Secrets of the Temblar
The party will encounter numerous Temblar artifacts, constructs, cities, structures, etc., over the course of this campaign. Temblar artifacts are a combination of mechanical (gears, cogs, etc.) and some unknown power source (not arcane, divine, psionic, etc.) As such, Arcana cannot normally be used to understand them.
Enter the Gadgeteer. I’ve chosen to implement this for 4th Edition as a theme (in 3.5 or PF, it could be represented by a feat or two). In addition, artificers can choose to gain the benefits of this theme (in addition to their regular theme) by giving up Ritual Casting (essentially choosing Temblar Gadgetry over Ritual Casting or Alchemy).
The Gadgeteer Theme
Starting Feature: Temblar Gadgetry
You can make an Arcana check as a free action to understand or use Temblar Artifacts. You can make this check once per encounter per artifact. Each Temblar artifact has a level, which determines the DC of the check (usually the Hard DC but sometimes even more difficult). You cannot use this ability on hostile (configured to a specific individual that is not you) or unwilling intelligent artifacts. If taking 10 on an Arcana check would meet or exceed the required DC, you can use the artifact automatically without a check; otherwise, you must roll a check each encounter in which you wish to use the artifact.
In addition, when you make a successful knowledge check concerning a Temblar artifact, you and all allies who can see or hear you gain a +2 power bonus to all defenses against attacks made by that artifact.
You can speak the language of the Temblar artifacts. This enables you to communicate with intelligent Temblar artifacts, as well as issue basic commands to unintelligent artifacts. In addition, you can issue a “status” command to which all active unintelligent Temblar artifacts within 60’ must respond, if able, regardless of line of effect or line of sight.
L10: Temblar Commander
You can attempt to dominate and control hostile Temblar artifacts. Doing so is a standard action in which you make an Arcana check to attempt to control (“use”) the opposing artifact (the DC is set by the DM, but will generally depend on the intelligence and power of the artifact). If you succeed on the check, you can use that artifact (if it is an intelligent construct, treat it as dominated (save ends)). You cannot use this ability more than once per encounter on the same artifact (you can, however, use it on different artifacts as many times as you want, provided each use targets a different artifact). If taking 10 would succeed on the check, you succeed automatically and do not have to roll.