Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Forensic Sciences of the Iron Kingdoms

   The Iron Kingdoms, due to the level of scientific advancements and alchemy and of course the unique touch of Mechanika, and as a setting on the edge of a industrial revolution, certain methods of forensic science investigations are possible. In this blog post I will look at a few examples at how the unique blend of science and magic in the Iron Kingdoms allows for some CSI like gathering of clues and mystery solving.

   Many mundane things can be analysed very easily by a investigator within the Iron Kingdoms. Fingerprints would be easily recovered and viewed, boot prints could be checked for size and gait, and fibres could be of course easily compared and identified. Clues such as these can be introduced simple because the Iron Kingdoms can be assumed to have a well developed means to fabricate glass. In particular this means that microscopes, while expensive, may be part of the repertoire of investigator.

   A keen eye, aided by such glass wear, means that autopsies are also a useful method of criminal investigation. Organs and tissue can be observed for the manner in which they were damaged, or visual markers can be found for poisons and trauma. It can also reveal if the body has been moved - foreign soil or plant debris on the body can prove this.  Simply being able to look at very small things makes investigators more capable of looking for the clues that can close a case.

   Following this line, we get to an investigator who is skilled anthropology. They would be skilled in examining bone structure, and so being able to identify species, gender, age, height, health and many other factors. Such a skill would be very useful, especially if the case relied on the discovery of a missing murder victim and connecting their death to a conspiracy. It is even possible that an anthropologist is skilled in facial reconstruction, which could be critical in proving that a person thought to be dead is in fact not! Good knowledge of bones and how they break is also useful if the type of weapon used is not obvious. Anthropology may well extend to a knowledge of Zoology, and so help in the identification of the type of monster that may have attacked.

    Related to this is perhaps the knowledge of blood splatter analysis. While it is not likely to recreate the crime scene, like in 'Dexter', just knowing the difference between arterial sprays, blood stains due to gun shot wounds, and of course the difference between blood stains made by the living and the recent dead, is all very useful information to a investigator, especially one who can prove that the killer was in fact already dead. Blood splatters also vary depending on the type of gun wound, and so can reveal a lot about the direction of the gun shot (blow back splatters). In the world of the Iron Kingdoms, some bullets due to their magical nature may well not leave certain types of blood stains, or cause more distinctive ones.

    Ascertaining time of death relies on many things. There is of course body heat, and a well placed thermometer can help in that matter, since inner organs will cool at a certain rate after death - and a clever killer may know this and manipulate this. But knowledge of bugs, and how the body putrefies, is also a good guide on the time of death, generally in cases where the death has occurred more than a day ago.

   If a bullet could be recovered, some investigators may be able to put that to use, as they may be skilled in ballistics. Given the type of shot, chemical residues, bullet holes, and more, a bullet could be tied to a particular killer. Their gun powder may be of a particular composition, or their gun left on the shot a characteristic mark. Again, this could mean the difference between the killer being a gun man 10 yards away, or a sniper from 100 yards.

   A good alchemist, and thus a good chemist, would also make a good investigator in many cases. In the case of arson, the manner in which a fire spread, and what started it, is easier to discern if one has knowledge of how things, chemical and alchemical, burn. Certain residues and ashes could also be further tested to identify their nature, giving further clues as to what was on fire, which of course is particularly important if knowledge of that is critical to some conspiracy.

   Given alchemy is 'chemistry - but lets you make things in manner that breaks the laws of physics', it can be reasoned that there are reagents and fluids and powders that can reveal the nature of identity of certain things. This means things like narcotics analysis is very easy, as is ascertaining the type of blood (you could imagine a reagent changing different colours if it finds human, dwarf or elven blood, but a further test might be needed to further identify the type of elven blood, or the blood type for humans). Toxicology would also be common place, and also important in revealing more supernatural and magical poisons and toxins. 

   But we can further expand upon what Alchemy could reveal.

   Taking a queue from 'Sleepy Hollow', where Ichabod Crane uses a reagent sprinkled on a blood stain to identify how quickly the head was removed from the body. Such a thing doesn't exist in the real world, but Alchemy may provide a possible means to do this.

   Building upon the previous example, there could be a number of reagents that reveal the interaction of certain creatures with a crime scene. A variation of the Ashes of Urcaen my reveal ectoplasmic residue on a body. Perhaps another residue reacts to give a faint blue glow, revealing that a gobber had been in the area. Maybe a vapour when wafted in a room will give a purple colour and so reveal that elves had been in the room.

   There may be certain investigators skilled in Zoology who are able to take skin samples and by growing them gain further information on the trollkin that had been involved in their case. Of course those Horticulturist investigators would know the difference between different Hooga plants, and so know the difference between one cigar stump and another, which may be critical in determining which of 2 crime bosses was at the crime scene.

   Perhaps a more 'social' investigator would make a good profiler, and so is able to note certain habits and tells when interrogating or watching suspects. They would know if a murder was typical for a person from a certain background, and given enough other evidence, would be able to narrow down the suspect list.

   So there you have it. My views on how the Alchemist and Investigator careers can offer some really great storytelling opportunities, and of course, the change to really have a good mystery and CSI style story.

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