Artifact

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In NetHack, an artifact is a rare, magical and unique version of a specific object, with special qualities compared to their mundane counterparts. Each role that a player character can select has their own special quest artifact associated with them.

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Generation

Items that are randomly generated on the ground have a base 120 chance (5%) of being made into an appropriate artifact, with an equal probability for each artifact if there are multiple that match the item's type.[1] Sting and Orcrist can be created by naming their base items, while Excalibur is not randomly generated and can only be created by certain methods detailed in its article.

The odds of an artifact being generated on the ground are affected by the amount of artifacts that already exist in the current game, and the more artifacts that have been generated, the less likely it is for another artifact to be generated. This also applies to wishing for artifacts: the odds of obtaining an artifact with a wish steadily decrease for each artifact generated after the second - see the linked section for further details. Artifact generation odds do not apply to the creation of artifacts by methods other than random generation or wishing.

Only one of each artifact can be generated in a given game, and artifacts will not generate under their normal circumstances if they already exist elsewhere in the game. Conversely, if a bones file is loaded and contains any artifacts that have either already generated in the current character's game or act as the current character's quest artifact, those artifacts will be reverted to their base item.

Each character's quest artifact and any guaranteed sacrifice gifts are adjusted to the hero's starting alignment, e.g. Magicbane and The Eye of the Aethiopica are generated as chaotic for chaotic Wizards.[2] Artifacts that have their alignment changed revert to their base alignment if left in bones.

Sacrifice gifts

Main article: Sacrifice

Characters that sacrifice to their god while their prayer timeout is zero may be given an artifact as a gift, increasing the prayer timeout; some roles have guaranteed first sacrifice gifts that they will always receive if it has not yet been generated. All candidates for sacrifice gifts are weapons, and such gifts will always be created non-cursed and erosion-proofed, with a minimum enchantment of +0; the character will also be unrestricted in the appropriate weapon skill if necessary.[3] A god will never gift an artifact to a character that attacks the character's current form, i.e. elven characters will never be gifted Grimtooth, and orcish characters will not be gifted Sting or Orcrist.

A gifted artifact will always be either unaligned or the same alignment as the character, and the character's first sacrifice gift will always match their alignment, including their guaranteed gift if applicable.[2] The odds of receiving an artifact gift become lower based on the amount of artifacts already gifted and the total amount of artifacts generated in the game.

Crowning

Main article: Crowning

If a character prays to their god while they are piously aligned and have at least 10 Luck, there is a chance that they will be crowned, which usually results in an artifact being gifted - the artifact and its generation method depend on the character's alignment, and both are described in the article linked above.

Quest artifacts

Main article: Quest artifact

Each role has a special artifact that they are tasked with retrieving for their Quest - these artifacts are only generated on their respective quests, where they will always be found on the square of their quest nemesis, although they can also be wished for or left behind in a bones file. A character cannot ever wish for their role's quest artifact, and their quest artifact will also be reverted to its base item if that character encounters a bones level containing the artifact.

Monsters with artifacts

Items in the starting inventory of angelic beings, as well as player monsters generated on the Astral Plane, can be made into artifacts.[4][5] Monsters will not normally generate with an artifact outside of these cases, though they can still pick up artifacts that are unaligned or of the same alignment as them; if a bones level is created with a monster carrying an artifact, they will retain that artifact once the bones file is loaded.

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Description

An artifact is a magical version of its base item with additional properties layered on top of the base item's properties, and appear as a named version of that base item while unidentified: for example, Excalibur will appear as "a long sword named Excalibur". Attempting to give an object the name of an artifact will fail if it is of the same base item type as that artifact, with the exception of Sting and Orcrist, and changing an existing artifact's name always fails - these mechanics are the basis for the naming artifacts trick.

Most artifacts resist certain magical effects targeted at them: an artifact has a 1920 chance of resisting polymorph or disintegration, and an intelligent artifact will also resist being cursed by the curse items monster spell effect 45 of the time.

Artifacts in shops are sold for four times the normal price, and can be sold to shops for only 14 of their normal base price.[6][7]

Artifact powers

Artifacts are imbued with varying levels of magic powers - see the list below for a table of artifact effects. Some artifacts have special effects that can be used by invoking the artifact, and many can magically blast characters that try to pick them up without meeting certain conditions

A non-intelligent artifact that is one of the three alignments has a 14 chance of blasting a cross-aligned character that touches it for 4d4 damage; Sting and Orcrist are exceptions, as they will only ever blast orcs. Intelligent artifacts - Excalibur, Stormbringer, and all quest artifacts - will always blast characters that touch them for 4d10 magical damage and abuse wisdom if the artifact is cross-aligned or attuned to a different role from that of the character. The damage from these blasts can be halved by magic resistance.

An character that is of a different role from an intelligent quest artifact and is either cross aligned or has a negative alignment record will additionally be unable to touch that artifact: if it is in their main inventory, it cannot be worn, wielded, applied, or invoked, and will unequip itself if possible; if it is in a container or outside the character's main inventory, it will evade their grasp altogether, though the container can still be tipped to move the artifact onto the floor.

Independent of the above, a character also cannot wear or wield any artifact that hates their current form, regardless of alignment, and attempting to do so deals d10 damage and abuses constitution.[8] Monsters will never touch artifacts that are cross-aligned to them or attack them.

Artifact weapons

An artifact weapon is a generally a weapon that has enhanced damage and to-hit versus their mundane counterpart, and the damage is applied either to all monsters or to a specific subset of monsters - the latter type of artifact weapons are often known as the Banes due to the naming scheme used for some of them. Artifact weapons cannot be wielded in the offhand when twoweaponing.[9]

Unique items

Main article: Unique item

While not considered artifacts, there are objects with unique item types that also only appear once per game, and will always revert to mundane items if left behind in a bones file.

List of artifacts

Below is a list of artifacts available in NetHack, their effects and the means by which they can be obtained[10] - see each artifact's linked article for more specific details.

Artifact name Base item type Alignment 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. Blocks demon gating. 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. Warning of elves.
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. Warning of 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

Strategy

An artifact's properties and availability, including artifact weapons and the range of monsters they are effective against, naturally influence their desirability for a given hero, and artifact weapons in particular are considered vital to many kits - of course, it is more than possible to win without ever using a single artifact. A character's artifact selection is usually governed by their role and alignment as well, since cross-aligned quest artifacts from a different role will be useless to them; while artifact blasts are survivable with proper management, they can also be annoying to deal with.

Artifacts in shops are difficult to procure due to their inflated price, and it is somewhat common to use pets or other monsters in order to steal a shop artifact: this naturally poses several wrinkles if the artifact in question is cursed or of a different alignment from the character's pet or other monster.

Artifact selection

Between the general rarity of artifacts to begin with and the presence of artifacts making it less likely that other artifacts can generate or be wished for, artifact selection for a hero is more often about finding one that is sufficient for their purposes than it is about reviewing the list and selecting one in advance. The latter generally only occurs if a character obtains one or more wishes early enough, and even in those cases the "best" artifact to wish for depends on the hero's role, alignment, and whether or not the player is attempting any particular conduct.

For artifact weapons, the most desired ones usually have damage bonuses against all monsters or against a wide range of them, while ones with bonuses against narrower subsets of monsters are considered less valuable. A two-handed artifact weapon prevents the use of a shield and will require tipping an uncursing item(s) out of a bag on hand in order to uncurse it and free up the hero's hands; quest artifacts have a 45 chance of resisting item-cursing effects, making them less potentially cumbersome in comparison.

Some artifacts that are not usually desired may be sought out as gifts in order to unlock weapon skills for other artifacts - this is most common with lawful characters that plan to dip for Excalibur, since lawful characters in roles without first gifts will always receive an artifact long sword.

Artifact weapon damage calculations

The table below lists the mean damage for each artifact, calculated before any bonuses from strength, skill, and the weapon being blessed. Silver damage is indicated in italics. This table assumes that the artifact is enchanted to +7, and that the target monster is affected by the weapon's damage bonuses (including extra damage from level draining), with the damage to resistant monsters in parentheses if applicable.

Artifact name Base item type Alignment[2] Intelligent Relevant special properties Mean damage at +7
vs. Small vs. Large
Cleaver battle-axe neutral No +d3 to-hit & +d6 damage 17.5 19
Demonbane long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to demons 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Dragonbane broadsword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to dragons 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
Fire Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to targets without fire resistance 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Frost Brand long sword unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to targets without 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 23 +10.5 23 +10.5
Grimtooth orcish dagger chaotic No +d2 to-hit & +d6 damage 12.5 12.5
The Longbow of Diana bow chaotic Yes +d5 to-hit arrow damage arrow damage
Magicbane athame neutral No +d3 to-hit, bonus effects on hit 13.40 (10.5)[11] 12.90 (10)[11]
Mjollnir war hammer neutral No +d5 to-hit & +d24 damage to non-shock-resistant monsters 23 (10.5) 22 (9.5)
Ogresmasher war hammer unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to ogres 21 (10.5) 19 (9.5)
Orcrist elven broadsword (runed broadsword) chaotic No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to orcs 26 (13) 23 (11.5)
The Sceptre of Might mace lawful Yes +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to cross-aligned monsters 23 (11.5) 21 (10.5)
Snickersnee katana (samurai sword) lawful No +d8 damage 17 18
The Staff of Aesculapius quarterstaff (staff) neutral Yes x2 damage, level drain for +1d8 to targets without drain resistance 25.5 (10.5) 25.5 (10.5)
Sting elven dagger (runed dagger) chaotic No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to orcs 20 (10) 18 (9)
Stormbringer runesword chaotic Yes +d5 to-hit, +d2 damage & level drain for +1d8 to targets without drain resistance 18 (12) 17.5 (11.5)
Sunsword long sword lawful No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to undead 23 (11.5) 27 (13.5)
Trollsbane morning star unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to trolls 24 (12) 23 (11.5)
The Tsurugi of Muramasa tsurugi (long samurai sword) lawful Yes +d8 damage and 5% chance of double damage or instadeath via bisection, depending on target's size instakill (20) 38.85 (19.425)
Vorpal Blade long sword neutral No +d5 to-hit & +1 damage, 5% chance of beheading corporeal monsters with heads, always instantly kills jabberwocks instakill (12.5) instakill (14.5)
Werebane silver saber unaligned No +d5 to-hit & x2 damage to werecreatures 23+10.5 (11.5+10.5) 23+10.5 (11.5+10.5)

Variants

Almost all variants change artifact mechanics and the properties of artifacts themselves in some manner, often adding new mechanics and artifacts as well - many variants also ease or remove the restrictions on twoweaponing with artifacts, as well as changing the mechanics of wishing for artifacts. Furthermore, many variants will implement artifact-related ideas suggested for NetHack by other players, many of which focus on improving less-used and less-viable artifacts.

The variant sections below give a very basic overview of changes to artifact mechanics, along with links to the article for that variant's list of artifacts. Artifact articles will also have information on changes made to them by variants in the appropriate sections.

SLASH'EM

Main article: SLASH'EM artifacts

In SLASH'EM, artifacts that roll for bonus damage are given flat damage bonuses instead, e.g. Excalibur deals a flat +10 damage, rather than +1d10.

References