Scorpion

Note: This page is about the animal. Scorpion may also refer to a siege weapon, see Scorpio (weapon).

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Basic Information

Looking a little like a crab, a scorpion is an arthropod with 8 legs and 2 pincher-arms (called chelae). Unlike a crab, a scorpion also has a long tail with a venomous stinger at the end. The thick exoskeleton of a scorpion glows under UV light. Like a crab, a scorpion can be eaten, although most are not worth the effort.

Scorpions are commonly associated with the desert, but in actuality, various scorpion species can be found basically everywhere but the arctic climes. They are typically nocturnal, and photophobic. Some species of scorpion can go without food for nearly a year at a time.

Scorpions give live birth, and the mother carries her babies (called scorplings) around on her back until after their first molting. The scorplings are actually quite vulnerable and totally dependent on their mother during this time. There's something a little bit ironic about that, given the cliched story of the scorpion riding to the midpoint of the river on the back of some animal, and then stinging that animal "because it's in my nature". Riding on someone's back is also very much in their nature, at least when they're young. Still, the scorpion tends to appear as a symbol of treachery - or at least cunning and covert violence (although, for obvious reasons, not really in heraldry).

In general, the bigger the claws in proportion to the scorpion, the less venomous it is - smaller clawed varieties rely on paralyzing their prey with venom, the larger ones grapple it with their claws.

Scorpion Motifs of the Ancient World

Scorpions clearly got some reverence, and inspired a good bit of fear, in the Ancient World.

  • Two different Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, more than a century apart from each other, went by the names King Scorpion I and King Scorpion II. There's some dispute among historians about the date and identity of these Kings, but it's certainly less controversial than the terrible CGI of Hollywood's version.
  • In Mesopotamian Mythology there's a creature called a scorpion man that is, as the name implies, a blend of human and scorpion features. A less cheesy name for them was the Aqrabuamela, should you want an authentic-sounded name that your players can take seriously.
  • As mentioned at the top of the page, the Scorpion also gave it's name to a piece of siege artillery from Ancient Rome. That scorpion was form of mobile ballista deployed by the Roman Army from the late Republican Period onwards. If we ever make a page on it, it will be found at: Scorpio (weapon).
  • The city of Hatra (located in what is now Iraq, but Hatra was destroyed way back in the 3rd Century) employed special soldiers, the Atrenian Scorpion Handlers, who used clay pots full of scorpions as thrown weapons. Sort of a living biological weapon, slower acting than a grenade, but certainly no less horrifying.
  • At least one of the Eumenidies was said to wield a flail made of scorpions with which to chastise sinners.

Sources

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Game and Story Use

  • Scorpions can survive in nearly any biome, so if an NPC dies from scorpion sting, the PCs will have to wonder if it's a sign of foul play, or just a freak brush with nature.
    • This also lets you build scenarios where the PCs know there's a murderer on the loose, but the police won't listen to them.
  • Scorpions are a good choice for a failed survival roll in desert terrain - they have a tendency to creep into tents, luggage, boots and what have you come sunrise and then surprise people who are attempting to dress and break camp (or, if travelling by night, they move into the camp with you as you pitch it at dawn).
  • Scorpions glow in ultraviolet light. That could be used as a clue or warning.
    • If an assassin raises scorpions for their venom, his home or base may have UV lamps in every room (just in case something gets loose).
    • UV flashlights might give you a bonus for detecting giant / monstrous scorpions that are hunting you.
      • Just good for the "geeehh!!" moment as you light up the UV and see just how many of the wretched things are hanging about.
    • A scorpion-like monster or alien might actually glow in the dark, if you wanted to riff off that.
  • A scorpion perched on your shoulder would make a wicked bad-ass familiar. For a less dangerous (but still creepy) version, you might use an amblypygi. If asked, you could claim you raised it from birth and it thinks of you as it's mother. Warning: Do not try this at home, kids. :)1
  • Anyone prepared to use a scorpion as their symbol is likely to be something of a nasty piece of work…
    • Or at the very least prone to double-bluff plays; advertising that you're Up To Something, All The Time would otherwise seem counterproductive.
    • In George R. R. Martin's Westeros the scorpion is used as a heraldic device by a few of the noble houses of the Moorish-Spain themed province of Dorne. There may be a certain air of "don't tread on me" about this, but one of the houses also claims the notoriety of having assassinated an invading king by booby-trapping his bed with a huge number of scorpions.
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