|Base price||50 zm|
|Monster use||Will not be used by monsters.|
A magic marker is a magical tool in NetHack that can be used to write magic scrolls and spellbooks. It is a highly sought-after item for this reason alone, especially for Wizards; with Luck, you have a good chance of writing scrolls and spellbooks that they have not identified yet.
It is possible, although with low probability of success, to create magic markers by polypiling magical tools. It is technically possible to create them from non-magical tools, but the probability of this occuring is vanishingly small.
- Some details borrowed from Sascha Wostmann's "Yet Another NetHack FAQ".
Applying a magic marker will prompt you what to write on, which lets you choose a single scroll or spellbook of blank paper in your inventory. Then, you must specify what scroll or spellbook you are writing.
You may enter the full name of a scroll ("scroll of light"), or just a short form ("light"). You may also write the label of a scroll ("ZELGO MER"), but only if scrolls with that label exist in your game. This means that if you want to write a scroll of remove curse, and you have informally identified ZELGO MER as remove curse, you should write, in all capitals, "ZELGO MER". If you have only informally identified "remove curse", your attempt will be subject to the normal failure chance from trying to write an unidentified scroll.
Similarly, you may write any spellbook by entering the full name ("spellbook of detect food"), the short form ("detect food"), or the appearance ("indigo spellbook"). Unlike with scrolls, you may not copy a spellbook by appearance unless you have formally identified the spellbook. Novels can be written too, but you cannot choose which novel you write. It is impossible to write the Book of the Dead.
You can also engrave with a magic marker, which creates a fast semipermanent engraving at a cost of 1 charge per two letters.
When you write a scroll or spellbook, the BUC of the resulting item is the sum of the BUCs of the marker and the blank scroll or spellbook, as seen below. In short, blessed markers produce blessed scrolls, unless the material is cursed, and the reverse is true for cursed markers. Uncursed markers produce scrolls with the same status as the material and thus are the most versatile.
Ink and charges
Writing with a magic marker uses up charges. Initially, a magic marker will be generated with 30–99 charges.
A magic marker can be recharged with a scroll of charging (or PYEC), but only once. A blessed charge will add 15–30 charges, then round up to 50 or 75 if able. An uncursed charge will add 10–20 charges, then round up to 50 if able. Charges are capped at 127, but attempting to exceed this will not cause the marker to explode.
Any magic markers created by polypiling come "pre-recharged" and cannot be charged again.
Each scroll or spellbook has an associated "base ink cost". For scrolls, this is an arbitrary number specified in write.c; for spellbooks it is (spell level × 10). (Novels are treated as level 1 spellbooks.)
If the ink cost of a scroll or spellbook is x, then writing it will cost a random number of charges between x and x − 1 inclusive. If the marker has fewer than x charges remaining, you will not even attempt to write the specified item ("Your marker is too dry to write that!"). If it has between x and x − 1, however, you will attempt to write. If it turns out that this is not enough, the written item will be useless, and the marker will lose all its remaining charges ("Your marker dries out!"). Useless scrolls disappear, while books clear themselves.
|stone to flesh||30||15–29|
|cone of cold||40||20–39|
|finger of death||70||35–69|
Writing success chance
You will always successfully write a scroll or spellbook if your marker has enough ink and the scroll or spellbook type is formally known to you. You can check whether it is known if the actual type (in addition to the scroll label or spellbook color) is shown in your discoveries list. Merely having it type-named does not count, even if you have called it the correct name. However, you can use the discoveries list to see the label or color, then enter that at the prompt instead, which also guarantees success.
If the scroll or spellbook type is currently unknown to you, your chance of success depends on your Luck and whether you are a wizard. Regardless of whether or not you succeed or fail, you will still use an appropriate amount of ink for that scroll or spellbook.
|−1 to 1||20%||6.7%|
|2 to 4||39%||13%|
|5 to 7||59%||20%|
|8 to 10||78%||26%|
If you successfully write an unknown scroll or spellbook type, you must read it or identify it to place it in your discoveries list. This will enable you to write it again later with 100% success.
If you try to write something without enough ink, or fail at an unknown scroll or book, a scroll will disappear, but a spellbook will just blank.
Writing while blind
Spellbooks cannot be written while blind ("Your magic marker can't create braille text").
You may attempt to write a scroll while blind, but this is subject to fail depending on your luck, with the message "You fail to write the scroll correctly and it disappears." You have the same chance of successfully writing the scroll as a non-blind Wizard does to write an unknown scroll, so maximizing your Luck will give you a high chance of success. The game tests this after checking whether you failed to write an unknown scroll, so it is doubly hard to write an unknown scroll while blind.
As a suitably rare item, magic markers have several applicable strategies regarding their use.
Engraving Elbereth with a magic marker is generally viewed as a waste of charges, since the same effect can be achieved using an athame or a wand of digging. However, if these or other similar methods are unavailable, it is more than worth it to use the marker, since you will prefer being alive with four less charges to dying with an unused marker.
Because of the total gain of 50 charges, it is best to recharge your magic marker when it is totally empty. Blessed charging in this case gives no advantage over uncursed. An exception would be if you want to write a very high-level spellbook; in that case, blessed charging to get to 75 could be desirable.
Provided your Luck is maximized, it may be worthwhile to attempt to write unknown scrolls or spellbooks even if you are a non-Wizard, depending on the number of charges on your magic marker. For example, if you have a magic marker with a high number of charges, you are very likely to be able to write a scroll of charging and save a wish on the Castle wand. It is also useful and easy to write a low-level unknown spellbook, such as the spellbook of sleep or spellbook of jumping; the spellbook of magic missile is also a less easy possibility.
Assuming maximized Luck, the following table gives approximate probabilities of successfully writing at least one of the specified scrolls or spellbooks, attempting repeatedly until the item is written or the marker goes dry, as a non-Wizard, given an initial number of magic marker charges:
|# of charges||Any 8-ink scroll||Any level 1 spellbook||Scroll of charging||Any level 2 spellbook||Scroll of genocide or any level 3 spellbook|
Obviously, the lower the number of charges on the marker or the greater the ink cost of the item, the less likely you are to write it successfully.
If you have a source of charging and your marker has not been recharged, you have 50 more charges to attempt to write; therefore (for example) a Knight gunning for a spellbook of magic missile starting with a (0:40) magic marker, and willing to spend the entire marker if necessary, has about an 88% chance of obtaining it in total with maxed Luck. (Specifically, it is about a 60% chance to get it without recharging, plus 70% times 40% that they get it after recharging. This is not quite the same probability as a marker with 90 charges, since typically a few leftover charges are "wasted" after the last attempt before recharging.)
SLASH'EM incorporates a balance patch to ink costs. Scrolls of enchant armor, enchant weapon, stinking cloud, remove curse, and charging require 24 ink (12–23 charges) to write, while scrolls of scare monster cost less, requiring 14 ink.
You are no longer guaranteed to write scrolls and books you have only named, not formally identified. This is the price to pay for the ability to name things you don't have.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
- mkobj.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 496
- read.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 312
- read.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 318
- read.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 344
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 17
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 169
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 181
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 201
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 175
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 198: Ink cost calculated before logic of whether item is known
- write.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 203
- write.c in SLASH'EM 0.0.7E7F2, line 51: "more useful scrolls cost more"