Why do dwarven mechanists get the ability to create dungeons?

They don’t derive any benefit from monster parts, do they? The book says it’s to test their creations, but… really? “I built a giant underground cavern and filled it with gold to attract trolls solely because I think it’s funny when trolls step into my circular saw traps?”

That seems like a very odd class feature. I’m assuming it’s because Trap-filled Dwarven Ruins are a fantasy stereotype, but still…

Also, the mention of dungeons under the engineering class makes me wonder- Can only mages and dwarves build dungeons? I assumed everyone could, if they wanted to dig holes in the ground.

Also, what do other GMs think of this:

One of my players (Our party Thief) is thinking long term and wants to commission a “hand ballista” essentially. Build a 7 HD automaton (Since damage is 3xHD, that’s 21 damage every time. Enough to autokill almost any enemy, particularly with Sneak Attack.) that’s incapable of movement and requires an operator, with eight Special Abilties to halve weight (2^8th means 256th of the normal weight) so that it only weighs two stone. One more special ability to make it ranged. -1 move, -1 operate, +8 weight, +1 ranged, total abilities 7, total HD 7, for a price of 49,000 gp. More or less, depending on whether our engineer picks up the cost reducing proficiencies, and whether he spends extra to make sure the saving throw succeeds.

I’m not wholly certain of how the rules apply to attacking using a piloted automaton; I’d assume it’s treated largely as a normal crossbow, with the thief still spending his own attack action and being able to make sneak attacks and soforth. I don’t know whether it would require reloading; probably not, right? I mean, for that kind of money, it probably contains a tiny projectile factory. Or maybe it just shoots lightning, or a bronze fist on a spring.

I’m thinking of allowing it, since it’d require a very high level engineer to create, which means that it won’t show up until around Name level, by which time magic item creation has come into play, and there’s Arrows of Slaying to be had and soforth. I’ve never actually experienced a campaign at Name level though, so I’d like your input

I can’t help you with the dungeons, but I can make a comment on the automaton.

First, rules as written: 3x HD is the maximum damage, not the average damage. Thus, you could theoretically give it 21d1 damage, but that would be abusive and clearly not the intent. An attack at 2d10 + 1 seems to fit the hand ballista concept better. Still a devastating attack, but not 21 points every time.

Second, my own opinion: On operating automatons, my instinct would be to treat them like siege weapons and use either their own attack throw or the operator’s, whichever is worse. The operator would certainly still have to expend an attack action and since backstab is permitted with any weapon the character is proficient with, I would allow that as well.

since backstab is permitted with any weapon the character is proficient with

Do you have a source on that? The existence of the Sniping proficiency (“If otherwise eligible to ambush or backstab his opponent, the character may do so using ranged weapons at up to short range.”) would seem to imply that, by default, you can only ambush/backstab with melee weapons.

You are correct; my quick check to make sure I was right was insufficiently thorough! (I had just checked the thief and assassin classes, and backstab mentions no weapon limitation there.)

A quick search on the forum found me a source on me being wrong; by default, Backstab and Ambushing may only be used with melee weapons.


A character with the Sniping proficiency could snipe with the hand ballista up to short range. The Range special ability would give it a range of up to 210’; by comparision to the missile weapons table (ACKS page 103), this happens to be identical to a long bow or composite bow, whose short range is up to 70’.

So I would allow a character with Sniping proficiency to backstab with it at a range of up to 70’; other characters would not be able to backstab with it.

What are the special rules for siege weapons? Also, would it be treated as a siege weapon if it weighed as much as a normal crossbow?

The rules for operating ballista and catapult can be found on pages 112-113 of ACKS Core.

Since ballista and catapults can never make attack throws on their own, they have no attack throw value of their own; it would be entirely reasonable in my opinion to not give automatons that require an operator an attack throw value of their own, but in either case, the ballista and catapults always use the attack throw of the lowest level member of the crew.

As a result, my theory that it would use the lower of wielder’s or its own attack throw is a penalty, capping the attack throw value that you can use with it. I feel that this is reasonable because it’s a 20-pound weapon that is awkward to use. If it weighed as much as a normal crossbow, I would be more likely to be willing to remove the cap, but I think I’d still want to keep it to reflect it being a clockwork creation rather than an actual common weapon.

(Side note, since I have been posting on this thread some and forgot to mention it previously, I am not an autarch, just some guy, and anything I post without a citation is strictly my opinion.)

Lack of editing!

The cite for max damage instead of average damage is ACKS PC page 19. The rule is identical to the construct creation rule, which can be found on ACKS Core page 121 (and the Core construct rules includes an example of dividing the damage into dice).

Sometimes there’s not more to it than fulfilling the stereotypes. :wink:

There is nothing mechanically stopping other classes from building dungeons any more than there is a fighter from building a hideout and hiring ruffians. That said, I have tended to assume:

  • There’s little benefit for other classes to build dungeons, so they don’t;
  • Building a dungeon is a bit off-putting in polite society, so only wizards who are powerful enough to not care do it.

Susan, that sounds like an awesome device, and exactly the sort of weapon that Dwarven Machinists ought to be making.

Attacks made with the “hand ballista” would use the attack throw of its operator.

Damage should be a maximum of 21 points of damage per round and an average of half that. I would recommend 2d10+1, 3d6+3, or 5d4 as reasonable damage codes for the hand ballista.

Below are some items that the dwarven machinist created in my Eastern Krysea mini-campaign:

Arcanometer (AC 0, HD1, hp5): The operator of this strange contraption can detect magic at will. The presence of magic is revealed by a gauge on the handle. Calibrating the device requires 1 turn each time it is used. (1 stone, 2,000gp)

Clockwork Griffin (AC 3, Move 120’ flying, HD6, hp24, #AT2 talons and 1 bite, Dmg 1d4+1/1d4+1/1d8, ML N/A): The clockwork griffin is a drone that follows simple instructions in the same manner as a golem. It cannot carry passengers due to its many complex gears. It weighs 36 stone (360lbs). (27,000gp)

2 Clockwork War Titans (AC 9, Move 60’, HD18, hp90, #AT 2 fists, Dmg 2d12+3/2d12+3, ML N/A): Clockwork war titans are drones that follow simple instructions in the same manner as a golem. They cannot carry passengers but can carry and operate the repeating steam ballistas (below). Each weighs 324 stone (3,240lbs). (46,000gp).

2 Repeating Steam Ballistas (AC3, HD4, hp20): The operator may fire a steam-powered spear once per round. Each spear does 2d6 damage to a maximum range of 240 yards. The device weighs 16 stone (160lbs) and cannot move on its own. (8,000gp)

Ornithopter Wing-Pack (AC 0, HD1, hp5): The operator of these mechanical wings can fly at an exploration rate of 60’/ turn. He cannot hover or carry other passengers. (1 stone, 7,000gp)

Just for my own elucidation, why can the Ornithopter cited in your earlier post fly with an operator if it has a carry capacity of .5 stone?

Maybe because my player pulled a fast one and I didn’t notice! Share the math you did? Heh.

Also, why did your player build separate titans and ballistas? Wouldn’t it be easier to just add an attack to the titans?

Also, when you “add a ranged attack” does that assume crossbow-like need to reload and keep track of ammunition? The first is important for cleaving.

Having them separate created more tactical flexibility. The ballista could be crewed while the titans attacked, or the titans could use the ballista. If one is destroyed, the other is still intact.

I’ll do some math too! If nothing else, it’s good practice for dealing with our party’s dwarf.

HD: 1
Automaton’s Weight: 1^2 times 10=10 stone. I’m assuming a math error was made here, because it should be 1 stone per your decryption. Unless he halved it three times and rounded down?

“An automaton’s carrying capacity is equal to 1⁄2 its weight.” Quoth the book.

Also, special abilities:
+1 Standard construct immunities (Unless he left them out, in which case his wingpack is vulnerable to sleep)
+1 can carry passenger (maybe player assumed this overruled the weight limit, or just didn’t notice?)
+1 can fly
-1 requires operator
+3? Weight reductions?

Total Price:
2000+25,000 with weight reductions= 27,000, requires at least level 5 to make.

Yes, I was just using 1/2 weight. I assume that 1 stone in the description was probably an error as it would be rather inefficient to include 3 weight reductions. I ran into this with my first level mechanist where he wanted a flying backpack first level with the personal automaton feat. The 1HD backpack he could possibly make didn’t include the immunities but only had a carry capacity of 50 pounds which isn’t enough to carry most dwarves.

I think given that the price was 7k is it safe to assume the build was thus:

HD 1

Flight +1
Requires Operator -1
Can carry Passenger +1
Excluded Immunities +/- 0

1HD (2000) + 1 Power (5000) = Flying Ornithopter Pack (Weight: 10 stone, Carry Weight: 5 Stone).

One could tweak the carry capacity to 100 lbs if one spend another special power while removing attacks.

Oh. I just realized that all of those automaton weights are off by a factor of 10. Since the companion states “Hit Dice squared x 10 stone.”

The Arcanometer and Ornithopter should be 10 stone.

The griffin should be 360 stone and the titans both come in at a whopping 32,400 lbs rather than 3,240.

Does the “operator” not count against the weight capacity though? Not a rule I would mind, just not what I had interpreted off the entry in the companion.