Friday, December 28, 2012

Damn Nature! - Net-Casting Spider

Check out BBCs video of a net-casting spider
I'm not sure what we'd do without the British and their amazing investment in the pursuit of capturing and understanding nature.

These net spiders hunt at night, don't have the best eyesight in the world, and instead of creating a "traditional" spider's web, they just keep a little webbing, like a net, between their forelegs. For years scientists have been aware of this behavior, but they hadn't been able to see exactly how the spider's capture process works. If you check out this BBC link you can see it in all its slow motion glory.

The process is actually quite simple. The spider picks a spot to hang out, gets its net ready, and then when something touches the web, it strikes in a fraction of a second. Since the trigger is touch, not sight, there are a number of ways this attack could go wrong (spider is too slow, prey is too large etc), but I think it makes the concept of keeping 10' poles with you in dark caverns even more important.

What's even cooler is that some of these spiders, to assist with their poor night vision, will spread their shit on the surface they hang above. When their feces dries it is typically lighter/whiter than its surroundings so when something crosses "the trap zone" it will appear as a dark spot on a light background.

nom nom nom!
A monster using this technique would be exceptional in natural limestone caverns as they are frequently full of rough roof areas or largish "upper rooms". Like in Big Trouble in Little China, when they're going through the underdark to reach Lo-Pan's hideout. Only, instead of being a triggerless jack-in-the-box monster, there are plenty of opportunities for player agency.

Earlier this year I went through the Sonora Caverns out in West Texas, and there were *plenty* of places to insert these pop out and gotcha spiders. The player agency opportunities are as follow:

1. Filaments/Wispy threads hanging from the ceiling over head. Either vertical like a jelly fish, or horizontal like the net-spider's "hand held" web.
2. Floor in the area is coated in a large light/white/bio-luminescent patch (noticable change in the coloration of the floor).
3. If you're using a limestone cavern remember that the walls will stain and stain badly. If there's a successful creature living in the ceiling and eating lots of victims the walls should show clear streaks of black and rust colored discoloration. This discoloration may encourage the monster to move from roof hole to roof hole though, so there could be numerous areas with streaks of discoloration throughout the area, but not all of them need to be "active" murder holes.


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