Aspis

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Aspis are an insectoid race from the realms of Dungeons & Dragons, one that has been mostly forgotten by time. They debuted in the adventure module A1 (Scourge of the Slave Lords), and then made it into the original Monster Manual II for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition. From here, they were then updated to 2nd edition in the Monstrous Compendium Appendix: Greyhawk. This was then followed by an Ecology of the Aspis in Dragon Magazine #260, which even included PC stats for them!

Sadly, unlike the Thri-Kreen of Dark Sun, Aspis never really caught on, and they have fallen into obscurity.

Culture-wise, aspis are... basically your standard 70s/80s eusocial insectoid race. They are a primitive species of Stone Age tool-users, with no sense of religion - they are too rooted in the basic practicalities of life to understand the concept or reasoning behind goods - and likewise cannot use magic; it requires a level of imagination that they don't have. They communicate through pheromone scents, and whilst they can understand and learn to speak vocal languages, they have no understanding of the concept of "lying", because the scents they use are extremely obvious for them to detect and thusly no aspis can hide its true feelings from another aspis. They can learn to lie to humanoids, but it doesn't come intuitively to them - it also makes them very gullible, until they are taught the concept of lying. When speaking in vocal languages, aspis communicate in a "robotic" style, with a heavy reliance on prefixture of sentence modifiers (saying "Query: X" when asking a question or "Statement of gratitude" before saying thanks). This is because the aspis scent-language is made up of "words" and "modifiers", allowing a great amount of information to be provided in a short period.

Furthering their 70s euosocialism motif, aspsis lack a concept of personal individuality; they do not identify themselves by names and consider themselves to be totally interchangeable. Unless the situation obviously calls for it, they never make decisions of their own, but instead seek instructions from their cow (no, you read that right, we'll get to that momentarily). This lack of independence is only mentioned in the MCA: Greyhawk version of their writeup, so it can probably be ignored - especially because drones are smarter than cows.

Anyway, aspis live in underground hives; they are extremely hearty omnivores, capable of digesting just about anything. They forage and scavenge literally anything they can get their claws on, from worms and small insects to tree bark, and also maintain special chambers - "granaries" - they use to cultivate large quantities of edible molds and fungi. They occasionally launch raids on the nests of giant ants to steal their larvae, which they raise up and enslave using their pheromones. For the aspis, life consists of foraging, tending to their grubs, expanding and maintaining the nest, and generally being left alone. On rare occasions, however, they may form trading alliances with humanoids; they have no natural affinity for metalworking of their own. They have the ability to produce a wide variety of chemical concoctions, many of which can mimic the effects of assorted potions, and they are perfectly happy to trade these for valuable weapons and shields. Of course, if they're persistently bothered, they're also happy to use these same concoctions to get back at their bullies - for example, smearing outlying buildings with a yellow goo that both attracts giant rodents and drives them into a wild fury. Some drones are even sent out into the world to become adventurers for the sake of the hive.

Which brings us to aspis biology. There are three kinds of aspis; larva, drone and cow. The larvae and drones are described as male, whilst the cow is female, with their Ecology article even saying that some drones are assigned specific duties to breed with the cow. But you could just as easily say that cows are fertile females and the drones are sterile females, or sexually neuters, and they'd make just as much sense.

Drones are the iconic form of the aspis, because they are the bulk of the hive's residents. They six-limbed (four arms, two legs) upright bipedal insectoids, most strongly resembling weevils, with a long proboscis flanked by two antennae underneath two large, staring eyes. Their shells are extremely tough, making them impervious to cold & lightning as well as highly resistant to fire. They can use weapons or shields in all four arms, if they need to. They are actually very smart (average Intelligence 11-12), which is surprising considering how socially primitive their species is.

Larvae are the mindless base-form from which all aspis emerge. They resemble massive white or pale-pink maggots, and are kept in special grub hatcheries, consisting of shallow pools filled with stagnant water and rotting organic detritus; these double as the hive's garbage dumps for food scraps and anything else organic, which is all pitched in to dissolve into a noxious sewage that the larvae feed upon. Obviously, grub hatcheries stink to high heaven to the scents of anything that isn't an aspis. Over the course of three to four months, aspis larvae eat incessantly, until they reach about six feet long; at that point they crawl up onto the ledge surrounding the pool and pupate, emerging in a few days as a drone - unless selected to be a replacement cow, of course. Aspis can replace a slain cow by taking a special substance from the cow's brain and feeding it to a larvae, which transforms into a new cow within a month. How they change larvae into cows to start new nests is unclear, beyond the fact that they do so only rarely and separate the cow-to-be from the rest of the larvae to be given specific care and diet.

Cows are the breeding females of the aspis race, and fill a role roughly akin to a queen ant. They resemble enormous versions of the larvae - up to 15ft long - with heads akin to the drones. They are dull-witted creatures (average Intelligence 5-7), who only care about eating and laying eggs. They do instinctively care about the condition of the hive, but their leadership style boils down to "tell the drones what they want done, and let them worry about making it happen". So long as she can lounge around in her chapter stuffing her face and popping out eggs, the cow is happy. And since, to drones, the cow is god, the whole system works out well enough - this, incidentally, means that adventuring aspis drones tend to instinctively defer to females of other races (although those given the rare honor of being verbally referred to as "my cow" usually don't understand the spirit), though they can learn not to do this. For those thinking to attack them, cows are no push-overs; their massive jaws can literally bite men in half (3d6 damage!), and they constantly secrete an extremely corrosive white slime, which fills their chamber. Ironically, this slime is quite useful for magical inks and potions relating to acid and corrosion.

PC Stats[edit]

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 6/18, Dexterity 3/18, Constitution 8/19, Intelligence 13/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/17
Ability Score Adjustments: +1 Constitution, -1 Charisma
Classes: Fighter 12, Thief 10, Fighter/Thief
Thieving Skill Racial Adjustments: -15% Pick Pockets, +10% Open Locks, +5% Find/Remove Traps, +10% Detect Noise, -10% Read Languages
Natural Armor Class: 3
Special Advantages:
Immune to Cold and Electricity.
50% Resistance to Fire.
Can attack with two weapons per round due to having 4 arms.
Immune to Stinking Cloud or other stench-based attacks.
Gain Blind-Fighting as a bonus non-weapon proficiency.
Can attack with bare claws for 1d4 damage per claw strike.
Special Disadvantages:
Cannot wear armor (but can use shields).
Cannot learn Bows (except crosssbows).
+4 penalty to reaction rolls.
Initial Weapon Proficiencies: Short Sword, Hand Ax, Light Crossbow, Javelin, Spear