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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    I'm designing an RPG and I want clockwork technology to be one of the central themes... but I'm having trouble coming up with designs that are both awesome and practical. Clock is the most obvious device (you can rig it to work as a timer, for example) and then there is an automatic crossbow (much like a polybolos), and I'm thinking of adding a walking robot toy that you can use to distract enemies. But all my other ideas are basically too impractical to be useful for player characters.

    So, the idea of this thread is to make a list of cool clockwork designs or any kind of mechanical wonders - the only requirement is that they use mechanical power rather than fuel or electricity. And they have to be useful for a typical adventurer. What cool mechanical designs have you encountered in games, movies, books or real life?

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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?


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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    The most obvious and directly useful one I can think of is the Hidden Blade from the Assassin's Creed series, particularly post Da Vinci modification.

    What's the general tech level of your setting? It's easier to offer suggestions if we know what else is out there - for example there's no point in suggesting the hand cranked gatling gun if gunpowder isn't available.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    I've read about the antikythera mechanism, and it really is a cool device, particularly for its age. It's a bit esoteric, though. But it certainly deserves to be mentioned, as does the difference engine, another mechanical computer. Something like that would be fun to have the PCs to find and try to figure out what it does and how they can use it.

    As for the setting, it's late medieval/renaissance but no gunpowder. A gatling gun isn't 100% mechanical anyway because it uses a chemical reaction to propel the bullets. I guess wind, water and muscle are the only power sources that can be used for it to count as a true clockwork design. Power storage, if needed, must also be mechanical, generally a bow or spring.

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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    The Doctor Who episode The Girl in the Fireplace had clockwork robots - they were purely mechanical. They'd make a good golem analogue (or maybe even an interesting option for a player 'race').
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    Orthinopters! Every freakin' steampunk/dieselpunk/alt history/magitek/whatever setting tries to make zeppelins into something other than a sad joke. You don't have to be one of them! Your PCs can soar the air under their own power, the exertions of their muscles reflected and magnified by a beautifully complex system of pulleys and gears. It will be beautiful.

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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    Does the Golden Army count?
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    Ornithopters are indeed really cool devices. What's great is that it's actually possible to build a functioning ornithopter, though even the relatively modern muscle-powered ones are incapable of sustained flight.

    Clockwork robots kind of do count and kind of don't. While it is possible to build a mechanical automaton that moves a lot like a human being, things like power storage, the brain/computer and sensory organs (other than the sense of touch) are a bit problematic without electricity. Even relatively simple mechanical computers take up a lot of space because of the gears and stuff. To build one with any serious computing power would require incredibly small mechanical parts. So it'd require a bit of magic or super-advanced technology (or a great deal of willing suspension of disbelief) to make one.

    I guess what I really meant with "awesome and practical" was inventions (whether real or fictional) that could work and would have a reason to be built in a society whose most significant scientific achievements involve the use of mechanical power. So, clockwork cars, locks, traps, toys, and even prosthetic limbs (clockwork cyborgs...) would be ok.

    A clockwork brain would probably go too far because it would be quite impossible to take the AI's level of intelligence anywhere near that of a human. And it would be a huge machine. Well, that would be kind of cool, actually, to have a mechanical brain as big as a castle, powered by a river, or scores of slaves turning giant wheels to wind up the mainspring. And massive pin art screens as output devices. But who would want to build such a thing? An ancient precursor race that built the AI to monitor humans and collect data while they're away, maybe to rule them?
    Last edited by Kensen; 2012-10-01 at 05:20 AM.

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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    If there's a bit of magic going about, you could take some pages from Philip Pullman's book, aptly name Clockwork. Even if there isn't, it's worth a read, & you'll probably find something of use in there anyways.
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    A harness with a wind-up winch comes to mind. Wind-up the spring and fire a grappling hook over the top of the wall, then a second spring reels in the wire (with the harness wearer) over the wall.
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    A more effective version of this would fit.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lfvoymPHPQ&t=5m54s (Mythbusters arrow machine gun)

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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    The adventure game Syberia might give you some ideas. A little old, but a good game.

    Also, Machinarium.
    Last edited by Cespenar; 2012-10-01 at 08:05 AM.
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    Some thoughts:

    Go heavy on the death traps. Pressure plates, crushing walls, and spinning blades all go well with clockwork tech.

    More innocuous use for pressure plates: funhouses! Some real life European courts had gardens with a menagerie of mechanical animals that were triggered by walking. Throw in some of the original low tech tricks of actual amusement parks (no liability waivers means no boredom), and then leave one lying around all abandoned and creepy.

    Da Vinci style tanks, with magic or ballistas taking the place of cannons. Maybe add some scythes to the wheels.

    Long distance communication by some combination of telescopes, heliographs, and semaphores (flag or mechanical, as your prefer). This would probably require a stable empire however.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: Awesome and practical clockwork designs in real life, books, movies and games?

    Quote Originally Posted by Das Platyvark View Post
    If there's a bit of magic going about, you could take some pages from Philip Pullman's book, aptly name Clockwork. Even if there isn't, it's worth a read, & you'll probably find something of use in there anyways.
    Alright, I'll have a look if I can find the book.

    Quote Originally Posted by DigoDragon View Post
    A harness with a wind-up winch comes to mind. Wind-up the spring and fire a grappling hook over the top of the wall, then a second spring reels in the wire (with the harness wearer) over the wall.
    Yeah, this sounds pretty awesome. (Added it to the game's equipment list.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Iku Rex View Post
    A more effective version of this would fit.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lfvoymPHPQ&t=5m54s (Mythbusters arrow machine gun)
    Yes, this weapon is rather impressive. There's a portable version of it in the game (the automatic crossbow I referred to above).

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    The adventure game Syberia might give you some ideas. A little old, but a good game.

    Also, Machinarium.
    Alright, I'll check them out.

    Edit: And Connington, thanks for the ideas! Death traps and mechanical animals sound fun, especially if combined.
    Last edited by Kensen; 2012-10-02 at 01:44 AM.

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