BW Sci-Fi: Technology as (Art) Magic

I came up with this idea a couple of days ago. The idea is to integrate technology into a BW setting in a way that emulates the way technology is represented in modern “near-future” sci-fi works like Stargate, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Rick and Morty; crime shows; and other works of fiction that play fast and loose with the reality of computers, technology, and engineering in favor of tropes like “technical genuis”, “super hacker”, etc. The other goal is to be able to play sci-fi and modern BW games without significantly re-writing the lifepaths.

I figure that Art Magic is a good system to emulate these presentations of technology. Characters would have one “technology” skill, and buy access to different schools in character burning. These would be things like "Hacking, “Physics”, “Engineering”, etc.; for flavor, I imagine players would specify them as degrees from prestigious universities, as is often done in the fiction (e.g., Degree in Computer Science, 1D; Degree in Computer Science from MIT, 2D; dropped out of MIT, 3D).

The possible effects of Technology would likely differ from Art Magic. Most often in fiction, the skills of these characters are used to accomplish specific physical tasks, e.g., open a digitally locked door, hack into a bank account, overload a generator, etc. Now, this could be contextualized to fit one of the existing effects, e.g., opening a door could be an Advantage towards trying to outrun or hide from the guards in the enemy base. Some actions available to Art Magic make no sense in this context: Sorcerous Weapon, Destroy With Sorcerous Fire, Illusion, Transform, and Trait, for example.

Without actually testing this, it’s hard to say too much more. When I have the time, though, I’ll think about this idea in more detail

What are everyone’s thoughts on this idea?

We’ve got much more space opera science fantasy tech in our Iron Gods BW game and it is good fun.

Sorcerous Weapon: lightsabers!

Destroy With Sorcerous Fire: microwave beams and lasers

Illusion: Predator-type stuff…

Transform: mumble mumble gene-splice hand-wavy animal stuff.

Trait: I’m sure we could figure out a way to give a trait for a while…

Im not 100% familiar with Art Magic, as unfortunately I’ve never sat down to read the chapter.

But for Traits, the first thing that comes to mind for me is Cybernetic Implants.

Darkvision, Cloaking Tech, Enhanced Strength - all traits - could be explained through Cybernetic Implants.

I think you could use many/most traits as written, just justify them through whatever tech.

Thanks for the ideas. I wasn’t thinking of the more indirect ways to achieve certain effects.

And yeah, now that you mention it, you could use things like Cybernetic implants and genetic modification to use the Trait effect.

But it sounds like (if I’m reading your comment correctly, Judd) that this sort of hack works pretty well. Now the only thing really thing really missing for a sci-fi BW game is some sort of spaceship combat. I wrote up an idea for a really complicated one a couple years ago, but now I think a better way to go about it would be to just mash together the Range and Cover rules with Duel of Wits (mostly, some sort of “body of argument” like thing). Though boarding parties could get hectic, with running simultaneous Range and Cover and Space Battles engagements. But I’ll make a separate post for this in more detail

I have a fantasy BW game going with some science-fantasy color in the mix and it works fine.

Getting into full spaceship combat and making BW a sci-fi game is a whole other kettle of fish. You might want to take a look at Burning Empires before jumping in and creating whole systems.

Are you using an Art Magic hack like I’m proposing, or just adding new skills?

Yeah, I’m definitely wary of just jumping in with new homebrew subsystems. Of course, there are a lot of ways to work around the lack of a space combat mechanic. Like not giving the players’ spaceship any guns. Or, more realistically, not having spaceships in the universe to begin with, because if someone in the universe has a spaceship with guns, then the players will probably find a way to commandeer it.

Just art magic, no new skills.