Giant Spiders

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Giant Spiders
Giant Spider
Giant Spider, from Memoirs of Sir Cabirus
Variants: Wolf Spiders
Dread Spiders
Phase Spiders
First appearance: Ultima I
Last appearance: Ultima IX

Giant spiders are abnormally large arachnids[1] that inhabit the dungeons and wastelands of Sosaria, Britannia, and the Serpent Isle. These creatures have exhibited numerous predatory behaviors similar to their smaller cousins, including jumping attacks and the projection of silk and venomous spittle.

Description[edit]

The giant spiders of Sosaria and later Britannia are almost universally venomous to mankind, although it is unclear if any of these creatures actively hunt humans as their prey of choice. While such arachnids have certainly killed numerous unfortunate adventurers, it seems that such beasts largely attack defensively when their nests are disturbed or that men are simply victims of happenstance, used as food or hatching fodder in lieu of more common prey.

A giant spider from the FM-Towns port of Ultima I.

The giant Britannian spider is also a source, along with its smaller cousins, of the valuable reagent, spider silk, a commodity prized among mages. While the webbing of the albino ghoul spider (which appears in both gargantuan and miniaturized forms) was once particularly held in esteem, the silk of any spider is sufficient to create the binding property needed for magical work.[2] To this end, some entrepreneurial magicians have taken to domesticating giant spiders, harvesting their silk on farms.[3]

Common Giant Spiders[edit]

Most giant spiders encountered on the Britannian surface are blackish to gray in coloration and are somewhere between a large dog and a small horse in size. These beasts attack their prey through a combination of leaping attacks and spittle-hurling similar to that seen within the scytodidae family of Terran arachnids.[4] Over the centuries, these spiders further adapted their projectile techniques to include the casting of webs from a distance and could be seen exhibiting this "spray" tactic during the later Age of Armageddon during the events of Ultima IX.

While almost all giant spiders are venomous, it should be noted that there are some subterranean species whose venom is not sufficiently toxic to cause much ill effect to human beings.

Wolf Spiders[edit]

Smaller than the common giants, the wolf spiders of the Britannian underworlds are covered in a thick "fur" and are a ruddy brown in color. It is not known if these large predators bear any relation to the lycosidae of Earth, which are characterized primarily by their child-rearing habits.[5] The wolf spiders of Britannia are universally venomous to humans, and their poison has been tentatively identified as a "red bile" by observers. While not characterized as aggressive animals, the wolf spider can be a significant threat when its ire is roused.

Dread Spiders[edit]

Monsters living within the deepest bowels of the realm's underground, dread spiders are often spoken of in fabled terms, as many believe that these beasts do not exist. Easily as strong as three of its less violent cousins, the pale dread spider injects its prey with one of the deadliest poisons known to man, causing death in a majority of cases. Its bite is said to be strong enough to penetrate even metal armor.

Phase Spiders[edit]

A bizarre aberration of the late Age of Armageddon, phase spiders are creatures capable of magical teleportation between the material and ethereal planes. It is not known if such beasts are native to Britannia, as they were only found near a Phase Gap at a farm south of Trinsic during the events of Ultima IX, which must have opened up only recently. The appearance of this Phase Gap is left unexplained and no indication is given as to why a Paladin from Trinsic, rather than the Avatar, was needed to close it.

Giant Spiders in Eodon[edit]

Current scientific research does not recognize any prehistoric species of spiders comparable to the giant spiders of Britannia, although in recent years, fossils of the sea scorpion megarachne servinei were mistaken for a large archaic spider, similar in stature to a dog.[6] Despite this, large spiders - with leg spans approaching six feet - feature among the fauna of the mysterious Eodon valley, perhaps having originated in this mystic location through means similar to those in other lands.

Giant Spiders on Serpent Isle[edit]

The majority of giant spiders on Serpent Isle are identical to species found in old Sosaria and Britannia. However, scant evidence indicates that spiders may have had different significance to the natives of the region, with a strange temple-like structure featuring spiders appearing in the wilds of the Isle of Beyond.

Furthermore, in the archaic Ophidian-dominated Serpent Isle of old, it is known that the liche Aram-Dol fused the bodies of spiders with those of men, creating a horrific hybrid race known as the arachnians.

Lore[edit]

Giant spider (Ultima V, cave)
Few moments hold more terror for the intrepid explorer than when a Giant Spider, venom dripping from its fangs, is encountered in the corridor of a subterranean labyrinth. These creatures are dazzling in their agility and tireless in the search of prey. Fight well, or face a paralyzing sting and the fate of becoming a living hatchery for their young.
Beware of inadvertently wrecking a spider's web and this non-evil creature will probably leave thee in peace. If thou suffer the misfortune of crossing one, take care to avoid the venomous spittle.
Although weak and slow, spiders take their toll: they poison, both on touch and by spitting venom from a distance. Spiders have been known to carry a few goods.
Spider2.gif
Though they spin their lethal webs deep inside dark lairs, spiders of this gargantuan variety often venture forth in search of prey. They are capable of inflicting painful bites or spitting their toxic sputum from great distances. But they are not invincible, and can be killed with a few well-placed blows.
The repellent arachnids which patrol the depths of the Abyss are not of the web-building kind, but roam the crevices in search of fresh prey. The common Giant Spider is a dark gray in color. These gargantuan spiders are midway in stature between a bloodhound and a small pony, and since they travel in mated pairs or clans, these creatures present a reasonable challenge to the typical fighting man. Despite their bloated appearance and short legs, don't be surprised by their leaping form of attack.

Smaller in form and reddish-brown in hue is the poisonous Wolf Spider. It is the most easily killed of the large spiders, but the Wolf Spider will likely score one or two bites (and inject its red bile, a powerful poison) before succumbing to the inevitable. Most Knights think this spider to be relatively inoffensive, but Knight Vitalar reports the beasts have attacked him whenever they have detected his presence.

The greatest adversary among the arachnids of the Abyss is the Dread Spider. A ghostly white or light gray in color, this creature is the equivalent in combat of two or three of its cousins - very sturdy and thus difficult to kill. To compound the problem, this spider is a vicious opponent, capable of repeatedly penetrating one's armor with its sharp bite. The Dread Spider is one of the most venomous creatures known in the Abyss.
GSpider4.gif
Unfortunately, I can do no more than briefly mention the variety of enormous cave spider to be found here in the Valley of Eodon. This is a web - building spider, an absolutely huge species - one example I have seen measured six feet across with legs at extension. They occupy certain caves in the valley, but do not rely on the bounty of their webs: They go foraging at night. I have not had the opportunity to study them and cannot offer much in the way of scientific discussion of their origins.
While this creature may be encountered anywhere in the wilderness, its lair is its giant web, which will almost always be hidden in a cool and dark place. A giant spider is capable of spraying its poisonous spittle from a considerable distance. Its bite is also tremendously painful.
In the underworld, the ordinarily tiny spider can grow to enormous size. The common giant spider is grey, and is the size of an extremely large dog. Giant spiders often form mated pairs or larger groupings, which will protect one another in a fight. They rear on their hind legs to bite their opponent. A single giant spider can be a challenge - one should always flee a larger grouping, unless one has the protection of numbers.

The wolf spider is smaller, but can inject a powerful poison with its bite. It is recognizable by its reddish-brown fur.

There are written accounts of a huge, pale white breed of spider dwelling deep in the underworld, dubbed the dread spider, but I would tend to dismiss this as hysterical exaggeration.
Spider5.gif
The giant spider prefers to spin its web in darkness, hoping the lack of light will assist in securing a victim. Not only is its bite poisonous, but it can spray the same poison considerable distances.
A common hazard of dungeons and forgotten keeps, the spider does not roam far from its web that is spun in dark and cool corners. Most spiders encountered therein attack by poisonous bite, yet from the larger varieties, those in the vicinity may may be subjected to a spray of webbing that can immobilize its targets. If poisoned, death is slow, as if telling the victim that the mistake was his. A form of spider is know to phase between this plane and the ethereal void and, in so doing, has acquired a greater strength than its cousin.
- from Journal (Ultima IX)

Notable Examples[edit]

  • Navrey Night-Eyes: A wolf spider of considerable ferocity, who terrorized the gray goblins of the abyssal colony founded by Sir Cabirus.

Trivia[edit]

  • In Ultima VI, spiders' bodies would occasionally yield meat, indicating that some species of giant spider may be edible (even if not exactly palatable) to humans.
  • In the SNES Port of Ultima VII, giant spiders could project their venomous spittle from a distance, making it difficult to engage them at a range.
  • Phase spiders are likely derived from creatures of the same name within the table-top role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. These spiders, who use their inter-planar travel abilities to gain an upper hand in hunting, first appeared in the Greyhawk supplement for the game in 1975.[7]
  • Creatures known as "frost spiders" were to be included in the canceled Ultima X. See Planned Monsters for Ultima X for further details.
  • In Ultima IX, a fairly hostile and large spider is found on Earth near the Avatar's home.

See Also[edit]

Spider-ROV1.jpg

References[edit]

  1.  "Arachnid". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2011-2-01.
  2. Albert, Dave et al. The Book of Mystic Wisdom (Ultima IV). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1985. Page 4.
  3. Morris, Andrew. "Mystic Arts". Beyond the Serpent Pillars (Ultima VII Part Two). Origin Systems, Inc.: 1993. Pages 25-26.
  4.  "Spitting Spider". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  5.  "Wolf Spider". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  6.  "Spider as big as a dog didn't exist". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
  7.  "Phase Spider". Wikipedia. Retrieved 2010-11-22.