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posted by Traveller Original SA post

Fucking HSD.

I'll get back to Elric soonish, but first let's do something entirely different and much better than Lolbertarian Furries With Shitty Understanding Of Everything From Biology To Economics (LFWSUOEFB)

Stars Without Number: Transhuman Tech

Oldschool RPG Stars Without Number has a supplement for transhuman sci-fi gaming as well. It is part of the Mandate Archive series, small free lumps of rules and fluff that Kevin Crawford didn't feel like they would sell on their own. The PDF notes that transhuman SF has its own kind of flavor that isn't always compatible with SWN's oldschool sensibilities, so all the rules here should be treated as optional additions. Sure, okay! Then it launches into a description of the sample setting, the Threshold Sector. Ever since the Scream that killed the psychic jumpgates as described in the corebook happened, a metadimensional energy storm - the Tempest - has kept the Threshold isolated from the rest of human space. The Tempest prevents any spike drive ship from travelling out or in the sector, and the storm is harsh enough that no ships smaller than cruisers can even attempt to move within the sector. However, that very same Tempest has allowed the realization of technologies impracticable outside of the Threshold: nanobots and matter compilers are powered by taps into the sector's metadimensional energy, and the wealth of local raw materials prevented the Scream-induced collapse of civilization that happened elsewhere. No one knows why the Tempest happened: perhaps it is related to the Scream, perhaps it caused the Scream, or perhaps it is a natural effect of space. Interestingly enough, the actual physical space between the Threshold and other sectors is perfectly calm, in appearance - but there's the titanic distances and the dangers of uncharted space to contend with, so only the most zealous even think of building the necessary slowships.

Speaking of matter compilers, they're exactly what they sound like: devices capable of converting any amount of mass into a molecule-perfect replica of an object. The compilers pretty much eradicated material want from the Threshold's citizenry, but they soon found new things to fight over. Between this and the creation of the Hulls , artificial human bodies, along with the technology to store a human mind into a specially prepared quantum tablet and copy them into new Hulls, many different factions have appeared: for instance, the Restrictionists want matter compilers to be handled solely by a trusted elite, lest any jerk misuse them (given that many small colonies and habitats were wiped out by said misuse in the early years of the compilers, they do have a point); the Abundants believe that every person should have access to their own compiler and that any damage was a small price to pay to fight the tyranny of the elites. The Egoists believe in "one mind, one body" and that wanton copying of minds was an affront to the sanctity of self and certain to result in the implicit slavery of the copies; the Selfless believe that the mind is the possessor's own property and that they can do whatever they want with it to explore the limits of human potential. And so on! Given that material wealth is a non-issue, most factions generally fight over space (valuable habitats or worlds that can support minimally enhanced Hulls), data (new discoveries, technology, and a way out of the Tempest) and people (every person can be a potential convert to the cause, Hulls need to be grown instead of replicated, and some factions think nothing of genociding entire habitats since they can always reinstantiate those egos to new Hulls and this way they cannot be exposed to harmful creeds )

A section on creating new factions follows, with a table to roll on for ideologies: there are the ones already mentioned, along with others like the Architects (let's build shit and be as fuck!), the Psionicists (transhuman psychics, woo!) and the Xenophiles (fuck homo sapiens sapiens, we can make better!) The GM should always strive to build factions that are in conflict with each other, even if not necessarily military conflict, though it's fine to have some peaceful factions for PCs to use as sanctuaries. And then it's on to the Hulls themselves! Most of them are recognizably human, if sometimes looking as if they had gone through intense postech cosmetic surgery. Hulls breed true, resorting to basic reproductive protocols if they're not compatible enough, and almost all humans start as the natural product of two ("or more") Hulls. Some, however, look really alien, and of the rare alien species in the sector there are several that were once-human, their minds now changed by living from birth in bodies that are not human anymore. The more extreme the modifications to a Hull are, the greater the risk of Alienation : a feeling of dread and tension, ramping up to phantom limb syndrome and even partial or complete paralysis. Most Hulls are meant to accomodate baseline human cognition, but some Hulls push the boundaries to load up on mods. In game terms, as Alienation grows characters can lose actions on a natural critical failure, lose the use of skills on a failure, gain System Strain from tense situations, and eventually go catatonic.

Implanting a Hull into a mind requires some four hours of uploading by a trained technician. It can be hurried, with a Tech/Medical check and the risk of Alienation. Backing up a mind requires 24 hours of work, and can be likewise hurried with a skill check the risk of failure. People under 20 make the Tech/Medical check mandatory, since their minds are so malleable that it is hard to get them recorded properly. A PC uses their natural rolled stats if they're in their birth body (a Basic-type Hull by default), but when rolling HP they should record the unmodified roll for when they switch bodies. They keep their natural Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma upon transfer, with any augmentations that the body may have. Strength, Dexterity and Constitution are determined by the Hull. HP is retained by the PC through bodies since most of the HP total is a combination of luck, wit and combat savvy, but they must apply the Hull's CON bonus/penalty to it. Skill, experience, class abilities and other traits are retained, but psychic powers are not transfered unless the Hull is especially prepared to house a psychic mind, and torching (from the corebook, burning stats to fuel powers) can only be done in the birth body. A PC that is killed can be restored from their backup, but they lose all XP they have accumulated so far.

The base Hull types are Basic (Basic Immunity, no alterations), Containment (maintaining a mind instantiated electronically is nigh impossible, so "enhanced" interrogations are made by downloading an ego into one of these, they have Regeneration and Stabilized Systems to help them survive ), Xenohull (inhuman looking, up to 6 points of alterations, maximum of 9 by adding Alienation points) Tailored (human looking, 3 points of alterations, maximum of 6 with Alienation) and Bespoke (best of the best, 6 points of alterations and maximum of 9 with Alienation) The list of possible alterations includes Additional Limbs (up to 8 additional arms or tentacles, they don't give extra attacks though), Altered Reactions (automatically gain initative once per hour) Body Armor (natural AC 3, or -1 by foregoing concealability), Boosted Attribute (one attribute is set at 14, or 18 for a major boost) Environmental Adaptation (Hull can survive in an environment otherwise fatal to baseline humans), Integral Hardware (for each point, two pieces of non-weapon or armor gear become permanent parts of the Hull), Regeneration (1HP/minute regeneration) and Stabilized Systems (upon reaching 0 HP, the Hull automatically stabilizes and revives at 1HP minutes later) There's a list of sample ready-made hulls to choose from, like the Atlantean (a Tailored underwater Hull), the Ripper (a Xenohull combat morph) or the Tyrant (a Bespoke combat freak that commonly mounts a mag rifle and heavy body armor as a matter of course)

So, Hulls are expensive. How do people pay for them (or anything else) in this post-scarcity world? Status. This is a generic measure of all the different ways in which factions trade among each other and with other factions. The exact shape of Status varies, it can be a running tally visible to all, physical tokens or a sense of universal assistance that just-so-happens to serve the useful first and the burdensome later. Status is faction-specific and can be permanent or temporary. Permanent status comes with pertenence to a faction and/or long-lasting bonds of mutual help. Any person can expect sustenance and shelter from their faction simply by belonging to it, for instance. Temporary status represents recent services made with the obvious intention to be "cashed in" for assistance later. A character may have a high temporary Status with a faction by performing services for them, but they'll have to trade in favors to gain assistance that someone with permanent Status can get by default. Status is gained by doing stuff for the faction, lost by going against the faction or its beliefs, and spent into favors and goods. All characters start with 1 permanent Status with their faction and one ego backup, and that one Status point is enough to get them any non-artifact piece of gear from the corebook, up to TL5. It's recommended for beginner characters to start the game with their birth bodies, however, or let the GM design their Hulls the first time around - they'll have time to muse on what exact type of tentacle monster they'll want to turn into later. There's some new Threshold-specific gear later, like the Ammunition Compiler (literally generate bullets from thin air), the Eternal Cell (like a regular power cell only, you know, it never runs out) or the Emergency Backup Scanner (put it on the head of a living subject or one dead for no more than five minutes, and it will scan their ego for later retrieval, though it's a difficulty 8 check to get something usable out of it)

Finally, some notes on running a transhuman sandbox game: the PDF plugs Eclipse Phase, Transhuman Space and Freemarket as games that explore the topic in greater depth, and notes that characters should be driven by ideology - the oldschool standard motivation of "getting filthy rich" doesn't quite apply since characters are, essentially, filthy rich. It is entirely possible and even encouraged for PCs to set up their own factions (the Faction subsystem from the corebook can be used with some names changed around) and get involved into ideological warfare, and there is always the lure of finding a way out of the Tempest in the back of all faction's heads: after all, whoever gets to escape first gets to spread their ideals and memes to the rest of the human cosmos before the others.

And with a player handout for PCs to get a grounding on the Threshold Sector, that's it! No art, I'm afraid.