Dated: 05 Jan, 2023
Something different this blog – A Creature Feature!
This delightful little beastie popped up on one of our Facebook feeds this week and it struck us that such a brilliant and useful idea should be circulated to a wider audience. We would like to thank Vince Garcia, Admin of the “1st Edition AD&D” Facebook page, for his generosity in allowing us to post this. We have tweaked his original details a bit slightly to clarify some elements and localise it to Barnaynia. If you like the original Matrix film, you’ll love this…
Frequency: Very rare.
No. appearing: 1 to thousands.
AC: 8 (AAC 11).
HD: 1 hit point.
% in lair: 100%.
Treasure type: Nil.
No. of attacks: 1.
Special attacks: Phantasmal dream.
Special defences: Nil.
Magic resistance: Standard.
Alignment: Lawful Evil.
Psionic ability: Nil.
Attack/defence modes: Nil.
These are a very special form of psionic arachnids, though their psionic powers are not typical. No one knows where they come from. One theory is that they spring forth from the spider goddess called “Arachne” in the Wild Lands; another that they enter Barnaynia from Queen Mab’s Fey realm or some similar Fey place, possibly in the same breech that gave us the Bookahs (see SM02 for more details). Whatever the case, they are some of the most unique - and potentially deadly - denizens Adventurers might encounter. Dreamweavers resemble black widow spiders but with grey-blue stars on their backs rather than the red markings.
They will only be found in some sort of dense woodland, often Fey, giving some credence to their being tied to Mab. Small colonies have been known, very rarely, to survive in more civilised rural areas but they seem to prefer more remote locations, possibly because their psychic sensitivity to intelligent creatures gets swamped by too many minds around them. They have never been known to exist in villages, towns or cities and sages investigating them say they die quickly in captivity.
During daylight hours they will often, but not always, hide high in the trees or rest in their webbing. This webbing, when large colonies fashion it, can extend over large swaths of forest land even if some parts lack spiders living in it. It is invisible or unnoticed most of the time, as it resembles the fine network of normal spiderweb and is generally not on the lower branches of the trees in clear sight. It is very visible shortly after dawn or in misty conditions when dew or mist condenses on the fronds.
The web seems to form a sort of network or Telepathic Field permitting the spiders to communicate with each other and also detect intelligent creatures passing beneath. The signals sent around the web will draw the Dreamweavers to the intruders and the spiders will then follow the targets and wait for them to encamp for the night. If the victims stray outside of the webbed area the Dreamweavers, or some of them, may follow them as long as they remain in the woodland. Once the targets are resting and sleeping then the monsters will enact their abilities, and their game will begin.
The spiders, possibly using the webs as a telepathic enhancer to focus their power on their intended targets, cast a powerful phantasmal dream spell that transports the minds of the targets into a Dream Realm that the spiders have constructed for them. The enchantment automatically affects those asleep. Those that are awake must save vs. Spells each round until they fail and nod off, whereupon they are put into a trance and then all enter the same dream state at the same point. Those that save will realise they are under some kind of magical attack but those already asleep and dreaming will have to pass a saving throw against spells at a penalty of -2 on the dice to be awoken by even violent shaking.
Once the whole group are under the spell they all will awaken in the Dream Realm the spiders have created for them. This may start where they fell asleep or they will awaken someplace completely different but will always involve a specific task or goal being apparent to them. This is because the spiders will have scanned their minds and, using things familiar to the characters, will construct some sort of scenario to put them through. It may be short, it may be long; it may be simple or intricate. In real time, it will last only a few hours and will end at dawn. In dream time, it could last days or weeks.
Why the spiders do this is unknown although it is suspected that the Dreamweavers benefit in some way from the psychological trauma the victims experience. But what is known is that they delight in their victims being slain in these phantasmal scenarios. The only guess is that they view it as a sort of chess game, with various groups of them playing different roles, or constructing different portions of the quest to challenge each other and hopefully overcome those subjected to the trial.
Curiously, they seem to apply a strict regime of rules as to how dangerous they can make the Dream Worlds they create. For instance, they do not subject their victims to impossible odds. One theory is that this would break the rules of the contest the Dreamweavers are having between them. Thus, 1st level adventurers subjected to such a night-time attack would never face an adult red dragon, but might face orcs or goblins, or perhaps simple traps or skeletons. The complexity and interaction of the setting is also limited to being “fair” in a pretty loose sense of the word.
Those who die in these phantasmal encounters die in real life. Any comrades who survive will find their friend(s) lying dead when they awaken.
The one benefit to survivors is that they gain experience, as they are living the experience as real it involves genuine risk to their life, although they do not retain any magic items or other physical treasure gained. They will suffer the consequences of any mental trauma they experience in the Dreamworld (insanity for instance, or loss of Wis, Int or Cha) once they escape but any physical harm will simply not be present on their bodies when they awake.
At the completion of their challenge or at dawn the Dreamworld will dissolve and the characters will return to their sleeping forms about their camp-fires. The Dreamweavers themselves will then retreat back into the treetops. It is not known if these monsters would ever attack the same group twice.
As there may be so many Dreamweavers engaged in the attack it could be impossible to kill them all. Occasionally only a single specimen may be encountered, however, targeting a lone individual. Druids with the appropriate alliances (e.g. Rhiannic Druids) can Turn the spiders as Zombies, affecting the whole swarm if successful.
While they have no treasure in their lairs, the remains of any victims may be found scattered through the woodland and still have their valuables with them as the spiders have no ability to loot them.
As a point of interest, Dreamspinner’s Book of Dungeons makes use of the Essence of these spiders to work its magic.
When we at Dunromin University Press read this monster description our imaginations were fired up by the possibilities of this monster. We had a bit of a brain-storm and have the following ideas to share with you:
As you can see, we think this is a brilliant monster idea and we very much appreciate Vince Garcia’s generosity in allowing us to share it with you.
There are more ideas and Fey Beasts for your consideration in our publications SM02 The Games Master’s Guide to Dunromin and SM05 The World Guide to Barnaynia.