For a list of all reptiles, see list of reptiles and amphibians.
| A great and nightmarish lacertilian beast. It has many heads, and the potential to grow many more!
Hitting it with any bladed weapon bigger than a short blade risks lopping a head off, which, considering hydras' unique biology, is not what you want. Even a troll's claws are long enough to do the same. Only a weapon branded with flame will cauterize the wound and prevent more heads from growing.
“On the other hand, Confucius is made to say to his disciples, ‘I know how birds can fly, how fishes can swim, and how animals can run. But the runner may be snared, the swimmer may be hooked, and the flyer may be shot by the arrow. But there is the dragon. I cannot tell how he mounts on the wind through the clouds, and rises to heaven. Today I have seen Lao-tsze, and can only compare him to the dragon.’”
Hydras are notoriously dangerous melee monsters found most often in the Lair and the Swamp. They begin life with 4-8 heads, but grow two more and heal significantly whenever they lose one to slashing damage. Each head gives the hydra another attack (but not more HD, XP, or willpower). Axes, Long Blades, two-handed Polearms, lajatangs, and level 3 claws all cut off hydra heads, if you have done at least 4 damage.
Fortunately, there are ways to hurt them without them growing stronger. Blunt and piercing weapons injure them as normal, and flaming edged weapons will remove heads and cauterize the wound, preventing the normal regrowth. If all of a hydra's heads are cut off, it dies instantly. Ranged weapons and spells also function without issue. Note that the rules about edged weapons, flaming edged weapons, and blunt weapons apply to everyone who attacks a hydra, including summons and all other monsters.
Hydras cannot fly, but they swim quickly through water. Lava will effectively stop them, however. The Summon Hydra spell lets you call a friendly 4- to 12-headed hydra (depending on spell power) to fight for you, but for an extremely short time.
Hydras are 10-speed, melee only animals that can't open doors nor see invisible. Characters of normal or greater move speed can usually just retreat, except if they are camping an entrance. Even if you have and are skilled with a flaming edged weapon, an adventurer heading out to the Lair most likely won't have the defenses early on to take them. Remember that you don't have to kill everything in Crawl! Going down a different staircase, escaping with a scroll of teleport, or taking a detour into the Orcish Mines are all valid options if hydras prove too tough early on.
Tips & Tricks
- Hydras max out at 20 heads, at which point they get 20 individual melee attacks per turn. Don't let this happen.
- They have poison resistance, so poison, curare, and Mephitic Cloud won't work.
- Hydras are cold-blooded, so cold damage (either from a weapon of freezing or Ice Magic) has a chance to slow them down. Do not use an edged freezing weapon, however, as heads will still grow back.
- Spellcasters tend to have an easier time. Hydras have 0 AC and minimal EV, meaning that a few solid ranged attacks are likely to kill. Most level 3+ Conjurations of any school can kill a hydra in 3-6 hits, and a Guardian Golem’s explosion is an option for Summoners. Lightly armoured casters will still have a problem if a hydra comes too close; use the Blink spell, an escape item, or just run away.
Alternatives to Edged Weapons
Flaming edged weapons both permanently weaken hydras and deal extra damage. But you might not have a flaming weapon you're competent with, or maybe you're just a weaponless Troll. In that case, there are some other options:
- Use a non-edged weapon of the same skill: Polearms have access to spears, tridents, or demon tridents, while lajatang users can work with a quarterstaff. Axes and Long Blades users can use weapons they've cross-trained with. As mentioned above, taking a melee fight with a less optimal weapon without the stats for it most likely isn't safe.
- A potion of lignification gives great AC and Unarmed damage. Trolls will defintely be able to take on Hydras with one, while other characters can melee in a pinch. Other transformations will do the same, but many lower level forms have low AC, which is a risky proposition when fighting hydras up close.
- Even characters with only slashing weapons can use certain Invocations:
- Makhleb: Greater Servants or multiple lesser servants can easily kill hydras.
- Beogh: Smite works, but incurs a heavy piety cost.
- Elyvilon: Hydras are natural beasts and can be pacified easily.
- Lugonu: With high Invocations, you may be able to banish hydras to the Abyss.
- Qazlal: Blasting hydras with Upheaval works, though it chews through piety quickly.
- Trog/Berserker: Summoning one or two Ogres to pound them to a pulp is a perfectly viable option, and even the high HD Trolls can usually kill them in a few shots regardless of their heads.
- Failing that, ranged weaponry can work well. Other than launchers, the following are easily accessible:
- Attack wands: Even at low Evocations, a wand of iceblast or wand of acid can usually kill a hydra in 2-5 hits. This is a safe course of action for most characters.
- Throwing: Javelins are strong, but even boomerangs with some Throwing skill can make short work of them. Trolls and Ogres have access to large rocks, which are incredibly powerful, but their high delay makes them risky to use up close. Okawaru buffs and boomerangs are enough to take out a hydra.
- A tin of tremorstones works well with some Evocations training, due to a hydra's low AC. A phantom mirror uses a hydra's high damage against it, though is not reliable (the original hydra could just kill it).
The following methods do not work:
- Polymorph: Hydras have high HD, and often turn into even tougher monsters. Storm dragons are a particularly common result.
- Low-Skill Ranged Weapons: Hydras regenerate quickly; any method which relies on whittling down its HP over time will likely fail.
- Stair dancing: Climbing up or down stairs next to a hydra will give it a few free hits, which is possibly all it needs to kill you.
- Berserk With an Edged Weapon: While you may be able to deal more damage than the hydra can heal per hit, its damage output will be growing, and ending your berserk slowed and wounded next to an even stronger hydra than you started with is not ideal.
- Haste, when in the Swamp: Hydras' speed advantage in water will mean you probably cannot outrun them.
Hydra corpses that are raised as zombies, skeletons, or simulacra will have the same number of heads as the corpse. Zero-headed corpses will be raised with one head. In any case, you can slice their heads off, but they will never grow back regardless of brand. Note that hydra simulacra can have horrifyingly high damage output if you lack cold resistance (+13-38 cold damage per head). Spectral hydras will have the same number of heads as the hydra when it died, but these can't be cut off.
- Prior to 0.25, the now-obsolete wand of scattershot was particularly effective in killing them, as hydras have 0 AC.
- Prior to 0.20, the Captain's Cutlass dealt slicing damage and chopped hydra heads.
- Prior to 0.19, vorpal weapons that did 1-3 damage (instead of >=4 like usual) would chop hydra heads.
- Prior to 0.16, short swords and rapiers dealt slashing damage and could remove heads.
- Prior to 0.12, hydras were not cold-blooded creatures, except the Lernaean hydra.