Saturday, 20 June 2015

Technology rules for ATWC

So cute! Let's repair him and take him home! Image by Jordan-Aexander Thomas
The world of ATWC is littered with weird clockwork machinery, created by mad savants, fallen empires, and people who really, really like watching gears tick round in circles. Some of the resulting technology is in relatively widespread use: airships, clockwork wings, and prosthetic clockwork limbs may not be common, but people know they exist, and in major cities they can usually be obtained by someone with enough money to throw around. Other forms are rarer: one-off masterworks clicking away in the workshops of eccentric engineers, or ancient machineries rusting into useless amidst the ruins of long-lost civilizations. 

All ATWC characters have a Technology rating, which is equal to their Intelligence modifier. (With traditional D&D magic-users out of the picture, this gives the intelligence stat a reason to exist.) ATWC uses a LotFP-style ability modifier system, so 3 is -3, 4-5 is -2, 6-8 is -1, 9-12 is 0, 13-15 is +1, 16-17 is +2, and 18 is +3. Scholars and brass men get bonuses to their technology rating, as detailed in their respective class descriptions. The average person has a technology rating of 0; tech 1-2 is enough to operate most common clockwork machinery, while more sophisticated technology requires tech 3-4. Tech 5 and above is usually needed only for the most fantastically complex clockworks.

Each piece of clockwork technology in ATWC has four associated complexity ratings: Operate (O), Maintain (M), Repair (R), and Construct (C). A regular pocket-watch, for example, might be OM 0, R 1, C 2: anyone with tech 0 or higher (i.e. anyone of average intelligence) can use and maintain it, but repairing a broken one requires tech 1, and creating one from scratch requires tech 2. A clockwork automaton which simply performs a single task, such as dancing, might be OM 1, R 2, C 3. 

  • If your tech rating is equal to or higher than the rating required for the task you want to attempt, then you can do it, provided you have enough time and access to the appropriate tools and materials. No roll is required.
  • If your tech rating is one point lower than the rating required for the task you want to attempt, then you have a 50% chance of success. If you succeed, it works; if you fail, you mess something up and damage the mechanism. So a character with tech 0 who attempts to repair a broken pocket watch (R 1), has a 50% chance of getting it working again, and a 50% chance of just damaging it even further. 
  • If your tech rating is two or more points lower than the rating required for the task you want to attempt, then you fail. A glance at the machinery will tell you that you are facing something far beyond your limited skill. If you insist on trying anyway, you'll only end up damaging it.
All this assumes that you actually understand what the device is and roughly how it's supposed to work. If, on the other hand, you've just come across an enigmatic pile of clockwork junk in an old ruin someplace and want to try to repair it or get it working, you need to make a technology roll: roll 1d6, and add your tech rating. If the result is equal to the device's relevant rating plus five, then you succeed; otherwise, you can't work out how to do it. If you fail with a roll of 1, you also damage the mechanism in the process.

Example: Adilet (tech 1), Jyrgal (tech 3), and Taalay (tech 0) are adventuring in the wilderness when they chance across two cute little clockwork robots. (OM 2, R 3, C 4) One looks mostly intact; the other is badly damaged. Adilet thinks they're adorable, and insists on trying to get them working and bring them home.

Jyrgal, the group's scholar, sets to work on the intact one. Its Operate difficulty is 1, well below his tech modifier,so normally this would be no problem; but he's working with unfamiliar technology, here, so he has to make a tech roll, trying to hit 6 or higher. He rolls a 2, and fails; he just can't figure out how to make it work. Adilet pushes him aside to see if she can work it out, and rolls a 6. To Jyrgal's mild embarrassment, she soon works out how to get it operational, and within minutes the robot is scooting around and trying to eat the coal from Taalay's saddlebags. 

Nettled, Jyrgal turns to repairing the broken one. Its Repair difficulty is 3, so repairing it requires a tech roll of 8 or higher; just a glance into the labyrinthine clockwork mechanisms inside it tells Adilet and Taalay that there's no point in them even trying. Jyrgaal gets out his tools and sets to work, though, and this time his technology roll is a 5, for a total of 8. After several hours of tinkering, he manages to get the second robot fully operational; Adilet's already worked out how they're activated, so soon they have two cute little clockwork buddies running along behind them. Taalay's coal supply doesn't stand a chance. 

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