City/ Ruin

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ID: 5432


November 11, 2008, 3:47 pm

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Cheka Man

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"It’s important to remember, when dealing with the clockfolk, that they only LOOK like toys."

The Clockfolk, as they are now known, started off as the pet project of a lonely, widowed and extremely talented watchmaker. He set out to craft a small replica of his lost wife, something to immortalize her. It was meant to be able to move in a realistic way, and to that end he built the finest, most delicate joints ever seen. Tiny hands, with realistic motion. Proper articulation on all the limbs. Adorned with a bit of actual hair from his wife, and with eyes from a bit of sapphire dust. After a few years of work, he sat back, and viewed his completed creation. A perfect miniature replica, save a small hole for winding. Then, the moment of truth: carefully, lovingly, he wound the spring. Then, watching in amazement, the small model lifted its head and looked around. Getting to it’s feet, it began to carefully and somewhat shakily walk across his desk. Just as he was congratulating himself on such realistic movements, he was stunned to hear a small voice ask a simple question:
"Where am I?"

Somehow, his creation of infinite complexity and delicacy had achieved life.
His invention, the first of the Clockfolk, spent the rest of the watchmaker’s days with him. At his side, she learned the intricacies of of how a watch works, the potential of a wound spring and the other details of his craft. When he passed away, as a happy old man, she knew what her work would be. Through her, his highest achievement would live on. But she wouldn’t live on alone. He had taught her all he had known, and she had proven to be every bit as talented as he had been. By her hands, a new race was born: bit by bit, she built more of her own kind. Thus, the Clockfolk were born.

Clockfolk look like a miniature person, perfect in all regards. The one sign that they are inorganic is that all of them, somewhere on their bodies, have a small hole that a winding key can fit into. These are generally located somewhere the individual can easily reach.
All Clockfolk have an innate talent for clockworks, and combined with their size, they are capable of crafting the most delicate and precise examples of the craft anyone is ever likely to see. They don’t age, nor do they need to eat or sleep, but they need to be wound once every few hours. Most Clockfolk keep their winding keys on them at all times, often as a choker. They are never worn loosely, for to lose their winding key is to almost guarantee their deactivation. In some cases, a lost key has been found and used to bring back a deactivated Clockfolk, but they invariably show permanent signs of mental decay. It seems that whatever odd spark of life they have suffers greatly when they wind down. In some cases, when they have been left unwound for long enough, even winding them cannot bring them back.

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Comments ( 22 )
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Voted Cheka Man
November 11, 2008, 17:44
Nice little creatures.
Voted Kassil
November 11, 2008, 23:16
Sapient clockworks, and without the usual evolution from organic to machine. They're like little mechanical brownies, in my mental image.

I like the included bit about how winding down is akin to death for them, to a degree that you can't find one in a tomb someplace, wind it up, and expect it to come to life. Do the 'dead' ones, reactivated, just kind of totter in place like toy soldiers? Or could you perhaps end up with a 'clockwork undead' that echoes the 'living' clockfolk in the way that zombies and skeletons imitate living people?
November 12, 2008, 0:22
It depends on how long its been inactive for. A few minutes, it might just be some memory loss. A couple hours, and they would be severely mentally impaired. But after a day or two, they would be little more than amusing toy soldiers. They might even make good toys in such a case, though you may have trouble getting the "relatives" (it's builder, and others built by the same) to give up the shell.
November 13, 2008, 0:30
How would they react to someone animating an empty 'shell' of a deactivated clockfolk, in the fashion of a golem? Probably about as well as fleshy races tend to react to the 'desecration of the dead' done by necromancers, I expect?
November 13, 2008, 21:51
The first challenge to even try that would be to get one of the inanimate shells. If they can recover them, they will bury them, often in small cast off containers, such as a large matchbox. There is, in fact, one notable Clockfolk tomb, which is actually an abandoned wine cellar with a few empty racks. In each rack, a small, inanimate, yet still perfect looking Clockfolk lies in gentle repose. Should someone desecrate one of their shells, there will generally be a reaction. Limited in actual striking power, the offender will have to suffer virtually every mechanical thing they own being sabotaged until they return the shell, a stubborn man may well find that not a ticking, boiling or clanking thing in his house is worth a penny more than the metal it's made of.
November 14, 2008, 5:22
That's awesome. I could see a couple of plot hooks from it; one being the clockfolk trying to hire or otherwise convince the party to help them retrieve a shell, the other being a 'grave robber' wanting to hire the party to make the clockfolk leave him alone (my, what a lovely toy soldier his son is playing with!)
November 15, 2008, 0:23
Wow. Good stuff there, Grey!
Voted Chaosmark
November 11, 2008, 23:49
I really like this. I think it captures the essence of clockwork magic nicely. Not all magic in steampunk requires thaumatech, just as not all magic requires a spell or wizard.

Short, simple, sweet. I like it a lot.
Voted valadaar
November 12, 2008, 11:51
Now this one is short, but complete. Have a couple of questions - not too important, but would like to know:

Just how miniature are you envisioning them?
Could a wound-down clockwork be 'refurbished' - completely dissassembled and reassembled? Perhaps a different personality would arise in this case.
November 12, 2008, 12:31
I think at that point you would then get the 'undead' clockfolk that Kassil suggested.
Voted Siren no Orakio
November 12, 2008, 22:38
Only voted
Cheka Man
November 28, 2008, 17:03
You could grab a key from one of these and blackmail it into doing something for you.
November 28, 2008, 21:56
Very easily, assuming you could get the key away in the first place. Might be tricky, they won't willingly surrender such a thing!
Voted punkcasher
March 11, 2009, 2:21

Voted MoonHunter
March 12, 2009, 12:57
I adore this one. It is a little short and only fairly complete.

In similar fiction, they tend to need to be wound every 24 to 72 hours or so.

1) Momma: She might still be here, the first one. She who was literally the Mother of Her Race. What position might she be held in? (Pappa is still the original watchmaker.)

2) I assume they can wind each other, otherwise they have to have a symbiotic relationship with Humans or other species with hands.

3) There might be "winding stations" made. Given some strong gear, or water wheel, or wind to recharge it, you would simply back up with your key in to the station, put your feet in place, and let it go whrrrrrrrrrrr and wind you up.

4) They are masters of Dollhouses as well and other non clockwork dolls. Their scale allows them to make some impressive things.

5) Extending on that, their clockwork devices can be much smaller than any humans. They could make some impressive things.

6) I could see a Clockfolks Arcology being a manufacturing factor where they make steam and clockwork things. Imagine hundreds of them working together. They need to sell things so they can afford to make more of themselves.

7) Can they make bigger ones? Can they make ones of an odd shape or size? Clockwork cats and dogs would be a smash!

8) Clockwork folk can bond with humans it seems. Imagine them deciding to become Children's and eventually adult companions, starting with the upper class and working their way down. These clockwork folks could be shaping humanity to fit their ideal of perfect people (strong, smart, caring, moral). (Much the way the Robots do in Asimov's Robot series, which is actually the foundation of the Foundation. )
Voted LordDraqo
June 12, 2009, 19:38
I happen to enjoy this, and want to see if I can translate it over to the setting I am working on (Gaslight & Aether). The clockfolk will definitely be part of the setting, if I have permission.
September 7, 2009, 22:22
By all means, if you can use them then go right ahead!
Voted manfred
September 12, 2009, 17:58
A note of sadness for the beginning, and many options at the end, got to like that.
Voted Ramhir
November 11, 2010, 0:21

This is really fine!! A wonderful sub. I have got to think of a way to make it work in my world!

Voted EchoMirage
June 17, 2011, 16:34


Voted PoisonAlchemist
July 29, 2011, 13:23

I think this is a really cute look a clockworks, typically I think of them as something alien rather than human which leads to a sort of prometheous effect on the creator. Forbidden knowledge, Frankenstein, tragedy, all that. 

Voted Tauric
July 29, 2011, 18:39

Weird, I was just reading this a day or so ago, while just browsing through things, but I forgot the name of it, and couldn't find it again (using wrong search terms, I guess), and now it's right up front as a highlight.

These creatures are definitely something I would use if I could convince my gaming group to play in a steampunk setting.


Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds


       By: Dragon Lord

The local band of 'nasties' (goblins / orcs / whatever) lives in relative peace with the local population.

Along come the PCs and go through their usual heroic monster bashing routine, wiping out the nasties and pinching all their stuff, then continue on their way.

Problem is, they don't kill ALL he nasties. The survivors want revenge and, after spending a few months recovering, start to take it in their own inimitable style (which is not unlike that of the PCs come to think of it).

Next time the PCs are in the area they find themselves VERY unpopular with the townsfolk.

Ideas  ( Plots ) | August 10, 2005 | View | UpVote 4xp

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