Book of the Dead

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+ Papyrus spellbook.png
Name Book of the Dead
Appearance papyrus spellbook
Base price 10000 zm
Weight 20

The Book of the Dead is one of the items needed for the invocation. It is a papyrus spellbook when unidentified.


It is a unique item you retrieve from the Wizard of Yendor in his tower.

Oddly, there is code that seems to imply that the Book should always be generated cursed[1] when given to a monster, but since it is generated on the Wizard's square rather than directly in his inventory, this code is never actually executed.


Although according to its definition in the source code it takes 0 actions to read, it actually requires 2 actions, the minimum for any book (on the first, you start reading it, and it doesn't check to see if you've finished until the second). The only way to destroy the Book is to step into lava without fire resistance, wearing an amulet of life saving, while carrying it.

The Book's effects depend on whether you are standing on the vibrating square (i.e. you are trying to perform the ritual).[2]

On the vibrating square

If you have correctly prepared all the invocation items, you perform the invocation ritual. Otherwise, you get one of the following failure effects:

  • If the Book is cursed, nothing happens.[3]
    • "The runes appear scrambled. You can't read them!"
  • If you lack either the Bell of Opening or the Candelabrum of Invocation, nothing happens ("A chill runs down your spine."), and you get a clue:[4]
    • "You hear a faint chime..." (without Bell)
    • "Vlad's doppelganger is amused." (without Candelabrum)
  • If either the Bell or Candelabrum is cursed, nothing happens.[5]
    • "The invocation fails!"/"At least one of your artifacts is cursed..."
  • If the Bell has not been rung recently, or the Candelabrum is not fully lit, you raise the dead.[6]
    • "You have a feeling that something is amiss..."/"You raised the dead!"

Not on the vibrating square

  • If the Book is uncursed, there is no effect, and you get a random message:[8]
    • "Your ancestors are annoyed with you!"
    • "The headstones in the cemetery begin to move!"
    • "Oh my! Your name appears in the book!"

Raising the dead

If you fail to prepare the invocation items, or read a cursed Book of the Dead when not on the vibrating square, you will raise the dead. This has the following effects:[10]

  • There is a 1/3 chance of summoning a hostile master lich. (If master liches cannot be created, a nalfeshnee will be summoned instead.)
  • A number of undead creatures will be created around you.
  • Corpses in your main inventory will be revived and eggs rejuvenated.
  • The level becomes a graveyard level, meaning that undead are less likely to leave corpses.
  • If zombies can not be created, normal monsters will be summoned instead.

Raising the dead is a viable strategy to farm wraith corpses.


In SLASH'EM, a cursed Book of the Dead can be much more useful if you know the command undead spell, as it allows you to call large amounts of undead to tame. Be careful with the Master Lich that may be summoned as well, though.


Bell, Book and Candle is a Catholic excommunication ritual. However, the Book of the Dead is an ancient Egyptian spellbook, meant to help the soul of the deceased "survive" the tests of the afterlife. This is also the reason why it's a "papyrus spellbook" when not identified.

Encyclopaedia entry

Faustus: Come on Mephistopheles. What shall we do?
Mephistopheles: Nay, I know not. We shall be cursed with bell,
book, and candle.
Faustus: How? Bell, book, and candle, candle, book, and bell,
Forward and backward, to curse Faustus to hell.
Anon you shall hear a hog grunt, a calf bleat, and an ass bray,
Because it is Saint Peter's holy day.
(Enter all the Friars to sing the dirge)

[ Doctor Faustus and Other Plays, by Christopher Marlowe ]


External links

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