Aranea

Life cycle and Society: A female typically produces about ten eggs per clutch and usually produces four clutches of eggs over her life time. Females tend lay eggs when they have had a long time period of relative calm (likelihood for child survival is high) or a long time period filled with fear and worry (the aranea are dying out and need as many young as possible to survive). During the Second Unmaking, near constant fear led to aranea laying record breaking numbers of clutches.   Eggs are fertilized externally and mating is very methodical. Would-be mothers and fathers alike will consider how well the local hunting conditions are and will not fertilize more eggs than they think are likely to survive. If the male and female get along well, they will raise their young together. If they do not want to live together, they will split up the fertilized eggs between them. A typical female aranea in the Third Age will choose to fertilize 12-15 eggs over her lifetime.   The shell and liquid innards of an unfertilized aranea egg can be utilized for scribing scrolls or potions or used as an ingredient in alchemical mixtures. Particularly for anything even remotely connected to spiders (webs, climbing, poisons and antidotes), constraint, or shape shifting and can sell for 100 to 200 gold pieces in a town or city large enough to have a magical supplier or alchemist. Some aranea have no qualms about selling their unfertilized eggs to humanoids. Others find the concept distasteful. No aranea, male or female, would ever sell a fertilized egg or permit a non-Aranea to even so much as touch one of their fertilized eggs. Young aranea are provided protection, education, and food, but little coddling. Aranea mature quickly. Aranea can usually spin their own webs by age three. By age six, an aranea’s physical strength, webs, and poison is strong enough that the young spider can find her own prey. At age eight, aranea usually pick up their first rudimentary control over sorcery and shapechanging. Aranea are considered to have come of age fully by thirteen. Males and females remain fertile till about age forty, and typically die of old age around age sixty.   Despite some extreme cases among mundane spiders, aranea have little to no sexual dimorphism in their spider forms. Males and females are roughly the same size and mature at about the same rate. Unless you count Greymoria their patron goddess, Aranea are not matriarchal despite what many humanoids assume. Aranea young are expected to defer to all adults, not just their parents. Adult aranea dislike social stratification as a rule, but they will usually defer to another aranea that has more magical ability. If two aranea get in a severe disagreement and cannot talk it out, they are more likely to turn their backs and skitter away from each other as fast and far as they can rather than fight it out.   At their peak during the Second Age, most aranea lived in “web cities.” These web cities encompassed up to a thousand total aranea (though averaging at about 300). They were ruled by whichever aranea had the most spell casting ability and split up duties communally for child rearing, hunting, protection, and the like. Once a web city’s population grew too large to sustain everyone, the ruler would send out (cast out) small groups of young adults and instruct them to form their own web cities. Many times aranea opted instead to live solitary lives, live as mated pairs, or small groups instead of trying to claim enough territory for a hundred or more of their kind.   During the Second Unmaking Web cities attracted demonic attention and more solitary aranea were generally able to successfully hide. This taught modern aranea that it’s better to avoid attracting attention than to seek strength in numbers. Modern web cities are rare, and they are much smaller than the web cities of the Second Age. They typically number 30 to 100 aranea (half of whom are full adults), rather than the massive web cities of yesteryear.     Religious Practices: Greymoria is the patron goddess of the Aranea. They basically pray to her for everything, not just magic related issues. Korus is about the only other deity they might ever issue an odd prayer to. There aren’t a lot of Greymoria priests. Apart from a couple prayers learned by rote that most aranea know, their Greymoria worship tends to be pretty informal.   It’s not that the aranea are hostile to the rest of the Nine, they just see them as important. Not every aranea cannot even name all of the Nine. If they have a divine enemy, it would be Zarthus not Mera as one might expect. It’s Zarthus that weakens their ability to retain a magical disguise under the full moon.   Greymoria occasionally empowers favored souls among the aranea but this is not common. aranea generally believe their innate arcane magic is superior to divine magic and this attitude suits Greymoria just fine, who is happy to invest her energy to create favored souls elsewhere. It’s rare for an aranea to seek to become a cleric, but if one does, Greymoria is highly likely to encourage one of her clerics of another race to provide the necessary training. Divine spell casters of all stripes tend to gravitate towards web cities to serve as many of their people as they can.

Civilization and Culture

Major Language Groups and Dialects

Aranea speak Grauen as their native tongue. They are generally highly intelligent and have a knack for languages, nearly always knowing the common language spokens by humanoids living near them.

History

Origins: Greymoria created aranea fairly early during the Second Age to frighten and kill elves who got on Greymoria’s bad side (pretty much all of them).   Second Age History: The aranea were not particularly aggressive but they did add to the dangers for elves exploring the underground realms and the deepest darkest forests. While maybe not as murderous as Greymoria would like, they never stopped worshipping her. As a reward, Greymoria has largely given them free reign to do as they like with little interference, and their sorcerous power has never diminished.   Surviving the Second Unmaking: When the Void demons, most aranea went deep underground, both figuratively and literally. At best they were indifferent at best to the deaths of other mortals. In fact many of them said their contribution to the war efforts against the Void demons was to take a hiatus from eating humanoids they came across.   Most Aranea only fought Void Demons when cornered underground. A small minority of Aranea did fight back though they rarely worked directly with outsider races. Regardless of who an Aranea is fighting, they prefer using stealth and misdirection, so their contributions were mostly unnoticed and no one is singing songs about Aranea heroes today. Some picked off Void Demons that went underground in small groups.   That said there were a few aranea that broke the mold and worked openly with other races. A tiny number of Aranea were part of the army that ultimately brought down the Demon Lord known as the Extinguisher. And a few helped mortals escape from the minions of the Successor. Sadly all these social, cooperative aranea died in battle which only taught the survivors that friendly interaction with other mortals is foolish and dangerous.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

Modern Aranea are not friendly to other mortals, but they are less enthusiastic about capturing and eating humans than their forebears were about capturing and eating elves. Sure they’ll eat humanoids that come near their nests or attack when hungry but they are unlikely to kill other mortals just on sheer principle.   When the aranea cross paths with humanoids it is more often than competing over territory. The arcane spiders’ original favored environment was deep forests, and the elves of the Second Age were not especially prone to live in forested areas. Now the Wood Elves favor deep woods and have formed alliances with many intelligent forest creatures, Aranea face more competition for this territory. The other forest creatures mostly helped fight the demons and the Aranea ran away, sometimes betraying other creatures’ location to Void Demons. Modern Wood Elves were not eager to let aranea reclaim their supposed ancestral homelands. Relations between aranea and Wood Elves are nearly always hostile.   Given that they spent generations underground by necessity during the Unmaking and occupying forests has become more dangerous. Some aranea have decided that the place for their race should be underground. This caused a new problem. Now they are directly competing for territory with dwarves, among many other intelligent subterranean species.   As the world (and their preferred territories) grows more crowded aranea are slightly more willing to negotiate and interact with. Though their negotiations tend to be based on violence, such as ransoming captives. A small number of aranea served as mercenaries in the massive coalition army that overthrew Meckelorn. This has only exacerbated tensions between aranea and dwarfs. More than a few dwarfs have vowed eradicate every last aranea.   If an aranea wants to peacefully interact with humans or demihumans, they almost always use their shape changing to impersonate a normal humanoid rather than announce what they are. aranea typically go into town to buy, sell, and trade items they acquired (ie looted from their food) to get things they cannot easily make or acquire for themselves.
Aranea Character Creation and Basic Abilities   You need the game master's special permission to play an Aranea   Arcane Casters: All aranea have the Arcane Caster merit, and they start out with one dot of any arcane magic other than Invocation of the player's choice for free. Aranea usually favor illusion and enchantment spells and rarely use spell books. Aranea are not barred from Invocation, they just have to buy it separately.   Humanoid Form: All aranea can take a humanoid form. Usually this is a human or elf, but half-elves, gnomes and dwarf changers are not unheard of. This form is unique to the aranea and the human or demi-human form the aranea is the same very time. Their attributes are unchanged.   Aranea who becomes gnomes or some other small humanoid get the benefits of being small as well as the -1 Strength penalty when wearing that form, but Aranea never get the other racial traits of their humanoid form, though most cultivate their traits that can help them fake their role. Aranea who turn into elves usually have higher Dexterity scores than Aranea who mimic humans.   Spider Form: In an aranea’s natural form, it’s a spider with roughly the mass of an adult human. They get +1 to their Strength, Stamina, and Dexterity in this form and this can take their traits to 6.   They also gain a bite attack that inflicts Strength +2 lethal damage and comes with poison. Characters take two more levels of lethal damage from poison resisted by a straight Stamina roll difficulty 7. They then have to pass a straight Stamina roll every hour or take one level of lethal damage until they take an appropriate anti-venom, receive a purification spell, or pass three Stamina rolls in a roll.   Aranea in their spider form get -1 difficulty on Athletics rolls to jump and -4 difficulty on Athletics roll to climb.   Aranea in their spider form get a -1 difficulty break on Alertness rolls relating to sound.   Aranea in their spider form gain three additional soak dice against all forms of damage and count as a hard armor target.   Aranea’s base speed in their spider form is x1.5 their humanoid base speed.   Aranea in their spider form cannot wear armor. They can pick up tools or weapons and objects but are at +2 difficulty to Dexterity rolls to use weapons or tools     Webbing: Aranea can throw a significant quantity of webbing a number of times a day equal to their base Stamina + 3. Roll Dexterity + Athletics to hit. It takes a Strength 5 feat of Strength test to escape or three successes on a Dexterity + Escape Artist roll (difficulty 7) If the target was encased in web while immobile or helpless they are more thoroughly bound and require a Strength 7 feat of Strength to escape or require five successes on an extended Dexterity + Escape Artist roll (difficulty 9).   Webbing doesn’t have to be used offensively. Aranea webbing is easily as strong as silk rope though it is even more flammable. In the unlikely event an aranea is being nice to a humanoid, the stickiness makes climbing easier and safer. -1 difficulty.     Hybrid Form: The Hybrid form uses the base attributes of the humanoid form, but they have still have their bite attack and spinnerets. Spotting a hybrid Aranea’s fangs or spinnerets is usually difficulty 6 barring special circumstances.     Changing Forms: Aranea can change forms automatically without a roll but this takes a full minute where the Aranea can do nothing else and is vulnerable during the transition.     Player Characters of Aranea have to spend 28 freebie points to simply be an Aranea.
Typical Random Encounter Aranea Stats   Willpower 5, Lethal Soak 3   Strength 2/4, Dexterity 3/4, Stamina 3/4, Charisma 3, Manipulation 3, Appearance 2, Perception 3, Intelligence 3, Wits 3   Abilities: Alertness 2, Arcana 1, Athletics 2, Brawl 3, Crafts 2, Dodge 2, History 1, Intimidation 2, Medicine 1, Melee 1, Spellcraft 2, Stealth 3, Subterfuge 2, Survival 3   Illusion 2, Enchantment Charm 2 (20 quintessence)   Illusion Spells: (1) Silent Image, Noisy Image, (2) Invisibility   Enchantment Spells: (1) Charm Person, Daze, Sleep (2) Hold   OK, OK, OK, -1, -1, -2, -2, -3, -5, Incapacitated


Cover image: Symbol of the Nine by Pendrake