The exemplars of Law, modrons are a well-known but often misunderstood kind. Thought of by most as geometric, stodgy, unintelligent, and slightly goofy, they are in fact both a powerful force in the planes and an intriguing study of order and structure taken to its logical extreme. Indeed, those not immediately offended by the ideals of Law often claim to find a surprising peace and efficiency to modron work, even a beauty to its simplicity and effectiveness that most judiciaries and bureaucracies could only hope to achieve.
As befitting the exemplars of Law, modrons are divided up into a strict hierarchy of castes. Though the members of each individual caste are literally indistinguishable from one another, barring the application of paint or other identifying marks by a third party, each caste has a distinct look from all others, allowing them to be easily identified even from a distance.
There are two levels of caste: base and hierarch. The base make up the vast majority of the modrons, and are responsible for the majority of outside opinion on the kind. Dull-witted, difficult to speak with, and set in their duties, they lead many unfamiliar with the modrons as a whole to underestimate them, when in fact the base modrons are simply exactly as intelligent as they need to be for the jobs they are set to perform.
|Pentadrone||Police and law enforcement|
Much less commonly encountered are the hierarch castes, as there are a good deal fewer such modrons, and they rarely venture outside Mechanus. As befitting their greater duties, hierarch modrons tend to be much more intelligent than the base castes, and more unique as a result. It is amongst the hierarchs that one would first note that modrons are far more than basic constructs, but are unique individuals all their own — representing this fact physically, the hierarch castes are far from the purely geometric designs of the lesser base castes, with the highest even appearing humanoid. Though any two of the same caste still appear the same, having had different experiences in their rise through the castes they are naturally distinct in their attitudes and reactions. It's a far more subtle distinction amongst the modrons than other beings, but yes, two different modrons can react differently to the same stimulus, draw differing conclusions from the same presentation, and even disagree on matters less solid than axioms and theories. While all modrons still care about the pursuit of law in service to the One and the Prime, they are far from automata.
|Decaton||Physical welfare of base modrons|
|Octon||Governors of the 256 sectors|
|Hexton||Generals of the modron armies|
|Quinton||Bureau chiefs and records keepers|
|Quarton||Governors of the 16 regions|
|Secundi||Viceroys of the four quarters|
Above even the Secundi is the sole leader of the modrons: Primus, the One and the Prime, a being powerful enough to even be considered a greater god. He is not powered by worship, though — most modrons are in fact unaware of his existence — but rather by a direct connection to the Energy Pool, the transplanar field of energy that empowers and connects all modrons to one another at all times. Yet even with his strength, Primus is simply a modron like any other, a being that simply happens to be the one at the top of the hierarchy.
As implied previously, the modron caste system results in an interesting side effect, thought by some to be a way of ensuring the chain of command is always respected and never jumped. No modron is capable of recognizing a member of a caste further than one above its own, and can neither follow nor give orders to such. A modron does have awareness of beings further than one rank below their own, but never deigns to communicate with them, both out of necessity and respect for the chain. However, a modron has no awareness of those above their immediate superiors, nor the capability of gaining such. If pressed, a tridrone would know nothing at all of pentadrones, and even if looking directly upon one would see nothing at all, their brain unable to process the sensory information of such an encounter. As a result, all commands to lesser modrons must be filtered, sent one rank at a time until they reach the specific individual to which they are intended. While many would assume this would lead to a slow process that would impede adaptation or quick reaction to problems, amongst the modrons it works so efficiently that an order can pass from Primus to a given monodrone in Regulus within under a quarter of an hour, with no worry of mangled wording, misinterpretation, or misunderstanding. Further, this system helps to buffer the damage a single rogue could cause, as any orders given to lessers by a rogue would be forced to pass through the same filtration system, the likely-contradictory orders resulting in immediate notice. While perhaps a strange system biologically (as much as that term applies to modrons), it has served them well for quite some time.
Not to say there is no opportunity for advancement amongst the modron castes. Upon the death of a modron, a modron of the next lowest caste is near-instantly selected, based on proximity, skill, and other unknown factors, and promoted to fill the gap, transformed instantaneously into the new caste. This process ripples down through the ranks until it reaches the lowest levels; to fill the gap left by the promoted monodrone, a new monodrone is immediately spawned parthenogenetically from another monodrone. This is no reincarnation, however, but merely a generation of a new modron from the Energy Pool to fill the gap left by the dead. The new monodrone possesses no knowledge, skills, or memories of any sort of the dead modron, and is unlikely to have any sort of connection to them. It is merely through this means that the total population of modrons is always kept at a perfect constant, regardless of incident.
The early history of the modrons is amongst the least known of the exemplars, without even myths or stories handed down from past generations. All that survive from days even mere millennia past are reports of geometric creatures of Law residing on Mechanus. These creatures, though similar in description to modrons, are described as little more than solid figures with limbs and faces, with none of the clockwork or metal armor associated with today's modrons. It is thought by some that these beings are an early form of modron, their more pure geometric appearance possibly suggesting an ancient connection with the moigno. Others disagree with this theory, claiming that modrons are instead descended from insectile beings, based on the hive mind they seem to possess, that at some point learned to place their energies within a shared pool in Regulus. While arguments between the two viewpoints are rabid, there is little to no evidence either way. Strangely, there is no mention at all of modrons in regards to the ancient war between Law and Chaos, suggesting that the modrons manifested only at some point after that brutal period of ancient history.
In more recent times, there are few events to speak of. Though the modrons do keep armies, they only rarely go to war, preferring only to defend themselves from outside attack. They have no ancient enemies upon the plane of Mechanus, few off-plane endeavors, and little-to-no export industry, all helping to contribute to a general absense of modrons from the pages of history. Beyond the regular Great Modron March, there are few modron events to speak of.
This may change, however, as within the last few years, increasing numbers of formians have been sighted on Mechanus, forming cities on the gears. Where this influx came from is yet unknown, but a number of battles between modron and formian forces have been noted, the first time most anyone can recall that a modron has pitted arms against a people allied towards its own principles.
Most recently, the Modron March has been recorded as of Hashkar 127 departing from the town of Automata just under 200 years ahead of schedule. The purpose or reasoning behind this is yet unknown, and as always the modrons have refused to offer any comment or discussion as to the nature of the March, but rumors have been flying ever since their departure.
See also: Regulus
The center of modron society (and in fact, of Mechanus society as a whole) is the realm of Regulus, a collection of 64 moderate-to-large cogs in Mechanus. It is on this cog that a sprawling modron metropolis has been built upon and improved for countless eons, the point from which modron culture spawns: a single massive city sprawled across over 5 dozen gears, showing at every point the culmination of modron techniques of architecture and design.
Outside of Regulus, there are no modron settlements and few modrons above the base castes. While there are some few decatons and nonatons working outside Regulus with other peoples or organizations, or supervising distant missions, for the most part it is only base modrons to be encountered outside the realm. As mentioned previously, this tends to give most others a broad misunderstanding and false assumptions as to the nature of modrons, a fact occasionally (if rarely) capitalized upon by the higher members of the kind. Indeed, some few base modrons are taken as familiars by various arcanists, the lack of intelligence and low levels of combat experience contributing well to familiar suitability.
Despite being partial constructs, modrons do have some of the needs of purely organic beings. They do require food, for one, though they can subsist on most anything. Meat, vegetables, weeds, any living matter can serve the needs of modron nutrition as well as any other. Monodrones are free from even this requirement, able to draw their sustenance out of the air itself. Modrons have no need of drink, and only the highest castes require sleep; even then, only sparingly. They are still constructs, though, and beyond certain limited qualities like this, are otherwise identical.
When a modron does finally die, most often through violence (as modrons neither age nor get sick), it leaves no corpse. Its remains all disintegrate into a fine silver film, the life energies instantaneously returning to the Energy Pool on Regulus and beginning the promotion ripple up through the ranks. As an unfortunate side effect, there is almost no knowledge as to the internals of the modron, few having both the curiosity to investigate, the opportunity to capture a modron without risk to self, and the pure callousness required to vivisect a modron in the name of science. Exactly what the internals of a modron looks like is a mystery yet to be solved.
- Dragon #354 - Return of the Modrons, pp.35-49
- March of the Modrons, art piece by Julie Dillon
- Great Modron March, the, pp.7-11
- Planes of Law - Mechanus, pp.13-15,21-24
- Planescape Campaign Setting - Monstrous Appendix, pp.16-19