Sheen

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Sheens are a "race" of invasive robots invented in the pages of Dragon Magazine #258 and #270 to add a Science Fantasy element to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition. Very little is actually kn own about their origins, but they are believed to hail from pockets of the Prime Material where technology has advanced enough to develop advanced robotics, and subsequently sent out on exploratory vessels that stumbled into other regions of the Prime where magic dominates instead of science, usually with catastrophic results for the crew. Others believe they may serve a mysterious race of "sheenmasters", who reputedly are powerful cyborg wizards.

Whatever the case, sheens are essentially a mechanical plague on the worlds of D&D. Descending from the stars, these self-replicating robots form dungeon-like factory-complexes known as "machine cysts"; these are the nodes from which the infection spreads forth, constantly churning out new sheen troops to scour their surroundings in a search for more raw materials to expand the cyst and create even more new sheen. If left unchecked, the cyst expands exponentially, growing until it has consumed all available resources. Their secondary goal is the annihilation of all organic life, as sheens view organics as competitors threatening their own survival and reproduction.

One thing that gives the denizens of the fantasy worlds plagued by sheens hope is that, as mechanical lifeforms originating from purely technological pockets of reality, sheens have no real concept of magic and no inherent resistance to it. In fact, magic is a powerful weapon against sheens. Ordinarily innocuous spells like Hold Portal, Bind, Shatter and Wizard Lock can paralyze and/or damage sheens. Lightning spells are vastly more deadly to these metal monsters, and the humble Heat Metal spell can literally cause a monstrous sheen warrior to melt into a puddle of harmless goo in 1d4 rounds. Of course, spells completely focused on affecting biological life such as most Enchanter spells are useless on sheens, but what would you expect?

In their introductory article, it's noted that known machine cysts include "the Barrier Peaks" and "the Rael cysts". Whilst the former is clearly a reference to the module S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, it's unclear if the latter is referring to the Rael race, from Tale of the Comet, or to an obscure region in Greyhawk.

Types of Sheen[edit]

Sheens come in countless varieties; the Vital League's Apparatiary, a bestiary of sheen variants, contains over a hundred different entries, with many of those being "subspecies" of existing models that were specifically modified to better handle specific environments or suit specific tasks. So far, these are the most well-known sheen models.

Walkers: The simplest and most commonly seen model, a bipedal scout and resource gathering drone armed with a single sampler arm. Whilst normally used as expendable drones, it's not unheard of to find reinforced, more combat-capable models in areas where the cyst knows its units will all face regular threats. This is also an example of a known subspecies; the Miner, which is a walker outfitted with the ability to project bursts of focuses plasma from its arm to melt through stone and soil. This model is specialized to locate and harvest ore.

Drifters: Levitating scout units resembling lumpy metal balloons outfitted with three dangling insectile legs. These bladed sampler limbs can be used to slash at enemy creatures. Drifters serve as scouts and observation units, forming the first line of defense against potential invasion of the cyst. Flitters are smaller, quicker drifters with only a single arm, but outfitted with the ability to launch bolts of electrical energy at their victims.

Dashers: Described as resembling a "nightmarishly elongated iron mantis", the dasher is a rapid-assault unit that literally can't stop running, or it dies; the hypercharged engine that powers its incredible speed is barely contained by its own cooling system, so if the dasher can be immobilized for 3 rounds, it literally melts down due to overheating. It also absolutely sucks at making turns because it goes that fast. On the other hand, give it a straight line and it can mow you down with high speed slashes and sonic booms.

Renders: These hulking vaguely beetle-like creatures are the most powerful combat-focused sheen models currently known to exist; eight-legged blade-strewn behemoths that can fry foes with plasma bursts as well as simply chopping them up with bladed arms and buzzsaw mandibles. They are the defenders of the machine cysts, and exist to annihilate anything that threatens the cyst as a whole.

Rollers: Consisting of a squat torso with two massive metallic arms ending in bladed shovel-like hands mounted to a six-wheeled roller chassis, the rollers are heavy diggers and construction workers, although they can also double as powerful defenders or elite strike force units.

Burrowers: A sheen resembling a mechanical squid that is used to prospect for minerals, mine, and faciliate underground construction.

Phasers: A jellyfish or octopus-like levitating sheen that can partially phase in and out of reality, used as a spy and assassin.

Propagators: Nanite swarms that infect organic creatures and then consume them from the inside out, converting them into cyborg zombies that serve the machine cyst that created them.

Arcanosheens: The rarest and most dreaded sheen variety seen so far, the arcanosheen is a repurposed render outfitted with an underbelly pod filled with liquified wizard brains, imbuing it with the ability to cast spells in its own right. The one downside is that this makes them vulnerable to mind-affection magic and psionics; the arcanosheen will eventually regain control and jettison its bellypod to free itself of this weakness, but doing so will also remove its spellcasting abilities.

The Vital League[edit]

The Vital League is a coalition of wizards dedicated to hunting down sheens and destroying them, with the ultimate goal of annihilating all machine cysts. Its arcane battlers are known as Sheenchasers, and its symbol is an open human hand. Their most iconic feature is their use of Circuit Tattoos, special glyphs emblazoned on their skin that can permanently store the specialized anti-sheen spells invented by the League, so they can't be stripped of them if they lose their spellbooks.

Since this is AD&D, sheenchasers are handled as a Wizard kit. Sheenchasers are required to devote themselves to hunting down and destroying sheens, wherever they surface, and face roleplaying penalties if they earn a reputation as a slacker or an incompetent.

Prerequisite: Wizard class, Wisdom 13, Skill Proficiency: Hunter
Specialist Wizards who do not practice the Barred Schools can take this kit.
Barred Schools: Necromancy, Enchantment, Illusion
Weapon Proficiencies: As Wizard
Nonweapon Proficiencies:
Bonus: Detect Fumes, Delude Sensors
Recommended: Navigation, Tracking, Circuit Tattoo
Special Benefits: 1 free rank in Circuit Tattoo. At the DM's discretion, a Sheenchaser may start with a single piece of mecharcana and/or 1d4+1 Machine Spells.
Special Hindrances: -1 Nonweapon Proficiency Slot

The Machine Coalition[edit]

The Machine Coalition splintered off from the Vital League due to arguing that sheen technology and even sheens themselves were not inherently evil, but could be magically controlled, dominated and exploited - at the very least as weaponry against their uncontrolled cousins. As the Vital League declared that any deviation from the "destroy all sheens and sheen-tech on sight" mentality was heresy, the Machine Coalition broke off from them to go their own way. The two factions absolutely loathe each other, and violence is clearly imminent.

Followers of the Coalition's philosophy, who signal their allegiance with a symbol of a hand-shape made up of machinery, are known as Machine Mages. They still hunt down machine cysts and battle sheens, but their goals are to basically beat the sheens into submission and then take over them with a combination of magic and physical reprogramming, or at the very least smash them into pieces and salvage the useful junk to make mecharcana from the ruins.

Prerequisite: Wizard class, Wisdom 13, Skill Proficiency: Smith
Specialist Wizards who do not practice the Barred Schools can take this kit.
Barred Schools: Necromancy, Enchantment, Illusion
Weapon Proficiencies: As Wizard
Nonweapon Proficiencies:
Bonus: Salvage, Artifice
Recommended: Blacksmithing, Machine Language, Digital Persuasion
Special Benefits: A Machine Mage starts play with a Tiny Hands Kit (+1 to Digital Persuasion and Salvage checks) and either a Capacitor Staff (quarterstaff that can deal +2d4 Electric damage on a strike 3/day, depleting a charge from its store of 1d20+20 charges each time this trait is used) or a Sensor Belt (doubles the range of Detect Fumes checks), as well as starting play with a Sheen familiar (Walker or Flitter). At the DM's discretion, a Machine Mage may start with 1d4+1 Machine Spells.
Special Hindrances: Machine Mages cannot have normal familiars; if a wizard takes up this kit after already having a chosen a normal familiar, the original familiar will leave, causing the standard penalties.

Manikins[edit]

A horrific spin-off to the propagator project, manikins are humanoids who have been captured by the sheens and rebuilt into specialized cyborgs, mounting their original upper torso on a sheen's lower body before releasing them back into the world, with a rooted subconscious compulsion to eventually return to their masters and have their memories downloaded.

Being a manikin is a "race" that is handled using the kits system.

Prerequisite: Nothing, apart from being captured by a sheen, selected for conversion, and surviving the conversion.
Special Benefits:
Optional Modified Mobility: A manikin might have either roller chassis (MV 9, 24 on smooth surfaces) or hover units (MV 12, constantly levitates off the ground at a height of 1-10 feet) instead of the normal mechanical legs.
Twin-Body HP Tracks: A manikin's HP total is divided by two, rounding up, and the separate values assigned to either their organic or mechanical body. All damage is divided by two and then deducted from both tracks simultaneously. The biological half heals normally, but the sheen half can only be repaired by its self-repair systems (1d4 HP per turn, so long as HP is higher than -10). When one track reaches 0 before the other, the manikin remains conscious as long as the other track has positive hit points. However, additional damage is subtracted from the non-0 track on a 2-for-1 basis. When both tracks reach 0, additional damage is applied equally to both tracks, and the manikin loses consciousness. When either track reaches -10, the manikin dies.
Grade 1 Defensive Feel: The manikin can erect a forcefield that nullifies 1 point of damage from each attack directed against the manikin. The forcefield can absorb up to 16 damage per day before it shuts down to recharge.
Countermand Capabilities: When the manikin encounters sheens, the manikin can attempt to countermand one sheen per round by rolling a d20, adding a +1 bonus to the roll for every 4 Intelligence points. The result of the roll is then checked off against a table that determines the most powerful (determined by HD) sheen the manikin can countermand, and how many sheen are countermanded. For using this ability, "manikin level" is equal to the highest PC class; multiclassing manikins do get a +1 bonus per additional class. Countermanded sheens are stunned for 10 rounds or until attacked.
Special Hindrances: Manikins suffer the same vulnerability to magic as true sheens (-3 to saves, +1 damage per die). Additionally, a manikin needs to recharge its cybernetic components once per month by either carefully applying a shocking grasp or lightning bolt spell on their body, or by spending 4 days out of 28 idle to soak up ambient sunlight.