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  • Writer's pictureKatrina Waldman

Monster Monday #23: Tambanokano

Updated: Mar 4, 2023


It is once more time for a Monster Monday post, and I am very excited to be focusing on this week's Zodiac pick, Cancer! This astrological constellation centres around a crab and so I knew at once I wanted to find an elusive tale about a colossal crab, and after a bit of hunting I found one in Philippine/Mandaya folklore - Tambanokano! This giant crustacean is the progeny of the Sun and the Moon and is known for being quarrelsome and violent most of the time, as well as far larger than a normal crab is expected to be.


The tale behind Tambanokano (or Tambanakaua) is a very interesting one! In Mandaya mythology there are a variety of folklore tales about large creatures attempting to eat the Moon. The most famous is probably Bakunawa, a giant serpent, and another example lies in Minokawa, a giant bird that also has an appetite for the Sun. Tambanokano came about as a result of the union of the Sun and the Moon, but its parents do not exactly get on well. The Sun is said to be a quarrelsome, mean-spirited partner, and chases the Moon across the sky. Like his father, Tambanokano becomes very aggravated with his mother and often attempts to eat her. The people living on Earth are fond of the Moon and so if they witness this it is said they will rush out of their doors beating gongs to prevent it!


I actually came really close to choosing the slightly more obvious example of Karkinos, the giant crab that came to the aid of the Hydra in it's battle against Heracles and went on to become the Cancer constellation, but I liked the story of this one a lot better! While researching, I also found out that while the Kraken is usually depicted as a giant squid or octopus-like creature, some original Norse myths depict it as a crab-like creature! Giant crabs are also found in fiction and media throughout history! Rudyard Kipling wrote a story called The Crab That Played With The Sea about a gigantic crab that created the tides by controlling the flow of the waves. More recently, colossal crabs can be found in a fair few films - the character of Tamatoa is the narcissistic, greedy example found in Moana; Pacific Rim flashes back to the terrifying Onibaba attacking Tokyo; and Ice Age: Continental Drift sees the heroic characters face off against one! Video games also contain these creatures in droves, including Age Of Mythology, Dark Souls, ARK: Survival Evolved, and the Elder Scrolls franchise.

 

So now it is time to look at some stat blocks and I'm really excited about finding some cool ideas for this one! So without further ado...


So, Wizards Of The Coast actually have SO MUCH too offer on this one and I couldn't help but laugh at how many Crab variations there were in their content. Seeing as I'm looking for a creature that is as large as possible, I went for the Hulking Crab (Storm King's Thunder, page 240).


So there is a lot to be said for simplicity and this CR 5 Huge Beast stat block certainly offers plenty of that. It obviously takes what is offered by the CR 0 Tiny Crab (Basic Rules, page 122) or CR 1/8 Medium Giant Crab (Basic Rules, page 131) and amplifies it on a bigger scale! All of the crab-related stat blocks that I found had abilities in common - Amphibious so that it can be both a sea-based and land-based encounter, and a Claw attack that has varying degrees of strength dependant on the crab's size! I liked that the Hulking Crab was so much larger (though in all honesty, I think Gargantuan probably suits the size of Tambanokano better if it is trying to eat the Moon) and had the extra ability Shell Camouflage, as well as Multiattack! Do also check out the CR 8 Huge Giant Crab (Tales From The Yawning Portal, page 103) for a hardier version. Mashing it together with the Hulking Crab could make for a tougher Tier 2 encounter!


So we've tried out a simple crab, but now I want something that feels a bit more sinister. Which creature screams 'hunger' more than a Scuttling Serpentmaw (Critical Role: Call Of The Netherdeep, page 208)?


Do not let it's Small size category put you off! That can be easily amended and made more challenging. This CR 4 Aberration has the potential to be terrifying when turned colossal. It has Multiattack (with three hits in one turn) with both a Claw and a Bite. Like the Crab it is Amphibious, but it has also been given Pack Tactics. This gives it a lot of scope to be scaled up or down to challenge a party of various different levels. You could send a few of these in at Large, or do one Huge/Gargantuan with some smaller minions to take full advantage of it! This could also be replaced with something like Blood Frenzy if you decide to make this a boss battle encounter.


So now let us have a little look at some Kobold Press offerings! The first is the Tidehunter (Tome Of Beasts II, page 348).


So this CR 6 Huge Monstrosity is once again inspired by the original Crab stat block with some of its base abilities, but also has some cool new mechanics to make things even more challenging for your players! It has the ability to weave nets using kelp, and does so in order to catch unsuspecting prey, found in its Net and Reel actions. I also love the Entangle Weapon reaction to interfere with attacks from its enemies. It is a super cool creature with amazing lore behind it.


Another offering I have from Kobold Press is probably my favourite. The art, the lore, the abilities, all of them are AMAZING. Take a look at the Keelbreaker Crab (Tome Of Beasts II, page 226).


At a CR 9, this Huge Monstrosity is the toughest challenge so far. I definitely recommend upping it a little more by changing it to a Gargantuan size category. It looks like its should be much bigger than Huge! As for its abilities, the lore behind its ship and figurehead encrusted shell is really interesting - they have a magical symbiosis of sorts! It gives this creature the Living Figureheads ability, as well as a really interesting Wail action. It is also a Siege Monster and has Multiattack. This one really reminds me of the previously mentioned Tamatoa from Moana, and I think there could be some interesting ideas to change the flavouring and help it to fit the Tambanokano story!


So what else do I have? Well I love 2 Minute Tabletop's Colossal Crab encounter post. It provides everything you could possibly need to run it - maps, tokens, written adventure, and stat blocks! It is EXCELLENT and the CR 5 stat block for the crab is Gargantuan! Hooray!

 

So let's find a way to get Tambanokano into your game! Or any kind of colossal crab idea. Here are some plot hooks to help!

  1. The party are staying overnight in a remote fishing village and are awoken in the night by an almighty ruckus, made louder by the sounds of clanging pots. When investigating, the villagers tell them this ceremony is performed every single new moon when it is at its dullest and tell them the tale of the giant moon-eating crab that they are trying to frighten away.

  2. A group of sailors approach the party, terrified to sail as they have heard tales of a gigantic monster that lurks beneath the waves roaming the seas and attacking ships. They offer money for the party to venture out and defeat it.

  3. A divine figure, claiming to be the deity of the moon, offers boons to the party if they can defeat a gigantic crab-like creature for them.

  4. The party are informed that the carapace of a long dead colossal crab can be crafted into a powerful artefact and can choose to hunt its location.

  5. A crab has taken over a small island community and is demanding constant treasure and sacrifice from them. If they do not comply, it will go on a rampage and destroy the community.

 

Well I hope you enjoyed reading about Tambanokano! He is certainly a very interesting folklore figure and I find it interesting that gigantic crabs appear so seldom in mythology when there are so many of them in modern day media. Will you use one for your next encounter? Let me know!

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