Wands Balance Patch

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The Wands Balance Patch is based on an essay by NetHack4 developer Alex Smith, Wand balance in NetHack. The proposal outlined therein was implemented by FIQHack and it was later merged into NetHack Fourk as well. Note that the two implementations have slight differences, generally minor. In addition to the changes to wands, the wand rebalance made monsters zap each other with helpful wands (polymorph sometimes, invisibility and speed monster), and made monsters zap enemies with slow monster and undead turning. (FIQHack has further changes to monster AI in general)

The purpose of the patch is to make wands more useful later on, and to address the GWTWOD cases (which is an issue with a lot of wands, not just death). Most of the wands in NetHack cease to be very useful as the game progresses. Attack wands have fixed damage, that might be effective in the early game, but later on they the damage is so small, that zapping them might be a waste of turns. Utility wands remain little more useful, but even they have fixed, quite boring behaviour, often supplanted by spells.

To improve wands in NetHack, this patch makes wands scale. The effects are no longer fixed, but they become more powerful with newly introduced wands skill. Players gain this skill by using wands. Additionally, the effective skill can be affected by wand's beatitude: cursed wands lower effective skill by one, blessed wands increase it Zapping a cursed wand while being unskilled will cause the wand to explode, having similar effects to that of breaking wands. Monsters are also affected by this change, and has a fixed wand skill based on monster type for this purpose.

Skill Caps

Like most skills in Nethack, different roles can reach varying amounts of proficiency with wands.

restricted Barbarians, due to their distrust of magic, are unable to train in wand skills.
basic Cavemen are capable of only basic wand proficiency.
skilled Archeologists, knights, rangers, rogues, samurai, valkyries may reach the skilled level of proficiency.
expert Healers, monks, priests, tourists, and wizards may reach expert level wand proficiency.
master No role can truly master wand usage innately. However, because having the wand blessed raises the effective skill level by one, an expert user with a blessed wand can get the master-level effect on a particular zap.

Wand Power

For purposes of overcoming monster MR, the wands use following power values in FIQHack (Fourk still works like vanilla in this regard):

unskilled 5
basic 10
skilled 20
expert 30
master 50

Ray Effects

Rays (excluding digging, which never reflected in the first place) work like this:

unskilled No potential item destruction or blinding in case of lightning.
basic Same as current
skilled If a target is reflecting (but not walls), abort the ray and create an explosion centered on target. Explodes at the end of the ray
expert If a target is reflecting (but not walls), abort the ray and create an explosion centered on target. Explodes at the end of the ray
master Explodes on first target, reflecting or not, and create 1d5 explosions adjacant to target.

Wand Effects Scaling

wand of cancellation unskilled Protected by player MR
basic Protected by player MR
skilled Protected by player MR
expert Protected by player MR 90% of the time
master Protected by player MR 50% of the time
wand of fire
wand of cold
wand of lightning
wand of magic missile
unskilled 3d6 or 40% maxHP damage, whichever is less
basic 6d6 damage
skilled 6d6 damage
expert 6d6 damage, MR only halves magic missile damage
master 6d6 damage, MR only halves magic missile damage
wand of create monster unskilled Create 1 monster.
basic Create 1d2 monsters.
skilled Create 1d4 monsters.
expert Create 1d8 monsters.
master Create 1d16 monsters.
wand of death unskilled Drain one level unless drain or death resistant
basic Death unless death resistant
skilled Death unless death resistant
expert Death unless death resistant, otherwise drain one level unless drain resistant
master Death unless death resistant, otherwise drain one level unless drain resistant
wand of digging unskilled Digs out d5+4 tiles
basic Digs out d11+8 tiles
skilled Digs out d17+12 tiles
expert Digs out d23+16 tiles
master Digs out d29+20 tiles, ignore maze restrictions (Fourk removed it alltogether, but FIQHack still has it)
wand of enlightenment unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master unchanged
wand of light unskilled Lights up a lamp radius (3 radius)
basic unchanged
skilled Similar to a blessed scroll of light (9 radius)
expert Lights up in a 15 radius
master Lights up the entire level
wand of locking unskilled Closes doors
basic Closes and locks doors
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master Replaces doorway/door with a secret door
wand of make invisible unskilled Gives d50 turns of invisibility. Unchanged from vanilla in Fourk
basic unchanged
skilled Toggles invisibility
expert Toggles invisibility
master Toggles invisibility
wand of nothing unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master unchanged
wand of opening unskilled Opens doors
basic unchanged
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master unchanged
wand of polymorph unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled Re-rolls hostiles once for a weaker form
expert Re-rolls once for weaker form (hostile) or stronger form (pet)
master Re-rolls twice for weaker form (hostile) or stronger form (pet), never shudders pets
wand of probing unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled Gives enlightenment on monster zaps
expert Gives enlightenment on monster zaps
master Gives enlightenment on monster zaps
wand of secret door detection unskilled Reveals hidden things next to you
basic Reveals hidden things in a 5 radius
skilled Reveals hidden things in a 9 radius
expert Reveals hidden things in a 15 radius
master Reveals hidden things on the entire level
wand of sleep unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master unchanged
wand of slow monster unskilled Gives d4+5 turns of slowness
basic Gives d8+11 turns of slowness
skilled Gives d12+17 turns of slowness, removes intrinsic speed
expert Gives d16+23 turns of slowness, removes intrinsic speed
master Gives d20+29 turns of slowness, removes intrinsic and temporary speed
wand of speed monster unskilled Gives 2d20 turns of speed
basic Gives 2d20+20 turns of speed
skilled Gives 2d20+20 turns of speed, gives intrinsic speed
expert Gives 2d20+50 turns of speed, gives intrinsic speed
master Gives 5d20+100 turns of speed, gives intrinsic speed
wand of striking unskilled Deals 1d12 damage, never misses
basic Deals 2d12 damage, never misses
skilled Deals 3d12 damage, never misses
expert Deals 4d12 damage, never misses
master Deals 8d12 damage, never misses
wand of teleportation unskilled Cannot teleport on noteleport levels
basic Cannot teleport on noteleport levels
skilled Cannot teleport on noteleport levels
expert Can teleport on noteleport level unless selfzapped. Doing so allows no controlled teleportation
master Can teleport on noteleport level unless selfzapped. Doing so allows no controlled teleportation
wand of undead turning unskilled Scares undead that fails to resist
basic Scares undead that fails to resist
skilled Destroys undead that fails to resist, scares otherwise
expert Destroys undead that fails to resist, scares otherwise
master Destroys undead that fails to resist, scares otherwise
wand of wishing unskilled unchanged
basic unchanged
skilled unchanged
expert unchanged
master unchanged