Research and Development

“Breakthrough!” Science, Research, and Engineering Mechanics

A series of somewhat experimental research and development mechanics currently undergoing playtesting. Register projects on the wiki, and we can get started turning your dreams into SCIENCE of some sort or another. Feel free to leave comments on the page itself for info on mechanics.

Parameters

Time:

Sets time taken for task actions, and number of successes need to solve the specific problem. Described in lab-person-hours need to make one check, as appropriate to the task and campaign. Normal rules of task actions and time apply, but GM may limit “taking extra time” bonus to +30 or less.Players might not know exactly what this number is until after doing some preliminary research.

Infrastructure:

Labs and other types of infrastructure are rated in number of lab-person-hours they can be worked per week. Can also provide a bonus for a sufficiently powerful lab and equipment for certain skills.

Example: The Gamma Labs of the Escalating Application are a small but well equipped biolab capable of doing 840 lab-person-hours per week. It provides a +10 bonus to the skills of Profession: Morph Design, Academics: Biochemistry, and Medicine: Biosculpting

Difficulty:

Inherent difficulty in making progress on the problem. May include an inherent difficulty modifier by itself from -10 to -30 based on campaign parameters.

  • +30: Simple problems, more suitable for training or make-work projects, rounding out well-established fields in trivial ways.
  • +20: Well-established field. Most potential problems have already been solved in multiple ways, and is less a matter of innovation than one of putting existing pieces together. Making alterations to an established morph design.
  • +10: A growing field that’s been recently opened, with lots of low-hanging fruit, or highly derivative work. Basic xenobiology problems (how long ago did these aliens live), cracking corporate designs.
  • +0: A common scientific/technical problem of the type a professional might be expected to make progress time. Design a new type of structure adapted to an alien environment.
  • -10: A more difficult problem, something near the edge of what a given field knows how to do, or where the design space is already over-explored. Designing better AI routines, improving fusion reactors, uplift or create a morph out of an existing species.
  • -20: Cutting edge breakthroughs, things that may be compared to sliced bread. Most async research, advanced xenotech studies, novel physics problems, creating a new morph based on no existing creature.
  • -30 (or more): Work involving concepts and technologies that are (almost?) completely foreign to transhuman experience. Extremely difficult technical problems. Solutions may already exist at some theoretical level, but be limited or inadequate for the desired use. Most work is created from scratch rather than adapted from existing sources. Creating a synthetic lifeform based on almost entirely novel principles, attempting research on reactionless drive craft, understanding Pandora gate technology.

Research

Lay out requirements for the project, determine broad specifications, and search through resources to gain early insights into the problem domain.

Success for research may considerably reduce the length of time required to complete the project, by virtue of discovering solutions that already exist, or finding an expert on the subject that can provide the needed insights. Some preliminary lab or workshop work must be completed in order to begin design work.

Failure may mean poor planning or a failure to specify the right requirements, increasing the amount of time required or possibly even convincing a project team to proceed on an impossible and ultimately fruitless task.

Actions

  • Research: Roll research with a difficulty test modifier equal to Challenging (-20) + the inherent difficulty of the problem. Any relevant Academics or Interest skill counts as complementary skill. A successful roll provides any available research on the topic, and a 10 bonus on the preliminary lab/workshop work. An Excellent Success (MoS 30) reduces the time frame by 25%, and a critical success by 50% . A failure means the information was unhelpful, false, or misleading. A MoF of 30 or more increases the time frame by 25%. A critical failure may, at GM discretion, scrub the project for the immediate future.
  • Networking: Use Networking and a sufficiently high rep score to bring additional information and expertise on board. Type of favor needed depends on difficulty of research. Difficulty of -30 or less requires a level 5 favor, difficulty of -20 a level 4, difficulty of -10 a level 3 favor, difficulty of 0 a level 2 favor, and anything above that a level 1. Bringing in additional help and information in this manner can grant a +10 to +30, depending on MoS and nature of the request, on one or more research or design checks. Depending on the source of aid, they may want money, IP rights on the product, or place restrictions (ie, must open-source the design) on the information, or require a higher-level favor to be spent.
  • Experimentation: Conduct preliminary lab and workshop work using Professions skills such as Lab Technician, Nanotechnology Researcher, Physicist, Programmer, etc, with the given timeframe and difficulty modifier. This is usually the primary method by which the characters accomplish this phase’s goals, and involves feasibility tests, small-scale experiments, and general probing. A successful roll means that they have made significant progress and either answered part of the question, or created a basis for design work to proceed on. More than one success may be needed to begin design work or fully solve the problem.

Design

Figure out what needs to be done, how to do it, and how to make all the components play nicely with each other.

Success means achieving goals, with fewer, or perhaps even no delays or functional compromises to the design.

Failure means ideas don’t integrate well with one another, or solutions are imperfect and involve drawbacks or costly delays while the design is revised.

Actions

  • Design: Create the basic overall design of the product/project. Roll the relevant designer Profession or Art skill, with relevant difficulty and timeframe. A successful roll means that the design of the project in question is complete and work can proceed. A failure works as normal for Task Action. More than one design roll may be necessary if there is more than one significant novel component to the project.
  • Integration: Integrate individual pieces or subcomponents to the project. Roll a relevant Profession for each piece, with difficulty modifier. Each component does not take the full timeframe, but rather the full timeframe applies to the process of integration. Failure on an individual piece may cause a strange interaction with other parts, resulting in odd behavior or quirks. A Severe Failure (MoF 30+) indicates that the part in question cannot be integrated into the design as-is, and will require another roll (and additional time). A critical failure may indicate that it’s necessary to go back to design work to allow a given feature to work.
  • Optimization: Squeeze additional performance out of existing design, make tradeoffs, and add polish and aesthetic touchs. Roll relevant Art skill (no difficulty modifier) for creating a desired aesthetic ‘look’, with a success indicating that the desired look is achieved. An exceptional or critical success might grant a positive appearance trait (or remove an assumed negative one); a failure might add a negative trait to reflect this. Roll relevant Profession skill (engineering or design) at one half the timeframe with difficulty modifier to make desired tradeoffs; tradeoffs should sacrifice some capability to in some area of the design to improve in some other area, subject to GM approval. A success allows the tradeoff to happen, an Excellent Success allows for a degree of design synergy that creates the desired effect for only half the cost; a critical success creates it for no cost at all! A general ‘optimization’ roll can be used to provide various miscellaneous diffuse benefits, such as secondary features, again subject to GM approval.

Production

Figure out how to translate the design into blueprints or a manufacturing procedure that can reliably create non-defective products, and subsequently start making them.

Success means the design can be produced more rapidly, reliably, consistently and at lower cost.

Failure means inefficiencies, delays, and may introduce defects to the project that may not be discovered until later.

Actions

  • Blueprint Programing: The process that involves translating the finalized design into a form that’s compatible with standard production facilities – or with specialized production facilities, if it’s that kind of thing. This phase is also important in weeding out potential defects and inconsistencies that could result during manufacture. Make a Programming roll at the relevant timeframe and difficulty modifier. A success indicates a completed blueprint. An Excellent Success (MoS 30+) incates a design that’s ready for full production or remarkably fault/tolerant, and gives a +10 bonus in production setup. Failures in this stage can be retried, as long as they’re not Critical Failures – if such a mishap occurs, some aspect of the design is inviable for production as-is and time will need to be spent going back to fix it.
  • Production Setup: Most creations beyond simple complexity will require some specialized tools or settings in order to manufacture, even if they can be made in full by a stock, unmodified nanoassembler. This may involve engineering and building new equipment to facilitate full production, coding assembly routines for nanofactories, or finding the correct nutrient balance to cultivate tissue in a growth tank. Roll a relevant Profession (Production Engineer, Factory Designer, Biofarm Design) with difficulty modifier to create the necessary setup. A success creates the gear and tech necessary to proceed with production; a failure requires the investment of more resources into the project, or more time to configure existing assets. Note that this is dependent on having the infrastructure and resources for the project available; poor or lavish resources will offer a penalty or bonus to the roll. An Excellent Success (MoS 30+) reduces the overall cost per unit or end to end production time by MoS/5 percent. A critical failure may indicate an industrial accident or worse!
  • Full Production: Full production begins, using available resources, nanofabrication, automated factories, etc. Sufficiently complex items will require oversight or construction by transhumans, especially biological or large, complex objects with parts too large for nanofabrication, or that require specialized tuning or post-production work. Skills such as Medicine and Hardware become relevant depending on product. Final assembly, tuning, customization is left to the discretion of the GM and the individual project.

Additional Mechanics

Teamwork/Staff

Doing science and engineering work is often a large-scale project, requiring dozens of people. That said, teamwork – flat +10 for each additinal person – seem ill-suited to this sort of work. Instead, for this sort of collaborative effort, bonuses should be made based on the size of the supporting staff – +10 for a small team of less than ten, +20 for a department’s worth of eggheads, +30 for the scientific might of several different teams, etc. Note that the bonus only applies if the supporting staff have a varied background in relevant fields; otherwise they’re just deadweights or repeating things that you already know.

A particularly elite or ill-educated staff might be worth an additional +10 or -10. Sufficiently elite staff won’t be “supporting” – they’ll be the ones doing the breakthroughs themselves!

Moxie

…still working on it. Will get back to you soon. Leave proposed mechanics here?

Comments

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