Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dire Shark Week: Mechanical Shark

As a child, I’d spend the summers on Fire Island, reveling in the sand, sea and poison ivy so common to a barrier beach environment. Things maritime were always within my sphere of awareness during that time, so it’s no surprise that the summer of 1975 was memorable to me despite my young age. The summer of 1975 was “the summer nobody went swimming,” seeing how Jaws was released that June.

Being all of about three, I didn’t see Jaws in the theatre, but you can be sure that I was aware of it. I was certain that it was the greatest movie ever, simply because of a misunderstanding. I was either told, or had overheard, that the shark in the movie was mechanical. The person revealing this information meant to convey the fact that they used a mechanical shark in the production of the movie, not a real one. Of course, in my mind, Jaws was no longer about a shark terrorizing a beachfront community. It was about a MECHANICAL shark terrorizing a beachfront community.

I filled in the obvious gaps in the plot by picturing a wild-haired mad scientist lurking in his sea cave lair, complete with Tesla coils and Joshua tree electronics buzzing in the background. With the final twist of a wrench and the crackle of lightning, he unleashes his mechanical monstrosity on the town of Amity. “Laugh at me, will they?” he intones. “I’ll show them the meaning of true terror!!!”

Of course, when I eventually saw the movie many years later, I was disappointed. Terrified, but disappointed. To make up for this lack of mechanical sharks in the universe, I’d like to present you with one for your own use:

Mechanical Shark

Climate/Terrain: Any water
Frequency: Very Rare
Organization: Solitary
Diet: None
Intelligence: Non-(0)
Treasure: See below
Alignment: Neutral

Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 6 to 8
Movement: Sw 18
THACO: 6 HD – 14, 7 to 8 HD – 13
# of Attacks: 1
Damage per Attack: 6 HD – 2d6, 7 to 8 HD – 3d6
Magic Resistance: 10%
Special Attacks: None
Special Defense: Only hit by magical weapons
Morale: Fearless (19-20)
Size: L
XP: 6 HD – 1,4000 7 to 8 HD– 2,000

The mechanical shark appears as an articulated metal reproduction of large shark of any species, usually made of brass. Its eyes are constructed from large pearls, with white being the most common, but occasionally black pearls are used in the largest version. The shark swims and moves almost as well as its biological counterpart, suffering only from a slightly slower rate of speed.

The mechanical shark attacks with its fearsome bite, ripping its prey to pieces before consuming it. While a mechanical shark requires no regular food to function, the nature of its technological and magical construction allow it to convert any organic material consumed into energy that can be used to repair itself. For each HD of creature it consumes, it can heal itself 1d4 points of damage.

Due to the same hybrid construction, the weird creation process of the mechanical shark gives it a 10% magic resistance. In addition, any electrical attack on the shark heals it of 1 hp for each die of damage the attack would have done.

Those who have successfully defeated a mechanical shark have been surprised by the strange internal construction of the beast. Instead of the clockwork and gear mechanism they’d expected to find, a strange collection of a flexible ceramic material, opaque bladders containing glowing liquids, twisted metal wires, and spinning magnets were concealed within the brass outer shell. The origin of these parts, examined by sages and mages, remains unknown.

While mechanical sharks do not seek out, or hoard treasure, their construction and habits present some opportunity to acquire some treasure. The pearl eyes of the beast are worth 250 gp each at minimum, if of the white variety. In larger mechanical sharks, constructed with black pearls, the eyes are worth a minimum of 500 gp each. Additionally, like real sharks, the mechanical variety has something of a reputation for being a swimming refuse heap. The DM should roll two or three times on the chart below to determine what might be lodged within the shark’s mechanical stomach:

1) Grappling hook with 5’ of rope still attached.
2) Suit of Halfling/gnome sized plate mail. (5% the armor is magical)
3) 1d8 horseshoes
4) 1d4 gems of random value
5) Bent crowbar
6) 2d6 iron spikes
7) Medium shield (10% chance magical)
8) Dented metal flask containing a random potion
9) Any random metal weapon (10% chance magical)
10) A metal oddity (key, talking metal head, steel tablet with unknown writing, something from the Barrier Peaks, etc.)

The construction process of the mechanical shark has either been lost to the ages, or is a closely guarded secret. What is known is that mechanical sharks have been found in a wide array of locales, ranging from arctic waters, to tropical beaches, to lurking in watery pits deep in a dungeon. Its sole limitation is the ingenuity or insanity of its creator.


Vanadorn said...

I hear these things sometimes come up through the warmer gulf waters.

Michael Curtis said...

The bards still the "Lay of the Death of Ben Gardner." Always brings a tear to my eye.

Anonymous said...

Avast, that be Ben Gardner's boat. Arrrrrrrrrrr.