Weird Scientists

Information and discussion for players of the game. No spoilers here please!
Slimcreeper
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by Slimcreeper » Tue Oct 08, 2019 2:41 am

There's room for all kinds of groups and all styles of play. If the players aren't interested in elaborate crafting rules, the GM could definitely hand wave something through and would probably do just fine. I think it could be a good little mini-game for the right players.

It just depends on the style, really. They are more comfortable with a group that takes breaks between adventures. And of course the money - but the money doesn't just have to be loot or pay. Resources can also be acquired through influence, favors, etc.

It can be a concern if parity between characters is a major concern, but 1879 really doesn't seem as concerned with party balance as some games. What matters is that everyone has a role to play. And that something captures everyone's imagination. If the WS doesn't do it for you, no problem! May I suggest investing heavily in a Weird Scientist villain!

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:53 am

Plus, even if your group does not have a Weird Scientist, it enriches the world and your players understanding of it to have the WS rules out there.

In Earthdawn, I have frequently said that not every party needs to have a Weaponsmith, but every party does need to KNOW a weaponsmith. The Weaponsmith (in my mind) is a great example of, and template for, a magical crafting discipline. In my mind, a lot of the aspiring adepts who don't want to be Adventurers, gravitate towards the Weaponsmith and Air Sailor disciplines, as they are the template for non-adventuring crafting and professional trades. Having the rules right out there where all the players can see them (and if they want play that discipline as adventurers) helps with the world building. They know what NPC Weaponsmiths and Air Sailors can do.

By the same token, having rules for how Weird Scientists work, helps build the world of 1879, even if none of the players in your group choose to play one. They will at least be able to recognize where Weird Devices come from when they encounter them.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:18 am

Andrew1879 wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:49 pm
I've noted this line of questioning for a future blog entry. This is a bit more complex than I want to go into on a forum, and is going to involve some policy declarations. Look for a blog entry with the working title of Two Roads to Rio sometime in the next month. In the meantime, feel free to discuss among yourselves and speculate on the form the canonical examples will take.
Re-reading this thread, it seems like maybe the title ought to be "Three Roads to Rio", comparing Weird Science, classical Enchanting, and pure clockwork/brass. I think I am starting to see that Weird Science and classical magical Enchanting would (I think) end up with products that might look quite different, but that should be functionally identical and cost the same. The real wild card would be what a brassman could produce in the product competition.

So first to double-check. If a Weird Scientist and a classical magical Enchanter both tried to design and build the same things, while the results might look wildly different, both designs and the builds would end up having the exact same rolls and costing the exact same amounts of money?

It seems like Brassman has an advantage that anything he comes up with can be duplicated by anybody following his plans. He could set up a manufactory and have assistants and laborers build as many devices as there is a market for. However he is limited to whatever could possibly be done with brass and steam and control engines. Nothing overtly magical.

Weird Scientists and Magical Enchanters need to personally tinker with each and every item going out of their shop, however they can get away with overtly impossible and magical effects.

So I think maybe the more illuminating comparison is what Slimcreeper did and add Brassman to the mix: Brassman, Weird Scientist, and Mage enchanter.

And that brings up the question, in a steampunk world in which Analytical and Difference Engines are not Weird Science, but simple clockwork. And in which a sufficiently skilled brassman can build a fighting mecha, what effects can be considered pure physics, and which effects require enchanting?

Using the example at the start of this thread of the walking, self-targeting gun, In the real world I would presume an engine that could control such a thing would be the size of several large rooms, with decades of engine programming, and the targeting program would take a month to calculate the firing solution (for the conditions that existed a month prior when the program was started). So I don't really see a self-targeting gun as even being possible from a brassman. If is was even possible, If you don't need 10,000 of them, I am sure it would be simpler and cheaper to just have an enchanter bind a tasked spirit to control the gun.

But I would be interested in seeing more comparative designs run up following the official rules. What can be done with each method, and what would it take to design and build one prototype?

As a thought experiment, let's look at something similar to a fighting mecha. A brassman would make a steam powered fighting vehicle that needed at least one pilot and/or gunner. A weird scientist might make a killer robot. And a classical enchanting mage might make a killer golem.

Of these three, the golem might be the smallest and most pleasing to the eye. It does not need steam power plants nor difference engines. It will have ingredients like the classical Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog. Now the first draft of the enchanting design might indicate that the perfect ingredients in it's creation might include 3 gallons of virgins blood and the liver of a Dragon, which the designer might decide to go back to the drawing board and look for alternative ingredients, until he eventually comes up with an ingredients list that he thinks he can work with. The final design will include mystical ingredients that are either very expensive, difficult to obtain, or both. But they will be clearly mystical and not technological. The final design might look like a moving statue. It will probably be controlled by a bound spirit, possibly hosted inside of a brightly glowing and very valuable gem.

As I understand it, the Weird Science design must look technological. The parts list will always be stuff that seems to serve some sort of scientific purpose, and include parts that seem to do the functions the item is doing. These parts possibly need not be configured in such a way as to accomplish the tasks they seem to be accomplishing, but they need to look as if they might be. The killer robot will need a steam engine, or some other power source. It will probably have a difference engine mounted within it. Now a calculating engine small enough to be mounted in a robot almost certainly is not powerful enough to actually control the robot, so the TRUE purpose of the difference engine is probably just to serve as a housing for the tasked spirit that is actually controlling the robot. But everybody will think that it is the difference engine itself that is controlling the robot. Likewise, the steam engine and the brass and everything else about the robot do not need to work according to the actual laws of mechanics. There just need to be enough expensive and thoroughly confusing parts that anybody who see's it might believe that it works on mechanical principles, even though a knowledgeable brassman might swear that it can't be doing what it clearly is doing. The parts list will not ever include any eye's of newts, but will include lots of finally machined parts and gears. It might include True Elements, but possibly under different names. For example the Weird Scientist might delair that his design uses something that he calls uranium-238 to run, and he must have that element and no other (just use the rules and costs for harvesting True Earth - it is an instance of True Earth, just under a different, less mystical, more scientific, name).

Again, as I understand it, the target numbers and costs to design and build these first too designs would be roughly identical, even though the final designs and parts lists are very different.

Lastly we have the Brassman. He might design some fighting mecha. They would be powered by steam engines or something better. They would have pilots and/or gunners to control their actions. It seems to me that making the design would harder, since it actually has to work according to the laws of physics, not the laws of magic. Likewise the building, assembly, and maintenance would need to be painstaking. The difference of course is that it does not take an actual enchanter to assemble them, any sufficiently trained craftsman can do so. The Mecha would probably be much bigger than a similarly capable robot would need to be, since the mecha would need to have space for crew. Further, the mecha needs to actually have all the parts to really work by the laws of physics, and can't cheat by using magic to overcome adequately capable components.

Comments? Discussion?

What I have not done is attach any target numbers or actual costs to these three methods, and I would be interested in seeing peoples interpretations.
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Thu Jan 23, 2020 6:18 pm, edited 4 times in total.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by Slimcreeper » Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:20 pm

I’m tempted to make a WS gamemaster player character for our game just to explore this more.

Addendum: my favorite ws device is definitely the octo-breather, wherein you attach a blubbery mass of living flesh to your face in order to breath underwater.

Addendum addendum: true uranium is a terrifying proposition.

Addendum addendum addendum: I think spirits would be the toughest for a ws to wrap their head around.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu Jan 23, 2020 4:21 pm

Slimcreeper wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:20 pm
Addendum addendum addendum: I think spirits would be the toughest for a ws to wrap their head around.
Yes, but my understanding is that WS are fooling themselves as much as anybody. A WS would scoff angrily at any suggestion that his scientific device employed any such mystical claptrap.

My understanding is that the WS is not making a Design that says his invention has a tasked spirit. (The WS player is making such a Design, but the WS character is not).

He bolts something on to his invention that he believes is capable of controlling it. My understanding is that what he does not realize is that the item is unsuited for the job without the help of magic and that he has unconsciously and without knowing it bound a spirit to the item, and the spirit that lives in the item is the intelligence that controls the item. The WS just thinks that he makes the most wonderfully powerful and subtle difference engines, and does not understand why everybody else finds them so hard to make and limited to use.

Once again, my understanding is that WS items never look magic. They always look as if they could maybe be doing what they are doing. So anything that has "control" needs some sort of component that is the "controller". Something simple might have a simple clockwork controller. octo-breather has an octopus regulating it. A complex mechanical device might probably "require" a difference engine, or maybe an analytical engine. And the engine has to be big and fast enough that it could, apparently, and if programmed well enough, perform the calculations required to control the item. Because obviously a robot needs a controller, and the WS needs to be able to point to something and proudly explain how it works in polysyllabic words that nobody else can understand.

Now many of us today have some inkling how many man-centuries of programming, and how many millions of calculations per second a robot needs. Fortunately for the WS, few Victorians do, so they might be willing to believe that a lone Weird Scientist could program a small engine with the ability to "see", accept spoken commands, figure out targeting, and walk and shoot at the same time. Victorians might just marvel that a Difference Engine that is only the size of a large chest can do so much so well, without realizing that the engine would need to be 10,000 times bigger and fasters, and that really all the Engine is doing is housing a spirit.

Or at least that is how I am starting to envision it. Once again, Comments? Discussion?



I might also add, that this all really started to finally gel for me the other day when I finally asked the question,
So in game, weird science is not considered magic. People consider it imperfectly understood science, not magic.
Is it magic? or is it science that for simplicity's sake uses the identical rules that magic does?
It was only when I got confirmation that Weird Scientists really are using real and actual magic, and that Astral Sight will show it as magic, and dispel magic will work on it, Etc., and not just actual Real Weird Science that while not really magic uses the same rules that enchanting uses, that it all finally fell into place.

Somehow I had gotten the impression that it was Science, that only used the enchanting rules for convenience. (am I the only one who did not get that? Is this laid out anywhere? Because it is laid out that it is not considered magic, and it is laid out that despite not being considered magic, it uses the enchanting rules, but is it actually laid out anywhere that it actually is magic and not science of a steampunk nature?) Finally getting it pegged right really changed a lot for me.

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Andrew1879
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by Andrew1879 » Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:05 pm

Yeah, it's not considered magic =in the fiction=, but mechanically is magic and uses the Enchanting rules. This is in fact laid out early in the Magic chapter of the Players Guide:
The Weird Scientists don’t generally believe in magic as magic per se. They believe that a previously untapped energy source has been found, or that new principles of Science have been discovered, or that the reason old theories such as the ether and phlogiston were discredited was partly because those people were doing things all wrong and didn’t understand the results of their experiments. They’re able to reproduce their own work, and some of their fellows get similar results. If the larger scientific community can’t verify the experiments, perhaps a rethinking of the more widely accepted ideas is in order. If your science cannot explain why my machine can turn ceramic vases inside out without breaking them, but I can build another machine that does exactly the same thing, and the machine works for anyone who operates it, then your science needs to adjust its theories to fit the new evidence. That’s how science works, after all.
and referred to at the start of the Enchanting chapter:
Magicians have created several methods of enchanting, and can produce a wide variety of magical items. Not all of these are considered magical by the general populace, or sometimes by the magician themselves. Weird Scientists do not call themselves magicians, and their work is regarded as odd and perhaps dangerous, but not magical, by the public.
Also note the wording in the Lodges section of the Magic Theory chapter, where it talks about Schools and specifically the Newtonians:
Alchemists, the Newtonians do their spellcasting work in the lab, where they create expendable spell foci, potions, and so forth. If a Newtonian has the time and the materials available, they’re much more effective in the field, as they can discard any bad lab results and keep only the best of their efforts. Like the Galvanic Order, Newtonians tend toward a scientific, rational Style, with notebooks full of experimental results, careful and precise measurement of processes and effects, and a love of predictability.
I think your last post here is really getting it. On the average, the Heron believes that she is a master of clockwork, and can simply coax the cogs into doing what she needs, and doesn't realize that singing over her work absentmindedly is what's actually empowering the device. The Newtonian firmly believes they have discovered the ancient secrets of alchemy, and do not realize they are brewing potions, although any Newtonian who has graduated to making foci certainly has changed their mind on this subject. The Promethean has uncovered the secrets of life itself and we won't discuss what he gets up to in that shed out back. The more enlightened souls have come to understand that WS is in fact a branch of magic. The Galvanic Order understands this, certainly, as it underpins a great deal of what they do, and they started out with a mathematical model of mana. Try telling your average Heron that they're really an enchanter however and you will get the same reception you would in confronting someone whose work is based on the literal existence of Maxwell's Demon and trying to prove entropy to them.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by Slimcreeper » Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:52 pm

https://youtu.be/1AEvQAg6TE0
The Marble Machine (video tagged by moderator)

Slimcreeper
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Re: Weird Scientists

Post by Slimcreeper » Fri Jan 24, 2020 2:45 am

https://youtu.be/vo8izCKHiF0
Mechanical Turing Machine (video tagged by moderator)

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