“It’s not in the nature of the lamb to mourn the lion.”
- Peter Watts, Blindsight
Number Appearing: 1d4+1
Alignment: Any Evil
Languages: Whatever local language humans commonly speak. They do not speak these, but can understand them.
Treasure: Crawler art, fetishes of bone, feathers and other local materials, the wealth of murdered humans
Why does this Image frighten you? It is not just because the image itself might be scary or remind you of reading internet horror stories until your eyes hurt when you were a child. No, this image terrifies you because it reminds the primordial part of your subconscious of something that the rest of you has forgotten. For just as we fear snakes and lions on an instinctive level, your lizard brain screams at you to fear what you see because it recognizes the creatures that used to prey on humanity in our infancy.
The Pale Crawlers are hairless humanoids with dark eyes and sharp claws at the ends of their hands. They are predators whose primary prey was humanity. When we were hunters roaming the plains of Africa, hunting animals with stone and wood they hunted us. They not much taller than humans, nor that much stronger.
But a Mink doesn't need to be much larger than the rats it hunts to slay them with near impunity. They would pick off lone humans or ambush us and break our necks, then drag off their kills to feast on. Many a legend of cannibal humans or man-eating humanoids, such as Vampires and Ghouls, probably arose first from half-recalled glimpses of this creature from our race's genetic memory.
The Crawlers were a fearsome threat to our race, but we eventually overcame them. Humanity reproduced faster than them and thus, we adapted faster than them. Our larger populations and superior technology enabled us to hunt the Crawlers to near extinction and drive them from our lands. Thanks to our ancestor's efforts, most humans will never even see a Crawler, never mind have to fight one.
Key word: Most.
The Modern Era:
Rumors of the Crawler's extinction has been rather exaggerated. They are still around, albeit only in remote and desolate places. Though often described as bestial and animalistic, Crawlers are as intelligent as humans, if not more so. Their crude societies and lack of food usually limit their cognitive development, but they aren't stupid. Do not underestimate a Crawler's intellect, it will likely be the last thing you ever do.
They do not exclusively eat humans and can eat other meat as well, though they are obligate carnivores. This, along with their intelligence, is why they have survived. Crawlers are believed to live in hidden enclaves on every continent except Antarctica and in some truly desolate regions, like the Central Asian steppe. They are believed to generally form only small family groups or live as solitary individuals, so the odds of you running into a large group of them is truly unlikely. If you do, however, your odds of survival drop from unlikely to improbable.
The location of Crawler enclaves is hotly debated, but there is little consensus. Some Crawlers live underground, which explains why if you chart the last known locations of missing persons who were never found to the location of caverns and cave systems you will find a large amount of overlap. Crawlers are also suspected to live in the large forests of the American interior, the "Tree Men" of Tennesse and Arkansas being notable examples.
Other locations where Crawlers are suspected to live include the Black Forest in Germany, the Swamps and Pine Forests of Siberia, the mountains of Afghanistan, the Yukon, the Jungles of the Yucuatan pennisula. Information on potential Crawlers enclaves and hunting grounds from Africa is non-existent, though it is suspected that that continent contains the highest number of them.
There are also rumors that Crawlers inhabit the sewer systems and underground tunnel networks under some major cities across the world, building hidden nests in abandoned maintenance tunnels and preying upon the homeless, hapless maintenance workers and the occasional clueless thrill-seeker.
Cities whose sewers and underground structures believed to host a Crawler population include, but is not limited to, Beijing, New Dehli, London, Paris, Naples, Rome, St. Petersburg, Los Angeles and potentially(?) New York. So if you find yourself having to leave the comforting lights of civilization, arm yourself with knowledge as well as arms. Stay safe and Fear the Dark; for who knows what it hides?
Atk Varies, see below
Saves (7+HD) or less
Instinctive Fear Response: If a human makes eye contact with a Pale Crawler, he must save or have his instincts triggered. On a failed save, the human must either run away or be frozen in place. Frozen creatures can make attacks if they pass a second save, but they have disadvantage on attacks against the thing they are frightened of and cannot willingly move toward it.
Climber: Pale Crawlers are excellent climbers and have advantage on any check made to climb any surface not smooth or sheer.
Ambusher: If a Pale Crawler attacks a creature from surprise, the Pale Crawler does +2d6 damage on a hit.
Pounce: As an action, Pale Crawlers can pounce on enemies. This causes them to do +1d6 damage on a hit. Pale Crawlers can only pounce if they are at least 15' away or are at a higher elevation.
- Thin the herd, separate viable targets
- Strike at the weakest
- Make the kill then retreat
To customize a Calamity of Pale Crawlers, roll on the tables below:
These Pale Crawler come from...
1- Underground. These Crawlers live in caves or deep underground, only coming to the surface occasionally to hunt. They are blind. They use echolocation as their primary means of perceiving the world. They still have their eyes, but they are non-functional. In terms of tools and weapons, they are little better than stone age. They do not use human weapons, with the exception of simple melee weapons (axes, knives, etc).
They are armed with...
1- Bare Claws and Teeth. Claws do 1d6 damage, with a +2 bonus to Atk, but not damage. Bites do 1d8 damage, no bonus to Atk, and automatically grapple on a hit. A Crawler can make 1 Bite Attack or 2 Claw Attacks.
2- Stone Blades. Stone blades do 1d6+1 damage on a hit. Crawlers can make two Stone Blade Attacks.
3- Tools stolen from climbers. Stolen weapons do 1d6 damage on a hit, with a +2 bonus to Atk. Crawlers can use these to make two Stolen Weapon Attacks. Additionally, there is a 2-in-6 chance that one of the Crawlers is carrying something that could do serious damage, like a climbing axe, which does 1d6+2 damage on a hit.
2- The Forest. These Crawlers live in the depths of the most forbidding forests, from jungles to the great deciduous forests of North America to the sea of conifers stretching across Siberia. Their technology level is Bronze to Iron Age, though most of their metal is stolen from humans. They are excellent climbers and scale trees like monkeys.
They are armed with...
1- Bows and Arrows. Bows do 1d6+2 damage on a hit. These Crawlers can make 1 Bow attack. Crawlers armed with bows have a 50% chance of carrying a secondary weapon, and if not have Claws and Teeth (see above).
2- Javelins. Javelins do 1d6+2 damage when used as melee weapons or 1d6 damage when used as a throwing weapon. Crawlers armed with javelins carry 1d4 Javelins and have the same chance of carrying a secondary weapon as ones armed with bows (see above).
3- Bolas and nets. Bolas require a DEX save to dodge. On a failed save, a target is restrained and grappled and must succeed a STR check equal to DC 13 to break out or get someone to do at least 1 HD worth of sharp damage to the ropes. Nets require an attack roll and do 1d8 DEX damage. If this reduces a creature's DEX to 0, that creature cannot move. Creatures caught in nets are also restrained. Crawlers armed with these always carry secondary weapons.
3- A semi-aquatic manner. These Crawlers live in underwater caves or deep swamps and spend much of their time in or around water. They do not have gills but can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes. They are also powerful swimmers with webbed fingers and toes. Their technology level is similar to Forest-dwelling Crawlers, but adapted to their specific environment.
They are armed with...
1- Spears. These are short, Assegai-like spears with broad blades and short handles, good for up-close work. They do 1d8+Atk damage. Crawlers armed with these can make 1 Spear Attack.
2- Nets. See above.
3- Blowpipes. These blowpipes fire small darts that have tips rubbed in toxic substances. The darts do 1 damage plus whatever poison is on them. Crawlers can make 1 Blowpipe attack. Creatures without shields or armor have disadvantage on Defense rolls against darts from a blowpipe, unless they have a DEX of 16 or higher. These Crawlers have rubbed their darts in
4- Another Universe. These Crawlers came from another universe where...
1- Crawlers are nearly extinct, even worse than your world. They are armed with crude weapons of stone (as Crawlers who live underground) and have -1 HD (min 2).
2- Crawlers lagged behind but not so much that they were overcome. These Crawlers are armed with repeating crossbows and crude explosives and firebombs. They can make two Crossbow attacks that do 1d8 damage, with a +2 bonus to attack, or throw a bomb. They carry explosive bombs that do 3d6 damage, save for half, or incendiary bombs that do 2d6, save for half, and light enemies on fire on a failed save. These Crawlers carry secondary melee weapons in the form of swords, spears or knives.
3- The Crawlers and humans reached a detente. The Crawlers are armed with 21st century weapons, assault rifles, grenade launchers, tasers, etc, and are accompanied by 1d8+2 1 HD humans. The Crawlers are here acting as 1d3 (1= Security personnel; 2= Leaders of the group; 3= Unwanted diversity hires who are distrusted by their human companions). Crawlers can make 1 rifle or grenade attack. They are armed with tasers and combat knives as secondary weapons. They can also make two Knife or Taser attacks if they don't use their primary weapons.
4- Crawlers conquered humanity and reign supreme over the Earth. They wear futuristic armor with cloaking abilities and carry sci-fi weapons. The Crawlers are armed with electropulse rifles that do 1d8 STR damage on a hit. If this damage reduces a creature to 0 STR, they are Fatigued. They also carry stun grenades, 2d6 damage, save for half, creatures are Stunned on a failed save; and Agonizer Rods, batons that do 1d6 bludgeoning damage on a hit, with an additional +X lightning damage, where X is the number of metal items a creature is carrying. They are also accompanied by a 2 HD scouting drone that can fly and hover and has thermal cameras and radar out to 100'.
Common Crawler Tactics:
1- Have one Crawler attack a human, then retreat. The lone Crawler will try to lure the humans into an ambush.
2- Attack a human group from both sides, simultaneously. Leave a third group to attack the vulnerable humans in the center.
3- Harass the humans all night, prevent them from resting, booby-trap their camp, poison or steal their food, take potshots at them whenever you can. Weaken them first. Endurance hunting, Crawler-style.
4- Unleash a devastating frontal assault, then retreat. When they run, have someone waiting to hit them from behind or to prevent them from running.