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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,[1] but only pay a fourth of the normal selling price for them.[2] 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,[3] 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.

Each role has a quest artifact associated with it. The one corresponding to your role will always be generated in the possession of your quest nemesis, and never anywhere else.

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.

Sting, Orcrist, and Excalibur have special generation conditions detailed on their pages.

List of artifacts

See Source:artilist.h or the article for each artifact for more details.
Artifact name Base item type Alignment[4] Intelligent Special properties Obtaining
Carried Used (worn, wielded, applied, or read) Invoked
Cleaver battle-axe (two-headed axe) neutral No +d3 to-hit and +d6 damage. Arc-swing hits up to 3 monsters at once First sacrifice gift for Barbarians.
Demonbane long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit and double damage to major demons. May be given to a new angelic being.
Dragonbane broadsword unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to dragons. Reflection.
Excalibur long sword lawful Yes +d5 to-hit and +d10 damage. Drain resistance. Searching. Hostile demon princes. Monsters track player. May be produced for lawful adventurers at fountains. Lawful crowning gift.
The Eye of the Aethiopica amulet of ESP (random amulet) neutral Yes Energy regeneration. Half spell damage. Magic resistance. Telepathy. Branchport. Quest artifact of Wizards.
The Eyes of the Overworld pair of lenses neutral Yes Astral vision. Protection against blindness and gazes. Magic resistance. Enlightenment. Quest artifact of Monks.
Fire Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to non-fire-resistant monsters. Fire resistance.
Frost Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to non-cold-resistant monsters. Cold resistance.
Giantslayer long sword neutral No +d5 to-hit and double damage to giants.
Grayswandir silver saber lawful No +d5 to-hit and double damage. Protection against hallucination. Silver damage
Grimtooth orcish dagger (crude dagger) chaotic No +d2 to-hit and +d6 damage.
The Heart of Ahriman luckstone (random gray stone) neutral Yes Stealth. As projectile, +d5 to-hit and double damage. Levitation. Quest artifact of Barbarians.
The Longbow of Diana bow chaotic Yes Telepathy. +d5 to-hit. Reflection. Create arrows. Quest artifact of Rangers.
The Magic Mirror of Merlin mirror (looking glass) lawful Yes Magic resistance. Telepathy. ×2 to some spell damage. Rumors. Quest artifact of Knights.
Magicbane athame neutral No +d3 to-hit. Special damage. Magic resistance. Protects against cursing. First sacrifice gift for Wizards.
The Master Key of Thievery skeleton key (key) chaotic Yes Warning. Half physical damage. Teleport control. Rumors. As of 3.6.1, automatically untraps when used to unlock. Untraps. Quest artifact of Rogues.
The Mitre of Holiness helm of brilliance (random helmet) lawful Yes Fire resistance. Protection. Half damage from undead and demons. Energy boost. Quest artifact of Priests.
Mjollnir war hammer neutral No +d5 to-hit and +d24 damage to non-shock-resistant monsters. Can return when thrown. First sacrifice gift for Valkyries.
Ogresmasher war hammer unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to ogres. 25 constitution when wielded.
The Orb of Detection crystal ball (glass orb) lawful Yes Magic resistance. Half spell damage. Telepathy. Invisibility. Quest artifact of Archeologists.
The Orb of Fate crystal ball (glass orb) neutral Yes Half physical damage. Half spell damage. Warning. Luck. Level teleport. Quest artifact of Valkyries.
Orcrist elven broadsword (runed broadsword) chaotic No +d5 to-hit and double damage to orcs. May be produced by naming an ordinary elven broadsword Orcrist.
The Platinum Yendorian Express Card credit card neutral Yes Magic resistance. Half spell damage. Telepathy. Charging. Quest artifact of Tourists.
The Sceptre of Might mace lawful Yes (Magic resistance prior to v3.6.0) +d5 to-hit and double damage to cross-aligned monsters. Magic resistance Conflict. Quest artifact of Cavepeople.
Snickersnee katana (samurai sword) lawful No +d8 damage. First sacrifice gift for Samurai.
The Staff of Aesculapius quarterstaff (staff) neutral Yes Double damage and level drain to non-drain-resistant monsters. Hungerless regeneration. Drain resistance. Healing, cures sickness, blindness, and sliming. Quest artifact of Healers.
Sting elven dagger (runed dagger) chaotic No +d5 to-hit and double damage to orcs. Warning of orcs. Cuts through webs. May be produced by naming an ordinary elven dagger Sting.
Stormbringer runesword chaotic Yes +d5 to-hit, +d2 damage and level drain to non-drain-resistant monsters. Drain resistance. Bloodthirsty. Chaotic crowning gift.
Sunsword long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit and double damage to undead. Light. Protection from light-based blinding. May be given to a new angelic being.
Trollsbane morning star unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to trolls. Prevents trolls from reviving.
The Tsurugi of Muramasa tsurugi (long samurai sword) lawful Yes Luck. Protection. +d8 damage. 5% chance of bisection. Quest artifact for Samurai.
Vorpal Blade long sword neutral No +d5 to-hit and +1 damage. 5% chance of beheading (100% for jabberwocks). Neutral crowning gift.
Werebane silver saber unaligned No +d5 to-hit and double damage to werecreatures. Silver damage

Unique items

Main article: unique item

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 and 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.


Most (if not all) variants change artifacts or add new ones, so it would be impractical to list them all here. See the article on a variant for information about its new or changed artifacts, or see an artifact's article for information on changes made in different variants.

Some variants also make changes to artifacts in general:

  • In SLASH'EM, SlashTHEM and Hack'EM, artifacts that inflict added damage (as opposed to double damage) deal the maximum amount on every hit (e.g. Excalibur deals a flat +10 damage, rather than +1d10).
  • Many variants ease or remove the restrictions on dual-wielding artifacts.


  1. src/shk.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 2008
  2. src/shk.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 3118
  3. src/mkobj.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 762
  4. 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.

See also

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