Dungeoneer’s Diary #5 – The Fearsome Cyclo-roach

Posted: September 29, 2017 in Uncategorized


© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

It’s a slow news day, hot and already swimming in caffeine lightly plucking at my nerves as intended. Make another RPG monster; we just seem to love having beasts to slay. I play around with my photo apps as I have done in the past. A photo of a real cockroach shoots a laser at a spider dropped in from an EFX app. Wash it through a toon filter app. Presto! Insta-monster! ICK (See photo)! 

Again, I’m not going to confuse the reader by going all stats heavy on the Cyclo-roach (Look, I’ve pretty much used up my originality quotient for the day just coming up with the beast. Besides, every now and again Marvel decides Scott Summers is a dickhead likely to behave no better than a laser firing cockroach). I can’t really give stats because I myself haven’t decided on the scale differential between the two arthropod combatants.

I went out walking at night to get my miles in without also having to slick up initially foul-smelling and astringent sunscreen. Cockroaches really love the dark and don’t seem phased by the big human creating a proportional earthquake in their spaces in the hardy pseudo-greenery next to the sidewalk. They come right up to my shoe daring me to squish them. Some are at least two inches long, big, fat nasty brown little bastards to whom I extend a similar détente as I have towards bees. Bees get their pass because…pollination. Roaches crossing the pavement get their pass because…far from the Shire (home) and therefore legendary.

I see one near my feet. Suddenly, I’m on photo safari trying to get the business end of my cell phone lens and flash on the little horror. Success – CLICK! I get an image that needs a lot of framing in mobile Photoshop with a judicious amount of color correction (Pulitzer prize winning news photography this ain’t). I continue the walk. I see more nocturnal insects out and about. I contemplate how to incorporate the picture into my ongoing need for having things to write about on this blog. Cockroach equals Monster…that’s been an easy SAT comparison since forever. Ewwwwww!

But, what kind of monster? Slightly bigger than regular cockroaches worth only about one and a half hit die per? Basketball sized, which puts the Cyclo-roach on par with what Dungeons & Dragons thinks is a giant spider? Or do we go full Tolkien horror sized where both the spiders and roaches scale up to the size of fifth-wheel style RVs? You, Dear Gamemaster, will decide for yourself.

Just so you know, the laser firing compound eye things was a late addition to the mix. I was going to drop in the spider effect in such a way as to evoke Cyclo-roach’s terrifying older cousin, the Nosfer-roach (again, we live in the age of the narrative blender). But, it took less than ten seconds looking at my roach image that I didn’t really get the framing right to have Cyclo-roach wipe out Shelob with a bite to the neck. I could’ve tweaked the image more using some of my slightly better apps, but I’m rushing where the manipulation just needs to be: add spider, add laser, add burn mark and just the right blood spray and then export it to the toon filter to cover up any sins that might distract the viewer from grooving on what is now Cyclo-roach. Nosfer-roach may still surface once I get a different roach image.

Back to what does Cyclo-roach do? Blast things with its laser eyes, or course. However, I’ve left the creeping horror open to interpretation because I didn’t put any scale markers in my image to give any clues as to scale. The small size is maybe the most un-fun version. At probably a single four sided dice hit points and a similar puny blast with the laser. At this size, the GM is probably better off just unleashing Swarm of Insects.

Next we move up to the basketball-sized beast to keep up with the standard giant insect size arms race. Spiders become basketballs of venomous death; their deadly blood rivals seek to expand their evolution to keep up. Figure 2D6 for hit dice while keeping up a similar blast damage rating on the laser and still getting the mass gaggle swarm tactics of regular nesting bugs. Not fully cooking with scary slimy gas yet, but we’re getting there.

Then the size arms race goes to the Shelob size of bugs that J.R.R. Tolkien just couldn’t get enough of. Big spiders result in big cockroaches cooking enemies with a laser to even out the evolutionary advantage from the web-building trait. And the need to feed all that mass means you’d have an evolvement where the humanoids making up the adventuring party seem as tasty as we would to the spider. Maybe the two fight over access to food (us), leading to all sorts of legendary three-way rumbles between people, Cyclo-roach and Shelob’s babies…probably in a sewer near you. I figure about 8D8 on hit dice and 6D6 on the laser? Your mayhem will vary.

And then I remembered a fourth weight class in which the Cyclo-roach could operate: kaiju size. A laser-firing cockroach could very well grow large enough to contend with Godzilla for the heart of Downtown Tokyo requiring the more convenient of the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force, Godzilla, Mech-Godzilla, Mothra or Guidera to flatten the city in an effort to save it from the dreaded and disgusting Cyclo-roach – 10D10 and 10D8 laser, though I’m absolutely certain Godzilla gets a +8 modifier leading with his rusty gate scream, but that’s just me.

As tempting as it would be to see a roach the size of the Chrysler Building walking down the boulevard daring that screaming thunder-lizard to bring it, I’m starting to think the Shelob size would be the most fun. Large enough to hide behind insect carapace that becomes proportionally more useful as armor the more unlikely the average urban hiker could squish the average cockroach just minding its own business.

So now that we’ve picked a Cyclo-roach size for my, as yet mythological, gaming sessions, what births Cyclo-roach into existence?

Something about laser eyes just says mutants and that’s before we admit to liberally giving Scott Summer (X-men Cyclops) the Kafka treatment (at some point like the rest of us I will actually have to read that book). It says mad wizard pissed off at somebody to want to experiment with an insect that we associate with rendering cellulose into food (roaches and termites are cousins). It says mad scientist (functionally the same thing). But, what I don’t get is how you pull off the laser from a strictly genetic point of view.

Glowworms and lightning bugs produce bioluminescent light, but how do you create the genes that result in the lensing that gives you a laser? Borrow from various birds of prey with excellent daytime color vision that can see rats for miles? I hear squid can see well in some ways better than human vision, which has built in flaws. How do you build to an actual laser from these building blocks? If I knew I’d be doing it and scaring universities into pulling my research grants like a proper supervillain origin story.

But, at the end of the day, it’s an RPG/horror movie monster. We do get to make it up as we go along using a judicious amount of magically induced radiation. Mix it with whatever spell/evil DNA research sounds most plausible and now we’re cooking with gas. Just as long as we get to the pretty reporter that started out as a beauty pageant winner doing her job…

“Chuck, I’m down here in the five hundred block of Canaervon Boulevard. The giant cockroaches marching down the street are creating massive vibrations with each step…Phil get it on camera…yeah, HOLY SHIT! As if we didn’t have enough trouble the beasts just melted an armored car with laser eyes…”

As always your mayhem will vary. Enjoy!

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