Watchspiders (sometimes seen as watch spider) were a breed of huge spider that were raised and trained to obey a master. They were used as guardians by nobles who could afford them, drow, and as familiars by (usually drow) wizards.
These arachnids were a subspecies of huge spider (also known as hunting spiders) that occupied an area about 6 feet (1.8 meters) in diameter with a reach of about 5 feet (1.5 meters) beyond that. Their heads and fangs were larger than usual and the rest of their body was built for speed. Those bred in the colder climate of the North had extra hair on their legs and body that was heavy enough to resemble fur. Their eight eyes glittered unblinkingly with intelligence.
Watchspiders were fast, both when running and climbing webs or walls. They could leap up to 30 feet (9.1 meters). A single strand of their silk was strong enough to support their weight plus one additional medium-sized creature. If allowed to spin a web, they could know the location of any creature that touched their web. They could be trained to recognize friends or foes and learn simple combat strategies. Some were bred to have a paralyzing venom while others had a venom that sapped the strength of their victims like the well-known medium spider venom. If not resisted, the paralytic effect had an onset time of one to two minutes and then full-body paralysis set in for twenty minutes to over an hour. The victim could see and hear, but not move or speak.
In the wild, watchspiders lived alone or in small colonies of two to five members. When hunting, they typically hid in shadows, trees, or their webs and dropped or leaped upon their victims. They could employ pack hunting techniques as well.
If deprived of food for a long period of time, even trained watchspiders ate their victims.
These creatures were bred for guard duty and taught to stop or slow as many intruders as possible, starting with spellcasters before attacking those with shiny, pointy weapons. They used their excellent eyesight to study their prey and dropped or leaped upon them for a surprise attack, biting each intruder once before moving to the next one, until all were disabled or weakened. They could recognize when weapons were positioned to foil a leap and avoided them. Multiple watchspiders could be trained to work together. They could sound an alarm, coordinate attacks, and even drink a potion from a basin before initiating combat.
In their native habitat of tropical Tharsult, watchspiders lived in a web-lined lair but roamed about the surrounding area, hunting to satisfy their carnivorous appetite. This subspecies adapted to the colder climate of western and northwestern Faerûn after many years of breeding, but none have survived north of Neverwinter. By the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR, they could be found up and down the Sword Coast from Neverwinter to Lantan.
Watchspiders were bred for intelligence and loyalty and made good familiars, animal companions, and even mounts. They were typically used as guardians of cellars, warehouses, and vaults belonging to rich merchants, guilds, or nobles.
The drow secretly purchased or otherwise acquired many watchspiders and experimented with breeding and training the beasts. They were preferred as familiars by drow wizards. Some were kept in homes, perhaps as pets.
This subspecies was originally indigenous to the isle of Tharsult in the Shining Sea. The natives began breeding them for use as guardians and, over the centuries, watchspiders became somewhat domesticated, intelligent, trainable, and their venom became non-lethal. Just after the turn of the 14th century DR, the Mhairuun merchant family brought some watchspiders to Waterdeep and quickly set up a business raising, training, and selling the useful beasts. By the 1370s DR, watchspiders were fairly common warehouse guards, family vault keepers, and guild treasury sentinels in the City of Splendors and other major population centers from Lantan to Neverwinter.
In or before the Year of the Banner, 1368 DR, Lady Lythis Mhairuun, the last of the Waterdeep Mhairuuns, married Lord Urtos Phylund II and thus the Phylund noble family acquired the secrets and techniques related to watchspider breeding and training, adding to their already extensive knowledge and experience with capturing and taming monstrous beasts.
- The Phull family vault was guarded by five watchspiders.
- The artifacts in the Wands family cellar were kept safe by a watchspider.
- The Ilvastarr family vault employed four watchspiders to neutralize and kill intruders.
- Four watchspiders were on the staff of the Old Monster Shop in the Southern Ward.
- Serpentil Books and Folios in the Dock Ward was rumored to have a watchspider.
- The church of Deneir was known to use watchspiders among other security measures to protect their secret libraries of writings that people have paid them to store.
- The Spell-Tome of Daern in Myth Drannor was heavily guarded, including a watchspider trained to set off a specially enchanted wand of paralyzation before attacking intruders.
- The Ruins of Undermountain
- Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 140–141. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
- Monstrous Compendium included in Ed Greenwood, Steven E. Schend (July 1994). City of Splendors. (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 0-5607-6868-1.
- Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 326. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- Ari Marmell, Anthony Pryor, Robert J. Schwalb, Greg A. Vaughan (May 2007). Drow of the Underdark. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7869-4151-3.
- Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide v.3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 297. ISBN 0-7869-2889-1.
- Ari Marmell, Anthony Pryor, Robert J. Schwalb, Greg A. Vaughan (May 2007). Drow of the Underdark. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 124. ISBN 978-0-7869-4151-3.
- Ed Greenwood (1991). “Undermountain Adventures”. In Steven E. Schend ed. The Ruins of Undermountain (TSR, Inc.), p. 28. ISBN 1-5607-6061-3.
- Eric L. Boyd (2005-09-28). Noble Houses of Waterdeep (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
- Tito Leati, Eric L. Boyd, Keith Baker, Richard Pett, F. Wesley Schneider and James Lafond Sutter (November 2005). Dungeon #128 Map & Handout Supplement (PDF). Paizo Publishing. p. 8. Archived from the original on 2017-05-06. Retrieved on 2020-08-13.
- Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 131, 132. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
- Ed Greenwood (January 1993). Volo's Guide to Waterdeep. (TSR, Inc.), p. 146. ISBN 1-56076-335-3.
- Ed Greenwood (January 1993). Volo's Guide to Waterdeep. (TSR, Inc.), p. 181. ISBN 1-56076-335-3.
- Julia Martin, Eric L. Boyd (March 1996). Faiths & Avatars. (TSR, Inc.), p. 55. ISBN 978-0786903849.
- Ed Greenwood (March 1993). “Campaign Guide to Myth Drannor”. In Newton H. Ewell ed. The Ruins of Myth Drannor (TSR, Inc.), p. 95. ISBN 1-5607-6569-0.
Magical spiders: Bloodsilk • Electric • Glass • Gaze • Goblin • Pet of Kalistes • Spellgaunt • Steeder
Planar spiders: Demonweb terror • Fire • Myrlochar • Phase • Tomb • Vortex
Constructs: Arachnar • Bone spider • Jade spider • Retriever • Spiderwalker • Stone spider
Creations of Lolth: Abyssal widow • Chwidencha • Drider (Vampire) • Shunned
Outsiders: Bebilith • Darkweaver • Greelox • Inferno spider • Yochlol
Humanoids: Aranea • Chitine • Choldrith • Ettercap • Werespider
Miscellaneous: Kitthix • Neogi • Rhylfang • Susurrus
Undead spiders: Wraith spider