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Moats, pools and swamps, }, are bodies of deep water.

You cannot swim in your natural form. Entering a water square without any precautions will cause you to fall in ("You sink like a rock!"). If there is a floor tile next to the water (with no monster on it), you will try to climb out safely;[1] otherwise you can drown. If your encumbrance status is at least stressed (or burdened, if you are punished), you will automatically drop some of your gear into the water to lose enough weight to be able to climb out and avoid drowning.[2] However, you might not be able to drop worn armor or a cursed loadstone in time to avoid drowning.[3] Even if you make it out, you risk water damage to your items.

Water can be found at Fort Ludios, the Castle, the Wizard of Yendor's room, Juiblex's swamp and Medusa's level, and after digging down on a fountain, among other places; see below for a complete list.

Many sea monsters live in water areas. They will try to grab you and drown you. To avoid this, you should detect and evade the relatively slow eels, or wear a non-cursed oilskin cloak or greased armor. If you can detect the sea monsters from afar, you may kill them with some spells, missiles or polearms. In case this is not an option, you should always have some escape items in your inventory.

Destroying water

Boil it away

Water can be evaporated with a wand of fire, fire horn, potion of oil, or the fireball spell. You can also polyself into or exploit nearby red dragons and red nagas whose breath attacks can evaporate water. Only water in pools can be evaporated; see § Pool vs. moat vs. water below.

Some water evaporates.
Something evaporated a water tile.

Freeze it solid

Water can be frozen into ice with a wand of cold, frost horn, or the cone of cold spell. You can also polyself into or exploit nearby silver and white dragons and winter wolves whose breath attacks can freeze water. Beware of red nagas and red dragons which can melt the ice, and note that ice may melt over time.

The Amulet of Yendor and invocation items will appear on top of the newly-created ice. For other items, dig a pit in the resulting ice to retrieve the objects. Beware the pit filling back up from adjoining non-frozen water—see § Pool vs. moat vs. water below.

The water freezes.
Something froze a water tile.
The moat is bridged with ice.
As above, but with the water tiles around a structure.
You hear a crackling sound.
As above, while out of your character's sight.

Fill it in

Use a boulder to fill up the tile, making it solid ground. This has a 90% chance of success, and always consumes the boulder.

Just as when the water freezes, the amulet and invocation items float, while others will need to be dug out.

You push the boulder into the water.
You pushed a boulder onto a water tile.
Now you can cross it!
The water tile was filled in.
It sinks without a trace!
The water tile was not filled in. This happens 10% of the time.
There is a large splash as the boulder fills the water.
A boulder generated by scroll of earth or thrown landed directly on a water tile and filled it in.
There is a large splash as the boulder falls into the water. It sinks without a trace!
As above, but the boulder failed to fill in the water tile.

Getting across water

Water squares can be passed in several ways. These include (roughly in order of usefulness and desirability):

Retrieving items

Items that have fallen into a pool or moat do not disappear; rather they remain at the bottom. They can be retrieved in one of several ways:

If you use any other method to get above the water and try to pick things up, you will fail. ("You cannot dive into the water to pick things up", or "You can't even see the bottom, let alone pick up something" if breathless and flying/levitating/floating.) This is a generic message and does not reveal if the square actually contains items to retrieve.

Pool vs. moat vs. water

According to the source code, there are three types of watery terrain; "WATER" terrain is found only on the Plane of Water, and cannot be altered directly by the player. All other watery terrain is either "POOL" or "MOAT".

Note that NetHack does not necessarily report "MOAT" as "moat"; it may be described as "swamp" (Juiblex's Swamp), "water" (Medusa's Island) or "moat" (any other level).[5]

In most respects, the terrain types "POOL" and "MOAT" behave identically. They cannot be distinguished easily by the player. However, moats are considered to have considerably more water in them than pools. Their behavior differs in the following respects:

  • Pools can be evaporated with rays or explosions of fire; moats cannot.[6]
  • You need three adjacent pools to have a chance of having a pit you dig filled with water. You only require a single adjacent moat square.[7]
  • Pools have a 110 chance of containing a kelp frond, while moat squares have a 130 chance of containing one.[8]
  • Moat squares are considered contiguous with adjacent moat squares for the purposes of dragging a heavy iron ball; pools are not.[9]
  • When you die from drowning, moats are reported as "moat" unless you are on the Medusa's Island level. Otherwise, you drowned in a "pool of water". This means that the MOAT terrain of Juiblex's swamp counts as a "moat" for this death message.[10][11]
  • Water under a drawbridge is always a moat.[12]
  • In wizard mode, you can only wish for pools, not moats (or water).

The easiest way to distinguish the type of water you are dealing with is by where it is:


Monsters in FIQHack can crawl (or teleport) out of water to save themselves from drowning.

Encyclopaedia entry

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.

[ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor
           Coleridge ]