Saturday, March 17, 2012

Strange Beasts: Honeypot

I've been thinking about writing a series on all those wonderful, strange invertebrates out there that would fit so nicely into roleplaying as creatures for the players to run into, with maybe a little change in size. Porky finally gave the idea the push it needed. I won't stat them up because I want to keep it open for all systems, just some descriptions and maybe some story seeds. So here goes:

The adventurers are exploring a huge underground cave system. There's a sweet smell in the air, not unpleasant. Some searching leads them to a huge, echoing chamber filled with enormous translucent globes. In the light of the party's torches, the globes shimmer in a gentle, amber light and are quite beautiful. Most hang out of reach, but some are closer to the ground. They are smooth and warm to the touch. When a curious member of the party runs her hand down the curved surface towards the bottom, the globe secretes a liquid and now it's clear where the smell is coming from. If anyone is brave enough to taste it: it tastes very sweet, delicious actually.
A closer look towards the ceiling will reveal that the globes have ... legs? And a head and oh shit, there are giant ants coming towards them from the other end of the chamber.

The party has stumbled upon a larder of Honeypot Ants. They store food inside their body and a fully gorged honeypot ant is no longer able to move. It just hangs from the ceiling and waits for other workers to tickle it. Then it will regurgitate food, holding a droplet between its mandibles for the other ant to eat. I took the liberty of changing that details for the story seed.

Honeypot ants can belong to a number of species from all over the world, for example Australia or the southwestern US. They are fairly common and numerous and some of you may already have encountered them without realising it.

You will find good photos of honeypot ant chambers here, they actually look rather beautiful in the right light. Here's an essay on them with more good photos.

A clip from David Attenborough's series Life in the Undergrowth. I highly recommend the whole series, it's brilliant and will take you to many strange places.

Strange Beasts List

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