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The power, Technokenesis, allows control over electronic systems. However, the way the control is described is very odd: a car, driving itself, would have the steering wheel move.

It has a strange difficulty curve. An ATM is just as difficult to interact with as an electronic lock (difficulty 4) and far easier than a gun with electronic components (8) or cruise missile (10).

This makes very little sense if the difficulty is complexity of system and suggests the difficulty is for some other purpose.

Technokinesis:

You can impel machines and devices to do your bidding. You must be touching the machine to activate the power. Make a Technokinesis test against a Difficulty determined by the complexity of the machine. Only devices including electronic components are subject to your whims; simple devices like pendulums, levers and pulleys, or even low-tech guns, are beyond your control. Generally, the machines appear to be operating themselves. When you cause a car to drive, for example, its steering wheel and pedals move as if controlled by an invisible entity.

Given that it's possible to control mobile phones (diff 4) and electronic locks, it should be possible to control computers and security systems. What would this control look like, what would generally be possible, and how difficult would it be?

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I've got a feeling that it's more fiddling with charge on a wire than it is bits. And so the ATM is just "set cash drawer high and set alarm to low." Which makes sense for oooold ATMs. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 24 '11 at 8:26
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Turning the steering wheel is inherent in turning the drive wheels on most vehicles; if you manage to force the tires over, the wheel will turn as well. –  aramis Sep 24 '11 at 17:14
    
I would say that digital manipulations are beyond the power, judging by the example difficulties. People can't make discrete decisions at the speed of computer processors either, so I wouldn't let the player do something that required them to do at-speed signal processing, which would include computer hacking. However! I'd let someone with a Computer Hacking skill hack with this power—but only as if they were controlling the keyboard and mouse or something similarly low-speed. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 24 '11 at 18:20
    
The related power allows the PC to use a wifi card by licking it. But it's an info gathering power. –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Sep 24 '11 at 19:27

2 Answers 2

I'm not familiar with the system; however...

It sounds to me like it's just not realistic, and you'll have to use your best judgment. If it were a matter of interacting with the device like a hacker, a high-security device like an ATM would be hard. If it were a matter of moving electrical charges around, a device with a complex network protocol and not much in the way of moving parts like a cell phone would be hard. I would suggest making the difficulty a function of how common the device is, and its plot importance. It also seems like devices which have some complex interaction with the real world (computer vision, sensors, aiming the weapon, etc.) would have a higher difficulty.

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Since not all cars are electronic, the two statements stand out to me: "Only devices including electronic components are subject" and "When you cause a car to drive." At any rate, interpreting the rule as written is less important than interpreting the rule for game balance. Things to consider when viewing powers in terms of game balance:

  • Are there other powers/skills/abilities that can accomplish the same thing? Are they roughly equal in cost/requirements?
  • How commonly can this ability be used? If almost everything in the game world is electronic, then technokenesis is extremely useful.
  • How is the scope of the effect limited (i.e. can the power can affect things across the entire planet or only some small radius from the user--how far from the character can the car be driven with the technokenesis power)?
  • Think about the application of the power, but also think about the consequences of the power

Obviously, game design and game balance are more involved than 4 bullet points, but those are some starting points. In the end, what you want is a power that's fun and fair for everyone.

It sounds like the difficulties are based on the impact on the game world of controlling the thing listed. Making an ATM do something has fewer consequences than making a cruise missile do something. Or, it could be looking at things from a net effect standpoint (which is a slightly different perspective on impact to game world). The effect of making an ATM do something is probably a few hundred bucks in your pocket, which may be similar to 30 minutes using the pickpocketing skill. The effect of controlling a cruise missile is to destroy a large building, and should be as difficult/costly with technokenesis as doing that with other system mechanics.

Considering the effect a power has on the game world is a common way to balance powers in genre-agnostic systems. What the power looks like from the outside is a matter of flavor and roleplay. Does it matter from a "power-level" standpoint that you destroy a building with a cruise missile or with a lot of money and demolition skill, or by turning the walls to mud? The building is destroyed. How it happened is a matter of story, and whether it happened is a matter of system mechanics.

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