Clockwork Wonders04/23/2007

The Moving Tower
Part 14 of 14

"The tower rolled over the plains. Tordek judged its speed and course, and spurred his donkey to bring it alongside. With a grunt and a leap, he was at the door that Mialee had already opened.

"Why are we going in here?"

"To see who's driving this thing. Get out of the doorway to let Ember in." The fighter swung into the doorway and looked around for whatever magic was driving it forward.

The tower rolled on.

The Moving Tower is a mobile siege tower of iron, with a clockwork interior meant to provide comforts and a variety of tools for travelers. The exterior is rusty and topped with a round dome somewhat like that of an observatory. With a deep enough understanding of the Moving Tower, a warforged or an artificer can learn to rearrange its chambers and walls. The towers are most common in Breland, and they are thought to have been prototypes for the later moving fortresses such as the Argonth.


The walls within the Moving Tower are meant to work in three main configurations:

  • as a siege tower with treadmill stairs that speed up walking to the top,
  • as an airy pleasure dome with open, breezy walls under shades, and
  • as a practical traveler's rest, with self-cleaning stables below living and cooking areas.

The tower can also be commanded to enter a self-defense form. In this state, nothing within moves or functions until the tower's owner (or someone else) unlocks it again with the proper command word. This is often the form in which a moving tower is found.

Use and Powers

The moving tower is not deeply magical, but it contains elements designed to make its inhabitants comfortable and secure. These features include the tower's rolling and rotating movement, interior heat, moving walls, a rotating domed roof, collapsible stairs, exterior walls that double as shaded iron awnings, and a fan-driven lift. The moving tower has AC 15 (touch AC 5), hardness 10, and 1,500 hp.

The tower's owner can activate or shut off any of these elements by spoken commands, except for the tower's movement, which is guided by a wheel and a level at the very top of the building (like a ship's wheel). The tower does not recognize an "owner" in the permanent sense that one owns land. The tower recognizes its "owner" using the following order or priority:

  1. any artificer with the Craft Construct feat who makes a successful Spellcraft (DC 25) check and who knows the tower's command words (the higher check results breaks ties)
  2. anyone who knows the tower's command words, or
  3. anyone who makes a successful Use Magic Device check (DC 25).

If two or more commands conflict, the priority order determines which command the tower responds to.

Rolling Movement: The tower rolls forward on two large rollers and one smaller, steering roller at a rate of 20 feet, but it can only roll in a straight line each round. It can use the double-move action or its owner can use a standard action to rotate the tower to a new line of travel at the beginning or end of its owner's turn. If it strikes a creature while rolling the creature must make a DC 12 Reflex save or take 2d8 points of bludgeoning damage. The tower then overruns the creature and continues its movement. The tower can roll up slopes of up to 8 degrees and can span ditches up to 10 wide. Steeper slopes or wider holes topple the tower, causing falling damage to all creatures inside based on how far the tower fell.

Heating Elements: The tower interior has small heating coils that keep the floors warm through the use of small bound fire elementals. There are no moving parts, but anyone who breaks into the metal flooring releases 1d6 small fire elementals.
The Aerial Walkway: The tower does not contain stairs but instead uses a powerful fan-driven shaft to lift Medium-size or smaller creatures up between floors, or lower them gently when moving down. The aerial walkway does not work on any creature in heavy armor or carrying loads exceeding 50 pounds.

Treadmill Stairs: These stairs move to lift people up when they are heavily encumbered, such as soldiers storming a castle using the tower in its siege tower configuration.

Observatory Dome: This area includes a water tank, a telescope, and a storage area.

Self-Cleaning Stables: The bottom floor can be used to stable up to 20 horses (in somewhat crowded conditions) or 12 comfortably. The stable walls pop up or retract as needed, and the floors can be flushed out using the tower's water tank and venting through small drains to the outside. The resulting slurry of manure is sometimes used defensively.

Retractable Walkway: In siege tower form, the moving tower can cantilever some of its iron plates into a bridge up to 30' long, reaching across even very wide moats. The bridge extends in 10 ft. sections at a time.

Grease and Oil Projectors: The lower section of the tower has sloped rather than vertical walls to deflect heavy missiles or thrown rocks, but this makes it vulnerable to climbing. Fortunately, the tower has grease and oil projectors, which make its rusty outer walls very slick indeed (Climb DC 50). Cruel defenders may light the oil on fire, and those on the walls take 2d6 fire damage and 1d6 smoke damage each round they remain on the wall. Climbing a burning wall requires a DC 20 Concentration check in addition to the Climb check.

Faint transmutation; CL 10th; Craft Construct, Craft (blacksmithing) DC 20, stoneskin, feather fall, gust of wind; Price 100,000 gp; Cost 50,000 gp + 4,000 XP.

Campaign Hooks

A moving tower serves as a stronghold for Halfling bandits, who keep their treasure with them as they roam over the Talenta Plains, plundering caravans at will or even posing as "waystation" for weary travelers.

A moving tower might serve as the headquarters for a group of warforged in the Mournlands who have not given up the fight for Cyre, and who oppose the Lord of Blades. They might demand "protection money" from others they meet.

A moving tower could be used by a company of expert mercenary goblins as a way to assault a small castle on the border with Droamm or Darguun. They seem to have plundered and slaughtered the entire garrison of one such keep without opening the gates. The only clue is the churned-up earth near the moat, the marks of the tower's passage.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur designs tailored adventures about zombie angels, steam golems, and the Arcane Collegium at the Open Design blog. He is a co-author of the original Dark*Matter campaign setting as well as the upcoming "Expedition to the Demonweb Pits" campaign-adventure.

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