Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dr Niklaus’s wondrous device

This is an item created for the Pencil and paper RPG "Mage the Ascension"

I played Dr Niklaus as a character for years, then eventually retired him. He is now a recurring NPC in my World of Darkness game, as a mentor to many members of the Sons of Ether. I recently had a chance to play a less powerful version of him in a game with friends, and had a blast.

“At last!” Niklaus careened wildly down the hall, lab coat flapping behind him. “I’ve built it!” he cradled the object in his hand like a precious baby bird. “Six months of labor! Manufacturing techniques so radical I’d need patents on the methods used to describe the patents!” His thick goggles twinkled as he ricocheted into the meeting room, and there in front of the assembly proudly set his creation down for all to see.

The others at the table stopped everything with a mild exasperation, and duly noted the latest invention. No one spoke. They looked at each other, then back at the small, unremarkable object on the table.

After a moment, the large, hirsute member of the board spoke first.

“It’s a paperclip.” stated Eats-all-the-food. His eyebrows nearly touching his nose in concentration.

“Niklaus,” sighed James, as he rubbed his temple, his showstone ring pulsed along with the vein in his forehead “Why, exactly are you showing me a bent piece of wire?”

“Ah… but it isn’t simply a paperclip! For one thing it weighs three pounds and five twenty-sevenths of an ounce!”

Warren looked up and smiled. The sort of smile that tends to make people want to run.

“Very nice, Niklaus, and when the technocracy weigh it, they will bask in the presence of your genius. Can we return to planning the assault now? Or are you going to show us something even less interesting?”

“Ah but watch this!” Niklaus pointed at James coffee cup. “Sic it!”

The wire sprang across the table, and became a blur of motion, like some cartoon creation, fury and motion centered around the ceramic vessel. Less than a second later the cup fanned out on the table, like a deck of playing cards stood on end until gravity takes its favorite course. The coffee inside now pooling on the table.

“It took me weeks to build the machines that created the nanites that form this clip.” He held out his hand and proudly coo’ed to the wire that sprung into his palm and nestled there, content.

“It’s a paperclip.” repeated Eats-all-the-food, looking from one face to another to make sure they all were seeing the same thing.

James looked at the cup, what was left of the handle still grasped firmly between thumb and forefinger, and the warm puddle on the table before him. “I’m going to assume it can cut through other substances besides ceramics”

“It’s about a dozen molecules thick when slicing or drilling,” Niklaus grinned ear to ear, his bald hunchbacked frame crackling with pent up enthusiasm.

“Enough monowire is built into that to stretch four times around the world! It doesn’t show up on any known technomatic sensors, and is shielded from all known resonant energies!”

“What does THAT mean?” asked Eats-all-the-food.

“You can’t see it with magic.” stated Warren, his eyebrow peaking with interest almost against his will.

Warren and James both spent a few moments to confirm this. James showstone glowing as he passed his hands over the wire, Warren calmly humming to himself as he focused his power. After a few moments, both were satisfied. and nodded.

“But it’s a paperclip.” again stated Eats-all-the-food. Both Warren and James did a quick check to make sure that Eats-all-the food wasn't about to go into a rage over this. Eats-all-the-food spotted their concern, and shook his head in annoyance. He was confused, not angry.

Niklaus was oblivious, happily continuing his stream-of-thought explanation. “I’ve built molecular level nano-processors, Ether transceivers, sensor arrays and grasping appendages into every single nanite, right now in my palm are five times ten to the twenty fourth power individual nanites. That’s right gentlemen, there are five thousand billion billion robots comprising this paperclip.”

“What else does it do?” asked James, while dabbing at the coffee puddle with a handkerchief.

“It can lift and carry small items,shrink or grow to any length desired!.... but its best trick..."

Niklaus paused for dramatic effect, one hand holding the paperclip high while his voice grew in volume and measured timber.

“When used for surveillance it will transmit and receive any resonating stream only along the path of the mono-wire itself, generating no pattern eddies, no signal spreading and absolutely no leakage. And due to the fullereen construction, it will act as conductor, non-conductor, or semi-conductor on demand!”

Blank stares all around the table.

Niklaus sighed “You can look through the wire and not be detected, no one can tell we are spying on them.”


Eats-all-the-food, eyebrows crossed, and canines showing, snorted. His hairy knucked hand rapped on the table. It was a sturdy table, but there was a sharp cracking sound from underneath as the wood splintered.

“Every time I hang out with you guys it makes my head hurt. I’m going to go and get a snack. Call me when you are ready to kill something."

This talisman was engineered to explore the wonders of nanotechnology. It is an arete four device.  It looks like a paper clip, except it weighs about 3 pounds, and when bent out of shape it will revert back to the normal paper clip shape in a few seconds. 

Examination under a high power microscope will show it to be composed of millions of tiny machines clasped together by actuator arms. These nanobots each have sensors, appendages, and a distributed networked computer. They are made out of “Etherized Fulereen” a very strong and light substance.

The paperclip, when active, will seem to come alive, wriggling like a snake, able to spring across a room at very high speeds, and burrow into places. It can elongate itself to many times its current size, miles and miles if so desired, stretching so thin as to be invisible (and many times sharper than merely “razor” sharp) it can separate itself into multiple parts, and is extremely dexterous. It is strong enough to lift about 5 pounds in weight.

The paperclip is designed with multiple redundancies and scrambling techniques to keep it under both magical and technomagical radar. And the computer system running them is incredibly sophisticated, almost alive.

The paperclip is considered vulgar magic in any situation where it can be detected... people tend to not believe a paperclip can do these things.

The effects:

Matter4 Life2 Prime2
The paperclip moves on its own, changes length and thickness and seems be alive, it’s incredibly fast, and extremely flexible, and is strong enough to lift 5 pounds

Matter2 Life2 prime2 correspondence2 time2 entropy2 spirit2 mind2 forces2
The paperclip is fully shielded in all spheres to prevent magical detection. any active attempt to detect the paperclip or its effects has to overcome an arete4 contested roll. passive attempts do not get a roll.

Matter4 Forces4 life2
The paperclip can act as a weapon, doing forces/matter damage by cutting through almost any material, or burrowing into objects like a tiny drill.

The paperclip is very good for surveillance and makes a very good “bug”. The many sensors inside the nanobots allow any correspondence detection to channel through the clip. Dr Niklaus can funnel all of his magic through the monowire.