Alchemy and Mechanika: A Brief User’s Guide

Alchemy and Potions

Alchemy functions a little differently than in D&D, since non-spellcasters can learn and use the Craft (alchemy) skill in the crafting of nonmagical alchemicals (IKCG, 301). Many of the potions in DMG still exist, though magical potions and alchemicals still require a spellcaster to craft, and they require the expenditure of XP as normal (IKCG, 303). Several nonmagical alchemicals require neither spellcasting ability nor XP expenditure, and these especially have found great utility in the Iron Kingdoms. Most of these alchemicals are found in IKCG, pages 303-13.

Enchantments and Magical Crafting

Magic items (like those listed in the DMG) do exist, but such items are extremely rare and most people know of them only as legends and hearsay. Magic items are so rare for three reasons:
  1. Market prices and creation costs are 50% higher than those listed in DMG (IKCG, 319). This also increases the XP cost for crafting such items.
  2. Any item costing over 200 XP to craft gives a 20% chance of permanently draining 1 hit point per 200 XP (round up) from the crafter (IKCG, 319).
  3. Each class of magic item requires the crafter to have a particular feat (e.g., Craft Magic Arms & Armor for weapons or armor), whereas the Craft Wondrous Item feat has developed great utility in crafting mechanika.
For example, a basic +2 longsword (or a +1 defending longsword, which has the same effective bonus) has a list price of 8,315 gp (315 gp for the masterwork longsword and 8,000 gp for enchantment) under normal D&D rules (DMG, 222). In the Iron Kingdoms, this weapon has a market price of 12,315 gp, and a crafter will spend 6,000 gp in materials (in addition to the base masterwork longsword) and 480 XP. During the process, the crafter risks losing 3 hit points permanently to the enchantment.

Such a cost is not paid except for specific reasons; an adventuring party generally cannot simply lay down cash and expect to commission the creation of a magic item. “There are no ‘generic’ magical swords in the Iron Kingdoms. Rather, each is unique, having its own name and history” (IKCG, 318). The prevailing alternative is the use of mechanika, which are far safer to craft.

Science and Magic: Mechanika

Mechanika is “a melding of technology and the arcane that makes the manufacture of various items much less expensive than the construction of normal magical items” (IKCG, 318). Much of the field of mechanika grew out of magical research from the Fraternal Order of Wizardry, especially cortex technology, which is the basis for steamjacks (IKCG, 297). Mechanikal devices are essentially gadgets or other technological devices that work in part by channeling and using magical energy. This energy is expended in the use of the device, unlike most permanent magical items. Mechanikal devices (at least, those used by a typical adventuring party) are powered by arcanodynamic accumulators (or just, ‘accumulators’; IKCG, 325-7) that are essentially magical batteries.

Accumulators typically come in three sizes, with larger ones storing more energy (quantized as ‘charges’):

  • Light (1 lb.) — 5 charges
  • Standard (2 lbs.) — 10 charges
  • Heavy (5 lbs.) — 20 charges
Most mechanikal weapons and armor will have either a light or a standard accumulator. Power-intensive armors (+4 or above in effective bonus) likely will have heavy accumulators. Very heavy armors (like steam armor or warcaster armor) usually have other power sources (like steam engines, perhaps in addition to accumulators). A weapon or armor draws a steady feed of energy from the accumulator to keep it functioning, expending its effective bonus in charges per day (for example, our +1 defending longsword, which has a +2 effective bonus, draws 2 charges per day from its accumulator). Items equivalent to charged magical items (like wands) use accumulator charges as their source of charges.

There are two (practical) methods to charge an accumulator:

  1. Alchemical methods, which require 20 gp per charge and 1 day per charge, along with a Craft (alchemy) check (DC 18). Like a real-world Nickel-Cadmium battery, the process works best if the accumulator is fully discharged and requires that the accumulator be fully charged in the process. Failing to do so results in a damaged accumulator that can never be recharged again (IKCG, 326).
  2. An arcane spellcaster can channel spells through an arcane condenser to recharge an accumulator partially or fully, thus sacrificing spell levels for accumulator charges. While this is the only practical method of recharging accumulators in the field, it is an inefficient and risky process for all but arcane mechaniks. For arcane mechaniks, the transfer is a 1-for-1 process (1 spell level per charge). Other arcane spellcasters transfer at 3-for-1 (3 spell levels per charge) and must make a Will save (DC 18) to disengage from the condenser. Otherwise, “accumulator backlash” takes place (LM, 12) and the condenser keeps draining spells until the Will save succeeds or the accumulator overloads.

Cyriss-Tech: Clockwork Mechanika

Many of the inventions of the cult of Cyriss are similar in function (e.g., mechanikal weapons and armor), but they differ greatly from mechanika in their form and means. These inventions, collectively known as Cyriss-tech (LM, 89) are based around clockwork technology rather than mechanika. Their workings are different enough that a different skill governs their use (Craft (clockwork) rather than Craft (mechanika)), and the Craft Cyriss-Tech feat is required to craft most Cyriss-tech items. Cyriss-tech reputedly can perform feats unachievable with mechanika, like replacing an eye or heart. Finally, there are rumors of Vessels of Cyriss, fully clockwork bodies that house the souls of Cyriss’ faithful (LM, 90).

In a way, Cyriss-tech represents a ‘divine mechanika,’ since their workings were revealed (by Cyriss) rather than discovered (by wizards). Almost every mechanikal component has a Cyriss-tech counterpart. Cyriss-tech devices can be powered by accumulators, but Cyriss-tech also presents an alternative power source: the devotional engine functions in most respects like an accumulator, but it can only be recharged by a Cyrissist spending divine spell levels (LM, 93).


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