|Damage vs. small||1d12|
|Damage vs. large||1d12|
|Weapon skill||unicorn horn|
|Base price||100 zm|
- 1 Generation
- 2 Unicorn horn skill
- 3 Description
- 4 Strategy
- 5 History
- 6 Origin
- 7 Messages
- 8 Variants
- 9 Encyclopedia entry
- 10 References
Unicorn horns are not randomly generated and can only be obtained by killing a unicorn, which leaves an uncursed +0 unicorn horn behind if killed in a way that leaves a corpse. Horns obtained from normal unicorns are considered magical items. Revived or polymorphed unicorns only have a 50% chance of leaving one upon death; the rest of the time, its horn will crumble to dust.
Unicorn horn skill
As a weapon, the unicorn horn has a dedicated weapon skill which only it uses. It is two-handed with +1 to-hit, and deals d12 damage to small and large monsters.
As a tool, applying a noncursed unicorn horn can cure multiple negative status properties:
- Blindness, except from cream pies and venom
- Nausea (from eating tripe/eggs)
- Lost attribute points
A unicorn horn cannot cure:
Applying an uncursed unicorn horn will fix (d(2d2) - 1) ailments, whilst a blessed one can heal (d(2d4) - 1) ailments. A cursed unicorn horn will instead cause one or more of the applicable ailments listed above. If you are wearing a ring of sustain ability, a unicorn horn will not affect your attributes. When used by an intelligent monster with hands, noncursed unicorn horns are guaranteed to work on the first try; monsters will not use cursed unicorn horns.
Dipping a noncursed unicorn horn into certain potions can "cure" them as well: dipping one into a potion of sickness changes it to a potion of fruit juice, and dipping one into a potion of blindness, confusion, or hallucination will turn it into a potion of water.
Unicorns can use their own horn, as can a player polymorphed into a unicorn via the #monster; these produce the same effect as applying an uncursed unicorn horn.
The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.
Obtaining and maintaining horns
Unicorns that generate as hostile can be somewhat difficult foes to deal with early on, due to their movement patterns, speed and teleportation ability. Most such unicorns will be cross-aligned, although circumstances involving bones or polymorphing can result in a hostile co-aligned unicorn; in either case, a thrown gem (ideally ones you suspect to be worthless glass) can pacify them.
Decently strong pets can be used to run down a unicorn without incurring Luck penalties, though the pet will be in danger from counterattacks. Once a player has solid AC, they can attempt to approach a hostile unicorn in melee or make use of tools such as invisibility, displacement, traps, and even rebounds from spells and wands to dispatch them. As you kill more unicorns, it will be worth carrying a couple of backup horns with you and stashing others in the event you need to retrieve a spare later.
If you informally identify a noncursed unicorn horn, especially from a bones pile, be sure to formally identify its beautitude as soon as possible so you will know if it becomes cursed later on. It is also advised to bless your unicorn horn the first chance you get; in addition to reliability, blessing it will provide extra protection against becoming cursed by hostile spellcasters, as with most items. Some players may consider wielding it during prayer - your god may bless your wielded weapon as a successful prayer boon.
Monsters and pets
Intelligent monsters with hands can use unicorn horns, including pets. Such monsters will keep the first unicorn horn that they pick up in their inventory and use them immediately when confused or stunned; hallucination that affects monsters is treated as confusion instead. Monsters may optionally even wield it as a weapon.
Be sure to give applicable pets any spare unicorn horns you find - a black light sneaking up on you and confusing your pet is a potential worst-case scenario, leaving you immediately adjacent to danger with little warning unless they can use the horn to immediately cure it. Remember that tame monsters do not respect Elbereth, but can be scared by other means.
As a curative item
A unicorn horn is among one of the most valuable general assets in terms of healing status effects - though even a blessed one is not 100% guaranteed to cure at least one status affliction on use, it is the most reliable such item accessible to any character and role. As a reusable cure, the unicorn horn can also help preserve magic power, prayer, and other resources for later use. Most of what outmatches a blessed unicorn horn in reliability is dependent on the character in some manner, e.g., healing spells such as cure sickness cast at 0% failure rate is reliant on the caster - innate ability, wisdom/intelligence, skill level, armor selection, etc.
The approximate cumulative odds of curing a single ailment are listed below; each status property counts as one ailment, and each lowered attribute is counted as a separate ailment.
As a weapon
The unicorn horn is respectable as a weapon—it is a good lightweight, non-artifact option, especially for roles not restricted in the skill, and may occasionally even be a primary choice for certain characters such as Healers. Unenchanted unicorn horns are especially handy as a backup against monsters such as rust monsters or disenchanters that you do not want to risk your main weapon against.
|+0 unicorn horn|
|+7 unicorn horn|
Once you possess a noncursed unicorn horn, you can use one to identify potions as described above; if you have enough spare horns, you can also use them to dip-test for other potions. The potion of polymorph in particular requires certain considerations: players without a spare horn will want to use junk items to dip-test first and identify it beforehand. Dipping ammunition such as darts and arrows this way has the added benefit of potentially identifying potions of sickness (which will poison the item).
Players with spare unicorn horns can freely use them to dip-test for polymorph, and may receive another useful magical tool out of the deal. Those adhering to polypileless conduct will want to dip only identified wands and spellbooks of polymorph into potions to test for the potion - polymorphing an item this way breaks the conduct, and the wand and spellbook of polymorph specifically produce the message "Nothing happens" if dipped into a potion of polymorph.
Spare unicorn horns also make great fodder for polypiling, as long as they did not come from a revived or polymorphed unicorn. However, polypiling with many horns and other bone items in a single pile may generate a skeleton; this is best avoided by spreading them between the piles prior to polymorphing.
Cursed unicorn horns
A unicorn horn found in a bones pile is very likely to be cursed, and ideally should not be used until you can #dip it in holy water, find an altar or otherwise test its beatitude. With some luck, you may be able to liberate any spare ones the former character had from a container(s) within the pile; you can also use a noncursed scroll of remove curse or cast the spell in order to restore the horn. Otherwise, you can group it with the other bones items you wish to uncurse or blank and zap a wand of cancellation at the pile.
If your only unicorn horn is cursed and you lack a source of curse removal or spare horns, you can wield it and pray after it welds to your hands – having no free hands counts as a major trouble, and praying successfully will uncurse the horn. However, be absolutely sure that you are in good standing with your god beforehand!
Cursed unicorn horns may be useful as a source of status afflictions - negative effects from a cursed unicorn horn can be cured without too much trouble by a non-cursed one, and spare non-cursed unicorn horns are not hard to obtain once you and/or your pet are capable of reliably killing unicorns. In particular, cursed unicorn horns are a source of confusion that preserves the illiterate conduct for purposes such as throne farming - especially if you are playing a role with no starting spells.
In addition to the standard methods of cursing items, you can also curse a unicorn horn without breaking any conducts by dipping it in a fountain - this has a 1⁄30 chance to curse the dipped item.
The unicorn horn is introduced in NetHack 3.0.6.
The unicorn's horn, also known as an "alicorn", is a legendary object in antiquity-era folktalkes - many healing powers and curative qualities were attributed to it that made it one of the most expensive and reputable remedies during Renaissance times, which is the primary reason that unicorns were such sought-after creatures. Belief in the power of the alicorn persisted until the 16th century, when it was discovered that the horn in truth was that of the narwhal, and was actually an extended tooth formed in the mouth of males and some females of the species.
Unicorn horns were given as diplomatic gifts, and horn chips and dust could be purchased at apothecaries as universal antidotes until the 18th century. Sections of horns were displayed in cabinets of curiosities, and they were used to create sceptres and other royal objects across European history. The unicorn horn has been mentioned in various fantasy works, role-playing games, and video games, which make use of its legendary symbolism.
- The tip of the <color> unicorn's horn glows!
- A unicorn cured a status problem using its horn.
- The <color> unicorn's recently regrown horn crumbles to dust.
- A revived unicorn died, but did not drop a unicorn horn.
Non-cursed unicorn horns
- Nothing happens.
- You have no conditions that the unicorn horn can fix.
- Nothing seems to happen.
- You have a condition that could be fixed by the horn, but it was not cured.
- This makes you feel great!
- You had attribute points restored, and you have no other conditions.
- This makes you feel better!
- You had attribute points restored, but you still have other conditions (not necessarily ones that the horn can cure).
- What a relief!
- The unicorn horn cured you of sickness.
Cursed unicorn horns
- You feel deathly sick.
- You became ill; you have between 20 and (19+Con) turns left to live.
- You feel <much/even> worse.
- You were already ill; your turns to live have been reduced to 1/3 of their value.
- A cloud of darkness falls upon you.
- You were blinded.
- You suddenly feel confused.
- You became confused.
- You stagger...
- You became stunned.
- Oh wow! Everything looks so cosmic!
- You started hallucinating.
- You are unable to hear anything.
- You became deaf. This outcome is half as likely as the others.
Many variants remove or weaken the unicorn horn's ability to restore attributes in order to lower reliance on the item and make other options for restoring stats more viable.
Also, in the Advent calendar patch and variants that incorporate it, a unicorn horn is one of the possible Christmas presents that may be found in room 24, and may appear very rarely in any of the other rooms.
In SLASH'EM, the probability of a unicorn horn curing ailments is changed. Blessed horns try to fix all problems, each with the given probability, and uncursed horns try to fix a single problem, with the same probability.
|0 or less||30%|
|6 or more||90%|
In addition to SLASH'EM's changes, Slash'EM Extended makes further alterations that render reliance on a single unicorn horn much riskier.
Applying a unicorn horn carries a 1% chance of losing at least one point of enchantment if it has a positive enchantment; if this occurs when its enchantment is +0 or lower, the horn will instead crumble to dust. If a horn is degraded in this way without crumbling, it has a further chance of unblessing if it was blessed, or cursing itself if it was uncursed; already-cursed horns cannot crumble to dust this way. Additionally, lost attribute points are not always restored, as there is a 1⁄3 chance that the attribute point will become lost permanently, with the message "Damn! It didn't work!"; this is designed to make the potion of restore ability more useful.
Players are advised to bless and enchant their "main" unicorn horn to +6 or +7 if possible, reducing the amount of uses required to cure afflictions and thus lowering the chance of disenchantment. Spare unicorn horns are also a bit higher-priority in case a highly-enchanted one loses several points at once, and there are many types of unicorn added to Slash'EM Extended that can serve as a source. In addition, it is best not to apply an uncursed unicorn horn if you are wielding it, as cursing from degradation will cause it to weld to your hands.
Also of note is that lithivores can eat bone objects, making it dangerous to leave spare unicorn horns around them, especially in light of the above - alternatively, extra unused unicorn horns can make a nice snack for hungry Rocker or a lithivoric pet.
In dNetHack, unicorn horns are one-handed weapons. As in UnNetHack, they do not restore lost attribute points. A blessed tin of jubjub bird meat gives 600 nutrition and acts as a single-use unicorn horn. The ancient of corruption also has a headbutt attack that replicates the effects of applying a cursed horn.
In FIQHack, unicorn horns do not affect attributes in any way. In addition, uncursed unicorn horns are far less reliable, only having a 20% of curing an ailment per use; blessed unicorns horns will always cure all applicable ailments, but have a 10% chance of becoming uncursed afterward.
In xNetHack, unicorn horns do not restore lost attribute points; they also deal less damage when used as weapons (1d8/1d10), but are now one-handed as in dNetHack. A unicorn horn wielded in your main hand is passively auto-applied every turn if you are not wearing gloves, curing status problems without using an action.
In EvilHack, unicorn horns function as they do in xNetHack, minus the passive auto-application.
- See the encyclopedia entry for unicorn.
- src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 1405
- mon.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 322
- src/apply.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 1997
- src/apply.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 1885
- src/muse.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 322
- src/muse.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 623
- src/mhitm.c in NetHack 3.6.1, line 1167: Black lights are the only source of hallucination that can affect monsters.