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Chitines feel like a late-3e addition to the game, and likely had slightly different lore back then.
Chitines are an artificially engineered people. The first of their kind were produced in drow laboratories in an attempt to create the perfect slaves. The techniques and materials used were a mixture of arcane magic, prayers to Lolth and both souls and genetic material from elves, spiders, and demons.
It did not work out. Soon after the first batch of chitines was created, Lolth herself intervened to grant them freedom and allow them to strike back at their would-be enslavers. This makes a lot more sense once you remember Lolth doesn’t really like or trust her worshippers, as we discussed in the Yochlol entry.
Lolth’s intervention caused a special priestly caste of chitines, known as Choldriths, to emerge from the vats and lead their people to freedom. In our narrative present, chitines inhabit the upper Underdark and believe themselves to be the true chosen of Lolth. The relationship between their two peoples can be summed up as “kill on sight”, though chitines are more willing to negotiate with non-drow peoples and trade their service as mercenaries in exchange for money, weapons and magic.
Most chitines are devout Lolth worshippers to the same extent drow are, though each people considers the other’s faith heretical. Chitines believe they, and not the drow, are Lolth’s favorites, and that her true form is that of a spider rather than that of a drow.
The creation of the chitines is a relatively recent event, so they lack much experience with surface. They know it exists, but haven’t really explored it and tend to see it as a source of baffling mysteries. The book mentions a story about a shifter illusionist that managed to convince a chitine settlement that she was an aspect of Lolth, and used them to attack a nearby drow settlement and assassinate a rival.
There’s an interesting side box here about how chitines build their lairs. The basic structure here is a suspended fortress, a tear-shaped web sack hanging from the ceiling that’s large enough to contain two or three floors of chambers. Larger settlements have several of these linked by walkways. You can use this style to build chitine-themed dungeons.
Chitines are Medium Natural Humanoids with the Spider keyword. They have Darkvision, and a Spider Climb speed equal to their ground speed (usually 6). Most of them prefer daggers for combat, with specialists using other weapons.
Their signature power is a Web Line (move action, encounter), which can be used when they’re climbing and allows them to fly 5 squares. Everything else comes from training.
Chitines don’t really have the concept of a “non-combatant”. When their lairs are attacked, every individual inside grabs a knife or four and rushes to its defense. The vast majority of them are going to use this stat block.
Grunts are Level 5 Minion Brutes. They wield four daggers which can be used for melee or ranged basic attacks. When killed they emit a Dying Shriek that inflicts a -2 penalty to the defenses of all adjacent enemies for a turn. This is an untyped penalty, so I think it might stack. I’m not sure, though.
These chitines have a combination of extra training and experience that makes them a much greater threat in combat. They’re Level 5 Brutes with 72 HP. They carry eight daggers, four in hand and four ready to replace any thrown blades. Like their minion counterparts, they can use daggers for melee and ranged basic attacks, and they can also make a Four Blade Strike that consists of four slightly weaker dagger attacks.
They’re pretty much a non-minion version of the Grunt, and they never step on the actual floor of the map unless they can’t help it, attacking instead from the ceiling and walls.
Scouts patrol and defend the approaches to a chitine cave, using rapid-firing hand crossbows to attack from unexpected angles. They’re Level 5 Artillery with 48 HP.
Their melee basic attack is still a dagger, but those hand crossbows have a lot more range than a thrown knife. Using the Furious Volley ability, they can make up to two dagger and two crossbow attacks with a single action. Once per encounter they can fire a Poisoned Bolt that targets Fortitude, does the same damage as a regular attack and inflicts 10 ongoing poison damage. That’s a lot for level 5!
Chitine custom says that any offspring beyond the first eight in a clutch must be cast out to fend for themselves in the Underdark. If these outcasts manage to survive a year out there, they’re welcomed back. Most who survive don’t bother trying to return, and instead form their own outcast communities. They set up ambush spots by building camouflaged web doors over niches in narrow tunnels, from which they emerge to surround victims.
Marauders are Level 6 Skirmishers with 72 HP. They’re armed with paired short swords, and the Quick Jabs ability allows them to make two attacks per action with them, shifting 2 squares after each one. They deal extra damage if they have combat advantage.
The same stat block can of course be used for non-marauder chitine skirmishers if you need some.
Chitine Web Crafter
Web crafters are those chitines specialized in producing webs and building stuff with them. They’re responsible for architecting and building those suspended fortresses, as well as the traps and mechanisms that go into them. The web crafter’s guild is usually the second most influential organization in a chitine society - if you anger them, your home might come crashing down with you inside.
The choldrith priests are the only group above them, and one way they keep the web crafters in check is to demand they participate in combat. Chitine patrols or raiding parties probably include a web crafter or two, who might act as the officer in charge. If the crafters had time to prepare before the fight, the battle map certain to include web-based hazards and traps.
Web crafters are Level 6 Controllers with 72 HP. They fight in melee with lightly-poisoned speads that do physical damage and slow for a turn. They can throw poisoned web orbs that do poison damage and also slow for a turn, or web balls (recharge 4+) that do physical damage and restrain (save ends).
They can also create a Web Wall once per encounter. The wall is 6 squares long and counts as destructible blocking terrain. Each square as the same defenses as the crafter and 10 HP. They’re vulnerable to fire, but attacking them in melee causes immobilization (save ends) as the webs stick to the PC.
Clever crafters might use walls to separate defenders from squishies, and then bombard the squishies with poison and the defenders with web balls while their melee buddies move freely between the two groups.
Choldriths are the special priestly caste created by Lolth’s intervention in the original chitine production process. They’re visibly different from common chitines, resembling pale driders. They’re invariably at the top of chitine social hierarchies, and their flocks are so devoted to them that there are stories of chitines who collapsed their whole colonies while resisting a troglodyte raid, killing themselves so their choldrith leaders might survive.
Choldriths are Large Natural Humanoids with the Spider keyword, and Level 8 Controllers (Leaders) with 90 HP. In combat they use a mix of natural weapons and Lolth-themed magic.
Their basic melee attack is a Claw that does poison damage and immobilizes for a turn. Their basic ranged attack is a Web that does physical damage and restrains for a turn. They can also use a Shadow Spider Curse that deals poison damage and makes the target grant combat advantage to spiders (save ends). “Spiders” here means anything with the Spider keyword: actual spiders, chitines, driders, ettercaps…
Once per encounter choldriths can summon a cloud of Choking Vapors, which deal immediate and ongoing poison damage over an area. They remain as a zone that deals 5 poison damage to anyone who enters or ends their turn there.
The choldriths “leaderly” skills are both triggered actions. Spider Queen’s Enforcer is an interrupt that triggers when an ally within 5 squares misses an attack. It deals 5 damage to the ally and makes them reroll the attack. For the Spider Queen is an interrupt that triggers when the choldrith is hit with a melee or ranged attack, and redirects the damage to an adjacent ally.
I think I actually remember seeing that chitine illustration in a book for a previous edition, and pretty much glancing right past the entry. The 4e strategy of including several variant stat blocks for each monster certainly paid off here. With this entry plus a few spiders from the other books you have enough monsters for a whole themed dungeon, covering all roles.
Still, I can understand why they waited until the MM3 to do a chitine writeup. They have a lot of thematic overlap with drow, and there would be little reason to include both in a campaign that wasn’t entirely about Lolth. In such a campaign they would make good heroic tier opponents for GMs who dislike manually adjusting monster levels, since drow are by default paragon tier.