Body parts

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The body parts of NetHack characters are used during the game in many ways. If polymorphed into a monster, you may lack a body part and be unable to perform some task. Such tasks include wearing armor, so if you polymorph into a handless monster, your gloves will fall off.

Messages for different body parts are changed as appropriate, for example if you don't have toes in a particular form, it may refer to your "pseudopod extremities" instead. These descriptions are grouped by a number of different overall body types.[1]

Body PartsEdit

All body parts are defined[2] for all monsters, although some are "empty" - for example, a headless monster still needs to reference a head for some messages. Included in the body parts are special areas for particular effects - for example, how to describe a light-headed monster with no head, or the "blood" of a being composed solely of pure energy. The body parts defined, and a comment about the interesting ones, in NetHack are:

  • Arm
  • Eye
  • Face
  • Finger
  • Fingertip - e.g. claws rather than fingertips
  • Foot
  • Hand
  • Handed - a generic description of the "hands" - e.g. if you have tentacles rather than hands, you are "tentacled"
  • Head
  • Leg
  • Light Headed - if you can't be light headed, you may be "played out" or "addled"
  • Neck
  • Spine
  • Toe
  • Hair
  • Blood - if not blood, you could be losing "life force",
  • Lung
  • Nose
  • Stomach

There are definitions for all groups of these body parts.

Default (humanoid) formEdit


You have two hands. Each can wield a weapon, or a single weapon can be wielded in both if it is two-handed (such as a dwarvish mattock, a quarterstaff, or a unicorn horn).

If not wielding a weapon, you fight with your bare hands. This is fatal when fighting cockatrices or chickatrices. To avoid touching the monster, wear gloves.

A shield occupies one hand, but does not hinder ring operations.


A ring can be worn on each of your two ring fingers. There is no difference between your left and right ring fingers, except all characters are naturally right-handed, so a cursed wielded weapon will occupy your right hand, making it impossible to put on or remove a ring from that hand's finger.

However, if you encounter an incubus or succubus, the ring of adornment is a special case. Incubi like to put one into a female character's left hand, replacing whatever ring there currently is. This may be fatal, for example, if you are floating over some water because of wearing a ring of levitation.

You cannot put on or remove rings when wearing cursed gloves.


Your head can be fitted with a helmet, which offers limited protection against falling objects and mind flayer tentacles. Creatures with more than one head may still nevertheless only wear one set of head equipment.


There is also room on your head for something around your eyes: a blindfold, towel, pair of lenses, or The Eyes of the Overworld.

Your eyes can be blinded in a number of ways:


Creatures with a head also have room on the neck for an amulet.


On your body you can wear a shirt (T-shirt or Hawaiian shirt), body armor, and a cloak, in that order. You must take them off in reverse order.


Your feet can wear a pair of boots. They are otherwise bare, so are subject to the same dangers as bare hands.

Monster bodiesEdit

The bodies of monsters are defined in some detail. Humanoid monsters generally have all of the above features, and hence can wear armor, wield weapons, and manipulate objects. Other monsters might lack hands or a head, or even a shape of any kind. The grouped body types are as follows:[3]

Of notable monster body parts, the below examples are important:


Some monsters have horns, and hence cannot wear helmets. Unicorns and ki-rin have a single horn, while horned devils, minotaurs, balrogs, and Asmodeus have two[4].


Floating eyes and the Cyclops have only one eye[5].

Source code referencesEdit

  1. polyself.c#line1131
  2. hack.h#line226
  3. polyself.c#line1131
  4. mondata.c#line304
  5. mondata.h#line41

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