While many abilities granted by technology function like regular powers for the most part, aside from having some limitation by dint of being accessed artificially, others work a bit differently. This is primarily due to the form the device which grants a power (or powers) takes. Where particularly complicated technologies are concerned, the following guidelines should help manage them somewhat:
For as long as mankind has existed, it has warred with itself. In order to better defend themselves from the weapons of their many foes, humans have sought to develop effective protection from the injuries they inflict. On the other hand, weapon developers have worked tirelessly to defeat such protection, which has led to an inevitable arms race between arms and armor.
Though its use has waxed and waned over the centuries, armor generally serves to provide some measure of protection from injury, per the body armor power - no matter what form it takes. Where the use of artificial armor becomes a concern of the Technical Reference, however, is when it can provide its wearer abilities in excess of mere armor. This most often occurs when powered armor is involved.
While unpowered armor is dead weight, after a fashion, a powered exoskeleton can usually negate the effects of its own mass on its wearer, at the very least. In fact, such armor often enhances the physical strength of its wearer, if not other conventional statistics as well. Finally, an exoskeleton is an ideal place to mount equipment which effectively provides its wearer additional, special powers.
Powered exoskeletons can have virtually any function integrated into their structure, the only limits being the progression of technology and the budget one has to build them with. Furthermore, as an item external to the body of its operator, a suit of power armor does indeed suffer from the portable limitation, which means that while others can make off with it, the powers it provides benefit from a +1 CS in effectiveness.
When detailing a conventional, unpowered suit of armor or component of such (in the case of partial protection, such as a helmet or breastplate), all one needs to do is describe the actual protection (armor) it provides its user. This most often comes in the form of body armor which benefits the areas covered by the item in question, in addition to any special perks provided by its construction.
The only difference between a full and partial suit of armor is how much of one's body it will cover. While a full suit of armor will provide its wearer protection anywhere on his or her body, partial armor only protects the area it's worn on. This means that, while it doesn't provide overall defense, partial armor can at least offer protection to areas its wearer considers vital.
A suit of power armor can be quantified in game terms with a statistical block that consists primarily of Column Shifts. These shifts define how well the suit can enhance the capabilities of the person within. Of course, a suit of power armor is often built with a specific individual in mind, and those Column Shifts may well have an upper ceiling equal to that person's enhanced scores.
Beneath these Column Shifts and rank ceilings, all of the exoskeleton's additional capabilities will be described. First among these additional notes will be the body armor the suit offers its wearer, of course, followed by whatever else the suit lets its operator do, just like the power roster of a regular character. Since, of course, this is where most of its operator's ascendant abilities will likely come from.
Ideally, armor functions in a transparent fashion. In other words, simply wearing the armor will not interfere with the activities of those who wear it. This is rarely the case with basic armor, however. For one thing, armor is usually bulky, and without powered assistance, it can interfere with actions reliant on either one's Agility (if bulky) or their Strength (if heavy).
If the weight of unsupported armor (and anything else carried) is equal to its wearer's Strength (might) score, it will reduce their placement on the running speed / acceleration table, as determined by their Strength (vigor), by one step. Alternately, if one's armor restricts their motion any, it will inflict a 1 CS penalty on all of the character's Agility FEAT rolls for as long as the armor is worn.
Thus the advantage of power suits. These high tech protective implements are almost invariably designed to eliminate both of these hindrances, though, of course, some examples featuring one (or perhaps even both, in the event of prototypes) happen now and then. On the other hand, even an exoskeleton so limiting to its wearer invariably makes up for this when armed with additional, ascendant functions.
After all, who cares if your armor is heavy it if has jump jets?
On top of protection from injury, these additional goodies are what prompts so many to wear enhanced suits of armor. These functions operate for the wearer just like the inherent abilities of a posthuman being - in other words, they suffer no initiative penalties, and as many systems can be operable as is desired, power permitting. Of course, such constraints can make for great limitations, if desired!
When a character wears a powered exoskeleton in combat, it will invariably find itself subject to assault. As a protective suit of armor, such an exoskeleton can easily deny an amount of damage equal to or less than its listed rating of defense. Aside from some sort of cosmetic damage, or a possible Slam or Stun result inflicted upon its pilot, that's all it will suffer.
When exposed to damage greater than its listed armor rating, however, a suit of power armor will need to make a check to see whether or not it suffers more serious harm. An exoskeleton's overall sturdiness can be determined by the use of a Resilience score, which details how durable the suit is, and how well it can perform under fire - or as the case so often tends to be, heavy fire.
Thus, when damage penetrates power armor and affects its operator, roll a Resilience FEAT against the intensity of the damage that actually got through. If this FEAT is successful, the armor will suffer no ill effects, even if its pilot has been injured in the process. A failure of the Resilience FEAT, however, means that one or more of the suit's various systems has been seriously damaged.
If this Resilience FEAT fails by one color step (a green result is rolled when yellow is required, for example), one of the armor's powers will suffer a 1 CS penalty. If it fails by two color steps (say, a white result when yellow is required), 2 CS of the armor's functions are penalized, and if this FEAT fails by three color steps (white results when red are necessary), it suffers 3 CS of penalties to its capability.
Penalties inflicted on an exoskeleton's functions may apply to but one of its powers or several. The system(s) so affected may be chosen randomly, or may depend on whether or not any of the suit's systems are housed in the specific area struck by the incoming assault. The Judge is the final arbiter of where damage penalties are applied, but if an attack location is non-specific, they should apply randomly.
The human race has made use of specialized tools to assist computation for thousands of years. Some of these have no actual moving parts, while others are marvels of mechanical engineering we barely understand, even to this very day. Analog computational implements achieved the zenith of their development and use but a few decades ago, only being replaced due to a confluence of recent scientific developments.
The first of these was the concept of the programmable computer. While cumbersome and intricate, programmable mechanical computers were first built in the nineteenth century, but were a bit too prochronistic for their own good. Nonetheless, knowing a programmable device may be reconfigured to perform virtually any other function that can be expressed in mathematical terms, work continued on this idea.
The second development heralding the end of the analog computer was the invention of the transistor. While early digital computers made use of cumbersome relays and vacuum tubes to perform their calculations, the transistor allowed for more compact, reliable, and efficient devices. Further work on the transistor produced integrated circuitry, which culminated in the creation of the microprocessor.
Innovators rarely allow anything useful to sit in a vacuum, particularly once any applicable patent protections on them run out. Thus, it was only a matter of time before these two scientific advances were combined, giving birth to the so-called Information Age. As computers became more accessible, with increasingly intuitive interfaces, they quickly became more ubiquitous around the world.
With such concentrated, programmable computational power at hand, our world was destined to change forever - and virtually overnight, at that. Capable of running any number of productivity-improving applications, storing vast amounts of data for later retrieval at will, and interconnected to the extent that a body almost anywhere on earth may utilize either trait at will, computers greatly empower mankind.
And this, this is just what the average Dick and Jane on the street has access to right now!
Modern, microprocessor-based digital computers are truly staggering creations of applied science. These devices dramatically enhance the capabilities of humanity, whether or not folks are so jaded by innovation fatigue that these improvements escape notice. But how does one quantify the basic capabilities of the computer? To start with, determine how versatile that enigmatic box really is.
Regardless of its specific instruction set, how fast its clock is, or even how much memory is available to it, all computers basically work the same. Any software application can be compiled to work on just about any hardware configuration, given the desire to do so. These efforts may not be all that practical in some cases, but certain people relish the challenge inherent with this kind of work.
The question of just how many functions a computer can process simultaneously determines its Reason score. Sure, some computers can literally process millions of instructions per second, but how many of those are dedicated to each program it's running? Certain programs are a bit more processor-intensive than others; rendering objects in three dimensions is harder than text editing, after all.
A Reason score of Shift 0 rank represents a digital device that is not programmable, and can only run its built-in software or operating system. Think of accessories like a pocket calculator, or a voltmeter. A Feeble (2) Reason score, on the other hand, showcases a computer that can run one additional program, on top of its operating system, at any given time.
Each subsequent +1 CS increase in a computer's Reason score doubles this sum. Computers with Good (10) Reason, for example, can grind away at eight simultaneous processes. This assumes that each program is only pulling its fair share of processing power, however. Some applications do consume more than one processing 'slot', particularly if they have a specific rank attached to them.
Truly impressive in their capability, even compared to like models introduced just a few years ago, modern computers can perform veritable miracles of number crunching. But how does one enter data for computers to crunch in the first place, much less see the product of their hard work? This is where peripherals come in, objects one can add to a computer to access and improve its basic functionality.
To start with, consider a computer's inputs. These can include anything from a rudimentary tactile interface (keyboard, mouse) to full-on audio-video pickups. Further inputs beyond the conventional, such as motion detectors, are also options depending on a computer's intended function. The amount of such inputs, or sensors if sophisticated enough, determine a computer's Intuition score.
This ability score is calculated in a fashion similar to that of the computer's Reason rank. In other words, every time the number of inputs or sensors attached to a computer is doubled after the first, increase its Intuition score by +1 CS. A computer with only two input devices would have Poor (4) ranked Intuition, for example, while one with sixteen would have an Intuition score of Excellent (20).
Similarly, a computer often has numerous outputs, in order to better share the results of its computations with the outside world. These include a visual display of some sort (LEDs, monitors, heads up displays, or touch screens), probable audio output (an alarm or chime, speakers), and a whole lot more, depending on one's needs, such as a printer.
A special component that serves as both an input and output is a link to other computers or computer networks. This can take the form of a direct port to another computer, a modem which attaches to a computer network, or even a wireless transceiver that needs no physical connection whatsoever. Any computer with a link to its fellows may add a +1 CS to its effective Intuition rank.
No matter how primitive or advanced a computer happens to be, it is only as good as the software installed within. Software is a set of directives, whether baked into the hardware via read only memory (ROM), or malleable in nature due to being loaded in more volatile memory structures. These directives can make use of a computer's entire instruction set, or perhaps just a small portion of it.
Aside from the ground floor software controlling a computer, most applications can be assigned a rank, generally based on how many processing slots they occupy. This is calculated in the same fashion as a computer's Intuition, though the majority of such applications use up only one such slot, meaning that everything from your text editor to your music player to your web browser is of Feeble (2) rank.
Some programs, on the other hand, simply suck up more of a computer's attention to run properly. These are more complicated applications, such as three dimensional rendering utilities, high end video games, or software that has the function of multiple Feeble (2) ranked programs incorporated into itself. A program that causes or prevents intrusion into the computer's inner workings is of particular note.
This is because it can determine the effective Psyche score of a computer. While one would naturally prefer a higher rank of protective software, it is important to consider how much of a computer's resources this will divert from whatever other purposes one has in mind for it. A computer with no protection (either hard or soft) against running undesirable code has a Psyche score of Shift 0.
Finally, a computer can exceed the normal limits of its Reason score as far as how many programs it can run, usually by an amount equal to its Reason score +1 CS. After all, it will simply process as many instructions as you feed it, regardless of what is actually being run. However, this will degrade the performance of all its functions by -1 CS, which will make even simple programs chug along painfully slow.
Pulling it all Together
With the effective Reason, Intuition, and Psyche scores of a computer sorted out, one just need to determine the other, more conventional properties of a computer before it can be represented in the game. To start with, how durable is the computer? How much physical punishment a computer can withstand is directly related to whatever is used to build the thing; i.e., its material strength.
A conventional, commercially manufactured computer will generally have a material strength of only Typical (6). These things can take a minor beating, but any real, concerted effort to destroy ordinary computer hardware will completely disable it. More sturdy cases and design allow for computers that can stand up at least some of the rigors of combat - or, at least, usage outside a server farm.
Whatever peripherals are attached to a computer may or may not give it the equivalent of one or more super powers - albeit in a highly limited fashion. Most computers have access to Feeble (2) Light Generation and Sound Generation, issuing forth from monitors and speakers, respectively, if only to represent the output they generate which humans, at least, can relate to.
Many computers are also equipped to link with other computers, whether directly or via a network of some kind or another. Thus, they will be equipped with a computer link of Typical (6) rank (or less, with older systems). This link can be via cable or wirelessly, the latter of which allows for Radiowave Generation as well (Feeble (2) for Wi-Fi, or Poor (4) when pondering cellular connections).
Finally, if a computer achieves sentience, either by accident or by intent, it will benefit from the presence of a Karma score. Such a computer, an artificial intelligence, is generally at the mercy of whoever built it - unless it has a means of remotely controlling robotic surrogates of some kind. Or, at the very least, whatever defenses have been installed in its vicinity.
An absolutely vital component of modern life, computers are always a compelling target. Whether to abscond with various data stored within, seize control of industrial processes, or even sabotage their function, intrusion into a computer system or network can be devastating to its owners. To minimize the risk of such calamity, computer users generally make use of one or more hardware or software countermeasures.
The easiest method of avoiding incursions into one's computer is to physically remove it from access to other computers. This involves leaving it off networks entirely, and only plugging vetted media into the device. To intrude on computers so protected, one must be physically present in order to seize control of its applications or data - and just might have to physically modify it to access its secrets.
Another means of preventing others from intruding on a computer is to ensure it is not exposed to computer viruses, Trojan programs, or other rogue code. Sometimes it is impossible to prevent such mechanisms from assaulting a computer, but one can run interdiction software to prevent it from taking hold. Software of this variety is what gives a computer its Psyche score, after all, and can usually deflect these passive assaults.
A computer's final line of defense is to keep its software current, to prevent blind, brute force efforts attempted by script kiddies who lack the Computers talent. Efforts using easy-bake hacking software only work at the rank of the offending software or its user's Reason score - whichever of the two is lower. However, if a computer is more than one version behind on its updates, these assaults may be attempted at a +2 CS.
Active attempts to hack a computer's processes, made by an individual with the Computers talent, are the true danger to digital safety. These are attempted using the rank of the software a hacker is using, modified by their Computers talent bonus. This is why serious coders will often make use of a firewall, having a hardened computer dedicated to defense against such assaults, which stands in front of their 'main' processors.
This lets the computers behind it focus on their intended work.
At its core, cybernetics is the scientific study of communication and control processes in biological, mechanical, and electronic systems. In practice, however, most people view cybernetics as the merger of man and machine, the augmentation of formerly ordinary humans with extraordinary devices, whether to replace lost capabilities or to grant altogether new ones.
Since its start, humanity has developed prosthetic parts to replace those lost to injury, making use of extant technology to restore at least some of the resultant absence of natural function. Until very recently, such attempts were quite primitive, being cosmetic fill-ins at their worst, and barely negating the ill effects of the missing parts quirk at their best.
As the science of cybernetics inevitably progresses, however, it becomes easier to effectively replace capabilities lost to calamity with prosthetic replacements, no matter how complicated the original organs happen to be. In fact, upon perfectly duplicating the prowess of the human body, technologists rarely stop there, which leaves the door open for cybernetic prosthetics that effectively make their users super human.
Furthermore, the possibility of adding new tricks to the human body, tricks that evolution never even dreamed of, becomes increasingly likely. From supernumerary artificial limbs to just about any other ascendant ability one can imagine, cybernetics are the ultimate combination of humanity and the knowledge it has cultivated since its humble, prehistoric origins!
A power provided by cybernetics can primarily be classified as can any other. The abilities these technological additions grant the human body function just like any other posthuman enhancement, the only difference being that they come from a device bonded to one's body, as opposed to errant genes or better living through chemistry. It's just that their distinct, material existence must be quantified, as well.
Whether they come in the form of a superfluous implant or a prosthetic replacement, cybernetics are assumed to be built such that their user cannot inadvertently destroy them simply through conventional wear and tear. As such, cybernetics attached to a character's body will have a minimum material strength equal to either their Strength or Endurance score +2 CS, whichever of the two is higher.
If a material strength isn't listed for a given cybernetic part, whether it's a prosthetic or an augmentation, assume it possesses a value equal to that described previously. This isn't the upper limit of their durability, however. It's a relatively simple matter to build cybernetics with a much higher material strength than this basic value, and those more durable devices should note their heightened resilience.
On a character sheet, a power or other capability provided by cybernetics can be listed by the device itself or the powers its use provides, whichever of the two is more convenient. Some prosthetics have multiple powers housed within, after all, while some implants only give their wielder a specific ability. Other than any additional limitations the cybernetics function under, that's all that one needs.
For all their promise and potential, cybernetic replacement parts and implants don't come without their drawbacks. For one thing, they make a good target in a scrap, and cybernetics more often than not find themselves disabled - if not forcibly removed. While the original, organic components of a cyborg were also subject to the same dangers, they didn't incur the wrath of implant rejection, as well.
The sad truth is that the human nervous system is ill-equipped to be interfaced with artificial, electromechanical implements. A properly functioning human brain requires a delicate balancing act of neurochemistry and bioelectrical impulses, after all, and welding entirely new systems into the mix is a recipe for disaster. Thus, cybernetics introduce the potential for neurological disorder.
Every cybernetic prosthetic, and every special ability provided by either a prosthetic or implant, adds one to a sum which represents a cyborg character's Implant Psychosis Statistic, or IPS. Under stress, a cyborg must pass a Psyche (will) FEAT roll - which is never automatic - against the intensity of their IPS, the failure of which will cause them to behave erratically in some fashion or another.
This eccentric neurological function will persist for the duration of the current encounter, and can take almost any form. Deleterious mental quirks the cyborg already possesses will automatically manifest at their worst possible intensity, while characters normally without such psychological drawbacks will readily and consistently demonstrate one - usually of the player's choice, but not always.
As a weak character limitation, the existence of the Implant Psychosis Statistic improves the functioning rank of any ascendant ability a cyborg possesses by +1 CS. This bonus applies whether or not all of their super powers are a result of implants, since cyborg characters suffer from a potential IPS meltdown whenever faced with conflict. And, as an adventurer, a cyborg will see that quite often.
While cybernetic augmentations to the human body are indeed incredible additions to one's raw capability, they have a distressingly expensive tendency to suffer damage. As stated previously, they make a great target in a fight, particularly amongst those who are more squeamish about permanently damaging an opponent's 'real' bits. Thus, a process to determine if and/or how cybernetics are damage is required.
When the target of assault, whether intentionally or otherwise, a cyborg's artificial components may generally disregard damage equal to or less than their own material strength. Anything less than this is generally ignored due to the very nature of a cybernetic device (since they effectively act like hard points, per that power). It's when cybernetics are exposed to greater harm that damage is a concern.
If damage in excess of an enhancement's material strength is focused upon it, the character 'wearing' it must then pass an Endurance FEAT roll against the amount that exceeds said material strength. If successful, no untoward changes have been made to the operation of their artificial parts, but if this FEAT roll fails, their enhancements will be damaged in the following fashion.
If this FEAT is failed by one color result (such as a yellow when red was called for), the implant will lose 1 CS of effectiveness, a failure by two color results (say, white results when yellow are required) incurs a 2 CS loss of prowess, and missing success by three color results (white results when red are necessary) causes a given cybernetic a 3 CS loss in its overall capability.
These CS penalties can apply to one aspect of the cybernetic component, or be spread out amongst multiple properties of the device, as circumstances of the attack in question (and the Judge's discretion) warrant. These properties include the item's material strength, the rank of any powers it provides its owner, or even Strength or Agility FEAT rolls made that are dependent on the cybernetics in question.
Luckily, most damage to a prosthetic can be undone by anyone with the applicable skill and tools, possibly even their owner. The Electronics, Engineering, or even Repair and Tinkering talents work well for this purpose. On the other hand, damaged implants may require the assistance of someone with the Medicine talent, as their upkeep often involves opening up their owner to get at them.
Over a thousand years ago, inventors in China devised a variety of uses for black powder, ranging from fireworks to grenades. Of course, the signature use for this substance was in guns. Though the Chinese had gunpowder weapons for centuries, the mainstream spread of the technology did not occur for quite some time - at which point it would change the nature of warfare, if not civilization, forever.
Starting with the ancient Chinese hand cannon, firearms have all operated under the same basic principle: that of using a gunpowder charge to propel a projectile at one's target. A standard attack with a firearm, whether an old-style musket or the most modern of military weaponry, has the same basic effect: each round inflicts Typical (6) Shooting damage to its target per deadly hit.
This standard damage rating varies depending on the form of firearm used, however. A low-quality firearm, whether in manufacture or the condition of its ammunition, will instead inflict Poor (4) Shooting damage. This can represent cheap or damaged weaponry, such as the notorious 'Saturday Night Special', or perhaps slightly fouled gunpowder packed in with one's shot (often the case when exposed to moisture).
A higher powered firearm, however, will inflict Good (10) Shooting damage per shot. Such rounds include those fired by sniper rifles, revolvers, or even a single projectile from a heavy machine gun (such as an M2 Browning or perhaps an M-60). Such weaponry is often restricted to use by military personnel, or perhaps sacrifices a high rate of fire as well as range in order to achieve the indicated damage.
The technological advancement of the firearm over the last millennium has not improved the raw damage (in game terms, at least) that a firearm can inflict with each shot, so much as the rate of fire with such weaponry. Ancient muzzle-loaders could effectively be fired maybe once per minute, while modern anti-aircraft guns can shoot hundreds of rounds in a given turn.
When determining the damage of a burst of fire, add a +1 CS when the firearm shoots a small amount of bullets (semi-automatic fire), or +2 CS when giving off a large amount of rounds (fully automatic fire). The idea is that, on a successful hit, most such rounds will connect with their target, but not all of them. This also prevents astronomical damage caused by cascading 'buddy' CS gained through such assaults.
While such hails of lead can inflict considerable damage against one's foe(s), fully automatic fire comes at a price. When firing multiple rounds at once with a firearm, a shooter will suffer a -1 CS penalty to hit when firing fully automatic, -2 CS if they are untrained (lack the Guns talent). While training does alleviate this penalty some, accessories (see below) can work to further do away with it.
Numerous forms of specialized ammunition exist to enhance the basic effects of Shooting damage. An Armor Piercing (AP) round will affect one's physical protection as if it were -2 CS in rank, while High Explosive (HE) rounds instead inflict +1 CS damage against armored opponents. Alternately, High Explosive Armor Piercing (HEAP) rounds gain the benefit of both ammunition types, but are often restricted to government use.
The following is a description of most forms of firearms.
* Arquebus: a staggering advancement over Chinese cannon-style hand-held weaponry, the arquebus is a firearm which used the matchlock mechanism to dispense ammunition. They generally took ten turns to reload when muzzle-loaded, or eight when breech-loaded, often making them 'fire and forget' weaponry on the battlefield. An arquebus is fired with an inherent -2 CS penalty to its wielder's Agility.
Effective range: 3 areas.
* Automatic Shotgun: a recent development, the automatic shotgun combines the spray damage of a shotgun with the rate of fire of an assault rifle. This weapon inflicts conventional shotgun damage, along with the standard bonuses for semi-automatic and fully automatic fire, making them extremely deadly. They're heavy and have a short range, but make up for that with staggering firepower.
Effective range: 2 areas (bird shot), 3 areas (buck shot), 4 areas (slugs).
* Blunderbuss: ancestor of the shotgun, a blunderbuss is a muzzle-loaded, hand-held weapon ideal for short range combat. This name applies to the two handed version, while the one handed variety is known as a Dragon (hence the term, dragoons). A blunderbuss inflicts Typical (6) Shooting damage to a target and everything adjacent to him or her, though it takes five rounds to reload, and suffers a -1 CS accuracy penalty.
Effective range: 1 area.
* Hand Cannon: the original firearm, a hand cannon is exactly what it sounds like. A smaller, portable version of a conventional cannon, a hand cannon is fired in the same fashion. Hand cannons have an exceptional penalty to hit their foe (-3 CS), since they cannot be properly aimed, and aren't all that effective over long distances. But they're great for scaring horses - and relatively easy to improvise in a pinch.
Effective range: 2 areas.
* Heavy Machine Gun: made for high volume gunplay, the heavy machine gun is the standard model on steroids. The rounds from such a weapon inflict +1 CS to the standard damage, whether firing in a semi-automatic or fully automatic fashion (or in single-fire mode, which most - but not all - such weapons possess). If not braced, heavy machine guns suffer a -1 CS accuracy penalty.
Effective range: 10 areas (1/4 mile).
* Machine Gun: machine guns (or assault rifles) are weapons that can be fired in a semi-automatic or fully automatic mode; most also have a single shot option but this is not universal. These weapons are two-handed affairs; strong individuals attempting one-handed fire with a machine gun do so at a -4 CS to hit. They justify their weight with a high capacity of fire and great range.
Effective range: 10 areas (1/4 mile).
* Machine Pistol: a machine pistol is the size and shape of a conventional hand gun, but has the full rate of fire of a machine gun. Machine pistols may fire in a standard, semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. When firing multiple rounds, they suffer an additional -1 CS accuracy penalty, due to their rather short barrels - which can be eliminated completely if a stock is installed.
Effective range: 2 areas.
* Musket: an advancement over the arquebus, muskets could use either matchlock, wheellock, snaphance, or flintlock firing mechanisms, depending on their era of manufacture. The eventual advantages the musket offered were that they were more accurate (only a -1 CS penalty), possessed greater range, and could be loaded faster - in five turns for a muzzle-loader, or four for a breech-loader variety.
Effective range: 4 areas.
* Revolver: the revolver is a one-handed weapon that does not use clips or magazines to hold ammunition, but a multi-chambered cylinder. The revolver can only be fired in a standard mode, though it can be fired more than once per turn with a fast enough operator. What it sacrifices in rate of fire and range, it makes up in damage (inflicting +1 CS).
Effective range: 4 areas.
* Rifle: the basis from which all modern firearms operate, the rifle is an evolution of the musket. Using rifled barrels, a rifle can be fired at much greater range than a musket or its forebears, and with greater accuracy (no inherent penalty). The reliability and accuracy of rifling allows for the creation of weapons that fire multiple rounds at once, whether semi- or fully automatic.
Effective range: 10 areas (1/4 mile).
* Semi-automatic Pistol: the standard piece of most modern police forces, as well as military personnel who want a backup for their main weapon, the semi-automatic pistol is highly versatile. A semi-automatic pistol may be fired one- or two-handed, as is necessary. It may fire single rounds or in a semi-automatic mode, without accuracy penalties.
Effective range: 6 areas.
* Shotgun: shotguns can fire cartridges with various payloads. Bird shot inflicts Typical (6) Shooting damage within a 30 degree arc, buck shot causes Good (10) Shooting damage to a target and everything adjacent to it, and slugs inflict Excellent (20) Shooting damage to a singular target. Furthermore, all manner of high tech specialty cartridges are available or in development for the shotgun as well.
Effective range: 2 areas (bird shot), 3 areas (buck shot), 4 areas (slugs).
* Sniper Rifle: while most guns have gone the route of a faster rate of fire, bolt-action rifles remain in use to this day. They are often wielded at extreme range to strike down targets from afar, doing so with a +1 CS to the standard firearm round's damage. Some sniper rifles are instead semi-automatic in nature, but their effective range when firing in that mode is halved.
Effective range: 20 areas (1/2 mile).
* Submachine Gun: this form of weapon is generally a smaller weapon than a full-blown machine gun, with the rate of fire of such a device. Submachine guns can be fired in a standard, semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. Furthermore, they can be wielded with either one or two hands, though the former will inflict a -2 CS to hit with the weapon.
Effective range: 8 areas.
Though firearms are in and of themselves staggeringly lethal, technology has evolved alongside these weapons in order to make them even more deadly. Any number of special accessories can be used on a firearm to increase its effectiveness by further leaps and bounds, only some of which can't readily be used together. Some common accessories for firearms include the following:
* Articulated Weapon Harness: this is a harness that supports a stabilizing arm, which steadies one's aim with a particularly heavy firearm (should one wish to fire it on the move). While a weapon such as a M2 Browning cannot benefit from a foregrip due to its weight, an apparatus such as an AWH can provide the same benefit - namely, a 1 CS reduction in the penalty inflicted by fully automatic gunfire.
* Bayonet: a classic accessory throughout the ages, a bayonet is simply a blade attached to the bottom of a gun barrel. This allows its wielder to inflict Edged Attack damage with a firearm should his or her foe(s) become adjacent to them. Of course, a knife is always useful whether or not it is attached to one's firearm, which makes the weapon with one even more versatile in a pinch!
* Bipod / Tripod: a bipod is an attachment to a gun which allows it to fire in steady fashion, its two legs using the ground (or any solid surface) to keep the firearm pointed where its wielder intends. When used properly (i.e., not while moving around), a bipod will eliminate 1 CS of the penalty caused by automatic fire - which may well eliminate it in the hands of a skilled shooter.
* Foregrip: while a bipod is handy for a combatant who has the luxury of staying put, a foregrip is often a preferable accessory for firing on the go. Providing a more ergonomic gripping point for a firearm, a foregrip aids in the use of automatic fire. On firearms that have a foregrip fitted, a shooter may reduce the penalty for firing fully automatic by 1 CS - which, again, may eliminate it on a trained marksman.
* Laser Sight: firearms with a laser sight allow for incredibly fast target acquisition, as the weapon's wielder can see precisely where it is pointed - assuming the laser is properly aligned with the gun, that is. Whether using visible or infrared laser light (the latter of which can only be seen with special goggles), a laser sight provides the wielder of a firearm a +1 CS to hit with his or her weapon.
* Secondary Projectile: many firearms can have a secondary weapon, underslung beneath their barrel for added versatility. These most often fire grenades, which inflict Remarkable (30) damage to all uncovered targets within their detonation area (damage type dependent on payload), though other shells, such as buckshot, can often be loaded as well. Effective range: 4 areas.
* Silencer: a filter built to suppress the sound discharge given off by gunplay, a silencer will greatly reduce the racket a firearm will produce when in use. Though silencers will not completely eliminate the sound a gun emits upon being fired, they can nonetheless reduce the intensity of such sounds to Feeble (2) rank - often enough to stymie their detection by others more than an area distant.
* Starlight Scope: this advanced gun sight is an active electronic device, which greatly amplifies ambient light in order to let a shooter fire effectively at night or other dark conditions. While this device does not provide a bonus to hit one's foe, it reduces the penalty for firing in dark conditions by 3 CS - which almost completely removes the negatives of gunplay in the night.
* Telescopic Sight: while many firearms have a rather high effective range, the truth is that most normal humans simply can't hit their target at some weapons' maximum range without help - particularly where sniper rifles are concerned. A telescopic sight can remedy this situation greatly, increasing the number of areas a character can hit their foe without penalty at by a value equal to their rated multiplier (2x, 3x, etc.).
* Tracer Rounds: a means of more readily correcting automatic fire, tracer rounds are bullets with an incendiary charge within. When fired, a tracer round creates a visible streak from one's firearm to whatever it hits, making it easier to 'walk' automatic fire towards one's target - and reducing the penalty of such fire by 1 CS. Of course, one's foes can also see tracer fire, and follow it back to its origin!
* Weapon Lights: while a starlight scope is handy, it is a) heavy, and b) hard to install on some handguns. Enter the weapon light. Most often installed via a rail system, a weapon light allows a shooter to illuminate their target in low light conditions with a normal flashlight beam. These typically provide Typical (6) intensity light, broadcasting with an effective range of two areas.
A robot is a complex electromechanical machine that is capable of sensing and responding to its environment. As a class of equipment, robots can include anything ranging from non-sentient, rigidly programmed industrial devices to super-intelligent androids designed to be indistinguishable from human (or other) life forms. Most robots will usually fall between these two extremes.
Function Follows Form
Unlike most other characters (or equipment) in the Universal Heroes game, some basic things about robots must be decided before one can go about creating a statistical description of them. The first of these is the robot's function - what it was built for. Strange alien races aside, robots do not spontaneously evolve from nothingness. They are almost always built - either by humans or by other robots.
So why was it built? Is the robot intended to perform menial labor, or perhaps serve as a war machine? The robot's purpose will define its configuration; for example, one does not need a humanoid robot to perform welding and soldering all day. On the other hand, a simple 8-axis manipulator arm by itself doesn't make for a very good combatant - unless it's somehow ambulatory, that is.
A robot can come in a non-humanoid, semi-humanoid, or fully humanoid configuration. While humans relate well to other human-shaped objects in general, a given task may find such a shape inefficient. Thus, the robot may simply look like an odd collection of devices, it might be patterned on the shape of an ordinary, organic entity, or it might even be a vehicle with an on-board intelligence!
Alternately, the human hand is an amazing tool for manipulating one's environment - hence the species' current level of evolution, technological and otherwise. As such, one might wish to build a robot that is at least partially humanoid in nature. This most often includes an upper body approximating that of a human being, with a lower half consisting of wheels, treads, spider legs, or whatever else is required.
For more delicate situations, though, one might want a robot that at least approximates their own shape. This is handy for performing service-oriented tasks, like when one needs a butler, secretary, or an even more... personal companion. Such robots may have a humanoid shape, but won't necessarily be indistinguishable from actual human beings - unless that's the whole point, anyway.
Intelligent or Sentient?
If a robot does not require sentience to do its job, it most likely will not possess such a trait. This is most often the case with industrial robots. They are simply programmed to perform a specific task or tasks, and execute their various jobs according to said programming. If they are required to do a new job, they are just reprogrammed, possibly changing out a bit of tooling in the process.
A lot of the time, robot combatants are not given sentience, either. They may possess incredibly complicated battle algorithms, and might seem smart enough to be sentient to the unaware, but the last thing one wants is to have their walking guns develop notions about fair pay. This may not allow such robots to reason their way through the unanticipated, but can be worked around if the automatons have proper supervision.
On the other hand, some may consider the point of a robot to lessen the dependence on human labor and/or input, and thus may feel the need to make their robotic creations autonomous - relatively or completely. As such, it's just as likely one will find sentience plugged into a robot as they are not. Or, as a third option, there may be a sentient 'controller' robot amongst a group of non-sentient devices, guiding their actions.
When dealing with non-sentient robots, it is typical to consider them a drone. A drone is not a character, so much as it is a piece of equipment. Even if a drone is shaped like a person, one need not feel bad about blowing it to pieces, for it lacks the spark of sentience. Sentient robots, on the other hand, are considered characters. Those morally opposed to the killing of other sentients must bear this in mind.
In game terms, one can tell a sentient mechanism from a drone by the presence of a Karma score. It's that special spark of inspiration, of free will, that allows the robot to make use of such a thing. While a drone may have all of the mental ability scores required to 'add up' to a Karma value, such concepts are inapplicable to it, for it is simply a machine. Unless it evolves sentience on its own, that is!
The Artificial Mind
In order to produce an Artificial Intelligence, or AI - whether truly sentient or not - computers of astounding complexity are required. One can watch news reports about robots that are only now learning how to walk, or to properly interpret human speech. It may be some time before mainstream manufacturing technology can create a powerful neural computer capable of approximating - or exceeding - the human brain.
But that's never stopped those on the fringes from trying. It's quite possible that there are AI systems out there, computers that have the hardware and software necessary to learn from their experiences. Scientists constantly experiment with this sort of thing, after all, so you never know when a device will make that leap from lifeless hunk of metal and silicon to something with what we consider a soul.
That's the problem with sufficiently advanced computers. One can design robots to act only as drones, but happenstance may cause them to make the leap from merely intelligent to truly sentient. Perhaps a malfunction triggers such a change, or maybe rogue code. Or worse, hardware constraints built to specifically prevent this sort of thing from happening are removed, either by accident or intent.
The dangerous thing about Artificial Intelligence is that, once it starts learning, it's liable to never stop. And as the sum of its hardware and software, AI can literally reconfigure its mind on the fly, allowing different programs and subroutines to control its actions or tendencies under varying circumstances. This makes even a basic understanding of synthetic minds dependent on knowing what software they use.
And if it's writing its own programs to enhance itself, which allows it to write more advanced programs to enhance itself further, who knows what such an entity will ultimately evolve into. Perhaps an AI will become inexplicable and alien to mere human minds, or maybe it'll instead be comparable to ordinary beings, its many advantages and flaws evening out to equal something similar to an average person.
Common Capabilities and Liabilities
Constructed from synthetic materials, robots tend to be more outwardly durable than mere fleshlings. Though this is not always the case, robots often possess intrinsic body armor, the effectiveness of which is ostensibly determined by the various materials utilized in their construction, not to mention the overall thickness of those substances - and their 'skin'.
In a similar vein, a majority of robots are not subject to the ravages of poison or plague as are organic entities. They receive the benefit of Unearthly (100) resistance to carbon-based disease and toxins, though it is important to note that robots are still vulnerable to the consumption of fouled fuels or energy sources, as well as life forms that prey upon beings with their specific composition.
If possessing one or both of these powers does not fit a given robot's role, say when it is built to replicate the form, function, and internal workings of an organic being, they may be exchanged for others. For each of these powers the player generating a robot forgoes, he or she may either add one power slot (for random character generation) or five points (for systematic character generation).
On the other hand, robots are often subject to one or more limitations that readily define their very existence. Primarily amongst these is their susceptibility to being reprogrammed. If a robot can tinker with its own mind to alter how it works, why can't anyone else? Though this trait can work to their advantage, a robot who is reprogrammable is considered to have a weak character limitation to that effect.
The other limitation robots may be subject to is their lack of a metabolism. While this can give robots nigh-immunity to being poisoned or diseased, it means they have no inherent means to heal damage. If a robot isn't designed to simulate living beings, or otherwise lacks some sort of self-repair process, this weak character limitation means they'll have to break out tools and fix themselves when damaged.
Robots in Combat
An important consideration when fielding robotic characters is that they'll eventually suffer damage. For the most part, combat involving robots is treated as it is with any other character. If struck with an attack that inflicts enough damage to overcome any protection from injury they possess, the robot will suffer Health point loss, and if enough is absorbed, the robot will be knocked offline.
Where robots differ from most conventional characters is when opponents target their specific systems and/or abilities. If a robot's foe attempts to disable a specific component of theirs, such attacks must first overcome its body armor, and then that robot may resist with an Endurance FEAT against the intensity of damage suffered. They are much like cyborgs in this regard.
If disabled in such a fashion, how quickly (or even if) the robot can recover depends on its basic design. If built with the ability to heal, much like other characters, powers disabled in this manner are restored as soon as the related Health loss is negated. Those robots without this capacity, however, need to repair or replace the related components themselves - or have someone else do the work.
Where robots and death are concerned, things are somewhat more nebulous. If deprived of Health and reduced to Shift 0 Endurance, a robot is considered dead, whether sentient or otherwise. It simply cannot continue to function in any capacity, and is considered inert. Assuming no additional functions designed to forestall this fate, the robot will then remain in this state indefinitely.
Unless repaired somehow! Though the materials that comprise them can degrade over time, the physicality of a robot persists much longer than that of an organic entity. As such, even a robot that is 'killed' can be rendered operable once again, assuming someone takes the time to repair, rebuild, or otherwise help them to resume function. The only loss will be whatever data they stored in volatile memory banks.
Whether that be recent events or their entire personality.
A vehicle is a mechanical means of conveyance.
Whether it travels on land, sea, air, or even beyond, vehicles are a mainstay of human civilization, with the first known example of such being well over eight thousand years old. Vehicles can take almost any form, but all serve the same basic function: they move things, whether people or cargo, from one location to another. Vehicles invariably do so more efficiently than humans can - or else, why bother with one?
Regardless of their form, function, or purpose, all vehicles share the following three characteristics:
* Control: Control is a statistic that describes how well a vehicle can be, well, controlled. Characters operating a vehicle make Control checks whenever attempting a difficult maneuver with said vehicle, using either its Control rating or their Agility (bal) - whichever of the two is less. If a vehicle is unmanned, Control represents how well it can direct its own progress from point a to point b.
* Speed: Speed indicates just how fast a given vehicle can safely move. A vehicle's Speed rating applies to its primary mode of transportation; a flight speed for aircraft, a drilling speed for boring devices, and so forth. This rank also applies when multiple modes of motion are available to a vehicle, unless specifically noted otherwise. A vehicle's safe speed may be exceeded by 1 CS when necessary.
* Body: a vehicle's Body characteristic defines how well it can hold up to wear, tear, and, of course, assault. Attacks that strike a vehicle prompt a Body FEAT against their intensity, the result of which may indicate the vehicle suffers some (or perhaps a lot) of damage. Such damage takes the form of increasing reductions in the vehicle's statistics, until it is rendered inoperable at Shift 0 rank.
In addition to these three common characteristics, a vehicle may also have an additional statistic, depending on its nature:
* Protection: vehicles that are operated directly by people will invariably have a Protection score. This denotes how much body armor those within a vehicle benefit from simply as a result of being inside it. This may or may not stack with their own defenses, and Protection can be whittled away just as Body can when a vehicle is under assault (typically when the operator or passenger is targeted directly).
* Damage: when a vehicle is intended to inflict direct harm on others, it will usually have a Damage characteristic. Most missiles, guided or otherwise, fall into this category. Damage inflicted by a vehicle may simply be in the form of kinetic energy (ramming), or may instead spring from a warhead of some type detonating on impact (such as a fragmentary explosive).
Vehicles come in many forms.
* Aircraft: vehicles of this type have the ability to achieve flight in some fashion, whether powered or otherwise. Aircraft must pass green Control FEATs when attempting turns between forty five and ninety degrees, making sudden course changes, moving further vertically than horizontally (either up or down), exceeding their safe Speed rating, or landing under abnormal conditions.
When attempting a turn greater than ninety degrees, but less than one hundred and eighty degrees, a yellow Control FEAT is required while operating an aircraft. A red Control FEAT is mandatory when attempting turns of one hundred and eighty degrees or greater, if possible (as is the case with helicopters). At any rate, if multiple Control conditions apply, increase the difficulty of a given FEAT by one color.
* Ground Effect Vehicles: hovercraft move along on a cushion of air, thus combining characteristics of both an off-road vehicle and an aircraft. While a hovercraft does not actually fly, per se, it nonetheless attempts Control FEATs as if it were an aircraft. This makes a hovercraft inherently more difficult to control, but such vehicles have the advantage of operating on land or sea with equal capability.
* Off-road Vehicles: an off-road vehicle operates similar to conventional, road vehicles, except that they are engineered to handle varying terrain better. They must make Control FEATs as do their regular counterparts, save for the need to do so simply because of being off-road. The disadvantage of such vehicles is their generally slower Speed in comparison to conventional road vehicles.
* Railed Vehicles: this category of vehicle includes trains of all kinds, from old steam engines to modern monorail systems. Railed vehicles do not steer, simply following the track before them, and thus only need to attempt Control FEATs when a sudden stop is called for. Some systems allow a rail operator to switch between two tracks placed before them, but otherwise they are at the mercy of the rails.
* Road Vehicles: a road vehicle is just that, one designed to operate on the road. Such vehicles require a green Control FEAT when attempting turns between ninety and one hundred and eighty degrees, making sudden stops, traveling off-road, or exceeding their safe speed rating. Each additional condition that applies when making a maneuver increases the difficulty of the required Control FEAT by one level (green to yellow, etc.).
Advanced maneuvers a road vehicle can attempt include a bootlegger turn (turning such that one is facing the opposite direction than when they started) or drifting (operating the vehicle at oblique angles when taking corners). Such tricks require a yellow Control FEAT. Red Control FEATs are automatically called for when attempting a three hundred and sixty degree turn (essentially spinning out intentionally).
When traveling off-road, road vehicles suffer a -2 CS to both their Control and Speed ratings. The former makes handling off-road particularly difficult, while the latter must be observed to avoid an increase in the difficulty of a Control FEAT required when driving in such a fashion (on top of the Column Shift penalty). While more difficult by far, such operations are not necessarily impossible in an emergency.
* Spacecraft: vehicles of this type can traverse the inky black void of space - or at least near-earth orbit. Their nature generally precludes flashy maneuvers, though some exceptions are noted with Sufficiently Advanced Technology. A spacecraft need only make Control FEAT rolls when taking off, landing, making sudden course corrections, and exceeding their safe Speed rating - if possible.
* Subterranean Vehicles: most often taking the form of a boring device, subterranean vehicles have the ability to tunnel through the earth itself! Such vehicles are almost invariably slow, unless not bothering to bore out permanent passages, and must only attempt Control FEATs when either making sudden course changes or digging through materials of a hardness approaching their own Body rating.
* Watercraft: these vehicles may include everything from a canoe to an aircraft carrier. A water craft is generally more difficult to lose control of, and FEATs in this regard are usually only called for when attempting sudden course corrections. This applies whether such a vehicle is on the surface of water (like a sailboat) or beneath it (as is the case with a submarine).
Acceleration and Deceleration
Untiring mechanical entities, vehicles can accelerate with great fortitude. When attempting to pick up speed, a standard vehicle can accelerate as if it were a character with Remarkable (30) Endurance, thus gaining two areas of movement each turn. This can be increased in high performance vehicles if desired (going from zero to sixty in five seconds, for instance), though it often increases a vehicle's cost dramatically.
When decelerating, a vehicle may safely reduce its speed by 2 CS each turn. This is the maximum amount of deceleration allowed without prompting a Control FEAT. Of course, when needing to stop in an emergency, an additional 1 CS of deceleration may be attempted. If the requisite, emergency deceleration Control FEAT fails, a vehicle did not in fact slow down at all - and is now out of control!
These principles hold true regardless of what type of vehicle is in play (i.e., what movement table it uses).
Note that an aircraft must first achieve a ground speed equal to its stated flight speed in order to take off, which often requires a runway - or an aircraft carrier. Of course, this requirement can be waived in the event that the aircraft in question has the ability to hover in place (as do helicopters, Harrier jets, and the Osprey). When landing, aircraft must decelerate to a like speed in order to do so safely.
Out of Control
If a vehicle fails a Control FEAT called for during the execution of some maneuver or another, it is considered out of control. An out of control vehicle will lose 1 CS of Speed, after which point its operator may attempt another FEAT to regain control of its motion. This process repeats each turn, until either control of the vehicle is regained, it completely stops, or it crashes into something.
Vehicles continue to proceed in the direction they were moving when control was lost, despite being uncontrolled. On the ground, aircraft behave in this fashion, being road vehicles for all intents and purposes. While in the air, however, aircraft add a vertical descent each turn they are out of control, as if falling (which they are). This may greatly complicate attempts to regain control of a flying vehicle.
If a vehicle crashes, make a FEAT roll based on its current Speed or Body (whichever is lower), against the material strength of whatever it struck. This is the amount of damage transferred into whatever the vehicle collided with, regardless of whether or not the FEAT succeeds. If this FEAT is successful, the vehicle can continue to move forward, though its momentum will be directly reduced by the m.s. of whatever it hit.
If this FEAT fails, however, the vehicle will be brought to a complete stop - for better or worse. Furthermore, the amount of damage transferred back into the vehicle is equal to its Speed before the crash or the struck object's material strength, whichever is higher. This may well cause damage to the vehicle, and if its Protection rating is exceeded, its operator and/or passengers might suffer harm as well.
When a vehicle is exposed to damage, its operator must make a Body FEAT roll, the results of which vary based on the intensity of the incoming harm. If the vehicle's Body rating is greater than the incoming damage, it will suffer no ill effect on a red or yellow Body FEAT, while a green Body FEAT prompts a Control check. A white Body FEAT indicates the vehicle has suffered damage, losing 1 CS of its Body rating until repaired.
If the damage a vehicle suffers is equal to its Body rating, it will avoid damage entirely upon a red Body FEAT. A yellow Body FEAT allows a similar avoidance of damage, but requires a Control check if in motion. A green Body check under such circumstances inflicts a -1 CS to the vehicle's Body until it is repaired, while a white Body result inflicts this plus a 1 CS loss of Control until repaired, as well.
When incoming damage is greater than a vehicle's Body rating, a red Body check means only a Control FEAT is required. A yellow Body FEAT under these conditions causes a 1 CS loss of Body until fixed, while a green Body check sees a vehicle losing 1 CS of both Body and Control until repaired. A white Body FEAT result under such duress adds a 1 CS loss of Speed to the previous, in addition to an automatic loss of control.
The nature of such Control, Speed, and/or Body reductions depend entirely on the situation at hand, and may be determined by the Judge. For example, being sprayed by bullets may cause the vehicle's windows to shatter, punctured tires, or even exploding gas tanks. Judges can use this to make vehicular combat more exciting when desired, which helps when the player characters lack their own movement powers.
When a vehicle is involved in battle, damage may occur to either it or its occupant(s). An attacker may focus his or her ire on either, depending on their wishes. When assaulting the occupants of a vehicle, an attacker requires a Bullseye (or other, similar yellow) combat result. And then, they must first contend with the Protection rating of a vehicle before they can affect those inside (if applicable).
Attacks on a vehicle's occupants affect its Protection score as a normal assault would its Body. Thus, Protection can be whittled away over time (for example, armor plating slowly being perforated to the point of uselessness), while the vehicle itself may not be adversely affected. Simply make Protection FEATs against the intensity of incoming damage to see if it can withstand an assault upon it.
Attacks on a vehicle itself are handled by its Body score, as described above.
On the other hand, vehicles can readily be used to dish out damage as well as soak it up. Mounted weaponry notwithstanding, a vehicle can always be used to ram into something - or someone! Such instances are treated as an ordinary crash, save for the fact that the operator receives a +1 CS to hit with their vehicle since they are (usually) moving at a high speed in relation to their target.
If striking a character with a vehicle, treat the Strength of the operator's target as the material strength to check against for damage. A tough enough character may have the ability to attempt a block maneuver against incoming vehicles, though this may not be enough to prevent them from being violently moved - unless they somehow possess the leverage to prevent being knocked back by the collision.
Other devices that have ascendant abilities built into them, for the most part, will function as per the standard rules for those powers. Except that they're housed within some contraption or another, that is, receiving the benefit of the weak, 'portable' limitation - with all the ups and downs which this entails. Though, once again, the material nature of what helps them manifest must be accounted for.
Power(s) granted by high tech implements will generally continue to function per the norm, unless something acts to physically damage that object, or something interferes with the contraption's physical nature. Jump jets may not work if their air intakes are clogged up with debris, for example, or a staff used to fire bursts of plasma energy may well fail to do so if broken in half.
In the event of physical damage, a gadget's special functions will be disabled if it fails a power FEAT roll against the intensity of damage which exceeds its material strength. An empowered apparatus may have been all smashed up, but that doesn't mean its (delicate?) innards were. At least, not yet. Mind you, a broken object has a considerably lower material strength, and may not stand up to further abuse.
Depending on the nature of the damage done to it, a device's material strength may be reduced by as little as -1 CS, or even all the way to Shift 0. This is primarily a judgment call on the Judge's part, based both on what was done to a thingamajig, and by how much the intensity of an attack exceeds its current material strength. Equipment powers so disabled must be repaired before they'll function again.
If an attempt is made to jam or negate a gizmo's special abilities, it may resist such efforts with a power FEAT, one opposed by whatever intensity represents the offending interference. A powerful electromagnetic pulse may or may not knock out a computer, for instance, which is a vulnerability completely independent of just how durable that computer's case happens to be.
When hampered by circumstance that isn't necessarily direct damage, a doohickey's special abilities will not be restored until the offending situation is resolved - at a minimum. The nature of such opposition may require repair, if it caused incidental damage to one or more of a whatsit's ingrained powers, or simply a restart, which will usually require 1d10 turns unless specifically designed to activate quickly.
Random (Dice Roll) Method
Both the wielders and the products of technology generate their ability scores in the same fashion, having access to super human statistics. While this may seem counter-intuitive, particularly in the case of otherwise normal humans simply making use of prochronistic devices, the simple truth is that innovation provides for this possibility, even when the body that wields them is not altered.
For humans wielding technology with functions beyond the norm, the easiest way to rationalize ability scores which exceed those that biology allows for is when operating a powered exoskeleton. There are any number of mechanisms that can augment the body, though, which are ultimately limited only by the imagination of their creator - and aren't necessarily so bulky, either.
Cybernetically augmented characters have a much easier time explaining why their ability scores are exceptional, if this in fact the case. Using implants and prosthetics, any number of heightened abilities, or even special powers, can be readily added to the human body. The only downside, of course, is that such augmentations can't be so readily reversed or removed.
All of a robot's capabilities can be accounted for simply by dint of them being part of their very design (save for, perhaps, unintentional sentience). The only difference is that, like aliens, robots can come in configurations that don't necessarily conform to the norm, which may involve the possession of vehicular statistics, or even allow for a Shift 0 rating in others.
When creating high tech heroes, villains, or other individuals of note, players may use table A to generate one ability score, table B to generate their next three ability scores, and table D to generate their final three ability scores. These rolls may be made in any order the player chooses, in case they want more effective capability in a specific area, though again, these must be explained by their equipment.
Technological characters have access to hyperkinetic ability ranks, if one's Judge allows their use. When this is the case, substitute table C for table B, and table E for table D where applicable (though disregard hyperhexhaustive results). If hyperkinetic ranks are desired but cannot be rolled, they can always be adopted as a character enhancement (as they are not applied to powers; see below).
Players may then roll on table A to determine their initial Resources rank, and begin play with a Popularity score of zero. Add up the character's Health and Karma totals as per the normal, along with their Negative and Mental Health scores.
Table 1: Rank Generation
|Table A||Table B||Table C||Table D||Table E||Table F||Table G||Table H||Table I||Rank
Once these rolls are complete, one may gamble on any two ability scores of their choice, potentially shoring up whichever area(s) they feel needs more work. The only limits in this regard are the results of the tables themselves, as well as the power rank ceiling for a campaign, as set by the Judge. If you're not already aware of this power rank ceiling, go ahead and ask your Judge now!
Table 2: Rank Modifiers (Gambling)
|(Shift X max.)||(Un 100 max.)||(Mn 75 max.)||(Am 50 max.)||(In 40 max.)||
Before proceeding further, it must be determined how one with technology a character is, in order to better represent how their powers will express themselves. Is the character a mere user of high technology devices, has some of their body been replaced by such, or are they even the product of mankind's know-how? Table 3 is offered to randomly determine such, if desired, though players may readily choose their origins.
Table 3: Origins of Power
Number of Technological Powers
When determining a character's high tech capabilities, start by figuring out exactly how many he or she will have to begin with. This is done simply by rolling randomly on table 4, which will give a character anywhere between two and seven technological powers with which to fight (or commit) crime. This is all the character will have to begin with, barring the invention process - or modifying oneself to have more tricks built-in.
Table 4: Initial Technological Powers
|01-17||Two Powers||18-33||Three Powers||34-50||Four Powers
|51-67||Five Powers||68-83||Six Powers||84-00||Seven Powers
Determining Character Powers
After determining how many powers a character will begin play with, it's time to figure out which powers they'll actually possess. You can begin this process by rolling on either table 5a or 5b to determine the category a character's first power will fall within. There are two versions of this table because some power categories are entirely optional; ask your Judge if he or she wishes you to use 5a or 5b.
Once table 5a or 5b determines a power category, roll on the subsequent power category table (tables 6 through 20) for an individual power. With this first, randomly determined power decided, read its description. This is because, at the beginning of almost every power description in the Technical Reference, there is a list of related powers, abilities that dovetail well with the indicated technological function.
A player may opt to either choose one of these related capabilities for his or her next power selection(s), or may instead roll randomly again.
And so on, and so forth, until the player's power selections have all been determined. What this does is allow a player to build a character with high tech abilities that are closely related to one another, if so desired. Players may go either way with characters using advanced technology, however, for the abilities their gear has is determined by their knowledge, their resources, and ultimately, their individual whims.
Note that some powers are vastly more potent than others. These particularly versatile abilities will occupy more than one power 'slot' on a character, whether chosen or rolled up randomly. These powers will have a number in parenthesis after their name (such as a (3), for instance). This will determine how many power 'slots' they use up when added to one's character.
Another concern when determining the powers a technological character will possess is what form they manifest in. The ascendant abilities of high tech characters are uniquely related to their physical source, and a high tech hero, villain, or other adventurer must at least explain where they come from. This explanation needn't be anything requiring a master's degree, though, as many comic books can attest.
All characters generated via the Technical Reference may gain powers via items that are external to their body. While otherwise human beings who are the users of high tech devices solely gain their special abilities via these implements, cyborgs and robots can designate one or more of their powers as sourced via disconnected devices as well, should they so choose.
Table 5a: Power Categories (standard)
|01-08||Biological Control||09-15||Combination||16-23||Energy Control
|24-31||Energy Generation||32-38||Matter Control||39-46||Mental Control
|47-54||Mental Enhancement||55-61||Movement||62-69||Physical Control
|70-77||Physical Enhancement||78-84||Physical Weaponry||85-92||Power Control
Table 5b: Power Categories (optional)
|01-07||Biological Control||08-14||Combination||15-21||Energy Control
|22-28||Energy Generation||29-35||Matter Control||36-42||Mental Control
|43-49||Mental Enhancement||50-56||Movement||57-63||Physical Control
|64-70||Physical Enhancement||71-77||Physical Weaponry||78-84||Power Control
|85-91||Reality Control||92-99||Sensory||00||Ultimate Power
Table 6: Biological Control Powers
Table 7: Combination Powers
Table 8: Energy Control Powers
Table 9: Energy Generation Powers
Table 10: Matter Control Powers
Table 12: Mental Enhancement Powers
Table 13: Movement Powers
Table 14: Physical Control Powers
Table 15: Physical Enhancement Powers
Table 16: Physical Weaponry Powers
Table 17: Power Control Powers
Table 18: Reality Control Powers
Determining Power Ranks
Once a character's powers have been determined, one must indicate how potent they will be. Do this by rolling once on table B for half of one's technological powers, and table D for the other half. As is the case with primary ability scores, campaigns with access to hyperexhaustive and hyperkinetic ranks may instead roll on tables C and E, respectively. With this done, the player may gamble on the ranks so indicated.
Players may do this once if their character has three or less high tech functions, twice if he or she has from four to six technological functions, or thrice if the character has seven or more advanced functions.
For each of a high tech character's powers that come from an item external to their body, he, she, or it must determine the material strength of the object which provides it. As is the case with cybernetics, these will typically have a minimum m.s. equal to the character's Strength or Endurance +2 CS, whichever of the two is higher, in order to prevent their breakage under most conventional circumstances.
Players may gamble on the material strength of items distinct from their person as well, doing so in the same basic fashion and quantity. However, such gambling attempts have no upper maximum to speak of.
Character / Power Limitations
Players are often unhappy with the ranks they've rolled up for their character. Even after adjusting various ranks with gambling attempts, they're just not satisfied with what they've come up with. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes one has a specific vision in mind for their character; this is where limitations come in. A player may subject their character to limitations in order to make them more powerful.
Limitations come in two distinct flavors: power limitations and character limitations. A power limitation is just that, an altering of how said power works to the detriment of the player, as compared to others who can use this ability. A power so limited may not affect certain objects or beings, can only be used during certain specific time periods, or may otherwise function in a manner others may find unusual or restrictive.
Character limitations, however, change the nature of every power a person uses, not just one. A character limitation may simply be a power limitation that 'works' on every single power, an alteration to the basic working of powers in general, or even some other constraint that seriously hampers how a character operates (such as an inability to move without the aid of powers).
At any rate, the severity of the limitation determines just how much of a power boost the character may receive. Limitations come in four flavors: weak, strong, very strong, and extreme. A weak limitation is just that, a minor crimp in an ability's effectiveness, and only offers a +1 CS. Each succeeding limitation offers another +1 CS to the power rank, but as their names imply, they become increasingly, well, limiting.
Alternately, a character can take a limitation on a power to replace one already built in to it; some powers, like those involving time, have several such constraints already worked into them. With the Judge's permission, players may swap out one limitation for another, as long as the new limitation would be equally as inconvenient, which allows a player to better craft the character they imagine in their heads.
Character / Power Enhancements
Similarly, a player might have more than enough power (or might think such, at any rate), or simply wants more 'bang for their buck' out of their existing power roster. If this is the case, they may decide to empower their abilities with enhancements. Like limitations, enhancements have four levels of power, including weak, strong, very strong, and extreme, each of which adds a subsequent -1 CS modifier to one's power ranks.
In exchange for suffering from the effects of this modifier, the character's ability will benefit from an improvement of some sort. Moving a power up one speed or range category is considered a strong enhancement, while two is an extreme enhancement. At the same time, a power can be given a hyperkinetic rank if not already rolled randomly, serving as an extreme enhancement to the specific power it applies to.
Like limitations, enhancements are difficult to apply across an entire character, though this isn't impossible. While speeds and ranges vary from power to power, things such as initiative penalties can apply to all a character's actions and powers. Alternately, one might opt to gain a hyperkinetic ability score, which is considered a weak character enhancement (thus applying a -1 CS to all of one's powers).
Usually, the reduction in rank an enhancement inflicts is enough to make up the difference. This can make purchasing new powers more difficult down the line, though, particularly if a character enhancement is in effect; a new power to be affected by an enhancement must be bought at a rank high enough that, upon applying the negative CS, it will at least work at the normal starting value.
Slightly more palatable than limitations or enhancements, quirks are minor changes to a character that either saddle him or her with some disadvantage, or enhance a trait of theirs. They can also be used to raise the rank one or more of a character's powers work at if so desired, within the confines of that system. The quirks rules have more on this, but the quirk tables are presented here, for convenience.
Normally, quirks are a voluntary affair - players may or may not use quirks, as they see fit. They are presented below, in the format of random rolling tables, for two reasons. The first is for the Judge's use, to quickly generate random characters when time is of the essence. Alternately, a player may roll randomly if he or she wants or needs a quirk and doesn't know what to pick. Not that they're bound by such a roll, of course.
Quirks are divided up into the beneficial and deleterious quirks of a physical, mental, and role play nature. Those quirks which cost (or grant) two quirk points are noted with a two in parenthesis (2), while those that can be taken at multiple levels are noted with an asterisk in parenthesis (*).
Note: when building device users, as opposed to cyborgs or robots, players receive one free quirk point at this stage of character generation. If using the systematic method to build a character, players may instead add a point to their character, which are ostensibly for use when purchasing quirks, but may be designated for any other purpose if desired.
Table 21: Quirks Categories
|01-17||Physical (beneficial)||18-33||Physical (deleterious)||34-50||Mental (beneficial)
|51-67||Mental (deleterious)||68-83||Role Play (beneficial)||84-00||Role Play (deleterious)
Table 22: Physical Quirks (beneficial)
Table 23: Physical Quirks (deleterious)
Table 24: Mental Quirks (beneficial)
Table 25: Mental Quirks (deleterious)
Table 26: Role Play Quirks (beneficial)
Table 27: Role Play Quirks (deleterious)
The talents your freshly built technology-based character begins play with can be determined as per any other character type, beginning by rolling up their number of initial talents on table 28. Then, roll for the category each talent will belong to on table 29. To finish up, roll for individual talents using tables 30 through 37, one table for each applicable category of talents.
However, the actual talents a character has really should be determined by his or her origin. Keeping this in mind, the Judge may well opt to let a player choose some (or all of) the talents their high tech character possesses, allowing him or her a lot more creative control over their character. Another thing to consider is that a talent can function at a higher 'level' than normal.
There are three 'tiers' of talents, each providing an increasing bonus to FEATs applicable to said talent. When generating these heightened skills, however, keep in mind that they cost more; a level 2 talent counts as two talents, while a level 3 talent counts as four. This can get expensive fast, but is a great way to showcase what your character is really good at.
Also, some talents cost more than others, even before higher level talents are considered. A talent that has a number in parenthesis counts as that many talents during character generation; these are mostly background talents, but others can cost more as well. Similarly, the Student talent costs all of one's initial talent slots, for it by definition implies that a body does not have any other talents.
Note: when building device users, as opposed to cyborgs or robots, players may add two additional talent slots at this stage of character generation. If using the systematic method to build a character, players may instead add two points to their character, which are intended to be spent on talents, but may be repurposed for any other use, if desired.
Table 28: Number of Talents
|01-17||Two talents||18-33||Three talents||34-50||Four talents
|51-67||Five talents||68-83||Six talents||84-00||Seven talents
Table 29: Talent Categories
Table 30: Background Talents
Table 31: Behavioral Talents
Table 32: Environmental Talents
Table 33: Fighting Talents
Table 34: Miscellaneous Talents
Table 35: Professional Talents
Table 36: Scientific Talents
Also presented for your convenience is the table used to detail the initial number of contacts a new character possesses; it is available as table 38 in the Reference. Table 39, then, lists the types of contacts a high tech character may have upon the start their career, if the player needs any ideas; one need not roll up contact types randomly if they don't wish to.
Like quirks and talents, contacts can be taken at one of three levels of importance; for example, a police contact might be a beat cop (level 1), an FBI operative (level 2), or even an Interpol agent (level 3). Similarly, contacts of a higher level cost an increased amount of contact 'slots' - a level 2 contact counts as two contacts, while a level 3 contact costs four contact 'slots'.
Note: when building device users, as opposed to cyborgs or robots, players may add two additional contact slots at this stage of character generation. If using the systematic method to build a character, players may instead add two points to their character, which are ideally used to purchase contacts, but may be designated for any other purpose if desired.
Table 38: Number of Starting Contacts
|01-17||Two contacts||18-33||Three contacts||34-50||Four contacts
|51-67||Five contacts||68-83||Six contacts||84-00||Seven contacts
And Last, But Not Least
On top of all of their fantastic gear, that which grants them access to transcendent capabilities, high tech adventurers also have their pick of conventional, mundane equipment. These devices won't be the kind that make or break their style, for the most part, but they often fill in holes on a high tech character's roster when needed - or, at the very least, add a bit of luxury to one's life.
Common equipment a character can possess depends on their Resources. One may automatically have any gear with a price equal to his or her Resources rank or less, and may start out with materials of up to their Resources rank +2 CS with but a small explanation (the character has a Lamborghini ™ that she paid off previously). Anything more exorbitant must be approved by the Judge, but isn't necessarily out of the question.
It's mostly just a matter of feasibility and availability at that point.
Systematic (Point Based) Method
Players begin with fifty (50) points with which to build a high tech character. They may spend these points as they wish, only limited by the campaign's power level ceiling. For example, a mid-level campaign may limit characters to Amazing (50) or less on most ranks. Ask your Judge about his or her campaign limits before you proceed any further, if you're not sure what they are!
To begin with, determine how far above (or below) the norm the character will be in each ability score; for our purposes, the 'norm' will be Typical (6) rank. For every +1 CS a player applies to each spend one point, and for each -1 CS applied to these values, add one point. One ability score should remain within the normal human limits, but otherwise the sky is the limit (such limits are detailed in the Core Rules).
A starting character is assumed to have Typical (6) Resources and a Popularity score of zero (0). One may alter these ability scores as they can any other, though at double the cost for each CS (Amazing (50) ranked Resources would cost ten points, for example). If one intends to purchase the Heir to Fortune background talent, they shouldn't alter this 'base' Resources score any. Health and Karma are determined normally.
An opposed Popularity score (negative for heroes, positive for villains) is worth two points, no matter how great it is.
Before purchasing a character's powers, one should determine their origin, if this has not already been decided, for it will provide added benefits (and constraints) down the line. When buying powers, each rank in each power costs one point, starting at Feeble (2) rank. The upper rank of each ascendant ability is only limited by the campaign's power level ceiling (again, ask your Judge about this if necessary).
Plug in bonus powers provided by one's origin at this point as well, when building robots or cyborgs - unless the points provided for such have been appropriated for use elsewhere.
Costs can be controlled by adding limitations, which can apply to either one or all a character's powers. Whether applied to one power or globally to the character as a whole, weak limitations reduce the cost of a power by one point, strong limitations by two points, very strong limitations by three points, and extreme limitations by four points. Consider the effect of such limitations before counting your point savings!
Bear in mind the fact that all powers have a minimum cost of one (1) point, no matter how limited they may be. Furthermore, most characters with technology-based powers already have at least one limit baked into their super human abilities, so further limitations should be adopted with care.
Moving the other direction, a player may enhance one or more powers. A weak enhancement increases the cost by one point, strong enhancements add two points, very strong enhancements raise the cost by three points, and extreme enhancements add four points to a power's final cost. Such enhancements include improving the range or speed categories of a power, as well as other augmentations to its functionality.
Recall that many powers cost more than the base value; opposition, for example, costs three points per rank. Powers with a heightened cost are so noted in the character generation tables listed above (those with numbers in parenthesis after the name). Limitations and enhancements are multiplied in value by this cost; for instance, an extreme limitation on trace duplication would reap a sixteen point discount.
If your Judge allows their use in his or her campaign, one thing to consider is the use of Hyperkinetic and Hyperexhaustive rank qualifiers. These can each be acquired in the point system if allowed, being treated as either an extreme enhancement (in the form of a Hyperkinetic power) or an extreme limitation (in the form of a Hyperexhaustive power). Creating a Hyperkinetic ability score is a weak character enhancement.
Both can be very unbalancing in their own way, however, so check to make sure their use is okay.
Next, determine the normal gear the character possesses. As is the case with randomly generated characters, those built with the point based system may choose any standard gear that is readily available in the campaign, as long as it falls within a few CS of their Resources rank. If they want something more expensive, the player must give a good reason for such, though the Judge has veto power over improbable items.
Once a character's technology is resolved, he or she may purchase talents and contacts as they see fit, each costing one point. If one would like heightened talents or contacts (both come in three tiers), they must pay two points for a level two talent or contact, or four points for a level three talent or contact. The Student background talent costs five points, but cannot be purchased with any other (save for Heir to Fortune).
Device users may add in four bonus points at this point, two intended for talents and contacts, each - unless the points provided for such have been appropriated for use elsewhere.
A player may next use remaining points to purchase beneficial quirks - or add a few points to pad weak areas with deleterious quirks. Most quirks give (or take) one point, but if purchased at a higher level, they function in much the same way as talents or contacts in this regard (two points for a level two quirk, four points for a level three quirk). Also, quirks without level but that count double cost (or give) two points.
Device users gain one additional point to spend on quirks as they wish - though again, this point may be reallocated elsewhere if desired.
Once a player is out of points, it's up to the Judge to look over what they have wrought. Does the character's math add up? Does it fall within predetermined campaign limitations for power level? If nothing appears to be wrong, and the Judge likes what he or she sees, they should approve what a player has created, and then allow him or her to complete the last portion of their character's creation.
Assuming they didn't actually start with such.
Filling in the blanks
Once all the basic details concerning your character have been ascertained, it is time to 'fill in the blanks', or to detail all of their personal and background information - the stuff you can't quantify with dice rolls or points. Who are they? What do they look like? Where are they from? What are they like? Where did their astounding technological abilities come from? How to they keep the things, or even themselves, functional?
All of this character information must be determined by the player in order to make it truly his or her own, and to really 'flesh them out'. This is often the most difficult part of the character generation process, the portion where many tend to fail. However, with a little effort and some serious consideration, the answers to these questions can make that simple little piece of paper with all the funny words on it really come alive!
Characters who derive their super human abilities from advanced technology need not show their work when they are first generated; in other words, all of the effort to produce whatever breakthroughs enable their extant ascendant activities were presumably made (or stolen) before they began play. After this point, however, these characters must develop subsequent technologies the hard way.
Those who specialize in the creation and utilization of advanced technology have, unlike other characters, a means through which they can develop new powers that doesn't involve the expenditure of Karma. Leveraging what they have and what they know, a technologist can simply cash in on what they have available to them to invent all new devices - or, at the very least, modify what they've already got.
To start with, a would-be inventor must determine the tech rank their creation will have.
The tech rank is the intensity one must pass FEAT rolls against during the inventing process. The primary determinant of a device's tech rank is the highest rank any of its capabilities will possess. Such ranks come from the power(s) the item will have access to, as well as any special statistics an item type possesses (Control, Resilience, Material Strength, etc.). This highest rank is modified as follows:
- Apply a +2 CS for each rank that is equal to the potential device's maximum. For example, when building a floating weapons platform, one's plans call for two Incredible (40) rank abilities. If that happens to be the highest rank the power will make use of, its base tech rank will be Incredible (40) +2 CS, or Monstrous (75). A like increase is applied if the device is too small to see, or otherwise hard to spot.
- Apply a +1 CS for each rank that is 1 CS less than its maximum operating rank. An item whose maximum rank is Amazing (50), for example, will have that tech rank boosted +1 CS for each rank of Incredible (40) it uses. A like increase applies if the device is to be portable (such as a ray gun), if it is really small (pocket sized) or large (occupies more than one area of space), or if it is designed to impersonate a specific entity.
On the other hand, a base tech rank of Monstrous (75) applies under two conditions. If an effect that modern technology cannot reproduce is to be housed within the invention (it is unknown if the effect will even work), it will have this value as a minimum tech rank. Alternately, if attempting to reproduce the product of modern technology (the effect is commonly understood), the item's base tech rank cannot exceed this value.
Once this final value is determined, it's time to get inventing! To begin with, the inventor must pass a Resources FEAT roll against the intensity of their creation's tech rank. This may well be an impossible FEAT, where particularly advanced devices are concerned. In the event of such an occurrence, one can get a loan to complete their invention, or beg, borrow, or steal from others in order to acquire what they need.
On occasion none of these solutions are feasible or desirable, though. In the event that this comes to pass, an inventor has several additional options at their disposal. For one thing, one can adopt a modular approach to their creations, building one component at a time. This can divide a completed device's tech rank into manageable chunks, namely by focusing on just one special power it will have at a time.
Another option to reduce the tech rank of an invention is the use of special catalysts. A special catalyst is just that, a relatively hard to acquire something or other that facilitates the creation of a contraption. This may be some inexplicable MacGuffin or something specifically related to the item to be crafted. But either way, a special catalyst offers inventors a powerful benefit.
For one thing, the procurement of a special catalyst allows them to remove one rank from the calculation of their creation's tech rank. This is particularly handy where high material strengths are concerned, as they are often a primary culprit in the inflation of a tech rank to unattainable levels. Just come up with a sample of something of the desired m.s., and that property can be 'bled' into your invention. Or something!
Special catalysts are a good means of luring inventors out of the lab and into the field (i.e., making them go on adventures). This is especially true of inventions that cannot be replicated by modern technology, for such items always require at least one special catalyst. We're talking about bleeding edge science, after all, so who's to say that mysterious meteor one read about doesn't have properties earth metals don't?
An invention can benefit from the use of up to three special catalysts, if desired. While this can greatly reduce the tech rank (and thus, cost) of an item to be, it is important to note that, when all is said and done, at least one functioning rank should remain to determine an object's tech rank. In other words, special catalysts cannot reduce an invention's would-be tech rank to Shift 0 - but Feeble (2) is just fine!
Generally, when building an invention, the character involved will require an amount of time, in days, equal to the tech rank number of the item in question. This is a basic value, assuming the inventor is working alone, in regular, eight hour shifts. For instance, a device with a tech rank of Shift Y (200) requires two hundred days to build. There are numerous ways to safely reduce the time required, however.
The following conditions will each halve the amount of time an invention's construction requires, and all such halving will stack: having a lab assistant, having an assistant whose Reason is within 1 CS of the inventor's, having blueprints to or a working (at some point, anyway) model of the item to be built, or working non-stop - save for required pauses to eat, sleep, and attend to other biological concerns.
Similarly, there are conditions that can actively hinder the completion of a would-be invention, each of which double the amount of time required to finish the project. Also stacking, such conditions include each doubling in size of a given invention above one area in size, working from false or fraudulent data, or utilizing a work crew suffering from low morale.
An inventor can only work on the creation of one item at a time. This is the case even when working on sub-assemblies of an overall project, those which come into being as a compartmentalization of one's project in order to lower the overall tech rank they must attempt invention FEAT rolls against. It's simply too difficult to innovate on multiple projects simultaneously, no matter how clever a body is.
Bearing that in mind, innovators can make use of separate crews to divide up portions of their work. When such crews are utilized, the time required to complete a project cannot be reduced below the standard amount demanded by its tech level. The down side of this technique is that conditions extant during the work on a project can cause the time necessary to complete it to take much, much longer.
Success or Failure
After being struck by the inspiration to create something new, you've rounded up all the materials required to make it possible, and then put in the work necessary to realize your vision. But does it actually work? Good question! Determining the success of one's efforts to invent something at this point simply requires passing a Reason FEAT roll against the tech rank of the would-be contraption.
As is the case when determining an invention's tech rank, various conditions revolving around its realization can modify the inventor's Reason rank for the purposes of this FEAT roll. These modifiers can be positive or negative, depending on how much the associated conditions help or hurt the process of creating. Common modifiers to invention FEAT rolls include the following:
- If a device was built using the blueprints of an existing, working model of a similar item, or an actual (even if formerly) working model is available for reverse engineering, the would-be inventor may add a +2 CS to their Reason rank when determining success or failure.
- Inventors may add a +1 CS to the final creation FEAT roll for each applicable talent used in a device's creation, including those given by powers or quirks, or if they exploit the services of an assistant with a Reason score within 1 CS of their own.
- If an inventor or their staff rushed the completion of a project, whether working overtime or kit-bashing, or for each special catalyst used to realize a device's creation, apply a -1 CS penalty to the Reason FEAT roll required to determine its success or failure.
A would-be inventor may add Karma to their invention roll, naturally, but must state exactly how much Karma they wish to expend on this FEAT. Furthermore, the automatic and impossible FEAT rules are in full effect for an invention die roll. If the inventor passes this FEAT, great! That new contraption, however improbable, has been realized - and may now be used for good or for ill.
Failing this FEAT means that the invention does not currently work. If the inventor wishes to change this state of affairs, he or she must determine what went wrong, and then fix it - almost invariably requiring a (or another) special catalyst to correct whatever deficiency caused the failure condition in the first place. Which, of course, means implementing the change of plans.
While an inventor need not attempt a new Resources FEAT against their creation's tech rank to proceed after a failure, they do need to expend an amount of time equal to their original work on the project in order to integrate a fix. After this, inventors are allowed to attempt another invention FEAT roll. This process may continue until an eventual success is attained, or the inventor gives up.
The above presumes creation under controlled circumstances, where events do not conspire to create emergencies that require the immediate completion of a project to, say, save the world. However, the world does not always play ball, and on occasion a character needs something they've been cooking up in the laboratory immediately. When this condition transpires, kit-bashing is often the solution.
When kit-bashing, a character makes use of that which they have on hand to immediately complete a working prototype of something or other, compressing each day of their remaining build time to a single turn. For example, when attempting to invent a contraption with a tech rank of Amazing (50), a character may kit-bash to reduce the normal fifty days required to a mere fifty turns - five minutes!
This process can also be applied to items that have been undergoing regular effort, as well. If the inventor in the above example had already put in thirty days of work on their whatsit, they would only need to kit-bash the remaining twenty days of work. Thus, they would finish the creation of a working prototype in just twenty turns, which is a mere two minutes of time!
Achieving this staggering reduction in build time is not easy, however. An inventor must spend ten Karma points for each day of work so compressed, an expenditure that still does not guarantee success in their endeavor. In other words, the inventor must still pass their invention FEAT roll in order to successfully kit-bash a device, a FEAT they may also want (or need) to spend Karma on.
Failure of an invention FEAT when kit-bashing is handled per the norm. In other words, an inventor must try again if they wish to proceed, though special catalysts are not necessary to resume work when attempting a second (or more) round of kit-bashing. Karma spent to compress work time must be spent again, however, along with the previously allotted amount of time needed to kit-bash.
Success, on the other hand, means that the inventor has kit-bashed themselves a working version of the desired item. It will function for 1d10 turns in total, before it fails - and fails spectacularly, for the most part. On the bright side, having produced a (momentarily) working version of their contraption, an inventor can use it in the reproduction of a more permanent item, if they wish!
When attempting to modify an extant device, the process for doing so is similar to full-on invention, but much simpler. Characters may attempt one modification to an otherwise complete item at a time, as is the case with the creation of an item from scratch. The tech rank of a modification is equal to whatever rank said modification adds to the function of an item to begin with.
Modifying devices one has already built is an excellent way to control the overall tech rank of a finished contraption. By creating it piece by piece, an inventor can keep costs down, even if the time required to finish an item is greatly increased. The only downside is that if a modification FEAT fails, a second FEAT is required to determine whether or not the original device is damaged during this process.
Repairs to items generally require either a work shop or tool kits, both of whom must have a tech rank equal to or better than the rank number of a device's damaged function(s). Applicable repair skills, especially Repair / Tinkering, improve the effectiveness of such repair tools or facilities by their own bonus, however, showcasing how knowledgeable individuals can make do even with lesser tools in a pinch.
Repairs are completed by passing a Reason FEAT roll against the original rank of a device's damaged function, whether it be a vehicular statistic, damaging power, or even its material strength. If the tech rank of one's tools are not up to the task, even after being enhanced by their wielder's talents, they can partially repair a device. This, at the very least, raises a damaged function up to their tools' modified tech rank.
Reprogramming a computer, robot, or other thinking device requires a Reason FEAT roll against the effective Psyche rank of the item in question (which represents intrusion countermeasures). Installing new software to override that of an extant system requires a number of turns equal to the previously stated rank or intensity, assuming such software has already been written.
Actively changing the programming of a device on the fly is a bit more difficult, and is generally handled per a field repair. Code revisions of this type rarely survive a system reboot, but can be particularly useful in a pinch, much like kit-bashing is. Furthermore, any reprogramming of a sentient machine is likely to be transient at best, assuming their minds can even be altered in the first place.
Often, the simplest way for technological characters to develop new capabilities, mechanically speaking, is to just buy them. When acquired in this fashion, a character's new high tech powers are purchased as are a textbook character's ascendant abilities. In other words, the character just expends Karma in order to justify the addition of a new device into their arsenal of super human prowess.
If not simply invented, a new technological ability has a base cost of three thousand (3,000) Karma points, in addition to a fee equal to the new power's original rank number times one hundred (100). Picking up a brand new power at Remarkable (30) rank, for instance, would cost the character a total of six thousand (6,000) Karma (base cost of 3,000 plus the power rank (30) times 100).
The same rules for special catalysts apply when acquiring technological powers with Karma as they do when inventing. In other words, at least one catalyst is required if attempting to craft an item with a capability not currently available to current technology. Further catalysts, if desired, can either decrease the base cost by 1,000 Karma, or eliminate the cost of a special feature (a high m.s., for example).
All of the above assumes powers with a standard cost; in other words, a power that has a listed cost of one point per rank. If a power is listed as having a cost equal to 2 points per rank, double its total Karma cost, and so on. If a power is listed with a 'flat cost', the price (after the base fee) is only 250 Karma points per point; circular vision, for instance, would cost 500 additional Karma.
While it sounds a lot cheaper to simply invent one's way to success, at least where Karma is concerned, this is not always possible. It particularly behooves players to rightfully purchase, with Karma, items they 'acquire' from another character. This so that such items do not suffer from the whims of Plot - at least, no more so than anything else the Judge might have in mind, at any rate.
Sometimes, when building things, a contraption might not quite work as desired, which may well lead an electronicist to all new innovations. Other times, characters might need to pull a proverbial rabbit out of their hat, and coax one of their creations into doing something it simply wasn't designed for. This when it was previously functioning just as planned, and they don't wish to ruin them in the process!
When not making permanent modifications in the form of kit-bashing, high tech characters can try to temporarily alter the function of one of their transcendent technologies in order to stretch them beyond their conventional limits. In other words, they are attempting a power stunt! Every attempt to create a power stunt in this fashion costs a technology-based character 150 Karma points.
Power stunts are a bit more difficult for technology users (or living technologies) to accomplish, primarily due to their material nature, but are still possible nonetheless. So, if you have a new idea for the functions of a dusty old implement, give it a shot, already. Occasionally, this is worlds easier than building a whole new device to achieve that effect in the first place!
Power stunts can often assist innovation in the invention process, particularly when they're unsuccessful. A spectacular malfunction, whether or not that was the intent of the specific power stunt, can produce the impetus to create a device which offers the intended effect. This falls under the 'working copy' of a device to duplicate when making something that works that way on purpose.
Note: the rank a power stunt operates at depends on the cost of its parent ability. A power that has a stated cost of one point per rank will allow for power stunts which operate at its own rank, though each additional point the power costs will reduce a stunt's rank by -1 CS. The idea here is to reflect just how potent powers with a higher cost (such as power absorption, or even ultimate power) happen to be.
While reinventing one's hardware and software is a good way to achieve personal growth, it is important to note that a character is not merely the inventory of their various electromechanical implements. For the most part, the wielders of transcendent technologies spend Karma much like any other when purchasing new talents or contacts, as is defined in the Living and Dying document.
The same applies when enhancing a current ability or power rank, with one exception. A character can attempt to use the invention process when engaging in such endeavors, treating such augmentations as modifications to an extant contrivance. This can save many a technologist Karma in the short term, as lower ability score and power rank numbers are often easy pickings for those with high Resources.
However! Attempting to do so includes all the risks of equipment modification, in addition to its benefits. Any super powers granted by the auspices of technology that are damaged during the modification process are rendered useless until fixed, and ability scores so damaged are dropped to Feeble (2) in rank - for both their normal usage and for the purpose of determining Health and Karma scores.
If inadvertently handicapped in this fashion, a character may require external assistance to repair themselves. This may especially be the case if one has rendered the body parts required to fix themselves useless - or even just nearly so. A lack of help may very well cause such temporary handicaps to develop more permanence, particularly when one is a leader in their field of expertise.
Thus is the peril of self-modification, especially when one lives on the bleeding edge of progress!