Monday, April 9, 2012

Tracker Jackers

So.  The Hunger Games.  After hearing a ton of hype (including writers and people older and wiser than I), I decided to read it.

I can always explain it away as research, or some such.

Anyway, after reading the first book, I can say it's about as good as all those people say.  Some critics will say that it's just a Young Adult rip-off of Battle Royale or The Running Man, and that's also entirely true.

That also handily ignores the fact that cavemen already told all the stories that will ever be told before we started writing them down, and that new literature comes about because people take old stuff and recombine it in new and exciting ways.

In this case, The Hunger Games has the same basic set-up as Battle Royale or The Running Man with a little post-apocalyptic action and a little bit of The Prisoner and A Clockwork Orange thrown in.  And it's Young Adult so there's a love triangle, because apparently the constant threat of death and the future threat of bloody uprising just isn't enough conflict for adolescents with raging hormones.


I told you that story to tell you this story: I love the tracker jackers from The Hunger Games.  What are tracker jackers?  They're genetically-engineered wasps developed as a bioweapon.  If a nest is disturbed, they will attack the source of the disturbance relentlessly, following it as far as it goes.

Also, their venom is very potent (a few stings can easily be fatal) and hallucinogenic.  As in, one or two stings suddenly turns you into Hunter Thompson.  Just like that.

So what's a guy to do?  Obviously, turn them into a D&D monster.  What follows are some D&D 4e stats for a jacker swarm (and some notes for retroclone versions).

Tracker Jackers (4e version)

If you care about that sort of thing, these guys haven't been playtested.  Their attack pattern is pretty simple: attack the nearest target with swarm of stingers until it dies.  If the target moves, the swarm follows it.  If the primary target is dead, choose another target.  If no more targets are available, return to nest.

Tracker jackers choose targets indiscriminately, which makes a jacker hive an interesting wild card in an encounter.  Maybe one faction or another can use it to their advantage.

For the record, I placed this swarm with a group of bandits.  Both the PCs and the bandits considered shooting at the swarm to activate it, but in the end, nobody did.  Partially because it was a dangerous gambit, and partially because the bandits surrendered really quickly.

But S. P., 4e sucks!

Not to worry.  Labyrinth Lord has an entry for "Insect Swarm" (for that matter, Monsters & Treasure has an entry for individual insects).  Treat tracker jackers are ordinary wasps with a few adjustments:
  • If tracker jackers are disturbed by nearby creatures, typically when they pass too close to a hive (or disturb one), they are always considered "aggravated."
  • Tracker jackers will follow a creature and attack it until that creature is dead.  They cannot be dissuaded by weapons, although other methods may work at DM discretion.  As with mundane bees, they can be subdued by smoke.
  • The sting of a single tracker jacker requires a save vs. poison; on a failed save, the poisonous stinger deals 1 hp damage along with a confusion effect — tracker jacker victims start hallucinating and may lash out, run, or go catatonic without regard to outside stimuli (as such, I'd recommend using the linked chart because it includes an option for running away; many retroclone Confusion spells do not).
  • The above rule considers only a single jacker; whole swarms probably require several such saving throws, or to make a single saving throw at a notable penalty to avoid confusion and injury.  Maybe the victim makes a single save vs. poison to avoid confusion and 1d10 damage, or some similar contrivance.
That should at least get you started.

1 comment:

  1. YES.

    I'm a little sorry we didn't have the chance to play test these for you, although in the end I'm really not sorry at all. Tracker jackers are MEAN.


Print Friendly