An iron chain is used to connect you to a heavy iron ball when you are punished. Depending on how you unpunish yourself, the chain may become a separate item. Iron chains are also left behind when an iron golem is killed or a drawbridge is destroyed.
Iron chains are generally considered the most useless items in NetHack (with the possible exception of the Cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor) since they perform no function as individual objects, have no value to sell to shopkeepers, aren't heavy enough to be a decent weapon, and will always polypile into another chain. Even the inventory command seems to disdain them, placing all your iron chains in a special inventory group called "chains." They aren't even listed among "tools" as a courtesy.
Here are several and somewhat trivial uses for these objects:
- Throw or kick them as missiles.
- If the player is a wizard, priest, ranger, healer or tourist and going for weaponless conduct, a chain will do more damage than Basic or Skilled bare hands (d4+1 vs d2+1 damage). Well-enchanted kicking boots will still be superior, however.
- Food for metallivores (a pet or polyself).
- Leave them in the path of hostile metallivores as a distraction.
- Polypile enough of them to make another iron golem and turn it into your pet or polymorph it into a monster worthy of sacrificing (though one is likely better off using the golem they killed in the first place if they can do this). If particularly bored, taming it and watching it get killed by a rust monster will produce an amusing message.
- Carry them in your main inventory to lower the chance that something "good" will be cursed/stolen. (Consider using lighter objects such as worthless gems instead.)
- Leave a bones file that will annoy others (using ASCII): "Darn, that's not an altar." (although this might be considered very mild griefing).
- Wield one to kill Vlad.
"You are fettered, " said Scrooge, trembling. "Tell me why?"
"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost. "I
made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my
own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its
pattern strange to you?"
Scrooge trembled more and more.
"Or would you know," pursued the Ghost, "the weight and
length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as
heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You
have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!"
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