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) Athame.png
Name athame
Appearance athame
Damage vs. small 1d4
Damage vs. large 1d3
To-hit bonus +2
Weapon skill dagger
Size one-handed
Base price 4 zm
Weight 10
Material iron

An athame is a type of weapon that appears in NetHack. It is a one-handed, non-stackable weapon that uses the dagger skill, and is made of iron.

The athame is the base item for the artifact Magicbane.


Athames are not randomly generated.

A master lich has an effective 691 chance of being generated with an athame.[1] An arch-lich has an effective 29 chance of being generated with an athame, which has a 14 chance of being erosion-proofed and will have its enchantment raised by 1-3 points if it is below +2[2] - there is a 113 chance of calling the function for making the weapon into an artifact if possible, meaning an arch-lich has a 11170 chance (less than ~0.086%) of generating with Magicbane, the only artifact that can be generated in this manner.[3]

Player monster wizards, including Newt from the Wizard quest and those on the Astral Plane, have a 38 chance of forcing an athame as their initial weapon.[4][5]


Engraving with a non-cursed athame will not dull the weapon - an athame can engrave up to 19 letters per turn, with up to 9 letters possible in one action. As with other weapons, an athame cannot engrave if its enchantment is -3 or lower.


Main article: Engraving

Athames are fairly weak as weapons despite their +2 to-hit, but are exceptionally suited for engraving Elbereth; Magicbane is considered valuable for this as well as its curse resistance and other valuable effects. The item's rarity typically means that a mass majority of characters, especially non-atheist Wizards, will encounter Magicbane long before they ever see a regular athame - an athame found in a bones file is usually one that would be Magicbane if the character that found it had not already obtained Magicbane themselves; it is also likely to be cursed. Be sure to mind the beatitude of any athame you attempt to engrave with in order to avoid being occupied (and helpless) for more turns than intended.


The athame first appears in NetHack 3.0.3. From this version to NetHack 3.2.3, Wizards start each game with a +1 athame.[6] The influential Wizard Patch changes the starting weapon to the stronger-but-less-utilitarian quarterstaff, and may have been done to compensate for the Wizard's increased power from the redesigned spellcasting system, which allowed virtually unlimited casting of spells - the patch is merged completely into the mainline in NetHack 3.3.0.[7]


An athame (or athamé) is a ceremonial blade with a generally-black handle that is the main ritual implement or magical tool among several used in ceremonial magic traditions, including neo-pagan and Satanic traditions as well as modern witchcraft. A black-handled knife called an arthame appears in certain versions of the Key of Solomon, a grimoire dating back to the Renaissance.

The contemporary use of the athame as a ceremonial tool was started by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the early 20th century, for the use of banishing rituals, and was later adopted by Wiccans, Thelemites and Satanists. The athame is also mentioned in the writings of Gerald Gardner in the 1950s, who claimed it to be the most important ritual tool of the New Forest Coven - it is speculated that his interest and expertise in antique swords and knives may have contributed to the tool's central importance in modern Wicca. Modern occultism regards the athame as one of the four elemental tools, traditionally standing for fire for witches and air for ceremonial magicians.

Contrary to popular belief, athames are not required to have double-edged blades or specially-coloured handles, though contemporary magical practitioners often choose a double-edged blade for symbolic meaning - the athame is also not used for any form of cutting or weaponry, and in fact may have blunted tips to prevent accidental wounds. Its primary function is to trace pentagrams and circles in preparation for rituals: in NetHack, this translates into a blade suitable for making engravings. For open rituals in public places, a ritual wand or staff is used in place of an athame, since there may be legal complications involved with public use of swords and daggers even when the edges have been dulled.


Some variants may make the athame more common in some manner, and others introduce items and/or artifacts that are capable of engraving with the same speed and quality as an athame.


In SLASH'EM, Firewall and Deep Freeze are artifact athames that act as the first sacrifice gift for the Flame Mage and Ice Mage, respectively.

Gnoll shamans are always generated with athames.[8] Player monster flame mages, ice mages, and necromancers have a 38 chance of forcing an athame as their initial weapon.[9]

The Guild of Disgruntled Adventurers generates two each of player monster flame mages, ice mages, necromancers, and wizards, making it very likely that a character will find at least one athame there.


In dNetHack, athames deal 1d4 slashing damage to all monsters and can be poisoned.

Wizards start the game with a -1 athame, which is subject to racial substitutions: orcish Wizards will start with an orcish dagger in place of the athame, while elven Wizards start with an elven dagger, vampire Wizards start with a normal dagger, and drow Wizards start with a droven dagger.

Witches have a 110 chance of generating with an athame.

dNetHack has a few artifact athames:

Several artifacts can be used to engrave with the quality of an athame:

Athames are the most useful weapons for inscribing wards, as well as the seals required to bind spirits of the Void.

TNNT (the game)

One of the achievements, Rare Loot, requires you to pick up an athame that was generated on a master or arch-lich.


In EvilHack, the base item of Magicbane is changed from an athame to a quarterstaff.

Kathryn the Ice Queen always generates with an erosion-proofed athame that has the frost object property.

An athame can be created at a forge by combining a dagger and a stiletto.

Shadowblade is an artifact athame that can only be created by combining Werebane and Stormbringer at a forge.


In SlashTHEM, in addition to SLASH'EM details, Acidfall and Debugger are artifact athames that act as first gifts for the Acid Mage and Electric Mage, respectively.

Sharpened pencils are weapons that can be used to engrave without dulling them, similar to an athame.

Encyclopedia entry

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.