13. Bestiary: Dwemer Animunculi

Profiles for ancient constructs of Dwemer design.

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Bestiary

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.

5 thoughts on “13. Bestiary: Dwemer Animunculi”

  1. For the Dwemer Ballista, there are a few issues:
    * The Vent Steam ability should be in actions
    * The damage part of it should be worded something along: “Each creature in the sphere including the ballista when it appears or that ends its turn there takes 10 (3d6) fire damage.”
    * On the note above, changing the damage from 2d6 to 3d6 bumps up the CR from 2 to 3, as it’s both damaging for enemies and regenerative for the ballista.

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    1. I’m going through the others, and the same fix for Vent Steam (except 4d6) will put the Centurion at CR 9 instead of ~7.5. As far as the upgrades, I would specify those increase CR (I did not include those in my calculations as these are sort of plug-in abilities).

      The Advanced Steam Centurion’s HP is off if you set it to what it should be with that Con mod. As is, the DCR (Defensive CR) is 15, and the OCR (Offensive CR) is 10 (CR 12.5, but quite skewed to defense). My fix would be to up the spike to 3d12 instead of 3d10, and put the HP at 216 (16d12 + 112), which puts it at DCR 13 and OCR 11 (CR 12). This again does not include any upgrades. Keep in mind to also apply the Vent Steam fix on the wording, keeping it at 4d6 like the regular Steam Centurion.

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    2. Thanks for the input. Your criticism is constructive and I admit that I often have trouble estimating a creature’s CR (especially with more powerful creatures). If you have any comments for the rest of the bestiary, feel free to share 🙂 I will update the Dwemer following your suggestions in the next couple of days
      To address your points:
      * Vent Steam should be in actions, this is an error. Such things happen because I don’t have a proof-reader.
      * You are correct, the wording is clumsy and not in line with how it appears in official publications.
      * Ballista’s CR is already 3. Did you mean that the original version should have had a CR of 2, but the changes justify the CR of 3?
      * Centurions are kind of a mess. They will also be updated according to your suggestion. I wanted to make the upgrades and weaknesses an essential part to make them as interesting as possible in combat, but maybe it’s better to make that feature optional.

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  2. Hey, so was on a Discord for developing a campaign and a guy was looking at your Ballista Stat Block and had these comments about it. Thought I’d share.

    * The Vent Steam ability should be in actions
    * The damage part of it should be worded something along: “Each creature in the sphere including the ballista when it appears or that ends its turn there takes 10 (3d6) fire damage.”
    * On the note above, changing the damage from 2d6 to 3d6 bumps up the CR from 2 to 3, as it’s both damaging for enemies and regenerative for the ballista.(edited)

    That’s all, thank you once again for the work you put in this blog man.

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