The Kind Spider and Maggot God are natural enemies, waging a war between good and evil which civilized races know little about. When the player characters stumble into this conflict, will they save the day? Or will their bungling lead to disaster for a nearby village?
As the GM, it’s probably best if your players don’t know what to expect from this adventure going forward. The danger of Kind Spiders comes not from direct combat, but when dungeon crawlers rush into battle like the gold-seeking mercenaries they are. This means the dungeon can be run twice: Once when the party is hired to clear it, and again to fix the mess they made.
“We’re a simple folk. Not like your lot, with the magical swords and impressive armor. All we have are farming tools, and while you can drive the occasional goblin away with them, it’s not going to do anything against a growing horde. And that’s the danger staring us down this very moment.
“It started with a lone spider seen at the edge of town, approaching the children. Hideous thing, with spiked legs and a maw simply dripping with venom. Thankfully the lady-folk raised up a cry and we were able to scare it off. But that night Tommy Kerrigan spotted three at the village’s edge. And a few more the next, and so on. Now the torchlight shows far more spiders than road under your feet.
“Some of the fool-minded among us think we shouldn’t worry, saying the spiders haven’t attacked yet and scatter at a moment’s notice. Don’t listen to them – we know sooner or later they’ll have enough numbers to overwhelm our town with nothing to fear. Which means they probably have a nest somewhere to the southeast, churning out their hellish spawn. Sure enough, Luc Unser came across such a nest the other day. We can mark it on your map if you’d like.
“This is one of those imminent dangers you hear about from the larger towns, but we don’t have the strength to fix it ourselves. So we’ve put together a collection from the villagers and will give it to you for purging this menace once and for all. So what do you say? Will you help us?”
The adventure begins when the heroes are hired by villagers to clear an infestation of spiders which have taken hold in a nearby forest. The quest-givers will adamantly describe these as horrific beasts, who have boldly explored the community’s borders in recent weeks. Talking with other villagers or shopkeepers will largely confirm this story, but on a successful DC 20 Intelligence (Investigation) check, the party will encounter a child who claims the spiders were friendly and playful. (If word of this conversation gets back to the quest-givers, they’ll claim this child is likely marked as the spiders’ next target.)
Presuming the players take such claims at face value, they’ll likely clear the dungeon of creatures. The truth is far more complicated. These are peaceful Kind Spiders, defenders of nature who are unfairly maligned due to an ancient curse. The villagers who hired the party belong to the cult of an Evil Insect God, and wish to reoccupy a dungeon the Kind Spiders claimed a generation ago.
RUNNING THE DUNGEON
Game Masters should pay close attention to Kind Spider behavior as outlined on the creature stats. They never attack Good or Neutral creatures except to defend themselves in extreme circumstances. They will, however, fight to the death to defend their nest, located at the far edge of the dungeon. Make special note of the Hateful and Harmful curse effects, which players face upon entering the dungeon.
Kind Spiders pose little challenge to parties at 2nd level or above – which is perfectly fine! They aren’t the real danger of this dungeon. Instead, the party will be subjected to the Harmful Curse, which prevents a character from resting until they have revisited the dungeon and defeated the Insect God’s cultists. For this reason, many chambers in Here There Be Spiders have two descriptions: One when the Spiders control the dungeon, and another when it’s controlled by the Insect cult.
Of course, the party might immediately become suspicious of the quest-givers and challenge them before the dungeon is cleared. Perhaps a wary hero might roll a Wisdom check, critically succeed, and notice an Insect tattoo on a villager’s wrist. If this happens, the cultists will cast Insect Plague and Giant Insect scrolls and attempt to fight the adventurers. Of course, the heroes might have to explain their actions to non-cultists in the village afterwards.
If the heroes fail to notice anything amiss about the quest-givers and defeat the Kind Spiders, the villagers will thank them profusely and pay 1000 gold. At the earliest opportunity, cultists will re-enter the dungeon and start setting up their operations. Meanwhile, the party will be suffering the effects of the Harmful Curse. Visiting a cleric or other knowledgeable person will reveal that the players committed an evil act, and must redeem themselves to lift it. The heroes can then retrace their steps to the village and defeat the cult.
IF KIND SPIDERS CONTROL THE DUNGEON
The dungeon entrance is an out-of-place earthen mound, bursting from the dirt in a forest clearing. A small opening allows heroes to crawl inside and discover the underground tunnel network, one large enough for medium-sized creatures to explore comfortably. This opening is usually covered in webs to block Insect Swarms from breaking in – in fact, taking a closer look reveals hundreds of dead insects trapped in its strands.
Upon entering the dungeon, the tunnels expand until they can be explored comfortably by medium-sized creatures. Large creatures take a -2 penalty to any check including Dexterity, while creatures of greater size cannot enter the tunnels at all.
The entire dungeon is shrouded in darkness – Kind Spiders can see in the dark after all. Anyone who doesn’t have Darkvision will require a light source to see more than their immediate surroundings.
Roll on the following table each time the party enters a new tunnel:
1 – The tunnel is filled with webs. A DC 12 Dexterity (Athletics) check is required to navigate past them without becoming trapped. If anyone carrying a torch or flame becomes trapped, they must make a DC 10 Dexterity (Athletics) check to avoid setting the webs on fire instantly. Deal 1d8 damage to everyone in the room if this happens. But hey, at least the webs are clear! Breaking free from the webs requires a DC 10 Strength check.
1d6 Kind Spiders will investigate the tunnel three rounds after a character becomes trapped in or destroys its webs.
2 – The party encounters 1d4 wandering Kind Spiders.
3 – The party encounters 1d6 wandering Kind Spiders.
4 – Nothing happens.
Small scroll-sized pockets have been carved into the walls. Most of these are empty, but 1d4 Insect Plague and 1d2 Giant Insect scrolls remain. The spells have been modified so they will not harm an Insect God cultist. They may also redirect insects against another target upon making a successful DC 15 Wisdom saving throw.
A paralyzed cultist is encased in webbing against the wall. If freed and awoken, he will claim to have been exploring these caves for spells but was attacked here. If pressed on the true nature of the caves, on a DC 20+ Wisdom or Charisma success (using any reasonable method) he will become agitated and attempt to escape or attack the heroes. If he learns of the character’s quest he will willingly lend his assistance.
Shortly after freeing the cultist, three Kind Spiders will arrive to recapture him. They will not attack the player characters unless prevented from achieving their goal.
When the Kind Spiders first defeated the Insect cult, they discovered various weapons and explosive devices which couldn’t be disposed of easily. For that reason, they sealed them in a separate chamber behind multiple layers of hardened webbing. Breaking through requires a DC 30 Strength or Attack check with a melee weapon or the proper placement of an explosive charge. Placing the charge requires a DC 16 Intelligence or Wisdom (Insight), or else the roof directly around the chamber will collapse.
Within the sealed chamber is a Staff of Swarming Insects, poisons designed to look like health potions which deal 1d12 damage on consumption, and a selection of basic weapons.
This chamber is the primary nest of the Kind Spiders. The entire space is filled with webbing which stretches to the ceiling, with various webbed pockets that protect animal corpses and spider eggs. The room is guarded by 6 Kind Spiders who will approach to investigate but not attack unless provoked. Moving more than 5 feet during a round requires a DC 15 Dexterity check, or else the character becomes trapped in the web and alerts every spider in the room to your presence. Breaking free requires a DC 15 Strength check.
If Insect Plague is cast in this chamber while the webbing is active, the swarm is immediately trapped and dies.
Knowledgeable adventurers may realize that webbing is highly flammable. Simply throwing a torch into the room will destroy the nest within 5 turns, dealing 1d10 damage to anyone inside. This is a perfectly valid approach to completing the quest, although the GM may decide to complicate matters by trapping live prisoners in the webs (likely cultists), or simply forcing the party to deal with a horde of flaming spiders. Upon destroying the nest, all other Kind Spiders within the dungeon flee out the main entrance.
Destroying the webbing reveals nine sacrificial altars to the Insect God along the edges of the chamber, although it will require a DC 25 Knowledge (Arcana/Religion) check to determine their exact purpose.
IF THE INSECT CULT CONTROLS THE DUNGEON
AC 12, HP 20, Attack +3, Damage 1d6 +1
Same as before, but the webs are gone. Distant screams can be heard within the dungeon.
All webs within the tunnels have been cleared, and torches have been placed within the walls to provide some light for the human cultists. That said, each torch has been set up hastily, with significant gaps which might allow a character to hide in the darkness to avoid patrols.
Roll of the following table each time the party enters a new tunnel:
1 – Nothing happens.
2 – The party encounters 1d4 + 1 patrolling cultists.
3 – The party encounters 1d6 cultists escorting a sacrifice to the altar chamber. A successful DC 17 Dexterity (Stealth) check allows players to hide and follow them if they choose.
4 – The party encounters a Kind Spider which survived the clearing and has been creeping through the cultist infested hallways. A DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling) or DC 20 Charisma (Persuasion) check will convince it to join your cause, automatically cancelling any Insect-based spells cast on the party. The “negotiator” gets a +2 to the roll if they roleplay the conversation and behave in a contrite fashion. Kind Spiders get +5 attack and 1d10 damage bonuses when in combat with any Insect God follower – including the Maggot God.
The cult has been transferring its spell scrolls and written knowledge to the library, and already have filled the majority of its “shelves”. Three cultists are working on this task when the party arrives, and immediate grab offensive spell scrolls to attack with. After they are defeated, a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals 1d4 random 2nd Level spell scrolls which aren’t insect related. Otherwise Insect Plague and Giant Insect spells are all you find. It’s kind of their thing.
The Insect Cult broke into this chamber upon re-occupying the dungeon and redistributed
the supplies to their cultists, leaving the room empty. If the players didn’t take any action to clear the room themselves, all cultists will be equipped with starting weapons and poison
potions while a single cultist in the Central Nest will carry the Staff of Swarming Insects.
The chamber is cleared of webs. Nine cultists occupy the room, each standing guard over an altar.
A Maggot God writhes in the middle of the room. When damaged, it will start moving towards an altar at random to feast on a villager. If successful, it will regain 2d10 health.
A cultist will block heroes from reaching each sacrificial villager. Once they are defeated, a successful DC 15 Dexterity check is required to untie the sacrifice.
Once the Maggot God is defeated, all magics powering the cultists spells will cease to function. Any party members suffering under Harmful Curse will have its effects reversed.
Staff of Swarming Insects
Staff, rare (requires attunement by a bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard)
This staff has 10 charges and regains 1d6 + 4 expended charges daily at dawn. If you expend the last charge, roll a d20. On a 1, a swarm of insects consumes and destroys the staff, then disperses.
Spells. While holding the staff, you can use an action to expend some of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC: giant insect (4 charges) or insect plague (5 charges).
Insect Cloud. While holding the staff, you can use an action and expend 1 charge to cause a swarm of harmless flying insects to spread out in a 30-foot radius from you. The insects remain for 10 minutes, making the area heavily obscured for creatures other than you. The swarm moves with you, remaining centered on you. A wind of at least 10 miles per hour disperses the swarm and ends the effect.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 300 feet
Components: V, S, M (a few grains of sugar, some kernels of grain, and a smear of fat)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
Swarming, biting locusts fill a 20-foot radius sphere centered on a point you choose within range. The sphere spreads around corners. The sphere remains for the duration, and its area is lightly obscured. The sphere’s area is difficult terrain.
When the area appears, each creature in it must make a Constitution saving throw. A creature takes 4d10 piercing damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. A creature must also make this saving throw when it enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or ends its turn there.
The Insect Cult version of this spell does not cause harm to followers and acoyltes of the Insect God.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d10 for each slot level above 5th.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
You transform up to ten centipedes, three spiders, five wasps, or one scorpion within range into giant versions of their natural forms for the duration. A centipede becomes a giant centipede, a spider becomes a giant spider, a wasp becomes a giant wasp, and a scorpion becomes a giant scorpion.
In the Insect cult version of this spell, each creature only obeys the verbal commands of acolytes of the Insect God. If the spellcaster is not an acolyte, they may attempt a one-time DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling). Failing this roll causes the creature to turn on the party.
In combat, each creature acts on their controlling character’s turn each round. The GM will manage statistics for these creatures and resolves their actions and movement.
A creature remains in its giant size for the duration, until it drops to 0 hit points, or until you use an action to dismiss the effect on it.
The GM might allow you to choose different targets. For example, if you transform a bee, its giant version might have the same statistics as a giant wasp.