Cleaver

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)   Cleaver   Battle-axe.png
Base item battle-axe
Damage vs. small 1d8+1d4 +1d6 (3-18)
Damage vs. large 1d6+2d4 +1d6 (4-20)
To-hit bonus +1d3
Bonus versus (any)
Weapon skill axe
Size two-handed
Affiliation
When carried

(none)

When wielded

(none)

When invoked

(none)

Base price 1500 zm
Weight 120
Material iron

Cleaver is an artifact battle-axe. It is the first sacrifice weapon for Barbarians.

Abilities

Cleaver has a d3 to-hit bonus and does d6 damage on top of the high inherent damage of a battle-axe. Its most unique ability, though, is that it can hit multiple monsters in an arc in one swing. Each attack will first strike the monster 45 degrees to one side of the monster you targeted, then the targeted monster, and then the monster 45 degrees to the other side. The direction of attack alternates with each swing.

The attack does not spare pets or peaceful monsters, so take care where you target around them. If held or engulfed, you can only hit the monster holding or engulfing you.

Cleaver, like other axes, can be [a]pplied in a direction to attempt to chop. This will, over a few turns, fell trees and destroy doors. If you attempt to chop down ([>]) then you get the message "Your Cleaver merely scratches the floor."

Strategy

Cleaver's arc attack makes it potentially one of the most damaging weapons in the game by a pure damage per second calculation. However, to use it to full effectiveness, you need to face multiple monsters in melee at once, and thus expose yourself to more attacks. If you do find yourself surrounded, e.g. because of a scroll of create monster or the summon nasties spell, killing multiple enemies at once can help open gaps to flee through.

Because your pets are just as subject to Cleaver's attack as hostile monsters, it may be prohibitively difficult to keep them around. Slower pets such as dragons and Balrogs are easier to handle as you can move a few steps away before attacking.

As a two-handed weapon which isn't intelligent, Cleaver risks being welded to your hands if it becomes cursed. Make sure to keep some holy water in a bag to tip out if necessary.

Average damage calculation

The average damage calculations in the following table do not include bonuses from weapon skills, strength, or from using a blessed weapon against undead or demons.

Weapon Small monsters Large monsters
+0 Cleaver \frac{1+8}{2}+\frac{1+4}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}=\bold{10.5} \frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{2+8}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}=\bold{12}
+7 Cleaver \frac{1+8}{2}+\frac{1+4}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7=\bold{17.5} \frac{1+6}{2}+\frac{2+8}{2}+\frac{1+6}{2}+7=\bold{19}

History

Cleaver's arc hit ability was introduced in NetHack 3.6.1.

SLASH'EM

Like all artifacts with damage bonuses (as opposed to double damage), Cleaver receives a boost in SLASH'EM, for it will always give +3 to hit and +6 damage. However, the above still applies, especially given the proliferation of item-cursing spellcasters in SLASH'EM. Note, however, that non-human barbarians have a second guaranteed sacrifice gift in SLASH'EM, Deathsword. This weapon is only particularly effective against humans; as such, it mostly gets in the way of getting a better weapon, meaning some barbarians may find themselves using Cleaver for longer than they might like.

That said, given that 1/3 of neutral sacrifice gifts are non-weapons (Deluder, Gauntlets of Defense, Mirrorbright, and Whisperfeet) and another 1/4 are of limited use (Disrupter vs. non-undead, Giantkiller vs. non-giants, and Sword of Balance vs. neutrals), a neutral player who receives Cleaver early should consider himself lucky; only Magicbane and Mjollnir are more powerful as general-use neutral weapons, particularly in the early and midgame where curses are not a significant threat.

UnNetHack

Cleaver itself is unchanged in UnNetHack but it is a lot easier to get. It is generated on the Executioner.

Encyclopedia entry

Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed,
sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic
melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled
thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

[ The Phoenix on the Sword, by Robert E. Howard ]