Appearances are deceiving. Few would have suspected that peaceful Denari, covered in groomed forests and terraced fields, with a well-behaved and humble peasantry governed by an educated council of mighty wizards was in fact ruled with an iron fist. Tyrannical mages enjoyed every luxury and vice, and had little regard for the common folk, treating them little better than tools. Their eldritch power allowed them to pry into the plans, even very minds of the populace, and no attempt to revolt or escape remained undetected, every crime against the regime was punished draconically, and unrest seemed futile.
Indeed, the spirit of the people was so broken that all a foreign traveler perceived was peace, a strange lethargic serenity watched over by tall spires perched high above the towns and hamlets, and a worship-like reverence of the surely benevolent magi.
Into this waking nightmare wandered Daniel Donner, engineer extraordinaire, on his search for a place to set up a new factory, to tap resources and get the wheels of industrial revolution rolling once more.
While welcomed at first, for what despot would scoff at wealth running his door down, the magi soon realized Daniel’s potential, and locked him away, to toil for them. The great organ of the hall of learning is his child, as well as the Mist Water Park with artificial hot springs. His works are the seven railway bridges over the Last Ridge mountains, and the vertibirds that fly over Denari skies.
The mages’ final task was to be the grandest one, to fulfill their dreams of conquest, for when your subjects have all will beaten out of them, what would an army you lead look like? Build as an army of steam men they said, fierce and mighty, yet loyal, so that we may bring order and our wisdom to many a land!
Daniel was no fool he knew that a simple ‘no’ would mean a world of suffering for him. The mages might though fools have been, for when you force a man to work at gunpoint, make sure that you understand his designs.
The inventor produced things of marvel and a lethal beauty indeed, four-legged and tracked automata resembling warriors and beasts, with cruel blades and wicked claws, steam cannons and gatling guns. Riveted plating capable of resisting many a blow and all but heavy weapons fire encased them, save for the service access and exhaust area on the back. They were powered by oil-fuelled steam engines and controlled by something he called an ether crystal resonance array which responded solely to a central ether radio emitter, so that the arch-chancellor of the magi may control them himself.
With promises and fake clemency he was rewarded while the magi enjoyed their new toys; little did they know that the central emitter was built to burn out after two months!
As the central, stable, continued signal of the command center ceased, the ether resonance arrays became hypersensitive, and irritated by the flicked of a mage’s mind, by the unstable and capricious current flowing through sorcerous flesh. The machines lashed out without warning, slaying every wizard they could reach, and pursuing the pitiful few that could flee without mercy.
Denari was freed, and Daniel Donner was made the first officially elected prime minister; he oversaw the transition of the country into a republic, where industry and progress could flourish.
Even today, the iconic iron warriors wander the streets of Denari cities, staunch defenders and tireless laborers, obedient to their programming until a mage crosses their path.
An iron legionnaire stands eight to ten feet tall, and moves upon four sturdy legs or several tracks. Heavy plating, more functional and intimidating than aesthetic, covers most vulnerable areas, with the head holding sensors and the ether resonance array to place it outside the hot chest.
Standard armament features a clawed hand capable of grasping, and a weapon hand, most often with a heavy blade or mace; cannons and guns occupy either the weapon hand, or are mounted on the shoulder.
The back of the machine features huge exhaust pipes and heat sinks, as well as the fuel valve and ammunition intake. The machine can travel fifty kilometers on ten liters of petroleum, or work several hours. Its fuel tank can hold well over a hundred liters, so that independent operation is conceivable to some degree.
Most of its parts, besides the brain, are of simple make, heavy duty and easily replaced.
The most interesting is its controlling core, composed of semi-precious stones, condensed ether and delicate wiring. While not self-aware, the machine can be programmed for a wide variety of tasks, within its limitations. The possible complexity of its programming depends mostly upon the programming engineer’s skill. An ether-pod is attached to a connector in the back, the input of a program takes half an hour, thinking up a good program can take forever though. A basic hard-wired programming provides the machine with basic protocols, like avoiding hazards, and basic maintenance, such as refilling oil from standardized oil canisters, or replacing a damaged limb with a functional one. The use of its in-built weapons is likewise wired into its brain. The function of the ether crystal resonance array (ECRA) is not dependent upon the steam engine, so that a legionnaire who was not refueled for ten years still can spring to operation as soon as his boiler spews steam again. In fact, the first resonance crystals are still in operation, seventy-five years later.
Nowadays, most of the legionnaires are programmed for menial tasks, like plowing or heavy lifting, while war programs are in store. Well-programmed legionnaires can recognize a few individuals as well as uniforms, and obey several commands, and will not cease their assault until they are broken, or run out of fuel. More than once has Denari fended off invaders with its relentless steam warriors.
*Fragile goods: the PCs have to smuggle a mage through Denari. Expect lots of mayhem and fast retreats.
*Faster, stronger, better: a talented engineer has improved upon Daniel Donners design, with a slender, humanoid frame and a better, more complex crystal array. The new machine could accept more complicated programming, correct its errors and adapt then, it walked away. With its better brain, it can sense mages far more distant than the mile or so its basic brethren can perceive, and it can understand that they hurt it by their very existence, that they are wrong. Thus it keeps a low profile somewhere at day, while stealing oil for its nighttime forays. A series of merciless murders follows
*Flesh versus steel: while intimidating physically, the programming of the machines is limited in its scope. PCs pitted against the steel legion will have to think quick to exploit the weaknesses of the constructs or else they are mush.
*A rare gift: the mages of Denari have been an inbred caste, with the traits necessary for sorcery almost absent in the populace. Still, a local lass experiences strange feelings as she matures, and casts her first spell, only to be chased by the next iron legionnaire bent on killing. A good plot for low-level PCs, an odyssey to escape their country that holds no future for them.
*A dark empire: in the future, Denari has become a mighty nation, with steam warriors and land battleships at their disposal, yet oppressive, conformist and normalizing. In true rebel fashion, PCs fight to topple the dark empire, and its murderous machines. A daring mission might include sneaking a mage aboard the Indomitable, the first ECRA-controlled land battleship, so that it destroys itself when it tries to assault the pest.
Additional Ideas (1)
denari iron herd
the herd beast resemble bulls but they emit steam from there maws and there teeth glow white hot water trickles from there throats. there horns are like spears and there hooves have spikes below and around and there made of iron
"There" indicates direction.
"Their" indicates possession by them.
"They're" = they are.