A wand of magic missile will do 2d6 damage to monsters when zapped. Note that unlike the spell of magic missile, the wand's damage is a fixed 2d6. Magic resistance negates this damage, as does reflection. This applies to both the player and to any dungeon dwellers.
Engraving with a wand of magic missile will give the message that "The floor is riddled by bullet holes!" but will not auto-identify the wand.
Magic Missile first appeared in D&D as a stereotypically puny level one wizard spell. Despite this, it was quickly a staple of the wizard class. Wands of spells have existed in every form of D&D—including a wand of magic missile.
In Rogue, a wand of magic missile did 1d4+1 damage unless a given monster saves vs. magic ("The missile vanishes in a puff of smoke."); this is a rough translation of the spell into the world of Rogue.
- In the early game, these wand should be used up fast—not because it's useful, but to work it out of inventory, and prevent monsters from getting a hold of it. It's pitiful 2d6 damage very quickly becomes obsolete. One way to help overcome this, in certain limited cases, is to intentionally bounce it off walls back at the monster. In this way, with the proper set up, it can often get 4d6. Which is still very little, but prolongs it's use until better ranged capabilities are acquired.
- Curiously, one good use of such a wand isn't to zap it at all, but to throw it. Intelligent monsters will gleefully pick up the wand and zap like crazy. With reflection, this becomes harmless, and in fact, can be helpful. 2d6 may not be much damage, but in the hands of a gnome, it also doesn't take any turns to use.
- Certain monsters, with quite deadly attacks, may also waste their time zapping a wand with their turn instead of using the far more powerful innate abilities they may have.
The wand is obviously based on the canonical D&D spell Magic Missle, which, conversely, treated magic missiles quite differently. In D&D, short of magic resistance (which itself is quite different than the magic resistance in NetHack), it was usually impossible for a magic missile to miss. In NetHack, they can and will miss the target.
Wands comprise 4% of all randomly-generated items in the main dungeon, 6% in containers, 5% on the Rogue level, and 8% in Gehennom. There is a 5% chance that a randomly-generated wand will be a wand of magic missile.
Generated monsters capable of wielding weapons have a chance to be generated with an offensive item; one of the possible offensive items is a wand of magic missile. Shopkeepers have a 1/4 chance of being generated with a magic missile wand.