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Old 02-25-2021, 12:26 PM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

Intuitive Mathematician [5] and Lightning Calculator [2] are mundane mental advantages. Both allow you to do calculations in your head, extremely rapidly. Lightning Calculator limits this to arithmetic; Intuitive Mathematician allows you to do any mathematics you understand. Both advantages appeared during the GURPS 3e period, where Lightning Calculator cost [5] and Intuitive Mathematician cost [25], although that included Mathematical Ability, which cost a flat [10] under 3e.

The in-play effect is that the player can use a calculator* at any time for Lightning Calculator, even if their character is busy with something else, and doesn’t need to for Intuitive Mathematician: the character just knows the answers. The Basic Set notes that “true mathematical geniuses” will have one of these traits, plus the Talent of Mathematical Ability. That’s certainly true for cinematic mathematicians; real-world ones are quite varied.

These advantages are fairly rare on published templates, but they do show up, on artificers, merchants, navigators and scientists. The AI meta-trait includes Intuitive Mathematician, and Aliens: Sparrials points out that they let you keep track of your bar bill while drunk. Bio-Tech can engineer them at TL10, and they’ve very useful with Monster Hunters 5’s technomagic. Powers: The Weird has strange ways to both gain and use them, while Ultra-Tech has nice simple brain implants.

Lightning Calculator is cheap enough to take if there’s a reasonable chance it will be useful. Intuitive Mathematician is handy if solving problems very quickly will be useful, but if mathematics is likely to be a major plot point, IM may trivialise it. The only time mathematics has been important in a game for me was my Infinite Cabal campaign, where it was being created by NPCs and the PCs were gathering information that constrained the problem. In that situation, instant solutions are bad for the flow of the story.

* Do you remember them? They used to be physical devices, not programs on ‘phones.
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Old 02-25-2021, 02:23 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

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* Do you remember them? They used to be physical devices, not programs on ‘phones.
I remember when we weren't allowed to have them in math class, and then suddenly graphing calculators were a requirement (I also remember when it was literally illegal to carry a beeper/pager in school, since the politicians thought that the only reason for a teenager to have one was if the kid were a drug dealer or prostitute).
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Old 02-25-2021, 04:16 PM   #3
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

I thought I had given one of these to my steampunk automaton template, but I must have left it off for some reason (or just forgot it). I did give them Absolute Timing, since their brains are literally clocks.
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Old 02-25-2021, 05:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

I wonder if Lightning Calculator ought to be a leveled Perk? It'd take some reworking, but I think there's enough flexibility within what the 5 CP version can do. Plus some similarity to things like No Nuisance Roll or Accessory...
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Old 02-26-2021, 03:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

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Intuitive Mathematician is handy if solving problems very quickly will be useful, but if mathematics is likely to be a major plot point, IM may trivialise it.
That is the core issue with these two if they aren't used for something like Technomancy as a Talent type bonus or prerequisite. If they're useful on their own in a campaign they risk trivializing it and if they're not useful it's just wasted points.
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Old 02-26-2021, 08:08 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

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That is the core issue with these two if they aren't used for something like Technomancy as a Talent type bonus or prerequisite. If they're useful on their own in a campaign they risk trivializing it and if they're not useful it's just wasted points.
This is a great observation. The games where they are most useful are the games where they are least likely to be allowed. Lightening calculator is at least cheap.

Lightening calculator can be a good advantage for establishing a race or character as "smart" without making them brilliant artists. Nothing says "my mind is superior" like calculating overly precise numbers in the course of casual conversation.

A lot of characters that have intuitive mathematician also have gadgeteer: they're cinematic in the same one. I'd allow Intuitive mathematician to be an alternate ability to gadgeteer, which would make it a perk.
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Old 02-26-2021, 08:38 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

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Lightening calculator can be a good advantage for establishing a race or character as "smart" without making them brilliant artists. Nothing says "my mind is superior" like calculating overly precise numbers in the course of casual conversation.
Relative mathematical ability is a thing. I'm pretty sure I don't have either of these advantages, but I have boggled people (who were something like Math-Shy) by solving real-world problems using high-school physics or algebra in a minute or two, on paper.

I've also shot down projects at work by doing reasonable estimates for how long downloads would take, or how much time millions of searches would need, but I think that's due to my quirk of "Unhappy with abstractions, prefers to solve concrete problems."
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Old 02-26-2021, 10:23 AM   #8
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

If someone can do high level mathematical calculations in their head, on the fly... should that allow some abnormal complementary skill roles (might have the wrong term)?

I'm not an intuitive mathematician, nor a regular mathematician, so I'm mostly going by what I've seen in fiction. There are just various fields where "running the numbers" so easily should probably help with a skill roll, or allow you to roll against a related Skill to improve your odds. For adventuring situations, I'm thinking Physics rolls could help with certain games, or maybe even some combat rolls.

I've obviously never actually run any characters or games with characters like this, however.
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Old 02-26-2021, 10:55 AM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Advantage of the Week: Intuitive Mathematician and Lightning Calculator

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If someone can do high level mathematical calculations in their head, on the fly... should that allow some abnormal complementary skill roles (might have the wrong term)?
I would say so, the main use is in reducing time spent on certain tasks though.
Mathematics (Applied) could be complimentary to many skills where knowing how much load or stress something can take, how much road you need for breaking, quantity of materials, etc. In these cases I would say Intuitive Mathematician may not give you a direct bonus (thats the Talent) but you can get a Time Spent bonus on your roll.
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