The depths of space are vast and mysterious. Prior to the rise of the four Factions of today, countless civilisations have lived and died, leaving only blasted worlds and empty tomb-ships floating in the endless void. For those who would brave the dangers of these dead civilisations treasures of ancient and poorly-understood technology can be wrested from the ruins. Ancient artefacts can be researched to unlock their hidden powers, and may grant knowledge of obscure physical laws and even insights into the dead civilisations that created them.
Artefacts are initially of little practical use - mysterious gewgaws recovered from dead worlds and lost ruins. In the hands of a scientist they can become much more than that, as diligent research can unlock their powers. All Artefacts are assigned to one of the three science specialities - Etheric, Corporeal & Life Science, and can be researched between events by assigning them Research Points of the appropriate type.
Artefact abilities and powers are arranged into one or more Tiers, which are unlocked by research. Once a scientist has assigned enough research points to an Artefact to unlock its next Tier, they will receive an ability on their character sheet associated with that artefact. When using the artefact, they may now make use of the abilities that are on their character sheet. This will usually take the form of some powers of some kind, but may grant them additional research options, information, etc. Once an ability has been unlocked by research, it can then be taught to others by using the Teaching Research ability. Characters must be taught the Tiers of an Artefact in the correct order - you cannot skip right to teaching an Artefact's most powerful ability straight away, as the basic principles of operation must be understood first.
Artefacts work on similar principles to most devices - many (but not all) of them have Charges and require those Charges to be torn to use the Artefact's abilities. The primary difference between Artefacts and other devices is that rather than having the Artefact's powers on its lammie, they are instead recorded on the character sheets of the players who have learned how to use them.
The other main difference is that Artefacts cannot be recharged by normal means - in order to restore Charges to an Artefact, you must either have a specialist device that specifically allows it, or an unlocked ability that allows you to recharge the Artefact. Additionally, most Artefacts will naturally recharge over a few weeks (between events), drawing energy from their environment or by some unknown internal power source.
The abilities that appear on your character sheet that are associated with an Artefact will refer to the main ID number for that artefact (beginning with AX) - you must actually have an artefact with the associated ID number in order to use these abilities. Although the description will note the type of Science Speciality that the Artefact is associate with, you do not actually need to have ranks in that speciality to use the abilities on your character sheet (as you could have been taught them by another character). If an ability is on your character sheet and you have the associated Artefact, then you can use the ability.
Using an Artefact ability requires a simple roleplayed action over a few seconds - brandishing it prominently, roleplaying touching it or operating it somehow. Most Artefact abilities can be used in a few seconds, or as long as it takes you to tear the Charges, do the action noted on your character sheet ability, and roleplaying operating the Artefact. Some Artefact abilities require more time to use - this will be indicated at a time in brackets on the ability on your character sheet.
The following is an example of how an Artefact's tiered powers might be arranged. The Research Points Required column shows the number of Research Points required to unlock that particular tier once the previous one has been unlocked (so count as starting from 0 each time). The Research Total column shows the total number of research points to unlock that tier if a character had been researching it from scratch.
Artefact AX9999-01 Enclosed Seed Pod
|Tier||Research Points Required||Research Total||Ability on Character Sheet|
|1||1||1||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 1. Use 1 charge to call KNOCKOUT(5) to a single target within 10 metres.|
|2||2||3||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 2. You may call EFFECT (CALM) (5 minutes) to a single target within 1 metre (30 seconds roleplayed action to use)|
|3||3||6||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 3. You can now transfer Charges to this Artefact as you would any other Device|
|4||4||10||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 4. Use 1 charge to call KNOCKOUT(10) to a single target within 10 metres.|
|5||5||15||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 5. Grants information about Artefact Creators|
|6||6||21||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 6. You may call MASS EFFECT (CALM) (5 minutes) (30 seconds roleplayed action to use)|
|7||7||28||AX9999 (Biorhythmic Pod) Life Science - Rank 7. Use 3 charges to call MASS KNOCKOUT(10).|