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Domo Arigato Little Roboto
The Travelers of the Multiverse unearthed arcana seems to have finally confirmed that a 5e Spelljammer book is on the way, and we’ve got a bunch of new interplanar races to play with. The autognomes are literally robotic gnomes and the pun is definitely intended. These tiny robots have left their creators behind and are clanking their way to your game tables as the first true playable construct race (more on that and warforged in just a bit). What makes these tinker toys tick? Grab a wrench and an oilcan as we go through everything you need to know.
Autognomes are built by gnome artificers in their image, which means each autognome is essentially a robotic version of a specific gnome. The specific technology and magic used to create them is vague and varied, so you’re free to go with whatever tech style suits you. Your autognome could be all brass and clockwork, steampunk, dieselpunk, cyberpunk, or any other type of punk you’d like. They’re also varied in purpose, some were made to be their creator’s friends, while some were made to be their assistants or even just as servants for specific tasks. They’re not really designed to be independent though, and each autognome has their own story on how they came to be a free-thinking gizmo. This means from a creative standpoint you’ve got a bunch of room to play with. What was their designer like and how do their features show up in their design? What technology fuels them and what do they look like? What were they originally designed to do and what made them “come alive”?
Autognomes are using the new “lineage” format, so you’re free to pick your own ability scores and a few other things like weights and heights. There’s still a list of unique features for them though, and just like their very concept they’ve got some weird ones. Let’s go through each of the autognome’s features and what they’ll mean for your new little robot character:
Creature Type: You are a Construct.
Size: You are small.
Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Armored Casing: You are encased in thin metal or some other durable material. While you aren’t wearing armor, your base Armor Class is 13 + your Dexterity modifier.
Built for Success: You can add a d4 to one attack roll, ability check, or saving throw you make, and you can do so after seeing the d20 but before the effects of the roll are resolved. You can use this trait a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Mechanical Nature: You have resistance to poison damage and immunity to disease, and you have advantage on saving throws against being paralyzed or poisoned. You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe.
Sentry’s Rest: When you take a long rest, you spend at least 6 hours in an inactive, motionless state, instead of sleeping. In this state, you appear inert, but you aren’t unconscious.
Radiant Soul: When you succeed on a death save, you can regain a number of hit points equal to your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (choose when you select this race). You can’t use this trait again until you finish a long rest.
Specialized Design: You gain two tool proficiencies of your choice.
True Life: If the mending spell is cast on you, you can expend a Hit Die, roll it, and regain a number of hit points equal to the roll plus your Constitution modifier (minimum of 1 hit point).
In addition, your creator designed you to benefit from common spells that preserve life but that normally don’t affect Constructs: cure wounds, healing word, and spare the dying.
This is a genuinely very interesting take on making a construct race which has a lot more nuance than you might expect. Let’s go over each of these features and really analyze what’s going on and what they’ll mean for your new autognome character:
Creature Type: You’re a construct, a proper no holds barred construct. Not even warforged are actually “constructs” and that’s because it has a TON of weird rules effects. See, the issue is that a lot of spells and abilities specifically target “humanoids”, and there’s even more spells and abilities that specifically exclude “constructs” because they’re not, technically speaking... Alive. Or at the very least not meat-based life. There are several very important patch rules tucked into the autognome’s other features, but we’ll get to those in a second.
Size: You are a small robot, and since this is a lineage and not a race we don’t get “measurements” exactly besides the size categories. However, since they’re modeled after gnomes, it’s safe to assume they generally share gnome measurements and should be around 3 feet tall. Gnomes weigh around 40-45 pounds, but since these guys are typically made of metal or “star-stuff” your guess is as good as mine when it comes to weighing them.
Speed: 30-foot walking speed is actually quite generous, and a lot of small races have to put up with 25. Take it as a blessing and speed past your slower fellow smalls.
Armored Casing: You get roughly the same “natural armor” feature as some other races at 13 + Dex mod which in most cases should be a decent AC. Not amazing, but a little better than light armor builds with full Dex and a little worse than medium armor builds with +2 Dex. If you’re not using Dexterity at all with your build this feature gets significantly worse and you may end up ignoring it altogether. The feature also strangely omits the typical “you can use a shield still” rider that most other natural armor features have, so I believe as written an autognome couldn’t use this AC with a shield? I suspect this is just an error of omission that will be fixed in the final version but keep your eye on it.
Built for Success: This feature is incredibly useful since you can see the roll before throwing in this additional d4. You basically have a number of low-tier bardic inspirations every day equal to your proficiency modifier, and whenever you think you miss an important roll by a small margin you can potentially turn it into a success. I worry this is a bit too good and will get nerfed somehow but we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it stays intact because it’s glorious.
Mechanical Nature: This is the “you are a robot” feature that frees you from the pitiful concerns of meat creatures. It’s interesting you only get resistance to poison though, do autognomes get sick? Do they hack up loose gears? Besides that curiosity, it’s a powerful defensive feature that I expect will be relevant in a lot of situations. Also don’t ignore the “no breathing” bit, this means you can survive underwater or even in a vacuum. There are some very sneaky shenanigans available to a creature that can survive in a pocket dimension...
Sentry’s Rest: Similarly, to the elf’s “trance” feature this brings up a lot of questions about what “alert” vs “conscious” means, but it seems to work the same way but you only shave 2 hours off a long rest instead of the elf’s 4. Useful for shaving off watches during a long rest or freaking somebody out who thought you were a lifeless animatronic.
Specialized Design: Tool kits are woefully underutilized and getting any 2 free tool proficiencies here has a lot of potential. Thieves’ tools and herbalism kits are probably the most immediately useful options but keep tinker’s tools in mind if you’re in a setting where repairing the spaceship might be an issue.
True Life: This feature is basically a giant “patch rule” that either fixes or at least answers the really big problems with being a construct race. The spell mending is a cantrip that can repair objects, and one of the first questions asked when construct races come up. See, healing on a cantrip is a big problem from a game design standpoint because it makes all healing essentially “free” between combats. A player can cast mending infinitely so why don’t they just take a few minutes and heal themselves to full whenever they get hurt? This feature solves that by saying, “yes you can heal with mending, just not infinitely”. Autognomes do get to heal with a cantrip, but only so many times as they have hit dice, another criminally underused mechanic in 5e.
The second half of this patch rule concerns all (or at least the most important) healing spells that don’t normally work on constructs. Their solution here was simply to patch in that the spells cure wounds, healing word, and spare the dying specifically work on autognomes, which means the healer in the group isn’t just out of luck when you’re dying leaking out oil on the floor. I’m not a big fan of patch rules in general, but I’m happy they addressed the issue here and just made it work. We’ll see if they come up with something more intuitive with the rules for the final version, or if this patch makes it into the book.
Building an Autognome CharacterLineages let you pick your own ability scores so there aren’t any “optimal” classes anymore at least by pure stats. Your autognome could just as easily be a barbarian or an artificer. However, the fact that the cantrip mending heals you equal to a hit die roll plus your Constitution modifier should highly incentivize you to take a class capable of casting the spell. Artificers, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards are all capable of casting mending and I highly recommend any of them for an autognome character. They’re also classes that are typically lightly armored, and with the autognome’s innate AC from their armored casing feature it’s a match made in artificial heaven.
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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