Well, to start off, I’m very fascinated by the responses I got to my  poll on power sources and technology.

On the poll itself there were only three votes; arcane won (as I was expecting) with two votes, while divine was the only other power source to get a vote.  Other than that, I also received several comments, both on the poll itself and through Google+.  Responses in the comments where quite varied, but general opinions about which classes where the most “techy” included artificers, some bards and rogues, and a general slant towards  martial and arcane classes.  Where divine classes fell seemed the most unclear.

So, now for my analysis and my own opinion: It seems clear that the arcane power source is very heavily associated with technology, with the martial power source falling very close behind.  It’s very easy to see why each of those where chosen.  Fantasy games are filled with connections between the arcane and science – Saruman’s forges, the artificers of Eberron, the Izzet Guild from Magic: the Gathering, and so on.  Martial classes also make a lot of sense.  They’re about getting by out of your own ability, which is exactly what invention and innovation are all about in a fantasy setting.

What really interests me is the divine.  Where does it fall?  In one comment the divine was touted as the most “techy” of the power sources, while in another it was cast down practically to the level of the primal power source.  Very interesting . . .

Personally, I don’t feel that the divine power source is slanted one way or another.  If one examines actual history, you find that religion has often stood in the way of scientific progress.  However, one must also note that during the middle ages it was the monasteries where knowledge was stored (and occasionally elaborated upon).  Meanwhile, in the middle east during the early middle ages, while Europe was in turmoil, mathematics, medicine, alchemy, and astrology flourished under the mantle of the Islamic empires.*

And that’s all very well, but the D&D universe is not (in most settings) a monotheistic world.  In D&D there are separate deities for death, the sun, chaos, justice, war, madness, and (back in the 3.5 days) kobolds.  It is entirely reasonable to assume that some of the deities (Erathis and Bane perhaps) might welcome new progressions in technology, giving  their Clerics a “techy” slant, while others (such as Melora and Gruumsh) would have a much different view (I’m sure that Gruumsh wouldn’t mind machine guns though).

In the end, it really depends on the campaign setting, but while arcane, martial, primal, and some of the other power sources seem to easily fall into place on one side or the other, the divine power source can really fit in anywhere the campaign world needs.

I would like to thank everyone who commented and /or voted; your feedback was very fascinating and thought-provoking.  I feel that this was a very interesting discourse / experiment.  And don’t worry, there’s a new batch of homebrew coming up soon!


* Yes, astrology and alchemy where both very unscientific, but it must be noted that they where the precursors of both astronomy and modern chemistry, respectively.


I’ve got a lot going on right now, so there isn’t going to be a new article this week. Once I get things back to normal there should be a new set of “anachronisms,” with a focus on class features, powers, and feats that interact with the new vehicles and weapons.

A few weeks ago, I discussed the implications of futuristic elements in a high-fantasy world and how they would interact with magic.  At the end of the post, I came to the conclusion that while it seems that magic should be the antithesis of technology, there is usually a spellcaster responsible for technological progress.

What I want to know now though, before I delve deeper into the issue,  is which power source do you consider to be the most “technological?”

What power source do you most associate with technology and innovation?

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Anachronisms: Part 2 – Weapons

Gorgamoth was ready. He had his thick plate armor, his five foot long fullblade, his massive oaken shield, and, just in case, his lucky necklace of gnome skulls. All the puny mortal had was that funny crossbow without any strings. The war troll had the feeling that today was going to be a good day.

(if you want to skip all the boring parts, you can jump straight to the new home-brew stuff. I’d recommend sticking around for a bit though)

Minotaur Gunslinger

Ok, now for the sequel to two weeks ago’s article on home-brew anachronistic vehicles. This week, it’s time for firearms.

To tell the truth, I originally had no idea was going to do with firearms. First of all, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted them in the hands of PCs.  I like technology to be an adversary in the game.  The bad guys have the futuristic weapons.  The heroes fight them with swords, magic, and some good old-fashioned courage.

Still though, what happens when the players loot the bodies?  It would be absurd to say “sorry, but you can’t have those – it will mess with the theme of the campaign.”  Anyway, firearms coexisted alongside longbows and pike wielding soldiers during the end of the middle ages.  So, I guess there’s no real flavor reasons not to write them up.  The mechanical reasons though . . .

First, I had to pin down what I wanted them to feel like – then I could build the mechanics around those concepts.  Here’s what I was initially going for:

  • I wanted them to feel clunky – not fine-tuned killing tools, but dangerous, powerful, and brutishly deadly.
  • They should take a while to reload.  That’d keep them from making to much of an impact on the battlefield – a character or monster might shoot a volley or two before ducking into the fray to fight with more traditional weaponry.
  • They shouldn’t be the most reliable or accurate.  I am basing them off of matchlocks and flintlocks.

Ok, that’s enough.  So, how do I implement these ideas?

  • To make them seem “brutishly deadly.”  I gave them massive damage dice.  Enough said.
  • I gave them reload standard.  To account for the fact that they are fired only once every two rounds, I increased the damage yet again.
  • To demonstrate unreliability, I gave the most of the weapons a chance of exploding each time it’s fired (I gave the superior versions a chance of jamming instead). Lastly, to keep everything under control, I gave them a proficiency bonus of only +1.  This counterbalanced the fact that they already had over-sized weapon dice.

After that, I had only a few more tweaks to make.

  • I gave them a new keyword called “mundane,” that keeps them from being enchanted.  This is partially for flavor reasons, but also to keep them balanced past first level, where ammunition is no longer a serious monetary issue.
  • And finally, I changed the rules for how firearms massive damage dice work with multiple [w] powers.  While a musket that deals 4d10 damage seemed to be pretty much balanced, if it was used with a 3[w] power it might get a little out of hand.  Instead, each weapon has a secondary damage expression it uses for powers that deal higher than 1[w] damage.
  • I can still think of several ways that they could be “broken” but eager to optimize players (such as myself when I’m sitting on the other side of the screen).  For example, a character could carry a whole bunch of them to get around reload standard.  The best I can do there is make them expensive – at low levels the players couldn’t afford to be lugging around more than a few, and at higher levels it is still to expensive to maintain six +3 blunderbusses.

So, without further ramblings, I present to you:

Anachronisms: Weapons

There’s probably going to be errata them as I play-test them some more and use them in my home campaign.  Unlike most of my home-brew modules, however, this one has been looked over by one of my friends who knows quite a bit about rules interactions (so if they’re still overpowered, blame him, not me!  ok, just kidding).

If anyone uses them in their campaigns, let me know.  I’d love to see hear your stories!

And coming up within the next few weeks:

  • Continued discussion on the implications of technology in a fantasy world, with a focus on arcane spellcasters.
  • New home-brewed anachronisms.
  • and some more art!


  • Nicholas – Rules design, writing, and art.
  • Daniel – Rules consultant.

Some Campaign Art

I’ve been rather busy lately, but the home-brewed anachronisms should resume in a bit, along with the more philosophical discussions on futuristic elements and how they interact with the fantasy world.

Until then, time for an art break!

The first drawing is second in my “demonspawn” series (the other can be found back here, or in my main  art gallery).

"Oh, yes, he looked very much like he once did, just entirely different."
“Oh, yes, they looked very much like he once did, just entirely different.”

This second picture is a portrait of a villain from one of my friend’s campaigns.  Xerxes was a rather . . . interesting villain.  He had the habit of killing worthy foes and then grafting bits of them into himself in his mad attempts to ascend to godhood.

"Everything is so black and white.  So separate.  I'm here to introduce the grey, "
“Everything is so black and white. So separate. I’m here to introduce the grey. “

But we have magic!

After I posted the first wave of anachronisms (vehicles) a few days ago, I received a comment from a friend noting that there were already magically powered trains in the Eberron campaign setting.  So why would anyone want to use a mere steam-powered train when better things already exist in the D&D universe?

Of course, a DM could rule that elements from the Eberron campaign setting don’t exist in, or simply don’t work in their campaign world.  That’s a nice fix, but it ignores the larger problem when you try to realistically* examine the world of D&D (or any fantasy world for that matter): why would anyone go along the long, hard route of technological progress when everything can already be done with magic?

Well, it depends on the setting.  For example, in a very high-magic sort of world, such as that depicted in the Harry Potter books, there is no need for technology at all.  Everything can be done better with magic, but more importantly, there are enough people to do it that way.

By contrast is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  In that world, magic is about as powerful as it is in Harry Potter, but people who can wield magic are much less common.  Aside from the five Wizards, some of the more powerful elves, and Sauron and some of his minions, there are very few characters who can be described as magic users.  As a result, in this world, when Saruman and his orcs with their “metal and wheels” find new ways to smelt weapons and create deadly blasting fires there is a huge change in the world.  Because magic is so rare, the power granted by this “progress” is immense.

Now, at this point you may have realized an interesting sort-of paradox in my musings: despite the fact that it may make sense for technology to flourish mainly in a low-magic campaign setting, if one examines already published campaign settings and fantasy literature, there often seems to be a wizard of some sort behind the technology.  After all, Saruman was one of the most powerful wizards, and he turned towards technology to build his power.

Why wizards are so often associated with science and progress is in itself a fascinating area that I could mull over and rant about, so I’ll leave that for next week.

Anyway, to sum this week’s ideas up:  Yes, technology certainly does have a place in the fantasy world of D&D, but it makes the most sense in a low-magic world, where it will not be immediately obsoleted by magic.


*Yes, I know that it’s all fantasy, but whether or not the logic of the game world has to make sense is another discussion altogether.  Personally, I’m going to assume that it does for the purpose of this post.



exploring fantasy worlds through games, words, and art