Look, I absolutely hate bugs. They give me the creeps. They give me the heebie jeebies.
But the best DMs use their greatest fears against the players. The Carrion Crawler is absolutely fucking horrifying to me and my patron /u/birdoge. So lets start with that.
Carrion Crawler Creation
Another absolutely classic monster, the Carrion Crawler was first introduced to us mere mortals in the 1975 supplement Greyhawk. It’s a large maggot, and has eight tendrils that stick out of its awful face so it can paralyze you with poison and eat you.
But that’s not all. The Carrion Crawler doesn’t like fresh food; it likes to eat dead stuff! So what it will do is inject you with poison that paralyzes you, drag you to a place that’s hard to get to, wait for you to ripen (see: rot), and then eat your corpse.
Sometimes I wonder why I play this game.
To get specific here, the Carrion Crawler has the three things I absolutely love in a monster. Style, clear tactics, and legitimate originality. It’s a giant freaky centipede, but it’s really stylish and can do some cool stuff. I imagine a wizard would have one around to clean up the blood and guts of all the adventurers trying to break into his house.
I do have to say, though, the style on this creature swaps around faster than any other creature I’ve seen in the hobby before. In 1st edition, it looks like a freaky maggot. In 5th edition, they went back to this style. But in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition, it looks green with tentacles! (As seen in the featured image for this very article.) Personally, the green version looks more cartoonish to me, but I guess real bugs just wig me out more than demon-looking things.
For this article I’ll use the 5e version.
The tactics of a Carrion Crawler are simple. Isolate a creature by paralyzing it and carrying it away, then let it die and rot a bit. Afterwards, dinner is served. In service of these tactics, the Carrion Crawler does its best to paralyze any creature it can get its hands on by being sneaky and hiding in spots a character wouldn’t expect or couldn’t reach.
While exploring an underground cavern or a dungeon, your party comes across a big wide-open room. It’s tall, and so you don’t find yourself staring at every detail too closely. Your mind is focused on a puzzle in front of you, and suddenly the party turns back and you’re gone! They look up, and a ten-foot long centipede creature has you in its face-tentacles, crawling away as fast as it can.
From your point of view, you hear a small amount of scattering across the floor, like light tapping of a pencil on a desk, with a bit of fluid sounds to soften the echo. You spin around and see this awful creature already on the wall striking at you. You try to open your mouth, but various needle-covered tentacles are already wrapping around your body. The sound doesn’t come out, and now your mouth is held open by the shuddering and seized muscles in your face as you’ve been frozen solid by the fast-acting paralytic poison of the Carrion Crawler.
At least the feeling of fear is gone. The goosebumps, the shivers, the shakes, all gone. Replaced only by an un-fucking-bearable numbing sensation. You cannot feel anything, but your mind can only imagine the absolute searing pain you should be feeling. Your eyelids can’t close, your jaw has been locked open in a silent scream, and your arms and legs won’t move as this thing just carries you in whatever way is easy for it. While you’re getting dragged back to the monster’s nest, the smell starts to set in. The pungent scent of corpse, rotting meat, and wet saliva coating rows of unkempt teeth.
But the mouth of the Carrion Crawler is not the worst of it. As it gets inside its nest, it plops you down into a pile of refuse and rot and starts to use its tentacles to shovel bile and flesh and whatever other horrible remains over top of you to quicken the process. It goes off to continue feeding on the already-melting carcass of an Owlbear in the corner.
You would be screaming, if you could. Eventually, you find your functions returning to you, and you stand and face your jailer. It easily notices you getting ready to fight, and does not seem urgently wary of you. It’s clearly had to re-paralyze plenty of prey before now. It lashes out with its tentacles and you duck out of the way, prepared this time. You slash out with your sword and keep your distance, but the Carrion Crawler begins to climb the walls and ceiling to attack you, learning of your limitations.
After finally defeating the Carrion Crawler, you loot what you can and rush for the finish so you can get this over with and find a river to soak in for the next ten years. A smell like that will be on you for hours and hours, and the paralytic poison keeps your veins prominent for an hour after the experience, though your muscles are more loose than ever. It’s easy to overexert yourself after a paralyzing, so be careful.
I’ll be honest, so far I’ve only freaked myself out twice writing this series. The Gelatinous Cube had me breathing weird an hour after writing it because nobody likes drowning. But this article is making my stomach do all kinds of nauseous gymnastics.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Friday with a new piece, and of course another Sense of Immersion every Tuesday! Please support my Patreon for more!
Roll a D20 to see what odd stuff is in the Carrion Crawler’s nest this time!
1: A slightly smaller Carrion Crawler.
2: An Owlbear corpse.
3: A baby Dragon. Momma probably ain’t too far behind.
4: The king’s son?!
5: The hallowed-out shell of a Bulette, with a nice big bite-hole through the side.
6: Various Human corpses stripped of their meat and missing bones. They’re Undead, and they’re crawling around in the worst mosh pit ever.
7: A mostly-ignored Rust Monster. It seems that the two insects have come to an agreement. One gets the flesh, one gets the metal.
8: A paralyzed person with a bunch of Carrion Crawler eggs gluing them to the wall.
9: A person in a homemade Carrion Crawler costume who is horrified but clearly not yet found out.
10: A treasure hoard of stuff left over from the diseased. Roll on the CR 2 treasure table.
11: Three other Carrion Crawlers. Must be the family.
12: An exhaustive collection of ceramic mugs.
13: A magical orb that speaks in ancient tongues.
14: Exactly what the party is looking for.
15: A deck of many things, but bug-themed.
16: The remains of a species the party has not yet seen.
17: Three spell scrolls of random origin.
18: A dead Carrion Crawler. Turns out it choked on a dead Ogre and died.
19: A sentient, English-speaking cockroach that needs the party’s help.
20: A god of disease who vacations here occasionally.