Monday, September 8, 2008

Spider Monsters for 4e Part 2 - Aranea

After making a new monster for the upcoming adventures in the spider-haunted forest, I thought I'd do a few more. I thought for this one I'd go really old school with a monster I remembered from module X2, Castle Amber. Then I noticed that it had come along for the ride into the 3e monster manual and the SRD, which might make this a bit easier...
An aranea is an intelligent, shapechanging spider with sorcerous powers. In its natural form, an aranea resembles a big spider, with a humpbacked body a little bigger than a human torso. It has fanged mandibles like a normal spider. Two small arms, each about 2 feet long, lie below the mandibles. Each arm has a hand with four many-jointed fingers and a double-jointed thumb.

Level 4 Controller
Aranea Webmage
XP 175
Medium natural beast (shapechanger, spider)
Initiative +5 Senses Perception +8; darkvision
HP 52; Bloodied 26
AC 18; Fortitude 16, Reflex 17, Will 16
Speed 8, climb 4 (spider climb)
mBite (standard; at-will) * Poison
+8 vs. AC; 1d6 damage, and the target takes ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).
mDagger (standard; at-will) * Weapon
+9 vs. AC; 1d4 damage
rPsychic Bite (standard; at-will) * Psychic
Ranged 5; +9 vs. Will; 1d6+2 psychic damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).
RWeb Net (minor; recharge 5 6)
Ranged 10; +11 vs. Reflex; the target is restrained (save ends).
ASleep (standard; encounter) * Sleep
Area burst 2 within 10; +10 vs. Will; the target falls unconscious (save ends).
Change Shape (minor; at-will) * Polymorph
An aranea webmage can alter its physical form to appear as a unique Medium humanoid or a Medium spider-humanoid hybrid (see Change Shape, MM page 280). It loses its bite and web net attacks in humanoid form. It loses its weapon attack in its spider form.
Alignment Unaligned Languages Common, Elven
Skills Athletics +7, Perception +8, Stealth +10
Str 11 (+2) Dex 16 (+5) Wis 13 (+3)
Con 14 (+4) Int 15 (+4) Cha 15 (+4)

Aranea Webmage Tactics
An aranea webmage avoids physical combat, using its webs to immobilize targets and employing its psychic bite. In a battle, it tries to immobilize the most aggressive opponents first.

Encounter Groups
Aranea are often encountered with spiders and can also be found leading groups of ettercaps.
Level 4 Encounter (XP 875)
* 1 aranea webmage (level 4 controller)
* 2 ettercap fang guards (level 4 skirmisher)
* 2 deathjump spiders (level 4 skirmisher)
Okay, this one was not nearly as simple as the webby spider. I was thinking about doing a second stat block with a higher level and more spell focused version, but just this one has taken way too long. Maybe tomorrow I'll hit a happy medium...


mikeulem said...

A good start. Here's my suggestions:

The key traits of the aranea are:
1. Being a lycanthrope-ish creature.
2. Its unique abilities coming from the humanoid transformation (sorcerous powers) rather than the animal transformation. (A spiderwere instead of a werespider.)

The best use of araneas I've seen was in Dungeon 137: "Siege of the Spider Eaters". Most of them lived in a spider lair nearby, but many of them had also infiltrated a nearby pirate village to take advantage of human opportunities. By present day, over a quarter of the village's population were actually aranea in disguise.

Aranea may have a kinship with spiders in their regular form, but their behavior & thought processes are more similar to humans, while their sorcerous abilities make them natural leaders. Aranea are magic-using bandit leaders, village sages, and mysterious woodsland rangers, keeping their spider-laden birthing grounds a secret while venturing into human lands for opportunities and profits. (Kind of like most adventurers.)

Off the bat, I'd suggest making aranea Elites to fit in their sorcerous abilities: make a basic aranea monster without any magic, then add a Class Template (wizard or fey warlock) to it to make it an Elite. Remove the Sleep power (which seems a bit overpowered) & your current build should be perfect for the base monster.

Other suggestions:
-Make its type Medium fey magical beast (shapechanger, spider)
-Increase the dagger's damage to 1d6+2 so it compares to Poison Bite.
-Psychic bite should be until end of next turn, not save ends; dazed is a very powerful condition, especially for an at-will.
-An encounter group that doesn't group them with ettercaps. Aranea are more likely to capture humanoids for ransom to make a profit; ettercaps just want to eat them. Unless your aranea like the taste of human meat, I doubt they'd get along well.

Gregor LeBlaque said...

Welcome, mikeulem.

Wow, I wish getting the good start together hadn't burned me out so badly. I really don't want to revisit this thing for a while, but if I do, I'll take your suggestions into account.

I like the "basic no magic"/"elite magic" idea, and I probably would have done something similar if creating just this version hadn't taken three times as long as I intended.

I'm not sold on the fey type or the increased dagger damage (it's supposed to be a suboptimal attack to make the humanoid form weaker, plus a Str 11 creature wielding a dagger does do 1d4 by the PHB), but I think you're probably right about the dazing and the ettercaps.

I probably should have a Lore section, too. I can probably use some of your "behavior & thought processes are more similar to humans" flavor for that.

Maybe the real problem is that they're not intended to be the "creepy spider monster in the haunted woods" that I was needing for my upcoming session. Oh well. Tomorrow's monster should fit right into the woods...