Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mysterious Magnetrines

Image: Fria Ligan.

This is post number 28 in the series “30 Days of Tales from the Loop,” a celebration of the game set in an 80s that never was.

One feature of the Tales from the Loop setting I haven't covered much yet is magnetrine technology—the means of harnessing the Earth’s magnetic field that permits the use of big, hovering Gauss freighters like the ones seen in Simon Stålenhag’s art. Let’s look at how we might expand on this technology to inspire some story ideas in a game.

Manufacturers


Some science fiction writers like to use real-world branding in an attempt to make their visions of the future seem more grounded in reality. You can try this out by mentioning some name-brand magnetrine ships in your game. General Motors, Peterbilt, and Caterpillar would be natural competitors in this space in the US, and it's fun to imagine a magnetrine Humvee. Having a Kid with an Anchor or other contact at one of these manufactures could provide some useful story hooks--such as when Dad mentions that a new model magnetrine has been sending out strange signals on a specific radio frequency.

Expanding to the Consumer Market


What if magnetrine technology advances in such a way that smaller-scale hovering vehicles become feasible? Even if they still move slowly, we might see see them profitably used as city buses, school buses, or tour buses. (The rulebook mentions that luxury liners exist in the world of the Loop.) With increases in speed, they could even be used for cars. Picture the gull-wing DeLorean magnetrine! Story inspiration for such machines probably wouldn't focus as much on the mysteries of the technology--since that would likely have been worked out before such machines came into common use--but on its unusual implications. Such as what the Kids do when pterosaurs attack their bus while it's a hundred meters above the ground.

Buildings in the Sky


Magnetrine technology is good for supporting massive objects in the air and letting them move across it slowly. Why limit such objects to vehicles--let's get some buildings up in the air! (Sure, technically, when they can move then they BECOME vehicles, but humor me!) A secretive organization would certainly see the security value in a hovering facility—especially if that’s where they perform their suspicious experiments. Wealthy individuals might enjoy living in a floating mansion in the sky. And think how secure a flying prison might be! (The Kids might hope to attend a floating school, but that’s been done.)

Beyond


The Tales from the Loop RPG mentions a few non-cargo uses for magnetrine discs, including unmanned drones and hovering billboards. Let’s push that frontier! Perhaps the kids get to try out prototypes of a new Gauss bike—still powered by pedaling, of course. Floating television screens might follow the Kids around to convince them to buy the latest action figure or breakfast cereal. Some models of robots could be equipped with magnetrine tech, the better to slip away from their owners and cause trouble. Finally, I’ll leave you with one word: hoverboards.