The technologist feat converted to 5e and my specific campaign needs. The idea of Cyphers I “stole” from Numenera
You have a knack with machines and gain the following benefits:
- You gain Intelligence (Arcana) as a class skill. If you already have this skill from another source you gain specialisation and can add double your proficiency bonus.
- You automatically identify non-legendary technological items (DM’s discretion).
- The feat also allows you to scavenge working bits and pieces from destroyed, damaged or malfunctioning technological devices. These items are called cyphers and are one shot technological items. Make a single DC 20 Cybertheurgy check. Success means you managed to recover at least 1 cypher. If you roll a critical success you gain a trophy weapons instead. This is a much more powerful but short-lived technological artefact.
Cyphers, or relics to the common folk, are one-use, cobbled together bits of technology that characters frequently discover and use. When the PCs come upon an old device, defeat some artificially enhanced or designed creature, or simply sift through the ruins of the past, they can scavenge a handful of new cyphers.
Because the technology of the past is unknowable, cyphers are often determined randomly. A DM, however, can place them intentionally as well. They’re one-use cool powers that can heal, make attacks, or produce effects like nullify gravity or make something invisible. The sky’s the limit. But they’re always consumed when used. And they cannot be hoarded. Collecting cyphers together in one place, or carrying many on your person can potentially have a detrimental effect–from the long term (illness) to the short (explosion!). So essentially, characters only carry a few at a time. However, they are found with such regularity that players can be pretty free with their use. There will always be more. And they’ll have different benefits.
This means that in gameplay, they’re less like magic items and more like character abilities that the players don’t choose. Which leads to really fun game situations where a player gets to say, “well, I’ve got an X that might help in this situation,” and X is always different. X might be a bomb, a short range teleporter, or a force field. It might be a powerful magnet or an injection that will cure disease. It could be anything. Cyphers keep the game fresh and interesting. Over time, characters can develop the know-how to be able to safely carry more and more of these, so they really do end up seeming more like character abilities and less like gear.
A character may only carry two cyphers at a time.
Trophy weapons are powerful artefacts directly taken from a machine enemy. For example a myrmidon’s laser whip. You may use this item as normal per the creatures statblock but it depletes on 1 or 2 and each time you use it this number increases by 1 until it still working entirely.
Artefacts are the tech devices that you probably expect in the game. These are devices of a more permanent nature (unless they run out of power) with more straightforward applications. Weapons, armour, utility items, and so on. Still, rarely are they straightforward. It’s far less likely to find a “gun” than it might be to find some item that can be used effectively as a ranged weapon but might have originally been some kind of power conduit that has been modified and adapted as best as Ninth World understanding could manage. Some characters, given the right tools and parts, will be able to construct these on their own. Any permanent magic item from the DMG is an artefact though the common folk still call them magic items.