Not every great encounter starts with The Monster Manual. There are some amazing potential encounters from the enemies, creatures, and interesting things found right at the back of The Player’s Handbook. Being the curious type who loves diving into fictional worlds, I didn’t ignore the appendixes at the back but dove in to find some very interesting creatures that I’ve used to great effect in my campaigns, like the Giant Spiders.
One of the most intriguing, right there at the back of the PHB, was the Giant Spider. Found on page 306 of the PHB, these creatures pack a nasty punch and should be used with caution against a low-level party. When properly injected into a battle or dungeon, they can even provide some very interesting foils to even a mid-level adventuring party in 5E D&D.
That said, these seemingly somewhat ordinary (for a D&D world) creatures provide plenty of opportunities for danger and a truly harrowing experience in battle.
Let’s dive into what Giant Spiders have to offer in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons!
5E Giant Spiders: An Overview
These eight-legged creatures are feared by many players, thanks to their deadly venom and ability to spin webs. However, with a little knowledge and preparation, giant spiders can be defeated. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about giant spiders in D&D, from their abilities to their vulnerabilities.
With this information in hand, you’ll be ready to take on any giant spider that crosses your path.
So let’s start with the basics by looking at the Giant Spider 5E stat block from The Player’s Handbook, followed by highlighting the major points that make them such an interesting early game confrontation in 5th Edition.
These are enemies that are far deadlier in a group than with just one, but a rogue or ranger who goes forward too confidently can find themselves in trouble very quickly.
Highlights of the Giant Spider:
- AC 14
- Large Size (think 10 feet x 10 feet)
- Hit points 26 average, 44 maximum
- 30 foot speed, 30 foot climb
- 60 foot dark vision, 10 foot blindsight
- Ranged web attack 30/60 restrains target which then must make successful strength checks to break free
- Poison bite requiring a DC 11 Con save to avoid additional poison damage
In the world of Dungeons & Dragons, giant spiders are a common foe that often poses a serious threat to adventurers. With keen senses and powerful webs, these arachnids have honed their hunting skills over many generations in fantasy realms with creatures more than happy to fight back.
This causes the giant spider to often be found in at least small groups, which love to hang out where underprepared adventurers may stumble into some hard to see but well-placed webs.
To best deal with giant spiders, you need to understand their unique abilities and behaviors.
One key characteristic of giant spiders is their highly sensitive sense of touch. By detecting even the slightest vibrations in the air or on the ground, they can quickly identify potential prey. This allows them to lie in wait at the center of their webs, waiting for unsuspecting travelers to stumble into range.
Even more dangerous is the ability to ambush. Since they can crawl on any surface, they can be hanging upside down in the shadows of a wide cavern as an unsuspecting party walks right below.
In addition to their exceptional senses that include blindsight and dark vision, giant spiders also boast potent defensive strategies. As anyone who has tangled with one knows, these creatures are able to shoot sticky strands of webbing from their abdomens. These web attacks can both ensnare and immobilize prey, making escape unlikely once a spider has caught its target in its silken net.
Their AC 14 isn’t a pushover at low levels, either, and a failed Constitution save means adding a nasty bit of poison damage to a decent melee attack, one that can do serious damage at low levels.
I can tell you from my own experiences in my first D&D campaign, if the dice go cold for 2-3 rounds things can get very, very bad for a 4th or 5th level adventuring party of 3-4.
Overall, it is clear that giant spiders are capable hunters that can be dangerous foes if not approached with caution. To survive a battle against a giant spider, you must understand its strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to outmaneuver this cunning hunter if you want to see what a DM has planned for later level 5E campaigns.
How Big Are Giant Spiders in D&D 5E?
Giant spiders are a diverse group of creatures, both in terms of size and anatomical features. While the term “giant spider” may conjure up images of huge, menacing beasts the size of a house or even a car, these imposing arachnids can actually come in all sizes.
Bigger and badder than your average arachnid, giant spiders are a major threat in the game Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. With a massive 10-foot by 10-foot square footprint, these terrifying arachnids loom large over even the biggest human warriors.
And while smaller creatures can easily be dispatched by these creepy creatures, their sheer size means that facing off against just one giant spider is a daunting prospect for any adventurer.
The following are the relevant stats for a giant spider you should know about:
- Spider Climb: The spider is a versatile creature, able to climb even the most difficult surfaces.
- Web Sense: It can sense the exact location of any other creature in contact with its web.
- Web Walker: It also ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing, making it a fearsome opponent.
Beyond these tactical attributes, giant spiders also have a number of useful skills that further enhance their hunting potential. Their poisonous bite paralyzes victims, leaving them vulnerable and easy prey for the rest of their ravenous pack. They also make use of sticky webs as a powerful defense mechanism, coating surfaces with strong silk that traps anything that touches it.
What’s more, they usually attack in swarms of three to four, posing a serious threat to any adventurer, especially if a scout gets caught ahead of the party. With an AC of 14, most adventurers in mid to high level parties should be able to hit them, but it’s just enough of an AC to be a challenge to low level parties.
Especially if the dice rolls go cold.
How Do Giant Spiders Work?
The three main abilities of giant spiders are spider climb, web sense, and web walker, which help them to move around and ambush their prey. Spiders can use these abilities to move anywhere stealthily, and as long as their prey does not detect them, they can ambush from all directions.
Web sense allows these enormous spiders to detect creatures that have become entangled in their webs, allowing them to quickly launch surprise attacks on intruders.
Finally, using web walker, giant spiders are able to slow down their enemies in battle while moving freely through their webbing, preventing them from making quick moves or escaping. They use webbing to entangle their prey, leaving them essentially immobilized until the spider has had its fill.
And as any monk can tell you, that extra mobility on the battlefield is powerful.
Giant spiders are formidable foes in any D&D campaign. They rely on two main battle tactics: Bite and Web.
While the damage of Bite on its own might not seem like a cause for concern, what you need to pay more attention to is the deadly poison that comes with it.
Once bitten, players must make a DC constitution saving throw, suffering 2d8 poison damage when it fails and half when it succeeds. Even if the character drops to zero hit points due to the damage of Bite, it won’t die but rather get poisoned and paralyzed.
So if you leave a comrade behind…they will literally be eaten alive. Not cool, bro, Not cool.
Webbing, meanwhile, can be unleashed from a distance, restraining any target that is hit. It’s a dangerous attack that can restrain characters and make them vulnerable to further attacks by giving attackers advantage, while nullifying many of the things they can do until they break free.
There are two options for escaping this restrained effect:
- Succeed on a Strength 12 check
- Attack the web until it’s destroyed (10 AC, 5 HP, immune to poison, psychic, and crushing damage)
In even small groups the ability to poison, restrain, and move freely as a combination of actions makes giant spiders a very dangerous early game confrontation.
A large group of giant spiders can royally mess up even mid-level parties of adventurers.
How Do Giant Spiders Fight?
In 5th Ed, spiders fight by ambushing their prey and injecting them with paralyzing poison. They then bind their prey to feed on later. Giant spiders are no different than their smaller counterparts in how they fight. They wait for the right opportunity to ambush their prey and inject them with paralyzing poison.
However, giant spiders are much more dangerous because of their size, strength, and abilities. These creatures are not interested in engaging in standing battle.
- They want to ambush their prey
- They want to surround and attack from all sides
- They want to restrain (web) and poison
- They will absolutely pick out a scout or lone camp guard and pull them away for feeding
As such, scouting classes like rogues, rangers, and monks are very much in danger because of the possibility of getting ambushed when away from the group. A level 4 rogue that botches a perception check and gets hit by three giant spiders is not likely to make it back to the group.
Some DMs would interpret this as giant spiders preying on weaker party members, but with such a low Intelligence score they would not be able to discern a monk or barbarian from a wizard or fighter.
How to Fight Giant Spiders
When fighting against giant spiders, a fight can go well or it can go sideways fast depending on the initiative order. If a wizard or sorcerer can go first, a couple of fireballs will do wonders to clear out the threat. However, if the spiders are pinning down your two scouts, that can take out your own party members, too.
Giant spiders want to quickly force battlefield control, which makes it crucial for the party to avoid getting pulled into this game whenever possible. Getting restrained party members back up is also crucial to avoid massive poison damage.
To defeat these deadly arachnids, melee fighters should focus on getting in close to either cut the restrained character free or, if possible, directly attack the spider itself. Heavy strength characters should take the front line as they can much more easily break from being restrained.
Ranged fighters and spellcasters should try to focus their fire on the spider, using concentrated attacks such as area of effect spells or ranged abilities to clear large areas of webbing from the battlefield. They can also launch attacks that contain the spiders to prevent them from attacking webbed-up fighters.
If you have a bard casting bane, you should be in great shape as the -3 charisma penalty means this is a bard’s time to shine…hopefully before the spiders can approach.
It is important to remember that giant spiders are hunters, not killers. This means that they will typically only attack if they believe that they can win the fight, and may retreat quickly if they see several others in the group cut down.
As such, it is often possible to intimidate them by putting up a strong front. If all else fails, running away may also be an option, as giant spiders will typically only pursue their prey if they believe that they can catch them.
By understanding the habits of these creatures, it is possible to defeat them in combat and emerge victorious.
How to Make Giant Spiders More Formidable
In the world of D&D, spiders are often mere fodder for adventurers to dispatch with ease. However, there is much more to these arachnids than meets the eye. Many real-world spiders have remarkable hunting tactics and abilities that can be adapted to make them truly terrifying foes.
In fact, mixing these with Phase Spiders or homebrewed versions of these creatures can result in one heck of a confrontation, even for mid-level adventuring parties.
For example, wolf spiders are known for their stealth and cunning on the hunt. As their names suggest, they use ambush tactics to catch their prey by surprise, concealing themselves under rocks or debris and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. This makes them formidable opponents when deployed in groups or against unsuspecting travelers in a forest or other outdoor setting.
With this knowledge in mind, we can imagine how a group of giant wolf spiders could wreak havoc on a party of adventurers who stumble into their hidden lair.
Just as these insects stalk their prey from below ground in nature, so too could they sneak up on adventurers and launch surprise attacks from below. While some party members may be paralyzed or poisoned by these vicious bites, others would find themselves surrounded by ravenous spider attackers, making this seemingly simple encounter far deadlier than it appears at first glance.
Taking Advantage of Swarms
These dangerous creatures are often accompanied by smaller spiders that can pose a serious danger in their own right. Unlike solitary giant spiders, which are relatively easy to destroy, swarms of these arachnids can be incredibly difficult to hit.
Their tiny bodies make them difficult targets, and their remarkable speed makes them nearly impossible to catch. And even if you manage to land a blow on a swarm, the sheer number of creatures means that you will likely take serious damage in the process.
Who Uses Giant Spiders?
Giant spiders are often used as mounts or beasts of burden by various factions. The drow, for example, worships these creatures because their spider queen known as Loth is being served by them. Goblins, meanwhile, often ride giant spiders into battle, using them to cow their enemies and take prisoners.
On the player’s side, of particular interest is the druid’s ability to use Wild Shape to turn into a spider. This allows the druid to gain access to all of their skills and abilities, including climbing, web-spinning, and more.
This makes it a powerful tool both in and out of combat. In combat, a druid can use the spider’s natural powers of climbing on walls and paralyzing its enemies as a form of crowd control. Outside of combat, these skills allow the druid to access new areas or explore hard-to-reach locations.
How to 5E Homebrew a Giant Spider?
Homebrewing a giant spider can be a fun and creative challenge, especially if you are a DM looking to add some novelty and challenge to your game. There are a number of different ways to approach this process, depending on the type of spider you want to create and the themes or settings that you want to incorporate.
For example, you may want to give it elemental damage depending on the environment it’s in to give it an advantage. Ice spiders could inflict frost damage, freezing their targets instead of injecting poison. Alternatively, rock spiders might have the ability to camouflage themselves as statues using stealth, allowing them to surprise their enemies with burst attacks instead of shooting webs.
There are also various ways that you can tweak existing giant spider mechanics; perhaps you could give them the skill ‘Earth Sense’ which allows them to sense the number and direction of others who are touching the ground in their vicinity.
Ultimately, there is no one right way to homebrew a giant spider – only experimentation and creativity will help you find the perfect fit for your unique campaign needs.
How Many Giant Spiders Are in a Group?
While many people view spiders as solitary, anti-social hunters, there are a number of species that form large, communal groups. These groups can consist of hundreds or even thousands of individuals, and they often work together to hunt larger prey and build massive webs.
For example, in a forest overrun by giant spiders, one might find swarms of smaller spiders weaving together to create giant webs that span hundreds of feet in diameter. Additionally, these communities are often composed of a range of different spider species, including regular spiders and giant spiders.
Overall, the communal nature of some spiders is an intriguing phenomenon that should pique the interest of any challenge-hungry adventurer, though I strongly recommend against using them in all but small groups early game unless you are trying to kill off the entire party.
Should Giant Spiders Have Pack Tactics in D&D?
While I’ve heard about this being a home rule change, I’d say it’s not necessarily a great idea. Giant Spiders in 5E already get advantage against restrained creatures, giving them pack tactics can make an already dangerous foe overly so.
Besides this, even groups of spiders don’t tend to work the way that pack animals do. Wolves work as a group to take down prey. Spiders will happily eat one another, so not exactly what I think of when I think of a pack working together.
Are Giant Spiders Intelligent?
While giant spiders may not be particularly intelligent by nature, they can be dangerous foes anyway. Their large size and powerful venom make them capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves, and their nimble movements allow them to avoid many attacks.
In addition, their ability to climb walls and move silently makes them difficult to escape from once they have set their sights on you. And while they may not be able to outwit a human opponent, their natural cunning can still be deadly in the right hands.
So while you may not want to take on a giant spider alone, there is no denying that they can be fearsome opponents.
Use the Giant Spider in Your Game!
Giant spiders are a great enemy to bring into the game early on to challenge a low-level party and remind them of the dangers of this world. Whether in a cave the adventuring party is exploring or a thick old wood forest that blots out the sun, a group of these can really spice up the session.
If you want to homebrew DM some things like money for trophies, or the ability to harvest poison with a successful check, and a confrontation with these things is not only the setting for a memorable session but a heavily rewarding one for a party looking to save up in an early cash-strapped game, as well.
They might (might) even forgive you for adding pack tactics to that overpowered group of giant spiders for a good enough gold payment for the harvested trophies.
Now you know all you need to know about giant spiders in 5E to use them effectively in your campaign!
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.