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- For the dungeon feature of solid rock, see Solid rock.
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A rock is a projectile weapon. You can throw it by hand, but most monsters prefer to use a sling; so should you. If you kill a hobbit, you might find a sling. Wield the sling, then throw or fire the rock.
Digging tools will make rocks out of boulders, but they're rarely in short supply; applying a pick-axe upwards can also cause a rock to fall on your head, though the former method is far more helpful. A falling rock trap will also cause a rock to fall and bonk you on the head, though this is generally considered a hazard, especially in the early game. Rocks have no resale value in shops.
In the early versions of hack121 and PDP-11, rocks were instead called "bullets." Though, while a sling bullet is certainly a rock, a rock is not necessarily a bullet. Sling bullets were much more aerodynamically rounded, albeit any rock off the ground could certainly do in a pinch.
In Hack 1.0, the literal rock was added, alongside the "sling bullet."
In NetHack 3.0.0, the sling bullet was removed, and it's description left to the somewhat more sensible "rock" to imply a much more general case. It was furthermore removed from the weapon class in inventory, and instead "stones."
- With a stone to flesh spell, rocks can be turned into meatballs. Along with casting stone to flesh at a Tiny-sized statue, this is the only way of gaining meatballs, which, however, unfortunately have a very low nutrition value, and their turns-to-eat to nutrition ratio being the worst in the game. Meatballs can, however, be used as miniature tripe rations to train the apport of a pet, and do have a value of 1 zorkmid for sale, turning worthless rocks into saleable items.
- One trick is to cast polymorph on the resulting meatballs, which, with even one casting, can easily create enough food to last the entire game—the odds of getting, from a non-shuddering polymorph, a (stack of) food item of at least 100 nutrition is 48.3%. As starvation is mostly a threat only in the early game, and at that, usually only until Sokoban, this is generally only useful should a wand of polymorph be found early, should food be particularly rare, or should one be trying conducts (where vegan extinctionist is a particularly gruesome combination). This may furthermore be useful in reducing encumbrance, where it's not terribly difficult to get a sizeable stack of lembas wafers.
- They are often overlooked as a useful ranged weapon. Because they are so plentiful, you can find or create them as needed to slay slow moving monsters that are nevertheless dangerous in melee, such as jellies and eels. This may also be helpful in that rocks are disposable, unlike highly enchanted arrows, darts, or most of all, daggers; losing them to the water is no great loss.
- They are quite helpful for this in the early game, where both their weight and low damage is less of a factor. For example, it's quite easy to get a stack large enough to deal with any floating eyes. Their high weight makes them a liability to carry, however, in the mid to late game.
Where even the bow predates recorded history, the simple hurled stone is earlier still; it is the oldest projectile weapon in all history. Their size varied greatly, from a size no larger than a mere pebble (2 oz), to fist-sized stones weighing a pound or more. In the hands of a skilled slinger, these stones could be slung upwards of 400 meters (1300 feet), at speeds of 250 miles per hour, and can deliver as much as 3.6 kilonewtons of force. By no means puny, as they are often portrayed.
Sling bullets would frequently be salvaged from river depths, where the rushing water would slowly shape the stone round. Some would be purpose-made from clay—where this imparted far more consistency and quality—or in some cases, cast lead; lead would make the bullets far heavier for a given volume, meaning that they would have much more force for the same level of air resistance. This form of casting was furthermore immensely simple, compared to the manufacture of spear or broad iron arrowheads, extending it's use, especially in ancient times, where smelting was still a rare art.
Sling bullets have died off in modern use, though the sling itself is still used.
Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.
He could not get up at the brutes and he had nothing to shoot
with; but looking about he saw that in this place there were
many stones lying in what appeared to be a now dry little
watercourse. Bilbo was a pretty fair shot with a stone, and
it did not take him long to find a nice smooth egg-shaped one
that fitted his hand cosily. As a boy he used to practise
throwing stones at things, until rabbits and squirrels, and
even birds, got out of his way as quick as lightning if they
saw him stoop; and even grownup he had still spent a deal of
his time at quoits, dart-throwing, shooting at the wand,
bowls, ninepins and other quiet games of the aiming and
throwing sort - indeed he could do lots of things, besides
blowing smoke-rings, asking riddles and cooking, that I
haven't time to tell you about. There is no time now. While
he was picking up stones, the spider had reached Bombur, and
soon he would have been dead. At that moment Bilbo threw.
The stone struck the spider plunk on the head, and it dropped
senseless off the tree, flop to the ground, with all its legs
[ The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]