Potion of radium

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

The potion of radium is a dangerous potion originally from NetHack: The Next Generation, which also appears in Slash'EM Extended and SLASHTHEM. Quaffing it makes you ill, with up to fifty turns to live.

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 target—a monster or yourself—hit by a thrown potion of radium has its health reduced to one-quarter of its current value. If you are hit by a potion of radium, it will never lower your health below 1 point, but monsters hit by the potion will be killed if it lowers their health to a fraction of 1. Inhaling the vapors of a broken potion of radium will have the same effect on you. In Slash'EM Extended, potions of radium can be thrown by monsters.

Poison resistance does not protect against the harmful effects of radium exposure.


This was radioactive radium!
You quaffed a potion of radium while not hallucinating.
For some reason, that potion tastes... orange. Yes, the color orange, not the fruit.
You quaffed a potion of radium while hallucinating.
You feel very sick!
You were hit by a potion of radium.
<Monster> looks very sick.
The monster was hit by a potion of radium and lost health.


Radium was one of the first radioactive elements to be discovered, and is still probably one of the best known. Its most stable isotope or form, radium-226, gradually breaks down into radon, releasing radiation in the process; radon also breaks down in a similar manner. Its appearance in NetHack: The Next Generation grossly understates its potential dangers to human health.

In NHTNG, swallowing radium causes immediate illness, which will cause you to die after fifty turns, but can be cured by making yourself vomit. In real life, you might not die within hours after swallowing radium; however, ingesting it would probably result in a portion of it remaining in the body, where it would continue to release radiation as it decayed, killing cells and damaging DNA, which in turn could cause cancer and other diseases that could kill you years later. Vomiting would probably not be effective at preventing accumulation in the tissues, except possibly if all of the radium was regurgitated before it could reach the intestines.

Also, NHTNG implies that one could safely carry radium in a (presumably) glass bottle, without any damage to one's health. In real life, merely holding radium, without special containers or protective clothing, would expose the body to harmful radiation, as many early researchers discovered when they observed skin damage after they had carried samples of radium close to their bodies for hours.

A good example of why NetHack is not real life.

Schroedinger's cat

The potion of radium 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 2327, 2635, 3136
  • Slash'EM Extended objects.c 1523