Chapter 20: Artifact ID

Technology is diverse and prolific, and not all technological devices can be immediately identified by personas. Consider what sort of a potpourri of technological devices would exist if they were drawn from an entire universe of varying cultures, races and technological levels. No persona could expect to figure out the mechanism of anything by merely the referee’s description. This is why a structured system for identifying artifacts had to be devised.

These systems must be used by the discretion of the referee. The Artifact Identification systems should not be used so strictly that players cannot identify how to use a spatula (very boring for the players), nor should the artifact identification system be used by players to “roll” themselves through a scenario. The referee may decline AID rolls to players for any device which is important to her scenario. Obviously, if an entire scenario revolves around some mysterious object, there is not much point in letting a player roll herself a solution to the scenario. If a player should happen to identify an artifact herself (as opposed to her persona) this is tough luck for the referee. Remember that this is a role-playing game, and not a dice-rolling game.

Theatrical AID System

A simple system for AID is based on attribute rolls. The player must make an hard attribute roll under her INT to successfully identify the artifact. The more difficult to identify the artifact the more difficult the INT roll required. This system offers little flexibility for including factors like: Tech Level, procedure, or experience level.

Tactical AID Table System

A better system for artifact identification is the AID Table. The AID Table is a flowchart (Table 20.1) that allows the player to chart her persona’s course through an artifact’s identification. The AID Table includes factors such as how much time is spent on the artifact, skill level of the identifier, class of the identifier, Tech Level of device, and care of procedure. 

The table has key points indicating identification, activation and damage. Movement around the flowchart is decided by modified d10 rolls. Each d10 roll indicates 1-10 minutes of investigation. Each circle on the flowchart has three exit arrows, and one entrance arrow. Which of the 3 exit arrows is taken by the player is determined by her die roll. For example, a player located at circle “B” would return to circle “A” if she rolled 4 or less; she would advance to circle “C” if she rolled between 5 and 11, and if she were to roll 12, or better, the artifact would be identified. Each flowchart circle could be used to indicate a particular strange sounds or flashing light on the artifact. Using this table allows the players, and the ref, to get some idea of where they are in the identification process.

Figure 20.1 Artifact Identification (AID) Flowchart

Fun and fear of figuring out an unknown device from ancient or future times. A d10 is typically used to navigate the flowchart.

Starting the AID Table

The start is obviously where the player begins the identification process. This is when the persona is starting cold. She is picking up an item that she has never attempted to identify before. If a persona has stopped identifying an artifact, she must return within a day if she wishes to restart where she left off. Another persona may continue where the old identifier left off only if the new persona had been paying attention for the whole of the identification process.

studiostoks. illustration stock image. modified HM


This means that the person has figured out what the artifact is and how it works. Identification does not indicate that she knows everything about the artifact. Identification should protect the persona from immediate harm. For example a nuclear device would no longer be thought of as portable oven. This does not mean the persona is skilled at using the artifact, knows it’s value, or knows its tech level.

studiostoks. stock illustration. modified HM
Oops. Turned it on.

Accidental Activation

Accidental activation indicates that the identifier has unwittingly turned on the artifact. For weapons, bombs and grenades, the effects can be deadly. For devices that have been activated, and are wasting precious batteries, a successful normal INT roll will immediately deactivate the artifact. When an artifact has been accidentally activated, it releases considerable information about its use. Therefore, the player will return to the start with a +2 bonus on all successive rolls. The bonuses for accidental activation are cumulative. If the identifier accidentally activates the artifact again, she will return to the start with +4. If this is some kind of weapon and it discharges the expedition will likely automatically identify the artifact along with the damage it delivers. 

studiostoks illustrated stock image. modified HM
It was on fire when I got here.

Artifact Damage

This flowchart point indicates that the device has been damaged. Arrival at this destination could be announced by horrible crunching noises, or sickening sprats. After this occurs, the identifier returns to the start. High-tech artifacts should not instantly be damaged by the fumblings of the identifier. Any artifact that the ref feels cannot be damaged by the identifier, should not be damaged. If an identifying player continually lands on the point indicating damage, then Table 20.2: Extent of Equipment Damage may be warranted. The extent of damage has an effect on the repair of damaged equipment. .

Table 20.1 Artifact Extent of Damage

If it is worth figuring out it is worth breaking.
Die Roll (1d100)Extent of DamagePercent of Previous Performance
91-98 Critical30
00Ref's Own Table(Improve it?)
Die RollExtent of Damage

Artifact Identification

Identification of an artifact can mean many things. Usually identification only indicates the general use of the artifact type. For example, this is a medical device for healing (not a bomb), this is a drug (not perfume), this is a napalm aerosol (not hair spray). Complete identification depends on the persona’s class. For example, Mercenaries can identify bombs, attack aerosols, and weapons succinctly. Some artifacts have specific class designations.  Items such as climbing equipment may be classed as nomad. Cooking utensils may be classed as nothin. All classes can identify vehicles. No class restriction apply if a player identifies an artifact by role-playing!!

Table 24.4 Type A Weapons

Mundane thrusting and striking weapons, including free alternatives.
WeaponWate (kgs)DamageCost (eps)Alternate
Axe1.81d10+210Throwing axe
Brass Knuckles0.41d3
15Gauntlet, wire
Chain2.01d6+12Rope, hose
Fist, paw (punch)--1d4-3--Glove
Flail, small0.51d46Nunchuk, arm
Flail, large1.51d815None
Foot, hoof (kick)--1d4-1--Boot
Fork1.62d48Rake, pitchfork
Lance, small10.04d418Coat rack
Lance, large13.04d624Flagpole
Mace, small1.01d38Pipe, wrench
Mace, large2.51d616Shovel, crobar
Morning Star1.751d6+1d410Ball and chain
Orchid (razor glove)0.91d4+125Broken bottle
Pick, small1.51d410T-Square, nail in board
Pick, large2.51d10+216Hoe
Point (dagger)0.31d33Ice pick, scissors
Spear2.51d12+12Pointed stick
Staff, small1.51d4+11Cane, bone, 2x4
Stall, large2.01d61Pole, coat rack
Sword, short0.41d416None
Sword, medium0.81d820None
Sword, Long1.21d1030None
Sword, Combo1.81d1250None
Sword, Double 2.42d870None
WeaponkgsHPS damageepsAlternate

AID Flowchart Adjustments

There are many factors that affect the persona’s navigation through Artifact Identification: INT of the identifier, Tech Level of the toy, class of the identifier, and skill level of the identifier. These adjustments are another point where mechanics, and all other classes, diverge. When using the flowchart, mechanics roll a d10, but all other classes roll a d8. All classes are subject to adjustments on the INT Table, the Tech Level Table, and the procedure table. However, only mechanics can use a skill bonus.

Intelligence: In regards to identifying artifacts smart personas do better, and dumb personas do worse. Table 20.2 Intelligence  AID Adjustments. A persona with an 8 INT would subtract 1 from each d8 roll. However, a mechanic with a 16 INT would add 3 to every d10 roll. It should be easy to see who’s going to be more successful at identifying equipment.

Table 20.2 Intelligence AID Adjustment

The higher the persona's intelligence the more likely they are to solve the puzzle.
IntelligenceAID Roll Bonus
INTAID Roll Bonus

Tech Level:  Tech level is a term that loosely represents the artifact’s level of technological development. EXP’s tech level system is defined in some detail in Chapter 56: Tech Level A person from the Middle Ages would almost certainly be at a loss in a modern kitchen, and it is unlikely that someone from today’s high-tech kitchen could prepare a meal with utensils from the Middle Ages. The problem of Tech Level, however, goes beyond this.

All personas are assumed to originate from Tech Level 10 societies. Tech Levels 6-12 are similar enough not to present any serious difficulty to the identifier. For example, a person from our own technical society (Terran, western, 1980) would have a good idea of how to operate most 19th century artifacts, and will likely to be able to function up to about 50 years into the future. Beyond this TL 6-12 range, there are probably enough unfamiliarities to confuse a persona—hence, penalties are added, at the rate of minus 1 per Tech Level above 12, and below 6. 

Table 20.3 Tech Level and Artifact Identification (AID)

Differing technology levels (TL) can impair the persona's ability to figure out what the artifact is.
Tech LevelAID Adjustment
6-12 0
IntelligenceAID Roll Bonus

Identification Style: Adjustments are added  depending on how the persona conducts her study of the artifact. For example, if the player says that her persona is being very careful she will add 3 to her 1d10 roll whenever on circle E (accidental activation possible), or on circle F (artifact damage possible). However being careful extends the time taken for identification. Rushing along can speed up the time to identification, or accidental activation. 

Table 20.4 AID Style Adjustment

Role play your way into bonuses and accidental activations.
AID StyleAID Flowchart AdjustmentTime Adjustments
Being very careful+3 at E and FTriple time of IDN.
Being careful+2 at FDouble time
Normal speedNoneNone
Rushing a bit-1 at E and FHalf the time of IDN
Rushing a lot -2 at E and FQuarter time of IDN
Some labelling+1 at all lettersNone
Good labelling+2 at all lettersHalf time of IDN
Instruction manual+4 at all lettersDouble time of IDN
AID StyleAID FlowchartTime Adjustments