World Building: Cybernetics

Cyberpunk and Cybernetics have been a mated pair from the beginning.  I had a number of goals when it came to cybernetics and Glass Shadows. In addition to the traditional chrome and steel, I wanted to offer an alternative to implanting hardware.  We call it Genegineering, more on that next week.

We originally covered cybernetics here.

There needed to be a balance between works such as Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed with Neuromancer for our cybernetics. More so, Glass Shadows needed to be Transhuman.  Instead of the increasingly popular Cortical Stack found in stories such as Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan and games like Eclipse Phase, I wanted something closer to the Cybernetic Shell present in Ghost in the Shell.

Taking that idea a step forward, I created the “neural anchor” which creates a digitized copy of a human consciousness. Unfortunately, the host brain is destroyed in the process, and must be replaced by a cybernetic equivalent.  The digitized consciousness, referred to in the game as a Rider, provides the character with immortality through backup, and the ability to move between bodies.

Replacement bodies, “Kits”, could be anything from a mostly meat clone with a Cyberbrain, to a fully cybernetic replacement with zero meat left. A full cybernetic Kit could appear mostly human, all hardware underneath a flesh-like synthetic skin, or something completely inhuman in appearance. Kits built for specific environments or heavy combat might only vaguely resemble the humanity they left behind.

In the background information and narratives, look for elements of cybernetic-induced dysphoria.  That awkward feeling that a part of you, that cybernetic arm, for example, is not really a part of you.  It belongs to someone else and that other person controls its actions.  Dysphoria is a common reaction to major cybernetic replacement. The feeling becoming stronger and harder to cope with as the flesh is replaced.

To help adjust, people are sedated post op, and take drugs to relieve the symptoms as they adjust to the new component. Some people, Headcases, cannot adapt, their grip on reality slipping away. Most Headcases have the decency to tear themselves apart, something you can do once your manipulators are made of titanium and Kevlar; alone, or taking some unfortunate doc with them. Others experience strange feedback between implants and neural commands. This can lead to any number of odd behaviors, such as eating spark plugs, or drinking motor oil. There are some Headcases that do choose to self-terminate, and in doing so cause as much harm and destruction as possible before suicide by cop.

Players can chose related Drawbacks based on these symptoms. We designed these drawbacks to create interesting elements that add to the character’s story. Can player characters become a full on mass murdering Headcases?  Sure, but it should be through an agreement between the player and the gamemaster and have some reason for happening that moves the story in an interesting direction.


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