( Magic marker.png
Name magic marker
Appearance magic marker
Cost 50 zm
Weight 2

A magic marker is a tool item in NetHack. It is one of the most useful writing items as it can be used to write magic scrolls or spellbooks. Of course, to do this, you must have a blank scroll or blank spellbook upon which to write. Magic markers can also be used to scribble a message on the floor (which is about as permanent as an engraving) at a cost of a charge per two letters (thus writing Elbereth costs 4 charges). Magic markers can be recharged only once.[1]

Archeologists, Monks, Priests, Tourists, and Wizards all have a chance of starting with a magic marker.

Wizards (especially those with high Luck) have a good chance of writing scrolls and spellbooks that they have not identified yet. Wizards can even use multiple attempts to write unknown spellbooks.


To create a scroll or spellbook, you apply the magic marker. Then you are asked what to write on, so you will need to have a scroll of blank paper or a spellbook of blank paper. Finally, you must specify what is to be written. You may enter the correct name of a scroll ("scroll of light") or just a short form ("light") or the label ("ZELGO MER"), but the latter only if you already have such a scroll. (You can't write a ZELGO MER if you have never seen one.) Similarly, you may create a spellbook by entering the correct name ("spellbook of detect food"), or a short form ("detect food"), or the spellbook label ("indigo spellbook") provided that you already have a spellbook with that label.

When engraving, a magic marker may be selected in response to "What do you want to write with?" but this is generally viewed as a waste of charges, as the same fast semipermanent effect can be achieved using an athame or a wand of digging. Early on, though, this can be a lifesaver.


When you write a scroll or spellbook, the BUC of the resulting item is the sum of the BUCs of the marker and the blank scroll/spellbook. A blessed marker will uncurse cursed scrolls, and bless uncursed ones. A cursed marker will unbless blessed scrolls, and curse uncursed ones. This means that uncursed markers are the most useful, because they can be used to write both cursed and blessed scrolls, depending on the paper used.

Ink and charges[]

Writing with a magic marker uses up charges. Initially, a magic marker will be generated with 30–99 charges.[2] A magic marker can be recharged with a scroll of charging (or PYEC), but only once.[3] A blessed charge will add 15–30 charges, then round up to 50 or 75 if able. An uncursed charge will add 10–20 charges, then round up to 50 if able. Because of the total gain of 50 charges, it is best to recharge your magic marker when it is totally empty. Blessed charging in this case gives no advantage over uncursed. Charges are capped at 127, but attempting to exceed this will not cause the marker to explode.[4]

It is possible, although with low probability of success, to create magic markers by polypiling magical tools. (It is technically possible to create them from non-magical tools, but the probability of this occuring is vanishingly small.) Be aware that any magic markers created by polymorphing come "pre-recharged", and cannot be charged again.

Each scroll or spellbook has an associated "base ink cost". For scrolls, this is an arbitrary number specified in write.c; for spellbooks it is (spell level * 10).[5]

If the ink cost of a scroll or spellbook is X, then writing it will cost a random number of charges between X/2 and X-1 inclusive. If the marker has fewer than X/2 charges remaining, you will not even attempt to write the specified item ("Your marker is too dry to write that!").[6] If it has between X/2 and X-1, however, you will attempt to write. If it turns out that this is not enough, the written item will be useless, and the marker will lose all its remaining charges ("Your marker dries out!").[7]


Scroll Ink Charges
mail 2 1
amnesia 8 4-7
earth 8 4-7
fire 8 4-7
gold detection 8 4-7
food detection 8 4-7
light 8 4-7
magic mapping 8 4-7
create monster 10 5-9
destroy armor 10 5-9
punishment 10 5-9
confuse monster 12 6-11
identify 14 7-13
charging 16 8-15
enchant armor 16 8-15
enchant weapon 16 8-15
remove curse 16 8-15
scare monster 20 10-19
stinking cloud 20 10-19
taming 20 10-19
teleportation 20 10-19
genocide 30 15-29


Spellbook Ink Charges
detect monsters 10 5-9
force bolt 10 5-9
healing 10 5-9
jumping 10 5-9
knock 10 5-9
light 10 5-9
protection 10 5-9
sleep 10 5-9
confuse monster 20 10-19
create monster 20 10-19
cure blindness 20 10-19
detect food 20 10-19
drain life 20 10-19
magic missile 20 10-19
slow monster 20 10-19
wizard lock 20 10-19
cause fear 30 15-29
charm monster 30 15-29
clairvoyance 30 15-29
cure sickness 30 15-29
detect unseen 30 15-29
extra healing 30 15-29
haste self 30 15-29
identify 30 15-29
remove curse 30 15-29
stone to flesh 30 15-29
cone of cold 40 20-39
detect treasure 40 20-39
fireball 40 20-39
invisibility 40 20-39
levitation 40 20-39
restore ability 40 20-39
dig 50 25-49
magic mapping 50 25-49
create familiar 60 30-59
polymorph 60 30-59
teleport away 60 30-59
turn undead 60 30-59
cancellation 70 35-69
finger of death 70 35-69

Unknown Scrolls and Spellbooks[]

Your chance of successfully writing a scroll or spellbook which is currently unknown to you depends on your luck and whether you are a wizard.[8]

A scroll or spellbook type is known to you if you have identified it in any way (so it appears as, e.g., "a scroll of identify"), or you have called its object class something. For example, if you have #named four different appearances of price 300 scrolls, you can always write genocide, even if you do not know which one it is.

Luck Wizard Non-Wizard
<-2 <1% <1%
-2 to 2 33% 6.7%
3 to 5 66% 13%
6 to 8 98% 20%
9 to 11 98% 26%
12+ 98% 33%

(Values rounded to nearest percent for compactness; calculated using

Provided your Luck is maximized, it may be worthwhile to attempt to write unknown scrolls or spellbooks even if you are a non-Wizard, depending on the number of charges on your magic marker. For example, if you have a magic marker with a high number of charges, you are very likely to be able to write a scroll of charging and save a wish on the Castle wand. It is also useful and easy to write a low level unknown spellbook, such as the spellbook of sleep or spellbook of jumping; the spellbook of magic missile is also a possibility although less easily written.

Assuming maximized Luck, the following table gives approximate probabilities of successfully writing at least one of the specified scrolls or spellbooks, attempting repeatedly until the item is written or the marker goes dry, as a non-Wizard, given an initial number of magic marker charges:

# of charges Any ink 8 scroll Any level 1 spellbook Scroll of charging Any level 2 spellbook Scroll of genocide or any level 3 spellbook
40 94% 88% 70% 60% 40%
50 97% 93% 79% 70% 52%
60 98%+ 96% 85% 77% 59%
70 99%+ 98% 90% 83% 66%
80 99%+ 99%+ 92% 87% 72%
90 99%+ 99%+ 95% 90% 77%

Obviously, the lower the number of charges on the marker or the greater the ink cost of the item, the less likely you are to write it successfully.

The ink 8 scrolls include gold detection and magic mapping, and can almost certainly be written unless your marker is nearly dry.

If you have a source of charging and your marker has not been recharged you of course have 50 more charges to attempt to write; therefore (for example) a Knight gunning for a spellbook of magic missile starting with a (0:40) magic marker, and willing to spend the entire marker if necessary, has about an 88% chance of obtaining it in total with maxed Luck (60% he gets it without recharging, plus 70% times 40% that he gets it after recharging. This is not quite the same probability as a marker with 90 charges since typically a few leftover charges are "wasted" after the last attempt before recharging.)

Be sure to type-name an unknown scroll once you succeed in writing it (or formally identify it), so the scroll is known for any successive writes.


SLASH'EM incorporates a balance patch to ink costs. Scrolls of enchant armor, enchant weapon, stinking cloud, remove curse, and charging require 24 ink (12-23 charges) to write[9].

Encyclopaedia entry[]

The pen is mightier than the sword.

[ Richelieu, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton ]