D&D General How would you use Carrion Crawlers meaningfully?


A suffusion of yellow

Since 1975 (Greyhawk supplement) the Carrion Crawler has been lurking in the nooks and crannies of DnD ready to menace unwary travellers with its gummy tentacles so it can lay its eggs in the decomposing remnants of their paralysed bodies.

However despite appearing in a number of notable modules over the years it has always been as a mere sidetrek, an unfortunate ambush distracting from the main adventure.

But I do love the buggy little ectozoons and wonder if it is possible to give them some glory. Has anyone ever figured out how to use Carrion Crawlers as a core plot point in an adventure? Any memorable encounters that actually contributed meaningfully to the flow and outcome of a story?

any ideas how you would do it?

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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
So, I make fun of them -- a lot -- because WotC seems to think they're important, but doesn't really do anything to elevate them.

The joke I make -- "dungeon caterpillars" -- is probably how I would make them interesting. Yes, a dungeon monster that can paralyze someone every turn and then drag them off into its tunnels is scary. But what's scarier is a bunch of caterpillars dragging prey back into their caves, which are full of pupae, including some that are beginning to hatch into carrion moths, which combine the paralyzing attacks of the crawlers with silently flying by night, picking off innocent victims and vanishing into the night.

Basically, I'd Alien them.


I love carrion crawlers!
I have used as a bit of a side-quest to recover a magical weapon that belonged to a warrior slain by the creatures but never more than that. I guess this supports the OP’s question.
Both the ideas expressed above are great.

In the middle of a major war, a hooded man hires the adventurers to cull the carrion crawlers that are feeding on the battlefield dead and supposedly multiplying out of control. But the man is actually an evil necromancer who needs the crawlers to stop eating all the corpses, so that he can animate them instead.


Carrion crawlers invading a graveyard could result in restless dead causing havoc.

A disease or curse that causes people to smell of death could attract hordes of them.

Some crawlers might find a city with a lot of storm drains they can slip their tentacles out through, resulting in a lot of missing children and pets.


Same as Whizbang. Aliens, Hive mind, slowly taking over the world in a disgusting way. Might need a brain or queen or something else to organise them. Maybe other giant insects to be workers and soldiers. Maybe the first sign something is wrong is loads of races creatures that usually are underground start surfacing to escape the death crawl.


I do not see them as intelligent, so that does not allow them to be the focus of the adventure. They are large bug sand have basic instincts, mainly get food and eat it. I like to think they can act together in a fashion, but do not come up with tactics more complicated than waiting and ambushing from above, or attacking from two different tunnels. They are "B" level characters in the game and serve as filler for main monsters. A goblin lair may have a problem with them and lock one in a side tunnel for the PCs to open or an underground grotto serves as a point where the goblins need to use mushroom shields to hide under to be able to move through secretly or the crawler may see them.

I seem to remember some 4e stuff on them that was good.


The biggest things to do to make carrion crawlers truly scary again is to go back to their roots: a hit and a failed save causes paralysis that lasts 2-12 turns. NO ADDITIONAL SAVES.

That's really the biggest issue on a lot of 5E monsters-- almost all of them that have continuous effects allow for a new saving throw to be made at the end of every round to end the effect, then sometimes even immunity to the effect after the save has been made. I mean how scary is an Adult Red Dragon really, when its frightful presence requires merely a WIS save that is rather doable for a lot of PCs, and as soon as you get that one lucky roll you are now immune to its fear effect for the rest of the fight?

I understand exactly why the change has happened within the 5E game... they did their level best to move D&D further away from its roots of a tactical combat miniatures game to one that leans more into the current trend of narrative-based RPGs... where "winning the fight" isn't the entire premise of playing but rather just one of many things that matters. And thus a PC (and player) being removed completely for a fight and having to sit on their hands because their character "lost" one of these fights is not a game state the designers wish to inflict on people anymore. The party wins as a group and loses at a group by all staying active and seeing where the fight goes and the stories that lead into and out of the fight... not a couple characters win the fight while the others sit around twiddling their thumbs because their PC got paralyzed for 10 minutes and had to wait for the others to finally finish the battle.

So that's why the game current is as it is. But that being said... the easiest way to return to the days of yore and make fights against creatures like carrion crawlers scarier and more deadly is to just bring back our famous "Save Or Die" technique. A PC fails a save against a creature's monster ability? That's it. That was their one chance. They now suffer through it for its entire duration with no opportunity to "recover" during the remainder of the fight. That's how you'll make these creatures and fights truly scary again.

You send a dozen crawlers scurrying out of the walls of the cave to overwhelm the PCs. Once someone gets paralyzed and falls down... 3-5 of them remain swarming over the body and starts eating the crap of him, while the rest of the party has to deal with the remaining 6-8 or so. And hope against hope someone can break away and rescue their paralyzed friend before their face gets devoured, and that they don't get paralyzed too when they try.

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