Help for Nethack Damage Calculator

This calculator allows you to select a character type, a base "to-hit" value, and a set of weapon skills, and then ranks the weapons. This ranking is calculated by multiplying the average damage of a weapon times the odds you have of hitting with that weapon. The damage values listed are therefore the average damage per attempt to hit your opponent (as opposed to the more common average damage that you might have seen elsewhere which shows damage based on the assumption that you've already managed to hit the opponent).

This gives a more realistic ranking of weapons, as hitting more often can help shore up weaker weaons (e.g. the crysknife has a +3 intrinsic to-hit value, and tends to do more average damage in battle than its simple damage numbers might indicate).

Base "To-Hit"

This value is used to determine your odds of hitting your opponent. This number is primarily based on your experience level, your opponent's armor class, and your luck (and one free point). So early in the game, you will have zero luck, experience level three (for example), and you will be fighting fairly weak monsters, with an armor class of 6 perhaps. So 10 is a good early game value for this number. Any number greater than 24 here will mean you are guaranteed a hit even when using a restricted weapon.

Some weapons have built-in (intrinsic) to-hit bonus, and this bonus is shown in parenthesis after the weapon name. For regular weapons this is a number of plusses or minuses: (++) means that 2 is added to the to-hit value. For artifacts the bonus is the regular weapon bonus, plus a die-roll (which varies from one artifact to the next), so a number is shown in parenthesis which is the average additional to-hit bonus.


- unskilled
b basic
s skilled
E expert

When you first select a character, the output shows you their skills based on the start of the game, which means unskilled in everything except their starting weapons (which will be basic). You can click on higher skills on each weapon to advance that skill and see how its rank changes. Advancing a weapon also advances all weapons in the same class, e.g. advancing one polearm advances them all. Advancing everything (though tedious) will show you what your best possible weapons are (I know, there should be a one-click way of doing this; perhaps I'll add that feature someday).

As you advance skills, the number of skill slots used is displayed at the top of the output. Remember that in actual gameplay, the number of skill slots used can not be greater than your current experience level.

For more information on the skill system, see my article on Nethack Weapon Skills


The artifact rankings can be very deceptive because I've used the assumption that they are doing the artifact damage. However many artifacts do normal damage against most monsters, and only do artifact damage against a small subset of monsters. For more information, see my article about the best Nethack artifact.

Another thing to keep in mind with artifacts is that if the artifact does double damage, the enchantment is added in before doubling, so for late in the game when you can usually have high enchantments on your weapons, its more worthwhile to enchant a good artifact.

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