Idiotic Technology (Occult) (Wis):
There are things that humans are not really capable of dealing with. Sadly, at least two of the “Tech Trees” in the Shadowed Galaxy seem to fall into that category.
Informational Technology uses patterns of information that reshape reality directly. Using your brain to process such patterns can transform your mind and body in extremely strange ways. Still, there are a reasonable number of minor informational effects known that the human brain does seem to have enough redundancy available to handle, at least if they are taken slowly. Every once in a while a researcher discovers a new one. Rather more often, something really weird or very unpleasant happens to a researcher.
Informational devices and entities are often physically simple; a basic ring with a few symbols on it can be a powerful informational device. Informational creatures tend to be immaterial patterns of information, often animating bodies pulled together out of whatever is handy. For good or ill, however, Informational Devices are often fairly simple to operate. Some need merely be worn or wielded, others require nothing more than commands and intent. Others, of course, have never been successfully activated – or seem to activate themselves at random.
The practical study of Informational Technologies is mostly empirical. Scholars make lengthy catalogs of known effects, devices, and their observed properties, hoping that a pattern of some sort will emerge – and work on knowing when to back away and stop poking the hornet’s nest.
Thinking about Spacefield Technologies doesn’t damage your brain directly – which is a small mercy – but it doesn’t seem to do much good either. Human minds simply seem to be unable to handle the necessary concepts and processes. Popular theories say that it involves thinking in too many dimensions, or has self-concealing informational aspects, or that it involves multiple time-dimensions and logic that neurons that only act forward in time cannot model, but no one really knows. Since humans cannot even detect Spacefield Technologies directly (they have to rely on deduction or informational effects), and can’t tell what kind of control inputs such items accept, the only Spacefield Studies that get anywhere simply attempt to catalog creatures, devices, and materials displaying aberrant properties and list known ways to put them to use – and when to run.
Humans are weak psychics, and don’t really understand how it works beyond some basic training methods and observations – but there don’t seem to be any inherent barrier of insanity or inherent incomprehension there. Humans are utter novices when it comes to psionic devices however, and generally do not understand the few that they’ve invented, much less Idiotic Psionic Devices.
Idiotic Technology is a bit like “Use Magic Device” – but Idiotic Technology is a LOT less user-friendly than the (rather simple and primitive) occult devices found in most d20 settings, most of it was never designed for the use of human or near-human beings in the first place, and knowing when to stop fiddling is a great deal more important than being able to fake an abstract quality or two.
Check: Determine whether or not something is an Aberrent Material and get some idea of what it is if it’s ever been seen before (DC 5) determine whether or not something is an Idiotic Device and whether or not it’s damaged (DC 10), try and get it to do something at random (DC 15), get a fair idea of what sort of device it is and how dangerous it will be mess with it (DC 20), determine how to activate various functions (DC 25 until you know them, DC 5 afterwards – but always messes up on a “1″). It’s equivalent to any other knowledge skill as far as knowing random facts about previously-known Idiotic Devices goes.
Action: Generally a simple action to try and recall basic facts, usually a standard action to try and use a device with a known method of activation (although this can vary with the device), minutes to days to fiddle with previously unknown devices.
Retry: Yes, albeit with a -4 penalty on each successive unsuccessful try at something. Eventually you just can’t think of anything else.
Special: Keeping Idiotic Devices ready to activate is a highly skilled job; a character can keep a maximum of (Idiotic Technology Score/4) devices ready to use at any one time, taking 1d4 days per device several days to swap out his or her “selection”.
Genuine faith in a “higher” (or lower) “power” has been reported to have all kinds of effects over the millennia – but no one has ever been able to demonstrate much of anything under controlled conditions and even asking for repeat demonstrations in the field never seemed to work out. A lot of scientists threw up their hands, concluding that faith didn’t work when you looked at it closely – and yet a tendency to believe seemed to be a a standard part of the human mindset.
It has only been in the last century and a half that anyone has been able to demonstrate why. Faith seems to influence the operation of Spacefield Technologies. Believers display a greater ability to resist, or even repel, “parasitic” devices and some influence over the operation or effects of many other devices. Given that the only known ways to detect the existence of Spacefield Technologies are deduction (“this is acting weird!”) or to use unreliable, sanity-damaging Informational effects (the province of lunatics until the widespread use of neural interfaces and the internet allowed the existence of such effects to be demonstrated and codified well enough to be trained – even if not very effectively), it should be no surprise that it proved difficult to codify the operation of Faith. How were classical scientists to measure the operation of a purely immaterial mental attribute that only interacted with a rare phenomena that they had no direct way to detect?
Today Faith is indeed something measurable. Some Aberrant Materials show a stronger response in the presence of stronger Faith – and devices built using Aberrect Materials often show different behaviors when used by people with high levels of faith or different belief sets – no matter how irritating the engineers find that to be.
Check: You can check Faith in the presence of Spacefield Effects to try and influence how they operate. Sadly, the difficulty and possible effects vary about as much as the effects of “fiddling with it” varies with human technologies – and humans have no good way to tell what they are meddling with when it comes to Spacefields. Fortunately, intent seems to matter a great deal – and so attempting to hold off spacefield-empowered creatures, or to breach spacefield-generated barriers, and so on, has a fairly good chance of working as intended.
Action: Not an action if the Game Master requests a roll, normally a standard action to attempt a roll of your own. Many effects require concentration to maintain.
Retry: Retries are possible, but at a cumulative -4 penalty each time.
Special: Faith can be used as an additional Saving Throw when resisting the “infectious” effects of Spacefield Technology.
Some people don’t really get out much. Others… rapidly become notable and influential members of any group they mingle with, have hundreds of friends, can near-effortlessly find the people and businesses that they need to, and make a good impression everywhere they go.
Check: When you want to become a part of a group, exert authority within a group, or tap into a group’s resources. Do you want a political appointment? A sinecure for your idiot nephew? To be considered for command of a new laboratory ship? To be entrusted with some irreplaceable or terribly dangerous piece of equipment? Then you want Networking.
Action: While Networking with a particular group may give your orders some authority in combat situations, Networking is generally reserved for noncombat time.
Retry: Yes, but it takes even longer and each successive retry is generally made at a cumulative -4 penalty.
Special: Bonuses with particular groups – specialties, specialized ranks, or specialized enhancement feats – generally represent rank and influence within that group. Any character with disadvantages or limitations representing active duty in the military or some such organization will be well advised to invest in at least a little rank. Given that most ships will only carry a squad or two, and that most colonies have small detachments of troops at most, it doesn’t really take very much rank to avoid having too many people giving you orders.
Minions (Cha) (Occult):
Yes, this one is reprinted from an earlier article to keep everything in one place.
There is an art to collecting and managing minions – and you’re mastering it.
Check: To see if your minions are loyal enough to risk themselves for you or resist attempts to subvert them, to see if their general orders cover specific situations well enough to keep them doing what you’d want, to keep them organized and disciplined in a crisis situation, to have them anticipate your minor needs, to locate hirelings, and to find henchmen. Unusually, you do not actually have to be there – or even aware of the need – to roll.
Action: None for the initial roll. It may take hours or days to find new notable minions. A retry is a full round action.
Retry: Yes, but you have to actually be there to retry a roll.
Special: Your permanent (discounting temporary bonuses) minion skill rank also provides some actual minions to work with. In general, a minion (or small group of generic minions) will “cost” one skill rank, plus one rank per notable quality possessed. Thus a celebrity with a base score of +13 might have an expert manager (2), a tough, skilled, bodyguard (3), a small pack of obsessive fans to run errands and warm his or her bed (2), a squad of hulking, intimidating, goons (3), and an expert, close-mouthed, lawyer (3). A computer hacker with “minions” +9 might employ a secretive expert tech (3), a cluster of semi-sentient AI search-worms (4) that help him out online, and a set of security drones (2). Gang leaders may have thugs, runners, and lieutenants, upper-class twits may have incredibly competent butlers who run their lives for them, and so on.
Weaponry in the Shadowed Galaxy is at something of a balancing point: at the moment classical firearms, explosives launchers, and flame weapons still rule the battlefield. They are a well-tested and mature technology, with variants available for thousands of different roles.
Energy weapons – including lasers, plasma generators, coilgun and railgun mass launchers, and more – are roughly equally effective, and generally lighter, but they’re also a bit more expensive and a bit more inclined to blow up if their HC E-Cell is damaged. More importantly, HC E-Cells lost power fairly rapidly when stored – so if you’re going on an extended expedition without a chance to recharge things, chemical ammunition is your best bet. If you’re going on a short run, or will have chances to recharge your HC E-Cells, you can carry a good bit more “ammunition” for energy weapons. On the other hand, of course, you can get specialty ammunition – explosive, poisoned, armor-piercing, stunning, and more – for projectile weapons (including mass launchers) – but such ammunition is relatively rare in the Shadowed Galaxy. It tends to be more effective in a particular specialized role, while being less effective in almost every other role – so when you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be dealing with, specialized ammunition isn’t a lot of help. Still, if you want to carry some… it will cost 1-3 points, just like any other gadget.
Small Arms – Firearms, Missiles, and Energy Weapons:
- Basic one-handed small arms cause 2d6 damage, critical for double damage on a 20, have a 40′ Range increment, carry a base magazine of 25 shots, normally weigh 2-3 pounds, and have a base cost of (1).
- Two-handed versions have a range increment of 80, a base damage of 2d8, normally weigh 6-10 pounds, and have a base cost of (2), but are otherwise similar.
- Heavy versions – normally tripod-mounted – have a range increment of 120, a base damage of 2d10, weigh 20-40 pounds, and have a base cost of (3), but are otherwise similar. They do have a special option though; they can be rigged for full computer control – although this increases their base cost to (4). Such “sentry guns” (or mines or whatever) are useful for holding fixed positions though. They are, however, usually squad weapons rather than something an individual carries.
Regardless of the base, small arms can have up to three additional options (four if the base magazine is reduced to 5 shots, if the weapon cannot critical, or if the weapon is likely to explode if damaged). Some can be taken more than once, in this case the effects are listed in order separated by “/”. Note that a great many Martial Arts options will not work with modern ranged weapons, although they will with “primitive” weapons. (Sadly, the “Occult” options are normally not available in the Shadowed Galaxy anyway).
- Enlarged Magazine (50/100/250 shots).
- Increased Damage (Once only, increase die size by one step).
- Increased Critical (18-20/16-20/16-20 and a x3 multiplier instead of x2)
- Selective Fire (slugthrowers only: may expend five shots to gain either a +4 bonus to hit, to hit 1d4 members of a small group on a successful attack, or to inflict double damage against double any applicable DR [criticals obey normal rules for adding multipliers, normally inflicting x3 damage], at the user’s option)
- Concealable (this weapon is easy to hide. Pistols can be slipped into a pocket, two-handed weapons can be readily hidden under a coat or broken down, and heavy weapons can be readily broken down and packed away)
- Improved Accuracy (Sights; +2 to Hit/Smartlink +4 to Hit/Smartlink with friendly fire suppression: cannot hit a friendly target)
- Explosive (+1 Die damage/+1 die of damage in a 5′ radius/+2 dice of damage in a 10′ radius).
- Trapped (The weapon has built-in countermeasures against unauthorized use. Note that you can have a biometric safety for free; a trapped weapon fights back against unauthorized use).
- Silent (This weapon has a greatly reduced usage signature).
Personal Items – Primitive Weapons:
“Primitive” weapons made with modern materials and techniques inflict an extra die of damage and have a base cost of (1). They can have up to two additional features.
- Increased Damage, Increased Critical, Concealable and Trapped work the same way as they do with firearms.
Other melee weapon options include:
- Electrified (+2d6 Nonlethal Damage/And a DC 16 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1d3 rounds).
- Impervious (The weapon is generally unaffected by corrosives and damage).
- Nonreactive (The weapon is “invisible” to most detection equipment.
- Personalized (The weapon is balanced and fitted precisely to the user, gaining a +3 on attacks made with it).
- Poisoned (The weapon safely stores, and releases as needed – with no risk of poisoning the user – up to a dozen doses of poison).
- Vibro (The weapon gains +15 damage only to overcome damage reduction).
Note that, if you want to combine two weapons, you may spend an extra point to do so. Such weapons can also be separated and used independently. For a common example, many assault rifles have integral grenade launchers. If you want one built into your sword… that’s a little bit weirder, but certainly allowable.
Standardized weapons are generally a point cheaper. For some examples he have…
- Mini-Grenade Launcher: One-Handed Slugthrower Small Arm, Cannot Critical, Improved Damage I, Explosive III: 2.5 lb, 5 Shots, 4d8 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range increment.
- Machine Pistol: One-Handed Small Arm, Enlarged Magazine II, Selective Fire. 3.2 lb, 100 shots, 2d6 damage, Crit 20/x2, 40′ range increment, selective fire.
- Assault Carbine: Two-Handed Small Arm, Enlarged Magazine I, Selective Fire, and Increased Critical I: 8 lb, 50 Shots, 2d8 damage, Crit 18-20/x2, range increment 80′, selective fire.
Other weapons certainly exist – there are flash-bangs, various gases, claymore mines and other “dumb” perimeter defense weapons, aircraft bombs, EMP generators, and much more – but most of them are more than a bit special purpose. If you want some… they’ll be 1-3 points like most gear is.