The other day we looked at the Creature Catalogue, a supplement for Frank Mentzer-era D&D. One of the nastiest entries was a group of monsters known as the hivebrood. These insects could steal abilities from the adventurers who served as their hosts…and then share those abilities with other kin in pheromone range. Which means that your PCs could wind up facing an entire nest of fireball-hurling, undead-turning, backstabbing insect-men with very little warning.
Pathfinder’s formian queen is in some ways the heir to this tradition. While she can't steal talents outright, her ability to strike from the bodies of her henchbugs via magic jar has the potential to be just as surprising. And sure, maybe the bloated formian queen can’t tear free of her ovipositor like the queen in Aliens…but when you can just hop into your daughter’s body and unleash an empowered cone of cold, why bother? (And this is just the base model queen—there are always class levels and templates.)
But forget abilities…let’s talk about goals and ambitions. Formian queens want land and resources for their hives—for their children—at any cost. These are matriarchs who, when faced with overpopulation, build asteroids to send across the void of space. With that kind of long-term thinking in play, they make even vampires look absent-minded. And don’t you think they’ll have a contingency plan or two in place for dealing with pesky adventurers?
The prairie town of Termite Mound is isolated, religious, and superstitious. Tales of possession by angels and other spirits are common, and no one will mine or dig too deeply, supposedly for fear of attracting ankhegs or bulettes. (And anyway, gold brings sin, which the angels wouldn’t like.) In truth, the town sits above a formian hive. Between the queen’s talent for possession and her servants’ skill with charms, the formians are able to keep the citizens in the throes of religious ecstasy while using them to farm food for the hive in complete ignorance.
A jacinth star has blazed in the eastern sky for most of a year. Meanwhile, adventurers have been busy rooting out a conspiracy tied to demonologists and a lost crystal city. Despite the heroes’ best efforts, the demonologists succeed in raising the lost city from the depths to the surface and beyond, into the sky—directly into the path of the jacinth star, a formian seedpod asteroid. When the asteroid crashes into the aerial plateau, centuries of Abyssal planning are disrupted. Now the adventurers are caught between outraged demons and confused, famished formians for control of the skyborne city and the fate of the world.
The Lyonessens have established their interplanetary beachhead and erected redoubts above and belowground to guard their hard-won gains. They've even managed to make peace with some of the neighboring formian hives by offering healing and secrets of druidcraft. But there are hives and then there are hives. While their majesties Leafcutter and Mouldering Dream may be willing to trade with mammals, the Mother of Chitin and Bone will not be appeased. When the Lyonessens attack her hive, they are blasted with magic missiles, telepathic feedback, and devastating cones of cold as the queen bounces from thrall body to thrall body. The Lyonessens have vastly underestimated the queen’s strength…and her cunning. For the hive they attacked was only one of her palaces…and her bloated body was easily spirited away through subterranean tunnels on a juggernaut palanquin…
—Pathfinder Bestiary 4 110
One last note: Check out the formian queen’s “Ecology” stat block:
Organization hive (1 plus 300–5,000 formians)
Those are some numbers right there. I definitely do not know what dice to roll to figure out that encounter.
Got through a second straight day of filming. Whee!
PS: Don't forget, reading this blog will get you out of Monster Hell, but only listening to The New Indie Canon will get you into Monster Heaven. You want to go to Monster Heaven, don’t you?