Clockwork Wonders02/12/2007

The Clockwork Armor
Part 10 of 14

"We already went through this with that turtle shield," said Mialee. "Clockwork armor is still experimental."

"This is different. You just looked dumb with the turtle buckler," said Ragdar. "With this I feel stronger. Look!" He began moving the mechanism through the steps of a sword exercise, with occasional jerks and clanks.

"Yeah, if only there were armor that made you smarter, we'd be getting somewhere." muttered Mialee under the noise of gears grinding.

The clockwork armor is a powerful mechanical aid to physical prowess that also provides protection against attack and a movement bump, but it has a few engineering issues that have prevented its adoption outside a few of the most enthusiastic practitioners of artifice.


A suit of clockwork armor is extremely well machined and made of mithral and adamantine plates. It has steel servos at the elbows and ankles and brass/steel hydraulic pistons around the knees and shoulders. The helmet has a set of protective flaps that lower automatically when the wearer nods in a particular way. The chestplate contains three small unlabeled levers on the inside.

The armor weighs 250 pounds, but adds only 70 pounds to encumbrance, as it supports much of its own weight. It requires 10 minutes to get into or out of the clockwork armor, as sections of it are bolted on, secured with wire cables, and some joints require careful fitting of gears and servo connections.

Use and Powers

When the clockwork armor is worn, the wearer gains an effective +4 circumstance bonus to both Strength and Dexterity, as the armor enhances speed, precision, and raw power of its wearer's movements. In addition, it provides a +8 armor bonus to AC and increases the wearer's base land speed by 5 feet.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the clockwork armor is made from a deeply flawed design; it is dependent on hydraulics and servos that the metals and materials can't quite sustain. The hydraulics are frozen solid by any cold-based attack if the wearer's saving throw fails; requiring the wearer to remove the armor and thaw it (this can also be done more quickly if the wearer is willing to be the target of a fire-based spell that does at least as much damage as the cold-based attack did).

The small levers inside the breastplate control the sensitivity of its strength-boosting and the force amplification of its leg motors. Setting these controls properly requires a successful Craft (construct) check (DC 14) or Spellcraft check (DC 18). Success allows a Medium-size creature of any Strength to use the armor effectively, as long as they have Armor Proficiency (heavy). Creatures without that proficiency may still wear the armor but suffer a -8 Armor Check penalty to all the usual skills and suffer a 90% chance of spell failure. Failure to set the controls properly means that the +4 bonus to Strength still applies, but the armor imposes a -4 penalty to Dexterity instead of a bonus.

Finally, the clockwork armor can be attacked directly, as it has gears and controls that a bludgeoning weapon can warp or jolt out of alignment, a slashing weapon can sever, or a piercing weapon can jam. The suit is treated as an object with base AC 5 that gets the wearer's Dexterity modifier to AC and the wearer's deflection bonus to AC. It has hardness 10 and 100 hp. After 50 hp of damage accrue, the armor may suffer breakdowns; the wearer must make a Reflex save equal to 10 + the damage inflicted by a blow to prevent this. Details of each breakdown are left to the DM but should primarily include partial paralysis (like frozen armor, but affecting only arms or legs), and/or repetitive arm motion (eliminating the wearer's Dex bonus) or leg motion (forcing the wearer to move at base speed each round). Fixing these conditions requires a successful DC 30 Disable Device check and a full-round action by someone outside the armor.

CL 11th; Craft Construct, Craft Magical Arms and Armor; Price 27,250 gp; Cost 18,625 gp + 690 XP.

Campaign Hooks

Any suit of clockwork armor is claimed as the sole property of the fallen kingdom of Cyre. If the PCs even hear of such a suit (much less actually acquire one), they will be sought out by Prince Oargev from the city of New Cyre. He offers 2,000 gp as a finder's fee for it or 200 gp for information leading to a suit's recovery. Failure to return a suit to Cyran hands will bring a visit from a Cyran avenger.

The party might be commissioned to destroy a powerful gnomish bandit in Karrnath who has gained a suit of clockwork armor and is fighting a bit of a one-gnome war against the Karrnath trade routes (he has an ally wearing the suit). The Corpse Captains would very much like to find him and question him; the reward for taking him alive is triple the price for just bringing him in dead.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur is a prominent adventure designer, with adventures published in all major campaign settings. He discusses adventure design for his patrons at the Open Design blog. The first Open Design project, a clockwork and necromantic adventure called "Steam & Brass" was released for the use of a private audience in October.

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