Make a noise, and you’ll bring them all down on your head!! This week’s creature is the third and final entry in my three-part series on monsters who hunt their victims with sound. Released to British audiences in 2005, and a year later to the American public, The Descent is a psychological horror film that features a surprise and memorable race of horror movie creatures towards the end of its second act.
When six friends meet up to explore a newly ‘discovered’ cave system in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, they soon find themselves trapped below ground and hunted by the films subterranean protagonists. The crawlers, designed by Paul Hyett (Attack the Block, Doomsday), are albino cave-dwelling, devolved humanoids who hunt down the films female antagonists one-by-one. Described by Director Neil Marshall as “Cavemen that never left the caves”, the crawlers present a terrifying example of unknown species living in our backyard.
Putting aside the likelihood of such a colony going for so long unnoticed (largely) or even able to sustain themselves as a meat-eating race, the crawlers are a nice real world example of cryptids that have an easily adaptable place in the the D&D universe- so let’s get to it!
Conversion. The crawlers are very nearly identical to grimlocks. Both species are subterranean devolved humanoids who use sound to hunt prey.
The main threat posed by the grimlocks however are their numbers and their spiked clubs. The crawlers are distinct in that they are able to crawl up cave walls (hence their name) and more accustomed to hunting in packs. This leads to the basic stat block for grimlocks, with subtractions to Intelligence (for the crawlers more feral mindset) and the crawlers wall-climbing ability as well as their slightly increased speed as they are depicted in the move traveling on all fours a number of times making them somewhat quadrupedal. Finally, the crawlers, given their climbing ability seem slightly more adept at Stealth than grimlocks.
Though not particularly challenging, crawlers might make good foes for low level campaigns involving parties making their first forays into the underdark, showcasing how utterly alien the various races and species who dwell below the surface truly are.
But what do you think, are the crawlers a creepy addition for your low-level campaign? Download my rendition of The Descent’s crawlers in JPEG or PDF format for your campaign and have them skitter above the ceilings over your unsuspecting player’s.
(10-01: UPDATES made with grateful suggestions by various members on the Reddit DnD community) [Formatting, added Keen Smell, changed trait wording]
Crawlers are straightforward combatants. They are little more than animals and fight as such. The do not engage in combat without reason and those reasons are simple: hunting and in the defense of their colony.
When on the hunt, crawlers hunt in groups, using their echolocation to silently track their prey, clinging to walls and preferring to single out a solitary creature and attack en masse. They will usually go for a slower moving creature or the loudest of a group, the easier it is for them to track and take down. Once they have severely wounded a creature, noted by it lying on the floor, they will immediately try to feed upon it, forgoing still active threats for a chance at nourishment. Crawlers will also attempt to drag a wounded and prone creature away from the fight at the earliest chance, feasting on it until it dies or becomes so incapacitated it can be dragged even further, back all the way to its colony for its fellow members.
Add CRAWLERS To Your Campaign
Throwing a colony of crawlers into a campaign can make for a nice surprise encounter in the upper underdark. They are excellent opponents who may cling to the ceiling or walls and strike when players and characters least expect it. For a convenient Hook, they can be the source of a missing person, or animal from a remote village, with obvious blood-trails leading to a dark and spooky cave entrance. Even better, they can be a red herring encounter when a nest of goblins or kobolds are the true culprits of a series of raids, lulling a party into a false sense of accomplishment once the crawlers have been taken care of.
[Note: The featured image uses art by Vukaddin]
BONUS: Kill Count for The Descent!