Aranea

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The amazing Woman-Spider.
The amazing Spider-Woman.
LamiaMonstergirl.pngThis article or section is about Monstergirls (or a monster that is frequently depicted as a Monstergirl), something that /tg/ widely considers to be the purest form of awesome. Expect PROMOTIONS! and /d/elight in equal measure, often with drawfaggotry or writefaggotry to match.

Originating from the Mystara setting back in the 1e module X1: Isle of Dread and X2: Castle Amber, the Aranea are a race of intelligent, magically adept spiders, easily recognizable due to the fact they have small, human-like arms where a "normal" giant spider would have its pedipalps, the characteristic "bulge" on their thorax that houses their brain, and their surprisingly human-like eyes.

They are also shapeshifters of the "therianthrope" type, having a singular humanoid form (usually human, elf, half-elf, dwarf, lupin, rakasta or shazak in Mystara) that they develop shortly after birth and the ability to shift into a "demi-spider" form that adds random-for-each-individual spider traits, always including at least one pair of eyes, venomous fangs, and the ability to project webbing from their hands, to their humanoid form.

All Aranea are magically talented, to the point that, in 2e, it was noted that every Aranea should have the spellcasting abilities of a 3rd level wizard, whilst 3e gave them inherent sorcerer spells. Needless to say, wizard and sorcerer have been their traditional favored classes throughout the game's various editions. Mystaran Aranea secretly rule the Magiocracy of Herath, living quiet lives in the forests that they prefer to call home.

Despite what you'd think, Aranea tend towards neutrality rather than evil; they can be kind of arrogant and creepy, but they generally don't want to hurt anyone. Their reproduction is also weird; despite their spider origins, they are very loving individuals and form intense, long-lasting relationships, which is at least an interesting subversion of the usual nastiness (cf: Drow). They also give birth to live young, which is kind of creepy when you remember that their fluff states they don't develop their humanoid form until a few weeks after being born.

They have appeared in X1: Isle of Dread, X2: Castle Amber, AC9 Creature Catalogue, the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix, the Monstrous Compendium Annual Three, the Red Steel campaign setting, the Monster Manual (3e and 3.5 "revised" version), Savage Species, Dragon Magazine #351, and Pathfinder Bestiary 2.

Red Steel Writeup[edit]

Since you can't find the official bestiary entry from Red Steel online anywhere these days, meaning only the drastically cut down version from the Mystaran Monstrous Compendium is available, /tg/ decided to get shit done and transplant the old lore here for those looking to find it.

General Notes[edit]

Aranea are intelligent giant spiders skilled in magic. Few people believe that they still exist, because the creatures are careful to hide their nature, and they are difficult to expose.

Aranea of the Savage Coast have two true forms - that of their ancestors (a large, intelligent spider) and that of a humanoid. They can also take on a shape that combines elements of the two. In spider form, an aranea has a body about four feet long and two feet wide. As with normal spiders, the body is divided into two segments, the abdomen and the thorax. Two spinnerets are located at the end of the aranea's abdomen, and eight hairy, segmented legs, each about four feet long, are attached to the thorax. Two more limbs, each about two feet long, sprout from the front of the thorax, beneath the mandibles and eyes. Each of these forward limbs has four many-jointed fingers, plus a single thumb with an extra joint. These digits can be used to manipulate simple tools, or to perform the motions needed to cast spells.

Aranea have a set of impressive mandibles, with large fangs. Adults can inject a damaging poison with them. Behind and above an aranea's mandibles are eight eyes. Four are small, simple eyes, used to detect motion. The other four are larger, and apear almost like humans', with a colored iris and black pupil, though set in a round, lidless socket. Two of the larger eyes face forward, and the others are positioned on either side of the creature's head. Above and behind the eyes is a large, oddly shaped lump that houses the aranea's brain.

Each aranea has one humanoid form that it can shift into. The humanoids that can be emulated are many, though some are too large or small to be imitated (see below) and others are not familiar enough to the aranea for them to be copied. Because of magical restrictions, one race in particular, the wallaras, cannot be imitated at all. Races chose can range from as small as a goblin to as large as a gnoll, but those typically emulated are human, elf, half-elf, dwarf, lupin, rakasta or shazak. Some few aranea choose a goblinoid form instead.

An aranea's humanoid form is chosen very soon after birth, and cannot be changed to another form later. The humanoid form must be the same gender as the aranea. Height, weight, eye color, and hair color are all appropriate to the humanoid type imitated. For aranea PCs, the choice of exact race and form is left to the players (within the guidelines listed above).

In its third, demispider form, an aranea appears as a humanoid with arachnoid elements. These always include fangs, spinnerets in the palm of each hand, and four eyes. The demispider form typically has an extra joint in each finger and thumb as well, and the two extra eyes are generally located on the temples. But no two individuals ever have exactly the same demispider form. Since aranea gain no initial Legacy from the Red Curse, aranea characters usually claim that this form is part of their Legacy. The fiction works well, considering that aranea are relatively rare and very secretive, and some Legacies give a demispider form.

Aranea have their own language, known now as Herath. All aranea know this language and a native language of the race they emulate. Most aranea are neutral in alignment, though most other people consider them to be evil.

Combat[edit]

Aranea prefer to avoid physical combat. In humanoid form, they battle as the race emulated. In spider form, they wait in trees for prey to pass beneath, then lower themselves silently on web strands, and attack with spells. A victim attacked in this manner suffers a penalty of -1 to surprise rolls.

If forced into physical combat, an aranea can attempt to inject venom into an opponent. This requires a successful hit with fangs, so it can be performed only by aranea in arachnid or demispider form. A victim who fails a saving throw vs. poison after being bitten feels a faint stiffness in the limbs immediately, and takes 1d4 damage per round for the 1d4 rounds. Damage for multiple bites is cumulative. Aranea venom becomes nonpoisonous upon contact with air, so it cannot be saved and used on weapons. The aranea can inject venom up to three times each day.

An aranea gains web-spinning ability at maturity (1st level for PCs). This allows the creature to descend on webs, climb them, and entangle opponents. Naturally, webs can be spun only by aranea in spider or demispider form. An aranea can produce 10 feet of webbing per level per day (half from each spinneret). It can be spun in pieces of any size, up to the maximum length. A web strand is about a quarter-inch in diameter and strong enough to suspend about 500 pounds. Aranea climb webs at a Movement Rate of 12, (again, only in spider or demispider form). They have no special abilities against a web spell, however. Using webbing to entangle a target requires a weapon attack. A strand can be severed easily (requiring only 2 hit points of cutting damage inflicted in a single blow), and can be broken by a successful "open doors" roll.

Aranea place much value on magic, and nearly all of them are spellcasters, so magic is fairly common in their lands. DMs should treat aranea NPCs as 3rd-level mages. They can cast spells in any of their forms. Most aranea are mages or specialist wizards. They prefer illusions and charms, and avoid fire-based spells. Some dwelling among humanoids keep their spellcasting abilities secret, to avoid arousing suspicion. Many are multi-class mages or single-class thieves. Single-class clerics or righters are very rare. Though aranea might seem particularly well suited to be bards, that class is forbidden to them, for the idea of being an entertainer is foreign to their culture, and their histories are kept by "real wizards," rather than those who simply "dabble in magic". Because of their special natures, aranea who emulate humans, lupins, or rakasta can choose to become dual-class, and cannot be multi-class characters. Dual-class aranea usually take the nonmage class first, so they may advance to high levels as wizards.

Aranea choose kits appropriate to their humanoid forms, and can take any available to their character class and the race they emulate. The Noble kit is a favorite, but no aranea ever takes the Local Hero kit, because they consider it degrading.

Aranea wear armor appropriate for their clas. Most feel they will never need to change into their arachnid forms quickly enough to take daamge from restrictive armor. If they do change into spider form while wearing armor, damage suffered equals 10 minus the AC of the armor, and the armor is ruined.

Special Abilities[edit]

In spider form, aranea have AC 7 and never wear armor. In humanoid or demispider form, they have the base AC of the emulated race (AC 10). Aranea have infravision with a range of 60 feet. They can take proficiency in animal handling and animal training for spiders, the ability being applied to spiders with an Intelligence of 1 or more. Because of their other abilities and their involvement with the creation of the Red Curse, aranea do not receive an initial Legacy. However, when they reach maturity, they must wear cinnabryl or suffer the detrimental effects of a randomly chosen power. An aranea can gain Legacies by becoming an Inheritor.

Aranea change shapes with ease. The ability is automatic, learned within a few weeks after birth, and is not limited in duration or number of uses per day. However, an aranea trying to maintain secrecy will assume demispider form no more than three times per day, as per the Legacies, and the creatures never assume spider form among non-aranea. It takes one round to change from humanoid to demispider, demispider to spider, or vice versa. Thus, changing from spider to humanoid or the reverse takes a minimum of two rounds.

An aranea in humanoid form is effectively a member of the race emulated, and has any special abilities of that race. For instance, an aranea in lupin form has excellent senses of smell and hearing. In all cases, though, the aranea follows the character class and level restrictions for aranea.

In essence, an aranea has two real identities. The creature's true race cannot be determined unless someone actually watches the change into spider form or has some way to read the character's mind (or possesses some other extraordinary means). Even a true seeing spell is generally useless, because it allows the recipient "to see all things as they actually are," and aranea of the Savage Coast actually have dual "true" forms. If a true seeing spell is used on an aranea in demispider form, it reveals either the arachnid form or the humanoid form (equal chances). Note that the identify species spell was invented by aranea, so it is useless against them. (The aranea use the spell to ferret out spies and insure the security of special meetings.)

Though the aranea's shapechanging ability was originally gained through arcane means, neither form is magical, so a dispel magic spell cast on an aranea in humanoid form does not cause it to revert to spider form. If cast on an aranea in demispider form, dispel magic can (if a successful roll is made, using the aranea's level or Hit Dice as the value for the opposing caster) cause the aranea to change into humanoid or spider form (again, equal chances).

The shapechanging ability gives aranea partial immunity to polymorph spells, as with lycanthropes and doppelgangers. (They can resume their normal form after being affected by the spell for one round.) Aranea are easier to hit and take extra damage from weapons enchanted with bonuses against shapechangers (such as a Sword +1, +3 vs. Lycanthropes & Shapechangers). Shapechanging does not heal wounds an aranea has taken. When killed, an aranea stays in the form held just before death.

Habitat/Society[edit]

Aranea prefer to live in forests, the natural homes of their ancestors, where they can hunt and hide. The aranea are the secret rulers of the Magiocracy of Herath, where they live in cities and villages that resemble those of neighboring lands, but with an apparent mixture of several different races. Otherwise, an aranea village seems very much like any other typical of the region, with stone and wood buildings built more for practicality than artistic value.

Aranea follow the mating customs of the race they emulate, and their love can be quite deep. Aranea young are born live, and parents take good care of their children, to make sure they are given a proper background. Each aranea is taught to emulate its humanoid form from infancy. They believe the form is chosen by fate, and aranea of the same family usually have similar forms (if not, an infant might be sent away to be raised by relatives).

Aranea take great pains to conceal their dual natures, partly because many other races feel animosity toward them, due to their secretive nature and their history. Aranea are taught from birth that they have two, discrete identities, one the spider form, shown only to other aranea, and the other a humanoid form, which law demands must be used to deal with outsiders. Individuals are compelled by aranea culture to keep the two identities separate, and never to reveal the aranea's existence to other races. Those who do are considered traitors, and are dealt with harshly and quickly by other aranea.

Because of old stories and legends of their purported evil, aranea are almost universally despised as a sort of "bogeyman". Aranea who reveal what they really are suffer from a +10 penalty to reaction rolls for anyone who has heard of them. A revealed aranea will often be hunted by almost everyone in the region (especially by other aranea). However, it may be possible for the character to assume the pose of a "tame" aranea, one who has "converted to the cause of good." But even these characters would suffer from prejudice and hunts by other aranea.

Most aranea feel they are superior to other races, due to their long history and special abilities. Often, they are cold, calculating, and secretive. But few are truly evil; they simply have a different outlook on things. They also tend to be suspicious of others, expecting them to have secrets as well.

Aranea usually take the acting proficiency. This allows them to blend in perfectly in another society, appearing open and honest, if they so choose. This is not to say that aranea without the acting proficiency will automatically be discovered, but they are less able to blend, in terms of personality. An aranea without the acting proficiency will often be considered strange, but since the creature looks like a member of another race, others usually simply assume the character is an odd member of the other race.

Ecology[edit]

Aranea use magic to subdue their environment, shaping it to fit their desires. They are predators, and many enjoy the taste of the flesh of sentient beings, though these are the exception rather than the rule. Their culture produces art that most other sentients find disturbing. Aranea are generally good with cloth, and naturally dominate the silk market with the silk they produce. Aranean technological development is typical for the Savage Coast. They use tools and weapons common to the races they emulate, and they covet magical items.

Currently, the creatures get along reasonably well with other races.

Undead Aranea[edit]

Given that the aranea are so obsessed with magic, naturally, they have more than their share of necromancers. And this has led to the development of two different kind of aranean undead creatures.

Yeshoms were an experiment to grant an aranea immortality, augmented shapeshifting, and enhanced spellcasting power. It went horribly, horribly right, transforming the araneans who underwent the procedure into slime-like undead monsters whose psyches were scarred by the transformation, which ultimately drove them insane and evil. In its normal form, the yeshom resembles a large puddle of oily, black tar, but it can take the form of any man-sized or smaller creature, but each form retains its characteristic shiny, black, liquid texture. These grotesque creatures are virtually indestructible; alongside a 75% resistance to magic, they are immune to any form of energy discharge, as well as being immune to charm spells, sleep spells, hold spells, death magic and poison. Plus, they can only be hurt by magical weapons. They can dissolve creatures with their touch, like a black pudding, and any creature destroyed by a yeshom has its very soul destroyed; not even a Wish can restore their victims! They can also envelop victims and trap them in suspended animation within a pocket-plane that only the yeshom can access, where the yeshom can draw upon that victim's memories. Cruel, irrational and very, very bored, these sadistic undead prefer to draw out the agony of a death, prolonging the victim’s terror. About the only good thing about them is that they are extremely territorial; they rarely, if ever, move from their isolated lairs, and never have minions, not even undead slaves.

Arashaeem are believed to be the result of aranea attempting to undergo the lich transformation, although whether or not they are successes is a matter of perspective. These undead spiderweres retain their shapeshifting, being able to transform between three zombie-like forms; a giant undead spider, a humanoid, and a hybrid form. Highly intelligent and equally arrogant, they retain an appetite for flesh, much like a cannibal zombie or ghoul, but are still powerful mages wielding deadly magic in pursuit of their goals of conquest and domination. Their venom is a powerful paralytic, and some strange aspect of their necrology causes their webbing to be imbued with a similar paralytic toxin. Unlike a true lich, whilst arashaeem are resilient, they have no phylacteries and thus they cannot return if destroyed. They also retain the vulnerability to anti-shapeshifter weaponry carried by their living kin.

2e Stats[edit]

The first playable depiction of the Aranea was in 2e's Red Steel campaign setting book, where they shared the "new races" entry with their fellow beastmen the Lupins, the Rakasta and the Tortles. They would later be reprinted in Odyssey's "Characters of the Savage Coast".

Ability Score Minimums/Maximums: Minimum of 8 Dexterity, Minimum of 12 Intelligence, Maximum of 16 Constitution, all others are standard 3/18 value.
Ability Score Modifiers: -2 Strength, -2 Constitution, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence
Racial Class & Level Limits: Fighter 6, Wizard (Any) Unlimited, Cleric 9, Druid 12, Thief 12, Psionicist 10
Classing: Aranea can choose to either dual-class or to become multiclassed Mage/Fighters, Mage/Clerics, Mage/Psionicists or Mage/Thieves. They can multiclass as generalist or specialist mages.
Racial Thieving Skill Adjustments: +10% to Move Silently and Read Languages, +5% to Hide in Shadows and Climb Walls
Base Armor Class: 7 in spider form, 10 in humanoid/demi-spider forms
Spider's Ambush: Aranea have the option to ambush victims by assuming spider form and waiting in a high, concealed spot, such as amongst the branches of a tree, before dropping down on a silken tether behind the victim. When attacking in such a fashion, the victim suffers a -1 penalty to their surprise roll.
Spider's Bite: When in spider or demi-spider form, an aranea can deliver a deadly toxin with their fangs, inflicting 1d4 damage per round for 1d4 rounds upon successfully biting a victim who then fails their save vs. poison. Aranea venom quickly becomes harmless when exposed to air, so they can only deliver this venom with their own fangs. An aranea produces enough venom to deliver three toxic bites per day.
Spider's Silk: In spider or demi-spider forms, an aranea can spin up to 10 feet of webbing per level each day. In their arachnid forms, aranea can climb webbing with movement value 12, although this grants them no protection against a Web spell. Webbing can be used to entangle a foe with a weapon attack; this webbing has only 2 hit points and can be broken with a successful Open Doors roll.
Shapechanging: Aranea treat both their humanoid and their spider forms as "true forms", so neither true seeing nor dispel magic will force them to change shape from either of these forms. In demi-spider form, a dispel magic will force an aranea to randomly assume either humanoid or spider form. It takes one round to progress one stage along the spider-demispider-humanoid axis, so it takes two rounds to go completely from one "true form" to the other. If forced to shapechange from humanoid to spider whilst wearing armor, an aranea takes (10 - armor's AC) damage and the armor is ruined in the process. Aranea have the same partial immunity to polymorph spells as any other shapechanger, and are likewise vulnerable to shapechanger's bane weapons. An aranea in its humanoid form has all of the racial traits of that form - for example, an aranea that transforms into a lupin would gain the lupin's enhanced sense of smell.
Infravision 60 feet
Evil Reputation: An aranea whose race is revealed will suffer from the "common knowledge" of its ancestral "legacy of evil". This cultural demonization inflicts a +10 penalty to reaction rolls from anyone who is familiar with the stories and legends of the ancient aranea.

3.5 Stats[edit]

The 3rd edition version of the Aranea appeared for the first time in Savage Species, but received an updated PC writeup in Dragon #351. Ironically, they were probably worse than their 2e versions, given the scourge of level adjustment.

Ability Score Modifiers: +4 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, +4 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom, +4 Charisma
Racial Type: Magical Beast (Shapechanger)
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 3 Monstrous HD
Movement: 50 feet, Climb 25 feet
Special Attack: Poisonous Bite; inflicts d6 damage and injects a venom that requires a Constitution-based Fortitude save against DC 13. Inflicts d6 initial Strength damage and 2d6 secondary Strength damage.
Special Attack: Web; When in spider or hybrid form, an aranea may throw a web as a ranged attack. This is treated as making a thrown net attack, except that it has a maximum range of 50 feet, a range increment of 10 feet, and is effective against targets of Large size or smaller. A creature hit by the web is entangled and cannot move unless they succeed at either a DC 13 Escape Artist check or a DC 17 Strength check. Aranea webbing has 6 hit points, 0 hardness, and takes double damage from fire. An aranea only produces enough webbing to make six Web Attacks each day.
Special Attack: Spells; An aranea has the spell-casting ability of a 3rd level sorcerer. They traditionally prefer illusions and enchantments, but avoid fire spells.
Supernatural Ability: Change Shape; An aranea's natural form is of a Medium-sized monstrous spider, but it may assume two other forms. The first is of a Small or Medium Humanoid creature; this form is unique to the aranea, as with a lycanthrope. In this form, it cannot use its poisonous bite or web attacks, and its movement values change to that of the humanoid. The second form is a "demi-spider"; although it can pass as a Medium Humanoid at first glance, a DC 18 Spot check will reveal subtle spidery flaws in the aranea's form, such as fangs or extra eyes. In hybrid form, it can use weapons and armor like a humanoid, but still use its poisonous bite and web attacks. An aranea cannot be forced into its true form by any Dispel Magic type effect, but a True Seeing will show the aranea for its true form when shapeshifted.
Darkvision 60 feet, Lowlight Vision
Racial Skill Bonuses: +2 to Spot, +2 to Listen, +2 to Jump, +8 to Climb, can always Take 10 on Climb checks.
Level Adjustment: +4
Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races
Core: Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human
Dark Sun: Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen
Dragonlance: Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur
Mystara: Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak)
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
Oriental Adventures: Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk
Planescape: Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling
Spelljammer: Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil
Ravenloft: Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope
Complete
Book of X:
Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
Dragon Magazine: Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart

Monstergirls[edit]

Weirdly, despite the artwork shown at the top of the page, the aranea never really caught on in /tg/ eyes as a monstergirls-friendly species. Precisely why is unknown, and probably has to do with the species' obscurity amongst the modern /tg/-going crowd. This is a shame, because the species is actually very compatible with such a depiction. After all, their background as sapient spiders that developed the ability to assume wholely & partially humanoid form is reminiscent of the hengeyokai, one of the older real-world monstergirl species. The fact that every "demispider" form is unique gives you all but explicit permission to make your aranea look like whatever floats your boat in terms of spider-girls; want a not!Drider? A bipedal spidergirl? Something more human? Something more monstrous? You can go with whatever angle you like, and you're still being canon. Add in all the stuff about them being passionate, loving, and monogamous by their canon fluff, and they're practically tailor-made for the spider-waifu crowd.

Perhaps, one day, they will get the recognition they deserve, but until then, they languish in obscurity where only those MG fans most interested in D&D will venture to go.