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Babylon 5 1e: The Technomages

The Technomages

Arthur C. Clarke said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", and the Technomages are living proof of this statement. The question is always there: are their tricks technological or supernatural in nature. As I tell my students, "the science and art of making change occur according to will" can apply just as well to computer programming as it can to magic. So too does it apply to the activities of the technomages.

The main aim of this book is to provide players will everything they need to play a technomage character. GNs may also wish to use it to round out any technomage NPCs, or to include the Order in their game. They are something to be used with care, as they have great power even at low levels. Take heed of the limitations and be sure to enforce them on any player whose character gets out of hand!

We start off with some background. There aren't that many technomages in total - under a thousand - and they tend to be solitary. The chaotic nature of what they do means that if you put two or more in the same room, they are liable to bicker if not fight! They are all members of a 'Order' but this is a very loose organisation. It's led by a five-person Circle, has a code of conduct, and everyone meets in a Convocation every three years. That's about the whole of technomage society.

It is hard to become one. Each is trained by an existing technomage from a very young age. The apprentice is often the technomage's own child or one given to them, by the time you are old enough to think of asking to be trained in the craft, you are probably too old to begin! Such applicants are usually interested for all the wrong reasons anyway, and are very rarely accepted. The training begins with years of mental and physical discipline and instruction in the code: solidarity, secrecy, mystery, magic, science, knowledge, and good. In time the apprentice receives the implant technology that empowers their abilities, and spends many years learning to master it. During training, this is a mostly external device called a chrysalis, mounted on the back and capable of remote control by the mentor. Once they 'graduate', the chrysalis is replaced by internally-mounted technology, fully under the teachnomage's own control. There's no right way of using the technology, each technomage develops their own way of creating the effects they desire... and this means one cannot teach another how to do a given 'spell' - at most they can demonstrate it in action and leave the enquirer to devise their own way of creating that effect.

Next we learn the history of the technomages, which begins with a warlike species of winged humanoids who were altered by the Shadows and given the first implants. A long and complex history follows, with their heirs and successors from many species becoming capable of doing great good, or causing great harm. This sweeping history takes us from their origin through over a thousand years to the present day - and contains much that non-technomages would never know. It's likely many technomages don't know - or more crucially believe - it either!

We then turn our attention to the creation of technomage characters with all the necessary rules information to generate one. To be a technomage at all, you have to start as one and continue with single-minded devotion until at least 4th level. This mirrors the long training that they undergo, for the first three levels the new character will be under the guidance and control of a more experienced technomage, the one to which they were apprenticed. (Of course, if you start your game at a higher level, that's all in the character's backstory, but it can be fun to play out.) Most humanoid races are capable of accepting the implants required, but they need to meet minimun standards of Wisdom and Constitution attributes. In the early stages, the charactor will be learning from their mentor; but once they 'graduate' they do not have to find or learn new spells: they are assumed to be devising them for themselves and can just pick from the list later in the book - provided they meet any stated prerequisites. Otherwise, they acquire skills and feats in the normal manner, but also have to track 'power points' which govern spellcasting. The new technomage has also to decide on a focus - what do they imagine themselves doing when they create an effect - and pick from the various disciplines or schools, one area of strength and three areas in which they are not so good. This section ends with notes on how existing skills work in technomage hands, a custom set of feats only technomages can take, a collection of prestige classes available to them later in life; and finally notes on which species can become technomages, the advantages or disadvantages each has, and two wholly-new species drawn from the history of the technomages.

Now the bit you've all been waiting for: Technomancer Spells! Of course, these are not magical spells - although they appear that way to anyone who doesn't know about technomages - but the application of advanced technology implanted in the technomage's own body. However it is mechanically convenient to handle them in the same manner as magic spells are in other D20 rulesets (for example, Dungeons & Dragons 3e). Once learned, a technomage can cast any spell in their repertoire provided they have sufficient power to do so. There are a wealth of fascinating effects for your budding technomages to pour over, and - for the visually-inclined, a selection of those mysterious glyphs that are used to denote the spells. They are grouped accoring to the various disciplines, starting with Defence. For each spell there are various entries such as requirements (some oblige the caster to know how to cast something else before they are able to learn the spell in question), casting time, range, target, duration, and saving throw (if any) - all familiar to magic-users in other D20 games - as well as power point cost, and a bit of descriptive text.

The disciplines are Defence, Elemental (possibly the most powerful offensive spells, and likely to lead the technomage off the straight and narrow into chaos!), Conjuration, Movement, Healing (possibly the hardest area to master), Enhancement, and Creation - which covers creating items embuded with power (this game's equivalent to magic items).Of these disciplines a Technomage needs to select one are an area to specialise in, and two which are areas of weakness. However, any spell from the whole collection that has been learned may be cast... just perhaps not as well. Apart from Healing, that is. If Healing is a weakness, best stick to a first-aid kit. There are masses of spells here, but rules are provided for those creative technomages who want to come up with their own. This section ends with the special vessel available to technomages, which is called a pinnace. As you can imagine, it's a bit more that mere transportation!

Although often solitary, technomages are quite a collegial bunch, and most of them know just about everyone else. That's not too hard when there are around 500 technomages in total. The final section provides a collection of technomages for your technomage to meet, or indeed for use whenever a technomage NPC is called for. Each comes with a quote, full stat block, and some notes about what they are like.

And there you have it. Given the few technomages in existence, you may wonder why they have a whole sourcebook to themselves. Well, firstly they are not like anyone else, and secondly, they are rather fun! Many will think they are best as NPCs, but it would be fun to play one, possibly occasionally - they don't tend to stop in one place long enough to be good party members. Still, a one-off game set at one of the Convocations with a party of technomages could be very entertaining!

Return to The Technomages page.

Reviewed: 7 February 2020