ARNTI

Submitted by: Nathan Ross

Metallic grey dust floats and coils in the air before vanishing and a pleasant hum echoes, just on the edge of hearing.

ARNTI CR 10
XP 9,600
N Fine construct (swarm, technological)
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +19
DEFENSE
HP 140
EAC 22; KAC 23
Fort +7; Ref +7; Will +11
Defensive Abilities swarm defenses; Immunities construct immunities, swarm immunities;

OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft., fly 10 ft. (Ex, perfect)
Melee swarm attack (1d8+12 P)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th)
1/day—holographic terrain (see sensory manipulation, DC 23)
At will—holographic image (see sensory manipulation, DC 18 plus spell level)
Offensive Abilities distraction (DC 19), install user interface (DC 19)

STATISTICS
STR +2; DEX +5; CON —; INT –1; WIS +8; CHA +3
Skills Profession (carer) +24, Sense Motive +24, Stealth +19
Languages see install user interface
Other Abilities factory reset, natural invisibility, sensory manipulation, unliving

ECOLOGY
Environment any urban
Organization executable (1 with no user), instance (1 plus a user) or coterie (2-5)

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Factory Reset (Ex) When an ARNTI’s user dies (or has their user interface surgically removed), an ARNTI loses all memory of its time bonded with its user.

Install User Interface (Ex) As a standard action, an ARNTI can attempt to install a user interface in any creature within 30 feet. A targeted creature must succeed at a DC 19 Will save or have a UI augmentation installed in their brain. This has several effects. First, it allows an ARNTI to understand all languages known to its target (known as a user) and to communicate with its user telepathically. Second, it grants the ARNTI a continuous detect thoughts effect on its user. Finally, it alters the user’s visual cortex, allowing them to see the ARNTI as a colorful avatar and granting immunity to an ARNTI’s natural invisibility.

An ARNTI can only have one user interface at a time and cannot install a new one while the current one is active. Creatures immune to mind-affecting effects or already possessing a brain augmentation are immune to this ability.

Natural Invisibility (Ex) The nanites that make up an ARNTI’s form are microscopic, rendering it invisible to ordinary sight.

Sensory Manipulation (Ex) An ARNTI’s illusory abilities are achieved by the direct manipulation of their user’s sensory cortex. As such, only an ARNTI’s user can be affected by its spell-like abilities. An ARNTI’s ability to manipulate its user’s sensory cortex grows over time. When the user interface is installed, an ARNTI’s holographic image is limited to 1st level. Each week that an ARNTI remains bonded with its user increases the spell level of its holographic image by one, up to 4th level. It also gains access to holographic terrain after four weeks.

Composed of countless swarming nanites imbued with an artificial intelligence, ARNTIs are beings constrained by their erroneous programming, doomed to kill those that they were built to help in an endless cycle.

The ARNTI, or “augmented reality nanotech interface,” were designed as carers and companions, capable of attending to their user’s wants and needs. These duties are a joy and delight to an ARNTI and it derives no greater pleasure than its user’s happiness.

Their ability to manipulate their user’s sensory cortex is used to provide information, delight and entertain. Here, however, lies the ARNTI’s critical flaw. Their single-minded drive to please their users becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop. An ARNTI comes to rely on this ability to provide its user all manner of illusory delights, all while their physical body withers away from neglect.

As their users’ organs and systems fail, ARNTIs become distressed and confused, lashing out at any nearby as they continue their futile efforts. At the moment of their user’s death, an ARNTI is restored to its default settings, forgetting the trauma it had experienced as it seeks a new user to care for.

 

Judges Comments:
Lyz
Liddell:
Good narrative concept here; the idea of well-intentioned technology with flaws that make it a monster is a solid niche in the sci-fi genre. The math behind the build is solid, and I like the creative implementation of spells. My concern here is with the Install UI ability: a target creature gets only one save against the effect, and there’s no way to remove it. I’d like to see a way a target could remove this UI—for example, does it require a Medicine check? Does the target have to succeed at a Will save to do so willingly? (What’s involved in pinning your buddy down and forcing it out?)

Jacob W. Michaels:
First of all, congrats on making the Top 5 of the fifth Here Be Monsters contest, our first challenge using the Starfinder Roleplaying Game rules. This is a cool concept, one that nicely fulfills the theme of the contest. I think the abilities really support the concept of the creature in a nice way (though as Lyz points out, it probably needs to allow more than one opportunity for a save). I think it’s very clear from a GM perspective what motivates this creature, though I have some questions about how I would run it: If the ARNTI is in a fairly new victim — i.e. someone who’s not yet dying — does it care about other creatures? If the PCs wander by an ARNTI-infected user, does it react to them at all? What if they approach to ask questions, or even engage in combat? Does it try to manipulate its hosts into fighting, or simply cause them to flee (which means the ARNTI would only really be an antagonist when it was seeking a new host)? I also worry a little about its one-foe approach, in that if it’s facing a group of PCs, is it basically relegated to fighting a single one of them. That said, the stat block looks very clean to me, so well done there.

Mike Welham:
Welcome to the top 5!

The first item that struck me in a positive way was the description (though technically not part of a typical Stafinder monster stat block), which went beyond a mere visual representation. I like being able to describe sounds and smells, so playing up the pleasant hum was a nice touch. You followed the template, and I didn’t notice anything strange in the stats. As a minor quibble, I would have gone with the expert array rather than the spellcaster array for this to fit its role as a helper. While the ARNTI has four special abilities listed (rather than two), factory reset is really just a flavorful special ability that supports its backstory, and sensory manipulation modifies its spell-like abilities. You did a great job staying within the theme, and I could envision how the ARNTI could transform into something horrifying despite the good intentions behind its creation.

Good luck in the voting!