- Jun 2005 -
19235 Posts

Dungeontech: Geberian Genre

In the Dungeontech article series, I offer advice on introducing fantastical technology into your Dungeons & Dragons game.  In this article, I describe a second genre you might consider for a Dungeontech campaign: Geberian.

Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan (a.k.a., "Geber") is the father of chemistry, but also the father of medieval alchemy.  He, and those who followed in his footsteps, like Rasis, Al-Biruni, Avicenna, Roger Bacon, and Berthold Schwarz used chemistry and alchemy, not only to develop new compounds and elixirs for the betterment of mankind’s physical bodies, but also in an attempt to use science to refine and purify humanity’s soul.

The trappings of Geberian technology would include boiling cauldrons, glassware and crystal, beakers, cups, elixirs, potions, unctions, tinctures and powders.  As alchemists and healers, they often delved into the mysterious foundations of the world.  (Geber’s theories were so esoteric that a new word had to be invented to describe them: “gibberish”.)  In a fantasy campaign, Geberian scientists would learn to manipulate the forces of the Elemental Chaos, interacting with elemental creatures to better understand the foundations of matter.

A Geberian campaign would involve as much philosophy and mysticism as it would science.  It should be propelled by the notion that physical effects have metaphysical consequences.  Heroes and villains alike would seek answers to eternal and immortal questions of life, death and immortality, of good and evil, through experimentation with chemicals, elements and the physical form.  Geberian scientists have grand ideas and might engage in terrible acts for the “greater good.”

Geberian traps would concentrate on noxious gasses and poisons.  In addition, because alchemists often delved into the fundamental nature of the mind and the soul, their traps, too, could be psychic in nature, affecting one’s thoughts or even one’s personality, briefly.

The monsters in a Geberian campaign would tend to resemble the chemicals of the age.  Oozes and slimes would not be unusual.  Geberian alchemists would work closely with mystical summoners to delve into the depths of the Elemental Chaos.  Elementals would be frequently encountered, often summoned to serve as assistants, or subjects, in laboratory experiments.  Of course, where elementals are summoned, it is just as likely that an ambitious elementalist might go further, and begin to summon and entreat with demons, almost always to the summoner’s regret.

Treasure in a Geberian world would have many more consumable items, particularly potions.  Many potions in a Geberian campaign could be reflavored to be alchemical, rather than magical in origin.  In addition, alchemy would be more plentiful.  On the other hand, countermeasures, such as antivenoms and antitoxins would be more plentiful as well.


Possibly the most world-altering invention in a Geberian campaign would be blackpowder.  Useful in fireworks, it also allows for the development of cannon and one-shot rifles and muskets.  Even though gunpowder changed the world in fundamental ways, it would not necessarily have an immediate effect on the life of an adventurer.  After all, the Three Musketeers are better known for their swordplay than their gunplay, notwithstanding their use of muskets.

Just as in an Archimedean world, siege engines would not have much direct effect on an adventuring party, even if fueled by blackpowder.  They had a profound effect on warfare, but Dungeons and Dragons is not a wargame.  Players should not be concerned about troop movements and campaign strategy.  That should be background to the specific adventure the party undertakes.  There is no more need for statistics for cannon as for a catapult. 

Early guns were more like handheld cannon than the revolvers and automatic weaponry seen in today’s military (and described in more detail in the Coltian Genre, below).  Handheld cannon would be able to fire one shot, usually in the beginning of combat.  After that, it could take up to five to ten rounds to reload.  By then, most adventuresome combat should have ended.

For the most part, the introduction of hand cannon will change the beginning of combat, rendering surprise and initiative more important.  Otherwise, hand cannon are mostly useful for taking down minions early in battle.

Another potential development in a game with Geberian technology would be handheld explosives, such as squibs and grenades.  Dungeon Masters should be cautious in allowing these items into a campaign as they can quickly encroach on the role of a wizard, allowing for ranged burst attacks and the easy dispatching of minions.

Other handheld consumable items from a Geberian genre include smoke bombs, concussive grenades and canisters designed to release gasses and fumes.  These alchemical items are already in the game, although the Dungeon Master might consider making them more plentiful in a Geberian campaign.

Geberian Traps


Chemical Spill – Level 5 Obstacle
Hazard – XP 200
A sickening stinking viscous puddle blocks your path.
Trigger: Entering the square.
Acid Attack
Immediate Reaction – Touch
Targets: Creatures in the square
Attack: +12 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 3d6+4 acid damage
Miss: Half damage
Special: The spill should be treated as hindering terrain.
Special: Any creatures who start their turn in the spill are attacked, and if hit, also takes ongoing 5 acid (save ends).
Proposed Level 5 Encounter (1,050 XP)
•           Chemical spill (Level 5 obstacle)
•           Gelatinous cube (Level 5 elite brute)
•           3 spitting drakes (Level 3 artillery)


CrystalThe cloudy liquid in this room contains small crystals that will quickly form and grow whenever a solid object over 20 pounds mass enters it.  The crystals constrict and squeeze the object until it crumbles.  Outside the room, the crystals become brittle and can be removed after a short rest.  Artillery located on ledges above the room hamper the party’s movement.

Crystal Shackling Room – Level 11 Warder
Trap – XP 600
The chamber is filled with a murky cloudy liquid.
Trigger: Entering the room
Standard Action – Touch
Targets: All creatures on surface of room.
Attack: +16 vs. AC
Hit: 2d4+5 damage plus slow (save ends, if first save fails, creature is immobilized, if second save fails, creature is dead)
Special: If target leaves the room, failed saves have no further effect.
•           Athletics (DC 30): With a standard action, you break through the crystals engulfing you.
•           Dungeoneering (DC 22): You know the crystals will get brittle when removed from the chamber.
•           Dungeoneering (DC 26): You know how to use the materials found in 1,000 gp of the components normally used for Nature-based rituals to retard the crystals’ growth.  If you have those materials on hand, you can give yourself or one adjacent ally a +2 bonus to the next save.  Applying the components requires a minor action.
•           Perception (DC 30): By carefully observing the liquid, you can see clumps of crystals forming around the particulates.
Proposed Level 11 Encounter (3,000 XP)
•           Crystal shackling room (Level 11 warder)
•           3 cyclops impalers (Level 14 artillery)


Alchemists can fill this room with this acidic concoction, which is inimical to all living things, whether by corrosion or suffocation.

Marine Acid Air – Level 16 Obstacle
Trap – XP 1,400
The chamber fills with a murky cloudy liquid.
Trigger: Entering the room
Acid Attack
Immediate reaction – Touch
Targets: Each creature in chamber
Attack: +17 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d4+7 acid damage plus ongoing 5 acid
Miss: Half damage, no ongoing damage.
•           Perception (DC 33): You see the trigger and can avoid it.
•           Thievery (DC 29): You deactivate the trigger.
•           Thievery (DC 29): You clog a vent to prevent gas from entering.
Proposed Level 16 Encounter (7,600 XP)
•           Marine acid air (Level 16 obstacle)
•           2 stone golems (Level 17 elite soldier)


This foul mist clouds the mind, increasing a person’s rage and making it difficult to discern friend from foe.  A solo creature is usually best-equipped to deal with the heroes here, where friendship can suddenly be a liability.

Choleric Spray – Level 26 Obstacle
Trap – XP 9,000
A fine mist fills the air, filling your mind with thoughts of anger and rage, even at your closest allies!
Trigger: Entering the cloud
Psychic Attack
Standard – Touch
Targets: Each creature in cloud.
Attack: +26 vs. Will
Hit: 2d6+9 psychic damage plus ongoing 10 psychic (save ends)
Special: Any creature suffering from ongoing psychic damage (from any source) while in the cloud will make a basic attack against any creature, ally or enemy, leaving an adjacent by any means but shifting, if the creature has an opportunity attack available, unless the creature rolls an immediate save (no action).  This save does not end the ongoing damage.
Proposed Level 26 Encounter (45,000 XP)
•           Choleric spray (Level 26 obstacle)
•           Primordial hydra (Level 25 solo brute)

In the next article, I will describe the next genre chronologically: DaVincian!

 See more at Unearthed Wrecana

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