The Horror! Could anything be worse than a combination of arachnid and vampire? How about an arachnid/vampire amalgamation the size of a large dog?? I submit that literally nothing could be more terrible, and I dare you prove me wrong.
This post was inspired by a recent post at Jeff’s Gameblog, in which Jeff found an old encounter sheet where a GM had scratched off the creatures on the sheet and provided his own (See the encounter sheet and blog here). There were a few comical entries, such as the random chicken on dungeon level 1, and the purple pigs on level two, but horrifyingly, on level three, one has an 8.5% chance (1 out of 12) of running into a “Giant Tick.” If you are not suitably terrified yet, allow me to continue. Also worth mentioning, Mike Mearls was inspired as well and wrote up some 4E Stats on a Giant Tick. Definitely worth reading that to use in your game.
What scares human beings more than anything? I submit, that often (but not always), it is the sense of alien and unknown. Unknown in the sense of non-mammalian is what I’m speaking of. Why do dogs, cows, horses, pigs, and other such four-legged creatures not terrify us as human beings? It’s because of their reasonable similarities to us as humans. They have four limbs (just like us), are warm-blooded, and have been proven to be domesticable (sometimes). Sure, we get worried when we see a dog foaming at the lips, a horse going crazy and bucking all around, or a giant jaguar staring us in the eyes (what, that’s never happened to you?), but it’s worry based around our uncertainty and the animals’ unpredictability. It’s the logical worry that “this creature may hurt us if we’re not careful and sensible in our next actions.” Why then, knowing that it can’t possibly hurt us, do humans run screaming at granddaddy long-legs creeping up our arms, or get literal shivers of despair when looking into the cold, calculating (and presumably malicious?) eyes of a giant octopus at the local aquarium? Why do horror authors use arachnids, cephalopods, and even reptiles and bivalves to terrify us in their stories? It’s because these creatures are inherently and obviously not like us. There are at least 1 (starfish), but in the upwards of hundreds (millipedes and some jellyfish) of extra appendages that we don’t know what they do! Combine that with the knowledge that the brains within these creatures (large or small) thinks and rationalizes in no way that we can comprehend as humans, and it leads to some terrifying perceptions.
An arachnid is bad enough, but an arachnid that drinks blood? Is there any other form of behavior that can be more dehumanizing to us? Blood is our life force, and in many mythologies, it is literally the physical manifestation of our soul. Without it, we simply cannot survive. You can take our limbs, you can even take some of our organs, but if you take our blood, we die. That’s it. Game over. Vampires have taken a much different role in our culture in recent years – we have a fascination with their thoughts, with their evil agendas, with their goth parties, but it’s because we know that, even as undead creatures of unadulterated evil, they still rationalize. They still think. Hell, in some modern interpretations, they don’t even have to be evil. Sometimes their rewards are not based on the pure sustenance of that which would kill us – sometimes they want money, fame, power, and all the other things that humans are greedy for. Vampires also have weaknesses. If a vampire is coming at you, you can throw up a silver cross, toss some garlic over your shoulder, run across a moving body of water, or just get inside a house in which they’re not invited, and you’re safe! All those failing, you may could at least convince said vampire that your friend’s blood is much tastier than yours, giving yourself an opportunity to escape while the vampire hunts down poor Billy. I challenge you to bandy words with a tick. I challenge you to come up with any way to rationalize what a tick is doing, other than your blood sustains it, and it’ll be damned if it’s going to die without getting a good bite in on you first.
Now, taking that cold, calculating, alien rationalizing arachnid that craves for nothing so much as your very essence, and multiply its size to something that you can’t just stomp on or pinch between your fingers. A tick the size of a rottweiler, eight legs scrambling up the frakkin walls, pinchers snapping, the blood of its last victim still dripping from its mouth. A tick that still has the mind of an insect, has no ambitions of power and glory with which it can be dissuaded, and that is hungry for your blood. Man, I’ve got to stop now before…
Minutes after posting this entry, Ishmayl was found on the ground in his office in a fetal position, sucking his thumb. We were advised to warn you that everything he spoke of in this article is fictional – we The People do not acknowledge the existence of vampires, reasoning cephalopods, or giant ticks. Thank you.