You call them monsters?

Someone sent me a link to this page about using spiders in Dungeons & Dragons…as monsters. I am offended!

That’s right those creepy crawly bitey little buggers with all the legs and all the eyes. I hate them IRL [OFFENDED!], and will terminate any that cross over the agreed upon barrier into my home [<gasp> OFFENDED!]. Its a feeling alot of folks the world over share and that is easily exploited for your tabletop game. Which I suggest doing. Its amazing. So here we go – using spiders to torture your players in the best and most memorable ways.

First we have to establish a few things, the biggest of which are the types of spiders found in the game that can be used. Most people assume we mean either the tiny version or the giant version. There is however so~ many spiders that are all canon in 5e so don’t be afraid to mix and match them up to create more diverse encounters. For this blog we will just be talking about spiders not Drieders or spider demons, though I think those are also great things to add to the mix to spice it up. Below is just a quick list of those that can be found in the books. These are create starting points for an easy mix up to the normal spider.

  • Spider Swarm
  • Spider
  • Giant Spider
  • Giant Wolf Spider
  • Phase Spider

All right, if ever I were a Dungeon Master, first thing I’d do is replace all the player character races with that list. That’ll torture the players! Then I’d expand the list with more species of arachnids, and replace the Monster Manual with the Player’s Handbook.


  1. raven says

    Here is a better example of real life monsters.
    This isn’t OT if the subject is monsters.
    Some person/people with shovels wiped out 40% of an endangered plant species.

    Conservationists say more than 17,000 rare Nevada wildflowers dug up and destroyed
    by Mackenzie Walters Wednesday, September 16th 2020

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — Conservationists discovered this weekend that as much as 40% of the Tiehm buckwheat plant global population, which exists on 21 acres in western Nevada, may have been destroyed, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

    It was found that someone had dug up and destroyed more than 17,000 Tiehm’s buckwheat plants, a rare Nevada wildflower, said officials with CBD.

    “This is an absolute tragedy,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Tiehm’s buckwheat is one of the beautiful gems of Nevada’s biodiversity and some monster destroyed thousands of these irreplaceable flowering plants.”

    A routine visit to the site by Center staff revealed that plants were dug up or mangled with shovels, with taproots cut and most of the dead buckwheats hauled off-site.

  2. says

    How about a game where you play the spiders, and little AI adventurers wander into your lair and scream and struggle and feed more generations…

    [I know, it’s Dungeonmaster]

  3. raven says

    This is not the first time someone has done this sort of thing.
    I’ve seen it twice myself.

    A botanist I know goes around locating colonies of rare, endangered plants.
    Some of these plants are so endangered, they may only have 10-20 known occurrences.
    He publishes them so people will know enough not to mow them down or plow them up.

    Or did.
    Someone went and dug up a patch of an endangered species for no apparent reason.

    PS: What are the chances that the killers of the Nevada Tiehm’s buckwheat plants was..a Trump voter?
    I’d guess around 100%.

  4. stroppy says

    A number of years back local conservation planners here created a catalog of endangered plants, with maps for comprehensive planning purposes, which they kept under wraps for need-to-know eyes only.

    It’s not just a-hole vandals you have to guard against, but collectors– not to mention the off trail lookie-loos who have to stomp around on all of creation.

  5. Artor says

    I’m planning a home-brew game, and I have some wolf spiders for my party to encounter. As in, pack-hunting spiders the size of wolves. It’s possible that someone might take one on as an animal companion and train it.

  6. Gregory Greenwood says

    Don’t the Drow worship a spider goddess? Could it be that PZ is secretly a denizen of the Underdark?

  7. Jado says

    PZ, be as offended as you like. Players understand who the REAL monsters are – the players. We roam around aimlessly until we hear of an OTHER either threatening the good people of the town of “JUST GOT HERE AND DECIDED TO MAKE SOME HOUSES”, or some other bastion of “civilization”, and then we kill them and take their treasure. For which the good people of the new invasive town reward and cheer us.

    The game is for the players to kill and rob and otherwise destroy (usually) innocent indigenous creatures in order to pacify the general area for their own kind. It’s like if the Earth’s 1400s-2000s colonization periods for indigenous populaces were writ large with Goblins and Dragons and Spiders.

    And you can bet my Cleric has a Create Bonfire spell handy to deal with webs of Giant Spiders in any cave we happen to invade.

    But hey, there’s nothing to say you can’t play as Spiders trying to expand your Realm of Webs. After all, every PC race is represented in the Monster Manual, cause we all know: We’re All Monsters!!

  8. HappyHead says

    The last game I ran that had any spiders at all was one where our group’s paladin decided his mount was going to be a giant spider. The rest of the party loved that thing, it had way more personality and interest to them than just some horse.

  9. gijoel says

    @1 Why would someone do that? It’s like breaking into someone’s house just to take a shit on their carpets.

    Oh right, that’s why someone would do that.

  10. William George says

    I always treat animals like animals when I run D&D. They avoid groups of armed humanoids and don’t attack unless starving, cornered, or certain of a meal.

    I save the malice and murderousness for the sentient species

  11. Callinectes says

    Hmm. I’ve neither fought spiders, nor set them against my players. I’m made them fight ghouls with seven meter arm-spans, their own pony raised as a zombie, owl-bears, sewer crabs, rich people who happened to be vampires, one of the PC’s own brother having maxed out levels in every class and taken possession of every magical item and plane of existence, their own pony converted into an equine mind-flayer, and a weird elemental lightning duck-harpy with the face of a PC’s deceased mentor. But no spiders.

  12. wzrd1 says

    You make a dungeon full of spiders, it also means that mites that infest spiders are present and my armies of mites will spoil their purity of essence and drain their precious bodily fluids. ;)

  13. keinsignal says

    @Gregory Greenwood (#6)
    Yeah, “Lolth”, a monstrous spider-goddess. Featured in my all-time favorite AD&D module, Q1 “Queen of the Demonweb Pits” It was more or less a purpose-built tool for DMs who needed to kill off over-leveled player characters. or otherwise permanently remove them from their usual plane of existence – there are worse things than death after all, and most of them are in Q1 somewhere… The adventure culminated in an MC-Escher-inspired dungeon, “Lolth’s Web,” a maze of brutal traps and demon-spewing portals that crossed over and under itself in impossible ways.

  14. strangerinastrangeland says

    In the MMORPG Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) there is a part of the game where players of the free people (humans, dwarfs, elves and hobbits) can fight players of the servants of Sauron, including giant spiders (or weavers as the class is called in game). So, if you want to turn the tables, play a giant spider who suddenly jumps out of hiding, immobilizes its enemy with its webs and the bites it with its deadly poison, here is your chance. :-)

  15. Gregory Greenwood says

    keinsignal @ 17;

    That is the one. PZ is an atheist of longstanding, but if he were ever to take up a religion I think that would be the deity for him.

  16. Gregory Greenwood says

    The great thing about table top roleplaying games is the sheer amount of freedom the rulesets give the players. Tired of Giant Spiders always being the evil monsters? How about creating a campaign of your own with a species of magical, intelligent Giant Spiders who act as guardians of the natural order, protecting their world from those who would abuse the power of magic, and hunting down dangerous and unnatural creatures that are the product of such magical malfeasance?

    The human inhabitants of that world might have a totally different relationship to spiders than most humans do, seeing the Giant Spiders, and by extension their smaller kin, more as avatars of the natural order and symbols of protection. Such arachnid beings might be NPC quest givers rather than adversaries, and might help bail the players out of trouble against foes too potent for the players to handle on their own. You could even have a juvenile member of this puissant eight legged species as a party member, with bonus for their dexterity, strength and wisdom stats.

  17. George says

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read China Mieville’s epic fantasy, Perdido Street Station. Among it’s many amazing characters, is an heroic giant spider, who’s one of the good guys. I think we need more stories with heroic spiders.

  18. raven says

    If we are going all literary here, the classic about intelligent, benign spiders has to be Vernor Vinge’s novel, A Deepness In The Sky.

    The plot begins with the discovery of an intelligent alien species on a planet orbiting an anomalous star, dubbed OnOff because for 215 of every 250 years it is dormant, releasing almost no detectable energy. During this period, the planet freezes and its fauna go into hibernation.
    The planet’s inhabitants, called “Spiders” by the humans for their resemblance to arachnids, have reached a stage of technological development very similar to that of Earth’s humans in the early 20th century, although humans believe that they may once have been capable of space travel.

    The aliens in his novel are spider-like.
    They are just aliens, not especially malevolent or completely benign either.
    He does make it work, meaning you actually can imagine that the Spiders exist and are worth caring about.
    Vinge is a good writer and this is a best seller, winning almost all the various awards, including a Hugo.

  19. John Harshman says

    How about Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky? Many of the sympathetic characters are more or less giant spiders.

  20. Becca Stareyes says

    Funny enough, my current D&D PC is a drow druid who has many reasons to hate Lolth, but one of those is ‘is making people think spiders are evil, when spiders are just another species of carnivore living their lives’. It’s important to not have a vertebrate bias when one is a protector of nature, after all, and giant spiders are an important part of fantasy ecology in many environments.