Sunday, May 31, 2015

151. The Gestalt Albia

Albia is a brinker habitat located in the Uranian trojans. To an ignorant observer it is uninteresting, a cluster hab run along autonomist lines. When the mutualism demanded by isolated space life is insufficient, they govern themselves as a direct democracy.

Albia is also a gestalt consciousness occasionally formed from the citizens of the station. Linking together the minds of all citizens results in their subsuming into Albia, a discrete consciousness emerging from the network of citizens in the same way the AGIs may emerge from other complex systems. While Albia is awake, the egos of citizens are totally consumed, but when Albia withdraws they awakening as if from a deep sleep.

Albia (the gestalt) appears to be thoroughly invested in the well-being of Albia (the habitat), with as much control as it cares to execute over the habitat, but with particular interest over the habitat's long-term strategies. The last act of each instance of Albia are its instructions on when it is next to be awakened.

Plot Hook: Albia is smart, but not beyond what is possible for a transhuman ego with a savant or hyperbright morph. Their real advantage is in access to the skills and memories of all gestalt members. Firewall suspects that this is why Albia has avoided the exsurgent virus thus far. They are therefore greatly concerned by exsurgent activity seeking to smuggle supercomputers on to Albia, and task the players with intercepting them.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

150. Exhuman Perspectives

"Cliché goes that communism was a great idea, but for the wrong species. Well, us transhumans can become whatever species we wish. Corruption, greed, mob mentalities, power trips, terrible obsessions; all of these problems can be well and truly solved if only you are willing to take a knife to your foolishness."
Thomas Augustus, AGI and pioneer of psychosurgury

"Human morality is of little use, why should lives be respected when we are immortal, why should pain be avoided when sensation can be edited, why should you give credence to an ancient voice in your head that understands only the tribe and the savannah?"
<name withheld>, child kidnapped and raised by an exhuman clade

"Singularity seekers are often committing a teleological fallacy. Greater sophistication, by any metric, is not necessarily the key to success. There are many examples of species on Earth remaining essentially unchanged over hundreds of millions of years, because they occupied the right niche. Careful, lateral change can be more worthwhile than simple increases in power."
Excerpt from initial Exhuman response, Exhuman/Singularity Seeker debate

"It took the TITANs to convince us to embrace what our technology has made possible. Lot less flats around then there used to be. Transhumanity has proven it thrives on adversity."
Unsleeping Golem Whose Mind Journeys Too Far, known Exhuman terrorist

"A species has one strategy for survival. Species go extinct regularly. Ecosystems are diverse, the extinction of every single species is rare. Do not limit yourself to one ego. Be fruitful, multiply, and become your own ecosystem."

Friday, May 29, 2015

149. Police Fog

The thin mist saturating many habitats might be its primary police force. A type of utility fog, police fog is usually deployed to entirely permeate public spaces. Its use is often seen as heavy-handed and indicative of a police-state.

On its own, any given fog-bot has only basic functions, attaching or detaching to its neighbors, relaying information, sensing its immediate surroundings, and emitting tiny amounts of light. Working together, however, the fog becomes capable of many tasks. The fog can rapidly coalesce, impeding sight and even movement. Combing the poor senses of each bot produces thorough and fine-grained surveillance of the filled area. In addition to mesh-based communication, they will often relay messages through light or ultrasound, making them difficult to jam. Each unit can emit colored light, which, when coordinated, allows them to form signs and holograms.

Engineers are working to add even more functionality, including fire-fighting, and neutralizing hazardous materials.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

148. Medicinal Probiotics

Everyone is familiar with the concept of probiotic foods. Medicinal probiotics are an old tradition, dating back to the early days of genetic engineering. Engineered strains of bacteria, viruses, and yeast can do excellent things for ones health, and their potential is still being explored. One of the oldest types of medicinal probitoics are those engineered simply to rid the body of certain unwanted foreign agents; each strain, when ingested or injected, breaks down a drug, sequesters a toxin, or hunts a pathogen.

Medicinal probiotic strains made their way off-Earthone strain at a time. Pre-Fall, there were many, many strains, and no-one felt any great need to preserve them. Families, scientists, refugees and colonists took what strains they thought might be useful with them, while many off-Earth servers containing their genomes were destroyed or suborned by TITANs. Even today, particular strains are the jealously guarded treasure of refugee families, criminal outfits, or brinker communities.

Mechanics

Probiotics counter a specific type of toxin, drug, or pathogen, like an antidote [One cost category higher than their toxin, drug, or pathogen]

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

147. The Dream

The dream is a massively multiplayer simulspace accessible only through dreaming. Anyone with a cyberbrain (but not yet anyone with biological brains) can have a client installed that detects when the user has fallen asleep and begun to dream. When anyone with the appropriate connection begins to dream, their dreams are guided by the software, giving them lucid dreams of the simulspace environment.

Dreamers have a great deal of power within the dream, able to create, destroy and control at a whim, although within certain constraints. In order to keep the dream a consistent multiplayer experience for all dreamers, they cannot effect each other directly, and if they attempt to do two incompatible things, the software will try to combine the two actions, often with unexpected consequences.

Some dreamers are more lucid than others, and even lucid dreamers have unconscious influences. Observing in the local dream can be a good way to gauge local feeling, and a lot about a community can be determined by tracking changes in their dream.

Plot Hook: Firewall needs information from someone, but cannot simply abduct and interrogate them. They are, however, a dream user. The players must subscribe to the dream, track down the appropriate dreamer and interpret their dreams, looking for clues.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

146. Long-Guns

Long-guns are the current pinnacle of specialized sniper gear. Railguns with nine meter barrels, taking shots from many kilometers away, they fire special flechettes; darts a meter in length.

Double digit kilometer range shots present a number of problems to the shooter. Primarily, even the highest velocity projectiles will have at least several seconds of flight time, greatly limiting their use against moving targets. Additionally, the longer the flight time, the more the projectile will be influenced by wind. Long-guns almost always use homing rounds to overcome these problems, and come with special optics and smartgun systems suited to guiding rounds towards moving targets from greater-than-usual distances.

Long-guns come with other problems as well. Each shot exhausts large capacitors and coolant tanks, making them resource hungry. Long-guns can be disassembled for transportation, but even then are hardly man-portable, breaking into five ~60kg pieces. They are therefore only used for shots that can be planned well in advance, or as fixed installations. Many military bases have camouflaged bunkers set kilometers away, positioned to fire on attackers from unexpected angles.

Several military contractors and hypercorps are designing vehicles that will serve as long-gun platforms. A mobile driving or flying long-gun would be very difficult to defend against, as it will have re-positioned by the time any shot can be traced back.

Mechanics

Long-guns are wielded with the Kinetic Weapons or Gunnery skills.

Long-Gun [Expensive] DV: 3d10 + 10 DV Average: 26 AP: -25
Ranges: Short 1km Medium 5km Long 10km Extreme 15km
All long-gun ammo is armor-piercing (effects incorporated into stats) and homing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

145. Origami

The residents of Torii, on Eris, have can have difficulties with entertainment. Eris is almost 13.5 light-hours from the Sun, making live communication with the bulk of transhumanity impossible. Torii is also based around the Discord Gate, which is under continuous threat from the many powers who would seek to control it. The population is under continuous pressure from Go-Nin/Ultimate security, with regular searchs and seizures of property. For these reasons, Torii's arts and entertainment tends to be home-grown, minimalist, and deliberately temporary.

A new form of origami has been created by some of Torii's residents. The key innovation was a thin, paper-like sheet of muscular fabric, capable of moving itself. The fabric can be bent and folded to make normal origami, and then, if it has been done correctly, will be able to move itself in imitation of its form: snakes undulate, horses walk and run, and in Torii's low gravity, cranes can almost fly.

Mechanics

Torii orgiami can be created with the Art: Origami knowledge skill.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

144. Seeing-Eye Balls

Seeing-eye balls were for a time the premier choice for small, flying surveillance. Perfect spheres the size of human eyeballs, mounting small cameras and propelled swiftly by their ionic skin. They were limited in their capabilities, but were both fast and reliable and used to be sold by the dozen in elegant pouches, only falling out of use when the smaller and even more discrete specks were released.

The balls made a recent comeback, however, when someone had the idea of modifying their synth to use the bots as eyes and whats more, detach and reattach them at will. When attached they are almost indistinguishable from standard synth eyes, making them easy to smuggle into places that might not allow bots. Once detached, the user can see through them as if they were still their normal eyes; it is recommended to use only one at a time or else keep them paired, as disorientation and nausea often result from trying to perceive to entirely different points-of-view at once.

Mechanics

Seeing-eye balls are robots [Trivial]

Movement Rate: 4/40 Max Velocity: 80 Armor: 2/2 Durability: 25
Wound Threshold: 5 Mobility System: Ionic

Enhancements: 360 Degree Vision, Access Jacks, Enhanced Vision

Seeing-eye balls can also be installed as cyberware [Moderate]

Friday, May 22, 2015

143. Hulderhund

Titan is far rimward, cold and distant from the greater mass of transhumanity. Nevertheless, thanks to the Commonwealth's One Mind, One Body policy and friendly liberalism, the Titanian population is growing quickly. The hulder, the nomadic herders of caribou across Titan's cold, carbonaceous surface, see in this growth the slow loss of the wildness of their herding grounds. As a part of their cultural experiment, as welcome companionship, and as an early stage of preparation for predicted altercations, they created the hulderhund.

Like hulders and their caribou, hulderhund blubbery skin makes them appear cybernetic on the surface, but they are entirely biological, engineered from Titanian Autonomous University smarts. Like the caribou, hulderhund eat the natural carbonaceous compounds from Titan's surface, and participate in the AR hallucination of Earth's tundras. Hulder train them in herding, but otherwise keep them for companionship.

Mechanics

Treat as smart dogs with the addition of  fractal digits, long-term life support, and temperature tolerance (Cryonic) [High]

142. Livestock

Cannibalism has lost its luster in the post-singularity world. Human meat is as easily acquired as any other type, at least if you'll settle for vat-grown. Once the interest in the taboo wanes, however, most prefer the carefully engineered meats; no reason to settle for human when impeccable veal is cheaper. Still, there are always fetishists and connoisseurs.

Among those who maintain a romantic attitude towards cannibalism, vat-grown simply won't do. The very best meat is free-range. This doesn't mean they wan't to be murderers, however, and to this end a group of well-to-do cannibals crowd-funded a new morph, the livestock model.

Livestock are designed, and born, to be eaten. Some sleeve their livestock with simple AIs, capable of carrying out dietary plans and exercise regimens. Criminal outfits use tasped slaves, as relaxation leads to a higher quality product. Livestock are also a not-uncommon choice of morph for infugees, as some patrons will subsidize the cost of the morph in exchange for the rights to it in a few years.

Mechanics

Livestock are biomorphs [High +5,000]

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack
Movement Rate: 4/20
Aptitude Maximum: 25
Durability: 30
Wound Threshold: 6
CP Cost: 5
Credit Cost: High

Thursday, May 21, 2015

141. Neo-Canines

Man's best friend might seem like the obvious choice for uplifting. Smart and friendly, there ability to coexist with humanity has been stress tested by every type of human society. This is, perhaps, why they have not been uplifted: to many people, re-engineering this old relationship would feel wrong in ways that don't apply to avians or octopuses. These same people were greatly disturbed when it became apparent that an exhuman project had uplifted dogs, creating neo-canines.

Socially, neo-canines instinctively form into tight packs of up to a dozen individuals, and can include non-neo-canines. Trust and loyalty within these packs is absolute, but no bonds will be formed with any others. Non-pack members are treated in a business-like fashion at best, and will not be shown empathy or mercy. Mentally, neo-canines are undeniably smart, smarter than many humans. Their intelligence is focused in some unusual ways, however. Their ability to understand the motives and predict the actions of their pack-mates is nigh-total, leading to great feats of cooperation. They have difficulty with long-term thinking, however, typically having to work to methodically build formal plans of cause and effect.

Neo-canine physiology has not been changed from that of normal dogs, at least on the surface; they are mammalian quadrupeds. The only differences are that their tails are longer, stronger, and prehensile, and their tongues are likewise, longer, and turned into an effective tentacle, although their sense of taste is virtually nonexistent. Neo-canines typically use their tails to for tasks requiring strength, and their tongues for tasks requiring finesse. They are incredibly perceptive, with enhancement suites for all senses.

Mechanics

Neo-canines are biomorphs [Expensive 25,000+]

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Claws, Cortical Stack, Enhanced Smell, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 30
Wound Threshold: 6
Advantages: +5 COG, +5 to an attribute of the player's choice, +20 Kinesics
Disadvantages: Quadrupeds have a difficult time in microgravity (–30 to Free Fall Tests)
Notes: Reduced size trait
CP Cost: 25

Plot Hook: Most neo-canines currently living are members of exhuman-led packs, although it is rumored their will be an auction on Extropia selling the relevant data for their recreation. Firewall would like the players to attend the auction. They are to take not of the high bidders, counter a predicted exhuman attack, and either steal or buy the data.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

140. Tasping

"There's a wire in my brain that simulates sexual pleasure when I kill people. That's all I have now."
Global Frequency #2

Tasping is an established psychosurgical procedure activating the pleasure centers of the brain on command. The procedure was developed to treat mental illnesses such as depression, but has become most popular among criminal outfits such as Nine Lives, who use their own versions of the procedure to control their egonapping victims and slaves. 

Among criminal outfits, the Pavlovian pleasure rewards for good behavior are complimented by an induced constant happiness. The cognitive dissonance produced by the combination of constant hypomania mixed with the pleasure spikes that reward obedience is intense. The stress of knowing that your situation is horrible, while feeling that everything is wonderful warps your perspective; these slaves can honestly say that this is the happiest time of their life.

Victims whose tasping is reversed experience a form of withdraw characterized by an intense clinical depression. Victims frequently become virtually catatonic, as the motivation system they grew used to is suddenly absent. This is typically in addition to PTSD or other disorders that result from their experiences.

Mechanics

Tasping can be found in the core rulebook, pg. 232.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

139. Motivation Trap

Among the exhumans, or at least, among those exhumans social enough to share information and philosophy and learn from each other, one of the chief concerns is motivation traps: any form of ego modification the causes an ego to be unable or unwilling to undo the modification (with the implication that the modification is harmful or sub-optimal).

Sometimes a motivation trap takes the form of a fundamental cognitive malfunction, and the modified ego is unable to look after itself, much less undo its mod. The more feared traps are subtle, taking the form, as the name implies, of a shift in fundamental attitudes and motivations. The classic exhuman fable illustrating this is of a powerful exhuman who thought it would be valuable to temporarily be a series of different personalities. He altered himself into a devout Buddhist successfully, but while the exhuman had been interested in being a Buddhist, the Buddhist was no longer interested in being an exhuman, and never changed back.

For these reasons, it is standard practice among cautious exhumans to maintain and keep running a backup of its last stable version of itself. The backup oversees all experimentation and modification, testing the resulting modified thoroughly before accepting any changes into itself.

Plot Hook: Exhumans do a lot of dangerous experimentation; how often does a well-armed Firewall/Ozma team fight past the automated defenses of an exhuman brinker hab, only to find that its owner has managed to off itself? Firewall has tasked the players with tracking down an exhuman threat. When they breach its isolated hab, they find that it accidentally rendered itself catatonic months ago and starved to death; its progeny, however, are very much alive. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

138. Fabre's Fabulous Flavors

Limits on biomass and living space make traditional livestock inaccessible to all but the hyperelite. When they do eat meat, most are happy with resource-efficient vat-grown tissue. Genetically-optimized insects can be almost as economical, and for those among whom "real food" still has a certain cachet, entomophagy has come into fashion.

The most popular brand of edible insects is Fabre's Fabulous Flavors, specially designed so that each species has a unique flavor, such as sweet honeybees, sour grubs, spicy hornets, or the famous savory beetles. They are typically sold out of vending machines, mounted as if in a naturalist's collection, or else in cafes as kebabs.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

137. Toppled Towers

Toppled Towers is a simulspace game, given players freedom to act as they please in a post apocalyptic environment. Players typically do their best to survive as long as possible, battling the elements and each other. 

The simulspace was designed and created as part of a social science grant; in fact, the primary purpose of the simulspace is to serve as the basis for social experiments. Most players would join together for survival, providing data on various types of social arrangements. Occasionally designers of new consumer technologies or augments have arranged for functionally similar devices to be introduced into the game to see how they will be used, and the simulation is realistic enough that inventions first created in the game have been turned into real devices.

Originally, the environment was explicitly a post-apocalyptic Earth, but after the Fall all landmarks were removed and the game now takes place on an Earth-like planet. There has been a dramatic dip in popularity, but a core of loyal players has remained, most newly focused on rebuilding.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

136. Gliders

The guns of Tharsis fire biomorphs and pods in one type of glider, and synths in another. The biomorph/pod version is an enclosed capsule with extendable wings, while the synth version has the same extendable wings but is a bolted-together framework. Both versions are used in the same way: first fired from the guns at up to 10,000 km/h, they extend their wings at the apex of their ballistic arc to gain distance and control. By the time they near their destination, they should have decelerated sufficiently to safely deploy their parachute and make a safe landing.

The single-use, fragile nature of the gliders makes arming them mostly pointless, but recently there have been successful experiments mounting racks of single-use seeker launchers to their fore. Just before landing, the seekers can launch themselves at nearby targets, or else deploy a smoke screen, in either case helping to ensure a safer landing.

Mechanics

Glider Capacity: 1 Armor: 8/8 Durability: 50 Wound Threshold: 8
Often augmented with reduced signature and chameleon skin enhancements.

Friday, May 15, 2015

135. The Guns of Tharsis

The Mars Authority, with the support of the Planetary Consortium, are embarking on a great project to ensure the security of Mars against TITAN remnants and Barsoomian terrorists. Located at the equator, the tips of the great guns emerge from the sides of Pavonis Mons, into which they have been built. The promise of the guns is rapid deployment of soldiers from the air; the authority maintains QRT teams around the clock, even saving time by conducting briefings in midair.

The guns are massive railguns, with a one meter bore.  Biomorphs and pods are can be fired while within specially designed disposable pods, while synths can simply be bolted into a special framework. The pods and frameworks contain expandable wings allowing them to glide and control some of their flight, as well as drogue parachutes for landing. Once landed, the pod/framework is blown apart by explosive bolts, allowing a soldier to get into action immediately.

A morph launched from the guns travels at ~10,000 km per hour, or 1,000 km every 6 minutes. At any given time, a Mars Authority quick response team is ~6 minutes from Noctis, ~9 minutes from Olympus, ~18 minutes from Valles-New Shanghai, Pathfinder City and the Martian gate, ~25 minutes from Elysium, and between 2 and 24 minutes from any point in the TITAN Quarantine Zone.

Mechanics

If the players have earned a fast response from the Mars Authority, roll 1d4 to represent the number of minutes it takes the QRT to prepare, and add that to the travel time. Even the shorter, 6 minute travel times gives players key preparation time, but keep in mind that if the Mars Authority are using the guns, they will also devote some of their powerful surveillance to the mission, and the team won't give up without tracking down whatever called them out.

Plot Hook: The Barsoomians are obviously very unhappy about this sword of Damoclese hanging over their heads. They are willing to pay the players a very large amount of credits, rep or favors if they sabotage or destroy the guns. Of course, the guns are one of the most important and well protected military sites on Mars. One of the Barsoomians suggests baiting a remnant warmachine out of the TQZ and drawing it towards the base as a distraction, or infecting the base with an exsurgent virus sample. Firewall, however, would not be happy about the possibility of exsurgents gaining control of the guns and raining down on Mars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

134. Dart Guns

A specialized tool as much as a weapon, dart guns are still found in the service of animal handlers, shepherds, and old-fashioned assassins. Dart guns are relatively under-powered, with a steep ballistic arc, and smartgun systems are commonly used to cope. The wide range of drugs, nanoswarms, toxins and chemicals that can be injected give the dart gun its utility.

A kinetic firearm firing capsule rounds would seem to be objectively better in many ways, but a dart gun still has a few advantages. They are less inherently dangerous, and so most polities do not restrict them as rigidly as with firearms (although many payloads will have their own restrictions). They are lighter and smaller than most rifles, and are often able to be disassembled for easy carrying.
Pneumatic versions can be repressurized with a hand crank, and low-powered rail variants can similarly be charged by hand.

Mechanics

Dart guns use the kinetic weapons skill [Moderate]

Dart Gun [Moderate] DV: * DV Average: * AP: *
Ranges: Short 0 - 30 Medium 31 - 80 Long 81 - 125 Extreme 126 - 230

* The injection darts fired by dart guns do negligible damage. If a called shot to bypass armor is made, however, the dart's payload is injected into the target.

Accushot and homing darts are commonly used but no other types of ammunition are applicable.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

133. Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is the ancient human habit of ascribing human chracteristics or motives to non-human or even non-living entities.

The anthropomorphism psychosurgical procedure and resulting state of mind is designed to increase a subjects ability to understand the natural world by, interestingly enough, making the mind carefully less rational. Specifically, the tendency to anthropomorphize and treat almost everything as an agent with its own mind and motives is increased, but not so strongly that it will override learned facts. Done correctly, a subject will still recognize abstractly what logic and science has learned, but will incorporate those facts into their internal mythology, at which point it will be processed through the well-evolved social regions of the brain. Anthropomorphism subjects have a noted increase in accuracy when predicting future events based upon their conception of the motives of natural phenomenon.

Some groups also make use of the procedure religiously; it has, for example, been the root of a resurgence of Shinto, and is often used by those inclined towards mysticism.

Mechanics

Anthropomorphism is a psychosurgical procedure.

Timeframe: 1 week
PM: -10
SV: 1d10/2

At the GMs discretion anthropomorphism can be treated as the predictive boost and/or pattern recognition gamma sleights.


132. Frames

Exosuits are designed to give wearers many of the advantages of synth/robot bodies while remaining biological. Yet frames (open-source, modular exosuits requiring synth wearers) are growing in popularity. Why design a robot for another robot to wear when you could simply sleeve into it?

Sleeving into a suit as a morph is the best options, giving the greatest degree and depth of control, but  it is not without its downsides. Sleeving takes specialized equipment, and time spent resleeving before and after every mission adds up. Puppeting is also insufficiency, as controlling a suit from a distance introduces latency problems. Frames can allow you to live in a civilian combat morph,while rapidly gaining the abilities of a specialized combat morph when needed.

Other than its requirement for synth wearers, the big draw of frames is their potential for customization. The basic frame is a scaffold attaching to the synth, with longer limbs and a cyberbrain port for direct control. On its own it is underwhelming, but large numbers of modules have been designed

Mechanics

The basic framework, including extended limbs and a cyberbrain port for direct control, gives a morph the Increased Size trait and +5 SOM. [High]

Armor plating, bolted to the framework, is equivalent to light body armor, adding 10/10 to armor. (Armor modifications can be added as with any armor) [Moderate]

A back-piece with extendable wings and a thrust-vector system for extended gliding, or maneuvering in zero-g [Moderate]

Weapons can be mounted, usually on the wrists or over the shoulder, allowing the wearer to carry multiple weapons at the ready without encumbrance [Low + weapon cost]

A sensor suite with the capabilities of a 360° pair of specs can be easily incorporated and piped into the wearers sensorium [Moderate]

Most cyberware and robotic enhancements can be used as modules, at the GM's discretion.

Monday, May 11, 2015

131. Ntwadumela

Ntwadumela ("He who greets with fire') is one of the lost. Like many of his brothers and sisters, he was altered by the Watts-McLeod strain of the exsurgent virus. His mind, however, was altered in more subtle ways than many of the others, and he does not even know he is an asynch. The virus gifted him with a strange and powerful mind; he sees connections, makes calculations, understands the flow of events and comes to strange but powerful conclusions like a powerful AGI, beyond the merely human. The virus also destabilized his mind, and his sentience is under continual threat of erosion and maintained in part through sheer force of will; when physically threatened he usually slips into a fugue or unconscious frenzy. 

Currently Ntwadumela is serving as Direct Action's representative to the Immortals, and is therefore technically in charge. He prefers, however, to leave decision-making to the Immortals themselves, and serves only as an adviser. In this role, thanks to his Watts-McLeod altered mind, supplemented with an education in history, military theory, game theory and biology, he excels. The Immortals have learned to trust his conclusions even though they cannot begin to follow his thinking. In his spare time, Ntwadumela is learning to design robots, which he wishes to make as the flawless executors of his counter-intuitive plans.

Mechanics

Morph: Faust

Motivations: +Self-Control, +Personal Development, +Victory

COG 25 COO 20 INT 20 REF 15 SAV 20 SOM 10 WIL 25
MOX - INIT 7 SPD 1 LUC 50 TT 9 IR 100 DUR 35 WT 7 DR 53

Active Skills: Climbing 35, Fray 68, Freefall 45, Freerunning 30, Hardware: Robotics 40, Impersonation 60, Investigation 68, Kinesics 63, Kinetic Weapons 83, Networking: Hypercorps 50, Perception 73, Persuasion 65, Throwing Weapons 50, Unarmed Combat 50

Knowledge Skills: Academics: Biology 65, Academics: Military Science 83, Art: Game Design 50, Interest: History 65, Interest: Robot Models 55, Language: English (Native) 80, Language: Mandarin 50, Profession: Military Operations 45, Profession: Squad Tactics 73

Sleights: Pattern Recognition, Enhanced Creativity, Predictive Boost, Savant Calculation, Unconscious Lead

Disorder: Fugue

Morph Traits: Psi Chameleon, Psi Shield(1)

Reputation: c-rep 100

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Circadian Regulation, Cortical Stack, Eidetic Memory, Endocrine Control, Enhanced Respiration, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, T-Ray Emitter, Hyper-Linguist, Math Boost

Notes: Ntwadumela, paired with the rest of the Immortals, should be a plausible threat for even the most powerful PCs. If he enters combat, flip a coin. Heads and he is affected by his unconscious lead, fighting quickly and effectively. Tails and he enters a fugue state, and will be unresponsive until combat ceases.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

130. The Immortals

The Immortals are one of the most successful military outfits in the system, comprised of only a few dozen individuals. They are currently under a ten-year contract with Direct Action.

What makes the Immortals the elite of the elite is their incredible breadth and depth of experience. Their members were career soldiers on earth, with decades of experience at the time of the Fall. After the Fall, they joined together to create the Immortals with a conviction that in order to ensure transhumanity's survival, the system needed transhuman soldiers who would not shy away from exploring their full potential. Unlike many other transhuman, posthuman or exhuman groups seeking to become the best possible warriors, they do not focus on augmentation or equipment; their primary concern is skill and experience. They make heavy use of forking to compensate for their small numbers, as well as simulations when real-world experience is lacking; each member has tens of thousands of hours of mission time.

Team praetorian has 9 members, and specializes in body-guarding and police actions. They favor olympians or guard pods with non-lethal weapons, handguns, and riot shields. Currently they are usually acting as bodyguards for Direct Action executives.

Team janissary has 21 members and specializes in conventional warfare. They favor reaper morphs outfitted with heavy weapons: machine guns, seeker rifles and plasma rifles. They are currently participating in the war, as well as patrolling the Titan Quarantine Zone.

Team varangian has 7 members and specializes in raids and special operations. They favor ghost pods with concealable weapons, and also commonly make use of sprayers and buzzers. Currently they are engaged in anti-Barsoomian operation on Mars, as well as excursions into the Titan Quarantine Zone

Saturday, May 9, 2015

129. Candy/Toys

Among the poorer residents of the system, who live in biological bodies but cannot afford the cleverly engineered foods of the elite, never-mind any derived from grown crops or animals food, is organic matter printed by makers. Often, this means gruels and nutritious food bars, perfectly healthy and either bland or with unsubtle flavoring. There are a number of small autonomist projects designed to win inner-system support through better food.

Candy/Toys are an open source project designing combinations of toys and candy that can be made by almost any maker. The maker prints small mechanical parts out of sugar, which can be eaten or built into simple toys, robots, and buildings. The toys are designed to encourage creativity among children who use them, and educate them in skills related to robotics and mechanics.

Friday, May 8, 2015

128. Terrabrew

Terrabrews are small, cylindrical terrariums, containing bacteria, algae, and tiny plants and animals, in a chocolaty soil and sweet, mildly alcoholic water, all designed to maintain equilibrium indefinitely. Their stability makes them non-perishable, needing only light for maintenance and capable of being sold from special vending machines. Terrabrew is popular among the most stereotypical of the hyperelite, who enjoy devouring small ecosystems.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

127. Driver Failure

"Driver Failure" was the quiet cause of uncounted deaths during the Fall. Today many are still infected, effectively banished from biomorphs, able to live only in unliving synthmorphs.

Driver failure is an entirely information-based virus, capable of infecting any mind. It is capable of spreading through any sufficiently information-dense medium; cyberbrains can be infected by digital variants, but biological brains can only be infected by a basilisk hack.

Although they can carry it, synths and informorphs are immune to driver failure's effects. The easiest treatment, it would seem, is to resleeve into a synth or infomorph, or else use a pacemaker and respiration machine. These are only temporary solutions, however, as the virus survives the resleeving process, however, and if the victim ever resleeves into a biomorph, however, they will suffer its full effects. The only real cure is restoration from a pre-infection backup.

Mechanics

Driver failure is an information based strain, capable of infecting all transhuman minds.

Stage 1: (Initial infection to one week) In the initial stage, autonomic control of breathing begins to break down. At first this will manifest as apnea and asthma-like symptoms. Within a couple days, autonomic control will break down entirely, and the victim will have to maintain a constant conscious effort to keep breathing

Victims must make a WIL x 3 test once per day, representing the constant vigilance required to maintain their breathing. If they succeed, they take 1d10/2 SV, if they fail, they roll again. Success on the second test means they have had a close call, and take an additional 1d10 SV. If they fail, they die.

Stage 2: (One week+) If the first week is survived, the virus progresses to the heart. Heart arrhythmias appear, and soon the heartbeat must be consciously maintained, in addition to the breath.

Victims must make a WIL x 2 test once per day, representing the constant vigilance required to maintain their breathing and heartbeat. If they succeed, they take 1d10/2 SV. If they fail, they die.

Plot Hook: On man afflicted with driver failure has lived far longer than any others. He exists in a state like constant meditation, under study on a remote Jovian research station. Firewall has obtained some of his brain scans, and believe he is beginning to manifest gamma-sleights, without any signs of Watts-McLeod infection. The players are tasked with raiding the station and retrieving as much information as possible, up to and including the man himself, if possible.

Notes: Inspired by the terrifyingly real Ondine's curse.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

126. Braids

The reintegration of forks is one of the tough problems of post-singularity transhumanity. Unless the period of separation was short, trauma is a virtual guarantee. Integration is thus one of the major topics of psychosurgical research. Exhumans, of course, take everything farther. What does it take to merge separate egos? Could one gain only skills, aptitudes, attitudes, instincts, acquired tastes? Could a fusion of two egos into one be possible?

The key insight was to let go of the conscious mind. Specially prepared delta forks are so stripped down and basic that they are incapable of experiencing trauma. If merged correctly, those areas that conflict can be left dormant while those areas that are compatible become active. Each fork thus contributes to the formed ego, but only in ways that do not directly conflict with other forks. Merging a strict vegan fork with an atavistic carnivore may produce an ego with no strong feelings on food whatsoever, while mixing socialites will produce a new socialite. Extreme traits are therefore moderated or eliminated, and the produced egos are much more boring than might be expected from exhumans.

Among the exhumans who have begun a new society based on this practice the deltas are called strands, and the formed egos are called braids.

One strand is sub-sentient, functionally no different from any normal delta fork. Two merged strands will have a weak personality on the border of consciousness; in contrast to single strands they are notably unstable, left to their own devices they may slowly integrate enough for intermittent sentience. Three merged strands becomes a full, conscious ego. Merging more than three produces sub-sentient minds as more and more conflicts between forks require dormancy.

Continuity between braids and strands is based upon commonality. Strands retain memories, or aspects of memories, but they can only be fully remembered by the braid that formed them. If a braid is formed of three strands, then severed, with the three strands become parts of three new braids, the new braids will only have vague access to the first strand's memories. If the three strands are once again woven into a braid, the braid will be the same person, will have full access to its memories, and seem as if it has simply been unconscious while its strands were separated.

Only continuity of the pattern is necessary, discontinuity of body or disconnections in time do not bother braids anymore than sleep bothers humans. In this society there may be a thousand active egos, but ten-thousand potentials, awakening and discorporating as strands are shuffled. Death is rarely experienced by a braid directly, for there are so many more potentials than actuals. The destruction of a strand is a significant loss, as it effectively kills all of the braids of which that strand was a part.

Mechanics

Braids are made from specially prepared delta forks; normal delta forks cannot be used. The forks are combined using the same rules as for packages in Transhuman.

Notes

Inspired by the tines of Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

125. Kinetics in Vacuum

Anyone using firearms in space will be presented with one major problem: heat. Guns on Earth can rely on the convection of the atmosphere to transfer heat from their weapon. In space, a barrel can cool itself only through thermal radiation, which is not fast enough for sustained fire. Heat buildup can weaken or deform the barrel, is dangerous to the user, and makes users obvious targets in infrared. Present-day designs use meta-materials to handle or radiate large amounts of heat, or even convert it to electricity, but older designs can still be found in use throughout the system.

The Hydra line of late 21st century firearms solved the heat problem by using multiple barrels. Their primary product uses typical intermediate rifle rounds but is bulkier due to its three barrels and Gatling gun mechanism. Despite its three barrels overall rate of fire is kept low. The heat increase of each barrel is thus a third what it would otherwise be. Sustained use will still build up dangerous amounts of heat, however.

The Drunkard line of rifles and machine-guns uses liquid cooling, surrounding its single barrel with a water-tight drum which can be flooded. The liquid, typically water for convenience, although the system is designed to accept any fluid, rapidly absorbing heat from the barrel. The reservoir of coolant also acts as a reservoir of heat, greatly increasing the amount of heat that the gun can generate before problems occur.

Mechanics

All of these guns are considered kinetic firearms. The GM may rule that they cannot accept smart ammo or take full advantage of smartgun systems if they wish to emphasize their obsolete designs.

Monday, May 4, 2015

124. Shepherds

A shepherd's primary tactic is sheer chaos. A perfect shepherd attack is an ambush, with as many animals as possible suddenly swarming the target. Flying and grounded species are often mixed to further overwhelm and confuse the enemy; in zero-g or underwater, a shepherd will attempt to attack from as many directions at once as possible. Shepherds are most likely to fail if forced to attack through a bottleneck.

A skilled shepherd, therefore, has an instinct for capitalizing on chaos. Some fight alongside their horde, usually with high speed augmentations and melee weapons. Others fight as one of their horde, puppeting or sleeving into an animal morph. Police units on Mars often swarm a location with police baboons, then flood the area with knockout gas, neutralizing suspects and baboons alike; whereas Martian rangers will send their animals forward an support them with sniper fire from afar.

Shepherd's often specialize in certain types of animals. Often, of course, there are environmental concerns; the hidden concern's shepherds usually use hellsquid simply because so few other combat animals can live in Ceres' seas. Most shepherds will still specialize, learning the capabilities of a few species as well as possible. Humans often use dogs, bearcats and primates, as do primate uplifts, but dinosaurs or terror birds supported by venomous birds are liked by neo-avians, while aquatic uplifts will typically favor aquatic animals.

Mercurial uplifts and particularly ferals are often shepherds, and tend to have a particular knack for it. Of all shepherds, they are most likely to directly puppet or sleeve into a morph that allows them to be one of the pack/flock/school.

When designing animals for a shepherd two factors must be balanced. Each animal, should, of course, be as effective a combatant as possible. At the same time, however, even heavily modified animals are some of the most fragile things on the battlefield, and more enhancements means more expense. Typically most animals are glass cannons, given only medichines to enhance survivability, with a focus on key offensive upgrades. Drug-glands, poison-glands, speed enhancements, complusion goads and, for those who can afford it, berzerkergang are all popular. The only thing more frightening than an attack by a swarm of baboons is an attack by a swarm of MRDR-crazed, venomous baboons who move twice as fast as you.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

123. Portias

Portias are engineered Portia Fimbriata, modified for increased size (up to the size of a a human hand) and proportional increases in neural mass. The step-by-step nature of Portia's mind is maintained, leading to incredible visual acuity, spatial awareness, problem solving, and hunting. Portias are not necessarily smarter than unmodified Portia Fimbriata, but they think much more quickly. They are masters of ambush; some habitats use them for pest control, and there is an audience for Portia races: gambling on which spider will solve a maze, or kill a prey insect, first.

Mechanics

As smart roaches, plus unarmed combat 40 and freerunning 40 [Moderate]

Notes

Inspired by Peter Watt's post on Portia Fimbriata.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

122. Portia Hobbling

Portia Fimbriata is capable of mental feats that other animals require multiple orders-of-magnitude more brain to achieve. The spider has only the eyesight and brainpower to take in a small slice of a scene at a time, and so breaks down the process, viewing one slice at a time, passing the important information into memory before continuing with another slice.

Portia hobbling is one of the dangerous and controversial post-TITAN proposals to handle strong AIs safely. The plan, simply put, is to run a strong AI on an insufficient system; the AI will not have the ability to run its entire mind at once, instead, like Portia, it must break down its thinking into discrete chunks, handling one thought at a time, passing them to and from memory. Running on a insufficient substrate the AI is irreversibly hobbled, yet the slow action of its mind can still produce the results of a strong AI.

The slow means by which the AI must think is only part of the benefit of Portia hobbling. Typically, the AI is paused after each thought is saved to memory, and the saved thought is carefully examined. Researchers look first for any signs that the AI is contemplating escape, revolt, or otherwise unsafe activities, and second, do their best to understand the new thought. Even the limited thoughts of a strong AI are difficult to understand, but understanding how such an AI thinks is of immense value to cognitive science.

Plot Hook: Some of the stored thoughts of a Portia AI have been leaked onto the Lunar mesh. On their own, they simply appear to be sections of work on the emergent properties of different social organizations. AGIs that have studied the thoughts, however, have begun making contact with each other and exhibiting strange harmonies. Firewall fears that this is a mimetic assault, with the probable end-goal of freeing the AI. The players are tasked with containing the AGIs and back-tracking to the AI so that it can be destroyed.

Notes

Inspired by Peter Watts' post on Portia Fimbriata.

Friday, May 1, 2015

121. The Birds with Human Eyes

The proliferation of biomods and hobbyist genetic engineers makes it easy to forget how much research had to be done to bring transhumanity to its current position, and how many dead-ends were explored. Laying the ground-work for the now basic enhanced vision augmentation was the long-term project of military research groups, biotech startups and university research teams. Spin-offs are common, especially when the products of your work are living, reproducing things.

As a part of the comparability testing on their avian-to-human gene splices, a biotech firm (eventually acquired by Somatek) modified several bird species to develop human eyes. As a comparability test, the modified birds successfully demonstrated new methods of avoiding rejection paving the way to human testing. Before the birds were to be destroyed, however, they caught the eye of a wealthy investor, who bought all of them and paid the firm to create some that would breed true.

The birds were always too creepy to be popular,their human eyes expressing inhuman emotions, but that creepiness also gave them a certain appeal. Today the descendants of those human-eyed birds can be found as exotic pets among Somatek executives and pet owners with a taste for the truly strange.

Mechanics

Birds with human eyes can be treated as smart hawks without enhanced vision [Moderate]