A Path to Steam
This skill lets you use all electronic equipment within a known specialty. Make a skill roll in an emergency situation or for “abnormal” use of equipment – not for ordinary, everyday use. (Exception: Unskilled users must always attempt their default roll!)
You must specialize. Available specialties vary by game world, but might include:
Communications (Comm): All forms of electronic communications technology: radios, satellite uplinks, laser communicators, etc. Includes knowledge of any standard, current
communications codes appropriate to your background. These do not require a skill roll – although attempts to understand or use an unfamiliar code do require a roll. At TL5-7, this includes telegraphy: you can send or receive 2 words per minute (wpm) per point of skill at TL5, 3 wpm per point of skill at TL6-7.
Electronic Warfare (EW): All signals-intelligence and jamming equipment, including electronic counter-measures (ECM) and electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM). In
most game worlds, only intelligence agencies and the military teach this specialty – and only to individuals with suitable Military Rank (p. 30) or Security Clearance (p. 82).
Force Shields: Portable, vehicular, base, and starship force shields and deflectors.
Matter Transmitters (MT): All matter transmitters and teleporters. Critical failures can be disastrous, especially when transmitting living beings!
Media: All forms of audio, film, and video editing equipment. If three-dimensional video (“holographics”) or sensory recordings (“sensies”) exist in the setting, this specialty includes the ability to operate the relevant equipment. Treat different media as mutually unfamiliar technologies.
Medical: All manner of electronic diagnostic and life-support equipment.
Parachronic: Technological means of travel between dimensions or timelines.
Psychotronics: Psionic technology, such as telepathic shields and amplifiers.
Scientific: Laboratory electronics and survey gear. You are automatically familiar with the equipment used with any scientific skill on which you have spent at least one point.
Security: Both operating and circumventing all forms of alarms, security sensors, and area-surveillance technology.
Sensors: Most forms of long-range detection gear, from air-defense radar to starship sensor suites. Certain highly specialized sensors (such as sonar, below) have their own specialties.
Sonar: All types of acoustic detection and ranging gear (normally used underwater).
Surveillance: All forms of concealable or remote surveillance gear: “bugs,” hidden cameras, long-range microphones, wiretaps, etc.
Temporal: All manner of time machines. Critical failures can be disastrous for the time travelers! Make separate rolls to “lock onto” and transfer the travelers.
These specialties default to one another at -4; however, the GM is free to rule that in his campaign, there is no default between exotic specialties (Parachronic, Psychotronics, etc.) and mundane ones (Media, Security, etc.). The technologies covered by a particular specialty vary with TL. For instance, Electronics Operation (Comm) covers telegraphs at TL5, telephones and radios at TL6, and digital communications systems at TL8 . . . and might cover faster-than-light or telepathic communicators at higher TLs.
Familiarity (p. 169) is crucial here! Electronics Operation/TL8 (Sensors) covers both thermographs on fighter jets and ground-penetrating radars on satellites, but going from one to the other gives you -2 for type (thermograph to radar) and -2 for implementation (jet to satellite), for a net -4 to skill until you familiarize yourself with all the differences.
Modifiers: Equipment modifiers (p. 345); -2 for an unfamiliar technology of a known type (e.g., radar when you are used to thermograph) or an unfamiliar implementation of a familiar technology (e.g., air-defense radar when you are used to weather radar); -1 to -10 if you have been away from the field for a long time (this varies by field) and have not had a chance to become familiar with the changes.