So, I'm running an intro adventure for my usual group of players (Think Before Asking, if anyone's curious) and they love it--I'm going to be running a gatecrashing campaign in a few months for them.
However, there's an issue that came up during last Friday's session that I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on how to deal with it--there's no way that this has only happened to me.
The issue is, quite simply, my PCs are currently at large in the Saturnian system--an autonomist region. In preparation for the mission to Fornjot, they got their hands on a fabber (electronics specialty) and then downloaded the plans for a CM.
Then there was the Eureka moment for one of the PCs.
"Hey, Joe, you said that blueprints aren't restricted in anarchist habitats, right? That there are plans available for everything in the gear section available for free download?"
I nodded slowly, seeing where this was going.
"Well, cool. We're just going to download everything, just in case."
I sighed, being uncomfortable with the idea, but couldn't think of reasons why they couldn't right there on the spot, given anarchist attitudes.
So instead, rather than letting them download everything, I had them make a teamwork Research roll. The idea was, when they're on their mission, if they want to fab something, they have to make a roll against that number, to see if they managed to download useful plans that would be functional given local resources (lack of rare elements and so forth). Since they got a 92(!), that means that there's a damn good chance that they'll have what they need, which started tripping my Monty Haul sensors in worry.
So, as a makeshift solution to "We have all of the blueprints for everything!" issue, not the best. I've spent the last few days thinking it over and I've come up with a few more solutions to prevent similar shenanigans in the actual campaign.
The Seed/Leech Solution
In game terms, yes, PCs still need to use rep and networking to get access to the blueprints, which are not on some generic server, but being hosted by an actual person (of one variety or another) in exchange for the rep boost. Taking more than they give back results in a ding to the rep scores of the offenders. (Of course, attempting to hack the server and make a copy without compensation or thanks is still a possibility).
The Hand In The Nut Jar Solution
So, in line with the Seed/Leech Solution, just coming in and taking full copies of blueprints that some transhuman has spent considerable time making sure were clean and usable is still going to cost rep, while making sure that unverified blueprints are clean will take the PCs time as well, meaning that, either way, it's not "free", meaning that there is still a cost involved, which makes me happy.
The Butter Substitute Solution
However, there's considerable difference between using a fabber or CM on a hab and using nanofabrication in the field, and one of the biggest issues is lack of rare elements. Having a design that can make railguns/cornucopia machines/giant rubber swords/etc in the Martian Outback, surrounded by all of that handy oxidized iron, silica and other useful trace elements, is very different from designs that can make those same things on a small iceball, where the nearest heavy elements are already in use in one's gear.
Simply put, if the blueprint/recipe call for 211 g of thorium or 73 mg of uranium, then that blueprint isn't going to do anyone much use when those materials are unavailable. Now, the better blueprints will have possible substitutions, but there's only so much substitution one can do and retain functionality--engineering for these sorts of things is always about acceptable tradeoffs.
Therefore, I'm considering a houserule for finding raw materials for fabbing as follows:
Purchased or acquired with rep; raw materials for an item cost one item category lower than the finished item, subject to the GM's approval (rare elements, such as radioactive elements or antimatter, will typically cost at the lower bounds of the same cost category in credits). Materials for trivial items can be acquired with "half" of a trivial favor--i.e. two items worth of trivial items can be acquired with a single favor.
Salvaged from existing items. Feeding an identical or related item into the fabber to be disassembled and reconstituted will usually suffice (as usual, subject to GM approval)
Scrounged from junk or the environment; this uses the Scounging skill (and adds a new specialty of "Raw Materials" to the skill). General rule of thumb is that this is a Task action, with a situational penalty based on the cost category of the item (Trivial -0; Low -1; Moderate -5; High -10; Scarce -20). Chemical sensors/spectroscopes will generally add bonuses.
Failure on these tests to acquire appropriate raw materials for the fabbed item means that either the item cannot be made, or requires substitutions for elements that are available locally. Modifying or selecting a blueprint for substitutions can be as easy as gaining a blueprint that already has a variety of acceptable substitutions and selecting one (recommend that these blueprints be one cost category higher than normal, due to their versatility) or programming a substitution into an existing blueprint. This second option is a Programming (Nanofabrication) Task action, with penalties depending on the intricacy of being fabricated being highly recommended. Failure means that the programmer is simply not up to the task.
Severe/Critical Failure indicates that the element(s) in short supply are too integral to the original design and cannot be substituted.
Success indicates a functional item, although due to the realities of engineering tradeoffs, a penalty for using that item is suggested.
Excellent/Critical Success indicates that the programmer managed to push off the design tradeoff, making an item that is fully functional, and perhaps even superior to the original design.
Side Note: While in the process of writing up this potential house rule, one thought did occur to me. I've seen considerable discussion on this forum regarding how the exponential growth made possible by the existence of freely available cornucopia machines "breaks" the game's economy. I happen to agree with this point, but wish to point to this house rule as a possible rules patch to at least ameliorate the issue--yes, exponential growth is still an issue, given unlimited resources, but, let's face it--the society in Eclipse Phase claims to be "post-scarcity", but actually isn't and there aren't any places with "unlimited resources". Metals, rare elements, volatiles... all of these and more are all scarce and not freely available. Therefore, using this rule to emulate if the raw materials are even available or usable could help solve or at least diminish that particular issue.
So, these are my potential solutions to combat the "blueprint archive of everything" issue. Thoughts/issues/ideas/concerns/etc?
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." -Benjamin Franklin