|1, Sw 6
|2 HD: 19
3-4 HD: 17
5 HD: 15
|No. of Attacks:
|1-4 or by weapon
|M (6' long)
|S (1½-3' long)
|H (15' long)
|2-3 HD: Steady (11-12)
4-5 HD: Elite (13-14)
|2 HD: 65
3 HD: 120
4 HD: 175
5 HD: 270
Aspis are a race of insectoid creatures that dwell in underground nests not far beneath the surface. The majority of encounters with these unique beings are with the adult male drones; contact with or sightings of the larvae and cows are all but unheard of.
Aspis drones look much like giant weevils. They have hard, chitinous bodies that are gray or off-white in color and provide excellent protection from harm. Their heads have two multifaceted eyes, a pair of short, blunt antennae, and a long proboscis. Drones have six legs, each of which terminates in a cluster of fine manipulatory claws.
Aspis do not speak in the way that humanoid races do, although roughly 5% of them have been able to master a rough form of the common tongue. Among themselves, they have no spoken or written language; they communicate via a unique language of scents. The human olfactory system is wholly unable to detect the subtle changes of odor used by aspis in their conversations.
Combat: Almost all combat situations are dealt with by the drones, who are charged with protecting the nest and defending the larvae. If fighting to defend their cow, aspis warriors never check morale and fight to the death against any odds.
When an aspis drone does battle, it rises up on its rear two legs, leaving the other four limbs free to wield two weapons and hold two shields. When an aspis does this, its Armor Class is improved to AC 2.
The most common weapons employed by aspis in combat are short swords and hand axes. Although the structure of their bodies prevents them from using bows, they have been know to employ an unusual form of light crossbow in missile combat and are sometimes found with javelins and other throwing weapons.
The aspis is a very hardy creature, immune to attacks that use cold or electricity to inflict damage. In addition fire-based attacks cause only half damage to an aspis.
When called upon to defend their nests, aspis drones place numerous traps in any area they are forced to withdraw from. Even if they are caught off guard, the regions of the hive that surround the cow's chamber and the larvae rooms are always trapped as a precaution against trespassers. As a rule, aspis traps involve rockfalls, pits, and other crude devices. Delicate traps, like poisoned needles, are not encountered in aspis lairs.
Habitat/Society: Aspis drones have no sense of individuality, lacking even unique names or personalities. They are nothing more than cogs in the machine that is the hive itself. Despite their high intelligence they take no actions on their own unless instructions from the cow are impossible to obtain.
An aspis nest is a collection of underground chambers connected by low tunnels bored out of soft rock or earth. A lair or nest always contains one to three egg chambers and as many as six grub hatcheries, which are inhabited by 1d10 larvae each. In order to feed the hive, there are also two to four granaries.
At the heart of each aspis lair is a huge central chamber in which the cow lives. The walls and floor of this room are covered with a thick, white liquid that is highly acidic and eats through metal or wood in a single round. If it comes into contact with living flesh, it inflicts 1d8 points of damage each round until washed off, As might be expected, all types of aspis are immune to this fluid.
The aspis knowledge of scents, musks, and perfumes is second to none. They are able to formulate and mix concoctions that simulate almost any odor: they use these compounds for many purposes. For example, a town that has taken action against a nearby aspis hive may find that its walls have been splashed with liberal doses of a sticky, yellow liquid that smells somewhat like chlorine. Imagine the surprise of the watch when they find that this substance not only attracts giant rats and similar rodents, but it also drives them into a wild fury. such examples of aspis vengeance are not common, but they are numerous enough to be taken seriously by those who would molest the aspis.
Ecology: Because of the ferocity with which aspis drones defend thier nest and its cow, this race has few natural enemies. They generally prefer to keep to themsleves as much as possible. Most encounters with the aspis occur when hard times force a colony to begin raiding nearby human settlements for food and other supplies.
The acid that is secreted by the cow is highly prized by alchemists. In addition to its obvious uses as a corrosive agent, it is important in the preparation of magical inks and potions that relate to acids and corrosion.
Aspis are true omnivores as they eat almost anything. Their digestive systems are very efficient and they can derive nourishment from virtually any organic matter.
Aspis are able to domesticate other forms of giant insects via chemical cues and scents. The most common creatures they take as guardians are giant ants. In the average aspis lair, there are 1d10 such creatures, while on occasion (10%) there are ten times that many ants. It is not know for sure if the aspis are able to acquire control over other semi-intelligent insectoid races (like the cave fisher or giant hornet), but current wisdom speaks against this.
All aspis begin their lives as larvae. In this state, they resemble giant maggots or grubs, being white or pale pink in color. Their soft skin is easily cut through by swords and similar edged weapons. Aspis larvae are blind and deaf, but they sense potential food by vibrations in the ground and scents in the air. Aspis larvae can attack only with their jaws.
Aspis larvae have incredible appetites and are always eating. As a rule, they are kept only in the grub hatcheries of the nest, which resemble nothing more than vast sewage pits. Food scraps and other waste products are dumped into these chambers and form a sort of soup in which the larvae swim and feed. The stench of a grub chamber is so vile that non-aspis who enter it must roll successful saving throws vs. poison or become violently ill until removed from the odor.
Once in a great while, an aspis larva is selected by the drones of a nest and separated from its siblings. Fed a special diet and nurtured carefully, this larva does not mature into an adult drone, but instead becomes a cow.
Aspis cows look like huge larvae, reaching lengths of 15 feet when fully mature. They exude a dangerous corrosive that coats their bodies and adheres to the walls and floor of their chambers. Although they are slow and not at all agile, their great size makes their bite very dangerous.