06 February, 2013

Cold City (Nazi Eugenics 101)

I don't know the specific definition of Eugenics, but it is basically the science of optimising the human race through selective breeding. Cold City is a game about picking up the pieces in a variant Berlin after World War Two, the key variant in the Cold City Berlin is that the Nazi's were very close to unleashing a supernatural catastrophe or weapon that would have changed he course of history. There may be a single supernatural revelation, or there may have been many secretive laboratories all working on different forms of paranormal research...it's all up the the GM and the way the campaign unfolds. You can play it noir, pulp, thriller, slapstick, or you can go really dark. I like to tread the line between slapstick and dark when I do the GM duties, but I'm hoping to go a bit more noir this time around.

When it comes to quasi-scientific Nazi research, it's only a matter of time before you run into eugenics as a concept. The whole idea of a master race is mired up in the notions of eugenics, so is the elimination of groups that might be deemed unsuitable for further procreation for an optimal future. The X-Men movies played with the concept, so did Captain America (to some degree...but it took things more supernatural and chemical rather than genetic).

The problem with eugenics as a specifically Nazi notion is the fact that the Third Reich only took hold over the German people for 12 years. That's basically enough time for a single generation to be born, and certainly not long enough for this generation to age appropriate and spawn a second generation of eugenically purified children. The whole process of eugenics an ongoing game of trial and error, even if we assume the basic odds of a 50% chance that a child might possess a desirable trait from the mother or the father. If there are 10 possible traits that might be measured by eugenic overseers, this means 1024 basic combinations that might arise. But there are 23 chromosomal pairs, so this expands the possibilities to 70368744177664 possibilities if we assume the simple "on/off switch" approach (23 pairs = 2 to the power 46).

Many of the possible combination effects can't be measured because they manifest as recessive traits, others might involve complex combinations of various genetic markers. The science of the Third Reich didn't have the complexity to deal with these issues, and the single generation of children certainly didn't allow them to get very far with their creation of a master race.

What makes things more interesting from a conspiracy standpoint is the idea of the secret societies that were rampant through European continent in the 18th and 19th centuries; The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, The Freemasons, The Bavarian llluminati, and numerous others. The Nazi party drew on the mysticism of these groups, but who's to say they didn't also draw on generations of eugenic research that had been going on for decades (centuries?).

Mediums, psychic powers, elite physical prowess, awakening of ancient technologies predating Egypt and Greece...the nazis have been documented with research into all of these areas.

Which brings me back to the realm of Cold City again.

I've been thinking about a genetically based system for a while. 4 proteins that make up a DNA chain, 4 sides on a d4. Perhaps there is a specific sequence in a specific chromosome that controls attunement to the universe...the kind of thing that the TV show Heroes touched on but never fully developed.

My theory is that every character starts by rolling 10 d4s in sequence. 1 = A, 2 = C, 3 = G, 4 = T.


We link each of these proteins to a traditional element (air, earth, fire, water), and all the typical mystic significance that these elements possess. 1 = A (air), 2 = C (earth), 3 = G (fire), 4 = T (water).

If a character has a completely jumbled set of proteins along this particular string, they are a regular joe; no potential for psychic powers, hyper-evolution or similar paranormal quality. If a character has an adjacent pair, they might gain the ability to sense the elemental forces at work for the element in question. If they have an adjacent three-of-a-kind, they gain a minor ability to tap these elemental forces to create some kind of effect. Two adjacent pairs of different kinds might allow specific elemental manipulation effects drawing on both elements in some way.

In our example, Andy has an adjacent pair of T's, that gives him sensitivity to "Water" effects. Beth has no adjacent pairs so she doesn't get anything. Charlie has an adjacent pair of C's (earth) and A's (air), so he might gain access to an elemental "dust" power....as well as a second power of air sensitivity due to the paired A's at the end of his string. Diana has a trio of G's, so she might be able to control elemental fire.

Eugenics becomes interesting if a child has a 50/50 chance of picking up either parent's proteins along the sequence. Beth becomes important to the eugenic midwives because her T in the fifth slot, could combine with Andy's pair of T's in the third and fourth. They have a 1 in 8 chance of giving birth to a child with three T's in a row.

Andy and Diana could also be paired for optimal procreation, with the following combination possible:

(underlined proteins are hoped for, and bold proteins are guaranteed because both parents have them in these slots)

Child (based on underlined proteins): AATTTGGGAT

That's 3 T's in a row, 3 G's in a row and 2 A's in a row. A child of massive psychic potential. 

If we assume that the maximum level of psychic power is limited to the number of identical proteins in a row, imagine what would happen if the eugenic midwives understood the key to these powers, and if they tried to breed a child with 10 of the same protein in a row.

Certain drugs, procedures and rituals might be used to increase the chances of certain genetic markers appearing.

If either parent drinks "monkweed tea" immediately prior to conception, there is a reduced chance that the child will inherit their third protein (and therefore an increased chance that the other parent's protein will take). 

If either parent is under the effects of a Coppertooth Wyrmling, there is an increased chance that any of this parent's G proteins will take. 

Decades of research cold have been done to maximise the chances of producing the master race. Characters could uncover fragments of this and may discover that they are able to adopt psychic powers of their own, or maximise their stats beyond human levels. If they are willing to use the dark arts that they have been sent to capture and contain.

But what about the characters who end up in poor Beth's state...no consecutive pairs what-so-ever.

Who's to say a crafty demon would be willing to bend the laws of reality slightly, change a protein here or there in exchange for a small favour? Perhaps a "super soldier" serum works as a genetic retrovirus, providing power where there should have been none? Perhaps a side effect of radiation and mutation leads to the unexpected...things that can't fully be explained by science, but are hinted at in occult texts handed down through the centuries.

It's a fun thought experiment. It'll be interesting to see how it works out in play.

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