- Jun 2005 -
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Dungeontech: Vehicular Traits

The Dungeontech blog series offers advice and mechanics to Dungeon Masters who want to introduce advanced technology into the heroic fantasy campaigns typical of a Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign. This is the second article in the chapter on technological vehicles. Specifically, this article describes the traits of the vehicles that might be found in a Dungeontech campaign, as well as rules for designing your own vehicles.

Like creatures, personal and private vehicles possess traits that define their capacities as vehicles in combat.


Role: A vehicle might be considered personal, private, public, or ponderous.

Personal vehicles can carry only one passenger, or perhaps a second squeezed onto the seat, or in a special carrying compartment such as a sidecar.  Personal vehicles are maneuverable like steeds. However, they require the use of Acrobatic checks to handle during combat (as will be described more fully in a future article). Some examples of personal vehicles are bicycles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft, and all-terrain vehicles.

Private vehicles use the rules for vehicles set forth in the Adventurer’s Vault. These vehicles carry approximately one adventuring team and their gear, or as many as ten individuals. Some examples of private vehicles are sedans, motorboats and helicopters.

Public vehicles carry more than ten individuals but generally require only a single driver or pilot. Like private vehicles, they also use most of the rules for vehicles set forth in the Adventurer’s Vault. However, these vehicles are large enough that it is unlikely that the players would be expected to do combat against the vehicle. Instead, any attempt to disable such a vehicle should take the form of a Skill Challenge. Some examples of public vehicles are jetliners and busses.

Ponderous vehicles are so large they are not given the stats of a smaller vehicle. Although mobile, they should be considered more akin to dungeons or communities. Like public vehicles, ponderous vehicles do not have hit points; rather, destroying such a vehicle should be considered an adventure or quest in itself. Ponderous vehicles do not have a move speed; rather combat occurs on the vehicle, and its long-distance speed is determined exclusively by the Dungeon Master. Some examples of Ponderous vehicles are cruise ships and star cruisers.  Such vehicles should be made part of a larger skill challenge or adventure.

Size: A vehicle’s size indicates its width at its greatest extent, not including extensions like wings and rotors.

Hit Points: As in creatures, a vehicle’s hit points represent how much damage it incurs before rendered inoperable.

Defenses: Vehicles possess Armor Class and a Fortitude defense. Vehicles use the Reflex defense of their drivers, which are modified by the vehicles’ Reflex Modifiers. As vehicles are objects, vehicles cannot be targeted by attacks that target the Will defense.

Speed: Vehicles can possess two different speeds: overland speed and move speed.

Overland speed represents the number of miles a vehicle can travel in an hour of uneventful travel. For space vehicles, this speed is measured in light years, not miles. These speeds assume the adventurers are traveling with an expected amount of gear. Unladen vehicles might be able to travel even farther, while a vehicle that is overladen might travel much less.

Move speed represents the squares a personal vehicle can move in a turn in which the driver is engage in ongoing combat against other creatures.

Terrain: There are six terrains through which a vehicle might travel. Terrestrial vehicles ride along the surface of the ground. Aerial vehicles have a fly speed. These vehicles are either immobilized when on the ground, or possess a very slow ground speed.

Aquatic vehicles have a swim speed, but cannot submerge. They are generally unable to travel on land.

Space vehicles can travel in space with a fly speed. These vehicles might also be able to travel as an aerial vehicle. Space vehicles are usually immobilized on land, if they can enter a planet’s atmosphere at all.

Submersible vehicles travel under or on the surface of the water with a swim speed. Like aquatic vehicles, submersible vehicles generally are unable to travel on land.

Unique vehicles travel through unique types of terrain. For example, dwarven miners might develop a special bore-truck that has a burrow speed. Another example is the snowmobile, described below.

Enhancements: Most vehicles are assumed to be unarmed. However, a future article on Advanced Technology will describe enhancements for personal and private vehicles. These advancements are usually described as enhancements to a vehicle’s speed or defenses, or will grant the vehicle a rechargeable power. By adding armor enhancements and cannons, military vehicles, such as tanks, may be approximated. Any enhancements added to public or ponderous vehicles should be accommodated in the design of the skill challenge.

Intelligence: The vehicles presented in this book require pilots. If the Dungeon Master wants to allow vehicles with a form of artificial intelligence that allows them to pilot themselves, such vehicles should be created as intelligent constructs with the mount keyword, and not vehicles.


Designing a vehicle is not significantly different than designing a creature using the rules set forth in the Dungeon Masters Guide. A vehicle will have a stat block like the vehicles presented in other rulebooks intended for use in the Fourth Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game.

1. Assign a Level. Level represents the level at which a character may be expected to be able to own the vehicle. Vehicles should be considered magic items in treasure parcels.

2. Assign a Role. A vehicle with a stat block may be personal or private.

3. Assign a Size. A vehicle’s size is determined by its role. Personal vehicles are Small or Medium. Private vehicles are Large.

4. Assign Terrain. Vehicles may be terrestrial, aquatic, aerial, spacial, submersible, or unique. Aquatic, submersible, and spacial vehicles should not possess a level below 11.

5. Assign a Speed. A vehicle’s overland speed represents how many miles per hour the vehicle can travel in favorable terrain. Assign a move speed to personal vehicles. Generally, personal vehicles have a move speed of 10, but may have a move speed between 6 and 12. For purposes of collision and ramming, a private vehicle has a move speed equal to its level.

6. Assign Hit Points. A vehicle should possess the following hit points, based on its level, according to the table below.

7. Assign Defenses. A vehicle should possess defenses based on its role and its level, according to the table below.

8. Add Enhancements. Decide whether the vehicle has been enhanced with any advanced technology or magical items. Vehicles cannot be equipped with items higher level than it.

9. Calculate Cost. The cost of a vehicle is the cost of a magic item of the same level as the vehicle plus the cost of any modifications made to the vehicle.

Hit Points (level x 4) +10/tier (level x 10) +30/tier
Armor Class level +1/tier +10 level +1/tier +11
Fortitude level +1/tier +8 level +1/tier +9
Reflex Modifier +0 -1

Float is a new movement type that indicates a vehicle that can travel along the surface of water, but cannot travel beneath the water.

See More at Unearthed Wrecana!

"Speed", From a Painting by Louis de Schryver (1906). No copyright, because image in in the public domain.
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