Game: Construct Mechanus
Publisher: Philip J Reed
Review Dated: 15th, January 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Construct Mechanus lets you have a construct as a player character. Well, nearly. You can have a Mechanus as a player character and that is a special sort of Construct. Mechanus have both intelligence and free will and that’s enough to qualify them as possible PCs. Their simple Construct cousins probably wouldn’t do. Mechanus have more than just intelligence and free will, they pack a mighty punch and that’s why they have an effective level of plus four.
Nicely – heck no, wonderfully – all the text in Construct Mechanus is Open Game Content. This small PDF product (24 pages) could open the floodgate. The artwork isn’t Open Game Content, artwork never is, but it’s just a shame we won’t be seeing these illustrations elsewhere. Once again, Studio Ronin have done a fantastic job. The illustrations of Mechanus manage to capture what is a fantasy metal construct and what is not a robot perfectly. They’re atmospheric and enticing too boot!
These 24 pages are wider and shorter than paper pages in a typical book. Not all PDFs are but this one is. This allows you to fit an entire page into your screen and keep the text readable. It allows the layout to use three columns of text per page rather than two.
Construct Mechanus gives you all that you’ll want to play a Mechanus. It presents; races, classes, feats and then picks up on the fact that some of us might be wondering about black powder firearms. I know I started to think about fantasy mechs. That’s right – races.
It’s best to think of Mechanus as a race type; like humanoid or goblinoid. There are types of Mechanus and Construct Mechanus gives rules for Stilts and Abominus. The Abominus have a better name but really aren’t suitable for any normal player character. Abominus are giant fighting machines. There’s no pretence that these Mechanus go off adventuring when, by hook or by crook, they develop free will and the product describes them as more likely to thump off to a forgotten corner of the world. I can see them being a great NPC but not a good PC. Thankfully the Stilt Mechanus is hugely flexible. The race has its own characteristics. The name “Stilt” comes from the long, spindly and inhuman frame the Mechanus has as a body. You can customise this frame, the head, the arms, legs and even add on extras. You could build a spider-like Stilt Mechanus if you want. This is all managed through a point system. Extra and improved parts cost points. You can literally build your own character here.
There are two new classes too: the tanker and the mystic defender. Their names do a good job in describing the class. The tanker class is very similar to the fighter class but levels up with Mechanus only abilities like stronger armour and fireball abilities. It’s a combat machine. The class is fine. It’s powerful but that’s not a problem. I am concerned with where some of these abilities come from. Where does the new and improved armour appear from when the tanker increases a level? Ah-well, author Philip J Reed is perhaps sensitive to this concern since the special ability suggests that tankers are “programmed to evolve as they grow”. This asks for some suspension of disbelief but that isn’t a crime in a fantasy roleplaying supplement providing rules for magical metal constructs! Actually, you can build your Stilt Mechanus out of bone or other materials if you spend the points.
The mystic defender isn’t so in-your-face powerful but it only takes a little thought as to what a heavily armoured mage might be like. They are subject to spell failure though, an off-putting 25% of the time. The mystic defender’s class abilities tally up at every level and are often a spell effect like magic missile or detect magic and these won’t be (unless the GM reads other wise) subject to the spell failure though.
These combinations will create powerful character. The Mechanus do have an effective level of plus four. I don’t think it’s a problem. The characters might be too powerful for your campaign but within the bounds of the Construct Mechanus supplement the rules are balanced.
I’ve taken to snorting at the inclusion of yet-more unnecessary feats. These feats are necessary; they’re new Mechanus feats. A fair number of these feats belong to the “Improve-Enhance-Advance” well scraped barrel but even then they benefit from this new context. There’s actually a bunch of general feats as well. These aren’t exclusive to Mechanus characters and do less well in the originality test but are fairly constructed anyway.
If you like the idea of fantasy robots or black powder weapons attached to Mechanus then you can use the extra firearm rules. If not – you can ignore them. That’s one of the benefits I see in PDF products; they’re cheap enough so that you don’t have to worry if you find yourself ignoring large parts of it. These optional firearm rules aren’t a large put of Construct Mechanus. They’re worth having though.
The layout really enhances Construct Mechanus. It’s an easy PDF to navigate through. There’s a black and white version that comes free with your purchase. This extra version is great for printing out and uses a different, paper friendly, layout. I don’t think Construct Mechanus will have a huge appeal; the concept is a little too far from typical fantasy to appeal to the mass audience. Construct Mechanus certainly does do what it sets out to do and it does it well and that’s the telling mark of a good product.