Sunday, 21 June 2015

Denizens of the Wicked City 4: The Steel Aspirants (playable character class)

'What do you call the voluntary amputation of your own hand and face and their replacement with metal? A good start!' Image by Bruno Camara

The Wars of Faith took a terrible toll upon the bodies of those who fought in them. Never before had the services of the Augmented been in such demand. Soon, almost every town had a veteran or two who had set out as men of flesh and blood and returned as men of flesh and brass, with arms and legs of clanking clockwork in place of the limbs they had lost on distant battlefields. In larger communities, they gathered together, assisting one another with the maintenance of their new mechanical bodies; and it was amongst such gatherings that the Steel Aspirants first arose.

The first leaders of the Steel Aspirants were members of the Cogwheel Knights, devout worshippers of the Cogwheel Sage even before they joined the ranks of the Augmented. Rather than mourning their lost limbs, they celebrated their transformations, insisting that their new bodies were better than those they had been born with: stronger, tougher, not subject to age and decay. In the overheated cultural atmosphere of the Wars of Faith, what began as little more than an attempt to raise the morale of a group of maimed ex-soldiers rapidly took off into something much more extreme: an insistence that the replacement of flesh with metal was a form of devotion pleasing to the Cogwheel Sage, and that she would look with favour upon those who progressed furthest in their mechanical metamorphosis. Soon, the more devoted (and crazy) of the Steel Aspirants started to visit the Brass Folk and the Augmented, demanding that their healthy limbs be amputated and replaced with yet more metal and clockwork; most refused in horror, but a few were won over by threats and bribes, and from them the Aspirants soon learned enough to continue the work themselves. In reclusive foundry-temples, they subjected themselves to ever more extreme transformations. Some replaced their legs with wheeled chassis, or with quadruped bodies modelled on the bronze horses of the Brass Folk, or with six- or eight-limbed bodies like great metal spiders. Some built themselves arms with claws, or pincers, or spring-loaded spikes and blades. Some welded clockwork wings to their shoulders, and replaced their limbs with more delicate machineries to minimise the weight of their bodies, so that their wings could more easily bear them aloft. Every limb, every cog, every digit was carved with the image of the Cogwheel Sage, and etched with prayers to her, reminding the Aspirants that  theirs was a holy transformation. Outsiders regarded them as quite insane, and soon learned to leave them well alone.

The Steel Aspirants have dwindled since the end of the Wars of Faith. In the waning days of the Wars, some enclaves whipped themselves into a crusading frenzy and set out to smite those whom they had convinced themselves were the enemies of their goddess; they made formidable shock troops, but the losses amongst them were terrible, and few limped back to their foundry-temples alive. Others set out on quests to find the Cogwheel Sage herself, sure that she would smile upon those who had demonstrated such dedication to her, and were never heard from again. Most groups faded away through simple attrition: as the wars came to an end, they lost the steady stream of maimed, desperate young zealots who had constituted their primary recruiting ground. But they still persist, here and there: they recruit from amongst the Augmented and the more fanatical worshippers of the Cogwheel Sage, and in their isolated workshops they seek continuously for more ostentatious ways to demonstrate their devotion. There are rumours that some of the oldest of them don’t look human at all, now; that what little remains of their human bodies is now encased in layer upon layer of steel and bronze and clockwork, resembling giant mechanical spiders or crabs more than the men or women they once were. Most people regard them as dangerously unbalanced, and give them as wide a berth as possible: but to those with an interest in the most ambitious and audacious kinds of clockwork engineering sometimes seek them out, for offer skills which no-one else has ever been mad enough to want to learn.

The Flesh is Weak: You can play a Steel Aspirant, if you want. Playing one requires at least intelligence 12 to maintain all that complex clockwork machinery, and constitution 13 to survive repeated radical surgery. Game information is as follows:

  • You can only use simple weapons, but you can use any kind of armour or shields.
  • You get 1d8 HP per level.
  • You gain a bonus to melee and ranged attack rolls equal to one-half of your level, rounded down.
  • You have some kind of inbuilt weaponry: finger-blades, a crushing steel lobster claw, or perhaps just massive metal fists. You can make 'unarmed' attacks for 1d6 damage. At level 4 you may upgrade this into something even more destructive, like a buzzsaw, increasing your 'unarmed' damage to 1d8.
  • You have a gun-arm, because you're a fucking cyborg, so what else are you going to have? Treat it as a musket: 1d10 damage, 3 rounds to reload. At level 8 you can upgrade this into a small cannon, raising its damage to 1d12.
  • You are constantly replacing more and more of your body with metal. You gain +1 AC at level 1, and an additional +1 AC per level thereafter; however, your total AC bonus from this plus armour worn (not shields) cannot be greater than +10.
  • All this metal you keep nailing to your body is really goddamn heavy. You count as carrying a number of extra items equal to your level with you at all times for encumbrance purposes.
  • You gain a bonus to technology rolls equal to your level +1.
  • At level 6, you have replaced so much of yourself with metal that your legs can no longer bear the strain. Most Aspirants just replace them with massively reinforced robot legs at this point, but if you prefer you can opt for something weirder, like steel crab-legs, spider-legs, a metal centauroid body, or a wheeled chassis. This has no inherent bonuses or penalties, but may affect your ability to move across different forms of terrain, at GM's discretion.
  • You are very, very loud, and automatically fail any attempts to move quietly. 
Starting equipment: Half-plate armour (AC +6), heavy shield (AC +2), bag of tools, cogs, and gears, icon of the Cogwheel Sage, 1d6x10 sp.

Steel Aspirant Summary Table

Level
Hit Points
To Hit Bonus
AC Bonus
Technology Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
1
1d8
+0
+1
+2
14
14
14
2
2d8
+1
+2
+3
13
13
13
3
3d8
+1
+3
+4
12
12
12
4
4d8
+2
+4
+5
11
11
11
5
5d8
+2
+5
+6
10
10
10
6
6d8
+3
+6
+7
9
9
9
7
7d8
+3
+7
+8
8
8
8
8
8d8
+4
+8
+9
7
7
7
9
9d8
+4
+9
+10
6
6
6
10
10d8
+5
+10
+11
5
5
5

All this assumes that the character is following the standard 'human lobster' model of steel aspiration. If they're going for the rarer 'human fly' model instead, they use the following game information:

  • You can only use one-handed simple weapons, and cannot use any armour or shields.
  • You get 1d6 HP per level.
  • You gain a bonus to melee and ranged attack rolls equal to one-half of your level, rounded down.
  • You gain a bonus to technology rolls equal to your level +1.
  • You have clockwork wings, which allow you to fly as long as you are unburdened.
Use the same summary table as above: just replace the d8s with d6s, and ignore the bonus AC column.

Starting equipment: Light leather jacket (+1 AC), pistol (1d10 damage, 3 rounds to reload), goggles with flip-down magnifying lenses, bag of tools, cogs, and gears, icon of the Cogwheel Sage, 1d6x10 sp.

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