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) Katana.png
Name katana
Appearance samurai sword
Damage vs. small 1d10
Damage vs. large 1d12
To-hit bonus +1
Weapon skill long sword
Size one-handed
Base price 80 zm
Weight 40
Material iron

A katana does d10/d12 damage against small/large monsters, with a +1 bonus to hit. When unidentified, it appears as a samurai sword; samurai start with one. The sole artifact katana is Snickersnee.

The only differences between katanas and long swords are the +1 bonus to hit and the katana's 1d10 damage vs. small (as opposed to 1d8 for a long sword). Because the katana is the most damaging non-artifact weapon to use the long sword weapon skill, it is often a desirable off-hand weapon for two-weapon combat.

A katana will not turn into Excalibur if you dip it into a fountain. Don't degrade your weapon.


Katanas are rare, very rare. In fact, only 4 in 1000 (0.4%)[1] of all randomly spawned weapons will be a katana, making it the seventh rarest weapon in the game—a slot it shares with the lance, among several others less notable. This makes getting one for most classes largely dependent on random chance.

As noted above, Samurai start with one in their initial inventory, and a Samurai hoping to #twoweapon should generally keep their original, as they're quite rare; should anything happen to it, it's possible to get another during the samurai quest. Bones from a Samurai are another chancy way to get a katana. While a Samurai player monster has a 50% chance of getting a katana, they're only normally generated in the samurai quest or on the Astral Plane. Considering that reverse genocide never spawns monsters with items, it will not be of any help, and one shouldn't waste genocide scrolls attempting.

One good place to look is the Castle stores—collectively, there is a decent 5.46% chance of finding one there. Death drops are another small chance of getting a katana—in Gehennom, where weapons are spawned with about 20% of all items, there is about a 0.0136% chance that a given monster will have a katana in their inventory. At such minuscule odds, however, one must slay ~2115 creatures to be even 25% confident to pry one from their cold, dead, slimy hands.

Randomly spawned stores are another—though by the time the player is worrying about acquiring one, they've likely gone through all the stores that the Dungeons of Doom has to offer. Late in the game, Orcus Town in particular has a small chance of having a katana spawned. The two general stores have a collective 3.15% chance of having a katana, assuming there are no mimics.

If the game has a portal to Fort Ludios, each soldier has a guaranteed weapon, as well as the usual death drops. The 87 Yendorian army members there have a trivial ~0.59% chance of spawning a katana to plunder through death drops alone. However, the large number of weapons otherwise spawned may make it possible to polypile for the katana. To be 50% confident to attain a katana, one need polymorph 172.94 items—easily do-able with the 87 weapons assured to be there.

The table below relates the chance of getting a katana, assuming all the weapons are placed onto one pile, are uncursed, and the player has maximized their luck, so as to lessen the chance of hostile iron golems. The confidence given is "overall," or "cumulative," meaning that if the player does not get it the first time, the odds do not increase, magically or otherwise.

Charges 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Confidence 00.00% 23.01% 36.72% 45.38% 51.09% 54.97% 57.68% 59.6% 60.99%
Polyfodder left (avg) 87 65.25 48.94 36.70 27.53 20.65 15.48 11.61 8.71
Total items polymorphed 00.00% 66.25 114.19 150.89 178.42 199.06 214.55 226.16 234.87


Despite them making for the best long sword in the game, historically speaking, katanas were no better than an equivalent European sword[2]. In the same era, while many katanas were better than European broadswords, this was simply because katanas were not mass produced (recall that Europe was often at war, and Japan quite isolated); in fact, owing to poorer quality steel in Japan, in a fairer comparison (non-mass-produced European sword) katanas were actually worse. This is not a fault of NetHack, per se, as canonical Dungeons and Dragons from which NetHack is based.

It should be said, however, that due to the large number of soldiers in the game, the long swords in NetHack are indeed most likely mass-produced. Furthermore, the +1 to-hit may be a nod to D&D, in that that is the exact bonus given to masterwork equipment. Although this still does not account for the fact that the stereotypically better Elven equipment, the Elven broadsword, is still worse (on average) than a katana.

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 katana \frac{1+10}{2}=\bold{5.5} \frac{1+12}{2}=\bold{6.5}
+7 katana \frac{1+10}{2}+7=\bold{12.5} \frac{1+12}{2}+7=\bold{13.5}

Encyclopedia entry

The katana is a long, single-edged samurai sword with a
slightly curved blade. Its long handle is designed to allow
it to be wielded with either one or two hands.