Weekly Design Blog #19: Click, Clack, Snicker-Snack Like a Mechanical Ninja

Hello All,

One of the blogs I was able to "recover" from the death of the old site was Weekly Design Blog for Steampunk Musha #5: Adolescent Deviant Shinobi Terrapins, in which I discussed the kappa race and some of the ways we're going to be mixing it up.

Another important race people are likely looking forward to is our take on the Clockwork Ronin...


While the name is different, many other companies have offered up their own version of a mechanical being that is a playable race in their RPG. Our our take is tied strongly to our setting and adds a few twists and bends I think...

Clockwork Ronin

In the most desperate times of the Warring States period, all measures were taken to win. Some worked with master artisans to develop automatons able to fight their battles for them. Meant to originally be merely puppet warriors, it was realized that soon some of these constructs were exhibiting a will of their own. Whether on purpose or by accident, the sacred metal tokens of forgotten families meant to honor the dead and venerated in shrines and temples across the land had found their way into the melting pots of the clockwork disciples forging the intricate mechanisms that powered these clockwork automatons. Rather than a single spirit or soul captured into each, the many spirits that remained bound throughout the process merge into normally a single piece of each clockwork ronin, referred to as the Gear. This Gear provides the unending power that spins and works the mechanisms of the automaton shell, like an ever spinning wheel, and though it provides some of the personality of the clockwork ronin, it possess no cohesive memories of its former lives. Instead, the bound souls seeking a kind of “self” and influenced by the builds of their body, project a new person and are driven to find new purpose. For these creatures, modification of the body and even transplanting of the Gear from one form to another can reorganize and drastically change the “self” as can even the simple collection of tokens from what they feel were their former lives.

This is just a micro-write up, as they will have a vastly longer explanation of their design and place within the world of Rosuto-Shima. They are then, not just a single "ghost in the shell" but rather a collection of the dead souls of warriors and others that were traditionally venerated in special shrines throughout Rosuto-Shima. Specifically, the names of the dead were cast in bronze "coins" which where then placed into sanctuaries and helped to give the dead a fetter to connect to, and still feel the adoration of their deeds by their descendants. 

One of the costs of the nearly unending war that ravaged the lands of Rosuto-Shima was that all metals and other materials that were useful to warfare became valuable. While centuries may have passed with coins being collected, if an entire family died off, or even as lands were invaded and other families shrines were desecrated, the unscrupulous not believing the tales or just too desperate to care would steal the metal of the shrines and melt it down to sell to the highest bidder. When builders of the automatons came later, they were uninterested in the source of the metal, only that it was available, and thus it lead to these creatures...

Clockwork Ronin Racial Traits

+2 Strength, -4 Dexterity, No Constitution: Clockwork ronin have resilience and mechanical power because of their construction, but can’t move as freely as flesh and blood, and completely lack Constitution scores.

Type: Clockwork ronin are clockwork constructs possessed by a collection of undead souls anchored to a special Gear in the shell and gain the following traits:

  • Clockwork ronin exist as a mechanical shell powered by a Gear, and so treat attacks on themselves as attacks on an animated object, applying their hardness to damage (see Resilient Design)
  • Clockwork ronin have no Constitution score. Any DCs or other statistics that rely on a Constitution score treat a clockwork ronin as having a score of 10 (no bonus or penalty).
  • Clockwork ronin are immune to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms). Their Gear being a collection of souls, not a single mind, only the most powerful of mind-effects that could influence a legion of spirits could ever control them.
  • Clockwork cannot heal damage on their own, but can be repaired through the use of various Craft or Profession skills. Clockwork ronin can also be healed through spells such as make whole and rapid repair.
  • Clockwork ronin are not subject to ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, energy drain, or nonlethal damage, though special forms of attacks can affect the Gear inside clockwork ronin for similar effects (see Ghost in the Shell below).
  • Clockwork ronin are immune to any effect that requires a Fortitude save, unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless.
  • Clockwork ronin do not risk death due to massive damage, but they are immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points or fewer. This renders the shell of the clockwork ronin useless, though the souls remains trapped inside its Gear, unable to leave or animate their destroyed shell.
  • Clockwork ronin cannot be raised or resurrected, though the Gear of a destroyed clockwork ronin can be moved to a newly constructed body. A Gear that has been destroyed frees the bound souls.
  • Clockwork ronin do not breathe, eat, or sleep, unless they want to gain some beneficial effect from one of these activities. This means that a clockwork ronin can drink potions to benefit from their effects and can rest in order to regain spells, but neither of these activities is required to survive or stay in good health.

Medium: Clockwork ronin are Medium creatures and receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.

Slow and Steady: Clockwork ronin have a base speed of 20 feet, but their speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance.

Enhanced Senses: Clockwork ronin have darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision.

Ghosts in a Shell: Clockwork ronin are not a living creatures but their mechanical shell is inhabited by a collection of souls bound to a Gear, which reacts to positive and negative energy similar to if it were undead. Positive energy deals nonlethal damage to a clockwork ronin. Negative energy removes this nonlethal damage. This nonlethal damage is healed normally if the clockwork ronin is given time without taking additional points of damage.

Resilient Design: Clockwork ronin are hard to destroy, and are treated as objects for many types of damage with a hardness of 5 in addition to gaining +20 bonus hit points.

Vulnerability to Electricity and Fire: Clockwork ronin bodies require complicated mixes of metal gears and wooden connection pieces. Clockwork ronin have vulnerabilities to electricity and fire, and take half again as much damage (+50%) from it. As constructs however, they are treated as objects with hardness and divide all damage from any energy attack by 2, before increasing by +50%. This damage can also be reduced by the clockwork ronin’s hardness (see Resilient Construction).

Languages: Clockwork ronin begin play speaking Kochi-kochi, the clockwork code language. Clockwork ronin with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Common, Giant, Goblin, Imperial, Sylvan (+2 languages).

The clockwork ronin will have alternate racial traits, but unlike most races, they will also be things that can be added with costs after the fact, though there’s a chance that each time a clockwork ronin changes their body, they could forever alter their personality.

So, what do you think? Let us know in the comments here on the website or on Facebook!

Lucus Palosaari, Editor & Project Manager at Fat Goblin Games (Like us on Facebook!)

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