Creature Feature Friday: Asteray

What happens when you take the core concept of a Greek monster, splice it with the Fair Folk, and hurl it out the airlock? Well you could get a fairie-hydra, but in this case we’re talking about the asteray. 

The asteray is a bit bizarre. Most of the time fey fall into one of two categories: the Fair Folk, who must be treated fear and politeness alike, and the kinds of bizarre off-real creatures you’d find in Wonderland, and at a first glance the asteray fits neither. At a CR 12, this space-faring creature entices ships and pilots alike with illusions and charms. Their primary ability is Sensor Song (Ex), which allows them to create an illusion as per holographic image at 4th level with a caster level 12, with the caveat that only electronic sensors are fooled. In addition, other asterays can join the song, increasing the caster level by one for every additional participant. Their other ability is Wakerider (Su), which allows them to bond to ships and treat it as ground, allowing them to keep pace with spaceborne vessels regardless of their own fly speed and even enter the Drift. In combat, asterays have a close range tail whip and a long ranged electrical blast that can hit targets up to seventy feet away. They also come packing an arsenal of spells, with confusion and overload systems once a day, arcane sight, charm monster, discharge, and nondetection thrice a day, and holographic image and spider climb at will.

By design, asterays serve the same role as sirens did in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, as monsters that confuse and befuddle ships and adventurers. However, they also fall under the category of fey, which brings a whole new set of challenges. A monster will eat you because it’s hungry or attack you because you pissed it off. With fey, you’re in danger because of just how alien they are. When I was little, I read stories about Fair Folk and the general impression I got was that you just couldn’t figure them out. Some would snatch you away from your family for years that felt like days because you happened to amuse them, while others would spend their time doing menial chores for what seemed like no reason. The asterays convey that same sense of inscrutability in their actions. Their description mentions how they understand that other beings need air, food, and water, they just can’t quite prioritize the needs of others over their own amusement, much like the Fair Folk kidnappers I mentioned earlier. They’d be happy to keep you entertain you in the wreckage of a ship, but they’ll be surprised at your horror to see them gnawing on the remains of the crewmembers as you chat. It’s a fine line to walk between alien morality system and heartless monsters, and which side of that line they fall on depends on how you present them.

Asterays are the most spell-heavy creatures I’ve covered so far, so let’s get into how their magical arsenal plays with their role in a game. confusion and charm monster are the closest tied to their primary role, allowing them to disorient pilots at critical moments or force them into dangerous errors. Sensor Song makes the latter especially dangerous, as commands aren’t obviously suicidal once your sensors no longer show the hazard they’re making you fly into. As creatures with an intelligence score they’re smart enough to look for magical items to loot and arcane sight lets them easily find the choicest selection. Fair Folk can be as fond of bargains as fiends, and it helps negotiations when they know that “rusted piece of junk” is an illusion covering an ancient relic. nondetection pairs well with their Sensor Song, allowing them to cloak hazards from divination as well as technological detection, with the additional use of hiding themselves. Their at-will spider climb lets them latch onto ship hulls and crawl on any surface, which allows them to hitch a ride like stellar remoras. I wasn’t quite sure how that would work at first, considering their lower bodies look like they’re cloaked in robes, but then I imagined them flattening out like a leech that’s latched onto you which made it both more sensible and more terrifying. Imagine being the poor sap who was told to check the hull for irregularities only to find one of these pressed flat to the hull, staring at you with bulbous, empty eyes before rising up to tower over you. discharge and overload systems are both potent debuff spells, letting them turn powerful tech items into scrap or locking a player into virtual inactivity. To round out the arsenal, holographic image lets them bring the same senses-screwing fun they use on ships to the small scale for use against the crewmembers themselves. With sensors saying one thing and your eyes saying another, which can you believe? When fey are involved, the safe bet is always neither. With this many magical options to bring to bear, it’s easy to turn a player’s day upside down. Here’s a few plot hooks to use asterays in your game:

  • The town of Talos is in peril. Populated entirely by robots seeking to escape persecution, they’ve recently been plagued by a horrific monster that wreaks havoc before retreating to its lair. All attempts to follow it have been met with a constantly shifting labyrinth that appears different to everyone who perceives it while electrical bolts rain down on them from the visages of fiends that melt from the walls. Adventurers hired to deal with the problem find a canyon full of asterays who don’t even bother to hide, too used to their Sensor Song fooling the robot’s electronic eyes to realize their false monster and elaborate maze are completely invisible to the organic adventurers.
  • A lockbox containing an invaluable item was lost when the ship carrying it was caught in an asteroid storm hidden by a flock of asterays. The flock has since taken up residence in the derelict vessel and they have claimed everything in the wreckage as their property. Retrieving the cargo without fighting the whole group will require entertaining the strange creatures, but their alien minds mean their demands may not be tolerable, or even survivable, without a loose moral compass or a knack for trickery.
  • Something has been tearing its way through trade vessels, leaving stellar routes cluttered with shredded hulks. Survivors speak of their encounter with the Void Phantom with dread, speaking of how they saw fragments of a titanic being briefly flicker into existence while an eerie song that carried through the emptiness of space filled their ears. The culprit is a member of a rarely seen species, a ferrovore that typically consumes asteroids for their ore deposits but has recently turned toward ships as a new food source. Exacerbating the problem is a flock of asterays that came across the creature as it tore apart its first vessel. Scavenging trinkets and bodies from the wreckage, they realized they could reap prizes like this all the time with the creature’s help. What would have been a one-time event became an epidemic as they used holographic image to steer their unwitting ally like a dog towards a dangled bone, even as they used their Sensor Song, holographic image, and nondetection to hide it from their soon-to-be victims.

About nwright

A freelance writer for the Open Gaming website who looks forward to building plots out of monster entries for you to enjoy as a player or DM.

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