Clockwork constructs are the technological cousins of golems, constructed with a combination of magic and precise technologies dependent upon the internal churning and turning of thousands of intricate springs, screws, and gears. There are those who would scoff at the work of clockwork engineers, whose constructs seem at best merely imitations of the creations brought to life by practitioners of the purely arcane arts. However, those canny enough to realize the potential of clockwork engines know their true power to be both exotic and potent. In worlds where clockworks are common, these creatures can rival even the most powerful of golems for raw power. Massive giants comprising countless nuts and bolts have torn entire empires asunder. Time and time again, clockwork creatures have proven themselves a formidable presence in the face of more traditional rivals, and those who have borne witness to the feats of these creatures know to hold their tongues before questioning the constructs‘ power.
Clockwork creatures function by combining magical energies and clockwork mechanisms. The myriad metal parts that go into the construction of a clockwork creation require absolute precision in order to function properly, so they must be built by only the steadiest of hands. Amateurish attempts at clockwork construction typically result in nonfunctional units or misfires, and many an engineering lab has been burned to the ground by novices seeking to learn the basics of clockworks and the elements that power them.
Particularly guileful crafters may construct miniature clockwork spies that can record sound, and rumors tell of even more advanced technologies that allow visual recording. While magical wonders such as spells can allow the user to scry information or to see where one isn’t normally physically able to, clockwork spies provide an edge in that their memories are concrete and incorruptible, enabling them to make flawless recordings of events not subject to the regular perversions of human memories.
Clockwork creations, as their names suggests, must be wound up before they animate. The creator of a clockwork crafts a unique key for each creation. This key is typically inserted into the clockwork’s back and turned clockwise to wind it. Turning the key counterclockwise has the effect of winding the machine down, though only a willing (or completely helpless) machine will allow itself to be unwound in this way, meaning either its creator or someone its creator has specifically designated can normally do so. Since each key is totally unique, construction of a new key (or bypassing a key entirely) requires a successful Disable Device check (DC = 20 + the clockwork’s CR). Larger clockworks tend to have larger keys, and particularly huge keys require more than one set of hands to turn. Rather than seek assistance from other engineers, eccentric or hermetic inventors often rely upon other clockwork creations to help them turn keys or aid in the creation of more monumental constructs. Other times, engineers give copies of keys to their most trusted clockworks, which can be programmed to wind allies and even themselves as the situation requires.
Much like golems and animated objects, clockwork creatures can be given any number of commands; a perpetually turning script in their core records those orders and programs the rest of the machine. Only one who possesses a key to the clockwork can program it, but any commands given to the construct last until the clockwork is reprogrammed or destroyed. An individual clockwork’s potential is only limited by its creator’s innovation and aptitude. Unlike many golems, which are trapped in bodies resembling lumbering and fallible cages, clockwork constructs can be repeatedly reworked and reengineered—gears can be oiled, springs can be replaced, and pistons can be fine-tuned. The ever-adjustable framework of these mechanical beasts allows for extreme variation from creation to creation.
Since clockwork creations are mostly mechanical and are at the mercy of their creator’s adeptness with the technology, they are prone to the follies of human error. Loose bolts, improper programming, or lack of maintenance are all cause for malfunctions, errors that can range from minute energy leaks to deadly explosions. The most common cause of malfunction, however, is not imparted by the creator, but by the clockwork’s destroyer. Creatures attacking the machine gradually unhinge screws and twist cogs with each landed blow, giving the clockwork a greater chance of backfire. Many combat clockworks are thus accompanied by clockwork servants—servitor clockworks that quickly and readily fix their mechanical allies in the heat of battle.
In the earlier days of clockwork technology, many practical hindrances prevented rapid maturation of the devices. Clockwork machines were powered by inefficient, costly resources; however, the advent of arcane enchantment not only has allowed for greater precision in the crafting of gears and other key components, but has also opened up a wide new range of possibilities for defensive systems and offensive weaponry. Early attempts to combine clockwork with steam power or other nonmagical forms of energy tended to overcomplicate the already delicate machinery, and have long since been abandoned as a result. Whispers abound of an even more unusual category of clockwork that has solved this problem and has merged the complexities of steam power with the adaptability of magical energies, yet such exotic and unusual clockworks remain nothing more than rumors in most worlds at this time.