Clockwork Wonders09/25/2006

The Matryoshka Matron
Part 1 of 14

The statue seemed to wink at Regdar. "Look at that!" said the fighter. "She's a fine looking woman."

Mialee squinted. "Looks like your mother, Regdar, but I would say she's had a few children."

The artificer Thondred cleared his throat. "You're both right and wrong. Inside, she looks just like my grandmother."

The statue often called the Matryoshka Matron is a legendary set of three small, nested statues, built by the legendary artificer Agostin and dedicated to the creation of constructs and great works of artifice.

The statue has been reported in the hands of dozens of master artificers, advising them and leading them to discover new infusions, new constructs -- even to have created the first arcane forge itself. Some believe it is an avatar of the forge-god Onatar himself, and some warforged refer to it as "our saintly mother," believing it is a powerful archon or avatar of Onatar that inspired the creation of their race.


The small statue stands about one foot high and it is made of enameled mithral with titanium gearing, diamond pivots and bearings, brass weights and copper wire. Its outer appearance is layered, and what one thinks of the statue depends on the keen eye of the viewer. Most see it as a statue sculpted to resemble a beautiful young maiden. Others see that as just one of the matryoshka's sides; the older, more powerful magic is hidden beneath the surface, in its series of three nested female figures.

Those who make a successful DC 18 Spot check see the maiden but notice that surface is just a covering for a second sculpture within. If a button is pressed, the maiden surface disappears and a new shape takes form. The new outer shell resembles a kindly mother, a bit larger around the belly and breasts and with a few streaks of grey in her hairs. Her smile is more tender than alluring.

Characters with artificer levels always spot both the maiden and the mother, but if they make a successful artificer level check (DC 14) they uncover a third face hidden at the very center of the construct. Those who fail this check can try again upon gaining another artificer level. At the core is the smallest portion of the clockwork statue, a stoop-shouldered crone with laugh lines at eyes and mouth, white hair, and gnarled fingers. She wears a dark shawl over her shoulders and brims with power.

Use and Powers

The statue can walk with a speed of 10 feet per round, but it cannot double move or run. It has no attacks or other offensive abilities, and is treated as an item rather than an animated object for this reason. The device has 15 hp and hardness 15. The three faces of the Matron are alluring, healing, and wisdom, and each has a different power.

The alluring maiden offers protection to its owner. Hostile creatures seeing it are entitled to a Will save (DC 10 + owner's Cha bonus + half the owner's artificer class levels); if the save fails, the maiden statue grants the owner the protection of a sanctuary spell cast at 10th level.

The motherly face of the statue can be used by anyone who made the initial Spot check and who has ranks in the Heal skill. The matron statue advises the owner so that all Heal checks made to stabilize a character at negative hit points gain a +3 divine bonus.

The grandmother serves as an advisor to an artificer who perceives her, and aids his work on items through her Wisdom. As long as the artificer remains true to the faith of Onatar, he or she gains a +3 divine bonus to all Craft skills checks. If the artificer ever breaks his oath to Onatar or fails to make offerings to the god of Fire and Forge, the Grandmother's advice stops and cannot be regained. The bonus is lost to that character forever.

CL 15th; Price 20,000 gp.

Campaign Hooks

The Matron is said never to be passed from one artificer to another. Instead, somehow it always disappears when its current owner dies and reappears in the workshop or home of a worthy successor. It can still be stolen, sold, or taken by force. An artificer who pawned it or lost it to bandits might ask the party to recover it for him.

A warforged may know the matron's current location, and seeks to recover it to put it in an elaborate shrine at the edge of the Mournlands. When the owner refuses to sell, the warforged approaches the party to recover it by more direct means, all the while claiming it was stolen from him in the first place.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur is the author of Planes of Chaos, Secrets of the Lamp, Frostburn, Book of Roguish Luck, the Dark*Matter campaign setting, and many other works. He discusses adventure design at the Open Design blog

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