Magicbane is an artifact athame (dagger-like weapon) given to NetHack Wizards who please their gods (Thoth, Anhur, or Ptah, depending on alignment). Its powers include: Specifically, about 40% of the time, Magicbane will probe, stun, scare, or do some combination of the two to your target. Which of these occurs is a complicated function of the enchantment of the weapon (+1, +2, +3...). Magicbane deals an extra 1d4 points of damage beyond the basic athame damage under all circumstances. Occasionally, the weapon will "purge" your opponent; this adds an additional 1d4 damage and cancels the monster as per a wand of cancellation.

Magicbane is easily obtained by sacrificing a few corpses to your god. It is sometimes randomly generated (like in an Antique Weapons Outlet or something). The earlier you get this weapon, the better, as receiving the broadsword Stormbringer more or less makes it obsolete.

The higher the enchantment on Magicbane, the less likely it is that you'll get one of the special attacks out of it. It is Magicbane, after all, and it doesn't like to be enchanted.

+2 is the optimum enchantment; any higher than that and the useful side effects go down rapidly. Being an athame, a magical tool, it can engrave the magic word in one turn and unless it's cursed, do it without being dulled like any other weapon would be.

Stormbringer is less than useful to Wizards, the most likely class to be given Magicbane, as they are only able to get to basic skill with it, where they can get to expert with the athame; using it also raises your dagger skill, thus making you more deadly with thrown daggers. Not to mention if you move in the wrong direction it attacks things on its own, so you can lose pets or worse, hard-won intrinsics like telepathy.

And any weapon that can kill a just-spawned Pit Fiend in three hits is for me.

The issue of how far to enchant Magicbane has been debated endlessly on Conventional wisdom says that +2 is the optimal balance of special effects with damage, but recent research and math by some of that newsgroup's top hackers has cast this into doubt.

The most damning argument is that Magicbane, enchanted to +7, just plain deals more damage on average than +2, even accounting for the greater probability of special effects. (When Magicbane's special effects go off, each one adds +1d4 damage). The second argument is that Magicbane's effects are actually only minimally useful. Cancellation appears at first glance to be the most useful effect, but even at +0, there's less than a 10% probability that any strike with Magicbane will cancel its target. Furthermore, Magicbane's cancellation only works at melee range. This makes it pretty marginal against any foe you'd actually care about cancelling. Probing is only insightful about 10% of the time, and that's out of all probe attempts, which have at best a 40% chance of happening. When a probe isn't insightful, its only effect is to deal 1d4 damage. This is somewhat useful, but this is also the predominant effect at +7. As for scaring and stunning, these might be useful, but even at +0, they're uncommon effects. The general consensus is that it's better to destroy a foe in 2 hits than scare it in 3 and have to make a kill shot with a spell or hurled dagger.

So, the new opinion is that it's better to enchant to +7 if you're using Magicbane as your primary weapon. Older wisdom held that it wasn't a good idea to do this - after all, athames aren't weapons meant for major fighting - but in practice, relatively few weapons fare better in combat than Magicbane. In fact, only Grayswandir, Snickersnee, Excalibur and Stormbringer are consistently stronger. Frost Brand, Fire Brand and Mjollnir often, but not always, are.

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