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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    Note: this isn't a question about game balance, but mostly about coherent worldbuilding.

    So, a couple of my players really, really like playing artificers, and in general I try to cater to the tastes of my audience when worldbuilding and balancing. So, as I'm currently working on a simple, "back-to-the-roots" 3.5 setting which, as far as I can tell, is going to be our campaign world in the following years, I'm wondering about the worldbuilding impact of having artificers in a world that's not quite as technologically developed as Eberron.

    My current idea is that artifice is a relatively recent invention (about 40/50 years), a field full of brilliant innovators but also often looked down on by more traditional magicians, and which has earned a reputation for producing mad scientists or unintentional catastrophes (for example, there could be a few dwarven settlements being hostile to artifice as a discipline because they've heard a story about a magitech excavator golem getting out of control and causing a cave-in). Some nations and kingdoms are obviously interested in this discipline, seeing the potential applications for both war and urban development, but right now most of the world's artificers would train and reside in a large island and keep the secrets of their trade, well, a secret exactly because the local government realises they can get rich off this (think Venice and their glassmakers).

    As said in the title, the world is roughly at an (early) European Renaissance level, which I think fits D&D quite well, since you can get away with having sprawling, rich cities a few weeks of travel away from a medieval fiefdom with castles and small villages, and ruins of fallen empires strewn in-between, as well as allowing for artificers to exist without feeling like I'm altering the basic premise too much.

    I'm mostly wondering if this works from a worldbuilding/"how-it-feels" point of view. I know Da Vinci designed (and possibly crafted) working automatons, and many of his crazier designs would be right at home in an artificer's workshop, so it's not a stretch to have some mechanical geniuses running around the setting. Is it just me, or do people agree with this sentiment?
    Last edited by Silly Name; 2021-04-18 at 07:48 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    It makes enough sense that there's no reason to limit player choice.

    If you want artificers to generally be bound up in tight guilds or government-sponsored groups, but also have the occasional free artificer out and about, all that's required is a little more fleshing out of the development of the discipline.

    Which, this being the Renaissance-equivalent period, you have two very suitable options:

    - one, while artificers tend shift from one patron to another, there exist individuals that don't do well with the kind of control and limited interests of patrons--da Vinci himself had to shift about regularly--so there are periods where they have to scrape by via taking students or selling something. So the PC artificer is a student set adrift after his tutor gets yet another plush assignment (explaining his possession of the basic skillset but not the mastery).

    - two, there's a profileration of written-down materials moving about that allow a dedicated individual to work out the first principles of artifice without apprenticeship. Think of this not in terms of mechanical inventors of that time, but surgeons who suddenly got to read ibn Sina or al-Razi: what is possible suddenly expands in ways that creates new paradigms.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    If you look through the wikipedia entry on Automoton, you'll see that, during the Renaissance, artisans were crafting robots and clockwork stuff all the time. From cuckoo clocks to humanoid robots that could write copies of poetry.

    I should think that, if you're pulling "real-world" stuff, the Artificer fits BEST in the Renaissance period.
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  4. - Top - End - #4
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    Leonardo di Vinchi was trying to make a working helicopter and tank.
    Artificers work just fine in a Renessance style fantasy setting.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    For historical renaissance as it was? You had chess and poetry automatons, clockwork contraptions being showcased in passion plays (think religious theatre) as special effects and what could be described as an actual cyborg if you are fast and loose with definitions. Most of the above actually predate renaissance, going back to late and sometimes even high middle ages.

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    This is a sketch of a prosthetic arm of Gotz "Iron Hand" von Berlichingen, made in ~1504, it was good enough to use shield, reins and a quill. Note the articulated fingers that are one enchantment away from being a part of a golem.


    As for how people in general imagine renaissance, it really depends. Some imagine Da Vinci and science, which is fine. Others think more of Landsknechts and men at arms in full plate, which fits artificers less.

    For coherent worldbuilding, the rules actually help you. Artificer inventions are individual products, made by a very skilled person and very finely tuned. There is no way to manufacture them en masse, and there just aren't enough artificers to set up anything like a proper guild. Some of their inventions can be made cruder, much worse and copied (imagine wheellock vs a matchlock gun), but not without trouble of the, very often, explosive sort.
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  6. - Top - End - #6
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Zombie

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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    There's no rational reason that people would look down on artificers as "mad scientists" just because a few inventions went awry. Half the monsters in the monster manual are the result of a crazy wizard sticking random stuff together. However, it's very believable that people would fear change and irrationally see the latest thing as being worse than the dangerous things they're used to (see "Riding in a car is more likely to kill you, but plane crashes get all the attention").

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Name View Post
    As said in the title, the world is roughly at an (early) European Renaissance level, which I think fits D&D quite well, since you can get away with having sprawling, rich cities a few weeks of travel away from a medieval fiefdom with castles and small villages, and ruins of fallen empires strewn in-between, as well as allowing for artificers to exist without feeling like I'm altering the basic premise too much.
    When making game settings and maps, we have a tendency to spread things out. You have a big map and you say "I'll put a city here and some towns here and here and castle up here and another castle over here on the other side of the map", but in reality that stuff was packed together. If you made a game map of medieval Europe with classic 6 mile hexes, you would have castles in every other hex with villages and farm fields between them. If you eat breakfast at one castle then travel to the next one, you'll have to pack a lunch to eat on the way but you'll be able to eat dinner at the second castle. It's not a long journey between towns. It's usually not even a long day of walking. You don't have to ride your horse hard to make it before dark or anything. They're usually about 12 to 15 miles apart. Compare that to the "24 miles per day of travel" that D&D adventurers can do on foot.

    You can have wild Renaissance city hijinks in the morning and explore a lonely haunted castle in the countryside in the afternoon. Use that for exciting changes of scenery during the game:
    1. Fight a mad scientist's crazy robots in an urban factory full of clockwork and steam.
    2. Track one of the clockwork robots on a gondola hopping chase to the river.
    3. Ride a steam-powered paddleboat upriver to track the mad scientist...
    4. ...to his secret lair outside of the city in the ruins of an old castle...
    5. ...built on top of a network of caves!
    Last edited by Xuc Xac; 2021-04-23 at 04:18 PM.
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  7. - Top - End - #7
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: Artificers in a D&D 3.5 Renaissance-like setting: yay or nay?

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    There's no rational reason that people would look down on artificers as "mad scientists" just because a few inventions went awry.
    Well, I didn't want this prejudice to be rational anyway. Think of Galileo's complaints about his fellows unreasonably sticking to Aristotelian physics even when he presented clear evidence Aristotle was wrong about something.

    Half the monsters in the monster manual are the result of a crazy wizard sticking random stuff together
    Which is why wizards have a reputation for being... unstable. But wizards have power, both personal and institutional (in this setting I am ideating. There are a couple of cities effectively run by a local wizard or a small cabal of casters, and in many places they hold important positions), so when the hot new thing arrives into town, those entrenched in the system will disparage the possible upsetters of the statusquo.

    However, it's very believable that people would fear change and irrationally see the latest thing as being worse than the dangerous things they're used to (see "Riding in a car is more likely to kill you, but plane crashes get all the attention").
    Pretty much what I had in mind: "Hey, did you hear about that machine made by an artificer that blew up in Kingdomia and killed fifty people?"
    "Man, that sounds dangerous. I don't want none of that stuff here! To hell with artificers!"

    You can have wild Renaissance city hijinks in the morning and explore a lonely haunted castle in the countryside in the afternoon. Use that for exciting changes of scenery during the game:
    1. Fight a mad scientist's crazy robots in an urban factory full of clockwork and steam.
    2. Track one of the clockwork robots on a gondola hopping chase to the river.
    3. Ride a steam-powered paddleboat upriver to track the mad scientist...
    4. ...to his secret lair outside of the city in the ruins of an old castle...
    5. ...built on top of a network of caves!
    Pretty much what I meant! I like getting to have varied scenarios and ease of transition between those! Getting to stay in a big city, spend money and potentially interact with local politics and problems, and then set off to some ancient ruins to stop a mad wizard/scientist/biologist!

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