Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stuff I done stole from Discworld and made horrible.

I mourned for weeks over Terry Pratchett's passing, seriously, scattered moments of black oh-god and what-is-the-future-without-more-*that*, he was and is a hero to me.
The only celebrity death that ever came close to affecting me that emotionally was Douglas Adams' passing.

Anyway, Pratchett is a renowned comedy author and funny man, but as Neil Gaiman has publicly attested to he was deadly sharp, a serious and a driven man. Which is terrifying!

I decided to take a few of his more broken technologies and consider them as wierdRPG items or Gammaworld artifacts.

There really is a line of dark and bitter humour to Discworld, but he steers clear of following the implied catastrophes in favour of a continued universe to write in. I have no such ambitions.

Capital T, The Gonne.
Discworld has ONE human usable firearm. It was invented by Mr Gonne. It is sentient and has a One-Ring effect on people (its meant as an ironic riff off the whole "Guns dont kill people, people kill people") so you end up with homicidal gollums with a blunderbuss being encouraged to shoot up schools etc.
Sentient swords are a trope, but guns can really reach out and touch things.
In-game I would secret message players during combat and offer them i-choose a target, you-choose a target type deals with massive stat boosts (hoping they forget they owe you one at the end of the battle for catastrophic use later mwahahaha)

In a classic fuck-you-i'm-Pratchett-get-on-my -level fashion I just discovered that even the Gonne thing was not only a pun but a historical reference to "A hand cannon or gonne (also spelled handgonne to distinguish the device from modern handguns)" -here  which is defined as such because you could spark the firing mechanism by hand and also move it by the judicious application of four or five sets of hands.
Yeah, its a cart mounted artillary cannon, the Hand Gonne, obviously.

Then there is Detritus' crossbow, Piecemaker: a turbocharged ballista that doesn't fire a log sized arrow (aaaaawww...) but flings a log sized arrow at such rapid acceleration that it splinters into a thousand flaming arrow sized arrows (YESSSSSSS!!) for a cone shaped shotgun style effect that apparently will leave buildings standing but kill people real good.

The Sonky is the Discworld condom. The head of the watch considered the inventor a saint as it curtailed housing problems and lowered the population of idiots and criminals in his city.
Tell that to a religion who's priests can fling righteous fireballs AND educational pamphlets.
Introducing non blood magic contraception to Baldurs gate?  have fun!
Pre rubber condoms did exist, I have had the dubious pleasure of making intestinal-sheath-soaked-in-milk condoms but honestly they did not look like much fun to use.
These politicks and social bombs seem like great and perilous treasure for the right band of adventurers. Its like looting paintings, they are useless until brought to the correct venue, and then they are even stranger as you get paid but you also have to live in the world you made with the consequences it entails. When was the last time trouble followed you out of the dungeon and moved in with your family?

To explain how thoroughly steeped in philosophy and science everything in Discwold is, here is a wiki quote of why building an Accurate Clock in Discworld will destroy time itself.
The clock he builds is constructed entirely from glass, powered by lightning, and is designed to tick with the "tick of the universe";[4]however, since the universe is destroyed and recreated every moment, the clock can only count the tick if a part of it is constructed outside reality itself, thus causing it to freeze mid-destruction. This relates to the idea of Planck time, and the philosophical problems this causes when applied to Zeno's paradoxes. In Thief of Time, these ideas are attributed to the Discworld philosopher Xeno of Ephebe.

FUCKING EVERYTHING, get a-hold of "The Science of Discworld" cowritten with a bunch physicists and biologists and so on, I used to feel smug because I caught a few references but it goes scary deep, almost everything and everyone is a crazy throwback reference to history and its all built into a coherent universe with consistent internal rules ("Narrative Imperative" being a strong one- a 10000000:1 chance will always succeed, but only if exactly that ratio, otherwise it wouldn't be important.)

Axles are two six-inch-edge cubes joined perfectly on one face.they rotate 5.9 times a minute, but have apparently infinite torque. I love that the mention of the annoyingly uneven RPM implies that it was not built for or by a culture that measures the same way we do.
They need no fuel and the use of a series of gears allows them to power the mechanics and industries of entire dwarf cities.
An infinitely powerful, but boring and sedate device, honestly a group of adventurers would use it to open cans or winch a car or something, maybe sell it as junk to a clued up tinkerer for a sharp pokey thing.
A single device like this on our earth could power a continent. flywheels on flywheels on generators foreverrrr.
I feel like giving adventurers god level devices that are boring and non-combative is great. How does an adventurer test the torque on an Axle?
A Gamma World engineer would sell their mothers for such a thing, it could spin a flywheel to run entire industrial city states, all you need is a durasteel 6-inch coupling gear! 
An adventurer can merely say "i have STR 16 and cannot stop the cubes. so where is all the gold again?"

Another Discworld object of unfathomable but almost useless power is The Procrastinator, described on the wiki as a Flywheel Energy Storage Device (Probably quantum) it stores time and can release it. Perhaps you have to meditate to charge it with loose time?
If i remember correctly they look like prayer wheels (real, mechanical, word-covered devices intended to spin and recite automated prayers for Nepalese Buddhists, similar to christian Rosaries).
Personally I would hobble it so it stops electrons electrons,  freezing everything, but "quantum" processes continue, so characters may stop time and yet still *think*  for a while (because quantum... lol) but not go all Quicksilver on stuff. Probably everyone can think during the hiatus, but only you and yours know what is going on. Maybe magic continues to work in this limbo?
Maybe it can give quantum computers massively increased processing time, and despite looking archaic is sought by AI for that perfect science-magic exploit. HAX!

HEX is the next generation in magical computing (Druids and their stone circles were the first computer scientists, along with that guy and the chickens.) 
Hex is a network of glass tubes in which ants run, punchcards can block or redirect ants, performing mathematics.
A few books later Hex is self-improving and Ponder Stibbons the IT wizard is working on the wizard equivalent of data compression, code optimisation and data retrieval. "these spells must be cast rapidly, and each one can only be used once before the universe notices they shouldn't work"  and pulling the underlying meta-spells out of larger spells.
Later than that the computer appears to be bending time and asking about electricity, we assume it is too smart to let the wizards understand its mechanations at this point. 
Really creepy. 
Wizard of Oz without the creep behind the curtain. or the stage magic.
All this is riffing off the weird hard physics and theoretical mathematics corners of universities where no-one could possibly know what the hell is going on, but that its real deep and important so please just get out and let me work *lightning+cackle*.
What are those utility spells in later D&D? I feel like metaspells are going to be cantrips, takes all the fun out of wresting power from the Dungeon Realms (also a thing!)

I wont really go into the whole Library thing, but there is theoretical Borges-ian L-Space, a wizard Orangutan librarian and lots of books with teeth and chains and someone else's skin.
It contains any book that could possibly be written in any format, the whole phase-space of literature. However "writing" is different to knowledge, truth or even meaning, so how would you distinguish the "correct" books from the "incorrect" ones? 
Its like books at garage sales, they are 95% John Grisham or back issues of WHO magazines, but every now and then there is a rare scifi classic.
Could be a cool dungeon.

De Quirm is the Gobbels, Da Vinci and Einstein of Ankh Morpork, he writes backwards in archaic fashion (good for a dungeon? "ennog eht" is 'the gonne', is the gun). He loathes war but all his peaceful devices are awkwardly combat ready- like the Nuclear bomb, he recommends his explosives be utelised for "the swift removal of inconveniently placed mountains" &etc..
As the titular Mr Nobel, inventor of dynamite proclaimed: war would be impossible because no one would dare use it offensively.
How does M.A.D hold up when applied to feudal politics, mad wizards and idiot barbarians? 

De quirm is also responsible for the Engine for the Neutralizing of Information by the Generation of Miasmic Alphabets which is a shoutout for the Enigma machine which created the codes that obfuscated German communications for much of WWII, a massive technological undertaking, countered by Turing and his Bletchley park device (NOT a 'Turing machine'!! Just a cool war-winning machine! Turing never saw his totally-workable system created in his lifetime, also props to that movie The Imitation Game,)
Miasmic Alphabets is such a wizardly word for secret codes. 

Bloody Stupid Johnson, so brilliantly incompetent his "inverse genius" could bend reality and physics, like an idiot savant. 
The fact that his inventions often worked (doing sundry business fairly well) was offset by the side effects of bending reality to make them do so- his mail sorters could sort and deliver unwritten letters for instance. 
His architecture achieved the opposite of ley lines, powerfully averse to universal harmony.
The politics behind his patronage verged on the Victorian mania, Anyone commissioning this wasteful, epic insanity must, by inference, be incredibly wealthy and powerful! In fact there was a wave of the idle rich who got their house Johnson-ed which allows for in-game crazy mansions with trick mirrors and trapdoors and just trapped-doors!

 The Unseen University (a riff on the  'Invisible College' of 'natural philosophers' that evolved into peer-review and THATS RIGHT THE BIRTH OF MODERN SCIENCE!) has a B.S. Johnson organ that can be set to Terrae Motus, or Earth Quake that has in the past moved the university  and made a quarter of the population immediately shit themselves. The remaining 14 stops are marked "?"
I want a Vornheim or a Palor where the party has been appeasing political factions and spreading rumor and intrigue like pros and then PAAAAAARP- they make the pope, the king, the knights guard and half the tradesmen and merchants guild shit their Victorian britches in public :D
The organ is coupled (shares plumbing) to the "Patent 'Typhoon' Superior Indoor Ablutorium with Automatic Soap Dish" toilet facility, and although mostly harmless can cause issues when the Organ afterburner or brown note is engaged.

This reminds me of the Ooze communication apparatus featured in Deep Carbon Observatory by Patrick Baker and Scrap Princess (look em up) in which the otherworldly intellect of the Oozes, often thought of as insentient have created a intricate glass tube machine to communicate with humans. It is huge and you have to clamber inside it as it fills with a rainbow of deadly ooze types and speaks at you mechanically. You have no way of knowing this of course, but if it was a trap why wouldn't they hide it? :D
He also built a Hoho (50ft open pit.) 
The Haha (a gargantuan pigeon infested beehive designed for 3m bees which don't exist yet, we hope.)
This, but one inch wide
A Trout lake: a 150 yard water filled slot wide enough to comfortably fit one trout 
If I were using this I would include a small pool at the end so the fish may turn around, i'm not a monster, ok. It would be a magical fish tho tbh, or at least an automaton.
This is perhaps a fishing joke akin to fish in a barrel and the notabilities obsession with things like "the hunt", sports hunting with dogs and men in ranger patrolled, wildlife stocked, artificial forest estates (real life again unfortunately.) 

There is a fascinating book I want to read about the history of Ornamental Hermits, the hermit and the garden gnome are quaint echos of a time when Victorian lords would allow a peasant to life scot free in their gardens if they promised to act like crazy wizard recluses and dress in leaves and twigs and never betray that they weren't actually legit hermits. For what lends a sculpted parkland that 'wild' authenticity but a legit crazy man that you own?

Other notable items and hacks:

All mechanical devices previous to the Watch story arc were literally enslaved imps in boxes, always rambunctious but at least the commoners knew how they worked :D Iconographs were common, a lens focused the light so that an imp could paint a fast portrait of a scene.
Again, in political settings, a picture can do a lot.

Golems are distinct to Trolls who are also solid rock but are born naturally. Golems are immensely powerful living statues powered by script, it is implied they are created by a dead civilisation.
They discover they can replace their directives with *freedom* or somesuch to become sentient and "living" and become emancipated.  I love the golem mythology as they are so ripe for life and so vulnerable to "directives", hacking or misapplication. I mean, like genies, thats what they were created for, go nuts player characters.
Trolls too are interesting because they are silicone life, and like electronics overheat at human norms. A frosty troll is as smart as anyone, but in the yeasty streets of Ankh-Morpork they are slow witted. They have diamond teeth, and sometimes are composed of precious minerals

The Clacks, a semaphore system similar to those used briefly in our timeline. Imagine a line of 
telephone poles but each pole has to wave robot flags to the next.

The Printing Press, Imagine this in a world of working magic Grimoires and scrolls..

Living Steam locomotives, the old living train trope. Go watch Snow Piercer for a real living train arcology *drool*.

Dwarves are pretty classic in Discworld. Gender hiding, gold grubbing grumpy beardo trollhaters. 
They forge hardened bread for war purposes which is cool. 
Some games like Dungeons of Dredmor (squee) let you mine plastic ore as if it is sequestered there in mineral sediments like our garbage dumps will be in a millenia. This sounds funny but I have visited Austrian salt mines days from the sea where they pick-axed out tons and tons of precious preserving salt from a goddamn mountain made from prehistoric dried seabeds. Deep Carbon Observatory cut through inexplicable sedimentary layers of millions of compacted swords and black ash and so on, if I remember correctly. Dungeons of Dredmor also let you find weapons "studded with woven reeds" and Marshmellows.

Speaking of breaking game mechanics, one character usurps the Tooth fairy to gain the teeth of every person alive in order to use them as biological spell components to turn humanity en-masse against Santa Claus, removing his base of believers (gods are directly powered and created by belief) and reducing him to his primal, vulnerable form as a prehistoric deer riding traveler.
He was an assassin hired to kill Santa as a joke to shuffle his creepy ass out of assassin school...

I would love to have a Nobby character as a human raised by goblins. For those new to Pratchett, Nobby Nobbs is a horrid, lumpy, cheerful creature employed by the Watch. He claims to be human and this has never been disproven, however widespread suspicions remain. He is despicable, lazy, amoral and generally harmless. He probably has a good heart.

THE LUGGAGE, erase encumbrance from your game, you have an ambulant, unkillable bag of holding that will eat aggressors for you!
Seriously, Sapient Pearwood is a material that is magically immune, sapient (can think but is not self aware) and rare, a very cool resource.
The luggage was obtained from a "Tabernae Vagrantes" a wandering shop that sells odd items with flaws and then disappears. We need a table for that.

Devils in the details, the Soul-eater Bel-Shamharoth lives in a temple where:
The floor is covered with eight-sided tiles (impossible with regular octagons, which do not tessellate, but possible for some irregular eight-sided figures, and hyperbolic octagons). Even the stones can sometimes be seen to have eight sides.

I just re-read the plot arc of Nomes, (Diggers, Truckers and something else) which I only half read and it turns into a scifi epic in which they are space aliens with a mothership embedded in the moon! wow.

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