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In NetHack, there are many cases and scenarios where you will want to test whether or not items are cursed. Below is a non-exhaustive list of curse-testing methods.

Ways that work on all items

These methods work for all classes of object.


Priests can see the beatitude of all objects.

Altar testing

Items dropped on an altar will glow black if cursed and amber if blessed. You must not be blind to use this technique. If you are hallucinating when you do this, this method will only identify those items that are uncursed, as you will be unable to tell the difference between a black and an amber flash while hallucinating. Altar testing breaks atheist conduct unless blind.

Pet testing

This can be used only to test whether an item is cursed or not.

A pet will "move only reluctantly" over any stack or pile of objects that contains one or more cursed objects, as long as the pet was not whistled onto it (using a magic whistle or eucalyptus leaf) and the stack contains no food. Pets will greedily seek out and eat up food of their preferred types without regard to cursed items underneath or above the food. You can expedite testing by dropping objects in choke-points like doorways or corridors to force your pet to walk onto the object's tile while following you.

If you pet steps on an item without the message, and there is no food at the pile, and you did not call it with magic whistle, then all the items in the stack are non-cursed.

If you pet "move only reluctantly", at least one item on that square is cursed.

If you pet avoids to step on the square for a long time, at least one item on that square is probably cursed (the longer you wait, the higher chance for it).


Reading a scroll of identify (or casting the spell, or getting the gift from a throne) will reveal the BUC of any items identified. If you can cast identify at low failure rates and want to know the status of something now, this can actually be very useful.

Holy or unholy water

If you are willing to use up holy or unholy water, you can determine whether or not an object is cursed. If you think the object might be cursed and are OK with it becoming cursed if it isn't, dip it in unholy water. If nothing happens, the item was already cursed. If you think the object might be cursed and you want it uncursed, you can dip it in holy water, and it will uncurse itself if cursed and bless itself if uncursed. If the item was already blessed, nothing will happen. This technique can be useful with items that don't stack and are expected to be either cursed or blessed.

Fountain dipping

You can dip items in a fountain and may find out whether or not they are cursed. There is a 4/30 chance that the item will become uncursed if cursed ("The water glows for a moment") or, if already non-cursed, nothing will happen ("A feeling of loss comes over you"). However, there is also a 1/30 chance that the item will be cursed outright with no message. Before choosing to employ this strategy, you should go read about the other potential effects of dipping in fountains and be sure that you don't mind the other effects.

Methods that work on weapons

Wield the item

If the object you want to identify is a weapon, wield it and try to unwield it. If you can, it wasn't cursed. This method has the problem that, if it was cursed, your hands are now welded to the object. This is fine if you have a scroll of remove curse you were looking to burn or can cast remove curse at low failure rates — as long as the object wasn't a two-handed weapon.

Try to make a monster wield it

Drop the weapon in front of a monster that will pick it up and wield it. If the weapon "welds itself to the monster's hands" or something similar, it's cursed; in this case, it will be formally identified as such.

Throw projectiles

Cursed projectile weapons like darts, daggers, or shuriken may sometimes veer wildly off in another direction if you or a monster tries to throw them. They will not weld to your hands if you do this. You can #name a cursed projectile and other cursed projectiles of the same enchantment will stack with it, allowing you to detect further cursed items.


If you zap cancellation at one of a stack of projectiles, and the rest still stack with it, they are uncursed (and unenchanted). Similarily, you might want to drop only one of your stack on an altar in case you find more.

See also

This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.