Marionette Spider

by Chris Carpenter

Darkling Statistics

Strength:  12 Education:  3 Move:  6/18/30/40*
Constitution:  7 Charisma:  2 Skill/Dam:  6/1d6,**
Agility:  10 Empathy:  3 Hits:  15/30
Intelligence:  8 Initiative:  5 # Appear:  1
Special:  * Last number represents speed in web
 ** Paralytic Poison (see below) 

Introduction

One of man's flaws is his "natural" assumption that Mankind rests safely on top of the food chain.  There, of course, are creatures who do prey on man, the most dangerous of these exploiting man's greatest weakness: his compassion for others.
 

Physical Description

The marionette spider is roughly one and one-half meters long, with all the features of an enlarged spider, save the head, which is adorned with two large eyes, six smaller eyes, and a large cluster of fleshy, finger-like projections where one would expect mandibles.  The projections cover a pair of poisonous fangs, and a multipurpose mouth organ.  The massive abdomen is covered in coarse, brownish-black hair, and ends in spinnerets.  The front two legs end in jointed digits with opposable thumbs, usable as hands.
 

Habitat

The marionette spider can exist in any climate except arctic, but prefers warm, dry areas, like the south-western United States.  They can be found in urban or woodland areas, but many are finding a new home in the rapidly growing demonground.  The spider has coexisted with man quietly over the years, developing its' instincts carefully to maximize its' hunting prowess and minimize its exposure to the greater public.  Because of this, it keeps its' lairs immaculately clean and vermin free to avoid unwanted attention.  Captured prey that cannot be consumed immediately are encased in a temporary silk cocoon, or a more permanent resinous coating (see below.) A spider in a dilapidated structure will go to lengths to seal up broken windows and leaky roofs, making the dwelling more appealing to it and its' prey. 
 

Behavior

The traditional marionette spider stalks the gullible, lone human, often in the human's own neighborhood.  First, the spider sets up a lair.  This can be an abandoned building (its' favorite) or a seldom-visited attic or basement of an occupied dwelling (more risky.) The spider then gets to work, finding its' first, and most important victim.  From inside the lair, the spider will wait until a sole person is nearby, and then sets the trap: crying help from within, in the voice of a child or woman.  The person will then (hopefully) come to investigate, only to be attacked by the spider, paralyzed, and drained of all fluids.  Being careful not to damage the exterior of the body (except for the fang/mouth puncture wounds) the spider now has its most precious prop with which to lure in more victims.

The spider strings webbing to the upper joints and head of the corpse, forming the marionette.  Hiding above a doorway or large opening (for example in the rafters, or in a recess set high on the wall, the spider waits again for it's next meal.  When the next lone human walks by, perhaps even looking for the first, the spider gives the corpse "life" and can do a near perfect mimicry of the original victims voice.  The "lure" of an injured woman, perhaps even a comrade, is usually more than enough to send a person running into a room to aid the "injured" without heed to possible dangers in the area.  The spider simply drops down and claims its' next meal, repeating the process as needed.

Normally, only one marionette is needed, but fresh victims are often used to replace stiff or damaged ones.  Persons captured in this manner are hauled away to the lair for immediate consumption (just the liquids,) but if times are tight the spider will happily eat all but the bones.

In order to keep vermin away, stored food is wrapped tight in silk cocoons; excess bodies are covered in a resinous sap secreted from the spiders mouth projections as a waste product.  The outside of the sap hardens to a dull brown skin, while dissolving all soft organic materials on the inside including clothing, but not metals or pure synthetics.  These sacs are eventually hauled away and buried or placed as far as possible from the lair.  The sap is biodegradable and normally no trace can be found after a period of thirty days.

The "country" version of the spider seeks out barns or abandoned sheds, and supplements its' diet with small farm animals and a variety of wildlife, using its' mimicry to lure in those susceptible to it (turkeys, deer, etc.) Those isolated in the wild revert back to web building, catching whatever comes near.
 

Combat Abilities

Despite the marionette spider's strength, it relies primarily on surprise.  Its poison is a powerful paralyzing agent that knocks all but the stoutest of defenders cold.  Immediately after being bitten, the victim must make a formidable roll against the combined scores of constitution and (if possessed,) willpower skill.  This roll must be made at the beginning of each combat TURN (every 30 seconds) for four turns.  Failure indicates paralysis for twelve hours minus the victims constitution score (victims are usually consumed by then.) Success allows the victim to act until the next required roll with a -1 to initiative.  This penalty is not cumulative and lasts for 10 combat turns (five minutes.) An outstanding success forgoes any further rolls, with no initiative penalty.

In a stand-up fight, the spider will normally opt to flee, except against the weakest of opponents (say, a child, or invalid.) The spider may even try to paralyze the victim again.  In a fight against one or more men, especially where firearms are involved, the spider will only fight if cornered, and then only with its' front legs (1d6 for each, one attack per phase.) Like all spiders, the abdomen section is soft and vulnerable; hits there cause double damage.

Spiders have no skill in using firearms or melee weapons of any kind.

Spiders can speak whatever the predominant language of the area is, but will never negotiate; they see their only options as fight or flight.  Unless confronted in a lair, the spiders will take great pains to ensure that they do not lead potential "exterminators" back to their lair by fleeing in an opposite direction, or by moving through other structures, emerging on the other side with enough of a head start to return unnoticed.
 

Weaknesses

Obviously caution is the watchword of the day, not strolling the streets on your own, or slumbering in abandoned buildings.  The spider's mimicry it almost flawless, allowing those who would recognize a familiar voice a difficult roll against their intelligence attribute, with an outstanding success being the only sure way of knowing the voice you hear isn't from a friend.

The spider's marionette ability can be defeated by a successful difficult roll against the observation skill, adjusted for the condition of the character.  If the character is panicked or otherwise "not in his mind" (drugs, alcohol, sickness) the observation roll is one level more difficult (formidable).
 

General

Any person found trapped in a spider's web cocoon upon regaining consciousness can make a difficult roll against strength once per two combat rounds (one minute) to attempt to break free unassisted.  Trying to open a cocoon from the outside is an average roll against strength.  If either party has a knife (that they can reasonably reach) the task becomes one level easier (average inside, easy outside.)

A spider can jump eight meters across once per combat turn, or four straight up.  It can safely jump down six meters, more at the risk of falling damage per the Empathic Sourcebook, PG 12.

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