At CR 2 and 2 Hit Dice, the clockwork servant isn’t a threat to anyone but the most novice parties.
Scratch that. It isn’t the most obvious threat. Because the clockwork servant has two major time bombs hidden in its Bestiary 3 entry—abilities no other clockwork creation can boast.
First, the ability to repair/heal 1d10 damage to any clockwork creature each round. That’s huge, especially if PCs are facing superior numbers. They’ll have to move fast and yet thoroughly clean out every room. Neither hit-and-run tactics nor prolonged battles of attrition will wear clockwork creatures down, not if a single clockwork servant is around to repair them.
Second, only clockwork servants are listed as having the potential to be/become intelligent. Now sure, you can easily rule that any clockwork creation has that potential. But there’s something compelling about the idea that only a humble servant has the right combination of gears. Which, if you befriended it, might make you the only adventurer with an R2 unit. On the other hand, how much fun would it be to have a grand adventure where the Big Bad turns out to have been a simple repair unit all along?
A loremaster commissions adventurers to explore and map a complex that might have once been a flying vessel. To assist them in operating the complex’s many doors, lifts, and miscellaneous machinery, the loremaster offers the services of a clockwork servant, rescued and reprogrammed after one of his first forays to the site. After a series of bad run-ins with clockwork monsters, the adventurers realize the clockwork servant has been orchestrating the attacks. The dungeon crawl is now a mystery: How did the servant gain sentience? What aims does it have? And did the loremaster know?
A dying mage attempted to upload his consciousness into his clockwork servant. He failed. The township becomes aware of his death only because one of his impulses survived: The clockwork servant obsessively repairs a seemingly endless stash of clockwork spies and then sends them out into the world. The council wants something done, and the gold they offer is good. Unfortunately, the mage’s tower hosts a number of other constructs as well, clockwork and otherwise—all programmed to guard a man who can never tell them to stand down.
Clockwork servants are a common sight in Cognomon. In gearthrall communities they are relied upon to keep the strange machines that power daily life in good working order, particularly those involved in water treatment, public sanitation, and lighting. (True, some clockwork servants do go berserk, but these are regarded as unfortunate, unavoidable incidents.) Gearpriests hush up any rumors of clockwork servants who speak, however—such things are not for the uninitiated. Independent communities are far less sanguine about the constructs’ presence. Some settlements even mount the smashed-in heads of clockwork servants on spikes outside of town as a warning to all.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 3 56
One last note: the clockwork servant’s three-legged, four-armed shape. It might be just for utility—what mechanic couldn’t use another set of hands on occasion? It might be stability—maybe bipedal travel is tricky for novice crafters compared to a stable tripod design. Or it may point to something else, like an otherworldly or planar origin…
Last week, a couple of readers immediately chimed in that it looks like Pathfinder Adventure Path #87: The Choking Tower will feature a variant clockwork mage: the robotic apprentice. Since that issue isn't out yet, you all are clearly psychic aliens and must be sentenced to Space Jail.
(Seriously, thanks for the heads-up, dailyplanescape and Oznogon Games. Also OG, I’m planning a visit to Portland and Seattle in November. Where should I go for old gaming stuff besides Powell’s?)
(I’ve also got a trip to my alma mater coming up. Any Williams College students out there want to send a guest meal my way? Or any Wesleyan students willing to hike out for the game? I think papsmearpugilist was an Eph…anyone else?)
Finally, for anyone who wants to see a pretty awesome clockwork golem/goliath at work, I caught The Boxtrolls this weekend and it had a delightfully ramshackle (and 100% stop-motion!) one.
This weekend, I took the indie rock bus that is my radio show down an Americana side road. Then at the last moment I crashed it into a wall of ’70s. Listen!
Also look for tunes from the Manly Deeds (friends of the show), kindlewood, and Caleb Stine (ditto) to get you psyched for Friday’s Baltimore Folk Fest.
(Link good till Friday, 10/17, at midnight. If the feed skips, try and Save As an mp3, then enjoy in iTunes.)