IK: Rogue's Bounty
On Mechanika and Stemjacks
Of all the benefits of magic that have come to western Immoren, it is mechanika, the synthesis of the arcane and the mechanical, that has had the most profound impact. Mechanika has revolutionized industry and warfare in every way imaginable, and its innovators continue to create new marvels. Utilizing magic to overcome engineering obstacles, mechanika allows for the reliable production of tools and weapons that harness arcane energies and apply them in useful ways. Many gifted individuals make their livings as arcane mechaniks, practicing industrial thaumaturgy to craft potent devices.
The merging of magic and technology began in the midst of the Orgoth Occupation, in the work of arcanists and alchemists seeking weapons by which to defeat their oppressors. The first applications of the arcane to mundane mechanical items arose from Sebastien Kerwin’s early theories and research into the formalization of arcane formulae. Kerwin had proposed that arcane energies could be harnessed through the application of such runic formulae to specially crafted components made from rare and precious metals. Eventually these efforts led to the first functioning mechanika devices. Crude by modern standards, these items nonetheless contained the most fundamental component of all mechanikal devices: the accumulator.
The first accumulators, massive and bulky, were anything but portable, housed in immense, porcelain-lined vats. The result of hundreds of years of scientific progress and experimentation, modern accumulators are much more efficient, capable of storing vast amounts of arcane energy. A small accumulator easily fits in the palm of a hand and holds enough energy to power mechanikal weapons or armor.
Alchemy also delivered the next mechanikal innovation. Sebastien Kerwin’s notes described attempts to transcribe mystical runes used to control magic, in which he quickly discovered that parchment burst into flame if such written runes were empowered. Seeking a more durable solution, he hypothesized it should be possible to inscribe arcane formulae into specially treated steel and then empower the runes by channeling accumulator charges through the plate. While it would not be confirmed until generations after his death, this hypothesis proved to be true, resulting in the development of runeplates. As Kerwin theorized, a mechanika user can trigger the plate’s captive arcane force by channeling energy through the plate using an accumulator. Inscribing runes on moving parts with interlocking gears and coils has led to even more sophisticated inventions, such as the arcane turbines used in warcaster armor.
All this development has given birth to new disciplines. Any good mechanik can assemble and maintain a piece of mechanika, but, arcane mechaniks—the leaders in this rapidly growing field—focus on creative and innovative utilizations of runeplates and more specialized components.
To most citizens, steamjacks are but one of the greatest modern mechanikal wonders, but their impact is far-reaching, as their use has revolutionized warfare, industry, and agriculture. Laborjacks work in logging camps, freight yards, docks, and construction sites throughout western Immoren, and every citizen of the Iron Kingdoms is familiar with the fearsome warjacks—steamjacks armed with dedicated military weaponry and possessing the highest grades of cortexes. Wherever they are found, steamjacks embody progress in the modern age.
These constructs combine all the principals of mechanika. The melding of magic and industry in their manufacture shows how well the two disciplines can together create something truly amazing. Steam-driven engines power metal chassis driven by a cortex, the steamjack’s mechanikal brain. Though not as smart or adaptable as people, steamjacks do possess a native intelligence and the ability to solve specific sorts of problems, which makes them incredibly valuable as heavy laborers. ’Jacks that see prolonged use typically develop quirks and even distinct personalities that may reflect the proclivities of their operators.
While these iron giants are expensive to manufacture, their industrial applications are so varied that all the nations of western Immoren consider them indispensable for a wide range of tasks. Laborjacks are the backbone of Cygnar’s and Ord’s transportation and mercantile efforts, making it possible to move goods in massive crates and handling containers, increasing commercial efficiency. In Khador, the tireless creations work in massive forges pounding metal plates and other parts for locomotives, steamjack manufacture, and other heavy industry. While the Protectorate has prioritized producing warjacks over laborjacks, the latter can still be found assisting in construction efforts and other heavy tasks, and such machines can quickly be armed if the need arises. Khador and Cygnar are the two largest producers of commercial and military steamjacks, although both Ord and the Protectorate have dedicated ’jack foundries as well. Llael was the smallest producer of ’jacks before it was invaded, but its foundries are now under the control of its occupiers.
One of the greatest early mechanikal inventions was the cerebral matrix, which was subsequently refined into the cortex. This artificial mind can give life to a steam-powered automaton and allow it to respond to commands. As it accumulates experiences a cortex is capable of slowly learning over time, although this can lead to unexpected quirks as well as improved performance.
The cortex serves as the intermediary between a steamjack’s chassis and the sensory apparatus by which it perceives its environment. ’Jacks rely on vision and sound to react to the world and are usually designed to operate within a specific environment, such as a factory, a dockyard, or the battlefield. Although they may seem quite clever when focused on a familiar task, cortexes of the simplest grades do not adapt well to unfamiliar environments and require supervision when operating out of their element.
A laborjack might adroitly handle even fragile crates and perceive when a damaged one requires attention from its handler. All ’jacks can discern the identities of their handlers by appearance and voice and are generally capable of reacting to unexpected threats. Steamjacks with higher-grade cortexes can handle a wider variety of environments and are better at acting with limited instructions, although they still have limits. A warjack is extremely skilled at recognizing friend from foe on the battlefield and negotiating obstacles to seek its targets but is more likely to require supervision on a bustling city street where danger is not always easily apparent.