Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be A Better Player... well nobody will be better player at the moment.

My new Be A Better Player will have to wait a bit. Life has been shoveling me some shit here lately and I've been busy digging my way out. Even when I get time to work on writing anything I'm not anywhere near in the right mindset to do so. So I would rather wait and write it right than hand out some half baked ideas. Hope you all understand

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cyberware and it's cost in humanity.

Been going working over some ideas to adjust the humanity rules (empathy, karma, whatever for whichever system) when it comes to cyberware. Usually the common rule is the more of your body that is not real the less human you become. Eventually ending up as a stone faced killer with no empathy or a raving madman.

Now the main reason I can see this being in most games is for game balance and power limitations. You get your good with the bad, but you also can't get to much good either or you flip out. Now this works but it also acts like a bit of crutch for the GM and is one less thing to worry about. But it doesn't seem all that realistic.

If somebody loses both legs in an accident. This could set you for a life in a wheelchair as a very permanent handicap. So why would a set of fully functional artificial legs run down your human empathy or mental stability. I means it's a miracle of modern science, you can walk, run and jump again. Just doesn't make sense to me that the joy of regaining your mobility would dump you into the downward spiral of cyberpsychosis.

So for me in any cyberpunkish game that I run, having a cybernetic replacement of something that was lost due to an accident will cost zero humanity. As long as it's just a simple replacement, no special gadgets, hidden guns, etc.

Now lets say time goes by and you get something added to those legs for your job or to make life easier. A plug in to power your laptop or recharge your legs batteries, a dermal pocket with a small flashlight for emergencies, stuff like that. Again zero humanity cost.

So when will it cost you? Well when you make the decision to go and have your perfectly good eye cut out of your head and replaced, that's when the costs will start up. The more you have modified by your own free will the more the cost will go up. Because you are consciously stepping away from your humanity, stepping away from your own body. Start carving off your legs and your mind has to been a different state than most normal people.

More on this topic later.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cyberpunk Sunday 008 - skin tech, t-cells, brainwaves and printers oh my!

Well the last few weeks there have been some really damned amazing stories coming out. It's really hard to decide on which ones to cover here. But at least it gives me plenty of material for the next installment.

This first one was sent to me by a fellow Kultist named Craig Toehill. I had seen a few articles on this already but the one he sent was by far one of the better. Electronic skin grafts, well not quite a graft but an overlay of circuits onto your skin. With the developments and stretchable and bendable technologies (I've covered a bit of the bendies before) this seems to be a natural mix. Attaching the super thin circuits to your skin through a method that, get this, is exactly like putting on a temporary tattoo. They are so thin you can even put an actual temporary tattoo over the top to hide the attachment.

Tons of uses for this. Currently the first to mind for development are in the medical field replacing all the long cords and sticky pads of monitoring equipment. It would allow the patient a lot more mobility and a lot less discomfort. Other ideas come to my mind also, like an old idea I had for a wearable headset that just sticks onto your skin. I'll let you read on this some more and tell me what idea you have for it.

Electronic skin grafts.

Next up is a US study presented in the New England Journal of Medicine. It had my jaw dropping at its implications and the groundwork it helps lay for Biopunk and transhumanism. By modifying the T-cells of patients into tumor killing predators they have successfully wiped leukemia out of three patients who have now lived cancer free for a year. Yeah bioengineering at it's finest. Let me pull up my favorite quote from the article:

"Within three weeks, the tumors had been blown away, in a way that was much more violent than we ever expected," said senior author Carl June of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Yeah, violently attacked the tumors. I'm pretty sure this is still a rather tedious and expensive process as the cells would have to be tailor made from the individual patient. But this is a success story which is exactly what they need to get more funding to keep working in this direction.

Modified killer t-cells

Now for a few years there has been work with a brain-computer interface with quite a bit of success. They managed to get it down to where the person could operate a computer, although rather slowly. This is a tiny stepping stone into the direction of one of the least likely cyberpunk ideas, netrunning or full computer interface. But now they've done gone and took a step further by integrating it into an online virtual environment. They hooked it up to Second Life. While it's still a slow and hard to control interface and there is a lot of work to be done with the sensors and pads that will read your brainwaves (or maybe not... hmmm... that stick on technology that I listed up above) since it's hard to keep them positioned right on a persons head. But the future is looking virtual.

Brain wave interface with Second Life.

Okay and last but not certainly least the 3D printer. These have been in the tech news for a while here lately but this video gives a really good layman's terms description of how it works and shows them scanning in and 'printing' a wrench. Thanks to Sean Barton for linking to this article now it's my turn to share it with a few folks. Personally I believe in a decade or so this will start to revolutionize some of the commercial industries just like CnC machines have done in the past. It also fits the description of the microfactories out of Cybergeneration.

See the 3-D printer in action.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Replicant Society Stress Triggers and Models.

Been hashing out some ideas for a game based on Blade Runner and the novel it was adapted from 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'. Currently it's called Replicant Society and the players will be the Androids. This first little bit I posted over on my G+ stream. Might as well do a repost here.

Here are some quick ideas on stress triggers and android model types. This is all just ideas I've been writing down over the last couple of days.

One thing that androids do not have is a lifetime of experience. This is especially true in the area of the minds ability to handle stressful situations. Thus it become necessary to track the various types of stress that they are especially vulnerable to. Now some model types are more resistant to various types of stress than others. Now let's look at the four key stress triggers.

Socialization – This is the ability to handle constant social interaction with a variety of people in multiple situations.

Sexual Contact – The intimacy of sexual contact with a living being.

Combat – This is one stress trigger that androids tend to share with their human counterparts.

Emotional Crests – Intense amounts of any specific emotion. Be it fear, happiness, love.

Now the various model types are listed below. Each has specific triggers that they are more resistant while others they seem more susceptible to.

Administration – Resistant to Socialization.
Pleasure – Resistant to Sexual Contact and Socialization. Susceptible to Combat.
Combat – Resistant to Combat and Emotional Crests. Susceptible to Sexual Contact and Socialization.
Caregiver – Resistant to Emotional Crests and Socialization. Susceptible to Combat.
Labor – Neutral regard with all triggers.
Entertainment – Resistant to Socialization. Susceptible to Combat.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Story out of Sequence part four

“So we’re just going to put his soul back into a body that’s been rotting in a box for a couple months? I thought, like, it would go into another body. Send that person’s soul out and put my fathers in.” Tonya spoke while still staring at the doors, waiting for an explanation.

“Well…” Robert paused long enough to light up a Camel, “…it’s only going to be in that state momentarily. Once he is safely tucked away inside I start up another ritual that restores the body. Normally it would be impossible for it to work on a corpse, but with the soul inside it takes. In about a week your dad will be up, walking around, in his old body just like it used to be.” Taking a few paces up behind her he placed his hand on her shoulder. “How does that sound to you?”

“Better than I had imagined actually.” Tonya turned around with a grin of excitement upon her face. She reached up and takes the smoking cigarette from his lips and took a drag off of it. “Of course I should have realized for what I am paying that I am getting a true professional.”

“I am nothing if not professional.” He let out a sly smile and moved his hands to her hips, pulling her closer. “On top of that there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for you.”

“Well then let’s get this started, shall we?”

“That bit of detail certainly got your enthusiasm up didn’t it?” Over dramatically he stepped away from Tonya and turned towards the doors. Turning his head just enough to catch her face in his vision he placed his hands on the handle and turned it. With one swift motion he turned back towards the doors and pushed them open while walking in.

Her breath nearly escaped her at its site. On a rolling rack before her was the very casket she had picked out for the funeral, slightly dirty with a few dings on the top and smelled of earth. She took a few cautious steps forward and placed her fingertips along its side making sure it was solid and not imagined. Then running her hand over its top she stopped at a folded red cloth just above where the head would be. “You’ve certainly outdone yourself Robert, I will give you that. But what’s in the cloth?”

“That contains something that will be most helpful in finding your dear departed father. You see contrary to popular belief the soul doesn’t leave the body upon death, but only upon burial. Until that time it is trapped inside and witness to the events that follow. Once the first few shovels of dirt land upon the casket the soul is pushed up and out of its former shell from there it will go wherever it is supposed to go.” Robert walked onto the side of opposite of Tonya looking down at the cloth. “Normally it is through a sample of dirt that is collected that we trace the soul through since that is what it passed through. This time, however, we have something very connected to you and his soul passed through it. We have the rose you laid upon the casket before it was lowered into the ground.”

“My last farewell to him. I was the only one who stayed to watch the actual burial. They took the other flowers off but I asked them to leave one that I had brought. Something that I hoped he would take with him to the other side.”

“He may not have taken it with him, but rest assured he did touch it on the way out. Now you guide from the front and I will push. Tell me before we get up onto the lines on the floor, we’ve got to be careful going over them.”

The wheels of the rack began to squeak slightly as Robert started pushing. Tonya grabbed the front handle with both hands and pulled as best she could while trying to watch over her shoulder directing them. With the weight being so high it felt as if there was an unavoidable topple whenever they hit any small crevice in the floor. Slowly they manage to get it up to the circle.

“Alright from here we are going to have be on either side and lift the rack up and move it forward over the paint. We need to take it slow or we will wind up having to start all over again, and that’s something I would rather not do.”

“No problem, I got it.”

“Get on the left; I’ll get on the right. Okay. You ready?”

“Yeah I got a good grip.” She looked down at the floor underneath her and placed her feet appropriately so as not to step in the wrong place. “I’m ready.”

“Good. On three, one, two, three lift!” They both strain and manage to lift the front wheels of the rack an inch off of the ground. “Now forward just six inches.” Franks voice strained. Each slowly inched forward just enough to bring the wheels over the line. “Down.”

Tonya looked back up at Frank with a little exertion sounding in her voice. “So tell me, why we didn’t move the casket in here before you put the lines down?”

“Can’t, the lines have to be down first then the host body added on top of them for it to work properly. A lot of magic like this is very specific about the order in which you do things. One thing wrong and it doesn’t work or worse, it does something unexpected.”

“Ah, okay. I should have realized there would be some sort of reason like that.”

For the next half hour they move the casket to the designs center a few inches at a time. Stopping to rest for a moment or two here and there before continuing on. A few final alignments at the end and Robert walks back to the side room.

“What next? We have something else to move?”

“Nope just a few things to carry with us to the other side. Come with me I’ve got something for you.” He works two locks open on a cabinet in the corner and waits until she has walked up behind him. “We are going into an unfriendly area. It is best that we protect ourselves why we are there.”

Tonya steps closer looking at the cabinet’s contents with a slow studying gaze. Several weapons hang inside, knives, swords with ornate handles, a beat up looking fireman’s axe and a host of necklaces and assorted objects. On the inside of each door was a black leather backpack with several pockets; along the bottom on the inside the cabinet were various clear glass vials of colored liquids.

“So are we going to have to take all of this with us?”

“No. Only a few will do us any good on the other side, the ones made to deal with those who reside there. What do you know how to use?”

“Well I can use a knife decently I guess but I’ve never even held a sword. I’ve used an axe to chop and split wood but not for anything else.”

“Then you will carry the axe. Put this necklace on as well, it will make it harder for you to be seen.” Robert throws a backpack over his shoulder and hooks a sword to his belt. “Whatever you do don’t loose the axe, it belonged to my father.”

“The only way I’ll let go of it is if I’m dead.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story out of Sequence part three

Frank leaned back against the register looking off at the sun dropping behind the city skyline. Well as much as one could see through windows covered in sales posters, security bars and alarm wires. This was the time of day he enjoyed the most, almost no customers and nearly silent except for Tim stocking the shelves added into that the fact he got to go home in a less than half an hour. It was a good time to just relax, let your mind wander and plan what to do for the night.

Ringing from the door opening pulled his attention back into the store as someone entered. He looked over to see a young woman walking towards the counter holding a book bag out to him. “Thank you miss.” He uttered as she handed it over to him to place behind the counter, “Remember it on your way out.” She was kind of cute, he thought to himself, in a nothing fancy girl next door way. He couldn’t pull out much detail about her body but he did like what she was wearing. Loose fitting jeans, not those baggy ‘gangsta’ style ones everybody was wearing now days, just loose. A turtle neck sweater that covered her all the way up to the bottom of the jaw and only allowed her fingertips to stick out. Thin with a walk that was not attempting to show anything off.

He turned his attention back to the skyline, watching the glowing yellow disappear behind the business offices and car garages. All the while checking off in his mind the various activities that presented themselves for later. No dance clubs, didn’t feel like listening to throbbing music and even much less for dancing. Just going out and getting a good drunk going didn’t sound like what to do either even though he didn’t have to work the next day. He wanted music but nothing heavy, maybe some coffee with it as well. Maybe one of the more quite clubs down near the east side of the campus would do. Maybe.

“Next isle over ma’am, about half way down on your right.” Tim’s voice pulled him back into the store this time. So professional sounding, so utterly fake compared to what it’s like when he’s not around customers. He turned to watch the girl walk out of one isle and into the next one over.

“Hey Tim are you done stocking back there? It’s getting about time for me to clock out.” Frank called back.

“Yeah just a couple more boxes left and I’ll be done man.”

Beginning his normal leaving routine Frank cleared the bits of paper and plastic from around the register and wiping the counter down with a dust rag. Finishing up just in time as the girl walked up and place and armful of items down in front of him. “Find everything fine miss?”

“Yes.” Her small voice answered back.

She had beautiful blue eyes Frank noticed as he began scanning the items through and placing them in a bag. Looking at the prices ringing up and back at her more than at what was passing through his hands. “Looks like it’s going to be a nice night tonight, weather just cool enough for a jacket.”

“Yes it does look like it will be a nice night.” Her voice sounded smooth and quiet with a hint of shyness.

An exchange of currency between the two occurs without an announcement of the amounts. Frank handing her back the change without counting it. “Hope you enjoy it then.” He replied as he held the bag of merchandise out to her. “Oh and here’s your back pack also.”

“Thank you.” She turns and walks out the door without another word. Walking off to the left and disappearing from view.

Frank returned to his cleaning and realized that he forgot to give her the receipt. He pulled it out of the register and casually looked at it, going over the items in his head. Sewing needles, thread, rubbing alcohol, sterile gauze, medical tape, razor blades and a bottle of antiseptic spray. “What the hell.” He whispered to himself. Looking back out the door she left through he pocketed the receipt.

“Finished up man. Go ahead and get out of here if you want.” Tim’s voice barked, suddenly right beside him.

“Shit, don’t sneak up on me like that dammit.” Frank replied back with a smile.

“Sorry. Did Anna the ice princess get your attention? Noticed you watching her leave.”

“Ice princess?”

“Yeah down at the college nobody can even get her to talk to them for more than a couple lines. Lord knows a lot of us have tried, male and female.”

“Guess she’s not into being socially interactive.”

“Got that right. The only place I ever see her hang out at besides school is at that club down by the campus. She just sets in a corner booth drinking coffee all night and reading.”

“Which club would that be?”

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Be a Better Player 9 - Remember the rules.

GM – The black guardians slowly step out of the woodline around the campfire. They are on all sides effectively surrounding your group. The familiar sound of their blades being drawn, that high pitched scrape almost like screaming fills the air. It's very clear they aren't here to talk.

Player 1 – Oh hell here we go. I told you they would catch up to us.

Player 2 – Okay you were right. Arm yourselves guys it's time for a fight.

GM – I need some initiative rolls all around.

(sounds of dice rolling)

Player 3 – Um... how do I roll that again?

Player 1 – sigh... the same as last time.

Player 3 – I forgot. Tell me how it works again.

GM – Roll a ten sider, add in your initiative bonus. Don't worry about any negatives since your armor wouldn't give you any.

Player 3 – Ah okay. Where's the bonus at on the sheet?

Player 4 – We've been playing this for weeks now and you do this all the time.

Player 1 – Yeah man come on.

Player 3 – Relax, it's just a game. Chill out already.

Now we all know that the games we play have rules and at times they can become pretty essential. Especially for events like combat which can come up often. So learning at least the basics of rules can become a necessity to keep things rolling along. Nothing is worse than stopping every time to refresh somebody on how to roll to hit.

Before anybody gets riled up over this I'm not talking addressing people brand new to gaming or when you just start a new system for the first time. People new to the hobby usually take a bit of time getting the hang of the rules especially when, in the process of playing, you tend to go suddenly from amateur theater around the table to randomized mathematics at the drop of a hat. Nobody shouldn't expect a veteran player to suddenly know the rules for a system they never played before.

What I am talking about is when you've been playing games for a while and have been using a specific system for a while also. You should at least commit enough to remember how to roll for initiative, to hit, make a saving throw or a simple skill check. This alone will help save a lot of time and keep the game flowing along nicely.

If it's a system that is rather complex or you just have trouble remembering things then ask for, or make, a cheat sheet. Right down the basics of what you need to do on a spare sheet of paper and in a description that you can understand. Keep it right beside your character sheet during play for that fast reference. Hell I still have a couple of cheat sheets for some games I used to play, one even covered character generation so I could speed through it quickly. Personally I think a photocopy friendly cheat sheet in the back of core game books should be included right beside the character sheet. But that's just my opinion.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Story out of Sequence part two

The brush glided along the floor leaving a trail of purplish red behind it. It turned, created circles, moved off at angles. Slowly the lines are laid down and each with its own purpose. Each stroke almost seemed random while it was being laid down and yet the finished product looked entirely predetermined. When all is done the brush is dropped into the jar holding the excess paint that was not used.

Robert stood back and gave a slow glance over his handiwork. It looked complete and, most importantly, perfect. He put the lid back on the glass container holding the specially mixed paint, leaving the brush inside, and placed it back on the altar. The mix must be kept separate from all the others, each has its own special ingredients and one would ruin the other if they were ever to come into contact.

"Well is it ready?" Tonya finally spoke up. She leaned forward out of the shadows of the far corner looking directly at his face. "Are you ready to start now?"

Robert moved only his eyes to look at her keeping his head facing the floor, "Why are you so eager to look at death? That is where you want to go isn't it?" She stood in silence at his words. "The realm of the spirits the home to those who have died. Called by many names such as hell, purgatory, limbo and countless others by those who have seen it or are bound there."

"You told me all this before Robert. Why do you keep saying it again and again? Do you think I am suddenly going to have second thoughts and back out?"

"If you are so ready then begin lighting the candles around the circle, and be careful not to smudge the symbols when you walk." He turned from the altar, holding a worn black leather book in his hands. It was made by his own hands, even the paper, then stitched together slowly over time, it was something wholly his own. "The slightest damage to them could get us bound there as well. What they do to people who don’t belong there is beyond reason and imagination to those who are still alive." Tonya looked at him with wide eyes and a face that was slowly filling with the emotion of fear. "Well are you still so anxious to go?"

"Of course, I have to do this." She tried to put on a sterner face but her eyes showed the fear that was building within her. He stared at her for a few minutes and then looked back towards the floor." Are you getting afraid yourself is that the problem?" She blurted it out in a louder voice than before, attempting still yet to summon up her courage.

“Now you do know that if we find him and successfully bring him back he may not be the same person that he was before?”

“What are you talking about? You told me that we will get his soul, the only soul he’s ever had, not a copy or dupe of any kind, but HIM! So it will be the same person as it was before, it will be my father!”

“Oh yes it will be your father. But… he may not be like you remember him.”

“What are you talking about?”

Robert turns towards her; she can feel his eyes like needles upon her face. It’s like this every time he’s about to get really serious. “He has spent some time in hell, his own personal hell. This is something that nobody can ever be fully prepared for. In that place minutes can seem like days on end, eternities could pass in a single day’s time. Nobody walks away from that unchanged.” He takes another couple steps through the symbol, careful not to touch a single brush stroke. “I know this from experience.”

“What, you mean you’ve died and came back yourself?”

“No. I’ve brought somebody back before, and she changed more than I could deal with. Fortunately for the both of us her changes also made me less desirable to her. So in the end the person I went to hell and back for decided that we were no longer meant to be together. So much for love eternal and undying eh?”

“Well that’s a risk I am willing to take for my father. He means everything to me.”

“Alright then let’s begin the final preparations. I will need your help to move your fathers casket out here into the center; it’s currently in the side room there.”

Face draining of color she follows his finger to a set of double doors on the side of the room. “You mean his body? You’ve got his body in that room?”

“Of course. I mean, his soul has to go somewhere when we bring him back doesn’t it then?”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Story out of Sequence part one

Roscoe sat crouched down on his knees with his back resting against the brick. The cold felt reassuring against his spine. He could feel the sun beating down on him, especially on his head and face. The red glow inside his closed eyelids was even bright to him; all he wanted was the darkness. Only the cold metal in his hands gave him any other comfort besides the bricks at his back.

The sounds of the city around him beat in on his eardrums giving no silence for those who wanted it. The never ceasing dull hum of engines set the average that everything seemed to challenge. Horns blared loudly without notice, like spikes through the skin. Screams of insults and foul language would often erupt, usually after the sounds of smashing metal and breaking glass. That would bring those terrible sirens of the local law enforcement that would add even more raised voices and insults. It was all an unending circle of noise and aggravation. It never ceased and it continued to drive itself further into his head every day.

“Still crying about the sounds?” the voice in his head finally rang out.

"Go away. I don't want to hear you today." Roscoe said out loud. Becoming suddenly aware that he was doing so. He calmed in a second when he realized that there was no one else on the rooftop to hear him. "You give me a headache."

"I give you a headache? No, what gives you a headache is yourself listening to all the sounds of life out there. You focus on them instead of ignoring them or trying to get them to be quite."

"You make me listen to them. I know it. I never used to be this way until you came along. Now all I hear is every little noise around me no matter what I do to drown them out."

"Oh I did this did I? Maybe you’re just having your midlife crisis or something. Did you even think about that? Or are you just looking for someone to place the blame on?"

"You ask too many questions. Shut up."

"Shut up? Me? What have I done to you?"

"Shut up."

"I will not. I have a right to speak just as you do. Its not my fault that you're the only person who can hear me." In the distance the sound of car alarm rings out.

"Shut up!"

"You only think of yourself you know that? Have you ever thought of anyone beside yourself? Are you listening to me?" In the apartment building across the street the sound of a child screaming suddenly blares out.

"Shut up!" Roscoe stands straight up. He opens his eyes to the pain of the light in defiance. A car backfires. "Shut up!" He spins to face down onto the street. An argument starts between several teenagers over a game of basketball. "SHUT UP!" He clicks the safety off, and raises the rifle. The noise being added now is being created by him. Every part of the sound is audible, the inner workings of the firearm, the round firing, the ejection of the empty shell casing, the brass hitting the rooftop, the screams from below. "I said Shut Up!"


Monday, August 1, 2011

Cyberpunk Sunday 007 - Dipping into the roots of cyberwear.

Microsoft, widely thought of by many to be the corporation of evil (until Apple started to blossom again) has always dabbled into areas a bit off the normal beat and path. This time they are looking at using the human body as controllers for electronics. While still in the early stages it has some interesting concepts. Your own body becomes a big remote control in a sense, so by doing a certain gesture or by touching a wall you can set off certain predetermined actions in electronics. So you wouldn't even have to walk five feet to hit a button to turn on your coffee make you could just point at it. Isn't technology grand!

You are the human antenna.

Actually technology is grand, especially when doing things like enabling the blind to see. Those wonderful German scientists are working on some cutting edge tech that implants a microchip carrying 1500 photosensitive diodes right into your retina where normal healthy photoreceptors of a non-blind person would be. Now it's still tied to an external power source, so this means a wire coming out of the eye. But in the test subjects who underwent this procedure all of them can identify bright colors and one could even read large printed words. Pretty damn spectacular if you ask me. One note to this on the test subjects though, it doesn't state if these were people born blind or had an accident or disease that rendered them blind. So the overall benefits of this aren't to clear yet.

Electronic implants allow the blind to see.

On another look into some more protocyberwear technology we have an implant that has helped a paralyzed man move again. Putting am electronic stimulator into the lining of the spinal cord has helped 'reconnect' severed connections. While not perfect it does allow the subject free movement of his legs although not up to the state of walking again. I'm pretty sure there is a lot of neural pathway mapping that has to be done to make the leap. But this gives us the great grandfather of the neural interface that would be necessary to operate a set of artificial legs. A small step in the direction of cybertechnology.

The full article on this.

Well that's the three links for this installment of Cyberpunk Sunday... or as it happened this week Cyberpunk Monday. Any suggestions for future articles or topics please send them to me at if you don't mind. See you in two weeks.