|Damage vs. small||1d4|
|Damage vs. large||1d3|
|Base price||4 zm|
Athames are almost completely identical to daggers, even using the dagger weapon skill. However, athames are exceptionally suited for engraving. Any non-cursed athame will not dull from engraving, and will engrave at up to 19 letters per turn (or up to 9 letters instantaneously) rather than 1 letter per turn. (Any athame that has an enchantment of -3 or lower is too dull to engrave with, regardless of blessed/uncursed/cursed status.) They are useful for writing messages and engraving "Elbereth".
Athames are extremely rare. They are never randomly generated on the dungeon floor, in shops, or as ordinary death drops. Apart from the artifact Magicbane, which may be received as a sacrifice gift (especially for Wizards, as their guaranteed first gift), athames are only generated on master liches (with a 6 in 91, or about 6% chance), arch liches (with a 2 in 9 or about 22% chance), and wizard player monsters, including Newt, a prisoner on the Wizard quest (with 37.5% chance). A player monster's athame will be erodeproof or greased (but not both) with a 1 in 3 probability of each, and have a random enchantment between +0 and +3, or between +4 and +8 on the Astral Plane.
If it has not already been gifted, Magicbane may appear as the athame of an arch-lich (not a master lich), with a 1 in 260 chance, or a player monster on the Astral Plane, with a 50% chance.
You might also find an athame on a bones level, especially if the decedent owned Magicbane and the artifact has already been generated in your game.
Notwithstanding these possibilities, non-atheist Wizards are likely to receive Magicbane long before they ever see a non-artifact athame.
You should formally identify your athame's BUC status as soon as possible so that the game will show when it gets cursed, e.g. by a spellcasting monster.
Beware: an athame found in bones or dropped by a lich might be cursed. If it is, attempting to engrave Elbereth in a dangerous situation will immobilize you for a few turns and probably kill you. If you can't spare identify to check, you could dip it in a potion of holy water to make sure it's at least uncursed, or try engraving a single letter with it—if you get "Your athame gets dull. You finish engraving.", be sure to uncurse it before you use it any more!
The encyclopedia entry gives a brief description of the athame's origin as a tool used by practitioners of Wicca, though the blade is not required to be double-edged. It is not specifically used as a utility tool for cutting, much less as a weapon (in fact, athames might have blunted tips to prevent accidental wounds), but as a ritual object used to trace pentagrams and circles in preparation for rituals. In NetHack, this translates into a blade suitable for making (protective) engravings.
Until NetHack 3.2.3, a +1 athame was the starting weapon for Wizards. The influential Wizard Patch changed the starting weapon to the stronger but less utilitarian quarterstaff. This may have been to compensate for the Wizard's increased power from the redesigned spellcasting system, which allowed virtually unlimited casting of spells.
SLASH'EM adds two specialist spellcaster roles, the Flame Mage and Ice Mage, with their own respective artifact athames, Firewall and Deep Freeze. Their player monsters, as well as the Necromancer player monster, have the same 37.5% chance of getting an athame as the wizard.
Two of each of these player monsters, along with two wizards, are members of the Guild of Disgruntled Adventurers, if it is created, so non-artifact athames are more likely to appear.
The Pen of the Void is the combined first gift and quest artifact of the Binder role, an athame useful for engraving the seals used to bind spirits of the Void. The Pen deals double damage after the Quest is completed, and has additional effects if spirits are bound into the weapon itself.
The consecrated ritual knife of a Wiccan initiate (one of
four basic tools, together with the wand, chalice and
pentacle). Traditionally, the athame is a double-edged,
black-handled, cross-hilted dagger of between six and
eighteen inches length.
- src/objects.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 166
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 663: liches generated with athames
- src/mplayer.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 246
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 665: master lich athames are generated by mongets
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 1773: mongets always passes FALSE as the artif parameter to mksobj
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 668: 1/13 chance of TRUE being passed as artif parameter
- src/mkobj.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 762: 1/20 chance of a possibly-artifact athame being Magicbane
- u_init.c in NetHack 3.2.0, line 156: no source for 3.2.3 on the wiki
- u_init.c in NetHack 3.3.0, line 161
- mplayer.c in SLASH'EM 0.0.7E7F2, line 220