(I apparently drafted this back in August 2009, but never posted it online for some reason. I’ll remedy that today.)
In the post-apocalyptic world, technology levels vary greatly. Some settlements and groups are little more than animalistic humanoids, while others still possess an understanding of basic science and engineering, and a few rare communities even manage to retain some Ancient arcana. The Tech Levels described below are designed to manage the technology of characters in the campaign:
- Low-Tech: Most inhabitants of Mutants & Magic are considered Low-Tech. Low-Tech characters have the ability to understand pre-industrial technologies. Examples include archaic weapons, blacksmithing, carpentry, herbal medicines, leatherworking, and stonemasonry (basically anything in a ‘default’ fantasy setting or the BFRPG rulebook).
- Retro-Tech: Such characters have the ability to understand some ‘modern’ technologies. Examples include basic mechanics, simple firearms, and even how to operate some vehicles. This does not mean the character can learn how to recreate such items, but it does mean he may learn how to use or repair them. The Affiliation has some individuals who are considered Retro-Tech (and are able to manufacture retro-tech firearms).
- Advanced-Tech: Rare in the extreme, Advanced-Tech characters not only have the ability to understand many of the secrets of the Ancients, such as electronics, automatic firearms, and computer technology. Given sufficient training and resources he can even learn to recreate some lost technologies.
- Ancient-Tech: Unknown in the current campaign world; only pre-Fall robots and artificial intelligences – or the exceedingly rare ‘Sleepers’ – are considered Ancient-Tech.
All characters suffer a -2 on attack rolls and a -1 penalty to Ability checks related to the use of more complex Ancient relics. A Low-Tech PC using an Advanced-Tech sonic rifle, for example, would have a -2 on his technology check to figure it out and a -4 attack penalty (should he decipher its secrets).
Caveats: Fighters have the Weapon Familiarity ability and suffer only one-half the usual Tech Level penalty on attacks with high-tech weapons.
Figuring Out Tech Items
The Ancients produced forms of technology that were beyond anything created before or since. Given the length of time that has passed since the Fall, however, very few ‘Artifacts of the Ancients’ remain. And there are even fewer people remain who can use – let alone recognize – these relics. Using complex items of a technological nature, beyond the most basic of items, is a major challenge for most characters.
Throughout the campaign, your character will have to interact with complex artifacts or situations. Mutants & Magic uses the ‘Technology Roll’ system from Mutant Future (p. 42) to resolve such situations. Remember, however, that a character’s Tech Level will adjust his chances to decipher artifacts.
Under these rules, artifacts are categorized by both Tech Level and Complexity Class. A shotgun, for example, is considered a Retro-Tech firearm of Complexity Class 1, while a clone vat is an Ancient-Tech device of Complexity Class 3.
Once Tech Level and Complexity Class are defined, simply make a check as described in Mutant Future.