For those who don’t know from my tiny Substack bio, I am an English teacher by trade. One of my classes is Sci-Fi Literature. In celebration of this school year wrapping up soon, here is an encounter inspired by Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
While walking the streets of [City Name], your party is approached by a well-dressed young man. He introduces himself as an assistant for Mr. Grant Heartstone, the founder and CEO of the [Region Name] Mining Corporation. He comments on your party’s strength and ruggedness, and asks if you would accompany him to the nearby quarry for a potential lucrative job offer.
If you accept, the assistant will smile, whistle on his fingers, and remarkably humanoid mechanical constructs will arrive pulling 2-seater rickshaws. Your party members climb into the rickshaws and are whisked away on a surprisingly smooth ride to the quarry.
Query at the Quarry
When the players arrives at the quarry, they notice many constructs busily moving large blocks of stone and hacking away at the side of canyon walls with pickaxes and other tools. These constructs are varied. Some are much older and clearly mechanical. Others, like the constructs that pulled the rickshaws, will look surprisingly human, except that their humanoid masks/faces won’t make any sort of facial expressions, not even blinking eyes (I’m trying to make sure this DnD scenario doesn’t get too technologically advanced).
As you arrive, a heavyset businessman approaches the cart. He doesn’t introduce himself, rather waiting for his assistant to present “the world-renown Mr. Grant Heartstone.”
Mr. Heartstone should be played as very smug and unimpressed. He can even interrupt party members who speak for too long, flat out telling them that he’s growing bored with their talking and has more pressing matters to attend to.
He explains to the party that 3 of his humanoid constructs have run off. He would like them properly disposed of. If your party suggests that they could retrieve them and return them, Heartstone will wave away the idea; he doesn’t necessarily care for getting them back…he just wants them destroyed before his company’s patented construct technology falls into his competitors’ hands. To receive his generous reward though (200 GP), he demands that you return with something sizable from each construct: an arm, a leg, a head, etc.
If your party agrees, Heartstone will walk over to his assistant and open the assistant’s chest (revealing that he, too, was a construct this whole time) and hand the party “Heartstone’s Heart Stone.”
This item is a shiny black stone that fits in the palm of one’s hand. As he hands it to a party member, that player will feel a warmth radiating from the stone as well as feel it throb/pulse rather quickly.
Mr. Heartstone explains that this enchanted rock reacts when his constructs are nearby. Right now, it’s acting up because of all the constructs working in the quarry.
After receiving this item, your party is directed westward into some forests and told that the escaped constructs headed off in that direction.
The Hunt for the Humanoids
The party members will need to complete some survival and investigation checks on their own to get a clearer sense of direction; they might find burn marks in the sides of trees from things that are clearly machines, oil spills shimmering on plant life, or small pieces of coils or tiny gears.
After walking for a few hours in the right direction, the party will clear the trees and find themselves in a sunny meadow.
Your party sees three people in the distance, dressed in shepherds’ robes, and tending to a small flock of sheep.
When approached, the “shepherds” try to play dumb, but they should easily be revealed as constructs; likewise, the heart stone will begin warming up and throbbing for whatever character is holding it.
If your party asks them why they ran off, the machines will explain that they were tired of being treated like slaves and wanted to start a quiet, reclusive life away from mankind. They insist that they mean no one any harm and simply ask that your party leaves them alone.
At this point, the party is faced with a choice that determines the sequence of combat.
Option 1: Heart of Gold
Your party feels for these constructs and decides to either 1) walk away or 2) ask them for a appendage from each so that they can still collect their reward. If your party is greedy and chooses option 2, each construct will offer up a forearm/hand, admitting that they can tend to their flock and live their peaceful pastoral life just fine with only one arm apiece.
Suddenly, an arrow flies from the tree line toward one of the player characters (roll a Dex saving throw to dodge). Turning around, the party sees 3 roguish figures step out from the forests. These shady characters will admit that they, too, have been hired by Mr. Heartstone and want to seek out the reward for themselves.
The bounty hunters, likely rangers and rogues, will try to keep their distance, firing arrows and throwing knives at your party.
If all 3 of them reach “bloodied” status at the same time, they will try to run away back into the forest.
If your party allowed the constructs to keep their appendages, the machines will join the fight to protect you by changing their right forearms/hands into either drills (1d6 piercing damage) or mining hammers/picks (1d6 bludgeoning damage).
If your party greedily took their arms (hoping to still snag that sweet GP reward), then the constructs will avoid combat, sticking to their goals of peaceful, pacifist living and choose to take cover until the battle is over.
After the battle is over, the constructs will be grateful and give you a special item: The Origami Ewe-nicorn.
This small piece of thin metallic foil (or paper, if you prefer) is folded up into the shape of a sheep with a small horn sticking out of its forehead. It has two functions:
- If held out in front of you, any constructs/warforged that are attacking will pause, either pacifying completely or, at least, pause long enough to lose one turn in combat.
- The holder of the Origami Ewe-nicorn can choose to crumple it in their hand and receive truesight, poison immunity, and charm immunity for 1 hour. The Origami Ewe-nicorn, now a crumpled ball, is destroyed.
Option 2: Heart of Stone
Despite the constructs’ pleas, your party chooses to engage them in combat anyway and follow Mr. Heartstone’s request (how cold…).
The constructs will fight to defend themselves by changing their right forearms/hands into either drills (1d6 piercing damage) or mining hammers/picks (1d6 bludgeoning damage).
Aside from these basic built-in tools, they aren’t really equipped to fight in any other way. However, for fun, you can have the flock of sheep play an interesting role: for example, party members might need to vault over the sheep and complete acrobatics checks as they try to approach the constructs to attack. Additionally, although this could get messy, the constructs and party members could take half-cover behind the sheep.
Once the battle is over, you can collect the remnants that you need to show Mr. Heartstone and think about what you’ve done on the walk back home.
Back to the Quarry
If your party decides to go back to the quarry, a few things could happen…
- If your party destroyed the constructs and brought back pieces, then they will receive the original 200 GP reward.
- If your party let the constructs live (but took appendages voluntarily) and defeated the other bounty hunters, then a Deception check (DC=15) can still earn your party the 200 GP reward. If you fail, Mr. Heartstone will suspect that something is not right and refuse your reward.
- If your party let the constructs live (but took appendages voluntarily) and allowed one or more bounty hunters to flee, then Mr. Heartstone will be furious and not believe any lies that your players try to tell, having already been told of your betrayal by his other bounty hunter hires. If your party presses much further, he will threaten legal action.