Potion of cyanide

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! Pink potion.png
Name cyanide
Appearance random
Base price 300 zm
Weight 20
Monster use Will not be used by monsters.

The potion of cyanide is a dangerous potion originally from NetHack: The Next Generation, which also appears in Slash'EM Extended and SLASHTHEM. Quaffing it has several bad effects: it makes you ill, reduces your strength by up to 10 points, and costs a significant amount of health: 4d16 (4-64) if cursed, 2d16 (2-32) if uncursed, or 2d8 (2-16) if blessed.

The illness is classified as "vomitable" (like food poisoning) and can be cured if you can induce yourself to vomit (or, in Slash'EM Extended or SLASHTHEM, find—or make—a toilet). Of course, a noncursed unicorn horn can help as well.

A thrown potion of cyanide reduces the health of its target—a monster or yourself—to one-fifth of its current value. If the target had less than 10 health to begin with, it dies. Inhaling the vapors of a broken potion of cyanide will have the same effect on you. In Slash'EM Extended, monsters will throw these at the player, which can lead to YASD if the player then runs into something dangerous without healing the damage; for example, a player with 50 max HP may find themselves suddenly at 10 HP and be killed by an otherwise harmless iron piercer.

Poison resistance does not protect against the harmful effects of cyanide poisoning. In game terms this may mean that poison resistance only protects you from biological toxins, not from inorganic poisons like cyanide.


CN(-) + HCL <==> HCN + Cl(-)

You quaffed a potion of cyanide while not hallucinating.
This tastes a little bitter; maybe it's some sort of medicine?
You quaffed a potion of cyanide while hallucinating.
You feel very, very, very sick!
You were hit by a potion of cyanide.
<monster> looks deathly sick.
The monster was hit by a potion of cyanide and lost health.


"Cyanide" can refer to any number of chemical compounds containing the cyanide ion (CN(-)), most of which are very toxic—much more so than the NHTNG potion would imply. The "potion of cyanide" is presumably a liquid solution of a compound containing cyanide ions. While it is not unusual in NetHack for inhaling the vapors of shattered potions to have an effect similar to that of quaffing them, the case of cyanide vapors being toxic is supported by real science, as some cyanide solutions release hydrogen cyanide (HCN) gas, which is also toxic.

Cyanide compounds are often said to have a bitter odor, hence the hallucinatory message. In popular culture this bitter odor or taste is often used as a clue that food or a beverage has been poisoned with cyanide (for example, in Roald Dahl's short story "The Landlady"). While it is true that cyanide has a bitter odor, it can only be sensed with a special chemoreceptor which many people lack. So if for whatever reason you suspect your food or drink might have been spiked with cyanide, don't trust your sense of smell to tell you if it's safe!

Schroedinger's cat

The potion of cyanide figured in the NHTNG version of Schroedinger's box. In the thought experiment, the box contained a mechanism that would kill a cat, by breaking a container of cyanide, if a certain quantum event occurred. Therefore, in NHTNG, if the player opened the box and discovered that the cat was alive, the box would contain a potion of radium (representing the quantum system being monitored) and an intact potion of cyanide. But if the box was open and the cat was dead, the box would contain a potion of radium and the corpse of a cat, but there would be no potion of cyanide, because it had been used up.

When Schroedinger's cat was added to regular NetHack, the potions of radium and cyanide were omitted from the code, because these items were not carried over.


  • Slash'EM Extended potion.c 2320, 2621, 3116
  • Slash'EM Extended objects.c 1522