

The easiest way of keeping your horse fed is to let it go feral. When it whinnies, go upstairs. Wait there for some 200 turns. Go back downstairs, and your horse will be feral, hopefully (but that's not required) peaceful. Throw an apple to your horse an it will be a satiated new pet. Nethack doesn't keep track of your former pet's nutrition.

The Saddle[]

The Knight's pony starts with a saddle. If your saddle becomes cursed and you aren't riding you will be unable to mount your horse, and if you are riding then you can't dismount. Reading a spell of remove curse or zapping a wand of cancellation downwards doesn't work. If it is safe to do so, praying to your god may dismount you. Zapping a wand of opening or casting knock downward will throw you from your mount and remove the saddle. Nymphs and foocubi can steal a cursed saddle from your mount, even while you are riding it. Wearing a ring of conflict may also cause your mount to throw you from the saddle, though this leaves the saddle attached to your mount.

Once you get holy water potions to spare it is a good idea to use one of them to bless your saddle. It is best to use your lance and speed to keep monsters that curse from ever coming in contact with you. Your saddle's worst nemesis is black dragons. By the time you meet one of them you will probably be immune to disintegration, but your horse won't be, and the saddle will suffer its fate. Saddles are nearly as difficult to replace as lances. It is usually a good idea to quickly close with black dragons, joust them and then finish them before they recover.


Because they don't have carnivorous pets eating any egg they can find, knights have a higher chance than other classes to get dragon eggs and, once they hatch, a tame dragon as pet. Dragons can be saddled and ridden and thus are more useful to knights than to most other classes.

Once acquired a dragon must be grown. It will gain 1 Hp every time it kills a monster whatever the level of the monster. It will increase level by one for every 8 Hp gained. Therefore once the egg is hatched you should go to areas with large numbers of weak monsters like the Gnome caves or leprechaun halls, avoid killing those weak monsters but let the dragon do it (unmount if you are riding it).

When growing your dragon, you should note:

  • A mounted pet will attack any monster whatever his level when the monster's attack goes astray and falls on pet instead of you
  • An unmounted pet will attack any monster on its own initiative, provided that monster's level is not two or more above that of the pet. Also monsters don't attack unmounted pets unless attacked first.
  • When riding you get better control of your pet's whereabouts, what it is engaging and when. Nothing is more frustrating than having a dragon get killed because it engaged the Oracle or the captain of the guard at a moment when it was low on HP.
  • Because your mount is only targeted by "stray attacks", the danger of it getting killed are less than when dismounted where it will have to fight monsters alone without your assistance and getting the full share of their blows.
  • If you are riding there will be almost no chance of you becoming separated (e.g. due to a trap door or a level teleport trap) from your mount.

You have to decide if you will change mounts from horse to dragon.


  • Dragons can reach level 22 and 176HP
  • They have the same immunities (poison, disintegration, electricity) as other dragons of the same species.
  • Dragons can fly, this allows the knight to cross obstacles impassable to horses and also means that burdened knights no longer need to dismount before going downstairs.
  • They are carnivorous and thus easier to keep fed. (This also means that they will gladly eat up any safe fleshy corpse you ride over unless they're already eating).


  • Dragons are quite slow compared to horses (and especially warhorses), so when mounted you will travel at its speed. Indeed it is faster to walk while wearing boots of speed. Make sure to zap it with a wand of speed monster to improve this somewhat.
  • You will also have to decide what to do with your horse. It may steal kills from your much slower dragon, preventing its growth

Another option for a knight is a ki-rin, giving you the best of both worlds; ki-rins are fast, fly, don't eat, will heal themselves, and will wear amulets of reflection if you happen to have any spare ones; as knights do not decrease tameness when they mount something, they do not have the problem other classes have of keeping the ki-rin tame. Furthermore, ki-rin will resist conflict (unless level drained), so they will not buck you while you are riding. The hard part is to get a tame ki-rin; they're rare and have a high magic resistance; that makes them hard to tame even if you do find one, and your best bet of getting a tame ki-rin is to spend a wish on a blessed figurine of one.


In SLASH'EM, the ring mail and small shield are replaced with plate mail and large shield. Because of the knight's low starting constitution, their strength is often adjusted quite high to ensure they can carry their starting inventory without being burdened. Additionally, they are the only role with reliable access to Excalibur, the valkyrie's long sword having been replaced with a spear. On the whole, they remain much the same as in vanilla nethack, being capable of dealing out respectable amounts of damage but suffering from poor HP growth and stats (other than strength).

In the later game, SLASH'EM knights do suffer from a distinct disadvantage as compared to vanilla. While the Magic Mirror of Merlin still doubles damage from magic missile, knights cannot gain skill in attack spells. Combined with armor penalties for wearing any armor, including dragon scale mail, a level 30 knight with maxed out stats (including a +5 HoB) will have a 57% failure rate for that spell. Removing body armor reduces this penalty to 12%. Thus players have the option of having an unreliable attack spell (which still requires forgoing a shield of reflection), wearing body armor like monks, or forgoing magic missile altogether. Unfortunately robes do not exist as such in SLASH'EM; to get the same effect, one must replace body armor with a robe of power - robes are body armor in SLASH'EM - which is a somewhat obscure item found on aligned priests or occasionally in shops. This will reduce the failure rate for magic missile to 0%, so is a possibility, albeit a somewhat obscure one.

Encyclopedia entry[]

Here lies the noble fearless knight,
Whose valour rose to such a height;
When Death at last had struck him down,
His was the victory and renown.
He reck'd the world of little prize,
And was a bugbear in men's eyes;
But had the fortune in his age
To live a fool and die a sage.

[ Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miquel de Cervantes Saavedra ]

Source code references[]