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Basic Information

Pinched from the BattleTech universe, lostech describes the concept of a technology which was once know to the people of a setting, but has since been forgotten, becoming either "mysteries of the ancients" or being something they just have no idea was ever possible. Usually requires an after the end setting for the technology to be particularly significant.

Real world examples include the massive collapse of civil engineering skills in (Northern) Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, the loss of the snowshoe in Eurasia in the pre-historic period and the effective loss of many medieval weapon and armour smithing techniques.

Known lostech is often the subject of extensive research in an attempt to reacquire the technology (such as the efforts by experimental archaeologists to re-create medieval smithing techniques), the unknown awaits contact with other cultures (such as the re-discovery of the snowshoe in the Columbian exchange) or lucky delves into the ruins of the past (or at least musty tomes of ancient lore such as the fechtbuch manuals that helped re-create European Medieval Martial Arts).


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Questing for ancient lore or functioning relics of the past is obvious adventure fodder - PCs may search for high end lore on their own, but might need to be hired to probe remote ruins for a treatise on the ventilation and drainage of mines.
  • Conversely, it gives the GM an excuse for having people buy up the fusty tomes that some PCs have bothered to haul out of the dungeon - just because it's not a spellbook doesn't mean all it is good for is low grade palimpsest.
    • Although illiterate or careless PCs may find they sell a very valuable bit of lore at disposal prices … still, it's not like they would be sticking around to make a manual on improved farming techniques pay, is it?
  • In more Sci-fi settings, the search for lostech or precursor relics can be a big deal - the aforementioned BattleTech universe has had wars start over relatively small caches of Star League technology. The novel The Price of Glory has a large cache leading to thousands of deaths.
  • Actually finding, reverse engineering (if necessary) and adopting lostech may lead to massive changes in the setting.
  • This and magitek are the traditional origin of any magic item in a fantasy setting that the GM doesn't want replicated and/or don't work under the RAW. This was the norm in earlier editions of that RPG, but became less prevalent with growing systemisation from 3.0 onwards.
  • More generally, it's a good way to give PCs kewl lewt that isn't otherwise available (and can't be fixed if they break it/the GM gets sick of it unbalancing his campaign and has it explode).
    • Plus, you can always make them go on another adventure to get new batteries for it every once in a while.
    • Also, if it has accessory slots, you can guarantee that they will jump at any plot hook that gives them something to stick in it. Even if it's just the fantasy equivalent of one of those gimmick chainsaw-bayonet toys that can dog onto P-rail.
  • Lostech can even be relatively modern, even post-dating the most recent "Fall". Suppose you have a secret method, only passed from teacher to student and never put to paper (for example, to maintain the school's advantage over outsiders, or because something about the method keeps it from being written down). One generation, the teacher dies suddenly before the final teaching can be passed on… and now no one knows how to forge mithril.
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