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 article presents expanded options for Skills in a Tech campaign.
In a Tech campaign, people may attempt actions impossible in a standard campaign world. Space travel, computer systems, and advanced alchemy all create expanded opportunities for characters to use the skills in which they have trained. Below are some of the new ways in which a character might take advantage of the Skill system.
Maintain Vehicular Control
When driving a vehicle that is not equipped with natural or artificial Intelligence, a character must succeed on an Acrobatic check with a DC of 15 plus the level of the vehicle to use a standard action. If the Acrobatics check fails, all attack rolls associated with that standard action are made at a -2 penalty, and the vehicle is Out-of-Control until the beginning of the driver’s next turn, at which point the driver (or any other character in appropriate position) may regain control of the vehicle as part of a move action.
Maintain Vehicular Speed
When driving a vehicle alongside other competitive vehicles of similar capabilities, a driver, on his turn, must, as a move action, roll an Acrobatics check with a DC equal to 20 plus the level of the vehicle to maintain its position relative to the other vehicles. If the Acrobatics check fails, the vehicle will fall behind a number of squares equal to the difference between the roll and the DC.
In the absence of artificial gravity, movement in orbit or space is difficult due to weightlessness. When moving in a weightless situation, a body will continue moving in the same direction at the same rate. What this means is that a character will slide a number of squares equal to the character’s last movement and in the same direction, as a free action at the beginning of the character’s turn. Stopping, slowing, and even turning are difficult maneuvers in space. Weightless maneuvers are represented as acrobatic stunts:
- Slow continued movement: DC 15
- Stop continued movement: DC 20
- Take walk or run action: DC 15
- Turn during continued movement: DC 15
Each weightless maneuver requires the person taking the action to be within reach of a stationary object, such as a wall, post, floor or ceiling. It should be noted that in a weightless environment, flying creatures that are immobilized or rendered prone will not fall.
In a tech campaign, Arcane should refer solely to "magic", but rather uses the dictionary definition of "known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret;obscure; esoteric." Complex technology is quite arcane, particularly when viewed by a layperson. Training in the arcane can represent knowledge of advanced chemistry, physicas and engineering. in a world where tech and magic exist side-by-side, the distinction between the two may not be so clear.
Arcane can help when people try to innovate new uses of technology, adapt them into makeshift traps, or otherwise perform a feat of innovation. If a character attempts something technological that the DM believes should be based on the character’s Intelligence, Arcane should be employed. These checks can be made untrained, but only if the technology in question is familiar to the character.
Make an Arcane check to identify a creature that is a construct, even if the construct is not magical in nature. There is no action required to determine what you know about a creature. Use the table below to determine what you learn about the creature.
Name, type, and keywords: DC 15
Powers: DC 20
Resistances and vulnerabilities: DC 25
*Each tier over heroic adds +5 to the DC.
Make an Arcane check to recall a useful bit of technological know-how or to recognize a technological clue. You must be trained in Arcane to remember information about the Machina Mundi or Logos, which requires master knowledge (DC 25) at least. There is no action required to determine what you know about a creature. Use the table below to determine what you learn about the creature.
Common Knowledge (DC 10): This includes the kind of general information that is commonly known about a given topic.
Expert Knowledge (DC 20): This includes the kind of specialized information that only an expert in the field of study could possibly know.
Master Knowledge (DC 25): This includes the kind of esoteric information that only a master in the field of study could possibly know.
Technology is complicated to build, but it can also be complicated to disable quickly, competently, and safely. Make an Athletics check to disable or destroy a device using brute force. (Disabling a device through savvy and skill requires Thievery.) Dungeon Masters should select from the tables in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for improvised actions (and see the Player's Handbook for breaking or bursting common items), to determine an appropriate DC for breaking technology. Some objects, which are very large, or are reinforced, might require multiple successes to break.
A character untrained in Athletics that attempts to break an object with an active power source runs the risk of creating a backlash. If someone untrained rolls an Athletics check to break technology, and the Athletics check equals the DC needed for a success, a backlash occurs (and the attempt is otherwise treated as one success). This backlash generally takes the form of a close blast attack. Assign a level to the item, based on the amount of power it takes to run the machine. The blast radius should be about one square plus one square for each five levels possessed by the machine. At the Dungeon Master’s discretion, the blast radius can be converted into a zone that causes damage to any character who enters the zone, or who begins its turn within the zone. For added difficulty, the zone might increase in size until the power source is rendered inert. The damage type should have a type that pertains to its power source (usually fire, lightning, radiant or radiation). The attacks and damage, generally, are as follows:
When you spend extended time in an irradiated area, or when you are exposed to a radioactive aura or zone, repeated exposure to which might inflict radiation poisoning, you may roll an Endurance check to withstand the radiation without becoming poisoned. The DC of such an Endurance check is 30, although this may be adjusted upwards or downwards by the Dungeon Master to reflect areas of weaker or stronger concentrations of radioactivity. A success delays the possibility of radiation poisoning by one interval. An interval is the unit of time used to measure when radiation poisoning would otherwise set in. For instance, if you are exposed to the radioactive leak of a juggernaut, a successful Endurance check would only delay the radiation poisoning by a single round. In Deep Space, survival is measured in minutes, and a successful Endurance check would delay the onset of radiation poisoning by a minute. In geography with a weak background radiation, an Endurance check might delay radiation poisoning by hours or even days, at the discretion of the Dungeon Master.
A perceptive individual can devise the use of an unfamiliar technology by observing its components. Efforts to learn to use an unfamiliar piece of technology should be based primarily on Perception. If a character attempts something technological that the DM believes should be based on the character’s Wisdom, Perception should be employed. These checks can be made untrained (and usually are, as checks to understand familiar technology would more often involve Dungeoneering).
Thievery is the primary Skill for manipulating technology. It already includes the disabling of devices, and the opening of locks. If a character attempts something technological that the DM believes should be based on the character’s Dexterity, Thievery should be employed. These checks can be made untrained, but only if the technology in question is familiar to the character, or if the character has already come to understand the technology after successful Dungeoneering or Thievery checks.