Monster Monday #14: Aqrabuamelu
Updated: Mar 4
It's that time of week again - Monster Monday! This week I decided to run a Twitter poll on what to write on next. I chose four random Star Signs and told everyone that I would choose the creature based on that, and the winner was Scorpio! With that in mind, this week's creature is the Aqrabuamelu, sometimes also called the Girtablilu! Many will probably know it better as a Scorpion Man, and to look at it is pretty much how you would imagine it. They are known for having a human torso, arms, and head, while their lower half is a scorpion's legs and tail, and are found within several Akkadian language myths, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, an ancient Mesopotamian epic poem. Within this poem, they are created by the Primordial Goddess Tiamat, and stand guard outside the gates of the sun god Shamash.
While such a creature is something many people may recognise as a common hybrid type in various modern media references, it is actually a very specific mythological reference that is not often found outside of Mesopotamian myth. Interestingly, there are a number of notable Scorpion Goddesses throughout history which have some significance in that they signify the importance of the creature within mythology of certain areas of the world. Examples include the Mesopotamian deity Ishara, whose symbol was the scorpion; the Hindu Goddess Chelamma; and closely-linked Egyptian goddesses such as Ta-Bitjet, Hedetet, and Serket, the last of which has been depicted in some later art as having a scorpion body and human head. Aztec myth also has Malinalxochitl, the goddess of snakes, scorpions, and insects, and similar creatures known as Tzitzimime, that were considered to be the spirits of defeated Gods.
Nowadays, this creature can be found in plenty of different places! Despite their role in mythology being something of a guardian or protector, the intimidating and poisonous nature of scorpions often gives them a sinister role in pop culture references. A famous example is of course Scorpion from the Spider Man universe, and his depiction in Into The Spider-Verse very much resembles the look off an Aqrabuamelu. The Mummy Returns also features a villain that transforms into something of a similar vein - Mathayus, the Scorpion King. References are also found in the Skithra of the Doctor Who universe, the Scorpion Man unit in Age of Mythology, the Scorpioness Najka boss in Dark Souls II, and Scorpia in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
So now it its time for some stat-blocks! Given the slightly more generic nature of this creature, this could definitely work out as the party fighting a group of them, or maybe just one stronger one! I'll turn to Wizards Of The Coast first...
Meet the Tlincalli (Volo's Guide To Monsters, page 193).
This creature pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of the aesthetics of the Aqrabuamelu. They are also a CR 5 monstrosity, which fits in well with their mythological origin and makes them the perfect encounter for low (one or two against the party) to mid (a larger group) tier play! Attack wise they have a few good options - Multiattack means that they are able do big damage with their longsword, grapple and restrain targets with their spiked chains, and even poison and paralyse enemies with their lethal tails. The lore for these is pretty cool too, they certainly make an excellent desert encounter!
Next up, I wanted something higher level that might be cool for an epic, Scorpion King-esque boss fight! With this in mind, I stumbled across Muiral (Dungeon Of The Mad Mage, page 314).
As a large CR 13 Monstrosity, this feels a little more epic and would certainly be a challenging boss battle for even higher level parties. Not only is this particular Scorpion-Human hybrid a proficient warrior, he is also a 13th level spell-caster! With access to Legendary actions and resistances, it is certainly not an encounter to be messed with! I do really enjoy the imagery conjured up with a boss fight like this - deadly tail stings, Retreating Strikes and Lunging Attacks sound really cool!
Next up I looked at some third party sources and I was very happy to stumble across me variants of the Tlincalli in Dragonix's Monster Manual Expanded II. For a tougher variant on the stat block with abilities such as Great Hunter's Inspiration that inspire its allies, try the CR 10 Tlincalli Chieftain (page 228). For a low-level spell caster that will challenge the party with a number of AOE spells, try the Tlincalli Shaman (page 228). My personal favourite came in the form of the Tlincalli Witch (page 229), as this CR 9 being has made a pact with some darker powers that mean much higher level spellcasting, and abilities such as Dark One's Own Luck and Agonizing Blast.
Onto the bit which many people have fed back to me that they have found exceptionally useful - plot hooks! I'm glad because I love coming up with them.
While traversing the Underdark, the PCs get caught up in a turf war between a group of Tlincalli and a group of Driders. Do they aim to bring peace between the two? Side with their favourite? Or just eradicate both?
Traveling though the desert and sheltering from a sandstorm, the PCs find a cave filled with poisonous looking eggs. It is not long before their mother makes herself known...
Guarding an ancient artefact of a long dead deity is a monstrous, large Scorpion Man. He tells the party they will not be able to pass into the artefact's holding place until they have defeated him.
A nomadic tribe of Aqrabuamelu offer the PCs shelter and food for the night. Are they peaceful? Or do they have more sinister intentions for the party?
While exploring, the party come across an abandoned desert city. There are many ancient treasures to be found inside, though the streets and buildings are stalked by a powerful, unforgiving Aqrabuamelu, ready to defend his home.
These are some really interesting creatures and I was actually surprised by how little they appear in folklore other than Mesopotamian legends! Have you ever seen or heard of these creatures before? Let me know!