Runequest Thursday - Two New Weapons from the Clanking Ruin!

Clint Staples

One of the main themes in the Clanking Ruin is exploration and discovery - often of the strange technomagical devices and creatures left behind by the inhabitants of the Machine City. Many such items are destroyed or in ruin, and only of real interest to collectors or the truly obsessed. But some number of such things have survived the intervening centuries since the destruction of Zistorwal more or less intact.

Naturally, if they are going to be found, they are going to be found by adventurers.

And just as naturally, items of utility, especially weapons, are likely to be found in the hands of creatures hostile to the adventurers - or at least hostile to the adventurers' notion that such items are "available".

Below are two such items. Both are weapons, and both have the capacity, if not carefully controlled in the game, to change the landscape of weapons and warfare in the world. Here are a couple of ideas on how to give you players a taste of such weapons, even allow them to own and use them, without starting an arms race.

1. First and foremost, control the quantity available.

OK, this seems like a no-brainer. But if you have enterprising players, who might have contacts or skills that allow replication, it can be tricky. They could find a single item, and turn around and  create dozens or hundreds, then use, or sell them, becoming powerful or rich overnight. The mind boggles as your campaign spirals out of control . . .

But you have control. Just as you controlled the number that were found in the first place, you can control how easy (or difficult) it is to reproduce something. For an item that blends Zistorite magic and technology, the folks capable of cranking out replicas are likely to be few and far between. And if items are recreated, they are probably going to be expensive to make, might not work as well or reliably as the original, might require exotic ingredients or components. In my Clanking Ruin, I have things called Manuforges, which essentially are technomagical easy bake ovens that take in raw materials, and spit out mechamagical items. But they need the raw materials, AND they need a Manufacturing Scroll - the blueprint for the item to be produced. Manuforges also tend to be very large, heavily guarded, inconveniently located, owned by someone else, sentient, or some combination of the above. All of the above argues against mass-production being an easy way to wealth and power for the PCs.

2. In the same vein as number one, make sure that the "thing" uses ammuntiion, charges, or some other resource that the players do not have constant access to. In Runequest, the attribute POWer, which every PC has, is the measure of how many spells you can cast. If you allow PCs to use POWer to use your new item, then they get to decide how often it is used.

If the ammunition is specially produced or limited in some way (see number 1 above again for ways to do this), then the the PCs will think more about how they use the item, or accept that they will run out of this resource.

If the item uses charges, make sure than the charges come in a form that you can maintain some control over. In my game, a lot of mechamagical items use "Machine Grade Crystal" an abberation created by the Zistorites in imitation of the more widely known power storage crystals. MGC is essentially a onw use power storage crystal, machine crafted and shaped to fit into many mechamagical items. This means that there is no easy way to power such items without it. And no one knows how to make MGC anymore. So you control the supply. Even if your players decide to get into the MGC manufacturing business, you are the one in charge of how that is done, and what the PCs have to do to make it happen.

3. Control of Information: Mechamagical items are the products of another way of viewing magic, even of comprehending the cosmos. It should be difficult to wrap your head around how they function. Player characters who become interested in recreating mechamagic should expect a fairly steep learning curve to figure things out. In my game, no one made their Mechanisms check when trying to figure out how the Machine Grade Crystal could be removed from the Arc Cannon (see below) so they don't yet grasp that it is a reusable resource. You might also reduce their ability with magic that depends on their current worldview. So a cultist of Orlanth who gets into the notion of mechamagic might find it harder to cast cult spells, or similar, since she is moving away from the Orlanthi paradigm.

4. Competition: I don't mean others doing the same thing, although that is always possible. I am referring more to others wanting the same thing and what they are prepared to do about it. So in a campaign that has the Lunars as a major foe (like mine), being too open about your use of mechamagical superweapons is likely to get you a rapid and aggressive conversion pitch from the local Lunar authorities - probably one you can't refuse without serious consequences. If not the Lunars, then maybe the local Orlanthi hate the idea of people using the same technomagic that their ancestors fought a ten year war to destroy. Or a band of powerful brigands likes the idea of being supplied with the item, and extorts some, or steals them. If nothing else fits, it could be that those whacky and enigmatic dragonewts just don't like the notion of trumped up monkeys having this kind of power and decide to intervene. So the PCs cannot use these item constantly without attracting the wrong kind of attention.

By now, it should be clear that there are ways for you to retain control of things, even while you let your players have some fun with some new toys.        

And you want them to have fun with them.                                

So here are the promised items:


Arc Cannon:

This weapon can emit a targeted line of lightning up to 10 yards distant, doing 3d6 to the first target it strikes. Armor Points count, but metal armor only protects for 4 AP. The weapon is 4 ENC, so fairly bulky. and uses Machine Grade Crystal as its power source. When found, Arc Cannons often have a single stick of MGC in theiir charge port. Roll 1d8 for the number of charges.

Secondary Arc: On a special, the shooter can choose to have the arc carry on to a second target, rolling again to hit, with the same possible result for a special. An Arc Cannon is a two-handed weapon for anyone of SIZ 20 or less, and uses machine grade crystal as its energy source.

Ammunition: Machine Grade Crystal

Armour Points/ Nit Points: 4/6

Attacks      Starting Attack    Range     Damage    Specials    

Arc Cannon  STR + DEX %    10 Yards     3d6        Secondary Arc


Mostali Heavy Bolt Thrower

This is a type of crossbow developed an age ago by the Mostali. Certain of them still use it, especially those who have not continued to develop more advanced devices. Among these are the devolved clay dwarf cannibals found in the ruin of the Legion of Purification.

Ammunition: 5 Bolt Drum - specially constructed bolts and drum

AP/ HP: 4/ 8

Combat                   Starting Attack      Range   Damage  Special

Heavy Bolt Thrower     STR+DEX%        10/40      1d12       Impale

  • The thrower is constructed to accept, and load from a cartridge, capable of storing 5 specially constructed bolts. It takes 1 round to fully load a cartridge with bolts. The weapon may not be shot without a cartridge – you cannot shoot a single bolt by loading it directly, there is no channel for the bolt.
  • Changing out bolt cartridges takes one round, plus any time taken to stow the empty cartridge. The cartridges will not accept standard bolts – only specially constructed ammunition.
  • Ratchetted Reload: the weapon must be cranked to load with up to five shots worth of mechanical energy. Loading this energy takes 1 Round per shot: to a maximum of 5 shots for 5 rounds of ratchet cranking.
  • Each bolt thrower includes 20 bolts (custom-made for the weapon) and 2 Drums.
  • 1 Drum is filled with 5 Sulfur bolts Doing 1d8 bonus fire damage if they penetrate armor.

If you don't like the sulphur bolts, don't use them. These should definitely be in short supply.