Vorpal Blade

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)   Vorpal Blade   Long sword.png
Base item long sword
Damage vs. small 1d8 +1 (2–9)
Damage vs. large 1d12 +1 (2–13)
To-hit bonus +1d5
Bonus versus (any)
Weapon skill long sword
Size one-handed
Affiliation
When carried

(none)

When wielded
  • beheading
When invoked

(none)

Base price 4000 zm
Weight 40
Material iron

Vorpal Blade is a neutral artifact long sword that appears in NetHack.

Generation

In addition to randomly generating in the dungeon with a very low chance, the Vorpal Blade is a possible sacrifice gift for neutral players, and is the default neutral crowning gift for most roles. Neutral Wizards and Monks can receive it only by carrying their class's crowning gift spellbook (for finger of death and restore ability respectively) when they are crowned.

Effects

Vorpal Blade has a +1d5 bonus to hit and +1 bonus damage against small and large monsters. The sword has a 5% chance of instantaneously killing monsters it hits by beheading; if the monster is headless or unsolid, they will instead take no damage. The exception to this is the jabberwock, which it will always behead.

Strategy

While often overlooked by some players due to its low bonuses to hit chances and damage, it is sought after by others for its ability to insta-kill.

Instakill probability table

The following table summarizes the damage done by Vorpal Blade. For example, if you expect to hit a monster ten times, you can assume a 40% chance of beheading it. You have also done an average of 55 points of physical damage to it. The odds of beheading a monster are above 50% if you can expect to hit it 14 times, which entails inflicting about 77 points of damage anyway.

Hits Cumulative instakill probability Damage at +0 to small monsters (avg) Damage at +0 to large monsters (avg) Additional damage at +7
1 5% 2–9 (5.5) 2–13 (7.5) 7
2 9.75% 4–18 (11) 4–26 (15) 14
3 14.26% 6–27 (16.5) 6–39 (22.5) 21
4 18.5% 8–36 (22) 8–52 (30) 28
5 22.6% 10–45 (27.5) 10–65 (37.5) 35
10 40.1% 20–90 (55) 20–130 (75) 70
15 53.7% 30–135 (82.5) 30–195 (112.5) 105
45 90.0% 90–405 (248) 90–585 (338) 315

Monsters wielding Vorpal Blade

Vorpal Blade is a very dangerous weapon to find in the hands of a monster for the same reason it is sought by players—in particular, if Vorpal Blade has not already been created in your game, the player monsters in the Astral Plane have a chance of being randomly generated with Vorpal Blade in their possession. Melee combat with any monster wielding Vorpal Blade is dangerous, especially since you may not be aware until it is too late.

Definitely avoid close combat in the Astral Planes until you can be certain that your target does not have Vorpal Blade, and attack such targets from a distance when possible; using a bullwhip to disarm them may be a last measure in especially dire situations. An amulet of life saving is highly recommended, as even without player carelessness an irreversible YASD can still occur. While the chances are incredibly low, a player monster with the weapon and two weapon attacks may be "lucky" enough to behead you twice in a row.

If you kill a monster wielding Vorpal Blade but do not plan on using it at that time (or at all), leaving it in a well-protected container (i.e. at least with a scroll of scare monster over it) or stashing it within a bag in your inventory is highly recommended—at minimum, it will be kept out of enemies' hands.

Variants

SLASH'EM

In SLASH'EM, Vorpal Blade beheads foes 10% of the time instead of 5%, making it considerably more powerful. A similar weapon, Thiefbane, has a 10% chance of beheading any @.

Hits Cumulative instakill probability
1 10%
2 19%
3 27.1%
4 34.4%
5 41.0%
10 65.1%
15 79.4%
22 90.1%

UnNetHack

In UnNetHack, Vorpal Blade warns of jabberwocks and instakills vorpal jabberwocks as well.

Origin

Vorpal Blade originally appears in the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll, an excerpt of which is included in the encyclopedia entry. The unnamed adventurer's "vorpal blade" is used to cut through the titular jabberwock and behead it, mirrored by its ability in NetHack to potentially behead monsters and instantly behead jabberwocks.

Messages

Vorpal Blade decapitates the <monster>!
The monster has been instantly killed from the special beheading attack.
Vorpal Blade beheads it!
Vorpal Blade instantly killed an unseen monster.
Somehow, you miss the <monster> wildly.
Your hit would normally have beheaded the monster, but it lacks a head and thus had no effect. The monster takes no damage.
Vorpal Blade slices through <monster>'s neck.
Your hit would normally have beheaded the monster, but it was insubstantial (e.g. a ghost or shade). The monster takes no damage.
Vorpal Blade decapitates you!
You were beheaded by a monster wielding Vorpal Blade.

Encyclopedia entry

This entry is shared with the jabberwock.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

[ Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll ]

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