Breaking wands, cancelling, and polymorphing in NetHack 3.4

wan2-343.html Last edited 2005-07-25 for NetHack 3.4.3
Compiled for 3.2.2 by Kevin Hugo.
Updated for 3.4.3 by Dylan O'Donnell <>.
Converted to HTML by Kate Nepveu <>; HTML re-synchronized 2005-08-29 by Dan Fabulich.


Breaking wands

(Adapted from a spoiler by Jeffrey Robertson.)

You can destroy a wand by (a)pplying it. You will be prompted for confirmation, and you must have hands and a strength of at least 10. Wands with no charges and some wands listed below have no effect ("But nothing else happens...").

Most wands will produce an explosion when broken. The explosion causes damage to yourself and any monsters that were in the adjacent squares when you broke the wand. This damage can be reduced or eliminated if you (or the monster) has an appropriate resistance. Damage is also reduced to 1/2 for Healers and Knights and to 1/5 for Monks, Priests and Wizards. Further effects can occur as if you had zapped yourself with the wand. The explosion can also affect objects in your inventory, on your square, and on adjacent squares, and affect locations as if they were zapped. Finally, some types of wands have explosions that make you identify the wand.

Specific effects are detailed below. In any case, you destroy the wand and owe the cost if it was unpaid.

cancellation There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
Monsters and objects in the affected squares are cancelled.
cold There is an explosion of cold with (8 * charges) damage.
Potions may freeze.
You identify the wand.
create monster There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You are surrounded by monsters.
death There is an explosion of death with (16 * charges) damage. Non-living monsters and demons resist this damage.
You identify the wand.
digging There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You are surrounded by pits and holes.
enlightenment No effects.
fire There is an explosion of fire with (8 * charges) damage.
Armor, scrolls and spellbooks may burn.
Potions may boil.
Burns away slime.
You identify the wand.
light There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You are blinded for (charges+1)d25 turns; surrounding monsters may also be blinded, and gremlins take damage.
The room is lit.
lightning There is an explosion of lightning with (16 * charges) damage.
Rings and other wands may explode.
You are blinded.
You identify the wand.
locking No effects.
magic missile There is an explosion of magic missiles with (4 * charges) damage.
You identify the wand.
make invisible There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You and surrounding monsters are made invisible (in your case, a 10% chance of its being permanent, a 90% chance of it lasting for (charges) to (250*charges) (more) turns).
nothing No effects.
opening No effects.
polymorph There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
Monsters and objects in the affected squares are polymorphed.
probing No effects.
secret door detection No effects.
sleep There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You and surrounding monsters may be put to sleep.
slow monster There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You and surrounding monsters are slowed.
speed monster There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
You and surrounding monsters are sped up.
striking "A wall of force smashes down around you!"
There is an explosion from 1 to (charges+1)d6 damage.
You and surrounding monsters are hit by a force bolt.
Fragile objects in your inventory and adjacent squares may be destroyed.
teleportation There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
Monsters and objects in the affected squares are teleported.
undead turning There is an explosion from 1 to (4*charges) damage.
Monsters and objects in the affected squares are turned.
wishing No effects.
Not really a good idea.


(Adapted from the spoiler "cancel", by Boudewijn Waijers.)

Monsters (including you) can be cancelled when hit by wands or spells of cancellation, and sometimes by Magicbane. The monster may resist. Also, when a gremlin (including you) manages to steal an intrinsic from a monster, the monster is automatically cancelled as well. Cancelled monsters cannot use most of their special attacks against you:

Many monsters also lose abilities specific to their species as well:

Note that some attacks aren't susceptible to cancellation:

When a monster cannot use a certain attack on you, it normally cannot use it on another monster either.

A wand or spell of cancellation will also affect objects on the floor, or objects in your inventory if you zap yourself. However, it does not affect other monster's inventories or the contents of containers. Affected objects will always become uncursed. Specific effects are described below:

weapon uncursed +0 weapon, same erodeproofing
armor uncursed +0 armor, same erodeproofing
scroll of mail uncursed scroll of mail
other scrolls uncursed scroll of blank paper
spellbook of cancellation uncursed spellbook of cancellation
Book of the Dead uncursed Book of the Dead
other spellbooks uncursed spellbook of blank paper
potion of sickness uncursed potion of fruit juice, same dilution
potion of see invisible uncursed potion of fruit juice, same dilution
potion of fruit juice uncursed potion of fruit juice, same dilution
potion of booze uncursed potion of booze, same dilution
potion of oil uncursed potion of oil, same dilution
other potions uncursed potion of water
charged ring uncursed +0 ring
wand of cancellation uncursed, still charged
other wands uncursed, uncharged, can't wrest last charge
Bell of Opening uncursed Bell of Opening (0)
Candelabrum of Invocation uncursed, same number of candles attached
charged magic tools uncursed, uncharged
charged non-magic tools uncursed, still charged
uncharged tools uncursed, unaltered
containers uncursed, still same type, contents unchanged

Note that cancellation won't work on corpses; if it is resurrected, the monster will still function exactly the same as if the monster had not been cancelled when it was still alive.


You can use a wand or spell of polymorph on both monsters and objects. The beam acts over a maximum distance of 6 to 13 squares, and cannot be reflected. Polymorph traps may also affect monsters, but not objects. Potions of polymorph can be quaffed to polymorph yourself, thrown at a target, or used to dip an object into. Quaffing from a sink has a 1/20 chance of polymorphing you.

When a monster (including you) is affected, the monster may change into a different species. Magic resistance will prevent a monster from polymorphing, unless the monster zapped itself (or yourself). Some monsters may also resist the attack, as well. A polymorphing monster has a 1/25 chance of dying of system shock, unless it is a natural shapeshifter. Objects in the monster's or your inventory are not affected, nor are objects dropped as a result of the polymorph.

There are several special cases when you are polymorphed. If you are wearing an amulet of unchanging, you will not polymorph. If you have polymorph control, you can choose the creature you wish to be polymorphed into. If you are wearing dragon armour, you will become that type of dragon (unless you have polymorph control) and will lose your cloak and shirt; the armour will merge with your skin and be unharmed if not broken by a further polymorph. If you have lycanthropy, you turn into that were-creature (or vice versa); if you are a vampire, you become a vampire bat (or vice versa). If you have none of the above, you have a (19 - Constitution) in 20 chance of getting system shock ("You shudder for a moment", lose 1 to 30 HP, and abuse your constitution); if this does not occur, there is a 1/5 chance (which also applies to controlled polymorphs) that you become a "new man/woman/<race>" rather than a different monster, and your level, hit points, energy, and statistics will be randomly adjusted.

How long you are polymorphed depends on your experience level and the level of the monster you became (this prevents abuse by low-level characters); you will not revert while you have unchanging. You can always return to your natural form by losing all of your hit points (in a pinch by throwing objects upwards (<) and letting them hit you) unless you have unchanging; in this case, you will simply die. Other monsters remain the same species indefinitely (except true shapeshifters).

You can also polymorph objects. Many people call this "polypiling", because they painstakingly collect items, line them up into several piles, and polymorph them all at one. Each item may become a new item in the same object class. The objects retain their blessed/cursed state, erosion, erosionproofing, traps, and poisoning. Wands keep their number of charges, whereas weapons and armor keep their enchantment. Worn items are removed on polymorphing. Magical objects (see the next section) will tend not to polymorph into non-magical ones, and vice versa; the probabilities of this for the object classes that have members of each kind are as below.

class magical -> non-magical non-magical -> magical
armour 54% 0.60%
gem 92% negligible
potion 1.70% 41%
scroll negligible 92%
spellbook negligible 95%
tool 60% 0.30%
wand negligible 93%

You will eventually lose some objects. Items appearing in quantities of 2 or more have a (quantity in 1000) chance of merging into one object. Items also have a probability of "shuddering": 1/3 if a wand or cursed, 1/8 if uncursed, 1/12 if blessed (if in quantities greater than 4, 100%, 1/4, and 1/6, respectively). This will decrease the quantity of the item randomly, cause any remainder not to be polymorphed, and has a one in (luck + 45) chance per object of creating a golem from the material of the shuddered item (provided at least two items total remain in the pile). Scrolls of mail will never merge or shudder.

There are some limitations to polypiling. You can't change scrolls of mail, wands of polymorph, potions of polymorph, spellbooks of polymorph, Rider corpses, the invocation artifacts, or the Amulet of Yendor. Artifacts have a much higher chance of resisting polymorph than non-artifacts; the result of a polymorph will never be an artifact. Eggs laid by you become other types of eggs, still laid by you. Spellbooks will become more faded, wands have their recharge count incremented. Magic markers will be considered to have been recharged once. Crocodile corpses become non-cursed fireproof +0 low boots. Containers lose all of their contents. There are limits to converting stones (e.g. rocks and luckstones) into gems and glass; you won't get more than four. Note that balls and chains become (surprise!) balls and chains. You can never create the following objects through polypiling:

and, since the probabilities of the new item are the same as for random generation of that object class, you'll never get anything you wouldn't find randomly created in the dungeon either.

Magical objects

(Adapted from a spoiler by Peter Snelling)

To maximise the results from polymorphing objects, it's useful to know which objects the game considers "magical" and which not.

Magical armour (all other being non-magical):

Magical tools (all other being non-magical):

Magical stones (the remaining gems and stones are non-magical):

Non-magical potions (all other being magical):

No weapon, food, boulder, or statue is magical.
All non-blank scrolls are magical (except non-polyable scrolls of mail).
All non-blank spellbooks are magical.
All wands except nothing are magical.
All rings (except meat rings, which are food) are magical.
All non-fake amulets are magical.
All Unique Items are magical, but can't be polymorphed anyway.


Thanks to Bruce Cox for proofreading the original version of this file.
Further corrections and clarifications provided by Roger Breitenstein, David Corbett, Kent Paul Dolan, Michael Deutschmann, David Gale, Wes Irby, Jove, Toni Keskitalo, Bruce Labbate, Oberon, Jason Parker, Pat Rankin, Irina Rempt, Stanislav Traykov, and Jeremy Turner.

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