Wand of death

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Name death
Appearance random
Abundance 0.5%
Base price 500 zm
Weight 7
Type ray
Maximum charges 8
Spell finger of death
Monster use May be used offensively by monsters.

The wand of death is among the most powerful wands available in Nethack.


The wand of death is one of the rarest wands, making up only 0.5% of randomly generated wands.

Orcus is always generated with a wand of death; other monsters with a difficulty rating of 8 or more have a 1/35 chance of receiving it as an offensive item if eligible for one.


Zapping the wand of death in any direction fires a ray of death magic, similar to the finger of death, that instantly kills almost any monster it hits in its path, including the player character. As with all ray-type wands, it can rebound, and there is a chance that it will miss.

Death, all major demons, all nonliving monsters, and monsters with player-type magic resistance or reflection are completely unaffected; Death in particular will actually be healed and become stronger. Conversely, Pestilence and Famine are still susceptible.

Zapping a wand of death directly at yourself results in an instadeath, even if you have magic resistance or reflection—unless you are polymorphed into any of the unaffected monsters mentioned above.

Applying the wand will break it, resulting in a standard magical explosion that deals a flat 16 damage for each remaining charge; although referred to as a "death field" in the associated message, magic resistance is not necessary to survive this explosion. See breaking wands for details.


For the guaranteed wand from Orcus, see Orcus#Strategy.

The fabled Gnome With the Wand of Death is one of the major sources of YASD; while an actual GWTWOD is very much an outlier scenario, it represents the much more likely possibility that any intelligent monster may find a wand that could end your game (to speak nothing of a wand of death specifically). It may be ideal to snag whatever wands you see as soon as possible, if only to keep them out of other monsters' hands; if an early wand discovery happens to be a wand of death, it should be saved only for immediate emergencies where the only alternative to not using a precious charge is dying. Be especially careful of rebounds and monsters with reflection if you lack reflection or magic resistance yourself, particularly if you bring one to Sokoban.

Identifying a wand of death is not too difficult: engraving with the wand of death provides the same message as the wand of sleep, but the latter is much more common. The wand of death also has a base cost of 500 zm, only shared with the wand of wishing. Identifying one in the possession of a monster is much more difficult for obvious reasons—if you learn that a monster has a wand of death without having been instantly killed by it, beware of bouncing rays and consider using an escape item unless you have reflection or magic resistance.

Having reflection in particular tends to trivialize most of the wand's danger; if the reflected ray kills the user, you can then pick it up to preserve the remaining charges. Pacifists with magic resistance or reflection may sometimes want to give a wand of death to a particularly dangerous monster in order to have them kill themselves with the rebounded/reflected ray—this is one of the pacifistic strategies for dealing with Medusa, though she must be blinded first as killing her via reflection breaks the conduct.

The wand of death is often employed in the late game to kill the Wizard of Yendor, both during the initial meeting and every reappearance after; this is done to minimize the risk of him stealing quest artifacts, especially ones that provide magic resistance. Make sure that @ isn't a summoned Elvenking before taking your shot!


The bugs on the floor stop moving!
You engraved with a wand of sleep or a wand of death.
You irradiate yourself with pure energy!
You die.
You zapped a wand of death directly at yourself.[1]
The wand shoots an apparently harmless beam at you.
As above, but you are polymorphed into a form immune to death rays.



In SLASH'EM, various monsters have death resistance, which prevents them from dying immediately if hit by the wand - they will still take damage if hit by the wand. This includes a few monsters that would otherwise make enticing targets for a wand of death, such as the minotaur, forcing you to dispose of them through an alternate means.


In SporkHack, death rays will still cause damage and reduce your maximum hit points if you have magic resistance or reflection. If you have both, the damage and maximum HP loss are dramatically reduced.


In EvilHack, wands of death function similarly to SporkHack, and additionally can only be recharged once. Orcus also no longer spawns with a wand of death, instead using the unique artifact Wand of Orcus (which his guaranteed wand in NetHack represents).


  1. src/zap.c in NetHack 3.6.7, line 2458: This hard-coded message ("You die.") is different than the standard "You die..."