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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
When carried


When wielded


When invoked


Base price 1500 zm
Weight 120
Material iron

Cleaver is an artifact weapon that appears in NetHack. Its base item is a battle-axe, and it is neutral-aligned. It is the guaranteed first sacrifice gift for Barbarians.


Cleaver has a +d3 to-hit bonus and does an extra +d6 damage per hit. Uniquely, it can hit multiple monsters in an arc with one swing: each attack will first strike the monster 45 degrees to one side of your target, then the targeted monster, and then the monster 45 degrees to the other side. The direction of attack alternates with each swing.[1] The arc does not discriminate between hostile monsters and pets or peaceful monsters. If attacking while held or engulfed, you can only hit the monster holding or engulfing you.

Like other axes, applying Cleaver in a given direction can chop down trees and destroy doors.


Cleaver's arc attack potentially makes it one of the most damaging weapons in the game by a pure damage-per-turn calculation. Moreover, it is most effective in "one vs. many" scenarios, which are also the most dangerous situations for a player to find themselves in. Cleaver's arced strikes can help you in these situations by opening gaps to flee through or to reposition yourself in.

Because your pets are just as much endangered by Cleaver's attack as hostile monsters, it may be prohibitively difficult to keep them around. A magic whistle can help orient them "properly" before you attack, as can blocking them off using doors or cursed items if you are aware of the potential for combat beforehand. Slower pets such as dragons and balrogs are easier to work with, as you can move a few steps away before attacking.

For the same reason, this weapon is also extremely dangerous to wield in peaceful-populated areas such as the Quest, Minetown, shops, and temples - it is particularly advisable to use a different weapon while altar-scumming with a co-aligned priest in the room. In general, combat with Cleaver proves far easier if you can lure your foes away from peaceful targets.

As a two-handed non-intelligent artifact weapon, Cleaver risks being welded to your hands if it becomes cursed. The usual strategies for two-handed weapons apply: make sure to keep some keep curse removal items on hand, including carrying holy water in a spare sack 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}


Cleaver's striking arc is introduced in NetHack 3.6.1, and was adapted from FIQHack.



Like all artifacts with damage bonuses (as opposed to double damage), Cleaver receives a boost in SLASH'EM; it always gives +3 to hit and +6 damage. However, the above strategies regarding two-handed weapons still apply, especially given the proliferation of item-cursing spellcasters in SLASH'EM—ghoul mages, nabassus, vampire mages, devas, and the like. Since SLASH'EM is based on NetHack 3.4.3, Cleaver does not attack monsters in an arc.

However, note that non-human Barbarians have a second guaranteed sacrifice gift in SLASH'EM: Deathsword. This weapon is only particularly effective against humans; for that reason, it mostly gets in the way of getting a better weapon, and some barbarians may find themselves using Cleaver for longer than they might want.

Given that 13 of neutral sacrifice gifts are non-weapons (Deluder, Gauntlets of Defense, Mirrorbright, and Whisperfeet) and another 14 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.


Cleaver in UnNetHack behaves as in 3.6.1, and is also easier to obtain. The Executioner is guaranteed to be generated with Cleaver if it has not yet appeared in-game


In FIQHack, Cleaver has the ability to hit multiple foes, and the behavior was adapted for vanilla; however, it will not hit pets or peacefuls unless they are directly targeted.


In xNetHack, the arc will not strike peaceful monsters unless you do so intentionally by force-fighting with F.


In EvilHack, Cleaver will not hit peaceful monsters in its arc unless cursed.

Cleaver can be combined with Mjollnir at a forge to create Tempest, an artifact halberd.

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 ]