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: Da Vincian.
The original Renaissance Man, DaVinci’s inventions, unlike his Archimedean predecessors, did not often involve large public works. Rather, just as his art exalted the human body, his inventions, too, were tailored for individual use. When players envision playing a tinker or inventor, they often envision inventions like those posited by Leonardo DaVinci. He, and other Renaissance innovators, like Johann Guttenberg, Peter Heinlein, Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz, envisioned a world where technology would empower mankind, elevating him (quite literally) beyond his mortal frame, enabling him to perfect himself.
The inventions of Da Vincian thinkers are grand. Movable type, telescopes, pocket watches, and microscopes all changed the way mankind viewed the world. But a Da Vincian campaign does not resemble that which DaVinci invented, as much as it resembles that which DaVinci envisioned. DaVinci’s sketchbook is filled with whimsical drawings of gyrocopters, one-man gliders, bicycles and other machines propelled by muscle.
A Da Vincian world would contain contraptions and devices wondrous to behold (and likely impractical to implement in the real world). Grand clockwork machines and pedal-propelled fliers would roam the lands. Intricate devices with hairpin triggers and automata able to play complicated games of chess are all feasible in the DaVincian world.
A DaVincian world is also a world of exploration. Just as the people of the Renaissance set out on a quest for the Silk Road of Marco Polo, the DaVincians of a fantasy campaign would explore the seas, skies and planes of their milieu. This age of exploration would produce a rich and fertile ground for cross-culturalization, as explorers exchange ideas, inventions, and even creatures.
Da Vincian traps would be as elegant as they are elaborate. These traps would have intricate timing, perhaps relying on the delicate balance of a gyroscope. They might involve detailed puzzles, or a complicated passkey. Wits, more than brawn and dexterity, should be required to elude these traps.
Constructs and mechanical men are expanded upon in a DaVincian world. These mechanical men would be specifically designed for their duties and as beautiful and elegant as they are deadly. In addition, many traditional monsters would be enhanced by the addition of gadgetry constructed to augment their natural abilities. Prosthetics or simple equipment might make a monster able to take on a more experienced party.
Creatures become more plentiful as explorers bring specimens back for study or domestication. In a DaVincian world, creatures need not be confined to their homes, and many wizards and explorers would travel wide and far even to the outermost planes to bring back creatures of every variety.
As the world becomes more modern and commerce and trade more prevalent, coins again become rich and important components of treasure. The fungibility and beauty of gold illustrates the gestalt of the age. Moneyed interests and guilds begin to encroach on the power of the landed nobility, and adventurers are in a perfect position to exploit this new sensibility.Da Vincian Traps
Scything Puzzle Lock
This lock is designed to allow passage only for those who know the puzzle combination. It can be combined with chamber guardians, forcing the players to disarm the trap while combating the guardians or it can be designed as a solo door guarding a vault. The trap requires the puzzle pieces to be slid in a specific order. If a puzzle piece is shifted out of order, a poisoned scythe will emerge from the slits between two puzzle pieces to stop the person trying to solve the puzzle. The door can be battered down like any other door (depending on the materials chosen by the Dungeon Master).
Scything Puzzle Lock Level 2 Lurker
Trap XP 125
The portal appears to have no doorknob or handle. Rather, its center is designed with a complicated puzzle of shifting wooden, ceramic, and metallic pieces.
Trigger: Any failure on a countermeasure skill check, other than Perception
Immediate Reaction Melee 1
Targets: Creature who failed the countermeasure
Attack: +5 vs. Reflex
Hit: 1d10+3 damage plus ongoing 5 poison (save ends)
Countermeasures (6 successes, retries allowed)
• Dungeoneering (DC 15): You can deduce what the next correct move should be. Failure: Wrong move!
• Perception (DC 25): You can see where the next scythe attack will emerge and can adjust for it. (Next scythe attack is at -3 penalty, but this does not count as a success towards disarming the trap.) Failure: You misjudged. (Next scythe attack is at +2 bonus.)
• Thievery (DC 20): You deactivated the triggering mechanism for the next puzzle move, allowing you to slide puzzle pieces until you correctly deduce the next move. This allows you to roll Dungeoneering checks (DC 15) until you succeed, without being attacked. Failure: Wrong move!
Proposed Level 2 Encounter (675 XP)
• Poisoned Scything Puzzle Lock (Level 2 Lurker)
• 2 hobgoblin archers (Level 3 artillery)
• 2 hobgoblin mercenaries (Level 2 soldiers)
Solo (XP 625): Place the trap in a fifteen-foot square room. Once a round, until disarmed, the trap will shoot forth a barrage of poisoned blades: Blast 3, +18 vs. Fort, 2d4+1 poison damage + 5 ongoing poison.
Mosaic Puzzle Test
The low ceiling allows only small creatures to walk unimpeded. Other creatures must travel while prone (crawling). The mosaic tests the traveler on his knowledge of the classics, to ensure that only the worthy may pass this test. Moving into a square with an inappropriate tile will cause the tile to crumble, sending the adventurer 70 feet to the floor below. Small creatures who know the mosaic might defend this chamber. Approximately one in three squares in the chamber are trapped.
Mosaic Puzzle Test Level 14 Warder
Trap XP 1,000
This chamber has a low ceiling, maybe 3 feet high. On the floor is a complicated mosaic depicting courtiers and ladies engaged in genteel pastimes.
Trigger: Stepping in a triggered square.
Immediate Reaction Touch
Targets: Each creature in triggered square.
Attack: +18 vs. Reflex
Hit: 7d10 damage and fall prone to the floor below.
Miss: Remain in the square from which you moved into the trapped square.
• Dungeoneering (DC 27): Using your knowledge of construction, you deduce whether a given square is dangerous.
• History (DC 23): You identify whether a given square is safe or dangerous.
• Perception (DC 27): You can see that a square is safe or dangerous.
• Thievery (DC 31): You reinforce a dangerous square so it will not collapse.
Proposed Level 14 Encounter (5,000 XP)
• Mosaic puzzle test (Level 14 warder)
• 6 quickling zephyrs (Level 14 lurker)
The floor of this room is built atop a giant gyroscope, which spins and totters, but adjusts as people move about it. Creatures in the room will toss characters into the wall, causing abrasive damage as the centrifugal force drags the character across it. Because of the tottering, the terrain is considered hindering.
Gyroscope Trap Level 18 Obstacle
Trap XP 2,000
This circular chamber has a massive pillar in the center. Odd horizontal gashes and scratches run along the walls.
Trigger: When all characters are in the room, the creature will activate the trap.
Targets: Each creature in the room.
Attack: +19 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d10+7 damage plus push 5 squares from center of room.
Special: Once triggered, any character whose movement is forced against the wall will take 9d10 damage.
• Athletics (DC 33): You manage to prevent yourself from being slid, even though you take damage from the initial trap.
• Dungeoneering (DC 29): Seeing the abrasions on the walls, you can deduce what the trap is before it activates.
• Perception (DC 25): You spot the trigger in the central pillar.
• Thievery (DC 29): You deactivate the trap and stop the spinning.
Proposed Level 18 Encounter (10,600 XP)
• Gyroscope trap (Level 18 obstacle)
• 2 rakshasa nobles (Level 19 controller)
• 2 savage minotaurs (Level 16 minion)
When the door to this chamber opens, it is literally ripped off its hinges and drawn into the rotary blades, where it is mangled and its remnants sucked up the chimney. The centrifugal pump forces the air upwards out of the dungeon complex through a narrow chimney. Creatures that manage to pass through the swirling rotary blades alive must face the creatures on the other side. The creatures will attempt to throw people back through the deadly fan blades. Those on the far side are subject to shearing winds and vacuum.
Centrifugal Compressor Level 27 Lurker
Trap XP 11,000
As you open the door, it flies off its hinges. The roar of wind draws it into a massive spinning sharp rotary blade that sucks the oxygen from the room, and threatens to flay the very skin from your bones. The door is splintered into a thousand pieces and then whisked through a chute at the far end of the room. Through the blur of the fan blades, you can see the blurry hulking images of your menacing foes.
Trigger: Any creature in the room on their initiative.
Immediate Reaction Blast 6
Targets: Creature with initiative
Attack: +30 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d6+9 damage plus pull 5 squares
Special: The trap continues to attack on the far side of the fan blades, but the attack pushes 5 squares, rather than pulling.
Special: Creatures on opposite sides of the fan blades can attack one another with ranged attacks, though the blades provide one another with superior cover.
Special: Any creature pulled through the fan is subject to the secondary attack.
Secondary Attack: +32 vs. Reflex
Hit: 5d12+9 damage and prone
Miss: Half damage.
• Athletics (DC 37): You stop the blades in place until the end of your next turn through a feat of herculean strength, giving another PC the opportunity to disable the fan blades.
• Dungeoneering (DC 33): If you perceived the winds outside the door, you can identify this trap before the door is opened.
• Perception (DC 33): Before opening the door, you perceive the winds, giving you a chance to recognize the trap before the door is opened.
• Thievery (DC 29): If the fan blades have been stopped, you can deactivate the trap.
• Thievery (DC 37): You deactivate the trap while the fan blades are still rotating.
Proposed Level 27 Encounter (54,000 XP)
• Centrifugal compressor trap (Level 27 lurker)
• Storm titan (Level 27 elite controller)
• 3 efreet pyresingers (Level 25 controller)
In the next article, we launch into the Industrial Era with the next genre: Wattian!