Starfinder Alien Archive by Alien Rope Burn
"Not all of the creatures in this book are aliens in the traditional sense — after all, everyone’s an alien to someone else, and who’s to say you’re not just as bizarre to a gelatinous barathu as it is to you?"Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 01: "Not all of the creatures in this book are aliens in the traditional sense — after all, everyone’s an alien to someone else, and who’s to say you’re not just as bizarre to a gelatinous barathu as it is to you?"
Only 158 pages, with only 120 pages of monsters? After all the talk in interviews about there being no way you could fit this in the corebook? Ha! Double Ha!
Jason Keeley, Starfinger Development Lead, Paizo Blog posted:
By now, many of you have seen the myriad of interesting and incredible creatures found within [Starfinger] Alien Archive (and if not, what are you waiting for?), but you might be wondering how we went population this book.
So it's finally time to review the Alien Archive in the interest of completing our tour of Starfinger. But there's a thing or three to get out of the way first.
First off, it's worth mentioning Paizo's Free RPG Day offering, First Contact. If you, like I was, are frustrated the corebook doesn't have any creatures in it, it's freely available as a PDF and has ten monsters in it. All of them are replicated in these pages, so it really just serves as a preview of the Alien Archive. I considered reviewing it separately, but there's not much point with nearly all the creatures (minus the space pirate) making an appearance here. For the record, those monsters are:
- Goblin, Space
- Robot, Security
- Space Pirate
Now with that mentioned in the sake of fairness, let's get down to how they've changed how Alien Archive is marketed compared to the old TSR / Wizards of the Coast Monster Manuals. Unlike previous books, twenty-two of the creatures here are available as player races. In addition, many have pieces of equipment potentially available to player characters. As such, this is intended as a book to try and sell to all Starfinger players, not just gamemasters. While this is a lesson Wizards applied liberally to their books as well - which is why Forgotten Realms region books eventually became loaded with new races, classes, feats, and spells - but they never quite did it so much with monster books (though some, like Draconomicon, did have plenty of player material). Still, Starfinger Alien Archive is unusual in that it tries to have player material in most of the monster writeups.
There's a concept in marketing known as tying, or product tying, where you bundle two products together. This is how old "double features" worked in the movie industry, where you'd have the movie everybody wants to see - the A movie, and the movie that the theatre knew wasn't going to be too popular, the B movie. For players, getting a bunch of monster stats, rules, and guidelines is the B movie. And with the attempt to bundle their products together more and more, Starfinger really does want to sell you everything. In addition, summoning spellcasters need the creatures and summoning rules in this book- their spells simply don't function just using the core rules. Mind, if you just picked up this book randomly, there is an interesting note - two of them, actually - that Paizo is like "Oh, you don't have to buy the book necessarily, you can refer to the Starfinger SRD", and they give a web link. Which is interesting. I don't know how practical it is, but I'll write "interesting" for the third time.
Of course, there's a catch for Starfinger Society players - most of the races in this book aren't available to you folks. No space goblin PCs for you, at least not yet. We haven't gotten one supplement in before the Society starts more or less banning material, though a few can be "unlocked" through playing through a set number of scenarios. Some will only be available by the region you play in, but if you aren't in the region a race is available they're be rotating them out-
Well, at least they're keeping to... balance... in... Starfinger... organized play... yeah... that's a thing. That is certainly a thing. Well, forget about that, this is Paizotown. (Really, one of the reasons is just to have a carrot for organized play folks.)
Lastly, I just want to bring up the art: it's going to be a bit of a mess in the posts, and I apologize for that. Pulling art from Paizo PDFs has... unpredictable results, and sometimes I could clean up the mess going on behind the scenes and sometimes I just did the best I could. If the pictures look "dirty", that's why - I did what I can with the time I'm willing to commit. In addition, for those with the PDF, if the art was reversed for purposes of layout, I reverted it back to its original artist's orientation as opposed to the book's orientation.
But before we get to monsters, it's time to confront this book's systems.
Next: X is for Appendix.
"Once you are satisfied with your NPC’s statistics, give it a name if you haven’t already, and it is ready to encounter your player characters, whether on the field of battle or in a tense negotiation scene!"Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 02: "Once you are satisfied with your NPC’s statistics, give it a name if you haven’t already, and it is ready to encounter your player characters, whether on the field of battle or in a tense negotiation scene!"
Ah, yes, Starfinger's detailed social rules will make that interesting.
"Roll dice and see if you roll higher than the NPC... well, you fail to beat their roll and they don't accept your offer."
"Did you spend twenty minutes making a character for that? A lot of work for one roll, huh?"
"N-no! Uh, but I guess I better use the rest of the statblock, then... roll for initiative."
Of course, at only 158 pages, we're told this is only a "small sampling" of the myriad creatures
Also we get "How to Read a Stat Block" reproduced here for some reason, even though it's already in the core book (the book with one useless monster, you'll recall). Presumably it's in the core book so you can just use Adventure Paths without buying the Alien Archive, but it's mostly just a page and a half of stopgap measure for the two months in which the Alien Archive didn't exist for Starfinger players.
Appendix 1: Creating Monsters and Other NPCs
also starring Appendix 3: Simple Template Grafts and Appendix 4: Universal Creature Rules
So I'm skipping ahead to page 126 here to get this stuff out of the way. The monsters, let's face it, are the dessert of the book. We need to get the broccoli out of the way. And pages of charts like this-
- are definitely broccoli. Mind, I like broccoli. But probably not as much as cake.
So, they're introducing a new monster design system to simplify the process of creating new NPCs. For those not fully familiar, d20 monster design was a weird mix of exacting numbers and eyeballed abilities. That is, every creature had fixed base stats depending on its type, size, hit dice, class levels, etc. However, assigning things like monster abilities was mostly an "art", though there were some guidelines and rules. In short, monsters were built like player characters, except when they weren't. It was both more complicated than it needed to be yet simultaneously so vague that it was easy to design a bad monster. Just open any d20 monster book and you'll probably find at least a few.
So, the first step in Paizo's new monster factory is to choose an array. There are three main arrays:
- Combatant: These is primarily physical combatants, like warriors and predatory animals. They might have some oddball power, but mainly do damage.
- Expert: An array for creatures that mainly use stealth, sabotage, or other skills to present a threat.
- Spellcaster: For beings and species that mainly cast spells or spell-like abilities.
The second step is to add a creature-type graft, which is their odd terminology for what used to be called "type" in d20 games like Pathfinder. Each graft grants different bonsues. These will be familiar to most d20 players, however: abberation, animal, construct, dragon, fey, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, ooze, outsider, plant, undead, and vermin. Almost all of them grant some seeing-in-the-dark ability, strangely, and a dime or nickel bonus to some attacks or penalties. Mind, there's no "balance" to them; a dragon creature is straight-up stronger than a humanoid creature, though only modestly so. The main thing that'll shift a creature's threat level are the construct, ooze, plant, and undead types, which give creatures immunity to a number of effect / condition types, rendering some player character abilities useless against them. As such, it starts to become clear that just following the formula flatly won't always get you equally challenging monsters.
The third step is to add any subtype grafts you want for the creature. These almost always make them stronger, and include aeons (neutral outsiders), agathion (a kind of celestial), air, android, angel (another type of celestial), aquatic, archon (yet another type of celestial), azata (again, celestial), cold, daemon, demon, devil, dwarf, earth, elemental, elf, fire, giant, gnome, goblinoig, gray (alien, that is), halfling, human, ikeshti, incoporeal, inevitable, kasatha, lashunta, maraquoi, orc, plantlike, protean (chaos outsiders), reptoid (alien, that is), ruphorian, sarcesian, shapechanger, shirren, skittermander, swarm (no relation to The Swarm), verthani, vesk, or ysoki. Words you may not recognize are probably races in this book or from the Starfinger Core Rules/
The fourth step is to add a class graft, if you think the creature is the sort that would have a PC class. This adds... a lot of special abilities by cross-referencing the CR of the creature and the class in question. These are basically an abbreviated subset of the abilities PCs get, though the gamemaster still has to select things like stellar revelations or magic hacks.
The fifth step is to add a template graft. There... are we on our fourth graft category already? So much for simple... anyway, these replace the templates from normal d20, granting specific abilities or penalties, but these are listed throughout the book. They don't affect a creature's CR, but some have a "minimum" CR you can apply them at. No minimum CR for a template graft is higher than 3, with most being 0 or 1. However, we get a list of "basic" ones, including: aerial (from the plane of air), aqueous (plane of water), astral (astral plane), celestial, cthonic (plane of earth), cybernetic, entropic (chaos planes), fiendish, fiery (plane of fire), giant, miniature, phrenic (i.e. psionic), resolute (planes of law), synthetic (robots), two-headed, or umbral (from a dark place).
The sixth step is to select special abilities. A creature gets 1-4 special abilities based on its CR (the higher, the more of them, varying by array type). To find them we go to Appendix 4 for most of them. Now, a creature can be assigned a number of abilities for free - basic "see in the dark" senses, a lot of movement types, or abilities it needs to survive in its home environment (like being amphibious). Adding a feat to a creature counts as a special ability for the most part, but it suggests to stick to feats that give flat bonuses that can be incorporated into the statbock. Also there are "adjustment" special abilities that adjust a creature's statistics, if grafts weren't enough for you. Oh, and you can add weaknesses as you like, and it's suggested you do so if you have given a creature "many helpful special abilities". It also generally guides you to select abilities based on its array, so combatants should have things that help in combat, while experts might have ones that help them move or sneak, and so on.
Abilities include: amorphous (immunity to additional crit damage, if not effects), amphibious, attach (to PCs), aura, blindsense, blindsight, breath weapon, change shape (for disguises, only grants a few special abilities based on form), compression (for small spaces), construct immunities, create darkness, crush (death from above attack), darkvision, dependency (the creature requires something to survive, like water), detect alignment, distraction (causes nauseate on damage), earth glide (pass through earth), elemental immunities, energy dragon, fast healing, ferocity (fight past 0 HP for 1 round), fly, frightful presence, gaze (attacks), grab (auto-grapple on a successful enough attack), immunity (to stuff), light blindness (the liiiight), limited telepathy (communication only), low-light vision, mindless (immunity to mental effects), multiattack, natural weapons, no breath (doesn't need to breathe), ooze immunities, plant immunities, plantlike, regeneration, resistance (to an damage type), see in darkness (which I guess is different from darkvision), sense through (a substance), sightless, spell resistance, stellar alignment (grants a Solarian's attunement modes to be used with stellar revelations), summon allies, swallow whole, swarm attack (automatic damage when you're in its area), swarm defenses, swarm immunities, tracking, trample, truespeech (autotranslation, more or less), undead immunities, unflankable, unliving (diet undead, now less grim), vortex (like a whirlwind in water, see whirlwind), vulnerability, water breathing, and whirlwind (the ability for a creature to turn into a whirlwind, and it takes a full half-page to cover all the rules for it, so probably don't use it).
The seventh step consists of assigning skills. You determine the number of with "high" and "low" skills based on array and CR, and it suggests the high skills should match up with their higher ability scores. However, it notes that this is only a guideline, and you can vary it as necessary.
The eighth step consists of spells, but this only usually matters to creatures with a spellcaster array or by purchasing "secondary magic" as an ability. We get another chart, which gives us varying numbers of which level spells they get and how often they can cast them based on their CR.
Lastly, it suggests that if this is a creature your're planning to use more extensively, eyeball it and compare it to "similar creatures" in this book and see if it might be adjusted to match Starfinger's no-doubt rigorous standards.
Whew. This is actually a useful system... but it codifies d20 monster creation more than it simplifies it. To be fair, it shortens statblocks by removing things like hit dice or ability scores, but that's a bandaid on a stab wound - d20 monsters are still plenty complicated, but it's at least better than Dungeons & Dragon 3rd Edition's completely overwrought statblocks. It'll still take a good while to put together a creature unless you've internalized this system, and balance is pretty variable, sincesome abilities and grafts synergize better than others. And there's nothing guiding a GM from creating an overgrafted monster or a wimpy pushover. In particular, adding a class graft is a significant bump to the power level of an NPC that the CR system doesn't account for. So... like the class system in Starfinger, it's better than the systems that preceded it, but not a great system..
We're not quite done with broccoli yet. On to the beets.
Next: Z is for Wizardry.
"Though the spell carries a heavy risk in the form of a long casting time, most casters who use the spell quickly learn to seek cover (or take similar defensive measures) before spending 6 seconds calling upon beings from another plane."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 03: "Though the spell carries a heavy risk in the form of a long casting time, most casters who use the spell quickly learn to seek cover (or take similar defensive measures) before spending 6 seconds calling upon beings from another plane."
We've covered appendices 1, 3, and 4, so let's finish off the appendices with a quick extra post-
Appendix 2: Summoning Creatures
Spellcasters get their own little section here, starting with the summon creature spell. Like mystic cure and a few other spells in the Starfinger Core Rules, summon creature is a variable-level spell. Also, it's available to both Mystics and Technomancers at all spell levels. When you select it, you can select up to four creatures you can summon, with your choices restricted by the level you're casting it at. Every time you level up, you can change out what creatures you summon. If you learn the spell twice, you can add another four creatures at whatever level that additional spell is learned at. The spell takes a full round to cast, so you're best off finding cover if you can, since one stray laser will muck up your casting.
So, the majority of summons are basically done using the elemental statblocks (provided earlier in the book) as a basic template. At 1st level you can basically summon a CR 1/3 creature, at 4th level that's a CR 1, at 7th level that's CR 3, at 10th level that's CR 5, at 13th level that's CR 7, and finally at 20th level that's CR 11. So summons are always going to be well below par - assistants rather than partners. However, you can summon as many as you like, spell slots and time permitting... though, of course, they only last your level in rounds. As such, it's not worth a lot at low levels. In addition, there are a few specific creatures you can summon - skittermander whelp, observer-class security robot, crest-eater, haan, ksarik, mountain eel, orocoran, or surnoch. What you can summon is restricted by your alignment, so no angel summoning for baddies. Of course, the alignment issues with summoning an sometimes-sentient creature to die and kill for you aren't really discussed. Skittermanders and haan are even playable, clearly sentient races from this plane! They could have families or be on their day off when, poof, time to defend your life with their life. It's a little weird to see them on the summon list.
Once you have your basic creature, you then can apply a summoning graft if it's not a specific creature like a skittermander, which often reflects what plane the creature is from. They often add an alignment, skills, traits (i.e. special abilities), and special attacks. The available types are: aeon (neutral clouds), agathions (formerly guardinals in D&D), angels, archons (abstract angels), azata (furry angels, aka guardinals II), daemons (different from demons), demons (different from daemons), devils (different from demons or daemons), first world beast (faerie animals), inevitable (robocops), protean (chaotic serpents), robots, and shadow creatures (spooky animals).
No doubt charop forums will have a field day with working out the optimal summon grafts for a given level but I've spent enough time in the number mines right now. Most of the base numbers for them seem to make summons useful but consistently below par for the level that they're summoned, which is just about right. Of course, the fact that Mystics and Technomancers can now drink the Engineer's buddy-class milkshake in the extreme short-term is about par for the d20 course.
Now with that out of the way, we can start on the monster parade.
Next: A is for Stormtroopers.
"Sentient robots are extremely wary of assembly oozes, as their entire bodies could be targeted for processing into raw resources."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 04: "Sentient robots are extremely wary of assembly oozes, as their entire bodies could be targeted for processing into raw resources."
Time for creatures that start with A. Today's menu includes the:
- Aeon Guard
- Angel, Barachius
- Assembly Ooze
Aeon Guard (CR 3) and Aeon Guard Specialist (CR 7)
These are the fascist human stormtroopers of the Azlanti Star Empire, but unlike stormtroopers, they're rather dangerous to low-level characters. Also, instead of space Nazi stylings, they have a much more generic green armor with red highlights, which makes me want to hang Christmas ornaments off of them. These are supposed to be the elite, and we get no details on what the grunts are like. You'd think grunts would be the first thing to mention, but here in Paizotown, we jump right up to the elites, right here in the first entry. It notes they have special armor augmented by "legendary aeon stones" - those are the rocks that float around your head from the magic item section, FYI - but here they're plugged directly into their armor. They get level-appropriate custom gear for PCs to nab, as well as some higher-level gear listed that neither of the statblocks here actually use. Presumably GMs would have to make higher-level Aeon Guards on their own to use them. About the only notable thing about them is that they get special slots for aeon stones to plug into, but most aeon stones aren't that hot. The most utilitarian one in that regard is added in this very section - a "purple sphere aeon stone" which grants a mid-level force field. Aeon Guard Specialists are supposed to be their loner special forces who are send out to do generically badass stuff before no doubt getting their shit kicked in by PCs when they're outnumbered at least fourfold.
AHAV (CR 12)
These are "Autonomous Heavy Assault Vehicles", a term for generic robot war machines. We're told they're immensely expensive and only can be fielded by nations or large mercenary teams, which combined with the lack of a price tag, is certainly one way of saying "Not you, PCs!" And so, they each come with a "MODEL", an immensely forced acronym for "MissiOn DEpendent Loadout." It can only choose one MODEL to modify its statblock: Advanced Maneuverability (fly speed and Spring Attack), Autoloader (bonus attack), Camouflage Plating (+20 bonus to Stealth?!... that's some fuckin' camo), Harrying Arms (can do Harrying Fire against everybody in 60 feet automatically), and Ram (as advertised). They're supposed to be long-lasting, so A GM can have the old robot set to guard something or murder somebody long after its owners passed away with no questions about what keeps it powered. Of course, they're hard to reason with so you can have a big robot fight. But if you can confuse their robot brains, you can get them to shut down entirely (no guidelines for this, so expect your GM to make some noodle arms and then have it shoot you anyway). It gets a machinegun and a flamethrower and no melee attacks unless it's built to ram. Strangely for a robot, it has fast healing with no explanation; it also has hardness 15 (i.e. damage reduction with no weaknesses) so it can tank damage pretty well for its level.
This is feelin' generic, Starfinger. Also it's gotta suck for any Engineer who runs into these and is told "Oh, no, your robot companion will never be as badass as this, sorry!"
Anacite Laborer (CR 7) and Anacite Wingbot (CR 0.5)
More robots?! Well, at least these are alien robots.
This is the robotic race native to Aballon, which you may remember as the not-Mercury from the corebook. Despite being a dominant race there, they're disappointingly not playable, but only can show up as NPCs. It notes they vary widely, and we get a reiteration of a lot of the information we already had on them from the corebook. However, what's new is now we know that they're solar-powered (and thus become sickened in the dark), and each gets a "shortwave radio" that gives them telepathy with others of their kind.
The wingbot can fly and has a bite and laser, and can "trill" to sicken in a radius around them. They might be rough customers given their flight and ranged attacks, but have low damage and DCs that keep them from being too nasty. The laborer gets a plasma current for melee (where it's stronger) or shoot lightning bolts at range. In addition, they get a choice of 2 built-in abilities it can exchange out given an hour, including: increased speed, blindsight, increased reach, an alternate move type (like burrowing or flight), energy resistance (one type only), or bonus armor. If these are "laborers" at CR 7, I can only wonder what the actual soldiers are like...
And we also get some player-facing material tangentially related to the anacites, because apparently they sell them (exclusively?). There an "Antitoxin Membrane" of nanobots that gives a save bonus against poisons and diseases, as "Shortwave Receiver-Transmitter" that lets you communicate with anacites or other technological constructs, and a "Voice Amplifier" that gives a dime bonus on Intimidate checks and makes you easier to hear. Bizarrely, being modestly more resistant to poison is a level 5 augmentation, and having a shortwave radio in your head is level 7. The range? 100 feet.
For fuck's sake, Paizo.
Angel, Barachius (CR 7)
So, we only get room for one angel, it seems. The barachius is an angel whose role is to prevent the misuse of technology by eeevil people and to "quash technologically advanced cultures that present an explicit threat to all good creatures". Given the presence of the Azlanti above, it seems like they not doing the best job of it. It's said they stop evil inventions from coming about, but it's the classic "so PCs don't have to worry about that sort of thing, then...?" sort of dilemma. Granted, sometimes they seem to take action against dangerous technology and sometimes not because they have mysterious ways to handwave away any inconsistency. It's implied they have some ability to see how technology might be used in the future. So PCs don't have to worry about that sort of thing, then...?
In any case, they can fly around and have a wide variety of elemental immunities and resistances, spell resistance, a longsword and a laser rifle, can teleport between worlds or do chain lightning once a day, and make nanotech spell attacks. Their more unique abilities include "summoning a wall of digitally empowered divine fury" which damages evil creatures and evil technological creatures more, an aura that gives defensive bonuses against evil, and the ability to give a short-term nickel bonus to a technological weapon or armor.
Lastly, in an attempt to give player-facing material, barachiuses have special magic helmets that "never can be taken from it by force". Really? Not even if you lop off their head? Well, the how of that isn't explained, but sometimes they give one of their helmets as a boon. Good luck finding a matching outfit, tho. Those with a "barachius helm" can detect evil and detect evil technology (like an unholy shotgun or whatever). Also, once per day you can use their "firewall" ability. Get it? Firewall?
Apari (CR 7) and Apari Constituent (CR 2)
A large beetle-like creature that doubles as a hive of "constituents", this is a bug found on multiple worlds and why exactly is a mystery, despite several theories given. Due to being cooperatively territorial, they can be very hard to root out, as a fallen apari will have its hive constituents retreat to another apari so they can rebuild. However, their grubs are apparently considered delicious.
As large bugs, they can see in the dark, claw, and shoot spikes. Their main unique abilities are to ignore critical hits, redistribute ability damage, and spawn "constituents" by spending HP as a move action. Constituents are flying bugs than can claw (and change what type of kinetic damage their claw does by mutating), but require a full-fledged apari to survive more than an hour. They can rejoin the main apari and add their HP back into its total, and aren't considered worth XP on their own unless encountered separately - usually they're considered to be folded into the apari's challenge rating.
Kind of a neat idea, though its role as a pure damage-dealing predator makes it a little dull. The problem is that splitting doesn't significantly alter its tactics - if the constituents had different sorts of attacks or some team tactic, it'd be more interesting. But it isn't, since all they can do is claw or shoot claws.
Assembly Ooze (CR 1)
These are basically oozes full of nanobots, probably created as a means of consuming raw materials and spitting out some device. However, they have "sloppy programing" meaning they often go wild and just consume whatever to produce whatever, or produce copies of themselves. While they're still used legally on Bretheda and its moons, they're highly regulated. In essence, they're the rust monsters of the setting, existing mainly to consume equipment. They only really present a direct danger to technologically-based races (like androids), and only attack with their bashing psuedopods if threatened.
As CR 1 creatures, they're not that threatening, and we get a random chart of items they might randomly create. Their low rating means they aren't that much of a threat, and it feels like they're mostly more gimmick creatures in case you want to have the PC find a bunch of shotguns lying around or whatever rather than just having a usual Dungeons & Dragons dustup. There are rumors of having them constructing more elaborate machinery or spaceships, either out of some communal intelligence or being controlled. Kind of the rust monsters of the game, really. But their challenge rating is so low that by the time PCs have equipment worth worrying about losing, they're not longer a threat.
A neat idea, but kind of makes you wonder why it's statted up as a monster at all.
Asteray (CR 12)
So, these are supposed to be space sirens that fy around in space and make fake distress signals or interfere with spaceship sensors to run ships into dangerous spaces or objects. They like stripping wrecked ships clean, and though not directly predatory, represent a definite danger to ships and the like due to their fey callousness. It's possible to communicate and deal with them if you can find some way to amuse them. Apparently the came from "magic rich-star systems where the First World naturally overlapped with the void", which is a fancy way to say they came from faerie stars.
In any case, they're chaotic neutral lulz-ers that can shoot lightning- wait-
Doesn't electricity require a medium to pass through? Wouldn't that mean it wouldn't work in space? Well, they're magical, I suppose. They get a variety of sabotage-worthy spells like confusion, overload systems, holographic image, etc. Their main unique abilities other than space lightning consist of being able create false sensor readings and remora-latch onto ships, hanging onto them even though the Drift.
Though seemingly supposed to be like space mermaids, they're mostly just seemingly useful for bait-and-switch encounters where the PC's benevolence or greed is turned against them, but rarely with any worthwhile return other than "faeries fuck with you because". Meh.
Next: B is for Gasbags.
"Though not many in the Pact Worlds have heard of this field, it occasionally appears in news vidfeeds, such as when an expert is committed to a psychiatric hospital after splashing acid in his eyes and raving about 'the impending refraction.'"Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 05: "Though not many in the Pact Worlds have heard of this field, it occasionally appears in news vidfeeds, such as when an expert is committed to a psychiatric hospital after splashing acid in his eyes and raving about 'the impending refraction.'"
And now, the B-list of creatures. (That's not an insult, they start with B.) Today's feature films are:
Barathu (CR 5) and Early Stage Barathu (CR 2)
Gas-bag jellyfish from
Barathu are flying aberrations that can punch with their tentacles and who communicate telepathically. They're also able to mutate their bodies somewhat to add an single "adaptation" to their statblock, including: bonus AC, ground speed, damage resistance, a ranged attack of... undetailed bludgeoning damage, energy resistance, or improved reach. They can also combine into a larger creature with more HP, larger sizes, and added adaptations.
PC barathu (the "early stage" version) are flying aberrations with telepathy as well, a nickel bonus to Fortitude saves, and a lesser version of the adapation ability above (lesser bonuses, and can't choose Damage Resistance). They're notably odd and alien compared to the corebook races, and I find them more interesting even with their limitations. Their ability to fly and adapt makes them distinct in ways other core races aren't. However, their monster version, while it makes an interesting NPC, isn't a particularly interesting challenge, given all it can do is punch and try and maximize its extra bonuses.
Twin alien mercenaries that first appeared working for Thanos, and defeated by Drax and Iron Man, the blood brothers gain strength depending on their proximity to each othe- oh, whups. Not those guys.
Okay, these are naga-like bug monsters from the "dark side" of Verces (the tidally-locked planet), they have a jaw-like ribcage they use to capture prey in. Well, okay, it's really just a mouth, but it's lined with suckers that attach to a creature and then use it as a "auxiliary heart". Apparently it somehow keeps its captive alive for months in this fashion to help it "heat and feed itself". How it keeps a presumably starving creature alive is not clear; it doesn't have an obvious secondary bite attack to feed itself otherwise, nor is any secondary diet described. Due to the tendency for locals to avoid or hunt them. They're "intelligent as the average human" but "don't care to speak". Oookay. They're basically devourers from D&D 3.5 with a larger diet.
They're huge creatures that can climb and slither, have a heavy slam attack that lets them grab if they hit by a large margin, do extra cold damage on attacks and grapples, and as a grapple maneuver they can put you in their tummy. They can attempt to drain the blood of their prisoner to heal themselves, though the victims get a saving throw. Other than that fancy attack, there's not much to them, their whole tactic is taking a PC or NPC out of the game until they're sufficiently shot. An effective tactic, but not very fun for the person trapped.
Though we're told their pelts are useless and their meat is nasty, there is a serum you can make from them that gives some short-term cold resistance and fast healing. There, a thing for players! Are you mollified yet, non-GMs?!
This creature isn't much of a bro, in any case.
Bryvath (CR 15)
Aberrations from Aucturn, these are cosmic horror-ish creatures that manipulate light into an "impossible spectrum". Note to editors- if they're doing it, it ain't impossible. That's the wrong word. In any case, they can absorb and feed on light, and and some say it's a clawed, multi-limbed humanoid with "eight" or "infinite" limbs and apparently moves in a rubbery, jointless fashion at - sigh - impossible angles.
The art shows us it's just a naked vampire with strategically-placed shadows and rainbow claws, though.
The text goes on at how maddening the once-again impossible colors are and that it causes horrific dreams of alien cities and suns that "[blaze] with hues no eye has ever seen". Or sometimes witnesses go color-blind. Okay, I get it, you thought The Color Out of Space was clever, and it was pretty clever for its time, but this is just flogging it. If that wasn't enough, we get more text on how it many exist in multiple dimensions and that some people theorize at the colors are just an aspect of its "other facets" whatever and sometimes trained physicists have studied this and gone mad.
Anyway they're about 6', 250 lbs., and have no described habits or behavior other than gathering near bright light. I guess they might attack people for their lamps? I mean, you've got this whole CR 15 stat block, so I suppose they must, but it's... not... for fuck's sake, if you could have just described what this creature does, it would have been better than going on for a goddamn half-page about how spooky they are.
So, they do a lot of slashing damage with their claws and get a variety of spell-like abilities, like mind control, confusion, invisibility, or some sensory spells. Their main ability is an aura that forces a Will saving throw of nearby onlookers to avoid being nauseated and does Intelligence and Wisdom damage. They also can drain light fron light-emitting objects and tear open spaces in reality that persist and can cause confusion and dazzle witnesses.
It's kind of a neat design for an enemy block, but I do wish the description wasn't so up its own ass. There are also some "aura goggles" attached to the spellblock that were developed to counter the creature, that give a bonus against visually-based effects and let you use arcane sight once a day.
Next: C is for Leeches.
"Caypin biology is as fascinating as it is terrifying, as scholars from both universities and private industry have all so far failed to identify the mechanism by which its detachable appendages communicate with the main body."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 06: "Caypin biology is as fascinating as it is terrifying, as scholars from both universities and private industry have all so far failed to identify the mechanism by which its detachable appendages communicate with the main body. "
C may be for Cookie, but it stands also for:
Caypin (CR 6)
A reptilian wolfish predator with a face that is literally full of leeches. It's found in swamps across multiple planets as an invasive species (maybe from the Veskarium, or not), and has sometimes wiped out native fauna just out of sheer rapaciousness. Sometimes they can apparently sleep for years only to emerge conveniently when
Anyway, they're large creatures that can swim and have a nasty bite, and can spawn two swarms of leeches that go around using its bite attacks on targets, but doing so both means it can only see what they see. However, even if it has no facetacles, it still has a bite attack despite being described as having no mouth on its own. Presumably it bites you by sheer power of designer oversight.
Okay, Starfinger, you've used up your quota of "creatures that split into smaller creatures / merge into bigger creatures" now. If you do it past this point, it's officially no longer a clever gimmick.
Contemplative (CR 2) and Contemplative Mentor (CR 18)
So, these are floating psychic brains with vestigal bodies attached from Akiton. They could have conquered it, but have decided to be peaceful ponderers instead because... they have. Some have used their brains to become businessfolk, however, and rule over sections of Akiton via the dollar instead of the laser. It's hinted they have some kind of subtle hivemind and are aloof and logical like some pointy-eared green-blooded folks you many know.
Their normal statblock lets them fly and do a pathetic "claw" attack, and they usually just rely on a laser pistol. They can read brains or do psychic attacks once a day. Additionally once per day, they can use Mysticism or Science skill check (whatever's appro to a creature type) on a saving throw or other skill check against a creature. However, they can't use two-handed weapons without penalties, and if they do they can't fly or use their powers, as they're basically just telekinetically hefting a battleaxe or whatever.
The "mentor" version has a "psychokinetic claw" and buffer pistol, and an array mentally-based spells too long to really detail, and also get some mindbreaker powers (as per the Mystic Connection). There's also a PC version you can play, who get high Int and low physical traits. They can fly, get blindsense and darkvision, the 1/day skill/save bonus, and the penalty on using two-handed items. PC Contemplatives lose out on the mental-themed spell-like abilities, however. They're probably more interesting as an NPC race than anything to fight, but it's hard to deny the appeal of playing a smug floating brain.
Crest-Eater (CR 4)
So-named for its love of eating kasatha "crests"... is that what they are? I just thought kasatha had really big skulls. Well, I guess they're crests now, despite never having being described that way before. Sure. Anyway, these things feed largely on bones. Not the most efficient diet given there's all that nutrient-rich blood and muscle right up front, but sure, they need bones. They're large predators with their own crests that apparently act as solar panels to provide additional sustenance, and can eat rocks for "lean times". These creatures seem to have a really eclectic diet. I mean, if you can eat rocks, why do you have to chase down animals? Wouldn't it be more efficient to...
Anyway, they have bonus limbs with claws and venom (the venom is to break down rocks, and also you). Apparently they form prides as well, and are sometimes accompanied by scavengers that follow along to pick clean anything they leave- okay, you just copied lions, sure, right down to the legend of "man-eating loners" that develop. Most of these life on Kasatha itself, but kasathans have brought them around to other worlds for highly spurious reasons (somehow using live ones as power supplies, guard beasts, or exotic pets). So when a crest-eater ate your baby, you know who to blame.
Anyway, they're tough predators with a bite that does a point of Constitution damage on a failed save, can track those it's bitten (by smelling the venom, apparently), and spit the venom for the same Constitution damage. They can also understand Kasathan language somehow. Finally, we get a listing of bone cestuses you can use that are made from these things, though some are just made from "state of the art resin" instead, which I guess goes some way to explaining why the weapons have zero relation to the creatures' CR, going from a level 2 weapon to a level 17 weapon.
Next: D stands for Brain Collector.
"Mostly organic beings, deh-nolos secrete a metallic discharge that shimmers with disturbing beauty in natural sunlight."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 07: "Mostly organic beings, deh-nolos secrete a metallic discharge that shimmers with disturbing beauty in natural sunlight."
Deh-Nolo (CR 14)
Remember the Dominion of the Black, the spoopy organic-tech eeevil faction from the core rules? Well, apparently amongst their number they have neh-thalggus, old D&D monsters that steal brains to improve their spellcasting power. They also have yah-thelgaads in their faction, monsters that steal brains to improve their spellcasting power. Deh-nolos, on the other hand, steal brains to improve their knowledge.... and their spellcasting power. But do they really have anything in common?
In any case, they're the main mad scientists of organic tech in the faction, having developed the "shipminds" that apparently run Dominion ships, and they often collect brains from different species to try and unravel their technology. They can also squirt "metallic" goo that can be used to make crystals they use to make machine components, and other races have tried to use these components but they're eeevil and have unpredictable eeevil effects. Also they're wizards and psychics and apparently the sight of them floating around is enough is super-spoopy, dudes, it could drive you mad. Like.
In any case, they're 20' tall aberrations that can psychically fly, have a deeply poisonous bite that does Constitution damage, and can shoot their sweat-crystals coated in poison (or use a spell-slot to have them do extra elemental damage). They have a variety of tech spells and condition-inflicting spells. Their key ability is to steal brains and speak languages they leave from them (and they have penalties if they have less than four brains). They also can spray their poison all over anybody that hits them with a melee attack, take that, fighters!... er, I mean soldiers. Well, you're probably using lasers anyway.
Devil, Endbringer (CR 19)
Aka dhalochars, these are made strictly for devilish conquering. They're often just launched at worlds where they crash down and dramatically rise out of the debris and smoke no doubt with a DUN DUN DUN sort of music playing as they stand up to 90' feet in height. They also have a cavity which might hold devils to conquer except there's no statblocks for them so make yourself your own devils! Or they might have a portal straight to hell inside their innards, which can release devils, so... make yourself your own devils! They're close cousins to "levalochs" and apparently often transport them, but we don't have rules for those either. I guess those are a type of devil I could look up, but I've already looked up yah-thelgaads and that wasn't a great use of my time given they were exactly what I presumed they were. Also they're transformers that can turn into tier 14 spaceships. That's kind of neat. Give me more rules for transformers, Starfinger. Playable transformers.
In any case, they have ridiculous numbers, DR/good and magic, immunity to fire and poison, resistance to acid and cold, spell resistance, flight (yeah, like they need it), a rare multiattack like you usually don't see with Starfinger (2 slams, 4 legs), hellfire from its eyes, 1/day plane shift, and teleport whenever. It's special ability is either is cargo hold or a portal to hell. It also has the same immunities a construct does. Lastly, it can turn into a spaceship with a graser (a gamma-ray laser) and a plasma cannon, and is treated as if it had almost a full crew (minus the captain). It also has a special attack where it can fly it, turn into its demon form, and crash into shit for massive damage.
Kinda neat but stuff like the teleport and portal to hell means its heavily dependent on a GM not to just say "And then it just barfs up a demonic army and you lose, campaign over." I mean, yes, the GM can just adjudicate that properly, but it helps to have some guidelines. Also, CR 19 creatures may as well not exist, given that few games will have characters leveled up enough to have direct confrontations with them.
Draelik (CR 2)
Cone-headed mean-looking asparagus aliens, these are from the Shadari Confederacy. For those that may have forgotten, that's a criminal haven overseen by sinister cult to entropy (aka Ataxxea), of which mose draeliks are members (hence the tattoo of the eye on the head). They don't go around fostering entropy, but at least apparently believe in not preventing it. Apparently they find the Cult of the Devourer religiously offensive because the Cult just doesn't have enough patience, and thusly are just big babies. However, even those that don't worship Ataxxea are sinister jerks, and apparently stand-up Dudley Do-Rights are an extreme rarity amongst their race. Pretty dull bad guys other than their rather lazy approach to entropic worship. "The end'll happen, man, you don't gotta rush nothin'."
You can play them as a PC race - they get darkvision, can cast fatigue or ghost sound at will, or wisp ally 1/day (it's a distracting light), a substantial bonus on Stealth checks in bad light, and a dime bonus against necromancy effects. They also have magical shadowstaves (in a level 2 or level 8 variety) that can do any normal melee weapon damage of your choice (bludgeoning / slashing / piercing) or shoot bolts of cold. The full-fledged version can also create spaces of darkness. The monster stat writeup is pretty much just a low-level humanoid with a lesser shadowstaff with some minor Solarian abilities of the
dark graviton variety. Once again, pretty forgettable guys who are vaguely evil and sneaky, the kind of racial description that's just full of unnuance.
Dragon (CR 11)
We get a "young adult blue dragon" as a full writeup and then grafts to make dragons of the other colors using the monster creation rules. The writeup comes with shoulder-mounted rifle for the turns it can't use the breath weapon. Its spells have been converted to Starfinger, and that's that. You seen dragons before, now you've seen them again. Now gitouttahere!
Dragonkin (CR 9)
Dragonborn by any other name... well, they're basically large humanoid dragons that live on Triaxus. They are often allied with humanoids against the evil dragons of the Drakelands, particularly in the Skyfire Legion (which gets mentioned often enough I can't imagine it isn't some author's favorite thingy). The apparently can bond with a humanoid to be awesome battlebros or sometimes awesome battlefuckers. Some apparently have had their ability to fly atrophy by spending too much time on spaceships and space stations. Otherwise, they're generically stoic and gun-go. There's a throwaway reference that some vesk believe that ancient scriptures indicate that dragonkin are reincarnated vesk, which is an interesting cultural footnote for a usually uninteresting race.
They have special glaives, use rifles, and can breathe fire. They can also spend RP to regain HP, and get the special ability to bond with a humanoid for life. This bond gives them telepathy with their partner and the ability to share the higher of the two partners' initiative checks. There's a PC version of these, and they get large size, high strength, a breath weapon, draconic immunities, darkvision, flight (limited until 5th level), and that partner bond ability. They also get a list of weapons called "dragonglaives" that are electrified halberds. Kind of like the vesk but more interesting because A) they have an actual war as a plot hook and B) they're dragons. And they're even native to the Pact Worlds system! Alas.
Drow Enforcer (CR 1) and Drow Noble Arms Dealer (CR 11)
Have you heard that drow are evil matriarchal elves- oh, you've heard that? How about that they're ruthles- oh, yeah, you already knew that, I bet. Oh, slaves are new- no, that isn't new? Um. What do I say about drow? Well, apparently some have magical superpowers now due to genetic selection technology? That's kinda new. Wait, no, I think it was from earlier D&D stuff? Well, whatever.
You get a generic CR 1 statblock with a "taclash", laser rifle, shock grenades, and armor. There's also the CR 11 version that gets much higher numbers, longsword, sonic pistol, and a few extra dinky spell-like abilities including a "limning light" ability that allows them to cause a burst where the targets are lit even through a darkness spell. As PCs, they have darkvision, the elven immunities, the ability to cast dancing lights or detect magic, elven senses, and are blinded and penalized by light as per usual. Those who take the Psychic Power feat can gain the that limning light ability and consider themselves to be the special snowflake genetically enhanced drow nobles... well, okay, that's only implied. Anyway, drow! They're in here.
Next: E is for Mynocks.
"Though lacking the consciousness necessary for even an oral history, ellicoths maintain a racial memory of the planet’s destruction and the time before it, describing a deep-seated sadness at the way things are and a longing for a time of green fields and tall trees — a time no living ellicoth has ever known."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 08: "Though lacking the consciousness necessary for even an oral history, ellicoths maintain a racial memory of the planet’s destruction and the time before it, describing a deep-seated sadness at the way things are and a longing for a time of green fields and tall trees — a time no living ellicoth has ever known."
Our spread of monsters for today is of three different monsters from the House of El:
Electrovore (CR 2)
From the "wild planet of Velorr", these apparently used to feed on electric eels because they feed on electricity. Sure. But they snuck on board spaceships and apparently were spread across the galaxy. That'll teach people to explore places. Should've stayed at home. In any case, they can feed off of either mechanical power or your nervous system's power, in an misunderstanding of human physiology that seems downright Matrixesque. They aren't much of a threat individually, but can rapidly reproduce and start chewing on wires and draining power. Apparently they double their number every two months or so which seems like it could de-electricify whole cities in a year or two to those of us who understand math, but there you have it. We get a chart on how long and how many electrovores it takes to incapacitate a ship based on its size.
They aren't tough as far as monsters go, as small flyers. However, they can do an area effect electrical burst by spending an RP, and its attacks against electrically charged targets (including people) grant it an RP on a critical hit. They're at least an interesting threat, though, and only the kind that really works in a sci-fi or modern setting, so I'll give these guys a pass.
And there's electrified gauntlets that regain charges on crits like they do, so there's your PC material, you.
Elementals (Tiny CR 0.333, Small CR 1, Medium CR 3, Large CR 5, Large CR 7, Greater CR 9, and Elder CR 11)
Still here, almost no actual details other than just statblocks and "grafts" to modify them to each of its four elements. What does an air elemental do its spare time? What does it want? Is it happy with its lot? I dunno, look it up in some other game.
There seems to be a rule that every monster is exactly two pages, presumably so you can leave the book open and have the whole writeup. And though that's a neat notion, it's strained to the point of nonfunctionality by writeups like these and the dragon writeup that just presume "you know this shit from
Ellicoth (CR 9)
Giant mutant alien elephants from Eox that were were changed by radiation from being peaceful herbivotes to monsters that drain life energy from other creatures. Like you do. Or unlife energy, since they can apparently feed on the undead, and that's most of their diet. Sometimes they gather in groups and invade the havens of the bone sages to get at their sweet, sweet zombie hordes. However, some bone sages have tamed them through magic or "neurotech linkages" and use them as weapons of war with big well-armed howdahs. When they die naturally, they go to
Well, giant soul-draining creatures that probably try and murder all the things are probably the real monsters, even if they have racial memories of their happy past and green fields it's so tragic... but they'll still presumably snack on your soul so wh'ev, get me my rocket launcher.
In any case, they're 50' murder machines that can run fast and gore you, have a aura of medium radiation that poisons you (as per the radiation rules), and can do a draining + staggering attack that can restore its HP if it does HP damage. It's almost alright at the base concept of "natural creature that adapted to feed on undead", but the zombie elephant angle is way overplayed.
Next: F is for Ant-Man.
"Larger frujai colonies sometimes entertain interviews with avid xenobiologists, though the dialogues are as likely to descend into ravenous feasting upon the scholars as they are to explore the deep philosophical musings that occupy the frujais the rest of the time."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 09: "Larger frujai colonies sometimes entertain interviews with avid xenobiologists, though the dialogues are as likely to descend into ravenous feasting upon the scholars as they are to explore the deep philosophical musings that occupy the frujais the rest of the time."
F these monsters.
Formian (CR 0.5) and Formian Warrior (CR 3)
So, these are humanoid ants usually found on
They're low-CR humanoids in these writeups with sonic resistance, using flare guns and laser rifles, though the warrior has a poison stinger that does Dexterity damage on a failed save (and can automatically apply it when it succeeds at a grapple check). The regular formian gets double the bonus when using covering fire, harrying fire, or the aid another action, and can carry more bulk than they normally could for their strength. Both have Hive Mind, which gives them a notable bonus to initiative and Perception when near each other, and they can't be surprised unless they all are.
They also have a PC writeup. They get darkvision, blindsense, telepathic communication, and barely-worth-mentioning natural weapons, and sonic resistance. They don't get any of the cool cooperation abilities that the bottom-tier formians have. Boooo on you, Paizo.
Frujai Colony (CR 19) and Frujai Soldier (CR 12)
Man, I already said I'd had enough of creatures what spawn smaller versions of themselves. If there's another, Starfinger, I'm not going to cover it, I'm just going to say "another one of these!" and move on.
So this one are from Orikolai, and are walking plant-hives that spawn plant-velociraptors. It reproduces its small soldiers from corpses, but if the aren't enough natural corpses, it goes and makes some to reproduce from. The soldiers are voracious and try and consume enough to eventually become new hives themselves. Because "dramatic fluctuations" of gravity on their world are common, apparently they've developed the ability to manipulate gravity. So at least they're weird. Of course, they're "surprisingly intelligent" because when you're a spore-produced gravity-controlling velociraptor, we need a note on their "philosophical musings" even though they're just as likely to eat you as to chat with you. Nice try at adding nuance, but it doesn't work unless there's reason to engage with it. And there isn't. These things are extremely dangerous and likely would wreck most ecosystems they'd come in contact with. You'll probably want to kill them.
The soldiers are large "plants" with a slam attack and the ability to reposition a target up to 10' or trip enemies at a grain with their gravity, plus a hefty amount of force damage. They get a bonus against a variety of combat maneuvers due to their ability to "control [their] apparent mass", and a bonus on attack and speed when near a frujai colony that's been attacked. They also have the usual plant immunities despite being not seemingly having any plant traits descriptively, other than reproducing through spores. I mean, if they're hunting, carnivorous predators, they'd have to have organs and specialized structures, right? In fact, it probably would have been more interesting and alien to have an animal who became a plant later on in the life cycle, but I'm not an RPG Superstar, so what do I know?
The larger version looks a lot like a rakk hive from Borderlands, and is a colossal plant that has the bonus against maneuvers and can use gravity control for two of the following effects, or three if it spends an RP: it can fly, it can control gravity, it can create a shield that gives a bonus to AC, do a powerful force attack, or create an area force attack. It can also create a spare soldier as described above by spending an RP.
No more of these, Starfinger, you're past your limit for carrier monsters.
Next: G is for Original Monster Do Not Steal.
"Those captors, though, have much in common no matter the specific circumstances or the species of the victim: an otherworldly presence, condescending interactions, and a sinister disregard for the agency and dignity of those they take as subjects for their experiments."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 10: "Those captors, though, have much in common no matter the specific circumstances or the species of the victim: an otherworldly presence, condescending interactions, and a sinister disregard for the agency and dignity of those they take as subjects for their experiments."
It is my masterpiece! You've gained nothing by obtaining the G file!
- Goblin, Space
Goblin Zaperator, Space (CR 0.333) and Goblin Honchohead, Space (CR 2)
So, the marquee monsters of Pathfinder return, this time with bubbles on their noggins. You know, the ones that are like goblins from Legend of the Five Rings, who were like the goblins from Warhammer Fantasy, which were derived from the goblins in Dungeons & Dragons... no doubt the original source, with no goblins ever before that. Supposedly they stowed their way on to Absolom Station, and have made occasionally-lethal nuisances of themselves ever since. They're like Gremlins, except presumably they fuck the old-fashioned way. Y'know. In case you needed that fact. I mean, it even refers to their "rapid reproduction rate". Maybe they have funny songs they sing about dogs while they do it.
In any case, they've become somewhat smarter than regular goblins so we can draw pictures of them with lasers and bubbles on their heads. They worship Triune most often, dreaming of a heaven that's basically one large junkyard to raid. They're also stupid when comically appropriate, trying to understand technology by chewing on it or making devices that explode when they use them. They refer to anything on four legs as "dogs" or horses" so they can still stay on-brand and call their weapons dogslicers, though they do now call flamethrowers horseroasters. Ha-larious.
We get two statblocks, the first being your standard mook humanoid with a laser and
Gray (CR 4)
"So, I heard you were playing a grey infiltrator in Robin's game, I didn't know they were playable."
"Oh, yeah, they give rules for playable grays in Alien Archive, so I thought I'd try one out."
"What are grays like in Starfinger? I mean, are they like X-Files-"
"More or less, they wander space and kidnap people while they're asleep and then experiment on them. The usual probing sorts."
"It's been hundreds or thousands of years they've been doing that, right? I mean, they were in Golarion, so they've been at it for awhile. You'd think they'd discovered all there is to probe."
"Apparently not, the grays are still at it."
"But why so they do it? You'd think people could just fly over and ask them why."
"Nah, the grays don't talk to anybody."
"But you could just visit their home planet, right?"
"Nobody knows where they come from."
"But as a gray player, you get some of that, right? Like, does it explain why they're still out sleepnapping people for their scary experiments? You'd have to know that to play one, right? Like, what they're about-"
"Look, I'm gonna stop you there. I read the Alien Archive and I don't know shit about grays you wouldn't have already found out from Communion or Fire In the Sky or whatever."
"Wouldn't you need to know more to play one? Like, to really get inside their heads?"
"I thought so too, but apparently not. I mean, I'm no RPG Superstar."
"But if you're playing a gray..."
"... and none of the grays talk to other races..."
"... how does that work?"
"Nothing works, man, this is Starfinger."
Grays are basically big balls of stun and mind reading effects - deep slumber, hold person, a special ability to paralyze sleeping people, have a staggering psychic "probe" they can inflict with a touch, and they carry needler pistols with a Constitution poison. They can also turn briefly intangible and any attack that targets them has a 20% chance of missing. Though they can speak Aklo, they can only communicate telepathically. They're bog-standard interpretations of the pop culture critters, apparently not having changed their modus operandi even slightly when interacting with interstellar civilizations.
You can play a PC version, though it only gets a smattering of their full statblock - darkvision, the ability to mind attack once a day (that doesn't scale with level) and daze whenever, and once per day they can gain a 20% chance to have attacks miss them... for a single round. Bizarrely, the PC version doesn't even get the full-fledged telepathic communication other races get, instead just getting telepathic message as an at-will spell that takes a standard action, is limited to 10 words, and can even be eavesdropped on by saavy witnesses! So forget communicating in combat without spending anaction. No. Really.
But, then again, even though it says "Grays communicate only telepathically, even among their own kind.", the PC statblock has no restriction on speech, even though it's on the NPC statblock...
But they're pretty much just awful as a PC race. And, well, they're kind of boring and awful as monsters, too, given all they do is kidnap people... and put them back. Which can be either interpreted as bad but mostly harmless or as a violation on par with sexual assault, and either way it's not real functional as a plot point. Add in the fact that any GM is going to have the flesh the hell out of them to use them beyond just a low-level wandering encounter, and you get one bummer of a writeup.
There's also memory-erasing disks you can steal from them if you want to go around making Men in Black impressions.
Next: H is for Spider Glider.
"They can be blessings for some ships, serving as constant attendants for one of a starship’s most crucial systems, but their fickle nature also means they grow bored with regular routes or overlong stays in port, and they create drama to amuse themselves."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 11: "They can be blessings for some ships, serving as constant attendants for one of a starship’s most crucial systems, but their fickle nature also means they grow bored with regular routes or overlong stays in port, and they create drama to amuse themselves."
H monsters for your H games.
Haan (CR 3) and Haan Combat Pilot (CR 7)
So, these are arthropods that fly through
Generally, they deny themselves the use of technology because... they do. However, sometimes they leave their world and make excellent pilots due to their experience in fart-flight, though that results in their permanent exile. As such, many who leave end up replacing their family loyalty with loyalty to a particular organization. They're kind of neat as far as weird races go, though the fact that the two art pieces can't decide whether or not they have hands does throw me off.
Normally they're 8' long with flight, a claw attack, and the ability to attach balloons to people. Ballooned enemies fly up as long as they're in an atmosphere, though you can attempt to cut yourself free. Alternately, they can shoot hot fire. The pilot version has better numbers and some operator abilities. Lastly, there's a PC version that only gets darkvision, can shoot fire (that barely levels at all), and the ability to slow their falls. Weirdly, PCs don't get flight, so there's a murphy's rule where if they try and return home they'll just fall into Bretheda's core. Ooops. That's game balance, Paizo-style - a complete inability to survive in your home environment!
Hallajin (CR 17)
20' octopi of pure energy, these were originally a throwaway reference to energy beings on Hallas (a moon of
It's believed the the hallajin were attempting to obtain divine apotheosis, but it's not clear if they failed or are content in their current state. Communication with them has been largely a failure, on account of the head-exploding. Some cults have come around them thinking they can become energy beings, and nobody really stops them because good luck with that, guys.
As flying, incorporeal aberrations, hallajin can attack with a heat tentacle or heat beam. They also get a number of spell-like abilities based mainly around gravity and neural attacks. They also have immunity to a wide variety of conditions, can teleport anywhere on the moon that isn't enclosed by "electrical barriers, inflict psychic damage to anybody who attempts mental contact, and give off light. And that's that.
Hesper (CR 2)
A fey creature that "[embodies] the potential for change inherent in technological power sources", whatever that means. So, they tend to find "[repositories] of advanced technology" and build little nests where they tinker with devices and ask all sorts of questions. While they can be useful in helping repair power systems, they tend to get bored and make assholes of themselves. Also-
Pathfinder Alien Archive posted:
Notoriously shameless flirts, hespers often keep mortal lovers who protect or provide for them. A hesper reproduces by triggering the growth of a grotesque exowomb on a willing lover, which expands for 1–2 weeks before spilling forth a small but fully matured hesper.
In any case, they're human-sized fey that rely mostly on spells to defend themsleves, like jolting surge or energy ray. However, they also have a "mutating touch" where they can inflict mutations off of a random table that last for 24 hours, which are generally penalizing, from bioelectric cells that short out any technology you try and use, to a musk gland that nauseates everybody around you. They can also merge with a reactor core to heal themselves. Naturally, they're immune to fire and radiation.
Also their hair color changes every day! How kooky.
Next: I is for EYEBLOOD IN YOUR EYE.
"Riveners are ikeshtis who were unable to find a mate while rutting and lost their personalities to the brew of hormones swirling inside them."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 12: "Riveners are ikeshtis who were unable to find a mate while rutting and lost their personalities to the brew of hormones swirling inside them."
Time for monsters that start with eyeblood.
- Inevitable, Anhamut
Ikeshti Brood-Minder (CR 2) and Ikeshti Rivener (CR 6)
So, these are horny toad lizardfolk with a complicated life cycle. Also, have I mentioned that they shoot blood from their eyes? (Technically real horned lizards squirt blood from their eyelids, not the actual eye, for fairly obvious reasons. But details are tough.) So they start out like little lizards, grow into industrious adolescents by age 5 and get a job. After about a decade of child labor, they go into heat, grow quite a bit, and find another Ikeshti to fuck (hopefully). Then after fucking and egg-laying, the two mates than fight to the death. If the male survives, it becomes a "brood-minder", and if the female survives it becomes a "congregant". Those that don't mate become savage, hulking monsters called
You'd best fuck or you'll turn into a monster, kiddo.
The brood-minder is written up as a low-level technomancer that can squirt eyeblood, which counts as harrying fire (gives an ally a bonus to hit that target). Sadly, as any ranged attack can perform harrying fire, the eyeblood isn't useful for more than conserving ammo. The rivener writeup is just a large, tough humanoid that will claw at people, but has practically nothing unique or interesting about its statblock; it doesn't even have the tears of blood. Lastly, we have the PC version, which are small humanoids (presumably brood-minders or congregants, but it doesn't say) that get a natural climb ability, can go without water for extended periods, can shed parts of their skin to get a bonus against grapples and restraints, and finally get the squirt blood ability a limited number of times per day. Why limit it per day, when it's not that useful to begin with? Well, this is Starfinger...
Inevitable, Anhamut (CR 10)
So, the same time that Triune revealed "the Signal" that gave Drift tech to all mortal life, the axiomites (denizens of the plane of law) got a mysterious message containing a plan for a nanite robot. So they built it, like you do with mysterious plans for a robot you get from an unknown source that could never kill you all-
Thankfully, the anhamut did not kill them all, but instead turned out to be dedicated to preserving the means of exploration, and protects things like hyperspace beacons and sometimes aids explorers in making sure they can deliver their information home. They're not really concerned with colonization, just making sure the universe is mapped and defined. Maybe they were created by Triune, maybe not.
In any case, they're tough flying outsiders that can regenerate from anything except chaotic weapons, are immune to electricity, have "nanite blades", can teleport between worlds, shoot lightning, and split into multiple-
- whups! I didn't know it split into a swarm of nanites. That's what, the sixth monster that splits like a banana? I'm fuckin' done here. Also there are rules for "nanite weapon fusions" that cause a weapon to inflict acid damage and can nauseate targets as it grey goos a foe. Pretty sure that violates the Space Geneva Conventions, but okay. Done!
No monsters start with J, so-
Next: K is for The Aquabats.
"The spores must be fertilized beforehand in a process that resembles sexual congress between two ksariks, leaving both with a supply of seeds that remain viable for months afterward."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 13: "The spores must be fertilized beforehand in a process that resembles sexual congress between two ksariks, leaving both with a supply of seeds that remain viable for months afterward."
Monsters starting with K today, not O.
Kalo Sharkhunter (CR 2) and Kalo Deepspeaker (CR 5)
The sharkhunter... wait, they have sharks on Kalo-Mahoi? Well, I guess they must. The sharkhunter has blindsight, swims very well, has a knife and rifle, some soldier abilities, and get a nickel bonus to attacks if they've moved in a round at all (not just a move action).
The deepspeaker is a xenodruid mystic that's supposed to be able to summon great creatures of the depths, but can only really summon your normal dinky level 2 summons in the actual statblock. I can only imagine their peans to the deep, the rising music, a crescendo and then... a 3' fish swims up and is like "'Sup, I swam all the way and boy are my fins tired! Ha ha!" They have some spells and an ability called "grasping vines" that seems to have no actual description or rules in either here or the Core Rules.
For player material, there's the PC version that gets the aquatic subtype (meaning you need water to breathe), cold resistance, slowed land movement and fast water movement, sonar that gives them blindsight, and a bonus to Stealth checks while in water. There's also rules for weapons designed to be used underwater, and that's that.
Ksarik (CR 4)
Wait, haven't we seen this before? Wasn't it called the caypin? Well, no, this turns out to be a different four-legged predator with a face full of tentacles. Instead, this is an animate plant predator from Castrovel (yes, yes, it has all of the plant immunities despite clearly being a specialized predator, like the frujai). They're psychic and mainly feed on corpses, but when two Ksariks fuck "in a process that resembles sexual congress" they grow thorns which they can fire into live prey. The thorns have spores that then grow inside the target, and eventually a bunch of ksarik "seedlings" bust out. They also have the ability to assimilate DNA with their tentacles and create new adaptations based on that. Lastly, they sing with their skin, but attempts to try and communicate with them through song just anger them. You know. Angry plants.
So, they're climbing and running predators with fast healing and plant immunities, can slap you with a tentacle, spit acid, or shoot thorns. The tentacle slaps allow it to gain one ability the target has, like: darkvision, blindsense, blindsight, energy resistance, burrowing, flying, swimming, language comprehension,or weapon proficiencies. It can only have one of these at its time. The thorn darts can inflict "carrion spores", which act as a disease and cause damage when the seedlings burst out.
For player material, we have an "adaptive serum", which is a potion that allows you to gain energy resistance when you're hit with damage of that type for a limited time, but only one type per dose.
Kyokor (CR 20)
If that creature looks familiar - and it took me a little bit for it to click - it's the bastard child of EVA-01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion with some Pacific Rim stylings mixed in. With that out of the way, they're one of the "colossi" that rampage across Daimalko, a "kaiju" ravaged world from back in the core rules. They're 150' tall city-smashers that can somehow detect concentrations of population and love wrecking shit and eating people. Why?
In any case, they have ridiculous numbers including heavy cold and fire resistance, a multiattack that's bite/claw/claw/slam, can breathe underwater, and have an ability called "massive" which I can find no description or rules for. (Yes, that the second ability in this update I can't find in either book.) Their special abilities are to ignore hardness in order to smash buildings, have a psychic effect where sentient creatures in a building it's smashing have to make a Will save to flee, and it can sense concentrations of 2,000 people or more. It's basically supposed to be the tarrasque of the setting, but without all of the tarrasque's myriad immunities, it seems likely high-level characters could pull shenanigans against it.
Lastly we get some armor crafted from hulls that kyokor shed from their teeth. Ironically, all of it is underleveled for actually facing off against kyokor in.
No creatures starting with L, so we can move on to...
Next: M is for Seven-Sexed Simians.
"This bonding can seem strangely caring; as soon as its victim’s fate is sealed, a marooned one gives every appearance of sympathizing with its prey, even giving advice on how to continue to survive in their current environment as long as possible."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 14: "This bonding can seem strangely caring; as soon as its victim’s fate is sealed, a marooned one gives every appearance of sympathizing with its prey, even giving advice on how to continue to survive in their current environment as long as possible."
- Marooned One
- Mountain Ell
Maraquoi Hunter (CR 0.5) and Maraquoi Shaman (CR 8)
Not macaques. Maraquoi. These are bug-eyed monkey people from Marata, yet one another of
Once again, the spellcaster is the more advanced of the two character statblocks. Funny, that... so the hunter has a spear and rifle and climbs well. The shaman is a mystic healer, but given the disparate CRs, it makes me wonder who they're supposed to be supporting. Unless it's something like "You run into 12 hunters and 1 shaman, CR 9, fight!", but that doesn't sound like a great encounter.
Their PC writeup gets them blindsense, a climb speed, low-light vision, a nickel bonus to Survival, and they can hold an extra hand's worth of equipment with their tail. Ho-hum.
Marooned One (CR 8)
These come in either solitary or "desolations" of 2-5. If four show up, are they marooned four, then? makes u think
So these are undead born when somebody is left stranded in space to die. While still intelligent and skilled, they're obsessed with forcing others to meet the same fate, and try and trick or disable those it encounters into being stranded. Once they do, they're actually friendly, but will never act to allow somebody to be rescued or escape. We actually get a list of tactics - a rarity for this book, including setting up false distress beacons, or sneaking aboard ships to disable or take control.
They're mostly just smart zombies with blindsight to notice life signs, and come with a free knife and pistol. They get a bonus on skill checks to disable life support (and specifically only that, oddly), and can strangle people during a grapple for extra damage and Constitution damage. There's also a template graft so you can make other sorts of creatures into marooned ones, if you like.
Mountain Eel (CR 6)
So, these look like eels with fins, but actually live in the mountains of Castrovel. They're voracious, sneaky, and generic predators, and have a paralyzing gaze. We get a nearly a page of detail on their life cycle and who likes to hunt them but let's not pretend there's more to them than "tries to eat person, players shoot the shit out of it, a winner is they". Gotta fill two pages either way! That's why we also get details on how to make no less than three types of magic items, including... gloves that assist with driving, one that lets you reroll a Fort save once a day, and boots that let you trample targets. Do those have anything to do with mountain eels? Fuck eels, got two whole pages to fill! Every monster is two pages!
Nothing in the writeup you couldn't predict from the above. Biting, Kaa's hypno-stare, 60' long, done. Feels like it bounced out of a Palladium book where a writeup was built based on the art rather than vice versa.
Next: N is for Lich, Rebranded.
"Those who do not survive spend their last few moments in terrible pain and mind-numbing terror, and sometimes such suffering prevents souls from passing on to the afterlife."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 15: "Those who do not survive spend their last few moments in terrible pain and mind-numbing terror, and sometimes such suffering prevents souls from passing on to the afterlife."
N we have some more creatures.
Necrovite (CR 13)
So, I was really looking forward to having playable natives of Eox - you know, the undead guys from the core rules - but it turns out you can't, because they're largely these CR 13 monstrosities or vampires or whatever. Disappointing. So, they're basically just techno-liches who imprison their soul in an "electroencephalon" which has to be destroyed to kill them. Supposedly each is created through a unique, undetailed ritual, but they all seem to create a electroencephalon, which definitely feels like the kind of term you come up with you need to write 1000+ words about a monster. I'm not saying that's the case, but I am saying it occurs twelve times in two pages. Of course, usually they keep their electroencephalons in secret bomb-proof bunkers, like you do.
In any case, they have an aura that causes fatigue within 30' and no apparent way to turn it off, which makes diplomacy a little tricky. I guess they skype and discord all their interplanetary summits. They also heal quickly, regenerate within about a half-week from death, are immune to cold and electricity, can fly around, carry a "wrackstaff" (like in Exalted?) and a laser gun, and are spellcasters with a variety of offensive spells and magic hacks (like technomancers do). They also tend to have spell gems, including one with teleport to just whisk themselves away from defeat. Also, they can control undead, particularly unintelligent ones that can't break free.
Pretty much just liches with a new coat of paint. Their staves (level 13) are magic items that do passable blunt damage and inflict extra pain on a crit hit. There's also a template graft to cook your own necrovite right for marmite salad night. Have a bite!
I may be wearing out just a bit.
Nihili (CR 5) and Nihili Captain (CR 13)
Unlike marooned ones, which are caused by being stranded in space, nihili are undead created specifically by dying in a vacuum. Totally different! As undead, they can create artificial gravity to walk on any surface regardless of its orientation, and their gaze can cause people's lungs to collapse. They use their gravity powers to cling to ships and try to get in side to murder people. They're horror-movie sneaky and just want to kill, kill, kill. You can make your own with animate dead, if you like, and apparently necrovites like to do that because they can march around as ship crews in vacuum with no problems. (Hence the "captain" statblock.) There are rumors there's a cult of these undead who use a tear from this world to the negative energy place (a "
As noted above, they're undead with the ability to do a gaze attack to do damage and who can go walkin' on the moon. The captain version has bigger numbers, but, ironically, no ship-based skills, so he's literally the worst captain. Mind, there's no indication that they talk at all, particularly with their collapsed undead lungs, so that would seem to make crew work difficult... along with their endless hunger for murder, but I guess a necrovite's undead control could overcome that... for a time. Doesn't really seem like a great idea, though, given they try and keep peace with others. The captain gets excepted from my pass.
There's a graft template to make your own if you gotta.
Novaspawn (Tier 8)
These are mysterious silicon lifeforms that - at the end of their lifecycle - become stars... though nobody living has seen it to confirm this, supposedly there are historical records that imply it. Sure, okay. They're peaceful, and don't generally attack unless antagonized, in which case they shoot crystal-borne lightning bolts at people. Also it has force shields, maybe through magic? Some get even bigger than the statblock here, but we don't get numbers for those.
They're statted up as starships rather than regular monsters, with "laser cannons", and "particle beams". They have their own critical damage table to simulate them being living beings as opposed to people with a crew. It can take actions for a gunner, pilot, and engineer, but not the others, putting it at a slight drawback for its tier, but that's not accounted for. It also has tentacles that can psuedo-grapple other ships.
Lastly, we get details on trying to stop a novaspawn from... going nova, implying that some baddie may somehow force the process. This involves going through a hostile environment within (mainly heat) and then making a number of skill checks to "deactivate" the heart. (That's a nice way of saying you murdered it, murderer.)
Nuar Enforcer (CR 4) and Nuar Specialist (CR 8)
So, these are "minotaur-like" creatures, though we have no statblocks or details for "real" minotaurs in this game. So we have to take their word that these are basically just smaller and smarter versions of the former. Of course, they still love mazes and the like. But they're not minotaurs! They also love orc and half-orc traditions, and borrow parts of their culture from them. This isn't great info, given we don't have that much information on orcs at all in this, but fuck, you play Pathfinder, right? Right? It can't have changed at all in centuries of mystery history.
As 7' hunks of bipedal angus beef, they like cryo weapons and get some soldier abilities. In addition, they can charge without any of the penalties for doing so, can knockdown with any weapon on a crit (as long as that weapon doesn't have another critical efffect), and can naturally navigate with their "maze mind" even if unskilled. But they're not minotaurs! The specialist has a number of mechanic abilities instead, and bigger numbers. Finally, there's the PC rendition, which has darkvision, that charging ability, a dinky natural unarmed attack, and improved speed. It's always kind of weird to have multiple versions of the same creature for different purposes, because I suppose changing the original version too much is forbidden.
Lastly, we have maze-cores, which are apparently their unique invention. But they're not minotaurs! These are devices that can shift between two functions, like a transformer. This basically reduces the component weight of two different items in change for increased cost, and switching between the two is a swift action. It's actually a pretty useful function given the hard limits on encumbrance in this game, and the cost isn't actually that bad depending on what you're combining. You did alright, you fucking cows.
Next: O is for Spacewhale.
"Orocorans are parasites that prey on the living planet, seeking out the pulsing veins of black ichor that run beneath parts of Aucturn’s surface, drawing the liquid out with their mosquito-like proboscises."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 16: "Orocorans are parasites that prey on the living planet, seeking out the pulsing veins of black ichor that run beneath parts of Aucturn’s surface, drawing the liquid out with their mosquito-like proboscises."
O no, we only have two creatures this update!
Oma (CR 16)
So, these are space whales that give off electromagnetic energy to shield themselves from vacuum, and they apparently feed from "particulate rings" and "atmospheres of gas giants" with "energy baleen". Sure, okay. They also have mysterious telepathic whalesongs that nobody can interpret because... well, the whale analog has to be complete, even in a setting where g'damn tongues exists. See, they "speak in riddles even they don't always appear to understand". Mmmhm. Anyway, they're generally benevolent. They're like whales, or a least the popular conception of whales.
Ironically, they don't get a spaceship-scaled statblock, as the game seems to presume if you're going to be whalers on the moon, you're gonna do it on foot. Good plan, guys. They're 150' behemoths with darkvision, a tail slap, the ability to swallow people whole, and shoot lightning (including some electrical spells as well as a vanilla electical attack). Their song can give bonuses to the rolls of allies or a penalty (on a failed save) to enemies. We also get rules for using an oma body as a frame for a spaceship (captured after a natural death, we're told), though Barathus once used telepathy to
Orocoran (CR 6) and Orocoran Ichor Lord (CR 9)
Native denizens of the living not-Pluto planet of Aucturn, Orocorans feed on its veins of blood, which also gives them hallucinations and allows them to apparently get visions directly from the planet itself - or they could be crazy. But probably the former. Most are pretty much just lazy world-blood addicts, but some have a rare trait where their diet makes them smarter and magicaler than their peers. They often form cults to a mysterious "Carsai the King", who apparently is some prophet of the sleeping world... though their leaders' visions seem to more often than not involve them becoming wealthy and powerful. Also they fuck by penetrating each other's torsos violently with their proboscises, and then just leave eggs around anywhere to fend for themselves. How do they understand the language of Aklo, then? Shut up, they do!
In any case, they're human-sized aberrations with darkvision that can't be flanked, have a bite that bleeds on a crit, can projectile vomit up a hallucinogenic poison, once per day can cast augury, and can see the invisible. The ichor lord gets a number of mind control and affliction spells in addition to having better numbers.
Next: R is for David Icke's Delusions.
"As might be expected, reptoids are secretive about the end goals of their infiltrations, and when under extreme duress, they choose to die rather than reveal information about their home world or race."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 17: "As might be expected, reptoids are secretive about the end goals of their infiltrations, and when under extreme duress, they choose to die rather than reveal information about their home world or race."
Time for monsters that start with R!
- Robot, Security
Reptoid (CR 1) and Reptoid Master (CR 6)
Hoo boy. Wish I could get through a Paizo book without throwing them some powerful side-eye, but here we have it. Reptoids. We'll get to the why of the side-eye in a moment, so let's give them some plain coverage.
These are reptilian shapechangers that have psychic powers, making them pro infiltrators. Their ability is limited, though, so they often focus on one long-term role and are masterminds plotting... something? They're plotting an enigma wrapped in a mystery pocketed in a riddle and eaten by a deception and buried in a puzzle and- ugh, yeah, make up any relevant plot points yourself, GMs. They die rather than give up their secrets!... which would make a lot of sense in a world where healing magic wasn't a deal.
"Tell us what your plans are!"
"You'll never match our mental three-dimensional chess. Our way is much colder than yours. Much safer. I'll never tell you a thing." *bites down on cyanide tooth*
"Triune, not again." *casts mystic cure*
"... shit, I only had the one tooth. You're going to read my mind?"
"Well, it was that or cast speak with dead. This is more humane."
"So the cyanide tooth..."
"Yeah, I'd ask for your money back."
Also since they're cold-blooded technically you could detect them thermally, so much for masters of infiltration.
So, reptoids are your normal shadowchanging humanoids, with some minor mind-control spells once a day and change shape. The reptoid master gets better numbers, some of the social abilities from the Envoy and more powerful mind control spells. Like the grays, despite their text just going on and on about how mysterious they are, they get a playable statblock for PCs. The PC version gets change shape, but only for (10 + level) minutes, and only into one for unless they spend a week mastering a new form. That's... a little too harsh. They also get a dime bonus against poisons and mind-altering effects, low-light vision, and near-unusable claws.
Okay. If all that wasn't misconceived enough, the reptoids are obviously borrowed from the writings of new age conspiracy theorist David Icke - down to having one of the names he uses for them. If for some reason you're not familiar, he has a the real-life conspiracy "theory" that certain powerful individuals are actually malevolent reptilian shapechangers from the 4th dimension. Also, according to Icke, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is based on the plans of the reptilians, just cutting and pasting out jews for reptoids. Icke swears he isn't an anti-semite, but has gained some traction amongst the crazier parts of the racism spectrum. In addition, their associations with all of Icke's other garbage ideas and his connection with Alex Jones and his ilk makes them a somewhat unsavory.
Now, I think Starfinger's authors are just trying to glom onto the pop culture awareness of Icke's ideas, particularly in "UFOology", one of the least reliable -ologies. However, they probably should have at least given them a new name instead of just copy-pasting Icke's ideas into a RPG book, particularly given his associations with a lot of toxic notions and general exploitation of the vulnerable or gullible.
Robot, Observer-Class Security (CR 1) and Robot, Patrol-Class Security (CR 4)
So, these are robots mainly meant for peacekeeping and watchdog duties. The observers are just flying cameras that come in a variety of models and forms. Patrol-class robots are armor and nonlethally armed, despite the two pieces of art of one with a minigun on its shoulder. However, they can be hacked and used by gangs or criminals, and on rare occasions they can have glitches that cause them to become violent, typically after taking damage or due to a virus. Like the Living Brain. Remember that classic Spider-Man villain? Maybe it's just me.
The observer-class are small flyers that can shoot electrical for minimal nonlethal damage, fire a glue bomb, or punch for surprisingly decent damage. Lastly, once per day it can add +10 to a reflex save. The patrol-class can also shoot electricity, and every few rounds it can do a low-damage chain lightning effect. It can also repair itself once a day as a full action, and is vulnerable to crits and electricity. They're robots; not many surprises here.
No, there's no prices for them if you want to buy and field one. They are, presumably for balance purposes, NPC-only, which should lead to some interesting IC conversations about the PCs looking too shifty all over again.
Ryphorian Technician (CR 1) and Ryphorian Skyfire Pilot (CR 5)
The natives of Triaxus (which is the world with extra-long seasons), those born in summer are dark and hairless, and those in winter have short fur. There are some rare ones "inbetween" with a mix of traits. However, medical treatments can help them adjust their "season" in the modern age. Otherwise, they have pointy ears and a powerful nosebrow. Culturally those from the winter are seen as conservative and pragmatic, while those born in summer are seen as liberal and flighty. A lot of them belong to the Skyfire Legion, which is super-awesome and has dragonkin friends and they're the best pilots and yay yay go Skyfire Legion (again).
They're mainly built as a PC race, and like humans they get a bonus feat, making them one of the more potent and boring races as a result. They also get a dime bonus on perception checks, low-light vision, and minor resistance to the elements based on their type (summerborn get fire, winterborn get cold, and "transitional" get a tiny bit of each). The technician is lightly armed with some mechanic abilities, and the the skyfire pilot is built as an operator.
Next: S is for Mothmen!
"Outsiders often find them cheerfully manic, noting a goblin-like flair for the ridiculous but none of that race’s innate malice."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 18: "Outsiders often find them cheerfully manic, noting a goblin-like flair for the ridiculous but none of that race’s innate malice."
Got eight creatures that start with "S", so we're going to be a little more brief this time...
- Scavenger Slime
- Swarm, The
Sarcesian Sniper (CR 5) and Sarcesian Cybercommando (CR 8)
About a dozen feet tall, these are humanoids who supposedly once lived on the planets that became the Pact Worlds' asteroid belt. They evolved to live in a vacuum because apparently that's a thing that happens when your world explodes. They do this by "suspending their respiration" and emitting "wings made of pure light" that "catch currents of radiation". Despite that description, they just fly around in space normally in terms of rules. They have "creche worlds" made from asteroids with "arcane engines" that make them mini-paradises. Those who leave become snipers and scouts because... um... well, they do.
Large! Low-Light Vision! Extra skill point! Fly in space! There's a table for their specialty sniper rifles. The sniper is built as an operative, and the cybercommando is an engineer. Next!
Scavenger Slime (CR 9)
So entropy is a thing, but a mysterious race was offended by it, So, of course, they made a magic nanotech slime that could repair anything. But it developed sentience and stowawayed to other worlds (despite being described as sentient, the statblock has "Int -"). And so they rove around the worlds they end up on, repairing stuff that they know how to repair even though they may not know the technology because... anyway they sometimes gather up piles of technology and junk they defend because... anyway, they have eggs that might cling to a PC's boots and follow along even though they were invented because... some can turn organic targets into their own shells because... anyway, yeah, they usually build shells of technology because... anyway...
Assembly oozes were so good an idea they did a remix I guess.
Large oozes! They have a shell of energy resistance and damage resistance and guns you can sunder! Punching psuedopods!... not acid? Blunt damage! They shoot their guns! They can be made into equipment patching goo or gluebombs that punch their targets once! Done!
Sharpwing (CR 4)
From the "Ice Wells of
Large flying predators! Bite/claw/claw! Can see through the eyes of eggs they lay! Their eggs can walk around, not sure why! People made a level 4 cloak covered in sensors based on them that can make you unflankable! Complete!
Shobhad (CR 4) and Shobhad Warleader (CR 7)
Playable as PCs! Large! Darkvision! Four arms! Fight for one turn before falling over! Bonus speed! Cold resistance! The basic one has a machine gun and sword, and the warlord has soldier stuff! That's a wrap!
Skittermander Whelp (CR 0.333) and Skittermander (CR 2)
A client race of the vesk, this is a flighty race that doesn't understand the concept of ongoing authority - they understand having somebody lead a task, but don't really understand rank as a persistent notion. They let the vesk conquer them because they recognized the vesk were stronger and just got out of their way; they recognize them as large if not in charge. They let the vesk tell them what to do, but never really seem to recognize them as in charge. In short, they're kind of like cuter, nicer
Once again it's worth mentioning spellcasters can summon skittermanders to fight and die for them for some reason, or "why wizards are awful part #1,305,698".
Playable as PCs! Small! Grappling bonus! Low-light vision! Six arms! Can take an extra move action once a day! The whelp can attach with their "second mouth" and bite at you, the basic one gets some envoy abilities! Enough!
Surnoch (CR 9)
A 15' worm that lives in asteroids and moons, which mostly feels on minerals. Its poop leaves behind some rare and unusual materials it can't digest, but it's all too glad to try and munch on technology and spaceships. Somebody might be controlling them for corporate sabotage, as well.
Large animals! Immune to acid! Bite! Acid spit! Spines that are acid + piercing! Goes five times as fast in its tunnels (150' for a move action?). People make them into acid-squirting spears! Finished!
Swarm Corrovox (CR 3) and Swarm Thresher Lord (CR 10)
Descendants of the kucharn, the same race that would produce the shirrens, this is an rapacious... well, they're the zerg, except they just scorched-earth worlds for lunch. They're only really intelligent collectively and can't be reasoned with. They have a variety of organically-designed weapons. There'll be more of these guys in future books.
Corrovox: Medium humanoid! Claw! Acid cannon! Area effect psychic damage! Telepathic communication! Rerolls against mind-affecting effects when a pair or more!
Thresher Lord: Large humanoid! Arm blades! Extra attacks! Flight! Same telepathy as the corrovox! And that's over!
Symbiend (CR 0.333) and Damoritosh's Arm Host (CR 6)
Small aberrations that can sting and attach to people. While the text talks about the "impressive abilities they grant to hosts", the base one doesn't seem to do much but act as a parasite. There's also the "arm host" which grants a bunch of combat bonuses and some mental and social penalties, and we get a statblock for a human soldier bearing one. The "dream peddler" grants a bonus on Will and Wisdom checks, psychic powers, but penalty on physical actions and initiative. Finally, the "paragon" gives a bonus to saving throws, Charisma skills, and extra skill points, but reduces HP. Can you get one as a PC? Ask your GM, it says! And that's the end of the lightning round!
No monsters that start with T, so we can move on to...
Next: U is for Zombies.
"While this is in the interest of improving performance and achieving better results, few humans have the patience and poise to graciously accept an enthusiastic urog’s stream of constant criticism."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 19: "While this is in the interest of improving performance and achieving better results, few humans have the patience and poise to graciously accept an enthusiastic urog’s stream of constant criticism."
it's like a metaphor for something here
U got two creatures.
- Undead Minion
Skeletal Undead (CR 0.5) and Occult Zombie (CR 1) and Cybernetic Zombie (CR 3)
So, most undead are just created by other undead, wizards from Eox, or cultists of Urgathoa (queen teen undead edgelord, to remind), though sometimes they're left around to be wandering hazards. Skeletons and occult zombies are made by magic, while cybernetic zombies... cymbies? C'mon, Palladium would've called 'em that, live a little, Paizo! Cymbies are made by implants that keep their hosts running.
They're mostly what you'd expect for generic animated dead, zombies are still slower than skeletons because they've got all that flesh weighting them down, I guess. The cymbie gets a lightning pistol, is vulnerable to electricity, and can self-destruct an area radius. There are grafts for each of those three types for those looking to make zombies at home. Make sure you do it in the garage, though. Corpses leak so, so much fluid.
Urog (CR 3)
Another creature from another one of
They're large "beasts", with darkvision, can sense other creatures touching the ground through "electrolocation", have a slam and shoot lightning, and deal electricity damage instead for regular damage with their slams by spending an RP. There is, surprisingly, a PC version if you want to be a lazy crystalslug. They're large, get electricity resistance, the above electrolocation, low-light vision, telepathic communication, and an extra skill rank per level. However, they get penalties on most social checks and are slower than normal. Pretty interesting that you get to play them as PCs, and it points out they might wander out to do personal observations because do I have to do everything myself?! They're kind of weird, but it's the kind of weird I would have loved to have seen in the corebook instead of just four-armed sand people.
Next: V is for Cyberpunks.
"A void hag in a coven (see below) who somehow loses her robes is forcefully driven out, even though it strips the coven of all power."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 20: "A void hag in a coven (see below) who somehow loses her robes is forcefully driven out, even though it strips the coven of all power."
V will put an end to this!
- Void Hag
Verthani Aether Pilot (CR 2) and Verthani Pure One (CR 9)
The main inhabitants of Verces (that's the tidally locked world), Verthani can change the pigment of their skin at will for complex patterns, not that any of that is obvious from the art. There are three factions amongst them: the augmented, who modify their bodies literally, the pure ones, who only augment slightly if at all and become leaders, and god-vessels who are priests who engage in self-branding. (As in horrible burns, not marketing.) They're peaceful democrats who have a utopian one-world government that apparently inspired the Pact World setup.
The aether pilot - kind of weird to have a third "pilot" writeup in this book, given that they would seemingly be encountered more often in their unstatted ships - is an operative that can use their skinchanging ability for camouflage if they're nearly naked. The statblock is not nearly naked, wearing armor, and thus cannot use this ability. The pure one is a psychic-themed mystic with the same camouflage ability. Lastly, there's a PC version, and they get an additional slot for cybernetics, low-light vision, an extra skill point, and that camouflage ability that sucks for PCs, too, given any notable armor will negate it, since nearly all armor in Starfinger is environmental armor.
Void Hag (CR 10)
Ah, yes, the supernatural horror born of women getting old and / or clever continues even in space. Terrifying. Mind, the art doesn't look so elderly even with the craterface. These are evil old ladies that can live in vacuum and seek to rule over other life forms, like everybody does in the later years. They have special
In any case, they have a variety of immunities including damage resistance, daggers and pistols, a variety of affliction spells, and their fancy schmancy robes that can "release the cosmos stored within". This cosmos does force damage in a burst and negates most concealment effects on a failed save. Covens of void hags are immune to the effects of each other's robes, and they can put together a "stellar cauldron" that lets them perform far more powerful spells.
Man, being old in space sounds cooler than I expected. This is one of the moments where I suspect a PC might be like "Wait, how do I get cosmic power as part of my retirement?" Well, mine might be like that, anyway.
Next: W is for Magic Missile Munchers.
"Why the witchwyrds seeded Kasath and Akiton with intelligent life modeled after themselves remains a mystery, as does the number of other as-yet-undiscovered planets similarly affected."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 21: "Why the witchwyrds seeded Kasath and Akiton with intelligent life modeled after themselves remains a mystery, as does the number of other as-yet-undiscovered planets similarly affected."
Witchwyrd (CR 6)
... mysterious race, this a race of wandering merchants and wizards that created the kasatha and shobhad because...
Look, I've given up expecting answers from this book on stuff. I mean, they have these two page writeups for everything, you'd think they have the room to do more than shrug at the reader, but it's like they're terrified of pinning anything down. In any case, they like robes and conical hats and probably would like Mœbius' comic art. They mainly absorb magic for food, but they also breathe and eat and drink as well. They're very long lived, but how long is a...
... mystery. They can be found anywhere but are most common amongst the kasatha and the Idari worldship. Their leadership is a...
... mystery, but may be a oligarchy. They often hire groups of loyal
... well, you can guess by now.
They have damage resistance and variable energy resistance, and can multiattack with 4 punches... or a staff for some reason, even though it'll do less damage than quadpunch in most circumstances. In addition, they can case a number of spells, including having tongues on all the time. Magic missiles that are fired at them get absorbed, and they can fire them back. There's a PC version, and I'm pretty sure at this point we could have an entire party just of races no player or GM has enough information to adequately play without just spinning their own fanon. The PC statblock can absorb magic missiles and fire them back, gets four arms, darkvision, and a dime bonus on bluff and haggle. To demonstrate the usefulness of their absorption power, do you know how many antagonist writeups in this book use magic missile?
None, unless you count the witchwyrd itself, and even only they can fire those they've stored up.
There's also a special transport writeup they use, called the Tetrad Caravel (tier 6), but they don't sell it because it has a special drive that lets them travel between planes. This special feature doesn't get a point value, so forget about it, players!
Wrikreechee (CR 3)
So, these are are crab people who are filter-feeders. They're from the previously unmentioned watery world of Akchios, and were introduced to the greater universe by explorers. They're known for their medicines and biotech, and have had to do biological enhancements to themselves to have voices they can use with other races. Their own language is gesticulation and chirps. They're vulnerable to cold because they come from a region with deep-sea vents. A decent little alien race if you need something aquatic.
As a PC race, they're amphibious, get a bonus on rolls to aid another or perform harrying fire, get bonuses when using cover, and get a decent bonus to grapple. Alternately, they can make two grapple attempts at a sizable penalty. They're a little slower on land, but fast in water. Despite the description mentioning them as weak against cold, there's no mention of it any of their stats. The NPC version has some envoy abilities, and that's that.
And that's the last creature in this book. But we've I've got a few last conclusions left to make.
Next: T is for Denouement.
"However you play, Paizo has products to help you streamline your game and immerse yourself in a universe full of weird worlds and unique aliens."Original SA post
Starfinger Alien Archive Part 22: "However you play, Paizo has products to help you streamline your game and immerse yourself in a universe full of weird worlds and unique aliens."
I was worn out when I got through the Core Rules. Now? I'm totally exhausted. Doing reviews is exciting at first, but at the end it's always work. The amount of time it takes for that early rush to settle into the work is usually a sign of how engaging a book is. These two books were work from sometime around the start, only to become an absolute slog once I hit the equipment section of the Starfinger book and my brain revolted. Now, I imagine there must be somebody out there who opened up the equipment section and saw a wealth of equipping possibilities and wondered at the numbers... and adjectives... and choices... but I'm definitely not that person. Starfinger is at times inoffensive, sometimes workmanlike, occasionally totally misconceived, but I very rarely found it interesting.
When I got to the Alien Archive, I expected that to change. It's mostly new monsters, unlike doing the Pathfinder Bestiary, and I toughed my way through that. It's not even that long, I said. It's under half the length of the Bestiary. Easy, right?
It was work around the point I hit the letter C.
So let's go over what they got right first. They made making monsters simpler. Most of the monster statblocks are simpler, too, compared to earlier versions of d20. Summons are now a lot more balanced against each other, at least. And I did like some of the monsters. Let's see if I can pick a top five. Contemplative, nihili, skittermander, urog, and wrikreechee. There, bam. A lot of the art is good! Or at least just fine? Positive! I can be kind of positive.
What they got wrong... um... well, where to start?
Every creature gets two pages. This makes sense from a layout perspective, obviously. You can leave the book open to a creature writeup and that creature is laid out all before you with no page-flipping. Except... not every creature needs two pages and that's why we get a whole paragraph on the aging and decomposition process of the mountain eel. No, really. There's a ton of information that isn't likely to see use in a game, and isn't interesting or evocative enough to serve any particular purpose. Alternately, some creatures need much more than two pages, so we get a literal single sentence on each of the elemental types and that's that. Two pages per creature makes sense from a layout perspective. In terms of a writing perspective, usually they're padding shit so thick it gets an armor class.
The short, simple creature writeups are a neat idea, but most of them are simple to the point of dullness. Many just do damage, meaning they're mild variations on a theme of rock 'em sock 'em combat. Because everybody in Starfinger has guns, most have both a ranged and melee attack. Generally, creatures only have one or two unique abilities. And if those aren't a special attack or defense, it means they fight mostly the same as most other creatures of their CR. A lot of games have come up with ways to vary monsters or give them snappy, unique abilities. This is isn't one of them. Furthermore, some ideas (monsters that carry other monsters, various humanoid variants, blobs that repair stuff) get repeated more often than they should be. There are two four-legged apex predators with a face full of tentacles that unleash sub-creatures that attach to you! With only half the space of their previous monster books and an expanded size for monster writeups, they needed more variety.
Trying to offer player information in a book like this is a mess. The idea isn't totally unsound, but the problem is it's all organized for gamemasters, not players. Each new race, piece of equipment, etc., is all separated by what monster it's thematically associated with, when it really just needs its own section. If you're going to have new weapons, we don't need more than one weapon chart. Starfinger has no less than 6, not even counting new weapon traits and fusions. What's more, the conservatism of the race design in the Core Rules gives them very little room to offer robust or creative traits for the new races in this book. They're stuck having to cut down nearly every NPC writeup to have it fit the tiny PC blocks - when they aren't completely facefaulting and pretending abilities claws are a useful racial traits. To be fair, though, maybe one of the designers wasn't told that the game had lasers in it.
Making sure to leave space for GMs to wax creatively is a fine idea, and one of the ways you can do that is to leave things undiscovered or mysterious. However, it is possible to do that to a fault, and Alien Archive loves to declare that things are unknown, mysterious, or undiscovered. And while that's good to an extent, this is a spacefaring society with advanced science and magic beyond our own. They should be able to work out mysteries. And what's more, mysteries should be important. Sure, a caypin's ability to communicate with the leeches it spawns could be important, but unless you develop a very specific conceit for it, nobody's going to care. It's at the worst with races like the grays, which have so little in terms of hooks other than their behavior that there's nothing to them. Appropriately enough, most of their writeup might as well be a field of gray.
And that's a lot of why it falls flat - creatures are often ciphers, and even when they're not, they often have little more than a single gimmick to pin on, plus a secondary note that tries to naturalize or humanize them, and that's that. What's more, because of the interstellar setting, there's no connective tissue to most of it. Even when creatures are from the same planet or moon, they often don't reference each other. The expanded space has encouraged the writers to write extra words even when they don't have anything to say.
Really, to understand why Alien Archive felt off, I grabbed a monster book I did enjoy off my shelf for comparison. I open this other book up and the descriptions of monsters are extremely pithy in comparison - unless the writers thought additional text was relevant. It has discussions of how to build encounters with them, as well as explicit adventure hooks. There are discussions of how to fit them in with the various factions - but only when they think it's necessary. A key point I notice is that no two monster writeups are the same, and the information provided is often unique to the creature. But since they're shorter than the normal d20 format they can also pack many more variations on a single creatures. And so the authors focus on that they think is important. They break from in-world discussions and give direct advice to GMs. Sometimes a single statblock gets four pages of discussion, sometimes seven statblocks are packed into three pages. It's a relief to be reminded how it can be done engagingly, and I have to put it down before it distracts me.
Alien Archive isn't necessarily a bad book. But it's not a good book, either. It is, in my opinion, an excessively bland book, somehow shorter than it needs to be in aggregate but simultaneously with writeups that drag on far too long. It's padded with oft-unnecessary information or crunch too often, and fears to break from formula. There's almost no advice on how to use the creatures or structure encounters, and it's written almost entirely in a descriptive manner. Creatures often may as well be disconnected and removed from the game itself, often not being connected to any real faction or setting. Many are just given arbitrary mysteries but no actual hook to explore these unknowns. Twenty-two races are introduced with no player-facing descriptions, and some may as well barely have a description at all.
That being said, there's probably something you'd like to use or play in here. It makes making creatures easy, if not balanced. And skittermanders are deliberately adorable. Caypins are kind of creepy. Maybe it was rushed, much like the Core Rules feel. But ultimately, it feels too much like a preview, deliberately cut back to leave room for monsters to be drip-fed through future books. Compare it to any of the Pathfinder Bestiaries and you'll realize it's one-half the size of its forebears with one-third the number of monsters. And while numbers aren't the be-all end-all of a book's quality, in Alien Archive's case, they're very telling.
Well, that's more than enough out of this book. I had hoped Starfinger would let Paizo break free creatively, to do more interesting things, to fix the problems in their long-running game, but mostly I feel like I've sat through a marketing experiment coupled with bizarrely slipshod design. There are kernels of interesting ideas - I might borrow a few creatures or ideas for planets - but mostly I feel like I've been eating extruded game product for over two months now and am damned sick of it.
Hope you enjoyed the review, and if you play Starfinger, that's okay. I might even give it a whirl, someday, because I know well enough to have some interesting ideas for characters pot out. But watch out for all the faults I showed you. Ignore the Envoy not matter how tempting it is, don't get in a vehicle, make sure you throw your spaceship away after 10th level and just fly coach instead, play a gray and just riff off movies and be silly, play a Mystic to be the best friend a group could ever have, just pick the highest damage weapon you can get, summon a skittermander just to give it demeaning headpats, and blast off for admittedly flawed adventures.
Wait, if Pathfinder is named for their Adventure Paths, shouldn't Starfinger have Adventure Stars instead?
Well, at least they didn't name it Starfinder. That would've been really silly.
No More Nexts: Y, I think we're done here.