Keyword Design – “Automata”

In Keyword Design, I use a single word as inspiration for a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option. Today’s word is “automata” as suggested by Peter.

This week’s keyword heavily implies technology. As tempted as I was to retrofit a bunch of Starfinder options into Pathfinder, I eventually came up with some ideas that I thought ft just as well and were more original. Let’s see how well I did.

Mundane Item Clockwork Tools Wind up tools that can perform a single repetitive fine motor task
Magic Item Potion Evaporator A tube that can feed certain spells into the wearer’s mouth quickly
Feat Rote Action Repetitive actions allow you to perform familiar actions more swiftly.
Spell Shield of Gears Miniscule construct parts fly around you, protecting you and obeying your command.
Class Option Automancer A wizard who specializes in automotons

New Mundane Items
Cost: 200 gp Weight:4 lbs
Clockwork tools are designed to perform a single repetitive action, freeing up hands to focus on the more adaptive needs of a fine motor task. When performing a Disable Device skill check on a device that takes longer than 1 round to, clockwork tools reduce the amount of time spent required to disable this device by 1 round per minute spent winding the clockwork tools (maximum reduction of 5 rounds, minimum of 1 round required to disable a device). A clockwork tool stays wound for 24 hours.
Clockwork tools count as masterwork thieves tools.  

Believe it or not, this was not based on Homer’s Dippy Bird covering for him at work, but as soon as I got that image in my head, it was all I could picture.

New Magic Item
Aura faint universal; CL 5th; Slot head; Price 2000 gp; Weight 2 lb
Most potions are 1 ounce of magical liquid, but potions made from spells with particularly short casting times are vaporous. Because of the nature of the vials potions are kept in, drinking a vaporous potion is still a standard action normally. However, a potion evaporator enables for the quick imbibing of such potions.
A potion evaporator is a cloth mask attached to a leather helm with a pocket in the back. Straws and valves run from the pocket to near the wearer’s mouth. If a potion made from a spell with a casting time of less than 1 standard action is placed in the pocket and secured to the straws, the wearer can imbibe the potion as an action equal to the spell’s casting time rather than a standard action. For example, the wearer could imbibe a potion of feather fall as an immediate action.
Wearers with abilities that them to drink potions more quickly than a standard action cannot drink potions made from spells with a casting time of 1 standard action or longer more quickly. A potion evaporator’s siphons are based on the nature of the potions in it, not the abilities of the wearer to drink.
Craft Wondrous Item, prestidigitation; creator must have 1 rank in Knowledge (engineering) and Craft (alchemy); Cost 1000 gp

My intent was not to fill this article with Simpsons screenshots, but now that I’m two deep, I’m going for it!
There’s a designer in-joke about potions of feather fall, because it is the quintessential immediate action spell, and a potion of it is useless because by the time you drink it, you’ve fallen.
I did a bit of research to make sure there are enough 1st to 3rd level spells with immediate action and swift action casting times to make this item worth it. I was surprised to find that the majority of spells with immediate action and swift action casting times are between 1st and 3rd level. A designer doesn’t just give a spell a casting time less than a standard action, it has to be part of the concept.
Finally, is this even a magic item? I couldn’t immediately find an appropriate spell for the item’s function and, honestly, could see the item working without the help of magic. I’ve never made a magic item with prestidigitation as its only spell requirement. I kind of like it. It opens up the idea that you can slip a little technology into your magic items as long as magic contributes in some way to the engineering of the item. I don’t want cellphones in Pathfinder, but a blending of magic and technology is what separates the ability to conceive of an idea and the ability to create it. It’s why there are more mages than engineers in Pathfinder; the more prolific magic is, the less innovative technology will be.
Or I just needed a magic item that fits the “automaton” keyword.

New Feat
Your familiarity with certain actions you perform regularly allows you to perform them with less focus.
Prerequisite: Base Attack +7, Wisdom 13+
Benefit: When you perform the exact same full round action or standard action and move action as the previous round, you can perform an additional swift action this round. All decisions surrounding your actions have to be the same, including decisions that do not require an action, but not counting actions that require a swift or immediate action. For example, if you make a full attack action and use Power Attack, you must make a full attack action using Power Attack again this round to benefit from Rote Action. Your actions do not need to be successful to gain the benefits of Rote Action, and abilities that only trigger on a success do not count as decisions you must repeat to gain the benefits of Rote Action.

Rote learning -learning through repetition- was one of my takeaways from attending Teacher’s College. I was trying to find some universal benefit all characters would enjoy receiving. Not only can characters be built around swift actions, but at higher levels when warriors actions tend to get repetitive, this opens up a bit of variety to the decisions a player gets to make.

New Spell
School conjuration (summoning); Level magus 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, unchained summoner 5
Casting Time 1 round
Components V, S, M (the wings of a locust, pieces from a destroyed construct)
Range personal
Target you
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw: none; Spell Resistance: no
The caster is surrounded by a swarm of tiny flying gears. While surrounding the caster, they provide cover. However, as a standard action, the caster can forgo this benefit and instead command the swarm to take one of two shapes:
Swarm of gear locusts: The caster can direct the gears as a move action. The gear swarms counts as a locust swarm, except the swarm’s type changes to construct. The swarm only moves when actively directed to by the caster as a move action. Otherwise, it remains in place, devouring creatures or objects within.
Giant automaton locust: The gears merge to form a giant gear locust. A giant gear locust counts as a giant locust, except its type changes to construct. The caster can command the giant gear locust to attack as a standard action and move as a move action. It remains airborne unless commanded to land or not given a command. In that case, it descends to land on whatever surface it is currently flying over.
When in either state, if the shield of gears is destroyed or moves further than 60 ft from the caster, it falls to the ground and the spell immediately ends.

Shoot, I forgot to find a Simpson’s screenshot for Rote Action! And I don’t have one for shield of gears either. Also, not much more to say other than I think this is neat.

New Class Option
Great thinkers say that the proliferation of magic stunts the innovation of engineering. Automancers believe magical engineers can innovate in a way other casters and engineers cannot.
Clockwork Bond: An automancer gains a clockwork familiar at 1st level. Additionally, if you use Knowledge (arcana) to identify a creature as a construct, you can make a Knowledge (engineering) skill check to learn additional information about it. This ability replaces Scribe Scroll and modifies arcane bond.
Engineer’s Touch (Sp): At 7th level, an automancer can cast mending at will, using your wizard level as the caster level to repair damaged objects. You can use mending to target constructs. This replaces the familiar’s ability to speak with animals of its kind.
Animator: At 10th level, an automancer can adds animate object to their spellbook as though it were a 5th level sorcerer/wizard spell. This ability replaces the bonus feat gained at 10th level.  

There’s probably a lot more that can be done with this concept, honestly, but as a new base class or alternate class. As an archetype, I see it as a wizard who dabbles in engineering that found a niche in the overlap of the arcane and science. 

Thanks again to Peter for the keyword suggestion. If you have thoughts on the balance and use of these abilities, or you would like to offer a single word that you think can inspire a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option, let me know in the comments below.

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:

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