Session 17: The sentient automaton

Last session the group found the magic machine that once powered the large iron mine they are exploring (and are caught in, due to a collapsing tunnel).

We began the session by rolling initiative. The magic machine is huge. Like the engine on one of the newest massive container ships. That means multiple levels of machinery, levers, crystal dials and buttons. And it was guarded by six automatons. Three medium sized ones that also could use an arm as a flame thrower, and three small spider-like automatons (similar to one of the types you can encounter in Skyrim).

Drone from Skyrim

The small drones were able to conjure a defensive shield (as the shield spell), which made them hard to hit. We only had four players at the very beginning, but luck was on the side of the players, so they managed the battle, without anyone going down.

I think it was a fun and well balanced encounter, with both ranged and melee attacks and saves being made to avoid the flame throwers. I’ve become a fan of abilities with re-charge, because you can add quite powerful abilities, that the players are scared of, and the randomness of the recharge keeps them guessing if the monsters can use them or not.

This is the kind of size of the machine I had in mind. 

After vanquishing the automatons they found a second elevator down and the mine path continued to what could be an exit. The group decided to try and power up the machine, and after four days of work, they succeeded (it was a DC 20 Arcana check per day). I rolled random encounters for 8 hours per day, and they got one that I waived, because it was easy, but the half-orc Arak and their range/paladin leader Jarn, ran into a Black Pudding, and Jarn’s splint mail was basically destroyed.

Players may hate that situation, but I think it adds a fun tactical dimension, and force the players to change the way the play for a while. For example, Jarn’s ability to tank monsters is significantly reduced, until he finds a new armor. It also makes a CR 4 encounter fearsome, without endangering their lives (Jarn was at 2 hp at the end, but they would have won…)

After powering up the machine, which was by systematic trial and error. They could activate the elevators. They scouted the one by the machine with the Warlock’s clairvoyance ability, and saw a large room below with many, mostly empty, storage pods for automatons, and then moved on to the one hidden inside the foundry (see previous session).  

Beneath the foundry they found a storage room for magical ingredients and a few spell scrolls. It also had a door and behind it another elevator. As they couldn’t see anything at the end of the elevator, except a tunnel, they decide to take the elevator down. Half-way they are asked for a password, and as they fail to comply, an air elemental is summoned into the confined space, and it attacks.

The air elemental can use its Whirlwind attack to throw people within its 10×10 foot space around, with damage dealt to characters hit by another character. It was not quite as dangerous as I had hoped, but with more failed saving throws, or a full party, it could have been a real mess!

At the foot of the elevator, there is a tunnel which has been collapsed on purpose. The druid figures out that he can shape shift into a giant badger and burrow a way through. Inside they find a couple of large rooms, with a 9-foot-tall automaton (golem basically) with crystal eyes and a slim elven-like rune covered metal body. The floor and walls of the room are all inscribed with text, and there are signs of a workshop. The automaton speaks to them, and tries to figure out who they are, and demands to be escorted outside, when it learns that they are able to go out.

The automaton is clearly sentient, but also not quite right in the head. It speaks to itself and has created a couple of naïve automatons itself. It also has valuable information. It tells them that the mine belonged to the Sestial family, that the Bones of Sarakhon are the enemy and that it intends to fight them. It has no sense of time, and appears to be quite bossy.

We end the session here, with three (I think) characters advancing to 6th level. The final meeting with the golem was great, because they can’t figure out what to do. Is the automaton dangerous to their settlement and future in this new land? Will it become a major threat? Or will it simply create confusion and damage their enemies? They can tell it knows things that they find valuable, but how much can they get out of it? And if they decide it is too dangerous to let out, can they actually defeat it, because it looks pretty tough? All are interesting questions. They also speculate a lot about, why it is there? Was it imprisoned and why was the mine abandoned? Does the automaton have anything to do with it? 

Next time, they will have to resolve what to do with the automaton, and perhaps explore the last of the mine. I at least except it to be the final session inside the mine. Then we can get back to exploring the great forest above, and perhaps beyond…