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"Add details of (or link to?) effect on items - how are they affected, how can they be located and retrieved, particularly invocation items and the Amulet of Yendor"

Moats, pools, and swamps, }, are bodies of water. Entering a water square without any precautions causes you to "Sink like a rock!". If there is a floor tile next to the water (with no monster on it), you will climb out and not drown. If your encumbrance status is at least stressed, you will automatically drop some of your gear to lose enough weight to avoid drowning. However, your objects may become wet.

Fort Ludios, the Castle, and the Wizard of Yendor's room are surrounded by moats. Swamps are found on Juiblex's and Medusa's level, and pools are formed, for example, when a fountain is broken with a pick-axe.

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

Passing waterEdit

Water squares can be passed several ways. You may

  • jump over them
  • levitate over them. You cannot dip items into water when levitating ("You are floating high above the water").
  • freeze them with a wand of cold or cone of cold (creating ice). Nearby silver dragons and winter wolves might handily do this for you. Beware of red nagas and dragons, which might melt the ice.
  • push a boulder into the water square to remove the water (90% chance)
  • wear water walking boots and walk over them, at which time you may dip potions and scrolls ad infinitum
  • teleport to the other side of the water (not often a choice, as many moats are on no-teleport levels)
  • wear an amulet of magical breathing and walk into the water (your objects will become wet)
  • polymorph into a flying or swimming monster
  • saddle and ride a flying pet monster
  • jump into the water and hope to climb back up on the correct side (your objects will become wet)
  • get punished, pick up your iron ball, and throw it over the moat, having the ball pull you along

Retrieving itemsEdit

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:

  • Wear an amulet of magical breathing, or polymorph into an unbreathing monster or water monster.
  • Evaporate the water with a wand of fire or explosion. This will create a pit with your items in the bottom. This only works with pools, not moat. Don't try in Fort Ludios, the Castle, or the Wizard's Tower.
  • Push a boulder into the water. The amulet of Yendor and invocation items will appear on top. For other items, dig a pit in the resulting dry land to retrieve the objects (beware of filling it back up!).
  • Freeze the water. Same effect as above.
  • Zap a wand of teleportation or spell of teleport away at the pool or moat and find the teleported items.

If you can water walk and attempt to use the pick up command, you receive the message "You cannot dive into the water to pick things up." This is a generic message and does not reveal if the square actually contains items to retrieve.

Pool vs. Moat vs. WaterEdit

From the point of view of 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)[1].

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

  • Pools can be evaporated with rays or explosions of fire. Moats cannot.[2]
  • You need three adjacent pools to have a chance of filling a pit you dig with water. You only require a single adjacent moat square.[3]
  • 1/10 of pools contain a kelp frond. Only 1/30 of moat squares contain it.[4]
  • Moat squares are considered contiguous with adjacent moat squares for the purposes of dragging a heavy iron ball. Pools are not.[5]
  • When you die from drowning, moats are reported as "moat"s 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.[6][7]
  • Water under a drawbridge is always a moat.[8]
  • 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:

Encyclopaedia entryEdit

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 ]


  1. mkmaze.c, line 1147
  2. zap.c, line 3576
  3. dig.c, line 443
  4. mklev.c, line 850
  5. ball.c, line 564
  6. mhitu.c, line 1233
  7. trap.c, line 2947
  8. dbridge.c, line 171
  9. fountain.c, line 104
  10. mkroom.c, line 446
  11. mklev.c, line 1467
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