Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Monitors: some possible Enhancements

Following on from an earlier post, I present a few sample Enhancements I've designed for the game on top of the ones everyone gets. I'll be wanting more. There are two main categories, implants and cybernetics.

One possibility is letting you take other kinds of gadgets as implants or built into cybernetics. But as I haven't invented any of those yet, there's no examples here.

My intention for the game is that while enhancements have specified mechanical benefits, this is a moderately sciencey setup and other effects should apply if it makes sense and seems fun.


Implants are bits of electronic and biotechnology incorporated into the subject's body so seamlessly that they're undetectable without medical examination.


Using ultrahigh-frequency sonar, the echolocator provides its owner with a whole new sense. When using the device, the character gains all-round perception, and can navigate in total darkness. The sonar cannot detect colour or markings, but can distinguish general textures. It also provides a +2 bonus on Perception when the target is hidden behind something, due to sound refraction. The device can be turned on or off as the owner chooses with a mere thought.

The echolocator can be confused by chaff, heavy rain, insect swarms and similar effects; by soundproofing and absorbent substances; or by excessive background noise. Two characters with echolocators can often sense each others' sonar, but individual devices may use different frequencies. The device doesn't detect or interfere with natural sonar. A few creatures with high-frequency hearing can detect the sonar.


While a small amount of nanotech is common for Monitors, nanohaem is a complete in-bloodstream detoxification system. Tiny particles detect and purge harmful substances, tweak hormone levels and track their owner's general health. Nanohaem grants +2 to any defence against Toxic damage. In addition, any penalty die inflicted by Toxic damage immediately has its size reduced one step, to a minimum of 1d3. The nanohaem can also halve the duration of any lingering effect caused by toxins, narcotics or equivalent effects.

Neural Jack

A nervous-system interface can connect directly with technology, making many jobs easier and permitting bonding with mechas, large vessels and similar devices. Using short-range wireless links, neural jacks allow the user to operate computers discreetly and at great speed. A skilled neural jack user can operate a jacked device without anyone noticing.

Most Earth-style electronics accepts neural jack input, and jacking into an enabled device takes no additional time. Technology without input devices can be hotwired for neural jacks as easily as any other input. Secure devices can be hacked at a distance using neural jacks. Some high-security devices may block neural jacks or include countermeasures. Alien technology may not permit neural jack use, or require additional rolls for successful use.

Using neural jacks grants a +2 bonus on rolls to operate electronic devices and reduces the time needed to perform tasks. By freeing up hands, neural jacks make some complex activities easier, providing the same +2 bonus. It negates most noise, but computers may still beep and monitors display work in progress. A Will roll can be used to feign another activity while using neural jacks to covertly operate machinery. Neural jacks can typically be used from up to a metre away, though obstacles may block signal.

A good example here might be the classic chase scene. It's a lot easier when you can drive the hovercar directly from your brain, leaving both hands free to shoot back.


Cybernetics are enhancements that either supplement or replace an existing organ, often after an injury. While replacement organs are common, Monitors cybernetics are a cut above, providing significant benefits to their owner.

Cybernetics come in two broad types. Bionics are elegant replicas of the original, undetectable in most circumstances. Their complexity and discretion allows limited room for enhanced capabilities. Augmetics are bulkier and more conspicuous, focusing on power and function rather than form. They offer a significant advantage but are very difficult to conceal, which makes the user far more conspicuous, easier to identify and can raise suspicions. Regardless of type, some cybernetic enhancements cannot be used in public without revealing their nature: firing your hand off on a grapple line, or the sudden telescoping of your eye, is very hard to explain away.

A character can choose the appearance of their own bionics within these bands; an augmetic might be a crude-looking mechanical affair of pistons and valves, or a sleek and beautiful thing apparently made of scarlet glass.

In general, an augmetic grants antagonists a +5 bonus to identify, track or research the character. The augmetic is too large, noisy or oddly-shaped to be disguised easily by covering or makeup, but creative disguises may succeed. NPCs such as guards, may be more suspicious of characters with augmetics, and search or watch them more carefully.

If I end up using the power-consumption rules I mentioned briefly, augmetics would also consume one power point from the character's allocation. If not, I may want some other drawback, as I think the balance is still notably in favour of overts. One possibility is that augmetics are vulnerable to EMP-type disruption or can otherwise be temporarily impaired.

Options labelled (A) are only available to augmetics.

Cybernetic Arm

This enhancement can be designed with a range of features to suit its owner’s tastes. Options include:

  • Enhanced Servo-Motors: greater power grants +2 bonus on rolls using the arm where speed and strength are important, such as bending bars, punching, searching rubble, repairing barricades or bowling.
    • Overcharger (A): classified power and propulsion technologies providing enormous power for their size, increasing this bonus to +5.
  • Toolkit: incorporates specialist algorithms and tools to aid in professional tasks. Grants a +2 bonus on one of Fettle, Medicine, Science or Tech rolls involving practical work or evaluation. You may choose this benefit more than once, affecting a different attribute each time.
    • Secondary AI: a semi-autonomous computer within the limb greatly enhances its technical value. Increase the bonus to +5 on one chosen attribute.
  • Weapon Mount: the limb incorporates one weapon of your choice of category None or Hand. While it would be possible to build grenades into a cybernetic, it would also be really stupid. When not in use, the weapon can be concealed within the arm and only close technical inspection or military-grade scanners will reveal it. Activating or concealing the weapon does not require an action.
    • Stabilisers (A): the weapon mount can incorporate an Assault or Heavy weapon instead. Penalties for firing one-handed apply as normal.
  • Grapple: the limb incorporates a grapple line. The hand functions as a pulse-driven grappling hook with independent AI, granting a +2 bonus as it intelligently grips the target. The hand can scuttle short distances on landing to find a suitable pivot point, which takes one action of time.
  • Shield (A): a collapsible force shield can be deployed at a moment’s notice. (I need some shield/parry rules for this)

Re: servos - I'm still not quite sure how to articulate this one to get my idea across. The idea is that servos can make sudden powerful movements, so they don't make you faster at doing things on the whole.

The "pulse-driven grappling hook" will be an actual bit of equipment at some point so the Grapple option makes sense.

At present, entirely under rules as written, it's possible to create a character with Strength 27 - just take a Crocodilian or Varanid, give them a full whack of 20 Strength, and an augmetic granting +5 Strength. I'm not yet sure whether I care about that.

The idea I'm trying to get across with toolkits is that having a bionic arm designed for interfacing with technology shouldn't grant you a bonus to remember theories, and an augmetic eye designed for lab work shouldn't help you debate science. It's theoretically possible, it just seems off.

Weapons - this is not the sort of game where people are expected to regularly lose or swap weapons, making this more useful for quick draws and concealment. That being said, being able to bring a heavy weapon in under the guise of a replacement arm is still pretty damn useful. The limit on non-limb cybernetics is because building a massive recoil-causing cannon into someone's eye socket would be madness.

While I was initially led to make Hand weapons minor benefits out of flavour (it seems more practical and therefore more likely), I have considered the balance issue as well. I know my weapon balance is only hazy, but one of the plus factors for Hand and None weapons is specifically that they are easy to carry and conceal. By making the implant only a minor benefit, I reduce the feeling that you're paying twice for those advantages. In contrast, having a concealable rifle is a substantial benefit, even if it's still obvious that you have an augmetic arm.

Cybernetic Eye

A replacement eye can be equipped with a range of sensory modifications. Options include:

  • Spectral Compressor: the eye translates near-infrared and near-ultraviolet into visible light, allowing vision in a wider range of conditions. The eye switches to the best available mode, generally providing a mix of monochrome and thermal-image vision in poor light. Mechanically, the owner ignores penalties to vision caused by poor lighting other than total darkness.
  • Flash Filter: algorithms detect and compensate for sudden changes in light intensity, reducing the risk of blinding. The eye grants +2 Visor against Photon damage and a +2 bonus on any other relevant rolls, such as spotting a target against the sun.
    • Compensator (A): multiple lenses and an image reprocessor stabilise images even further, increasing the bonus to +5.
  • Camera: as well as a visual feed, the eye can take photographs or brief clips of what the owner sees. These can be exported like any other data. The eye can also be used to play back footage or view image files. The eye's storage chip can be swapped or wiped like any other memory device, and has space for around one hour of video.
  • Magnifier (A): the eye incorporates adjustable lenses, providing limited telescopic and microscopic vision. This provides a +2 bonus whenever these abilities would be beneficial.

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