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) Scalpel.png
Name scalpel
Appearance scalpel
Damage vs. small 1d3
Damage vs. large 1d3
To-hit bonus +2
Weapon skill knife
Size one-handed
Base price 6 zm
Weight 5
Material metal

A scalpel is a kind of melee weapon that appears in NetHack. It uses the knife skill, and does d3 damage to both small and large monsters. Scalpels are not suitable for throwing like other knives, and doing so carries a -2 to-hit penalty.[1][2] They are made of metal.


Scalpels are not randomly generated on the dungeon floor, in shops, or as a death drop.

All Healers start with a +0 scalpel as their weapon.[3] A scalpel in a bones pile is usually left by a Healer.

Player monster healers on the Astral Plane have a 6.25% chance of generating with a scalpel in lieu of their initial weapon.[4]


Scalpels are very poor weapons roughly on par with orcish daggers, with the only real advantage being their inherently erosion-proof material. However, knives tend to be sparse compared to other projectile weapons like daggers, and are slightly worse melee weapons themselves. In any case, the starting scalpel for Healers may be worth keeping as a backup weapon against monsters such as acid blobs that can corrode or rust weapons; you can stash or simply ditch it once you gather a decent stack of knives and/or obtain a primary weapon that is either non-iron or erode-proofed.


The scalpel first appears in NetHack 3.0.0.

A bug caused player monster healers to receive stacks of scalpels during monster generation; this was fixed in NetHack 3.6.2.



Scalpels are a little more useful in SLASH'EM: Healers can use them to cure sickness or sliming using the surgery technique.


In xNetHack, nurses have a 15 chance of generating with a scalpel.[5] Scalpels also do 1d5 damage versus small monsters and 1d7 damage versus large.


In dNetHack, Healers also apply their healing spell skill level to-hit and damage with scalpels (+0 at basic, +2 at skilled, +3 at expert). At max skill, a scalpel is roughly equivalent to other starting weapons in the hands of a Healer, though it is still outperformed by a unicorn horn or quarterstaff at high strength.

All nurses in dNetHack generate with scalpels, as do some deminymphs. Several hostile nurses in the Madman's quest branch generate wielding sickness-poisoned scalpels.


In addition to SLASH'EM changes, Undertakers in SlashTHEM start with a +2 scalpel as their weapon. Player monster undertakers are always generated with scalpels.

Encyclopaedia entry

A scalpel is a very sharp knife used for surgery ... Merely
touching a medical scalpel with bare hands to test it will
cut through the skin. ... Medical scalpel blades are gradually
curved for greater precision when cutting through tissue.

[ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ]