If you hate it when you find a bug crawling across your wall, you’ll hate this week’s monster. The apari is a Large vermin clocking in at a CR 7 with the ability to spawn smaller CR 2 constituents, making it likely the worst bug your players will face all week.
An apari is more than just a gigantic bug, it’s a living hive. Its biology is a bizarre mesh of nerves and organs arranged around tunnels and chambers that hold the maggots it grows and the smaller apari drones that bring it food. That alone should frighten anyone who’s ever tried to swat a spider only to find it was carrying a swarm of babies, but apari have another trick up their sleeve. Their main ability is Mutability (Ex), a defensive trait that allows an apari to transfer ability damage to the ability score of their choice. Given their biology, it makes sense. When you have enough redundant flesh to be bored into tunnels and chambers it makes sense to have enough biological redundancies to shrug off or adapt to a crippling wound. This trait is only reinforced by their immunity to critical hits, giving the sense that they have no organ or weak point they don’t have a backup for. Meanwhile, their hive-like nature is represented as the Spawn Constituents (Ex) ability, which lets an apari spent one resolve point and twenty hit points to spawn an apari constituent in an adjacent square. It can’t use this ability when under forty hit points and it only has four resolve points, so at most there are four stinging pests. Of course, that’s only the cost to spawn constituents, leaving the dungeon master free to have others already spawned and waiting as additional backup. Outside of abilities, the apari isn’t a slouch in combat itself, packing a nasty claw attack and a spike it can fire up to thirty feet.
Of course, one can’t discuss the apari without also addressing its constituents. No, it’s not a politician, just the broodmother of a swarm of tiny insects. Normally encountered with the apari itself, they can also be encountered on their own as they forage for food to bring back to their hive. In the former case their CR is incorporated into the apari’s, but on their own, a constituent is a CR 2 enemy. Small attackers with a fly speed, their only offensive ability is Fungible (Ex), which allows them to mutate their natural attacks to deal piercing, bludgeoning, or slashing damage as they choose. On the utility side, their Reincorporate (Ex) ability lets them merge back into the apari that spawned them and grant it their remaining hitpoints. With two abilities for a CR 2 enemy, the constituent balances this out with a weakness in the form of Hive Dependency (Ex). Constituents can’t voluntarily travel farther than 200 feet from the apari that spawned them without gaining the sickened condition and a compulsion to return to their broodmother. In addition, constituents can only survive one hour after the apari that spawned them dies. This second part comes with a caveat that they can counter this limit on their lifespan by finding and attuning to a new apari.
In your game, apari bear the burden of all enemies without an intelligence score. Without the ability to really plan anything on their own, such creatures are typically reduced to one of two roles: dumb muscle or plot token. The former is the role you see most often, serving as a living barrier to overcome. Whether it is as a wild animal encountered in the wilderness, a guard beast for the bad guy’s lair, or a smuggled monster that got free, this is the role that requires something that can hit hard but doesn’t need to think. An apari can fit this role well in some aspects, but poorly in others.
Their entry notes that apari tend to overwhelm most ecosystems, and their CR backs that up. Nearly twice as high as the CR of a bear in Pathfinder, they can serve as apex predators on most worlds they’re found on. However, it’s the other role they fit better. As a plot token, their role is less about them as a creature and more about their potential. This is the type of role that sees fairy dragons kept to harvest their euphoric gas or displacer beasts hunter for their distorting pelts. An apari’s ability to mutate around ability damage is the sort of thing that would stoke the curiosity of fleshwarpers and deranged scientists as well as legitimate researchers. Here are a few plot threads to use apari in your game:
- Most apari can only use their Mutable ability to redistribute ability damage, but one apari has a rare genetic quirk that allows it to redistribute its very ability scores. Like its predecessors with the same mutation, it likely would have died without ever consciously using this ability if not for a panicked reaction to a psychic blast from a rival predator. Reeling and in pain, its attempts to counter the mental blast saw it transfer points into its Intelligence, changing it from a mindless vermin to something more dangerous. Now lacking the Mindless trait of vermin and with a penalty to Strength thanks to the points it keeps shifted over, every few days it goes into a comatose state as it reduces all of its other stats to the lowest they can go without killing it to boost its Intelligence. In these periods of incredible cunning, it formulates a plan that its normal, stupid self follows just as it would command a constituent. The apari now seeks to capture prey alive, where it attempts to use its variant Mutable ability to boost its own scores while inflicting the cost on them.
- The typical apari life cycle sees its constituents harvest the backups of its core organs to grow into a new apari, but some have evolved a different system. On one planet, apari fuse themselves with the ground when they grow too large and slowly grow into a stationary hive more reminiscent of typical swarm species while continuing to guide its constituents through subconscious impulses. Should resources become too scarce, a new apari grows within it before tearing its way out of its predecessor and venturing to new hunting grounds.
- The Reincorporate ability of apari constituents is well known to those who study the creatures, but a theory has begun to emerge among a smaller group of scholars after a recent discovery. A much larger creature with similar abilities has sparked discussion about whether apari themselves are simply the constituents of a more powerful organism. Given the range that apari cover without seeming to suffer ill effects it bears ill tidings if the theory is true, for how powerful must such a creature be for such vast swathes of space to be within its mental domain?