By - December 26, 2009 - 6 Comments

The Itty Bitty Creepy Crawly Squrimies

As heroes grow in power they tend to take on bigger challenges, bigger in the literal sense. Heroes fight giants, dragon and huge elements which dwarf the adventurers in statue (especially the dwarves).  But size isn’t everything when it comes to threat. Personally, I’m more scared of spiders than giraffes. Sometimes the little creepy things can be even more frightening than the huge monsters.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

When heroes fight ants, rats or even murderous moths they don’t do it one at a time. They battle such enemies in swarms. Of course, 4e has swarms of enemies that add up to 1 standard monster. But why stop there? Masses of little enemies could be flesh eating beetles that cover every wall and floor of a dungeon. Biting stinging ants that swarm across acres of country side devouring all in their path.

Alien

One of the things that makes bugs, worms and arachnids so frightening is just how unlike us they are. Intelligent creatures have goals, we can understand them and perhaps even reason with them. Even animals are more accessible, they have expressive eyes, clearly recognizable features and they eat, sleep and mate in ways that are familiar to us. Compare that to a lump of maggots. I don’t know if maggots think or feel even basic things like hunger. To me, they may as well be Far Realms creatures, a pulsing mass of white worms. Look into the eight black eyes of a spider, do you read any emotion there. The unknown and impossible to understand is always frightening.

This aspect of the creepy crawlies is independent of their size. Giant worms and leeches and just are alien and frightening as the natural size.

Inventive Attacks

Animals have some pretty mundane ways of killing natural enemies. Claws, jaws, fists and horns are employed to tear and beat on the bodies of the enemy until it surrenders or dies. It may be brutally effective, but it doesn’t really invoke terror. Think about the scary movie classic of the web. Almost invisible, until you walk into it, and then you are trapped. You’re fully awake and aware, just unable to move. Suddenly you can see death coming for you on eight legs. It walks slowly, it has no need to hurry, you’re not going anywhere. A bit more frightening that just head butting you until you drop?

That’s just the beginning of the creepy crawly arsenal. Some are very mundane creatures, like the leech. the leech clings to your body, but the jaws release an anesthetic. As it feasts on your blood you won’t even feel it. Other styles are much more exotic. There is a species of wasp that drives its stinger right into the brain of roaches. The wasp doesn’t kill the roach, just destroy the part of the brain that tells it to run away. The wasp then rides the still living roach, directing its movement to some secluded spot. One they are alone and coozy the wasp implants its larve into the roach and departs. The roach stays alive while the little babies grow up…and eat their way out. Now imagine a giant version of that which aims its stinger for the party cleric.

Do you remember the little guys in your campain? Which is more frightening, a spider or a giraffe? Tell us in the comments.

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Leave a comment (6 comments so far) »

  1. Xeyla says:

    There is also a fungus that makes ants into zombies. The spore enters through the crevice joining the head and thorax, slowly eats away the brain, and then kills the ant after it reaches the colony. Then the fungus sends out more spores to infect nearby ants.

  2. Nicholas says:

    @Xeyla: That’s awesome and so creepy! I could definitely see using that for a D&D adventure. Thanks!

  3. Kolbold Minion says:

    While on their way to the nearest town, my party came across a hanfull of tiny drakes munching on a recent kill by the waterside. Being the cruel people they are, they made a game of throwing the drakes into the lake.
    Then next day the party faced one of my favorite encounters of all time. They fought a solo, collosal version of the drake swarm ,come to avenge their fallen brethren. It was EPIC.

  4. James says:

    I’ve never ran any swarms in my campaigns before, but as my group would share I am fond of Giant spiders. They wait in shadows and when the adventures least expects it… it crawls from the darkness and makes these would be heroes into a meal. Hehehe.

    After reading this article I think my first dungeon of the new year may have some swarms waiting in the dark bowels. They should give my group a new experience in game.

  5. Elderon The Dragon says:

    In one dungeon we ran across a large pack of rats but they had a resistance to fire which ment my fire breath would do nothing i had to resort to tail sweeps and simply stomping on them which took quite awhile.

  6. Takaiteishu says:

    Once school starts back up again and I have a group to play with, I’m going to have to DM a creepy crawly campaign.

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