Thursday, April 30, 2015

120. Jovian Union

In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular:
- the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons,
- the prohibition on making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain,
- the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.
CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

As it became clear that the old governments of Earth were falling, Earth itself was being abandoned, powerful figures of Earth began to evacuate to Jovian facilities. It was remnants of the European Union who dominated, and when it became clear that Earth would not recover and that an authority was needed to restore order among the refugees, they recreated the EU among the habitats in Jovian orbit.

The Jovian Union is technically a federal government. Each habitat has its own local governing body, most of which are small republics or democracies. Each local government can send representatives to the assembly, which, in theory, forms the primary governing body of the JU. In practice, however, most power is exercised by a series of emergency committees, composed of original founders, and a court system of judges appointed by those committees.

Culturally, the JU is highly traditional. Handmade artistry is highly prized, as are traditional forms of art; ballet troupes and orchestras are commonly patronized by the wealthy. In habitats with enough wealth and space, designer farms and forests are popular, mimicking the pastoral landscapes of Europe.

All media from outside the JU is sanitized to prevent memetic attack. Media from outside is not particularly popular in any case; most citizens are of the opinion that the trans-, post- and ex-human societies of the rest of the system will collapse or be destroyed by new TITANs. JU elites like to view their polity as a time capsule, preserving truly human civilization until conditions have improved.

JU economic policies are focused on stability, equality, and heading off possible red queen scenarios that would lead to runaway technological development and the side-lining of the merely human. The Jovian Union bases its technology policies on the precautionary principle with a cultural attitudes favoring appropriate technology. Augmentations are typically heavily restricted, requiring a demonstration of an accepted need and an expensive permit. Revenues from such permits, as well as additional taxes on certain augmentations and high-tech industries fund JU welfare projects.

The JU's official position of uplifts is that it is unethical to create them, but takes pride in treating those that already exist humanely. Uplifts are not treated any differently than humans; they are expected to socialize with humans (mixing too much with their own kind is discouraged and treated as suspicious), and have the same rights as humans (issues pertaining only to uplifts invariably go unaddressed). Suicide rates among uplifts are high.

Popular opinion is that infomorphs and cyberbrains cannot have a soul, and that a "real" human mind must in some way be in a human brain and body. AGIs, pod morphs, synthmorphs and infomorphs are not accepted as immigrants. Of those that remained in the Jovian system after the formation of the JU, useful egos were edited down to sub-sentience, and the remainder were killed, often by mob violence. The Jovian Union does not accept infugees.

Although citizens of most habitats are economically and politically equal with each other, inequality between habitats can be high. Rejecting nanotechnology ties them to a traditional industrial base; popular sentiment among industrial habs is that the boutique open-source and traditional artistry movements of the wealthy habs are subsidized by the pollution of the poor habs.

Notes

The Jovian Union is an alternative to the Jovian Republic; based upon a continuation of the European Union and still strongly bioconservative, but less overtly oppressive.

Inspired by Alkahest's idea in this post.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

119. Engineer's Womb

One of the most appealing factors in exowomb use is no longer having to go through pregnancy oneself. Why, then, would anyone have an exowomb implanted, negating that huge benefit?

Pregnancy might still be inconvenient, but will be nowhere near as much as with the natural option, and is guaranteed to be uneventful. Birth is fast and easy. An engineer's womb is capable, like most ectogenesis pods, is capable of bringing almost any animal to term. It borrows healing pod and morph growth technology to shorten gestation; most fetuses can be brought to term at a twelfth their natural rate.

The real benefit of an engineer's womb can only be realized, as its name suggests, by a genetic engineer. The womb runs a feed into your mesh inserts (or directly to your cyberbrain, if applicable) giving constant updates on current its current pregnancy. What's more, the womb is equipped with a suite of gene-hacker's tools, capable of gene-therapy and bio-modification throughout gestation. With only mental commands, an engineer can modify the fetus on the fly, with instant and constant feedback. Experienced engineers know that this constant feedback and at-hand tools is the difference between good results, and great.

Mechanics

An engineer's womb is cyberware [High]

An engineer's womb can also be used as a small (~limb sized) healing pod in an emergency.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

118. Accompaniment

This is Darwin's universe, where cooperation is simply an advantage over solitary competitors, and the red queen allows for no rest or pause in improvement. Can you afford to pass up even minor advantages?

Once you have purchased accompaniment a specialized AI will produce endless, customized music designed to accompany whatever task you are currently engaged in. Basic brain-scans and an understanding of your current context allow the AI to produce a never-ending stream of music, with rhythm, volume, and mood all designed to compliment your circumstances. Accompaniment is proven to increase relaxation and focus, leading to improvements in almost all types of tasks.

Mechanics

Use of an accompaniment AI gives skill bonuses of +5, at the GM's discretion.

Monday, April 27, 2015

117. Direct-to-Memory

Time is money; the high rate of change in the post-singularity means that even sleepless immortals can find themselves falling behind. Can you afford to spend hours catching up when news is being generated faster than you can process it? When could you possibly find the time to read Dostoyevsky? You could convince yourself that a broader, less detailed understanding of world events is just as good, and that whatever your muse says, The Brothers Karamazov is probably boring, or you could use direct-to-memory.

Direct-to-memory does not boost your brain's clockspeed like a mental speed augmentation, or allow you to carry on multiple tasks like a multitasking augmentation. It simply implants the memory of having seen/read or otherwise inputted the information. Spend an hour a day gaining a in depth understanding of current events, and throw in a little Dostoyevsky on the side. You'll have all the memories of the book, without having to spend time doing the actual reading.

Memories take time to integrate and become fully accessible. Do not begin direct-to-memory without consulting your psychosurgeon. Restrictions may apply, based on your morph, ego or polity.

Mechanics

Direct-to-memory is instituted as a psychosurgery procedure.

The procedure is fast and relatively easy; it does not even necessarily require a psychosurgeon, but can be performed by an AI.

Timeframe: 1 hour
PM: +30
SV: 1

Notes

Based on the concept from Peter Watts' Echopraxia.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

116. The Colosseum

In the world of transhuman sports entertainment, whether it is chess or gladiatorial combat, there is only one name: the Colosseum.

The Colosseum broadcasts continually, sending feeds of its daily knife-fights, martial arts tournaments, freerunning races, chess matches, football (both traditional and new zero-g variants) and junkyard robot build-offs. The majority of the Colosseum's games occur in simulspace, some because it is cheaper, others because they are impossible in reality. In simulation, fighters need not pull punches and can fight with true ferocity, casualties are instantly revived, and any scenario can be constructed. Easily produced games such as knife-fights or chess matches are more likely to be real, but the Colosseum likes to hold finales in reality with live spectators.

Primarily, the Colosseum is funded by gambling on their daily events. What really draws crowds, however, are their special narrative events. No one event is the same as any other, although they often share broad similarities. The most popular variant is the "battle royale", in which several dozen competitors are dropped into a simulspace landscape of a hundred square kilometers and challenged to be the last one standing. The spectacle minor politicians, aspiring mercenaries, failing socialites, former ultimates, and amused exhumans hunting and killing one another never fails to draw viewers. Other events include participants trying to survive simulated natural disasters, attempting to assassinate each other in simulated cities, or "king of the hill", in which they vie for control of a small mountain kingdom.

Being primarily simulspace-based, the Colosseum needs no physical location, but for legal reasons its operations are based on Extropia. Extropian contract-law allows for any scenario for which participants can be found to be carried out, and it is an excellent place from which to broadcast to the whole system.

Notes

The battle royale events are of course based on the movie Battle Royale.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

115. Fray

The everyday population may have heard of a TITAN virus inducing the constant effects of the uncanny valley on its victims, and singularity seekers may identify the same virus as a means of ego-loss, transcendence or enlightenment, but few are aware of just how many irreversible insanities and suicides can be traced to fray infections. The virus does not kill directly, but very few egos are capable of withstanding the stress, anxiety and paranoia it produces.

Mechanics

Fray is a digital strain, infecting cyberbrains and infomorphs.

Stage 1: (Initial infection to one week) The sole symptom of the initial stage of infection is a gradual tendency to view all recognizable faces and morphs as being in the uncanny valley. At first the effect is subtle, but by the fourth or fifth day all human faces and bodies will evoke disquiet and revulsion, seeming somehow wrong. By the end of the first week even faces glimpsed in clouds and other pareidolia experiences are tinged. Victims will often try to isolate themselves to minimize the effects.

Victims take 1 SV when engaging in social situations in this stage. They may also take 1d10/2 or 1d10 SV when interacting with friends and loved ones, who will seem wrong and alien.

Stage 2: (One week to two weeks) During the second week, the victim begins to experience greater and greater levels of derealization, possibly due to the uncanny valley effect spreading beyond human forms. Victims feel as though their world is becoming strange, alien and subtly malevolent, even though they cannot point to any specific change.

Victims take 1d10/2 SV per day during this stage.

Stage 3: (Two weeks+) By the third week, even the victim's own ego is becoming unrecognizable. The victim begins to experience depersonalization, feeling divorced from their senses and body, feeling as though they are intruders in their own lives, and feeling as though they are not always in control of their actions. Disassociative fugues, temporary amnesia and alien limb syndrome also begin to occur.

Victims take 1 SV per hour during this stage.

Although fray does not kill directly, survival past three weeks is very rare. Those few who have lasted become catatonic, but psychosurgery reveals that their ability to determine where they end and everything else begins has broken down, leading to a sense of ego-loss and transcendence.

Plot Hook: A small singularity seeker cult has become convinced that fray is the TITANs means of inducing enlightenment. Recently they have managed to acquire the strain and have begun experimenting with it. The players are tasked by Firewall with destroying the cult and neutralizing their samples.

Friday, April 24, 2015

114. Mantises

For hypercorp executives seeking to emphasize their competitiveness and "predatory instincts," smart mantises are the trend pet of choice, kept in the office and fed mice during tough negotiations. The mantises are spliced together from many members of the order mantodea, and range from hand to head sized. Like smart roaches, they are often engineered with bright colors and patterns.

Mantises are also used in underground gambling and blood sports, with bets taken on how many smart roaches the mantis can devour in a set amount of time, or fights between mantises or other predatory insects. Some habitats have also been experimenting with using them for pest control.

Mechanics

Treat as space roaches with the addition of Unarmed Combat 40.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

113. Grandfather Wang

Grandfather Wang's early history is fragmented and incomplete, due partially to the losses of the Fall and partially due to its secret and criminal nature. He was not born to wealth, power, or a criminal family, but was an orphan, homeless, surviving on the street. He had a talent for lies, persuasion and meeting people which set him apart from his peers, and he talked a local boss into giving him a position. His rise from there was meteoric, as he accumulated money and connections.

During the Fall, he used his political and criminal connections to secure an early evacuation to Mars, but leaving behind his sizable but non-liquid fortune. Unfortunately, he found himself increasingly left behind, finding it difficult to contribute to transhuman crime, yet with the rise of reputation economies, his refined social skills were more useful than ever. It was eventually decided that it would be useful of him to "retire" to a scum swarm.

His contribution to the swarm has been Wang's (officially unnamed,) a combination speakeasy, gambling hall, brothel, restaurant and opium den, built to mimic classic styles, with lots of wood, flickering electric or gas lighting and employees in appropriate costumes. Grandfather Wang enjoys running his businesses with no fear of law, enjoys the atmosphere he has created, and uses his position to network with interesting and powerful passengers. His combination to the swarm has been welcomed, seen as a classy, slightly campy but refreshingly low-key approach to vice services. His use of the swarm as a base for smuggling is considered almost endearing, and the scum overlook the fact that his temporary employees often resemble recently wanted criminals.

Grandfather Wang may not fully understand the post-singularity world, but he should not be underestimated; age has only refined his cunning, and he knows exactly how easy it has become to mend broken bones. He has gained and lost a fortune and lived in both extreme poverty and extreme wealth in his life, leading to an attitude of indifference towards money, but great concern for reputation, an attitude that serves him well among the scum.

"Wang" is probably not his real name.

Mechanics

Morph: Ruster

Motivations: +Triads, +Personal Career, +Leisure

COG 15 COO 15 INT 15 REF 15 SAV 25 SOM 15 WIL 15
MOX - INIT 6 SPD 1 LUC 30 TT 6 IR 60 DUR 35 WT 7 DR 53

Active Skills: Beam Weapons 35, Clubs 45, Deception 73, Fray 35, Infiltration 60, Intimidation 75, Kinesics 65, Networking: Autonomists 65, Networking: Criminals 75, Networking: Hypercorps 75, Networking: Media 55, Networking: Ultimates 55, Palming 45, Perception 45, Persuasion 75, Pilot: Groundcraft 45, Unarmed Combat 75

Knowledge Skills: Interest: Criminal Groups 45, Interest: History 35, Interest: Nightclubs 55, Language: Cantonese (native) 85, Language: Mandarin 55, Profession: Distribution 45, Profession: Haggling 63, Profession: Smuggling 45

Reputation: @-rep 100, g-rep 100

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Enhanced Respiration, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, T-Ray Emitter, Temperature Tolerance

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

112. The Village

The devastation of Earth has been thorough, but not total. The planet has suffered roving nanoswarms, radioactive fallout, mass extinctions, chaotic weather and continuing bombardment from Luna, but while total extinction was well within TITAN capabilities, the environment has suffered as collateral damage. There are patches of the planet that, due to isolation, protective geography, or sheer luck, seem almost untouched.

In one of these peaceful places, one village lives on, seemingly indifferent to the troubles of Earth. The residents farm, run a few small businesses, and, somehow, live as they always have.

Plot Hook: The village is a TITAN honeypot trap for survivors. The villagers are genuinely human, but have been carefully edited: they will refuse to understand the events of the Fall or the threat of the TITANs. They are otherwise friendly, however, and will offer shelter and basic supplies to survivors. At midnight, they will enter a trance-like state and kill any survivors who have taken shelter with them. The players are tasked with investigating the disappearances of the villages former victims.

Plot Hook: The village is a survivor honeypot trap for TITAN war-machines. The village primarily consists of buildings rigged to give off statistically plausible infrared and wireless emissions, and a handful of worker pods, puppeted by AIs programmed to carry out simple village life. Any TITAN machine that attacks what looks like an easy target falls prey to IEDs, sappers and seeker nests. This time, however, the village has bit of more than it can chew, and disabled, but not destroyed, a powerful fractal. The players must travel to the village and either retrieve the fractal for study at base, or study it in place, and defend the village from further attacks.

Plot Hook: The village is the control of a TITAN social experiment. In the chaos of the Fall, one TITAN was having difficulty establishing a baseline for its psychological/sociological/memetic experiments. The village's isolation kept it relatively intact, and TITAN protection guaranteed its security. The villages residents are aware of the Fall and evacuation of Earth, but are afraid to leave: the village itself has always remained peaceful, isolated even from the extreme environments of post-Fall Earth, whereas those who leave lose their protection and have never returned. The villagers have made radio contact with the players and asked them to aid in the evacuation of a resident determined to leave anyway.

Plot Hook: The village is genuine, having survived the Fall through isolation and luck. It is slowly dying, however, as crop yields fall and the environment sickens. They must evacuate, but evacuate several hundred stack-less flats from Earth is virtually impossible.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

111. Trilobite

Ground-based, wheeled or tracked morphs and vehicles come to the table with significant disadvantages; even on those planets where ground travel dominates, everything on the battlefield must be able to compete with a reaper, capable of smooth transitions between walking, jumping and flying. The trilobite drone tank competes by exploiting one key niche for all it is worth: staying low, remaining unnoticed, and being virtually indestructible.

Thanks to the lack of a need for any crew, the trilobite is smaller than one might expect from a tank. Like its namesake, it has a low, smooth profile, keeping it close to the ground, and its AIs are programmed to drive like water flows and favor the low points in a landscape. Chameleon skin and radar absorbent enhancements make it even more difficult to notice. When it does attract fire, its thick armor, built from the best energy diffusing materials and refined through evolutionary algorithms, is capable of taking tremendous punishment.

Trilobites are currently operated by the Mars Authority, Lunar-Lagrange Alliance, and Titanian Commonwealth. Few other polities combine a need for heavy hardware with an expansive surface suitable for tank warfare, and reapers remain the favorites.

Mechanics

Trilobites are robots [Expensive]

Movement Rate: 4/40 Max Velocity: 40 Armor: 32/32 Durability: 40 Wound Threshold: 8 Mobility System: Treaded

Enhancements: 360 Degree Vision, Access Jacks, Chameleon Skin, Enhanced Vision, Heavy Combat Armor, Radar Absorbent, 2 Weapon Mounts (1 Swivel with Rail Machine-gun, 1 Swivel with Seeker Rifle with HE/HEAP minimissiles)

Trilobite AIs are typically programmed with Kinetic Weapons 40, Seeker Weapons 40, Perception 40, and Infiltrate 40.

Monday, April 20, 2015

110. Coiled Canines

"Coiled Canines" is the catch-all term among the hyperelite for a popular type of exotic pet: limbless and snake-like mixes of dogs and weasels. Weasel genes provide long, sinuous bodies, engineered to lack limbs and for greater length. Dog genes provide dog-like friendliness and temperament. Strengthened abdomen muscles allow them to move like snakes, even coiling themselves to climb. They often enjoy coiling around and clinging to the limbs of their owners, or wrapping around their necks like scarves.

In the exotic pet market, uniqueness dominates and many suppliers will create only small amounts of new varieties of pets. The original creator of the coiled canines is unknown, a fly-by-night boutique genetic engineering lab specializing in exotic pets. Since the canines first appeared, however, they have proven to be more than a fad. With no-one claiming any patents or copyrights, most of the pet labs of Luna and Mars have created their own varieties. Fox-like, cat-like, mouse-like and more are all available, and in any color.

Mechanics

Coiled canines can be treated as smart raccoons [High]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

109. Octosuit

One of the best successes of the open-source design and fabrication movement, and a symbol of the ability of anarchic and open-source principles to produce results as good or better than the hypercorps, the octosuit is the work-horse of the outer system. From transportation, to maintenance, to combat, the octosuit and its variants can be found in any space-based habitat.

The octosuit is so named because it provides its wearer with eight additional limbs, in the form of synthetic-muscle tentacles. Four limbs are mounted at human center-of-gravity, on the hips. On the tips of these limbs are mounted miniaturized metallic-hydrogen rockets that provide propulsion; because they are mounted on the ends of strong flexible tentacles, they can be quickly re-positioned, providing great agility in addition to speed.

The four other limbs act as arms, mounted one pair each at the shoulder blades. These can be controlled by AI, taking cues from the wearer to grab handholds, hold and use tools, aim and fire weapons or more. For those that are up to it, the arms are best controlled directly, with the most dexterity the ego is capable of.

The remainder of the suit consists of scaffolding designed to redistribute uneven and omnidirectional acceleration throughout the body, and a purpose-made, treated as a standard vacc-suit.

Prototype octosuits distinguished themselves during the Planetary Consortium attack on Locus. They are brittle, but fast and able to maintain speed while maneuvering through complex environments. In locations offering cover, they excelled at high speed hit-and-run attacks and surprise raids.

Mechanics

Octosuits are exoskeletons [High]

Octosuits provide +20 to freefall tests, 4 extra arms, and the internal rocket enhancement with x2 or x4 duration, and 8/8 armor.

Combat variants include armored plates, bringing armor up to 12/12, and have weapons attached to their arms, typically rail machine-guns and seeker rifles for vacuum warfare.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

108. Atlatl

The eternal race between criminals seeking to bypass fabber restrictions and security updating them, has led to a surge in the popularity of "throwbacks," ancient and simple weapon designs. The simplicity of these designs makes them difficult to restrict without also restricting many simple objects.

The atlatl used by many criminals and gangs is a post-singularity update on one of humanities oldest weapons. The atlatl adds leverage to a human throw, allowing for projectile speeds upwards of 150 km/h. Typical designs are the approximate length of a forearm, throwing darts several meters long. When possible, they are made from smart materials that will store energy and redistribute their weight to further amplify the strength of its wielder. A strong morph, using a good design can achieve speeds of upwards of 300 km/h.

While the atlatl itself is a small, simple object easily overlooked by restriction software, the darts can be quite large and are easily recognized as weapons. Some designs are modified to throw small objects such as rocks or grenades.

Mechanics

Atlatls are wielded with the Exotic Ranged Weapon: [Atlatl] skill.

Atlatl [Trivial] DV: 1d10 + 2 + (SOM / 10)* DV Average: 7 + (SOM / 10)* AP: SOM / 10* Ranges: Short SOM, Medium SOM / 2 * 10 Long SOM / 5 * 10 Extreme SOM * 10
* or as grenade.

Friday, April 17, 2015

107. Bone Mites

Weaponized nanotechnology produces some of the most horrific corpses one might see, that is, if there is a corpse at all. Dissasemblers might be programmed to dissolve organic matter, but leave clothing and equipment perfectly intact, or dissolve only keratin, removing victims' nails, hair, and skin. TITAN nanoswarms are, if anything, more humane than their transhuman designed counterparts; they are at least fast and thorough.

The TITANs, of course, developed autonomous, self-sufficient and self-replicating nanoswarms far beyond what has been achieved by transhumanity. When the TITANs suddenly left, nanoswarms, like many other autonomous, intelligent, evolving and/or replicating TITAN tech, began growing, spreading, and changing. What the bone mites could have originally been intended for is a mystery,

Much like colonial swarms, bone "mites" (nanites) are eusocial, although as TITAN tech, their intelligence may be much higher. Whereas colonial swarms build their hives out of any locally available materials, bone mites use mammalian bodies (they have been noted to ignore avian and octopus uplifts). Specifically, the mites induce a form of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva in their victims. Once the victims have been paralyzed through ossification, the mites begin burrowing through the bone, forming tunnels and chambers much like an ant colony.

The mites do not kill their victims. In fact, they seem to take specific actions to keep their host alive, leaving the brain and supporting tissues intact, regulating their activity like medichines, and importantly, making slow changes to the structure of the brain. This last action has suggested to researchers that the mites have goal; they do not live in ossified bodies because they have to, but because they need to use transhuman brains as a substrate for their own calculations.

Mechanics

Victims of bone mites lose 1 point of SOM, COO, and REF per hour. Once any of these attributes reaches zero, they are paralyzed. From then on, victims take 1d10 SV per hour until killed or rescued. Medichines prevent progression, but nanophages are required for total immunity.

While hunting for new hosts, treat bone mites as a nanoswarm. During infection, bone mites can be treated as a nanotoxin.

Notes

Inspired by SCP-439.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

106. Colonial Swarms

Despite the continuing fears of precautionists, it has proven to be difficult to create nanoswarms that last long once released from their hive. Guardian swarms, power loss, fluids, sticky substances, magnetic fields, radiation, stray cosmic rays and even the occasional ravenous amoebas steadily whittle down their numbers. It is to the consternation of many nano-engineers, then, that an unknown designer has successfully created and released a wild artificial nanoswarm; autonomous, reproducing, and stable.

The swarms seem to be modeled on honeybee colonies. They created hives, spheres of foamed materials through which the nanites can percolate. Inside the microscopic bubbles of the material they create sealed vacuums, excellent environments in which they can replicate. Larger bubbles will contain usable feedstock. The hive will also contain a much larger space towards its center, commonly called the conference center. The nanites gather en masse, using their lidar to signal each other, exchanging information on sources of feedstock and energy, making decisions democratically, like bees.

Plot Hook: Scavengers occasionally raid colonial swarm hives for small but pure portions of elemental feedstock. One man is found dead of an apparent disassembler attack, apparently in the middle of breaking into a particularly large hive. Firewall believes the colonials have either been corrupted by TITAN-tech  or evolved their own defenses; either way, the players are tasked with the investigation.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

105. Dermalichen

The infamous debut of Marie-Smith Nguyen at the Elysium Gallery of Living Art was also the quieter, but ultimately more influential debut of a new type of body modification. A clever young biohacker had engineered the fungal substrate of lichen to live on, and slightly in, human skin. Modifications to the fungal filaments allow for much a greater variety of form than found in nature, and modifications to the symbiotic algae and cyanobacteria for more and brighter colors. The fractal plates, bushes and mazes grown on a users skin are fragile; mature dermalichen growths are often used as form of conspicuous leisure, demonstrating that one can avoid any bodily stress.

Mechanics

Dermalichen are bioware [Low]

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

104. Democracy

Direct-democracies are a popular form of government in the Autonomist Alliance; even those societies that are not wholly democratic often use democratic processes.

The difficulties of implementing direct democracy is greatly eased by post-singulairty technology. Many voters have their muses give their likely vote on routine matters. Some systems, allow voters to grant and rescind their votes, at will, to politicians and political parties; in others AIs embodying political philosophies or pursuing certain causes are favored. Someone might pledge their votes to the priorities of opening up trade, voting automatically on any related issue, next to a social stability oriented AI, voting in place of any pledged citizens, and have their muse handle anything that slips through the cracks.

Plot Hook: One of the political AIs of an Autonomist Alliance society has begun broadening its interest from embodying secular-transhumanism and begun making grander and grander promises to voters, speaking obscurely of "our benefactors". Firewall believes the AI is the early signs of TITAN infestation, and tasks the players with investigating.

Monday, April 13, 2015

103. Skyn

Skyn is one of the few words evoking nostalgia for life as a synth. At the time, of course, skyn was a nightmare, a cheap, low quality attempt at human sensation that trapped early synthmorphs in numb bodies. Synthmorph sensoriums have improved to and past the human level, and only the early-adopters remember.

Skyn is a thin, flexible and clingy sheeting similar to plastic wrap. The thin material contains layers of simple sensors for heat, pressure and relative position. In this way it simulated the perceptions of human skin, with its knowledge of relative position acting as proprioception. Contemporary synthmorphs, even cases, have all these senses built in; skyn is only occasionally still used as an area sensor.

Mechanics

Skyn is sold by the square meter [Trivial]

Skyn senses pressure, heat and relative position. It is at its best as good as the sense of a baseline human, but degrades rapidly.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

102. Dromaeosauridae

Among neo-avians, particularly militant and/or mercurial neo-avians, dinosaurs are popular as symbols of strength and power. Some come to prefer paravian dinosaur morphs over their their own native bodies. Most popular of these morphs are the dromaeosauridae, commonly called raptors.

Dromaeosauridae pod morphs come in three models. Deinonychus are roughly human sized, velociraptors are smaller, the size of typical neo-avians, and utahraptors larger, comparable to a large bear. compared to neo-avians dromaeosauridae are feathered but cannot fly, have teeth instead of beaks, and their forearms are altered to make hand-like manipulators. The mercurial avians among whom the morph is popular maintain their large hooked foot-claws as a matter of pride, painting them in bright patterns or beautifying them with scrimshaw.

Mechanics

Dromaeosauridae are all pods.

Deinonychus
Enhancements: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Claws, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Mnemonic Augmentation, Puppet Sock
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 35
Wound Threshold: 7
Advantages: +5 REF, +5 COO
Disadvantages: Social Stigma (Pod), Non-Mammalian Biochemistry
CP Cost: 20
Credit Cost: Expensive (20,000+)

Utahraptor: Treat as a deinonychus with the enlarged size trait.

Velociraptor: Treat as a deinonychus with the reduced size trait.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

101. Tentaball

A tentaball is exactly what it sounds like: a bowling ball sized sphere with one handle, and containing coiled and compacted synthetic-muscle tentacles. The spheres are thrown, and upon impact the tentacles rapidly expands and begin attempting to coil themselves around anything nearby. They were originally conceived of as a way to subdue and restrain from a distance. They are used by police and security forces, but are not generally the first choice, as they have a tendency to break limbs. Scum occasionally try to design a sport around them, but so far nothing has caught on.

Mechanics

Tentaballs use the throwing skill. [Low]

A tentaball makes 1d4 attempts to subdue anyone or anything within 1 meter of its impact point. A tentaball has 20 SOM and Unarmed Combat 50 for this purpose.

Friday, April 10, 2015

100. Bloat

Bloat is a fibrous white pseudo-fungus. Like most Chimeran pseudo-fungi, bloat uses RNA instead of DNA, is extremely tenacious, and capable of withstanding many environments. One of those environments is living animal tissue.

Bloat's airborne spores infect the soft-tissues: primarily airways. The spores germinate when exposed to warmth and moisture, growing into thin white tendrils that begin to infiltrate the body. As growth progresses, the body begins to appear pale and puffy; pressing into the skin will begin to leave lasting indentations. The growth will inevitably begin to interfere with bodily processes, beginning near the site of infection, leading to death by organ failure. Cutting into a bloat corpse reveals more fungal fibers than animal tissue, and releases clouds of spores.

Mechanics

Characters exposed to bloat spores must make a DUR * 2 or be infected (characters with medichines are immune). Untreated growth removes one point from each aptitude per day; when any aptitude reaches 0, the character dies. [Expensive]

Thursday, April 9, 2015

99. Glutton Mites

Glutton mites are one of the only Chimeran insects with left-handed proteins. Their tenacity in maintaining their niche is perhaps due to their water-hydrogen peroxide mix metabolism. One of the principle purposes for its hydrogen peroxide is in digestion; the mites secrete nearly pure hydrogen peroxide to burn through organic matter before they eat the remains.

The mites have appeared as novelty bioweapons in some black and red markets. They are kept freeze-dried in small vials; the warmth of a body rouses them and they begin digesting through flesh.

Mechanics

Glutton mites are treated as disassembler nanoswarms, targeting only organic matter. [Expensive].

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

98. Vitiate

The left-handed and right-handed ecosystems of Chimeran life are, for the most part, so different as to be irrelevant to each other. Left-handed organisms can generally not feed on right-handed, and vice-versa. There has been enough evolutionary time, however, that specialists exist who cross these boundaries. Some right-handed insect-equivalents have developed prions as a defense against left-handed prey.

The vitiate prion interferes with red blood cells; it bonds with existing blood cells and prevents them from carrying oxygen, as well as infiltrating the production of new blood cells, causing all new blood cells to be made with bonded prions. Infected animals slowly experience blood-loss, eventually dying of oxygen deprivation.

Mechanics

Vitiate is a toxin affecting biomorphs. [High]

Characters that have ingested vitiate prions appear healthy for ~36 hours. From that point forward, they will lose one point of SOM per hour as their blood degrades. If their SOM reaches 0, they die.

Characters with medichines will receive an immediate warning of infection, and double time spans (they are healthy for 72 hours, and lose 1 point of SOM every 2 hours). Morphs with respirocytes are immune.

Plot Hook: So far the fact that vitiate must be ingested has prevented infection of the researchers and explorers of Chimera. Recently, however, a Triad boss was poisoned, with symptoms most consistent with vitiate ingestion. He hires the players to confirm that he was killed by vitiate, and then determine how the prions were transported from Chimera, and why.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

97. Chimera

Chimera is an Earth-like world, with 90% Earth's gravity, freshwater seas covering 60% of the surface, and a slightly higher intensity of light from its closer orbit to a Sun-like yellow star. Chimera is incredibly rich with life; even the coldest, hottest and driest climate zones support complex ecosystems. Chimera supports forms of life based upon multiple types of chemistry; their interactions and evolution is an immense laboratory of biological warfare.

The two largest ecosystems are are based on the same organic matter and DNA as Earth life. One, however, has left-handed chirality, the other right-handed. The two ecosystems are at times locked in biological warfare, evolving powerful allergens and prions as defenses against those organisms evolved to consume both right and left handed proteins. At other times, they ignore each other, there bio-chemistry so incompatible conflict is pointless. Both of their remains are decomposed by tough RNA based pseudo-fungi.

Right-handed life is the most Earth-like, with quadrupedal vertebrates and green plants. Left-handed life is the minority among plants and large animals, but has a virtual monopoly on niches associated with small, insect-like invertebrates. Few of these animals have evolved to metabolize right-handed plant proteins themselves, but many contain symbiotic bacteria that do the job for them.

Towards the poles, where temperatures regularly reaches -90 °C, a sparse ecosystem of silicon based life is spread across the ice. The plant-like organisms resemble crystalline mosses and lichens, interspersed with fractal silicate corals built from their remains by left-handed organic polyps. The silicon plants are energy-poor, and grow slowly, and the polyps small and well defended; the only other animal life to be found are migratory flyers and semi-aquatic organisms living along the shores.

Orbiting this unique world is a find that overshadows all others: an array of alien satellites. Observations from ground-based telescopes and orbital drones shows equipment suited to observing the planet and transmitting information out of the system. Interference or physical contact has been avoided for fear of unseen-defenses; the satellites are estimated to be thousands of years old, but orbital wreckage of older ones has been found, suggesting they are periodically replaced. The owners could show up for routine maintenance at any time.

The leading hypothesis is that Chimera's unique biosphere is a large and ancient science experiment; only one form of life arose there naturally, and the others were introduced. Preliminary fossil surveys show new types of life appearing during large-scale extinction events, presumably caused by their introduction. Some believe that the beings responsible for the satellites periodically introduce new forms of life, using the satellites to monitor their evolution and record anything of interest or potential use.

Monday, April 6, 2015

96. Evolved Interrogation

Transhuman society produces, processes and stores immeasurable amounts of information every day. Information is power, and the roles of hackers and infosec specialists are secured by the wealth of information stored digitally. Some of the most useful information, however, still comes from transhuman egos, if they are willing to share. Even psychosurgical interrogation has its limits, and so Ozma has developed the evolved interrogation program.

The evolved interrogation techniques developed by Ozma require large amounts of computing power and time, but the success of the process is inevitable. First, the ego to be interrogated is forked. Each fork is subjected to a series of stimuli; random variations on sets of stimuli that were successful in previous interrogations. Those sets of stimuli that provoke the most useful responses in the ego are used as the seeds for the next generation. The effect is to generate, through genetic algorithm, programs of torture, illusion, pleasure and other, stranger stimulations that will best prize information from an ego.

Plot Hook: The Ozma program has been running for so long, against so many egos that its methods are beginning to resemble primitive basilisk hacks. To fully pursue this line of research will require computing resources difficult even for Ozma to acquire. Firewall has become concerned with the sudden demand for computing power in the inner system, and tasks the players to investigate.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

95. Brownies

Servitors as robotic servants are perfectly acceptable. The wealthier homeowner may prefer something with more discretion, and a more artful design. Brownies, inspired by Scottish folklore, act as small, quiet, and very, very fast household servants.They are humanoid, monkey-like robots built for great speed and agility. Commonly they are engraved with Celtic knotwork, or custom designs significant to the owner. They will communicate with your muse and work when you are asleep or away, otherwise they hide and recharge.

Mechanics

Brownies are small robots [Medium]

Movement Rate: 4/20 Max Velocity: 20 Armor: 4/4  Durability: 25 Wound Threshold: 5 Mobility System: Walker

Traits: Reduced Size

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Enhanced Vision, Reflex Boosters

Saturday, April 4, 2015

94. Microraptors

Exotic pets are a lasting trend among the wealthy of the Planetary Consortium. Some animals, like dogs, are perennial favorites. Some, like smart hawks, are the rediscovery and the resurgence of ancient aristocratic pastimes. As the market grows, so too does the demand for the truly exotic.

Microraptors are reconstructions of paravian dinosaurs, however, microraptors lived too long ago for any DNA to be recoverable, so genetic engineers recreated their physiology from similar species, primarily birds. Unlike birds, microraptors have four wings, and are skilled in both short flights, gliding and climbing. As pets and smart animals they have been enhanced. Their intelligence and therefore trainability has been increased, raised to the approximate level of a baseline dog. Their claws and feet have been reshaped for dexterous manipulation, and augmented with grip pads. Finally, their plumage is dramatically shaped and colored for aesthetic effect.

Mechanics

Microraptors can be treated as smart hawks, with claws replaced by grip pads.

Friday, April 3, 2015

93. Static Wind

Mars is a windswept planet, and the TITAN Quarantine Zone is no exception. Mars' atmosphere, even after many years of terraforming, is thin, and wind rarely has the power to be dangerous. In the TQZ, nothing can be taken for granted.

Experienced stalkers know to take note of the color and shine of any windswept dust in the distance. Too grey and too gleaming means a static wind; get out of its way. A static wind carries a massive static charge, powerfully shocking anything in its midst. The winds seem somehow faster than their mundane counterparts, and moves towards possible targets with an accuracy that is slightly higher than models would suggest. The TQZ's denizens are not immune; if wastewalkers, ny’knikiin or exsurgents are found dead, with no visible wounds, watch for a static wind that may still be scouring the area.

Scientists have speculated that static wind is generated by the damaged power systems of destroyed TITAN nanoswarms, but samples contain no more dead swarms than any other TQZ dust storm. Stalker common wisdom is that the winds are loose TITAN weapons, or perhaps a cleaning system. No one knows much for certain.

Mechanics

Static winds move quickly; characters can be caught within them for a maximum of 1d4 turns. Every character caught within a static wind is damaged as if by a stunner every turn.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

92. The Precociousness Problem

Transhumanity has many offspring. Engineered smart animals, AIs and AGIs, loose beta and delta forks, but fewer and fewer children. Fertility rates among transhumans are low. It is expensive to bear and raise a child, requiring space, time, and bodies that not everyone has access to. It is only natural to want the best for your child, and the plasticity of children's  brains and bodies take very rapidly and naturally to augmentation. The lost generation were only the beginning.

The agōgē promises to raise Ultimates with an ideological purity and an adoption of transhuman technology and capability that overshadows their old-fashioned seniors. To the members of an ideology prizing self-improvement above all, to become obsolete and irrelevant is worse than death.

This is the precociousness problem: any children raised to the fullest transhuman potential will very thoroughly surpass their parents. Those children will create and raise their children better than their parents could. Then their children will overcome them, and so on. It is a long term singularity, carried out over generations. Bio-conservatives fear an inevitable specialization leading to exhumanism, hyperelites fear the loss of their position, most others fear irrelevance.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

91. Yutani Nu

Yutani Nu was one of the first raised in the agōgē, and one of the best. He was the first agōgē student to be raised to the rank of exemplar, is a recognized master of several martial styles, and a respected scholar of Ultimate philosophy. Rumors say that he was parented by an autarch; he certainly seems to have received the best possible tutoring.

Nu was instantiated into the agōgē as a newborn, the best of thousands of combinations of Ultimate and remade genetics, engineered for willpower in the face of adversity. Like all agōgē students, he spent his early years learning the basics of outer system survival, and combat. He killed early, a fellow student during a botched raid on his bunker. The next time he was attacked, he managed to kill a parent from ambush, but took her student hostage instead of killing him. He treated the girl as a fellow student, playing war-games, sparring, and studying with her. When she was killed by a malfunctioning vaccsuit, he recycled her body personally.

On his graduation from the simulation, Nu hit the ground running. He volunteered for any mercenary contracts available, taking part in TQZ incursions, gatecrashing missions and special actions against the seceding Morningstar Constellation. Upon achieving the rank of exemplar, his interests have become more abstract, and he mixes philosophical study with sports, sparring and games. It is expected he will apply for agōgē parenthood soon.

Mechanics

Morph: Remade

Motivations: +Ultimates, +Personal Development, +Survival

COG 20 COO 20 INT 15 REF 15 SAV 15 SOM 30 WIL 30
MOX - INIT 6 SPD 1 LUC 60 TT 12 IR 120 DUR 40 WT 8 DR 60

Active Skills: Animal Handling 45, Blades 78, Climbing 60, Demolitions 40, Fray 63, Free Fall 45, Freerunning 70, Hardware: Industrial 60, Intimidation 45, Kinetic Weapons 83, Medicine: Paramedic 50, Navigation 35, Networking: Ultimates 45, Perception 55, Pilot: Groundcraft 45, Seeker Weapons 45, Throwing Weapons 50, Unarmed Combat 90

Knowledge Skills: Language: Hindi (Native) 80, Academics: Philosophy 85, Academics: Psychology 60, Interest: Ancient Sports 60, Profession: Post-Apocalyptic Survival 60, Profession: Scavenging 60

Ego Traits: Ambidextrous

Morph Traits: Uncanny Valley

Reputation: c-rep 50, u-rep 90

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Circadian Regulation, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Hyper Linguist, Enhanced Respiration, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, T-Ray Emitter, Temperature Tolerance, Toxin Filters, Clean Metabolism

Notes: Mechanically, Yutani Nu is typical for a product of the agōgē, and the stats could easily be used for other such characters.