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Template Grafts | Universal Monster Rules


Shantak

Source Alien Archive 2 pg. 110

Shantak CR 8

XP 4,800
CE Huge magical beast
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision;; Perception +16

Defense

HP 125
EAC 20; KAC 22
Fort +12; Ref +12; Will +7
Defensive Abilities slippery, void adaptation; Immunities cold, disease

Offense

Speed 20 ft., fly 80 ft. (Su, average)
Melee bite +20 (3d4+14 P) or talons +20 (3d4+14 S plus grab)

Statistics

STR +6; DEX +2; CON +4; INT -1; WIS +2; CHA +0
Skills Acrobatics +21, Piloting +16 (to navigate only)
Languages Aklo
Other Abilities share defenses, spaceflight

Ecology

Environment cold mountains or vacuum
Organization solitary, pair, or flock (3–12)

Special Abilities

Share Defenses (Su) As a swift action, a shantak can grant a single creature touching it void adaptation for as long as the creature remains in contact. The shantak can withdraw this protection as a free action.

Slippery (Ex) A shantak’s scales seep slippery slime, granting it a +8 bonus to Acrobatics checks to escape and imposing a –5 penalty to all Survival checks to ride the shantak.

Description

Shantaks are bizarre, winged creatures that seem to be an incongruous blend of reptile and bird. Although shantaks appear ungainly on land when perched on their two legs, their vast, bat-like wings enable the creatures to soar gracefully through vacuum as easily as they fly in atmospheres. Slimy scales cover a shantak’s body, and its vaguely horselike head features a wide maw filled with dagger-like teeth. A shantak is about 30 feet long from nose to tail and weighs approximately 6,000 pounds. Planetside, shantaks inhabit remote and foreboding mountain peaks, but their ability to survive in and fly through vacuum means they can also be found in the void of space.

Despite their bestial appearances, shantaks are intelligent, and speak in shrill voices that sound like glass grinding against stone. They are willful creatures and cannot simply be trained as mounts. A would-be shantak rider must first seek out a shantak, braving its lair or hunting grounds, and then use diplomacy or magic to secure a shantak’s cooperation as a mount, often with a liberal dose of flattery. Even then, shantaks have a tendency to deliberately strand riders in dangerous areas, or worse, revoke their shared defenses while in the depths of space so their riders asphyxiate and swiftly perish. The flesh of such unfortunate riders is particularly delightful to a shantak, especially if it is able to feed where the rider’s one-time allies and friends can watch.

Many shantaks have a strange and irrational fear of certain humanoid winged creatures, such as faceless nightgaunts said to dwell in certain dreams, or specific types of winged humanoids more common in civilized regions. While these irrational fears are usually not so overwhelming as to have physical or mental effects on a shantak, shantaks do take pains to avoid confrontations with these other types of creatures if at all possible.

Shantaks’ ability to travel the gulf of space ensures that these scaly creatures can be found on numerous worlds and their satellites. Yet despite this ability, shantaks are generally quite reluctant to seek out new worlds on their own unless faced with no other option, for a shantak knows well that an attempt to fly to an unknown world could easily result in being lost forever in the depths of space. Before the widespread use of Drift technology, some species employed shantaks as a rare and dangerous method of traveling among the stars, and there may well be as-yet-undiscovered civilizations in the Vast that continue to do so—perhaps because their technological advancement has not reached a level where they can use Drift travel.

Curiously, even those who have never encountered a shantak in real life often know of these creatures, for shantaks dwell in the shared dreams of slumbering minds as surely as in the depths of space. Some scientists and philosophers have gone so as far as to suggest that shantaks first hailed from a mysterious shared demiplane within the Dimension of Dreams called the Dreamlands. These scholars further posit that eerie and dangerous rituals have enabled the creatures to transform themselves from figments imagined by sleeping minds into creatures that exist in the waking world on countless planets.

Although shantaks do not enjoy the presence of active starships—almost as if the energies exuded by an active power core cause them some sort of intense discomfort— shantaks are quite fond of derelict ships. Large numbers of shantaks have been reported to roost in the nooks and crannies of a drifting hulk’s hull, and exploration of the interior of these abandoned ships often reveals truly disturbing “caches” of food—the partially eaten remains of entire crews. Shantaks that roost in derelict starships take full advantage of their adoptive homes, ensuring their nests are well hidden from observation. These shantaks can be quite cunning in dressing the hulk in what appears to be valuable scrap, and some have even learned to tamper with shipboard alarm systems to send out false distress signals. The most cunning and dangerous of these drifting traps arise when the shantaks forge an alliance with another creature, often an undead created when a starship is destroyed. A shantak flock can wing off to distant worlds to retrieve rare necessities for their allies, returning via spaceflight to keep the denizen of a stranded derelict well supplied in luxuries that, without their own ship to command, they would otherwise be forced to forgo.

Shantak Whistles

While the advent of Drift technology has made interstellar travel accessible to the masses, not everyone is comfortable with using starships to travel. Some have philosophical reasons for avoiding the Drift, while others take offense at the notion of answering to the whim of a starship captain. Many have goals among the stars that they prefer not to share with others. Whatever the reason, the opportunity to travel atop a shantak’s slippery back remains the preferred (and perhaps only viable) option for some. A shantak whistle is a sought-after tool for those who wish to find a shantak mount.