View Full Version : Modular Metal Men: Ironborn (3.5)

2009-03-23, 05:44 PM
I had a recent job working overnight security. I was supposed to guard a store while contractors came in and out...contractors who never showed. I spent fourteen hours alone and bored - but I managed to make something.

This is for my D&D group. Specifically, a new player is going to be one of these. I thought it might be wise to let you guys rip it to shreds before I finalize it, in case I did something blitheringly stupid.

Oh, and anyone who's actually in the "SQUID IN A BUCKET!" campaign - keep out. No, I didn't name it, my players did. My players are weird.

If nobody sees huge problems, I'll probably just go ahead as-is. None of my players are real powergamers and I reserve the right to put my foot down, even if it means admitting I was wrong to declare something in a previous session. Fortunately, I haven't had to yet. The worst issue is likely to be gemcasting, but, anyway, read on.

Ironborn are the descendants of the hero Daschle. They inherited their composition – and some other traits – from him, but not all of his quirks are theirs. Likewise, not everything they can do are his abilities either. Regardless, ironborn can be spotted easily: their skin and hair are obviously metal, and their eyes are lustrous gemstones.

Despite this, ironborn have a very human-like biology. They eat, sleep, and breathe. While all of their flesh is living metal, they do have blood and other bodily fluids. However, they have been known to go into hibernation when at the brink of suffocation, and have proven perfectly capable of feeding on metal or gems in addition to regular foods.

Their bodies are composed primarily of metals, though, and this has several predictable results. They are significantly heavier than normal people, but not noticeably stronger; it is theorized that they spend most of their strength lifting their own weight.

Ironborn Traits:

No attribute modifiers. Their base metal (copper or bronze) leaves them physically and mentally as adept as a human.

Medium size.

Land speed of 30 feet.

Special quality: Resistance to electricity 5.

Natural armor of 1.

+1 to strength checks and melee damage.

Special abilities: Assimilation, Gem Affinity, Gemcasting

Racial Skill Penalties: Between their great weight and lustrous appearance, ironborn have a built-in armor check penalty of -2. This penalty applies to climb, hide, jump, and tumble, but not sleight of hand or any other skill not listed here. Ironborn also suffer a -8 to swim checks, and survival checks made to track an ironborn (or a group that contains an ironborn) have a +4 bonus. These penalties can be mitigated or aggravated by adopting different body metals, in exchange for other abilities. These armor check penalties stack with normal armor check penalties from wearing extra armor.

Additionally, ironborn are so heavy that they receive an additional +1 to strength checks in trip, overrun and bull rush actions, +2 to hit when setting a weapon versus a charge, and +4 to grapple checks when their opponent is trying to move them.


Given sufficient time and resources, an ironborn can completely remake herself. By changing the metals and gems which compose her, she can alter her racial attributes and special abilities. When she wishes to change her composition, she needs an appropriate amount of ‘target’ metal or gems, and enough time to perform the ritual that effects the change. All ironborn instinctively know how. The target metal has to be in small pieces that the ironborn can freely handle; for example, a loose chain is a valid source of metal, but a chain that has the ironborn secured to a wall is not.

When the ritual is complete, the metal objects are now composed of whatever substance the ironborn was – and vice versa. If the ritual is interrupted, there is no effect on either the ironborn or the materials unless otherwise stated below.

Swapping hair requires material equal to a thousand coins of the material in question (if the material is commonly found in coins) or one suit of light armor. It takes one day, but can take up to a week to really ‘get right’.

Swapping body metal requires material equal to a hundred thousand coins of the material in question, or five suits of heavy armor. It takes one day.

Any gem of at least 500 gp value can be used as a new eye, but both eyes must be the same type of gem. The process takes ten minutes; interruption leaves the ironborn blind until the ritual can be successfully completed.

When an ironborn is slain, his corpse is mostly biological and decays normally; his skin and skeleton, however, don’t. If a dead ironborn is melted down for material, the amount retrieved is one fifth of what the ironborn consumed in adopting that body type.

Gem Affinity:

An ironborn can consume any gem of at least 25 gp value to mimic a healing spell of up to fourth level, as a potion. The gem's value determines the spell; use double the values in page 7-24 of the DMG, pages 241-243. The closest value under the gem's price is the one used; e.g. cure light wounds requires a gem of at least 50 gp value. The caster level used for the spell is the ironborn's hit dice, and must be equal to or greater than the level required to create the potion being mimicked.


An ironborn whose eyes correspond to a costly material component for a spell, who is also familiar with that spell and has appropriate hit dice and ability scores, regardless of class, can make a spellcraft check to attempt to cast the spell, using her own eyes as a component, at dc 15 + spell level. The character does not otherwise gain the spell as a known spell.

In the process, the caster's eyes suffer damage, decreasing their total worth by 25 x caster level x spell level, plus the cost of the material component (same as the cost of a scroll of that spell), split as evenly as possible. An eye reduced to zero value shatters, dealing 6d6 damage to the caster, bypassing any and all damage reduction, and leaving the caster blind in that socket, even if the gem is replaced. Appropriate magic can still restore the caster's sight. An eye reduced below 500 gp value becomes useless as an eye, but does not explode.

If both eyes are reduced to 0 value and the spell has not been paid for, the ironborn can still attempt to cast the spell by attempting a charisma check, at dc 10 + 1 per 100 gp value (round up) remaining in the spell. Success completes the spell normally, but the caster's eyes still shatter; failure fizzles the spell and requires the caster to attempt a dc 15 + spell level fortitude save for each eye. Success prevents the eye from taking damage; failure shatters the eye as described above.

On a successful casting, the caster must succeed in a save against the spell being cast (even if the spell is normally harmless) or be blinded for 2d10 minutes. Success at the save leaves the caster blinded for only one round.

For example, a level nine ironborn with diamond eyes and 15 wisdom could attempt to cast Raise Dead with a DC 20 spellcraft check. Success at the spellcraft check causes his eyes to decrease in value by (9 (caster level) x 5 (spell level) x 25 + 5000 = ) 6125. If his eyes are worth only 5,000 gold, he must then attempt a charisma check of dc 22 in order to cast the spell.


Next up: Devising effects of specific gems and metals on bodies. Effectively, ironborn characters have a couple extra body slots, but swapping those in and out give both bonuses and penalties. E.g. lead body gives a slam attack and constitution bonuses, but huge intelligence penalties. Mercury gives a flexible body structure, disguise bonuses, and bladed natural attacks. I'm open to suggestions, by the way.

What's really going to be fun is composing undead stats...metal skeletal creatures 8)

2009-03-23, 06:40 PM
Is there LA on Ironborn? I assume not, as right now they seem... mediocre.

Assimilation can be done by weight instead of "coins". Armor cost, however, is a wise decision, as it means items like Adamantine can be used. 50 coins = 1 lb, so hair is 20 lb of metal, body is 1 ton (ow). This is the big ability draw, but without info about how useful the various abilities are, it's usefulness is questionable.

Gem affinity is mediocre. It's interesting, and adds some versatility, but still costs more to use than equivalent wands, etc. I don't think this is a really important ability, but it's cool.

Gemcasting is pretty limited, so not really broken. It adds a decent reason to use an ironborn, but it's effects should be minor. There are some wording issues, but I assume you know what they mean (i.e. "appropriate hit dice", should be something relating hit dice to the minimum caster level needed to cast the spell.

Natural armor and electricity resistance are relatively minor, and aren't worth much. Really, you could drop the skill penalties, and still have a balanced race, depending on how good Assimilation is. Try to make the abilities be about on par with equivalent cost magic items. Also, why only hair or entire body?

Stability might be an option as well, given the ridiculous weight these things have. However, still depends on assimilation. Also, how much does mercury cost?

2009-03-23, 07:28 PM
I'm shooting for no LA, and I know my instincts are usually aimed at creating something overpowered rather than under - so I might've reigned myself in too much.

I had stability written down as an ability for them in my notes, but I missed it when transcribing. A slam attack might be a good thing to add to base ironborn, anyway...I'll put that up in the first post asap, along with the drowning/hibernation that I referenced.

And I thought about weight as the determining factor for assimilation, but rejected it. Mithral, for example, weighs half as much as steel; would we need two tons? What about copper versus gold? I also couldn't justify changing individual limbs; it'd bog down too much to figure out, so I limited it to hair and body.

Mercury doesn't have a cost that I've found, so it's likely going to wind up more expensive than gold (but below platinum). I need to work on that for a while before I'll be satisfied...

But here's some samples, tentative though they are. Copper, by the way, is the base body and hair material for a level one ironborn.

Brass body: Brass is a mixture of copper and zinc. It has a lower density; reduce armor check penalties for swimming by two. It's shinier; increase hide penalty by two. It is harder; natural armor increases by one. It doesn't conduct as well as copper; no electrical resistance. Cost: 500 gold.

Brass hair: Brass hair is shiny and looks neat. It provides one extra point of armor when an opponent is attempting to confirm a critical hit. Cost: 100 gold.

Lead: Lead is a pure element. It has an extreme density; the character has an armor check penalty of 6 for all actions, on top of other armors. The character has a slam attack, dealing a base of 3d6 damage. The soft metal can be deformed easily, but also resists breakage; the character has 12/- damage reduction and +4 constitution. However, lead's toxicity impairs mental functions; leaden ironborn are of animal intelligence only. Cost: 1200 gold.

Special: Leaden ironborn whose hair is not also lead may still gain experience and use class abilities if they are bonded to a silver or better ironborn of the same alignment, who is also within five miles.

I think you might be seeing a little bit of plot there. :smallbiggrin:

2009-03-24, 07:00 AM
If they are literally made of metals, Then they should be Vunerable to electricity. I think i see what you meant though, as they'd conduct it, rather than get a hole burnt out of them. So what about a Discharge of the damage. An example.. Jimmy, the Iron guy takes 20 Elec Damage. On his turn he can Release it in a 15 Ft Spread, Doing half that.