APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 2 January, 1999


Cyber Gear

Janne Kemppi

Heavy Gear and Jovian Chronicles role playing games are science fiction games that gather their background from semi-realistic backgrounds and more than fair dose of influence from Japanese animation. Both games employ flexible Silhuette game engine that allows changing and tailoring system to gaming ideas not officially supported by Dream Pod 9. Good examples of these include Pulp/World War II setting of Gear Krieg or Silhuette Cyberpunk campaign by Pierre Bourque or AURA system intended to simulate various Anime settings from fantasy to science fiction.

Different game systems offer cybernetics with various advantages and disadvantages. Usually games use loss of humanity and a chance of violent mental sicknesses as limiting factors. Heavy Gear or Jovian Chronicles rulebooks do not limit amount and use of cybernetics in this way trusting game master to handle appropriate advantages and limitations from cybernetic use (see 1st Edition Technical Manual).

Following rules intend to describe basics cybernetics, their use in Heavy Gear setting and possible mental limitations of their use. They are heavily influenced by "Psybernetics" rules found in "Grimm's Cybertales" by Ianus Games.

Bio-Electronics of 62nd Century

"Bioengineered gangsters. Information terrorists. Cyborg outlaws. Everything so congested with high-tech overload that he was feeling a little numb." Nemesis

Various cybernetic prosthetics were invented, built and marketed for general consumption already in late 20th century. Such devices included hearing aids, pace makers and other artificial parts. However, necessary advances in electronics and medical procedures were not truly perfected until middle 21st Century when one could reliably connect artificial eye or a hand to replace severed or lost body part.

No research & development money is ever spent without a reason. In the cybernetic research the obvious goal was doing immense amounts of money in health care related businesses. The fierce competition for this vast chunk of money ensured rapid technological advancement in all related fields. Soon a new trend emerged from human spare part studies to comply with wishes of new money sources.

New studies were experimented on concepts of not just repairing but instead improving existing traits and even augmenting humans to have new traits. Huge amounts of resources and work were put to these efforts while moralistic concerns seemed to be distant third after almighty money and pride of achieving new technological horrors. These new concepts could be divided roughly into two goals.

First was to create some kind of "Homo Sapiens Superior" of which was to be much better than original. These systems lead into replacing even properly functioning body parts with cybernetic parts with boosted abilities such as infrared vision for example. Ultimately this lead into just putting the brains of subject into a whole body cybernetic prostrate.

Second goal was to create "Man Plus" of where the goal was to achieve a person who could survive in hostile situation or environment without bulky equipment. These studies aimed usually more narrowly defined circumstances such as towards making person capable of surviving under water.

While both goals proved to be able to push the envelope in cybernetic studies their actual impact in whole of society was decidedly small, as only a miniscule part of population would have motivation, resources or licenses to acquire such capabilities. In narrowly defined windows such advanced cybernetics were used, such as in defense, security or exploration situations.

Despite successes of cybernetics they suffered from several handicaps. First they were just electronic and mechanic devices. Thus they were always less reliable than biological parts they were supposed to replace. This also required maintenance, tuning and checkups, which were cumbersome and inconvenient procedures. Secondly mechanical parts could not be fitted for children who were growing up and needed thus new parts on annual basis. Thus cybernetics was good spares but they were nothing but replacements.

Last but not least there was also problem of public perception towards cybernetic parts. Population as a whole was somewhat suspicious of a technology (or at least some fields in that technology) that promised to turn few people into ubermench and leave others perennially into a state of normal living. Faced with public pressure from citizens the legislative entities and regulatory agencies answered with procedures aimed towards stopping or at least controlling the spreading of most powerful cybernetic prostrates.

The cybernetic craze died a natural death when it was surpassed by new technologies. Biotechnology had been one of those fields of science that had been joked to be industry that had always showed great promises but little to show for their efforts. Biotechnology had been maturing slowly and outside general interest obsessed with cybernetics when it finally proved plentiful of workable applications in later part of 21st century.

Biotechnology killed the bottom of cybernetics industry when cloning technology advanced to allow doing spare parts that would be working perfectly with humans without problems of rejections and maintenance. The financial backbone of cybernetic spare parts was wiped in a decade when biotechnology took over. As these industries were responsible for some 99% of money the cybernetic industry collapsed.

Biotechnology was never a perfect solution. Truly complex problems were never perfected (at least publicly) even in Human Concordat period. Such extreme problems like truly designed human like bioconstructs or perfect night vision remained out of reach of bioengineers. High end of humans boosting and augmentation were still realm of highly specialized cybernetics.

The legislative and regulatory procedures originally designed to prevent misuse of cybernetics were also brought to prevent misuse of biotechnology. Biotechnology was seen to present higher risks and promises for humanity and its use was even more tightly regulated. Despite this numerous attempts were made by various parties to breach these laws and treaties.

Most famous breach of biotechnological regulations happened in 3302. Then so-called Prime Knights appeared. They were final result of extensive nanogenetical experiments done in Kir Arya. They were originally invented to be super soldiers capable of carrying out fighting for island that had too few human soldiers for that work. Although a lot of speculation of origins and makeup of these Prime Knights has been made the knowledge of building these super soldiers was lost when Kir Arya was annihilated in 24th Crusade.

Modern historians believe that Prime knights were first truly successful biotechnological military constructs aimed towards replacing humans in the battlefield. They were not just mass produced but armies of Kir Arya used them to fullest capacity in true military force.

In many ways the Prime Knight program proved to be harbinger of things to come. After defeat of Kir Arya and proof that their knowledge was lost there was another backlash against use of biotechnology and cybernetics in military use to surpass human abilities. Multitude of treaties were signed and then rabidly enforced because of fear that Prime knights would be first step in evolution of supplanting and later surpassing humans with something else. Negative attitude towards radical steps in cybernetics and biotechnology remained in force through following years.

Following the loss of contact with colonies the attitude towards use of cybernetics and biotechnology went different in Earth and Terra Nova. In Terra Nova people at first lost most of their capabilities to do cybernetic and biotechnogical research and even work until their society stabilized long enough to allow resources to be put into such efforts. Thus in Terra Nova the legislative framework happened before the technology allowing very strict adherence to legal principles that followed Human Concordat era laws.

Terra Nova people achieved very little in cutting edge of biotechnology and directed their efforts into studies of local flora and fauna. Although technology to genetic engineering on level although not on scale of Human Concordat still exists its use is extremely tightly regulated. Both cybernetic and biotechnological industries remain viable although their work on humans is one of repair parts and some minor augmenting modifications.

On Earth the decline and fall of Human Concordat and subsequent Third World War had quite opposite effect. During slow decline of Human Concordat its forces suffered from frequent desertion and low morale. Concept of reviving Prime knights were suggested as solution but at first refused and then carried out in secret. Original GREL studies were result of this research but they were still in laboratory stage when Human Concordat finally collapsed and Third World War started.

The cataclysmic war and tremendous bloodletting created need for scientists to do their best to ensure those vital military personnel would not be lost. All morale concerns were cast aside in rabid push for as much military effectiveness as possible. While most work were done naturally enough in fields of equipment, organization and fighting methods as such there were also work to enchant individual soldiers. Numerous studies were conducted for different chemical, cybernetic and biotech solutions. Sooner than later the scientists came across old GREL studies and carried them to logical conclusion in mid 60th century fielding first individual GRELs and later GREL units that proved to be highly successful.

Although biotech solution in form of GRELs is justifiably most famous of New Earth Commonwealth military efforts the use of cybernetics and pharmaceutical chemicals were no less impressive. Practically any and every human in CEF had access to these enhancements and could go into surgery if she so wanted.

All this was done in the name of military efficiency.

Mind Games

"There is an old saying in his business, 'It pays to be more than human.' He wasn't so sure anymore." Nemesis

Although cybernetics seems to be immensely effective in building more power and survivability into a person there remains serious problems. One of these is that in a society where most people are still relatively norm, the people who augment and boost themselves are seen by society as outsiders. This situation is not helped at all by the fact that such people usually consider themselves different from (and at times cut above rest of) society as whole.

The effects of wearing enhancements could be roughly divided into four sections: alienation, egoism, obsession and paranoia.

Alienation describes character's perception of interest (value) of society around her. People who suffer from problems in this area tend to aloof and socially incapable of dealing with other people. They tend to isolate themselves from society (thus reinforcing their feeling of alienation). At extreme situation character might try to push reality completely away and live inside a world of her very own imagination.

Egoism describes character's perception of his personal value and abilities. These kinds of feelings come of real or perceived superiority that character thinks she has over her fellow people. These kinds of feelings often lead into arrogance and at worst to extremely narcissi behavior. Needless to say, the people around character do not like to be around.

Obsession describes character's perception of value she has towards her new enhancements. People with these kinds of problems like to toy around with their enhancements. This could turn into similar addiction as with use of narcotics with similar problems to character trying to live with the society where this kind of behavior is usually seen as "show off". In addition the time spent on enhancements is away from other things which could lead into further problems (like loss of work or friends).

Paranoia is finally character's perception of value society has towards enchanted self. This usually comes from fear of becoming normal person if her enhancements are taken away. This could turn from carefulness into a full paranoia where character believes whole world is against her. In milder states of paranoia characters often develop quirks against perceived enemies or can have moments of extreme anxiety. People around character, which leads into character believing that everyone around her is part of the plot, often ridicule paranoia. At worst she can try to kill them before they kill her.

Although all these problems are possible they depend on what kind of enhancements characters are using as well as characters own psychic balance and how she can live with the world. To put it shortly, the saner and happier the person is, the less there are bound to be problems with use of these enhancements.

Rules Book

(Alex Rain looks at his arm that has been hit a moment earlier)
"Shit, another 5%" Nemesis

Mental problems character might be facing from using different kinds of enhancements depends heavily on characters PSY attribute as well as Humanity Cost (HC) of enhancements.

The HC varies naturally from different enhancement and should be decided beforehand. Following guidelines might be useful for GM to help her to evaluate problems certain cybernetics has for one's mental health.

Cyberpunk (by L.Talsorian Games):
Each point lost on Humanity Cost in Cyberpunk equals one point lost HC in these rules.

Shadowrun (by FASA Corp):
Each point of Essence cost equals 10 to 20 HC points in these rules.

Furthermore character gets following "free" points for theirs HC score based on Characters Psyche:

PSY HC modifier
+3 30
+2 20
+1 10
0 no points
-1 -10
-2 -20
-3 -30

Two examples:

Liselotte has PSY +2 and thus she can take cybernetics with HC of 20 points before having to consult possible mental problems.

Josephine has PSY -1 and thus she has to pay for FIRST cybernetic part its ordinary HC cost PLUS extra 10 points. She doesn't need to pay it for any subsequent installed cybernetic prosthetic.

When character buys cybernetics or biotech that has humanity cost installed the player should decide how the equipment would affect one's view on four sectors: alienation, egoism, obsession and paranoia.


HC Effect

Character is in her own world but so are most role players are too.


Character is absent-minded.

Her memory becomes blurred and she rarely remembers things that concern other matters than her areas of self-interested. She has -1 t all memory checks and -1 to all actions in areas other than areas interesting to character.


Character is eccentric.

She develops some quirk that separates her from common people. For example she may collect things, talk to herself. This should be noticeable and connected to her enhancements.


Character has delusions.

She has delusions about the reality around her. These delusions are connected to enhancements. For example someone with lots of cybernetic prosthetics may start to think she is a robot.


Character has hallucinations.

She starts to see things, especially in stressful times. These hallucinations should be linked to characters past and preferably when she has used or subjected to enhancements.


Character is schizophrenic.

She enters a final stage where she has her own reality that is quite apart from rest of us. At this point the she must roll a PSY roll at -2 to do anything coherent. If she fails she will do something incoherent instead. Fumble could mean she has to do some destructive act.


HC Effect

Character thinks she is cut above the rest of the people, but don't we all?


Character is stubborn.

She is self-involved and does things her way. She is also beginning to think that she is better and stronger and smarter than people around her.


Character is conceited.

She now thinks she is indeed better than the rest are. She becomes vain. She may start to demand her efforts are always rewarded and perhaps start to boost her appearance, equipment etc to match her inherit superiority over others.


Character is egocentric.

She sees things only as far they relate to her. She neglects the needs of others over her own desires. She firmly believes she is better than rest.


Character is narcissistic.

She has become obsessed with her own skills, appearance, comfort etc. Her self-image is exaggerated and he must be hard pressed to do anything for other people.


Character has megalomania.

She has delusions of grandeur. She thinks she is best in her business and practically ignores dangers involved in showing it off. In essence, her ego is buying checks her body cannot cash.


HC Effect

Character likes her enhancements but nothing more than small children over new toys.


Character is distracted.

She likes to play with her enhancements using and toying with them whenever there is free time.


Character is compulsive.

She compulsively plays with her enhancements using and toying with them whenever there is free time. She also suffers -1 to all rolls unless she is concentrating herself onto job.


Character is addict.

She has to play with her enhancements toying with them and using as much time as possible. She also suffers -1 to all rolls unless she is concentrating herself very hard (must succeed on WILL roll) onto job. Her PSY rolls have -1 per six hours not spent playing with her enhancements.


Character is obsessive.

She does play with her enhancements toying with them all the time. She also suffers -2 to all rolls unless she is concentrating herself very hard (must succeed on WILL roll) onto job. Her PSY rolls have -1 per three hours not spent playing with her enhancements.


Character has monomania.

She must play with her enhancements toying with them all the time. She also suffers -3 to all rolls and her PSY rolls have -1 per hour not spent playing with her enhancements. She is essentially a vegetable.


HC Effect

Character is somewhat nervous but nothing serious, yet.


Character is nervous.

She is nervous, unease and generally jumpy a lot.


Character is hypochondriac.

She fears of sickness. This often presents itself as character feeling all kinds of disease symptoms (which may or may not be real). She also takes plenty of precautions against these diseases.


Character has phobia.

She has severe phobia. This should be chosen to reflect characters past or present situation or matter enhancements should protect against (like for example water/diving).


Character is paranoid.

She thinks that people are out to get her and there is conspiracy against her. -1 on PSY rolls.


Character has homicidal mania.

She knows that people are plotting against her and thinks that attack is best defense and tries to hunt down her enemies, real or imagined..

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APAGear II Archives Volume 1, Number 2 January, 1999