Magical Mondays: Zombie Robots?!   Leave a comment

Five Nights

This week’s Magical Mondays is late because I’m under the weather. It’s a horrible thing, really, being sick. I’m shambling about, moaning and seeking out the brains of the living. And speaking of symptoms of the common cold, let’s talk a little bit about the undead. Specifically, undead and machines.

I’ve been playing a lot of Five Nights at Freddy’s lately, and there’s a lot of talk among its fandom about the nature of the game’s antagonists. In the first game, there are strong (and practically creator-confirmed) suggestions that the animatronics are possessed or haunted in some way, possibly by the ghosts of children. The most grisly of possible interpretations of the game is that the children were murdered and their bodies were hidden in the animatronics, who then gained some sort of hatred of security guards. The sequel introduces more animatronics… but some people are a little less certain that the new animatronics are possessed as well. Sure, the Marionette might be, but what about Toy Chica and Balloon Boy?

The other fun thing about the sequel is that the animatronics from the original game are there, but they’re in a state of so much disrepair that they look frightening. The classic Bonnie is basically an empty, face-less shell that wanders the pizzeria, its metal exoskeleton and exposed endoskeleton giving it an almost hooded “grim reaper” appearance whenever it arrives in your office (as it certainly will), and the classic Chica has been stretched and restructured to the point that she looks like some sort of terrifying scarecrow monster. As game designers, it’s good to ask ourselves about what these monsters represent. They’re broken down robots who’ve had murdered, likely angry victims in them. Are they crazy robots who keep malfunctioning? Are they angry spirits haunting robots to seek vengeance? Are they a new form of life, like Frankenstein’s Monster? For story purposes, does it matter? I think it’s important for the game master to know for sure, of course, but… will the players notice or care? If you want to introduce something like that to your games, how would you handle it? Let’s spin this from a hypothetical gaming scenario, to a real gaming scenario that’s come up:

Warforged Titan

A really interesting conversation happened on the Giant in the Playground’s 3.5/Pathfinder forums when someone asked if a necromancer could raise constructs from the dead. The basic answer was no, but the question of living constructs was brought up and instantly divided people into a number of camps. There were those who said absolutely not, those who said of course they can… and among those who thought it was theoretically possible, the question of methodology came into play. Can the spell Animate Dead do it? Do the Warforged of Eberron, by far the most well known Living Constructs, qualify as having “corpses” when they die? If they have corpses, do they have “skeletal structures” required for becoming skeletons or zombies? A lot of good questions were raised.

As you can probably expect if you’ve read most of my Magical Mondays posts, the camp I favored was the one that suggested “just going for it” if a GM had a good story in mind that required undead Warforged, and most of the friends that I told about the argument agreed with that. One of my friends, though, brought forth a story-based concern: one of the fundamental aspects of a player playing a Warforged is that it’s a creature that, according to basic Eberron lore, doesn’t appear as an undead. A player is, effectively, “safe” from zombification or becoming a wight if they choose to be a Warforged, and trying to find a good reason to introduce undeath to living constructs can cheapen a player’s choice to play as a member of the Warforged race. It’s a reason based on personal preference, sure, but it’s a personal preference that can make a player regret certain choices, much like how I felt cheated when I learned that most popular fairy tale potions couldn’t be made with the Brew Potion feat. I pointed out that I’d never use undeath on a player of a Warforged, of course, and that I’d have it be some plot driven device (such as a rare schema or eldritch machine that a mad wizard was using to see if immortality as a construct could be obtained by using undeath as a doorway to being a living construct.) So, I maintain that it’s good to have these stories, but my friend’s point stands: do we risk cheapening the experiences of a player by introducing this possibility? We might, and that’s a risk that a GM should be aware of before introducing their robot ninja zombie pirates.

As the argument continued in the Giant in the Playground forums, someone eventually pointed out that an Eberron book introduced a from of “sort of” undead creatures called Woeforged, that are “sort of” undead the same way that Warforged are “sort of” alive. Looking like rusted and erroded imitations of their Warforged bretheren, this is apparently a secret that the Necromancers of Karrnath keep to themselves. They originally assumed that they were some new faction that The Lord of Blades was working on, but… it’s hard to say for sure since their existence seems to fall outside of The Lord of Blades’ MO. They’ve only been encountered in the Mournlands (naturally), and it’s hard to say what sort of things might’ve happened there.

Some people argued that this was a definitive sign that undead Warforged could exist, something that opposed specific wording in other Eberron books that opposed this concept, but others pointed out that the description of the Warforged merely called them “sort of” undead, and that they reacted positively to negative energy. This could very easily just be a case of a Warforged taking the Tomb Tainted Soul feat, a feat that allows a person to gain benefits from negative energy and be harmed by positive energy (in fact, apart from the fact that these Warforged seemed to be unusually rusty and broken down, that feat would explain everything.

The argument is still going, and will likely taper off without one side getting a definitive answer, but the question of the Woeforged’s nature persisted. I joked that I was tempted to make several stat blocks for Woeforged that were identical except for their creature type (and suggested a new creature type, “Reanimated Construct”) and was surprised to see someone post interest in it.

I’ve not made stats for Woeforged yet… something I’m tempted to do… but I *have* made a template for Woeforged that people can use in a pinch. I want to point out that I have no legal claim to D&D, Eberron, Warforged, or Woeforged and if Wizards of the Coast ever want to make their own then that’s definitely the stat to use (also, I’m not an expert at making stat blocks; while it’s true that I do a lot of homebrewing, I generally just do enough for the purposes of my own games.) However, feel free to use this, such as it is, for whatever purposes you wish:

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“Woeforged” is an acquired template that can be added to any Living Construct referred to as a Warforged in its stat block or description, or any Construct referred to as a Warforged in its stat block or description (referred to hereafter as the base creature.) A Woeforged has all the base creature’s statistics except as noted here.

Size and Type: The base creature’s size is unchanged. The base creature’s type is honestly up in the air, but feel free to pick from Undead, Construct (Reanimated Construct), Construct (Living Construct), Construct, Undead (Augmented Construct), Construct (Augmented Construct (Living Construct)), Outsider (Native), or Aberration.

Armor Class: The base creature gains a bonus to its natural armor class as if it was a zombie.

Special Qualities: A Woeforged retains all of the base creature’s special qualities, and gains those described below:

Undead Traits: Sure, why not? If nothing else, it loses its Constitution score.

Erroded Soul (Ex): A Woeforged gains an immunity to all mind-affecting effects and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless that effect would work on objects or is otherwise harmless. It gains bonus hit points as if it were a construct of the appropriate size, and becomes disabled when it reaches zero hit points. Unlike a construct or undead, it isn’t destroyed until it drops to -10 hit points.

Unholy Fortification (Su): A Woeforged is more closely tied to its physical structure, and gains an immunity to cold damage, such as from Chill Metal. However, the unholy energy lingering within it means that it is subject to turning damage… usually. When subjected to a turning effect, there is a 25% chance that no turning damage occurs. If a turning check is successful and would destroy the Woeforged, it is instead reduced to zero hit points and it becomes inert until it gains more hit points.

Sort-Of Undead (Ex): The Woeforged is treated as undead for all spells that harm the living but hurt undead. However, it takes half as much benefit as an undead creature truly would. (As such, an Inflict Light Wounds spell only heals half of its damage.)

Abilities: As noted above, the Woeforged loses its Constitution score. If the base creature has class levels, the Woeforged’s Intelligence is unchanged; otherwise, it is mindless and loses its Intelligence score. (Unless you want a ravenous pack of wild monsters or something, then go ahead and make it mindless even if it has class levels. Knock yourself out, kiddo.)

Feats: If you’ve chosen not to change the creature’s type and think the entire concept of the Woeforged just makes more sense if a Warforged has the Tomb-Tainted Soul feat, give it to them as a bonus feat, though the changes from Sort-Of Undead override any benefit of this feat. However, the Woeforged can still qualify for any other feats or prestige classes that require Tomb-Tainted Soul as a prerequisite if you go this route.

Challenge Rating: Increase the base creature’s challenge rating by… oh… let’s say… 1.

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Now, again, this is a really general thing, and it’s just something off the top of my head. One thing I regret is that I didn’t put in any custom abilities, something like the wight’s ability to create more wights by killing them, a ghost’s ability to possess things or walk through walls, or a vampire’s ability to mesmerize with a glare. It’d be nice to have some sort of unholy ability that might seem horrifying to constructs but might be less so to humanoids. If (and when) I ever unleash this in an Eberron game, I’d probably try to make each Woeforged a custom entity.

As for its creature type… who can say? I had a specific creature in mind for each of the creature types I suggested, one who’s origins reminded me of the Warforged in one way or another (the Outsider (Native), for instance, is justified by the Dwarvish Ancestor monster, a sort of living statue that’s possessed by the spirit of an ancient dwarf hero, something that might fit if the Woeforged are made by calling the spirits of fallen Warforged from Mabar to reinhabit their bodies.) Ultimately, I’d have to wait to see the story before I made the final stats.

Hey, if not all demons are outsiders, not all hags are monstrous humanoids and not all Nagas are aberrations, we really do need to look at what the creature’s origin and purpose turns out to be. That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays, and I’ll see you next time!

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