You know, if it wasn’t for the gelatinous cube, you’d probably react to an ooze with angles with bewilderment and confusion. As it is, that monster of old set an example that continues even into the far future. The assembly ooze is a cubical CR 1 ooze that breaks down what it consumes into their raw materials and remakes them into technological items.
The assembly ooze is packing two abilities, both intricately tied with the other. The first is Disassemble (Ex), which allows the assembly ooze to engulf an item with a level no greater than its own CR +2 (so no items with a level higher than 3 for the default ooze) and force it to make a Fortitude save or be broken down. When it dissolves an item in this way it gains a number of Universal Polymer Bases, which I’ll just call build points for the rest of this article in the name of simplicity, equal to its credit worth. Additionally, this ability also allows it to deal bonus acid damage during grapple checks against technological enemies, which grants it a number of build points equal to the damage dealt. It can hold a number of build points equal to its Constitution modifier times 100 (400 for the default), which wouldn’t be useful if it wasn’t for its second ability. Assemble (Ex) lets the assembly ooze spend its build points to create a random technological item with a level limit equal to that of its Disassemble ability. There’s a list provided for randomly selecting the type of item it creates, as well as rules in the Starfinder Core Rulebook for spending UPB/build points to make items, but as a DM you can feel free to ignore that. If you want your players to have a specific item, you can have an assembly ooze spit it out after you roll some meaningless dice to make it seem like it was random. As for the build point cost, you have full control over how many built points it had going into that encounter, so there’s no need to make it eat a certain amount of your player’s equipment so it can make a certain item.
With the abilities shown off, let’s talk purpose. Like last week’s apari, the assembly ooze lacks an Intelligence score, but unlike the apari it has a specific origin. Assembly oozes are intentional, albeit malfunctioning, creations of sentient beings, meant to be biotechnical replacements for automated assembly lines. Before we get into using them as they’re presented, I’ll take a moment to consider using them as they were meant to be. Imagine a world where all of its production was handled by assembly oozes. An entire line of work would be made irrelevant by a single creature, fed daily with raw metals and ores that it refines and shapes into everything from toothbrushes to laser cannons. Mining would become a primary industry as they carve molten chunks out of the core of the world and cool them before feeding the slag into a living lake more efficient than any factory. Magical items, the only things sufficiently large assembly oozes can’t make, would become a cutthroat industry as their manufacturers try to stay relevant as technology is created that can function in the place of magic. Players could easily find themselves hired as corporate saboteurs by magical producers to shut down the assembly pools, or they could hijack an ooze for themselves to keep their equipment on the bleeding edge of technology.
That said, let’s look at them as they are: a mindless ooze that consumes all in its path and spits out gift shop trinkets. Sure, the rulebooks says it only breaks down items, but it’s unlikely (not to mention less terrifying to the players) that it’ll turn down a nice bundle of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen just because it’s currently arranged into a person rather than convenient bars. Either way, the assembly ooze carries on the proud tradition of the rust monster and the disenchanter: an obnoxious creature that breaks your things. To that end, it’s a good idea to advance the assembly ooze a few levels to keep it dangerous to your players. There’s nothing like a crowd of monsters dead-set on eating your valuable cargo to put some fear into your players. Or just have the ooze eat their wallets. Credits and gold are inanimate objects too, after all. Here’s a few hooks to use assembly oozes in your game:
- In certain sectors of space, assembly oozes are used as weapons of war. in combat, breacher torpedoes packed with the oozes punch through fortifications and hulls to disgorge their payloads, which promptly begins to eat its way through the rest of the enemy’s systems. In prison camps, wardens dip their charges into specifically programmed assembly oozes that eat away all contraband or hidden items, with only a few malfunctions that result in eaten prisoners. Even after the war ends, they remain as a threat, compressed into dense spheres and left floating in space like a hungry minefield, where even a single collision will result in the ooze burrowing through the ship to consume the reactor core.
- Assembly oozes are a common sight in some cities, functioning as street cleaners and producing cheap goods to turn a small profit. But recently there’s been a change in their behavior. Rather than make the simple items they were programmed to, they’re spitting out strange pieces of circuitry and wiring. Investigations indicate that the many pieces are from the same end product, but what that product is remains unknown.
- A primitive world has been largely conquered by a single empire thanks to a remarkable discovery. A silvery lake was discovered in the caves beneath the capital, a discovery that would have been written off as beautiful but worthless had one of the explorers not fallen in. The waters of the lake consumed him before disgorging a sword of strange design onto the shore. After much trial and error, the people of the city now constantly shovel scrap metal, raw ore, and the occasional prisoner into the strange pool. It rewards them with armor, weapons, and tools, all of strange curving designs and forged of a shimmering metal none can reproduce. Even beyond this, it will rarely gift a creation that is always unseen by any before but always capable of some powerful effect that the nation’s wizards claim to be non-magical.