Tinkering: Clockwork Wonders for LARP & RPG Games, Part 1

Tip of the hat to Hero of Alexandria

Tinkering, by any other name, is a catch-all term for making devices, gadgets and clockwork wonders.  Mainstay of Steampunk, it also has enjoyed a presence in the fantasy genre settings in the form of traps, locks and more exotic manufactured wonders.  While typically not considered magic, such items can often mimic magical effects or exceed the realms of purely mundane mechanisms.  Whatever the case may be in your game setting, I’m hoping to make this column a regular creative writing exercise and a fun resource.  If I manage to “crank” out enough of them, I’ll see about giving them their own dedicated collection page.

Obviously, the exact game mechanics and physical-representations will vary depending on the system and settings, but I’ll try to keep them fairly generic (with the occasional nod to my favorite settings and references).

Gill Gorget
This device resembles the armored neck guard often worn by medieval warriors, except that on either side are a series of fine metal filters and a flexible tube meant to be held in the mouth. When the internal reservoir if filled with an exotic extract of rare seaweed, the device allows the wearer to breath underwater for up to 30 minutes. Additional doses of the extract can revitalize the device. It offers no protection against smoke, poison gases or other substances.
Shield Bladder
Crafted from the capacious and durable organ of the fierce carnivorous lizards of the southern mountains, this device can be created for and retrofitted into a shield by a suitably skilled Tinkerer. It can hold a single dose of an alchemical substance that is released when the shield is struck by a weapon, and reacts violently with air, causing the attacker to suffer painful burns. As long as the shield is intact, the bladder can be refilled; a process that requires great care and delicacy.
Spring-Heeled Jack
This densely packed mechanism powers an incredibly powerful spring system which can release its energy in an explosive manner, propelling the wearer a startling distance in an instant. Upon activation, the wearer may leap in a long arc, relocating themselves as far as a short dash (3-5 seconds of movement). Their path passes over and beyond the reach of intervening obstacles and foes. Confined spaces and exceptional barriers may restrict the use of this device. The mechanism can be reset by jumping vigorously in place for 1 minute but using the device more than twice a day will likely destroy the more delicate parts.
Strop-Stone Scabbard
The inside of this scabbard is lined with a series of plates of a very fine-grained, oiled stone. When a bladed weapon that fits within is slowly and carefully drawn from it (3-count or "action") the edge temporarily gains an extremely potent edge for its next strike. Successful or not, the edge is lost until the blade is sheathed and drawn again. The stones wear out quickly, providing only a limited number of sharpenings, but can be replaced by a Tinkerer of sufficient talent.
At first glance, this device appears to be an iron bar with no adornment except for a recessing button in the middle. When placed at angle between a door and the ground, and pressed, it extends bars to either side as well as lengthening and deploying a securing spike into the door and ground. Employed in this manner, it prevents doors of normal size to be secured against entry except by beings of truly immense strength. Pressing the button a second time causes the devices to collapse exhausting the mechanism within. It cannot be reset and is inert afterwards.

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