This is part of my ongoing revision to the Realms of Chirak core campaign book which I would like to release in 2015 as a 5E setting if WotC will ever bother to finalize details of either an OGL or some sort of licensing for 3PP. I'd actually love some feedback on this racial option. It's built to fit the style and options of the animates as presented in 3rd and 4th edition iterations, and the balance of the animates depends on a racial feat to control the pace of acquiring animate add-ons. Whether it's really suitable for PCs or not is a different question.
Animates are the magically animated forms of golems brought to life through an imbuement with elemental energies. With very few exceptions, most animates are relics from the pre-apocalyptic age or derived from the remains of such, and it is believed that they were used as servants by the Old Mythrics, Inadasir, and other lost cultures both during peace and war.
Animates most people hear tell of in legends are the great monstrosities that guard the Black Dome of the north near the White Desert, killing and smashing all that approaches. The lesser known forms are sometimes referred to simply as collectors, humanoid entities of clay, metal and other odd patchwork parts sent out into the world to gather knowledge. They are sometimes self described as researchers and scholars, while at other times they seek out specific objects or items, and will often trade and barter for such items if they are held in high regard. Doppelgangers who have been utterly refused have been known to leave, only to come back later with deadly reinforcements.
Animates are unusually difficult characters to play, but can be an interesting challenge for someone who would like to try out a living construct. Animates usually serve some unusual ultimate purpose, which could be a long term campaign goal. On occasion animates achieve a sense of independence, perhaps having been inactivated due to damage, or on rare occasion shutting down due to some inhibition of their elemental power source. These animates may have a sense of free will and curiosity on their own, and an urge to explore.
Playing an Animate Character
Animates build their humanoid collector models to emulate living creatures, and so the nature of the magical artificing imbues them with life-like qualities, although they are clearly made of artificial materials. An animate collector appears to look like a human or elf made of stylized and decorative pieces of metal, ceramics, cloth and a strange fiber.
Average Height: Variable, usually in precise measurements of 5, 6, or 7 feet in height
Average Weight: 300-500 lbs.
Ability Scores: +1 Int, +1 Con
Speed: 30 feet
Vision: Normal, but an animate may choose better vision (see below)
Languages: Old Mythric, Espanean (or one other) and Tradespeak
Keen Observers: Animates are racially proficient in Perception.
Living Construct: Similar to standard constructs, living constructs are imbued with an elemental anima, or animating force that gives them life-like properties and separates them from golems and other unliving animated entities. As such, animates have the following differences and similarities from standard constructs:
Animates do not need to eat, breathe or sleep, but they still require eight hours of immobile activity to replenish their elemental power cores (and magical abilities or spells)
Animates are subject to any fortitude save that would ordinarily affect an object, but they are immune to poison and disease effects that do not target elementals as well
Elemental Attunement: Animates must choose an elemental trait that reflects their animating force: they gain resistance against attacks with that elemental property. Choose from: cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, psychic, radiant or thunder. Additionally animates can choose from two additional elemental types: earth, which grants the animate an unarmored AC of 16 plus Dex modifiers instead of any special resistance, or air, which grants the animate the ability to levitate as the spell at will (costs 1 action to activate).
Unnatural Physiology: although magical healing replenishes the elemental lifeforce of animates, the medicine skill is utterly useless when dealing with these creatures. Animates that have been damaged utilize the magic of their animating force to repair injury (allowing them to spend hit dice to heal wounds), an effect which is not unlike the mending spell. Actually using a mending spell on an animate will restore 2D4 hit points of damage, but the animate can only benefit from the mending spell once per short rest (the spell has upper limits for what it can do to heal living constructs).
Death and Living Constructs: Animates that reach zero hit points are inactivated; animates that reach the negative of their HP score are completely destroyed, and their elemental anima dispersed. Animates are believed to have no souls and so cannot be resurrected or raised (except by animate clerics, it seems). Animates who are raised by their own kind usually suffer memory loss of up to 1D6 months of events prior to their deaths. The animate clerics of the machine gods explain that their loci is only “backed up” periodically, and do little else to explain to outsiders what that means.
Construct Slots: Animates modularize themselves, adding or removing features best suited to the job at hand. Animates at level 1 have two “slots” they can install features in to. At later levels animates can take a feat which lets them add additional slots. Once an animate has filled a slot with one or more of the installed features, they can later free those slots up by installing other features. This requires an extended rest to properly perform (or 8 hours). Installing the new equipment isn’t just a matter of bolting it on, the anima of the construct has to attune to the device as well. This attunement in unique to the animate and does not count against normal attunement to magic items.
Animate Racial Feat: Advanced Construct Slots
This feat can be taken by animates only, and expands them to allow for two additional construct slots. The animate may then choose the additional traits to install when the feat is chosen, though the DM may require an expenditure of time or coin to “activate” the chosen traits, typically 100 GP per slot and 8 hours of install time. Animates may take this feat multiple times, but each time the feat is taken the animate’s form grows proportionately larger and more “accessorized.” Animates with 8 or more slots are considered large creatures.
Animate Racial Traits:
The following traits may be used to fill the construct slots. At level 1 animates start with one or two traits (enough to fill both slots; most traits take one slot). Many animate traits emulate spells. The animate uses constitution as the spell ability for determining attacks, damage bonuses and save DCs unless specified otherwise.
Night Vision (one slot)
An animate with this ability can see at night as if it were daylight, although sudden bright lights can be momentarily blinding. Complete darkness is equivalent to dim light. Only darkness spells will remove the animate’s ability to see.
Rules: This effect is a bonus action to activate, and remains on until deactivated. If the animate is surprised by sudden bright light equivalent to sunlight within 10 feet of his location, he has disadvantage against ranged attacks and perception checks until the beginning of his next turn.
Elemental Spray (one slot)
Small holes in the ends of the animate’s fingers release a stream of burning liquid in an arc spray.
Rules: The animate gains a ranged attack that functions like burning hands, with two specific exceptions: the animate may choose a different elemental type for the damage that matches its own elemental attunement, and it gains 3 “charges” to use the effect, each equivalent to a level 1 spell slot. These special charges require a long rest to recover. If the animate is elementally of earth type the effect is fire. If the elemental type is air it will be thunder or lightning (animate’s choice).
Elemental Reservoir (one slot)
Prerequisite: elemental spray must be installed.
The majority of the animate’s arm and additional storage on the back of the construct are used to provide extra fuel and punch to the animate’s elemental spray.
Rules: the elemental reservoir enhances the elemental spray, granting the animate an additional 3 slots to use for powering the elemental spray. Burning hands may be empowered with higher level spell slots; with the elemental cannon installed the animate can now “spend” the charges to attain a higher level of effect by adding them to get the desired level (i.e. with 6 charges the animate could use the spell as equivalent to a level 1 slot six times, or burn them all as a level 6 spell slot, or fire twice at level 3 each). As with the regular elemental spray all of the charges are restored after an extended rest.
Change Self (one slot)
With a thought, the animate’s exterior appearance changes like plastic to emulate another humanoid form.
Rules: This ability emulates the wizard spell disguise self and works in the same manner. The animate gains 3 charges equivalent to 1st level spell slots which can be used to power the effect. The charges replenish after a long rest.
Hardened Skin (one slot)
This animate can tense up, as armored plates lock together in to a solid, impenetrable mass of hardened ceramic, metal and wood.
Rules: the animate may activate this effect as a bonus action and gains a natural AC of 18 (equivalent to plate armor, does not stack with other armor or dexterity). The effect lasts for ten minutes. Once used hardened skin cannot be restored until a short rest is taken.
Machine Logic (one slot)
Some animates are particularly mechanical in their way of thinking, and perceive reality through calculated, analytical eyes.
Prerequisite: Wisdom or Intelligence of 13 or better.
Rules: The animate gains advantage against all illusory and mind-affecting attacks as well as attacks.
Advanced Fire Spray (one slot)
Prerequisite: animate with elemental (fire) spray installed.
Benefit: Animates that use the elemental spray may choose this option. The animate can spray a lingering elemental fluid from its fingertips in addition to the normal elemental spray attacl. The spray does an additional 1D6 ongoing damage of the chosen elemental type to all targets hit by the spray each round. The targets must save vs. Constitution (DC equal to 10 plus animate’s CON) to extinguish the elemental “burning” at the end of their turn. The effect will dissipate after one minute if not extinguished via save.
Advanced Machine Logic (one slot)
The animate has honed its machine logic to a razor’s edge.
Prerequisite: Animate with machine logic installed; Wisdom and Intelligence of 15 or better
Rules: The animate gains total immunity to charm effects and resistance against psychic damage. In addition, when rolling advantage on saves against mind-influencing and illusory effects the animate may ignore any 1’s or 2’s and reroll.
Photographic Recall (one slot)
Prerequisites: Intelligence 15 or better.
Rules: Animates can be constructed and magically programmed to record what they see and hear with stunning precision. As time goes by, this ability is nurtured and becomes truly vivid. Animates with this ability gain a sense of amazing recall about events they have witnessed.
The animate gains three “recall charges” to use with this trait. Each time the animate expends a charge as a bonus action it may choose one of the following features. The charges, once spent, may be recovered with a long rest.
Skill Advantage: recall useful information regarding a skill or attribute check, gaining advantage for that roll
Attack Advantage: gain advantage on your next attack
Lore Recall: recover one useful bit of data from memory about current or historical lore or information relevant to the adventure (subject to DM interpretation)
Proficiency: gain proficiency on your next action based on recollection of useful information
Lost Memories: an animate can try to remember ancient experiences from its own life or the lives of other animates it can access. Make a intelligence (history) check to determine how old the memory is. The result may at the DM’s discretion grant proficiency on one relevant skill or attribute check that relates to the recovered memory.
Roll Length of Time
1-5 1 week
6-10 1 month
11-13 1 year
14-16 10 years
17-20 100 years
21-25 1,000 years
26-34 2,000 years
35+ +1,000 years
Note that an animate might be fairly young, but its internal memory might contain archived data going back thousands of years. Any animate with an intelligence of less than 15 does not contain an archived data bank and can not be upgraded with one until its intelligence is improved to 15 or better.
Once the recall is complete, the animate may photographically reconstruct an image recalled in a physical media (such as potter or painter); the animate gains a bonus (based on the above chart) to the relevant skill (usually perform) for such attempts. It will be almost lifelike, depending on the quality of painting materials. An animate with the Mimicry trait (see below) may precisely duplicate voices from any period of time (like a recording, but not as voice mimicry). Minutiae down to the signature on a clay pot or the runes on a banded ring may be recalled with this ability.
Mimicry (one slot)
Prerequisites: Charisma 14+
Animates with this trait installed are able to study and precisely imitate the motions and voice of those they encounter. Some perfect it to an art.
The animate can study one target for a period of time that it can see and attempt to mimic that target with a Charisma (deception) skill check. The base DC for this task is 15, modified as follows:
DC 15 if the target is studied for 1-10 minutes
DC 13 if the target is studied for more than 10 minutes
DC 20 if the target is studied for 1 minute or less
DC 25 if the target is attempting to disguise its own movement or behavior (or make a contested roll vs. the target’s deception skill)
Roll with advantage if studied for one hour or more
Roll with disadvantage if the subject is being mimicked through second-hand (but accurate) information
The animate, if successful, will precisely imitate the mannerisms and voice of a target (or both, with two separate checks). The mimicry will be so precise that the animate could be instantly assumed to be its mimicked target. Note that the animate that does this is actually doing a form of pantomime, and is not creating movements that are able to duplicate combat or skill-based actions of the target. Nonetheless, the result is uncanny compared to conventional thespians, a mechanically precise duplication of life.
Photographic recall used with this feat may allow for additional applications of this trait.
Resistant Skin (two slots)
The animate enhances his hardened skin for a total carapace which resists specific damage types.
Prerequisite: Animate with hardened skin installed, Level 8+
Rules: This animate has added a layer of additional protection on his exterior carapace. In addition to his normal bonuses when activating hardened skin, he adds resistance as well. The resistance will be against either 2 elemental damage types of choice, or against piercing, slashing and crushing damage. The effect lasts for as long as regular hardened skin does. The choice of resistance types may be changed after a long rest.