|Damage vs. small||1d6|
|Damage vs. large||1d3|
|Base price||4 zm|
Numbers wise, an aklys is just a club made of iron, with no advantage other than that it weighs less. It does the same amount of damage as a club (1d6 to small creatures, 1d3 to large creatures), and is worth just one zorkmid more than a club.
Unlike the regular club, the aklys is coded as a projectile weapon, so it gets a +2 to-hit bonus when thrown. In 3.6.1, the aklys behaves like Mjollnir when thrown while wielded in the primary hand, returning 99% of the time, and being caught 99% of the time if the hero isn't impaired. Unlike Mjollnir, aklys does not have any class or strength requirement to be thrown this way.
Although many gnomes drop an aklys, the weapon is actually not specific to that monster. It is one of several default weapons that can be generated on any monster that does not have the strong monster attribute and can use a weapon but has not received one. Gnomes are among the few weapon-using monsters that are not "strong", and they are spawned in large numbers in the early game, in the Mines, so in practice one is more likely to remember seeing a gnome using this weapon than any other monster.
The new property bestowed upon the Aklys in 3.6.1 gives it a new use as a reusable projectile. Compared to a stack of dozen daggers, one aklys is far lighter and can be reused indefinitely (until it fails to return). Aklys also has a higher base damage, but daggers can be multishot to do more damage than aklys can. It's also not difficult to find a blessed and/or enchanted aklys in the Gnomish Mines, whereas finding a stack of above average daggers is much harder. On the other hand, aklys need to be wielded before being thrown, which means one action will be wasted switching to it before firing, and another switching back if the target gets close. There is also always a small chance of backfiring, although it's certainly far less potentially devastating compared to having all your rings vaporized by Mjollnir.
For cavemen and priest, who cannot multishot daggers but can achieve expert in club, an aklys is definitely worthy of being used as their primary form of ranged attack. Other roles can also choose to do so, although they may benefit more from using it as a backup when their primary projectile runs out. This lets them get away with carrying fewer projectiles than they would otherwise, leaving more room for them to carry other things.
For those attempting a gnomish racial ascension, this is often considered the only acceptable weapon, as it is so heavily associated with gnomes.
The word "aklys" comes from the Latin aclys, a Roman missile weapon. According to Roman-era reference works, the aclys is a small javelin or throwing spear, and so the word is usually rendered "javelin" in English translations of Roman works such as the Aeneid. But the term has also been used by historians to refer to thrown blunt weapons from roughly the same time period, so there is a factual basis for making the aklys a thrown club rather than a spear.
NetHack borrows the "thonged club" from Dungeons & Dragons (see History), which probably chose the 'club' version because there are numerous piercing missile weapons (javelin, dart, arrow), but relatively few blunt ones.
What is the plural of aklys? This is a difficult question, as the word is not a common one in English. The NetHack weapon does not stack, so it is unclear what the game considers the plural to be, but going by general English rules for plurals of nouns ending in -s, "aklyses" would seem to be the most intuitive answer.
In Latin, the word aclys belongs to the third declension (category of nouns sharing the same rules for conjugation), so its plural is "aclydes". However, given that "aklys" is an English word, not a Latin one, it may be pedantic to assume that the Latin rules need to be followed.
In D&D, the aklys appears in Unearthed Arcana (by Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D) as well as Dragon Magazine Vol. 7, No. 2 (August 1982). It was described as "a weighted, shortish club with a stout thong (leather strap) attached to the butt. While it can be used as a hand-held striking weapon, its principal employment is as a missile. Once hurled, the aklys be retrieved by its thong." It weighed the same as 35 gold pieces, and its damage was identical to that of NetHack.
In NetHack, the aklys first appeared in NetHack 1.3d, where it had a relative probability of 1 in 99, a "rarity" it shared with many objects, including even the katana, and weighed three units (the heaviest weapon at the time, the two handed sword, weighed four units; a dragon corpse weighed 150). As of 3.4.3, the damage remains unchanged.
A short studded or spiked club attached to a cord allowing
it to be drawn back to the wielder after having been thrown.
It should not be confused with the atlatl, which is a device
used to throw spears for longer distances.
- src/dothrow.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 955
- src/dothrow.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 1485
- src/makemon.c in NetHack 3.6.0, line 499
- Dragon Magazine Vol. 7 No. 2, Page Six