Modrons: Cosmic Clockwork Constructs

Every 289 years, the entire multiverse goes mad. Like clockwork.

Kwint Stormbellow, rock gnome adventurer

Time to talk about a weird one. And by one, I mean five, because of course there are five of them.

Lore: Machines of Law

Inhabitants of the Mechanus plane, modrons are creatures of absolute law, their existences routine down to the smallest detail. Their laws, set out by their leader, Primus, are beyond mortal comprehension. Modrons will carry out orders given to them along their strict hierarchy with absolute efficiency and obedience, completely devoid of their own ego or morality. They have no sense of self, referring to themselves as ‘we’ instead of ‘I’.

Communication among modrons are limited by the ranks; they can only speak to those on their rank, or the rank immediately above or below them. Any gap wider than that would make conversation rather stilted, as one participant will either be too advanced or too stupid for the other to understand. If a modron near the top of the hierarchy has orders for the low-ranks, it must descend through the ranks to reach them like an odd, hyper-specific bureaucracy.

When destroyed, a modron’s body completely disintegrates. A member of the lower rank then transforms, changing its form to replace the recently deceased modron. The promoted modron is replaced in a similar manner, all the way down until they reach the bottom of the rankings. There, Primus will build a new modron from within the Great Modron Cathedral.

Every 289 years, Primus sends an army of modrons across the Outer Planes. He claims it is for reconnaissance, but who can guess the real reason. Whatever the case, the march is long and deadly. Of all those sent, few modrons ever return to Mechanus.

Monodrones are the lowest ranking, capable of limited speech and only performing one task at a time. Duodrones are in charge of them and can tackle two tasks at once. Tridrones lead their lessers into battle. Quadrones serve either as artillery or field officers in the armies. Pentadrones oversee the workers and can improvise whenever necessary.

This is some surprisingly deep lore! You can craft all kinds of stories and encounters out of it! Perhaps the players end up on Mechanus and throw a modron civilization into chaos. Or maybe they come across them while the modrons are out on the 289-year exodus. You could set up Primus as the main antagonist and have them reappear often as recurring enemies. If you want a more cosmic-themed slice for your campaign, these guys are an excellent pick.

Design: You Like Geometry?

You know those nightmare images of biblically accurate angels? These guys are like if those had sex with steam-punk themed geometry. And the result? The weirdest, goofiest, most interesting looking dudes in all of Dungeons and Dragons!

From right to left: monodrone, duodrone, tridrone, quadrone, and pentadrone. In case it wasn’t obvious enough already.

I love how weird these guys look! They’re kinda rustic and charming but also creepy and unsettling. They feel truly alien in a way that few other monsters in the Monster Manual can manage.

And its a small, obvious detail, but I love how easy they are to tell apart simply by their shapes. It is literally impossible to confuse a monodrone for a pentadrone. Line them all up side by side in silhouette and you’d still be able to distinguish them. It’s a basic test, but one that many other five-in-one monsters have failed up to this point.

Cough cough mephits.

Overall, I think these are really strong designs. They’re unique, they’re goofy, and they’re just a bit creepy. A nice, strong balance.

Stats: Five Monsters, Five Disappointments

Alright. Five dudes. Luckily, they’re all pretty simple. Nice for me having to write this article. Not so much for an aspiring dungeon master who has to make a compelling encounter with these things.

Let’s start with the Monodrone. While it has a decent AC, its HP is in the single-digits, making it incredibly easy to kill. Neither its dagger nor its javelin do all that much damage, so it isn’t especially dangerous. A perfectly straight-forward enemy for level one parties.

The Duodrone is basically the same thing. It does have a bit more HP, but not much. And as weak as its fist and javelin are, it does have Multiattack, so it isn’t as pathetic as its subordinate rank. Still, not even a level one party would have a hard time with it.

Tridrones are exactly the same as the Duodrone, only they have slightly higher HP and can attack three times instead of twice. Like, that’s it. Those are literally the only differences.

Quadrones are more of the same. Only this time, they’ve replaced the javelin with a shortbow, which they can fire four times. A dangerous ranged opponent, but pitiful up close. This one is dangerous enough to scare parties higher than level one.

Finally, the Pentadrone. It only has one melee strike, which it can use five times per turn. But it more than makes up for it with its ability: Paralysis Gas. Take a guess what that does. Aside from that one ability, however, it is as straight-forward as all the others.

Two unique attributes are shared by all five of these creatures. The first is Axiomatic Mind, an ability which makes them all immune to being compelled to do anything outside of its nature. Then there’s Disintegration, which just means that their bodies turn to dust when they die. The former does add some complexity to the fight, removing basically all charm spells from play, but the ladder doesn’t do much but add a bit of flavor to their deaths. Boring.

As a whole, these guys don’t make for much of an interesting fight. The only real chance you have of making something even somewhat memorable is simply throwing all five flavors at your party at the same time. Even then, this fight will be just another boring slugfest where all the players have to do is hit the enemies until they die. Yawn.

Placement

This was an interesting entry. The lore is great and the designs are fantastic. Unfortunately, the stats are just so boring that you can’t really get much out of them. It started so strong, then fell off so quickly.

With all that in mind, let’s put the Modrons on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Mind Flayer
  4. Dragon Turtle
  5. Green Dragons
  6. Red Dragons
  7. Blue Dragons
  8. Black Dragons
  9. White Dragons
  10. Silver Dragons
  11. Couatl
  12. Behir
  13. Aboleth
  14. Sea Hag
  15. Lamia
  16. Bronze Dragons
  17. Brass Dragons
  18. Copper Dragons
  19. Gold Dragons
  20. Chuul
  21. Kuo-Toa
  22. Gibbering Mouther
  23. Kraken
  24. Intellect Devourer
  25. Chimera
  26. Death Knight
  27. Fomorian
  28. Bone Devil
  29. Dracolich
  30. Faerie Dragon
  31. Lich
  32. Magmin
  33. Kobold
  34. Kenku
  35. Hobgoblins
  36. Night Hag
  37. Green Hag
  38. Ankheg
  39. Hook Horror
  40. Storm Giant
  41. Hill Giant
  42. Empyrean
  43. Efreeti
  44. Grimlock
  45. Minotaur
  46. Dao
  47. Cloud Giant
  48. Manticore
  49. Drow (all four of ’em)
  50. Shadow Demon
  51. Modrons (all five of ’em) <———————
  52. Marilith
  53. Drider
  54. Aarackockra
  55. Azer
  56. Demilich
  57. Spectator
  58. Hydra
  59. Marid
  60. Harpy
  61. Werejackal
  62. Half-Dragon
  63. Cambion
  64. Fire Giant
  65. Animated Armor
  66. Banshee
  67. Basilisk
  68. Yochlol
  69. Bulette
  70. Cloaker
  71. Darkmantle
  72. Doppelganger
  73. Ghoul and Ghast
  74. Ettin
  75. Medusa
  76. Pit Fiend
  77. Erinyes
  78. Chain Devil
  79. Bearded Devil
  80. Barbed Devil
  81. Spined Devil
  82. Ice Devil
  83. Mimic
  84. Djinni
  85. Merrow
  86. Nalfeshnee
  87. Glabrezu
  88. Chasme
  89. Grell
  90. Barlgura
  91. Horned Devil
  92. Balor
  93. Shadow Dragon
  94. Werebear
  95. Lizardfolk
  96. Vrock
  97. Dretch
  98. Gnolls (all three)
  99. Goristro
  100. Hezrou
  101. Manes
  102. Frost Giant
  103. Weretiger
  104. Werewolf
  105. Duergar
  106. Quasit
  107. Dryad
  108. Flumph
  109. Goblin
  110. Wereboar
  111. Wererat
  112. Githyanki
  113. Planetar
  114. Imp
  115. Clay Golem
  116. Flameskull
  117. Displacer Beast
  118. Carrion Crawler
  119. Githzerai
  120. Grick
  121. Invisible Stalker
  122. Rug of Smothering
  123. Bugbear Chief
  124. Bugbear
  125. Flesh Golem
  126. Vine Blight
  127. Twig Blight
  128. Needle Blight
  129. Mephits (all six of ’em)
  130. Bullywug
  131. Hellhound
  132. Ettercap
  133. Gas Spore
  134. Cockatrice
  135. Lemure
  136. Homonculus
  137. Merfolk
  138. Solar
  139. Deva
  140. Gorgon
  141. Hippogriff
  142. Griffon
  143. Cyclops
  144. Centaur
  145. Ghost
  146. Fire Elemental
  147. Water Elemental
  148. Air Elemental
  149. Stone Giant
  150. Deep Gnome
  151. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  152. Iron Golem
  153. Stone Golem
  154. Earth Elemental
  155. Galeb Duhr
  156. Helmed Horror
  157. Flying Sword
  158. Crawling Claw
  159. Violet Fungus
  160. Shrieker
  161. Gargoyle
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