Creature Feature – The Automaton

The Automaton comes from Dragon magazine #101. It’s one of my favorite monsters, just because of the limitless options for what it can be made of, and the great fun a magic user or cleric PC can have creating one of their own.

ARMOR CLASS: See below
MOVE: 9″
HIT DICE: 1 HD per foot of height
% IN LAIR: Nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 per pair of forelimbs
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1-8 or by weapon type
SIZE: 5% S, 75% M, 20% L
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE: Variable

Automatons are robotlike constructs similar to golems. They are usually humanoid in appearance, although other forms are possible. Unlike golems, they must be constructed in such a way as to permit movement; i.e., if an automaton is to be able to walk, it must have legs with joints in the appropriate places. Automatons may be constructed of many things: normal objects such as chains and thick ropes, suits of armor, full skeletons, mechanical arms, and so forth. Parts may be mixed and matched; for instance, an automaton may have a torso taken from a suit of plate mail, and chains for arms. The only restriction is that an automaton’s body (torso) and arms (forelimbs) must both be composed of the same substance, and that substance must be generally classifiable as either bone, leather, metal, or wood. An automaton made primarily of bone has an armor class of 9; one of leather or rope has AC 8, and one of metal has AC 3.
An automaton made entirely or partly of magical components will not retain any of the magical characteristics of those components; if a helm of brilliance is used as a head, for instance, the helm will lose its magical powers when the automaton is enchanted.
Any cleric or magic-user of sufficiently high level can create an automaton. First, the creator must acquire the necessary materials and have them assembled into the desired form by a tinker, engineer, armorer, or other such specialist. The cost for materials and labor is 1,000 gp per hit point, and it takes 1 day per hit point to acquire and assemble the materials. When the construction is complete, the creator must cast a sequence of spells upon it, in the order given:

A cleric must use animate object, raise dead (if organic components are involved), prayer, bless, and quest.

A magic-user must cast geas, limited wish, animate dead (if organic components are involved), and enchant an item.

In either case, all spells must be cast personally by the creator and not read from scrolls.
When the magicking process is complete, the automaton can receive and act upon commands issued by its creator, in the same manner that a golem is controlled.
An automaton can be repaired by its creator (assuming the availability of suitable materials), regaining 5 hp per day spent in repairs, up to the automaton’s original hit-point total. However, if an automaton loses more than one-third of its original hit points, it cannot be repaired. Automatons take damage from different attack forms according to the primary substance from which they were constructed:

  Bone Leather Metal Rope
Acid half full half full
Blunt weapons half none none none
Cold none half none none
Edged weapons half full none double
Electricity none none half none
Fire half half none double

All automatons are unaffected by poison, mind-affecting magic, gases, normal missiles, and magic missiles.
Certain spells will instantly kill an automaton, depending upon its primary substance. If it is a mixture of substances, those parts made of the material in question will be affected. For example, an automaton with a metal upper body and legs made of bones will have its legs destroyed by a raise dead spell. It would theoretically retain its movement rate, but would have no means of getting around, although it could still attack with its arms if a target came within reach. The spells that will destroy an automaton are as follows:

Bone : animate dead, raise dead, reincarnate, resurrection
Leather : blade barrier, Mordenkainen?s Sword
Metal : disintegrate, transmute metal to wood
Rope : blade barrier, fire storm, rope trick

Any automaton can be destroyed by the application of three dispel magic spells or three hold monster spells, or any combination of the two types equalling three, if each subsequent casting is made within 1 turn of the previous casting. Each spell will lower the movement rate of the automaton by 3″ for 1 turn thereafter, and if its movement rate is brought to 0″ the automaton becomes an inanimate heap of junk.
Any automaton has a strength of at least 16, with 1 extra point for each 2′ of height over 6′ up to a maximum strength of 25. Automatons of 10′ or more in height will do 1-10 hp damage per hit, or perhaps even more for exceptionally large creations. Damage figures do not include strength bonuses.

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