Nethack Weapon Selection for Archaeologist

Disclaimer: This document was written for Nethack 3.2.2. The advice may not be consistent with later versions.

The Archaeologist is not great with weapons, but has one great redeeming quality - they can become expert with the pick axe, and hence, the dwarvish mattock, the most powerful non-artifact weapon in the game.

To start, don't use the whip. It's useless, your pick axe makes a better weapon. Hang on to the whip only until you find something (almost anything) else, then drop it and don't look back. Use the pick as your primary weapon and advance it to Expert right away.

If you happen upon a boomerang, grab it and advance it to Expert. It's the best distance weapon for the Archaeologist, it will do more damage then your pick axe. Plus it returns when you miss. Unfortunately they're hard to come by -- no monster is ever armed with a boomerang, so you just hope to find them lying around.

Go to the mines first, because there's always plenty of dwarves carrying dwarvish mattocks down there (broad picks). The only problem you might have is that as an archaeologist, dwarves tend to be peaceful. Get a mattock, and make it your primary weapon. It's also a pick axe so they shares skills. Keep the pick axe as a backup (and also for digging, duh). If you haven't finished advancing the pick axe to Expert, do so with the mattock. This will remain your best weapon for the entire game, so if you're paranoid you can carry an extra or hide some extras somewhere.

Prior to the mattock, you can pick up a few other worthwhile objects, but you don't need to. A unicorn horn is handy and can be advanced to skilled, but you're not likely to get one without having the mattock. A crysknife is also good, and sometimes can be made early in the game. Silver sabers especially can be picked up and used, in case you get Greyswandir (IMHO). Scimitars can be advanced to skilled, and are about on par with crysknives. But pick one of these (or two including the silver saber), no more, otherwise you'll eat up too many slots. Don't advance them too far either. The order of preference would probably be: unicorn horn, silver saber, crysknife, scimitar.

The only artifacts you really really want is Greyswandir. Once this weapon is enchanted to +3 or higher it will be more powerful than an equally enchanted mattock (because enchantment on double damage weapons is doubled). Greyswandir is especially good both in the early game, because it can be advanced to Expert, and in the late game, because it does extra silver damage against demons, vampire lords, and others.

Excalibur is the only other artifact worth considering. It does damage similar to the mattock, but you might feel that it is worth it for its extra features: searching, and protection from life draining. It is not a double damage weapon, so a fully enchanted Excalibur is still similar to a fully enchanted mattock. Note: don't get Excalibur by dipping a long sword (you could do that since you are lawful) - this won't unrestrict the weapon and you won't be able to advance it to basic - try to get it by offering, or if you pray a lot you'll eventually get it by crowning.

Here's an important point about Archaeologists, which is related to weapons. Throwing identified gems to white unicorns (or unicorns of whatever your alignment is at the time) boosts your luck +5 each time (to a maximum of +10, so four gems should get you out of the worst luck). It's therefore very easy for Archaeologists to maintain high luck (because they know all gems), and hence increase the average damage significantly. Use the cheaper gems, and save the more expensive ones for selling in shops.


Weapon Recommendations for:
  • Healer
  • Samurai
  • Archaeologist
  • Knight
  • Elf
  • Tourist
    Notes on Nethack Weapon Skills
    Damage Calculator
    What's the Best Artifact?
    My Nethack Font for X11

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