Wand of cancellation

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Name cancellation
Appearance random
Abundance 4.5%
Base price 200 zm
Weight 7
Type beam
Maximum charges 8
Spell cancellation
Monster use Will not be used by monsters.

A wand of cancellation emits a beam which cancels any monsters or objects it hits. Monsters are entitled to a resistance check against the effect.

Warning: Putting a charged wand of cancellation (or a bag containing a wand of cancellation) into a bag of holding will cause a magical explosion that will destroy the bag and everything within it. Don't do this. Zapping a bag of holding, however, will either unbless or uncurse it, and will have no effect whatsoever on the contents.


The wand of cancellation has a number of complicated effects; when you find one, it will behoove you to study thoroughly the article on cancellation before zapping it! Among these effects, it will:


If you break a wand of cancellation, there is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage. Monsters and objects in the affected squares are cancelled.


Engraving over a writing in the dust gives the message "The engraving on the <floor> vanishes!". This can be either a wand of cancellation, make invisible, or teleportation.

Do not zap yourself with an unidentified wand that makes an engraving disappear; if it is a wand of cancellation, you will cancel all items carried in your inventory (though any wands of cancellation in your inventory will not be affected).

If you have a pet without a special attack (such as a kitten), you can zap an unidentified wand that makes engravings disappear. If the pet disappears, it is either teleportation (and you can find the pet later in the level) or invisibility (which you can see if you have the see invisible intrinsic). To confirm, you can use a stethoscope: the information line from it will say that it has been cancelled. Warning: Monsters have a chance of resisting cancellation, so do not rely on the above test before zapping yourself. Lives have been ruined that way.

Another means is to drop an item that can be visibly cancelled, and then zap it with the wand. If it vanishes, then the wand is teleportation, if it remains unchanged then make invisible, else cancellation. Good test items include useless non-blank scrolls, known-blessed/cursed objects, potions other than water, and items with known enchantment.


"You are covered in sparkling lights!"
You've just been zapped by a wand of cancellation. This is possible in SLASH'EM and UnNethack, but not in vanilla.
"You feel a strange sense of loss."
Having been hit, the wand has cancelled an item in your inventory.
"The engraving on the <floor> vanishes!"
You engraved with a wand of cancellation, teleportation, or make invisible where there is an existing engraving, or with a wand of cold where there is an existing burned engraving.


Avoiding wand explosion

Exploding wands of cancellation are a very bad thing. Not only do you lose your wand, you will be caught in the subsequent explosion and suffer 4*charges damage (in SLASH'EM your entire inventory will also be canceled). WoCs can explode as a result of a number of triggers, some of which do not apply to other wands. The following is a (probably not exhaustive) list of these triggers:

  • Breaking it
  • Zapping when cursed (1% chance)
  • Charging when previously recharged
  • As a result of lightning attacks
  • Putting a charged wand of cancellation (or a bag containing a wand of cancellation) in a bag of holding causes a magical explosion which destroys the wand along with the bag and everything in it. This explosion, however, does not cancel your inventory. It is still a very bad idea, though.

A large part of surviving NetHack is forming good habits. Do not pick up a wand of cancellation unless you need it, even if you do not (yet) have a bag of holding. If you do pick it up, make menucolors display it in an eye-catching warning color. Destroying the contents of your bag of holding can be a game-ending mistake. In vanilla, it is safe to leave it since no monster can use cancellation.

Of course, the best tip is to read all the text and make sure you understand what you are doing at all times. If you keep making simple mistakes such as placing a wand of cancellation in your bag of holding, then slow down and think before you type. However, even attentive players face a slight chance of accident, and in a long game, probabilities do add up.

The !"$%/()=?[] keys can and should be habitually used at the loot menu (if you are using the tty or curses interfaces). This makes gameplay faster, and handling dangerous items much less prone to mistakes.

You could reduce the chance of blowing up your bag of holding by embedding the wand into multiple sacks; seven are optimum.

The safest way to deal with a wand of cancellation is to get a spare plain sack or oilskin sack and name it something like CANCELLATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and put the wand in there instead of keeping it out in the open or accidentally putting it in a bag of holding.

On the other hand, this wand is great to uncurse worn stuff - just drop/bag everything else first. If this is your plan for the case where your two-hander gets cursed, carry the wand in the open.

There also exists the opposite school of thought: Always pick up a wand of cancellation, it is a great way to force yourself to pause and read the text before blindly mashing some key. This is the NetHack equivalent of placing a bomb in every car: Hopefully, people will drive more carefully, reducing total casualties. The car scheme does not seem to work in the Real World. This scheme also doesn't work in SLASH'EM, where wand explosions can cancel your whole inventory, e.g. if a monster zaps you with lightning without any fault of yours.


Placing a wand of cancellation inside of a bag of holding will destroy the bag, its contents, and everything you put in before the wand that turn. What objects go in first is determined by packorder, and within each object class the inventory letters.

Players who choose to carry these wands could keep their most valuable items outside their bag of holding, and use packorder and adjust to make their "rod of disaster" go in first.

However, losing the contents of the bag is usually the worst problem. Also, items you carry in the open can be destroyed or stolen, so this trick hardly makes your valuables safer.



In a rare act of kindness, recent versions of SporkHack make an exploding BoH spew its contents around instead of destroying them. Thus, wands of cancellation are less dangerous.


Like in SporkHack exploding BoH spew its contents around instead of destroying them. Thus, wands of cancellation are less dangerous.

Monsters may use a wand of cancellation against you (see SLASH'EM below).

AceHack/NetHack 4

In AceHack and NetHack 4, placing a wand of cancellation in a bag of holding will cancel the wand, rather than destroying the bag. It's still a bad idea, but less game-ruining.


In dNethack, monsters may zap wands of cancellation at you, reducing your current energy by 10d10 and your maximum energy by 10; which may interfere with your ability to use spells and other special abilities.


In SLASH'EM, monsters may zap the wand of cancellation at you, cancelling some of your items. The effects of the wand are prevented if you have magic resistance. The effect is not the same as zapping yourself; every item in your inventory has a 1 in 24 chance of being cancelled.[1] If you are polymorphed and are not wearing an amulet of unchanging, you return to human form and lose current and maximum HP equal to the monster level of the form you were in.

Identifying this wand is easier in SLASH'EM, owing to the addition of invisible items. You can zap any junk item with a wand that makes engravings vanish to unambiguously identify the wand: make invisible will make the item invisible, teleportation will teleport it, and cancellation will leave it visibly unchanged.


Monsters in GruntHack will zap wands of cancellation at the player, randomly cancelling their inventory items. This attack cannot be defended against in any way, neither magic resistance nor magic cancellation helps.


Monsters in FIQhack will zap wands of cancellation at the player. If the player has magic resistance, it will protect against the zap for lower wand skill monsters. Without magic resistance, or for particularly skilled wand users, the player will be cancelled, preventing usage of energy/Pw as well as other changes similar to cancelled monsters. This can be cured by praying (it's a major trouble), drinking noncursed gain energy, reading noncursed scroll of charging while confused, or being caught in a magic trap's magical explosion.

Slash'EM Extended

Regularly monsters will use it against you, with random results. Contrary to most other wands the successful use e.g. to blank evil scrolls will not autoidentify the wand.


  • See the main article on Cancellation for more details on the effects.