Monster Analysis: Gearkeeper 1.0

Gearkeeper.jpg

Art by @kinnamax

  • First Appearance: 2-25 Divergent Paths
  • Armor Class 18 (reducible)
  • Speed Unknown
  • Resistant to nonmagical physical weapon damage
  • Immune to poison damage
  • Immune to poisoned, prone, and exhaustion (potentially more)
  • Does not require food, water, air, or sleep
  • 261 damage taken, 10 HDTWTDT by Molly

Two years ago, Cleff Tinkertop was commissioned by the Starosta to build a creature that would ensure that the most violent criminals in the Gearhold Prison stayed locked up. While the plans and its construction seemed solid, the creation's inability to tell friend from foe, as well as its failure to determine when its services weren't required, proved disastrous the first time it was put to work, killing prisoner and guard alike. Cleff was fined for the resulting damage and reduced to a laughing stock, and his construct was sealed behind a very strong door.

As the Nein learned upon entering the secured wing, it wasn’t just the construct that was sealed; the remaining prisoners in that portion of the Gearhold were locked away along with it. The telltale remains of scratched walls were evidence that the Gearkeeper didn’t slow down once it was sealed. It seems that it only went inert once all life in the area was gone. One could argue that the prisoners who starved to death rather than fell to its blades suffered a worse fate, having to deal with the whirling death machine threatening them 24/7 while they withered away into skeletons.

Though Cleff still had his blueprints for the Gearkeeper, unfortunately for the Nein, his technical jargon shorthand (and Gnomish) were far above their heads. They managed to discern that its core was magical, it had a lens to see, bladed arms to slice, and three layers of armor to protect it and help wheel it around quickly. With that knowledge in their heads and a bucket of tar in hand, they convinced Wardenhelm Poppin Drokrusher to let them have at the Gearkeeper.

Attack Mode: Engaged

Thanks to @apricatt_art for this art piece!

The Gearkeeper was prepared for nearly any kind of assault or escaping prisoner with melee attacks, area of effect damage, and ranged attacks. The eight foot wide sphere was equipped with a lens to see (and, apparently, a way to clean the lens from any viscosity of filth), three layers of armor, 12 bladed arms, at least two spears, and a rechargeable shrapnel blast.

The construct’s spinning blades provided a constant threat to melee combatants, dealing 2d6 slashing damage at the start of their turn when they began their turn within five feet of the construct. This served as an extra threat against Yasha, Molly, and especially Beauregard, the last who automatically failed a death save just for having the audacity of falling unconscious right next to it when it struck her. We didn’t get the opportunity to see if the Gearkeeper could use any of its 12 scythe-like arms for attacks on its turn (though it did use one for an attack of opportunity), but we wouldn’t put it past Cleff to design such an option.

Even when it wasn't attacking, the Gearkeeper dealt serious damage just by its movement. While the slashed prisons walls told plenty of its basic locomotion, its charge ability would have made very short work of an emaciated prisoner. When the party engaged it, it literally rolled over Yasha, slicing her with its blades and trampling her after a failed contested athletics check.

For crowd control, the Gearkeeper's shrapnel blast hit anyone in front of it within a 30 foot cone. Although we don't know the exact damage dice used and this effect deals piercing damage in a cone, the damage totals and the dexterity save requirement appears to be very similar to that of the Fireball spell (8d6 fire damage). This attack would have been devastating against an attempted prisoner coup: imagine the Gearkeeper blasting prisoners as they tried to run for the door. (Those who watched Campaign 1, Episode 108 may remember the Smelter Guardians had a similar attack, though their chests blasted fire instead of shrapnel.)

Caleb made sure to ask Cleff about ranged attacks the Gearkeeper could potentially have, but Cleff may have spent the better part of the two years since the mishap trying to block out his memories. Despite Cleff not remembering it having any ranged attacks, the Gearkeeper fired two large spears at Caleb, hurled fast and hard enough to go through Caleb’s chest and pin him to the wall.

Lastly, the metal guardian's inner core was guarded by three layers of plated armor, providing protection from both physical and magical attacks. Its magical essence halved the damage from non-magical attacks against it, as well as provided a stronger armor class when all three layers were intact. However, once TM9 dealt around 65-75 damage, its outer layer peeled back, lowering its AC from 18 to 17. At around the 130-140 damage mark, it lowered again to 16.

Who Ya Gonna Call? Mighty Nein!

CR TM9.jpg

Despite the lack of khaki coverall uniforms, the Nein set to work to dismantle the Gearkeeper’s outer defenses in order to get its magical core. For the majority of the fight, the party did well to spread themselves out, keeping the construct surrounded from all sides for flanking bonuses.

Caleb’s Earthen Grasp didn’t last terribly long, but it functioned well while it did. Both Yasha and Fjord dealt a combined 53 damage, thanks to having advantage on their strikes against it at the top of Round 2. They also dealt 53 combined damage at the top of Round 3 with only Yasha at advantage, but by then, the Gearkeeper’s AC was down to 16. Nott’s application of tar to its lens blinded the construct for most of a round, though it was able to clean off the sticky tar with a mere free action before determining Caleb was the greatest threat, pinning him to the wall and forcing him to drop the Earthen Grasp.

Beau’s lack of magical weapons prevented her from dealing more than 17 damage, but her positioning helped Yasha gain advantage on her strikes. Additionally, in the last round, the Gearkeeper took note of everyone gathering around it, taking attacks of opportunity from Beau and Molly in an attempt angle itself to blast the entire party. Beau's Sentinel ability stopped it in its tracks; while Beau and most of the party was still within the cone of shrapnel, this prevented Nott from also taking the hit, which would have almost certainly knocked both her and Beau unconscious.

Nott was similarly de-powered by the construct's resistance to non-magical damage. Her positioning kept her alive, preventing the Gearkeeping from optimizing its own strategy against its attackers. She was also in charge of applying the much-sought-after tar. Although the blindness was disappointingly brief, it gave a short morale boost to the party, as well as served as a quick lesson that the creator wasn't necessarily privy to the complete capabilities of this fully armed and operational battle mech.

Though her Spiritual Weapon was largely useless, Jester’s Guiding Bolt and Toll the Dead attacks were quite effective against Gearkeeper, dealing 14 radiant damage and 17 necrotic damage, respectively. Her 7 points of healing to Caleb in Round 2 seemed small, but without them he would have also fallen unconscious from the second shrapnel blast.

Molly, like Fjord, had the benefit of a magical physical weapon (Summer’s Dance) as well as the opportunity to make a third attack with a non-magical weapon. He took a little bit of warming up to start hitting, but Taliesin’s new nega-Snitch die came through for him when he needed it, landing him the killing blow on the Gearkeeper.

The Aftermath

Thanks to @gears2gnomes for this art piece!

With the Gearkeeper put down, Wardenhelm Poppin can set his guards to the task of cleaning out that corridor of the prison after two to three years of being cordoned off. Furthermore, with whole new findings, Cleff can set to work updating the flaws The Mighty Nein took advantage of in the previous failed model to integrate in the next version. Gearkeeper 2.0 will absolutely not have any programming issues whatsoever and will not need to be defeated by private exterminators at all. (For Rissa and Cleff’s sake, we genuinely hope so.)