Friday Lore Post: The Spiders’ Experiments

Over the course of their seventy-nine years as an active company, the Spider Company engaged in a number of experiments that they hoped would help them win their hopeless war against the gods. Most of these experiments were proposed by their leader Klaus, and much like his other initiatives, they involved dangerous and immoral practices being carried out in the name of the greater good. 

The most well-known of these experiments were the experiments in dragon shapeshifting. Dragons were known to have been hostile to the gods at various points in history, but communicating with them was impossible for humans or those who had once been human. Their resistance to magic was also highly coveted by the Spider Company, who, despite having a great deal of magical power of their own, remained outclassed by the gods. Dragons were hypothesized to be far more intelligent than they seemed, and also to have latent shapeshifting abilities due to the physiological diversity amongst their species. 

The experiments were extremely hazardous at first, largely because dragons are very large and generally inclined to be uncooperative when approached with sharp instruments. At the helm of the dragon experiments was Theresa, a brilliant practitioner of shapeshifting magic at a micro level, who oversaw the subdual and early experimentation of a dozen dragons. This triggered an aggressive retaliation against the Spider Company as a whole, which proved the theory that dragons were intelligent and operated in societies. After a number of initial failures including the deaths of seven research subjects and four spiders, a breakthrough was made and the first dragon was given shapeshifting abilities. After this success was replicated a few more times, the spiders were able to communicate to the dragons what they were doing, and they became more cooperative upon learning that the goal was to make them more efficient fighters against their enemies. After about one hundred dragons were altered, Theresa was able to devise a spell using their altered state to anchor a species-wide change, which didn’t work quite as well as she’d hoped, but did imbue the whole species with shapeshifting potential on a genetic level. This was the first major success of the Spider Company’s experiments, and was a great benefit in the war, until the dragons decided they were being used and decided to break ties with the spiders about forty years later. 

Another major set of experiments conducted by the spiders were the chimera experiments. These were attempts to do to nonhuman animals what had been done to the spiders, to alter them in order to give them powers and abilities not normal for their species. These experiments were helmed by a spider named Wendell and were readily successful, but because the altered animals didn’t possess intelligence on the level of humans, they were useful as attack animals and not much else. Chimera experimentation was deemed unhelpful and ceased in SC -260, and the formula for creating chimeras was lost with Wendell’s death, until very recently, when it was rediscovered by a researcher named Tabitha. 

In an effort to create more foot soldiers, the spiders worked very hard to bring to life a theoretical construct called a homunculus. This was in the hopes that they could create an endless army of magically-empowered not-people who could fight for them tirelessly without true souls and therefore alleviate human deaths in the wars. Unfortunately, these experiments, helmed by Klaus himself, only ever succeeded in creating monstrous approximations of humanity that had no ability to act autonomously and tended to explode at random intervals, and which also tended to spend their short existences in extreme pain. Klaus cancelled these experiments in SC -298 after fifteen years, deeming them too inhumane even when in comparison withother experiments being conducted by the company. 

In the year SC -295, the Spider Company captured a god named Dagan Remdel Ke’Nara and performed a series of experiments in order to determine the true source of the gods’ powers. Helmed by Theresa, these experiments revealed nothing except for a few tidbits of information about the gods’ biology, such as their differing organ structure from humans and the fifth chambers in their hearts. Objections from within the Company that Dagan should be interrogated rather than experimented on to learn his people’s secrets were overturned, and Dagan eventually died as the result of an experiment, with nothing learned. 

Klaus refused to allow the Spider Company to perform invasive or dangerous experiments on species that were understood to be sentient, such as humans, werewolves, harpies and merpeople, to name a few. Some less invasive experiments were done on a few subjects to try and do things like impart magic resistance upon ordinary people or increase lifespan or healing ability, but none of these were ever as effective on a biological level as simply developing spellwork that could be cast on people. 

Spiders were at the forefront of much early magical experimentation as well. The fivefold division of magic was very new to humans during the time of the Spider Company, and Spiders were responsible for teaching many people during the early part of the Catechism Wars how to use magic under the new system, inventing techniques for spellcasting and exploring the boundaries of the five divisions. There was much trial and error that happened after the time of the Spider Company as well, but most modern magic understanding globally stems from discoveries made by spiders in the early days. 

The Spider Company also developed techniques for enchanting weapons and other objects for various uses. Mostly these were objects that could be used in battle or other wartime situations, and so the majority of them were weapons or armour, but they also developed enchantments to detect lies, to allow humans to fly, or become invisible by holding a certain object; to allow short-term transformations; and many others. Most of these can only be used by magic-users, but they did invent several enchantments that could be used if not controlled by non-magical people as well. The techniques for developing most of these enchantments have not been lost, but are impossible for ordinary human magic-users to replicate as they require power beyond the fivefold division of magic. Because spiders’ power came from a secondary source in addition to the fragments of the Web, they were able to access this power and use it to others’ benefit, but during the cold war, there was a mutual agreement that arming humans with powerful weapons and tools that they could use to cause mass destruction against one another was a bad idea, and so very few such objects were made after the Catechism Wars. 

The spiders conducted a number of other shorter-term experiments, but not all of what they did had lasting effects on the world. Most of their experiments, as is the wont of experiments, failed. They were people in a rapidly changing world and in possession of a new power that nobody had ever seen before, so they were trying out its limits and trying to save everything from destruction using whatever means they could. Once everything stabilized and the situation became less dire, their experiments tapered off as they no longer had an immediate threat to justify their calling on the greater good to overrule their common decency. 

In recent years, some small groups of spiders have started up certain experiments again, trying to revivify older experiments, as well as performing new ones to figure out the methodology behind their own creation. They have had mixed success with this last attempt, as their experiments were crashed in the early testing stages and their only three test subjects escaped. Tabitha, the researcher in charge of the project, notes that one of the three subjects showed great promise towards becoming a classical spider, and the transformations of the other two, though not imbuing them with any particular spider-like powers, did grant a series of non-human abilities in a way not previously thought possible for humans. More research is needed, but unfortunately grant funding has been redistributed to figuring out why werewolves can be modified to kill higher demons, and so the project of creating more spiders has been shelved for the indefinite future. 

From “A Summary of Spider Company Activities,” by Theresa daughter of Tanya, circulated in the Citadel, SC 3777.

20 thoughts on “Friday Lore Post: The Spiders’ Experiments

  1. Are Girl Genius-style sparks a thing in this universe? Because it seems that the Spider Corps could do with a bit of !!SCIENCE!! on their side.


      1. So ARE sparks a thing?

        Also, you’re typing !!SCIENCE!! wrong—it’s double exclamation points on each side of the word. (This is how Dwarf Fortress indicates that a thing is currently on fire. Over the course of a Fortress Mode run, you can expect to see this notation a LOT. It is a motto of the player base that “Losing is !!Fun!!”)


          1. Sparks are…well, mad scientists, basically. More specifically, they’re people who can enter an altered mental state in which they exhibit preternatural insight, intuition, and raw charisma, but lose all sense of restraint or impulse control, become prone to melodramatics, megalomania, and tunnel vision, and generally have all their mental safeties switched off.


              1. The average teenager is a paragon of restraint, self-awareness, humility, and perspective compared to a Spark. And is far less prone to using random passerby as experimental subjects, guinea pigs, and/or raw materials. Or unleashing robot armies on unsuspecting cities because those fools at the institute rejected their thesis/there are way too many street performers/it’s a Tuesday.


  2. Look at me, still talking when there’s science to do
    When I look up there it makes me glad I’m not you
    I’ve experiments to run
    There is research to be done
    On the people who are
    Still alive


  3. Have any of the more research-inclined spiders ever had cause to cackle “Yes! It’s alive, it’s alive! Mwahahahaha!”?


  4. “Klaus refused to allow the Spider Company to perform invasive or dangerous experiments on species that were understood to be sentient”

    Either Dagan was an explicit exception to this, or Klaus doesn’t believe gods are sentient. I choose to believe the funnier of the two possibilities.


    1. He is aware of that! His goals and the research into homunculi changed a lot over the years, so what he ended up wanting Nicholas for isn’t at all what he wanted the original experiments for.



  5. Has anyone suggested research into magical infrastructure? Or is that perhaps the basis of the hypothetical AU in which everything is the same except everyone has access to the magic internet?


    1. There have been some ideas like that floated, but they could never make them work because they couldn’t get everyone to sign onto them in times of conflict. In an AU I’m sure it worked out, though. 😀 Thanks!


  6. I assume that the spiders lost a nonzero number of fortresses to magical experimentation gone horribly wrong…or, for that matter, horribly right.


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