"Science... Science is not what is once was. Once it deciphered the Universe, once it pierced the Heavens. Now, while it may be the dream of many who call themselves Scientists to reclaim these heights of understanding, the reality is that the methods and theories employed by the Ancients in the technology they developed remain little more that magic. Frequently the best any Scientist can hope for is to develop their powers of identification. Knowing what some ancient device does and how it can be combined with others for a desired effect, is both far more valuable to daily survival and far more achievable than attempting to rediscover the esoteric foundations of pre-Burn technology."
The purpose of the Science rules is to allow players to be creative, both in designing whatever weird and wonderful items they can think of and in developing interesting solutions to the problems that they will face out on the edge of the wilds.
The Scientist skill, at its most basic, allows the player to identify the purpose of a device, or a component of a device. Using a simple code system (which the player will receive in their character pack), the Scientist will be able to tell what the component does. This is out of 6 possible types of effect, and how powerful/efficient it is at this job.
This is only the very start of the Scientist's role, however. Once a Scientist has identified the purpose of a component, they can go about combining it with other components to construct devices. Actually building devices is a Mechanic skill, but the theory of the device is Science.
Inventing and BlueprintsEdit
The only limits on the devices that can be created are the imagination of the players, and the available materials and components. In order to design a device the Scientist should prepare a logical explanation of why the device should work and how each component the Scientist has included helps the functioning of the device. This rationale should be given to a ref while someone with the Repair/Build Item skill assembles the physrep. The ref team will then discuss the design and return an item card that details its effect when used. This can include side effects in a sealed envelope to be opened on use.
IC this involves completing a Blueprint. The Blueprint will identify what components are being used in the device, and has space for the player to provide the rational for what each component will do and why this well help produce the desired result. It is the Blueprint that the ref team will examine for the viability of the device in order to produce the item card. Blueprints are IC documents - they can be traded, found, and sold, and have the very important purpose of being required in order for a Mechanic to build the new device.
Blueprints are not single use items; as long as a Mechanic has access to a Blueprint they can construct the device it details (assuming they have the required resources) as many times as they like. This makes Blueprints that detail successful and reliable devices extremely valuable, and the production of prototypes in order to work out the kinks in a new innovation, while often an expensive undertaking, may pay dividends if successful.
Underpinning all of this is our desire to promote player freedom and creativity. As such there is no 'tech tree' or secret list of possible devices; the system is based on what we call 'narrative literacy'. In other words, does the Scientists description of why this device should work make sense? In this context, each of the components becomes part of the description as to why this device should work, and the most suitable component will make describing the functioning of the device easier.
To make a gas mask the Scientist knows they need to make a device that can remove dangerous substances from the air. They reason that this can be achieved by using a physical filter that will filter out anything that is not normal air. On the Blueprint, they connect this filter to the appropriate materials (in this case basic rubber). The Scientist explains this reasoning on the Blueprint and passes it to a ref. They receive approval and pass the Blueprint to a Mechanic, who then constructs the device and receives an item card when it is completed.
This Scientist is not happy with the look of a gas mask and wants something much more stylish. They reason that they can create a device to protect them without having to worry about changing their outfit, which will also guard against more than just gas. They take a chemical filter and connect it to a field emitter. They reason that the emitter will project a field from the device that filters out any molecules that are harmful to the Scientist. Of course this will require power to function, so an energy cell is added to power the device. Finally, a switch is included so that the device is only drawing power when it’s needed to prevent draining the battery. This Blueprint is submitted as in Example 1. Once constructed, the item card will detail how many uses the battery will support, and as it’s a much more complicated device, anything that might go wrong with it.