An artifact is a rare and unique object with special properties not found on mundane items. No more than one of any given artifact will ever be generated in a given game; even if the original is destroyed, another cannot be made.
Every artifact is an object of a "base" type with a specific name. For example, Excalibur is a long sword named "Excalibur", and the Orb of Fate is a crystal ball named "The Orb of Fate". This is why attempting to create an artifact by giving it the appropriate name, or changing an existing artifact's name, always fails, and was the source of the naming artifacts bug.
Artifacts have their own opinions on who is fit to handle them, and may react violently to adventurers who don't meet their standards. Intelligent artifacts are especially picky, and will refuse to cooperate at all with those they deem unworthy.
Shopkeepers like to rip off adventurers who buy or sell artifacts. They charge four times normal price for them, but only pay a fourth of the normal selling price for them. Thus, one should use a pet to steal any artifacts generated in shops, and never sell them unless desperate for cash.
Randomly-generated weapons have a 5% chance of being made an artifact, provided an artifact of the base type exists and is eligible for generation. Quest artifacts can't be generated this way.
An artifact weapon is a possible reward for sacrifice. Some roles have a particular artifact specified, which will always be the first one granted this way if it hasn't already been generated. Otherwise, you can receive any artifact eligible for random generation which doesn't contradict your alignment. Crowning may also grant an alignment-dependent artifact weapon. The choice of potential artifact gifts is an important factor in choosing your character's alignment if you're not pursuing the atheist conduct.
Wishing is an option if you want a specific artifact that you aren't likely to get by other means, such as another role's quest artifact. There's a possibility of not getting your wish, however.
Bones levels may contain artifacts. Any artifact which was already generated, or your own quest artifact, will be replaced by its base item type, but others will be intact.
List of artifacts
- See Source:artilist.h or the article for each artifact for more details.
Although similar to artifacts in some respects, these items are implemented as unique item types, rather than base items with names. Wishing for one doesn't violate artifact-wishless conduct (and also doesn't work, except in wizard mode). They will always be replaced by different items in bones piles. The only things they have in common with true artifacts is that they're unique, and they add to your score if you ascend with them.
|Artifact name||Bones replacement||Special properties||Obtaining|
|Carried||Used (Worn, Wielded, Applied, or Read)|
|Amulet of Yendor||cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor||many||Find endgame portals. Sacrifice to win the game!||Obtained from the high priest of Moloch.|
|Bell of Opening||bell||Invocation ritual. Detect secret doors & traps. Opening.||Obtained from your quest nemesis.|
|Book of the Dead||spellbook of blank paper||Invocation ritual. Tame undead. Raise the dead.||Obtained from the Wizard of Yendor.|
|Candelabrum of Invocation||stack of candles||Invocation ritual. Radius 4 light.||Obtained from Vlad the Impaler.|
- shk.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 2008
- shk.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 3118
- mkobj.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 762
- The hero's quest artifact and any guaranteed sacrifice gifts are adjusted to the hero's starting alignment. For example, for a wizard who starts chaotic, Magicbane and The Eye of the Aethiopica are generated chaotic. See Source:artifact.c#line54.