Look, we’ve all been there: you’re planning a session of D&D and you just can’t figure out a way to get a crab involved. Frustrating, right? You’ve got puzzles, you’ve got combat, you’ve got roleplay opportunities galore… but no crabs. Well, fear not! I’m here to help, with five suggestions for easy ways to add a bit of crustacean flair to any tabletop game.
The “Deadliest Catch”
If you’re running a coastal adventure, crab inclusion is a no-brainer. It’s a cinch to add in an extra encounter featuring your favorite ocean critters! Crabs are a staple of oceanic campaigns. Players are on the beach? Fight some crabs! Diving underwater? Crabs! On a boat? Uh oh! Crabs are crawling aboard! If there is water literally anywhere near your players, it can serve as a convenient crab portal!
What’s great about crabs as an enemy is how versatile they are. There are big crabs, little crabs, and of course, giant enemy crabs. In combat, the humble crustacean has two main advantages: a thick shell and savage claws. Now, it might be that your players get cocky when faced with a crab. “Oh, this is just a crab,” they’ll say. “I can beat up a crab, no problem!”
If they do this, you must punish them. Have their spells reflect off the crab’s diamond-hard shell. Crush and grind them in the crab’s massive pincers. Destroy any affection the player may have for crabs and replace it with fear.
Not near a body of water? Well, that’s okay–this is a fantasy world! You make the rules! Maybe your game has desert crabs. Jungle crabs. Sky crabs! The only limit is your imagination!
Low Tide, High Society
While combat seems the most obvious use for crustaceans, it’s not the only one. It could very well be that the oceans of your setting are home to a race of sentient crab people. Ask yourself: what does craboid society look like? What values would a craboid culture possess? Are there craboid envoys to land-based nations? How surprised would your players be to see a crab dressed in a tailcoat (for as the saying goes, there’s “none as dapper as a crab”), doffing its hat with one claw as it wishes the party a good evening?
It could even be that the craboids need a party of fearless adventurers to aid them. Maybe there’s a bunch of aggressive ocean life attacking craboid cities, or perhaps some kind of Cthulhu-style abomination beneath the waves. Or maybe they need help with a land-based problem that’s affecting them, like… pollution? Or something? The potential for crab-based adventures is limitless!
If you absolutely, positively can’t find a way to work crabs into your game organically, then… well, first of all, it means you aren’t trying hard enough, but second of all, there is one emergency trick you can pull out. You see, people have been known–on occasion–to eat crabs. You could simply offer crab as a menu item at a tavern your players are visiting. It’s an inelegant solution, to be sure, but it’ll do in a “pinch” (little crab joke there).
Note: Do NOT combine this with the suggestion immediately above! If you introduce sentient crabs to your game and then also have people eating crabs, it’s going to look horrifying.
Rise of the CyberCrab
Up until now, I’ve been assuming your game is a fantasy one like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. However, that’s neglecting the many excellent sci-fi TTRPGs out there! Well fret not, lovers of Shadowrun and such. I’ve got a handy way to incorporate crabs into even the most futuristic of games.
First and foremost, the “sentient craboids” idea is just as applicable here. Imagine a crab society that has embraced transcrustaceanism: crabs with cybernetically enhanced eyestalks, massive steel claws, and shell-mounted cannons!
Second, the crab’s form is that of a nearly perfect predator (it’s why so many crustaceans naturally evolve to be crab-like in a process called “carcinisation” or “crabvolution”). This makes it an ideal shape for hunter-killer robots to adopt. What could be more terrifying than a “sea” (another crab joke) of crablike robots barreling down on your hapless players? For extra points, if your game utilizes piloted mecha, you could introduce a truly enormous crab-bot as an endgame boss.
The World’s Not Your Oyster…
…it’s your crab!
“This island is secretly a big turtle” and “the whole world is on a turtle’s back” are classic tropes. Why? Crabs have shells, too. Why do turtles get all the love? Why not crabs? Seriously, somebody explain this to me. Crabs are just as cool as turtles, they deserve just as much attention! Plus, a crab has pincers! A crab can be three islands–one on the back, one on each claw. See? They’re better than turtles! Turn your world into a crab!
Well, there you have it, folks. Five simple, no-hassle ways to fill your fantasy worlds with crabs! I hope you found this guide useful. Let me know how you use crabs in your game!
Note: Roll With It only endorses the use of True Crabs in tabletop gaming. Game Masters are discouraged from introducing False Crabs–such hermit and horseshoe “crabs”–to their settings.