Over the centuries the world has emerged from various wars and cataclysms with the help of new and exciting technological inventions. Sometimes these inventions helped to end the war, or to recover from a cataclysm. In either case these technologies often combine both mechanical ingenuity and magical prowess of the inventors.
Printing Press, Popular Fiction and Gadgetry
While the printing press has been around for many centuries—thanks to shifter artificers—it was not until the last hundred and fifty years that it has seen major modifications. With the introduction of movable typesetting, daily newspapers have become commonplace. In more recent years “Copperflaps” have become extremely popular. These are small, illustrated booklets depicting adventures, and misadventures, of various heroes and “expeditions”.
While dwarves quickly adopted the printing press, books were never durable enough for them, even though they did enjoy their portability. To meet the demand for more durable printed material, dwarven artificers created the Optigraph. It is a small device, roughly foot and a half by one foot and one inch thick, that allows one to read text that has been engraved on a specially layered crystal tablet.
In one side of the Optigraph is a thin slot, where reading material is inserted. This material takes the form of a thin but strong tablet of crystal, a vitreum, that holds perhaps fifty pages at a time. Vitrea are less than half the size of the Optigraph, and are easy to take out and replace, making them favorites of Dwarven wizards and scholars alike. Once inserted, the minute text on the vitreum is magnified in the circular viewing lens on the Optigraph’s front. The various dials and knobs on the Optigraph are used to shift and move the text, as well as enlarge it for those with failing eyesight.
Bloaters, Gas Bags and Death Traps
Since well before the Time of Sundering, airships of various kinds have alternately trundled, lurched, screamed and streaked through the air of Rekh Ir Nasam. In spite of this, for a very long time they were uncommon, as their creation involved complex rituals as well as rare (and expensive) magical components.
Flight Stones, a technology that revolutionized the construction and use of airships, did not come into use until very shortly before the Sundering. These levitating rocks allowed airship construction to be drastically reduced in price without the need for any experienced ritual casters. Today, these ritualists use their skills somewhat differently. Instead of enchanting airships to float, they make them more durable, and lighter. Airships in general fall into three distinct classes.
At the lowest altitudes, Bloat Barges are almost universal. These slow, clumsy vessels are so named because they move like a fat man after a hefty meal. With extremely limited altitude range, bloat barges can only make it up to about a hundred feet from the surface, primarily because they use very low grade or damaged flight stones as a power source. Commonly used to haul cargo, or pressed into service as public transportation in larger cities, the awkward figure of a bloat barge is unmistakable as it trundles past.
Purely mundane in their construction and use, Dirigibles are composed primarily of a gas envelope of some kind—normally a hot air balloon—and a passenger compartment. Rarely, there is a small cargo hold, but not many merchants these days trust air transport that does not use flight stones. In fact, dirigibles are generally perceived as cheap death traps with no leg room.
If a bloat barge had a drunken night with a dirigible, perhaps a zeppelin would be the result. Normally large and clumsy like its lower altitude cousin, it uses a gas bladder to counteract its often massive weight when fully loaded with cargo. This allows for the use of fewer expensive flight stones, keeping the price of transport via zeppelin relatively low. While sending one’s goods via this method may be cheap, it has its disadvantages, as well. The gas bag makes a zeppelin vulnerable to the myriad dangers of the air, such as punctures by enraged bird flocks, errant stone snakes, or ill-tempered pirates with nothing better to do.
Old-fashioned “standard” airships, known as Arctos Naviga (arcnav for short) in the old days, were the first kind to use flight stones without the aid of a gas bag. Older ones greatly resemble waterborne ships, complete with sails. The sheets on an arcnav serve to both propel and stabilize the vessel, and can be positioned on both horizontal and vertical axes of the boat. Newer models have steam-powered propellers, which can only be expected when Dwarves come up out of their machine shops to try their hand at sailing.
While the design of a dirigible can be thought of as less than sane, it is the crew of a Skimmer that are most definitely a few crates short of a full cargo. At the upper reaches of the sky, in the Highcurrent, those brave (or psycotic) enough to sail there are likely to see these incredibly fast ships streaking by at some point. With few flight stones, skimmers are designed to operate in the fading-force area of the Highcurrent, where it takes very little force to move something a long way. Of course, at lower altitudes, a skimmer is almost as painful to maneuver as a bloat barge, but they might actually have fewer flight stones.
Flight Stones: From Phlegm to Floating
Flight stones, those modern marvels that have enabled the mass-production of airships and proliferation of inter-earthmote travel, are created from mucus gathered off the upper bells of Krosh’ti. In theory, the process is simple. A skimmer slows down as it passes over a Krosh’ti bell, lowering a collection device on a thin but strong cable. These come in various designs, but all require some degree of manual operation. This theory is not as close to reality as might be hoped. Unfortunately, even the top of the Krosh’ti bells emits a heavy amount of static electricity. For this reason, the entire crew wears insulated jumpsuits. Not that it would matter for the person that actually collects the mucus.
Drop-devils, the manual collection experts among skimmer crews, are lowered with the collection device, and ride the container as it scrapes the top of the Krosh’ti bell at speeds that are still more than what might be safe. Once the device is filled to safe levels, the skimmer disengages, raises the collector, and stashes the mucus in barrels. Drop-devils have the unfortunate tendency to ingest what they collect—an occupational hazard—and this causes them to smell a little funny. Another side effect is that they need to wear lead shoes; otherwise, they’ll float away.
After the mucus is collected, it is delivered to a group of ritualists who “cook” it in special set of progressively smaller bespelled vats and perform a series of three rituals, refining it more and more, reducing it in size until it forms a crystalline substance. This in-between stage is called aethersand. After the vat-train, another ritual is performed on the aethersand, shaping and compacting it into a semi-transparent sphere. When complete, the flight stone is roughly two feet in diameter, and floats elegantly in midair. Unlike earthmotes, a flight stone can be easily moved, but without an external force they will rapidly come to a stop.It is for this reason that airships tend toward the larger size, using their greater mass to lengthen propulsion times.
Navigating the Winds
With the advent of a new kind of transportation came the need for a new type of navigation device. The challenges of maneuvering a vessel on vertical as well as horizontal axes, as well as knowing the topography of the ship’s surroundings birthed the idea of the aerograph.
Originally designed by the genius shifter engineer, Hyram Reshk, the aerograph is the most complete navigational chart one can ask for. It is composed of a glass sphere, between eighteen and twenty inches in diameter, with two concentric glass spheres inside. At the center, there is a clockwork device so complex as to give even the most patient of dwarven artisan’s a migrane headache. Between the layers of glass are quantities of a silver mercury-like substance that shift in response to the terrain within a given distance of the ship. A ship’s navigator uses the aerograph to plot location and to determine course, which is then dictated to the pilot and crew.
Although mostly used in military ships, it is not uncommon to find a gyrocantar chamber in larger private airships. The gyrocantar is situated in a large spherical chamber that is perhaps ten to fifteen feet in diameter. A pressure hatch allows the operator inside, and once within, they strap themselves into a special chair. The gyrocantar itself is a series of concentric rings that rotate on several axes, allowing the chair the ability to view every bit of the interior surface of the chamber. After being strapped in, the operator then dons a self-contained breathing mask.
The chamber is then filled with a proprietary fluid only available through the manufacturer, which allows the gyrocantar’s rings to move more smoothly, and for the operator to better view what is around the ship. A series of runes are activated once the chamber is full, and the operator—now suspended in the chair—uses his or her mind to rotate in all directions to view things around the ship. If the operator is especially observant, he or she can see objects and other craft up to twenty miles away.
Steam Engines, Both Great and Small
While it is argued among engineering circles what the greatest of Dwarven inventions might be, no debate is ever had on the subject without mentioning the steam engine. Though used in some capacity in their underground cities since time beyond memory, dwarves did not bring the steam engine to the surface until after the War of Crimson Ash. Strictly mechanical in materials, these engines are often enchanted to make them safer and more durable. This in turn allows them to be made smaller and lighter.
In past years, and in an effort to make make the steam engine more efficient a few attempts were made to link boilers directly to the fires in the Elemental Chaos. In most cases this ended in disaster. The portals required were either unstable and caused massive destruction when they exploded, or allowed fire elementals and the like to enter the primary plane (and also do a lot of damage).
After some very notable mishaps and potential incidents of genocidal conflagration, there eventually were advances with the elemental boiler. In fact, there are now two types of elemental boilers are in widespread use. The first is the tinderbox, a miniaturized version used to power Forgetech devices, and is simply considered too small to be dangerous. The other is called the Inferno Core, and was developed by a group of Goliath artificers of unquestionable genius—but far less certain sanity. This enormous device is far from portable, which is probably a good thing, as it works by channeling the fires of the sun as fuel. The Inferno Core has layer upon layer of protective wards built into it that took ten years to perfect. The last breach in the wards incinerated everything within three miles in all directions. Modern Inferno Cores have a system of shields and valves that can be quickly closed to reduce the impact of a potential accident to merely a few hundred yards of scorched earth, rather than miles.
Land Vehicles: Why Walk When you can…
Although most modern nations have extensive rail networks, this is a relatively recent development. Until the advent of the steam engine, trains were not very widespread in use. Those trains built for long-distance travel are most often heavily armored and have a compliament of armed guards to protect vehicle, passengers and cargo from the dangers of open country.
With the miniaturization of the steam engine came the autonomous carriage. These vehicles vary in size from carriages for an entire family and cargo wagons down to one-person rickshaws. They are commonly powered by a small steam engine, with a complex clockwork system that amplifies the power from the engine as it is transferred to the wheels. While autonomous carriages are a convenient way to travel, it must be said that their range is limited and they do not perform very well in off-road settings.
Another widespread vehicle, though not as common as the ones above is an autonomous ambler. These vary in appearance from four to eight legged walkers resembling spiders to caterpillar-like crawlers. While amblers have existed before the invention of the steam engine, they required highly skilled ritualists to create and often to control. With the introduction of the steam engine they have become far easier and cheaper create. Autonomous amblers are often used in places where autonomous carriages cannot go and function as mobile weapons platforms.
Forgetech: It’s Just That Good
Forgetech, short for forge-driven-technology, is yet another example of dwarven innovation. This came about as a method to augment the abilities of their soldiers through non-magical means. Forgetech uses a finely-tuned steam technology as a power source for suits of armor, weapons, and various other implements. The superior craftsmanship and engineering of forgetech weapons and other gear allow the user to compete toe-to-toe with those who own magical equivalents. Today, this technology is common throughout the world, but the most advanced devices can still be found only in the shops of dwarves. The steam engines in nearly all forgetech equipment are positively tiny, and they power highly sophisticated piston-driven clockwork mechanisms.
Perhaps even more amazing than a suit of forgetech armor are the prosthetic limbs and other body parts that dwarves have developed. In general, they do not require a power source, but the clockworks within must be wound every so often. Like forgetech armor, the size and cost of such prosthetics vary greatly. Some are large and clunky and fairly inexpensive. Others are found only in the workshops of master craftsmen, and are like pieces of fine art. Of course, they are also far more expensive than the magic ritual it takes to regrow an actual limb…
The Big Bang: An Abbreviated History of Firearms
Firearms originated in the forges of dwarven master craftsmen in an attempt to replace the crossbow. In theory, the new invention was a success. A bullet could be fired with the same or greater force, but guns were still far too dangerous to use in the underground battles between dwarven clans. The deafening noise had a tendency to cause rock slides in some of the less structurally stable caves, and the smoke blinded for minutes at a time. In times when cave-ins were not a concern, firearms worked perfectly.
The earliest muzzle-loaded guns were slow to reload, but packed a heavy wallop. Later, designs evolved, and innovations in the firing mechanism greatly improved efficiency. The invention that led to the greatest increase in the lethality of the firearm was the breach-loading barrel. With cartridge ammunition, there was no need to measure powder, and self-cleaning barrels eliminated the ram-rod. Today, most firearms—the good ones, anyway—have complex clockwork firing mechanisms, and breach-loading rifles often come with a spring-loaded ammunition reservoir that automatically reloads the breach without any delay time. Often, one might see special ventilation systems along the sides of the barrel of a gun, which improves accuracy.
Can You Hear Me? How About Now?: The Monocular Relay
The monocular relay utilizes all the tried and true sending and messaging rituals (Speak With Dead not included) that a party’s ritual caster is normally so busy using. Each ritual is encoded into a crystal inside the device, allowing them to be used simultaneously, thus providing auditory and visual communication at once. Most monocular relays are mirrors with concentric rotating frames. These frames are inscribed with symbols, which allow the user to attune their “call” to a specific relay’s unique signature. Once the symbols are correctly aligned, the device is engaged, and the ritual of communication begins.
As with all technology, the monocular relay has its limitations. The first of these is distance. No monocular relay can reach another outside of fifty miles without the use of intermediary relay stations that extend the signal’s range. Secondly, the monocular relay is less portable than one might think. They must be set in one place, and calibrated to send messages from that spot, for if it is moved, it ceases to function until it is recalibrated.
Take a Message: The Parallax Directive Emitter
Like the monocular relay, a parallax directive emitter (PDE or emitter for short) is used to send messages over long distances. The emitter is capable of transmitting only short messages—no more than ten to twenty-five words—but can do so at distances up to three hundred miles away. Sending a message via this method takes time. From a few moments at anything below a hundred miles to hours at the extreme limits of an emitter’s range, it is not instant communication. There is no say to know how long it takes a message to get to the receiving end, and no way of knowing if someone is there to get it. That problem has been solved in recent years by the addition of audio-harmonizers that allow a message to be recorded so that it may be listened to at a later time. The PDE is composed of two parts, which are in turn both durable and fragile. The external emitter relay is very easy to damage, and without it the entire system is unusable. On the parallax encoder is small and highly durable. It is only the size of a large chest, and can receive messages even without the emitter array.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Bioptic Compressor
The bioptic compressor is a small box (hand-held) with a set of lenses on one side. When the compressor is in use, the lenses extend on an accordion-style leather frame. Whatever the lenses see at the time the compressor is activated is recorded on specially prepared sheets of paper, usually no larger than a Deva’s hand. These are then removed from the device to undergo a special chemical process that creates lifelike images. The only drawback is that the image seems faded.
A more advanced version of this device is available, the magisight bioptic compressor, but this is achieved by sacrificing portability. The magisight version is capable of recording moving images. These are captured on glass disks with coated with a substance called MagicMove ™. The device itself is ungainly and cumbersome, as well as being expensive. Recent artificers in Qnajj have learned to synchronize the pictures with sound to make “talking pictures”, but this is a very new technology. Many purists consider it a passing fad.
The magisight pictures have become a very popular form of entertainment in many cities, usually with live music to accompany the pictures. In recent years, a new genre has emerged. A studio making Orc-centric pictures, called Orxplotation Pictures have risen as a powerhouse in the industry. This studio has been raking in gold with hits such as “The Good, The Bad, The Orc”, “Enter the Dragoon”, “The Seven Deaths of Dr. Shin’Go”, and “Orc Fist”. Orxploitation’s profit margin is great for another reason: most of their films are made on the cheap, and without the benefit of the new “talking picture” technology. They have enlisted a popular new-age orcish music outfit, Samurai Fish, to perform when the pictures are shown. There is, however, no understanding of why the artists have stooped to such depths. Rumor has it that Shin’Rech, Orxploitation’s owner, has some kind of blackmail material against Shin’Hal, Samurai Fish’s lead vocalist.
The Audio Harmonizer: A Bootlegger’s Tool
If one wanted to listen to Samurai Fish’s latest hit song “I’ll Stop the World and Pummel You”, they could bring an audio harmonizer to one of their concerts. This small device is tiny enough to fit in a pocket, which is probably why so many bootleg copies of this song are floating around Drashlan. Sound is recorded on special copper cylinders, and these cylinders can be used to play the sound back. While most of the audio harmonizers on the market are the small pocket-sized versions favored by bootleggers and detectives, Samurai Fish records their music albums on a larger version, which provides higher quality sound.