If there’s one thing that D&D doesn’t lack, it’s monstrous spiders. The Monster Manual gave us a bunch of them; the Monster Vault would update some of these and add new ones. The Monster Manual 2, published between those two books, adds a whole new batch that doesn’t overlap with either of the other books.

All of the spiders here have Tremorsense 10 and a climb speed enhanced by the Spider Climb trait, which allows them to walk on ceilings. They also have a Web Walker trait that allows them to ignore difficult terrain caused by webs. Finally, they have the very obvious Spider keyword, which allows them to be affected by all those drow and ettercap abilities that benefit “spider allies”.

Bristle Spider

Copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast.

These elephant-sized arachnids were originally bred by oni to serve as their mounts. In our narrative present, several other peoples have adopted them as well. Their biggest fans are the ettercap and the drow, neither of which have ever met a spider monster they didn’t like.

Bristle spiders can also be found in the wild, where they inhabit dense jungles and caves. These environments tend to have enough cover to allow even these huge monsters to hide effectively and ambush their prey.

Bristle Spiders are Huge Natural Beasts, and Level 15 Elite Lurkers with 232 HP. They have a ground speed of 8 and a climb speed of 6. I don’t know if they make webs themselves, but they still have Web Walker. As lurkers, they’re trained in Stealth.

Their basic attack is a venomous Bite that deals damage with slow and ongoing poison damage riders. They can also spit an Acidic Poison Spray in a Close Blast 5. This targets reflex and deals both instant and ongoing “acid and poison” damage, and also slows.

Those bristles are also useful in combat as part of the Bristle Blast attack (recharge 4+). This is a minor action, Close Blast 5 attack against Fortitude. It deals no damage, but a hit blinds and dazes the target for a turn.

Despite being an elite, the bristle spider lacks a double attack ability. Instead it relies on its at-will acidic poison blast to hit multiple PCs per attack, with a side order of bristles to keep them vulnerable. It would probably work better as an elite controller than an elite lurker, with more HP and better AC.

The sample encounter is level 14 and has a bristle spider acting as a palanquin for a drow priestess and her drow blademaster bodyguard.

Phase Spider

Copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast.

A returning classic, Phase Spiders have undergone some changes to account for the absence of an Ethereal plane in 4e. Here, they’re fey spiders with innate teleportation powers. They were originally created by the eladrin as biological weapons meant to infiltrate the halls of the drow and wreak havoc inside. It’s a spider arms race!

These spiders can survive nearly anywhere as long as they have prey to hunt. Their favorite targets are fey creatures, to the extent that they’ll go after the fey members of a mixed-origin party even if a non-fey target would be more advantageous. This behavior was probably an attempt by eladrin wizards to get them to go after drow. You can imagine how that turned out.

Phase Spiders are Large Fey Beasts, and Level 8 Skirmishers with 87 HP. They have ground, climb, and teleport speeds of 6. Good luck pinning them down.

Their bites deal somewhat low damage, but have a dangerous rider: targets are initially slowed, but after the first failed save they become unconscious. This is also a (save ends) condition, but the victim is completely unable to act while it lasts and is even more vulnerable to attack than if they were “just” stunned.

Ethereal Bite allows the spider to teleport 10 squares and make a bite attack, working as a good ambush starter. Ethereal Repulsion is an interrupt that triggers when an enemy moves adjacent to the spider: it attacks their Will and teleports them 4 squares on a hit.

This makes ranged attacks the best way to deal with phase spiders. They, in turn, will eagerly teleport to the party’s back line and munch on the squishies, relying on Ethereal Repulsion to delay any rescue by the melee defenders.

The sample encounter is level 7 and features two eladrin fey knights leading a pack of three trained phase spiders.

Tomb Spider

Copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast.

These rotund arachnids are a Shadowfell species that has particularly strong incentives to seek out passages into the world. Their lifecycle requires them to lay eggs inside corpses, so they seek out crypts and graveyards for use as breeding grounds.

When the eggs hatch they animate the corpse, which acts as ambulatory shelter for the hatchlings until it finally splits open and lets them out. Orcus cultists just looove tomb spiders, as do all other types of death-themed villain.

Tomb Spiders are Large Shadow Beasts, and Level 11 Elite Controllers with 226 HP. They have Resist 10 Necrotic, along with ground and climb speeds of 6. Their bites damage, daze, and inflict ongoing necrotic damage (save ends both). Someone bitten by the spider can’t use the Second Wind action until the end of the encounter, though they can still be healed by other means.

These spiders definitely to spin webs: they can shoot Web Nets at single targets as a minor action (Ranged 10 vs. Reflex). A hit restrains the target and makes them vulnerable to necrotic damage until they pass a save. Less often, they can squeeze out a glob of Webbed Terrain (recharge 5+), which affects a large area and immobilizes on a hit. Hit or miss, the webs remain as difficult terrain until the end of the encounter.

The sample encounter is level 11 and features a deatphriest of orcus leading 2 battle wights and 3 cultists to battle, using the tomb spider as armored support.

Tomb Spider Broodswarm

Copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast.

This is a swarm of tiny tomb spiders that has just burst out of their corpse nest. It’s a Medium Shadow Beast (Swarm), and counts as a Level 10 Lurker with 84 HP. It has the standard spider traits from this entry, and the standard swarm traits of being resistant to melee and ranged attacks, and vulnerable to area attacks.

Its Swarm Attack aura (1) slows those caught inside. Its Swarm of Bites attack is a lesser version of mommy’s bite, and instead of attacking it can use Shadow Drift (recharge 5+) to shift shift 5 squares and gain +4 to all defenses for a turn.

There are no stats for the undead corpse that houses the spiders, but you can probably use something like a non-royal mummy described as being wrapped in webs instead of linen wraps. Depending on your tastes, it could be a minion that disgorges a Broodswarm when killed, a regular that does the same (and thus counts as an elite two-stage monster), or a regular reskinned mummy if you want the young swarm to die when it dies instead of bursting out.

No sample encounter here, as the adult tomb spider used the space for it.

Final Impressions

I kinda like the phase and tomb spider mechanics… but in the end, it’s more spiders. By the end of the edition we’ll end up with enough spider variants that you’ll have one for every situation, but you should definitely not use all of them in the same campaign.