Continuing on with our series of posts for Weird Scientists, this week I want to take a look specifically at the Herons, both thematically and mechanically. If you missed the earlier parts in the series, I’d recommend checking them out first (See Part 1 here and Part 2 here), as I’ll be touching a lot on the information reviewed there.

Assuming you’re up to speed, let’s jump in and take a look at what happens when you combine Victorian era gadetry with conventional physics breaking magical energy.

As I’ve touched on previously, the Herons are Weird Scientists that focus their abilities on crafting mechanical devices in order to achieve their ends, infusing them with non-conventional energies and techniques to achieve results that extend beyond what should be physically possible for their design or components, at least as can be explained by conventional science. Their primary creed is: If it works, it’s true. If the experiment ends with measurable physical results that exceed expectations of currently understood models, then those models are wrong. Science is all about understanding the physical world, and what most people refer to as magic is just another part of that physical world that we don’t quite understand yet. Applying this ideology to machines takes out a lot of the human element that could introduce further inconsistencies and errors; they view machines and clockwork as a physical extension of mathematics, created with mathematical precision to produce repetition and automation, exactly the sort of properties needed to prove an hypothesis correct.

Practically speaking, there isn’t always a lot of money to be made in theories, and funding is necessary to procure equipment and supplies to carry out experiments. As such, many Herons end up creating creating gadgets for show, something to dazzle the masses enough to get them to buy a ticket to come see it in action, or something a rich patron might want as a novelty to impress their guests and business partners. For some, this is simply a necessary evil in order to get the funding to continue their actual work. For some, this sort of thing is the entire point, and are quite content to simply make gadgets for their own sake if it rakes in money and fame, never mind if there’s not actually anything of substance being created.

An NPC Heron could seek out a group to obtain exotic components for their next device, or to field test a new contraption they’ve come up with. Likewise, a group might seek one out to sell some resource they’ve found or to obtain a particular device they need. If an NPC Heron has a particular patron that funds their research, getting into the Heron’s good graces might lead to an introduction.

As player characters, a Heron might join up with a group to seek out exotic materials for building or look for new techniques to incorporate into their designs. They might use adventuring as an alternate form of fund raising, seeing peddling do-nothing contraptions for the masses as beneath them, or if the group has a patron might be joining up to get them to fund their research. Within a group dynamic, a Heron can craft devices for other members to use most obviously, but will also be able to more easily identify potential resources they might be able to use for materials, and can add their existing knowledge of conventional mechanics, mathematics, and engineering for possible solutions to problems.

From a game mechanics point, a Heron will fill a role that is sort of a cross between a Brassman and a Scientist. They have crafting abilities like the Brassman does, though taking a different route for building them up and empowering them since they will use enchanting mechanics, and they will have knowledge and social abilities like a Scientist would, albeit limited by the usual social stigmas that Weird Scientists have to deal with when compared with their conventional counterparts. They can provide access to some extra magical support and abilities without stepping on the toes of a full blown spellcaster. Since they need time to craft their devices ahead of time, they aren’t quite as versatile as spellcasters, but the devices they do craft in advance tend to last for longer, as is similar for all Weird Scientists.

Comparing to the other Weird Science schools, Herons are the most likely to use Named Spells for enchanting. Mechanical devices typically require a lot of time and material investment to make, so they are most likely to use an enchanting method that reflects this. This means they’ll likely be creating fewer devices than members of other schools, but the creations they do make will last. As with any spell Naming, specifics will depend on Game Master approval and interpretation, but a few examples might include:

  • Naming Bestow Astral Sight on a pair of goggles to allow the wearer to look into the Astral realm
  • Naming Darkness onto a lamp-like contraption to produce an anti-lamp that can be turned on to create a cover
  • Naming Remote Operation on a two-part controller, with a piece that could be separated and attached to the contraption they wish to control remotely.

They might cast a temporary spell into a contraption that is designed as single use in order to test a theory, or for a situation where the device is intended to be sacrificed to accomplish the job. Examples might include:

  • Casting Bind on the ammunition for a net gun to entrap the target
  • Casting Cleanse on a filter for a device intended to remove impurities from water where the filter then contains the impurities and is discarded
  • Casting Shield on a device intended to project a barrier in a confined space like a doorway or corridor and left behind in order to make an escape.

A Heron might also use True Elements to enhance or empower a device they craft. Devices made this way could be permanent or require occasional recharging, depending on the effect, but will rarely be one-time use, considering the rarity and cost of True Elements (unless it’s a very big effect). Examples might include:

  • Adding True Fire to a heater to keep a tent or small shelter warm
  • Strengthening gears or other wear parts with True Earth, particularly when there are restrictions on what materials can be used or if they’re very small in size
  • Using True Water in the filter for a boiler to help remove impurities from the water so that it can be superheated safely
  • Weaving True Air into a mask to filter hazardous impurities
  • Making a gun stock with True Wood for a device like a lightning thrower so that it’s both electrically and magically insulated.
Not everyone has Groot around to make the handles for their lightning-based weapons, after all

Have you played a Heron in 1879, or are you thinking about making one? Do you have any ideas of your own to add to the list here? Let us know on Discord, and we’ll see you next week where we’ll be talking about Newtonians.