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Oh no! You've got your science in my fiction

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  • #16
    What I was trying to get at Ollie is that you expected Lecter to give you an exact answer yourself instead of making suggestions. I think if you would have made suggestions you would have faced less problems.

    Plots are NOT static. Because player base is not static. And people have ideas which change the plot. You won't find two situations where you will have the same level of exactness. Because what is given and needed and asked for and worked for will depend on individual situations. Plotting is not a code you add input and then you have the logical outcome. Such would cease interaction amongst player and reduce the RP into a PC game. From your words I think that is not what you seek.

    However taking out all details would take away the fun from many people. Those details are the little cherries on the whip cream, you might hate cake in general or you might just hate the cherries. You don't like them? Pass them on to someone who does and eat the slice you enjoy.

    I don't think we should have universally applied rules in regards of details in plots. At times a fast plot will run with no detail at all in a single hour, at times staff will have everything settled for a year in advance. Having a rule makes things static.

    What you can do and have done is this: signal that you personally prefer plots that have vagueness and no details.

    I personally enjoyed this plot a lot, I enjoyed playing with the information we were given. I enjoyed having various people give various inputs and suggestions and how it took many people to make up a single thing. I don't think any of the involved had any detailed scientific knowledge in RL, yet we could progress.

    As for the plot being concluded, yes, we have 3 infested people, it would be highly unfair if they didn't have a chance for the cure. Plots are hooks, people react or don't react, it is their prerogative. If none reacts the ones sacrificing their times spent in idle loneliness in Larkins or other places should not be oblidged to keep things up.

    I think we should losen up. To be honest if you are so strict on being scientific, you might chose to explore areas with chars which will make you less stressed by the lack of detailed knowledge of others (I wouldn't call it fault).

    And one more thing. I did not say people MUST research. They CAN however. And if they DO they should be rewarded for such. Staff are people too doing their best to entertain you for basically nothing in return. They will welcome the help they get from people making things better and more correct scientifically.


    • #17
      Originally posted by Oliver White View Post
      Ok... Any cells found in milk would be a contaminant from some other source (dirty udder/nipple, epithelial cells from the cow's milk bladder lining, bacterial contamination in the pail, etc.)
      -IF- there were contaminant cells in milk that somehow grew and attacked the host cell, then they clearly wouldn't be limited to just milk, and would be found in many other places. (and lets not forget pasteurization.)
      Just because we are talking about processes available at a specific time in history...

      History of Pasteurization

      The process of heating or boiling milk for health benefits has been recognized since the early 1800s and was used to reduce milkborne illness and mortality in infants in the late 1800s. As society industrialized around the turn of the 20th century, increased milk production and distribution led to outbreaks of milkborne diseases. Common milkborne illnesses during that time were typhoid fever, scarlet fever, septic sore throat, diptheria, and diarrheal diseases. These illnesses were virtually eliminated with the commercial implementation of pasteurization, in combination with improved management practices on dairy farms. In 1938, milk products were the source of 25% of all food and waterborne illnesses that were traced to sources, but now they account for far less than 1% of all food and waterborne illnesses.
      So in 193x, there is a good chance that one of every four bottles of milk has the potential for causing diesease. Pasteurization is great, but even so, it is limited to the state of the technology. The younger the technology, the more prevalent are the things it was intended to prevent - the total contaminants will be less than without the technology, but the total contaminants will be higher than in the current century. We are still looking at cleanliness all along the production route, not just of the specific methods. How clean are the milk cans used, are the bottles sterilized before the milk is put in, or after? In 193x we are missing a lot fo the process automation, including sterilization of equipment, that makes food products like milk safer. Tampering can still happen - Goon A is instructed to turn down the heat on part of the process and suddenly, the milk is not as pasturized as intended. In 193x, heck even today, it's possible that the people employed to process the milk don't really understand how the process works and what the consequences are if a step is skipped, or not carried out properly.

      Just yanking a chain because I am a Microbiologist by Degree. But I do get the point here, but the other side is that in 193x science knew a lot less about biological things. DNA wasn't understood until Watson and Crick in the 50's, and even that was just a basic understanding. So a lot of the detail that *could* be added by 21st century standards, just wasn't possible in the 30's. Bacteria and Virus are known in the 30's, but even so, being able to differenciate them was based more on the symptoms of the disease than how it looked under a microscope. Blood tests at this time are very limited, Types are limited to telling if A, B or O, and Rh (the + or -) testing wasn't until 1939-1940.

      Antigen-Antibody binding aren't really known until 1938.

      Learning about the illness or where it came from would have to take place primarily by asking the infected person where they were, what they might have eaten, what was going on at the time.
      First Patient of Mendus
      Manchester's 'Accident Prone' Patient

      SPCade "And by we I mean Nyx"
      PL: Fionn (Fionnghuala)
      CM: Finella
      ICO: Thera
      LC: Belle Griffin

      The Underground Starts Here!


      • #18
        Ah, we're resurrecting this topic, are we?

        Well, now's as good a time as any, and I have good examples. Here in the States, we have 2 new TV shows, one called Fringe (by JJ Abrahams) and the other called The Eleventh Hour (a remake of a British show). Both are somewhat similar in theme: cutting edge science being used for nefarious purposes. However, one of the shows I absolutely love, the other I cringe at.

        We'll start with what doesn't work: The Eleventh Hour. In theory this should be a good show. FBI science consultant goes around using good science to crack cases in which science is used for evil. In practice, it's a scientific mess. Here you've got a guy looking through an optical microscope at viruses. Now, a physicist or a microbiologist (or Fionnghuala, I imagine) seeing that will shake their head. Why? You can't see a virus under an optical microscope. Because viruses are on the order of 10s of nm, and visible light has frequencies on the range of 100s of nm -- the viruses are smaller than visible light and therefore invisible. If they just were to skip over the details and say "We examined the sample and found viruses" that would be a whole lot more palatable to me (and I imagine any science person). But instead, they do wrong science.

        Fringe, on the other hand, has science that's completely implausible. But rather than really try to ground it, they do appropriate hand waving. A recent episode saw people walking through solid walls. How'd they explain it? Well, atoms are 99% empty space, so solid objects really aren't solid, and well... resonance. That's it. Rather than get into the details, they did hand waving and the episode didn't get my scientific underwear into a knot. Yeah, there's bits that bug me, but nothing on the scale of The Eleventh Hour, which, in every single episode has problems like the aforementioned.

        The science we're going to be doing in this game, while starting off normal, I'm positive is going to evolve into the "Fringe" end of science. When we have a character who becomes the Reanimator, I expect a whole lot of hand waving, and I certainly don't want it so detailed that it veers into "wrong territory".

        This is a timely topic for a second reason. I'm trying to work on an idea for Oliver's dissertation. Ultimately, it will result (if I get all of my ways, something that's far from a given), a tome in the library that teaches a science skill as well as one or more experiments, and possibly (real stretch) an interesting plot seed. Coming up with experiments that a) can be automated, b) can be used in different scenarios, c) are period appropriate, and d) don't break scientific principals is not easy. I've come up with a few. One's a no-brainer; the other, in order to fit criteria a and b, has to somewhat violate d, so I'm having to think about the use of hand waving.

        Science that violates scientific principals is fine as long as we don't try to explain it.
        E's for the Evil that lures and entices;
        F is for Fear and its many devices;


        • #19
          Pointing out an erronious conclusion, followed by my own fuzzy math

          Originally posted by Fionnghuala View Post
          So in 193x, there is a good chance that one of every four bottles of milk has the potential for causing diesease.
          This is not a logical conclusion.
          25% of food/waterborn illness was caused by milk. Not 25% of milk caused food/waterborn illness.
          If all people got sick 4 times a year with food/waterborn illness on average, and all people drank on average one glass of milk a week, then on average one of those illnesses was caused by milk, and less than 2% of glasses were contaminated.
          If I were to guess, I would guess that even in the 30's, less than 1% of milk caused illness.


          • #20
            Echo White + short story

            I wholeheartedly agree with Oliver. However, hand waving the science doesn't necessarily mean without detail. Fringe has tons of detail, just none of them are relevant to the mechanics of the science.
            less "and while examining the milk you find that it has properties x, y, and z."

            more "You started researching early in the evening, but as the midnight oil flickers, so does your patience. You rub your right index finger, it's been bothering you increasingly as the night wanes on. Outside the window, you see the snowflakes fall.
            A faint whistle from your complicated alchemical apparatus brings your attention back to several beakers bubbling cheerfully over burners. You twist the nob to add red liquid to the blue solution. Purple. Again. Why doesn't anything seem to make sense? You decide to call it a night and reach to turn off the burner under the primary reagent. Suddenly the glass shatters with a billow of flame. You cough as noxious fumes assail your lungs. You don't remember hitting the floor.
            You wake in the dark, a painful throbbing in your left temple to match the one in your finger. You stiffly roll on your back, and are met with epiphany. You can see the solution glowing down at you from the ceiling, burning itself into your grey. You scramble to your feet, cutting yourself on some glass hidden by the dark. You rush, unhindered, to the chalk board, anxious to record your crucial understanding.
            The sill of the board is absent of chalk. Through the wavy glass panes of the board, you see the stars fall. Desperately trying to hang on to your inspiration, you clench your fists to your eyes; as if your knowledge were the hot coppery tears streaming down from your right oculus. Coppery? You taste again just to make sure. You look in wonder at your hands as starlight gleams off the blood streaming from your right index finger.
            Without having to think, you start writing. The blood flows free enough to form the symbols without running dry. You write quickly enough that the blood almost never starts running in rivulets down the height of the board to pool gently on the sill. Mildly nauseous after you've finished, you squint , trying to read your work by the starlight shining through the board from outside. It is not bright enough. You will be able to read it more clearly from outside.
            You make sure there will me enough light inside to read from when you are peering back in, and then head for the door. As you step into the snowy wasteland, you hear the distant call of approaching demons. You step briefly back inside the door to grab a broad sword from the umbrella stand by the door. You stalk around the building until you can see your writing silhouetted in the flames licking the curtains of your lab. You cackle in the triumph of your success.
            Behind you, red and blue demons have dismounted from flaming chariots. While the red ones charge inside to steal your research, the blue ones slowly circle you brandishing huge black phalluses and chanting demonic mantras. When they charge, your sword fails to cut them, and they beat you, chain you, and haul you away.
            As you slowly regain consciousness, the harsh bright light stabs at your throbbing head. You are brought firmly from bet and sat on a mettle chair at a mettle table. Across from you, sits and orderly with a blank expression on her face. She asks you many confusing questions, like why you set fire to your lab, and why you attacked police officers with an umbrella. You try to answer, to get her to understand, but your brain isn't working right. You manage only to get out a few grunts and drool on yourself. You gradually figure out they must have drugged you.
            The embarrassingly inaccurate questions are eventually interrupted as the door slams open and the dean of sciences strides dominantly into the room. Almost simultaneously he asks the orderly what they've done to me, and you if you are alright. You manage to smile and nod relievedly without drooling, and he gently escorts you out, keeping the doctors at bay with dirty glances.
            The light outside Arkham asylum is just as bright as inside, as the diffuse light from the overcast sky reflects off of the painfully bright snow. You find yourself completely disoriented but you follow the dean back to the laboratories as he fills the silence of the morning with confident assurances, apologies, and thanks for your continued dedication to the important research at Miskatonic University.
            Back in your lab, almost all signs of the fire damage have already been repaired. A janitor has almost finished washing the windows of dried smear. You start at him for destroying your work, but the drugs have made you slow and clumsy. The dean effortlessly leads away to you to your work station, and leaves you with friendly words of encouragement.
            Outside, you see the love of a new mother fall. On to a sleeping babe nuzzled to her shoulder, warped in warm swaddling, while she pushes a baby carriage full of groceries. The fog of your drug haze lifts as you focus on your work. As you examine your station, you realize you have everything you need to complete your work. You review the process in your mind as you excitedly enumerate the exotic ingredients in front of you.
            You have everything you need. Everything but milk. And you know where to get milk. You pick up a familiar knife that you don't remember seeing before. On its curved blade written in strange runes that you don't remember deciphering is written a single word: HARVEST. You head for the window.

            As a side note, I'm of the opinion that science in Arkham should drive the scientist crazy, as that's a common theme in Lovecraft's work. Whenever someone finds the 'truth' they usually either accept it and start a cult, fight it (generally to their own physical and mental detriment), or flee (sometimes with narrow escapes, more often to the forgiving oblivion of death). Not that I'm any expert on his work or anything; I've only read one of his compilations, but this is the impression that I get.


            • #21
              As pointed out by Oliver, Viruses can only be imaged by Electron Microscope, which was first built in 1931 and wasn't really commercially available to all groups until 1939. Even today they are damned expensive pieces of equipment that few small Universities have the funds to afford. So while virus presence can be detected by filtering a solution and seeing if the resultant filtered product causes a virus born disease, it's still something that is only at the infancy of the science.

              While Delagrot's prose fits the flavor of Lovecraftian stories, in a game setting you don't have that much opportunity for that type of exposition. Players are free to come up with their own explainations as to how the "eureka" moment was lost. Some players will want and relish the opportunity, while others will not find it as important to enjoyment of the game.

              I don't think Oliver meant "hand-waving" in the sense that you can't have fun RPing the experiment, just that the less specific the staff get on how a thing works will save those who have a knowledge in that area from losing their "sense of disbelief" - which can affect an individual's enjoyment of the moment.

              Going back to an earlier comment:

              Originally posted by Oliver
              Then there's the scene in the 4th Star Wars movie, where Qui-Gon does a blood test on Anakin and discovers he's full of midichlorians. And thus, Lucas transformed what was a mystical power wielded by faith and training into a... blood-borne disease. Kinda like saying that King Arthur was able to pull Excalibur from the rock because he was the only person in England with hemophilia.
              Not only that - it means that anyone could be given an injection of midichlorians and with the proper training be able to use the force. Or using a more recent example the show "Heroes" (USA, NBC network), where Suresh isolated what gave the people with random powers and then "infecting" himself...

              I agree with Oliver's hand waving also because if you give players too much information then somewhere along the line you get a player saying "since one can become a blob if you have this bacteria in you, I'm going to eat/inject/rub onto my skin something that has this bacteria and turn into a blob myself! Bad for two reasons: a) Staff may not want a second blob in town, and b) basically staff is now forced to decide if they are going to take control of the new blob away from the player to prevent all craziness from breaking loose (a lose-lose situation as player discovers they just lost what they thought would be fun to RP, staffer headaches as they have to deal with other players who want to try to cure the new blob).

              I can see experiments working somewhat like books in the library, semi-random emits about how absorbed one is in the research, how interesting things seem, but ultimately leading to either a gain in knowledge (like a rank in a skill), a need to do more research, or the experiment blowing up in the scientist's face. This way a player can imagine as much detail into the experiment as they want, while still protecting the "sense of disbelief" that is so crucial to enjoyment.
              First Patient of Mendus
              Manchester's 'Accident Prone' Patient

              SPCade "And by we I mean Nyx"
              PL: Fionn (Fionnghuala)
              CM: Finella
              ICO: Thera
              LC: Belle Griffin

              The Underground Starts Here!


              • #22
                Funny that I should be reading this thread just before I had gone to the local bookshop where I finally came across Houellebecq's book on Lovecraft. Suffice to say that their @research system is inferior to Orne's. Anyway, imagine my surprise when not long into the text he says,
                The style of scientific reporting adopted by HPL in his later stories operates according to the following principle: the more monsterous and inconcievable the events and entities described, the more precise and clinical the description.
                Of course he is talking about narrative style and not correctness of science, but coincidences, and the way quotes can be taken out of context, always fascinated me. Now get back to resolving this dilemma.
                What I like to drink most is wine that belongs to others.