Artifact weapon

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In NetHack, an artifact weapon is an artifact whose base item is a rare weapon with special properties, and is often unique. It may be acquired by sacrifice, by finding in a bones file, by finding in the dungeon, by wishing for one, or at the end of a quest. Excalibur may be acquired by dipping an ordinary long sword, provided you are lawful and level 5 and it hasn't already been generated. Excalibur, Vorpal Blade and Stormbringer may be acquired by praying with very good Luck; this is known as crowning.

An artifact weapon resists being wielded as a second weapon when #twoweaponing.[1]

Any artifact weapon given to you by your god will be noncursed and erodeproof, and you will be unrestricted[2] in the appropriate weapon skill if necessary. Certain roles are guaranteed to receive a particular weapon as their first gift[3]: Valkyries receive Mjollnir, Barbarians receive Cleaver, Wizards receive Magicbane, and Samurai receive Snickersnee.

Sunsword and Demonbane may be created in the possession of a humanoid angelic creature; Archons are sure to be generated with one. Sting and Orcrist may be created by naming an ordinary elven dagger or elven broadsword.

You can wish for an artifact weapon, but success is not always guaranteed. See Artifact wishing for more details.

List of artifact weapons

See Source:artilist.h, Source:artifact.c or the article for each artifact for more details.

Mean damage is calculated before any strength, skill, and blessed bonuses. Silver damage is indicated in italics. Assumes weapon enchanted to +7. Assumes monster is susceptible to special bonuses and includes them (i.e. double damage, +damage bonuses, and extra damage from a level draining attack) with the damage to resistant monsters in parentheses, if applicable.

Artifact name Base item type Alignment[4] Intelligent Special properties Mean damage at +7 Obtaining
Carried Wielded Invoked vs. Small vs. Large
Cleaver battle-axe (two-headed axe) neutral No +d3 to-hit & +d6 damage. Attacks in an arc. 17.5 19 First sacrifice gift for Barbarians.
Demonbane long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to major demons. Prevents demon gating. 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5) May be given to a new angelic being.
Dragonbane broadsword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to dragons. Reflection. 24 (12) 23 (11.5)
Excalibur long sword lawful Yes +d5 to-hit & +d10 damage. Drain resistance. Searching. Hostile demon princes. Monster tracking. 17 19 May be produced for lawful adventurers at fountains. Lawful crowning gift.
Fire Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to non-fire-resistant monsters. Fire resistance. 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Frost Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to non-cold-resistant monsters. Cold resistance. 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Giantslayer long sword neutral No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to giants. 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Grayswandir silver saber lawful No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage. Protection against hallucination. 23+10.5 23+10.5
Grimtooth orcish dagger (crude dagger) chaotic No +d2 to-hit & +d6 damage. Warning of elves. 12.5 12.5
The Longbow of Diana bow chaotic Yes Telepathy. +d5 to-hit. Reflection. Creates arrows. arrow damage arrow damage Quest artifact of Rangers.
Magicbane athame neutral No +d3 to-hit. Special damage. Magic resistance. Protects against cursing. 13.40 (10.5)[5] 12.90 (10)[5] First sacrifice gift for Wizards.
Mjollnir war hammer neutral No +d5 to-hit & +d24 damage to non-shock-resistant monsters. Can return when thrown. 23 (10.5) 22 (9.5) First sacrifice gift for Valkyries.
Ogresmasher war hammer unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to ogres. Increases constitution to 25. 21 (10.5) 19 (9.5)
Orcrist elven broadsword (runed broadsword) chaotic No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to orcs. Warning of orcs. 26 (13) 23 (11.5) May be produced by naming an ordinary elven broadsword Orcrist.
The Sceptre of Might mace lawful Yes +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to cross-aligned monsters. Magic resistance. Conflict. 23 (11.5) 21 (10.5) Quest artifact of Cavepeople.
Snickersnee katana (samurai sword) lawful No +d8 damage. 17 18 First sacrifice gift for Samurai.
The Staff of Aesculapius quarterstaff (staff) neutral Yes x2 damage & level drain to non-drain-resistant monsters (the draining itself causes an addition 1d8 damage to both current and max hp, and restores half that to your current hp, but this damage is NOT doubled.) Hungerless regeneration. Drain resistance. Healing, cures sickness, blindness, & sliming. 25.5 (10.5) 25.5 (10.5) Quest artifact of Healers.
Sting elven dagger (runed dagger) chaotic No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to orcs. Warning of orcs. Cuts through webs. 20 (10) 18 (9) May be produced by naming an ordinary elven dagger Sting.
Stormbringer runesword chaotic Yes +d5 to-hit, +d2 damage & level drain to non-drain-resistant monsters (the draining itself causes an addition 1d8 damage to both current and max hp, and restores half that to your current hp.) Drain resistance. Bloodthirsty. 18 (12) 17.5 (11.5) Chaotic crowning gift.
Sunsword long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to undead. Light. Protection from light-based blinding. 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5) May be given to a new angelic being.
Trollsbane morning star unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to trolls. Prevents trolls from reviving. 24 (12) 23 (11.5)
The Tsurugi of Muramasa tsurugi (long samurai sword) lawful Yes Luck +d8 damage. 5% chance of double damage or instakill via bisection, depending on the size. instakill (20) [6] 38.85 (19.425) Quest artifact for Samurai.
Vorpal Blade long sword neutral No +d5 to-hit & +1 damage. 5% chance of beheading monsters with heads. Instantly kills jabberwocks. instakill(12.5)[6] instakill(14.5)[6] Neutral crowning gift.
Werebane silver saber unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to werecreatures. Protects against lycanthropy attack. 23+10.5 (11.5+10.5) 23+10.5 (11.5+10.5)


It is useful to obtain an artifact weapon that provides a bonus against most or all enemies, such as Excalibur, early in the game. However, wishing for one may not succeed if artifacts have been generated already (perhaps without your knowledge), and uses a valuable wish which normally could be used to considerably improve your defenses.


Because of the way that the odds of getting an artifact from a sacrifice reduce as more artifacts are generated, if you aren't going to risk wishing for a specific artifact, artifact selection tends to be about finding something that's good enough, not reviewing the entire list and making a selection in advance.

Some artifact weapons, such as Giantslayer, only give a bonus against a small subset of monsters. These are nigh-useless; in practice by the time you see large numbers of giants, you'll have a better option. Receiving one as a sacrifice gift does unrestrict the relevant skill, which can be useful if you have a better artifact of the same type. Many variants try to improve artifacts of this type.

A two-handed weapon means that you cannot use a shield, and in the late game it can become cursed, requiring you to #tip an uncursing item out of your bag to regain use of your hands.

An intelligent cross-aligned quest artifact is unusable; an intelligent cross-aligned non-quest artifact (Excalibur or Stormbringer) is quite annoying and dangerous to use, while an unintelligent cross-aligned artifact is generally usable, albeit still potentially dangerous.

Cleaver and Stormbringer are both dangerous to use around pets and peacefuls you don't want to anger.

Mjollnir, Fire Brand, and Frost Brand can destroy items that monsters are carrying. All things being equal, you would rather have those items for yourself, but all three of these weapons are also powerful.

Some artifact weapons provide a useful resistance or other ability. For example, Stormbringer's level drain resistance means that you might wield it to clear the Valley of the Dead - it does no bonus damage to undead, but it essentially eliminates any threat they pose. Sunsword only deals bonus damage to undead, but can be useful as a light source.

Some artifact weapons give a significant bonus against most or all targets. This is obviously useful; it is generally possible in the former case to obtain a backup weapon to be swapped to against resistant targets. Especially noteworthy is Grayswandir, with double damage against everything and additional damage to targets harmed by silver.

Fire Brand, Frost Brand, Mjollnir, Stormbringer, Vorpal Blade, the Sceptre of Might, and the Staff of Aesculapius give a bonus against most targets; the latter two are quest artifacts. Cleaver, Excalibur, Magicbane, Snickersnee, Grayswandir, and one quest artifact, the Tsurugi of Muramasa, give a bonus against all targets.


  1. src/wield.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 615
  2. src/weapon.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 1154
  3. artilist.h#line43 and following
  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.
  5. 5.0 5.1 For +2 Magicbane, mean 9.48 (6.57) vs. small and 8.98 (6.07) vs. large
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Plus 5% chance of an instakill.

See also

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