Genius/Chapter Four

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What is a Wonder?[edit]

The answer to that question depends on if you want an easy answer, or an even slightly right answer. Assuming you prefer the latter, you may wanna sit for a while. Perhaps a few millennia, as that's about how long Genii have been arguing it. At its most basic, simplified form, it is the result of a Genius applying their paradigm to the world around them.

This is a vast oversimplification.

In truth, what exactly a Wonder is will vary wildly between each Genius, partly because of their Paradigm, but just as much because of their differing goals. Two Genii with similar Paradigms could have Wonders that are wildly different in execution, even if they accomplish similar end results. What is consistent between Wonders, however, is they are consistent with themselves. A Wonder that operates on the principle of morphic fields will always run on that principle, no matter how much tampering another Genius does to it, and it will do it in pretty much the same way, although specifics may change with modification.

Wonders also react poorly to being handled by those who aren't touched by Inspiration, resulting in anyone who isn't a Genius, Beholden, Mane or Edison risking Havoc when they use, analyze or in some cases, simply handle a Wonder.

Finally, no Wonder comes for free, or quite as its creator plans. Every Wonder has some kind of components that must go into its creation, either as physical materials and tools or acquired knowledge, and every Wonder has some sort of inherent defect that prevents it from running perfectly at all times, even without Havoc.

Wonder Creation[edit]

While they are extremely diverse in their forms and functions, they are governed under the same rules, and the basic process of creating them remains fairly consistent.

Step One: Concept[edit]

When making a Wonder, as both Genius and as player, you should begin with an idea for the Wonder you intend to make. This can be a phrase like, "A mind-erasing serum," a short sentence like, "A sentient virus designed to erase me from security footage," or a couple of sentences describing the kind of Wonder you want to make. Don't worry too much about the specifics yet, as that will be figures out later.

Step Two: Function[edit]

Now that you have the idea of the Wonder, you can work out some more specific information. How does your Wonder work in the context of your Paradigm? How do you use it? What specifically do you want to use it for? It is a physical thing, or is it more abstract?

Once you have that, you can actually apply some mechanics to it, including the effects the Wonder applies (damage, tilts, some transformation or other effect), as well as their magnitude. There are a few rules of thumb that you should keep in mind when coming up with the functional part of the Wonder:

Sidebar: Clashes of Wills and Wonders[edit]

Wonders are slightly odd in how they interact with other supernatural powers, in that they use the statistic of the builder when it was built for things like Clashes of Wills. When rolling a Clash of Wills involving a Wonder, roll the Axiom + Skill used to make the Wonder when it was built, vs. the opponent’s dice pool. If the Wonder is presently active and being operated by somebody who wouldn’t trigger Havoc just by using it, they can spend a point of Willpower for the Wonder’s roll on its behalf. If the Wonder has Willpower of its own (possible for very advanced Automata), it can use its own Willpower, if it is permitted to do so.

  • Any numerical effects should be limited in magnitude based on either the builder’s rating in the Axiom of the Wonder, or their Inspiration. For example, a ray gun could dish out damage equal to its builder’s Katastrofi rating, while a hoverboard might have a speed of the user’s speed + the builder’s Inspiration. The exact parameters of the Wonder may vary, but try to link it to the Axiom rating of the builder when possible, especially when dealing with damage.
  • Wonders can work through a variety of means, and so could have all kinds of different ranges: personal (affecting the user only), touch- or injection-based, aimed (like a ranged weapon, and expressed with ranges), and more. The Wonder can have whatever range and form of targeting that makes sense, but the Storyteller may choose to raise the Wonder’s Complexity if it affects a large area or has a very unusual method of function (a linguistic virus, for example).
  • Use whatever duration makes sense. Things that create instant effects (explosions, chemical reactions, physical change) don’t wear off, and are considered to take place instantly. Effects that can fade will usually last a Scene or a Chapter, and effects that are permanent but not instant (maintaining a telepathic link, stabilizing a pocket dimension, etc.) usually require the Wonder to remain active and present to persist.
  • Each Wonder has a skill associated with its use. The Skill varies with the Wonder, and is usually determined by how it works. A Wonder that runs on Houngan ritual would use Occult, a Wonder that takes the form of software would use Computers or Science, and a traditional weapon like a gun or baton would use Weaponry.
  • Using a Wonder and Activating it aren’t the same thing. A Wonder can be activated with an Instant Action, after which you can use the Wonder as normal (or its passive effects kick in) until it is deactivated. For most Wonders, unless it is intended to have an extended period of use, they will turn off at the end of the scene. You don’t risk Havoc for pulling the trigger on your acid laser, but you do for flipping it on and off repeatedly.

Step Three: Determine Axiom, Field and Inference[edit]

Nw that you know what your Wonder does, it's time to determine the actual Axiom that governs the Wonder. The Axiom you use in building the Wonder determines how difficult it will be for you to build, and is based on both what the Wonder does and how it works, based on the purview of the axiomata:

  • Apokalypsi: Information, revelation and illusion
  • Automata: Animation, learning, and free will
  • Epikrato: Control, domination and liberation
  • Exilixi: Healing, repair and restoration
  • Katastrofi: Destruction, violence and entropy
  • Metaptropi: Transformation and transmutation
  • Prostasia: Protection, stasis and order
  • Skafoi: Movement, speed and travel

The Wonder's Axiom is dependent not only on what it does, but also how it works. A dimensional portal would usually use Skafoi, but one that works by tearing a hole in reality may be Katastrofi, while one that forces open existing rifts in spacetime might use Epikrato.

Your character's ranks in the Axiom that the Wonder uses determines not only its potency, but also how complex it can become beforeit begins to become unstable. Each dot in that Axiom reduces the Complexity of your Wonder for the purposes of determining its Havoc pool, and having a high rating in the Axiom also makes it easier to get a Wonder in Havoc under control.

After you've figured out the Axiom, you can then see if you know a Field, and an Inference from that field, that applies to this Wonder. You don't need an Inference, or even a Field, to make a Wonder, but it doesn make it a lot easier by reducing the Wonder's Complexity. Like with Axiomata, sometimes multiple Fields could reasonably cover a single Wonder, but you only can apply one Field and one Inference from that field to that Wonder.

Step Four: Complexity[edit]

Sidebar: Modular Wonders and Reconfiguration[edit]

A Genius may, at times, find herself in need of a Wonder very similar to what she has, but not precisely what she currently has. She may need a surgical laser, but only has a raygun on hand. While she could certainly try to cauterize a wound with that raygun, it would be in her best interest to reconfigure the raygun to make it temporarily better-suited to the task. functionally, this is a Kitbashing attempt, with the difference being the Wonder that's being made already existing. The Complexity to be rolled against for this Kitbashing is the Base Complexity of the intended new function, plus the modifiers for Expertise relating to the new function. So, to reconfigure the raygun into a surgical laser, she'd need to beat Complexity 1 (Possible for a well-equipped normal person) + 3 (She has a dot in Exilixi, but wetware isn't her area of expertise). Like with other Kitbashed Wonders, it suffers Havoc at the end of the Scene, although it merely gains a Havoc Condition and reverts to normal.

Modular Wonders, however, are slightly different. Being built for the express purpose of being reconfigured, they don't automatically trigger a Havoc roll once the Scene is over, and doesn't automatically revert to normal. At the cost of making it more complicated to build, the Wonder becomes far more versatile, albeit still limited by whoever is modifying it.

A Wonder doesn't need to be reconfigured by its maker. Anyone who understand how the Wonder works and has a compatible Paradigm (if applicable) can reconfigure it, using their own knowledge, and multiple Genii can work together like on any Wonder-building endeavor.


Now that we have the Wonder's function, and the Axiom, Field and Inference you intend to use to build it, we have all we need to determine Complexity.

Complexity itself is an abstract measurement of how difficult the Wonder is to actually build, as well as being the number of Successes required to reverse-engineer it. A Wonder's Complexity rises with how impossible its effects are, as well as the builder's ignorance, forcing them to use kludgy, complicated workarounds instead of more elegant solutions. It's important to note that this is based on all appropriate forms of mortal knowledge, including the occult. As a result, Wonders relating to the Occult don't suffer any extra Complexity beyond what it would when compared to humankind's occult knowledge.

To determine your Wonder's Complexity, start with the Base Complexity in the table below. That can range from 0, for something that the average person could do with houshold objects, but done in an improbable way (a person could pick a lock, so your Wonder that picks locks by guessing the correct configuration using probability would be at this level), to 3 for things that shouldn't be possible, but haven't been technically disproved yet (maintaining a stable wormhole or creating a closed time-like curve), to 5 for something that is so impossible, that if any normal human could reproduce it, it would upend an entire academic or scientific discipline on a fundamental (a proof that 1 equals 2, for example).

Then proceed down the table and add any modifiers that are relevant based on your depth of knowledge. Knowing the right Axiom is necessary, knowing the right Field is recommended, and knowing a relevant Inference from that field is helpful, as all three help to keep Complexity low.

Next, apply other factors like a voluntary extra Wrinkle (see Step 7: Determining Wrinkles), or the Wonder directly serving both your Paradigm and your Magnum Opus. You can also make your Wonder Modular, allowing it to be more easily reconfigured without risking havoc.

Finally, if your Wonder is extremely easy to use, or highly versatile, the Storyteller may elects to increase its Complexity ad-hoc.

Plausibility of the Effect Base Complexity
Possible for the average person, but done in a normally improbable way 0
Possible for a knowledgeable or well-equipped normal person 1
Theoretically sound, but unproven 2
Not plausible by current mortal knowledge, but not strictly impossible 3
Agreed to be impossible by experts 4
Definitionally impossible, would forcibly rewrite the basic rules of the relevant field of study 5
Expertise Complexity Modifier
Axiom, but no Field +3
Axiom and relevant Field, but no relevant Inference +1
Axiom plus relevant Field and Inference +0
Other Modifiers
Extreme ease of use/versatility (do-anything machine) +1 to +3
Voluntary Wrinkle -2
Directly serves the Magnum Opus -1
Use of a Larva -1 to -3
Modular +3

Step Five: Determining and Incorporating Components[edit]

Knowing what your Wonder does, how it works, and its Complexity, you and the Storyteller can now determine how many Components your Wonder needs, as well as what they might be. You can figure out all the Wonders you'll needs immediately, or the Storyteller may choose to come up with them as the game progresses, and tip you off that a Component is within their reach.

Each Wonder must have Components equal to its Complexity - its creator's Axiom dots, to a minimum of 1, and one of its components (possibly its only component) must be a Major component.

Minor and Major Components[edit]

Most Wonder components aren't too difficult to get. Often, many can be bought with Resources, using your Status in your Fellowship or another institution, calling in favors, or putting a Retainer on the task of getting it for you, usually a Beholden but occasionally an intelligent Mane or an Automaton. These are Minor Components. Effectively, they are good with Availability ranging from 2 to 4 dots, and you can get them using the appropriate merits and resources you would use to get any other item. If you can't get a Minor Component by those means, you can always still acquire it yourself.

Major Components, however, are very rare, sometimes totally unique, and can not be gotten with mere money or connections. You can't very well ring up your professor and ask him for the Mystic Eye of the Hidden Temple of the Jungle Bardo, can you? Every Wonder requires at least one such component, around which the Wonder is built. These Components are often important enough that a conflict over one could easily make for several session's worth of conflicts. They are no more difficult to incorporate, mere to acquire. You can also choose to include an additional Major Component to grant 9-again to incorporate Minor Components if you successfully incorporate it. Larvae are also automatically Major components, due to their specific, dangerous nature.

Larvae[edit]

Larvae are... uncomfortable for Genii to talk about. Their use is, theoretically, an unforgivable crime in Peerage society, and it's even generally discouraged by Lemurians, but their use is more widespread than anyone would care to admit, especially among the more advanced Genii that are ostensibly supposed to be role models for the younger ones. If a Genius is caught using a Larva, it usually ends in ostracism more than anything, but certain specific groups might object to specific kinds of Larvae (the Guardians of Forever take issue with relics stolen from time, for example), and more idealistic Genii might feel the need to intercede more vigorously. Or murderously.

What exactly constitutes a Larva is rather nebulous, and seems tied into the force of Inspiration. When you take an action that deliberately chooses advancing your creations and embracing Inspiration, at the expense of your ability to relate to society, and incorporate that into your Wonder, it makes it easier to build, effectively reducing its Complexity. The act that produces a Larva may be directly involved in procuring the Component (for example, torturing people and recording their pain-addled ramblings to complete your telepathic link), or it could be incidental to the Component, but necessary to acquire it (such as stealing a relic that maintains the life of a hidden city, thus dooming said city to destruction), but it always requires at least a severe (-3 or worse) Breaking Point toward Renegade, if not an automatic move toward Renegade. You don’t need to fail this Breaking Point, but you need to incur it, of your own free will. If you choose to include a Larva in your Wonder, and another person reverse-engineers it, they will know that a Larva was used.

Incorporating Components[edit]

Once you get one or more Components, you can begin actually incorporating them. Since Wonders are fairly diverse, how you incorporate a component can vary wildly as well, but mechanically, it's a roll of Inspiration + a Skill relevant to that component, but not necessarily the Wonder itself. For example, a freeze ray may use Weaponry for its actual use, but incorporating a quantum regulator chip would still require Computers for the roll. If you fail to Incorporate the Component, you can try again, with a cumulative -1 penalty for each previous attempt. Once a Component is Incorporated, you can move on to the next Component. You can Incorporate components at any time, and you don't need to have other Components to Incorporate a Component.

At any point, you may choose to skip a Component (Skipping all the components is pretty much just kitbashing with extra steps, so it's not recommended for any Wonder you intend to keep), or you can try to find a suitable alternative Component, asking the Storyteller for a different component. Skipping Wonders may save you time, but it also raises Havoc for each one you skip, and skipping any number of components leaves the Wonder with an extra Wrinkle.

Step Six: Wrinkles[edit]

You’ve got all your Components, and you’re ready to finish it off. But it doesn’t quite go to plan. Every Wonder has (at least) one Wrinkle. The Wrinkle is a disdvantage that the Storyteller applies to your Wonder. This doesn’t make it useless, but it does constrain its use, make it less convenient, or make it more dangerous to use. If the builder skipped one or more Components, it gains another Wrinkle. Finally, the builder of a Wonder can voluntarily add another Wrinkle to a Wonder while designing it to reduce Complexity, effectively trading off a level of functionality for ease of construction. While the Storyteller can apply any sort of Wrinkle to a Wonder, they are encouraged to talk with their player about the kinds of Wrinkles that might be appropriate, and to avoid breaking the concept of the Wonder. A ray gun isn’t much good if it’s too big to carry, and a spaceship isn’t any good if it has to be plugged in.

Some sample wrinkles include:

  • Gas Guzzler: This Wonder requires more Impetus than normal to run. It counts as two Impetus Sinks.

Overheating: This Wonder is prone to overheat during use. If it is activated in two consecutive scenes, it risks Havoc.

  • Warmup: This Wonder needs to warm up to work. It requires <a specific amount of time> after being activated to be used.
  • Delicate: This Wonder is easy to break. It has no Durability, and Integrity equal to the builder’s Axiom rating.
  • Catastrophic Failure: This Wonder is prone to going nuclear when it suffers Havoc. It receives an Exceptional Success on Havoc rolls with 3 successes instead of 5.


Step Eight: Havoc and Beta Testing[edit]

You’ve designed it, found all the parts you need, put...most of them into place, and you have a theoretically workable prototype. But now you have to deal with the Havoc you might unleash. After you’ve Incorporated or Skipped every Component, it’s time to calculate the dice pool for your Wonder’s Havoc. First, subtract your Axiom rating from the Complexity of the Wonder. Then, add 1 die for each Component you skipped. If you’re a Renegade, add the extra dice from that. If you’re Paragon, subtract the appropriate amount. If the total is less than 1, it becomes 1.

Any time you push your Wonder too far, either by activating it multiple times in a Scene, by modifying it through Kitbashing, or by using it after it’s been damaged, or when you allow normal people to use your Wonder, it risks Havoc, with each Havoc risk after the first in a scene adding a cumulative +1 to the Wonder’s dice pool.

The Wonder and the user roll a Clash of Wills, the Wonder rolling Havoc + the builder’s current Inspiration, vs. the user’s rating in the Wonder’s Axiom + the Wonder’s relevant Skill. If the user has no dots in the Axiom, they roll the Skill alone. If the Wonder wins the Clash, then it goes into Havoc, acquireing a Havoc Condition. If the Wonder wins, and either it gets an exceptional success, or its user suffers a Dramatic Failure, it gets a Persistent Havoc Condition. If the Wonder wins, and it gets an Exceptional Success, and the user gets a Dramatic Failure...Bad things happen. Very bad things. Avoid triggering Havoc if at all possible.

Beta Testing[edit]

It’s time to trigger some Havoc! Now that you’ve built the Wonder, you need to test and fine-tune it. The first time you use a Wonder, it triggers a Havoc roll. If you succeed in getting the Wonder under control, it is now a fully-fledged Wonder, and it won’t suffer Havoc unless something happens to make it suffer Havoc.

If you can’t avoid Havoc, then you have to get rid of the Havoc Condition and try again. Thankfully, the testing cycle helps to make the roll easier as time goes by, applying a cumulative -1 penalty to the Wonder’s roll each time you try, until it finally sticks. This may be a task better left to Igors for the more unstable Wonders.