Ever since I wrote my article about incorporating crabs into TTRPGs, I’ve been getting a lot of angry messages. Most of them go like this:
“I found your crab ideas irresistible, so I used them all! But now my players are terrified to play my new crabgame! You’ve ruined my Dungeons & Dragons with your frivolous crustaceans!”
Look, I’m willing to admit that I may have had a part to play here. Did I encourage the use of crabs in every session? Yes, of course. Did I advise Game Masters to “crush and grind” their players in a crab’s claw until those players lived in mortal terror of crabkind? Obviously. But it seems clear to me from the tenor of these messages that it’s you, the Game Master, who took things too far. Because I am a generous man, I’ll help you fix your terrible crab mistakes.
Scale Back Your Crabs
For many campaigns, the simple answer to fixing your crab problem is to scale back your crabs to a more manageable level. I get it–crabs are one of nature’s deadliest and most terrifying creatures. They’re basically big ocean spiders with claws, and that’s… well, I’m just going to say it: that’s fucked up. It’s only natural that you’d build them up as some of the most formidable foes yours players could face. But not every crab has to be a life-threatening menace.
While it’s satisfying (and important) to send an occasional Doomcrab to rip and tear your players to pieces, you can’t make that the norm. You also have to use smaller, more manageable crabs from time to time. Lull your players into a false sense of security and comfort by allowing them to win some crab fights; it will only make it all the sweeter when the inevitable crabpocalypse arrives. Just remember to save that Crabnarok for the end of your campaign, alright? Kicking it off too early is what put you in “hot water” (more crab humor) to begin with.
If the above advice won’t work (perhaps because you’ve established some kind of endless army of megacrabs), there is a more drastic solution you can take. In cases where you’ve written yourself into a corner and there’s no logical way your players can overcome the crab threat you’ve created, you may need to wipe out the crabs yourself.
There are a few ways of doing this–reveal the crabs to be interstellar travelers and have them depart on their crabship, or establish crabs as planar outsiders and have them banished to their home plane. My suggestion, though? Unleash a crab-borne virus onto your world. It wipes out a huge portion of the crab population, but some crabs survive. Depending on how you design the disease and pace its spread, this could even give you a little window of time where your players are fighting zombie-like “infected” crabs.
Weed Out the False Crabs
I’m frustrated that I even need to add this to the list, as I thought I was clear about it last time, but I guess not. Several of the folks who have written in have specifically mentioned issues with the horseshoe “crabs” they’ve added to their games. One even mentioned a cleverly designed maze they created in the shell of a giant hermit “crab,” the complexity of which drove their players to despair. Is that awesome? Yes. But is it a crab? Absolutely not.
I said it last time and I’ll say it again: do NOT add False Crabs to your games, people! No good can come of it! The twisting shells of hermit “crabs,” the maddening meat of king “crabs”–such things have no place in the realm of fantasy! They will curse your games and destroy your friendships! Before adding a crab to your game, do the research. Make sure it’s a brachyuran, not an anomuran.
The Surf and Turf Alliance
Now, if you’ve established crabs as a major threat and don’t want to kill them off, there’s another approach you could take. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if a new villainous power were to arise that threatened both crabs and your players, perhaps an alliance could be struck.
My suggestion for this new enemy? Octopi. They are the antithesis of crabs in every way: soft where crabs are chitinous, floppy where crabs are rigid, with soft, squishy tentacles in place of a crab’s terrible pincers. More importantly, you simply can’t trust an octopus. It’s in their nature to deceive; they survive by camouflaging themselves and blinding their foes with inky blasts. They make a cunning, paranoia-inducing threat, one that more than justifies a partnership between man and crab.
Crabs: Your Undersea Friend
If you’re lucky, it’s not too late. Maybe you haven’t crushed your players beneath the claw of the Crustacean Dominion, but merely sprinkled crabs liberally throughout the last few sessions (you don’t need to go so hard on the crabs; a cameo every session will suffice–as they say, “a little crab’ll do ya”). However, depending on the strength and ferocity of these crabs, your players might still be worried when they show up. You can fix that by introducing an NPC I like to call Shelly.
Shelly is a crab. Specifically, she’s a small crab about the size of a player’s palm–ideal for, say, riding around on a player’s shoulder. Shelly is a friendly crab who wants to help the party; depending on your setting, she’s either a sentient craboid or merely an awakened normal crab. Why is Shelly helping the party? Well, that’s up to you and your campaign. But one thing is for sure: this little crab is ready for adventure!
Hopefully that covers all the bases. Surely no matter what crabtastrophe you cooked up, completely on your own and not at all as a result of my crabvice, the solution lies within this blog post. Good luck getting your game back on track!