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Template Grafts | Universal Monster Rules

Animated Quartz Swarm

Source Alien Archive 4 pg. 8

Animated Quartz Swarm CR 11

XP 12,800
N Fine construct (magical, swarm, technological)
Init +8; Senses blindsight (vibration) 60 ft.; Perception +20


HP 180
EAC 23; KAC 25
Fort +11; Ref +11; Will +8
Defensive Abilities birefringence, deactivation, swarm defenses; Immunities construct immunities, swarm immunities
Weaknesses vulnerable to acid


Speed fly 40 ft. (Su, perfect)
Melee swarm attack (2d6+16 B & E)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 0 ft.


STR +5; DEX +8; CON —; INT —; WIS +3; CHA +0
Skills Acrobatics +25 (+33 to fly), Athletics +20
Other Abilities mindless, piezoelectric, unliving


Environment any
Organization solitary

Special Abilities

Birefringence (Ex) An animated quartz swarm bends light in nonintuitive directions, making it hard to target. The animated quartz swarm has concealment against all attacks that use visual targeting, and its space also provides concealment.
Deactivation (Su) An animated quartz swarm that’s reduced to 0 Hit Points isn’t destroyed; instead, the gems’ runes are rendered inactive for 1d4 hours. It reactivates with full Hit Points. The only way to permanently destroy an animated quartz swarm is to smash each gem or deface each rune, a process that takes about an hour of work.
Piezoelectric (Ex) An animated quartz swarm converts mechanical pressure into electric potential and vice versa. When the animated quartz swarm takes bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage, it deals 2d6 electricity damage to each creature in or adjacent to its space. When the animated quartz swam takes electricity damage, it deals 2d6 bludgeoning damage to each creature in or adjacent to its space. In either case, each affected creature can attempt a DC 18 Reflex save to take half damage.


Though commonly found on many planets, quartz has unusual physical properties, making it a prime target for experimentation by scientists and technomancers. Powerful individuals with advanced training in both magic and science have unlocked the secrets of creating animated quartz swarms, often to serve as sentries that can perform their duties without the need for rest. Often integrated into traps, animated quartz swarms can suddenly turn beautifully decorated chandeliers, fountains, and other seemingly benign installations into deadly defenses when the swarms incorporated into these objects fly into action.

Each crystal of an animated quartz swarm is a hexagonally cut gem 2 to 3 inches wide, sometimes with a tint of color. Each crystal must have runes painstakingly inscribed on its surface. A single crystal presents no threat at all, but a swarm of them can obliterate many would-be trespassers. Creatures that get stuck in the swarm’s space soon learn that the piezoelectric properties of the quartz make it a dangerous place to be—as the whirling crystals alternately bludgeon and electrocute them.

Animated quartz swarms don’t occur naturally; they’re always intentionally created. The runes on the crystals’ surfaces contain simple programs with instructions for the quartz swarms, typically defining a specific area to defend or a password or visual sign by which they can identify authorized individuals.

Shimreens, crystalline humanoids from the planet Shimrinsara, are the first documented creators of animated quartz swarms. So advanced were these early swarms that the individual quartz crystals didn’t require inscribed runes; shimreens could simply issue commands to the quartz. Legend has it that the very first, albeit tiny, animated quartz swarm utilized pieces derived from the inventor’s crystalline crown, left over from when she changed her appearance. Many expensive homes and corporate buildings in Shimrinsara’s domed cities have an animated quartz swarm somewhere on the premises, ready to defend the property. Visitors to Shimrinsara observed the ever-vigilant sentries and word quickly spread about the swarms, leading to researchers throughout the galaxy developing similar techniques for animating quartz. However, these secondhand methods require the time-consuming step of inscribing runes on hundreds or even thousands of crystals to program the swarm, though magic can speed up the process. Shimreens initially objected to their technology being replicated by outsiders, but the swarms have proven so useful that their manufacture still spread rapidly; shimreens have since largely grown resigned to the appropriation and object only to having outside societies’ swarms brought onto Shimrinsara. Other societies believe that shimreens’ animated quartz swarms are more powerful than those developed by anyone else, but shimreens don’t sell their technology to outsiders and instead pursue anyone who attempts to steal one of their swarms.

Vesk technomancers took to animated quartz swarms quickly, as the reptilian warriors can always use sentries that don’t need food, water, or rest. They often add additional runes that prevent permanent deactivation by causing tampered-with crystals to explode, which sends shards of crystalline shrapnel to pelt whoever would dare destroy a vesk’s animated quartz swarm. This explosive and potentially deadly modification is often looked down on as an excessive response, but their use isn’t officially banned yet. AbadarCorp has several quartz swarm animators on its payroll, and rumor has it that each creator knows only a portion of the instructions to be inscribed for maximum possible security. Each creator fills in their section and then passes on the crystal to the next stage, which prevents anyone from knowing how to bypass—or recreate—the whole system.

Animated quartz swarms aren’t always programmed as guards, though that’s certainly the most popular application. Other swarms help perform search-and-rescue missions in dangerous areas, vibrating rapidly to send a radio signal to their programmers when they find their objectives. The swarms are even sometimes used for aesthetics, such as being programmed to fly into complex patterns to accompany high-production concerts by musicians. This use does require a significant financial investment for the special effects, as only extremely talented creators can fabricate animated quartz swarms. The dangerous effects of an animated quartz swarm are typically engineered out for these alternate uses by using crystals with slightly different molecular structures that produce unique effects.

Individual swarm creators tend to rely on particular sources for the quartz crystals used to construct their swarms, with varying hues and cuts for the gems. This practice tends to give swarms distinctive appearances that a clever detective can use to identify the creator. The manufacturers for the cut crystals typically agree not to sell the exact same design to anyone else.

Some solarians have experimented with using inscribed crystals as weapon crystals, though to inconsistent results. While some have found benefits, such as occasional concealment or additional electricity damage, others find themselves continually being electrocuted by their own weapons. As such, these crystals haven’t found widespread use among solarians. Others have integrated the crystals into different technologies, such as on vehicles to prevent hit and runs.