Saturday, April 5, 2014

Playing a Magic-User in RIFTS, Part 11: The Techno-Wizard

The Techno-Wizard is an artificer. It is an Occupation that focuses its mastery of magic--itself an iteration of the Western High Magic archetype--upon the creation of items, both for one's own use and for others to use. Its knowledge of spells and rituals is combined with its acumen concerning sciences of the ordinary sort to blend together into what today is sometimes termed "magitech", but it can cast spells and conduct rituals as any other magician of his archetype does. What makes this Occupation distinct is its friendliness to high technology; it often combines specific applications of spells, or the results of rituals, with existing technologies to create hybrids to varying degrees.

The big problem with this Occupation is that the rules governing its artifice capacity are not really rules, but examples and very poor guidelines instead, and for players and Game Masters used to a ruleset that actually is a ruleset governing item creation playing a Techno-Wizard is an exercise in Making Shit Up. If you're cool with that, go nuts; sit down and figure that shit out. Otherwise, you're going to have a bad time; choose something else.

Okay, that out of the way...

Playing an artificer is a fancy way of saying that your man is a gadgeteer. Your shtick is to make widgets that are useful during gameplay, either as a way of participating in the action directly (making weapons, armor, sensors, medic kits, etc.) or to facilitate the strategic or logistical processes of adventuring (making vehicles, portals, shelters, etc.). In this respect, you share a niche with Operators and others who also build/fix/repair things; your edge is that you are also a magic-user, and therefore are privy to the same knowledge and lore that Ley-Line Walkers, Shifters, and others who have to study and master magical theory in order to access and use magic have to do. Your downside, shared with Shifters as well as Operators, is that your man needs downtime and has to deal with a logistical supply train to make the most of his abilities.

In other words, Techno-Wizards need to make plans, prepare contingencies, and otherwise do the same sort of thinking and behavior that Shifters have to do; you're just adding "need to source parts", and "has to have a garage/workshop" to that bothersome aspect of playing such a character. For people of this Occupation, who are very much focused on applied knowledge, figuring out how to balance the requirements of the Occupation with the requirements of adventuring is one of those bothersome inconveniences that--like Shifters--turns many off of this Occupation and relegates Techno-Wizards to NPCs in many campaigns.

Game Masters who want to have Techno-Wizards be a thing that players want to play are going to have to put in some work beforehand figuring out something useful in terms of how Techno-Wizardry actually works due to the aforementioned crap guidelines and lack of useful benchmarks for what can be done with it compared to more genre-standard magical artifice. The sample items and devices have no sensible pattern governing the relationship between the item and what it takes to create them, so Game Masters are going to have to make up such a scheme themselves; this too often results in such magic-users being a NPC-only affair, as Game Masters find the task too bothersome to deal with.

In short, and in a bit of irony, making a Techno-Wizard is very much a fixer-upper Occupation. If you're not up for that, don't bother. If you're okay with it, then you're going to make a character that really is very much what you make of it; it's the Erector Set of Occupations in this game.

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