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)   Sting   Elven dagger.png
Base item elven dagger
Damage vs. small 1d5 x2
Damage vs. large 1d3 x2
To-hit bonus +1d5
Bonus versus orcs
Weapon skill dagger
Size one-handed
When carried


When wielded
When invoked


Base price 800 zm
Weight 10
Material wood

Sting is an artifact weapon that appears in NetHack. It is chaotic, and its base item is an elven dagger. Sting has +d5 to hit and deals double damage to orcs, and additionally warns of orcs when wielded, accompanied by the weapon glowing blue. If you are wielding Sting while trapped in a web, you will escape it in at most one move if you could not do so otherwise.

Sting will only blast you if you are currently an orc, and will not do so otherwise regardless of alignment or alignment record.


Sting is a potential sacrifice gift for chaotic, non-orcish players.[1]

Sting is one of two artifacts in the game that can be named, which is a property shared with Orcrist: naming any elven dagger Sting will transform it into the artifact, breaking illiterate conduct.


Sting is available as soon as you find an elven dagger, which is generally very early in the game (e.g., from a hobbit); elven Rangers start with an elven dagger that they can turn into Sting as early as their first turn, if they wish. It is usually not of much use as a weapon, given that groups of orcs can be handled easily by a competent player; Wizards and some other roles that struggle with combat may consider creating Sting to take on orc groups and train the dagger skill.

Naming Sting is most often pertinent for forcing an early Stormbringer via sacrifice, as characters without a first sacrifice gift will always receive a coaligned artifact: naming Sting and Orcrist removes them from the pool, leaving Stormbringer and Grimtooth as possible gifts. This is most easily done with elven Priests and Rangers, since elven players never receive Grimtooth as a sacrifice gift. Chaotic Monks and Priests that plan to unrestrict the dagger skill should avoid naming Sting to keep it eligible as a sacrifice gift.

Players seeking artifacts outside of the above cases should not worry about creating Sting because it reduces the chance of you receiving any sacrifice gift after the first regardless of alignment, and also decreases the chances of reliably wishing for an artifact. You may also inadvertently preclude all sacrifice gifts if Stormbringer already exists in a game, though this is only an issue in some corner cases where you are a chaotic elf trying to force Stormbringer as above. In some few cases where you are attempting a protection racket, Sting may be worth creating to sell to a shop.

Average damage calculation

The average damage calculations in the following table do not include bonuses from weapon skills, strength, or from using a blessed weapon against undead or demons.

Weapon Small monster Large monster
+0 Sting \frac{1+5}{2}=\bold{3} \frac{1+3}{2}=\bold{2}
+7 Sting \frac{1+5}{2}+7=\bold{10} \frac{1+3}{2}+7=\bold{9}
+9 Sting \frac{1+5}{2}+9=\bold{12} \frac{1+3}{2}+9=\bold{11}

While the base damage is quite low, the extra +2 (which is possible from overenchanting an elven dagger) nudges it up to be slightly more damage-competitive, making it comparable to the 11.5/13.5 average damage of a +7 long sword at 14 of the weight.


Sting first appears in NetHack 2.3e, where any short sword or dagger could be named Sting; doing so does not transform the weapon, but gives it +d5 bonus damage against all monsters. Sting was made into an elven dagger in NetHack 3.0.0, though it could still be a regular dagger if you turned off TOLKEIN in the compile-time options.


"Sting" is the name of an elven dagger from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth novels; like most elven blades, it radiated a blue glow whenever orcs were near. It was the usual weapon of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who found it along with Orcrist and Glamdring in a troll's hoard. In the The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo gave the dagger to his nephew Frodo Baggins. Sting was also famously wielded by hobbit Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee in his fight against the spider-like Shelob - shortly before, Frodo used it to cut through Shelob's web, which was preventing their passage. The blade got its name after the giant spiders of Mirkwood Forest referred to it as Bilbo's "sting".

Dudley's dungeon

Sting appears in the Dudley's dungeon strip of 18 June 2004, where Dudley discovers that it needs batteries to glow blue, but batteries have not been invented yet.

Years later, in the run's strip of 8 March 2009, Dudley builds a battery and uses it to power Sting.



SLASH'EM changes Sting's alignment from chaotic to lawful, since all elves were changed from chaotic to lawful. Additionally, its to-hit bonus is flat like all artifact weapons in SLASH'EM, granting a full +5 to-hit against orcs.

NetHack 4

In NetHack 4, Sting was the subject of a severe bug where any attempt to name an item with an artifact was sent down the Sting/Orcrist codepath - if the player gave the name of an artifact to its appropriate base item, it would create the artifact.


In dNetHack, Sting retains its usual traits and additionally grants warning of arachnids (any s) in addition to the standard double-damage against them.


In FIQHack, your god will never gift you a nameable artifact such as Sting.[2]


In xNetHack, Sting has a base material of copper as with all elven weapons, and naming an elven dagger Sting will convert it to copper if it is not already made of that material.


In EvilHack, Sting is made of mithril, which deals an additional +1d8 damage to orcish monsters, including orcish players; naming an elven braodsword Orcrist will convert it to mithril if it is not already made of that material. Additionally, Sting has a small chance of instantly killing any orc it hits, making it very dangerous if a player orc encounters a hostile wielding it.

Using a forge to combine Orcrist and Sting will create the artifact weapon Glamdring, a mithril elven long sword that shares the orc-warning and orc-slaying abilities of its component artifacts.

Encyclopedia entry

There was the usual dim grey light of the forest-day about him when he came to his senses. The spider lay dead beside him, and his sword-blade was stained black. Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone and by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach, as he wiped his sword on the grass and put it back into its sheath.
"I will give you a name," he said to it, "and I shall call you Sting."

[ The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]


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