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Old 01-24-2013, 02:12 PM   #1
Tzeentch
 
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Default Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

Finally it comes out! Yay! Been really looking forward to this issue to see what other gadgets and articles made it into the issue, and I don't think you'll be disappointed (unless you thought it was Low-Tech Toys or something).

Ultra-Tech Too (Kenneth Peters)
This is my article. A few things will look familiar to the early Ultra-Tech playtest drafts (e.g., reactive fragments, liquid breathing rigs, and cerablate resin) but most of this are new entries, and even old ideas got completely rewritten as time has marched on since they were first written. Most of the additions in the article are hard-science, but I couldn't resist updating NEMA reactors to Ultra-Tech format as Technomancer is one of my favorite GURPS settings.

Consistency with current GURPS books and previous Pyramid articles was one of my primary concerns here. This actually leads to a few clumsy sections, such as the rules for Design Switch: Plasma Explosive Replacements, as readers may not realize that all TL11-12 warheads are explosive power cells in base Ultra-Tech!

Ok, I could go on, but here's a breakdown of the sections:

Power: NEMA reactors, quantum nucleonic reactors (now considered superscience), and zero point reactors. I may revisit these once VDS gets released, but they shouldn't need much change. Not a particularly exciting section, but it does add some ^ options that range from outright magic to still in the running for real-world emergent superscience.
Computers: This was the easiest section to write, as I got to resurrect some of the detailed stuff from the original playtest drafts in more generic form, use a cool Culture quote, and address a personal problem I have with GURPS computer rules (namely, the strangely detailed way you track mass storage capacity despite it being rather pointless). I really liked the Design Switch concept from Spaceships so I use it all the time now, as it's a convenient way to organize and segment tweaks to base rules assumptions (it's similar to the Fuzion switches and dials, which I also liked).
Foodstuffs: Some playtest refugees get a total rewrite and additions, such as combofoods and fauxfoods, and nanopaste makes a return. The quote about Parepin comes from the Nine Inch Nails Year Zero ARG (which would be an interesting RPG setting, I'll point out) and even gets a nod regarding food additives.
Environment Gear and Suits: This was an excuse to add the liquid breathing rig (from Transhuman Space: Under Pressure), and I'm very happy with how it turned out - writing to a very tight wordcount forced me to compact all the fluff and rules elements of the system into two paragraphs, and I think the writeup is better for it. It does conflate some components of the old writeup, but I doubt anyone will care :)
Firearms: I intentionally avoided dealing with firearms in this article. This wasn't an errata article, and I have few problems with the Ultra-Tech chapter. Also, lists of guns bore me to tears these days unless they have an interesting hook. There is some pretty sweet firearms material coming up in the Military Sci-Fi issue, I believe :)
Warheads: I will point out that these rules can make explosives far more powerful. The REF numbers were not pulled from a hat, and are based on published ranges of explosive power relative to TNT (even VOMEX is a composite of several proposed next-gen volumetric technologies). Indeed, the REF for nuclear isomers was actually reduced quite a bit from some of the high-range values! This was a fun section to write - especially the common properties - as explosives are not given much detail in GURPS compared to other destructive devices. Not everything made the cut from early drafts of this section, and the Hellions were useful in pointing out boring or mechanically problematic additions (e.g. solid-explosive milled warheads was a specific option but it didn't excite anyone and had boring rules/required too much explanation). I'm pretty happy with the reactive fragments rules, as they seem consistent with what I know and read of the actual technology. They are also mechanically more interesting than how they first appeared in the playtest (IMO).
Melee Weapons: The idea behind this article actually came from a forum thread regarding Ultra-Tech melee weapons and inconsistencies that had arisen with other GURPS supplements (and with the Basic Set rules, to some extent). I hope that this article addresses the recurring questions about ultra-tech blades and establishes consistency across all the *-Tech books with regard to options and rules for vibroblades, ultra-tech options regarding the parrying and weapon breakage rules, etc.). Keep in mind that these changes are suggestions and not actual errata to Ultra-Tech!
Defenses: This section is abbreviated, largely because of wordcount limits. Ideally, the Ultra-Tech armor rules need to be revamped to some extent but I did try and make some logical suggestions regarding Ultra-Tech armor as relates to High-Tech features. I had an entire section on ultra-tech shields I was thinking of adding, but I think that might fit a different theme better.

Live Better With Cybernetics (Demi Benson)
This is a huge expansion to the cybernetics rules from Ultra-Tech. In scope, the rules expansion actually remind me of the Man & Machine sourcebook for Shadowrun.

This article makes a distinction between installed accessories (implants) and replacement structures (bionics), but the difference is small, in terms in game mechanics. One rules niggle is that implant control is very expensive (almost outrageously so) which is largely pointless as you can avoid the most expensive brain linking costs by using an implant computer. Wouldn't a bodyLAN be standard? Another niggle is that the rules suggest that Accessories count as encumbrance, but the examples of implant Accessories don't list any suggested weights so it's not clear what the design intent was.

Bionics are handled well, and I liked that a small chart of limb weights was included. They seem consistent with the anthropometric data I collected for a similar article years ago (http://tzeentchnet.pingslave.com/GURPS/sr_bcyber.htm). The rules address limbs with different STs, Unnatural Features, and so on. Limbs with different DX are not covered. I sort of quibble with the way that Acc for bionic weapons is handled and the utility of the Gunsight bionic, but that can be a separate thread.

There are dozens of new bionics, including some that may be a nod to Cyberpunk 2020's Chromebook entries :) Very strong catalog here, ranging from cigarette lighter fingers to spinal reconstruction.

Eidetic Memory:Modular Mecha (David Pulver)
I'm a HUGE fan of the mecha creation rules that use GURPS Spaceships, as it fits a sweet spot between complexity and ease of use for me. However, while the complexity end was well-represented with GURPS Mecha and core GURPS Vehicles, there really wasn't a simple "sketch-a-mech" system in GURPS until this article. The basics of the system are that you select a size class, which determines the basic stats. You then determine a quality level that determines the amount of customization points you are allowed, and pick additional abilities using those points. Low-quality mecha actually get negative points that require them to select disadvantageous features like Volatile or Cockpit in Head.

This is a very simple system, and makes some weak TL assumptions (TL10), but is otherwise pretty freeform. There are no tonnages to keep track of, no Cost Factors or tracking individual accessories, and the only math is multiplying base cost by quality factor. Weapons are kept simple. It's similar to the old BESM concepts, actually. The system explains itself very well, and making new design features should be quite simple.

Near-Future Combat Uniforms (Dan Howard)
There was a theme in this issue of pretty heavy crunch (even David's article is a design system of sorts). Dan's article has considerably more fluff, most notably a history of contemporary soldier modernization systems before it even has a single GURPS stat. I have a somewhat more pessimistic view of the programs than Dan, but this sort of introduction is important to set the tone and bridge the gap between real-world TL8 and the TL9/10 systems of the article. I think the article would have been considerably less useful without it.

The Nanotech Combat Uniform is the TL9 uniform for the article, and follows a detailed description of possible uses for nanotubes. These are new armor types, and the list of additional suit abilities riffs off the nanotube section to a wide suite of enhancements (e.g. NanoCap integrated energy storage and NanoFilter NBC filters, etc.). Indeed, the basic suit is actually treated as a chassis that you attach various Nano-mods to build a full uniform. Multiple pre-built uniforms and mods are included.
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Old 01-24-2013, 02:18 PM   #2
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

Here's the solid explosive rules I couldn't get to work like I wanted.

Solid Explosive Warheads (TL9)
Only about half the mass of an average warhead consists of explosive material, the rest is composed of fusing, casing, stabilizing filler, and shock proofing reinforcement. Ultra-Tech warheads and explosive projectiles can be constructed of solid explosives milled to shape and coated with a thin protective shell, dispensing with these supporting materials. Fusing and associated components (actuators and metal plates in SEFOP warheads, for example) are embedded within the explosive mass. This design option presents significant safety and handling issues, and is highly unlikely to be used for mass-use or general-purpose munitions, but is an option for special-purpose applications.

Conventional warheads with this option multiply their explosion damage (not follow-up attacks) by 1.5. For example, a 40mm TL9 HEC warhead (Ultra-Tech, p. 154) with the solid explosive warhead option does 12d cr ex. Multiply the cost of the warhead by 5.
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Old 01-25-2013, 08:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
Live Better With Cybernetics (Demi Benson)
This is a huge expansion to the cybernetics rules from Ultra-Tech. In scope, the rules expansion actually remind me of the Man & Machine sourcebook for Shadowrun.
Thanks! Never read any Shadowrun material, but now I'm curious...

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
This article makes a distinction between installed accessories (implants) and replacement structures (bionics), but the difference is small, in terms in game mechanics. One rules niggle is that implant control is very expensive (almost outrageously so) which is largely pointless as you can avoid the most expensive brain linking costs by using an implant computer. Wouldn't a bodyLAN be standard? Another niggle is that the rules suggest that Accessories count as encumbrance, but the examples of implant Accessories don't list any suggested weights so it's not clear what the design intent was.
Re: Direct brain connection vs bodyLAN.
That's on purpose for a few reasons.
  1. Computers can be hacked; and hacking computers is a big part of the genre. So if you run all your augmentation through a computer, you risk having it all taken down at once.
  2. Running everything through a computer adds another layer between what you want and what you get. I would be perfectly willing to call that at least 1 Ready/Concentrate maneuver for every change. You want to turn on your Radar Skin and focus the beams in a narrow area? That's 2 seconds of time you spend subvocalizing to your body computer. If the Radar Skin is connected directly to your brain, and you've paid the points to have it as an ability, those effects are instant.
  3. Running advanced senses and feedback through a computer requires total VR or sensie tech, both of which are complexity 6+. At TL9, a computer that can do that and be implanted in a body is $50,000+. At TL10+, it's much cheaper.
  4. Since the computer is doing all the work, it needs an appropriate skill package to use the skill.

Implants' weight is listed on page 13. As a general rule, it's doubled to account for a shell and data cables and such.

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
Limbs with different DX are not covered. I sort of quibble with the way that Acc for bionic weapons is handled and the utility of the Gunsight bionic, but that can be a separate thread.
I had much more planned, but about half had to be cut to fit in a Pyramid article. 15,000 words would have been way too long. :)
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Old 01-25-2013, 09:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

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Originally Posted by DemiBenson View Post
Re: Direct brain connection vs bodyLAN.
That's on purpose for a few reasons.
  1. Computers can be hacked; and hacking computers is a big part of the genre. So if you run all your augmentation through a computer, you risk having it all taken down at once.
  2. Running everything through a computer adds another layer between what you want and what you get. I would be perfectly willing to call that at least 1 Ready/Concentrate maneuver for every change. You want to turn on your Radar Skin and focus the beams in a narrow area? That's 2 seconds of time you spend subvocalizing to your body computer. If the Radar Skin is connected directly to your brain, and you've paid the points to have it as an ability, those effects are instant.
  3. Running advanced senses and feedback through a computer requires total VR or sensie tech, both of which are complexity 6+. At TL9, a computer that can do that and be implanted in a body is $50,000+. At TL10+, it's much cheaper.
  4. Since the computer is doing all the work, it needs an appropriate skill package to use the skill.
Most implanted items should be controlled through a computer by default - radios, radar, etc especially. It shouldn't be any more difficult to control that stuff through an implant computer than any other computer, unless the implant computer can't be controlled as well as a normal computer (which shouldn't be the case). That said, you'd need to take the normal actions to operate the radio/radar/etc as equipment, but it shouldn't take any extra time, nor does the computer need the skill, because it isn't doing the work it's just acting as an interface for you to do the work.

VR or Sensie tech should be required for any implants that act in such a way that they'd be required if operated through a computer; remember, even a radio is effectively a specialized computer at TL9+. That said, you don't need sensie tech to replace/augment the user's hearing or visual senses or to interface to them with a computer. It'd be incredibly stupid to require that but then allow replacement eyes/ears; instead, you'd wire the computer into those nerves for input/output - and you'd have to do that anyways for much of what implant computers are used for (otherwise the Photographic Memory advantage makes no sense).

Total VR would likely only be needed for new senses and other really complicated stuff, not for 'basic' interfacing with the already-present nervous system.

Quote:
I had much more planned, but about half had to be cut to fit in a Pyramid article. 15,000 words would have been way too long. :)
Any chance you wrote the rest and you can share it with the rest of us?;)
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Old 01-25-2013, 10:57 AM   #5
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

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Originally Posted by Langy View Post
Most implanted items should be controlled through a computer by default - radios, radar, etc especially. It shouldn't be any more difficult to control that stuff through an implant computer than any other computer, unless the implant computer can't be controlled as well as a normal computer (which shouldn't be the case). That said, you'd need to take the normal actions to operate the radio/radar/etc as equipment, but it shouldn't take any extra time, nor does the computer need the skill, because it isn't doing the work it's just acting as an interface for you to do the work.

VR or Sensie tech should be required for any implants that act in such a way that they'd be required if operated through a computer; remember, even a radio is effectively a specialized computer at TL9+. That said, you don't need sensie tech to replace/augment the user's hearing or visual senses or to interface to them with a computer. It'd be incredibly stupid to require that but then allow replacement eyes/ears; instead, you'd wire the computer into those nerves for input/output - and you'd have to do that anyways for much of what implant computers are used for (otherwise the Photographic Memory advantage makes no sense).

Total VR would likely only be needed for new senses and other really complicated stuff, not for 'basic' interfacing with the already-present nervous system.



Any chance you wrote the rest and you can share it with the rest of us?;)
You are mostly agreeing with what I intended, if not quite what I wrote above. :)

The short answer is: bionics get many of those effects for free because they are controlled intuitively by brain structures that already exist and evolved for it; implants will usually be controlled by computer for cost/ease, but some people will want their new/non-human senses wired directly to their brain for the reasons listed above.
I had a section on which of those modifiers applied to implants vs bionics and why, but dropped it.

I don't have the extra material in a form suitable for sharing.
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:00 AM   #6
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

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I don't have the extra material in a form suitable for sharing.
Besides, if this material is well-received enough, Pyramid would probably be open to a sequel article... :-)
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Old 01-25-2013, 11:20 AM   #7
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

The old ICE Cyberspace game had some interesting (especially for the time it was written) rules regarding how cybernetics could share data and network. They never really went anywhere with it, but if you can find the book you may get some ideas.
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Old 01-25-2013, 04:19 PM   #8
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
Finally it comes out! Yay! Been really looking forward to this issue to see what other gadgets and articles made it into the issue, and I don't think you'll be disappointed (unless you thought it was Low-Tech Toys or something).[Snipped summary]
This is exactly the sort of summary/review that I'd like to see for every Pyramid issue. The Nanotech Combat Uniform article is my first submission to be published in this latest iteration of Pyramid. Hope you guys can use it in your games.
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Last edited by DanHoward; 01-25-2013 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 01-25-2013, 04:20 PM   #9
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This is exactly the sort of summary/review that I'd like to see for every Pyramid issue.
As the kids (and John Kovalic) say: this.
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Old 01-28-2013, 03:01 PM   #10
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Default Re: Pyramid #3/51: Tech and Toys III Overview

I don't necessarily buy every issue of Pyramid, but I'll be more consistent with overviews from now on with the issues I get. Anything in particular I should discuss or expand upon for this, perhaps to make it also relevent as a first draft for RPG.NET reviews as well?
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