Steve Jackson Games Forums Engineering Skill
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 08-18-2017, 08:13 AM #1 swordtart   Join Date: Jun 2008 Engineering Skill A number of thoughts on the CW universe that have been running around in my head came together in the shower this morning. These were: 1) Why would anyone in the game world buy a stock car? Many stock designs were sub-optimal when first published. Many have become downright useless. A significant proportion were or have become illegal. I paid good money for that book, I am darned well gonna use every page. 2) What use is engineering skill? According to the book it is used to design cars (among other things). By who? 3) How much does it cost to make a car (rather than how much is a car valued at). A stock car costs the sum of its component parts. An arena car is valued at the sum of its component parts. Salvage rules say that if you do the work yourself you can save 1/3 (i.e. parts are 2/3rd of the price of a component, 1/3 is labour cost. Second hand the parts are worth 1/2 of the as new price. Does that include the labour element? i.e. is it 1/2 or 1/2 of 2/3 = 1/3? Retrofitting components cost an extra 10% (of the list price, but presumably you can save the 1/3 for doing it yourself) Sooo. I got to thinking. Firstly we can file the arena value thing. We were told (in an ADQ&A) that no matter what you paid for a car, its arena value is the sum of its components. If I build a stock car, by buying the basic components can I make it cheaper than the list price? Probably, but let's look at it in detail. 1) You can buy every component at 2/3 of the list price. 2) To fit them all together you need to spend many hours using the mechanic skill. Even if you fail rolls, it doesn't cost anything in ruined parts, you just spend time. Now if you are renting a garage at \$50 per hour it might hurt you directly in the pocket, but if even if you are willing to do it on your driveway with a standard toolbox, it will cost you your own hourly rate. If this is time you took out of your regular job, you need to cost it at that hourly rate, if it is your leisure time it might be even more valuable to you. Even if you are unemployed you need to count the money you could have been earning if you were spending the same time gophering in the local garage. 3) I would argue that every component you are fitting is a retro-fit/custom work and incurs the extra 10%. If we assume the standard 1/3 is labour (the extra faff of re-configuring cables, etc.) and 2/3 is parts (replacing fixtures etc.). So overall a shade under 1/3rd saving. Pretty good. Now let's say I am going for a completely new design. As a player I just put together the spreadsheet and voila. In the game I/someone needs to use the Engineer skill (on a stock car this is amortized over 1000's of vehicles of the same design so is a small percentage of the stock cost). 1) I buy every component at 2/3 list price. 2) I need to optimally place each component and in a way that it all works seamlessly. I could make an engineering roll for the whole thing, but that is rather digital so I suggest instead making a roll for each component. Now regardless of whether I pass or fail, my character I will think the design is good. 3) Now I (or my paid mechanic) puts the car together in accordance with my design, paying the 10% extra over list per component for custom work. 4) When I test it my character discovers all the failed engineering rolls I made. 5) Start again at 2 but only roll for the failures. At 3 I will pay the 10% again for the failed rolls. At 4 repeat the cycle until I iron out all the bugs. 6) Look with pride on my custom design. Maybe I could get a manufacturer to buy it off me and recoup my expenses (of course an arena success would help secure that sale). Under this mechanism, you can't get cheaper than a stock car unless you are willing to invest in mechanics skill and make it yourself to a stock design. If you design your own you may way end up spending a lot on failures until you get a success (but this is the nature of engineering). Arena or one off fights are unaffected as this cost and time all happens off-stage. But in a campaign game it might slow down the introduction of custom designs, but provides a credible reason for stock-designs (even lame ones). Last edited by swordtart; 08-18-2017 at 08:18 AM.
 08-18-2017, 08:15 PM #2 josephrey   Join Date: Oct 2004 Location: on the road Re: Engineering Skill How plug-and-play would the vehicles of the CW world be? Would they be like today's cars, where if you wanted to change something major it would indeed take an engineer and plenty of retrofitting? Or would weapons and accessories fit into slots, making all work a more simple affair for (almost) any mechanic? If the former, can we start to ignore the 1/3 space rule as far as weapons go if an engineer wants to work their magic? Because now we're not limited by what is "supposed" to fit in any specific spot. (But then we might be getting into spinal mount territory, where the weapon(s) doesn't have enough room in the vehicle to articulate/aim.) If the latter, a mech would save a lot of time on whether something may or may not work. It would simply fit, or it wouldn't. But then again, if the latter, why couldn't an engineer rip all that structure out and go back to a blank slate? Maybe even squeezing an extra space or two out of a body type? And in a real world equivalent to the stock car pricing, bicycles follow that same rule. If you buy a new complete "stock" bike it will be cheaper than if you bought a frame and all the exact same parts individually. I'm sure that applies to cars, and any other products out there. Manufacturers of OEM components parts are in business too and trying to out-price each other, so a car manufacturer will be wheeling and dealing to make their cars as cheap as possible over the competition. "Yes, our new model is the same price as that other company, but we offer this, this, and this at no additional cost."
 08-18-2017, 09:13 PM #3 Magesmiley MIB   Join Date: Aug 2011 Location: Snohomish, WA Re: Engineering Skill There was a short article on the subject of custom and stock cars related to costing and time in ADQ 7/1 (Buying Your New Car). The article took the other approach - that custom built/modified vehicles are more expensive. While it doesn't include reference to the engineering skill, it does, at the end mention the creation of blueprints for custom cars, and to me it seems like a reasonable use of the engineering skill to be able to do this. The article might be a good option to use if you want to better differentiate stock and custom car costs. __________________ Dynamax Designs, Designing quality since 2035.
 08-19-2017, 04:12 PM #4 swordtart   Join Date: Jun 2008 Re: Engineering Skill I recall that article and it was one of the things that started the engineering question in my head all those years ago. My concern was that the numbers in the article were rather arbitrary. I was trying to come up with something that was tied into the rules already present. I also agree with the "plug and play" argument, but I see it a little more like PCs of old where the components were technically interchangeable, but as the standards were loose you sometimes had to be a bit creative or accept a limitation, as technology moved on there comes a variety of competing standards, plug an play is for the ones that won the standards battle, but connecting up the passed up standards is much harder (try wiring a WANG daisy wheel printer up to a BBC model B or running an android app on your windows phone for example). I would be happy that the engineering skill allowed you to play tunes in the design trade space (maybe you could make a component lighter or smaller but it would cost more for example). I wouldn't have this as a simple roll once against the skill and hey presto. I would expect there to be a significant design period with costs several times that of the donor component. It would require some significant investment.
08-21-2017, 04:37 PM   #5
syncrogt1

Join Date: Jan 2015
Re: Engineering Skill

Quote:
 Originally Posted by swordtart (maybe you could make a component lighter or smaller but it would cost more for example)..
I could see this where it could happen once on an entire vehicle. Let's say fit a 3 space weapon in two spaces but double the cost, or add another space in a body but increase the cost somehow. I would only allow one such change per vehicle though. And the difficulty could be tied to engineering skill level rather than a roll.

 08-22-2017, 02:58 PM #6 Blue Ghost   Join Date: Mar 2011 Location: Spinward Marches Re: Engineering Skill I think the reason is pretty simple; it's a fictional game. When cars were first made you either built them as a tinkerer, or they were custom made to your specifications. Later on Ford made them via the factory system, which cranked out more product for the masses. Trying to justify your question is like trying to justify a fictional world where people in cars shoot at one another like fighter aircraft. It really isn't done outside of war or the odd criminal act. So, if you have a society that embraces casual lethal violence, then you're probably going to want a design that's cheap and suits your needs. Not everyone in the CW-verse is a champion dullest with Gold Cross and the ability to earn gobs of cash. Most people are workaday folks who are eeking out an existence in a world that's suffered some major catastrophes. You don't have the resources to design and build your own personal car-tank, so you buy one off the lat.
 08-22-2017, 03:45 PM #7 43Supporter   Join Date: Dec 2007 Re: Engineering Skill The problem here is: In game, a car is "functional out of the box" -- that is, all weapons, accessories, and primary components work perfectly, without the period of "fettling" required for stuff like "getting the sights tuned properly", or "fixing that recurring leak on the left-rear wheel", or similar. If the game had rules for a failed Eng. roll resulting in, say, a hit to HC (there's some flaw in the suspension design -- x-ref "Chevrolet Corvair"), or a to-hit penalty to a weapon, that might make Eng. skill relevant. __________________ "Dale *who*?" The Jeremy Clarkson Debate Course: 1) I'm Right. 2) You're Wrong. 3) The End.
 08-22-2017, 11:40 PM #8 josephrey   Join Date: Oct 2004 Location: on the road Re: Engineering Skill True to both above. We're in the automated and mass produced world of vehicles. Most will be for the average driver, and any engineering costs will be high. It sounds like a few folk here def play with house rules, so something like that could be incorporated easily. I'm currently playing one of jimmylogan's PBEM's and one of the other players is designing his own ethanol-type swamp gang, where they're overloading the chassis of their vehicles. People do this all the time IRL when headed home from Home Depot, loading their Dodge Neon with 2000lbs of sheetrock. So a roll to see if the chassis fails on the drive home should be suitable. Or, in the case of the overloaded swamp cycles, it might be worth the risk of overloading the vehicle. If I can squeeze a few more points of armor, or even an extra weapon, that might be worth a small percentage of my army of cheap cycles failing for an overwhelming increase in arms.
08-23-2017, 03:44 PM   #9
43Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2007
Re: Engineering Skill

Quote:
 Originally Posted by josephrey I'm currently playing one of jimmylogan's PBEM's and one of the other players is designing his own ethanol-type swamp gang, where they're overloading the chassis of their vehicles.
I was thinking more like this (it's amazing how all my good ideas come while lying in bed at 3AM):

USING ENGINEERING SKILL:

Vehicle Design: First, come up with a legal design. Then roll 2d6 against a TH of 7, with the following modifiers to the roll:

-- Every three weapons (round down): -1
-- Every three accessories (round down): -1
-- Every 100 pts. plastic armor, or equivalent (round down): -1

[NOTE: In short: The more complex the vehicle, the more likely a design flaw will appear.]

If the roll succeeds, the car operates as per normal rules. If the roll fails, note by how much the roll failed by; then roll 1d6 once on the following table for each point by which the roll missed (if a result does not apply to the design, use the next-highest applicable result):

DESIGN FLAW TABLE:
1) One weapon with a TH roll suffers a -1 to TH permanently; or one dropped-weapon develops a chance to misfire (roll [number by which Eng. roll was missed by] or lower on 2d6)
2) One accessory either reduces its bonus by 1 permanently, or develops a chance to misfire (roll [number by which Eng. roll was missed by] or lower on 2d6)
3) One armor facing loses 10% of its value permanently (cost, and weight still apply) [NOTE: The armor is there, but ineffective.]
4) -1 HC permanently.
5) -2.5 MPH top speed permanently.
6) +1 Difficulty to deceleration permanently.

Multiple results are cumulative.

DIAGNOSING FAULT:

For each faulty system, roll 2d6 against a TH of 7, with the following modifier:

-- Subtract [(Eng. skill of diagnoser) - (Eng. skill of designer)]; apply result, positive or negative, to TH roll

EX.: The designer's Eng. skill was +2; the diagnoser's skill is +1; the roll is at -1. [NOTE: Yes, it is harder for a less-experienced Engineer to figure out how a more-experienced designer might have fouled up.]

If the roll succeeds, reduce penalties from the afflicted vehicle system by the amount the roll succeeded by; if this cancels out the penalty, then the penalty is removed. If the roll fails, the penalty remains.

OPTIONAL:

Critical Success, and Critical Failure: If a natural 12 is the result of the Eng. roll, not only are all penalties automatically removed, but the system gains a +1 to its TH or activation chance. If a natural 2 is the result, the first time the system is used, it fails catastrophically -- the system cannot be used at all until the fault is successfully diagnosed. (A critical failure of top speed means the car fails to run *at all*.)
__________________
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The Jeremy Clarkson Debate Course:
1) I'm Right. 2) You're Wrong. 3) The End.

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