The Dead Ringer is a bizarre watch. Taking the feign death concept from Team Fortress Classic and really running with it, this watch has been the source of more bugs and issues than any other aspect of the most buggy class in Team Fortress 2.

Sometimes it has a world model. Nobody knows why.
Sometimes it has a world model. Nobody knows why. Picture by GeneralKitsune.

There’s also the question of just how a watch can get away with so many bizarre long-standing machinations like the few in this list. Even in a world where cigarettes can summon disguises and piss can selectively extinguish, it’s still pretty hard to rationally explain how a watch can:

1. Regenerate health. If you intentionally start taking drowning damage with your Dead Ringer out, you will regenerate more HP than you started with. This happens because the game is coded to regenerate all HP damage you took from drowning once you resurface, and this does not take into account that the Dead Ringer negated a percentage of every tick of drowning damage you took. The easiest way to fix this would be to make drowning an exception to the damage reduction, much like telefrags.

Thank you RTDGames for the surprisingly-relevant image.
Thank you RTGame for the surprisingly-relevant image.

2. Permanently change your corpse. If you’re disguised as a friendly class and you feign your death, the dropped corpse is that of your disguise, not yourself. Now, at the moment this ability is broken and you drop a normal Spy corpse, but the Dead Ringer has always traditionally worked like this and the correct audio scream still plays. Hopefully Valve fixes this soon.

3. Dominate Mother Nature. Normally, the environment cannot get dominations. However, the code that displays fake domination messages to the enemy team is not aware of this, and just for Dead Ringer spies will broadcast a message noting that Gaia herself has killed you four times this round. However, it gets her name slightly off:

Picture by Spike_Nielson.
Picture by Spike_Nielson.

4. Drop fully-functioning weapons. Remember those friendly disguises? They drop the weapon you were pretending to hold as well. And said fake weapon magically becomes a real one that can be picked up and used by the correct class.

This sets up a very bizarre subclass of Spy who sets his teammates up for weird shenanigans by dropping bonus weapons in useful spots. One example here is a spy/Pyro combo that sets the Pyro up for a double Detonator jump:

Important thing to note is that these weapons always have a reserve ammo count of 20. I’m not sure why, possibly it was a throwaway number for a placeholder variable that literally did not matter before weapon pickup, but it allows a few classes to carry weapons that are actually overloaded, specifically anyone carrying a grenade launcher, Huntsman, Rescue Ranger or flare gun.

What sort of source is the Dead Ringer drawing all these powers from? It’s like it’s actually a one-way portal siphoning its disguise material from the Alternate Plane of TF2 matter, or some sort of infinite replicator stealing the weapons and bodies of mercenaries from nearly-identical parallel universes. Which can also siphon health out of water. Perhaps that’s why Mother Nature hates it so much.