Iron chain

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_ Iron chain.png
Name iron chain
Appearance iron chain
Base price 0 zm
Weight 120

An iron chain is a type of item that appears in NetHack. It is naturally made of iron.

Iron chains are classified under the "chain" object type, rather than tools or weapons.


Punishment causes a heavy iron ball to be attached to you by an iron chain.

Destroying a drawbridge will send several iron chains flying or generate them in piles near the bridge's former square, depending on if it was open or closed at the time.

Iron golems leave 2-8 iron chains behind as a special death drop in lieu of a corpse, which are the primary source of most iron chains in an average game.[1]


The iron chain's primary function is keeping an heavy iron ball attached to you - you can end punishment by directly removing the chain, such as using the #monster extended command while polymorphed into a nymph, or eating the chain while in the form of a metallivore. Other methods of ending punishment will also cause the chain to disappear.

Otherwise, the iron chain is essentially junk: whereas items such as the ring of aggravate monster can have some important use cases, the iron chain is generally considered the most useless item in NetHack - they perform no function as individual objects, have no value when sold to shopkeepers, and aren't of any real use as a weapon despite their weight. Even the cheap plastic imitation of the Amulet of Yendor can at least be polymorphed into another useful amulet - an iron chain will always polymorph into another iron chain.

Improvised uses

Here are several, somewhat trivial uses for these objects:

  • Throw or kick them as missiles.
  • If the player is a Healer, Priest, Ranger, Tourist, or Wizard 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 pet metallivores, or for you while polyselfed into a metallivore.
  • Leave them in the path of hostile metallivores as a distraction.
  • Polypile enough of them to make another iron golem, and either 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 or 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." (This might be considered very mild griefing.)


The iron chain first appears in Hack 1.0.

In NetHack 3.4.3 and earlier versions, including some variants based on those versions, iron chains could be used to mark the vibrating square. Prior to NetHack 3.6.1, they could also be used as a Vladsbane.


Some variants may elect to make iron chains somewhat useful in certain cases.

The Convict is a role that appears in many variants, and starts the game with a heavy iron ball attached to them by chain - various iron chains are also among the prison debris encountered in the upper levels of the Convict quest.


In UnNetHack, applying a bag of tricks that is cursed or has been charged has a 120 chance of spitting out an iron chain, which replaces the random item a non-cursed or non-recharged bag would generate.


In xNetHack, monsters that hate iron will avoid squares with iron chains on them.


In SpliceHack, iron chains have uses in creating items at a furnace:

  • You can create a heavy iron ball by combining an iron chain and a boulder.
  • You can create a spiked chain by combining an iron chain with either a dagger or a knife.


In Hack'EM, iron chains can be found at junk shops, and have several uses in crafting recipes at forges. An iron chain can be used to make several other items:

Encyclopedia entry

"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!"

[ A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens ]


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