Apparently I’m on the same wavelength as someone at Wizards of the Coast. Last week I blogged about Giant Spiders, Spiderling Minions, and a Giant Spiderweb trap appropriate for a 1st level party. This week I picked up Monster Manual 3and what does it have in it? A 2nd level spider, spiderlings, and a web trap.
The Ambush Spider is a level 2 lurker with the ability to become hidden if it has cover or concealment (i.e. it doesn’t require superior cover/total concealment). Strangely, its only while it is hidden that its attack delivers the additional ongoing poison damage and effect associated with it. I’m not sure how one would explain this “in-world”: Does the spider have shy venom sacs that can only produce when no one is watching?
The Spiderling is a level 4 skirmisher minion with a mechanic that makes it imperative to kill most of them as quickly as possible. When a spiderling hits with its attack, the target gains vulnerability to poison. If the target already had vulnerability (i.e. from a previous attack), the vulnerability increases. What starts off as a typical dinky minion can soon turn into a threat capable of inflicting massive damage.
In a sidebar, the section on spiders also discusses Spider Webs. MM3 describes a terrain called Web Sheets which has all the hallmarks of a simple trap (perception DC, attack and effects, and countermeasures) but for whatever reason they stop short of making it an actual trap. In my implementation, I chose to make the trap automatically hit when a character failed perception and walked into it. In their version, it makes an attack versus reflex (like most traps). I probably should have done something similar in my implementation, but I wanted the drama of the players having to deal with being stuck in a web while a giant spider descended upon them. They also chose to make it simply immobilize a character (can’t move) whereas I reasoned that a web meant to trap a meal would be more likely to restrain the individual (can’t move, -2 to attacks, grant combat advantage).
I’ve always liked giant spiders as denizens of fantasy worlds, ever since my young mind was introduced to them by way of The Hobbit. Spiders are creepy to begin with in the real world, so it seems only natural to imagine bigger and deadlier versions lurking in the dark places between the points of light in D&D. Imagine my surprise when 4th edition only offered up a couple of variants of this classic monstrous vermin, and none that were simply a low-level Giant Spider (as vanilla as that may be). (Update: the Monster Manual 3 offers up the Ambush Spider, a 2nd level lurker).
To add to the creepy-crawliness of the encounter, I also whipped up some Spiderlings, minion versions of the Giant Spider. They lack the poisonous sting of their mother, but possess that uncanny spider talent to move out of the way just as you’re swinging a
shoe sword their way.
Add in a few squares of spiderweb terrain (DMG p.69) and a couple of Giant Spiderweb Traps, and you have an encounter fit for beginning adventurers. (The newly released Monster Manual 3 contains a sidebar [MM3 p.183] presenting cobwebs in which spiders can hide and web sheets which are similar, but less potent, than my homebrew Giant Spiderweb Trap.)