Gamemaster’s Guidepost: The Ecology of Giant Spiders in Dungeon Fantasy, Part I

Spiders in the night

Creeping round the walls

Now you’ll feel him

Crawling over you

-Ozzy Osborne

Guest Post by Anders Starmark

Giant spiders are among the most terrifying monsters in the Dungeon Fantasy world. A giant spider is black, with a huge abdomen and eight hairy legs. They have a small head with powerful mandibles and hundreds of glittering compound eyes. It has good night vision, but the eyes are sensitive to strong light and it can be blinded by the sun. Giant spiders therefore prefer to live in caves, jungles or dense forests.

The giant spider is constantly tormented by hunger and is practically always on the hunt. It is a strict carnivore, but will eat almost any animal. However, it is a durable animal that can live without food for up to two months without noticeable problems. Giant spiders hunt in two different ways. They either try to ambush their prey or drive them towards a trap constructed from their enormous webs.

The lairs of a giant spider is typically in an out-of-the-way location. They are often found in the midst of dense forests. One can tell if a giant spider lives nearby by the webs covering escape routes and funneling prey into a carefully selected ambush point. Even if the smaller spiders live in flocks, every spider has its own lair.

Giant spiders are not overly interested in treasure, but the feeding area of the spider may contain the spoils of the spider’s former victims. Some older spiders are aware that intelligent beings like treasure and may use them as bait.

A giant spider’s territory covers about 100 square miles, and no large predators are tolerated within this area. Since the spiders hunt all the time, they often run out of prey and may turn to cannibalism to feed themselves. They may also organize hunting expeditions to more distant areas. There are cases when spiders have attacked elven or human villages that lie far away from civilisation.

Most giant spiders are very adept jumpers. How far they can jump depends on their age category – smaller spiders generally jump farther than older, larger ones. The spider must take a Concentrate maneuver in order to make a jump.

Giant spiders are intelligent, but how intelligent depends on their age. Young spiders are very stupid and essentially animalistic in their behavior. Once the spider reaches IQ 6 it learns the spider language, which is its own tongue. A human could learn the language, but few bother. Giant spider generally make very poor conversationalists.

Posted in Gamemaster's Guidepost and tagged , , , .


  1. The collective noun for regular spiders is a cluster or clutter. That might work better than "flock", which always makes me think "chickens". 😀

    Love the whole thing though. I like spiders, and I love using them on my players. I like the wolf spiders the best because players don't expect spiders with no webs hanging around…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *