Thaumaturgical Technology

The scientific paradigm is a powerful one. Its emphasis on objectivity and repeatability hampers it when dealing with magical phenomena, but if enough of the weirdness comes out of the woodwork, it is possible to form a bridge between the worlds of technology and magic. That bridge always involves— and risks— a human mind.
Ghost Rock
Ghost rock is a black stone that burns slowly— a fist-sized chunk will burn brightly, emitting heat and ghostly vapors and groans for ten years. It leaves stains that are extremely difficult to remove. Mad scientists get in touch with spirits for ideas for their inventions; even advanced science after two hundred years of development still requires getting in touch with the spirits and risking your health and sanity. Irradiated ghost rock can even serve as a nuclear fuel, emitting “G-rays” which can charge a spirit battery... or used as an atomic bomb with necromantic fallout, unleashing dark supernatural creatures and spirits in the wake of devastation.

There are three known forms of thaumaturgical technology extant in the Netherworld. The first, arcanowave technology, is a creation of the Architects of the Flesh, from the Buro juncture, and is capable of blatantly magical effects. The second, “ghost rock” technology, from the Weird West juncture of the past and Wasted West juncture of the future is better at making subtle tweaks to physics— making it easier to build those ornithopters, jet packs, chainsaw swords, and plasma rifles. The last and rarest is “chi tech”, from a long-lost juncture where the Guiding Hand was in control, a technology best at subtle chi effects. (E.g.: arcanowave technology lets you fly by strapping a pair of demon wings to your back, ghost rock technology builds an ornithopter, and chi tech would fly a giant box kite by controlling the winds that support it.) All of these have undergone cross-pollination in the Netherworld.

Thaumaturgical technology always has to draw power from a supernatural source. Arcanowave technology relies on the ability of its wielder to channel magic— AI/O ports serve as power and control connections. The more crude creations involving spectracite (also known as “ghost rock”) draw power from the souls of the dead; spectracite can be used in anything from a steam engine to a nuclear reactor, churning out immense amounts of energy as well as necromantic pollution. Chi technology uses the power of feng shui and the internal energy of human beings.
Arcanowave Devices
Arcanowave energy, in general, is the aspect of chi that can be measured with specially designed chi-sensitive instruments. Low-frequency arcanowaves occur throughout the living world; modulated high-frequency arcanowaves are associated with magical effects. The Buro have found the most efficient way to manipulate arcanowaves is with naturally occurring materials that can do so— namely, the bodies of demons. Ghost rock technology operates through the spirits of dead humans; arcanowave devices retain some of the life force of the demons slain to create them. Demonic energy likes to wreak havoc: if you aren’t as well suited to wreaking havoc as an abomination, it wants to turn you into one so you’ll be a better operating platform.

One of the interesting pieces of hybrid technology that has grown up in the Netherworld is the ectoplasm dynamo, a device that can convert arcane energy into electricity. The chi flow accompanying the electricity corresponds to the power source: if an ectoplasm dynamo is charged with the dying breath of a human being, the resultant energy functions much like ghost rock. If it is charged by binding a spirit into the dynamo or capturing the heartblood of a dying demon, the results tend to mutate people like arcanowave technology. If laboriously charged through hours or weeks of effort by meditating human beings or time at the heart of a well-prepared feng shui site, the chi is more oriented toward nature. The resulting electricity is powerful stuff indeed: it can be used to jolt animation into once-living tissue or more subtly to bring a person’s meridians into harmony. It is rumored the first ectoplasm rotor was invented by Thomas Edison as part of his researches into the necrophone. Mad scientists who rely on it are fond of the “use more electricity” solution to their problems.

Arcanowave technology requires a specially equipped laboratory to create and modify it. Everything from cages for the demons and bottles for the spirits to petri dishes whose agar is laced with human blood are important for putting the technology together. The demonic flesh is glued together and wired up, infused with the spirits or the spiritual essence of ritually slain demons, and then combined with a specially designed porous high-impact plastic, the whole thing then fusing together to create arcanowave resonating biopolymer. The result ends up looking like an H R Giger creation, involving some of the most interesting structures from the worlds of insects, molluscs, crustaceans, and arachnids, covered in arcane sigils.

Ghost rock technology is much easier to modify in the field, and works with off-the-shelf parts... but only after a lot of occult rearranging and banging into shape. The Jammers have the right basic technical skills to be mad scientists, but only a very few of them have the chi sensitivity necessary to contact the spirits that are needed as part of the process of design of ghost rock technology. On first glance, it’s hard to tell jammertech from ghost rock technology, but jammertech doesn’t usually wail like damned souls in torment while it’s in operation.

Chi tech is very tricky to work with. Its parts vary from fish tanks to carefully grown vines and plants to polished mirrors, clear faceted crystals, and fiber optics. The natural parts take weeks to grow even in enhanced-growth environments (themselves created using chi tech), and require regular tending— much like bonsai work where a patient gardener can actually see the plant growing. It also requires a great deal of maintenance to keep the chi flows from getting out of alignment, and is usually more fragile than the other two thaumaturgical technologies. The laboratories that produce it resemble Zen gardens or elegant little temples in forest glades. The creation of chi technology requires a great deal of meditative contemplation of the designs, and advances often occur with aid from well-pleased nature spirits.

Ghost Rock Tech

See Design Quirks and Dr. Z’s Weird Science for additional inspiration. Note that weird electrical devices are a genre not present in your normal Deadlands world, but are very appropriate for the 20th century (which gets pretty much elided by the Deadlands source material I’ve seen). Be careful powering your Windows laptop with energy from an ectoplasm dynamo!

Chi Tech

Sample Devices

Powering: burn Fu points to come back one per hour or half hour, add square of the amount burned to the device, taking points×15 minutes. Thus, 8 fu takes 2 hours to add but adds 64 points, but spending 2 hours pumping in 1 at a time only adds 8 points. Come up with point costs, spirit battery capacities... it should be expensive but not quite prohibitive to operate chi tech.

Inspiration: Richard Garfinkel’s Celestial Matters.