In the Dungeontech article series, I offer advice on introducing fantastical technology into your Dungeons & Dragons game. In this article, I describe another genre you might consider for a Dungeontech campaign: Teslan.
A Teslan campaign is a world in which inventors and scientists manipulate the essence of energy itself. Light, fire, electricity, magnetism and radiation are all within the grasp of the great thinkers of a Teslan campaign world.
Nikola Tesla was the father of modern electromagnetic theory. But he was not the only scientist of his day to deal in the manipulation of energy. While Tesla manipulated electromagnetism, Marie Curie experimented in radiation (to her own demise). Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the X-ray, while Paul Villard uncovered gamma rays. Einstein delved into the fundamental nature of light and its relationship to matter, space and time. Even men like Mesmer, who showcased the use of hypnotism, can be re-interpreted – in a world where magic is real – as a scientist who experiments in psychic energy.
Meanwhile, inventors used these new discoveries to produce a range of new inventions, such as Alexander Bell’s telephone, Henry Ford’s automobile, and Edison’s light bulb. New medical treatments utilized these new technologies, as well as new weapons. The nuclear power plant and the nuclear bomb are both products of mankind’s manipulation of the raw elements of matter and energy.
Tesla was also a visionary with a very particular aesthetic that has often been replicated in fantasy and popular literature. Tesla envisioned a fantastical future where electricity would be delivered to homes, not through wires connected to turbines, but from grand balloons that would harness atmospheric discharges and deliver them through the air in great bolts of unbridled power. Visually, Tesla’s vision of the world was both sleek and wild. His work in electricity and magnetism led him to deal mainly in arcs of current and magnetic fields. Aesthetically, many of his inventions bore smooth curves and hemispheres. Other chemical developments of the age, like galvanized rubber, allowed architects and designers to build on this circular aesthetic. The heady thrill of dealing with raw elemental electricity inspired architects to reach for the skies, and in this age, the first skyscrapers were built. The art deco style was created to glorify this new technological progress, and art deco’s sleek thin lines were reflected everywhere, from architecture to fashion. A Teslan world is a futuristic landscape of gleaming metal, giant arcs of lightning coursing through the heavens and elegant spires penetrating the firmament.
In a Teslan campaign, energy types would be much more prevalent. The manipulation of energy would result in more traps that inflicted lightning, sonic, cold, or fire damage. In a world that mixes technology and magic, a Teslan campaign might also have inventors that create mundane sources of energy types usually reserved for magical effects alone, such as radiant and necrotic damage.
Teslan’s science was dramatic. Traps in a Teslan campaign should be equally dramatic. Large arcs of electricity can burst forth from tall rods. Blasts of flame may belch from hidden exhaust vents. Rotating magnetic generators can hamper individuals in heavy armor.
Most opponents in a word of Teslan technology would be sentient creatures manipulating that Teslan technology. Armored soldiers with electric prods or sonic guns might oppose the heroes. Again, creatures might employ a variety of energy types in their attacks and weapons.
Moreover, with the advent of radiation, there is a greater possibility of new bizarre creatures. Perhaps aberrations are not denizens of the Far Realm, but hideous mutations of radiated mundane men and beasts. Golems powered by radiant or even necrotic energy might sport a host of new powers.
With this dazzling new array of hazards and opponents, player characters will want to employ a variety of counter-technologies. Dungeon Masters should beware the so-called “revolving scabbard” effect, in which a player character feels he must carry a variety of weapons with different damage types to capitalize on their opponents’ varying weaknesses. On the other hand, a warrior who carries a haversack of various implements can be a natural fit for a Teslan campaign.
Radiation is both a new keyword and a new damage type for use in Dungeontech campaigns, particularly those of the Teslan or Turingian genres. Any damage caused by radioactive materials, such as plutonium decay or nuclear material, is radioactive damage. This damage is fairly similar to radiant damage, although without the divine flavor of that damage type. At the Dungeon Master’s discretion, creatures with a vulnerability or resistance to radiant damage may also have vulnerability or resistance, respectively, to radiation damage.
This chamber is designed to hamper characters carrying any sort of tools. Implements, weapons, symbols, even clothing are all hampered in this zone. Monsters placed in the zone should rely solely on natural weaponry so as to fight unhampered.
Magnetic Zone Level 3 Obstacle
Trap XP 150
Your equipment feels awkward in your grip. Some unseen field is drawing your gear towards the walls, floor or ceiling, and it is an effort.
Trigger: Entering the zone
Targets: Each creature in the zone wearing clothing, armor or carrying gear.
Effect: Creatures are slowed while in the zone, and all attacks are at -2.
• Acrobatics (DC 15): Make this check as a minor action. If successful, you are not slowed by the zone until the start of your next turn.
• Athletics (DC 20): Make this check as a minor action. If successful, you suffer no attack penalties until the start of your next turn.
• Dungeoneering (DC 25): You understand the mechanical properties involved, and can operate in magnetic zones unimpeded for the duration of the encounter.
• Thievery (DC 20): You pry up a panel on the wall or floor and deactivate the magnetic zone in that square.
Proposed Level 3 Encounter (750 XP)
• Magnetic Zone (Level 3 obstacle)
• Ochre jelly (Level 3 elite brute)
• Carrion crawler (Level 7 controller)
An electrified door has a nasty surprise, but even nastier is when creatures (particularly those resistant to electricity) use the door to throw unwary adventurers into it.
Electrified Door Level 9 Lurker
Trap XP 400
A sturdy metal door is set in the wall.
Trigger: Touching the door.
Immediate Reaction Blast 1
Targets: Each creature in range.
Attack: +12 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 3d10+5 lightning damage plus dazed (save ends)
Miss: Half damage
• Combat: The door can be battered down as a reinforced steel door.
• Thievery (DC 24): You ground the door so it safe to pass.
• Perception (DC 20): You can smell the ozone of electricity along the door.
Proposed Level 9 Encounter (1,900 XP)
• Electrified door (Level 9 lurker)
• Skull lord (Level 10 artillery)
• Ettin marauder (Level 10 elite soldier)
Elite (XP 800): Change the door’s attack to Blast 3, and have it attack on its initiative until deactivated.
The walls of this chamber are covered in a metal lattice that slowly builds up an electrical charge that is then discharged into the chamber.
Tesla Cage Level 20 Blaster
Trap XP 2,800
The walls of this chamber are encased in an ornate iron lattice work. An acrid smell fills the air.
Trigger: Entering the chamber
Targets: Each creature in chamber.
Attack: +25 vs. Reflex
Hit: 3d8+7 lightning damage plus ongoing 5 lightning (save ends)
Miss: Half damage, no ongoing damage.
Special: After hitting its first target, the cage attacks the creature nearest the first target. If it misses its first target, there is no second attack.
• Dungeoneering (DC 27): You recognize the trap for what it is and how it works.
• Dungeoneering (DC 35): On a delayed action, you can anticipate the next arc and step in front of it, taking the damage intended for an ally.
• Thievery (DC 31): You sabotage the trap to cause it to cease functioning.
Proposed Level 20 Encounter (14,100 XP)
• Tesla Cage (Level 20 blaster)
• Thunderhawk (Level 22 elite soldier)
• 5 angel of valor legionnaires (Level 21 minion)
Solo (XP 14,000): All attacks, damage and Skill DCs increase by two. The trap’s attack is a blast 3 effect. In addition, one attack per round on the trap will provoke an immediate reaction of a second attack on that attacker only, for half damage.
Irradiated Area Level 28 Obstacle
Hazard XP 13,000
The ground feels uncomfortably warm beneath your feet, as if some lightless sun’s rays were penetrating your skin.
Trigger: Entering area
Immediate Reaction Touch
Targets: Creature entering or starting turn in area
Attack: +32 vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d8+10 damage plus ongoing 15 radiation (save ends)
Special: Any creature hit by this hazard may be affected by radiation poisoning (this disease will be detailed in a future article).
Proposed Level 28 Encounter (67,000 XP)
• Irradiated area (Level 28 obstacle)
• Thunderblast cyclone (Level 28 elite artillery)
• 3 storm gorgons (Level 26 skirmisher)
In the next article, I will present my last genre: Turingian!