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 in Nethack, but it can also be dangerous to the user. The finger of death is an analogous spell that can be learned from its spellbook. The fabled Gnome With the Wand of Death is one of the major sources of YASD.


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

Orcus is always generated a wand of death. Other monsters with a difficulty rating of 8 or more can receive it as an offensive item if eligible.


Zapping it sends a ray of death in a chosen direction. The ray instantly kills any monster it hits except Death, major demons, nonliving monsters, and monsters with magic resistance or reflection; the same criteria apply to the player character. As with all ray-type wands, however, there is a chance that the ray will miss the target.

Zapping a wand of death at yourself results in an instadeath, even if you have magic resistance or reflection ("You irradiate yourself with pure energy!"), unless you are polymorphed into any of the unaffected monsters mentioned above ("The wand shoots an apparently harmless beam at you."). Zapping a wand of death at Death simply makes him stronger.

Breaking the wand results in a standard magical explosion with (16 × charges) damage, and the wand is identified. Although the game refers to this explosion as a "death field" if it kills you, magic resistance is not necessary to survive it.


The wand of death shares its base cost of 500 with the wand of wishing. Engraving with the wand of death provides the same message as the wand of sleep. ("The bugs on the <floor> stop moving!")


If you know or else discover a monster has a wand of death without being instantly killed by it, you should consider using an escape item unless you have reflection or magic resistance. As always, be aware of bouncing rays. For the guaranteed wand from Orcus, see his page for tips on how to get Orcus' wand before he uses up all the charges.

Pacifists with magic resistance or reflection may sometimes want to deliberately give a wand of death to a particularly dangerous monster. The purpose is to manipulate them into trying to zap the player and instead kill itself on its own rebound; this is one of the pacifistic strategies for dealing with Medusa.


In SporkHack and EvilHack, 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.