Thursday, April 4, 2013

Horror Comes in Little Packages

I'm not sure about all of you out there, but it's the small things that creep me out the most. Zombies have become a 'how many cool ways can we kill them' past time. Skeletons were never very scary to begin with. Vampires get more moody as the years go by and are more annoying than frightening. Dragons are now a staple at arts & crafts shows. Not so scary. And all those goblinoids that make up the majority of the enemies in a fantasy campaign are trees waiting to be chopped down. But what about the small enemies? Enemies small enough that a sword or mace is useless. These are the enemies that crawl inside of you. Become a part of you. They cause the most horrible and agonizing deaths.

I'm talking about the Ear Seekers, small insects that search for a warm place to lay their eggs. Ears are their favorite place, but an open wound will do nicely also. While you sleep they lay 9-16 eggs and in less than a day the eggs hatch and start feast on the flesh around them.

And I'm talking about Rot Grubs. These little beauties burrow into your skin and tunnel through your body until they reach your heart. It takes1-3 turns for these grubs to finish the job giants could not do.

Here is the problem I have. In both cases the MM says both can be rid of by a Cure Disease, but neither is a disease. The PHB describes disease as a parasitic, bacterial or viral nature. Even though both would qualify as parasitic in nature I don't see as they qualify as a disease. The remedy is already give in the MM that rot grubs need to be burned off and some sort of similar thing I believe would need to be done for the ear seekers. A steady handed player with a red hot needle plunging into the infected player's ear.

These creatures are more difficult to deal with because of the harm that comes with defending oneself from them. The difficult part as a GM is using these creatures and having the possibility of having one of the players die because insect eggs in their ear. Depending on the realism you promote in your campaign this might not be an option. Heroic campaigns don't want their heroes dying from disease or infestations, but leading a battle against insurmountable odds. Not dying in their bedroll the night before the battle.

It's good to change up the expectations of the players. Any group can prepare to go against a stronghold of ogres, but have them go against the creepy crawlers and you'll see those same big badass heroes screaming like little girls running for the door.


  1. Maybe chainmail ear muffs protect against ear seekers?

  2. A steady handed player with a red hot needle plunging into the infected player's ear.

    This reminds me of the scene in "So I Married an Axe Murderer":
    Charlie: I'm sorry, it's just...I have an ear thing. I just...there was an episode of Night Gallery, and this guy put an earwig in this guy's ear and then . They said the good news is, we got the earwig, but the bad news is, it was a female...and...I'm sorry."

    Yeah. I have an ear thing. Shudder.

  3. Why is it I suddenly feel itchy all over?

  4. Good point. Horror, terror, unease... all of these may be difficult to achieve in role playing games, but going small as you've pointed out is a nice change of pace for most D&D players. I've always loved rot grubs because they present such a different type of monster. In my next adventure, I'm creating a similar beast that is too small for standard weapons and can't even be accurately targeted for reasons I'll soon publish.