Watcher in the Water

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The Watcher in the Water is a unique, kraken-like sea monster which appears, in different forms, in UnNetHack and dNetHack.

UnNetHack

In UnNetHack, the Watcher in the Water is found on the final level of the Ruins of Moria. It is similar to an ordinary kraken, but is faster, much stronger, and does not respect Elbereth.

Strategy

The Watcher carries a magic lamp as a sort of prize for the player for reaching the end of the branch, but retrieving it can be tricky because of the Watcher's power and the fact that the lamp will fall into the water when you kill it. Here are a few ways of killing the Watcher:

  • Use a Wand of teleportation on the Watcher. On dry land, the Watcher is significantly less dangerous, and killing it over land also ensures that its magic lamp can be retrieved. The amount of water in the level may necessitate using multiple charges.
  • Use ranged weapons, spells, or attack wands to keep your distance and not risk getting grabbed and drowned. Note that you will likely be unable to retrieve any ammunition you use afterward.
  • Paralyzing it will give you a lot of rounds to attack it in melee, but due to the Watcher's low AC and high health you likely won't kill it before it can act again unless you have a very powerful, enchanted weapon. Use a stethoscope each hit to make sure it still can't act, and keep an escape item on hand in case it grabs you!
  • Wearing an Oilskin cloak or any greased cloak protects you from being drowned, but still leaves you open to the Watcher's other powerful attacks. However, as it won't follow you on land, you can simply back away from the water to heal.
  • Polymorph the watcher. Whatever it polymorphs into will likely immediately drown or be much less threatening, with a few exceptions. Make sure you can deal with a possible Titan if you try this.

If you didn't kill the Watcher over dry land, you'll then have to get the lamp out of the water. This can be done by:

  • Pushing boulders into the water on and around where the lamp is, then digging it out. Note that one variation of the Doors of Durin has boulders scattered around for you to use, but a Scroll of Earth may be necessary.
  • Having magical breathing and jumping into the water to retrieve it. Drop anything that may be harmed by water exposure before diving in.
  • Freezing the water with a wand of cold or the spell cone of cold, then dig it out.
  • Applying a bullwhip down while levitating or flying over the lamp will retrieve it for you.

Encyclopedia entry

Out from the water a long sinuous tentacle had crawled; it
was pale-green and luminous and wet. Its fingered end had
hold of Frodo's foot, and was dragging him into the water.
Sam on his knees was now slashing at it with a knife. The
arm let go of Frodo, and Sam pulled him away, crying out
for help. Twenty other arms came rippling out. The dark
water boiled, and there was a hideous stench.

[ The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien ]

dNethack

The Watcher is the "mid boss" of the dwarf noble (Dnb) quest. The main body of the Watcher attempts to remain at least 3 squares from the player at all times, and attempts to avoid being on the same line in order to frustrate ranged attacks. The main body will spawn tentacles with its gaze attack; up to a maximum of 6 swarms of snaking tentacles and 2 long sinuous tentacles will be generated. If the Watcher's main body is killed, all the tentacles die as well.

Swarm of snaking tentacles

Swarms of snaking tentacles are generated by the Watcher in the Water, and will attempt to drown the player. No more than 6 swarms will be generated at a time; however, destroyed tentacle swarms will be replaced by the Watcher's main body.

Long sinuous tentacle

Long sinuous tentacles are generated by the Watcher in the Water. They do not have a drowning attack; however, they have a strong two-square reach attack. No more than 2 of these tentacles will be generated at a time, and destroyed tentacles will be replaced by the Watcher's main body.

Mythology

The Watcher comes from the first part of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It appears as a mysterious aquatic creature lurking in a pool outside the western entrance to the dwarvish realm of Moria, from which it attacks the main characters (the Fellowship) as they are about to enter. The encyclopedia entry describes the creature as it grabs Frodo, the protagonist, and tries to drag him underwater. The name "The Watcher in the Water" comes from a historical account the party discover later, which reveals that the monster also prevented Moria's defenders from escaping through that exit.

Little is known about the exact nature of the creature, as the characters catch only a brief glimpse of it, but the detail of its having tentacles (at least twenty) suggests that it may be some kind of monstrous cephalopod. The passage describes the Watcher's tentacle as "fingered", which is inconsistent with real-life cephalopods, but this may simply be a metaphor meaning that the tentacle was curled like a finger.

In vanilla NetHack, the passage describing the Watcher is used as the encyclopedia entry for the kraken, implying that the Watcher is assumed to be representative of that legendary creature, which is usually portrayed as a giant cephalopod. (UnNetHack changes the kraken's encyclopedia entry to an unrelated poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.)

In both UnNetHack and dNetHack, the Watcher appears as a "boss" at the surface end of a series of levels inspired by Moria.

References