Friday, December 11, 2015

Let's Invent a Thing: GURPS Basic set

I feel like there aren't enough examples of how inventing works online. I tried searching, and couldn't even find one. So let's try inventing something using GURPS invention and gadgeteering rules.

Typical machine that unlocks doors.

We need a skill

Let's invent a machine that can unlock doors. Let's think about this problem from a perspective of TL3. I like TL3. So, we kind of have an example of a power that does this in the sorcery book, so let's use that. In any case, this machine is a sufficiently advanced device that can automatically pick locks on doors in case you lost your keys. Pretty handy. We will say that it is going to require an Engineering (Mechanical) roll to invent.


So let's see complexity of an item is based on price at a certain tech level. Let's reverse engineer the locksmith spell from Sorcery, and we can see it is about 10 points with a tech power limitation. Using the Weird Science article for Metatronic Generators, I estimate this to be about a $3,000 invention. This device is considered average complexity, and any decent mechanical gadget engineer with a skill of 15 to 17 can attempt this. So our inventor has Engineer (Mechanical)-16, just for giggles, OK? Let's make three inventors. Irene (Inventor), Gary (Gadgeteer) and Quin (Quick Gadgeteer)


So, we are going to invent this average complexity device. We will say that this is on par with the most sophisticated Dungeon Fantasy level technology which has some hand crank powered gizmos, so it is the same tech level. It's a variation on a theme so we get a +1 to +5. Let's split the difference and call it +3 and finally we have a penalty of -10 (yikes) for being average complexity. This concept is going to require Irene the Inventor to succeed against a secret roll of 9. For Gary the Gadgeteer or Quin the Quick Gadgeteer, that -10 penalty is now -2, so they get a secret roll against 17. Irene and Gary can try to succeed once a day. Quin is really fast so she can try every 1d minutes. A phenomenal improvement. Note, Quick Gadgeteering is meant to be extremely cinematic.


After however many tries it takes, our prospective inventors have a working theory that they can use to create a model. Now a roll must be made against the inventing skill again, keeping the penalties from the original skill. Facilities for an average complexity invention cost $100,000 (regardless of tech level?) Irene, our realistic inventor is working in a lab with almost everything she needs. So she gets a -1 penalty. Unrealistically talented Gary and Quin get no penalty even if they are working out of their garage or basement. Irene and Gary will take 2d days to build the prototype. Gary is allowed to work overtime and pull double shifts if he likes, so he may potentially cut that time in half. Super Genius Quin is going to take 1d-2 hours. This roll is going to be done again by the GM in private.
Irene and Gary will need facilities to support developing this device. They will also need to pay the retail price of this invention for every prototype until they succeed. Quin knows how to salvage parts with a scrounging roll. Because this is an average complexity device, she needs to roll at scrounging -2. If she succeeds, the project costs her 1d-1*$100.00, otherwise, it costs 1/100th of what it costs for Gary: $1,000 for facilities (or $100 if she has similar tools already) and 1/100th per prototype try, or $30.


For most intents and purposes, getting one decent device is enough, but one could continue into the testing and mass production phase if they want to make money off of this; the rules are easy enough that I leave that as an exercise to the reader. So here I will run a simulation of inventing by Irene, Gary, and Quin side by side to get an idea of how much money and how much time is required for inventing this device.

Irene Gary Quin
Concept Time 5 days 1 day 1 minute
Prototyping Time 45 days 7 days 3 hours
Prototyping Costs $118,000.00 $103,000.00 $100.00
Total Time 50 days 8 days 3 hours

Irene required 5 dice rolls to get a 9 or less, so she took 5 days of planning. Gary and Quin both succeeded on their first tries because they didn't have to shoot so high. Quin only took 1 minute to come up with her idea.
Irene created 5 failed prototypes before succeeding by rolling a number greater than 8. On the 6th attempt, she made it. She had to pay costs for the lab and 6 prototypes. It took her 45 days.
Gary succeeded after making 1 prototype. He took 7 days because he didn't have the HT to try going any faster. He had to pay the cost of 1 lab and 1 prototype.
Quin found most of her materials from scrounging, and only needed to provide $100 worth of parts besides. It took her 3 hours to assemble the working prototype.


Each level definitely has a significant impact on time and cost. The rules for Quick Gadgeteer according to Dungeon Fantasy are a little different, for better or worse, and make cheap items easier and less expensive, but expensive items become more difficult. I think the rules could stand to be simplified a bit, and certain loose ends aren't exactly tied up for me. What are these $100,000 worth of facilities we are buying for Irene and Gary. Quin needs $100 worth of supplies; is that on top of what she scrounged? Is that what she needs to scrounge? Does prototyping time include the amount of time it took to procure $100,000 worth of facilities? or $100 worth of scrounging? If I find new information, I might refine this post at a later date.

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