)   Vorpal Blade   Long sword.png
Base item long sword
Damage vs. small 1d8 +1 (2-9)
Damage vs. large 1d12 +1 (2-13)
To-hit bonus +1d5
Bonus versus (any)
Weapon skill long sword
Size one-handed
When carried


When wielded
  • beheading
When invoked


Cost 4000 zm
Weight 40
Material iron

The Vorpal Blade is a very useful artifact weapon. It is a neutral long sword, and has a 5% chance of instantaneously killing monsters by beheading. It is shunned by some players because it only does +1 damage and d5 to-hit, but others find the insta-kill to be quite useful. The beheading only works on monsters with heads.

Neutral players other than Wizards and Monks can easily obtain Vorpal Blade by being crowned.

The Vorpal Blade originally appears in the poem Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. In the poem, an unnamed adventurer "took his vorpal sword" in hand and sought the dangerous Jabberwock:

"One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back."

The implication is that the vorpal blade beheaded the Jabberwock. Because of the origin of this weapon, in NetHack it has a 100% chance to behead Jabberwocks.

Instakill probability table[]

The following table summarizes the damage done by the Vorpal Blade. For example, after you hit a monster ten times, there is a 40% chance that you have beheaded it. You have also done an average of 55 points of physical damage to it. The odds of beheading a monster rise above 50% after 14 hits, at which point you have damaged the monster for approximately 77 points anyway.

Hits Cumulated instakill probability Physical damage to small monsters (avg) Physical damage to large monsters (avg)
1 5% 2–9 (6) 2–13 (8)
2 9.75% 4–18 (11) 4–26 (15)
3 14.26% 6–27 (17) 6–39 (23)
4 18% 8–36 (22) 8–52 (30)
5 22.6% 10–45 (28) 10–65 (38)
10 40% 20–90 (55) 20–130 (75)
15 53.7% 30–135 (83) 30–195 (113)
45 90% 90–405 (248) 90–585 (338)

Monsters wielding Vorpal Blade[]

Vorpal Blade is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of a monster, since a monster with Vorpal Blade will have a 5% chance of beheading you with each attack. Therefore, you should never leave Vorpal Blade in a place where a monster can pick it up. The safest place to store Vorpal Blade is inside a container on top of a permanent engraving of Elbereth. If you simply want to dispose of Vorpal Blade, either forget it in some chest, repeatedly loot a cursed bag of holding, or drop it into a pit you then fill with a boulder.

If Vorpal Blade has not already been created in your game, the player character monsters in the Astral Plane have a small chance of being randomly generated with Vorpal Blade in their possession. Melee combat with these monsters is very dangerous. However, it is overpreparation to obtain Vorpal Blade just to rule out this possibility. If you have entered the Astral Plane and don't know where Vorpal Blade is, an amulet of life saving is highly recommended.

Usually, it is best to attack a monster wielding Vorpal Blade from a distance. In dire situations, it may be necessary to disarm it with a bullwhip. Remember to pick up the blade (and dispose of it, if you don't want to bother with carrying or using it yourself).


"Vorpal Blade decapitates the <monster>!"
The monster has been instantly killed from the special beheading attack.
"Vorpal Blade beheads it!"
The Vorpal Blade instantly killed an unseen monster.
"Somehow, you miss the <monster> wildly."
Your hit would normally have beheaded the monster, but it lacks a head and thus had no effect. Note that no damage applies to the monster either.
"Vorpal Blade slices through <monster>'s neck."
Your hit would normally have beheaded the monster except it was insubstantial - ghosts and shades are examples of these. Note that no damage is applied to the monster either.