Creature Feature Friday: Contemplative

Your brain is something that really shouldn’t end up outside of your body, but for the psionic contemplatives a visible brain is more matter of course than pressing medical emergency.

The Alien Archive provides stats for the contemplative as a CR 2 creature, in addition to a CR 18 contemplative mentor that ups its difficulty with multiple levels of mystic. The contemplative’s abilities are centered around their intelligence and mental powers, as to be expected from a creature that’s little more than a floating brain dragging around an atrophied body. Their showcase ability is Applied Knowledge (Ex), which gives them the once a day option to  replace an attack or save bonus against a creature with their bonus in the skill related to the creature’s type. The skill related to the creature type is the skill that would be used to gather information on the creature, so Life Science for aberrations, animals, humanoids, monstrous humanoids, oozes, plants, and vermin, Mysticism for magical constructs, dragons, fey, magical beasts, outsiders, and undead, and engineering for technological constructs. As the default contemplative has +7 to Engineering, +12 to Life Science, and +12 to Mysticism, this amounts to a potent bonus, particularly when replacing their paltry +1 Fortitude save bonus. Their mental powers also grant them telepathy up to 100 feet, blindsense (thought) up to 60 feet, and a 30 foot fly speed (Su), as well as an additional +4 bonus to Will saves against mind-altering effects. They also have a decent array of spell-like abilities, with daze (DC 14) and psychokinetic hand at will and detect thoughts (DC  14) and mind thrust (1st level, DC 14) once a day. These bonuses don’t come without cost, as the contemplative also has the Atrophied (Ex) weakness, which inflicts a -4 on attack rolls with two handed weapons and prevents them from using their spell-like abilities or flight until they stop attempting to  wield the weapon. Their physical weakness also comes across in their fairly pathetic melee attack and their 5 foot movement speed when not flying. 

If you want to get in on the contemplative action as a player, never fear, Paizo has your back. The player contemplative gets a +4 bonus to Intelligence and a +2 bonus to Charisma, countered by a -2 penalty to both Strength and Constitution, and starts with 2 hit points. Like the enemy contemplatives, the player version gets Applied Knowledge (Ex), blindsense (thought) up to 30 feet, darkvision up to 60 feet, and a 30 fly speed, as well as the Atrophied (Ex) weakness and a 5 foot default move speed. Overall, the player contemplative is designed to be a character that avoids the front line by default, though a sufficiently committed player can get around this. Their high Intelligence bonus makes them well suited for technomancers or mechanics, though their Applied Knowledge ability means the Life Science and Mysticism skills should be invested in at every level regardless of class.

Just about every science fiction setting has a race that’s considered “the smart one” and contemplatives fit nicely into that niche in Starfinder. Contemplatives first showed up in Pathfinder’s Bestiary 4 as CR 2 monstrous humanoids that had evolved their minds at the expense of their bodies. In Starfinder they continued to evolve with the setting, becoming renowned as scholars and intellectuals as interstellar society developed. With their intelligence they secured their place in laboratories, debate halls, and universities alike, but consider what other venues they could direct their intelligence towards. Business and banking are both industries that reward intelligence coupled with lack of empathy, and ever since Star Trek introduced the Vulcans, it’s been the popular interpretation that intelligence means cold sterile logic. With the degree they’ve focused on their minds, a contemplative interpreted in such a matter would be a force to be reckoned with on the board room floor, planning intricate and successful financial futures without regard for who may suffer for it. Politics may be another rich field to use contemplatives for, though perhaps not necessarily as the politician themselves.  Though they may lack the people skills and empathy to be effective politicians, a contemplative that devotes it intellect to anticipation and planning how the general populace reacts to public statements and new legislation could make an excellent advisor. Or perhaps it’s the inverse, where policy decisions are made by those who aren’t swayed by emotional pressure or social manipulation.

Their emphasis on furthering the mind can likewise be interpreted multiple ways. The most straightforward way would be to interpret them as scientists, which could prove to be fascinating in a techno-magical setting. Are they capable of dissecting their psionic and magical powers just as one would be able to study and understand the origins of fire and electricity with conventional science? The fact that the same gestures and words elicit the same magical response indicate that yes, magic can be classified and evoked technologically just like any other natural phenomenon, but in such a case is it even magic? Or maybe they’re something closer to introspective monks than scholars, contemplating philosophical and moral matters to uncover an inherit Truth to morality. In a setting with beings composed of pure good and evil, a conclusive answer is much more feasible than it would seem. Here’s a few plot hooks to use contemplatives in your game:

  • A contemplative’s studies into telepathy has become convinced that its kind is the pinnacle of intellectual evolution. Following from that, it has determined that the perfect mind must have the perfect body and has turned on its fellows in a deranged experiment. The hallowed halls of learning it dwells in have become charnel halls where it takes apart selected lifeforms for their best parts to graft into experimental bodies for its contemplative test subjects. Visitors seeking wisdom will be greeted only by the shambling, broken forms of the surviving experiments and the kytons who have been attracted by the quest for perfection and the pain it invokes.
  • Planar travelers aren’t so unusual, but a series of exploratory missions sent out by contemplatives have a unique goal. Sent to both the empyreal halls and infernal pits, these missions seek to analyze the truest examples of good and evil. With sufficient data they hope to determine the ultimate map of what is evil and what is good, particularly whether evil acts for a good cause are better than good acts for an evil cause.
  • Most contemplatives work in reputable arenas of knowledge and study, but a small group has set up their laboratory in a back alley cutter’s shop. Their studies focus on the nature of souls and their function with the body,  studies which have seen them ostracized by the larger scientific community. Away from the public eye, they offer exorbitant funds to kill and resurrect anyone who enters their shop, monitoring how the soul leaves and re-enters the body and how that effects the corporeal being. However, their funds aren’t unlimited, and any who take their offer without having friends along are all too often left for dead.

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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