Steamjacks are enormously powerful constructs unique to the Iron Kingdoms. They appear in Privateer Press products such as the Witchfire Trilogy and Fool's Errand.
Below is more information on these amazing machines. This is just a tiny preview; all the details will be revealed in the Guide to the Iron Kingdoms, our 200 page sourcebook due out at the end of 2001.
This information first appeared at RPGAction, along with an interview with Privateer's own Matt Staroscik.
Steamjacks are advanced mechanika constructs. A steam engine provides their motive power, but they are given awareness by sophisticated wizardry. The human Kingdom of Cygnar originally developed the technology for warfare over two centuries ago, but it has since made its way into more peaceful uses. The iron giants can now be seen peacefully toiling away anywhere there is heavy labor to be done. Units may grasp huge tools in their powerful claws, or they can be fitted with picks, shovels, or thundering steam-hammers.
There are many different kinds of steamjacks, from plodding dockside laborers to swift military units that wield shields, cannons, and potent magic protections. Most steamjacks are between eight and twelve feet tall and weigh four to six thousand pounds, but in days past units ten times that size have been fielded in battle. These once fearsome behemoths now lie in ruins, but their smaller and more efficient cousins have taken their place.
Being the state of the art in both the wizard and engineer’s trade, steamjacks are uncommon and extremely expensive. Their construction is not commissioned lightly, and they are generally owned and operated only by powerful merchant guilds or royal militaries. Nonetheless, they are becoming a more common site throughout the Iron Kingdoms, especially in industrial centers like the city of Corvis.
To remain active, a steamjack needs constant refuelingtwenty pounds of good-quality coal and twenty gallons of fresh water are required every few hours. The frequency of refueling depends on the exact model, of which there are many. Older, less-efficient models need water and coal every hour, while a newer unit might be able to run for three hours without tending. Cheap sulfurous coal or even firewood can be used in a pinch, but doing so reduces the efficiency of the unit.
Because of their constant hunger and thirst, steamjacks make poor cross-country travelers. They are taken to battle or work sites in an inactive state, pulled along on giant wagons behind a dozen horses. A caravan of coal-tenders usually follows, and water tanks as well if the destination is dry. Better still, if rail has been laid down to the work site, one steam-engine can easily deliver a work crew of steamjacks and their supplies.
Steamjacks can understand Common and occasionally another tongue if they have been so designed. Instructions must be simple, but steamjacks are capable of evaluating their environment well enough to prevent catastrophe. Steamjacks cannot speak, but they can produce steamy hisses, clanks, and metallic groans.
A steamjack’s “brain” is an intricate mechanika device that can account for up to half of the unit’s price. It is a rugged spherical matrix of copper bars inlaid with platinum and gold, surrounding a swirling magical vortex. Polished gemstone windows are inlaid into the glowing orb, preventing the captive charge from dissipating. Into this chaotic knot of energy is encoded all the unit’s memories and cognitive faculties. If the cortex is breached (hardness 5, 10 hp) it is utterly destroyed, and the escaping charge does 2d6 of electrical damage to anyone within 10 ft. (Ref. save DC 15 for half damage).
The cortex is hidden deep within the steamjack’s torso, cunningly mounted to protect it from impact. Only a trained mechanic or high level rogue can access the cortex. Removing it requires a successful Craft: Cortex skill check (DC 20) or a successful Disable Device skill check (DC 28). If the steamjack is destroyed, there is up to a 75% chance that the cortex will be salvageable at the DM’s option. This can allow the spirit of a wrecked warrior to fight another day in a new and improved chassis.
Steamjacks are formidable opponents, even if they haven’t been constructed specifically for war. Their bodies are plates of forged iron, and their powerful limbs are capable of lifting or crushing hundreds of pounds. They cannot be provoked into attacks, but once engaged do not cease their attacks until destroyed or ordered off. Even without specific instructions, all steamjacks have orders to defend themselves to the best of their ability.
While warjacks are the only units capable of simple, independent strategy, all steamjacks can follow specific instructions. A steamjack’s handler can order the steamjack verbally if he or she is within 60 feet. If the steamjack can see the handler, hand signals can be given.
Construct: Steamjacks are immune to mind-altering effects and have the other properties of Constructs detailed on MM 5.
Resistances: Steamjacks have fire and electrical resistance 20.
Cold Vulnerability: A steamjack suffers no damage from cold attacks, but is slowed one round for each 6 points of damage done to it. The effects are not cumulative.
Special Healing: A steamjack is not effected by heal spells. Mending cures 1 hit point. Fabricate cures 5d8+5 hit points. Iron Body cures all damage done to a steamjack.
Reliance on fuel: Steamjacks need to consume coal and water to function. Newer steamjacks require refueling (twenty pounds of coal and twenty gallons of water) every three hours. If not refueled, the steamjack’s next hour of operation is spent fatigued. After that, the unit becomes exhausted for an hour, after which it is stunned. At this point its firebox needs to be re-lit before it can function again.
Older steamjacks may require refueling after a single hour, as does any steamjack engaged in strenuous activity or combat.
Steamjacks using inferior fuel are considered shaken in addition to any other effects on it.
Firebox Vulnerability: A steamjack’s firebox fails when the unit is completely submerged in water or other liquid. Jacks without a burning firebox are considered stunned.
Several new skills are useful when constructing or using jacks. The following Craft skills can be purchased: Craft: Steamjack; Craft: Steamjack Handler, Craft: Steamjack Skeleton, Craft: Steamjack Joint, Craft: Motion Servos, and Craft: Steamjack Skin. Craft: Steamjack can be used to design specific weapons or tools for a steamjack. It can also be used for any other steamjack skill, with a +5 DC to the task being attempted. Handlers need 5 skill ranks to command steamjacks in basic tasks, 7 ranks to command them in advanced tasks, and 10 ranks to command warjacks. Commanding a steamjack is a standard action that does not draw an attack of opportunity.
The most common form of steamjack is the general-use model. It stands eight to twelve ft. tall and weighs about four thousand pounds. These steamjacks are capable of simple tasks only, such as lifting things, moving objects or digging. While most are run-down older models, some foundries with limited resources create these simple steamjacks from scratch.
Basic steamjacks can function with a very specific set of instructions and can be left to run on their own. They are capable of avoiding obstacles and people, but have been known to accidentally step on stray animals or sleeping street people. Steamjacks cease and shut themselves down or return to a preordained place when their task is finished. Any new command issued by the handler overrides the old commands. Basic steamjacks have no “memory” as such. They do not respond to any commands other than those given by their handler. For this reason, most citizens of the Iron Kingdoms give steamjacks a wide birth.
Steamjacks have no weapons other than their massive arms, but they are often fitted with useful industrial tools.
While untrained, a steamjack’s massive size makes it dangerous to meddle with. They only engage in combat to protect themselves or their cargo and do not give chase if their assailant flees. They can be commanded by their handlers to attack.
Tools: Steamjacks are sometimes fitted with tools that could function as weapons. For example, a lumber-jack could have a greataxe attached to one arm, or a construction-jack could have a greathammer for driving in spikes. The DM can substitute any appropriate great or huge weapon statistics if a steamjack is pressed into combat.
More sophisticated models serve on the docks of major port cities and are capable of much more difficult and sophisticated tasks than basic steamjacks. They stand 10 ft. tall and weigh about four thousand pounds. Advanced units can perform complicated lifting and sorting tasks, as well as some kinds of repairs and building. A fancy steamjack is certainly a status symbol for the longshoreman’s union that uses it!
Advanced steamjacks can be instructed with relatively complicated instructions that revolve around one task. For example, the unit may be told to move a load of crates from a galley to a certain warehouse or warehouses. Within this task, the construct can sort and stack cargo, even treating certain packages with more care than others. When attending to its duties, an advanced unit is very aware of its surroundings and is not likely to cause any accidental damage or inconvenience people. Outside of its appointed duties, the unit is more prone to failure, acting no more intelligently than a basic model.
An advanced steamjack can only be give one “complicated” order at a time. For example, it could be told, “unload all of these ships into these three warehouses, filling the emptiest warehouse first,“ or, “unload this ship, sorting the crates by size,” but the results would be unpredictable if the tasks we mixed together.
These units can take simple commands from others besides their handlers, such as “stand down” or “please move aside,” provided those commands don’t lead the steamjack into immediate danger or cause it to fail in its immediate task.
Advanced models have slightly better combat ability than basic steamjacks. They are designed with a set of preventive measures to protect themselves and their work site. They only initiate combat to protect themselves or their work site, and they do not give chase if their assailant flees. They can be commanded by their handlers to attack. Such commands can be more complex than a basic steamjack’s, such as “attack all those dwarves with axes, then the dwarves with warhammers,” but the battle commands override any working instructions and the unit will need to be given new instructions when the combat is over.
Tools: Advanced steamjacks are sometimes fitted with tools that could function as weapons, though they are usually used for cargo movement and sorting tasks. The DM can substitute any appropriate great or huge weapon statistics if an advanced steamjack is pressed into combat.
Warjacks are a subject for another day. They make their laboring cousins look like toys by comparison.
Parts of this document are Open Game Content released under the terms of the Open Game License. The OGC in this material consists of the stats ("Large Construct" through "Advancement"), and the portions of the "Combat" sections that contain terms copyrighted to Wizards of the Coast. The rest of the material is not open game content, and is trademark and copyright 2001 Privateer Press LLC. Reproduction is prohibited without prior written consent.