) War hammer.png
Name war hammer
Appearance war hammer
Damage vs. small 1d4+1
Damage vs. large 1d4
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill hammer
Size one-handed
Cost 5 zm
Weight 50
Material iron

The war hammer is a weapon in NetHack, perhaps most well known for Mjollnir, an artifact for which it is the base item type.

History[edit | edit source]

The war hammer first appeared in NetHack 3.0.3. The lucern hammer, which existed since NetHack 1.3d, was erroneously classified as using the hammer skill rather than polearm skill; in canonical D&D, this was a frequent error of clerics, who were restricted in most weapon classes, to happily spend their entire player's career unknowing that they were thwacking away with a polearm. This led to Thunderfist, the predecessor of Mjollnir, having the base item of a lucern hammer.

The correction of this bug, unfortunately, also greatly restricted the effectiveness of the hammer skill, as well as making Mjollnir a less effective weapon choice.

Strategy[edit | edit source]

  • Due to its low damage in all cases, lower than the mace (a good option for priests), and the long sword (a good option for barbarians), a war hammer is generally a useless weapon, and usually only good for training the hammer skill in preparation for Mjollnir.

Average damage calculation[edit | edit source]

We assume the player has expert skill in hammer, which gives a +2 damage bonus. A blessed weapon deals 1d4 extra damage against demons and undead. The worst case scenario is against a large, non-undead, non-demon. The best case scenario is against a small undead/demon monster.

Weapon Against regular small monsters Against regular large monsters Worst case scenario Best case scenario
Blessed war hammer +0
Blessed war hammer +7
Blessed war hammer +9

Origin[edit | edit source]

A Horseman's pick, an example of a real-world type of war hammer

The damage of the war hammer, in NetHack, is most likely based on the damage it dealt in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which is to say, 1d4. Unlike in NetHack, or it's predecessor, D&D, war hammers certainly were not puny by any account, and in fact, a quite versatile weapon; NetHack does not give them enough credit.

In the real world, war hammers, much like the mace, were important for facing heavily armored opponents, where the blunt hammerhead would deliver concussive force through the thickest armor, and the opposite face typically having a pick end for punching holes, whether through a piece of armor or the odd skull, or being used in grappling.

Chain mail, or a chain coif, in particular, was designed as special protection against the slash of the sword[1]—an armor type that would have no particular benefit against a war hammer wielding opponent. Plate mail rendered sword strikes mostly harmless, where the armor was used to ricochet most blows; the war hammer addressed this protection, being able to cause great damage without ripping through the actual armor.

Unfortunately, none of these realistic mechanics are preserved in NetHack, where war hammers cannot be used to grapple in any way, nor are they any more effective against an armored opponent.

Hammer skill[edit | edit source]

Max Role

The war hammer is the only kind of hammer in the game. (Note: A Lucern Hammer is a type of polearm.) Artifact hammers are Mjollnir and Ogresmasher.

Encyclopedia entry[edit | edit source]

They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the
battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his
great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in
black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his
House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the
sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the
hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again
and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert's hammer
stove in the dragon and the chest behind it. When Ned had
finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream,
while men of both armies scrambled in the swirling waters for
rubies knocked free of his armor.

[ A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin ]

SLASH'EM[edit | edit source]

In slash'em there is also the heavy hammer (base damage d6) in this category. Also Mjollnir is a heavy hammer.

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