Tuesday, June 30, 2015

181. Dogbots

Once Fa Jing released their animalware cybersuites, it was only a matter of time before augmentors took things to the natural conclusion and placed their dog's newly cybernetic nervous systems into robotic bodies. Essentially synth morphs for dogs, dogbots have become hugely successful among those looking for guard or combat animals, because their robot bodies can be easily modified. As dogbots have become popular, versions of animalware cybersuites and robot bodies are being developed for all common species.

Common variants include synthetic masked versions, designed to catch their opponents off-guard, heavy versions with better armor, and hellhound versions with flamethrowers in their mouths.

Mechanics

Dogbots are treated as robots physically, and animals mentally. [Expensive]

Movement Rate: 4/40 Max Velocity: 40 Armor: 14/12 Durability: 40 Wound Threshold: 8 Mobility System: Walker

Enhancements: Cybercortex, Cyberclaws, Light Combat Armor, Enhanced Smell

Monday, June 29, 2015

180. Mercurial Perspectives

What was the purpose of the uplifting experiment? To create new minds, non-human minds. But when they succeeded, the panic! Yes we created you different, but we would really prefer if you pretend to be human, please and thank you. If uplifts are only supposed to integrate with human society, what is the point of uplifts?
Rough-Hands, neo-hominid mercurial

Humans require food, water, air, low gravity, a limited range of temperatures, and as little radiation as possible, and even if this is provided who knows when they'll up and die from some disease anyway. Synths require power, and the right model can handle almost any conditions. Off Earth, synths are objectively superior.
Roslai Sova, Steel Liberator

Automomists brag about their post-scarcity societies, where the only limits are materials, energy, and the social-mores of one's neighbors. Unlike anything that has come before! As software we are limited only by computer power, which is as post-scarcity as it gets in this universe.
Hao Ji-Tsia, founding member of Glitch

Lets face it, biology is gross.
Bob Roberts, comedian, synth and AGI-rights activist

Notes

Inspired by Farcast 252: Bioconservative Ethics.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

179. Animalware Cybersuites

Asked about the high costs of animal ownership, most would cite the costs of exowombs, sufficient livable space or specialized food. It is the costs of training that are most often underestimated, requiring either time or the services of a specialist or AI. Fa Jing's new line of animalware cybersuites was designed to meet that need, instead we created a revolution in smart animal design, augmentation and training, bringing animals into the post-singularity age.

An animalware cybersuit replaces the biological brain with a cyberbrain, including an animal oriented ego-bridging service, a cybercortex, and a specially designed skillwire. A cyberbrain allows for easy forking of your good boys, a cybercortex increases intelligence and trainability, and skillware allows instant housebreaking and mastery of basic commands.

Mechanics

Animalware Cybersuites are cyberware (High)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

178. Patches

In imitation of the mission patches worn by their parents and grandparents, some of the upper/middle-class youths of Luna and Mars design their own patches, representing their own accomplishments.A simple graphics design AI can propose a variety of patches for an achievement, and once the user chooses one, smart clothing can weave the patch out of itself.

The general feeling is that only real-world accomplishments count, although some particularly impressive achievements in realistic simulspace games have been accepted. Each patch is unique, but some common themes are winning competitions, successfully breaking the law, or being the first to pull off a particular stunt.

The practice is also catching on among some scum militia groups, although their patches are given more for things like "killed a pirate while on buzz, you shoulda seen it" or "he drank it without even knowing what it was, what an idiot".

Friday, June 26, 2015

177. Storytellers

Most interactive media in the post-Singularity age is intelligent and realistically responsive, either because of the actions of other players (such as in multi-user simulspace games) or because of sophisticated AI (such as in single-player simulspace games). This trend goes farther than traditionally interactive enetertainment, however, and into very old forms.

Partway between a customized choose your own adventure book and a single-player role-playing game, neverending stories (so-called because they are often designed to continue for as long as the user maintains interest) are one of the low-tech presentation high-tech content generation pieces of media taking the market by storm. Entirely text-based, the stories can be run purely on mesh-inserts, not even requiring an ecto. The stories are usually of a single character, whose actions are determined by the user, the effects of which are determined by a specialized storyteller AI.

Storyteller AIs are designed to customize their content based on advice from the user's muse. Degrees of user control, writing style and the themes of the story are all customizable. Storytellers can also be used as educators, weaving lessons into the story according to the wishes of a parent or caretaker, which might encourage anything from problem-solving to adherence to certain ideologies.

Mechanics

Storytellers are AIs [Low]

Notes

Inspired by the primer from Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age

Thursday, June 25, 2015

176. Packnet

Favored by shepherds, packnets are tacnets designed for use by smart animals. Unlike tacnets, a packnet is not just software but must be implanted as special cyberware, acting as mesh inserts and simple brain scanners. In this way the animal does not have to be trained to use a computer interface, instead the packnet reacts directly to its thoughts. A cybercortex is highly recommended if the system is to be used to its fullest potential, and the system also combines well with compulsion goads, allowing single shepherds to control large groups with ease.

The animals are not presented with formal maps, but are given an intuitive knowledge of their surroundings. They do not communicate through language, but instintively understand each others intentions, as well as what the others are sensing and experiencing. The implant will induce fear or caution to steer its charges away from threats, and hunger or rage to entice them against targets.

Mechanics

Packnets are cyberware [High]

Packnets offer the same advantage as tacnets, but designed for use by smart animals. Non-smart animals (traditional breeds) are typically unable to use packnets in any significant way.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

175. Grafted

The Universal Grafting Standard (UGS) is an attempt by Ecologene to standardize compatibility of all engineered tissues. Anything meeting the UGS is guaranteed to be compatible with all other UGS compliant bioware, on every level from blood types to epigenetic relationships. The standard is far from universal, however, as open source groups see it as a way for Ecologene to gain control over the market, and competing hypercorps are in no hurry to build to a competitor's standards. Currently only Ecologene products meet the standard.

The grand promise of UGS is the greatest possible ease of morph design and augmentation. Installation of bioware typically requires for time in a healing vat, surgery, or gene therapy, each of which is either expensive, risky, takes long amounts of time. UGS compliant bioware can be installed through a rapid surgery procedure or accelerated gene therapy. UGS compliant morph designers can simply combine UGS compliant parts for easy customization, allowing medichines or a short soak in a healing vat to fill in the gaps, connecting nerve endings and blood vessels. These cobbled together morphs are called grafted.

Grafted morphs are hardly universally loved. UGS compliance means they are all virtually genetically identical, opening up the possibility of diseases ripping through he population, a specter most transhumans think of as having been left behind a long time ago. Despite being predominately biological, grafted have many of the qualities of pods, depending on basic biomods or medichines to maintain health, and with scar tissue marking the seams between parts.

Mechanics

Grafted are considered pods, although they lack most of the cybernetic interfaces pods require.

Enhancements: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Cyberbrain, Mnemonic Augmentation, Puppet Sock
Aptitude Maximum: 30
Durability: 30
Wound Threshold: 6
Advantages: +5 to one aptitude of the players choice, UGS Compliant*
Disadvantages: Social Stigma (Pod)
CP Cost:5
Credit Cost: Moderate

*Grafted can gain new bioware from Ecologene catalogs, which is 20% more expensive than other brands, but can be installed with nothing more than a first-aid kit and local anesthetic. The morph will integrate the new ware at the speed of a healing vat, or twice as fast if equipped with medichines.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

174. God's Acre

There is life between the stars. Massive beings, devouring comets for material, skimming gas giants for food, and absorbing starlight for energy. Whatever they are, we have never seen a live one. We know they exist only because of the icy dwarf planet called God's Acre, where they crash themselves to die. We call them leviathans.

Their bodies are like bundles of long, winged snakes. Their biochemistry is carbon-based, but based around radiation-proof building blocks. Current suppositions are that they they curl up and tighten themselves into dense spheres in deep space, when nearing stars they unfurl their wings, which photosynthesize and possibly act as solar sails, and when they need to skim from a gas giant they can arrange themselves into an aerodynamic form. From what form of life the leviathans could have evolved from is totally unknown.

Of at least as much interest as their bodies is their brains and minds. The speed of nerve impulses has always been a limit to the practical size of morphs; the larger you are, the longer it takes nerve impulses to travel to and from your brain, and the slower you inevitably become. The current leading hypothesis is that they overcome the latency problem by being able to predict the actions of the other parts of their body, and by predicting the movements of everything they can see, negating most of the need for reflexes. The leviathans have no central brains, but cores of neural tissue similar to spinal columns run through the centers of each of their long limbs, which supports the idea that they can be thought of as a cooperative gestalt as much or more than a unified ego; they can be thought of as an ant colony that happens to occupy one body. Most of their brainpower must be occupied with communication and prediction, and the degree of their intelligence is unknown.

Plot Hook: Argonaut, exhuman and hypercorp research teams have all requested the player's help in retrieving samples from the freshest carcass. Only one of the groups will be able to obtain the key samples, and the teams they don't support will hire NPCs to get them first.

Monday, June 22, 2015

173. Mutamons

Mutamons is a classic collectible card game in which players build monsters by playing cards, then watch their monsters fight in AR. The game was developed in pre-Fall Korea, but the company and all records of copyright were destroyed. The game was rediscovered post-Fall and, released as open-source and substantially remade, became popular as a form of free entertainment. The open-source community greatly expanded the number of cards, and reworked the games AR software, so that every monster created, even if by the same combination of cards, will be unique.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

172. Manoel and His Mother

Manoel and his mother Alexandra live in Hotel California, the asteroid mining outpost turned refugee camp. Members of Brazil's destitute underclass, they escaped Earth through sheer luck, Manoel smuggling himself onto a beanstalk car with his mother stored in a spare hard drive. Manoel was shunted from ship to ship and hab to hab until he was abandoned, as with so many others, at 4113 Calif, recently renamed Hotel California.

With no money or rep, a disembodied mother and an unaugmented morph, Manoel took up the night cartel on an offer: he will be given a room and 100 credits a month, in exchange for which he will become one of the cartel's pharms, growing need biological products with his body. Manoel is now trying to save enough to buy a body for his mother.

Manoel is a picture of misery. Pharm gene-therapies have disrupted his body's systems, covering him in skin tags and peels, to anyone capable of seeing in the appropriate wavelengths it is immediately obvious that he is riddled with teratomas, and a fluid sample would reveal several developing autoimmune disorders. One tube inserted into his side collects the building blocks of MRDR from his modified adrenal gland, one enters his cranium via his nose to collect dopamine, and another hooks into a jury-rigged dialysis machine, sharing his blood with a wet-nanotech fabber. He spends his days unconscious, in and out of fever dreams, or doing simple digital work for extra money over the mesh.

Alexandra has no body, living currently as an informorph with control of an old telepresence medical robot anchored to their room's ceiling. She uses the robot with her basic paramedic training to care for her son, trying to maintain a balance between pharming and her son's health. Like Manoel, she also does digital work when it is available, usually helping teach the asteroid's children, and has a irregular mesh-based social life.

Plot Hook: Although neither of them leave their room, Manoel and Alexandra are keyed in to Hotel California's rumors and gossip through the mesh, and no one would suspect them of informing on their neighbors. In exchange for pharm-tolerant medichines, credits or rep, they may be able to give the players useful information.

Mechanics


Manoel

Morph: Flat

Motivations: +Survival, +Wealth, -Planetary Consortium

COG 10 COO 15 INT 15 REF 15 SAV 10 SOM 25 WIL 25
MOX INIT SPD LUC 40 TT IR 80 DUR 30 WT DR 45

Active Skills: Clubs 55, Deception 35, Fray 45, Infiltration 40, Intimidation 50, Networking: Criminals 50, Palming 35, Pilot: Groundcraft 45, Unarmed Combat 63

Knowledge Skills: Interest: Criminal Groups 50, Interest: Old-Earth Trivia 40, Language: English 55, Language: Portuguese (Native) 85, Profession: Pharmer 50

Reputation: @-rep 10, G-rep 10

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Pharming Mods


Alexandra

Morph: Infomorph

Motivations: +Survival, +Helping Others, -Violence

COG 15 COO 15 INT 15 REF 15 SAV 20 SOM 10 WIL 20
MOX INIT SPD LUC 40 TT IR 80 DUR WT DR 0

Active Skills: Blades 40, Fray 35, Infiltration 45, Medicine: General Practice 45, Medicine: Paramedic 55, Persuasion 60, Pilot: Groundcraft 45, Unarmed Combat 45

Knowledge Skills: Academics: Pre-Fall History 45, Interest: Literature 55, Language: Portuguese (Native) 85, Profession: Instruction 55, Profession: Medical Care 45

Reputation: @-rep 30

Implants: Mnemonic Augmentation

Saturday, June 20, 2015

171. Lyre's Syrinx

Thanks to its uniquely complex syrinx, the lyrebird is capable of mimicking any sound it might hear. A favorite of singers, socialites and con-artists, allowing for beautiful singing far beyond the human range as well as, with practice, imitations of many sounds and other people's voices.

This is not the first option to replace larynx with syrinx, although it is has become easily the most popular, thanks to its versatility. Early experiments with syrinx implants were little more than gimmicks, allowing users to sing like birds but little else. The great advantage of the lyre's syrinx is its versatility, its excellent mimicry allowing for normal human speech as well as most other sounds.

Not surprisingly, the lyre's syrinx is most popular among neo-avians. Militant mercurials often use complex code-song languages to communicate secretly, not unlike binary chatter.

Mechanics

A lyre's syrinx is bioware [Moderate]

A lyre's syrinx gives +20 to impersonation when mimicking another's voice.

Friday, June 19, 2015

170. Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the beholder (usually just called "eye") is a designer drug with a single specific effect: everything the user views becomes indescribably beautiful. From art to litter and even to the horrible aftermath of combat, everything seems absurdly perfect.

It was not long until someone decided to engineer a drug gland and live under eye's effects 24/7. The first known recipient was simulspace artist Excel, who hoped it would inspire his work, but instead, it has become entirely tasteless. What's worse, the drug has proven to be extremely psychologically addictive, as those in withdraw are thrust back into a world that seems filled with ugliness and fall into a depression.

Mechanics

Eye is a drug [Low]

Type: Chem Application: O Duration: 12 hours Addiction Modifier: -30 Addiction Type: Mental

Thursday, June 18, 2015

169. Knockout

Knockout is the sellable name for a designer drug with some unsettling applications. The drug suppresses higher brain functions, turning users into high-functioning zombies.

Freed from the burdens of conscious thought, zombies have rapid reaction times and are powerful in combat. Knockout users are no different, but most polities have shied away from its use as a combat drug, feeling that unconscious soldiers are even less trustworthy than than those filled with adrenaline and amphetamines. It doesn't help that the drug can have strong interactions with other drugs and augmentations; experiments with knockout/MRDR cocktails produced confused berserkers, unsure of what to due but follow the urges of their synthetic bloodlust.

In contrast to its potential as a combat drug, some have been using it as a way to avoid drudgery and routine work. As long as a task does not require much in the way of higher brain functions,a user can dose themselves and come to hours later, with their work completed. Knockout is characterized by a total lack of experience, and so is otherwise unpopular.

Mechanics

Knockout is a nanodrug [Moderate]

Type: Nano Application: Inj, O Duration: 1 day Addiction Modifier: - Addiction Type: Mental

Users are effected as if by the unconscious lead sleight for the drug's duration. They receive (1d10/2) - X SV upon using it, where X equals the number of times the user has previously used the drug.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

168. Training Under the Influence

The transhuman battlefield includes the traumas of battlefields from the earliest civilizations, but also new and strange sources of stress. TITAN weaponry targets the ego almost as often as the body, and soldiers must often use augmentations and combat drugs that create strange states of mind.

A soldier who can field-strip their weapon, run an obstacle course, and relay technical information not only while sober, but while drunk, stoned, hallucinating, numb to the world, or filled with synthetic bloodlust can be trusted to keep their heads while under the strangest and most stressful situations they might encounter in the post-Fall world.

Ultimates will dose initiates with inhibition suppressants in order to gauge their personalities. Scum militia often use drugs for fun, but some have also been experimenting with hallucinogens to teach themselves to ignore their senses when necessary. Direct Action sends recruits through normal training, then runs them through the same drills, but this time while they are nearly out of their minds on combat drugs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

167. Tipsy!

Tipsy! is one of Extropia's most popular game shows, combining intoxication and psychoactive drugs with obstacle courses and contests of skill. The show takes place in simulspace, to minimize insurance premiums, allow the use of inexpensive, open-source narco-algorithms, and design as unrealistic an environment as they like. Contestants might run a freerunning course while on buzz, take part in a combat simulation while on hither and juice, have a dance contest while on MRDR, solve a murder-mystery while on LSD, be quizzed on trivia while on a low dose of schizo, and the perennial favorite, very drunken boxing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

166. Born Again

The born again are a widely distributed religion, loosely christian but with no central doctrine or organization. They are organized around a general faith, but more specifically around a psychosurgical procedure called baptism.

The baptism psychosurgical procedure stimulates religious a constant experience through temporal lobe epilepsy. The born-again are perfectly aware of the neurological basis of their spiritual experiences, but they do not feel that this makes them fake, or more specifically, the distinction does not interest them. According to born-again theology, the important thing is that one has a sincere faith, the baptism procedure only serves to keep one's mind focused on God. They therefore do not use the procedure as part of conversion, faith must come first.

Mechanics

Rebirth is a psychosurgical procedure.

At the GMs discretion it may prevent SV damage.

Timeframe: 1 week
PM: 0
SV: 1d10/2

Sunday, June 14, 2015

165. Tall-Dogs

TITAN bred tall-dogs wander the deserts of Mars, ranging far from the TITAN Quarantine Zone, their ultrasonic howling Physically, tall-dogs resemble the maned wolves of old Earth, walking on stilt-like legs. They also, however, have tooth-less jaws and meter-long, prehensile, blood-sucking tongues.

Tall-dog behavior is defined by their apparent lack of consciousness, with behavioral patterns that remind many of insects or robots, not mammals. They are nonetheless social, although they do not form any permanent or even semi-permanent packs. Tall-dogs maintain contact with each other through through their constant ultrasonic howling, sharing information about themselves and their surroundings. When they are in a secure position they will attempt to breed. They are hermaphroditic, so each member of a pair will impregnate the other, then they separate. Like normal wolves or dogs, they will dig a den to give birth in, although they always give birth to twins. Tall-dog pups grow almost as fast as they can be fed, usually reaching maturity in a month.

They hunt primarily through ambush. If one picks up the scent of prey, it will follow from a distance, staying out of sight and following only through smell, while howling to draw other dogs. Once enough dogs have joined, they rush the target, piercing it with their tongues and killing rapidly through blood-loss.

Sequencing of the tall-dog genome has revealed a disquieting fact: all signs point to the dogs not having been engineered, but that even their most extreme traits were formed through selective breeding.

Mechanics

COG 5 COO 10 INT 10 REF 20 SAV 5 SOM 20 WIL 10
INIT 8 SPD 2 DUR 35 WT 7 DR 53 LUC 20 TT 4 IR 40

Skills: Perception 80, Unarmed Combat 60, Infiltration 60, Fray 60, Freerunning 50
Enhancements: Bioweave (Heavy), Claws, Echolocation, Enhanced Vision, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Smell, Enhanced Respiration, Temperature Tolerance
Sleights: Unconscious Lead (Constant)
Movement Rate: 6/40
Attack: Tongue 1d10 + 2 DV, AP −1
Armor: 3/4

Saturday, June 13, 2015

164. Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt

Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt were married in Berlin, many decades before the Fall. He was a professor of history, she a writer of mildly popular mystery novels. They were upper-class, but never achieved a hyperelite level of income. They invested their money well, however, and transhuman longevity gave them plenty of time to watch compound interest accrue. Even after the chaos and losses of the Fall they are quite wealthy.

They were wealthy enough to buy passage off-world during the Fall, but only for one body. Rather than be separated, they acquired a multiple personalities implant and sleeved into the same body. They originally intended to resleeve into separate bodies once they arrived on Luna, but got used to the arrangement. They had grown quite to know each other quite well over their decades of marriage, and after a decade of living in the same body, have converged so well as to become at times indistinguishable.

Since the Fall, they have dedicated themselves to the reclaimer cause. Mr. Schmidt leads a project keeping the memories of Earth alive by teaching pre-Fall history and consulting on Earth-related media. Mrs. Schmidt writes a popular reclaimer blog, mixing poetic pre-Fall vignettes with calls to action. They are both popular among academic and reclaimer circles.

Mechanics

Morph: Exalt

Motivations: +Stability, +Education, +Reclaiming Earth

COG 25 COO 15 INT 20 REF 15 SAV 20 SOM 10 WIL 20
MOX - INIT 7 SPD 1 LUC 30 TT 6 IR 60 DUR 35 WT 7 DR 53

Active Skills: Beam Weapons 35, Fray 35, Interfacing 83, Kinesics 75, Networking: Ecologists 68, Networking: Hypercorps 73, Persuasion 60, Pilot: Groundcraft 45, Protocol 83, Research 60

Knowledge Skills: Academics: History 70, Academics: Post-Fall History 70, Academics: Pre-Fall History 75, Art: Writing 75, Interest: Blogs 50, Interest: Old-Earth Relics 70, Language: English 60, Language: German (Native) 90, Profession: Instruction: 70

Reputation: c-rep 100

Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Cortical Stack, Clean Metabolism, Enhanced Hearing, Enhanced Vision, Medichines, Multiple Personalities*

*Note that although the multiple personalities trait means there are two egos in one body, I have built them as one ego based upon there convergence and for convenience.

Friday, June 12, 2015

163. Cluster Missiles

In their continued effort to expand the utility of seeker weapons, Ares Munitions has recently put a model of "cluster missile" on the market. The missiles contain other, smaller missiles, ready to burst out and engage separate targets to effectively engage groups or overwhelm point defense. A standard missile can hold two mini or 4 micro seekers, and a mini-missile can hold 2 micro seekers.

Cluster missiles obviously put out more seekers per shot than a single warhead, but the difference is usually not so large as to be worth the increased expense. The primary use of cluster missiles is in increasing range: a standard missile has a maximum range of 10km, a mini of 3km and a micro of 2km, thus a standard missile will often be used to carry clusters to far targets, at which point it breaks apart and the mini or micro seekers attack as usual.

Mechanics

Cluster missiles are [High, plus contained missiles]

Thursday, June 11, 2015

162. Olympus Asylum and Spa

The Olympus Asylum and Spa is the premier Martian location for resleeving, augmentation, and psychosurgery (both therapeutic and elective). Our skilled team of  massage therapists, physical therapists, implant surgeons, geneticists and psychosurgeons are here to give you the best possible augmentation experience.

The building itself is near the top of Olympus' caldera, built through the ridge, with offices, common rooms and surgical suites overlooking the city, and patient rooms overlooking the martian landscape. The facility has heavier security than might be inspected, so as to ensure the privacy of their high-profile guests. Access is only through a purpose-built inclinator/cafe up the side of the caldera, serving no other facility, and the slopes are closely observed.

Plot Hook: One of the players has checked in to receive treatment for their Firewall related stresses, to gain some high quality augmentations, or as the best way to sleeve into an unfamiliar morph.Their treatment goes well, but they notice a wing of the facility that is kept off-limits, and catch hints that it is used for psychosurgical experiments of the sort Firewall would be interested in.

Plot Hook: For two days communication between the facility and the outside world has been cut off, the inclinator has remained at the top, and no one has left. A singularity seeker had payed a hefty bribe to use their facilities for experimental psychosurgury, and Firewall suspects that something has gone terribly wrong.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

161. The Portia Fragments

The great advantage of portia hobbling is that it not only slows AIs, but allows their saves their thoughts to be examined at the leisure of their handlers. The examination of the thoughts of too-powerful AIs allows them to be checked for dangerous intentions, but also allows for the best possible insight into what they think, and just as important, how they think.

The snapshots of portia hobbled minds are both very valuable and very dangerous, and are carefully guarded. Still, the system is full of hacktivists, aggressive exhuman clades, defectors who would want to have something of value to offer their new polity, and careless scavengers who will may recognize something interesting among the wreckage when everything has gone horribly wrong. Portia fragments have become highly sought after by exhumans and singularity seekers, looking to use the knowledge within, and Firewall and Ozma, hoping to contain it.

Mechanics
 
A character attempting to understand a fragment must make a Psychosurgery or relevant knowledge skill check, such as Academics: Cognitive Science, or Profession: Psychiatrist. If they succeed, they understand the thought the fragment expresses, and gain 1d10+1 points in a relevant knowledge skill, usually Academics: Philosophy, Academics: Mathematics, or Academics: Cognitive Science. They also gain SV equal to skill points gained and must make a WILx3 test, gaining an additional 1d10/2 SV if failed.

Notes

The Portia Fragments are intended to take the role of the eldritch tomes from Call of Cthulhu games. They can give players an opportunity to learn What Is Really Going On.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

160. Rage and Terror

In the early phases of the Fall, before anything was known of the TITANs, the world simply seemed to be becoming strange and worse. The planet was already in a state of ecological turmoil, with animals being pushed out of their normal habitations and into contact with humanity. Some actions seemed definitely beyond what could be explained by desperate hunger, increased competition, or diseases such as rabies. Rats occasionally swarmed from drains, attacking even large groups of people, family dogs might suddenly run off in terror, biting at their former friends and never trusting them again, and many people lost their eyes to birds.

The culprits were animal-oriented basilisk hacks, inducing in their victims a frenzy of rage and terror. With simpler effects and operating usually on less complicated brains than those of humans, the hacks were commonly made by basilisk weeds. Apparently there was a hack for each species, and even today it is best not to take animals into TITAN zones.

Notes

Inspired by Arthur Machen's The Terror.

Monday, June 8, 2015

159. Basilisk Weeds

Basilisk weeds appear to have been modified in two ways: they grow quickly and reproduce in great numbers, and they grow in ways that create basilisk hacks. Every aspect of their forms, from the veins in their leaves, the fractal patterns of their branches, the flow of their bark, and even the sound of wind through them, has been engineered to erode human minds. Basilisk hacks are precise things, however, and the basilisk weeds don't always grow in quite the right way to produce their full effect. Often, basilisk weeds simply induce a feeling of vague dread, anxiety or confusion.

The majority of the basilisk weeds were, and perhaps are, on Earth. They would grow in terrible groves the locals learned to avoid, or else those wandering into forests would become confused, disoriented or catatonic, and never come back out.

Mechanics

Whenever a character views a basilisk weed, flip a coin. Heads, the character simply feels a sense of dread, tails they are effected by one of the incapacitating input type basilisk hacks.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

158. Darwin Nosek

Darwin Nosek is a hyperelite scion, bio-artist, small player in Lunar politics, large player on Mercury, Extropian consultant, anarchist firebrand, Buddhist monk, and more; he can be all of these things because he is also the originator of choice forking.

Everyone is faced with important choices, choices of significance that determine the paths of their lives. Nosek hated making difficult choices, especially without knowing quite where each will lead. Instead of simply accepting the way of things, the resources and mindset of a hyperelite scion found him a way to have his cake and eat it too. Instead of limiting himself to one option or another, he forks himself, and follows both options.

One of the earliest and most significant decisions Nosek forked was whether or not to leave Earth for Mars as his family began to acquire assets off-world. His Martian fork lost much of its fortune and began to be influenced by voices hyperelite society normally drowned out. He forked and one traveled to Extropia, where he became a true proponent of anarchism.

The fork left on Earth retained a typical hyperelite lifestyle, forking several choices; the details are largely lost however, as only two offshoots of that fork evacuated. Those forks went to Luna and Mercury. The Lunar fork is perhaps the most unchanged from the original Darwin Nosek, maintaining a vapid hyperelite lifestyle. The Mercurial fork buckled down and found himself rapidly gaining political influence, and is working his way towards a position in the Planetary Consortium proper.

Relations between inner and outer system forks mirror the politics of the system as a whole. Both inner and out forks wonder what choice could possibly have allowed for such naive idealism, both groups are ostensibly peaceable but exploring their options, and both groups tend to mediate their interactions through the extropian, who has become quite wealthy exploiting his disparate connections.

Mechanics

By the nature of their creation, every fork of Nosek is notably different, and each will have different stats. A fork is best created using the character creation packages from Transhuman: each fork has the 3pp Hyperelite: Scion background package, and can be plausibly built in almost any direction from there.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

157. Waldos

Telepresence robots have a long history with transhumanity. Their use has fallen out of favor as the skill and reliability of AIs has grown, but they have never died out. Waldos combine the strengths of both AIs and telepresence, allowing for a smooth mixing of both, a unique strategy that has paid off, and brought waldos to more labs and workshops throughout the system.

Typically waldos are approximately head-sized, resembling four legged spiders/crabs. They have two general purpose arms as well as two slots for specialized tools. Despite their size, they are capable of carrying heavy loads.

The key to the waldoes success is their variable-strength AI, inspired by the semi-autonomy of octopus tentacles. The AI naturally reacts to the degree of effort made by the user: the AI fills in any gaps in user control, but never supersedes the commands of the user. 

If the user desires full control, the AI sidelines itself. If the user is not present at all, the AI runs the robot autonomously. If the user is focusing on observing something, the AI ensures a stable viewing platform. The user might move the waldo by directly controlling its limbs, giving directions to the AI, giving the AI a destination, or any combination of the three. Waldo AIs can also be easily trained to perform repetitive tasks.

A skilled user of waldos acts like the brain of up to a half-dozen extra limbs, and can run a 6-person lab or workshop all by themselves.

Mechanics

Waldos are robots [Moderate]

Movement Rate: 2/8 Max Velocity: 8 Armor: 2/2 Durability: 10 Wound Threshold: 2 
Mobility System: Walker

Enhancements: Access Jacks, Enhanced Vision, Extra Limbs (4), Grip Pads, Utilitool

Waldos are often equipped with mobile labs, disassembly tools, or other specialized tool-sets depending on their task.

Friday, June 5, 2015

156. Limpets

Limpets are some of the least intelligent of the TITAN's machines, with simple, hungry minds, but this has not prevented them from becoming the most deadly. Their combination of ambush, swarming, and nano-scale disassembly has claimed thousands of wanderers since the Fall; in sufficient numbers they can overwhelm even military vehicles.

Limpets are rough bowls approximately 5 - 10 cm in diameter. The interior of the bowl is lined with powerful muscles and a unique, semi-organic form of fractal digits. The exterior is a tough but flexible shell. They do not posses eyes or any other typical sensory organs, but sense t-ray and radar very well.

Limpets attack in groups, although they do not cooperate beyond an instinct to swarm. They will attach themselves to outcrops or bury themselves in the ground, and when a target comes within range, leap dozens of meters at them. If they hit their target, they use the outer ring of their fractal digits to attach themselves, while the inner core begins to disassemble. While attached they look something like the animal from which they get their name.

Mechanics

COG COO 20 INT 5 REF 20 SAV 5 SOM 15 WIL 5
MOX - INIT 7 SPD 1 LUC - TT - IR - DUR 40 WT 8 DR -

Mobility System: Hopper (4/20)

Skills: Fray 50, Freerunning 60, Perception 50

Notes: Armor 12/12, Mobility System Ionic, Radar, T-Ray Emitter, Fractal Digits

An attached limpet does 1d10 DV per minute. They can be pried off with a SOMx3 test, doing 1 DV to the attached victim as the limpet takes tissue with them.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

155. Auto-Bombs

Autonomous explosive vehicles (usually called auto-bombs) are purpose built suicide-bombers, saucer-like drones containing charges equivalent to mini-grenades.

Auto-bombs are often used as screens for other units, engaging an enemy before they have the chance to attack, and quite effectively ruining many ambushes. Unlike missiles, they can remain in flight for extended periods of time, and recharge when necessary, making it possible to have them patrol a perimeter, lay an ambush, or go on search-and-destroy missions. Their more advanced AIs are capable of adhering to complex rules of engagement, from "HEAPs should only target vehicles" to "do not kill or injure anyone not visibly armed".

The ionic propulsion systems of most models are slower than the rockets used by seekers, making them much easier targets for point-defense systems. They are also, however, much less obvious, and stealth variants can bypass defenses that would quickly acquire a bright, loud rocket.

Mechanics

Auto-Bombs are robots [Low plus payload]

Movement Rate: 8/40 Max Velocity: 80 Armor: 2/2 Durability: 25 Wound Threshold: 5         Mobility System: Ionic

Enhancements: 360 Degree Vision, Access Jacks, Enhanced Vision, Radar

A stealth variant adds chameleon coating and signature reduction [Moderate plus payload]

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

154. Smart Seekers

Seekers have many advantages. As homing missiles, they are very accurate, different warheads allow for a great deal of flexibility, they have the longest range of any small-arm, but there is always room for improvement.

Seekers can take best advantage of their range and homing abilities over flat landscapes, but much of transhumanity lives in cluster, beehive and otherwise dense, built-up areas their guidance systems struggle with. Additionally, taking advantage of a seeker's full range often requires spotters,

Smart seekers link the missiles to an AI more powerful than any that could be run on a warhead. The AI can guide the missile through complicated, confined spaces as well as choose and prioritize targets on its own. Smart seeker AIs, however, are too powerful too run on a warhead, and must be run on a launcher-mounted computer. A constant link is required between warhead and AI, something that can be potentially exploited by hackers.

Mechanics

Smart seeker AIs are software [Moderate]

The software adds a +10 modifier to the attack test, but requires a constant connection with the missile, providing an opportunity for hackers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

153. Carcossa

Carcossa is one of the most nefarious, having no immediate effects, capable of spreading undetected through a population before spontaneously turning the community into a cult.

Each victim of the strain (usually called dreamers) halts their usual dream activity and begins to dream only one dream, the same every night. Dreamers are typically dissatisfied with their attempts to describe their dreams to others, feeling that key details, moods, and inferred contexts are lost. Of course, people have the problems describing their normal dreams to others, so perhaps this is normal, and the dreams are not so alien after all.

When dreamers meet, they inevitably wish to discuss their dreams, and will sometimes find that their dreams are linked, and that they dream to perspectives of the same scene. Dreamers who have successfully linked dreams begin to hold the conviction that their dreams are fragments of the true world, and that this world is the dream. Compilations of dreams suggest a narrative of an immortal society, fallen past decadence but unable to die. Each dreamer dreams one of the days of the lives of its residents, enacting pointless politics and ritualized betrayals.

The strain is memetic, but how it is spread is an unsolved problem, a fact that causes Firewall no end of worry.

Mechanics

The dream is a memetic strain, spread by basilisk hacks, infecting all humans.

Stage 1: (Initial infection to one month) During this stage the strain is dormant. It can only be detected and treated through psychosurgy.

No effects during this stage.

Stage 2: (One month+) At this stage the dreamer begins to dream their dream. They dream the same dream every night, and will dream no other dreams. The victim is not otherwise effected, and carry out their daily lives as normal.

Victims take 1 SV per day during this stage.

Stage 3: (Upon linking dreams) It is if the dreamer is introduced to other dreamers that the strain enters its most active phase. Dreamers will often find that their dreams are linked; that another dreamer is dreaming the perspective of one of the characters in their own dreams. Linked dreamers will seek others and often form the nucleus of a cult of linked dreamers. Dreamer cults seed their locations with camouflaged basilisk hacks, the only way the strain is spread.

Victims take 1d10/2 SV per day, gaining disorders that parallel the personalities of the character they dream.

Monday, June 1, 2015

152. Reflexive Seeker Point Defense

Reflexive seeker point defense systems (RSPD) counter one of the most prolific and dangerous weapon systems in the post-Fall era: seekers. The system fights fire with fire by intercepting incoming seekers with micro-seekers of its own, loaded with HE to cause the destruction or premature detonation of the incoming warhead.

The launcher is typically mounted on one of the shoulders, with one set of sensors mounted on the launcher, and the other on the opposite shoulder in order to ensure 360° coverage. When an incoming seeker is detected, the micro-seekers pop forwards, adjusting themselves with internal gyros, then rocket towards their target. Note that the system has a tendency to produce collateral damage if the intercepted warhead is explosive.

Mechanics

RSPDs can be installed as an armor or robotic enhancement [Moderate]

The system uses an AI with Seeker Weapons 40, on a successful roll, the incoming missile has been intercepted. The detonation of intercepted warheads can cause collateral damage at the GM's discretion.