|Damage vs. small
|Damage vs. large
The sling is the only weapon that uses the sling skill. The following types of ammo use this skill as well:
- all gems
- all gray stones
While actively training the sling skill is generally a waste of slots, players may wish to use one as a form of ranged attack early on - ammunition for it is thankfully plentiful, though most slung projectiles will mulch when they hit monsters, with the exception of non-flint gray stones. None of these projectiles can be enchanted, but blessing them grants a Luck-based bonus to avoid breaking - even so, their usefulness overall tapers off well before the mid-game.
Flint stones are the best projectiles by far due to their 1d6 damage (averaging 3.5), but are difficult to take advantage of multishot with since they are quite rare outside of bones; rocks deal lower damage in comparison, but can be readily made and found everywhere. Worthless glass deals the same damage as rocks when slung, but weigh only 1 aum to a single rock's 10.
Caveman that avoid using their starting flint stones until they have maximum Luck can bless them and have them last for a significant portion of the game, while Rangers can use a sling on less threatening monsters in the early game to preserve their arrows or crossbow bolts until they find a means of enchanting them and boosting their Luck. However, these are incredibly niche approaches - Cavemen can get incredible mileage out of an aklys, Rangers have better projectile options, and generally the average player will prefer using their better ammo or weapons over an early-game death.
The sling first appears in Hack 1.21, a variant of Jay Fenlason's Hack, and is included in the initial item list for Hack 1.0. In these versions slings could be used to fire sling bullets - rocks did not yet exist in the former game, and were first included as objects in the latter.
In NetHack 3.0.0, the sling bullet was removed from the list of objects in objects.c, and rocks effectively took over their role as sling ammo, while NetHack 3.2.0 introduced the flint stone and moved both to the "Gems/Stones" section of the inventory.
The sling is a widespread weapon dating back to Neolithic cultures (if not still-older ones), and was typically used for hunting and combat - it is incredibly inexpensive and easy to build and use, and was thus incredibly common among shepherds, hunters and other "common" folk. As a result, while man-made sling bullets and rocks used as sling ammunition are frequently salvaged during archeological expeditions, intact slings are much harder to find. Slinging is a tradition among the peoples of the Balearic Islands, who are known since classical times as proficient mercenaries.
Slinging as a sport is still practiced in the Balearic Islands and other areas in modern times, and the sling is also used as an improvised weapon for wildnerness survival, hurling incendiary devices such as Molotov cocktails and grenades with additional range, and other more hobby-oriented purposes. A skilled slinger can fire projectiles at distances upwards of 450 meters (1500 feet) at speeds over 250 miles per hour.
Slings appear in all editions of Dungeons & Dragons as a common ranged weapon for clerics (Priest(esse)s in NetHack), who cannot use other non-blunt projectiles, due to being forbidden from shedding blood. Their corresponding sling bullets deal 1d4 base damage. Dungeons & Dragons also has a rule that improvised stones do one size category less in damage, i.e. 1d3 instead of 1d4 - this may be reflected by the lower damage in modern NetHack. Slings also appear in the third version of Rogue, with its corresponding rock dealing the same damage as in D&D. The usefulness of slings in other media tends to vary, but it tends to be considered somewhat more useful than it is perceived as in NetHack.
Some variants aim to make slings more viable as a weapon.
In dNetHack, slings also gain strength-based bonus damage (with a maximum of +8 from 25 strength), and Cavemen gain a +1 bonus to multishot when using them. Furthermore, the silver slingstone is introduced as ammo which gives slingers options against silver-hating monsters; they can be found is small deposits within rock or in large amounts on a certain level in the dNetHack Neutral quest.
Silver slingstones fired at 25 strength from a sling out-damage even +7 silver arrows - this has earned dNetHack's slings the nickname of "portable meteor launchers".
EvilHack reintroduces sling bullets in version 0.7.1; Cavepeople of all types can start with sling bullets. Priests are incapable of using any edged or piercing weapons, leaving slings as one of their few ranged options, and the inclusion of sling bullets can make them quite viable.
And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and
drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward
the army to meet the Philistine.
And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone,
and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that
the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face
to the earth.
So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with
a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there
was no sword in the hand of David.