13. Bestiary: Dwemer Animunculi

Profiles for ancient constructs of Dwemer design.



Dwemer animunculi, also known as automatons, centurions, or robots, are steam-powered constructs created by the Dwemer as guardians and war machines. Made from a special Dwemer metal, they continue functioning centuries after their creators’ disappearance. Without the Dwemer to control them, the animunculi revert to their default settings, maintaining their underground cities and attacking intruders. A construct may never hurt a Dwemer without being ordered to do so by another Dwemer. Some adventurers use this to their advantage, masking themselves with illusion magic.

In combat, the animunculi deploy surprisingly effective tactics such as ambushes and coordinated attacks. They focus the most threatening and vulnerable targets before moving on. Knowing no fear or sympathy, they ignore casualties on both sides. However, they will retreat if doing so is tactically advantageous.

Scholars and mages find these constructs fascinating and many try to uncover the secrets behind these technological marvels. Each of these constructs is powered by steam, but some of them also use electricity or soul gems as a backup or auxiliary source of power. All artifacts taken from Dwemer ruins are considered to be the property of the Emperor by Imperial Law. This includes Dwemer constructs, which means that honest merchants will not buy the remains of destroyed animunculi. Smugglers and fences, however, will gladly buy anything a daring adventurer brings from a Dwemer city.

After analyzing constructs in the Monster Manual, I deduced that most of them share a set of characteristics:

  • natural armor depending on the material they are made from
  • immunity to poison damage and sometimes psychic damage
  • immunity to several conditions, most commonly charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, and poisoned
  • blindsight or darkvision
  • constructs do not require air, food, drink, or sleep

In addition to these traits, the Dwemer animunculi have additional features because they are steam-powered. These include:

  • fire absorption (fire damage heals them instead of damaging them)
  • larger constructs can vent steam to heal themselves, damage others, and create an obscuring cloud

Based on this information, I have created stat blocks for the most common Dwemer constructs. Detailed descriptions can be found on these pages:

Centurion Spider (CR 1/4)
Centurion Sphere (CR 1)
Dwemer Ballista (CR 3)
Steam Centurion (CR 9)
Advanced Steam Centurion (CR 12)

Commentary. I’m not completely sure I got the CR right for most of these constructs as they were made mostly from scratch and they feature rare abilities and synergies. I might return to them and do some rebalancing after I playtest them some more. Steam centurions were made to represent the Morrowind version, while the advanced steam centurions are more similar to those that appear in Skyrim. It was a lot of fun creating the upgrades for these constructs, and I only hope someone finds them useful.

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