Arcane Artifice

Arcane Artifice

Arcane artefacts are a type of conditional spell, enhanced and directed via technological means rather than by a mage. They are similar to but distinct from charms and alchemical elixers. Like charms, the subject of the artefact’s effect doesn’t have to be determined when the spell is cast; rather, it affects whoever it is pointed at, whatever touches it upon activation, etc. The GM is the arbiter of what effects an artefact can achieve; they tend to revolve around external effects or interactions with machinery, but any effect that “makes sense” is allowed.

Artefacts come in multiple forms, whose traits are defined by the receptacle they are built into.

Cartridge: An artefact which is held in the hand and activated by pushing a button, possibly with a timer to delay activation. Can be thrown, and typically has an area-of-effect.
Projector: An artefact built into a ‘firearm’-style ‘wand’. Intended to project a magical effect upon whatever it is pointed at.
Rigging: An artefact built into normal equipment, typically intended to enhance that equipment. An example could be boots that enable walking on walls, or gloves that increase punching power.

Further, there are two general types of artefacts, depending upon whether the artefact is a consumable or not.

Enduring: An enduring artefact can be recharged; it does not require a new receptacle to be constructed to charge up the same ritual again. This can dramatically speed up the ‘rearming’ portion of an adventure.
Volatile: A volatile artefact cannot be recharged; once its initial charges are filled, that’s it. These are commonly used for grenade-type effects.

The Art of Artifice

Creating an Artefact
Creating an artefact requires an artificer’s toolkit (see below) and uses normal equipment modifiers for technological skills (p. B345). Thus, working in the field with nothing is -10 to all skill rolls to make an artefact, using tools intended for a different skill (either an RPM workspace kit or a toolkit intended for a high-precision craft skill such as Mechanic (Clockwork) or Jeweler) gives a -5, a normal artificer’s toolkit gives no modifier, a good-quality one gives +1, and a fine-quality one gives +2.

The actual creation requires two steps. First, the arcane receptacle (below) must be crafted; this sets a few key limits on the ritual(s) to be imprinted within the artefact. After that, the ritual must be imprinted upon the receptacle, though this need not be done immediately – some period of time may pass between receptacle creation and imprinting.

The rules for imprinting the ritual are similar to those for casting any RPM spell, but with a few key changes:

  • The spell requires an additional Lesser Transform Magic effect. This is not considered part of the spell for the purpose of Specific Definition, but it is increased normally by any Greater effects multiplier.
  • For Choose the Skill, use the better of Weird Science or the lowest Path skill involved! Your effective Weird Science skill cannot exceed 12+Magery (plus 2 if you have Gadgeteer, or plus 4 if you have Quick Gadgeteer) for this purpose. Many modifiers (e.g., for using three or more Path skills) apply normally, but most of the Non-Adepts and Magic rules do not apply! Because the subject of the casting is determined at artefact use time, the Connection penalty does not apply. Instead of a consecrated space, an artificer requires an artificer’s toolkit set up in an appropriate area – and whether it’s consecrated or not does not matter to him. An artificer may substitute Gadgeteer for the Magery requirement; if you lack both Magery and Gadgeteer, you are at -5 to all rolls. Casters cannot make use of the adept times for artifice, even if they are an adept. As such, the Ritual Adept advantage has no impact upon an artificer.
  • You cannot use Traditional Trappings to get a discount on the energy cost. Instead, all discounts come from the quality of the receptacle that you choose. Particularly skilled Artificers will hand-craft Fine or Very Fine receptacles themselves, though the less skilled (and more wealthy) artificers may hire someone else to work on that aspect and then simply prepare them appropriately.
  • Time required is 5 * Effective Energy Cost minutes in Normal Mana; 10 * Effective Energy Cost minutes in Low Mana; and 5 * Effective Energy Cost / (Place of Power Bonus + 1) minutes in High or Very High Mana. This requires constant attention from the creator; this time limit thus puts an effective limit on what can be imprinted based upon the local mana level. Imprinting is impossible in a No Mana area. Note that using energy sources other than Ambient Energy reduces the effective energy cost (and thus time spent) for this usage, but not for recharging!
  • Artificers do not get the normal Place of Power bonus to skill nor the Low Mana penalty to skill; mana level differences are taken into account in the times taken to imprint and recharge and artefact instead.
  • The skill appropriate to creating the receptacle may be rolled against in order to gain a Complementary Skill Bonus to the effective skill; +1 on a success, +2 on a critical success, -1 on a failure, and -2 on a critical failure.
  • Instead of gathering energy, roll against effective skill. On a success, you’ve created an artefact! Record your effective skill level for this artefact along with its total energy cost. It’s now available for use! On a critical success, do the same as for a success but give a bonus +2 to effective skill level. On a failure, you’ve bungled the attempt and must roll versus Hazardous Materials (Magical) or the IQ-5 default to avoid gaining Twist (on a failure of the Hazardous Materials (Magical) roll, you gain Margin of Failure points of Twist); no artefact is generated and you must go back to the start of the imprinting process. On a critical failure, you’ve bungled the attempt so badly that the receptacle is effectively destroyed and you accrue Total Energy Cost / 10 points of Twist; a Hazardous Materials (Magical) roll may reduce this Twist by its MoS (minimum 1 on a success).

A single receptacle can potentially hold multiple charges or multiple rituals if there is energy left in its energy budget (receptacle maximum energy is determined at time of receptacle creation). When putting multiple charges of the same ritual into a receptacle, just record how many charges you’ve alloted to that ritual; there is no change to the imprinting process, though after imprinting only a single charge is ready for use – all others must be recharged (see below). When imprinting multiple rituals into a single artefact, each ritual must be imprinted separately.

The maximum number of charges in any single artefact is limited to half of the creator’s Weird Science skill even if more energy is available.

Recharging an Artefact
Recharging an Artefact requires no skill – only time in an area where the artefact can absorb ambient mana.

For an artefact with multiple charges, each charge is recharged one at a time. For an artefact with multiple rituals, rituals are recharged one at a time in ascending order of energy cost; if two rituals have the same energy cost, the one that was imprinted first is recharged first.

The time required for recharging is 5 * Effective Energy Cost minutes in Normal Mana; 10 * Effective Energy Cost minutes in Low Mana; and 5 * Effective Energy Cost / (Place of Power Bonus + 1) minutes in High or Very High Mana. This requires constant attention from the creator; this time limit thus puts an effective limit on what can be imprinted based upon the local mana level. Recharging is impossible in a No Mana area.

Note that an artificer may attempt to speed up the recharging process by using other sources of energy than ambient mana, such as a personal energy reserve. This requires no skill roll and one minute per energy source, and reduces the effective energy cost of the current recharge cycle (so it will reduce the energy cost of a single charge, but not all charges in an artefact).

Equipment of Artifice

The cost and weight of an artificer’s toolkit varies depending on its quality. Any workspace kit or alchemy lab (regardless of quality) counts as improvised equipment for the purpose of making artefacts. Similarly, any artificer’s toolkit (regardless of quality) counts as improvised equipment when making charms or brewing alchemical elixers.

Artificer’s Tool Kit. A collection of precision tools, scales, gem-cutting tools, etc., small enough to fit within a backpack. Takes an hour to safely set up or pack. Costs $1,100. 10 lbs.

Artificer’s Tool Chest. Several boxes or a six-foot-high tool chest full of high-end gear. Gives +1 on all rolls to make an artefact. Takes five hours to set up or pack. Costs $5,500. 75 lbs.

Artificer’s Workshop. Enough gear to pack a huge room! Gives +2 on all rolls to make an artefact. Takes 20 hours to set up or pack. Costs $22,000. 500 lbs.

Any grimoire adds its usual bonus when making an artefact for that ritual. As well, artificers may purchase schematics for half the price of grimoires; these act like grimoires but give their bonus only when making an artefact. (If you have both, use only the highest bonus.)

Arcane Receptacles

What makes an artefact special is the mundane object that the ritual enhances or is focused by; this is the receptacle of the ritual. The better the receptacle, the better the final product, and (perhaps more importantly) the better the discount on the ritual. A receptacle may be almost any item of TL4+ gadgetry, especially clock- or steam-punk style items of inexplicable complexity, but a receptacle whose mundane purpose is highly correlated with the ritual – such as a clockwork monocle for use with a ‘detect magic’ ritual – is worth an extra -5% to -15% off of the ritual’s energy cost. This extra discount is entirely up to the GM!

Many practitioners craft their own receptacles; this costs half the listed price in materials and takes the listed time. The artificer must then roll against the lower of their Weird Science skill and the appropriate craft skill for the intended receptacle (Mechanic (Clockwork) for cartridges, Armory (Artifice) for projectors, or the skill required to create the base equipment for rigging) to construct the receptacle. If they succeed, the receptacle is constructed; if they critically succeed, the receptacle is constructed and and is treated as being one quality level higher (for something that was already Very Fine, give it an extra -5% cost reduction); if they fail, the materials are retained but they must take the listed time again prior to retrying; and if they critically fail, the materials are ruined.

Volatile receptacles take one fifth the amount of time and money to construct as enduring receptacles. All craft times assume an eight-hour work day. Note that the craft time should be modified in the same way as the cost when adding options; ie, for a Fine (+3 CF) Cartridge receptacle the price would be $200 * (1 + 3) = $800 and the craft time would be 3 * (1 + 3) = 12 days.

‘Standard’ cartridge receptacles, able to be purchased in shops and then prepared for a specific ritual, are typically small pieces of clockwork, with Ur-Ice sockets which are tapped by tiny gears when a switch or button is pushed, activating the effect. A delay may be involved between pushing the button and the effect activating, decided either at time of receptacle construction or in the field by use of a dial – if the dial is available, however, readying the cartridge takes an extra Ready maneuver (to set the desired delay); decide whether a dial is available on receptacle construction.

Rigging receptacles, intended to perform the job of a mundane object as well as an arcane receptacle, require the crafting of the mundane portion of the receptacle via a separate skill roll against the mundane skill. In that case, the final weight of the receptacle is that of the mundane object, while the final cost is the cost of the mundane object plus the given cost. A rigging receptacle must be specially crafted or modified for this purpose. Modifying a normal piece of equipment into a rigging receptacle is possible, but it takes just as much time and expense as constructing a basic rigging receptacle of that type as well as a skill roll against the relevant skill – and if that roll critically fails, the equipment to be modified may fall down on the Quality scale (so a Fine (Materials) sword might fall to Good materials, while a Good materials sword would fall down to Cheap (Materials)).

Projector receptacles are those intended to aim a magical effect. Think of them as technological-based magical wands with handgun or rifle grips, capable of benefiting from firearm sighting aids. Projectors use the skill Armory (Artifice) to construct instead of Weird Science.

Receptacle Chart
Type Acc Weight Cost Craft Time
Cartridge 0.1 lb. $200 3 days
Rigging +1 CF Base Time
Hand Projector 2 3 lbs. $300 5 days
Longarm Projector 4 8 lbs. $600 10 days

Receptacles may take the Poor, Fine, or Very Fine Quality modifiers, which can provide an energy cost reduction. The Acc Bonus only applies to Projectors. A rigging receptacle’s Rigging quality bonus is separate from other quality bonuses; a pair of boots may have Cheap (Materials), but have Very Fine (Rigging) – or vice versa.

Receptacle Quality Chart
Quality Reduction Acc Bonus CF Craft Modifier
Poor 0% -2 -0.5 +4
Basic -5% -1 +0 +2
Good -10% +0 +1 +0
Fine -15% +1 +3 -4
Very Fine -20% +2 x10 -8

A final decision when making a receptacle is ‘what can the receptacle contain?’ Many receptacles are purpose-built for a single ritual, while others are built with flexibility in mind – this choice is the receptacle’s ‘Scope’.

  • Single Ritual: The receptacle can only be used for a single specific ritual. -0.5 CF.
  • Narrow: The receptacle is focused around an extremely small niche. Alternatively, it may have a broader purciew, but its nature is such that all rituals will come from a few effects of a single Path or a single effect among a few Paths. Example: Divination or Warding. -0.2 CF.
  • Standard: The receptacle is able to focus ritual effects with roughly a third or half the versatility of a single Path. Example: Pyromancy or Gravity Alteration. +0 CF.
  • Broad: The receptacle has an unsually wide-reaching scope. This typically means that it targets a broad range of subjects – but it also applies if it focuses on a narrow concept that reaches across the majority of the Paths and effects. Example: Elementalism or Self-Defense. +3 CF.
  • All Rituals: The receptacle is completely generic and can be imprinted with any ritual the user desires. +9 CF.

The definitions of ‘Narrow’, ‘Standard’, and ‘Broad’ are identical to those for Traditions in the Ritual Path Specialists article of Pyramid 3/66.


All receptacles must have a portion of Ur-Ice built into them. An enduring artefact must be built with cut Ur-Ice, at $5 worth per point of energy that the artefact can hold (sub-carat Ur-Ice is common for this purpose). A volatile artefact may get by with uncut or even ground-up Ur-Ice dust, reducing the cost to $1 per point of energy – but remember that volatile artefacts cannot be recharged!

Using Inventions of Artifice

Before using an artefact, you must have it ready. After it’s ready, it must be used. How these work depend upon the artefact’s form:

Cartridge: If you have it exposed (e.g., in a bandoleer), this takes only one Ready maneuver (to draw it). However, it can be targeted in combat – or grabbed, by winning a Quick Contest of DX with you! To prevent this, you may store it in a pocket or backpack, but this increases the time needed to acquire it – see p. B383, and add another Ready maneuver to ready it! Fast-Draw (Cartridge) may remove a flat one second from the above times. Using a Cartridge requires a Ready maneuver to set the delay (if a dial is present) and either a second Ready maneuver (to activate it) or an Attack maneuver to throw it like a grenade using Throwing skill, activating it during the throw. If the target parries or blocks, his weapon or shield is affected (if applicable). If he dodges or you miss, use Scatter (p. B414).
Rigging: This is considered to be ‘ready’ if the equipment is being worn. Activating Rigging requires one Ready maneuver, but beware that Rigging may be targeted in combat.
Projector: This is ‘ready’ if the weapon is drawn. Firing a projector is an Attack maneuver and uses the Beam Weapons skill – Beam Weapons (Projector) for any area-of-effect artefact, and Beam Weapons (Pistol) for a Hand Projector or Beam Weapons (Rifle) for a Longarm Projector. Projectors can benefit from Acc and from firearm sighting aids, such as telescopic scopes. Range penalties apply to this attack roll, while the energy put into range for the ritual sets the projector’s maximum range.

Note that in all cases using an artefact is completely independent of the local mana level – artefacts carry their Ur-Ice power within them, and do not depend upon the local environment for support.

The Gizmo advantage may be used to pull out a poor-quality volatile artefact in the middle of an adventure, but not an enduring artefact. When pulling out the artefact, roll the appropriate skill rolls as if you’re creating it in your workshop; this represents ‘I had this all along’ more than ‘I made this right here right now’.

Upon activating an artefact, the user must roll to see whether the artefact botches or quirks. This uses the Quick-and-Dirty Rituals and Charms rules, but takes no time and uses the artefact’s effective skill with that ritual. The safe threshold table is reproduced here for ease of use. Any botches or quirks from lack of maintenance are in addition to those produced by normal use!

Safe Threshold Table
Effective Skill Safe Threshold Effective Skill Safe Threshold
7 1 15 11
8 2 16 15
9 3 17 29
10 4 18 42
11 5 19 55
12 6 20 65
13 7 21 75
14 9 +1 +10


Artefacts require constant maintenance or else the ritual cast upon them will spoil. An artificer may support up to their Weird Science skill plus their Magery (plus 2 if they have Gadgeteer, or plus 4 if they have Quick Gadgeteer) in artefacts at a time; this requires one hour of work per day. If they go over this limit at any time, then their attention will be too divided and a random artefact in his care for every artefact over his limit will gain a new quirk. For every day that this persists, a new quirk is added to a random artefact per artefact over his limit. If at any time an artefact gets more than three quirks in this way, the next use of that artefact will be a botch. If an artificer does not perform their maintenance for the day, then all of their artefacts will gain an extra quirk. All charges in a single artefact gain quirks or botches at the same time!

Artefacts may be stored in a Very High Mana area, such as within a cabinet attached to a Franklin Engine, nearly indefinitely. For every +1 Place of Power modifier, double the maintenance interval – so in a +5 Place of Power, artefacts only need maintenance once per month!

A Weird Science roll and ten minutes of examination will allow an artificer to determine whether any quirks or botches are present within an artefact. The GM should roll this in secret; on a critical failure, he lies. On a failure, the artificer is unsure. On a success, he is informed of any quirks or botches present.

Artefacts may be cleansed of any quirks or botches; this takes one hour and a Weird Science roll. If successful, any quirks or botches are removed from the artefact – but the artefact is reduced to an unimprinted receptacle. On a critical success, the artefact is cleansed but the imprint is retained – it may be used immediately. On a failure, the artefact is unchanged. On a critical failure, the artefact is broken and will need to be replaced from square one.

Arcane Artifice

Arcanum 1780: A New World Langy