Login or register. (You can now login/register with your social networks.)


6 Votes


Hits: 2293
Comments: 8
Ideas: 0
Rating: 3.9167
Condition: Normal
ID: 5455


November 22, 2008, 6:58 am

Vote Hall of Honour
Cheka Man

You must be a member to use HoH votes.
Author Status


Print Friendly and PDF

Karakuri Ninja


Electro-Clockwork assassins of the Far East.

The traditionalist approach of the Far East to design of steampunk technologies1 leads us to the role of the ninja clans in the use and application of technology.

Much of the magic attributed to the ninja is actually due to their research and development in the fields of chemistry, explosives, medicine, and physics. While many technological advances were made after the initial European contact of the 16th century, the isolationist polices of the Tokugawa Shogunate caused the ninja clans to develop their own areas of research, in addition to an increase in smuggling of European inventions. With the opening of Japan during the Meiji Restoration, additional new technological inventions again became available to the ninja clans of Japan.

To combat increasingly better armed and armored opponents, the ninja clans have decided to develop a new technological weapon to aid them. Various designs and mechanisms have been developed, but the need for a semi-autonomous weapon has led to the development of an entirely novel approach. It was deemed that an automaton could often be used where humans couldn’t or shouldn’t be risked. This decision gave birth to a new technological terror, the Karakuri Ninja.

"It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead."2

While there is an amount of standardization in the creation of Karakuri3 Ninja, each clan has it’s own distinct style. Additionally, the weapons suite available is often non-standard, with a wide variety of hidden and trick weaponry available. There are two primary types, the terror-inspiring Oni Karakuri Ninja, and the ambush-specialized Shinobi Karakuri Ninja. Some clans have attempted to field a third type, the so-called Karakuri Kunoichi, but ease of detection (any detailed inspection) has produced limited success.

Oni Karakuri Ninja
Many versions incorporate a demon mask face with oni, tengu, kappa, and hannya being the most common, though a simple blank face is also used. When terror is the preferred weapon, striking colors and patterns are used in conjunction with demonic masks. One clan purportedly even uses the classical image of a samurai warrior, complete with oyoroi, mempo, kabuto, and arms for these automata. Some of the demonic versions are also built larger, with increased armor plating, allowing them to sustain more damage before destruction, as well as being more physically frightening. Because of the public fascination with karakuri clockworks, skeletal and/or openly clockwork designs are NOT used for terror inspiring designs.

Shinobi Karakuri Ninja
Designed with stealth in mind, these automata are typically coated in a mission-specific chameleon lacquer and a more human appearance. While the heads are typically designed to show only limited facial features (commonly the eyes, mouth, and ears), some more fully replicate human looks, complete with hair, eyebrows, a nose, occasional facial hair, and other sculpted features. The bodies are generally featureless, showing only the rivets holding the armor, weapon systems which can not be concealed, and odd-seeming gaps and plates. In some rare cases, they may be painted in such a way that suggest clothing, or even given clothes (especially costumes which can further be used to disguise them, such as the common komusou4 disguise employed by the ninja, or being disguised as an entertainer).


The Skeletal System
While an automaton doesn’t really need bones to provide physical support to the body, Karakuri Ninja do have a skeletal system, consisting of forged steel sections which are used as anchor points for the various organs, cogs, springs, sprockets, weapon systems, as well as providing attachment points for the exterior armor covering.

The Skin
Because the automaton is less susceptible to attack forms which would cause an unarmored human damage, and weight and expense are design considerations, the Karakuri Ninja are plated in shot-proofed armor which is roughly the same as that worn by humans. Admittedly, they generally receive a bit more coverage than a similar suite of armor for humans, but the armor plating is not all that thick, just enough to protect against many melee weapons, and average grade bullet penetration. Arrows, particularly those with armor piercing designs, as well as spears and other stabbing weapons can generally penetrate the armor, however, the overall construction of the Karakuri Ninja means that many such penetrations would have to occur to significantly damage the automaton. Certain large cleaving weapons, such as axes and polearms, as well as damaging blunt weapons (hammers, two-handed clubs, and the like) will also inflict useful damage against the Karakuri Ninja, though again, with only repeated attacks having an incapacitating effect. While there is moderate protection against bullets (especially at a distance), they can still be damaged by guns when liberally attacked. Large bore weapons (elephant guns, cannon, etc) will also have little problem inflicting debilitating damage to the automaton.
In those cases where a Karakuri Ninja is designed to use flammable weapons, gunpowder weapons, and explosives (with the exception of the self-destruct mechanism), they are often coated with a special fire-resistant lacquer which helps to minimize the armor to exposure to the elements, particularly water. This lacquer does help the more exposed portions of the Karakuri Ninja, but at the cost of making it more visible, as no other lacquer coating can be used. Therefore the automaton equipped for this method of combat are most often used in conjunction with the more demonic terror styles of automata.

Most Kakakuri Ninja are coated with a special (water-proof) lacquer is used to give these automata either a mottled appearance (in earth tones), or a solid color appearance for specific applications (winter use, night use, etc) While this covering doesn’t make the Karakuri Ninja completely invisible, it does make it extremely difficult to spot when the automaton is motionless, and in certain visibility reduced conditions (night, fog, smoke, mist, rain, blizzard, etc.) makes them almost indistinguishable from the background.

While Karakuri Ninja can run, walk, jump, and climb, they cannot swim. Because they cannot swim, they are generally sealed against water intrusion through the use of special lacquers and the outer casing. Any weapon emplacements generally also contain a simple closure valve to prevent leakage both from water and any on-board liquids, such as acid, poison, flammable liquids, they may contain. This allows a Karakuri Ninja to basically walk across the bottom of a water obstacle, though sufficient current (such as in a fast moving river or the ocean) will cause the automaton to be pushed off course.

All of the joints are designed to allow a full 360 degrees of rotation, allowing for a larger range of motion than humans. This rotational ability also adds to the effectiveness of attacks and defense. Additionally, the 360 degree limb articulation allows them to perform certain basic acrobatic maneuvers, such as flips, rolls, and tumbles, which makes them exceedingly difficult to restrain.

The clockwork machinery can generate power sufficient to shatter rock, however, doing so would irrevocably damage the automaton as well as depleting the stored mechanical energy. Most attacks are generated with force sufficient to break wood, crush bone, or chip rock. This allows the Karakuri Ninja enough strength to inflict damage against weapons and most armored opponents without exhausting the mechanical energy.

Karakuri Ninja have the ability to store and use kinetic energy directed against them. This came about due to a new school of thought in unarmed combat, wherein an attackers motion is blended with rather than opposed directly5 . To achieve this ability, the limbs are powered by a series of differentially wound springs (one wound clockwise the other wound counter-clockwise) which transfer energy back and forth through the use of gears. Because there is always some loss in energy transmission, they must be initially wound to provide any energy and can only add significant amounts of energy by being wound6. However, any parried attack can be thus stored by the springs and re-released by the automata7. While the Denki Battery can be used as a micro-winding device, the process is very slow and time consuming, as well as extremely draining on the battery.

Contained within the legs are powerful coiled springs which allow the automaton to jump, up to 20 feet vertically or 40 feet horizontally. As with the arms, differentially wound springs provide motive force.

The automata of the Far East are generally designed in accordance with the Zang-Fu concept of the human body (from Traditional Chinese Medicine) as it is considered an elegant and efficient design for the replication of living beings. In the Zang-Fu system of organs, there are five pairs of organs, each representing the yin or yang aspect of the five elements, and two other unique organs. The liver and gall bladder represent the element of wood. Fire is represented by the heart & small intestines. The water organs are the bladder and kidney. Elemental metal is represented by the lungs and large intestine. The two unique organs are known as the pericardium, which has little relation to the organic pericardium, and the san jiao. Also known as the Xin Bao (Envelope of the Heart) or Xin Zhu (Master of the Heart), the pericardium serves to govern the blood and protect the heart. The San Jiao, also known as the Three Warmers or Triple Burners, is a metabolic function which aids in digesting and metabolizing food, and is comparable to the lymphatic system. While Karakuri Ninja design has been influenced by the concept of Zang-Fu, it has evolved different applications than those found in more common Far Eastern automata.

The Heart
The main power system of the Karakuri Ninja is the Denki 8 Denchi9, an advanced battery design consisting of two dissimilar metals in a chemical bath generates a certain amount of power for the various systems. When the Seebeck Effect (aka Thermoelectric Effect) was introduced to the Far East, many inventors saw new possibilities for a power source. By placing certain types of newly discovered metals, Song Si (an ore containing strontium, found in China) and Nipponium (thorium purified from yttrialite ore, created in Japan)10, into a resilient container (consisting of a neutral electrolytic fluid and lined with a thin sheet of lead, which was found to significantly reduce the loss of heat from the source metal)  containing a thermocouple constructed of two dissimilar metals at each end, and then connecting each thermocouple to a heat sink, a significant amount of electricity would be generated. The amount of energy produced by the standard Denki Battery is generally sufficient to power a medium-sized device (larger than a breadbox, due to the size of the smallest available battery of this construction…roughly a cubic foot in size, and weighing about 20 pounds) for several months, or a human-sized device for a week (larger-sized batteries (about 50 pounds, and the same size as a small electrical generator) have been developed and are generally used to power vehicles for six months before replacing, but they are pretty rare due to the amount of fuel metal required, it is even rumored that there is a prototype of a very large Denki Battery under construction suitable to powering a naval dreadnought for six months or so).

Physically, Denki Batteries, particularly those for automatons, are often designed to resemble the traditional heart shape, with the terminals projecting from the curved "top" portions of the battery. Such batteries are also given a red-colored coating to further enhance the image of being the "heart" of an automaton.

While the power system can supply power for about a week, the clockwork springs can only hold so much energy. For twelve hours of winding, the clockworks provide about four hours of locomotive power. In combat, the higher energy output is often balanced by the direct-redirect action of parrying attacks with the limbs and joints, however due to energy loss, and with the chance of missed timing, this is not always the case. While the battery can be used to wind the springs, the process takes about 36 hours and essentially drains the battery.

The Pericardium
A complex series of copper wires, which resemble muscle fibers, though act more like blood vessels, are used to transfer electrical signals to various parts of the body. Most are routed to all the clockwork movement activators from the analytical brain, allowing the analytical brain to activate (and minutely charge) various clockwork mechanisms. The system can also provide the ignition spark for any flammable or explosive weapons typically by connecting a dielectric condenser to a small heating filament or spark plate. Additionally there are links used to power a small lighting system.

The Liver
This analogue of an internal organ is actually a simple gyrocompass, used to aid in navigation. While connected to both the brain and navigation system, it is primarily used for reference data.

The Spleen
Accessible through a plate located at the rear of the Karakuri Ninja, this organ analogue serves as the storage device for targeting data. Data can be stored in the form of a visual image, a recorded sound, or color data. The automaton can hold up to sixteen target images with additional comparative details such as color or sound each eating up one target image "slot." In order to prioritize the target data, it is generally loaded with the highest priority target loaded first, then the next highest priority, and so on and so forth. Additionally, a self-defense target definition can be loaded, allowing the Karakuri Ninja to defend itself against any attacker.

The Gall Bladder
A small electric motor, powered by the Denki Battery is located as the analogue of this internal organ. It is used to power the gyrocompass.

The Kidneys
Since a Karakuri Ninja has no need of the excretory system found in biological creatures, these organs have been modified for a more insidious use. The kidney analogues in this automaton are actually poison-filled reservoirs, used to provide poison to the various weapon systems. While small, each is designed to hold one go11of poison, they function primarily as reserve storage of additional poison, with the rest of the poison system containing about four go of poison.

The Bladder
With the "kidneys" being replaced by poison tanks, there arose a need of a device to transfer poison from the reservoirs to the weapon systems. A simple duplex cylinder reciprocating-type pump has been used for the bladder analogue in order to allow flow of poison from the storage tanks to the weapons. The capacity of poison generally found here is about two go, but, because of the distance to the primary poison injectors (typically found in the hands), another two go  is needed to fill out the system.

The Lungs
All Karakuri Ninja have devices analogous to lungs, though their actual function will differ based on design. The simplest type of lung-device is a pair of compressed air cylinders, used to launch any number of needle-like missiles. Another common type of lung-device are gas cylinders used to store poisonous gasses, generally expelled from the mouth of the automaton. A variation of the poison gas lung-device consists of a compressed air cylinder combined with a container for some form of metsubushi powder (fine ash, fine particulate sand, pepper or other spices, or a combination of fine powders), again typically expelled from the mouth of the Karakuri Ninja. The last type of lung-device consists of the storage and/or compression tanks for a flamethrower, using a highly flammable liquid mixture (or, in rare cases, a mixture similar to Greek Fire) ignited prior to being expelled from the mouth of the automaton.

The Stomach
To prevent capture and detailed examination of a Karakuri Ninja, as well as a last ditch effort to terminate a target, this organ analogue is typically a container of a significant quantity of explosives, with a simple electric detonator connected to the Denki Battery. The most common explosive used is generally black powder, though dynamite and TNT have become popular since being imported.

The Intestines
Since the self-destruct mechanism is often limited in size due to it’s central placement as the stomach-analogue, additional tubing is generally routed from the primary explosive to other sections of the automaton. While the tubing is commonly filled with additional quantities of black powder, fuses may also be used. The tubing generally connects to additional, small explosive containers. While not truly analogous to intestines in placement, the connection to the stomach qualifies these secondary explosives as an organ analogue. When a self-destruct is initiated, the primary explosive device commonly destroys only the torso of the Karakuri Ninja (consequently spraying the nearby area with shrapnel), with secondary explosions causing the limbs and head to act as small grenades that have been generally thrown a few feet from the central explosion. While this effect generally does some additional damage, it is rarely lethal, and mostly used to prevent detailed study of the Karakuri Ninja’s internal design.

The San Jiao
While not technically a human organ analogue, this Zang-Fu mechanism contains a small storage tank for lubricating oil and a small pump. The system is then connected to those parts of the automaton which require lubrication, typically the joint sockets, although some cogs and sprockets may also be lubricated. Some models of Karakuri Ninja can also use the fill port to expel all remaining lubricant, which can cover a surface to make it slick.


The Brain
The brain of the device is a fairly standard electro-mechanical brain, programmed with basic combat skills (such as kick, punch, elbow, knee, headbutt, and choke/strangulation), climbing skills, the ability to open simple doors and operate simple machines, and the ability to walk, run, or jump. The system is powered by the Denki Battery, and is linked to the sensor systems and clockwork actuators.

There are four basic systems of the brain; locomotive, computative computer, sensor analysis, & target prioritization. The locomotive system uses navigational data to determine when, how, and why to move a particular limb by activating the spring actuators as well as determining which way they should be activated. The computative computer is used to determine combat actions and takes data from the navigational and targeting systems to determine which attacks to use and how to attack. Sensor analysis contains the system which formats the data from the sensor systems to be passed onto the locomotive and computative computers. Lastly, the target prioritization component uses pre-selected information for the target storage system to determine which targets should be attacked. While target prioritization is often based on the hierarchy of potential opponents, it generally excludes those not stored in the targeting storage, preventing them from being attacked. Commonly this exclusion is accounted for by placing a self-defense target definition in the storage device, which allows the Karakuri Ninja to defend itself against any attacker.

The Eyes
The basic optical system consists of a series of lenses and filters. The lenses allow some limited telescopic sight (about 4x), while the filters are used for two purposes. The first set of filters are colored lenses, which aid the targeting system when color is used by matching target colors to the color of the lens (which would result in a null image, as the filter would effectively "block" that color from the sight mechanism). The secondary purpose is to block or unblock a simple arc light which acts as both a lighting source (for nocturnal operations) and causes the eyes to glow (often in conjunction with one of the color filters to produce an eerie effect).

The targeting system of a Karakuri Ninja uses an analytical engine to compare an image fed to the analysis section with an image received through the optical scanner. These target images are generally fed to the automaton prior to mission employment, along with hard-coded mission parameters and directives. While the programmers generally try to find the most accurate image of specific individuals to be targeted, the system still has some bugs which can only be adjusted by assigning an error margin to the analytical engine. While this error margin *MAY* allow correct identification of the desired target in the case of poor initial image quality, minor physical changes (say perhaps that the target shaved prior to being scanned by the Karakuri Ninja, while usually seen with some facial hair, or wore a different style of clothing…though the face is generally used for comparison), or even deliberate disguises, more often it results in the erroneous target identification. While additional comparative details can be added to the analytical engine, such as color, or in some cases, sound recordings, this still does not guarantee successful target identification. In addition to a specific target or targets, generic targets (such as a type of uniformed soldier, priest or monk wearing vestments, bureaucrat or politician wearing official garb, uniformed police, etc.) can also be input as a target image, as long as there is some feature which allows them to be distinguished (i.e. a uniform or other distinctive costume, whether or not the target is mounted, hairstyle, or identifying mark).

The Ears
While researching ways to see in the dark, one enterprising ninja clan discovered an interesting phenomenon. During dog training based on the newly introduced dog whistle, it was noted that some bats flying nearby became disoriented whenever the whistle was blown. Further investigation revealed that bats where another type of animal which could hear sounds inaudible to humans. This led to experimentation to determine why the bats became disoriented by certain frequencies played on dog whistles. Through trial and error, it was hypothesized that bats somehow listen to these sounds in order to navigate. Since bats normally operate at night or dusk, it was decided that this phenomenon might be the ideal way to allow ninja operatives to operate more effectively in situations of total darkness and obscured visibility, without exposing themselves to other people through the use of light sources or other detectable means. While the development of some sort of portable device which would allow this to occur have met with many problems (primarily replicating a method of interpreting the information the signals provide in a format usable by a human operative), it has been discovered that machines equipped with a properly programmed mechanical brain can interpret the signals in a usable format. Unfortunately, using even a small mechanical brain in conjunction with the rest of the ultrasonic-frequency apparatus and converting it to a form usable by a human has proven to be too difficult and cumbersome for current field applications. This means that so far, such devices are limited to usage in clockwork or steam-driven devices, and the occasional vehicle, such as its use in the Karakuri Ninja.

Through the use of a modified set of piezoelectric-powered dog whistles equipped with adjustable sliders to change the frequency and a series of sonic receivers, the Karakuri Ninja can navigate itself through terrain and distinguish targets and potential targets (which must be identified by the optical targeting system). The ultrasonic system is connected to an analytical engine which measures the time and loudness of returning signals to determine direction, size, and shape of objects within the range of the navigational system. While this navigational system gives the automaton a highly refined three dimensional image of it’s environment, allowing it to function unimpaired in impaired visibility environments (such as darkness, fire, smoke, fog, mist, blizzards, rain, etc.), it also has a major drawback, in that the signals generated are able to be sensed by several types of animals, including bats, cats, dogs, mice, some species of birds, among others. This problem has been identified in the Far East, both by the ninja clan designers of the Karakuri Ninja and those they are employed against, which has seen a rise in the use of guard dogs for protective purposes. Since this problem has been identified, the ninja clans have been researching other methods for use as a navigational system, as well as secondary sensor systems which can allow the Karakuri Ninja to remain undetected as long as possible.

The sonic receivers also allow sounds to be received for comparison to data in the targeting system. Though fairly sensitive, a positive comparison can only be achieved with a close match of volume and tone. For more accurate identification, specific phrases are commonly used, allowing the error margin to be narrowed when using sound recordings for target matching.

The Nose12
The research into secondary sensor systems has led to the inclusion of small, sensitive, vibration detectors which allow a Karakuri Ninja placed to ambush a target to determine if an approaching object merits the use of additional sensor readings to verify whether or not a potential target has entered the ambush area. This is generally achieved by setting some sort of pre-determined manual level of vibration which activates the additional sensor units. These pre-determined levels vary, but are commonly set to detect the approach of a sizable (six or more) group of horses, or the marching of troops (both of which generate a distinctive type and level of vibration). While this has acted to somewhat reduce the chance of karakuri ninja detection by animals, it is not foolproof, and can often lead to unfortunate discovery. For this reason, the primary sensor activated in response to detection of vibration is often the optical targeting system, with it’s regrettable error margin.

Karakuri Ninja incorporate four basic types of weaponry; hand to hand weapons, medium range weapons, long range weapons, and miscellaneous weapons. There are typically six weapon systems are incorporated into each design. The most common composition is the primary weapon, two secondary weapon systems (often the same, or commonly shuriken launchers with a mouth weapon), two tertiary weapons, and one other weapon system. Hand-held weaponry is rarely used, though Karakuri Ninja are capable of wielding a large variety of melee weapons for simple attacks, although they have no real combat skill with such weapons.

Primary Weapon System

*The primary weapon systems incorporated into Karakuri Ninja are clawed hands and feet. These serve as an aid to climbing, and while they can inflict damage in their own right, are also commonly equipped with poison injecting hypodermic needles known as dokubari.

Secondary Weapon Systems

*The most common secondary weapon system used is one of the many varieties of mouth-mounted weapons.

**The most common are dart projectors, often in multi-barrel designs for volley launches (typically an arrangement of six, seven, eight, or nine barrels), and often include poison. The darts can typically be launched to a range of about 30 feet. Ammo capacity varies, with volley launchers typically only consisting of a single round per barrel, while single barrel launchers may be loaded with up to 64 darts.

**Also fairly common are flame throwers, again with a limited range of about 30 feet, good for about four shots.

**Poison Gas dispensers are also used, though not commonly, since the use of poison gas has several problems. The amount of poison gas generated is roughly 104.6 square feet (9.72 square meters), enough to fill most common-sized Japanese rooms. However, outdoor use (especially in areas of high wind), and the relatively low lethality of poison gas means that any targets in the area have a good chance of surviving exposure to the poison gas. On the other hand, the poison gas also acts to obscure visibility, which often means that a Karakuri Ninja can perform additional attacks against targets in the area.

**Another uncommon variety of mouth weapon is the liquid projector. While limited in range to a range of about 20 feet, and six shots, these weapons have a slight advantage in that targets in the area of effect are splashed by the liquid (often poison or acid), for potentially more damage.

*Another secondary weapon system are mechanical, spring-powered, or pneumatic shuriken launchers. Due to space considerations, blade and spike shuriken types were most commonly used, though many clans prefer to use star shuriken whenever possible because of certain usage considerations. A typical launcher would be mounted in the arms, shoulders, or even thighs, and can be loaded with up to nine shuriken (for blade & spike types), or six shuriken (for star types). Also often included is a link to the Karakuri Ninja’s poison reservoir in order to make this weapon more lethal.

*The final secondary weapon system is not commonly used. Lengths of chain connected to weights, or more commonly, spiked balls, would be concealed within the arms of the Karakuri Ninja, attached with a simple gear system which allows the chain to be retracted and played out up to its full length (typically six feet). While research into some sort of high-speed launching device continues, the system still relies on gravity or centrifugal force for deployment of the weapon. The weapon is typically used as a flail to strike targets which the Karakuri Ninja would otherwise be unable to reach, but can also be employed to entangle, trip, or strangle targets. Because of this, some clans use a detachable chain design, which allows a target to be entangled, then the chain detached, allowing the Karakuri Ninja freedom of movement to pursue another target.

**Another variant of this weapon uses a grappling hook attached to 50 feet of rope. While most commonly used to aid in traversing obstacles, this system can also double as a weapon.

Tertiary Weapon Systems

*The most common tertiary weapons employed with Karakuri Ninja are explosive devices, typically grenades, rockets, and mines, which are carried in secret compartments within the Karakuri Ninja. The limited size and available amount of secret compartments (no more than five, one in each lower leg, one in each upper leg, and one in the torso) does restrict the amount and type of explosives which can be carried internally (any compartment can carry a grenade or rocket, with storage for four in the torso compartment, but only the upper leg (one each) and torso (two) compartments can carry mines). To overcome this limitation, Karakuri Ninja intended to make use of extensive explosives can be equipped with backpacks, satchels, or bandoliers of explosives. These externally carried explosives are either used for initial attacks (in the case of Oni models) or to aid in setting up an ambush area (in the case of Shinobi models). Fuses or other ignition sources for these devices are typically ignited by an electric igniter. With the exception of the torso compartment, none of the compartments can be rigged for launching rockets on-board the automaton.

*Some Karakuri Ninja designs (particularly Oni models)  incorporate firearms as tertiary weapons. There is a wide selection of firearms which can be mounted as on-board weaponry, though a Karakuri Ninja may carry a single hand-held weapon.

**Forearm mounted derringers, typically double-, triple-, or quadruple-barrel models, are fairly popular, despite their limited range, caliber, and potential damage.

**Modified revolvers, typically with five or six shots, can be mounted in the arms, with the index finger providing the barrel. The higher ammo capacity, larger caliber, and longer ranges (than derringers) make this an attractive alternative for a tertiary weapon system. The downside of this design is that several of the options available to the primary hand claw weapons are lost. In addition climbing using the hands becomes much more difficult due to the inflexibility of the index finger. Unlike derringers, which can be concealed within the external armor of the automaton, these tertiary weapons are constantly exposed, rendering them susceptible to external sources of damage.

**In some rare cases (and only on some Oni models), large caliber rifles and small bore cannons may replace the lower arm entirely. While these weapons can inflict very lethal potential damage and have significant ranges of operation, the low ammunition capacity (one round only), and limited targeting potential means that they are rarely efficient enough to justify their inclusion.

**Limited use of volley guns placed in the torso have also been adopted. While limited to a single round, there are typically nine barrels for the weapon, producing a one-time volley of nine rounds, with limited range due to the shortness of the barrels.

*The secret compartments can also be used to carry a variety of pyrotechnic devices, in the place of explosives. Smoke bombs are commonly used, since they can obscure the visibility of targets, but have only limited effect on Karakuri Ninja. Flash bombs are also commonly used, combining a sharp retort with a brilliant flash to temporarily impair enemies. Of limited use, though occasionally carried, are a variety of metsubushi (typically blinding or irritant powders, though some poison powders are also used). These grenade-like devices are commonly equipped with a small compressed air cylinder to spray the powder, though the more common blowtube-style can also be used by automata equipped with compressed air lungs.

*In the place of firearms, some Karakuri Ninja are equipped with a variety of pneumatic or spring-powered poison dart launchers. These are generally smaller versions of the shuriken launchers, and have a very limited range (about half that of the shuriken launchers). Because placement and design can vary however, these dart launchers can provide the automaton with a larger inventory of projectile ammunition than any of the other weapon systems provide. Basically, any firearm variant employed can be replaced with a higher-capacity dart projector.

*In some cases, the secret compartments can be used to carry caltrops or extra shuriken (which can be hand thrown, or in some cases, used as reloads for the shuriken launchers). The smaller compartments can carry up to four caltrops or two shuriken, while the torso compartment can be used to carry as many as a dozen caltrops or six shuriken.

*Some models of Karakuri Ninja are equipped with a high voltage capacitor charged by the Denki Denchi and used for limited electrical attacks. While there is currently no form of lighting discharge weaponry available, a damaging electric arc can be created between electrodes placed on the hands and/or feet, which can be used to electrocute targets between two limbs. Also a limited form of electrical shock can be applied by direct contact of the limb against a target. As a secondary effect, these weapons can also be used to create a visually distracting series of electrical sparks.

*Rarely, the secret compartments are used to house poisonous creatures. The torso compartment is suitable for carrying a venomous snake which can be released and can alternatively carry a hive of bees, hornets, or wasps, for combat deployment, with limited results. The smaller compartments can be used to carry poisonous spiders, scorpions, or a few bees/hornets/wasps. Because of the requirements of these living creatures and their unpredictable behavior, their use is very limited

Subsidiary Weapon Systems

*Because Karakuri Ninja are often equipped explosives, firearms, and/or pyrotechnics, they are generally equipped with an electric igniter. Some models may be equipped with a small container for carrying a length of lit slowmatch or long-burning lit coal which is used as an ignition source.

*As discussed above, Karakuri Ninja are also equipped with a self-destruct mechanism. This is typically used as a last-ditch attack when all other weapons have failed and the automatons power reserves have been significantly drained, or to prevent capture.

*A rare modification to the primary claw weapons is the option of detaching these appendages for use as limited shuriken. While they have almost the same range as a hand thrown shuriken, they significantly impair the further operation of the Karakuri Ninja, particularly if the foot claws are used in this manner.

*The Karakuri Ninja are sometimes equipped with a simple, though limited, system of projecting hypodermic needles covering the majority of the exterior facing in order to deter grappling attempts and assist in the elimination of targets. This is known as the Fugu Defense and is rarely employed. Since retractable needles would be too difficult to engineer in such quantities, small reinforced needles are generally fixed into position, linked to extremely small poison reservoirs (or, more commonly, coated with contact poisons). The drawback of this system is that many maneuvers will damage or bend these needles, rendering them ineffective.

Because of the electrical system, the reaction times of Karakuri Ninja are often faster than humans. However, due to the use of mechanical clockwork actuators, their initial speed is only on par with fast humans. While this does allow for full use of the direct-redirect parry action to maintain mechanical energy in initial combat situations, as combat goes on, the automaton becomes slower and slower, often eventually choosing to self-destruct if it’s initial assault has not succeeded in termination of the target.

The 360 degree swivel action of the limbs and joints allows the automaton to perform attacks with projectile and projector weaponry against targets surrounding the Karakuri Ninja. Typical actions include rotating the waist 360 degrees while firing off shuriken, darts, firearms, or even flame weapons. The swivel action also allows the Karakuri Ninja to attack opponents directly behind them much faster than a human can.

Karakuri Ninja are often employed in situations which require an agent to deal with harsh environmental conditions or opponents which require massive damage to be inflicted within a relatively short period of time. Often they are employed when multiple opponents are present and need to be dealt with. While the possibility of undercover operations was considered, it is generally not recommended that Karakuri Ninja be deployed for these types of subtle operations, as a detailed physical inspection will often reveal them. Certain august personages of the Far East may employ Karakuri Ninja as defensive guards, overtly placing these disguised automata in gardens, ponds, moats, empty chambers, and so forth to prevent intrusions. Overall they are most often used for ambushes rather than stalking-type assassination attacks.

While the use of magical or thaumatech augmentation of Karakuri Ninja is hotly debated at higher clan levels, it is rarely used for two reasons. One, the use of magic forms of concealment often make the automata easier to detect which negates the advantage sought in using magic to camouflage Karakuri Ninja. Two, the resources already poured in to designing and creating Karakuri Ninja means that the additional cost of magical augmentation is often not justifiable, given the almost certain likelihood that the automaton will be destroyed and/or self-destruct even upon completion of an otherwise successful mission.


"You still don’t get it, do you? He’ll find her! That’s what he does! It’s *all* he does! You can’t stop him! He’ll wait for you! He’ll reach down her throat and tear her {censored} heart out!"

-A western arms dealer has heard rumors of these clockwork assassins and seeks to import some to the west.

-Exploring a shipwreck (airship, land battleship, or naval ship) reveals a strange automaton which, if activated, attacks those nearby before attempting to leave the area.

-A series of unexplained murders have been occurring in London. The victims of these murders are allegedly prostitutes, killed in public places at night. Their bodies mutilated, it appears that they were killed by having their throats cut.

-Several women have been killed over the last few days. Without exception, each woman has a similar appearance; the same height, medium-length blond hair, blue eyes, and similar facial features. Investigators have found no other connection between the murdered victims, except for the method of death, with each victim being viciously slashed and stabbed, though primarily dead from poison.


1. The design philosophy came about because I felt the Karakuri Ninja shouldn’t exist in a technological vacuum, and I have yet to see more than basic coverage of how the Far East would appear in a steampunk setting. At least, until I remembered the anime Sakura Wars. While I originally debated including the traditionalist design philosophy to provide a background, it is currently on hold for a possible separate submission.

2. I couldn’t resist the quote. Ironically, the more involved I became with the creation, the more I realized exactly how appropriate the reference applies to these automata.

3. Karakuri: (noun) mechanism; trick; device; dodge

4. Komusou: Wandering mendicant monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism, identified by wearing a tengai (a straw basket completely covering the head) and playing the shakuhachi (flute).

5. Yes, the philosophy is derived from Aikido, which may or may not actually exist in a steampunk setting.

6. Because of this energy loss, you won’t see Karakuri Ninja being initially wound by engaging them in hand to hand combat, though that does raise the possibility of combat training use for these automata…

7. How I envision this working for game mechanics. Yes, I realize people don’t really want to see the game mechanics for stuff here, but I thought it’s inclusion would aid in understanding how this would work in a game. Basically, each incoming attack, even when parried, will generate an amount of damage. This damage is used to reflect the amount of kinetic energy imparted by the attack (in part, there are also many other factors involved, but we’re only concerned with the kinetic energy aspect). To determine how much energy would be transferred to the spring mechanisms of the Karakuri Ninja, simply assign a percentage of lost kinetic energy (from friction primarily, though there are other losses), and reduce the damage by that amount. I recommend percentages like 10%, 20%, 25%, 33%, and 40% (with some caveats discussed later). This means that the effective amount of damage transferred to the automaton will range from 90% to 60% of the total damage, which can then be used to attack. Another thing to keep in mind is that, even when fully wound, the Karakuri Ninja is only going to be able to do a set amount of kinetic energy damage. For simplicity, let’s set this damage amount to 200. In combat, each attack (successful or not) is going to subtract damage from that total. Now, when an incoming attack has been parried, that potential damage (minus the energy loss percentage) would be added to the total (remaining) damage amount. While somewhat math intensive, it’s a simple, workable system. Now, obviously, as combat goes on, the total amount of damage potential is going to decrease, which is why I also recommend increasing the loss percentage based on how long the combat goes on (for a simple method, on could reduce the percentage one step (from the sample percentages listed earlier, i.e. 10% to 20%) or 5% for each round, minute, or other reasonable duration of combat. This would keep the automaton from effectively being a ‘perpetual motion machine’ and give those combating it a chance to actually wear it down.

8. Denki: (noun) electricity. Derived from combining the character for lightning with the character for qi. In China, the word is Dianqi.

9. Denchi: (noun) battery. While alliterative, I prefer to think of the overall effect of Denki Battery, so that alternative name is more commonly used.

10. These metals are used in place of Pitchblende because of the lack of this ore in the Far East.

11. Go: A Japanese unit of liquid measurement, roughly equal to six ounces. Therefore two go is about 12 ounces and four go would be about 24 ounces.

12. While the sensor system can be loosely equated to the nose, it is not necessarily located in the nose.

Additional Ideas (0)

Please register to add an idea. It only takes a moment.

Join Now!!

Gain the ability to:
Vote and add your ideas to submissions.
Upvote and give XP to useful comments.
Work on submissions in private or flag them for assistance.
Earn XP and gain levels that give you more site abilities.
Join a Guild in the forums or complete a Quest and level-up your experience.
Comments ( 8 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Siren no Orakio
November 22, 2008, 16:13
Very complete.

The other anime reference you may want to go dig up is Iwanbo, from the later Ruroni Kenshin mangas. I will note, as well, that I would expect that piercing all that armor with a spear or blade would be very bad news for something with a large number of gears. Jamming is bad.
Voted Cheka Man
November 23, 2008, 0:05
Robot ninjas.
December 22, 2008, 11:10
So loooong! :)

Yet so good, with amazing details! Well done, sir. When I saw the word, ninja, i got scared :p But alas, this rocks!

And lets a GM like me, less tech/mech-minded than others, to be able to use these guys confidently. There is NOTHING that my players can ask me about the Karakuri Ninja that I do not know!! NOTHING!!! Muahahahaha

This is like a MoonHunter on steroids sub! :p well done, Kuseru!
Voted Scrasamax
December 22, 2008, 13:00
Wow, I voted for this sub in the polls and didn't even comment on it! Shame on me. Very very very very thorough.
Voted valadaar
August 9, 2009, 19:51
Very good and very detailed! Surprised I missed this one.
January 17, 2011, 16:02

The details do it for me on this one. I'm going to try to sneak these guys into a game next weekend.

Voted Orouboros
March 22, 2012, 1:27
Only voted
Voted Murometz
March 22, 2012, 22:45

The footnotes! The noses! The chamelon lacquer! Zang-fu! The hidden compartments for poisonous insects! The intricate mechanics! The intimate detail! This is a really, really good submision.



Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

       By: Michael Jotne Slayer

Moonlight shines down on the tranquil scene of a slumbering inn along one of the many roads that cross the land. Trees sway gently in the night air, and the stars twinkle brightly. All is quiet as the PCs snore away, a fine tendril of smoke curlsrnunder their door. The tavern is on fire! This is particularly bad news if the PCs own any horses - the screaming they hear is probably from their mounts! Panicky people are rushing about with buckets of water, trying to tame the flames. The fire fighting effort is not very coordinated as everybody is either hungover or still drunk, including the PCs. Hurry!

Encounter  ( Any ) | February 15, 2011 | View | UpVote 6xp

Creative Commons License
Individual submissions, unless otherwise noted by the author, are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
and requires a link back to the original.

We would love it if you left a comment when you use an idea!
Powered by Lockmor 4.1 with Codeigniter | Copyright © 2013 Strolen's Citadel
A Role Player's Creative Workshop.
Read. Post. Play.
Optimized for anything except IE.