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.
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 paralysing their prey with venom, the larger ones grapple it with their claws.
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 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.
- 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. :)
- Anyone prepared to use a scorpion as their symbol is likely to be something of a nasty piece of work…