The Technocratic Fringe

I have been watching the shit out of Fringe, since I found out it was on Amazon Video and seasons 1 – 4 are free for Prime members. (I haven’t seen season 5 of Fringe yet; I’ll reward myself after we’ve finished moving in and I’ve sent the next Technocracy project to editing with that.)

With every season, the setting changes. Man, does it change. I love it, but it means my occasional Twitter comments about stating up the characters from a Technocratic lens is…problematic.

So, let’s pick a point. Say, early second season-ish.

First, the framework: everything you see that cannot be explained as some form of Inspired Science. People who would say “Walter’s an Etherite!” misunderstand that Inspired Science appears pretty much like magic to the ignorant Masses. That Clarke quote about sufficiently advanced technology and all that…

Second, the conflict: that means that all sides on the Fringe conflict are effectively Technocratic, just with different goals and ideals. This is not a Technocracy vs Traditions fight, but a Technocracy A vs Technocracy B fight.

Third, the scale: these organizations aren’t global conspiracies with millions of people; they’re pretty much small Amalgams waging their own agenda and being their own leadership. And because of that, we’re not going to play hard on the Methodologies part of the Conventions — it’s enough to just cast them in one, I think, since this is a smaller scale (though, they can still be useful lens).

Fourth, the scale (part deux): some of the characters are clearly street-level, and a few get cosmic (and pay dearly for that). Keep that in mind.


Given those three things as the framework for Fringe, here’s a stab at early season 2 characters:

Walter Bishop is clearly, to me, a Progenitor. But not just any Progenitor — he’s a fucking Marauder with at least Life 4 and Dimensional Science 3 (and pretty much every other Sphere, even a little taste of Time). If you want to get really weird, because of the nature of his Quiet, he has both Dimensional Science and Spirit, as separate Spheres.

That he could also fit in Iteration X & Void Engineers is telling, but I see him first as foremost as a Progenitor — particularly a Pharmacoepoist — and just that sort of Enlightened mind who absorbed what others were doing (notably William Bell) by working with them.

(Someone on Twitter suggested that the entire Fringe Division is just a manifestation of his Quiet. Man, that’s a fucked and tasty idea! But for this, we should assume that’s not true if only because I want to geek on the other characters.)

Peter Bishop…where to begin. Well, let’s cast him as a Mind/Entropy Syndicate agent. If he’s a Unionist, there isn’t another place to put him, but casting him as one of the seedier, lower-level Syndicate peeps is a decent fit. (Also, he doesn’t realize that he has a high Time sphere. But, you know, spoilers.) He also has a low level, constant emanation of Dimensional Science Paradox, since he isn’t suppose to be here.

(Someone also suggested that he might be a Dimensional Science or Time Paradox spirit, who possibly doesn’t know he is — also a fucked and tasty idea!)

Olivia Dunham is our tragic NWO spook who was forcefully Enlightened as a child and then made to forget it with a powerful Mind effect. She’s the street-level Operative who is whip-smart.

Of course, to get to the interesting bits, I have to skip forward to later in the series. That she has a decent Forces rating is an accidental side-effect of her being imbued with Dimensional Science and Correspondence. Also, her seeming immunity to Paradox is very intriguing.

Nina Sharpe is also clearly Syndicate, a strange blend of Disbursements and Financiers. Her arm is proof that William Bell is Iteration X, and that’s she’s Enlightened enough to not reject it. She also has a higher Mind rating than you think…

William Bell is totally a Void Engineer, with an Iteration X background. “Physics is a bitch.” I’m going to give Bell less Life than Walter, if only because they worked on Cortexiphan together and Walter seemed the Life type. Bell totally has a high Dimensional Science rating, and has some weird Forces stuff. (And going beyond that would be moving away from season 2.)

David Robert Jones is the closest thing the setting has to a Technocratic Nephandus. And given that he works to twist Olivia’s mind and emotional state, and that he had dark plans for the world, it makes sense. I wouldn’t necessarily peg him in a given Convention, though — it doesn’t play by their rules.

Astrid is also NWO, a junior agent, but she’s more badass than people think, with her constant use of Data[1] and Entropy rotes that lead the others to discover things.

The Observers are…well, for the moment, they’re almost like Time spirits with a mysterious agenda.

So, given that time frame, what am I missing? What are you thoughts? No going beyond season 2 though, please!

– Ryan

[1]See Convention Book: N.W.O. book for more on Data


6 Responses to The Technocratic Fringe

  1. Lily says:

    Walter Bishop obv. has the flaw “Demented Eidolon,” which means his Avatar and his conscious acceptance of Technocratic paradigm are at war (as is how his magic manifests, which would explain Spirit and Dim Sci.) It would also interfere constantly with his ability to deal with Enlightened Science vs accidentally performing magic, cause him to constantly court Quiet, etc.

  2. Colin says:

    Fuck yah I heart this.

    My only disagreement would be Bell. He feels more Progenitor with It X backgroud to me than Void Engineer, working along with Walter to improve humanity. Dimensional Science is less exploration to him and more of a tool.

    This could just be my biased thinking that VE = awesome Void Ships though :)

    – Colin

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      That’s the trick with the VEs: the people of Fringe are basically smaller scale than void ships. So, another way to look at it:

      Walter Bishop and William Bell founded the Void Engineers. Only Walter went Marauder are retreated into his Life work, and Bell kept doing shit with Dimensional Science.

      In fact, there are probably no other Void Engineers, unless you count the Cortexiphan kids. Even then, no one like Bishop and Bell.

      – Ryan

  3. Thom says:

    Man, I have no interest at all in WoD as a system, but this is making me want to buy some damn books!

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Yay! :D

      Honestly, most of what we’re doing in the Technocracy line doesn’t require the system to play, though we’re making stuff for it. It’s a combination of extending the timeline to the modern day (from the Union’s POV and some small amount of objective truths/situations) and adding tools that can be ported over to other games easily, at least those that already can handle Mage-esque awesomeness.

      After all, last time I ran a Mage campaign, I used Cortex Plus.

      – Ryan

  4. Colin says:

    I dig them basically creating the Void Engineers and that totally makes sense, hell I just realized that this means Walternate and his Fringe Division are the other Void Engineers of the setting – they are protecting their dimension from attack.