One of the regions of The Artifact that has always scared me is the collector wells. They are vital to the life of the planet, its heart if you will. There are things that I know about them and a lot of things I don’t. For the Chezbah sourcebook I’d like to have a map of them but I don’t want to just have a map to fill in the space, I want a map that makes players say “Oooh I want to go there!” The problem with that is the Collector Wells are crawling with Chezbah and that so far has always made players say “We’ll avoid that area.”
There are two easy ways I can think of to get players into the collector wells. One is to make them a safe haven. That doesn’t seem like it would work with tons of Chezbah walking around. The second way is to make there be really cool toys there that players will want to have. To do that, the lure would have to be pretty big. That I think can be managed. I’m thinking something akin to the dark tiles, they had a purpose but people have found alternate uses for them. Ideally I would also like it to be something you can’t buy from someone else. That way the character with tons of cash can’t just say “I’m not going in there, I’ll just look for someone who has one and buy it off of them.”
What Do I Know?
I don’t want to just throw some kind of unobtainium into the game without knowing why it’s there. The dark tiles make sense (to me anyway) as to what they do and why they exist. So let’s look at what I do know about the wells and try to build something from there.
The Collector Wells are sitting at the bottom of a huge well. This well funnels high energy particles from the solar wind into a collection point using the planet’s magnetic field. Unlike the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts which deflect solar wind, the magnetic field of The Artifact is designed to draw in the oppositely charged solar wind of the star it’s pointed at. This collection point then converts the charged particles into the superheated plasma that powers the rest of the planet.
To that end, the collector wells must have a massive furnace inside it. There’s our first landmark in the wells. Obviously there’s nothing in the furnace except a lot of hot. There’d be some heavy duty magnetic containment tech to focus the incoming radiation into a single point, and then there’d have to be some kind of an anvil that the radiation would strike in order to convert it to plasma. That anvil could be made of gas or liquid, any normal solid material would be vaporized over time so it would make sense to be able to replenish the face of the anvil quickly and continually. But does that gas or liquid have to be of a mundane kind? Of course not. This could be our unobtainium or at least a link to it.
I like to keep things on The Artifact based on real science going on now. A whole mess of it is speculative but science none the less. At first a lot of the core technologies were from me throwing cool stuff I’d read or seen, together into one place. As the story has progressed, I’ve had to take look for developments in science that do what I want them to do.
So let’s speculate. Something really cool that I haven’t done anything with yet is energy teleportation (see Points of Disinterest Episode 6). Maybe the best way to move energy from the anvil to the plasma generation system is to teleport it. The anvil could be made of liquid sodium that is entangled with another pool of sodium in the plasma generation system(s). I imagine a cluster of these plasma generators at the head of each primary plasma conduit. To do this energy teleporting the two pools of liquid sodium would go through some kind of entanglement device that could link the atoms on a massive scale. It is this entanglement system that has interesting possibilities. Although Earth teleporter technology in theory could do something similar, maybe it’s the types of particles they entangle and the energy states of those particles that makes the technology exotic.
So why might this be interesting RPG candy that players can’t resist? I turn to the theory of the quantum brain (or mind). The specifics of the theory are not immensely important but let’s speculate that the mind (or neurons in general) may be sensitive to entanglement. By putting a body part of one character (hand, foot, head, etc) into this device, and the body part of another character in the device the neurons become entangled and suddenly the neurons of different characters can communicate with each other no matter how far away from each other they are.
So what would this do? That’s a good question, in reality it may do nothing. That’s no fun though. So I’d like to speculate that if two hands were placed in the device, the two characters could sense each other’s hand. Even more so, they may be able to control each other’s hand! Why would you want that? It could be a useful tool. Both players would always know how the other person’s hand was doing. That sounds funny but if the other character was hot, or cold, maybe even very hungry, the other character might be able to tell. If they can control each other’s hand, they could use sign language or even writing to communicate with each other.
So what if two character’s head’s were placed in the machines? The two player’s minds would become linked. They would effectively become a hive mind. All their skills, knowledge, history and secrets would now be shared. I can only imagine that would be disorienting for quite a while. They would probably even see what the other sees. Could two brains really signal each other this way? If blasting someone else’s FMRI data into you brain can transmit usable data, then I’d say yes, it’s possible. It might take some training to sort through the new input but just like monkeys using robotic arms takes training, in theory, it should work.
By placing their head into a compartment near the entanglement mechanism and having another character do the same in a corresponding compartment at the same time, the two characters become linked. They add their IQ attributes together (no upper limit to the score) and share all their skills. (I wonder about muscle memory though, maybe non mental skills are half shared?)
This isn’t a peasant process. Both characters take 1D10 damage (remember x2 for the head, 1/4 for the hand). Roll 1d6 Stress Points for a hand (or foot if you really want to) entanglement. Roll 3D10 Stress Points for head’s being entangled. In theory a hand could be entangled to a foot or a head to a hand or any combination there of, but mismatched entanglements only allow for vague and unusual sensations to be picked up. Characters might be able to interpret this over time but it’s functionality would be limited.
The entanglement devices in the collector wells are huge, and cannot be removed without knocking out a huge part of the power generation of the planet. That makes this not something you can sell to someone else. In addition these devices would be protected by hordes of Chezbah.
The next question is how did anyone figure out to do this in the first place? I’ll write about that tomorrow.