Then I thought - well, why the hell do magic items just work? Wouldn't this stuff be just as mysterious and wondrous as lost technology? I mean sure, I could hand-wave it and just say "It's magic" but I think that's kind of dull.
So I'm thinking every character has a rating for (Tech) Comprehension and (Magical) Concordance. Usually, characters start with 0 in both these scores. Certain Origins, Species Traits, and Calling Abilities raise these, but otherwise they only way to do it is by toying with and understanding techno relics or magical artifacts. I've chosen the names rather deliberately - Comprehension is about understanding the old world's weapons and tools and putting them to good use, while Concordance is related to intuition and how in tune one is with the forces of magic.
They also both start with "C", and I've got to have something alliterative in this damn thing. Its like RPG law, or something.
The nitty-gritty basics thus far are as follows;
- Every Techno Relic or Artifact has a complexity or attunement rating, respectively. If a character's comprehension or concordance is equal to or greater to this score, they can use the item without issue.
- If the corresponding score is lower, they must experiment with the item during downtime. This will be a Deftness, Insight, or Aura check depending on the particular item. Each successful check represents progress with the item, whereas a failure is a stall. Two stalls in a row set the character back one success. Once they have accumulated a number of successes equal to the item's complexity or attunement, they have mastered it.
- Advancing in comprehension or concordance happens when one has mastered an amount of items equal to their current rating +1. This number resets each time advancement occurs. So mastering one's first item will grants the character a 1 in the corresponding score, while attaining the second level would require mastering two more separate items.
- One may attempt to use a Relic or Artifact without understanding it, but is subject to the whims of a catastrophic mishap table for doing so.
- Certain Magitech items may have both a complexity and an attunement rating, which both would need to be mastered separately.
Oh, yes - my wife (a constant consultant in these matters) said she would rather just pay an NPC to look at this stuff for her character, so one function of hirelings or sage like NPC's might be to figure out how to use these things and then teach the character. While their inherent scores wouldn't improve, it would mean a PC would have time available to dedicate somewhere else.