Setine Clockwork Magic

Knacks: Limbs, Mechanism, Shell, Source, Vessel

Apprentice Degree: Wind-Up Clockworks
Adept Degree: Steam-Powered Clockworks
Master Degree: Self-Winding Clockworks

Scholars from the Explorer’s Society, the Free Thought Society, and universities across Théah have been intrigued by the Setine for many years. Archaeologists are fascinated by their architecture and apparent cultural diversity. Anthropologists study their hollow-boned remains and wonder at their varied physical forms. But it is Setine artifacts that capture the fancy of many of these men and women: their intricate collections of gears, wires, springs, crystals, and Theus knows what else that are so much greater than the sum of their parts.

It was only natural, therefore, that a group of dedicated scholars would seek to emulate Setines creations. It began simply enough, with wind-up music boxes and songbirds, but these budding engineers soon tired of such trinkets. Through a great deal of time, even more effort, and the sacrifice of countless lives on expeditions to retrieve Setine artifacts (or even better, Setine writings) these scholars slowly began to unravel the mysteries of Setine Clockworks.

Gradually, their trinkets grew more and more complex, and as they began to translate the most basic Setine texts, these devices almost (and sometimes literally) took on lives of their own. While their creations would never approach the complexity of true Setine Clockworks, they began to create marvels that performed tasks as effectively as humans, and their most advanced wonders actually showed signs of limited intelligence.

Someone who studies and practices Setine Clockwork Sorcery is known as a Technomancer. Unlike most Sorceries, it can be learned solely through study (a great deal of study), and it can be purchased after character creation by simply spending experience points: forty for Half-Blooded Technomancy, and eighty if the character wishes to be Full-Blooded. Like any Sorcery (or Quasi-Sorcery), a Technomancer can only be Full-Blooded or Half-Blooded in this art, or Twice-Blooded with another Sorcery. The demands of Technomancy are simply too great to allow much time for study beyond the workings of Setine mechanisms.

Clockwork devices (also known as constructs) are complex machines that are beyond the comprehension of most Théans. While constructs are not innately magical on their own, the sum of their parts operate via quasi-mystical processes that even Technomancers do not fully understand. When a construct is being built, operated, or repaired, a Technomancer relies on his instincts, his creation’s inherent spark of magic, and his limited comprehension of the Setine race’s infinitely more complex constructs.

There are several steps that must be completed in the building of a construct. The first of these is the gathering (or purchase) of materials, which are used in the creation of the mechanical’s five essential components: the Shell, the Limbs, the Mechanism, the Source, and the Vessel.

The Shell is the external structure of the construct. This structure determines the construct’s size, Resolve, and TN to be hit. This is the most vital part of the construct’s production, and is the first component which must be built.

The Limbs provide the construct’s Brawn, as well as its ability to move or manipulate objects (a blade, a lock, a shovel, etc.). A construct may have a single Limb (e.g., a mechanical lockpicking device), a set of four Limbs (two legs and two arms on a mechanical man), or an even larger number (eight legs for a mechanical spider). Once the shell is constructed, the Limbs must be constructed and attached.

After the Limbs have been installed in the Shell, the third part of the construct is the Mechanism. This is comprised of a number of different parts that make up a whole. The Mechanism is what drives the construct, allows it to carry out its functions, and determines its Finesse. The Mechanism is almost always made from steel, which is lightweight, durable and can be worked to the fine specifications necessary to design the Mechanism. Gold wire, crystal lenses, and other pieces also go into making a Mechanism (these are already considered in the price formula given below). If a construct is destroyed (or scrapped for parts), roll three exploding dice and multiply by one hundred to determine the value in rare gems and precious metals that can be salvaged from the Mechanism.

The fourth component of a construct is the Source, as in “power source. The Source determines the construct’s Panache, its time of operation before it must be serviced, and its power supply: wind-up, steam powered, or self-winding.

The final component that must be constructed and installed is the Vessel: the construct’s “brain,” which determines its Wits and the number and type of commands it can follow. The Vessel is the most complicated component of a construct. It is also the smallest part, requiring great concentration to create.

It takes a number of days equal to the Target Number to build a component divided by five before the first roll can be made to meet or exceed the Target Number. Some of the Target Numbers for the components described below can be quite high, but they do not have to be met in a single roll. The Technomancer (or, if building the Shell, his assistant) must make a roll using the appropriate Trait and Knack after the necessary time has elapsed. If the result of this roll does not meet the necessary TN to build the component, subtract five from the roll, record it, and roll again the next day. The result of the second roll is added to the modified roll from the previous day. If the TN is still not met, subtract ten from the new roll, add it to the previous day’s result, and record the total. A new roll may be attempted the third day, and so on, subtracting an additional five from the roll before adding it to the previous day’s total, until the TN has been met.

The Technomancer always runs the risk of ruining the component he is working on. When making a roll to determine the results of a day’s work, the component is ruined if the roll contains two 1’s (for an Apprentice), three 1’s (for an Adept), or four 1’s (for a Master). If a component is ruined, all work on that component is lost, the parts used for that component are considered ruined, and work must begin again from scratch after repaying the full cost for the component. If the ruined component is a steam-powered Mechanism, the resulting explosion will consist of a number of dice equal to the construct’s planned Rank in Panache.

Apprentice Degree
You are capable of making small, wind-up clockwork devices. There are other limits to your constructs based on your Mastery Level, as described in the Knacks below.

Adept Degree
You are capable of making hand-held or man-sized steam-powered devices. You have fewer limits to your constructs based on your Mastery Level, as described in the Knacks below.

Master Degree
You are capable of making large, self-winding devices. You have virtually no limits to your constructs; while your constructs will never approach the sophistication of those made by the Setine themselves, you are capable of creating any type of construct currently known to any Technomancer.

Sorcerous Knacks

Limbs. The Limbs Knack is used to define the construct’s Rank in Brawn. A high Brawn is not normally necessary for constructs; however, some need to have a considerable Rank in Brawn in order to perform their necessary functions. Labor constructs are a typical example, though combat constructs may also require a high Brawn to make them more effective.

All constructs need one or more limbs and a minimum Brawn of 1 to carry out their function(s). The TN to create a single limb based on the size of the construct and its Rank in Brawn appears on the chart below:


*Adept Mastery Level required
**Master Mastery Level required

Crafting a set of limbs can be very expensive, as they require a significant number of gears, springs, levers, and other mechanical devices to function. The cost per limb, based on the size of the construct and its Rank in Brawn, appears on the chart below:


* Adept Mastery Level required
** Master Mastery Level required

In addition to the base cost for the Limbs, the Technomancer must pay for any special appendages attached to the Limb (e.g., a rapier or broadsword for a combat construct, or a shovel or saw for a labor construct).

The Technomancer must create the Limb or Limbs himself by rolling Finesse + Limbs against the TN determined above. One roll is required for each Limb the Technomancer is creating.

Mechanism. The Mechanism Knack is used to define the construct’s functions and Rank in Finesse. The Mechanism is the most complex portion of the construct. It is a mass of wires and gears, all of which must be carefully constructed and interconnected for it to work. Even a gifted Technomancer may be driven to distraction while working on the internal bits of the Mechanism.

The TN to create a Mechanism, based on the size of the construct and its Rank in Finesse, appears on the chart below: 


* Adept Mastery Level required
** Master Mastery Level required

A hand-held construct can typically perform only a single Knack. A small construct can perform up to two Knacks from a single Skill. A man-sized construct can perform up to four Knacks from up to two Skills, and a Large construct can perform up to six Knacks from up to three Skills.

It is always easier to build an intricate piece of machinery if you can build it a bit larger than it needs to be. This gives you more room to work and makes it easier to build the parts to accept tolerances. For every Knack the Technomancer removes from the number of Knacks a construct could normally perform, he receives a free Raise when rolling on the above chart to build the construct. Thus, a Technomancer building a large construct with a Finesse of 6 that performs only one function (i.e., a single Knack) would have a bonus of 25 to his roll to create the Mechanism.

Conversely, some Technomancers delight in cramming as many functions as possible into a very small area. For every Knack added to the number normally allowed for a construct of a given size, the TN to create the Mechanism is increased by 10. This represents the difficulty in crafting extremely small parts and getting them all to fit together in a more congested space. For example, creating a hand-held construct with a Finesse of 4 and three functions (Knacks) would have a TN of 70 to create the Mechanism.

Once the number of functions is determined, it is time for the Technomancer to decide what those functions are going to be. A Technomancer may build any Knack that he knows into the Mechanism. He may work with another party to build a Knack he does not know into the construct, but doing so raises the TN to create the Mechanism by 5 per Knack if the Technomancer has a Skill that contains the Knack, or by 10 per Knack if the Technomancer does not have a Skill that contains the Knack. The construct’s Rank in the Knacks it is assigned will be 1 if the creator does not possess the Knack himself, 2 if the creator is an Apprentice, 3 if the creator is an Adept, and 4 if the creator is a Master.

The cost for the Mechanism is dependent on the size of the construct and the number of functions (Knacks) it will have, as described in the chart below. The listed cost is per function.


* Adept Mastery Level required
** Master Mastery Level required

The Technomancer must create the Mechanism himself by rolling Wits + Mechanism against the TN determined above. Should a Mechanism ever be “scrapped for parts,” roll three exploding dice to see how many hundreds of Guilders can be recovered in precious metals and gemstones.

Shell. As stated above, the first part of a construct which must be built is the Shell, as this is where the Mechanism, Source, Vessel, and many mechanical parts of the Limbs are housed. The construction of the Shell determines the durability of the construct, the difficulty and cost for several of its other components, the TN to hit the construct, and the construct’s Rank in Resolve.

The following table shows the types of materials that may be used to create a Shell, the TN and cost to build a small, plain Shell from each material, the TN to be hit and Resolve of the construct, and the Skill required if the Shell is built by someone other than the Technomancer:

MaterialTN to
Cost to
TN to
be Hit
ResolveKnack Required

* It would be virtually impossible for a Technomancer to gain access to enough raw Dracheneisen to build even a hand-held Shell. Unless a member of the Nibelungen studies Setine Clockwork Sorcery or a Technomancer undertakes an epic quest on the smiths’ behalf, building a construct from Dracheneisen is a pipe dream.

The costs above take into account not only the raw materials but also the special preparations that must be performed for each item. Thus, these costs reflect the fact that some comparatively soft items require greater preparation than more durable items. These preparations can involve special coatings, glazes, curing, and lacquering, and they can be costly.

The TN’s and costs to make a Shell listed above are for a small, undecorated shell, roughly one cubic foot in volume. Building a differently-sized or more ornate Shell carries the following modifiers:

Size/DecorationTN to BuildCost to BuildTN to be Hit*

* To a minimum of 5

Note that the modifiers for adjusting the size and degree of decoration are cumulative. For example, an ornate, man-sized construct would add 15 to its TN to Build, multiply its Cost to Build by 4, and decrease its TN to Be Hit by 5.

Once the size and composition of the material have been determined, it is time for the Shell to be built. The Technomancer may build it himself, rolling Brawn + Shell against the TN determined above; however, he must have an appropriate Rank in the Knack specified above. Building a hand-held construct requires a Rank of 1 in the Knack, building a small construct requires a Rank of 2, building a man-sized construct requires a minimum Rank of 3, and building a large construct requires a Knack of at least 4. If the Technomancer does not possess the requisite Rank in the listed Knack, or if he wishes to hire a more experienced craftsman to build the Shell, the TN to build the shell is doubled, and the cost to build the Shell is increased by 50 percent.

Source. The Source Knack is used to create a construct’s power supply and to determine its Rank in Panache. An Apprentice may only create constructs that are powered with a wind-up Source; they typically operate for only one minute before they need to be serviced. Adepts may create steam-powered Sources, which typically operate for one hour before they need to be serviced. Masters may create self-winding Sources: true wonders of engineering which generally function for one day before they require servicing.

All constructs need a minimum Panache of 1 to carry out their function(s). The TN to create a Source based on the size of the construct and its Rank in Panache appears on the chart below:


*Adept Mastery Level required
**Master Mastery Level required

The base cost to create a Source based on the size of the construct and the type of power supply appears on the chart below:


*Adept Mastery Level required
**Master Mastery Level required

The TN’s and costs to create a Source listed above assume a single “interval” of operation between repairs (one minute for wind-up constructs, one hour for steam-powered constructs, and one day for self-winding constructs). For each additional minute of operation between repairs, increase the TN to create a wind-up construct by 5. For each additional hour of operation between repairs, increase the TN to create a steam-powered construct by 10. For each additional day of operation between repairs, increase the TN to create a self-winding construct by 15.

The Technomancer must create the source himself, by rolling Finesse + Source against the TN determined above.

Vessel. The Vessel Knack is used to create a construct’s “brain” or processing unit, and to determine its Rank in Wits. It also determines the type of commands a construct will be able to follow.

All constructs need a minimum Wits of 1 to carry out their function(s). The TN to create a Vessel is equal to 10 x the construct’s Rank in Wits. Thus, creating a construct with a Wits of 3 carries a TN of 30. Vessels are relatively small, and do not require much size increase to operate a larger construct, so the TN to create a vessel is independent of the construct’s size.

An Apprentice cannot create a construct that is capable of processing verbal commands. Its vessel must be programmed to carry out its function, which is activated by pressing a button, flipping a switch, or some similar means. An Apprentice’s construct can only store a single command, and only has enough sentience to deactivate itself when it has completed a task (assuming it still has power remaining, based on its Source). The Apprentice cannot create a Vessel capable of giving a construct a Wits greater than 2.

An Adept may create constructs that are capable of understanding simple verbal commands consisting of a single word, and it may be programmed with a number of these commands equal to its Rank in Wits. Adding an extra command (e.g., adding a fifth to a construct with a Wits of 4) increases the TN to create the Vessel by 10. Conversely, programming a Vessel to understand fewer commands than its Rank in Wits decreases the TN to create the vessel by 5 per command waived (e.g., programming only two commands into a construct with a Wits of 4 would reduce the TN to create the vessel by a total of 10). The Adept cannot create a Vessel capable of giving a construct a Wits greater than 4.

A Master may create constructs that are capable of understanding more complex commands, equal to one word per its Rank in Wits. Increasing the maximum length of a command increases the TN to create the Vessel by 10 per additional word. However, the Master’s constructs do not need to be preprogrammed with any commands; they are marginally self-aware, capable of interpreting orders and executing them via independent action.

The cost to create a Vessel is based on the construct’s Rank in Wits and the type of commands it is capable of understanding, as detailed on the following chart:

Command Type123*4*5**6**
Single Word*200G300G500G700G1,100G1,600G
Spoken Commands**300G400G700G900G1,400G1,900G

*Adept Mastery Level required
**Master Mastery Level required

The Technomancer must create the Vessel himself, by rolling Wits + Vessel against the TN determined above.

Once a construct has used up its full charge (as determined when crafting the Source), it needs to be recharged, refueled, or otherwise repaired. Each of the components must be repaired separately, requiring an appropriate roll against a TN equal to half its TN for construction (rules for dividing the time up across multiple days and for ruining a component still apply) and an investment of Guilders equal to 10 percent of its construction cost.

Game Master’s Secrets
Knowledge of, let alone the practice of, Setine Clockwork Sorcery is extremely rare. There are currently less than a handful of Technomancers among the ranks of the Explorer’s Society, and a single, inexperienced Technomancer in the Free Thought Society (who stole her notes and research journals from a member of the Explorer’s Society). It is not a true Sorcery, more akin to science than magic (though the way the construct operates is so advanced that it may as well be magic to Théan scientists). As such, it has no effect, positive or negative, on the Barrier.

After learning about the “Sorcery” from Merin Zimmer, Alvara Arciniega has reached out to Vincent Bernadore, leader of the Explorer’s Society, offering massive financial support and a team of scholars in exchange for access to the Society’s research on clockwork construction and maintenance and their translations of the Setine language. Always distrustful of the Invisible College because of their actions in the past, Monsieur Bernadore has thus far refused. It is probably only a matter of time before Arciniega tasks Merin with obtaining the research for him. It is also only a matter of time before the Society receives an offer of aid and a host of Syrneth artifacts from Vincenzo Caligara (yes, you read that right), as well.

It may seem that Clockwork Sorcery is overpowered, and an argument can surely be made for that. But there are some controls built into the system that help balance things out. The first is cost, Let’s consider an Apprentice Technomancer who wishes to make a small, plain wind-up lockpicking machine out of iron (he anticipates doing some exploring and does not want to risk breaking a less-expensive glass or ceramic machine,. To do so would carry a very heavy price tag for a young hero (or otherwise).

One limb with a Brawn of one would have a TN to make of ten, and cost 100 Guilders. The Mechanism (Finesse 2, single function) carries a TN of twenty, or thirty if he does not have the Lockpicking Knack himself, and a cost of 250 Guilders. The Shell would require a TN of thirty and a cost of 600 Guilders (or a TN of sixty and a cost of 900 Guilders if he must work with a blacksmith). The Source adds another roll against a TN of ten and a cost of 250 Guilders for one minute of operation. Finally, the Vessel adds another TN ten roll and a cost of 100 Guilders.

The result, assuming all rolls are successful, is a one-cubic-foot wind-up machine with a cost of 1,300 – 1,600 Guilders, which rolls 4k2 to open a lock. It will operate for only one minute, after which it must be repaired with a series of five Skill Rolls (against TN’s of five, ten or fifteen, fifteen, five, and five) and a repair cost of around 150 Guilders.

Following a similar pattern, if an Adept wanted to make a steel, steam-powered Clockwork Swordsman capable of defending him in the field, the five required rolls would be against TN’s of about forty (four times), forty (for four Knacks), thirty-five (for a plain steel shell), forty-five (for one hour of operation), and thirty (for a Wits of 3), and a cost of a little over 11,000 Guilders. After an hour, it would need to be repaired with a series of rolls against half the TN’s listed above and a cost of 1,100 Guilders…and there is a risk of ruining a part, or worse, an explosion, every time. And all this is assuming that the Technomancer will not have to go shopping or exploring for five matching ruby lenses, or a coil of spun platinum, or a golden frizzmafratz between steps…

Then there is the time factor: building and maintaining a construct could require weeks or even months out of the field, and while the process will surely be enjoyable for the Technomancer himself, his companions may just leave him to his studies and go save the world themselves, Until they raid an ancient drachen’s lair and come up with the 2,700 Guilders (or more) to commission a hand-held, self-winding, fancy silver lockpicking device, they would be wise to keep their hands off.

Thus, it is feasible for a world-spanning organization like the Explorer’s Society, or an independently wealthy madman like Vincenzo Caligara to deal with constructs, but for the average player character, it may just be too much trouble, not to mention time and expense. And if all else fails. The Game Master can simply declare this technology off-limits to Player Characters and save it for a nasty surprise from a wealthy and particularly heinous villain.

Please bear in mind that these constructs are merely crude representations of actual Setine designs; they are incompatible with Setine Clockworks (unless the Game Master is feeling generous and wishes to create an elaborate crawl through a Setine ruin, or visit to Cabora), and any sentient Clockwork beings would be offended and fly into a murderous rage should they spot one of these lesser devices in operation.

Setine Clockwork Sorcery replaces the Syrneth Tinkering School found in the Explorer’s Society book, which will not exist in the Poisoned Shadows campaign until it is extensively overhauled.

4 thoughts on “Setine Clockwork Magic

  1. That’s a great question. It is a little of both, but not really all of either. True Clockworks were built by the Setine, and they were more like androids (like Star Trek’s Data) than anything else. Hm…Maybe more like Lore, come to think of it. This Clockwork Sorcery is just regular humans playing at being smarter than they are, and that gives it a definite Steampunk vibe. That said, it would be really easy to make a nasty little Nazi like the guy from Hellboy. He’d be a wind-up man-sized construct with high Ranks in Attack (Dagger) and Parry (Dagger). Maybe even Menace, and definitely Stealth.

    Yes, I could make him quite easily. Thanks for the idea! Muah hah ha!


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