|No. of Attacks:
|T (1' long)
Dragon beetles are dark crimson in color with blacktrimmed shells. They have three horns, spiked shells, and vicious-looking stingers. Dragon beetles grow to a size of one foot long. When threatened, they produce a raspy, hissing sound.
Unlike other types of beetles, dragon beetles do not have wings. They are basically unintelligent, and do not see or hear very well. They rely on taste and touch to interact with the world around them. While most other types of beetles are not social creatures, dragon beetles live together in units called nests. The nest is the most important location for a dragon beetle, and it will defend the nest from all intruders.
Dragon beetles seem to communicate among themselves by touch and a small variety of sounds, but they have no capacity for understanding or communicating with intelligent creatures.
Combat: Dragon beetles have two attack forms they can use. The primary attack is a bite that delivers 1d4 points of damage via strong mandibles. The second attack form is a stinger that delivers a dose of venom on a successful hit. The stinger's physical damage is negligible, and the poison only affects drakes, dragons, and dray. To others, the sting is only slightly more bothersome than a normal insect bite. It hurts a little at first, then itches, but produces no other harmful effects.
Dragon beetles produce venom that doesn't harm humans or demihumans. If a drake, dragon, or dray is hit by a dragon beetle's stinger, it must make a saving throw versus poison. A successful save inflicts 1d10 points of damage. A failed save causes 2d10 points of damage and mark the area around the insertion point with a burning red scar.
Lone dragon beetles are not typically aggressive. When confronted, a lone dragon beetle flees unless there is no escape route. Even then, it will not attack. Instead, it lies perfectly still and hisses, refusing to fight even if attacks are launched against it. In groups of two or more, however, dragon beetles become very aggressive. Any creature that comes within 10 feet of a group of beetles suffers from bite and stinger attacks. If intruders approach a dragon beetle hive, all present beetles swarm to attack, gaining a +1 attack roll bonus and a +1 damage bonus to all successful bites.
Habitat/Society: Dragon beetles can be found throughout the under-region beneath Giustenal. The Groaning City, Kragmorta, and even New Giustenal are infested with the creatures. They live in groups of up to 16 beetles. They establish nests in the underground ruins, in cramped caves, and even in thick clumps of underground vegetation. At least half of the nest ranges out to hunt every day, seeking recently killed creatures or prey that a group of beetles can easily take down.
The dray of New Giustenal, for example, must constantly watch for signs of dragon beetle activity in the fanner fields. Small fanners are often targeted by packs of prowling dragon beetles. The fact that the venom of a dragon beetle is toxic to a dray makes the creatures especially dangerous, and fanner field guard duty is not a particularly sought after assignment.
Nests are always led by larger, stronger dragon beetles. A nest leader is always 3 HD, with a stronger shell that provides AC 5. The bite of a nest leader causes 1d6 points of damage. Its venom inflicts 1d12 points of damage on dray and other draconic species (2d12 if a successful save is rolled).
Ecology: Dragon beetles eat carrion, though they have been known to bring down small creatures when they attack in sufficient numbers. The dray of Kragmorta and New Giustenal are particularly susceptible to the poison of dragon beetles, and sometimes find themselves as meals for a nest of the creatures. When a suficient supply of meat is found (either carrion or prey killed by the dragon beetles), the dragon beetles work together to haul the body back to the nest. In the nest, the body is used not only as a food source (a medium-sized creature can last for as long as two months) but as a depository for eggs. The females of the nest lay their eggs within the carcass. When the eggs hatch (in about one month's time), the newborn beetles feast upon the remaining flesh until they are strong enough to emerge and join the rest of the nest. Adventurers who come across a dragon beetle nest can sometimes find treasure on these egg-infested carcasses (especially on the body of a dead dray).
It is possible to extract dragon beetle venom and coat weapons with it, causing great harm to dray opponents. Each beetle can produce 1-4 doses or coatings, and each dose is good for a single effect. On a naked blade, the poison remains potent for one day. In a glass or ceramic container, the venom keeps for a week. Both first and second generation dray have used poison-coated weapons against each other, but the danger inherent in gathering the venom doesn't make its use practical or common.
The first generation dray of Lagmorta sometimes use dragon beetles as part of their tests of adulthood. Young dray are sometimes sent to locate a dragon beetle nest and return with a few of the small creatures. In sufficient numbers, the chitinous shells of the dragon beetles can be used to fashion armor and shields. Creating armor from dragon beetle shells is a painstaking process, and only a few older dray know how to build useful items from the stuff.