Monday, November 29, 2010

Muto-Scope


The Muto-Scope appears as some version of kinetoscope or early motion picture device. In reality, it is a magical artifact created for unknown purposes. It is often found in aging, second-rate arcades, or in the hands of collectors, where it’s true nature will often not be recognized.

Looking through the viewer and turning the metal knobs (marked with arcane symbols and metrics which no one is able to decipher) will allow the operator to focus in on any individual within a twenty mile radius he or she thinks of. The operator need not be aware that it's his or her thoughts bringing the target into the viewer for the scope to work.

Once a target is the viewer, turning the crank will cause mutation. Nothing short of magical shielding can protect a target from the effects. If the crank is turned clockwise, the target will evolve to a form in some (teleological) way more suited for their current environment. For example, intelligence might increase if that is what’s needed at the current time.

Turning the crank counter-clockwise will lead to devolution to a more primitive, ancestral form. First, more bestial, protohuman characteristics will appear, then baser mammalian ones, followed by reptilan traits. Fifteen seconds of scope operation on a target will lead to some minor atavistic traits emerging. A full minute will total transform the target physically into a more primitive, humanoid form.

In either direction, the duration and degree of change are related to the duration of crank operation. A minute of operation leads to changes lasting 1-6 hours, whereas ten minutes leads to changes lasting 1-6 days, and possibly (if a saving throw is failed) permanent. Both directions of change are ultimately dangerous, with clockwise ultimately resulting in a coldly intellectual, sociopathic, post-human monster, and counter-clockwise leading to a primitive beast of some sort.

Inspection of the device will reveal nothing about how it operates. Even disassembly (an action with unpredictable repercussions) is unlikely to provide any useful information. A small brass plaque low on the machine's back suggests it was manufactured by “Coppelius Novelties”, but a corporation of that name has been difficult to locate.

8 comments:

Tim Shorts said...

Another wicked contraption. Good stuff.

Harald said...

I've noticed that most of your items have MacGuffin-properties rather than being traditional game-aids for players, is that deliberate?

One thing I really like about this world is that it is very consistent and true to its genre. And as I said, this is my favourite setting.

Risus Monkey said...

Having visions of "Altered States"...

LoneIslander said...

That is an awesome concept.

NetherWerks said...

Wicked Contraptions could be a feature...you certainly have a way with infernal machines...

Trey said...

Thanks guys!

@Harald - That is indeed intentional. I suppose there are a reasonably standard array of magical boons in the world (I may even touch on magical weapons later this week), but most of the items I've discussed here are really adventure catalysts in the guise of artifacts.

I'm glad it feels consistent. It's sometimes hard, for me, to know where the balance lies between pulp adventure, "the weird", and the various other stew ingredients. After its done, sometimes a post feels too one way or the other.

@Risus - That is a good thought! And one I hadn't had, honestly. My primary inspirations were "The Beast-jewel of Mars" by Leigh Brackett, and any number of "too evolved is bad" fiction from comics and Star Trek.

@Netherwerks - You're right, Tim is onto something there. Infernal devices had been my devault way of thinking of them as well, but "wicked contraptions" seems less Victorian.

NetherWerks said...

Victorian=steampunk=lingering stale-ish fad that appears to be spiralling either into rampant mediocrity or a sudden surge of revisionist renewal...depending mostly on market fatigue and publisher budgets

Edwardian=regencypunk=currently burning-out fad that might linger or revive all over again, depending on money thrown into marketing more CritLit Mash-ups

1930s/1940s America as seen through a Noirish filter=dieselpunk=very underexploited conceptual niche ecology well worth exploring for all it's worth

Why use a Victorianism, or even an Edwardianism when Noir+Pulp gives you a rich vocabulary that remains underutilized and under appreciated? You have a gift for understanding and presenting this material -- Run with it!

Trey said...

As usual NetherWerks, I think your analysis vis a vis Victorian/Edwardian fantasy is spot on. I agree the popular fiction/culture of roughly the 2rd to 5th decades of the twenty century is a largely untapped resource for fantasy.