The Aranea: oh, what a tangled web we weave...
been a long time since i posted, but here is another vastly remorphed critter. it definetely fits the bill of forgot tne and misunderstood, but i hope after this at least someone will like it.
Aranea- add an "e" and it's the class of spiders. what marvelous, yet creepy creatures! to some they represent beauty, to some horror, to some they are pests, but they keep many pests away. this post was inspired by a thread discussing spiders in Australia (amongst other things), which got me thinking about these beauties, and the last time i used them... good times, good times!
my editing program is shut to hell so there is only this pic. it does not depict the Aranea as i think of it very well, but it might draw the attention of Aranea lovers.
Bad street Rep: the Aranea doesn't really fit any specific role, and it seems there is always someone more suited to it. you want vermin- why not use the usual spider? shape changer? pick a doppleganger or a lycanthrope. spell caster? please... the Aranea is poorly placed to compete with these guys, and it has no niche role to pick for it's own.
also, it is fairly weak- easy to break DCs on its poison and web ability, and fairly bad spell casting. it doesn't seem to pose a serious threat in any category.
i care for it because: i study biology, and i think Spiders are awesome. they are so... alien to us- 8-geometry, extremely precise, extremely patient, and so utterly, perfectly built for their role. i think they are cool. then i noticed that on the Aranea's entry it says it's actually a spider who can assume other forms! so it's quite different from most were-creatures, for whom the animal form is secondary... we're dealing with a spider, who is intelligent, and that can change form to look like any of us! <enter shudder here> i could just feel the 8 eyes upon me.
The Aranea's lack of stereotypical behavior like were-creatures do informed me that these guys were self willed, not cursed, and had a myriad of behaviors. this presented opportunities for a unique psychology and perception. these guys were going to be the spiders amongst us!
and now presenting to you, the new and improved Aranea:
Perceptions and Concept
- perception: the changes to the Aranea are all geared to certain effects. first- The Creature you're dealing with is an intelligent spider. but it's intelligence differs quite a bit from most humanoids. this is hard to do mechanically, and is mostly fluff wise, i hope i can get the message across.
secondly, the role of the Aranea in a campaign is that of either a spy/ assassin, or of a long range effect caster (or both). this is done by two of the Aranea's powers. the first is it's own specialized form of shape changing (if it can still be called that)- Immersion and the second is the special kind of Magic Aranea's developed- Weave Magic (this goes especially well with Forgotten realms, but not just).
most Araneas are still weak (though there are exceptions, see below) and so tend to avoid a straight fight. i highly suggest to play the Aranea as a sort of a super spy, not by their abilities, but by their actions, decisions, and choices. when a fight start, run, and exchange bodies, to act again.
there are also more rural, more "monsterly" Araneas, for which i've dedicated some thought, but the focus is on the more civilized ones.
- concept: no one really knows where Araneas came from. no one ever really researched them, as they tended to be fairly rare, and unimportant in the greater scheme. the few scholars that did research at all theorize that Araneas have at some long time ago been normal spiders, who somehow (gods? magic? evolution?) gained intelligence, quite a bit of it. then they have supposedly developed strange and highly orderly forms of magic, of which but little remained. All Araneas have a bit of magic in them (thus they have sorcerer levels), but the high forms of magic have disappeared. few tried to question the strange creature themselves, but their alien mind prevented scanning their thoughts and direct questioning proved to be confusing- Araneas just think very differently.
in this transformation, Araneas are not Shape changers. instead, they are sort of body snatchers. An Aranea that somehow subdues a humanoid (and this is sometime done by allies of the Aranea) can undergo a horrid ritual (called Immersion) in which the Aranea's body sinks into the flesh of the victim, and the spider binds it's thought to it. the victim may try to resist, but if it fails, the aranea assumes full control over the body and memories and capabilities of the victim. araneas can also leave the victim away unharmed, but they usually try to destroy the body after wards, in order so that no one will know of them. bigger araneas require bigger bodies (discussed later)
this potentially have made the Araneas supreme spies, but though they are able to mimic the victim's behavior to an extent, few of the Aranea can successfully mimic the oh so different humanoid behavior fully. thus two solutions present themselves- the Araneas choose victims of fairly low importance, who mostly live on the outskirts of society, or they impersonate someone who thereafter is considered to have undergone a "slight personality change". unless the observer is well aware of the odd behavior of Araneas (such as is in royal courts, high merchant houses and temples), this behavior is usually discarded as just "that person is odd, that's all".
Araneas can as the MM says transform magically into a hybrid form, or even to their own normal form, they very, very, very rarely do so. an Aranea in his own form could almost exclusively only be found in it's lairs, in its room of Magical webs. (discussed further)
Araneas pursue their own strange ends- some are collectors, some are manipulators, some are hunters, and quite a few just love to observe the busy life around them, interfere with a few pulls and tugs of their magical threads, but mostly be left alone.
some however, do take on a more serious role. this tend to join adventuring groups (who are unaware of their odd friend's true nature), or join criminal affairs, or even sell their unique skills to spying or assassination organizations (and others as well can benefit from the Aranea's help...). there are a few more tools that help the Aranea on their work-
first of all is their extremely orderly nature, as well as their builder capabilities. Araneas usually take great pleasure in crafting and building capacities, such as castle builder, trap maker, lock smith, and their most favorite hobby- poison making. the latter is done in secret most times, but sometimes the aranea seeks patron who can acquire the materials for them.
another source of mysterious power that none have figured out yet is the Weave Magic- each Aranea that isn't traveling has one place where he keeps a tangled web of threads. but these threads are not usual ones, but magical ones. Each thread is anchored to a special item the Aranea crafts. when this item is in someone elses possession, the Arenea can use the threads to either gain information or influence the other person, regardless of actual distance- the "great web" joins them. (more info on the Game mechanics part) however, each Aranea knows only a few such influences. as they grow in power, they usually find more.
Aranea usually grow in power by gaining class levels. however, due to their magical nature, they also improve their sorcery skills as well. Araneas that grow sufficiently in power, also grow physically, and need bigger and bigger forms to get into. this has made the giant population a pray to the Araneas Immersion powers as well. at first araneas pray on ogres and trolls (troll begin favorite), and later they go on to giants. the magic of the aranea still enables them to meld with smaller creatures though.
araneas use the combination of their powers to hide in the population, and manipulate it slowly to their will. they are not strong enough to succeed on their own however, so they either prefer to remain in obscurity, or find allies.
a special issue is Aranea's breeding- they do not require another aranea, just another monstrous spider. a small percentage of the eggs can turn into araneas, but these have to be implanted into the body of an arcane spontaneous caster (which is usually taken captive and held prisoner until the egg hatches). this becomes the first body of the new Aranea
Place and Interactions
- Place in the world: Araneas are like spiders- they prefer to find a quite place, catch their pray, and be left alone. but they also have intelligence, and curiosity, so most of these spiders find a field or two of interests in which they invest a great deal of their time. this could be scholarly (you ever noticed how weird the librarian looked to you?), exploratory (Indiana jones with fangs), religiously or more. many of the interests are quite bizarre. a great deal of Araneas are avid collectors of very specialized collections.
there are basically two types of araneas: city araneas & wild araneas. the two types differ mostly by their environment, and their attitude to humanoids. the wild ones either shun them (if they look intimidating) or hunt them (if not). there are a few more differences discussed under game mechanics.
the termcity araneas actually refers to all such critters who live in civilized places, be in a rural tribe of orcs or the bustling city of Sharn. they know they will be hunted, so most hide. some however join forces with other powers, and serve them. it has not been unknown for spying agencies, wizards, evil temples, gangs or more to cooperate with an aranea, it's identity known to them or not. the Aranea however tries to hide his webbed room from all eyes if possible. this has something to do with the aranea psyche that is not understood. some scholars think that the webs represent it's thoughts, and that to the aranea that is like mind reading!
a wild aranea usually groups with ettercaps, spiders, and other creatures whom he can ally with for protection and hunt. it is usually possessive of a good body, and will only rarely leave it (humanoid bodies are rare to find in the wilderness. they are usually the ones to take on the bodies of the giant-kin, caring less about infiltration.
an aranea that tries to find allies usually succeeds, but though it has presence (charisma and skills) there is almost always some "awkward/ alien" element in it's behavior, something that doesn't fully fit in. as mentioned before, most discard this to eccentricity or the like.
- interactions: Araneas interactions are dependent on the particular relationship with the creature whom they are dealing with, their own powers and influence upon it, and the aranea's strange, alien agenda. An aranea will almost always try to get a target of interest to accept (or get) the anchoring item for the Aranea's threads, so it can learn more about it.
some groups deserve however a special attention:
- Spiders: these are naturally attracted to the Aranea, and araneas are usually loathe to hurt them. the house of an aranea would seem clean of spiders, until you go to the webbed room to which he transferred them all. Araneas breed with monstrous spiders as was mentioned. strangely enough, araneas don't produce poison out of spiders.
- Ettercaps: some theorize that these creatures were araneas who got caught in the hybrid form. they idolize araneas and protect them fiercely. araneas usually treat them as simple bodyguards, akin to slaves.
- Bebilith: some araneas worship these fiends, and try and summon them if they have the power. also, a few rare aranea have been able to distill it's poison, a feat accomplished by no other.
- poisonous creatures: as avid poison makers, Araneas are known to seek out and try and hunt these creatures, or work some scheme with allies to get it. this is especially true of wild araneas.
- drow: despite theories, the Lolth priesthood despises Araneas and seeks to destroy them as abominations (the spider part of the Drider's is the abomination part after all). Driders however have been known to work with them, often needing more "normal" looking agents in the world above.
- humans and giants: most of these groups fear the Aranea's immersion power greatly, and thus seek to destroy them if they can. there are exceptions always...
- the undead and constructs: Araneas find them frustrating, but that's all.
- outsiders: Araneas as a whole are very nonreligious, believing in more abstract ascetic concepts. they harbor no special attitude towards outsiders. they seem to do extremely well with Formians though...
- In Eberron: Araneas have developed special relationships in this campaign setting. both of the shadow houses have made deals with a small number of araneas to serve in different capacities- sometime they use they weave magic to scout, sometime they immerse in a person that needs to be controlled, and sometime they just extract information that way (since they get the victim's memories). of course, at times they do more personal work. also, the children of winter have a special place for araneas, at times even offering themselves to them for immersion (though the "honor" is usually saved for a kidnapped victim whom they want to control. various other forces make use of araneas, depending on the uses and interest of aranea. some have joined forces as spies for the lords of dust, some araneas who collect symbionts work for the Daelkyr and more. it is even theorized that they are the creation of a long dead Daelkyr lord. recently, the daughters of Sora Kell, in their nation of monsters have tried to secretly foster good relationships with araneas, making a home for them, wishing for them to form their spying agency, alongside the many changlings they allready have. sora Katya seem to have gained a special insight into their nature, perhaps even their magic...
Game mechanics and Mysteries
- game mechanics: much of this section is not numbered (i'm crap at that), but it does give the basic idea of most things, as well as a general aspired difficulty level.
1) Immersion: this ability works on a humanoid of medium or small size(or if the aranea has grown enough also on giant of large or huge size). the target must be incapacitated (bound, unconscious, paralyzed and so on). the aranea tries to meld with the target's body, and mind. the target may resist with a will save (mediocre DC). if he fails, the target binds. upon binding the Aranea assumes full control of the target, gaining the following:
- physical ability scores.
- HP remains the same, though it is changed by the Con Change
- the araneas has all the target's memories
- the aranea gains access to all the target's skills, abilities, and spells up to it's own hd. (calculated as ECL) for example- a 5HD aranea takes over a 6HD Aasimar, it gains all the abilities of up to 4th level. (due to the +1 LA)
- upon exiting the body it loses all powers.
- the victim may try another saving throw each day, when the body is unconscious. if so, the aranea lives the body while it sleeps. 3 failed saves means the aranea can keep the body for as long as it wants. the same aranea cannot immerse in the same body more than once.
- an evacuated victim never remembers what transpired while under possession of the aranea.
- on rare occasion, when the aranea does something that is seriously against the victim's nature, it may try another saving throw (similar to a charm person, only in more strict circumstances) for a forceful removal. (see next)
- the body can change shape to hybrid form and spider form, as written in the MM. the DCs however are influenced by the new body's stats.
- a forceful removal of an Aranea from the host body can be made, by spells such as dispel magic and break enchantment, but this causes great damage to the host (serious amount of damage, fort save for half)
2) gaining levels: the aranea is an inherently magical creature. it starts out stated as in the MM. for every three levels it gains, it increases it's sorcerer spellcasting ability by one level. if the aranea gains levels as sorcerer, than it instead increases the number of spells known of it's highest level by 1.
3) Weave Magic: (only got the concept for this one, not the stats) each aranea knows a bit of this special kind of magic. an aranea creates a special place (room, hall, cave) in which he weaves a tangled web. the threads actually continue on the astral, with loose ends. the aranea then prepares special "anchoring items" (these could be gems, magical items, jewelery and more), to which one of the loose threads binds. these items are given/ sent/ and more (there are plenty of possibilities) to prospected targets. the item's special ability is masked from normal magical detection (identify and such spells need to pass a CL check, hard DC)
the aranea can then use special "weave magic effects" on his targets, as long as they hold the item. (the target may receive a secret saving throw. if the effect works on them, they fulled as if tugged by an invisible string, the tale tell of weave magic for those who know. i suggest a wisdom or intelligence check to sense it) the items true intent usually doesn't become clear till much later on. each aranea knows the "locate" weave magic, and two more. each two hit dice the aranea gets it learns one more. an aranea can use this magic 3+ Cha modifier times per day. it is important to note however that the effects are not that potent, or else it would have been a devastating form of magic.
some sample weave magic effects:
- Locate creature: distance and direction to the target.
- limited scry: as scry but with shorter range around the target.
- minor curse.
- keep close/ away: the aranea chooses. if the target moves more than a mile in either direction a major curse kicks in.
- mediocre poison
- any other suggestions?
4) spider mastery: all spiders are immediately helpful towards araneas, as well as ettercaps. an aranea gives them all a +2 moral on attacks and damage.
5) alien mind: anyone trying to read an Aranea's mind (in or out of it's humanoid body) immediately fails and it gets the impression of meticulous patters and something that seem like a complex web. (for those knowing araneas, this sensation in fact is one of the true tried methods of ascertaining an aranea is in a body).
also, the aranea gets a +4 to save against mind affecting spells.
6) skill bonuses: City araneas: +8 disguise, bluff (notice weirdness)
wild araneas: +8 hide, move silently
all: +4 poison making. +4 on trap making.
7) poison handling: araneas never risk poisoning themselves when dealing with poison
8) Growth: an aranea that reaches 8 hd grows to a large spider, and can now immerse in giant... giants. 13 hd can immerse in huge. they still retain the ability to enter small or medium forms.
9) Alignment: most Araneas are lawful neutral, though they follow their own weird laws. Araneas however can vary widely in view, though very very few become chaotic.
- Mysteries and the Unknown: araneas are as mysterious as their minds and the webs they weave. few creature come even close to understanding their motives. but a few mysteries remain:
- similar to gargoyles and shape shifters- how many aranea are there? were are they? what do they want? is that odd person just odd or an aranea?
- Weave Magic, that now one succeeds in deciphering. true- the bit with the item is simple enough, but creating the web and the strands is a whole new matter.
- the immersion ritual. whenever it was tried by another, either the caster died, or the victim, or they were some how mashed together without recognition into a pitiful thing. if this trick could be learned by another other than the elusive araneas, it could be useful indeed.
- how were they formed? or created? are there more mysterious forms of magic out there? is there somewhere an aranea/ storm giant that is more knowledgeable than the rest, wielding more mysteries.
- lastly: who is pulling your thread, hmmm?