"You look like an idiot with that turtle crawling all over you," said Regdar. "Why don't you learn a little basic footwork or something?"
"Throw a dagger at me," said Mialee.
"This is a trick, right?" said Regdar. "It's too good to be true. I've dreamed of this day."
"Shut up and throw it."
"Just remember, you asked for it. Hey, how are you moving that thing?"
A crawling shield is a mobile construct about the size of a standard buckler shield. It detects motion and moves to protect its wearer, somehow moving by prescience to ward off true threats and ignoring false ones.
The crawling shields are believed to be items of drow manufacture from Xen'drik, and so far the secrets of their construction have resisted investigation by all of Khorvaire's finest artificers and scholars. They are still found with some regularity by expeditions to the dark continent.
The typical crawling shield is made of mithral, and has three or four hooked legs that it uses to swing, jump, or climb around the body of its owner. It rarely moves at all when not in a combat situation, but during combat it scuttles slowly from place to place like an aggressive turtle on its hooked legs.
A crawling shield is roughly 15 inches in diameter, with a curve like a shield boss or turtle shell. Sometimes it is reinforced with metal strips or bars. Some have been found with enameled eyes on the outside, and others have silver, amber, or even mithral specks and dots. The theme of putting eyes on the shell is both quite obvious and quite common. However, a few have been decorated with spirals or zigzags.
A crawling shield seems to bond with whoever picks it up and touches it to his or her wrist. Once bonded this way, the shield doesn't obey anyone but its owner. A crawling shield abandons an owner only after being left behind for seven days or more without use.
Use and Powers
The beauty of the crawling shield is that it doesn't require shield proficiency to function – the shield itself knows where to go to provide the best protection. So far, the only crawling shields found have been made for Small and Medium creatures; no larger ones are known to exist.
A crawling shield provides a +1 shield bonus to Armor Class and weighs as much as a standard buckler. This protection applies even when the owner is unconscious or flat-footed because the crawling shield is still active. It takes up a bracer slot on the body, so the owner could use another shield. The shield bonuses would overlap, but the crawling shield could be enchanted with different abilities than the other shield and both sets of special properties would work.
This strange clockwork construct is not without its flaws. The largest problem is that its movement sometimes interferes with the owner's attack rolls and spellcasting. Any character wearing a crawling shield suffers a -1 circumstance penalty to all melee and ranged attack rolls, and a 10% chance for spell failure.
The crawling shield can move 5 feet per round on its own, but rarely does so unless separated from its owner. It always moves directly toward the owner or in the last known direction of the owner.
CL 9th; Craft Construct; Price 9,000 gp; Cost 4,500 gp + 360 XP.
The crawling shields may be very popular with wizards and artificers looking for a little protection, but documents found at a drow or giant steading on Xen'drik seem to suggest that the devices also serve some kind of spying function, perhaps even recording what happens around them and sending the information magically to a Crawling Council somewhere in the Xen'drik wilderness.
This theory of the spying eyes of the crawling shields was probably started because eye patterns are so commonly used in decorating the devices. It may be true, or it may be pure paranoia. Regardless, House Cannith is willing to pay someone to investigate the rumored location of the council to ease the fears of their customers – they hope to sell hundreds or thousands of a knock-off version of these constructs, but not if the design is compromised.
Spy version of crawling shield: CL 9th; Craft Construct, blindsight, sending, Nystul's magic aura; Price 9,000 gp; Cost 21,632 gp + 1,730 XP.
About the Author
Wolfgang Baur writes about Vikings and trolls because it amuses him; his most recent fiction can be found in "The Further Adventures of Beowulf". He discusses adventure design at the Open Design blog.