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Notes on the Weirdness Magnet Advantage
A very interesting post appeared on the GURPS newsgroup, and an even more interesting answer was given by "the Rev. Mr. JOEL, Esq.". I'm giving both posts fully; the first will greatly amuse you, while the second gives some interesting points.
Subject: Weirdness Magnet - any ideas?
From: Robert Kelk [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 12:21:37 -0500
I recently convinced a friend to join my GURPS Trek game, and he created a Chief of Security with the Weirdness Magnet disadvantage. I'm at a loss for ideas on what's "weird" compared to what the other PCs (who aren't Weirdness Magnets) go through:
Compared to all that, what's weird? Any ideas would be appreciated.
- The captain is an extremely attractive human female who has managed to become pregnant twice, two years apart from her point of view, from the same "one-night stand". (This involved spatial-temporal anomalies, unwanted time travel, extremely consentual sex, and Capt. James T. Kirk...) The two-year-old is physically and mentally seven years old. (She had to have her growth accelerated in order to save the universe.)
- The ship's counselor is a Q-in-exile, married to Chief Science Officer Nene Romanova. (Hey, if you're playing a NextGen Trek game, you have to slip an anime reference in somewhere!)
- The chief engineer has become the leader of his race, by accident, and recently bought an entire country on Earth out of petty cash. (He doesn't plan to live there, mind you...) He routinely invents new gadgets in his spare time, without having the Gadgeteer advantage, and is responsible for raising the campaign's TL in many engineering specialties.
- The ship's computer is an AI, the chief conn officer is a defector from an extra-galactic invading race, Starfleet Admiralty actually likes these people, and the entire crew has a distressing tendency to meddle with time travel.
From: "the Rev. Mr. JOEL, Esq." [JOEL@CLARK.NET]
Someone called Travis originally wrote:
Date: Sun, 06 Apr 1997 12:51:40 -0500
I think that you are being a little too narrow in you definition of weird; it can be a lot of little stuff. The food replicators decide that she really likes spam in almost everything she orders. Occasionally, she recieves odd comm messages or messages meant for someone else that aren't clues/significant [like a call from a mother to her youngest daughter who is studying the genetic engineering of tribbles in order to make the perfect houseshoe]. Events/encounters that are strange but aren't plot devices: she eventually notices that her uniforms all have a small smiley face in some hard to spot place.
Here are some ideas I came up with for a Weirdness Magnet in a fantasy campaign. Perhaps they will inspire similar ideas applicable to Trek, or bring out people's ideas on what is appropriate for the WM disad.
Some incidents in the life of a Weirdness Magnet:
- Obviously, never roll for a random party member for anything, good or bad. Similarly, try making up results whenever the WM gets (or is subject to) a critical success or failure, especially for magic (or weird science) -- don't bother rolling. Try tying all magical backfires in the WM's life together with a theme -- for example, choose a semirandom noun, like "toad" or "zinc dust" or "trumpet blast", and substitute that it for the appropriate noun in the backfire result.
- Supernatural entities will either concentrate all attentions on the WM -- attacks, communications from beyond, whatever -- or do ignore the WM, dealing only with other pawns and doing their best to pretend that the WM isn't even there. Roll randomly if the GM has no preference.
And for major weirdness...
- The PCs return to their inn, and termites have utterly devoured every wooden item in the WM's room, leaving the rest of the building untouched.
- A well-known local bum drunkenly presses the WM to receive some object "for safekeeping". The object is totally ordinary in appearance -- a cracked wooden mug, a torn poster for a circus several years ago, a single stained sandal. Within 24 hours, four humorless men in black accost the WM, tersely demand the item, and leave, never to be seen again. If the Men in Black are resisted, they exchange meaningful glances and retreat; a few days later the item is missing. If questioned later, the bum claims not to remember the item at all.
- On the road, a sparrow flutters down to land on the WM's shoulder. If shooed, it resettles right away. If attacked, it leaves. Otherwise, within a few minutes, a couple more birds fly out of the woods and land on the WM. Within fifteen minutes there will be about 30 birds flocking around the WM, fighting for position on the shoulders and head, squawking and occasionally defecating. If the WM is attacked during this time, the birds will defend the WM as a Swarm. After about an hour and a half, the birds begin to disperse, and are all gone within a couple of minutes. This may happen on future journeys, but probably not, and never in a predictable fashion.
- If the WM ever spends any time drinking or studying Carousing, the WM eventually experiences a total blackout bender lasting 2 nights and 3 days. Tell the other PCs that they have no idea where the WM is during this time, and make it inconvenient, like the day before they have to leave on a mission. On awakening, or being found passed out in a flophouse on the edge of town, the WM has a new tattoo: a 2" wide crude human eyeball on the palm of the right hand. The tattoo is painful for a few days, but otherwise has no effect. It is very difficult to remove -- strong magic would be required. If the campaign continues long enough that the WM later encounters a primitive people, the primitives will notice the tattoo and treat the WM as the Chosen One. Whether that means lifelong worship or rapid ritual sacrifice is up to the GM, but it will certainly mean a radical and unexpected change in the way the primitives treat the WM and associates. Attempts to duplicate the tattoo will be useless -- people who care about it can tell the original from even an excellent fake.
- There is at least one dangerous and powerful artifact in the world that has no effect of any kind on the WM. Perhaps only the WM can safely handle some greatly evil or destructive totem; perhaps a weapon of fierce power can be safely ignored. Sages, historians and religious societies who are deeply interested in the artifact can become aware that the WM is one of the immune. They may want the WM to carry the object to its destruction, or wield it in conflicts which the WM can never understand, or lead an assault on the bad person who currently controls the object. Or they may want the WM eliminated to prevent others from using the WM's status. If the object is recovered for the "forces of good", whoever that may be, or destroyed, its power will be turned to good, granting a one-time boon to all present who helped recover it -- a boon to which the WM is also immune.
- At least once, every time the party arrives in a new town or culture, they have this experience: On walking into a normal social situation, a number of NPCs spot the WM and gravely turn and leave, saying nothing and ignoring all pleas. This can range from a single beggar or shopkeeper, ceasing to do business with the party once he realizes "who he's dealing with", to an entire gala ball coming to a stop, all of society's cream turning a cold shoulder and shuffling away in icy silence, leaving an empty hall. The very same NPCs may be encountered again, even under the same circumstances, and be perfectly friendly; they will politely ignore any reference to their previous behavior.
- The well water in one town, or one one farm, or on one planet, causes the WM to have wild and incapacitating hallucinations. It never has any unusual effect on anyone else. If the GM so desires, a succesful Oneiromancy roll may find useful information in the visions. The water loses its effect within 12 hours of removal from the source.
- On being introduced to some powerful personage -- a respected scholar, court official, ruling noble or archmage, but definitely someone who is normally unapproachable and surrounded by lackeys -- the personage seems to recognize the WM and tries to take the WM aside for a moment. The personage may offer a cryptic signal or complicated handshake. The personage says something like, "I didn't expect to see you. How did everything turn out?" When the WM betrays ignorance of the topic under discussion -- very soon, barring a series of excellent Fast Talk rolls -- the personage looks slightly peeved or embarrassed and says "I'm sorry, I mistook you for someone else," and rapidly retreats -- permanently -- to a safe social distance. The personage may be heard to mutter "I guess that hasn't happened yet," or "Damned replicants."
- In the depths of the most ancient and improbably magical "dungeon" in the land (or on a distant and forbidden planet), the party comes upon a giant rusty knife switch, firmly set into a flow of stone that looks older than any works of Man. Even the strongest cannot move the switch. However, should the WM try, it loosens with a little effort. As soon as contact is broken, the WM sees everyone else in the party, and all of their surroundings, vanish. The WM is naked, and alone on a flat and arid desert plain devoid of people, plants, animals, buildings or noticeable geography. A hot wind blows. It is a no mana zone. The switch and its outcropping of rock are still present. With excellent senses, the WM may notice a few other tiny figures in the extreme distance in all directions. Within a few minutes, a formation of three dots is seen to move through the cloudless air at high altitude, trailing faint rainbows. As soon as the switch is returned to the closed position, the world comes back. If the WM does not do this within 15 minutes, a flight of angels lands, stuns the WM with a blow to the forehead (mental stun -- no chance to recover), plants the WM's feet firmly back at the switch, and -- using the WM's hand -- flips the switch back. If an angel did strike the WM, then when the world returns the WM will have sustained 1 point of damage and be stunned until an IQ roll is made. To everyone else, no time has passed; it will appear that the WM was unable to move the switch. If the WM was struck, it will appear that the WM staggered back from an unseen shock while trying to move the switch. Clothes and equipment will be back on, unless the WM changed position significantly, in which case it seems as if the WM grabbed the switch and was knocked back right out of their clothes. The clothes collapse to the floor. It is barely conceivable that there could be some use to the WM of being "outside the world" for a few minutes, but there is no way to move the switch's location (even Great Wish wouldn't do it), and if the angels were somehow evaded, the WM would soon die of thirst.