Written by Jeremy Morgan, tabletop games editor, gamer, and software developer.
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Planescape 4E - The Rogue Modron

6 September 2011

The Lady of Pain's Crest

Ok, so last time I presented a partial implementation of the Rogue Modron. The one at the bottom of this post represents the nominal completion of that implementation. Let’s call it a beta, shall we?

Notable changes include the replacement of Primordial with Modronic (the peculiar, structured language of all modrons). Another is the addition of the racial power, Modron Shift, which I lifted from the modron monsters published in Dungeon #186’s “Creature Incarnations: Modrons” (DDI sub required). A big thanks to Greg Bilsland (@gregbilsland on Twitter) and Bruce Cordell (@BruceCordell on Twitter) for the article!

Hopefully, the movement power isn’t overpowered. I think its being an encounter power balances out the benefit of the slow / immobilize escape.

And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you the Rogue Modron!

Rogue Modron

Rogue Modron

Living constructs, modrons are a manifestation of the cosmic principle of order in the universe. To be a modron is to be part of a strict hierarchy that is literally built into each one. Well, until something goes wrong, then you get a rogue modron.


Average Height: 6’0”

Average Weight: 500 lb.

Ability scores: +2 Constitution, +2 Intelligence or +2 Wisdom

Size: Small

Speed: 5 squares.

Vision: Low-Light

Languages: Common, Modronic, choice of one other

Skill Bonuses: +2 Endurance, +2 History

Ordered Mind: You gain a +1 racial bonus to Will. In addition, you gain a +5 racial bonus to saving throws against charm and illusion effects.

Modron Shift: You have the Modron Shift power.

Rigid Mind: At character generation, roll a d20 and record the result. This is the rogue modron’s base initiative roll for all encounters. Note that its initiative bonus will continue to increase, and this racial feature does not preclude the player from taking initiative-based feats.

Modron Shift Racial Power

Immortal Origin: You are native to Mechanus, so you are considered an immortal creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, at the DM’s discretion, the rogue modron may be allowed to re-roll his base initiative during the campaign, maybe every tier or after the character has undergone some traumatic or defining moment.


chad said:

A size-small PC that’s 6 feet tall and 500 pounds seems a bit off. I recall them being both smaller and size Medium, but maybe that’s my memory.

As currently written, Modron Shift is definitely overpowered, being slightly stronger than the combination of two rogue/ranger utility powers - classes that are supposed to excel at movement (which the modron isn’t).

For traits, I’d suggest darkvision (although low-light is fine), and a racial bonus to Perception and Endurance checks (they’re metal/mechanical, and they’re methodical observers).

I appreciate what you’re trying to do with Rigid Mind, but initiative was a very different thing in 2e; a d10 rolled every round with casting/swing time segments is very different from a d20 that determines the basic order for the encounter. If you really like it, try it out and se how it goes, but I think you’re going to see it as a dealbreaker for a bunch of potential characters. If you really want to keep it, I don’t know why you wouldn’t keep the original version of ‘once per level’; it seems simply better than ‘once only, plus nebulous other times’.

For the powers, I’d suggest following the Wilden model: the modron selects from a short list of powers at each extended rest. The options should each reflect a facet of modron nature; the choice reflects the rogue modron ‘reconfiguring’ themselves. Off the top of my head:

Rigid Mind: Encounter Racial Utility, Immediate Interrupt.

Trigger: you are subject to an effect that imposes the Dazed, Dominated, or Stunned condition.

Effect: you make a saving throw against the condition, even if the effect is not normally subject to a saving throw.

Modron Repair: Encounter Racial Utility, Immediate Reaction.

Trigger: You take damage while you are bloodied.

Effect: You use Second Wind.

Standard Tactics: Encounter Racial Utility, Free Action.

Trigger: You roll initiative.

Effect: you take a -4 penalty to the initiative check, and you gain combat advantage against all enemies until the end of your first turn.

Just some ideas… I hope they’re helpful.

TriskalJM said:

All of this is extremely helpful. I never had the opportunity to play 2nd edition, so my knowledge of it is sketchy. I didn’t realize that’s how initiative worked.

I’ll definitely keep all of your comments in mind as I move forward. I think I may need to re-post all of the races together with modifications later on.

Also, if I decide to use any of your ideas, I’ll definitely credit you. Do you have a website or blog I can reference?

Bartoneus said:

I actually think your idea of Rigid Mind is hilarious and could lead to some awesome characters. It definitely needs some tweaking, because a character that rolled a 1 for this would be a huge disadvantage and one that rolled above a 15 would have a big advantage, however I love the idea of having a Rogue Modron character that is ALWAYS slow and the last to go, or the opposite and constantly quick to react and think.

This feature’s design is very non-4E in style, but that’s actually what I like about it. Having them roll after an extended rest and then using that result until they take another extended rest I think would be more in line, however as I said I love the idea that the Rogue Modron character is always going to be like that. Maybe if you added a rule to the feature that if they roll a 1-10 then they get some other benefit (not associated with initiative) that balances out always being low in the initiative order.

Psynister said:

I like the concept of the initiative roll, but I know that if I was a player and I happened to throw a 2, I would dislike the character from the beginning as I was stuck going last all the time. Similarly, if I rolled a 20, then I’d probably like the character more because I got to go first all the time.

If I were so tied to the character concept and backstory I had for them, then I could probably live with the low initiative score (especially if I could make that a part of the story that I enjoyed). However, I think the potential for the player to not like his character because of a single bad roll that impacted his performance for the rest of the game (or a big part of it at least) is enough to discourage people from playing it.

Granted, players aren’t forced into choosing this race so it’s up to them to decided if they want to get roped into that or not, I just know that personally I would be more inclined to not want to play one of these because of the potential burn of being stuck with a crappy initiative. But maybe that’s just me.

chad said:

I’m glad that it’s helpful, rather than just critical - that can be hard for me to convey via internet forum.

My memory of 2e init is slightly blurred because we used a few different home-grown variants, but basically it’s like this: each round, you declare your intent, then roll a d10. Starting from a low number (typically zero, but it wasn’t impossible in our games to have a negative init), the DM counts up segments (what we called the individual ‘ticks’ of initiative), and you start acting on your (modified) roll, and finish on that roll plus whatever time your action took. Things that happened on the same segment happen at the same time. This was mostly just a delay for weapons swinging multiple times, but for spellcasting it was huge - if you took damage while casting, your spell failed. (3e’s Concentration check was more or less a direct response to this). Once everything had acted, you started over in the next round. If your declared action was spoiled, the DM would handle it (a strict reading of the rules called for ‘sucks to be you’, but I’ve seen everything from that to ‘make a small adjustment’ and ‘lose 1d10 segments re-planning’.)

After sleeping on it, and thinking more about the old init system, I think that the idea can work, but I’d really like to see it be more frequent than 1/tier. Each extended rest isn’t a bad idea, but it can encourage tactically sound but narratively dumb choices (“Let’s take a nap before we fight Captain McEvilboss! So, um, we’ll be fresh!”). Once per level is nice in that it gets you (typically) 2-4 sessions, plus it has the nostalgia feel.

TriskalJM said:

Definitely like the idea of an added benefit if they roll low. Maybe give them a bonus to initiative and something else (similar to Alertness feat).

Hadn’t considered whether it was non-4E or not in style. It’s an interesting thing to point out. I think I like that it came about organically instead of being manufactured.

I think as I progress through this, that non-4E style will come through in other ways. I hope that’s what happens. I’d love to get further in and see a pattern of it - something to make people say, “Wow, that’s different… but I like it!”

TriskalJM said:

At some point, I really need to get my hands on an AD&D player’s handbook and DM’s guide. I’m holding out for now because I really don’t want to go hunting for them (although I have no idea how difficult it might be to find them).

Simon T. Vesper said:

Vestigial Wings

Encounter Power Move Action, Personal

Effect: Fly 8 squares.

I’m assuming that the wings in the picture aren’t completely useless. Let’s say that regular modrons (those still part of the collective) have different body parts (multiple limbs, wings, armor, etc.) that serve specific functions. A rogue modron with vestigial wings would be able to use them about as often as a genasi from Forgotten Realms. Or you could steal the thri-kreen ability related to multiple arms.

I also suggest looking at the warforged for an idea of how to incorporate an ability that reflects the modron’s “artificial” nature. Assuming, of course, that you see modrons as constructs like the warforged.

Speaking of, what if warforged were first created by a power or powerful artificer residing on Mechanus?

TriskalJM said:

To be honest, that’s the iconic image of a rogue modron, but the wings need not be completely useless. Following 4E’s normal design pattern, the wings would be a racial feat that a rogue modron could take, giving them some manner of flight (and possibly some other benefit). In my mind, there would be multiple racial feats for them, but I haven’t given it a lot of thought. I just know they should be there. I looked at the warforged, but the Planescape material is pretty clear that the modron are not constructs in the traditional sense. They’re more of a mix between construct and “normal” creature. It was this that led me to the rationale that the modrons shouldn’t be considered living constructs as the warforged are.

I’d have to give some thought to how the warforged would fit”, if they need to have a planar treatment. If they don’t, they’re a remarkable oddity from a prime material plane. If they do, mechanus would be a good fit.

Simon T. Vesper said:

So Modrons could have a racial power that reflects their lawful alignment, and are allowed feats that provide access to encounter/daily powers (mostly utility) that reflect their “modular” nature. Maybe. I’m thinking of a modron with four arms and an ability similar to the thri-kreen, but honestly, anything beyond that sounds more like warforged augmentations from 3.5. Not really a proper representation of the modron. And you make a good point about their not-quite-mechanical nature. I may have to rewrite my version…

chad said:

Fine idea, but unless the powers are really strong, don’t tie them to feats; just leave them as racial-only choices. Wizards is doing this themselves in newer material, and it works well - the modron character gets a few modron-specific choices for their powers, and move on. The early-4e style of multiclassing was an ok band-aid when there were few feats in the game, but these days a character will want to use most of their feats to reinforce their role; spending a feat to turn A1 into A2 is pretty painful in this ecology.

The ‘toughest’ economy in 4e (as far as powers are concerned) is the combat action. More choices is always great, but if you only have 6-8 actions per encounter (9-13 actions minus 3-5 standard actions), having 5 choices for half of them instead of 4 isn’t reinforcing the character or changing the power balance very much. Better to let the character give up non-modron options for modron-options - that lets the modron invest in thematic character options without pushing them behind the power curve.

This approach (modron racial utility powers) also lets you respond to the modronic wishes of your players, in a lazy-allocation fashion. If a player wants to focus on the ‘metal body’ aspect, that leads to different design than if the player wants to focus on the wings, or the ordered mind, or whatever. If your player wants to do something modron-like that seems too powerful to you, then you put that power at a higher level.

Bartoneus said:

I see no reason the Rogue Modron race shouldn’t be able to have access to the 4E Warforged Augmentations seen in the Eberron books. It could easily be a feat, or even give them one as a racial bonus at character creation.

TriskalJM said:

Looks like I need to incorporate some of these ideas into another write-up. Who’d like to see that?


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