When most people hear the phrase “mad scientist,” they think of villains like Frankenstein, Lex Luthor, and other depraved madmen who want to show them, SHOW THEM ALL! While it is true that most mad scientists are in fact dangerously maladjusted sociopaths, it must be remembered that “mad” can mean “eccentric and unorthodox” as well “batshit crazy.” While this kinder, gentler version of the mad scientist is not quite as common as his evil counterpart, he is a popular archetype in certain types of fiction.
The mad scientist is most often found in pulp, super-hero, and science fiction stories, but is by no means restricted to those genres. James Bond’s Q, The Princess Bride’s Miracle Max, and even The Ghostbusters (especially Egon) can be considered mad scientists of a sort. Although mad scientists tend to work best as player characters in genres where their inventions and experiments occasionally work, they can be found in just about any type of story. Even in the real world, today’s mad theories are often tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs—just ask Tesla or the Wright Brothers.
The Name Game
Prior to World War II, the higher education necessary to dabble in fringe science were only available to the most privileged members of society. Therefore, mad scientists in a Victorian or early 20th Century game will often have surnames that suggest wealth and social status, such as DuPont or Carnegie. After WWII, the G.I. Bill and other social programs allowed more and more average citizens to attend college, leading to eccentric scientists with more common names (like Brown). “Nerdy” first names, like Hebert or Irving, are traditional for mad scientists, but not strictly required.
Brain is by far the most important number for mad scientists. Body is usually low to average, but those who often act as their own test subjects can benefit from a higher Body Number (or a few extra Health Points). Because mad scientists are often more comfortable around experiments than people, Nerve is often such a character’s lowest Number.
Suggested Mad Scientist Words
Alchemist, Amateur Astronaut, Bioengineer, Chaos Theorist, Chemist, College Professor, Computer Wiz, Cryptozoologist, Cybernetics Expert, Dimensional Theorist, Eccentric Inventor, Engineer, Gadgeteer, Geneticist, Government Researcher, Mad Scientist, Mathematician, Memetics Expert, Mesmerist, Orgone Researcher, Paranormal Investigator, Physician, Psychologist, Quantum Physicist, Re-Animator, Robot Engineer, Science Teacher, Temporal Physicist, UFO Researcher, Weapons Designer
Duct Tape & Chicken Wire, Filthy Rich, Invisible, Lateral Logic, Master of Research, Minions, Polymath, Powerful Google-Fu, Prepared, Saw It On The Discovery Channel, Secret Lair, Shape Shifting, Weird Science, Utility Belt, Weird Luck
Absent-Minded, Atomic Monster Magnet, Bad Reputation, Before I Kill You Mr. Bond, Clumsy, Communication Breakdown, Hubris, Invisible, Megalomaniac, Misanthrope, Multiple Personalities, Professional Rival, Red Tape, Vision Impaired, Weird Luck
Astronomy, Aviation Trivia, Biology, Chess, Computers, Conspiracy Theory, Debate, Electronics, First Aid, Fortean Studies, Geology, Hypnotism, Jet Pack Piloting, Logic, Marine Biology, NASA Trivia, Paleontology, Quantum Mechanics, Research, Science Fiction, Tinkering, Video Games, Zeppelin Piloting
John Astin, Tom Baker, Ed Begley Jr., Helena Bonham-Carter, David Bowie, Jeff Bridges, Lon Cheney, John Cleese, Willem DaFoe, Johnny Depp, Zooey Deschannel, Alex Desert, Crispin Glover, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Graves, Seth Green, Neil Patrick Harris, David Hyde-Pierce, Woody Harrelson, John Hawks, Christopher Lee, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Lorre, Bela Lugosi, John Malkovich, Joe Morton, Ted Raimi, Molly Ringwald, Winona Ryder, Kevin Spacey, Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, Anthony Stewart-Head, Alan Tudyk, Tom Waits, Naomi Watts, Gene Wilder, Owen Wilson
“Back off man, I’m a scientist!”—Dr. Peter Venkman, Ghostbusters
Tools of the Trade
Although not all mad scientists wear lab coats, they are a very popular fashion statement, along with goggles, aviator caps, and long scarves. The mad scientist will also need either a lab or workshop, depending on what type of science he practices. More traditional scientists prefer sterile labs full of beakers, test tubes, and high-tech equipment, while inventor’s workshops often look more like auto-body shops that have had the contents of a consignment shop dumped into them. Additional equipment depends on personal preference and field of study, and can include anything from notepads and pencils to jet packs.
Where You’ll Find Him
Mad scientist tend to spend most of their time in the lab. Some have day jobs (often at universities) and use their employer’s facilities for their personal experiments, while others are self-employed. Many scientists are able to work from home, supporting themselves through inheritances, income from patents, and the occasional consulting job or government grant. Those who are well off prefer to live and make their labs in Victorian mansions and spooky old castles. Those of more modest means conduct their research in a basement, garage, or spare bedroom.
Many of a mad scientist’s closest confidants are their peers in the scientific community. In some cases, these are people they rarely (if ever) meet in the flesh, instead communicating through scientific journals, internet sites, and email. Scientists with day jobs will have co-workers and professorial scientist will have students, but many consider these everyday acquaintances to be nothing more than simple-minded fools. Finally, some mad scientists employ lab assistants or personal servants, sometimes in the form of robots, aliens, and talking gorillas.
Doctor A. Heller
Job: Eccentric Weapons Designer/Innovator/Inventor/World Changer (14)
Gimmick: Ladies’ Man (13)
Weakness: Code of Honor (Only Designs Non-Lethal Weapons) (13)
Skills: Carnie +3; Aromatherapy +2; Laser Hair Removal +1
WWPHITM? Tom Waits
Dumb Fact: Runs Champion City’s foremost (and probably only) chicken rental agency.
Tag Line: “So did that defrackulator work or what?”
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Fantastic Four
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension
Back to the Future trilogy
Bride of the Monster
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog soundtrack
“She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby
Angel (especially the Wolfram & Hart era)
Misfits of Science
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Pinky & The Brain