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The Automaton Exhibition 1826 at Gothic Hall in Haymarket London

Around the same time Mary Shelley was creating “Frankenstein” in 1816, German Romantic E.T.A. Hoffmann wrote “The Sandman”, one of the first stories to explore the horrific implications of android technology. Shows of humanoid automata were in fact quite popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was widely believed that the chess-playing machine called “The Turk” represented the invention of actual artificial intelligence. Although “The Turk” later proved to be actually a puppet fraudulently operated by a hidden person, it inspired many of the advances in technology that ultimately flowered into modern computing and robotics.

Clockwork Impostor

An automaton designed to cleverly mimic a real human being.

Creature Class: Monster (can be used as a Monstrous Servant)
Number Appearing: 1 – 10
Initial Impression: A person with attractive facial features, but a noticeably stiff manner.
Size: Human-sized

Perversity: 9
Disposition: Determined
Charisma: 9 Intelligence: 9 Wisdom: 9
Strength: 9 Dexterity: 9 Constitution: 9
Speed: 9

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1 (fist or weapon)
Special Abilities: Programmed Skills; Fearless; Immune to Poison, Disease, and Nausea; Immune to Fascination Effects.
Weaknesses: Limited Vocabulary, No Sense of Taste or Smell.
Assets: None
Afflictions: Dull Conversationalist
Preternatural Powers: None

Natural Habitat: The laboratories of Mad Scientists, cabinets of curiosities, salons, and balls.
Level: 1

A Clockwork Impostor is a creation of Mad Science – a sentient automaton of wood, metal gearing, India rubber, oilcloth, human hair, and wax that masquerades as a real human being. They are made to be servants, companions, and even assassins, and will be dressed in clothing appropriate to their apparent gender and use. They are intelligent, but noticeably dull in conversation. Clockwork Impostors are self-aware and capable of some independent decision making, but will never disobey a command given to them by their creator. They can ape the expression of love, but never actually feel the emotion.

Despite representing the height of automaton technology, a Clockwork Impostor is still not a perfect imitation of a human being. A successful Wisdom Check will reveal that the thing moves in a curiously stiff manner, its face is strangely inexpressive, and its eyes seem lifelessly glassy. It possesses no body heat or odor. A Clockwork Impostor is not usually able to consume food or drink, a fact that can be used to reveal its true nature. Its vocabulary is limited, and it has trouble reacting appropriately to unexpected situations. And of course, it needs to be wound up every 8 hours (unless its creator is also capable of fitting it with a device that provides Perpetual Motion).

Sometimes a Clockwork Impostor is built to impersonate and replace a specific person. Acquaintances of that person are entitled to a Wisdom Check (made secretly by the Presenter). Those that succeed will know that the Impostor is not who it claims to be – although the realization will not extend to knowing the true nature of the thing.

Clockwork Impostor Special Abilities

Programmed Skills: A Clockwork Impostor is programmed to possess the skills of a Profession, such as Musician or Soldier. This ability is similar in every respect to an Everyman’s Profession, allowing the Impostor to automatically succeed at simple tasks, and granting a +1 Bonus on attempts to do extraordinary work. Some Clockwork Impostors are built so that they can be reprogrammed for different Professions, by exchanging toothed metal cylinders located inside their bodies. In all cases, however, a Clockwork Impostor is incapable of true creativity – it can faithfully imitate, but never innovate. One can be programmed to be a painter capable of flawlessly accurate portraits, but it will have no imagination to depict anything it does not actually see. A Clockwork Impostor could sing a song written by another, but not compose a new one of their own.

Fearless: Clockwork Impostors have no regard for their own safety, and never check Morale.

Immune to Fascination Effects: A Clockwork Impostor is immune to all Preternatural effects which manipulate minds or emotions.

Immune to Poison, Disease, and Nausea: Since it has no flesh or organs, a Clockwork Impostor cannot be poisoned, catch disease, or be nauseated. Likewise, it cannot be harmed by smoke inhalation, or toxic fumes.

Clockwork Impostor Weaknesses

Limited Vocabulary: A Clockwork Impostor’s spoken vocabulary is limited to about 100 distinct words and phrases (although it can understand anything said to it in the language it is programmed to speak). Observant people may notice how the Impostor constantly asks the same questions, and repeats the same answers. Clockwork Impostors are seldom programmed with many proper names in their vocabulary, and so may avoid addressing people directly.

No Sense of Taste or Smell: A Clockwork Impostor can see, hear, and feel, but cannot detect odors, or taste flavors.

Clockwork Impostor (for OSR games)
Number Appearing: 1 – 10
Size: Medium
Alignment: Neutral
Morale: Never checks Morale
Intelligence: 10
Move: 120′ (or 12”, or 30 ft.)
Armor Class: 6 (or 14)
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks & Damage: 1 punch (1d4), or 1 weapon (by weapon type)
* Possesses a Secondary Skill, Profession, or Non-weapon Proficiency
* Immune to all Mind Magic
* Immune to Poison and Poison Gas
* Immune to Disease
* Immune to Nausea effects
* Spoken vocabulary limited to 100 words and phrases.
* No Sense of Smell or Taste
* If observer Saves versus Spells they will notice the Impostor is not what it seems.
Saves: As Fighter 1
Challenge: a single 2nd Level character, or two 1st level characters.