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Tarantula 1955 movie poster - orange background

Tarantula

(1955 movie giant spider)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

First doctor: “We must accept [tarantulas] as we do the rest of God’s creatures. Each has a function in its own world.”
Dr. Hastings: “But what if circumstances magnified one of them in size and strength, took it out of its primitive world and turned it loose in ours ?”
First doctor: “Then expect something that’s fearsome, more cruel and deadly than anything that ever walked the Earth.”

Context

Tarantula is a 1955 “Atomic Horror Giant Monster” movie, and is widely considered a fine example of the genre and era. It came one year after the giant ants of Them!, with more modern special effects (the spider had better hair).

Unsurprisingly, this profile includes pics of giant hairy spiders.


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Background

  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Near the town of Desert Rock, AZ.
  • Diameter: 100 ft. Weight: 60 Tons.
  • Eyes: Black Hair: Black


Powers and Abilities

A normal sized Arizona tarantula is only three inches in size but its jaws are powerful enough to pierce a man’s skin. They make their homes in burrows and can live up to 25 years.

Its venom is used to paralyze victims, and then it pre-digests its food by flooding the wound with a powerful solvent so it can be ingested. The poison is really harmless to humans, about the same as a hornet’s sting.

Gigantic tarantula seen from a small town, from the 1955 movie

Tarantulas don’t know the meaning of fear. They will even fight a rattle snake if they have to.

However, we are not talking about a normal sized tarantula. This one is gigantic, perhaps 25 to 100 feet in diameter. Though it appears to be moving slowly it overtook two men running in an open field. Later, the men had to flee in automobiles to stay ahead of it.

With the cover of night and even with its constant chattering sound it is able to get close to most of its victims before they realize it.


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History

Carrion birds circle overhead as a man struggles to survive the desert’s relentless heat and whatever disease causes his delirium. He collapses several times but continues to get back up until he finally collapses near the road and dies. The sheriff contacts Doctor Matt Hastings the next morning, and brings him to see the body.

Hastings establishes that the dead man, Professor Eric Jacob, a nutritional biologist, must have had acromegaly for years. However a colleague of Jacob, Professor Gerald Deemer, identifies his body and explains that its deformed looks, enlarged hands and feet have just happened over a four day period.

And yet, Deemer has to confirm the diagnosis of acromegaly. Deemer was with Jacob the night before and says he became delirious and stumbled off into the desert at night.

Groundbreaking nutrients research

Professor Deemer then heads home. He has been conducting “experimental nutrients research” on rats, monkeys and hamsters. Some are already giant-sized from nutrient injections they have been receiving, even though it has been but a few days. The professor has also been experimenting with a tarantula that is already the size of a large dog.

Immense tarantula running in the desert, from the 1955 movie

A graduate student, also suffering from acromegaly, suddenly attacks Professor Deemer. The deranged man chokes Deemer out and injects him with the experimental nutrient. In their scuffle the tarantula is accidentally set free and escapes into the desert.

The acromegalic man then collapses on the floor, dead. Professor Deemer tries to put out the fire and save his lab, then buries his aggressor in the desert. As far as he can determine, only the test monkey and him have survived the blaze.

Something strange is going on

Meanwhile, Doctor Hastings tells the sheriff his theory about Jacob and Deemer. Since they were both biologists and 20 miles away from civilization, they must have been up to something. Something that may have caused Jacob’s death!

A reporter heads out to Professor Deemer’s place to take pictures and ask questions. Doctor Hastings intends to go as well. At the same time Stephanie Clayton, a graduate student who took a job with Jacob and Deemer, arrives in town.

A giant tarantula climbs over rocks, from the 1955 movie

When Dr. Hastings mentions he’s about to leave for Deemer’s lab, the hotel clerk suggests he should take Clayton with him. Meanwhile, over a single day, the tarantula from Deemer’s lab has grown to the size of an automobile.

Hastings and Clayton arrive at Deemer’s lab several minutes behind the reporters. Deemer is explaining to them his nutrient-rich injection formula. Deemer authorises Dr. Hastings to perform an autopsy on Jacob’s corpse, which again confirms that it was an acromegaly case.

House-sized

While Stephanie is receiving training from Deemer, she notes that the professor’s muscles are becoming sore.

While on an errand in town, Ms. Clayton runs into Hastings, who later drives her back to the lab. As they stop for a cigarette they are nearly crushed by a rock slide. Though they do not realise it, the accident was caused by the same tarantula, now as big as a house. Since it only hunts at night in the desert, it hasn’t been spotted yet.

Dr. Hastings notices that some animals at the lab have doubled in size within but a few hours. After he leaves Deemer berates Clayton for letting him in, as the experiments are confidential. At this point Deemer is starting to realise that he is, impossibly, developing acromegaly.


Acromegaly

Is an extremely rare syndrome that results when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone (hGH). Acromegaly most commonly affects adults in middle age, and can result in severe disfigurement, seriously complicating conditions, and may cause premature death if unchecked.

Because of its insidious pathogenesis and slow progression, the disease is hard to diagnose in the early stages and is frequently missed for many years, until changes in external features, especially of the face, become noticeable.

Some symptoms are swelling visibly resulting in enlargement of the hands, feet, nose, lips and ears, and a general thickening of the skin. Swelling of internal organs, notably the heart with attendant weakening of its muscularity, and the kidneys, also the vocal cords resulting in a characteristic thick, deep voice and slowing of speech.

On his way back to town, Dr. Hastings stops at the spot where he and Stephanie were nearly crushed, to investigate further. He happens across the sheriff, who is investigating reports of disappearing cattle. The two men then find cattle bones, stripped clean, as well as a puddle of white liquid five feet across.

Man-killer

The tarantula attacks a horse farm, killing a man. It then attacks a truck with two occupants, throwing it some 30 feet off the road. More puddles are found in the area, and Dr. Hastings take a sample for analysis. He establishes that it is “insect venom”, but cannot be more specific.

The doctor calls Deemer’s lab to have a second opinion. Clayton answers the phone and explains that Professor Deemer is sick. She then screams and the call is cut off. Hastings rushes to the lab, where Stephanie takes him to the suffocating Deemer. The doctor puts together a temporary solution for the biologist’s sudden acromegaly.

Immense tarantula on a road, from the 1955 movie

Deemer explains that Professor Jacob had been testing the nutrient on himself, and how the lab later burned. Dr. Hastings is intrigued when the colossal tarantula is mentioned. He soon takes a flight to visit the Arizona Agricultural Institute, where scientists determine that the white liquid is tarantula venom.

The Tarantula grows even larger. At this point it barely notices telephone poles or power lines, and thus accidentally knocks out power and communication in the surrounding areas.

The Tarantula kills two more men that night and proceeds towards Deemer’s Lab. Can anything stop such a monster?


Description

A powerful, gargantuan tarantula. Black as night. There is a loud noise like that of the cicada in summer when the tarantula approaches.


Personality

It is a hunter and knows no fear.


DC Universe History

If used as presented in the film, I could imagine a follow up adventure where a villain gets the formula and uses it to create giant sized animals to pull off crimes… hopefully, the villain can control them.

A giant monster such as the tarantula could also be used as a massive distraction, forcing people to abandon entire towns that can then be freely robbed.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

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Tarantula

A 786 points Creature

Dex: 04 Str: 14 Bod: 07 Motivation: Survival
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 00 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 004 HP: 000

Powers:
Acid: 05, Claws: 08 , Full Vision: 14, Growth: 12, Paralysis: 07, Skin Armor: 09

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Tarantula may AP-add STR to Claws for EV when making bite attacks.
  • Paralysis represents the Tarantula’s poison and may only be used after a successful bite (claws) attack. A paralyzed opponent may attempt to free himself through an action check with AV/EV equal to opponent’s Body/Body against OV/RVs equal to RAPS of successful Paralysis attack.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in. All Powers except Growth are Innate.

Skills:
None demonstrated.

Advantages:
None demonstrated.

Connections:
None.

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance.

Genre:
Gritty.


Design notes

Size and Str was hard to nail down because the spider’s actual size changes throughout the film and is never stated at anytime.

The first time we see the Tarantula it’s about the size of a large dog. When the Spider threw the truck thirty feet off the road it was about 25 feet in diameter (Growth: 06). By the end of the film it is perhaps as large as 100 foot in diameter.


The nutrient formula

Professor Eric Jacob and Professor Gerald Deemer are nutritional biologists. It isn’t stated how long they worked on their formula but they did go through a couple of grad students working as assistance so, I’d assume five years of research at least.

Using a radioactive isotope the two were able to unlock the secrets of this formula. Perhaps for the Professors this was a “Stroke of Genius” Advantage; however, the formula never seemed to be reliable. The formula is a liquid that appears to be radioactive, the Professor always used gloves and tongs to transport it until it was in the syringe (assumed to be proofed against the radiation as well.) Effects of the injections are not cumulative.

The nutrient formula must be injected into the body to take effect, a synthetic food that will lengthen the lifespan of those who are injected. The animals were living on the injections alone.

The professor’s work was to combat world hunger in an ever growing world population. Deemer estimated the world would have a population of over three billion by the year 2000. (Interesting note: Wikipedia estimates the world population in 2000 at over six billion, twice what Deemer guessed.)

Tarantula 1955 movie poster

The nutrient-rich formula once injected looks like this: [Growth: 12, Advantages – Life Support (No need to eat), Drawbacks – Catastrophic Physical Restriction (rapid acromegaly), R#11. If the R# fails the formula gives an animal 03 APs of Growth effectively doubling its size and the Advantage listed, if it doesn’t fail the animal recipient gains the Advantage only.

Growth starts at 03 AP and gains an additional 03 APs each time the R# roll fails. Roll for reliability every 14APs (or 16 hours). A reliability failure on a human injected gain instead the drawback listed. For animals the advantage is lost if Growth exceeds 05 APs. Once gained all effects are permanent. Cost: 218]

Note 1: The GM could allow for a roll to resist the formula once injected, against 12 APs. Systemic Antidote will add to RV against this roll).

Note 2: If a creature has shrinking 03 APs will be subtracted from the Shrinking first until it reaches 00APs. The Tarantula started with Shrinking 10, A Wolf (or large dog) doesn’t have shrinking or Growth, this was the size of the Tarantula when we first see it. Every 16 hours it gains another 03 APs of Growth and has the full 12 APs of Growth on the morning of the fourth day.


Tarantula (When we first see it, size of a large dog)

Dex: 04 Str: 02 Bod: 02 Motivation: Survival
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 00 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 004 HP: 000

Powers:
Acid: 01, Claws: 00 , Full Vision: 02, Growth: 00, Paralysis: 03, Skin Armor: 03

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Tarantula may AP-add STR to Claws for EV when making bite attacks.
  • Paralysis represents the Tarantula’s poison and may only be used after a successful bite (claws) attack. A paralyzed opponent may attempt to free himself through an action check with AV/EV equal to opponent’s Body/Body against OV/RVs equal to RAPS of successful Paralysis attack.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in. All Powers except Growth are Innate.

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance


Tarantula (The size of an automobile)

Dex: 04 Str: 05 Bod: 03 Motivation: Survival
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 00 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 004 HP: 000

Powers:
Acid: 02, Claws: 02 , Full Vision: 05, Growth: 03, Paralysis: 04, Skin Armor: 04

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Tarantula may AP-add STR to Claws for EV when making bite attacks.
  • Paralysis represents the Tarantula’s poison and may only be used after a successful bite (claws) attack. A paralyzed opponent may attempt to free himself through an action check with AV/EV equal to opponent’s Body/Body against OV/RVs equal to RAPS of successful Paralysis attack.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in. All Powers except Growth are Innate.

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance


Tarantula (25 ft in diameter)

Dex: 04 Str: 08 Bod: 05 Motivation: Survival
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 00 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 004 HP: 000

Powers:
Acid: 03, Claws: 04 , Full Vision: 08, Growth: 06, Paralysis: 05, Skin Armor: 06

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Tarantula may AP-add STR to Claws for EV when making bite attacks.
  • Paralysis represents the Tarantula’s poison and may only be used after a successful bite (claws) attack. A paralyzed opponent may attempt to free himself through an action check with AV/EV equal to opponent’s Body/Body against OV/RVs equal to RAPS of successful Paralysis attack.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in. All Powers except Growth are Innate.

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance.


Tarantula (Size of a large 2-story house)

Dex: 04 Str: 11 Bod: 06 Motivation: Survival
Int: 00 Wil: 00 Min: 01 Occupation: Predator
Inf: 00 Aur: 00 Spi: 01 Resources {or Wealth}: 000
Init: 004 HP: 000

Powers:
Acid: 04, Claws: 06 , Full Vision: 11, Growth: 09, Paralysis: 06, Skin Armor: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Tarantula may AP-add STR to Claws for EV when making bite attacks.
  • Paralysis represents the Tarantula’s poison and may only be used after a successful bite (claws) attack. A paralyzed opponent may attempt to free himself through an action check with AV/EV equal to opponent’s Body/Body against OV/RVs equal to RAPS of successful Paralysis attack.
  • Growth is always on and already factored in. All Powers except Growth are Innate.

Drawbacks:
Strange Appearance.

By Ethan Roe.

Source of Character: The 1955 movie Tarantula.

Helper(s): Wikipedia, Frank Murdock, Darci, Sébastien Andrivet.

Writeup completed on the 30th of October, 2010.

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