"The sentries spotted them on in the rocky hills that surrounded our encampment -- these huge ant creatures that just . . . watched us . . . with cold, black eyes. Our archers scared them off for a little while, but they eventually returned in different locations. We thought them harmless until, without warning, this massive wave of bigger, more horrifying creatures came spilling over the cliffs, taking out our defenses with ease. It was is if they knew how we were going to react before we even knew it ourselves!"
-- Excerpt from the court-martial of former Knight-Sergeant Covuss Dall
The legions that make up the formian race comprise numerous castes. Some of these are never seen outside their complex hive-cities, while others appear with alarming regularity. Each caste performs a highly specialized role, sacrificing individuality and personality to benefit the rest of a specific hive and the formian race. Among these castes is the dreaded formian observer.
Observers are seen often, acting as the eyes and ears of the hive. They gather information around cities, keeping a close watch for anything that could be considered dangerous. Observers are some of the first formians to be found in other lands, scouting out terrain and possible resistance in advance of an invading army. Communities unfortunate enough to find themselves the target of a marauding formian army would be wise to eliminate as many observers as possible, as quickly as possible.
The mind of an observer can discern the strengths and weaknesses of a subject simply by watching him or her for a few moments. Observers watch subtle body movement, facial cues, and gross movement to deduce tactics, strategies, and fighting style.
Observers defer to myrmarchs and will either give or receive orders from taskmasters, based on the directives given by myrmarchs. Because of their unique abilities, they form the tactical intelligence in any attack, showing their kin the best methods to deal with intruders. They are never found alone, but rather travel in small groups with other observers or with a mixed platoon of warriors and workers. Because of the unique status of observers, the other castes do their best to protect them from harm, fighting with ferocity matched only when the queen is threatened. However, should an observer ever find itself alone and outnumbered, it will remain watching the intruders, passing along useful information to the hive until help arrives or it is killed.
An observer is constantly on the move, stopping only to rest briefly and eat. Anyone viewing one of these creatures from above would realize that its reconnaissance makes a perfect spiral around the hive, extending up to fifty miles away from the city center. Upon spotting an intruder, observers freeze for as long as possible, sizing up the potential opponent and passing along the information to the rest of the hive. If attacked or approached in a threatening manner, they flee to any sheltered spot where they can maintain sight of the target. Should multiple observers face different intruders, each one tracks a separate target, giving a tremendous tactical advantage to the warriors, taskmasters, and myrmarchs who will come in to eliminate the threat.
In rare instances, observers actually talk to intruders. They try to glean as much information as possible and stall for time until more formians can arrive to deal with the situation. Survivors of such meetings claim that observers are extremely logical and cold, and can deduce the intentions of someone with alarming speed.
Observers are slightly smaller than taskmasters and noticeably weaker. They have two sets of eyes -- one set is very large; another, smaller set is located on the sides of their heads and grants them 360° vision. The antennae of observers are much larger and more sensitive than those of other castes. Their arms end in small, delicate hands used for manipulation rather than combat.
Like taskmasters, observers lack mandibles and mouths of any kind, speaking only through telepathy. Observers know Formian and Common.
Observers do their best to avoid melee. They remain in the background, deducing the behavior, intent, and tactics of intruders for the benefit of the other formians to exploit. In addition to their evaluation ability (see below), observers try to determine how much and what kind of magic intruders might possess.
Evaluation (Ex): The incredible minds of observers evaluate and break down the strengths and weaknesses of enemies in mere moments. For each full round of combat in which an observer can actually see (magical means, including clairvoyance, do not work) a single opponent, each formian in contact with the hive mind gains a +1 insight bonus to attacks against that opponent. This effect is cumulative for each round of combat and does not have a limit. The effect lasts until the observer is killed, knocked unconscious, blinded, or cannot see the target for one full round. This bonus begins again as soon as the observer sees the intruder again, starting at +1 per round. There is no additional bonus if multiple observers watch the same target. Formians can process information from any number of observers watching multiple targets.
All-Around Vision (Ex): Observers are exceptionally alert and circumspect. Their double set of unblinking eyes grants them a +4 racial bonus to Spot and Search checks, and they can't be flanked.
Hive Mind (Ex): All formians within 50 miles of their queen are in constant communication. If one is aware of a particular danger, they all are. If one in a group is not flat-footed, none of them are. No formian is considered flanked unless all of them are.
Poison (Ex): Sting, Fortitude save (DC 16); initial and secondary damage 1d6 temporary Intelligence. If forced into combat, observers try to use their poison on obvious spellcasters first.
Spell-Like Abilities (Sp): At will -- charm monster, clairaudience/clairvoyance, detect chaos, detect magic, detect thoughts, see invisibility, true seeing. These abilities are as the spells cast by a 12th-level sorcerer (save DC 13 + spell level).
Telepathy (Su): An observer can communicate telepathically with any intelligent creature within fifty miles of whose presence it is aware.
Outsider Traits: Darkvision 60 ft.; cannot be raised or resurrected (though a wish or miracle spell can restore life).
Immunities (Ex): Formians have poison, petrification, and cold immunity.
Resistances (Ex): Formians have fire, electricity, and sonic resistance 20.
About the Author
Eric Cagle is the administrative assistant for the R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast. In addition to his normal duties (the care and feeding of the designers and editors), he designs and edits part time, helps playtest material, and games far too much. He's not particularly fond of bugs and wouldn't mind seeing them all squished.
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