D&D Archives10/20/2006


Future Tech Meets Fantasy
By William Canavan



The concept of introducing futuristic technology into a fantasy D&D setting is almost as old as Dungeons & Dragons itself. From Advanced Dungeons and Dragons' Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, to Basic D&D's City of the Gods, to AD&D 2nd Edition's Tale of the Comet, future tech' has a long history of finding its way into the world of fantasy. Now with d20 Future Tech, it is even easier to incorporate advanced technology into your D&D setting.

Although there are many examples of future tech in fantasy from which to draw, this article will focus on mecha. For those not familiar with the term, "mecha" is both singular and plural, derived from Japanese animation in which it can refer to any type of equipment, from weapons and armor to vehicles and starships. In d20 Future, the term "mecha" specifically refers to giant piloted robots, with the rules for mecha operation found in d20 Future and d20 Future Tech. Mecha usually look like armored giants, although some are designed to resemble animals or mythical creatures.

For another look at future tech introduced to a fantasy world, check out the Return Expedition to Barrier Peaks.

The temptation to pit your PCs against mecha from d20 Future Tech can be great, but despite the similarities of the d20 Modern and D&D rules, mecha are surprisingly tricky to incorporate into a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. For example, one of the first questions a DM may encounter is how to determine the challenge rating of a mecha. Unfortunately, the answer is "you can't". Mecha are not creatures; they aren't even constructs. Mecha are very large, very powerful pieces of equipment. Therefore, they do not have a CR of their own.

The Challenge of Challenge Ratings

So if mecha don't have a CR, how can you plan a balanced encounter with one? The key is in recognizing that a mecha is no different from a suit of magic armor. The armor has no CR of its own, but should only be in the possession of an NPC with enough wealth to afford it. By using table 4-23 in the DMG (pg. 127) you can determine how much wealth an NPC of a given level should have.

Mecha pilots require a number of skills and feats to be truly effective (and for mecha introduced to D&D campaigns, several of these will simply not exist; their inclusion will need to be improvised). The Computer Use skill is needed to operate the mecha's sensors and the Pilot and/or Drive skills are needed to maneuver it (unless the pilot uses the Tumble skill). A character without these skills can attempt to use them untrained (except for the Pilot skill, which is trained only). All of the skills listed above should be considered cross class skills for any D&D character that wishes to put ranks into them.

Mecha pilots should take the Mecha Operation feat as soon as possible. Without it they suffer a -4 penalty to Balance, Climb, Drive, Escape Artist, Hide, Move Silently, Pilot and Tumble checks made while operating mecha. Mecha Operation also serves as a prerequisite for a number of other mecha-related feats that a pilot could use to make the mecha more effective in combat.

Yet while D&D uses a cash system of gold pieces to determine wealth, d20 Modern uses an abstract system of purchase DCs and wealth checks. By converting a mecha's purchase DC into a gold piece value, you can determine the minimum level a NPC must be in order to possess a particular type of mecha (assuming it's somehow available to them!). This in turn will allow you to determine the level of the encounter. To simplify conversion between the two systems, use the table below:

Mecha
Purchase
DC
Gold
Piece
Value
Minimum
NPC
Level
36 10,000gp 9
37 13,750gp 10
38 17,500gp 11
39 25,000gp 12
40 32,500gp 13
41 45,000gp 14
42 60,000gp 15
43 75,000gp 16
44 100,000gp 17
45 137,500gp 18
46 175,000gp 19
47 250,000gp 20

Keep in mind that the minimum NPC level is just a guideline for the level of the mecha's pilot. Also remember that a party should be able to defeat four encounters of the average party level in a single day. So unless you want the PCs to have an easy time, you might want to consider using a mecha pilot that would provide an EL of 2 to 4 levels higher than the average party level.

Using these rules, you should be able to calculate the EL for any mecha. As the chart tops out at PDC 47, any encounters with mecha more expensive than that should be at least Encounter Level 20.

Perhaps the most famous mecha in the history of D&D is the legendary artifact known as the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o. Its original stats can be found in the 1st edition AD&DDungeon Master's Guide, then updated for 2nd edition AD&D and placed within the Book of Artifacts. Updated stats for the D&D 3.5 version of the Mighty Servant are presented below.

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is a towering automaton of jet black metal, shadowy crystal, and several mysterious fibrous materials. The device stands over nine feet tall, is nearly five feet wide, and some six feet deep. It is rounded and might remind one of a cross between an overly stout (if gigantic) dwarf and a lumbering beetle. The servant has two stocky legs, on which it walks with a curious swaying motion, and a pair of dangling arms.

An internal compartment is configured to seat two man-sized creatures comfortably. Externally, as many as five others might perch safely upon the servant when it is in motion. As might be expected, this dreadful thing is quite heavy, weighing nearly two tons, and is hideously noisy when in operation.

History

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is believed to be a construct of some ancient and mysterious race who lived in and around the Barrier Peaks before migrating to the far west. The workmanship and materials evidenced in the Mighty Servant are unlike any found in the recorded histories of men, making it impossible to state just what their nature might have been.

Some sages, citing the craftsmanship and appearance of the thing, speculate that it is the handiwork of a now extinct branch of the dwarves. Dwarf sages note (with some reluctance, it must be said) that never in their race's extensive histories has anyone ever found a reference to this construct.

All accounts of the Mighty Servant begin with its discovery by the infamous General Leuk-o. Leuk-o was a follower of the warlord Lum, but turned against his master when he came into possession of this instrument of destruction. With the power of the Mighty Servant to back him, Leuk-o forged an army that rivaled even Lum's.

The two forces clashed many times, always ending in stalemate. At last, the two forces met in a final battle, Lum and Leuk-o faced each other, their mighty artifacts unleashing powers greater than any since harnessed. It is said that their battle laid waste to a great kingdom and left a scorched desert in its wake. The Mighty Servant is believed by many to have been destroyed in this final battle, although others believe it plunged through a dimensional rift opened in that great conflict.

In terms of d20 Future Tech, the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is a large mecha with the following statistics:

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o (PL 8)

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o primarily serves as a light infantry support mecha, replacing an armored vehicle on the battlefield. It has also proven effective in close-combat situations, particularly in siege warfare.

The Mighty Servant with the standard equipment package (see below) has a purchase DC of 47. As presented below, the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o should be piloted by a 20th level character. The 20th level NPC fighter from the Dungeon Master's Guide (pg. 177) would make a suitable pilot.

Size: Large (-1 size) Bonus Hit Points: 220
Superstructure: Megatanium Hardness: 30
Armor: Megatanium Bonus to Defense: +17
Armor Penalty: -8 Reach: 10 ft.
Strength Bonus: +8 Dexterity Penalty: -
Speed: 20 ft. Base Purchase DC: 47

Standard Equipment Package: Class VI Sensor System (helmet), Pilot's cockpit (helmet and torso), Passenger's Cockpit (torso and back), Nano Repair Unit (left arm), Tsunami480 Plasma Cannon (shoulders x2 and left arm), PS-25 Tiger Claws (right arm), Mk IV Defense Field (right arm), Zero Point Energy Power Core (plus 4 slots), Structural Enhancement x2 (back and power core), Life Support (power core), Space Skin (power core), Heavy Fortification (power core and boots x2 ).

Hit Points and Speed: The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o has a megatanium superstructure that grants the mecha a hardness of 30 with 20 base hit points and 100 bonus hit points. An additional 100 bonus hit points are granted by two structural enhancements. It has a base speed of 20 feet, and cannot run or charge unless the operator has the Mecha Operation feat.

Defensive Capabilities: The Mighty Servant has a base Defense score (i.e., Armor Class) of 10 with a -1 modifier for size, +12 equipment bonus for megatanium armor, +4 deflection bonus for the Mk IV defense field, and +1 for the enhancement bonus, for a total defense score of 26. Its Nano Repair Unit repairs 5 hit points of damage per round. It also has a life support system for the pilot and a "space skin", which allows the mecha and its pilot to operate underwater, in a hostile atmosphere, or even in a complete vacuum for up to 24 hours.

Immunities: The Mighty Servant is created with the "mecha as vehicles" variant rules from d20 Future Tech (pg. 66). As a vehicle, it takes only ½ damage from fire and electricity-based attacks, and only ¼ damage from cold-based attacks. It is also immune to mind-influencing effects and to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, necromancy effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless. It is also not subject to critical hits, non-lethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or the effects of massive damage. The pilot and passenger in the cockpit have 100% concealment and total cover from any external attack. The mecha's sensor system also grants the pilot darkvision up to 180 feet and also allows him or her to see through almost any barrier.

Offensive Capabilities: From an offensive stand point, the Mighty Servant has a Strength score of 26. It has a number of claw attacks based on the pilot's base attack bonus (BAB). However, it uses its own Strength bonus and size penalty instead of those of the pilot. Each successful claw attack inflicts 6d8+8 points of damage. The Mighty Servant also has a single ranged weapon. The number of ranged attacks is based on the pilot's BAB. Again, it uses its own size modifier instead of that of the pilot.

The Mighty Servant's ranged weapon has two modes of attack. The first affects a single target up to 1,500 feet away. The second attack mode affects a 60 foot cone (reflex save DC: 19 for half damage). Each successful ranged attack in either mode inflicts 12d6 points of fire damage.

Demonic Possession: The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is a more than just a large mecha. Whatever its true origins may have been, the mecha was possessed by a glabrezu long before it was discovered by general Leuk-o. This demon uses the power of the Mighty Servant to tempt Lawful and Good heroes into becoming Chaotic Evil warlords. As a possessing demon, the glabrezu acts as an enhancer, granting up to 24,000gp worth of magical enhancements to the mecha. These enhancements are usually in the form of acid resistance 10, spell resistance 13, and a +1 enhancement bonus to the mecha's defense score (AC). Should the pilot displease the demon, it can drop any or all of these enhancements at will.

The demon is vulnerable to dismissal, banishment and similar effects, so it will be wary of revealing its true nature. If the demon is exorcised or otherwise removed from the mecha, the Mighty Servant reverts to an "ordinary" mecha. It loses any enhancements provided by the demon, but it keeps any other abilities it may have been granted by other means. If the Mighty Servant is destroyed while possessed by the glabrezu, the demon reverts to its incorporeal state unharmed.

While it possesses the mecha, the glabrezu cannot use any of its Extraordinary, Spell-like or Supernatural Abilities. If the demon finds a suitable pilot, it may return to its physical body as a free action and use all of its powers, but doing so drops all of the enhancements to the Mighty Servant. It can again shuck its physical form and repossess the Mighty Servant at any time.

One of the demon's favorite tactics for corrupting a pilot is to offer wishes that improve or add to the powers of the Mighty Servant. Note that General Leuk-o had this artifact in his possession for a very long time. There is no telling how many wishes he was granted by the glabrezu, or whether he might have used them to further enhance the Mighty Servant. The stats listed above are a baseline only. DMs are encouraged to tailor the Mighty Servant to fit their own fiendish needs.

Adventure Hooks

The Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss contains detailed rules for demon-possessed objects (pg. 25); these rules were used to determine the value of the Mighty Servant's enhancements. d20 Future contains detailed rules for building and operating mecha, and d20 Future Tech has expanded rules for mecha construction and combat; these rules were used to determine the Mighty Servant's base purchase DC. The glabrezu itself can be found in the Monster Manual. All of these books should be consulted before attempting to introduce the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o into your campaign.

The Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is a famous artifact from the World of Greyhawk. According to legend, it disappeared through a dimensional rift during General Leuk-o's final battle against Lum the Mad and his Infernal Machine. This allows the DM to insert the Mighty Servant into any campaign setting despite its origins in Greyhawk, and there are many ways to bring this powerful artifact to the attention of your PCs. Consider the following:

1. The Treasure Hunter: An old man approaches the party seeking their help in recovering a lost iron golem of dwarven design. He believes he has discovered its location, but it is remote and dangerous. He is willing to pay the group handsomely if they escort him to the golem's resting place and help him bring it safely back to civilization.

d100 Motivations

01-60 The old man is a sage and a collector of rare oddities. He truly believes that what he seeks is just a unique iron golem and has no idea that he has stumbled across the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o.

61-90 The old man is a sage and collector of rare oddities. He knows that he has found the Mighty Servant, but does not want anyone else to know its true nature.

91-100 The old man is possessed by the glabrezu. It plans to lead the would-be heroes to the Mighty Servant in order to corrupt them.

d100 Complications

01-60 Another group overhears the old man and attempts to beat the party to the "golem".

61-90 The Mighty Servant is the prized possession of a great red wyrm.

91-100 The Mighty Servant is floating in the Astral Plane.

2. The Warlord: A powerful warlord has discovered the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o and is using it to conquer nearby lands. A messenger seeks out the party and begs them to stop the warlord.

d100 Motivations

01-50 The messenger is telling the truth. If the heroes don't act, civilization is doomed.

51-80 The messenger is possessed by the glabrezu. The current pilot has displeased the demon and it wants a new pilot for the Mighty Servant.

81-100 The messenger is in the service of Lum the Mad. He wants the Mighty Servant destroyed so that no one will be able to stop his own attempt at conquest.

d100 Complications

01-50 In addition to the Mighty Servant, the warlord has raised an army of thousands of evil or possibly undead warriors.

51-80 In addition to the Mighty Servant, the warlord has raised an army of thousands of commoners who believe they are on a holy quest for the forces of Law and Good.

81-100 In addition to the thousands of warriors or commoners (above), the current pilot of the Mighty Servant is a 10th level fallen paladin/10th level blackguard.

About the Author

Bill Canavan has been gaming for more than twenty-five years. During that time, he has written and run adventures for the Dungeons & Dragons, d20 Modern, and Star Wars d20 games. Bill currently lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two cats.

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