Mothers throughout history have always warned their children about eating before they go swimming. Though some would say this derives from an aversion to let the kids swim unattended rather than any factual wisdom, as swimming cramps are nothing but an untrue old wives tale. There are certain creatures who are more likely to eat you if you smell of meat or blood, though it's certainly no guarantee. Namely, the drowner lice.
The water felt nice and warm despite the late hour.
Only a big gibbous moon lit up the scene of the two lovers embracing in the ocean surf,
kicking slowly to stay afloat.
-'Mmm, that was nice. The water is so warm here. Hold on, did you just...did you just pee?!'
- 'Relax, it's the ocean. The fish do it all the time.'
-'Augh! That's disgusting! Let go of me!'
-'Oh come on hun, don't be that way!'
-'Oww! What are you doing, let go!'
-'What? I'm not touching AAEE! WHAT! WHAT! NO!'
A few hectic minutes later, nothing stirred.
Two empty husks would later be found washed up on the sand.
Classed as arachnids.
Weighing in at 10 Ibs (4kg).
Roughly the same size as an adult human male's head.
Their bodies are mostly white and translucent, with abdomens that vastly bloat up in size after feeding, 8 eyes and 8 legs, each ending with a claw. Reproduction system similar to spiders. Their bodies are soft and unprotected, but they more than make up for it by their suicidal frenzy and deadly nerve toxin delivered through their mandibles. They're rather strong and in packs they are more than able to drag large sharks down to their deaths.
Hunts primarily by scent and vibration, but its eyes are also well developed, though lacking nightvision capabillities. They are especially attracted to bodily fluids, much like sharks are.
The lice start out their life-cycles as eggs in an eggsack attached to the backs of their mothers using their gel-like saliva, from whence hatches swarms of tiny proto-arachnids, most of which will never see adulthood, due to predation from cold blooded fish, other hungry lice and many other natural dangers present underwater. For every brooding, the female lays about 800 eggs. About 2 out of every 100 survives this stage into adolescense, and fewer still onwards to adulthood. During these stages they will grow exponentially, increasing in stature to over 20,000% of its original size.
The mating season happens 3 times every year, spring, summer and fall, in colder climes, and 4 times in more tropical climes, during these times aggression spikes among the colonies.
Their life-expectancy is about 1-2 years, but given enough food and disregarding eventual threats, they could potentially live for as long as 30 years, during which time they would continue to grow. The largest confirmed specimen ever found was about the size of a dolphin and had attatched itself to a sperm whale carcass. But rumours abound of creatures larger still permeate most naval dive-bars, one such tale tells of a continent sized louse, whose droppings were the size of islands, of course such sightings are ludicrous tall tales at best.
The nerve toxin the lice excrete are the most potent when several specimen attatches to one victim, only the adults have a venom potent enough to stun creatures larger than themselves and slowly dissolve the innards of the victim, which usually takes up to an hour depending on the number of lice feeding. The sting of the smaller broods' bite are no different from the bite of a mosquito, and at best they only manage to draw miniscule amounts of blood.
As they breathe air, there have been known instances where a lack of prey has driven colonies up on dry land to forage for prey. Strangely enough their mobility during such incursions are not inhibited much, as they have been reported to scuttle like crabs. In fact, one would be forgiven to think that their lack of flippers would inhibit their aquatic mobility, but it is believed the fine hairs on their legs as well as their light-weight soft bodies gives them an added edge.
Habitat & Mannerisms
While they breathe air, they live out their whole life-cycles in the sea, at depths of up to 6 to 9ft (2-3m). They manage this by collecting air bubbles on the fine hairs of their front legs and a fine gel-like spit, effectively creating large diver's bells, which the pack replenishes several times per day. They have also been known to take up habitation in underwater caves or sunken ships, as long as air pockets are readily available. The only way to spot one nearby is to look for ripples or bubbles in the water, which could just as easily be made by any types of fish.
Forms packs of six or more adults, feeds on anything warm blooded bigger than themselves. Swarms the victim, latches on, and bites them, injecting a paralysing nerve toxin which dissolves the victim from within, they are dragged down to the air pocket inhabited by the lice where they feed on the victim, sucking out the dissolved innards. When the body has been drained, they release it and let it float back up to the surface.
The husks left behind are little more than bones and skin. They are opportunistic and if given a chance will feed on their own dead.
Drowner lice are mostly active by day, but have been known to feed during moonlit nights.
They don't stray from their appointed territory unless migrating.
Encounters & Plot Hooks
The PCs are in the sea for some reason, when suddenly they are attacked by a shark. But before the shark has time to do anything, it in turn is attacked by a pack of lice. A few of which target the PCs instead. This could serve as a nice introduction to the lice.
The PCs have been given a treasure map leading to a sunken ship just outside the shore. Unbeknownst to them, the whole ship is riddled with drowner lice.
An important Npc has been poisoned, after a bit of research, it turns out the assasain used a mixture of nerve toxin produced by drowner lice. In order to cure the Npc they need some of that toxin themselves to make an antidote, the only way to get it however, is to harvest it from a fresh bunch of lice. A colony is rumoured to exist just outside of the pier. All the while the clock is ticking.
The husks of two people, one male, one female, were washed up by the shore yesterday, seemingly all the fluids in their bodies had been drained out, leaving little more than bones and skin. Some way out by the surfs, a waterfilled cavern holds the answer to this tragic mystery.
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? Responses (15)
A rather short one, not really sure what else to put in it. Suggestions welcome.
So with a name like Drowner Lice, the question comes to mind how would one deal with an infestation? Additionally, would these creatures have swarm tactics only or are they to be treated as individuals in a pack? Cool, idea on the whole however, the kind of thing that you could haze your PCs with over and over with, so long at their in the water often enough, the whole regions waters could be infested.
Well they're rather large for a pest so even though they would normally be encountered in packs, I would say each should be treated as an individual. But then again, you could have tiny swarm clouds of proto-lice accompanying the adults whom just end up being as potent as mosquitoes. That's actually something I overlooked, the various stages of growth. Will be adding that in later.
I would imagine that their 'bloated bellies' are only bloated after feeding? Just a thought...
I despise ticks, mites, and lice with a hatred bordering on lunacy. So therefore, I naturally approve of a sea-borne 10 lb version of these disgusting things for game-play.
Not sure what to suggest as far as what else to add here. They work. If using these, I would probably enjoy the sinking ship infested with lice plothook.
I also get vague visions of a mighty, lice-ridden sperm whale carcass floating in the sea...
That is an awesome image, I need to work that in somehow. :D
Having 3 school aged kids I know a little about their relatives. Yuck.
Stealth + Paralysis + water = a rather deadly creature which seems more to be a deathtrap than an encounter I would use. And having swarms of them?
Although it would easy to simply dial down the impacts of the individual bites such that many are required to paralyse larger prey.
Given their powerful armament, and that arachnids tend to produce very large broods, what keeps them from taking over entire ecosystems?
Good question! I suppose I figured it was enough just to make em squishy without any armor. While they're certainly ferocious, they aren't all that tough. But I didn't imagine them as delectable enough for any predator to wish to feed on them either... I suppose they are self-regulating, when a swarm grows large enough not to get enough prey to share, they start eating eachother. Besides even if spiders give birth to large broods, supposedly only a few of those survives. So their small brood probably falls prey to a lot of things, especially since the adults don't really register anything cold blooded, so ordinary fish could be eating their babies without them caring.
Yuck. Soft bodied, but still highly dangerous.
Is very cool!
could they make brief trips onto a beach? That would be something interesting to put upon some pcs who have decided to rest for a night on the beach, only to be accosted by a pack of these things halfway through the night, sneaking quietly from the surf and latching onto one of the pc's - unless the lookout manages to spot 'em.
Sure! They breathe air after all, a short excursion for some particularly hungry specimen could always be arranged.
Edited. Clarified certain aspects and added suggestions.
With edits, it deserved a Re-vote from me.
Mmmyeah, these definitely make my 'kill with genetic plague as soon as convenient' list. I'm imagining these to be the sort of ridiculous parasite that just trash a biome if left unchecked.
Considering that they're self-regulating that's a bit harsh, they're a step above sharks when encountered in groups but other than that they're not meant to be a threat to the enviroment, for one thing fish could actually benefit from a colony of drowner lice as they would keep some of their natural predators away.
Maybe you want to read this part again:
'from whence hatches swarms of tiny proto-arachnids, most of which will never see adulthood, due to predation from cold blooded fish, other hungry lice and many other natural dangers present underwater. For every brooding, the female lays about 800 eggs. About 2 out of every 100 survives this stage into adolescense, and fewer still onwards to adulthood.'
Horrific and disgusting, I approve