Though most of the people of Khorvaire believe that all warforged creation forges are destroyed, every now and then a "new" warforged appears. Most of these come from the two secret creation forges still in existence (see Eberron Campaign Setting page 22), and the rest are merely warforged left disabled during the Last War and revived after months or years of inactivity. However, all of these warforged are complete, capable of normal function, and equipped with intelligence and rudimentary personality. But how are they created, anyway? The creation process is a mystery to all but a few, and there are many other folk wonder how a warforged changes from a collection of inert materials and becomes person. Is it an instantaneous event, or something gradual like a child's development? What sort of things influence this process? Now a discovery may allow the PCs to find out.
The key to this adventure seed is that someone has found a complete but inactivated warforged. There are several ways for this to start.
The PCs: While on another quest, the PCs discover a strange cave or a previously-forgotten section of a known dungeon. Within it is the Sleeping Warforged, and when the PCs are unable to awaken or move it they must do some research as to how they might succeed. This fits Eberron's theme of dark adventure very well. Who left this thing here? Why? What is the nature of the site where it was hidden?
Other Adventurers: Another group of adventurers finds the Sleeping Warforged and the PCs hear about it. The finders might let it slip after a drunken night of spending new questing-money, or they may tell the PCs if it's in an area the finders aren't able to deal with. For example, a lower-level group of NPC adventurers once mentored or rescued by the PCs found the site but had to flee its guardians before they could do anything about it. Or perhaps a nature-themed adventuring group decides to avoid the site's undead guardians and refer the matter to the PC paladin and Sovereign Host cleric. The finders may even be a rival group of adventurers who often butt heads with the PCs, taunting their adversaries with a boast of a great new find. This approach suits the intrigue theme of Eberron. Who else knows about this? What are they willing to do to get their hands on it, or to keep other from getting to it?
Lore: One of the easiest ways to get the PCs involved is for them to find a map or other reference to the Sleeping Warforged. This reference can't be too old (the warforged haven't been around for much more than a century) but can date back to the time of the earliest living warforged. There is potential for intrigue here—who can the PCs trust to talk about this? Who else knows about it? The addition of a flag or other identifying mark of one of the Five Nations to the reference brings with it a lot of history and emotional baggage. Does this warforged belong to that nation? Or was it built to fight against it? Does it contain some secret that can tear down its leaders?
A Madman: Pulp fiction is filled with people turned mad by misfortune and tragedy. Perhaps the man ranting on the street corner is a cursed adventurer, or the witness to a horrible crime. He speaks of the Sleeping Warforged and an unspecified doom, then runs off or goes comatose. This puts the burden of the adventure in the hands of the PCs, but is enough of a hook to give an investigator PCs something to research, especially if more clues appear later.
The Informant: In this case the hint about the Sleeping Warforged comes from a source the PCs can trust (or at least trust not to lie to them outright) such as a church, dragonmarked house, or mentor. The contact is passing on limited information from a reluctant or now-missing source, or perhaps is from a one-time divine revelation or written prophecy. The PCs have to do the legwork to find out more.
The location of the Sleeping Warforged needs to be somewhat inaccessible to explain why nobody has found it until now. Perhaps it is in the Mournland, where few travel, or a bricked-off part of a dungeon. Perhaps a circle of stones becomes a doorway when a certain plane becomes coterminous with the Material Plane. Once it is discovered the element of remoteness and secrecy is less important; the area can get a lot of traffic after it is discovered as long as there is no confusion that the place was not widely known until recently.
The actual details of the site vary depending on what kind of adventure you want this to be. If your campaign focuses on exploring old ruins for lost artifacts, the site can be guarded by traps and magic rather than living creatures. If you run an intrigue campaign, the site can be accessed from two or more directions, each controlled by a different faction that is racing to get there or gain control. In a combat-centered campaign, the site can be guarded by cultist or zealots who wish to use the Sleeping Warforged for their own purposes or to protect it from the unworthy. You might be able to adapt one of the sites from Secrets of Xen'drik to suit your needs. If you want to set the adventure in Xen'drik, make the Sleeping Warforged a Quorcraft warforged and then it can be as old as you want.
The Sleeping Warforged is located in an isolated room and looks like a warforged that is not quite complete, though it is not damaged. Spells and effects that identify or locate living creatures (such as deathwatch) register it as alive and healthy, but only just barely, omparable to how a ready-to-hatch egg might register under the effects of these spells. It does not detect as having thoughts or consciousness and does not respond to its environment.
The Sleeping Warforged may appear completely normal, or it may have an unusual feature such as a head or limb made of psionic crystal or some other exotic material. It may be unmarked or incorporate a symbol of a country, church, or house (or Quori or giant faction if on Xen'drik). It is not immediately accessible to those who desire it—it may be locked in a coffin-like metal shell, wrapped in mummy-like bands of glowing light, suspended within a pool of strange liquid, or carried within the armored chest of a huge undead creature. In any case moving it in its contained state should be nearly impossible; the PCs must remove these defenses in some way before the can manipulate or transport the Sleeping Warforged. The exact nature of its composition, adornment, and protection should depend on the nature of your campaign and the abilities of the PCs.
Likewise, its identity and purpose directly depend on the nature of your campaign. Perhaps it is a perfected creation of the Lord of Blades, set aside to be his "consort" or greatest lieutenant. Perhaps it is an experiment by its creator trying to create warforged that can manifest dragonmarks. Perhaps it is the prototype sentient and living warforged, inspiration for all later models. Perhaps it is a failed experiment, flawed in some way and detected as such by its creators, left here until they could attempt to repair it but since forgotten. Perhaps it is a "last strike" weapon left by the Quori when they retreated from Eberron and will cause havoc once awakened.
Adventure Ideas With The Sleeping Warforged
The key to making this an Eberron adventure is the use of iconic campaign elements, easily introduced as rival or friendly factions who have an interest in the Sleeping Warforged. Some of these groups may act overtly, some covertly, and some under the pretense of helping the PCs with the plan to double-cross them at the right time.
Lord of Blades: This "leader of all warforged" has an interest in acquiring the Sleeping Warforged, as his creation forge is damaged and this discovery may yield some clue as to how to fix it. He also may be interested as a matter of providence—he believes it is his duty to make sure this "innocent" warforged is not exploited by any weak-fleshed being. Alternately, he fears his eventual destruction and has found a way to transfer his consciousness to a new body should he die, but it requires a mindless warforged shell. He may even see the Sleeping Warforged as a rival, believing it has encoded within it some great knowledge, secret, or power that will make it the true leader of its kind, replacing or eliminating him.
Sharran Merchant: An incredibly wealthy but elderly merchant sees his final days approaching, and restorative magic has begun to lose its effectiveness on him. Abhorring the idea of extending his life through necromancy (and not wishing to live as a recluse should he have to become a vampire or lich and keep his true nature secret), the news of the Sleeping Warforged has given him hope that a talented enchanter or psionicist may have a way to transfer his mind into the artificial body, allowing him to continue life in a legal form where he can walk the streets of his home city without being attacked as a monster. Any suitably wealthy person may also have this motive, though Sharn's role as the center of trade and gossip makes it an easy choice.
Quori: These terrors of the plane of dreams are limited by their need to possess Inspired or willing human hosts. The Sleeping Warforged may be their key to greater access to the Material Plane, for if they can analyze a mindless-but-living warforged, they may unlock the key to possessing these constructs, giving them even more potential hosts for their alien minds. If successful, their minions may attempt to find another creation forge or build their own, allowing the quori to manufacture their own warforged minions and possess them at will. If the Quori were its original creators, then perhaps they seek to activate its program of destruction as a distraction for some other plan.
The Dark Six: Agents of the Keeper and the Mockery may desire control of the Sleeping Warforged to advance their evil causes. The Keeper's followers wish to study the "unborn" warforged as a means of learning how to kill them more easily, perhaps by creating new magical curses that attack warforged like poisons or disease do fleshy creatures, or even a way to create undead out of destroyed warforged. The Mockery's worshippers wish to study the Sleeper's body and nascent mind in the hopes of turning more warforged against the Five Nations and even their own kind, rekindling a great bloody war. Both groups may want to find a way magically to bond flesh (living or undead) to a warforged's body, creating a humanoid-seeming creature with the hardness of a construct underneath.
Dragonmarked Houses: Many of the houses may want to study the Sleeper for their own reasons. If House Cannith did not create the Sleeping Warforged, then the house elders certainly would want to examine this unusual specimen for any unique abilities it may posses. If they did create it, they could want it back because it contains some secret that they cannot afford to let into the world. House Jorasco hopes the Sleeping Warforged can be their key to understanding the magical "metabolism" of a warforged, allowing them to use their healing abilities to full effect on the living constructs and thus opening up a new market for their services. All houses may want to see if warforged can be given dragonmarks, as doing so may bring them the allegiance of that race (which lacks social parity among the older races).
About the Author
Sean K. Reynolds lives in Las Vegas and works as a world developer for Upper Deck as well as running his own small press d20 company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Mysteries of the Moonsea. You can find more game material at Sean's website.