There are many odd beings in the world that seem to defy all explanation regarding their purpose and role within an ecosystem. Things like mimics, gelatinous cubes, ropers, owlbears, flumphs... These creatures tend to either have grown to fill a unique niche or have been created through experimentation by the insane, foolish, or bored. The atstreidi (or “living armor,” as they are known outside of scholarly circles) are somewhere in-between. Theories abound on the atstreidi’s origin; some think that the initial atstreidi fungus was created in a lab accident or the result of magical contamination, while others believe that it evolved to its current form over time. Regardless, the phenomenon of living armor getting up and walking around on its own presents a perplexing existence to scholars and adventurers alike.
Appearance: Atstreidi appear as their nickname would imply: as suits of armor, apparently animated by magic or other means. The truth is far stranger; each atstreidi is a colony of microscopic organisms similar to slime molds that naturally produces a hard, steel-like shell around itself, and controls its “body” through a combination of shifting its slimelike body and inherent psionic power. In the wild, atstreidi form complex spirals and geometric arrays as they grow. However, if an atstreidi colony expands onto metal armor (even a small piece), it begins to resonate with the psychic imprints left within that object and reform its shape as it grows further.
An animate atstreidi always takes the appearance of a full suit of armor of some sort, although the exact details are as varied as one might imagine. Longer-lived atstreidi tend to become more ornate over time. Some assimilate different pieces of armor into themselves to modify their look, and others learn to freely alter the color of their shells as they grow. Their bodies are partially hollow; inside the living armor, the colony grows similarly to a wild atstreidi, forming spirals, spikes, and jagged, geometric patterns, but never enough to inhibit its movement (though there isn’t room for another creature inside). Though they do not appear to have the necessary organs, atstreidi have similar senses to humanoid creatures. Atstreidi eat by dumping food into their armor to absorb its nutrients, and claim that each individual part of their colonies can taste when doing so. Strangely for hiveminded beings, atstreidi do have souls, and respond to raise dead and similar magic in the same way as normal living beings. Some theorize that this is the result of the fungus copying the “template” for a soul, left in its armor, but thus far the truth has not been pinpointed.
Demeanor: The most defining concept for a suit of living armor is curiosity. A wild atstreidi colony is unintelligent—it is not until it happens across a suit of armor and inhabits it that it grows a consciousness. From the day it is “born,” an atstreidi is filled with an instinctive wonder at seemingly-simple things like thought, sensation, and emotion. Atstreidi do not see the world in the same way that other living beings do. For them, every interaction, every feeling, every piece of knowledge is a gift. Initially, merely being alive is enough for the living armor, and many young atstreidi find themselves spending weeks or months after being born laying still, taking in their newfound life. Eventually, though, an atstreidi desires more; to move, to live, to feel.
Interactions with a suit of living armor can be strange for others. Their thoughts are at once familiar and alien; the initial state of an atstreidi’s mind is informed by the last wearer of the armor they grew from, but only partially. Atstreidi tend to learn mannerisms and behaviors from people they interact with, for better or for worse, and decide for themselves over time how they think is best to act. They do share a core belief though, tied to their heritage and instincts: death is a horror, and life is a gift. Most do not kill easily; as the cessation of action and sensation is their greatest fear, they find it incredibly difficult to inflict. However, when faced with life-or-death situations, or situations where deadly force will result in less deaths than the alternative, an atstreidi’s wrath can be terrifying to behold.
Backgrounds: Atstreidi don’t have typical childhoods, nor do they really have homes. There are some that are born as groups, but they share little kinship based on their race. A colony of wild atstreidi that becomes a suit of living armor stops reproducing its spores outside of the armor and has no way to propagate itself or its species, so there is little instinctive reason for the atstreidi to interact with one another. Thus, atstreidi tend to scatter after exhausting the things they can learn from each other shortly after their creation, ever searching for new experiences and sensations to find. The only known way for an atstreidi to reproduce is to die—once its soul has left the its body, the fungal colonies begin growing freely again.
Adventurers: A suit of living armor adventures because it can. Atstreidi have nowhere they truly belong, and there’s still everywhere to see. They enjoy meeting new people (although initially they have much difficulty with the process), and they love learning new things. They do not dislike violence, but generally loathe death, and aggress against those who kill wantonly whenever they meet them. At times, an atstreidi may be able to blend into a civilization if it has adapted itself well, but these moments tend not to last. Eventually, the atstreidi decides that it needs to see and experience more than where it is.
Atstreidi possess the following racial traits.
- +2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, –2 Intelligence: Atstreidi are much stronger than their hollow bodies would lead one to conclude, and they are very sensitive to their surroundings. However, their minds do not store information efficiently, and atstreidi often need to study intensely to learn what others pick up easily.
- Medium: Atstreidi are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
- Aberration (psionic, slimeblood): Atstreidi are aberrations with the psionic and slimeblood subtypes.
- Normal Speed: Atstreidi have a base speed of 30 feet.
- Darkvision (Ex): Atstreidi can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
- Aberrant Physiology (Ex): Though they may not look it, atstreidi are still vulnerable to many sorts of attacks that would harm or disable a normal creature. They do, however, have a modicum of resistance to such effects. This ability gives an atstreidi the following traits:
- Atstreidi are immune to disease and poison.
- Atstreidi gain all the benefits of 8 hours of sleep in only 2 hours. This allows an atstreidi spellcaster who must rest to prepare spells to do so after only 2 hours, but does not allow an atstreidi to prepare spells more than once per day.
- Whenever a critical hit, sneak attack, or called shot is scored on an atstreidi, there is a 25% chance that the critical hit, sneak attack, or called shot’s additional effects are negated and damage is instead rolled normally. This stacks with fortification or similar effects, increasing the negation chance of those effects by 10%.
- Armor Shell (Ex): An atstreidi’s metallic shell affords it great durability. An atstreidi gains a +4 armor bonus to its AC. An atstreidi’s shell is not considered to be worn armor, but atstreidi cannot wear armor except with their assimilate armor ability (see below). Its shell or its assimilated armor can be enchanted as if it were a suit of masterwork armor. The atstreidi must be present for the entire time necessary to enchant its armored shell. An atstreidi’s original shell is not considered to be metal armor for the purposes of druidic vows or similar abilities, although its assimilated armor may be (see below).
- Assimilate Armor (Ex): An atstreidi has the ability to move itself from its shell to a new suit of metal armor by spending 24 hours migrating across the two and assimilating it into its form. This is a time of great vulnerability, and the atstreidi is considered helpless for the duration of the process. As such, it nearly always done when under the watch of someone the atstreidi trusts. After the process is complete, the atstreidi is always considered to be wearing the suit of armor it assimilated, and cannot be removed from it unless it is dead. It loses the +4 armor bonus to its AC from its armor shell ability. If the atstreidi had already enchanted its shell, it can choose to keep the magic imbued within it, overriding that of the armor it assimilated (even if the armor is not masterwork). Otherwise, any magic on its original shell is lost (although if it moves from one suit of assimilated armor to another, the old one is undamaged, albeit dirty, and resumes its magical properties). An atstreidi is never fatigued or otherwise hampered from resting in its assimilated armor. An atstreidi’s slam attack and unarmed strikes are considered to be made of the same material as the atstreidi’s assimilated armor (if any).
- Naturally Psionic: Atstreidi gain Wild Talent as a bonus feat. If they gain levels in a psionic class, this feat is immediately exchanged for the Psionic Talent feat.
- Psionic Aptitude: When an atstreidi takes a level in a favored class, it can choose to gain an additional power point instead of a hit point or skill point.
- Psychic Speech (Su): An atstreidi’s voice has two forms: a guttural sloshing sound that can only be considered intelligible speech by the barest of margins, and a surprisingly pleasant mental noise that differs from listener to listener, but unmistakably originates from the atstreidi. An atstreidi gains a +2 racial bonus on Diplomacy checks against creatures that are not immune to mind-affecting effects. Deaf creatures who are not immune to mind-affecting effects can hear the voice of an atstreidi as if they weren’t deaf.
- Unreadable (Ex): It is incredibly difficult to understand an atstreidi’s body language at times. Atstreidi gain a +2 racial bonus on Bluff checks and take a –2 penalty on Intimidate checks.
- Slam (Ex): Atstreidi have a natural slam attack. This is a primary attack that deal 1d4 points of damage plus 1-1/2 times the atstreidi’s Strength modifier.
- Languages: Atstreidi begin play speaking Common. Atstreidi with high Intelligence scores can choose any languages they want (except secret languages, such as Druidic).
Atstreidi with the form astral suit class feature can form their astral suit over their armor shell, as an exception to their normal inability to wear armor. When they do so, they temporarily lose the benefits of their armor shell and any armor they’ve assimilated, gaining the benefits of their astral suit instead.
Alternate Racial Traits
Atstreidi have access to the following alternate racial traits.
Hate Seed (Su): Some die peacefully. Others die with violence in their hearts, rage in their souls, and revenge on their minds. When an atstreidi is born from the cast-off armor of the latter, it is sometimes influenced by the strong emotions imbued in the armor’s psychic imprint at the time of death. Such an atstreidi tends to become malevolent easily, and the sound of their psychic voice is off-putting to listeners. An atstreidi with this racial trait gains a +4 racial bonus on Intimidate checks. It also takes a –2 penalty on Diplomacy checks. Deaf creatures who are not immune to mind-affecting effects can hear the voice of the atstreidi as if they weren’t deaf. This racial trait alters psychic speech’s skill bonuses and replaces unreadable.
Instinctive Warrior (Ex): Some atstreidi resonate especially well with the imprint in their initial shell, leaving them with a natural inclination towards weaponry and armed combat. An atstreidi with this racial trait is proficient with a single weapon of their choice. This racial trait replaces slam.
Small Stature (Ex): This sort of atstreidi grew out of armor sized for a smaller humanoid. An atstreidi with this racial trait is Small-sized, and gains +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, and –2 Intelligence. This racial trait replaces the normal atstreidi’s ability modifiers and size.
Racial Favored Class Options
Atstreidi can select from the following alternate favored class options.
- All: Gain 1/6 of a bonus heritage feat. Any atstreidi character can choose this bonus upon gaining a level in their favored class.
- Aegis: When the aegis uses their astral repair ability on an object, they permanently increase its hardness by +1. Multiple uses of this ability do not stack; only the greatest increase applies.
- Alchemist: Add one extract formula from the alchemist's list to the character's formulae book. This formula must be at least one level below the highest formulae level the alchemist can create.
- Barbarian: Reduce the penalty to the barbarian’s AC while raging by 1/3. When this penalty is reduced to 0, further selections of this favored class bonus instead increase the their AC while raging by +1/3.
- Bard: Choose one bardic performance; treat the bard as +1/6 level higher when determining the effects of that performance.
- Druid: Add +1/3 to the druid's natural armor bonus when using wild shape.
- Guru: Increase the essence capacity of the guru’s gentle touch class feature by 1/6.
- Inquisitor: Add a +1/2 bonus on Diplomacy checks and Knowledge checks to identify creatures. If the inquisitor possesses the hate seed alternate race trait, they gain this bonus on Intimidate checks instead of Diplomacy checks.
- Monk: The monk’s unarmed strikes treat hardness as 1 less each time this alternate favored class option is taken (to a minimum of 0).
- Psychic Warrior: Whenever the psychic warrior deals nonlethal damage with an attack, they deal +1/3 a point of additional nonlethal damage.
- Soulknife: Gain 1/6 of a blade skill.
- Spiritualist: Add 1 skill rank to the spiritualist’s phantom.
- Stalker: Gain 1/6 of a stalker art.
- Wilder: Add +1/3 to the wilder’s AC while they are under the effect of their surging euphoria class feature.
- Wizard: Add one spell from the wizard spell list to the wizard’s spellbook. This spell must be at least one level below the highest spell level the wizard can cast.