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Old 03-04-2016, 01:48 PM   #1
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

Machinist is the IQ/Average TL skill of making and modifying machine parts and tools, usually from metal. The skill becomes more significant at TL5, and Smith less so, when machines and machine tools become economically important, but it exists for tool-making from TL0. The defaults are IQ-5 or Mechanic (any)-5; some Armoury specialisations at TL5+ and all Mechanic specialisations have defaults to Machinist. Modifiers include High Manual Dexterity and Ham-Fisted for DX-based rolls, Artificer talent, and equipment modifiers. The skill appeared at GURPS 4e.

With a successful skill roll, you can make parts from raw materials, make tools, or modify simple machines that don't come under another skill. Machinist is more or less a "repair" skill in design/repair/use triads, but it's slightly meta as compared to Mechanic. Well-trained mechanics often have Machinist as well: it lets you escape from the limits imposed by available parts and tools. Inventors may well need Machinist skill to build parts for gadgets.

Machinist is a backroom kind of skill, not often dangerous or exciting, and is fairly rare on published templates. Action makes it an option for the Demolition Man, gives it uses in breaking in, disabling machines, and jury-rigging, and includes it in many of the Specialists packages. Banestorm's Underground Engineers can use it, secretly. High-Tech has lots of applications for the skill, plus tools and workshops; Low-Tech covers tool-making from stone onwards -- stone-age surgeons need a good machinist to replace their instruments daily -- and LTC3 uses it for bone, horn and shell tools and implies that clockmakers need it to make their own tools. PU2, PU3 and PU7 have examples for this skill. Powers can apply Machinist to the Control advantage, and it also works with appropriate Chinese Elemental Powers and Magical Styles. Reign of Steel: Will to Live has a lot of templates with this skill, but they're all robots, or humans under robot rule. Ultra-Tech has marvellous tools and integrated factories, and the skill is really handy in making tools and barriers for use against Zombies.

Using Machinist at the IQ default involves operating dangerous machines. As a physics freshman at an engineering-orientated university I got enough Machinist training to have a default at TL7, and a lot of that was about safety. The job of "fitter", which was important in early mass-production industries, also seems to fall under this skill: fitters assembled products from parts that weren't produced to sufficient precision to fit together without being filed down in places, or having shims added. Welders, riveters and other specialised metal-workers also presumably use this skill, possibly with optional specialisations.

Have you used Machinist in a game?
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Old 03-04-2016, 02:49 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

This always feels as if it ought to be the counterpart to Mechanic that Electrician is to Electronics Repair, but it isn't, quite.

It seems to be very heavily TL-based: training in how to work a TL8 CNC machine omits all the manual stuff on making a TL7 lathe do what you need it do. Arguably there is little or no TL8+ Machinist in its professional sense, as the gap between "tell the machine what to do by tapping on a keyboard" and "repair the machine when it doesn't do it" narrows; by that point it's more for things like sabotage and jury rigs, or as a complementary skill to your Engineering or whatever for knowing what your particular CNC machine can do when you design the thing to be made on it.
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Old 03-04-2016, 09:38 PM   #3
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

I was ignoring this skill for years because I had Smith and Armoury on my low-TL craftsmen and didn't even realize a skill with a name like this would be any good at TL3/4.
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Old 03-05-2016, 01:30 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

This skill has only ever come up in Survival type games and maybe once or twice in Supers with Gadgeteers.

Though I've had it on quite a few characters in other genres.
Feel free to steal, borrow, fold, spindle, mutilate any rule, advantage, etc I come up with it.
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Old 03-05-2016, 01:32 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

I started to create a TL 0 surgeon just to see how good I could make him without any magic. Handmade obsidian tools of his own design made him stand out. Galen of the stone age.
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Old 03-05-2016, 04:23 AM   #6
Phil Masters
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

I think that the only character of mine who's had it was the team mechanic in Roger's Crimson Skies game. I don't recall how often, if ever, I rolled against it, but it would have felt totally stupid not to have it. It was on his character sheet, therefore there were no quibbles about his being able to keep the team plane functional even in slightly constrained circumstances.
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Old 03-05-2016, 05:53 AM   #7
Join Date: Dec 2006
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

Machinist is one of those skills where it becomes immensely more useful when the player has knowledge of what can be done with machineing.

I have used it to great effect on technical pcs both with and without gadgeteer.

Almost all of my technical pcs and any mage who has creation type abilities will have it.

Machinist in my mind has always been the symbol drawing of the crafint skills- it supports other skills but generally does not accomplish anything in an of itself.

I think it is not at all unreasonable as a quick rule to have a successful machinist used in support of another skill provide a +1 to other tasks (as per the custom fit modification for firearms) and/or to be able to negate penalties up to its MoS. If you have the option to machine your tools for a specific task that, almost by definition, means you have superior quality tools for that task (another +1/+2 - assuming that the craftsman in question did not already have superior quality tools).

Having the exact right tool/fit is one of those fantastic things that you don't appreciate until you have seen it done;
Real world example (from earlier this week):
I am about 2/3 through a reclaimed hardwood project.
Stage 1 was actually extracting the hardwood from the floor- there are multiple ways to do this, but I ultimately ended up developing a new method using an oscillating tool, and sliding that under the boards to cut the cleats, needing only lift them about 1cm. It was a process of experimentation, but using the oscillating tool with the metal cutting blade went at least 75% faster then any other method I had researched or attempted, it also radically reduced the learning curve on how to successfully extract boards without damaging them. Machinist would be the skill to adapt the blade on the oscilating tool to that new purpose (probably with a significant TDM, since it already does that.

Stage 2 is laying down the new flooring. Laying down flooring is generally done via a floor nailer/stapler, but the first two rows, and the last three rows of hardwood are too close to the wall to use the nailer. The traditional method is to drill a hole in the board and then hammer the cleat in by hand, finishing off by using a roberts screwdriver as a transfer punch (the roberts because you can rest the cleat on the shaft of the screwdriver paralleled to the head of the driver, thus giving you something to rest against). I spent about an hour modifying an air hammer chisel to have a slot that exactly fit a flooring cleat. Once I had the modified air hammer 'hand nailing' a cleat turned from a ~5 minute job per cleat to a ~15 second job per cleat (drill hole, place clean, use air hammer, done) that was far less finicky then the hand nailing method, and had far less room to accidentally bend the cleat- time savings ~40 minutes per row. Machinist would be the skill to build the hammer modification (Involved grinding, welding, and caliper use, so probably actually using straight machinist, but with a bonus for extra time, and multiple attempts before I got it right).

Last edited by starslayer; 03-05-2016 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 03-05-2016, 08:13 AM   #8
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Machinist

Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
I started to create a TL 0 surgeon just to see how good I could make him without any magic. Handmade obsidian tools of his own design made him stand out. Galen of the stone age.
That would be a design I'd be interested to see. One of my two current campaigns, the fantasy one, is at TLs 0-1, and one race, the dwarves, goes in for surgery; I might like to borrow your design.
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