I'm playing a scientist in Spirit of the Century, but I'm having a hard time coming up with uses for my main skill, Science! How can I make better use of it mid session, not just for creating awesome Science! gadgets?
There are some interesting uses of Science! that I can think of.
We start with the SRD's definition:
More importantly, Science here means pulp science. Do mathematical equations Is there a cure for lycantrophy and vampirism? Of course there is, and Dr. Thanatos has a glowing syringe to prove it in his bag! Is phlogiston, the subatomic particle of fire, a valid theory? My friend, not only is it valid, but I’d like to show you my phlotomic bomb!
In practice, this simply means nearly anything can be explained with “Science!” It may not necessarily make sense to anyone other than the person doing the explaining, but it at least sounds authoritative, and sometimes it’s even right. When confronted with a challenge, the character can apply a scientific explanation, and roll against a difficulty set by the GM. This is a declaration action. If a character acts in accordance with the resulting scientific advice, and he succeeds on the roll, he gains a +2 bonus or a reroll on the action, by tagging the aspect he’s introduced. The science of this declaration doesn’t really need to be accurate to the real world – it just needs to sounds scientific, and can even just be regular advice using long scientific words. Since the bonus comes from tagging an aspect, the first one’s free, and subsequent uses will cost a fate point.
More details on the declaration action:
This is a straight up declaration action, as described earlier (see page XX). If the academic or another character takes action based on the declared fact, that person can tag the aspect that has been introduced. If the academic is wrong, there is no penalty, but there may be complications – at her option, the GM could place a temporary “mistaken” aspect on the academic, compelling it to represent the fall-out (and netting the mistaken academic a fate point!). If the academic was right, the aspect is placed, and is taggable as described earlier – first one being free.
And the declaration itself is found under spend fate points:
You may simply lay down a fate point and declare something. If the GM accepts it, it will be true. This gives the player the ability to do small things in a story that would usually be something only the GM could do.
Usually, these things can’t be used to drastically change the plot or win a scene. Declaring “Doctor Herborn drops dead of a heart attack” is not only likely to be rejected by the GM, it wouldn’t even be that much fun to begin with. What this can be very useful for is convenient coincidences. Does your character need a lighter (but doesn’t smoke)? Spend a fate point and you’ve got one! Is there an interesting scene happening over there that your character might miss? Spend a fate point to declare you arrive at a dramatically appropriate moment!
Your GM has veto power over this use, but it has one dirty little secret. If you use it to do something to make the game cooler for everyone, the GM will usually grant far more leeway than she will for something boring or, worse, selfish.
As a general rule, you’ll get a lot more leniency from the GM if you make a declaration that is in keeping with one or more of your aspects. For example, the GM will usually balk at letting a character spend a fate point to have a weapon after he’s been searched. However, if you can point to your “Always Armed” aspect, or describe how your “Distracting Beauty” aspect kept the guard’s attention on inappropriate areas, the GM is likely to give you more leeway. In a way, this is much like invoking an aspect, but without a die roll.
Therefore, Science! allows us to manipulate the world in scientific ways, inasmuch as we can declare things to be true.
One favourite idea of mine is to use this to enable MacGuyver actions. Sure, you need the Engineer skill to build stuff But you can use Science! to go "One little known property of subisomorphic metals like that spectacular sample right there, is that if one hits a cooled sample with a resonant tone, the sample will shatter into lengthwise members, quite handy for us, isn't it?" And suddenly you have a bunch of steel rods to build a structure around, as well as enjoying technobabble for technobabble's sake (not something to be dismissed lightly.)
However, one can also use this as ways of setting up aspect compels and tags.
Say one of your aspects was: Music makes me mad!
You could use Science! mid-session to indicate that one of the failure modes of something you're facing is to emit tonal chimes as the camshafts start wearing off the bearings and striking the outer flanges!. Which, when used appropriately, can cause situations to both compel and tag your aspect.
By using Science! to declare facts, you can shape the world to be more interesting/useful to your character, his aspects, and his actions. It's always fun making your own life miserable by complicating the villain's mad science with even worse consequences. "Wait, did he use pure nitrogen, or refined spirits of the aether? Great scott! He's doomed us all! Doesn't he know that glass can't contain the vapours?!"
You have the privilege of adding to the setting and the world and the responsibility of being interesting. Science! evokes Donjon like elements of a mutable world, glimpsed only by your powerful mind.
Science has 3 main uses:
- Medical Treatment - first aid unless you have the correct enhancing stunts
- Gadgeteering - making, breaking and fixing
- Defining by observation and testing
Medical Treatment is pretty straightforward, but it's easily overlooked if your character concept isn't an MD.
Gadgeteering is a common enough reason for taking the Science! skill, but don't forget that you can use it not just to make, fix and improve, but also to detune, break, repurpose, and disassemble. If you can make it, you can tag it with an aspect for how to break it. E.G.: "My good man, if you strike the junction of the steam line and the body, you should have an easy time depriving it of power..." and "I'll use Science! to trigger an overpressure failure timed for 10 minutes from now."
Defining stuff by observation is also tagging and/or use of Fate Points to set up useful tags. This is often expressed by actions like, "I'll examine it to find the resonant frequency so Johnny can use his sonic screwdriver to shatter it," and "I sniff to figure out what the liquid is, and which of my reagents I can throw in to make it go BOOM!". Essentially, the first is adding a "susceptible to certain frequencies of vibration"; the second is tagging it with "potentially explosive."
In my last play, the Science! character was tweaking the aircraft's tension lines in flight to provide a series of free maneuver-related tags, and tweaking the engine for speed and climb tags.