Runequest Thursday #84 - Preparations for the Clanking Ruin!

Clint Staples

So the heroes of my Brightwater campaign, at the end of last session, were camped on a small island on the outskirts of the God Forgot Archepelago, about a day's sailing from the Clanking Ruin, known to the former Age as The Machine City of Zistor.

Art for this post is by the incredibly talented Rusty001.

They have good reasons for going there: like replacing a sorcerer's demon arm with a machine limb, which his old master told him he could do there. And reuniting a mad, catatonic copper dwarf spirit with his body, so that he can either return to the World Machine, or move on to whatever afterlife the World Machine promises to Mostoli.

Of course, the Brightwaters are also just really curious about the Clanking Ruin, which they have heard about since the early days of the campaign as a place of incredible wonder - and great peril. How did they hear about it? Well the Copper Mostoli spirit talked about it to the shaman Ughari. The Lhankor Mhy Greylord who lives in Brightwater, Theudulf the Learned, also mentioned it as a place of incredible interest - I believe he used the term, "The Greatest Folly of Generations of Madmen", or words to that effect.

Overwhelmingly tempting stuff to Player Characters, and Players - or so it appears.

Anyway, I have had some significant time to prep for The Clanking Ruin, so I thought I would post a few of the things I have written up for it. And some of the inspiration for them.

Am I worried that my players might look at what I have in store? Not really. Let them tremble with fear and anticipation!

First up: The Manchines

Two main sources inspired me for the Manchines.

I got reading The Clanking City, from Mongoose Publishing, which details the Machine City of the Second Age, hundreds of years before the Age of Heroes (the present day in my campaign, 1616). It was very cool to see some of the major groups and players that Mongoose devised for the Machine City at its height, and the details off the Fall. But I decided that, after seven centuries, little would be recognizable from that time, so I would take some things that I liked, especially ones that might still be around in some way, and come up with others that suited my fancy.

OK - back to Manchines.

Now, a lot of Zistorites were engaged, to a greater or lesser degree, and with more or less success - with the obliteration of the flesh - replacing the corporeal body with one of mechanica of bronze and iron. This was done for a number of reasons: To do homage to Zistor the Machine God, to mortify the flesh, to live well beyond the mortal span, and of course - to grow in power. After all, the Machine City was under siege for a generation, by the greatest heroes of the Second Age. Power was not just the goal of the vainglorious. Power meant survival.

Move forward seven centuries. The assault that loosed demons and elementals, broke the Great Machine, and slew some of the most powerful heroes and demi-gods since the beginning of Time, left survivors. Some of those survivors continued, in some fashion, with the same practices that they underwent before - Heck, some of them are still around from way back then - still cutting bits off and grafting on machine bits that they find lying around the demon-haunted ruins.  Insane by any measure, whether young or old, they live now, to continue their personal progression. They search the ruins for new and better Machines. But their corpoeal parts still need energy - often in its most raw and bloody form.

Which takes me to my other main source of inspiration for them - SLA Industries, the RPG!

If you don't know this dark future RPG from Nightfall Games, you probably should! It first came out in 1993. It is a far-future of corporate ultra-corruption that mixes Clockwork Orange sensibilities with the uber-dystopianism of Phillip K. Dick at his finest (or worst, depending on how you feel about PKD). It follows the protagonists, you can't really call them heroes, through their journey of self-discovery and self-dissolution in service to a state that makes the Corporate America of "The Running Man" seem like a kindly old uncle by comparison.

In SLA Industries, the Manchines were terror weapons of unknown manufacture - human/machine hybrids programmed to destroy in the most brutal, bloody ways possible. They seemed like a good fit for the Clanking Ruin. And in honor of SLA Industries, I can do no better than to post the art by the incredible, and equally disturbing, Dave Allsop, from the game for the Manchine.pdf (attached).


Now on to happier things!

Of course, in the ruins of an ancient civilization, filled with eldritch technomancy, there should also be some goodies right? Things that were worth the destruction of old order, possibly the world; things that were brought to bring low those who hoped to achieve such hubris. And some of them are probably still there, and still potent. Here are a few I have come up with so far for the Mechamagica of the Machine City.

First a note on how most Mechamagical things function.

Infusion: Nearly every piece of Mechamagic required Infusion, a process similar to spirit binding that connects the mechamagical item and the infusor mystically and sometimes physically.. With some trial and error, it is possible to grasp the fundamentals of Infusion. You must make a Magical Skill or INTx3 check, and Permanently devote a Point of POW to the Infusion. This POW is not removed from Characteristic POW. Instead it is devoted to the Infusion. And cannot be used for any other purpose, such as casting spells, ritual devotions, etc.

If the Skill check fails, the POW is lost in the normal way. And you can try again if you like, and have POW to spare.

Here are some Mechamagical things that might have been left lying around:

Blink Crystal: Also called a Port Orb. It allows a single use of Teleport (Sorcery) of the listed Rank. The holder understands its function and ability on touching the orb. Once it is used, it cracks and becomes useless.


Machine Grade Crystal: Machine crystal is one of the abberations the Zistorites accomplished, allowing them to concentrate the POW of gods and men in crystal form through blood sacrifice to, and through, their Machine God, Zistor. Machine grade crystal was readily manufactured in the Machine City, extruded as rods of lackluster opague leaded crystal with obvious flaws within. The rods generally have cast or incised lines marking off increments, so they could be easily broken off as needed. There is still much of it about. It easily accepts POWer cast into it, and acts as one use POW Storage Crystal capable of holding the listed number of POWer. NO Infusion is required to use, or power, Machine Grade Crystal. POWer stored in it cannot be used for Infusions.


Pommelstone: a pommelstone is a small crystal with a metal panel on its flat side. Each pommelstone has some sort of enchantment within it that it confers to any weapon to which it is attached. Typical enchantments are weapon enhancing spells like Bladesharp, Pierce, Parry, but elemental crystals, repair crystals are known. It takes a Magic Skill check or an INT x3 success and point of Permanent POW to attempt to Infuse a Pommelstone.


Manufacturing Scroll: A rolled sheet of bronze with strange punched text, illustrations and bizarre lines, arc, whorls and swirls in a bewildering array. A manufacturing scroll is a mechamagic blueprint for an item, such as a mechamagic arm. It describes the process of building one, in such as way that a Manuforge can create the item if it has the necessary ingredients.


Shockbolter: An implement of brass, copper and iron, consisting of a curved panel that suggests it might fight on a person’s forearm, a swivel mechanism, and a small telescoping rod about 4 inches long that projects from the swivel. When inert, the rod would, if the item were worn, project down the arm to stop at the wrist. It looks vaguely threatening, but is not sharp, and does not appear to have a hole for a projectile at its tip. Unless it is Infused, it will not adhere or function in any way.  Once Infused, the rod extends to about 12 inches in length and curves like a strung bow, as it rotates to orient across the length of the arm. The “bow” has no string, but a shimmer of air across the area of the string, and an occasional spark from the tips of the arms suggest it is powered. Once Infused, it is “armed” and may be affixed to an arm or any harness worn there. It has the following profile and uses the highest Bow or Crossbow skill the equipping character might possess.

Weapon         Range                         Damage                      Special          

Shockbolter    50/ 500                     1d6+3+ Charge         Stun Location, Charge

Stun Location: If the Attacker damages a location, compare the damage done to the HP, to the location vs. the total HP of that location on the Resistance Table. If it overcomes, the location is stunned and useless for 1 round for every point of damage inflicted. Head = Unconscious; Abdomen or Chest = Target cannot gain Advantage; Limbs = Useless.

Charge: The Shockbolter projects an electrical energy bolt doing 1d6+3 damage, and can do so indefinitely. However, the user can Charge the bolt with greater energy by expending POW. The first POW spent adds 1d4 extra damage. Each further d4 added costs double the previous number of POW, to a maximum number of extra dice equal to 1/3 of the user’s INT.

Bonus Damage         Extra POW Required

1d4                             1

2d4                             2

3d4                             4

4d4                             8

5d4                             16

6d4                             32


There are more toys of course (And much greater peril) awaiting our Heroes in the Clanking Ruin! A previously uncredited source of inspiration for my Clanking Ruin is my own Robot Wasteland RPG setting, which should probably make my players nervous - the same group of them played through that one too! 

Tune in again next week for More Clanking Ruin, and maybe some Robot Wasteland too!