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Old 02-11-2017, 06:11 AM   #1
Crystalline_Entity
 
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Default Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

Say a character wanted to take a contragravity scoutbot (Ultra-Tech p.80; TL 11^) from a worldline where contragravity worked to a world where it didn’t (using Nexus portals, if it matters). Is there anything in RAW as to what happens?

I can see a number of possible results:
  1. It doesn’t work… but will resume working perfectly when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.
  2. It doesn’t work… and will never work again, turning the contragravity generator into useless metal.
  3. It doesn’t work… and explodes (or does something else which is harmful).
  4. It doesn’t work… and will need to be repaired (possibly replacing some components in the contragravity generator) for it to work when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.

My gut reaction was option 2 (or maybe 3, if the item uses high-energy superscience power cells etc), to prevent characters causing chaos in low-tech worlds with ultra-tech technology, but I’m unsure whether this is sensible. Magical items explicitly obey option 1 (Magic p.6 - "enchantments...are suspended within a no-mana zone, but resume when taken to an area with mana"), though I’m not convinced that superscience items and magical items should merit equal treatment here.

Am I missing something in RAW about this? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches? How do other people deal with this?
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Old 02-11-2017, 11:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

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Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
  1. It doesn’t work… but will resume working perfectly when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.
  2. It doesn’t work… and will never work again, turning the contragravity generator into useless metal.
  3. It doesn’t work… and explodes (or does something else which is harmful).
  4. It doesn’t work… and will need to be repaired (possibly replacing some components in the contragravity generator) for it to work when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.

My gut reaction was option 2.
I'd tend to 1, as long as you didn't try to turn it on somewhere it didn't work.

Consider as an analogy drenching something electronic. If it's not powered when you did it and dries out before you turn it back on, usually not a problem.
If it is on when you soak it, it could be 3 or 4. The electronics usually (though not always) damages itself when shorting out, how explosively it does so depending on the power levels involved.
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Old 02-11-2017, 12:18 PM   #3
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

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I'd tend to 1, as long as you didn't try to turn it on somewhere it didn't work.

Consider as an analogy drenching something electronic. If it's not powered when you did it and dries out before you turn it back on, usually not a problem.
If it is on when you soak it, it could be 3 or 4. The electronics usually (though not always) damages itself when shorting out, how explosively it does so depending on the power levels involved.
I would tend similarly: 1 if you don't try to use it, and 1, 3, or 4 if you try to use it in a dead zone, depending on the exact fluff of the device. I probably will tend towards 4 though.
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Old 02-11-2017, 12:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

It could be any of the above, depending on the fluff. So you should probably choose one you like, then make the fluff fit that choice.

Unless you already have a whole lot of technobabble about how contragrav works in your timeline, in which case you'd choose an option based on the fluff.

Personally, I work out the technobabble first, as far as reasonable, so that any surprise questions about the tech can be answered consistently. What if a scientist in the non-superscience timeline tries to dismantle the device? What if a PC wants to salvage it for parts for something else? What if the superscience component could be replaced with something that's compatible from the new timeline? What if a gadgeteer makes a complete replica: would it work back in the superscience timeline? Does the character know beforehand it will blow up when turned on, so can it be used as a bomb or booby trap?
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Old 02-11-2017, 12:33 PM   #5
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

I tend towards 1 and 4 myself, too. Trying to use it where it won't work is cause to lean towards 4, as when it tries to work where it can't damages the circuitry or whatever.

I tend to be nice to players in that respect, so 2 is usually off the table. 3 depends on what condition the item was in before it was turned on; usually I reserve 3 for items that are already damaged for some reason.
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Old 02-11-2017, 12:45 PM   #6
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

As others have said, it depends on the fluff: the exact nature of the device, and the exact nature of the difference between the worlds. Therefore, you should go with whatever option you feel would be most fun and fit the overall tone of your campaign. I am confident that the hive mind here can provide a reasonable fluff explanation for any outcome you desire.

For example, if you want option #3, you could rule that the scoutbot's power supply uses contragravity-based technology to contain an otherwise unstable reactor, which will detonate if the contragravity fails. If you want option #2 or #3, rule that contragravity works by exploiting some fictional "gravitron-aligned mass crystals" that become unaligned in a timeline where gravitrons don't respect whatever natural law allows them to align to crystals, then set the ease of repairing/replacing the crystals to taste.
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Old 02-11-2017, 01:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

By way of example, pretend we have a faux-gunpowder that's super-science. Off of its homeworld, it just doesn't burn fast enough to propell the bullet. So what happens if it goes off world?

If you don't try to burn it, nothing. If you stick a bullet make from it in a gun and fire it, you consume the bullet, and you'll have to take to dead cartridge out, and odds are there will be a mess to clean up before you use the gun again safely, but to really destroy the gun you'd have to abuse it both where it didn't work and where it did.
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Old 02-11-2017, 03:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
Say a character wanted to take a contragravity scoutbot (Ultra-Tech p.80; TL 11^) from a worldline where contragravity worked to a world where it didn’t (using Nexus portals, if it matters). Is there anything in RAW as to what happens?

I can see a number of possible results:
  1. It doesn’t work… but will resume working perfectly when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.
  2. It doesn’t work… and will never work again, turning the contragravity generator into useless metal.
  3. It doesn’t work… and explodes (or does something else which is harmful).
  4. It doesn’t work… and will need to be repaired (possibly replacing some components in the contragravity generator) for it to work when taken to a worldline where the natural laws permit contragravity.

My gut reaction was option 2 (or maybe 3, if the item uses high-energy superscience power cells etc), to prevent characters causing chaos in low-tech worlds with ultra-tech technology, but I’m unsure whether this is sensible. Magical items explicitly obey option 1 (Magic p.6 - "enchantments...are suspended within a no-mana zone, but resume when taken to an area with mana"), though I’m not convinced that superscience items and magical items should merit equal treatment here.

Am I missing something in RAW about this? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches? How do other people deal with this?
There's no particular reason for a consistent rule to exist. There are too many unrelated kinds of superscience and too many different ways for them to be impossible. Let's take a random example:

In the Marvel Universe one method of FTL travel involves a thing called a "Cavorite crystal". If you hit it with intense electromagnetic radiation, it can be used to produce anti-gravity, teleport, or end up an entirely different universe. Actually controlling what it does requires maths and stuff. Now lets move into another universe where that's pseudoscience.

But how is it pseudoscience? Is the crystal's internal structure impossible? It may instantly shatter, or it may just be transformed into something that makes sense for as long as it remains. It might revert if taken back. Or is the crystal's structure perfectly possible, but the space time curvature effects it produces just impossible? Then it may be fine as long as you don't try to use it but because it can no longer convert energy it will be shattered if you try to zap it. Or you may find that your Cavorite warp drive doesn't work because the gizmo to do the zapping is just as impossible as the space time warper.
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Old 02-12-2017, 04:48 AM   #9
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and advice.

I like the idea of having different superscience behave differently, that could stop proliferation of some of the more powerful ultra-tech whilst still allowing some. It would also make players cautious about taking things like ultra-tech explosives between worlds, if they didn't know what would happen!

Option 1 if the device is unused is probably a sensible default, with malloyd's analogy of drenching electronics a good guide - if you start trying to use a device on a world which it won't work, that's a good way to break it or worse (options 2-4, depending on the device)!
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Old 02-12-2017, 01:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Moving items between worlds with different natural laws

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Originally Posted by Crystalline_Entity View Post
I like the idea of having different superscience behave differently, that could stop proliferation of some of the more powerful ultra-tech whilst still allowing some. It would also make players cautious about taking things like ultra-tech explosives between worlds, if they didn't know what would happen!
I would definitely allow players with appropriate skills to roll to at least take a good guess at what could happen, though. Someone with Physics-18 should have a reasonable chance to figure out, based on how the laws of physics differ, whether an item is likely to just not work, permanently break, or catastrophically fail. If superscience devices are just a complete crapshoot as to what they'll do, no one is likely to try any of them, and at that point, you might as well just say they don't exist anyway.

This sort of thing might actually be testable - I can see someone constructing a device that has a bunch of sub-components based on different physical principles known to differ on different timelines, so that when you turn it on on a new world, it can simply test whether various principles work or not. It wouldn't be perfect (there are worlds where "working electrical circuits" are effectively superscience, for example), but it would be a good start.
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