Clockwork Automaton

Clockwork automatons are a class of complex machines - constructed using many of the same engineering methods used in the construction of clocks and similiar devices - which can operate more or less independently from human input. They are distinguished from other clockwork devices in the sense that they are often made to mimic organic systems in some form or another, such as being ambulatory or possessing a generally humanoid body plan. They are also distinguished from other semi-magical constructs (such as The Transmuter's children, the athropomorphized objects) in that they seldom incorporate any living tissues or spiritual animating force in their construction, though they may incorporate arcane power sources or sensory equipment.  

In Farforth

In the universe of Farforth, the term 'automaton' generally applies to self-propelled devices which are commonly deployed through the use of summoning magic. The Winder's Guild maintain more than one hall of archetypes, which are warehouse spaces stocked with pre-assembled clockwork automatons to be called forth on such an occasion.
Winder's Guild Signet by BCGR_Wurth
This is done because, barring halls of archetypes, summoners would be apt to accidentally calling forth others' personal servant automatons in moments of despiration (i.e. self-defense), creating a nuisance for both the guild and would-be customers; halls of archetypes are a Guildmaster's solution to the 'tragedy of the commons' with regards to magical conjuration, and, based on this rationale, are paid for by the Kingdom as a form of public utility.   Unless expected to be used in specific, pre-programmed fashions - and especially if they are meant to be summoned - a clockwork automaton has a green arcana focus installed to control their behaviors. This focus allows the owner or summoner to command an automaton and even create simple programs for the automaton to follow, though it does not provide true intelligence. As the automaton is an unthinking piece of machinery, it is prone to misenterpreting instructions, with this vulnerability increasing exponentially in relation to the length of any instructions provided.  


Winder's Guild automatons are generally classified based on their size and overall purpose, All share a set naming scheme to encourage ease of calling via the use of summoning magic, as such spells rely on the names of objects to set targets. As such, each is called a "ticking (class/size combination moniker)(form factor/size combination moniker)."   The most common size category monikers, in order from smallest to largest, include:  
  • Mite - This category of automatons are typically spherical or insectile in overall form and are up to the size of a human head. They seldom have much in the way of armament or utility, but they are easy to summon and make for easy-going companions for the arcanist on-the-go. Mites are one of the only types of automaton which are frequently employed in large numbers by individual summoners, and their small size makes them ready spies for casters also proficient in remote sensing techniques. Mites are also the most commonly privately-owned or custom-made (see below) automatons due to their low cost and relative mechanical simplicity. Common mite-type automatons include the ticking candlemite, ticking bouncemite, ticking trenchmite, and ticking forkmite.
  • Mutt - This category of automatons are typically quadrupedal and, as the name implies, move about in a vaguely canine fasion. Like mites, they are popular as travelling companions, but they are also known to be efficient bodyguards for the cost-conscious. Mutt variants include those which come on the form of other quadrupedal animals (i.e. foxes) or, sometimes, oversized arthropods (i.e. crabs). Common mutt-type automatons include the ticking torchmut, ticking burstmutt, ticking keepmutt, and ticking hookmutt.
  • Maid - This category of automatons are typically human-sized. Members of the Winder's Guild have a noted admiration for the human form - as humans are machines wrought by the Gods themselves - and the feminine form in particular. As such, while maid-type automatons are often employed in personal protective roles in equal measure to housekeeping or courier roles, the majority of them take the form of women sculpted and apparelled with varying degrees of artistic skill. Common maid-type automatons include the ticking kindlemaid, ticking blitzmaid, ticking castlemaid, and ticking anglermaid.
  • Monster - This category of automatons are rare, being typically around twice the overall volume of a human. Monster-type automatons come in a wider variety of forms than smaller types, though most remain vaguely humanoid. Calling forth a ticking monster is hard work even for those in good standing with the guild, often requiring the assistance of one or more 'secondary summoners' to accomplish. Monster-type automatons are often worth the effort, however, as their massive bulks allow them to excel in combat and strength-based work of all types (i.e. loading ships). Common monster-type automatons include the ticking blazemonster, ticking flashmonster, ticking burgmonster, and ticking droguemonster.
  The common class monikers include:  
  • Alchemist: Alchemist-type clockwork automatons specialize in handling dangerous substances or providing heat, chill, or electric current via chemical and mechanical processes. They enjoy the highest resistance to arcane energy of all clockwork automata due to the nature of the work in which they are commonly employed. However, alchemists also tend to explode on destruction, though there are failsafes in place to prevent an accidental blast when in close proximity to their respective summoners. Common alchemist-type automatons include the ticking candlemite, ticking torchmutt, ticking kindlemaid, and ticking blazemonster.
  • Close Combat: Close combat clockwork automatons specialize in close-in fighting and personal defense, especially in choke points and other enclosed spaces. Outside of combat, they are frequently employed in roles relating to resource-gathering, such as mining or logging, where their outsized strength pairs nicely with commonly-equipped axe or pick attachments. Close combat automatons tend to be extremely durable and have the benefit of being incapable of experiencing fear, though these benefits are somewhat offset by their inability to 'read' opponents beyond the capabilities of their summoners. Common close combat automatons include the ticking trenchmite, ticking keepmutt, ticking castlemaid, and ticking burgmonster.
  • Ranged Scout: Ranged scout clockwork automatons are designed with speed, stealth, and long-distance engagement in mind. They are light, move very quickly, and often feature integrated projectile weapons (i.e. crossbows and muskets). Most ranged scouts feature the ability to project magical illusion effects in the form of 'displays' left at the summoner's position, allowing the summoner to effectively through the 'eyes' of the automaton from a position of relative safety. Models of at least maid class occasionally feature the ability to fly. These automaton are most preferred by those arcanists who lack divinatory magic but whom possess some degree of buffing ability to extend the lifespan of the ranged scout in dangerous environments. Out of combat, ranged scouts are the preferred automatons for explorers, hunters, and naturalists looking to see things from a new perspective. Common ranged scout automatons include the ticking bouncemite, ticking burstmutt, ticking blitzmaid, and ticking flashmonster.
  • Amphibious: Amphibious clockwork automatons are frequent sights near ports and aboard ships, serving important roles in nautical environments. Such automatons are capable of traversing water as well as land through the implementation of impellers, fins, and similar contrivances. They usually pair this swimming ability with equipment relating to various seaborne activities, such as fishing nets, drag hooks, appendages for manipulating rigging, and harpoon- or trident-like stabbing implements. In combat, they use these attachments to restrain, draw in, or anchor down opponents; an inoperable amphibious automaton may nonetheless remain attached to an opponent, hampering swimming or running until it can be cut loose. Common amphibious automatons include the ticking forkmite, ticking hookmut, ticking anglermaid, and ticking droguemonster.
Ticking Anglermaid by Hero Forge
A ticking anglermaid. This one's protective carapace is beginning to corrode due to long exposure to the water, though its costume has been recently refreshed.

Guild Licensure

Taxpayers who are also arcanists may opt to acquire a Winder's Guild license as an addition to their regular taxes. This license permits the user to make use of the Guild's halls of archetypes and to call upon the aid of the clockwork automatons held within. Each automaton may be summoned for intervals of up to one hour at a time, though most arcanists struggle to maintain a summoning effect for so long. Once this time is elapsed, a summoned clockwork automaton is automatically recalled to its hall of archetypes by the power of the Guild's arcane wardworks. Subsequent summonings may call forth any functioning automaton within the chosen size and category (see Taxonomy) from the Guild's stock, meaning that there is no guarantee that a summoner's orders or equipment provided to an automaton will carry over to subsequently called automatons.   Users are expected to care for the clockworks called forth in this fashion as best as they are able - though, in self-defense situations, this may not be feasable. After all, these wondrous machines are the property of the Guild and, ultimately, the Crown's loyal taxpayers. Unlicensed users who attempt to call forth Guild-supplied automatons usually get away with this misappropriation of taxpayer funds for a while, but only for so long. Eventually, a repeat offender will be sought out by Guild investigators who, empowered by the local Portreeve, may extract usage fees from the offender or otherwise punish them for what is, in essence, a failure to pay the Crown's lawful taxes. Similarly, those who regularly make rough work for the automatons may, eventually, be assessed maintenance fees which must be paid to maintain one's Winder's Guild license.   As the head of his household, The Transmuter of Gulderry pays for the Winder's Guild licenses of his animant children. This means that, should any of these individuals show an aptitude for summoning magic, they may call upon the Guild's automatons without fear of further taxation for the priveledge.  

Unique Specimens

While automatons supplied by the Winder's Guild at taxpayers' expense are the most common targets for conjuration magic in the world of Farforth, sometimes a 'prefab' is not a good fit for a user's present needs. In these cases, it is entirely possible for an inventive, wealthy, or well-connected individual to create their own hall of archetypes, filling a private space with privately-owned clockwork automatons and using these in lieu of the public stock. These automatons are often better decorated than their Guild counterparts and feature equipment unique to their intended purpose. However, unlike Guild automatons, these specimens must be constructed and repaired at the owner's expense. Similarly, if destroyed, unique automatons do not return to the Winder's Guild for repairs as though the summoning effect has ended - it is up to the owner to repair, refit, and return the automaton to its post in preparation for its next calling.

Cover image: by Artbreeder


Please Login in order to comment!