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Bladewind Posted - 24 May 2013 : 17:56:53
Hi there, fellow scribes and arthopod enthousiast.

I just felt like starting a discussion on spiders in the realms. Let's see if it goes anywhere, shall we?

Giant Spiders. Pests that haunt the Dark, as they're sometimes called, are vermin that have been presumed to be on Prime Material worlds since the first sun warmed Chauntea. Giant spiders can be found anywhere on Toril, and their giant eight-legged forms have found ways to predate prey in the most uninhabitable places.

*scientific tangent*
The giant size of Torils spiders could be seen as a proof for a more oxygen rich atmosphere. On earth, arthropods are limited by their primitive repspiratory system (Book Lungs and Trachea) and are as such limited in size to a theoretical maximum of about 12 inches. Unless spiders on Faerun have a new respiratory adaptation, one can conclude Torils atmosphere has a oxygen level higher than the late devone level of about 35 % (next to earths current 21% oxygen mixed air). *scientific tangent*

Giant spiders are patient, good at hiding their huge forms, and frighteningly quick when in action. Some build webs and wait to sense for any tremors their prey come to make when stumbling into their traps; others actively hunt and pounce upon their prey from above or from hiding with their poisonous bites and strong grapsping legs.

Spiders have been the focus of stories and mythologies of various cultures for centuries. They have symbolized patience due to their hunting technique of setting webs and waiting for prey, as well as mischief and malice due to their venomous (and sometimes deadly) bites. Some folk see them as creators, as they spin their own webs and can be seen to create new worlds.

Most known example on Toril is the drow and their demonspider-goddes, Lolth. Lolths patience and cunning are shared by her sacred vermin, the spiders. She also is thought to have complete control of the fate of her worshippers, as she spins the lifelines of all drow. She urges her followers to make creations just as a spiders' web, both beautiful and effective.

What follows are a few examples of (my own homebrew and/or stolen from Mystara) spider species that can be encountered on Toril's more gloomy places, haunted by spiders.

Giant Spider Species vermin

The rhagodessa (Expert Rulebook, page 55; in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix) is "a giant spider-like carnivore, about the size of a small horse." They're seven feet long, according to the Mystara MC. They're colored yellow, with a dark brown thorax. They have eight legs, plus a front pair that ends in suckers "which helps the creature grasp its prey." Their intelligence is 0. Their favored terrain is "forests, mountains, and subterranean."

The giant crab spider (Basic Dungeon Master's Rulebook, 38) is five feet long, with the chameleon-like ability to blend into its surroundings. Like the rhagodessa, it can cling to ceilings. The giant black widow (same) is 6' long, black, with a red hourglass mark. Like araneas and planar spiders, it spins webs. The giant tarantella (same source), is seven-foot-long and looks like a tarantula, though it has a magical poison that causes a painful dance-like spasm in its victims. All of these creatures have an intelligence of 0, according to the Master DM's Book.

The giant sand spider (Creature Catalogue, 55) are "six feet long, and beige in colour with an orange and black blotch on their stomachs. They inhabit desert or barren regions. Sand spiders live in underground burrows... Pyramids, large statues, rocky roads, and paved roads offer the best sites." Their intelligence is noted as 0. Sand spiders might be common in Thothia, which is near the aranea homeland.

Shroud spiders "are 6 feet long and black all over, except for their eyes, which glow with a very faint blue light." They're poisonous, and spin webs. They have the highest intelligence of giant spiders, listed as 4.

Huge wood spiders are only 3 feet long, but they have an intelligence of 2 (equivalent to ordinary animals in the Master DM's Book) and coloration similar to araneas. The actual aranea homeland (the land adjoining the rivers that flow into Spider Swamp, which branches off the Plain of Stone just of Almraiven) is forested, it should be noted, and araneas are mainly forest-dwellers.

Giant Spider Races

magical beasts and monstrous humanoids

Phase spiders, according to the Monstrous Manual, resemble giant, two eyed, spindly legged spiders with the same dark green and white coloration of an ethereal filcher (though it is a bit more blue than green). While the filcher transports between the Ethereal Plane and the Material Plane for the purpose of stealing, the phase spider does this for the purpose of hunting. It looks for a likely spot in the Ethereal Plane, and then teleports (its form of teleportation is known as "phasing", hence the name) to the Material Plane, presumably ambushing travelers it expected to be there, bites and kills them, and then quickly retreats back to the Ethereal Plane. They are intelligent (int 6-7) but cannot speak, being animals (I think they are degenerated from a planar spiderlike race, though).

I suspect the planar race of spiders from Mystara (according to the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix), once ruled an empire linked by phasing inherent to this race. These planets were ruled by local kings serving an emperor who ruled from the race's home planet somewhere on the Prime Plane." I can't find any indication what color they are, but the phase spider that DiTerlizzi painted for the Monstrous Manual was yellowish-brown. Aketheti and her mother in M5 are night-black, but they might not be the norm. Phase spiders are then a degenerate offspring of fugitives from this empire.

Araneas "are as large as a small pony, and are greenish-brown in color." They have eight legs, plus front limbs with hand-like digits. Their intelligence, located in the humpback of its torso, is noted in the Creature Catalogue as 14. The Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix marks their diameter as seven feet, and Monsters of Faerun lists their weight at 150lbs, and as having natural shapechanging ability to turn into human, half-elf or drow forms. Like the other kinds of spiders, they're carnivores.

22   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Bladewind Posted - 13 Oct 2017 : 20:40:31
Nice. I shall have to look into that tidbit of elemental evil lore...
sleyvas Posted - 13 Oct 2017 : 20:33:08
don't forget Chupoclops
Bladewind Posted - 13 Oct 2017 : 19:33:08
Anaxia, Goliath Tarantula Queen CR 11
XP 12,800
N Colossal vermin
Init +1; Senses darkvision 60 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.; Perception +12


AC 25, touch 3, flat-footed 24 (+1 Dex, +22 natural, –8 size)
hp 147 (14d8+84)
Fort +15, Ref +5, Will +4
Immune mind-affecting effects


Speed 50 ft., climb 25 ft.
Melee bite +17 (6d8+22) or sting +17 (6d6+22 plus poison)
Space 30 ft.; Reach 30 ft.
Special Attacks poison, web (+13 ranged, DC 23, 14 hp), needle spit (50ft cone, DC 23), trample (4d8+22, DC 32)


Str 41, Dex 13, Con 22, Int — (Treat as 2), Wis 10, Cha 2
Base Atk +10; CMB +33; CMD 44 (56 vs. trip)
Skills Climb +23, Perception +4, Stealth –7 (+1 in forests); Racial Modifiers +8 Climb, +12 Perception, +8 Stealth (+16 in forests)


Poison (Ex) Stinger—injury; save Fort DC 23; frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d6 Str and paralysis 1 round; cure 2 consecutive saves.

Web (Ex) as per monster manual

Poisoned Needles (Ex) This ability affects all creatures in a 50-foot cone burst once a day. Any creature failing a save dc of 23 are hit by 1d4+1 needles (1 damage per needle) and must save against the spider’s poison multiple times. In addition, grappling creatures are subject to this effect if they fail a dex save of 23 during a turn maintaining a grapple with the spider.

Anaxia is very old, perhaps over a few centuries. A great many years it took for this specimen to achieve her size. She has a massive black thorax with stinger and massive legs, each adorned with a chalky striped pattern breaking her outline in a sun dabbled forest canopy. Her main body and head is brown and is partially covered in fine light-brown stingers resembling hair. She has the ability to 'spit' the needle-sharp hairs of her fangs up to 50 ft, potentially ending fights with her deadly poison.

A good idea to keep in mind when designing an encounter with a colossal spider is verticality. Try to make multiple levels of webbing upon which to place the defenses which the queen spider has made, be they "freshly spun" extra sticky spots of webbing (escape/break dc 23), egg sacks bursting with distracting spider swarms (usually mild injury dc 12, str damage poison and distraction tests for damage at fort save dc 11) or hidden trapdoors leading to a webbed room filled with male giant spider defenders/suitors.

One can tweak the CR a little bit lower by removing the poisoned needle spit feature, and lowering the size, space and reach to huge; a huge webless hunterspider with 20 ft reach and a 4d8 bite would make more of a CR 7 encounter. Or you could add CR by giving her spellcasting ability based of wisdom, making her cast necromantic spells on her fallen brood once in a while to bolster her defense and frighten attackers.

Anaxia is very patient and silent for her size and like most spiders has excellent camouflage (double the racial bonus to stealth when in the right terrain; i.e. +1 to stealth in forests) making her nearly impossible to spot at a distance in forested areas, but cunning adventurers should be able to hear the faint whine of her advanced booklungs as she prepares for an ambush from above (only an +8 racial bonus can be applied to audible stealth; i.e. -7 on audible stealth checks).
Ayrik Posted - 06 Oct 2017 : 07:22:02
And then there are driders, with a humanoid (drow) torso and respiration system, although the genesis of their species is "unnatural" even within the Realms.

I agree it's better to assume giant spiders of the Realms have a biological adaption based on a magical environment, not to fit them within environmental conditions consistent with biological processes observed in our nonmagical environment.

Do elevated oxygen levels sustain creatures under the effect of an enlarge spell? Do they explain the metabolisms giants and titans? Do they explain how aquatic races (merfolk, tritons, sirines, etc) can breathe outside water?
Starshade Posted - 05 Oct 2017 : 22:08:14
I think TBeholder's improved bok lungs make more sense than pumping up the oxygen past the levels where a soggy, wet and damp spruce forest would self combust.
An simple explanation on the difference, is the "big spiders" don't belong to the exact same class of "spiders" as we know, but is different (as having the ability to "breathe". Could be most would be descendant of what we'd understand as heavily mutated/differently evolved sun spiders/camel spiders, or pseudo scorpions where some lost the 5th pair of legs, and turned web weavers (many non-spider arachnids got the ability to make silk).
Markustay Posted - 05 Oct 2017 : 19:42:40
Everyone knows that 'giant spiders' originated on Gilligan's Island.
Ayrik Posted - 05 Oct 2017 : 18:34:03
Thrice I've heard a peculiar apocryphal legend told by wandering bards I'd met at ad-hoc D&D sessions. Once in the wee morning hours of VCON, once in a secluded presentation chamber adjunct to an overcrowded PAX, once (perhaps most strangely of all) while surrounded by a crowd of vampires and witches/warlocks after lunch at the food court in Metrotown Mall*.
The tale told was that giant spiders were inspired in the mind of Gygax by an actual spider "attacking" (crawling over) the PC table figs during gameplay. (Descriptions of this spider varied with each telling, though it was universally agreed to be unusually large and "hairy".)
This tale seems believable given Gygax's fame as both an opportunistically creative improviser and (the prototype) antagonistic DM. Yet it also seems rather embellished for the gullible since, well, everybody knows about the giant spiders in Middle Earth and dozens of B-movies which predated D&D by decades**.
And two of these three bards appeared to observe basic hygiene practices, indeed one was even accompanied by a fawning female (who was too young to be his mother), which all speaks somewhat highly of their unblemished integrity.

* Lunch which, as far as I noticed, involved no human sacrifice and largely consisted of greasy fast food.
** The finest cinematic giant-spider of all time, beyond any doubt, was seen in the movie Krull.

(As a point of interest, one of these fine bards also explained a similar origin myth for giant space hamsters wreaking havoc upon those unfortunate spelljamming vessels finding themselves drifting too far beyond the boundaries of "mapped" space. Tales of these gigantic monsters can scarcely be taken seriously as it is, but apparently much worse, these beasts are tamed by child-god keepers whose innocently cruel attentions can bring inescapable doom to any spelljamming crew.)
Bladewind Posted - 05 Oct 2017 : 16:40:06
Spiders of the East

Goblin Spiders

Also called Earth Spiders (MC:Karatur Appendix, pg 23), these large hairy trapdoor arachnids prefer tropical and temperate climates, and are encountered most abundantly in the many wooded mountainous valleys of Kara-Tur. A Goblin Spider doesn't spin webs, instead its main hunting tactic consists of luring prey near their lair where concealed trapdoors covered in debris and detritus give way to subterranean pits and tunnels, where the spider waits just underneath. When prey is felt passing by (tremorsense 90ft), they quickly charge (mv 45ft) subdue the prey with their powerful frontlegs (increase their Str by 4, and give the Improved Grab ability), retreat into their pit and bite the victim to death with complex but powerful mandibles.

Goblin spider mandibles are able to generate an astounding array of sounds, and are able to mimic any humanoid voice and animal sound they have overheard "verbatim". They typically speak in their own language spider language (consisting of clicks, rasps and whispered hisses) and are learned enough to understand the local languages bordering their territory (typical int 6 so they tend to misconstrue most "facts"), and they are encouraged to learn every call "invaders" make to lure them closer to their trapdoors. Kara-Turan traders often report hearing whispered prayers directed at "the Earth Spider" coming from deeper inside the tunnels the Goblin Spiders inhabit.

Up close most Goblin Spiders are massive darkbrown carapaced arachnid monsters (10ft long body, 4ft long legs), with fat blackred abdomens and fat legs covered in black or darkgreen fur. On its head rest a dozens glaring eyes; 12 human-like dark eyes in four rows of three, each with golden or black eyeballs containing white or dark green pupils. Its four dextrous fangs are constantly animated, and appear to indicate agitation when increased movement is seen. Goblin Spiders are capable of great cruelty (NE alignment), believing that the lands now dominated by humankind was once theirs. They worship the Earth Spider, a grasping LE spider-spirit who was imprisoned by the Celestial Emperor into the Plane of Mirrors in 1358 DR. It is rumored the chaos of the Heavens during the Spellplague has set the Earth Spider free once more, and reports of werespider spies are on the rise.


An extremly rare form of the lycanthrophy affliction, Werespiders (MC: Annual Volume 3) are reviled and hunted wherever found. In Kara-Tur they are known to have infected a whole clan of Bakemono (a clan of eastern goblin, MC:Karatur Appendix, pg 7) in the Keluh Valley in Chu'Yuan province of Shou Lung, who in turn are fond off terrorizing the bamboo plains, emerging from the cobwebbed hallways of their mountain temple fortresses to hunt for humans to turn into dressed coccooned corpses, curing for months for the right taste. In their humanoid form a werespider might be recognized by slightly elongated spindly fingers, crooked teeth, barely restrained taste for human flesh and animal cunning (+2 Wis, -2 Cha).

The werespider lycanthrophe can assume a spider-form that can take on the form of all kinds of naturally occurring spiders, but a large population of them tend to turn into a giant black web-spinning hunterspider form (standard Large hunter spider stats); a slick dark 8ft diameter torso elevated 6ft high by 8 darkbrown legs and a vicious maw of mandibles designed for tearing flesh. In this form they are fast (mv 45ft) and able to move through webs without difficulty, and have an agonizingly deadly venomous bite (1d12 damage and injury dc 14, 1d4 constitution damage and 2d10 poison damage for 3 rounds).

Their hybrid forms of Werespiders are even more terrifying, with a lot of conflicting reports that only agree on the Werespiders great speed, strength and cunning (adjust stats to giant spider stats or their own, whichever is higher; then add +2 Str, +2 Dex and +2 Con) Some grow two extra spiderlegs from their waist and crawl with their backs turned towards the ground, elevating their bodies to a greater height and enabling the ability to walk on walls and ceilings. Most grow extra sets of eyes in their foreheads (darkvision 60ft, +4 racial bonus to spot) and form a small abdomen with spinnarets from the back of their waist enabling web-spinning at the rate of 1ft per round. All natural werespiders have a horrible smile; their mouths deform into a set of mandibular monstrosities capable of producing a slow acting venomous bite (1d4 damage and injury dc 14, 1 damage each minute for 15 minutes). These bite attacks are responsible for transmitting the curse, as some (usually female) werespiders are capable of laying an egg inside the bite wound. After two weeks of gestation the werespiders egg erupts inside the bloodstream of the victim and curses him with afflicted spider-lycanthrophy.


Hmm, spiderclan ninja lore tastes good; but I want to stat a nice 'boss encounter' spider next.

Ayrik Posted - 02 Oct 2017 : 01:26:32
.. we know that insects, with the external body armor typical of arthropods, could never live at such size. Because of scaling properties and strength of the chitin making up the arthropod exoskeleton, a giant ant or preying mantis of even human size would collapse, its walking legs snapping.

The Realms does have materials unknown to our world. Alloys containing adamantium or mithril, among others, can be lighter or stronger than metals known on Earth. There's likely analogues of "light elements" stronger and lighter than the calcium and carbon components of Earth-based chitins. The Realms likely has a whole different kind of chemistry (and biochemistry) which can produce "polymers" and composite materials with different properties from those of Earth-based counterparts.

And the Realms is magic-rich, populated by all manner of creatures which have "magical" natures. Not all of them would be as obvious as dragons and tarrasques, most would be more "ordinary" creatures with less spectacular adaptions suitable for their niches, part of their "biology" actually being sustained by the "ambient" magic which permeates their ecosystem. They might indeed even incorporate magical "bio-alchemy" into their metabolic processes, they might digest trace minerals and nutrients of a "magical" nature. This might even explain how a dragon or tarrasque gains a "magically" impervious outer armor as it matures. It might even cause giant spiders to draw sustenance attacking prey which carries attractive magical dweomers.
TBeholder Posted - 02 Oct 2017 : 00:34:32
Originally posted by Bladewind

Hi there, fellow scribes and arthopod enthousiast.

I just felt like starting a discussion on spiders in the realms. Let's see if it goes anywhere, shall we?

Giant Spiders. Pests that haunt the Dark, as they're sometimes called, are vermin that have been presumed to be on Prime Material worlds since the first sun warmed Chauntea. Giant spiders can be found anywhere on Toril, and their giant eight-legged forms have found ways to predate prey in the most uninhabitable places.

IIRC, watchspiders were bred in Waterdeep and became rather widespread (including Underdark).

*scientific tangent*
The giant size of Torils spiders could be seen as a proof for a more oxygen rich atmosphere. On earth, arthropods are limited by their primitive repspiratory system (Book Lungs and Trachea)

Or, perhaps, a slightly improved respiratory system?
Ribcage acting as bellows is not the only possible way to force air circulation. A bunch of waving bristles at the opening of immobile trachea can move air.
And while on the move, Square-Cube Law can help for once. Because the critter is going to sway - not only its organs will move, but the forward part of its abdomen near the "waist" is going to deform a lot, and that's where the book lungs are, thus equivalents of both diaphragm- and ribcage- driven breath are possible even without using dedicated muscles, simply from inertial forces. All that's left is optimisation for this.
For the same reason, thorax (and maybe leg) tracheae have a great room for improvement.
moonbeast Posted - 29 Sep 2017 : 06:37:41
"Spiders! Why'd it have to be spiders!"
Bladewind Posted - 26 Sep 2017 : 16:51:24
Yeah, I bumped into the entrance on the Crystal Spider in an old dragon magazine while searching for a cool answer for the paladin vs spy thread and had to share. Its how inspiration works for me.

Now I'm searching for more lore on spider sorcerers, or perhaps convert a race of ancient spider-like monsters capable of spell casting like Arachne of the greek-roman myths.
Markustay Posted - 26 Sep 2017 : 16:01:34
Took a little break, eh?

Great lore.
Bladewind Posted - 26 Sep 2017 : 15:47:05
Harvesting poisons from Giant Spiders

Giant-Spider venom is feared throughout the known worlds for its strength sapping and paralyzing qualities. Luckily harvesting poisons from the poisoned fangs of giant spiders is no easy task. Drow have perfected the art of 'milking' sedated live giant spiders, while goblinkin have been known to have great skill in extracting complete venom glands from slain spiders without damaging themselves or the glands.

The amount of venom produced in fangs is usually about a one hundredth of a liter per day for Medium Giant spiders, which is about enough for about 5 deadly injections by bite. The venomsacks of a Medium Giant Spider can hold up to 50 injections in total (i.e. one tenth of a liter or ten days worth of collecting venom) and are usually located deep in the mouth, behind the venomous fangs in a bulbous gland that reaches behind the eyes almost to the top of the head.

Stunned, unconscious or dazed Medium Giant Spiders can be milked for venom with a survival check equal to the dc of the venom (dc 14), if the proper tools (a glass container, a thick leather glove and a specialized scissor/tang) are used as a standard action, yielding enough active venom for one dose, plus one for each five points above the target dc and lasting for 1d4 days. Failure means the venom is wasted and you poison yourself if failed by five points or more. Unrestrained or dead spiders can be milked with a survival check of 10 + the dc of the venom (dc 24 for Medium Giant Spiders). Most competant drow alchemists know the daze cantrip just for the convenience when harvesting drow spider poisons.

*scientific tangent*
If an electrical current is applied to the venomous fangs of a spider it would start dripping venom profusely, so shock spells (such as shocking grasp or electric loop) cast at the lowest casterlevel could technically be used by experienced spider venom milkers to collect venom in a little more effective and safe manner.
*scientific tangent*

Removing a spiders venom glands (usually two; one for each fang) is more prone to failure and kills the spider, but the yield is much higher and the spiders venom will come free in a handy package (so no container is needed). This process can be done only on immobilized or dead spiders and requires a survival check at a dc of 15 + the dc of the poison (dc 29 for Medium Giant Spiders). This procedure kills the spider, takes about a minute long and requires specialized tools (skinning scalpel and some tweezers), but results in a fragile venom sac (treat as a supple glass container that ruptures at the broken condition) filled with enough active doses to soak about 5 weapons (-4/+4 for each size category difference of the venom sac) and that remains poisonous for about 1d6 days.

Alchemists of great skill are able to stabilize venom if given enough materials to stabilize venom, time and acces to an alchemical lab. To stabilize a venom takes stabilzing agents worth one third the price of the posion and about 8 hours of work; at the end of which a craft: alchemy check equal to 10 + the dc of the venom need be made. If successful the poison can be stored in the proper containers indefinitely; failure by five or more ruins the poison.
Bladewind Posted - 22 Sep 2017 : 15:13:06
Strange Spiders

Wraith Spider

These gloomy ghosts of nocturnal webspiders are more shadow and mist than substance and can only be hit by magical attacks. Wraith Spiders are quite fast (+5ft base land speed) and grow to dog size (3ft long body, 2ft long legs), with shadowy black carapaces and grayish misty legs, and mandibles dripping cold white venom (bite does 1d4 cold damage and 1 leveldrain, the venom when injected does 1 point of constitution damage for 5 rounds, dc 14). The most recognizable feature is their thorax is lined with red pinprick eyes pointed in all directions, suspected to allow a form of wordless communication with others of their kind (treat as Int 9, with darkvision 60, tremorsense 20). Their spinners form sickly yellow-green webs capable of paralyzing foes with cold (dc 14, or paralyzed and 1d4 cold damage). The webs shine in a sickly green light as a candle, and tend to form conical tunnels wherein they create elevations to hide behind. They tend to operate in packs as a result of their peculiar use by their drow masters as guardians. These packs of 4 to 10 are most often encountered in Drow mansions that have necromancers who want to protect something of value, as the beasts make excellent tireless guards.

Crystal Spider

These large specialised solitary crystalline creatures are beautiful in full daylight, creating multicolored spectra of light around them, shimmering like a desert mirage. The crystal spiders' transparant bodies (7 to 8ft) are encased in crystalline carapace growths that refract and nourish themselves of the incoming light. Combined with the blood of living creatures it ingests it can make razor sharp and thin glass webs (-5 penalty to spot, in the night an additional -15), capable of cutting flesh (3d6 damage on contact, every move that fails a dex save of dc 12 recieves an aditional 3d6 damage), which the crystal spider prefers to spin multiple webs along trails and in valleys bathed in sunlight. They like to use one obvious web and several hidden ones to cut off escape, and seem to prefer human blood in its construction. They can make about 12 square feet of webbing a day, and unattended webs deteriorate into dust at a rate of about week (Dragon Mag 221).

When the spider has bathed enough in sunlight it can cast meriad of spell like abilities, seemingly controlling the light that it has collected in its body.
- a focussing a beam of sunlight from its body as a single round action, after which in the following round it can make on a single target within 60 ft effected by a superheated beam of light(reflex save dc 14 or be blinded and 3d6 fire damage, save for half).
- a psionic like ability that emulates the spells colorspray, dancing lights, phantasmal force (of a spider only) or mirror image cast at dc 14 as a full round action, that represents the crystals spider mastery over the light it captured

They fight by chasing foes with their sharpened crystalline forelegs (improved grab), usually in a clever jumping charge set to herd the prey into hidden webs, followed by a bite with the intent to inject the glass dissolving and higly deadly venom (injury dc 14, 5 rounds worth of 4d10 damage) into its body. After feeding the crystalline structures of the spider blush and take on a rosy quartz like hue.

As the crystalline structure around its body is spun rather than grown, crystal spiders are able to partially shed skin to grow to larger sizes or regrow lost pieces of crystal. Unlike most spiders, crystal spiders CANNOT eat their moulted skin to reabsorb nutrients, so they need to hunt actively untill they reach full adulthood, when they can sustain themselves for months with just sunlight only. With the right craftmanship its possible to make fine crystalline arms and armor from crystal spider exoskeletons and webs, though they require oil made of the venom of crystal spiders to maintain their edge or articulation or they will break easily (after one weak without the oil they get the broken condition).

Bladewind Posted - 20 Jun 2013 : 15:31:15
Spiders of the Drow

Hairy spiders

These prolific tiny hunter spiders are a nuisance in many jungles, caves and regions of the Underdark, where huge swarms of these spiders overwhelm prey. Hairy spiders (MoF, pg 79) are the size of human hand, have black hairy chitinous bodies incapable of spinning webs. They have no web spinnarets but are known to use existing webs of other spiders with no problems. Their poison is debilitating (injure dc 11, 1 dex damage for 2 rounds). Drow magic users are fond of hairy spider familiars because its increased intelligence and excellent mobility make it an excellent fetch for small items.

Sword spiders

These specialised solitary darkbrown-haired, black chitinous hunter spiders typically grow to 12 feet diameter size (aveage of 7ft long body, with 6ft long legs). Sword spiders are natives of the Mhair Jungles but have been spread far and wide into the Underdark by drow traders in ancient times (MoF, page 80). Their hairs grow into jagged protrusions on their flegs, which form the 'swords' the spider is called after. They prey upon creatures by a clever jumping charge with which sword spiders impale their legs into their victem (with the number of legs brought to bear depending on the preys size). Their bite has a strong paralytic poison (injury dc 16, 1d3 str damage for 6 rounds).

Aggressive speciments of sword spiders are usually fed and kept by drow in pens, and outfitted an exotic saddle so the strapped in rider can be taken into war. Drow priestesses of Lolth and knights of Selvatarm favor the tactical mobility of spiderclimbing mounts in seiges and most underdark campaigns fought in enclosed caves.

Like most spiders, sword spiders eat their moulted skin to reabsorb nutrients untill they reach full adulthood. With the right craftmanship its possible to make fine chitinous armor from such sword spider exoskeletons.

A dark-blue chitin strain of swordspider has been seen coating their frontlegs with their own venom, adding their debilitating poison to the deadly assault their legs can make. These strains are prized by drow traders because of the relative ease with wich their poison dripping fangs can be milked.

Myrlochar or soul spiders

In the Labyrinth of Arachne (Dungeon Module Q1; Queen of the Demonweb Pits) all manners of spiders are born on the prowl, but none know its labyrithian paths better than the hunter spider known as soul spiders. These lolthtouched spiders are of lesser rank than true Yoch'lol but are often summoned to the material plane by Lolths priestesses. Unlike other tanar'ri Myrlochar are often allowed to stay on the material plane after they have performed their task, as long as they don't harm Lolth worshippers. They tend to combine into hunting packs of up to 12 soul spiders strong.

Most Myrlochar (MoF, pg 66) are faintly glowing green and yellow arachnid-like demons, with 8 bright red eyes and ivory-yellow chitin. Soul spiders are capable of great cunning (int 12+), are excellent hunters (they can Track), and have an supernatural vampiric bite (transfers a single HP ber bite) that can both paralyze (as hold person spell) or reverse gravity (as spell but bite target only) for half a minute (4 rounds). They have immunity to plethora of mindeffecting effects and web spells, can 'cast' levitation and featherfalling at will and move in complet silence.
Bladewind Posted - 02 Jun 2013 : 17:22:10
Woolly Spider

These solitary graywhite-haired, webspinning spiders can grow to large size (aveage of 4ft long body, with 3ft long legs), and are seen in cold areas such as mountains, tundras and glaciers. They prey upon flying creatures with large vertical webs spun between rocky or icy outcrops in the terrain. Trapdoor variants (+8 racial bonus to stealth based checks involving moving silently) have been spotted, and seem to prefer humonoid prey which they ambush from trapdoors in the ceilings of their funnelwebs. All woolly spiders are known for their keen eyesight (+4 racial bonus to spot based perception checks). It's suspected woolly spiders can generate and store endothermic heat by consuming prey, which is why they are so succesful in cold climates.

Jaguar Spider

These nocturnal hunter spiders are exceptionally fast (+20 base land speed) and grow to horse size (10ft long body, 8ft long legs). Most are recognised by their black carapace that is covered with a dotted pattern on their legs and thorax, and their speedy movement is a common sight on the edges of the deepest jungles (both Black and Mhair Jungles have big populations of Jaguar Spiders). The usually black and red, spindly monstrousities emerge from hiding come dusk, and energetically patrol their jungle territories in search of prey up to huge size. They usually emerge from concealment charging their prey and grappling them with their front pair of legs while injecting a paralysing venom of extreme potence (injury dc 14, 1d4 str for 6 rounds). These opportunitic predators will eat anything in their hunting grounds, but have a preferance for mammals and flightless birds.

Spitting Spider

This prolific medium to large (average of 8ft long body, 5ft long lengs) grey or redbrown, sleek hunterspider (+10 ft movement) is common in the temperate forests and any mountainous or hilly terrains. They hunt prey up to large size by spitting a greenblue debilitating contact poison (contact dc 12, 1d2 str damage for 6 rounds) that constantly drips from their oversized fangs. Their excellent sight allows them to accurately target prey up to 50 ft away (+8 to sight based perception checks, spits are ranged touch attacks at +6 to hit). They but have a preferance for mammals but most dine on anything that gets slowed by their poisonous spit.

Harpoon Spiders

These huge (12ft long bodies, 8ft long legs) and fast (mv 40ft) predators are not true arachnids (int 14), but they are plentiful in the Underdark near Mantel-Derith and Gracklstug (Monstrer Manual III, pg 81). Rows and rows of sharp spines cover these abberations red bodies, and they usually display several bodies impaled on them, ripening to the Harpoon SPiders ideal flavour. They are capable of harpooning their fangs (with injury poison, dc 20 1d2 dex damage over 6 rounds) into victems, subsequently reeling in (and tripping) their foes.

Demonweb Spiders

Deep in the Demonweb Pits, there is an ancient broodchamber called the Labyrinth of Arachne (Dungeon Module Q1; Queen of the Demonweb Pits), from which all manners of spiders are born, but most notably the lolthtouched spider known as demonweb spiders are created. Demonweb spiders are chosen from the hunters and stalkers of Arachnes brood that have grown fat on the sacrifices they hunt, elevated to be Lolths special servants in her meriad of schemes on the material plane. Some even make it to Yoch'lol status.

Most are dark and red carapaced arachnid demons, capable of great cunning (int 10+), cooperation (through telepathy) and have an agonising poison (typically very potent: injury dc 20, 1d2 con damage for 6 rounds). They have immunity to mindeffecting spells, can 'cast' especially strong webs when on their home plane.

Bladewind Posted - 27 May 2013 : 15:39:49
Now lets take a look at the veritable titans amongst spider kind, spiders the size of houses... and bigger.

Common behaviour

Most spiders this size are Webspinning Monstrous Spiders (3.5 D&D Monstrous Manual) variant, trying to reduce their obvious size disadvantage in hiding by building elaborate, thickstranded webs shaped like vertical or horizontal dishes, cones and balls. They usually have poor eyesight but see well in the dark, and have excellent tremorsense with wich they sense when to emerge from hiding. Many collosal spiders have camouflage that helps them blending into their natural habitats backgrounds, such as dark browns or metallic blacks, some with patterns of color ment to blur the outline or the arachnids body. Many of the lesser or non-poisonous spiders have warning colors, vibrant patterns that warn other predators not to mess with their dangerous or foul smelling bodies; though some of the most venomous spiders actively display bright colored bodyparts when threatened as well, so be ever cautious.

Female spiders are to be actively avoided, as some giant spiders are proven to be very protective of their brood. Some actively nurture their broodlings for several years before they (at least medium sized giant spiders) are chased off to fend for themselves. Some giant spiders (like the Behemoth Spider) carry their spawn on websacks on their backs, some build elaborate webchambers behind trapdoors stocked with rows of preserved prey.

Male giant spiders usually take on a more roving lifestyle (use +10 movement speed of hunter spiders), and grow to one step smaller size than their female counterparts. They tend to die when mating with larger females, and are usually encountered just out of reach of their potential mates, plotting a strategy to survive a mating. Some are known to hunt for 'gifts' to present to females, so as to have slightly more time to start fertilisation while the female is occupied with her distractions.

Behemoth Spider

This prolific huge (18ft+ long body, 12ft+ long lengs) black or brown, hairy monstrousity is common in the high mountainous forests, lower underdark, and any mountainous or hilly cavern systems that have tunnels of on average 40ft wide size. They hunt prey up to large size, but have a preferance for flying prey like pegasi, griffons when living in forests, and orcs and goblins when in cavern systems. Most dine on anything that gets trapped in their huge, ropelike webs though.

Black Fishermen

Also called black hangmen, these big black spiders (12ft body, 8ft legs) prefers humid and hot climes, and is encountered most ubundantly in the Black Jungles south of Tashalar. Its main hunting tactic consists of catapulting a line with a sticky web ball at prey below their tree based perch, railing in and biting a strong paralitic poison (injury dc 14, 1d4 str damage for 6 rounds) into it. Its fast spinnarets then quickly hang its coccooned meal to dangle untill the are consumed. Tashalar traders have often failed to safely harvest silk from Black Fishermen (its equal to drow spidersilk in quality).

Goliath Tarantula

These hunter spiders are exceptionally large (24ft long body, 15ft long legs) for their hunting tactics, but they make up for that with impeccable hunting senses (treat as int 2, and with +8 on perception based skills). The brown, hairy monstrousities are common in the high jungle forests, and the more greycolored trapdoor variants can be found in any large enough mountainous or hilly cavern systems that have tunnels of on average 40ft wide size. They pounce prey up to huge size in jumping charges, and oddly have stingers protruding from their back thorax (injury dc 15, 1d6 str for 6 rounds), unlike other spiders. Their front pair of legs are more pronounced clawlike, and their rear pair of legs can easily support the Goliaths signiture threatening stance. These opportunitic predators will eat anything in their hunting grounds, but have a preferance for giant insects and other monstrous spiders.

Red Widow

These red colored jungle and forest spiders are common in temperate and hot forests. These huge (12 ft long body, 12 ft long legs), spindly creatures are responcable for intricate 'web-palaces', large web suspended platforms, holding dozens of these cooperative spiders at once. They mostly feed on larger birds, elves, monkeys and squirrels, but nectar eating variants have been encountered in deep verdant valleys. They usualy rest in X-shape in the center of a horizontal web, waiting for tree jumpers to fail a jump. Their strands are extra sticky (each round escape artist check dc's increase by +1 per failed attempt, and the webbing doubles penalties for entangled condition). Their deadly slowing venom (injury dc 18, 1d2 str damage and 1d2 dex damage for 6 rounds) is feared, and has felled many a warrior in history.

The Sage Posted - 25 May 2013 : 03:26:52
I like where this is going, Bladewind. Giant spiders really need more love in terms of Realmslore, I think.
Bladewind Posted - 25 May 2013 : 02:30:05
The Shroud Spider is a particular favorite of mine. It's suggested intelligence gives it a rudimentary level of understanding of languages. Their blue eyesight gives them excellent vision with which to properly identify prey. They probably communicate by gentle tremors among their web filaments, hunt in packs, attack from the rear when facing enemies with ranged weapons, and retreat when faced with a greater threat.

In addition to hunters cunning they have poisonous bites, fast spinnarets on sleek black chitinous thoraxes and can jump with ease on their strong hind legs (combine hunter and web/trap based spider statistics to easily convert a monstrous spider to a Shroud Spider).
Bladewind Posted - 24 May 2013 : 21:06:45
Awesome link, thanks Kris.

Aye, the giant spiders of Faerun must have several adaptations that allow for bigger size, the most important being meeting the demands of increased oxygen use in their metabolisms and the strenght of their exoskeletal carapaces, especially at their legjoints.

A thougher carapace could have evolved on giant spiders in the D&D multiverse; one that contains traces of light and strong metals perhaps. Mithril bio-complexes could theoretically be more rigid, allowing natural carapaces and armors to become stronger than found in our world. Perhaps these mithril or adamantium cartileges can be found on D&D vermin and dire animals (and many more creatures that seem more hardy than in ours, like high level humans )

Experienced adventurers and elven swordmasters are adapt at 'hamstinging' spiders first afore they finish them off. They know that the joint that attaches the leg to the torso of a arthropod is its weakest spot.
Kris the Grey Posted - 24 May 2013 : 18:55:56

Excellent post. As an arachnophile I genuinely appreciated it.

One brief comment on your scientific tangent. Toril may indeed have a slightly different oxygen content to it's atmosphere than Earth, but not by too much (and in no event as high as 35%). One of the consequences of oxygen levels that high is a little known tendency for fires to be MUCH more easily ignited and dramatic (which seems obvious once you stop to think about it).

Dr. Ian J. Glasspool from the Department of Geology at the Field Museum explained that: "Atmospheric oxygen concentration is strongly related to flammability. At levels below 15% wildfires could not have spread. However, at levels significantly above 25% even wet plants could have burned, while at levels around 30 to 35%, as have been proposed for the Late Paleozoic, wildfires would have been frequent and catastrophic".

If the Realms were so 'fire friendly' we'd have heard about it by now with reports of keenly blazing (and wildly dangerous to target and caster alike) fire spells, constant forest fires, and particularly powerful fire elementals (in comparison to other elemental types).

What's more, arachnids like spiders, and insects in general, actually face a double problem reaching large size. Their external skeletal structure just can't bear up under the effects of gravity similar to what we find on Earth (and likely would find on the Realms, which is Earth sized or slightly larger from what I recall).

A spate of wonderful science fiction “B” movies from the 1950s (and then sporadically up to the present-day, such as several years ago when giant mosquitoes sucked unto death a bunch of campers) unleashed a striking diversity of giant insects and spiders. And some were gigantic indeed. The ants of Them! were the size of tanks, while the deadly mantis was the size of a 747. Yet, we know that insects, with the external body armor typical of arthropods, could never live at such size. Because of scaling properties and strength of the chitin making up the arthropod exoskeleton, a giant ant or preying mantis of even human size would collapse, its walking legs snapping. (See for an excellent discussion of the subject dealing with the high oxygen Permian period from Earth's history).

I recall discussion of such topics in the past on D&D forums (and in the pages of Dragon magazine) wherein it was noted that the 'magical environment' of worlds such as Toril basically made the existence of super sized arachnids and insects possible (alongside such other scientific mysteries like dragonflight). So, as 'Realms fantasy science' goes, I think that's our answer.

Anyone else recall the particulars of that discussion from the past?

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