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If you thought Celine's Bird was impressive...
History of the Chariot
Caleb Helm was a clockmaker, watchmaker, jeweler, and Mechanomancer in the 1840s, living in what is now Germany, in the general viscinity of the Black Forest Region, plus or minus thirty eight miles in any direction. He was a bachelor, the youngest of fourteen children (six sons, eight daughters), and severely allergic to olives.
He had read many of the ficticious accounts of travel to the moon, but with modernist views of the time, wanted to gain far more precise and scientific information regarding the nature of the moon and its inhabitants, if any. So he set about a long term project, creating one of Earth's first viable spacecraft.
At least, viable by the theory. Helm died before the Chariot could depart. It's still somewhere underground, hidden from prying eyes and the tiger, waiting for a Clockworker to start its engines up and take it for a spin.
The Chariot's Specifications
Ironically enough, the Chariot is a disc-shaped craft, resembling the modern concept of UFOs and Flying Saucers. It has a diameter of sixty feet and is a little over fifteen feet high at the center. It appears to be constructed of steel, but much of it is actually tin, copper, and cast iron.
The Chariot is a perpetual motion clockwork on a grand scale. The outer edge of the disc contains a number of rotating wheels, inside of which are further wheels. These smaller wheels are in fact unevenly balanced and arranged so that when the larger wheel rotates, it forces the weighted edges of the smaller wheels to express their angular motion asymetrically. The momentum of the weights is greatest away from the axle of the main wheel, and lowest when closer to the axle.
In other words, the entire craft picks itself up by its own bootstraps. Such angular momentum devices can be constructed by mundane craftsmen with no mechanomantic experience at all, though they are never powerful enough to lift themselves off of the ground. For that, clockworker magick is required. (Or the use of technology that breaks Mechanomantic Taboo.)
By angling these magick wheels-within-wheels individually, Helm could send his Chariot in any direction and at any speed. However, the power needs for these wheels could not be met by unwinding springs, no matter how large. Steam was adequate for the purpose, but the burning coal would have consumed all of the oxygen in the craft, leaving none for its occupants. The logical answer was perpetual motion.
After examining a number of free energy designs, Helm decided to use a variation on the "self filling flask" idea thwarted by Aristotle's rule about water seeking its own level. He constructed a number of flasks of the appropriate size and shape, then affixed special rust-resistant, nickel-coated, machines to them to agitate the water into a vortex. Constantly sucked down by its own cyclic nature, the moving water spun the blades of its own agitation device, and the excess power was fed into the wheels by a number of gears, belts, and universal joints.
These flasks are designed to operate in a normal gravity environment; if stopped in space, they cannot be started again without special modifications. However, the momentum of the ship makes its own gravity in the form of inertia, so the craft is much like a shark; it lives so long as it keeps moving.
The Chariot's life support system is both primitive and innovative, generating oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the air using chemical variants of potash, chlorates and carbonates and such. Heat and light are provided by gaslights throughout the ship, fueled by oil instead of natural gas.
Comfortable, Mr. Gillie?
Getting inside the craft is fairly easy. It has a set of rungs along the top, aft side and a hatch on the very top. This opens into a small, vertical airlock. There is nothing to prevent both hatches being open at the same time, though.
The inner part of the craft can be divided into five main sections. The entire lower half of the center is the engine room, containing the Flasks and the equipment needed to transmit their power to the wheels. The upper half is seperated into quarters.
First Quarter (Starboard): Helm's private stateroom. Small, but elegantly furnished. Numerous brass fixtures, wax cylinder machines for entertainment, a very nice bed with a canopy, and a portrait of somebody Helm thinks might have been his mother, though he can't remember (of course).
Second Quarter (Aft): The Galley. Small cabinets store fresh water, smoked fish, breads, dried fruit, and a nice selection of fine wines.
Third Quarter (Port): The Workshop. A mobile Mechanomantic R&D facility, with stacks of springs, boxes of bolts, and more gears than you can shake a tension wrench at. There are a few small minor clockworks that maintain and clean the tools that line the walls when wound up.
Fourth Quarter (Fore): The Bridge. This is where the Chariot is controlled. The walls are studded with pressure meters and displays that look like brass speedometers. The front of the room is a large, thick (four feet) glass window, and right up next to the window is a confounding array of levers. Each lever controls the angle of a single wheel, and it is through combining angles that the Chariot can be made to rise, fall, or turn.
Captaining the Ship of Fools
Any PC who investigates the Chariot should notice three things (call for Mind or Notice checks at GM's discretion):
1) There's only enough supplies stored for a single man for a week.
2) There are no navigational instruments, or any literature about the moon, or maps, or anything even remotely related to those subjects. Not even a compass.
3) There are no bathrooms.
The first is due to Helm's assumption that nobody but himself would be on the Chariot. The second is Helm's assumption that if he couldn't find his way to something the size of the moon, then he couldn't find his ass with both hands and a sextant. The third is just Helm's absent mindedness.
The Chariot's Free Energy system, like all such systems, has a limited lifetime. Speaking statistically, the Chariot has a Power Train Rating of 40%. It would have had more, but Helm had to make some room for the Wax Cylinder Player. The Flasks collectively produce two points of energy every day, while the gears use up one point. This means that the Chariot has an upper limit of 38-41 days, depending on circumstances and GM choice. There is also no way to use up extra energy, like with a pereptual motion automaton.
Once the power level exceeds 40%, it's time to roll a die. But instead of damaging the power train on a roll of 1, the system is damaged if the die comes up as an odd number. This increased vulnerability can be blamed on Helm's absent mindedness again; while he could have easily constructed the flasks from a rust resistant metal alloy, he want ahead and used glass, which of course is a bit more fragile than metal, in the same way that an adept is a bit more odd than a normal person.
If the Power Train capacity is damaged enough to go below 30%, one Flask will explode. Anyone in the engine compartment when that happens takes firearms-type damage from the flying glass and gears. This happens every time the Power Train capacity is lowered by a multiple of ten. Once it reaches 0%, the Chariot won't explode, but it is totally useless as a space-faring craft. (Makes a nice lawn ornament though.) The ocupants of the craft will either be trapped in space, stranded on the moon, or hurtling through the atmosphere about to crash into a large, immovable object called Mother Earth. Unless, of course, they burn up first.
I Cannae Change the Laws of Physics, Captain!
The Chariot's usefulness in a campaign, is of course limited to the scope of the GM's plans. The most obvious idea is the Moon's Major Charge, and the possibility of a Cliomancer going after it, or a Mechanomancer going after Apollo Equipment. The Sleepers and Mak Attax could also be featured into it, one trying to hide it from the world and one trying to show it. TNI could be after it just for the sake of having it.
It also makes a nice, juicy red herring.
If the PCs decide to try and fly the Chariot, here's the pre-flight checklist for the GM (which of course the PC won't know unless he's found some of Helm's old notes or is exceptionally bright):
1) Power Up. The Flasks must be agitated and turned on. Call for a Mechanomancy roll for each Flask. Fumbles and matched failures could break the Flask in question, meaning the trip would be a lot shorter than normal; each Flask consists of 10% of the Power Train's capacity.
2) Where's the Clutch? In the control room, have a PC make a roll against Mechanomancy, some sort of aircraft piloting skill, or if all else fails, Drive. It doesn't take a Clockworker to fly it, just power it up.
3) We've Got Company. If the Sleepers, the Air Force, or whoever else decides to give chase tries to shoot the Chariot down, the dogfight can be run like a car chase. Just remember to consider the third dimension and throw in appropriate hazards. "You fly into a cloud and can't see a damn thing." "A flock of migrating birds are heading right for you." "A freak thunderstorm develops and a lightning strike just misses you." Additionally, the Chariot has no weapons at all, so all combat will have to be through magick, shooting from the top hatch, or both.
4) It Keeps Going and Going and Going.... If the Flasks are all destroyed, a PC Mechanomancer might be able to construct a perpetual motion clockwork from parts in the workshop and jerry-rig enough power to get back home. Feel free to apply shifts for working in a zero or low gravity environment, for working with old and possibly rusty materials, etc.
5) Baby It's Cold Outside. Chalk it up to Helm's shaky brain, but there are no clockwork-style spacesuits on the Chariot. Bring your own suit if you want to grab Apollo souveniers. Depending on GM mood, it may not be possible to snag the major charge without going outside, either. On the otherhand, clever players may be able to build suits from materials around the ship and in their gear. Clockwork gofers and fetching machines aren't out of reach either.
Power Level: Major
Body 300 (Robust)
Power Train 10-40%
Speed 120 (Supersonic)
Helm wasn't killed by rivals, conspirators, or a jealous ex-girlfriend. He died of an allergic reaction when some olive oil accidentally got into his food.
Just thought you'd like to know.
What, no cup holders?
Miniature Wicker Zombu | profile | Jun 13, 05 | 10:25 am
I so want to see my players get ahold of this beautiful, terrible and gorgeous machine. But, knowing them, they'll have to spend thirty minutes applying camouflage paint schemes, fuzzy dice and choice bumper stickers.
Mr Unlucky | profile | Jun 14, 05 | 4:22 am
What's on the wax cylinder?
Whoops.. that was in Russian, not Hungarian. It should read as:
Mr Unlucky | profile | Jun 16, 05 | 10:20 am