Ah, the Contriver. No class of metahuman has caused the people on Earth as much of a headache as this one.
That’s a good way to sum Contrivers up: Headaches for others. No kind of metahuman is as unpredictable, or as annoying, as a Contriver to deal with, whether you’re their ally, their enemy, or just a bystander trying to avoid becoming collateral damage.
It doesn’t help that it’s easily the most nebulous class of powers that we’re talking about. Where do item-based powers end, and where does Contriving start? Are some Contrivers perhaps just extremely advanced Gadgeteers which contemporary science just plain can’t comprehend?
Many a Contriver of the early years has, in retrospect, been revealed to have been a Gadgeteer, and many a past Gadgeteer has since been re-classified as a Contriver, further muddling the classification.
Then there are “artifact-based Contrivers”, a classification which many abhor and which has been retired since the reform of the Classification system – people who express their power through a single, unchanging item, but can not create anything beyond it, nor modify it, really – merely requiring some manner of outside focus to express their power.
As if all that wasn’t enough, their specific condition – being tied to a particular, usually very elaborate fantasy – makes it nearly impossible to actually work with a Contriver directly for the sake of exploring the true nature of their power.
Currently, Contrivers are classified thusly:
A Contriver is a metahuman with a fluid, changable power or set of powers which they can not express independently, but require external tools to do so, whose nature is determined by their individual ‘theme’.
While succinct, this definition is not very useful, as Contrivers are perhaps the most diverse kind of metahumans, falling into several different classes:
- Artificers: what most people think of when they speak of Contrivers, and by far the most common kind, Artificers create fixed items which are empowered by them, often but not always following a theme of ‘mad science’ of some sort, though there are also many ‘magic’ Artificers, who create ‘enchanted’ items.
- Canon Examples: Doctor Despair, Spellgun
- Casters: Far more rare, Casters express their powers through temporary constructs, be they vocal or otherwise – such as chanting spells, drawing runes, or other such temporary means. Almost always ‘magic’ based, there have only been two confirmed ‘science’-based Casters in history.
- Canon Examples: none yet
- Weirds: Not a formal classification so much as a catch-all term for Contrivers who fit into neither of the above categories, using more abstract or unusual means to express their powers through, such as a Contriver relying on specific constellations of people or circumstances for various effects.
- Canon Examples: none yet
- Hybrids: Combine two or more of the above in various ways.
- Canon Examples: Hecate (Artificer & Caster), Heretic (Artificer, Caster & Weird)
Beyond these classes, Contrivers are usually differentiated by which one of two main themes they follow:
- Mad Scientists: Following a pseudo-scientific mindset, Mad Scientists are almost always Artificers, creating items themed after their particular brand of science. They tend to be more rigid in the application of their powers, rarely able to improvise much on the go, but in return also (usually) create more stable, reliable Contrivances.
- Canon Examples: Spellgun, Doctor Despair
- Mages: The other big theme of Contrivers is, unsurprisingly, magic. Most, though not all, Mages are Casters. In general, Mages tend to be more adaptable than Mad Scientists, their powers less strictly defined, but they’re also more likely to suffer backlash of some kind or simply fail.
- Canon Examples: Hecate, Heretic
Regardless of which class the fall into, Contrivers can not simply do anything they like that fits into their particular theme. There are several factors to consider:
- Resources: Usually, Contrivers require specific materials to craft their Contrivances, be it raw materials to make ray guns, or chalk to draw magic circles, or any of a number of things. Depending on their theme and the particular Contrivance they wish to produce, these can get pretty exotic and, often enough, expensive. Some Casters can eschew these.
- Time: It takes time to craft Contrivances, usually proportional to their power. Again, some Casters can eschew this, being capable of ‘creating’ their Contrivances (usually ‘spells’) on the fly.
- Research: A Contriver doesn’t simply know everything they can do all at once. They usually start out with only a few ‘patterns’ with which to work, using them as blueprints for Contrivances (usually, a single pattern can be used for multiple different Contrivances), and have to perform research, each their own particular kind (a Mad Scientists might have to crunch mathematical formulas which’d give a normal person brain cancer, a Mage may have to do ‘spell research’ or negotiate with imaginary demons, deities or other sources) in order to obtain a new pattern.
While Casters may seem to have quite the advantage here, being often able to eschew materials and time spent crafting fixed items, instead casting spells on the fly, they are usually saddled with other restrictions and flaws beyond what a Mad Scientists often has to suffer, such as being dependant on the whims of some kind of ‘patron’ who might revoke their powers at will, or having to risk backlash if they mess up their ‘spell casting’, which isn’t unlikely to happen in the heat of combat.
Beyond all this, there are some common attributes all Contrivers share, both in terms of naming and process:
- A Contriver’s creation is called a ‘Contrivance’, regardless of whether it’s a spell, a machine or something else.
- Assuming unlimited time to research and build, as well as unlimited resources, a Contriver can do anything which fits their theme.
- Power nullifiers can prevent a Contriver from both creating and using their Contrivances. This is usually the easiest way to determine whether a particular metahuman is a Contriver or a Gadgeteer, assuming a power nullifier is available.
- All Contrivers are at least slightly mad, as they each truly, fully believe in their particular fantasy, even if it may not be immediately obvious.
- Bad things happen when someone tries to actually convince a Contriver that what they’re doing is ‘not real’.
- Contrivances usually lose all power if their creator dies, reverting to being nothing but curious decor, at best.
- Even beyond their particular delusion, Contrivers are the metahumans most likely to suffer from Derangements, ranging from the extreme (Doctor Despair’s megalomaniacal compulsion to conquer the world) to the merely quirky (Hecate’s obsession with proper Grammar and Neatness).
- Contrivers and real technology don’t mix well. While this is not a hard rule, the weird nature of Contrivances tends to play hob with any mundane technology they interact with, especially more complex ones (such as computers).
- Contrivers and Gadgeteers really don’t mix well. While Contrivances and Gadgets usually interact with each other no different from the way mundane technology interacts with Contrivances, it is universally considered a horrible idea to have Contrivers and Gadgeteers try to create something in close proximity of each other or, worse, together. The results can be as harmless as both of them simply being unable to make anything that works, up to creating the Ultimate Lifeform To Replace All (ULTRA).
The Magnum Opus
While not exclusive to Contrivers (Gadgeteers are also capable of this), magnum opi are more often associated with Contrivers than Gadgeteers, if only because Contrivers are so much more common than Gadgeteers, and thus more of them have created these.
A Magnum Opus is a Contrivance (or Gadget, though we’ll focus on Contrivances here) on a different scale from what the metahuman usually creates. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime creation, but simply something grander, often but not always an expansion of their usual work into the megascale, though it may also be simply an extremely powerful, smaller item (Infinity+1 Sword).
Magnum Opi differ from normal Contrivances both in the time it takes to make them, the value of the resources required, and the potence of the result, all three far exceeding the normal results of the Contriver’s efforts.
Seeing the Truth
Many people have tried to show a Contriver that what they do is not what they think it is, and observe the results. Their efforts have been met with various, often detrimental results:
- The most common reaction by Contriver is to simply ignore these attempts, rationalising any proof they might be shown.
- Also quite common, and not at all desirable, is them going into a rage, lashing out at whoever or whatever challenges their delusion.
- Rare but not unheard of is the case of a Contriver suffering a ‘crisis of faith’, losing their powers until they return to their fantasy.
- One of the most rare results is the Contriver losing their power entirely, essentially ceasing to be metahumans. This may in some cases actually kill the Contriver.
- Rarest of all observed reactions is the Contriver losing their power and, essentially, manifesting again on the spot, gaining some other power instead, which is usually related to their Contriving’s theme.
- There are rumors of one more possible reaction, though no confirmed cases exist – that is, that a Contriver might realise that their delusion is not reality, yet retain their Contriving and unlock untold potential. This may or may not simply be wishful thinking.