|Damage vs. small||1d6|
|Damage vs. large||1d3|
|Base price||4 zm|
In terms of stats, an aklys is just a club made of iron, with no advantage other than being lighter. It does the same amount of damage as a club (1d6 to small creatures, 1d3 to large creatures), and is worth just one zorkmid more than a club. Unlike the regular club, the aklys is coded as a projectile weapon, so it gets a +2 to-hit bonus when thrown.
The aklys makes up about 0.8% of randomly generated weapons.
An aklys can be generated on any monster that does not have the strong monster attribute and can use a weapon, but has not received one. As such, the weapon is associated with gnomes, who fall into that subgroup and are spawned in large numbers in the early game, specifically in the Gnomish Mines—in practice, one is more likely to remember seeing a gnome using this weapon than any other monster.
The aklys is tethered while wielded in the primary hand and behaves like Mjollnir when thrown—returning 99% of the time, and being caught 99% of the time if the character is not impaired (i.e. blind, stunned, confused, etc.). Unlike Mjollnir, the aklys does not have any class or strength requirement to be thrown this way. It has a max range of 4 due to the tether.
Compared to a stack of dozen daggers, one aklys is far lighter and can be reused indefinitely, at least until it fails to return—and even then, it can simply be retrieved and re-tethered. The aklys also has higher base damage than a dagger, although daggers can be multishot to do more damage; however, it is usually easier to find a blessed or enchanted aklys in the Mines, compared to a stack of above-average daggers.
On the other hand, the aklys needs to be wielded before being thrown, which means one action will be used switching to it before firing, and another switching back if the target gets close and you have a more powerful weapon for melee. There is also the small chance of backfiring, although it's far less devastating compared to having all your rings vaporized by Mjollnir.
For cavemen and priests, who cannot multishot daggers but can achieve Expert in club, an aklys is definitely worth making their primary form of ranged/melee attack. Other roles can also choose to do so, although they may benefit more from using it as a backup when their primary projectile runs out. This lets them get away with carrying fewer projectiles than they would otherwise, leaving more room for them to carry other things.
For those attempting a gnomish racial ascension, this is often considered the only acceptable weapon, as it is so heavily associated with gnomes.
The word "aklys" comes from the Latin aclys, a Roman missile weapon. According to Roman-era reference works, the aclys is a small javelin or throwing spear, and so the word is usually rendered "javelin" in English translations of Roman works such as the Aeneid. The term has also been used by historians to refer to thrown blunt weapons from roughly the same time period.
It is uncertain whether the "proper" plural would be "aklyses" (going by general English rules) or "aclydes" (by Latin rules)—in any case, the aklys does not stack, so it is unclear what NetHack would use.
In D&D, the aklys appears in Unearthed Arcana (by Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D) as well as Dragon Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 (August 1982). It was described as "a weighted, shortish club with a stout thong (leather strap) attached to the butt. While it can be used as a hand-held striking weapon, its principal employment is as a missile. Once hurled, the aklys be retrieved by its thong." It weighed the same as 35 gold pieces and serves the basis for making the aklys in NetHack a thrown club, even using the same base damage rolls.
In NetHack, the aklys first appeared in NetHack 1.3d, where it had a relative probability of 1 in 99 and weighed three units (for comparison, the two handed sword was the heaviest at four). This "rarity" was shared with many objects, including even the katana; this remained unchanged up to Nethack 3.4.3.
The ability for a thrown aklys to return to the player's hand was added in 3.6.1.
A short studded or spiked club attached to a cord allowing
it to be drawn back to the wielder after having been thrown.
It should not be confused with the atlatl, which is a device
used to throw spears for longer distances.
- src/dothrow.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 955
- src/dothrow.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 1485
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 499
- Dragon Magazine Vol. 7 No. 2, Page Six