2016-10-13 Giant Beetle

Giant Beetle

My work on the monster manual continues. I’m very unhappy with the reflections of the beetle I drew and I feel that I ought to get the awesome curves with a few broad brush strokes.

Made a second attempt at the atlas beetle. Still unhappy. To explain what I feel I ought to be doing, take a look at this beetle, here: Beetle. Such a nice beetle in so few brush strokes. I want to paint like this.

When I ran Castle of the Mad Archmage, we encountered several rooms full of giant bombardier beetles and we fought them all using everything we had. It was a hell hole of flaming oil, charred corpses and madness, because somehow one of the players had claimed that you might be able to find gems inside dead giant beetles. And whenever they searched a beetle carcass, I rolled for a random encounter, and if there was one, more beetles showed up. It was a bloody, bloody mess. I think at the time I used HD 5 boring beetles that did 5d4 damage but I think a smaller HD 3 beetle is more appropriate. They can still be very large, after all. Or can they? Perhaps I need to increase those HD. What do you think?



When you start applying giant to creatures you start getting widely varying expectations of size. I mean most players seem to imagine the AD&D Giant Ants as Them when really they are just the size of small dogs.

I think the 3E approach of defining creatures by their size works (although in truth what I would really say is The Fantasy Trip approach of defining creatures by their size in hexes).

I think a good rule of thumb for early D&D is to remember the source of hit die - it was how many hits it takes to eliminate the creature. as an opponent. Of course beetles have the advantage of being armoured so they are more resistant to damage, but that basically makes them harder to injure (and thus increases AC).

I tend to think in terms of spiders myself, so a 1 HD giant spider is about the size of a small dog. A 2HD spider is about the size of a large dog or hobbit, a 4HD spider is a large creature (and rideable by small creatures like goblins). An 8 HD spider is the size of an elephant (and rideable by man sized creatures, a 12 HD spider is typically a giant radioactive giant spider.

Beetles are probably the same but with a better AC.

For communal insects I tend to have the drones/workers fairly small (1-2HD), with soldiers being a HD larger. For non-communal insects (particularly beetles) they tend to be in the 4-8 HD range as encounters, and generally the equivalent of tanks bulldozing through the jungle. This is a faint bow to feeding the creatures.

Whilst some people did make attempts to train beetle cavalry (actually more like elephants with howdahs) without magic they were not very successful since insects were not considered intelligent enough to be trainable.

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-13

4 HD for a creature that can be used for a mount like a warg would work for me. As for increasing armor, I think AC 3 is like plate and plenty for a non-magical creature. As for size, I hope I always specified something visual for players to immediately understand. I have noticed that at the table stuff like “as big as a dog” (or cow, horse, car, house, etc) works much better than medium, large, etc like in D&D 3.5 or height in feet. That always needs translating.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-13

Changed HD from 3+1 to 4. Not 4+1 because beetles doesn’t seem particularly ferocious like ogres or wargs – they are just well armored.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-13

At 5 HD with tough AC and 2d10 damage (their jaws like twin two-handed swords) boring beetles are a plenty scary challenge for my level 3-7 party. They are terrified of the 3rd level’s bomb beetles and fire toads due to area effects that can fry a wizard.

– Roger GS 2016-10-14

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