The Artificers

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by Laura Mumma

A Void Race for Star Frontiers

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” – Arthur C. Clarke, The Lost Worlds of 2001.

In Dragon Magazine June Volume 1, Number 1 James M. Ward wrote an article called Magic And Science Are They Compatible in D&D? In it he argued that many aspects of magic in D&D could be actually explained with science or science based ideas and magic was in fact science as understood by primitive people. He thus created a race called the “Artificers” whose super-science would appear magical to demonstrate this concept. (Latter on the term “Artificer” in D&D would become a specialized magic-user player character class; it is Ward’s original concept I wish to explore.)

Keeping in mind that James M. Ward was presenting magic as in fact science, we have here a mysterious ancient race of beings with super technology. Thus as early as June of 1976 we have a prototype for Techno-Mages and mysterious Ancients from Atlantis presented for Dungeon Masters to use in their settings. James Ward suggested this race be used to challenge players that had become too powerful in D&D, Similarly this race could be used to challenge players in Star Frontiers. Most importantly they offer referees a NPC alien race with mysterious motives, technology, and origins that might present new twists to the Star Frontiers setting.

In converting this basic idea presented by Mr. Ward I have attempted to make this race a challenge to PC’s in Star Frontiers while retaining his original ideas. I have heavily drawn on his original article previously mentioned.

Emerald Station by Peter Saga

Homeworld & Race

This race, or possibly several allied races, were able to transport their “Island land Atlantis to another nearby dimension”, Atlantis may also have been the mythic island of Erythea and as Erythea is a less known name referee’s may wish to use this name as well. If as a referee you decide they have several colonies or ships there are several mythic, folklore, and legendary hidden lands, sunken lands, or cities that would make for good inspiration.

This race can trans-dimensionally travel and appears to be able to inhabit other layers of space. This means they very may well be not just traveling in the Void but inhabiting the Void and other layers of space not currently accessible to the many Frontier races. It is possible their “homeworld” could be very literally a floating island in space maintained by fabulous super technology or just as likely a city that is also a ship or even a sunken city maintained habitable with ancient super technology.

The race is not described, but the Atlantis tie in allows for the referee to include lore-based books written by mediums and works that go all the way back to Plato’s/Solon’s Atlantis and from many sci-fi authors or works on such legendary lands. In addition, any race which can trans-dimensional travel can probably disguise themselves as any race. Their true nature should be mysterious and it is possible they are comprised of more than one race. This is a race that depends on its intelligence, guile, cunning, and will. When working up ability stats for Artificers they should be high in the LOG/INT pair but low in the STR/STA pair and average for the other abilities. Artificers will have gadgets to compensate for physical weaknesses in any environment they are operating in.

Technology

However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.” –Lewis S. Mumford, Technics and Civilization, 1934.

This race has a high degree of technology. They have devices that can counter any common Star Frontiers science effects just as they can counter the magic of D&D. (The referee should feel free to create devices that nullify Star Frontier technology or makes such technology look primitive).

Any race of beings that can move their home or themselves into and out of various dimensions would appear magical, god-like and mysterious to any semi-intelligent race not at their level of technology. Even high tech races would have space myths about them. Some of these myths should contradict, should be fairy tale, or tall tale sounding, and inspire fear and respect.

Numbers and Attitudes

Artificers are psionic, scientists of technology, studiers of the multidimensional universe, and the biological sciences. Artificers use illusion and trickery as their first line of defense, followed with fear and display of power as their second choice. Artificers usually occur on their own or a Master with an apprentice or two of lower ranking Artificers. A lot of Artificers in one local should give anyone with common sense pause for concern.

Artificers can run the whole motive range from benevolent but meddling individual to cruel malevolent type from a PC’s point of view. The Artificers have their own motives for helping, hindering, experimenting, interfering or not interfering with other cultures. How others will subjectively view the Artificer’s activities may not be what the Artificer intends or even cares about.

Standard Equipment

Technology shapes society and society shapes technology.” – Robert W. White, Environmental Science and Technology, 1990.

Artificers use three powerful devices at all times: a mobile “blue sphere,” a hand held weapon, and a computer.

Always remember Artificers prefer to have their devices fight for them and will have all manner of super-science gizmos (often disguised) to do just that. Artificers, when discovered, generally have a “stronghold,” base, lab, or facility from which they are living, operating, building devices, and experimenting from, or collecting things of interest (like life forms or dangerous substances) to study and manipulate.

The Blue Sphere

The “blue sphere” was created to fight for the Artificers. The device comes in three sizes: the largest sphere having a diameter of 1 meter, the middle sphere having a diameter of two-thirds meter, and the smallest sphere having a diameter of one-third meter. These are also badges or rank since the smallest is the most powerful and only the highest-ranking leaders use the smallest spheres.

These spheres are able to shoot two beams while floating beside their master. These beams can be whatever its master needs at the time in the way of attacking or defending abilities. The Artificer need only think their need and their blue sphere will respond accordingly (it is up to the referee how this thought technology works, linked implant, mental psionic ability, or biological link to the device are just a few examples.) Blue spheres will also respond to spoken commands by their master.

The possible rays that can be generated by a sphere depend on its size and are given in the lists below.

Largest Sphere
  • 20 points of Damage Absorber
  • Heat Ray (3d10)
  • Healing Ray five points per turn
  • Displacement Ray x1
  • 50 point Damage Shield

 

Middle Sphere
  • 30 points of Damage Absorber
  • Heat Ray (5d10)
  • Healing Ray ten points per turn
  • Displacement Ray x2
  • 100 point Damage Shield
  • Damping Shell
  • Fear Ray SL2

 

Smallest Sphere
  • 40 points of Damage Absorber
  • Heat Ray (7d10)
  • Restoration Ray
  • Displacement Ray x3
  • 200 point Damage Shield
  • Damping Shell
  • Fear Ray SL4
  • Anti-Sphere Ray
  • Charm Ray

Description of Rays

Damage Absorber

This ray will take the damage potential from a mental attack or weapon from its master if the ray is trained on the Artificer at the instant of damage occurrence with the limitation of only being able to take a maximum stated amount per turn.

Heat Ray

This is just that, a ray of heat that does the stated amount of damage per turn.

Healing Ray

Consider this a type of healing ray, doing the stated amount of healing per turn.

Displacement Ray

A being hit with the Displacement Ray will appear to be 1 meter (multiplied by the number) from where it actually is. The referee can roll a 1d10 to determine where the displaced individual actually is. Attackers have a 50% disadvantage to hit the displaced individual. If the individual is hit the effect stops until the end of the turn, but resumes as soon as the ray-affected individual moves again on their next turn.

Duration: 1 minute

Damage Shield

To prevent the sphere from being destroyed this ray can stop harmful actions on itself at the maximum rate, with only the damage over the given amount affecting the sphere. The sphere can take 100 points of actual damage before being destroyed.

Duration: 1 minute

Damping Shell

Cuts off all forms of broadcasted or externally drawn power sources to the object or individual within the shell.

Duration: 1 hour

Fear Ray

The fear ray can instill fear in the chosen target by making a mental attack against him (treat as LOG contest between the Artificer with a bonus of 10xSL listed for the sphere and the intended victim). The victim flees away from the Artificer at maximum speed for one minute, but will continue to put as much distance it can from the Artificer. If the victim is cornered or trapped, he will go berserk, fighting until he can get free.

Duration: 1 hour

Charm Ray

The target creature must make a LOG/INT check, and does so with advantage of 10% if the Artificer is fighting it. If it fails its check, it is charmed by the ray until the ray effects wear off or until the Artificer or their companions do anything harmful to it. The charmed creature regards the Artificer as a friendly acquaintance. When the Ray wears off, the target knows it was charmed.

Duration: 1 hour.

Anti-Sphere Ray

This will negate any effects of a pistol sphere or a blue sphere.

Duration: Instantaneous

Restoration Ray

This ray completely regenerates any being dead or dying and always works if applied within 1 hour of death.

Duration: Instantaneous

The best way to negate a “blue sphere” is to place it in a damping shell, which will cut off its energy supply. When this happens the sphere becomes useless.

The Crystal Pistol/Catapult

The pistol catapult is a hand held weapon that looks much like a small catapult made of an unbreakable crystal with spring steel like material. It shoots a five centimeters sphere (they look like marbles) for a maximum range of 50 meters. Theses spheres are only active upon being released from the pistol and emit their stored power on contact. There are different types of spheres, all color-coded for easy identification.

Red Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit a 5-meter circle of heat, so intense that it melts everything and anything in an area. The sphere does 1d100+50 damage to living beings (they are being cooked alive). 

Black Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit a 5-meter circle of disintegrating energy. The target can be a creature, an object, or a creation of mental force. A creature targeted by this sphere must make a DEX/RS check. On a failed save, the target takes 6d10+40 force damage. If this damage reduces the target to 0 Stamina, it is disintegrated.

A disintegrated creature and everything it is wearing and carrying are reduced to a pile of fine gray dust. The creature can be restored to life only by means of a Regeneration Ray. If the target is larger than the sphere when it disintegrates, a 5-meter sphere portion of it is disintegrated. Artificer technology is not affected by this sphere, so if the target is carrying Artificer technology, that will be left intact.

Clear Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit a 5-meter circle of nullifying energy. Which means any stored energy source (i.e. battery or loaded energy weapon) ceases to function permanently as the energy source is instantly drained.

Brown Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit an illusion of a vast maze. Those in that 5-meter circle must travel through this mental maze to free themselves of the effects.

Purple Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit a 5-meter circle of death on all living things within the 5 meters sphere.  Any creature, friend or foe, successfully hit has most of his hit points drained away. The creature is left with only STA points equal to his STA/5. If this does not do at least 5 points of damage to the creature, then it is reduced to zero STA points. Any creature with zero or fewer STA points is killed instantly. All normal plants, small animals or other simple life forms are assumed to have been attacked successfully and suffer the consequences. Interestingly, germs and other microscopic organisms are unaffected.

Silver Sphere

Upon contact, this sphere (from the point of contact) will emit a 5-meter circle of synthetic crystal with the resistance of diamond to physical forces. The wall will go to a maximum height of 20 meters, length 40 meters, and a thickness 5 meters. It will always fill any passage or space to the fullest possible extent.

Obviously there are many more colors one can create spheres for following these basic examples that can have equally wondrous and dangerous effects on the target.

The Computer

Finally the most powerful of all devices of the Artificers is their mighty offensive and defensive computers. This device has a core power source that allows them to create great amounts of heat and is able to analyze and counteract any attacks sent at it. It is able to analyze up to 100 attacks of any kind (including psionic) sent at it per turn. Its primary form of attack is to analyze the Stamina of its enemies and emit a double amount of that in a heat ray. These computers are used in the more sensitive areas of Artificer bases.

The computer’s greatest weakness is its strict following of its program, which can allow more intelligent beings to use logic to get around it. This type device can be made in varying strengths and forms to present an unusual obstacle for players. Obviously Star Frontiers PCs may have an added advantage in dealing with a computer so referees should feel free to make these computers very deadly to all but their keepers.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

- Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

Some Final Thoughts

In D&D the Artificer ceased to be a unique race and ultimately became a specific class of wizards that any race could become. Though introduced as a prestige class for gnome arcane spell casters, by the 4th edition they were given a draconic heritage. The class started as a specialty in the School of Thamaturgy in the 2nd edition rules. The artificer channels magic or psionic power into or through non-living items for their own personal use. Basically in all versions they make, power, and fix wondrous works of mechanical ”magic.” In this basic respect the Artificers are still builders of wondrous super-science, though striped it seems of some of their other aspects.

"We are dreamers, shapers, singers, and makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit, crystal and scanner, holographic demons and invocations of equations. These are the tools we employ, and we know many things."

Elric Babylon 5

For Star Frontiers I suggest this race of trans-dimensional beings be used as the powerful mysterious NPCs they were intended to be, wielders of super-science devices capable of creating all sorts of shenanigan situations for those few who meet and survive the experience

They have super-science on a level that should humble others if they choose to use it. Artificers; disguised of course; might even hire PCs to do odd jobs for them. Sending PCs off on dangerous missions to retrieve items, materials, plants and animals, or maybe hiring their ship for transport to move about the Frontier incognito.

Dr. McCoy: Three witches... what appears to be a castle, and a black cat.

Captain James T. Kirk: If we weren't missing two officers and a third one dead, I'd say someone was playing an elaborate trick-or-treat on us.

Mr. Spock: 'Trick-or-treat', Captain?

Captain James T. Kirk: Yes, Mr. Spock... You'd be a natural. I'll explain it to you one day.

From the Star Trek TV Series Episode Catspaw 1967

References

Dragon, June Volume 1, Number 1, Magic And Science Are They Compatible in D&D? by James M. Ward

Dungeons & Dragons Men & Magic Volume 1 of Three Booklets by Gygax and Arneson, November 1973

D&D Basic Rules Player’s Basic Rules Version 0.2, August 12 2014

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificer_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons)

Gamma Dawn, by Mr. Scott Ireland and Bill Logan, 2007