Of course, Arachne was not always divine, nor was she the spider-creature she is known as today; originally, Arachne was Human. The legend of her origin and rise to godhood is well-known to all: how her works of art were challenged by Athene, former Avatar of Craftsmanship, and how she won the ensuing challenge from the goddess and was cursed into the form of a spider in a moment of spite and envy. How even after she was cursed, Arachne continued to spin and weave, working her webs' intricate designs, and how Athene watched in her hate, waiting for the spider's short lifespan to end, abandoning her duty as Avatar and ignoring her worshipers. How when at last she did pass, Arachne's soul was brought before the Ancient of Days and offered to replace Athene, who herself was taken by the darkness and reshaped into Irshya, harpy goddess and Avatar of Envy.
The majority of the many children Arachne produced in her short life remained the common spiders of the world, ancestors of everything from the simple weavers and hunters to the enormous monstrous spiders native to wildlands fraught with powerful magic and bizarre creatures. But a large minority, her earliest-born sons and daughters, inherited a fragment of the divine spark of their mother, and when Arachne ascended to godhood, so did they ascend to sapience. Over the next half-century they grew, developing from whatever tiny creature they had been born as to great spiders the size of large dogs or small horses. Then, compelled by instinct inborn in them through their divine evolution, they cocooned themselves and entered a state of metamorphic sleep. When they awoke and emerged, spiders they remained... but they had gained the ability to take the shape of humans as their mother once was. It was at this point that they approached their human kin and ancestors, revealing the fate of Arachne and of her children.
The Children of Arachne have a long and complex life cycle. They are born from eggs laid in clutches usually between two and six in number, and emerge individually - often with days or even weeks between each egg hatching - as spiders that range in size between a large coin and an adult human handspan, generally based on the type of mundane spider they resemble. Despite appearing to be little more than spiders, they are sapient and learn quickly, and can usually communicate via writing, tapping, gesturing, or a rapid chittering language called Arachnid (which most other species lack the vocal structure to speak, including Children in humanoid forms, but can with some difficulty learn to understand) within a few years. While they are quick to gain intelligence, their other features are much slower to develop, and it takes between fifty and eighty years for them to reach their first metamorphosis. In this time they grow, eventually reaching a size comparable to a large dog.
Arachnean spiderlings cocoon at this phase, wrapping themselves in their own silk, and remain so bound and in stasis for between two and four weeks. They are almost always slightly larger when they emerge than when they entered the cocoon, but more importantly they now have a unique ability - an innate shapeshifting talent that allows them to assume a Human form. This ability is innate, complete, and most importantly nonmagical, allowing them to shift forms even in areas with warped or dead magic. Common parlance for this adolescent stage of the Children's life cycle is Aranea.
While physically adolescent, most Araneas are considered mentally and spiritually adults by the time they reach their second century. It is at this point that they are generally allowed to leave the control and protection of their parents, to travel, to experience, and even to seek love or lust. Araneas choosing mates or sexual partners at this stage is extremely common; however, Araneas are also sterile, their core reproductive organs inert and underdeveloped until their final metamorphosis. Due to their human-like shape and shared heritage, some Araneas choose to live among humans as humans, concealing their nature, especially in places where their kind are uncommon; there are no long-term negative effects to spending a majority of time in either spider form or human form, save a common necessity to "adapt" to one form after spending a long duration in the other, as if the Aranea is "out of practice" in using its other body.
The majority of Children living as adventurers are Araneas, eager to be out of the nests of their parents after two hundred years in their care and ready to spend the remaining centuries of their existence exploring the world, seeking new experiences, developing their talents, and making friends and allies. In this phase of their lives, Araneas continue to grow, if far more slowly; their human forms are usually relatively short upon first emerging from metamorphosis, typically between 4'6" and 5', but by the time they reach their second they usually stand closer to between 5'8" and 6'4", give or take some on all accounts. Their canines also very slowly elongate into fang-like shapes, but they possess no poison sacs in their human shape; this is one of the best ways to identify an Aranea in disguise from a true Human. Likewise their spider forms continue to grow, going from the size of a large dog or small pony to almost as big as a full-sized horse.
Exact durations vary, but the Aranea stage generally lasts until somewhere between 650 to 800 years old. It is at sometime in this span that a second instinctual imperative drives the Aranea to a second cocooning; the demand is not as intense as the first when it first comes, allowing an Aranea to take the time to seek a safe, hidden, or protected place to cocoon, but increases in desperation if delayed for too long. This second cocoon is built much larger and stronger than the first, in order to allow for the greatly increased size of the Child post-metamorphosis. Generally referred to as "apotheosis" by the Children themselves, it is this transformation that allows them to take on the form of Arachne herself - neither human nor spider but a blend of the two, a hybrid shape that is almost universally considered far more natural and complete than either of their prior forms.
Fully-realized Arachnes generally stand somewhere between nine and thirteen feet tall in their true forms, and resemble centaurs with the lower half of a gigantic version of whichever spider they resemble rather than a horse. Their humanoid head, torso, and arms retain most of the appearance their human form had as an Aranea; arachnid chitin hugs along their hips and pelvis, beneath which the body gives way to the spider thorax. Where the spider's eyes, mouth, and pedipalps would normally be is now replaced with the humanoid torso, with the eight legs connected to the thorax along the sides. The front and rear pairs are typically slightly more maneuverable than the two central pairs, allowing the former to serve as a second pair of "hands" and the latter to serve as the primary operators for silk production and manipulation; this is a trait shared with Araneas in their spider form, as well, though it becomes more pronounced at full adulthood. The spider abdomen is, as expected, attached to the rear of the thorax, and includes spinnerets.
Arachnes maintain their shapechanging abilities after apotheosis; they simply gain a "third form" to choose from. Their Human forms remain the size of normal humans, though they are almost always universally tall compared to the average human, as even the shortest of female Arachnes are rarely below 5'10" in height, and most typically being closer to 6'6" or even taller, with males being slightly shorter. However, their fully-spider form keeps the greater size of their hybrid shape, as if simply withdrawing the humanoid torso into itself and gaining the spider's normal eyes, mouth, and mandibles.
Arachnes are fully mature in all ways upon emerging from apotheosis, and reproduction usually occurs within the first century or two following, with pairs who were partnered as Araneas generally producing young more quickly. Despite their prodigious lifespan, however, Arachnes don't produce a great amount of children. As stated, their clutches are relatively small - between two to six eggs apiece - but perhaps more importantly, it's relatively rare for an Arachne female to produce more than two or perhaps three clutches in her lifetime, despite the expectation of living as long as 1500 years in total, with all but the last two or three centuries fertile. It's unknown whether this is a cultural restriction or an inherited one, but it most likely is a side-effect of the slow growth rate of spiderlings and Araneas: after all, with each spiderling clutch taking 200 years to reach Aranea "adulthood", two clutches will easily push an Arachne female to nearly 1100-1300 years old by the time they're fully grown, and female Arachnes almost never seem to produce another clutch while children are still in the home.
In all forms and all stages of their lives, Children are unique in being fully, biologically carnivorous. Their bodies are completely incapable of processing plant matter as food, and many hidden Araneas masquerading as Humans have had to deal with a variety of ill effects from things as simple as fruit juice or salads or even many kinds of alcohol due to their inability to digest it. Spiderlings gain sustenance much like normal spiders do, catching insects and other small prey in their webs, liquidizing it with their venom, and consuming it by drinking. Upon metamorphosis to Aranea, they are capable of taking on larger prey, as well as consuming solid food - Aranea, even in spider form, possess actual teeth in their mouths beyond just their fangs and pedipalps, allowing them to tear and chew meat, unlike normal spiders. As they grow, their teeth grow stronger, larger, and more numerous, though never gaining more than about twenty teeth in total in their spider forms, compared to the human norm of thirty-two that they possess in their human and hybrid, post-apotheosis, forms. When living among other races, Aranea and Arachnes must take care with the food they eat; while their bodies can survive consuming indigestible food in relatively small volumes, excessive consumption or doing so for an extended period of time can often produce ill effects.
Due to their relatively small numbers, the Children of Arachne don't have a large culture to themselves outside their religion; the vast majority of Children revere their ancestress as their primary patron deity as well as an exemplar of their capabilities and as a literal mother figure. Arachne families are matriarchal by default, separated by clutch or clan names that, while inspired by the Humans they live among and are descended form, serve primarily as shorthand for an entire inherited line - an Arachne or Aranea's actual full name is an entire listing of their female genealogy back to Arachne herself, for example: "Elene, of Anna, of Katerin, of Ioanna, of Sybilla, of Sophia, of Zoe, of Iliya, of Koralia, of Aglaia, of Despoina, of Arachne." Male lineages are only used in such recountings when the identity of the mother is unknown. However, such full names are almost only used in ceremonial situations, and most Children are quite happy to use typical given name-surname combinations in casual conversation.
Almost all Children live on the continent of Wachara, primarily in the region of Galadae, which is both the modern name of the territory where Arachne herself lived as a mortal and a theocracy under her leadership. Perhaps unusually, Arachne did not declare a Child as the ruler of this religious monarchy, but rather named a Human queen, Saranna Astraea; she instead declared Astraea's traveling companion, an Arachne oracle by the name of Augusta Stavros, to serve as her high priestess and to ensure the church and the monarchy would work in close cooperation. As a result, the church has grown extremely influential and popular in Galadae, and it boasts the single highest concentration of Children in the world.
Other places in Wachara have their fair share, though. The wilderness and mystery of the region once known as the Stolen Lands, now home to the countries of Iomrall, Shadrach, and Weuland, have drawn the attention of many Aranea and Arachne wanderers, but like anything in those regions, there is no clear majority of any one species. The largest concentration of Children outside Galadae is by far in the land of Divus, south of the Stolen Lands and the Olori Territories. Drawn by the tower-cities of the Ael-Varan, where social status is strongly tied to one's ability to physically reach the higher strata of the buildings, normally such heights were reserved for the flying Ael and the few members of other races who could master the magic necessary to make the ascent without wings. The Children, however, possess a spider's grace and more importantly their climbing ability, and thus ascending to the upper reaches of Divan civilization was to them as simple as walking. Children who migrated to Divus easily picked up on the native culture and had very little trouble adapting to the differences in behaviors, often taking on Divan variations of their names and titles to better integrate into Ael society.
True to their heritage, almost every Child is a capable craftswoman or -man. Spiderlings can begin spinning silk at as young as ten or twenty years old, and have generally mastered the skill of at least making webs and cocoons by the time they reach their first metamorphosis. Crafting useful items out of their own silk is a common and revered practice among all Children, as well as a sign of respect and reverence to their ancestress and her divine charge; as a result, Children who have for whatever reason rejected Arachne tend to avoid using their silk for anything other than making webs and cocoons. Sewing and weaving, even using materials other than their silk, is a talent and trade that is almost inborn to the species, and Children are usually quick to master such trades.
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Araneas are creatures of mind over body, with superior intellects but little physical power. Aranea characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Intelligence and Charisma and take a -2 penalty to Strength.
* Type: Araneas are magical beasts with the (shapechanger) subtype.
* Size: Araneas are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
* Base Speed: Araneas have a base speed of 40 feet and a climb speed of 30 feet. In their human forms their speed is only 30 feet and they do not have a climb speed.
* Languages: Araneas begin play speaking Common and Arachnid (which is only speakable in their spider form). Aranea with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
* Darkvision: Araneas can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Expert Climber: Araneas in their spider form can cling to cave walls and even ceilings, as if constantly under the effects of a nonmagical spider climb spell. This trait doubles the normal +8 racial bonus on Climb checks normally granted to creatures with a climb speed (to a total +16 bonus).
* Stable: An Aranea's many legs grant it a +12 bonus to its CMD against trip attempts. It loses this bonus in human form.
* Silk Weaver: An Aranea gains a +2 racial bonus to Craft checks involving thread, silk, or fabric, such as Craft (sewing) or Craft (weaving). This bonus increases to +4 if they are using their own webbing silk in the process.
* Change Shape: Araneas can assume the appearance of a human. The form is static and cannot be changed each time it takes this form. They gain a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear as a human. Changing its shape is a standard action. This trait otherwise functions as alter self, save that the creature does not adjust its ability scores.
* Web: Araneas can create webs as per the web ability while in their spider form.
* Poisonous Bite: Araneas gain a natural bite attack, dealing 1d4 damage plus the Aranea's Strength modifier. The bite is a primary attack, or a secondary attack if wielding manufactured weapons. Araneas lose their bite attack while in their Human form.
- Poison: save Fort DC (10+1/2 HD+CON mod); frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Str; cure 1 save. The save is Constitution based.
* Ability Score Racial Traits: Arachnes are powerfully built, strongly armored, sturdy, and naturally healthy, in addition to retaining their superior intellects, but sacrifice speed and agility for their size and strength. Arachne characters gain a +2 racial bonus to Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, and Charisma and take a -2 penalty to Dexterity.
* Level Adjustment: An Arachne is always one level lower than its experience total would dictate, to allow for its superior power level. An Aranea of the appropriate age can choose to undergo apotheosis and become an Arachne, removing its Aranea racial traits and gaining those of the Arachne in turn, in place of gaining a level.
* Type: Arachnes are monstrous humanoids with the (shapechanger) subtype.
* Size: Arachnes are Large creatures. Large races take a –1 size penalty to their AC, a –1 size penalty on attack rolls, a +1 bonus on combat maneuver checks and to their CMD, and a –4 size penalty on Stealth checks. A Large creature takes up a space that is 10 feet by 10 feet and has a reach of 5 feet.
* Undersized Weapons: Although an Arachne is Large, its upper torso is the same size as that of a Medium humanoid's upper torso. As a result, it wields weapons as if it were one size category smaller than its actual size (Medium for most Arachnes). An Arachne in Human form loses this ability, allowing it to shift between its Human and Hybrid forms without changing equipment.
*Base Speed: Arachnes have a base speed of 40 feet and a climb speed of 30 feet. In their human forms their speed is only 30 feet and they do not have a climb speed.
* Languages: Arachnes begin play speaking Common and Arachnid. Arachne with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
* Darkvision: Arachnes can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
* Natural Armor: Arachnes gain a +2 natural armor bonus to their Armor Class.
* Expert Climber: Arachnes in their normal or spider form can cling to cave walls and even ceilings, as if constantly under the effects of a nonmagical spider climb spell. This trait doubles the normal +8 racial bonus on Climb checks normally granted to creatures with a climb speed (to a total +16 bonus).
* Stable: An Arachne's many legs grant it a +12 bonus to its CMD against trip attempts. It loses this bonus in human form.
* Silk Weaver: An Arachne gains a +2 racial bonus to Craft checks involving thread, silk, or fabric, such as Craft (sewing) or Craft (weaving). This bonus increases to +4 if they are using their own webbing silk in the process.
* Change Shape: Arachnes can assume the appearance of a human. The form is static and cannot be changed each time it takes this form. They gain a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear as a human. Changing its shape is a standard action. This trait otherwise functions as alter self, save that the creature does not adjust its ability scores. They can also use this ability to assume a fully spider appearance, appearing exactly as they had in their natural form as an Aranea, save Large size instead of Medium. An Arachne can shift from one of its three forms to either of the other two, without having to go through its hybrid form if it does not wish to.
* Web: Arachnes can create webs as per the web ability while in their hybrid or spider forms.
* Poisonous Bite: Arachnes gain a natural bite attack, dealing 1d4 damage plus the Arachne's Strength modifier. The bite is a primary attack, or a secondary attack if wielding manufactured weapons. Arachnes lose their bite attack while in their Human form, but retain it in their natural hybrid form.
- Poison: save Fort DC (10+1/2 HD+CON mod); frequency 1/round for 6 rounds; effect 1d2 Str; cure 1 save. The save is Constitution based.