Identifying Wands by Zapping

By Kieron Dunbar, <>
HTML Conversion by Kate Nepveu

light NODIR yes zap or engrave
create monster NODIR yes zap or engrave
enlightenment NODIR yes zap or engrave
wishing NODIR yes zap or engrave
secret door detection NODIR no elimination
cold RAY yes zap or engrave
fire RAY yes zap or engrave
sleep RAY yes zap
lightning RAY yes zap or engrave
death RAY yes zap
digging RAY yes zap or engrave
magic missile RAY yes zap or engrave
striking IMMED yes zap at monster/object or engrave
polymorph IMMED no zap at monster/object or engrave
teleportation IMMED no zap at monster/object
probing IMMED yes zap at monster/non-empty container
opening IMMED yes zap at locked box/chest/door, or box/chest with broken lock
locking IMMED yes zap at untrapped empty doorway, or box/chest with open/broken lock
cancellation IMMED no zap at cancellable monster/object
undead turning IMMED no zap at undead monster/corpse
make invisible IMMED yes zap at monster
slow monster IMMED no zap at monster or engrave
speed monster IMMED no zap at monster or engrave
nothing IMMED no elimination

The "BY GAME" column lists whether the game can be relied upon to identify the type of wand when it is zapped when not suffering from any ailments (blindness, confusion, etc.). It may not be accurate under exceptional circumstances (for instance, a wand of create monster is only identified if something is summoned by it), but I haven't attempted to determine the scope of this.


When zapping at something is referred to, it means to zap in the direction of something which must be no more than 6 squares away from the player to be certain of correct identification.

Wands with 0 charges will not normally be identified by zapping. Such wands will usually give the message "Nothing happens." without prompting for a direction, only doing anything to identify their type 1/121 of the time, which will zap the wand once and destroy it in the process. You should not confuse it with a wand of secret door detection, which gives no message when zapped.


When zapping an unidentified wand, it is important to ensure that the wand does not hit anything it was not intended to hit.

This can be acchieved by zapping the wand somewhere where you can see a distance of at least 13 squares (the maximum range of a wand), where you can see every square between you and a wall at least 7 squares away towards a wall you can see when you have reflection, or towards a door.

This range is not correct for wands of digging, but fortunately the only problem that can result directly from this is zapping it into a shop. This can be avoided by always zapping towards an area you have already explored.

You should not zap a wand towards a monster unless you know that it isn't a wand of polymorph as it may turn into something you are ill-equipped to deal with.

If you do not have reflection yourself, you should avoid zapping wands which could have the "RAY" type towards monsters which are reflective or have hands to hold a shield of reflection with unless you are far enough away for a reflected ray to not hit you.

You should not zap an unidentified wand towards a dangerous monster unless you know that it isn't a wand of speed monster, create monster, or make invisible (unless you can see invisible). You should avoid this in general anyway, as high level monsters are often capable of resisting wands zapped at them.

You should not zap an unidentified wand in the direction of a shop unless you either know that it isn't a wand of digging or are willing to deal with an angry shopkeeper.

Practical wand identification

I find it useful to zap a wand as soon as it is safe to do so in the knowledge that most of the special identification conditions are only needed for a small number of wand types. I do try to be prepared, though, and therefore carry something I can visibly cancel and a corpse with me from the moment I find them for this purpose. If there's a chest or large box nearby, I'll use that to test wands of opening, locking and probing. If not, I'll use a convenient (preferably locked) door instead,

I've included a checklist of the things that need to be checked to identify a wand conclusively. I tend to make a copy of this list in a text document, but it would be almost as easy to name the wand YNNYYYN or something instead.

type zap probe open lock canc' unde' mons'
caesium Y N Y N Y Y N

Just in case the names aren't too clear, these mean:

zap The wand has been zapped.
probe The wand has been zapped at something it could probe (a monster or a container with contents).
open The wand has been zapped at an open box/door or a box with a broken lock.
lock The wand has been zapped at a locked box/door or a box with a broken lock.
canc' The wand has been zapped at something which can be noticeably cancelled.
unde' The wand has been zapped at a monster/corpse.
mons' The wand has been zapped at a monster.

Open and lock can, of course, be switched if it makes more sense to you like that, and you should feel free to ignore those checks which only matter for wands which have already been identified.

It is worth noting that, if every check apart from the "mons'" one has failed, engraving something on the ground and then attempting to engrave with the wand will uniquely identify the wand. It is possible to engrave before the other checks, but this may waste a charge.


Full details on cancellation are available elsewhere [Ed. note: in the part two of the wands spoiler]. I'll simply mention a few good and bad things to use to test for this particular wand:

Good things include:

  1. Things you've discovered to be blessed or cursed on an altar.
  2. Things you've discovered to not be uncursed +0 items through identify scrolls or being part of your initial inventory.
  3. Items which you have tried on and found to be enchanted or cursed (you must have removed cursed items somehow, of course).
  4. Weapons which have welded to the hand of a monster.
  5. Stackable weapons (daggers, darts, arrows and crossbow bolts) which are described identically but don't stack.
  6. Items which your pet will only walk on reluctantly.

Bad things include:

  1. Wands, bags of tricks, magic markers, and magic horns, harps, drums and bells (you will lose charges from something potentially useful).
  2. Books or scrolls, as cancellation will usually blank them (which may be useful), and fire may destroy them (which probably won't).
  3. Potions, as cancellation does not affect booze, fruit juice or oil (important if unidentified), and striking will destroy potions.
  4. Yourself. You can't zap the wand at items on the ground at the same time, and many wands won't be identified by this method. And irradiating yourself with pure energy may be somewhat unpleasant.
  5. And, of course, anything you like and wouldn't like to see polymorphed into something else (unless you've identified polymorph) or cancelled.

Up to the NetHack Page