Posted by : David Guyll July 10, 2013

To me the best kinds of monsters have both interesting flavor content and combat applications. They spark the imagination, making you want to write an adventure specifically to use them in (if not specifically about them). They are fun to read about and interact with at the table, whether that means talking to them, fighting them, or even simply experiencing them.

One of the ways that the team behind Next is trying to do this is by tying some monster together. Yesterday's Legends & Lore gave a flavor snapshot of the ettercap that presented a potentially objectionable way that they could "interact" with pixies, namely by bartering their dust with
hags and feeding off of them to gain magical powers.

Today's Wandering Monsters takes a somewhat closer look at the ettercap, as well as giving us a similar preview for the lamia.

Ettercap
I guess I do not mind them being tied to the Feywild, but then I wonder why they have no desire to live in harmony with nature. An "uncontrolled garden choked with spiders, webs, and sinister predators" makes for a compelling backdrop, but what are the odds that pixies would blunder into that sort of place, or any animal for that matter? On a similar note, why do they hate good fey? Are they the creations of a powerful fey entity that was cast out of the courts? Maybe a corrupted spider spirit? It would be nice to get some sort of reason than just "because".

A bigger question is what sort of things do they get from hags? Ettercaps do not strike me as having a particularly advanced culture. In 2nd Edition they were pretty much solitary creatures that lived in nests, largely ignoring treasure even as a means of enticing additional prey into their traps. So...why? What do they have to gain? What would they buy with their hag-monies, and from who?

I guess a spider-choked forest is probably
not the worst place Neko has set up shop.
Do not get me wrong, the idea of using their dust as a kind of fey currency has merit (though I could just as easily see it as a drug that mortals abuse), I just do not think that they are fit to be the leading traffickers of it.

I said before I kind of like the idea of an ettercap turning into an aranea after eating enough fey creatures, but it presents two problems. The first is if araneas are intended to be a separate creature. If so, then why do ettercaps happen to turn into the exact same thing?  Also, why is it that they gain lightning and force magic from the blood of creatures that are normally associated with charms and illusions. Spiders already have a penchant for being able to mislead prey, so why not run with that?

Lamia
My problem with the lamia pretty much starts at its high concept: it is a half human, half lion that has a list of charm and illusion spells that it can draw from. Oh, and it can drain your Wisdom by touch because why not. Not only are there already plenty of centaur-like monsters out there, but I do not see any resonating theme here, and associating them with Graz'zt is just adding to the confusion.

Why do they have the lower bodies of lions? Why do they all have the exact same spell-like abilities? Why do they drain Wisdom with a touch?  If you want to add Graz'zt to the mix, then would it not make more sense for them to be something created by him, kind of like an exarch or high priest? This would make them somewhat rare, but could also make a good legendary candidate. You could give them lair traits that shroud the ruined city in illusions and befuddle people who get to close.

It in no way explains the lion-parts (which I would just scrap), but at least presents a reason for all the illusions and Wisdom-draining.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. The one time I planned to use ettercaps, they were just side-inhabitants for some wooded mountains home to spider-worshipping goblin tribes, from the Hammerfast book. I was going to twist the tribes by introducing an aberrant cult to those tribes, but still the ettercaps were just there on the random encounter table.

    As for the new flavor of trafficking pixie dust, I dig it. But, I have no idea what an aranea is since it isn't in any of the books I own and I'm not part of the playtest. (4e forever!) Maybe they set traps outside of their territory?

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  2. As far as I can tell the aranea never made it into 4th Edition (though I DID find an Amulet of the Aranea magic item in the Compendium), but the 3rd Edition aranea can be found here:
    http://www.d20srd.org/srd/monsters/aranea.htm

    It is basically a shapechanging spider with spider, human, and hybrid forms that can cast a variety of unrelated sorcerer spells, throw a web, and poison with its bite.

    The 5th Edition one has no description (but given that it is a monstrosity I guess that means it is a spider or hybrid), and both its ability to change shape and cast spells are optional powers.

    I could see ettercap hunting parties making forays into a peaceful forest, but if they had a better established culture you could have web-choked regions of forest as representative of their "cities".

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