Welcome to Creature Feature Friday!
This is our weekly series, where we take a look at the various creatures, monsters, races, and more that appear within the Starfinder Roleplaying Game Alien Archive. Here, Nathan Wright explores the intricacies of each monster entry in the book, with an eye towards on how to make an encounter with it interesting, and providing some background on how to use it, and where it might have come from.
Without further ado, please welcome the AHAV!
It’s easy to look at the AHAV and immediately peg it as a brute force combatant, and you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. The AHAV is a combatant base creature with a CR of 12 and with two powerful default attacks and both EAC and KAC in the high twenties. Without a doubt, there’s no problem with using it as that. A brute force enemy or two is great for setting the difficulty bar, and the look on player’s faces as a hulking robot stomps into view or emerges from a shipping container is sure to satisfy.
But the AHAV has more in store than just a barrage of gunfire, though it has that too. Its primary ability is MODEL (Ex), an ability that varies depending on the purpose of the AHAV in question, and that’s where we get into the good stuff. As the Archive explains, AHAV was initially a term for Autonomous Heavy Assault Vehicles but came to be a generic name for anything big and robotic, the same way some people call all soda Coke. It’s a neat glimpse into the common culture of the setting, but more importantly, it means an AHAV can be just about anything. A tripod stomping down the streets of a city to restore order during riots? It’s an AHAV. A mechanical approximation of a wild predator, stalking explorers through the jungle as it takes aim with its dorsal cannon? That’s an AHAV too. The robotic love child of an MQ-9 Reaper and an Amazon delivery drone dropping out of the sky in hot pursuit of a getaway vehicle? Surprise, surprise, yet another AHAV!
The Archive gives a selection of five potential MODEL choices, allowing it to choose between gaining a fly speed, more shots with a full attack, a solid bonus to Stealth checks, the ability to automatically harry any foe within sixty feet, or a melee attack that can knock back enemies, though it makes it clear that there are more options than simply those presented. You can give an AHAV more weapons to really tear into its foes, another type of movement to handle a new environment, the ability to coordinate the actions of other robots, or even the ability to repair other AHAVs.
Its second main ability is its Sensor Suite (Ex), which allows it to gain an additional sense for one minute or a flat bonus to Perception. Combined with its 60 ft. movement speed, an AHAV is a formidable tracker and hunter, setting the possibility for any number of chase scenes. It also has fast healing 5, presumably from some self-repair function, and hardness 15, making it ridiculously durable.
Of course, the AHAV is a construct, which means your players almost certainly had one thought when they found out about it: can I get one? Well, the Archive doesn’t list a price, though it mentions they tend towards the higher price range. But worry not players, there’s a way around it: AHAVs are dumb. They have a -2 Intelligence and they’re explicitly described as easily tricked by those who can work out their programming and exploit the exact wording. Of course, they are war machines first and foremost, so attempts to trick it into joining your side may swiftly come to an end when some minor mistake marks you as a target. Think of them the same way you would an ogre: dumb as rocks, but all too willing to resort to violence if it doesn’t understand what the little wordy man is saying. If you pull it off, congratulations, you’ve earned yourself a new robot buddy. At least until the next person convinces it to change sides. Here are some hooks to use AHAVs in your game:
- An AHAV has taken up residence in the local scrapyard, using its repair MODEL to fashion scrap metal and spare parts into ramshackle robots. What its mission is, nobody knows, but it’s all but certain to be gathering forces to fulfill it. So far its creations have done nothing but stand idly by as their master assembles more, but with dozens of robots already complete, it’s sure to be nearing the end of its preparations.
- Adventurers are tasked with retrieving an amulet from a decades-old war zone in order to provide support to their ally in his bid for the throne. Unfortunately, though the war has long since ended its weapons continue the battle. Besides undetonated explosives, pockets of poison gas, and the occasional zombie soldier, a battalion of AHAVs equipped with a burrowing MODEL still lurk on the battlefield, forming an ever-shifting minefield as they continue to search for enemies that no longer exist.
- An experiment has gone horribly wrong, setting a monster loose on the scientific space station. But emergencies mean nothing to the unflinching programming of an AHAV and the machines still guard the high-security areas without mercy. With the authorized scientists killed by their own creation, someone must find a way into the restricted laboratories to find a way to destroy their monster before it escapes the station.
We hope you all enjoyed Creature Feature Friday, and we look forward to welcoming you back, next week.