The spidery robot is a staple of science fiction. Sure, the leg design means they can’t walk on low density surfaces or get traction on smooth floors, but a robot scuttling towards you on 6+ legs is a sure sign you’re in the future. Starfinder‘s hat in the ring is the Anacite Laborer, mechanical drones from Aballon.
As the Alien Archive is quick to explain, laborers are far from the only kind of anacite. The term technically refers to all robots who trace their production line back to the ancient race that build the first robots on Aballon, but with the time involved and the constantly changing nature of technology, it’s a tricky label to apply. An anacite can be a basketball sized floating box, a colossus of steel that towers over buildings, or an entire sentient starship, and that opens up plenty of possibilities. What happens if the mind of an anacite transfers to a new body far different from the original? If you build a robot identical to an anacite without using the production lines they do, would that be an anacite? Can you pull a Ship of Theseus on an intelligent being?
Still, this in largely irrelevant to the immediate topic. Our creature of the week is a laborer, a specific make of anacite meant, as the name may indicate, for labor and construction. And like last week’s AHAV, adaptability is a major theme with this creature. Their biggest feature is Reconfigure (EX), which allows the laborer to have up to two adaptations selected from a list and change the ones it has given an hour of time. Like the AHAV a list is given, as well as a note that other options exist. The presented bonuses are a 50% movement speed bonus, blindsense (vibration), a five foot reach increase, a new movement type, resistance to an energy type, and a bonus to AC. Any one of those is a solid pick, with the ability to switch them out an added bonus. The hour it takes to replace an ability is their main weakness, as well as a major factor in their presentation. It incentivizes patience, meaning anacite laborers aren’t the kind to just blindly rush into a fight. If they have a bone to pick with your party they’re more likely to stalk them from the shadows and snoop around for info, something their +4 Intelligence helps with. It’s only when they’ve sized their targets up, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and adapted with the optimal abilities that they make their move. Custom tailored kill bots are something that should give even high-level players pause when the robots start busting out counters to their abilities and tactics. And if you’re a player reading this, don’t think you can just out level them. Besides the standard hit point and AC increase DMs can use to bump up a CR, laborers can gain an extra modification with every 3 in their CR, allowing them to come after you with more tricks than their lesser brethren.
In terms of weaponry, laborers are packing a plasma cutter for melee and an electric burst for ranged attacks. Both hit pretty hard, specifically the plasma cutter, but the mix of energy types helps them counter whatever resistances of immunities your players might have picked up. Their other ability is Shortwave (Ex), a built-in comms unit that allows laborers to communicate with each other and any technological construct as if using telepathy. Combined with their high Int mentioned above, this makes them excellent as leaders and tacticians, able to coordinate and control groups of robots without putting themselves on the front lines. If that sounds good to you, it’s also one of the cybernetic augmentations sold by anacites, so you can pick it up for yourself. Interestingly, their final ability isn’t an ability at all, but a weakness. Sunlight Dependency (Ex) causes laborers to take a -2 penalty to attack rolls, ranged weapon rolls, skill checks, ability checks, and saves when they’re in areas of darkness. This is an interesting drawback for them, a hard limitation that can’t be overcome or circumvented on a creature who’s primary feature is adaptability. It also further accentuates the idea of antagonistic laborers surrounding themselves with lesser robots that lack this weakness, using them to make up for its own flaw by acting in its stead.
Overall, anacite laborers are intelligent and highly adaptable foes. Consider the possibility that one may take the time to buy magic or technological items that compensate for its weaknesses or better allow it to exploit the flaws of its enemies. Here’s a few ideas to use anacite laborers in your campaign:
- Melken’s Magnificent Mechanical Menagerie is a popular attraction, mimicking an entire ecosystem with its intricate robotic animals and metal landscapes. But a shadow has fallen over the park as of late as ominous changes have been seen in the periphery of the menagerie. Titanic metal insects, far larger than they should be, stalk the service tunnels, constantly shifting and adapting in a state of constant evolution. Visitors report seeing metal beings built in the image of sentient races, each bearing metallic faces with an eerie resemblance of one of the visitors. The once-constant routes and paths shift in the night, creating a labyrinth of iron trees and steel canyons. But most ominously of all, the parts of a new creation far bigger than anything in the park to date have been spotted in the gaps of its chaotic layout, slowly assembling themselves as the park continues to warp and twist.
- A killing spree has begun on Indigo Station, one that has already claimed the lives of a dozen victims. Investigation has yet to turn up any leads, save that each victim was practically dismantled by what seems to have been industrial tools. The true culprit was not any lone killer but the maintenance drones of the station, which would feed the murderer to the forge to hide any evidence after the deed was done. Though mute and seemingly docile, the drones harbor murderous urges that would make an organic being vomit, for the Speaker in Skin will soon arrive and they must reap a proper harvest if they are to receive their reward.
- A warship docked for maintenance undergoes a mysterious power outage, during which the commander of the vessel disappears. Attempts to locate her or determine the cause of the outage are hampered as security systems and doors activate seemingly at random, turning against their supposed owners and herding the crew away from key areas. The culprit is XJ-11736, an expert on mechanical systems and AI who was brought aboard to asses the dreadnaught’s viability for an AI upgrade. The machine slew the captain and locked down the ship before sealing itself in the primary computing core, where it seeks to use its reconfigure ability to integrate itself into the ship and claim the war machine as its new body.