by Frank Gagnon
Written by Philip J. Reed
Art by Christopher Shy
Self-Published by Philip J. Reed
24 color pages, PDF
Gears with animus? Mechanical limbs with feelings? Construct
Mechanus is a recent d20 supplement with rules to generate
“self-willed” constructs beyond the usual animated objects and golems.
It is also slated as first in a series dedicated to magical robotic
characters and constructs, each future installment adding to the list of
possibilities and expanding on this supplement’s foundation.
The sentient robots within come off the assembly line with optional body
parts and abilities chosen to meet the point total assigned to each
“robot,” providing ample variety. Furthermore, the constructs each have
their favored class for PC use or “monster” advancement. Constructs may
benefit from the special Mechanus feats, including the Antimagic Field
(as an initial feat?) to Enhanced Targeting and Retractable Shield. Some
of the proposed feats would better fit the whole as point-based
construction elements. The supplement concludes with optional rules on
firearms for those wishing to fit fantasy robots with such devices.
The author’s choice to forego any construction mechanics may leave some
readers high and dry. This deficiency gets justified by the statement
“That knowledge requires a wizard of such great power to understand it
that nothing could be gained from including it here.” Many readers may
find this a disappointing bypass to avoid setting down rules and writing
up precise creation spells in detail. Providing game mechanics such as
spells, rituals and the usual “magic item creation” would have made
Mechanus creation more palatable and more readily usable in game
context. A less experienced DM wishing to include these robots as foes
may be baffled by the “great power” statement and might make them the
exclusive purview of liches. We can hope that this issue might get
resolved in the reworked Construct Mechanus (see note below).
However, a good DM can readily make up for this state of affairs.
All of the material in Construct Mechanus is OGL and usable both
personally and commercially, a laudable approach.
The layout might have been a little clearer with regards to the point
system used to Construct your Mechanus and the sidebar example for the
Stilt mechanus arrives a little too early. As this work proposes the
basis for a mechanus PC campaign, the previous foible can throw a wrench
in the gears (pun intended). Encounter Level adjustments are provided
relative to points spent on a Mechanus PC/NPC, but the Mystic Defender
arcane spellcaster mechanus could have used spell recovery rules (given
the absence of sleep/“downtime” for such creatures). Fortunately, the
whole does settle into comprehensibility after a complete read-through.
Christopher Shy’s artwork lends a
pleasantly dark and eerie feeling to the whole, somewhat reminescent of
Warhammer products. For the “ink cartridge conscious,” the PDF
arrives in dual versions, one for screen and the other as a
For those familiar with Planescape: Torment’s Modron Cube, a
resetting mechanical dungeon maze found in the PC game, the material
presented in this small sourcebook would go a long way in recreating the
software game’s artifact.
Bottom line, the ever important and only truly crucial question: will
this reviewer use all or part of this material in his campaign?
YES! I have every intention of using these creations as foes, perhaps
even potential PC allies in a future installment of my campaign. Would I
run a campaign based on Mechanus PCs? No, but it would make an excellent
basis for a change-of-pace, one-session “prepped” adventure. It would
also provide a basis for a dreamscape adventure, or a reasonable wake-up
for a dead party (transformed into Mechanus constructs until they can
recuperate their bodies where they lay).
Is Construct Mechanus a reasonable value? This opens the door to
the eternal and unfair comparison of print product pricing and PDF
offerings. Yes, PDFs are more expensive per page when compared to most
print products, and Construct Mechanus rates above the average
page cost. But PDF supplements provide an offering of diversity that
would otherwise soon disappear. At $4, we must already compare with
others such as Malhavoc’s publications where page count is not only
higher, word count per page also exceeds that of Construct
Mechanus (as per a cursory sampling done by this reviewer). As a
counterpoint, the art of Construct Mechanus is full color. Though
a professional quality product, not everyone will be satisfied.
Note: Philip J. Reed, the author, is working on the expanded release of
Construct Mechanus and states the prospective length at twice the
size of the current product. Owners of the present “earlier” version
will get an update. I look forward to the re-issuing of this supplement.
See details at www.philipjreed.com or RPGNow.com.