War-Oriented Mundane Devices

By William J. Keith


The two items below are devices that can be made in a wholly mundane fashion, but interact with the War on a non-mundane level. This is something of a difficult business -- the trick is to find an observable quantity which can be traced to a datum of interest about celestials.

Calabite Detector

This device basically consists of a shielded radiation source and a decay counter with a sensor inside the shielding, communicating with a computer on the outside. It works on the principle that things arond a Calabite decay faster.[*] The counter registers the decay rate of the radiation source, and alerts the user, by whatever means are desired, when the decay rate increases significantly. As no natural force will cause this, Calabim are the likely explanation; thus the device has a fairly low false positive rate.

Its main problem is false negatives: there is quite a bit of noise in the usual decay process, so a small source will both be statistically "noisy", making it difficult to detect an increase, and increase less, there being less material to be affected by the Calabite. So only in the case of a 5 or 6 Cel. Force Calabite will there be any noticeable response. The larger the source, of course, the better the device's perception. "Larger," in this case, refers to more decays per second, not necessarily physical size -- though size can help.

These devices can be found about Lightning Tethers, usually well-hidden and connected to an alarm. Being incredibly simple, they can also be found in Vapulan Tethers (where they don't want Calabim at all). Other "civilized" Tethers can also have them; Jean declassified the plans as soon as the simplest electrical counting devices came on the scene.

The sensitivity of a Calabite detector usually ranges from 1 to 6. This is the number of yards away the detector can sense a Calabite with 1 Celestial Force; it can detect a 2-Forcer another yard away, and so forth. Thus, a detector with a sensitivity of 6 will register a 1-Celestial-Force Calabite at 6 yards, and a 6-Forcer at 11 yards. Stronger detectors are possible, but begin to be prohibitive in cost; weaker detectors are possible, activating only when a 1-Force (or more!) Calabite actually touches the device, but Jean will not produce these regularly, only as special requests. Homemade Vapulan versions occasionally are this weak.

Naturally, decaying radioactive material must be replaced. Unless the players hardcore physicists that are really interested in decay rates and their relationship to entropic increase*, figure that a detector will lose one level of sensitivity each week unless the innards are refreshed with radioactive material costing $10 x (original sensitivity), whereupon the optimum sensitivity is regained. No roll needed -- this isn't enough radioactivity to even bother humans unless exposed over a really long time. Access to the material and proper disposal procedures are up to the players, though if they got the detector through proper channels there presumably will be personnel to willing to handle this kind of thing at the nearest Lightning outpost.

The dectector's primary use in a game is as warning equipment, attached in a stable post as part of Tether or outpost equipment. It is portable however, if a bit heavy and bulky due to the shielding (the more sensitivity, the worse these problems), and can be made and used by players searching for Calabim or trying to avoid them.

Role Analyzer

This device is in fact a suite of programs, one for just about any operating system in use today. All branches of the War find it useful; it is heavily applied by War (to militaries), Judgment (to governments), and Trade (to companies). There is even a version available that will attempt to run on recent versions of VapulOS, though this is frequently a coin toss.

The user configures the program to take in personnel databases, pointing out which fields should overlap; for example, "Name" on the W-2 records should match various parts of "First Name," "Last Name," and "Middle Initial" on the HMO records, with certain tolerances. The program will try to parse files on organization policy as well, to see if it can understand rules. This is low-certainty, though, and thus low-priority. It can also scan other archives, such as newspaper stories, trying to match names and keywords, though this is tougher. It has two other features -- it can connect to the Internet and search (using its own browser) for common keywords, and it can connect very privately to Jeanite and Trader databases to look for known aliases and front organizations. (These requests will require a password, and any other security features you have set up, and will be logged.)

After being configured, the program begins correlating information through the databases. Where there are blatant or possible mismatches, it will raise a flag. Where there are signs of demonic activity, it will raise a flag. Different flags have different point values. Examples of flags are:

(1) Witness at crime scene
(1) Instructor, sword techniques
(1) Frequent maintenance calls, breakdowns
(2) Contradictory previous employment history
(2) Arrest record -- public disturbance, assault
(2) Member, True Connectedness Society (known front organization, Media)
(3) Admission papers below acceptance threshold -- special permission gained
(4) No admissions papers, yet registered for classes

Reasons for these flags: active demons are often near a crime scene, or arrested on mundane charges; celestials with a traditional bent may take roles as weapons instructors; a Calabite will, even if not trying to be destructive, have frequent maintenance problems; employment histories are often sources of Role flaws. The next-to-last flag may indicate a Balseraph who talked his way in; the last flag, a big four-point finding, indicates poor Role management.

The flags are updated constantly as researchers pore over revealed Roles to determine where they might have been spotted; they try to spot patterns of demonic activity and their results, to identify Band and Word activities. All of Heaven does this, of course; these guys simply do it full-time and try to condense it into an algorithm.

Using the Role Analyzer isn't celestially easy. To initially configure the Analyzer, the user must make a Computer Operation roll at a penalty of the level of Role they are looking for. (Take no penalty, and sometimes you'll get lucky with a really poor Role). If the GM knows that certain Roles are there to be found, the level of the Role is a further penalty. On a pass, the program will come up with any noticeable flags and propose the correct Role as a possible solution (maybe among two or three possibilities). For example, somebody who came up with the second, third, and fifth flags above would probably ping as a Calabite. However, he could also be a human with bad luck and a tendency to hit things when he got mad -- so investigation is still recommended. False positives are still possible under the best of conditions. On a failure, the program will only come up with one or two flags, and bury the Role among all the other data it stores(still findable on a search -- easy Comp Op roll -- if the players are testing that particular subject); it will also throw up some more false positives. On a critical failure or critical success, eliminate any true positives or false positives, respectively. On Interventions, go nuts. Have the first letters of the flags spell out "Lilith" or something.

Using the Analyzer in a game will require a bit of preparation, especially if the GM wishes to bring in several possibilities. I actually am using it as a whole adventure, providing 7 suspects above a threshold level of flag points (out of a population of about 25,000 at UPenn, where the Analyzer studied student records and employee files), and letting the PCs investigate the possibilities. This required several hours of work beforehand and I had a hard document available. On the other hand, if the PCs are looking at a specific Role, you can simply make the rolls and tell them what they found, if anything.

* For the hardcore physicists: radioactive decay rates are proportional to the derivative of the number of available states with respect to the energy of the nucleus, which is related to entropy. After poking through a couple of textbooks, I still wasn't 100% sure that this didn't mean a Calabite would suppress radiation instead. So I took the literarily logical route. Second, if you want to calculate prices and half-lives for nuclear material, figure every half-life will reduce sensitivity by 1; the more Becquerels, the better, and if you want to boost sensitivity past 6, have a ball. A detector/6 will be no worse than medical barium or technetium, though, just for playability's sake. [Return]


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