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Dragon, Skincrawler

Millions of shadow spiders crawl under this dragon’s translucent scales, pigmenting its pale gray flesh like shifting black sand snaking across its wasted frame. The dragon’s diaphanous wings sweep back from its shoulders to its withered forked tail. Its lips, permanently withdrawn from its toothy maw, snarl with menace, and a palpable hunger emanates from the bony-faced creature’s deep-set spider eyes.

Skincrawler Dragon CR 11

XP 12,800
NE Huge dragon
Init +4; Senses darkvision 120 ft., blindsense 60 ft., scent; Perception +14; Aura frightful presence (180 ft., DC 15)

DEFENSE

AC 25, touch 8, flat-footed 25 (+0 Dex, +17 natural, -2 size)
hp 175 (13d12+91)
Fort +14, Ref +8, Will +8
DR 5/magic; Immune sleep, paralysis; SR 22
Weaknesses insatiable hunger

OFFENSE

Speed 40 ft., fly 200 ft. (poor)
Melee bite +20 (2d8+13), 2 claws +20 (3d6+9), 2 wings +18 (1d8+4), tail slap +18 (2d8+13)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 10 ft. (15 ft. with bite)
Special Attacks breath weapon (50-foot cone, damage special, Fortitude DC 24 negates, usable every 1d4 rounds), crush (2d8+13), slow feed

TACTICS

The skincrawler’s strategy is simple: employ its vampiric breath weapon and fight until it can fly away with at least one dying victim.

Morale If a battle goes poorly, the skincrawler retreats, returning to the scene later with a burning vengeance and the maximum complement of temporary hit points. More often, the skincrawler takes its prey with ease. Peasants and heroes have watched helplessly as the skincrawler takes to the skies with a family member or comrade in its spider-swarm maw.

STATISTICS

Str 28, Dex 10, Con 22, Int 7, Wis 12, Cha 9
Base Atk 13; CMB 24; CMD 34
Feats Ability Focus (breath weapon), Critical Focus, Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack (claws), Multiattack, SnatchB, Toughness
Skills Fly +5, Heal +7, Intimidate +8, Perception +14, Sense Motive +11, Use Magic Device +8
Languages Draconic

SPECIAL ABILITIES

Breath Weapon (Su)

A skincrawler dragon breathes a roiling fog of black motes that burrow into the flesh of any living creature failing a DC 24 Fortitude save. [The save DC is Constitution-based.] Once inside, the motes germinate, grow, and tunnel under the skin. Infested hosts are nauseated; spellcasting or concentrating on spells requires a caster level check; using skills involving patience or concentration requires a DC 20 Will save.

Any magical healing of 8 hp or more destroys the infestation and removes its ill effects.

One round after the initial infestation, the multi-legged motes erupt enmasse through the victim’s pores, dealing 3d6 damage to the victim and forming a (poisonless) spider swarm that scurries back to the dragon.

Once the swarm clambers under the dragon’s scales and disperses (i.e., enters the dragon’s space), the dragon gains temporary hit points equal to the number of hp the victim lost, up to a maximum of the dragon’s normal hp maximum (effectively doubling the creature’s total hp).

Insatiable Hunger (Ex)

Each sunrise, the skincrawler dragon suffers 6d6 hp damage from intense starvation. The damage can only be healed through magical healing or the acquisition of temporary hit points.

Slow Feed (Su)

A skincrawler dragon can send a controlled number of shadow spiders from under its scales into the mouth of any dying or stable living creature it touches. Any magical healing of 8 hp or more destroys this infestation and removes its ill effects. While infested, a stable victim who regains consciousness is paralyzed (instead of disabled).

The shadow spiders feed for 1 hour per HD of the victim, absorbing 1 hit point an hour; if the spiders can feed for more than 8 hours on a victim (meaning they are feeding on a 9-HD or higher creature), they additionally absorb any hit points the victim would have gained through natural healing from rest. When the spiders absorb more than the victim’s HD in hp, the infestation exits the victim’s mouth, scurries as a (harmless) spider swarm back to the dragon, and delivers the siphoned hp to the dragon as temporary hit points.

If the dragon is not within a 60-ft. range of the exiting spiders by sunrise, the swarm crumbles to dust. The spiders’ death allows the former host a DC 24 Fortitude save to overcome paralysis.

ECOLOGY

Environment any
Organization solitary
Treasure double

Skincrawler dragons are aggressive reptilian beasts with natures more akin to wyverns than chromatic dragons. Territorial and insatiably hungry, the skincrawler attacks with proven tactics and decisive strikes. For those unfortunate enough to wander into its 200- square-mile hunting grounds, the horror has just begun.

A wave of fear precedes this nightmare beast when it wings down from twilight skies. Its gossamer wings stretch, and the ground shakes with the impact of its landing. From afar, its skin appears to shift in shadowy darkness across its flanks. A closer look reveals the writhing motion of a million spiders cavorting under its scales. More spiders crawl over its eyes and pile in its mouth as it unleashes a roar that unhinges its jaw.

Skincrawlers lair in remote, difficult-to-reach locations, such as mountaintop caves. Instead of hoarding treasure, skincrawlers stockpile bodies. People, horses, harpies, and hags all lie together in a mangled mass of limbs and wide-eyed faces. Most are conscious but paralyzed by the dragon’s slow feed ability. Some have been here for months. Each horror-stricken face breathes with the slow asthmatic gasp of a moray eel, sucking air past spiders crawling from its throat. This pile, the skincrawler’s larder, is the horrific fate of every dying creature it secures to its lair.

When a crippled or detained skincrawler does not return to its lair on schedule, its hoarded victims sometimes overcome their paralysis, finding themselves lying helpless in a heaped menagerie of other victims. Climbing out of the pile, they learn hundreds of miles of wilderness surround their cave entrance. For those still sane, a perilous descent and uncertain journey awaits. For the insane, only maddened laughter ever escapes the lair of the skincrawler.

To prevent its hoard from escaping or throwing themselves to their own death, some skincrawlers employ “tenders” to keep the dragon’s victims bound or unconscious until the dragon returns. The tender also waters the victims daily and force-feeds them a slurry of regurgitated horseflesh and dragon bile. Weak-minded, sentient creatures make the best tenders.

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