The Lernaean hydra

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Version 0.28: This article is up to date for the latest stable release of Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.
the Lernaean hydra DThe Lernaean hydra.png
HP 99-200
HD 30
XP 5262
Speed 10 (swim: 60%)
AC 0
EV 5
Will 120
Attack1 18 (bite: plain)


Resistances rPois+
rDrown
Vulnerabilities None
Habitat Amphibious
Intelligence Animal
Uses Uses nothing
Holiness Natural
Size Giant
Type hydra, hydra
Flags Cold-blooded
Regenerates
Unique
A huge beast, mightiest of hydras, infamous in myth and legend. It flows through the water faster than a human can run, swatting aside trees as though they were matchsticks. Its many heads slaver and gnash constantly as it hunts for prey to slake its bottomless appetite.

“The second Labour which he undertook was the slaying of the Lernaian Hydra,
springing from whose single body were fashioned a hundred necks, each bearing
the head of a serpent. And when one head was cut off, the place where it was
severed put forth two others; for this reason it was considered to be
invincible, and with good reason, since the part of it which was subdued sent
forth a two-fold assistance in its place. Against a thing so difficult to
manage as this Herakles devised an ingenious scheme and commanded Iolaos to
sear with a burning brand the part which had been severed, in order to check
the flow of the blood.”
-Diodorus Siculus, _Bibliotheca Historica_. [4. 11. 5.]. c. 100.

For a list of all reptiles, see list of reptiles and amphibians.

Useful Info

The Lernaean hydra ("Lerny" for short) is a unique hydra with 27 heads that appears in one of the branch endings of the Swamp. Each head can do up to 18 dmg for a total of 486, though very strongly biased around the average of 260, and reduced 27 times by AC rolls. In addition, it has about twice the HP of a regular hydra, has 30 HD, can knock down trees by simply moving through them, swims as fast as any hydra, and regenerates quickly.

Strategy

This monster is a threat, and perhaps ranks among the more dangerous monsters in the game, but to a careful, reasonably well-prepared player, it is much less dangerous than it first appears:

  • It presents only a moderate threat to characters with very high AC; AC functions best against many small attacks, and the Lernaean Hydra is just that. A character with high Armour skill and highly enchanted armour can expect to take at most 20-30 damage/turn from this monster. Not trivial, but manageable.
  • Low-HP spellcasters who have chosen not to train much in the way of defensive skills should rightfully be afraid. These characters will absolutely want to avoid engaging Lerny in melee, but luckily, they are also the ones best equipped to do so. Use flight to deal with the water, Haste and (careful use of) Swiftness to maintain distance, and repeatedly pelt it with your most powerful attack spells. A cactus giant's spines might seriously rough up a 27-headed attacker, though Lerny's ability to redirect its remaining attacks after a kill means most other Summoning spells won't be effective.
  • It also presents a threat to characters that are simply low-level. However, there is generally little reason to explore Swamp:4 before you've found the Vaults and need to pass the rune lock. It's not a horribly dangerous area, but it provides little in the way of loot and only modest XP for such a large branch. If you don't have a good suite of escape spells or good AC, you may want to delay going for the Swamp rune until you're more experienced, although Lerny doesn't actually show up that often.

Keep in mind that you don't have to kill every monster possible. Sure, Lerny's worth a good chunk of experience, but if you don't have a safe way to kill it, just grab the rune and go. Alternatively, you can come back after you've explored other areas and gotten stronger, since you'll only need the Swamp's rune once you're ready to open the Realm of Zot.

Weaknesses

Lerny has several crucial weaknesses that are easily overlooked:

  • It has no resistances, other than poison and to throwing nets. Conjurers and elementalists of all stripes will easily be able to inflict damage on it.
  • It actually has fairly low HP for such a powerful unique, zero AC, and negligible EV. It is also stuck to melee. Ranged attacks can easily wear Lerny down, spellcasters are unlikely to need a source of MP recovery to kill it in one go, and it generally doesn't take long to kill.
  • It cannot see invisible and only has animal intelligence. Not only will Lerny have difficulty tracking you down, but you'll have an easier time dodging attacks and might even be able to get off a devastating stab. Note that being in water without flight will negate most perks of invisibility.

Tips & Tricks

  • Flaming edged weapons still cut off heads as usual, though having 27 heads makes this less noticeable. It may help in taking out Lerny slowly, provided you have renewable or cheap methods of escape.
  • Considering Lerny is already maxed out at 27 heads, the only negative effect of attacking with an edged weapon is the health it regains when regrowing any heads you cut off. You probably won't be able to kill it with an edged weapon before it eats you, but a weapon of freezing might slow it down long enough for you to get some distance.
  • A phantom mirror could help vanquish Lerny or greatly reduce its health. Could is the keyword here, as either hydra could easily maul the other, first.
  • If there's a suitable mass of monsters of suitable distance, a scroll of immolation will easily vanquish Lerny. Preferably with haste, flight, and a ranged attack able to activate a chain reaction, that is. Alternatively, you can set off the reaction with a summon.

Trivia

The Lernaean Hydra was a monster in Greek mythology that was killed by Hercules as one of his Twelve Labors.