Saturday, March 22, 2014

Improving Artificers in Dungeon Fantasy

I wasn't very satisfied with the Artificer. It isn't an awful template, but it has a lot of abilities that are costly in terms of points, money, and weight, and it's easy for it not get much benefit from those abilities. The sample Artificer from Mirror of the Fire Demons is an excellent example: despite being a full 250 point PC template with $1200 and 73 lbs in gear, he's not particularly more effective in combat than the 140 point (sans disadvantages) Archer template.

Still, all hope is not lost for the Artificer. There's a solid base there, and a couple of house rules and some additional sample gear could give him a big boost.

Getting Stuff Cheap

Most delvers can get a 20% discount on basic gear by making it themselves with a successful Armoury or Alchemy roll (DF Dungeons p3). Anyone who can make a Flight potion in the field with whatever scraps he found on the dungeon wall should be able to get a better discount when using a proper laboratory. Anyone with the Quick Gadgeteer advantage gets a 50% discount when using the rules for Brewing or Crafting, and can find items worth up to $100 when attempting Scrounging. A Quick Gadgeteer can also make items with special qualities, such as Fine or Dwarven (but not magic enchantments!) or any special order, when using the Crafting rules.

Furthermore, Artificers have a natural affinity for complicated devices, and their labor goes farther when making one. Artificers get an additional 25% discount when they use Crafting to make a complicated mechanical device. All the new items below qualify, as well as all forms of crossbows, portable traps (DF Adventurers p 26), the low-tech flamethrower (DF Clerics p 34), cobweb kites (DF Sages p 12), float coats (DF Sages p 12), dwarven accurizers (DF Sages p 12), universal tool kits (DF Sages p 12), any clocks (DF Treasure Tables p 14), dwarven crankbows (DF Treasure Tables p 32), and the spinning saw (DF Treasure Tables p 33).

Artificers Devices

These fiddly yet useful devices are available to, and can be used by, anyone, but only Artificers can take advantage of them in a practical manner. The need to constantly tinker, modify, and adjust these devices means that they're very likely to malfunction in the hands of an unskilled user.

All artificer devices that are weapons (including melee weapons) have a Malf value (B407) equal to the user's Engineer (Gadgets) skill, at -3 if the user doesn't have the Gadgeteer advantage. They malfunction as TL3 non-revolver firearm, and can explode as springs, cogs, and flywheels turn into deadly shrapnel. The malfunction number is furthered penalized by -2 for every 24 hours that elapses without a Gadgeteer performing an hour of maintenance on the device.

Non-weapon devices can also malfunction. Roll against the user's Engineer (Gadgets) skill, at -3 if the user doesn't have the Gadgeteer advantage, when the device is first used each day, every minute of continuous use thereafter, and when the device is used again after more than 5 minutes elapse. Again, treat the device as a TL3 non-revolver firearm, with a stoppage failure meaning the device works for 1d seconds and then seizes up.

Artificers who intend to make extensive use of artificer devices are advised to take the No Nuisance Rolls (Engineer) perk.

The following devices are examples. Many more items along these lines are certainly possible.

Alchemical Flamethrower: This improved version of the low-tech flamethrower uses stronger materials and a more ingenious mixing mechanism to overcome the limitations of the basic design. It holds 8 pints of a 7:1 mixture of lantern oil and alchemical fire and mixes them in the aerosol chamber. It is a one-handed weapon, as the pumps are self-powered by springs and gears. Treat each shot as standard alchemical fire. It fires in either of two modes: a short ranged jet of flame, or launching a flaming cloud at the ground (as per the second use of alchemical fire) out to 30 yards.

Powered Pistol Crossbow: A repeating pistol crossbow (DF Loadouts p 23) with the lever replaced by an ingenious combinations of cogs, gears, and springs. It reloads itself automatically from the rotating drum, allowing faster and more accurate fire. The increased rate of fire comes at the cost of the reload time, as rewinding the springs takes much more time.

Powered Crankbow: A cog and spring powered crankbow that reloads itself quicker and fires more powerful shots, this weapon is one of the ultimate weapons of artificers. Spring loaded magazines allow it to be reloaded quickly in combat, but loading the magazine with a bolt and winding the springs takes 10 seconds per shot.

Alchemical Flamethrower: Jet Mode
Flame Cloud Launcher
1d bu (5)
1d-1 bu area 2
Powered Pistol Crossbowthr+2 imp2x6/x127/136(10i)$16008†-42
Powered Crankbowthr+5 imp4x15/x2017/3721(3)$70009†-71

Powered Saw: A spinning saw with the cranked handle supplemented by springs and flywheels. It can be used for up to 10 seconds at no FP cost as the flywheels and springs provide the motive power. It takes 2 seconds and 1 FP to recharge it for 1 second of use outside of combat, or it can be driven by the crank in combat as with any other spinning saw. $3600, 7 lbs, other stats as a spinning saw.

Mechanical Door Opener: A mechanical device for silently forcing open doors. It takes one minute and 1 FP to put into place and charge the mechanism, and then it can be activated to do 6dx2 cr to a door, lock, hinge, bar, wall, or other static item. $2000, 6 lbs.

Mechanical Exoskeleton: Unlike other artificer devices, this collection of spring powered arms and legs only needs to check for malfunctions every hour of use, not every minute. It provides the wearer with Lifting ST5 and Striking ST2 for 8 hours, and then needs to be recharged using the attached steam boiler for 8 hours. The exoskeleton fits over armor (or is sometimes built into armor) but provides no additional protection itself. $10,000, 15 lbs.

Advanced Mechanical Exoskeleton: As above, but slightly stronger, with Lifting ST8 and Striking ST4. It also has an overdrive mode that consumes 1 hour of normal use per minute and requires a malfunction roll every minute like any other artificer device. While overdrive is engaged, the exoskeleton provides Lifting ST20 and Striking ST8. Overdrive mode must be engaged for a least a full minute at a time. $50000, 20 lbs.

Design Notes

The Getting Stuff cheap house rule is a straightforward enhancement of the existing rules. It strongly encourages artificers to kit up with fancy gear, but they're reasonably the most gear dependent template. Giving them additional bonuses for complicated gear further incentivizes the artificer as the mad scientist using clockwork weapons. There's a slight disadvantage in that Artificers might want to spend all their time making crossbows and not delving, but delvers should have other reasons for delving than modest levels of greed.

The artificer devices are intended to be primitive super science for artificers only. It's trivially obvious that giving +5 Lifting ST is better for the ST17 barbarian than the ST11 artificer, but "being the guy who makes cool toys that other people use" isn't as exciting as "crazed mad inventor." So while an artificer could make a mechanical exoskeleton for the barbarian, it will almost immediately malfunction and likely explode when the savage wears it.

The powered crankbow is my favorite artificer device, as I think it gives the artificer a unique place in ranged combat. The scout provides consistent, high damage, and accurate ranged fire with a variety of damage types; the mystic knight archer has a slower rate of fire but hits targets behind cover or uses shrapnel to clear out formations; and the artificer with the powered crankbow provides a few seconds of fairly damaging suppression fire, but without the weird effects of the mystic knight.

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