What’s a mortal to make of the modrons, those strange creatures of absolute order who whir and click on the plane of Mechanus? Theirs are not like other lives – even the infinitely subtle baatezu are more comprehensible than these thronging drones. To an outsider it appears the modrons have no existence other than as a whole. Indeed, there is a saying: “To look at one modron is to look at all of them.”
It is only logical, as it is with all things modron, that they are native to the orderly plane of Mechanus. The two, plane and modrons, probably would not exist without each other – modron society defines the plane, just as the plane shapes them. To understand the modrons, a being must stop thinking like a person, like an individual. Only then can anyone hope to comprehend the patterns of modron life. Modrons are strictly divided into fourteen castes. Castes are hardly unique, but the modron approach to them is. Not only does each rank have its own functions, but each also has its own body shape, so the rank of any modron can be readily identified by the creature’s appearance.
Ruling over the castes is Primus, the One and the Prime. It and the plane are one in thought and deed; as Primus turns, so do the wheels of Mechanus.
COMBAT GENERAL: regardless of rank, all modrons possess certain abilities and immunities, but because of rank, certain modrons – the hierarchs – possess additional abilities. Whether any of these immunities and powers exist as properties of their race or from association with the plane of Mechanus, no one knows. Most scholars think these powers are natural to the race, as none are lost by modrons operating off the plane of Mechanus.
All modrons are unaffected by any illusions or magic that affects the mind, such as beguilement, charm, domination, hold, hypnosis, and sleep. Fear and other emotion spells are similarly ineffective against a modron, as are attacks drawing upon the Positive and Negative Energy Planes (including life-draining powers). Modron hierarchs are never surprised, and their precision of order always allows them to determine their specific place in the initiative sequence of all attack rounds. Thus, they never roll for initiative, and the DM chooses when they will act. Typically, this comes at the most effective moment, just before the swordsman’s blade arcs through the air or the wizard utters the final word of a spell, and so on. The elite modrons also can perform the following spell-like abilities, once per round, at will: clairaudience, clairvoyance, command, dimension door, teleport without error, and wall of force. They also are capable of traveling on the Astral and Ethereal Planes, but will never do so unless ordered by Primus.
All hierarchs can communicate telepathically, and the range of this power is as follows:
RANK MILES Decaton 44 Nonaton 63 Octon 80 Septon 190 Hexton 216 Quinton 238 Quarton 384 Tertian 405 Secundi 420 Primus All Mechanus
HABITAT SOCIETY: To understand modron society, one must abandon all understanding of the self. In such forgetting comes knowledge, so with the surrender victory is gained. Should the scholar retain the slightest glimmer of who he is, his words are tainted and his observations lies. It is said that those able to strip their souls so bare become modrons, themselves, and their spirits become different from their shells. It is a fundamental property of the modrons that each rank can only comprehend the existence of the rank directly above and below it. For example, the monodrones obey the will of the duodrones, but they cannot even conceive of the existence of the tridrones. When a monodrone sees a tridrone, it does not see a modron, and it could not even say what it sees. Some aphasia apparently breaks the link between the sight of the higher modron and what it actually is. This blindness leads to an interesting conclusion, as each rank believes that those immediately above it are the highest form of life and the fountainhead of supreme logic. Thus, Primus’s lordship is secret from all modrons but the four secundi, who pass his edicts on to the nine tertians, who in turn pass these to the quartons (who have no knowledge or understanding of either the secundi or Primus), and so on.
There is an awareness of all ranks below a modron’s station, yet communication is exclusively limited to adjacent ranks. It would seem that the monodrone is almost as alien to the tridrone as the tridrone is to the monodrone. This is not the result of elitism. Rather, the strict order observed by the race completely negates the slightest necessity for communication beyond immediate inferiors and superiors. A modron’s perception of its immediate superiors should not be mistaken for deification, either. What others might call a god, the modrons cannot imagine, for they are unable to conceive of such an individual existence. Instead, all life and direction spring from a pool of logical action – all that is right happens because it must inescapably be, and all that is wrong is that which must not be. These metal limitations make dealings with modrons a challenge. Within each rank there is no individuality, either in form or thought. All modrons call themselves “we,” and a character has no way of knowing if the pentadrone he spoke to today is the same as the one who held the same post yesterday. This would be minor if the modrons weren’t so bureaucratically driven, requiring strangers to appear and reappear before clerks, courts, and boards. Some travellers solve the problem with a brush and paint, marking modrons with runes simply to tell them apart. Unless instructed to remove these marks, a modron may wear a splash of colour or a strange sigil for the rest of its life, for they don’t seem to notice the markings themselves.
Even the size of modron society is rigidly fixed. In each rank there are only a set number of modrons. Should a modron of any rank die, an available candidate from the next lowest rank is promoted, and then the gap in the lower rank is filled by promoting from the still lower rank. This continues until the rank of monodrone is reached. With no lower ranks, the creatures at this level reproduce by fission, as one of their members mysteriously divides into two. (Given this, the claim that all modrons are one might be truer than it first seems.)
Promotion occurs seemingly by accident. As soon as a vacancy occurs, the nearest modron of the next lowest rank is recruited to ascend. Since they have no individuality, there’s no point in trying to promote the “best and the brightest”; all modrons of a given rank are deemed equal. Promotion is traumatic – not only does the chosen modron undergo a wrenching change of shape to the new rank’s form, but it suddenly gains an understanding of a world previously veiled to it: the existence of a yet superior rank. Imagine the shock of a duodrone, who knew only of monodrones, duodrones, and tridrones, when it suddenly discovers those inexplicable creatures around it are quadrones and members of its own race! On the other hand, the newly promoted modron seems to adapt to its new form instantly, and it is the humanoid observer who is often most shaken by the experience.