Agatha Heterodyne: Thus, I have created this combination mechanical taxidemist and tailor!
bzzt. Bonjour, Mistress.
Zeetha: Good grief! How did you construct something so complicated?
Agatha: Please. I always carry a Swiss army knife and a coil of wire.
—"Revenge of the Weasel Queen, Part 2," by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Mad Science is magic that looks like technology. (Mad "scientists" are really more "mad inventors.") It is generally done by people with a strong Cainite spiritual strain. Because their productions are really magical in nature or origin, they cannot be duplicated by the non-Mad. Sometimes, they cannot even be used by the non-Mad.
Mad scientists are not necessarily evil, but they are always eccentric, obsessed about something; this obsession is the channel through which their genius and their magic flows, and it means that their moral judgment can often be skewed. A dose of humility is the best corrective for this, but it is hard to deliver to someone who knows that they are, obviously, superior to ordinary people in matters of the intellect.
Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.
—"Fairy Tale Theater Break: Cinderella," by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Mad scientists can do many feats besides creating miraculous technology:
Mad scientists are always total polymaths, good at everything, but they do have a bias toward one of three fields:
Mad Science is a form of Thematic Magic, and even more than other forms, it needs to be role-played. Mad scientists should be played with at least a couple of good solid quirks. More than four or five is probably too hard to keep track of and maybe unpleasant to other gamers. Suggestions:
Sometimes, the mad-scientist attitude comes in fits, when they work on The Project; at other times, they are relatively normal.
Mad science burns Nerve points just as fast as it burns Psi points. If mad scientists run out of Nerve points, they don't freeze or panic as normal people do; they go off into an extended rant, even if fighting a pitched battle (actually a rather common time for a rant).
If a mad scientist runs out of either Psi or Nerve points, or if they roll a perfect failure (99) on Mad Science, they acquire a new mental, psychic, or spiritual problem. Examples:
Select a disability appropriate to the occasion of the exhaustion trauma. The GM may reward a perfect success (00) by removing a disability. Curing a disability can also be a roleplaying goal of course. Surely, there are some psychiatrically minded Mad Scientists who would like to help...
Devine indicated his massive and loud-voiced companion. "The Weston," he added. "You know. The great physicist. Has Einstein on toast and drinks a pint of Schrödinger's blood for breakfast."
— Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis
Physicist from Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. In the first book, he was obsessed with developing space flight, to ensure the survival of the human race (or its descendant species) by letting it scatter over many worlds. To this end, he was willing to (as he thought) offer up a fellow human to Malacandrian "savages" and to exterminate those same Malacandrians to make room for human settlers.
In the second book, he had broadened his allegiance to "the Life Force" in all its forms, good or evil, which led him to invite diabolical possession. This happened.
His main accomplishment was the discovery of "Weston rays" and the development from that of a space drive. In the original book, this is presented as an interplanetary drive; in the Inkliverse, it is construed as an interstellar drive. Weston had no idea that he was working under infernal inspiration (though not, until later, possession) and would have been hugely contemptuous of any such notion. His drive could be used by others, but could not have been built without Weston's active involvement. He is known to have built two such drives, one to reach Malacandra and return, twice, the other to make a one-way trip to Perelandra.
In physical appearance, Weston was a big, blocky man with a loud, gruff voice and fair coloring. He, or his commandeered body, lost a hand-to-hand combat to the death with Elwin Ransom on Perelandra, in 1942, when he was forty-six years old.
" In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mould – all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how. Learn to make our brains live with less and less body: learn to build our bodies directly with chemicals, no longer have to stuff them full of dead brutes and weeds. Learn how to reproduce ourselves without copulation."
— That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis
Physiologist from That Hideous Strength. He was obsessed with freeing mankind of its connection to the "disgusting" world of the organic. If that seems like an odd obsession for a physiologist, well, he was mad.
His main accomplishment, or at least so he thought, was preserving alive the severed head of François Alcasan, a French radiologist of Arab extraction, executed by guillotine for murdering his wife. This head became the administrative Head of the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments, the N.I.C.E. In fact, the head was not animated by the soul of Alcasan, but by one or more demons, being a truncated and artificially made vehicle for possession. Filostrato never realized this. He was only concerned to have found a way (which he admitted to be a crude and preliminary one) of rendering humans "immortal" by making them independent of their too-mortal bodies. Filostrato's mad science lay in the technical genius that let him create the more-than-cutting-edge machinery that preserved the head.
In physical appearance, Filostrato was a tall, morbidly obese man with Latin coloring, a round, smooth face, and a high, piping voice. His disgust for the organic had led him to chemically castrate himself many years before the events of That Hideous Strength. He was murdered by his fellow N.I.C.E. members, decapitated at the order of the Head, in 1948, when he was forty-three.
Return to Inkliverse
Return to Wind Off the Hilltop
Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010