The Stranger, @, is a monster that appears in dNetHack and notdNetHack. It is a powerful human-shaped insight monster that normally only appears in the Madman quest: Once a Madperson finds their quest artifact, The Star of Hypernotus, the Stranger will begin harassing them from that point on until they gain enough insight to perceive it directly, at which point it will attack in earnest.
The Stranger is covetous and has six attacks per round of combat: it has two strong weapon attacks, a claw attack that can steal quest artifacts, a second claw attack that can steal the Amulet of Yendor, and will attempt to cast two clerical monster spells. The Stranger also exhibits other complex behaviors that are described in detail below.
The Stranger is generated awake atop the square containing the quest artifact, but will immediately vanish from perception due to the mechanics of the insight system. It can appear in bones files as well.
The Stranger always generates with a yellow +5 shepherd's crook, a yellow +5 self-cursing magic-resistant leather robe, and a gold amulet of wound closure with the Yellow Sign ward. If generating the Stranger under normal circumstances as an elven Madperson, it will generate with the Star-Emperor's Ring.
The Stranger's stalking
While invisible to a character without sufficient insight, the Stranger will continually harass them once it becomes aware of their presence. The Stranger can perform the following actions while harassing the character:
- If the Stranger is dormant, it cannot cross pools of water or other impassible terrain (i.e., any terrain that would block a wand zap).
- If the Stranger becomes active - either from a Madperson touching their quest artifact, or from another role finding a bones level where the Stranger is present - a 'harassment' counter will begin running, starting from an initial value ranging between 500-555 inclusively. While in this state, it has a 1⁄5 chance of moving through water or otherwise-impassible terrain. Once the Stranger is standing on a normally impassible square, other such squares will no longer block its path.
- The harassment counter will decrement by 1 "tick" for each game turn that it is on your level; if it is on your square, it decrements by an additional 4 "ticks" (for a total of 5 per turn that it is on your square). While it is on your level, monsters you kill that leave behind corpses are likely to revive as fulvous undead.
- If the Stranger would occupy the square you are currently on in either state, it will perform a studying gaze that increases your study counter by 1d5, with a cap of 5 total study from this gaze.
- If the Stranger is on the same level as you in either state, but you do not have the required insight and it is not on your square, it will move one step closer to you in a straight line.
- If the Stranger is active and in a separate dungeon branch as you, it has a 1⁄555 chance of moving to your branch - the Stranger will remain at its current depth in the new branch rather than moving to yours, making it likely that it will not show up on your level immediately.
- If the Stranger is active and in the same dungeon branch, but not on your level, it has a 1⁄55 chance of moving one dungeon level closer to you.
- If the Stranger is on your level and you have 55 insight or more, it finally becomes visible and appears near you in a manner similar to the Wizard of Yendor.
The Stranger's "intervention" will occur once the harassment counter reaches zero, and produces one of five effects:
- You "feel vaguely nervous" as with the Wizard of Yendor, and nothing happens.
- You are blinded for 50-55 rounds, and "yellow nasties" are generated around you.
- An aggravate effect occurs: All monsters on the level are awakened, unscared and unparalyzed.
- You are subjected to a curse items effect.
- If there is a hostile monster that can see you on the level, yellow smiting occurs:
- You are punished. If you are already punished when this effect occurs, your heavy iron ball has its weight increased.
- You are afflicted with illness.
- The drain life spell is cast at you, as if from the chosen monster.
- You take 10d5 damage - this cannot kill you, and will always leave you with at least 5 HP.
- You become confused, stunned, and begin hallucinating.
- An effect similar to a touch of death occurs: If you are under 100 HP, you die instantly. Otherwise, you take 8d8 damage, or only 8 damage if you have magic resistance.
- All hostile monsters on the level are given +5 encouragement.
- The poison gas spell is cast as if from that monster.
- The acid rain spell is cast as if from that monster.
- The fire pillar spell is cast as if from that monster.
- The ice storm spell is cast as if from that monster.
The yellow smiting has an equal chance of applying each effect, and after one occurs the chosen monster's level increases by 1, as if it had drunk a potion of gain level. Once an effect is applied, the harassment counter will reset to a random value from 500-555 inclusively.
When "yellow nasties" are generated by the Stranger's harassment or yellow dead spell, an amount of hostile monsters up to 1⁄3 of your current experience level are generated. All monsters will be created at a minimum of level 15, and are chosen from the list below with an equal probability of each choice:
- B Byakhee
- b Coiling brawn
- F Fungal brain, generated randomly on the level
- Z Skeleton
- Either a @ human or a @ Star-elf with the dream-leech template
- Either a @ madman or madwoman with the fulvous template
- w Purple worm with the finger template
- w Long worm with the finger template, generated randomly on the level
- W Flaxen starshadow
- @ Bard with the fulvous template
- n Carcosan courtier
All monsters are generated adjacent to you unless otherwise noted.
A Madman does not need to face the Stranger immediately upon retrieving the Star, and it is highly unwise to do so besides: the Stranger has very high damage potential, and its spell repertoire includes various mummy curses, particularly effects that can wipe out your Luck, curse items, or even shred your current HP by 2⁄3 and cause you to lose turns by screaming. The ideal approach is to find a way to manage the Stranger's effects as it stalks the character throughout the next phase of the game, all the while preparing for when they gain enough insight to directly confront the Stranger and end its harassment.
Fighting the Stranger
It is best to have a source of teleport control, cursed potions of gain level and/or other escape items ready so you can flee quickly in the event a fight against the Stranger goes off the rails - be sure to make a backup stash in the event you are cut off from your main one. Any armor made yellow by the spell typically cannot be made a different color without transmuting the object's material - a player that reaches 55 insight should ideally have enough resources to swap out cloaks if needed.
Though the yellowing/straitjacket effect of the Stranger's incarceration spell can be potentially game-ruining, it has an effective 1⁄27 chance of occurring per casting: it will take at least five castings of the spell (if not several more) for the Stranger to stick a straitjacket onto a character that was fully equipped with non-yellow gear prior to the fight. A sufficiently-prepared character should be able to escape and make it to a cache of replacement armor in the absolute worst case.
Another major obstacle for the fight is the Stranger casting summon alien: the spell can generate armor-shredding bebeliths, level-draining hounds of Tindalos, suction-happy shoggoths, any of the randomized horrors, or even uvuudaums. Somewhat mercifully, uvuudaums will quickly become peaceful, provided you are not yet a demigod or else inside the Anachrononaut quest branch - unfortunately, even a turn or two of hostility may be all an adjacent uvuudaum needs to completely tear through a character capable of reaching the Elemental Planes. Be prepared to bail out with the aforementioned escape items if any of the above monsters are summoned or else turn the fight against you, and avoid using explosive attacks near uvuudaums in particular.
The Stranger's full list of available spells is as follows:
- Incarcerate - This spell is unique to the Stranger and has a 1⁄3 chance of punishing you, and will otherwise affect your equipment based on what you have worn:
- If you are not wearing any body armor, but can wear armor that fits a humanoid torso, a cursed straitjacket is forced onto you; if you are wearing a straitjacket already, that object is cursed.
- Otherwise, if neither occurs (e.g., you are already wearing a cursed straitjacket) a random piece of worn armor is selected: if the selected armor is not a cursed straitjacket, then it is turned yellow, signified by its glyph becoming yellow as well, and the material of metallic armor is transmuted to gold if possible; artifacts resist 19⁄20 of the time, and all other items resist 11⁄20 of the time. If a yellow piece of armor is selected this way, it is instead stolen and warped directly into the Stranger's inventory.
- If somehow no armor is turned yellow or stolen by this point, the player is instead punished.
- Summon alien - Generates a hostile alien monster near you.
- One of either geyser or acid rain
- One of either fire pillar or ice storm
- Drain life
- Mummy curses:
- You take 1 HP of damage per level of the Stranger, i.e. usually around 60 HP, with a cap of no more than half your current HP rounded down (which will always leave you with at least 1 HP).
- You lose 26 points of Luck, likely setting it to -10.
- Your items are cursed or unblessed similar to the curse items monster spell.
- Your bonus to maximum HP is reduced to the minimum of your current bonus to maximum HP minus 25 or half your current bonus HP, and your maximum HP is recalculated (which will reduce your maximum HP by an unpredictable, but often quite large, amount) - your current HP is then set to 1⁄3 of its current value plus one, which cannot kill you. You are also made to scream for 2 (more) rounds.
- Yellow dead - This spell is also unique to the Stranger and either generates yellow nasties as with the harassment effect, or else raises the dead and generates fulvous undead monsters rather than zombies.
- Open wounds
- Cure self - This has four times the probability of the Stranger's other spells.
- You feel a stranger's gaze on your back!
- The Stranger used its studying gaze on you.
- You are momentarily blinded by a flash of lemony light!
- The Stranger used its blinding, nasty-summoning effect.
- You notice a yellow glow surrounding you.
- The Stranger used its curse items effect.
- You glimpse <the five flaxen sisters/five amber stars> over <monster>'s <head>!
- The Stranger is smiting you. Depending on the effect, it may be followed by one of the below messages:
- You are afflicted with jaundice!
- The Stranger's smiting caused illness.
- You hear menacing laughter as the world blurs around you...
- The Stranger's smiting caused confusion, stunning and hallucination.
- You feel a yellow death descend upon you!
- The Stranger's smiting attempted to kill you.
Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We all have laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda) No mask? No mask!
[ The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers ]