An Old-School Monster (Peter, Dean, stay out for now)

I’ll change the title when my players have encountered this beastie, but I could use a little help building it. I want to do a cave fisher, and I think it’s going to call for a custom conflict of some sort.

It’s a cross between a giant spider and a lobster that lives and hunts in underground places. It can make a long, sticky strand like spider silk, but it doesn’t build webs - it dangles a sticky strand like a fishing line from a high spot. Mostly it catches bats as they fly through the tunnel - I imagine every dusk and dawn the bats swarm past the trap line and get stuck to it like flies on fly paper. But it’s semi-intelligent and it likes to supplement its diet with the occasional larger prey like a goblin or an adventurer.

The original version of the cave fisher pulls the target up to itself and then tries to dismember it with claws. This seems crazy for any animal - pull an armed and armored murder hobo up to your face? No way. But I was thinking - why not crack the prey like a crow cracks walnuts - by hauling it up and dropping it on rocks repeatedly?

So now I’ve got an idea for a creature that sets an attended trap and then enters a conflict with whoever trips the trap. The encounter probably happens in an underground space with a high ceiling. The cave fisher is fixed to the ceiling and it makes a strand that’s only sticky for the last six feet or so, then lowers that strand near a chokepoint like an entrance or a narrow place in the chamber, or near something appealing like a pool of fresh water.

So if players don’t say they’re doing something like waving a tool ahead of them as they walk, they’ll be subject to the trap. I think a reflexive Scout test at Ob3 or so should be right for the character who triggers the trap. Success means they spot the glimmer of the strand before they contact it. Failure means they’re stuck to the strand and the fisher begins pulling them up.

This is a really bad situation. If the players don’t have access to Dance of the Fireflies or Lightness of Being it will be very difficult to fight the cave fisher because the ceiling is probably beyond the reach of their light sources - lost in darkness. The thread itself is very difficult to sever as originally written - only magical weapons can cut it. It doesn’t burn. It can be dissolved by strong alcohols (like the cave fisher’s blood). Presumably the cave fisher can dissolve it with saliva like a spider.

I think I need a custom conflict to represent this, but I’m not sure how to structure it. Characters piling on to overwhelm the strength of the fisher so it can’t haul its victim up? Cushioning the fall of the character? Climbing the walls to try to get some light on the fisher? I’m not sure… Maybe I have to wait and build the conflict based on how the players respond?

Any help at representing this terror would be appreciated.

Doesn’t this work pretty well just as a trap? A biological one, granted, but it seems to present itself as a trap in all other aspects…

Sure, I could just say “Make a Scout test. Oh, you failed. You get stuck to a strand and pulled up into the air, then dropped. You manage to free yourself but you’re injured.” But that robs us of a terrifying encounter!

So make it a trap that repeats itself until they do something about it. It doesn’t have to be a conflict… you could say that any successful hit causes the critter to scurry off in search of easier prey. The lack of light doesn’t seem like that huge a problem for anyone with a ranged weapon… once they see the strand, they have a straight line pointing to where the creature is. Maybe allow thrown rocks with -1D for unarmed (plus the Dim light penalty)? Maybe also allow a test for rescue of the other PC before the “you become injured”, to sever the strand, catch them, tie each other together, or whatever the PCs come up with.

Psyke, I don’t think it would be easy to shoot at the fisher at all. You don’t know how high up the line goes, your friend is thrashing and swinging around, you can hardly see the line anyway, and you don’t know on what side of the line the bulk of the fisher is positioned.

Health or Laborer could be good for engaging in a tug of war with the fisher, hanging on to your friend or clutching a ledge to keep from being drawn up.

Dungeoneer could be good for climbing up to get light on the fisher or even to strike at it, perhaps.

Alchemist could be used to recognize how to dissolve the strands.

Fighter to strike at the fisher, of course, provided there’s light.

I think the most probable situation is that the players pile on to prevent their friend being lifted up, and then they’ve got to hang on long enough that one or more of their members can either find a way to sever or dissolve the strand or else drive off the fisher. I could see Health or Laborer used for Defend and Maneuver, maybe? Or even Defend and Feint if Feint represents pulling the fisher down… But what for Attack? Attacking would be forcing the fisher to stop its attack by killing it or scaring it. Dungeoneer?

Another option is to get the victim out of whatever gear is affixed to the line, assuming he hasn’t touched the line with his hand and it’s not affixed to his head. Will to keep from touching the line? Criminal to shuck out of your stuck gear? Could use Healer to carefully shave away skin where it’s touched the line… pretty awful idea.

How about this?

Cave Fisher
A man-sized cave-dwelling insectoid predator. It combines features of a spider and a lobster. It hunts by spinning out a long sticky filament and waiting until prey gets stuck to it. Smaller prey will be pulled up and drained of fluids directly. Larger prey will be dropped repeatedly on the rocks until it loses consciousness, then stuck to a wall or ceiling and drained at the fisher’s leisure.

Might: 3
Nature: 5
Descriptors: Waiting, Hauling up Prey, Climbing

Conflict Dispositions
Kill 9
Attack: +1s Crushing Claws
Feint: +1s Crushing Claws
Maneuver: +2D Sticky Strands

Pursue 6
Attack: +2D Spidery Climbing
Maneuver: +1D Sticky Strands

Tug of War 14
Attack: +2D Lifting Claws
Feint: +1D Cunning Instincts
Defend: +1s Craggy Perch

Instinct: Anchor myself in a craggy place and lower my strand in a chokepoint.

Armor: Chitin (equivalent to chain)

Special Cave Fisher Conflict: Tug of War
If a character passes through a space where the fisher’s strand is dangling he must test Scout versus the fisher’s Nature to avoid becoming snared. If the fisher wins, the character and anyone who chooses to help him is engaged in a special Drive Off conflict called Tug of War with the fisher. Disposition for the character is Nature + a Health roll. Actions are Attack (Fighter, but subject to light and reach), Defend (Health), Feint (Health), and Maneuver (Dungeoneer). If the PCs lose, a recommended twist is that the fisher captures its target and withdraws to feast on him.

Special: The sticky strands the fisher extrudes can be severed only by magical weapons. Strong alcohol (mead or better) dissolves them. A Hunter or Alchemist test at Ob4 will reveal that information. Dissolving a strand will immediately reduce the fisher’s disposition to 0 in a Tug of War contest. Note that the cave fisher’s blood is a strong alcohol.

Special: Intact strands from the fisher can be treated with dilute wine to make an unbreakable rope. The adhesive glands can be removed with a Hunter test (Ob4) and used in alchemical potions. The blood is a potent alcoholic spirit.

Hey Ten,

Similar question as one you asked me: What nature descriptor does the cave fisher use in a kill conflict?

Hauling up prey is its “fighty” nature, meant for the “Tug of War” conflict. Meaning if you catch it on your terms and decide to kill it, it only rolls half nature.

Cool. I just wanted to make sure that was intentional. My only other thought is that Fighter is a little boring as the Attack skill for the tug-of-war conflict. I’d probably go with Health or Laborer for Attack and Defend, and Dungeoneer for Feint and Maneuver. But it’s a great idea for a custom conflict, regardless.