What do you call the bioengineered scouts and shock troops of a swarm of interplanetary conquerors? Usually whatever lets you tell people to shoot them faster, but in this case it’s called the corrovox.
A corrovox is a CR 3 monstrous humanoid, created by the Swarm as foot soldiers and advanced scouts. As a Swarm creature, their primary ability is Swarm Mind (Ex), allowing it to instantly communicate with any other Swarm creature within 30 feet. Additionally, so long as there is an another Swarm creature within 30 feet, once a round the corrovox can roll twice and take the better result when saving against a mind-affecting effect. It’s also outright immune to acid damage and fear effects, giving it a fairly substantial set of defenses. Offensively, the corrovox has Psychic Assault (Su), a mental blast that deals 1d4 x the corrovox’s CR (3d4 default) if you fail the DC 12 Will save and with a range of 30 feet, and an Acid Cannon (Ex), a biological weapon grafted to its forearm that constantly produces its own ammunition and cannot be disarmed, as well as an additional claw attack should it engage foes in melee. Rounding out their abilities is the classic 60 foot darkvision, as well as 30 foot blindsense (vibration) and 100 foot telepathy. As for weaknesses… they don’t have any. If you want to bring down a corrovox you have to do it the old fashioned way: enough firepower to turn it into a fine mist.
The corrovox is the first Swarm creature I’ve covered and it sure gives a first impression. In the Starfinder setting, the swarm is one of the primary threats, a horde of interstellar conquerors who biologically engineer everything from their troops to their weapons to their ships. You’d think the foot soldier of such a monolithic force would be cheap and disposable, with all the accuracy of a stormtrooper and the life expectancy of a redshirt. Instead the corrovox has effective weaponry, the ability to survive more than one hit, and is in constant communication with its allies, which should really get it failing marks in Ineffective Minion School. Of course, there’s the very real possibility that by the standards of the Swarm, it is exactly as weak as to be expected, which raises the ominous and highly entertaining question of what else the Swarm has up its many sleeves.
Calling something the Swarm implies a few things, none of which are solitary operatives. This should be a relief to any DM, as one of the first lessons you learn is that a monster can be as big and tough as you want, but it’ll still go down in seconds if it faces the players alone. The corrovox stat block only feeds into this, pointing out that corrovoxes are typically encountered in packs between three and eight. Mechanically, this provides plenty of opportunities for Swarm Mind to come into play. Players will particularly suffer if they like to get by on misdirection, stealth and trickery, as a single failed stealth check can bring the whole group down on you while illusions and brain tampering suffer a significant penalty. The “instantaneous communication” doesn’t actually give them a mechanical bonus, especially noticeable because their telepathy has a longer range and talking is a free action, but it can come into play when interacting with larger groups. They are the scouts of an army after all, so it would be fitting if they relayed their findings back to the larger force. How they do that is up to you, whether a larger transmission relay that increases the range of their Swarm Mind or a network of smaller Swarm creatures that pass along their transmissions over the course of miles like a game of telephone. This works well with their role as parts of a larger force, which could pay off rather dramatically if they summon other breeds of Swarm creatures to back them up. Currently there’s only rules for one other Swarm creature, but it’s easy to imagine the sorts of things an army composed entirely of living material could bring to the table. Armored burrowers that double as troop transports, packs of smaller beasts that mob anything marked with a particular chemical, living hives that disgorge swarms of tiny stinging insects, the possibilities are as boundless as they are bad for your players. Here’s a few plot hooks to use corrovoxes in your game:
- Everyone wants to be safe, and the self-defense industry is filled with specialized guards, trained monsters, and experimental technology, all promising safety at a price. One particularly shady establishment promises guards who are vicious in a fight and absolutely loyal: corrovoxes. Lobotomized to reassign their loyalty to the holder of a specific frequency broadcaster rather than the signals of their hivemind, the beasts have proven to be popular guards among the rich and influential of the criminally inclined.
- A planet rich in resources and biomatter has recently become the unfortunate recipient of a corrovox scouting ship. Appraising the world as a perfect target for invasion, the scouts would be salivating with glee had a chance satellite collision on their approach not damaged their transmitter and engines. Unable to communicate with or return to the Hive, the stranded corrovoxes have set their sights on breaking into the communications relay of a nearby city.
- Explorers seek an ancient vault, hoping to find wealth and relics from n empire long fallen. Unfortunately for them their search is based on a mistranslation, where they read “vault” rather than “prison.” Sealed within is a pack of corrovoxes, sealed away to prevent them from calling more of their kind. Unable to die of old age the creatures have fallen into a torpor to survive the lack of food, one they will emerge from shortly should they find their prison opened. Though hungry, their first focus is on escape, preferring to fake death until the intruders leave before escaping the now unsealed tomb. If it seems like the explorer will reseal the prison or detect that the supposed corpses still live, they will instead open up a telepathic dialog to barter their supposed knowledge of the ancient empire in exchange for a method of long ranged communication.