Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Formian Taskmaster

On Monday I called the formian myrmarch “the public face of the hive,” but I should have been more specific in my terminology.  The myrmarch is the public face at high-level functions—the queen’s voice at embassy celebrations, treaty negotiations, declarations of war and such—but it is the formian taskmasters who handle day-to-day interactions with the outside world.  They even speak out loud!  (Other formians can, too, but prefer telepathy.) 

The Bestiary 4 calls formian taskmasters “merchants, traders, diplomats, and spies”—and each one of those roles is ripe with encounter possibilities.  With their bardic abilities, they are excellent jacks-of-all-trades and confidential agents.  They also excel at keeping formian workers and warriors in line and on task. (Within their own caste, nonlethal duels settle disagreements.)  Whenever PCs encounter formians outside their own territories, chances are good a taskmaster is directing the activity…or pulling the strings.

Formians plan to dam a river…and they care little that their actions will utterly submerge a valley hold of humans and gnomes.  Unable to stop the toil of the formian workers, adventurers must either negotiate with or remove the lead taskmaster and his warrior retinue.

A formian queen fears her own taskmasters.  After a long bout of illness, the queen finds that her power has been usurped in all but name by her taskmaster caste, which now forms a kind of secret police.  Unsure which of her servants are compromised, she sends a silver raven figurine of wondrous power to a merchant lord whose life she spared many years ago.  Keen to settle his debt, he hires adventures to pose as his agents and enter the heart of the hive.  Their job: Feel out the taskmaster factions and their loyalties, and if possible save the queen.

Named for its queen and its majestic plant and fungal nurseries, the Leafcutter hive is an oasis of art, culture, and sophisticated agriculture among otherwise combative formian nations.  The refugee Lyonessens see an opportunity for an alliance, but before they can convince Majestrix Leafcutter of their goodwill, they must first persuade a sizable cabal of her taskmasters.  Trading metal weapons and finery is a good strategy—particularly jewelry that can be fashioned into dueling ornaments.  Adventurers must return to their own world, braving undead-haunted Lyonesse for enough treasure to send to Leafcutter.  Next they must see the treasure safely to the hive, and then ingratiate themselves with the taskmaster dueling societies to gain influence and respect.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 111

I am excommunicating filbypott from the Church of Monsters.  For reasons.

I do owe him an apology, though, because while drafting my post on fomorians I came across his, bookmarked it for future reference…and then totally spaced on linking to it.  He fixed that in the Notes, but here’s the link again just in case.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really liking the Lyonesse adventure seeds. And while the Starship Troopers influence on the Formians is obvious, I also get a sense of the Buggers/Formics from Orson Scott Card's Ender series.

    Another thing: the Formian Queen's prairie town seed makes me think of an insect-western kind of thing. Formians have settled a boom town at the foot of a mountain in the badlands, and are the owners and operators of the silver mine they've dug there. Relations are strained with the Thriae hive next town over after some disagreements about land claims, and with the nomadic Thri-Kreen who have lived in the desert for generations. Suddenly, the Thri-Kreen start swarming out in the wastes, half-panicked by some awful, muddled ancestral memory, and the Formian miners begin running across pre-existing tunnels under the mountain, made by a group of Azruverda who are determined to let them dig no further. What the Azruverda know and the Thri-Kreen can barely remember is that the wastes were once a fertile land, and they were only ruined by a great, devouring swarm of Apocalypse Locusts, which now slumbers beneath the mountain. Can a posse of travelling adventurers intercede between the Formians and the Azruverda before the Locusts are awakened, or will they have to saddle up and get the chitinous folk of the wastes to set aside their differences in order to weather the coming swarm?