There! Did you see it that time? I swear someone is following us. I keep seeing torchlight through the damn trees. I'm telling you, something is following us.
Thom, your either seeing things or drinking to much. There is no one following us. See look . . . wait, they look . . . they look like spiders but they are on fire!
- Last words of Micha, Traveller and Explorer.
Torch spiders are larger than your average spider, with a leg span of approximately two feet. Their body is an odd bulbous shape and is just shy of a foot long. They have talon like hooks on the end of each leg that they use for climbing, their larger body needing the extra support as they scale trees and other porous surfaces.
Their skin is a dark color of brown and yellow and covered in short silken hairs. Their distinctive mark is their lower body. While bulbous and rather misshapen, it has a purpose. When seen during the day or in bright light, the back of the body has a clear layer of skin that is smooth, underneath this thin layer of skin is a shifting milky substance that has no distinct color. At night however, this fluid is used to attract their prey.
Torch spiders live in small families of about ten adult spiders, with varying stages of young that number no more than twenty at a time. When their population becomes crowded they either begin killing the weak and feeding them to the young or the adults move to create another clutch, leaving half of the adults and young behind and taking the other half to relocate.
The torch spiders young are different than a normal spider; they do not instinctively know how to hunt. Like a small child they only know danger and the need to feed. They learn how to live and survive by watching their adults. They must be cared for so the adults hunt for them. The adult torch spider can weave and intricate web of dazzling madness, their thin silken web nearly invisible at night even to the wary and watchful. They spin their web and wall their young in the outer walls. The adults then sit inside the center of the web and turn their namesake to use.
The adult can use the fluid inside its clear sack as a light source. While this has no effect on a nocturnal creature it attracts insects of all types, trapping them in the web so the young can feed with ease. When the young require larger food, with the assistance of the aging young, they spin trapping webs along trails of small animals. The young then pounce on the trapped animal and sink their leg hooks into them so they can not scamper away. Sinking their fangs into their flesh to numb their motor skills, they then feed at their whim.
It is not unknown to have single humanoids trapped in such a manner and attacked by numerous torch spiders. It has been witnessed that a group of ten torch spiders could trap and immobilize a grown human adult in less than thirty seconds, making it impossible for them to flee or fight back effectively. Rumors of a family of torch spiders in the Bretol swamps that have taken out a group of hunters from a nearby village have begun to circulate among the traveling merchants and caravans. No one has witnessed it personally but large populations of the torch spiders have begun to rise in those areas.
The light that the fluid gives off is a yellow-orange, similar to a small lit torch. If seen in the forest it looks as if a torch is burning on the ground or moving through the trees. The motion of the spider’s body seems to make the light come alive to give it a realistic look. Some hunters have told tales of being stalked by what they assumed where bandits until they stumbled across one of the spiders. To hear them tell the tale, they would have preferred the bandits.
While not magical, alchemists have come to the conclusion that the fluid inside the clear sack is a combination of chemicals that when mixed together causes it to become bright with light but not heat. If harvested the fluid can be kept in a sealed container and be fresh for up to a month before spoiling. Once the container is unsealed it will become alight and stay lit for approximately two to three hours. When prepared it is activated by the air and in an airless environment it will not work. (Underwater for instance, or in an void.)
The toxin that they inject when they bite is fast acting in smaller animals, twenty pounds or less, usually having an effect within a few seconds. They bodies quickly go numb and limp and they simple can not react. They do not feel the biting after the toxin takes affect however so they are spared the feeling of being fed on.
When larger prey is bitten it reacts far more slowly. Often times multiple spiders will jump on the same prey to inject them so the toxin works faster so they do not flee. While their leg hooks keep them attached, it does so minor as if they are violently slung they will usually come off to protect themselves and pounce again for another bite.
The fluid is highly sought after by alchemists and miners who work in deep mines that have gas that will not allow a flaming torch. While the availability of it is scarce, they pay handsomely for its use as it can help speed up difficult mining.
The toxin is also sought after for its numbing properties. Medical healers seeks its fast acting properties so they can help their wounded patients quicker and without the victim reacting to pain.
In the northern reaches of the swampland where the Jotun roam in the Greenbone Forest, torch spiders are hunted and used by the Jotun for various reasons. Their toxin is used for hunting prey. By adding the toxin of a torch spider and the toxin of a sleeper snake, the resulting poison is very fast acting, even to the giant Jotun, able to drop a full sized Jotun within seconds of being injected. Smaller animals and small humanoids have been known to die from the strong and potent poison.
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? Responses (15)
They are a little large for my tastes, but that is just me. I would make them 1/2 (1 foot) or 1/3rd the size... this makes them realistic creatures with an exceptional element... rather than a more fantastic one.
The Herd behavoir of the spiders is a little threatening. Large Spiders that function much like a primate troupe. These things must be scary smart. (Given the trapping behavoir that is moving beyond the mere instinctual, they are smart. )
Are these critters poisonous? The jumping on the back and feeding at their leisure... so what stops the critter from rubbing them off on trees? Sure they are big and somewhat mean, but can these things rip enough flesh off to stop a creature? Perhaps their toxin is slow acting and weak, thus their other behavoirs (such as the troupe working together).
Actually that would be fun, maybe the corpses infected by the poison glow with an inner light... the poison would be slow acting, so it could circulate, so the body could glow. It the poison was a neuro toxin that destroys the higher function. Thus temporary paralysis, then when it wears off (if the person is still alive), they could lose higher brain functions and wallow in madness. Thus you could get a glowing zombie effect... The person is driven mad attacking randomly and waundering. The effect could concentrate in the eyes.
Actually this would be great to add to an Orc culture. The Orcs might do something with the toxins. They could make a warrior potion... making insane, beserk, pain resistant fighters... with glowing eyes.
What do we think?
Wow, that went into a tad bit of detail there moon.
I did a search on the net and the largest spiders ever found had an 11 inche foot span. I wanted to make them large enough to where their physical size would stop them from over population.
They have a toxin in their bite that while is quick acting in smaller animals is slower to take effect in larger animals. Hence why it takes a group of them to take down a humaoid being. Perhaps my description wasn't altogether clear I will edit it some.
The Orc idea, or Oba`ke in my system, is an interesting idea. They could perhaps worship the spider as a deific creature, similar to the Egyptians and cats. Use the fluid in ritual ceremonies and the toxin as a hunting tool. Let me think on it and edit it some.
A little on the large side but otherwise perfect. Dwarves would consider these creatures to be a real menace.I like the glowing body idea.
Interesting critters. Love the opening. Lots of uses and hooks for these Torch Spiders. Nicely done Mourn!
Trying to work the rust out...
I think they're impressive, Mourn. A non-aerial, predatorial firefly essentially, with excellent detail about their life habits and such. Great job!
bioluminescent spiders with familial bonding, albeit one that can turn cannibalistic on a moments whim. I approve.
I did it... my critic has approved... WHOO HOO!!!! :)
Gave a huge comment, then forgot to vote. Doh!
Look at the spider mommy, it's glowing.
More than your ordinary giant spider!
I like these clever arachnids! Their numerous quirky details and well-described behavior creates a good sense of versimilitude.
I dont quite see why everybody thinks these are too big. After all, a 2 foot span isnt that massive (as Mourn said in his first reply, the largest recorded real-world spider had an 11 inch span).
Besides, I like big spiders. I think theyre pretty cool. (Actually theyre the only bug-eyed monsters I tend to use on a regular basis.)
As for these things:
Possibly one or the best spider ideas Ive seen in a long time. In fact I think Im going to revive my wish Id thought of that award for this one.
I also quite like the little side-trek into the world of alchemy providing alchemical light sources and anaesthetics, albeit somewhat dangerous to get hold of.
Hmm I wander if theres a plot hook there.
Great job Mourn 5/5 and a HoH I think
I agree on the size with Dragon Lord. This is Fantasy and they could be the size of a cow and I would not see a problem with that :) Would'nt want to meet one though.
Woo. Nice work.