Another “Inspired By Mother Nature, Who Is A Mother” Monster
Back To “Updating Whenever”, You’ll Notice. Sorry.
But It’s Largely Due To My Finally Finding My Groove For Earth Delta: Pathfinder 2 Edition
I Keep Adding New Mutations/Defects, Now That I Finally Have A Good Sense of Balancing Them
Anyway, Monster Time!
Nature produces horrors worse than most of things humans can imagine. (Besides, “the real monster… is MAN!” is a lesson we all learned from comic books and TV shows in the 1970s.) This video, fairly old, intruded into my social input stream recently, and I became someone inspired….
In case the video is broken/removed, it shows someone poking what seems to be a small furry animal, perhaps a dog, sleeping in a crevice. The “animal” then dissolves into a horde of arachnids-but-not-spiders, commonly called “Daddy Longlegs” in much of the English-speaking world. You can get all the science-y stuff here. I am going to be taking a few liberties with a lot of the science to create an interesting monster, and, let’s face, it the mere existence of AOUS (arthropods of unusual size) already violates a lot of laws of biology. (The environmental conditions that did allow things like arthropleura and meganeuropsis to exist would not also sustain elves and hobbits.)
My concept is something that appears to be some sort of very shaggy, fur-covered creature, lumbering around, perhaps seeming to be a harmless herbivore or just some oddity that might squirt out gold or magic items when killed, like all mobile beings do, but when attacked, begins to break down into spiders, which then likewise attack, rather than fleeing, as the real ones do.
NO. APPEARING: 1-2
ARMOR CLASS: 4
MOVE: 12″ (can climb walls and ceilings)
HIT DICE: 6
% IN LAIR: 10%
TREASURE TYPE: R in lair, otherwise nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: Special, see below.
DAMAGE/ATTACK: Special, see below.
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Spider emission, see below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Half damage from thrusting-type weapons, 360-degree vision
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard, and see below.
INTELLIGENCE: Non (or high, see below)
ALIGNMENT: Neutral (or NE, see below)
PSlONlC ABILITY: Nil or 200, see below
Attack/Defense Modes: None or A/G, see below
The shaggy horror can be encountered anywhere other types of giant arthropods are found. It appears something like a giant yak or similar long-haired beast, and as the creatures within roil and jostle as it moves, this creates the illusion of solid muscle under the furry hide. In fact, it is a mass of arachnids (though not spiders, as any 1st-level pedant knows) all of the same species, but ranging greatly in size, with the larger individuals providing supporting mass and the smaller ones, tens of thousands of them, forming the overall shape and the apparent “fur”, which is actually their eternally-waving legs.
Its true nature is apparent when it attacks or is attacked. Each hit that does damage, regardless of type, has a 25% chance to spawn a huge spider, as per the Monster Manual, except that it lacks any poison. This does reduce the bulk of the main mass of spiders, causing a loss of 1d4 hit points. If the Shaggy Horror has been reduced to less than 1/4 of its original hit points, it ceases to spawn new spiders.
The shaggy horror mass of spiders is densely packed, so that most weapons affect it normally. Thrusting weapons, such as spears or arrows, do only half damage; see the DMG section on underwater combat for a definition of such weapons.
Any character who attacks the main bulk of the shaggy horror in melee exposes itself to multiple small bites, and automatically takes 1d6 damage. Any character adjacent to the horror, but who does not attack it, is less exposed, and takes 1d3 damage.
A shaggy horror “sees” though the eyes (and other senses) of all of its constituent beings. They cannot be attacked “from behind” or outflanked, making them immune to the rules for rear and flank attacks.
As there is no single “mind” to target, most enchantment/charm type spells will not affect a shaggy horror directly. They can be used as normal on any spiders it creates when attacked.
The Pshaggy Horror
Any time a shaggy horror is encountered (or at the DM’s choice), there is a 5% chance it is a rare variant creature where the tightly interwoven mindless creatures have formed a hive-mind of alien and malicious nature. This “pshaggy horror”, so-named for its psionic powers, has 7 hit dice and an AC of 3.
The creature’s mentality is cold, cunning, and predatory, and will use clever tactics to lure weaker prey into locations where it has an advantage, or avoid stronger foes. Furthermore, it can lash out psionically in addition to its automatic melee attacks; it will usually direct such bolts of mental malice towards distant foes, particularly spellcasters. (If the GM wishes, they may give the pshaggy horror 1 minor and 1 major discipline as well, choosing fitting abilities.)
The mass mind of the pshaggy horror is subject to spells such as charm monster, but it gains a +2 on saving throws.
Rumors that such creatures are either the servants or rulers of a secret colony of drow/mind-flayer hybrids are, of course, utter madness; no such half-breeds could exist; if, perhaps through unspeakable arcane rituals, one somehow was formed, there would never be enough to form a society; if a community of them, against all plausibility, did exist, it could not control or dominate such alien minds, nor could being as inherently inhuman as an arachnid hive-mind understand, much less rule, a humanoid culture.
(As soon as Paizo gets around to releasing monster design guidelines for PF2, I will make a PF2 version of this.)
I wanted to avoid just another generic “spider swarm”, of which there are many, easily reskinned with minimal mechanical changes. I liked the idea of something that straddled between “swarm” and “creature”, and which had a few interesting tricks. Spawning low-level monsters is more effective in 1e games than in 3.x/PF, so I thought that could be fun. (And it’s a design trope I use often, I admit.) The “automatic damage” is my version of the 3/4/5/PF/etc versions of swarms, without having to write up an entire set of 1e type swarm mechanics; I decided that it also simplifies things to have most normal weapons affect it. (DMs may wish to make it immune to thrusting weapons and take only half damage from other melee attacks, but it should then take increased damage from area affect spells such as fireballs.)
I vanished down a particularly bizarre rabbit hole when trying to check the rules for the pshaggy horrors psionic attack. Mind flayers have a “psionic blast” attack, but they have Attack Type B (mind thrust) which does not affect non-psionic creatures. There is no damage given, or rules to resolve, the mind flayer’s given attack which explicitly is “psionic upon non-psionic”, which only attack mode “A” can perform. Given the long gap between the MM and the DMG (over two years — yes, kids, it took three years for all the volumes of AD&D to be published, leaving us to make do with hybrids of OD&D, Holmes Basic, and whatever bits of AD&D had been published at any given point), it is likely the rules evolved, or simply errors were made — no computers, no “search and replace”, no “find differences”, just endless typewritten pages of various drafts that had to be coerced into some semi-logical format. I even went back to Eldritch Wizardry, which gave the mind-flayer the “mind blast” psionic attack… which didn’t exist in the psionic rules as presented, which had “psionic blast” or “mind thrust”. Googling turned up threads in which the Usual Suspects decreed it was “obvious” what was “clearly meant”, while failing (of course) to actually produce the alleged rules and expressing dismissive contempt at the idea there could have been some typographic error or rule evolution that needed, but never got, official correction. So I decided that I’d use Psionic Blast, and gave the pshaggy horror sufficient psionic power to use it. It cannot use this attack mode unless it has more than 100 points remaining. At 20 points/shot, and a base power of 200, it can get off five rounds of attack. Seems fair. Unlike the mind flayer, though, it’s not a cone attack — it must select an enemy.