The high Essence cost of replacing your body parts with cyberware makes it very difficult to create a dangerous character who is almost all machine. The Full Cyborg Conversions from Cyberpunk 2020 have a splendid cyberpunk flavor to them: people casting away almost all of their humanity in order to become a machine.
Under Shadowrun rules, stuffing a person into a cybernetic body with cyberarms, cyberlegs, a cybertorso, and a cyberskull requires 6.25 Essence points— necessitating cybermancy or at least a-grade ’ware, if not b or d. This makes it basically impossible for a starting PC, and incredibly difficult even for an experienced one. Because of this balance factor, full-’borg conversions coming in as opposition indicate that someone has spent an amazing amount of nuyen on one cybersoldier, instead of a team of less augmented humans. Once they’re already that hard to obtain, you might as well make the opposition a cyberzombie.
With the advent of Rigger 2 and anthroform drones, there’s a new option: rigged ’borgs. Instead of trying to install all that hardware in a human being, you just install the interface.
The essential operation here is called biopod conversion. It involves removing the brain and central nervous system from a person, along with a fair amount of bone marrow, chunks of liver and kidney, and a variety of glands, and installing the whole mess into a compact package. Simply being placed on life support like this requires a certain amount of biomonitoring, and this costs only 0.25 Essence points. (Having body parts lopped off does not cost Essence; only interfacing does. This is an extreme case.) This is a sufficiently traumatic and unnatural circumstance that any potential for magical activity would not survive the operation.
A person tucked into a biopod with no other interface isn’t much use, and will quickly go insane from sensory deprivation. Biopod conversions always include a Vehicle Control Rig, and usually a hefty datajack to make it easier to live in a virtual environment when not inhabiting a ’borg.
The simplest operation is to simply install a person into an anthroform; this is a standard biopod conversion. A person can also be installed into a modular biopod (just a bit smaller than a human rib cage) that can be removed from one anthroform and placed into another one; this is modular biopod conversion. Either way, the rigger now has an effective Body of 6 for purposes of resisting spells and staging damage; biopods are tough. They’re also surrounded by 8 points of hardened armor. However, they have precisely one box of condition monitor overflow, as if they had a Body of 1.
’Borgs who do take damage are in trouble. Anything that gets through their armor has very little to damage other than vital organs and the brain itself. Light wounds indicate damage to one of the pared-down vital organs; any wounds past Moderate indicate damage to the brain itself. A ’Borg who has taken physical damage to the biopod does not have long to live if they do not immediately obtain help from a professional biopod technician. (A mere street doc is not competent to cope with the problems caused by biopods.) Damage to the delicately balanced pared-down organs of a biopod conversion will cause them to effectively take a box of Stun every ten minutes until the damage is repaired; the Stun will overflow into Body normally. Even with magical healing, trauma to the brain leaves persistent problems: if the ’borg’s physical Condition Monitor reached Moderate, they must take a new one-point mental Flaw; Serious trauma gives a new two-point mental Flaw, and Deadly trauma a four-point Flaw. Suggested Flaws include Amnesia, Dyslexia (treat as Illiterate), Oblivious, Flashbacks, and Incompetence (as part of their ability to use a skill properly is damaged), as well as losses to the Intelligence, Willpower, Charisma, and Quickness stats. Flaws may be overcome in the long term (at the GM’s option) by retraining, therapy, or expensive neurosurgery.
Keep track of a character’s Quickness and Body from before they underwent biopod conversion. Natural Quickness still figures into Combat Pool, and natural Body still provides a maximum for Body Index.
’Borgs also require regular maintenance from a competent biopod technician. The remnants of their bodies are finely tuned to support the limited needs of a brain and the other organs, and should they go out of balance, delusions, trauma, and death may result. A ’borg must spend five days with a biopod tech every three months, being recalibrated, usually at a cost of about 10,000¥.
In theory, a ’borg should enjoy an extended lifespan due to living without major stresses on the body. In practice, the long-term effects of biopod conversion are unknown due to lack of data. There are no known techniques to reverse biopod conversion.
’Borgs are effectively immune to mana illusions, since the person in the biopod has no senses that they’ve paid Essence for. The target number for healing a person in a biopod is always as if they have Essence 0, even if they have some space left for more interface. Magic against the anthroform works like magic against vehicles, with one exception: a human-sized anthroform is too small to obscure the aura emanating from the biopod, so it is just as easy to spellcast at the pilot as it is to spellcast at someone in full military armor.
Using anthroforms requires the vehicle skill Anthroform. Anthroform defaults to Quickness at one dot; riggers only take a +1 penalty when defaulting to Quickness. Anthroform is a General skill, but only costs as much as a Specialization up to the original Quickness of the operator; at higher levels, it costs like a General skill. (This is because the rigger already has a lifetime of experience using a human body— they already know what to do, but simply need to learn to do it using an anthroform.) Physical skills like Athletics, Unarmed Combat, and Armed Combat must be relearned, again only as expensive as Specializations up to the rigger’s original skill. Firearms and Gunnery work normally; fine-work skills like Demolitions and B/R’s can be used normally as long as the character’s Anthroform skill is at least as high as the fine-work skill. Otherwise, they will take +1 to TN’s.
A vehicle control rig is not normally equipped to transmit facial expressions. The cyberface interface wires up a person’s nerves that control the hundreds of muscles involved in the face, mouth, and vocal tract. A person with a cyberface can produce the full range of human facial and vocal expression through an appropriate piece of hardware (either a software simulator or an actual piece of plastiflesh laced with contractile polymers). Without a cyberface, a rigger must consciously think about producing certain expressions when they want to emote.
Being a full ’borg gives a +4 to all target numbers for Charisma or Charisma-based Skill Tests. If no one can figure out you’re a ’borg— you’re talking over the phone, or you’re wearing a top-notch simulife ’borg— the modifier is only +1, caused by the general dissociation that results from being even a well-adjusted brain in a tank. (This is a clarification of the rules on p58 of Cybertechnology for the case of ’borgs. Remember to apply the rules for alienating Contacts! ’Borgs give most people the heebie-jeebies.)
Lifestyle isn’t much of a problem for a full conversion. The closest they get to eating and going to the bathroom is topping up nutrient reservoirs and emptying out the waste tank. Anthroforms have no difficulties staying standing up when deactivated when their biopod goes to sleep. Mostly they just need preprocessed nutrients (500¥ a week) and a place to keep their body, and regular maintenance. ’Borgs also have an extensively filtered gas exchange system for charging up on oxygen; most models simply charge up on twelve hours of air at a go and have no need to breathe at other times. If you can hit a ’Borg with gases while it’s “inhaling”, treat it as having level 6 filters.
Except for the folks who have social ’borgs that can pass for human in most circumstances, full conversions usually live in virtual reality and “step out” to use their body when necessary. Virtual reality suites come in simulated Middle, High, and Luxury lifestyles; from inside, a person can read the newspaper, eat meals, interact with real people or artificial personalities, watch trideo, jack simsense, and otherwise live a virtual life. Full conversions denied the chance to live in virtual reality tend to go insane fairly quickly, unless they have a body designed to function in all human situations. A virtual environment processor is a dedicated multimedia computer; it can be installed into a ’borg fairly easily, giving the rigger a very comfortable Captain’s Chair. They are designed to hook up to the Matrix and cyberdecks, permitting the user to join virtual-reality meeting rooms on mainframes outside the processor.
Note that the brains in an anthroform are in the better-armored chest, rather than the head. Conversion includes the cost of surgery, which must be paid for from starting nuyen.
|Modular Biopod Conversion||0.25E||300,000¥|
|Virtual environment processor, Middle lifestyle||—||25,000¥|
|Virtual environment processor, High lifestyle||—||40,000¥|
|Virtual environment processor, Luxury lifestyle||—||60,000¥|
These are some standard conversions performed by corporations and government, though starting characters may not be able to afford them.
|Milspec Biopod||Expert Biopod|
|Modular Biopod Conversion||0.25E||300,000¥||Biopod Conversion||0.25E||250,000¥|
|Vehicle Control Rig-3||5.0E||300,000¥||Vehicle Control Rig-2||3.0E||60,000¥|
|Omnijack, 25 DFR||0.25E||1,750¥||Math SPU-4||0.25E||23,000¥|
In working on these ideas, I’ve tried to make a human-like anthroform cost a little less than full cyber replacement of a body— the technology is almost the same, but doesn’t need anywhere near as much interfacing as the cybernetic equivalent.
Anthroforms are designed like standard vehicles; they do not get the “drone” bonus at design time.
I have slightly amended the description of the anthroform chassis in Rigger 2: it comes with 2 manipulator arms, Strength 4, and 2 legs, also strength 4. The Load of an anthroform is equal to the leg strength × 5 kg. A standard anthroform has a hard shell on the outside and only sketched-in face as a place for the sensors and intercom speaker to go.
|Electric power plant||10dp|
|100% economy increase||100dp|
|Water and engine enviroseal||50dp|
This comes out to 969 dp, which I’m going to treat as a 1000dp package deal for your basic anthroform: Handling 2, Body 2, Armor 0, Strength 4, 1 CF of space for the biopod, Autonav 0, Pilot 1, Sensor 1, Load 20kg, Sig 8, 1.0 PF/km, 10 min idle/PF, 1000PF. Rigged with remote control, 2 arms, 2 legs. I based the power plant on the Crawler.
Naturally, that basic ’borg should be pretty minimal, and not that livable. I have created a number of design options to make anthroforms much more useful.
This provides a ’borg with a complete sense of touch— pressure, texture, and temperature. ’Borgs without Touch Sense can still perform fine work like any waldo, but a sense of touch is necessary to pretending to be human, and helps maintain the sanity of the operator. ’Borgs without Touch Sense are at +2 to target numbers in hand-to-hand combat due to the lack of feedback. Touch Sense affects the feedback for the rigger and hence the ’borg’s motion, and hence adds +1 to the target numbers of Perception tests to identify the character as a ’borg.
A rating 6 gas spectrometer (from Shadowtech p61) and
full olfactory senses give the character a sense of smell. When bought
with a cyberface, comes with taste as well. Another sanity-saver.
This option prepares a vehicle for the installation of a permanent biopod. It includes interface hardware as well as shock absorbing mechanisms and an armored cage.
This option prepares a vehicle to swap biopods in and out of its chassis. The savings provided by keeping everything in a modular biopod are offset by the complexity of hosting one without endangering the biopod under conditions of sudden shocks.
A trideo screen and processing unit installed in the “face”
of the ’borg, designed to show a human face inside. Takes direction
from a cyberface interface, so a ’borg can look like there’s
a person inside the suit looking out.
Most ’borgs come with a blatantly mechanical vocoder for the
rigger to talk through. A voice synthesizer takes care to give speech
the subtle tonalities that make it seem real. The target number to
detect that a voice is actually produced by a synthesizer is 2 + the
rating of the synthesizer.
This uses the same pseudoskin as on cyberlimbs to make a roughly human-shaped ’borg look completely human. It includes realistic hair and a heating unit to simulate a human thermographic profile, but cannot develop goosebumps. Pseudoskin cannot be used with regular armor; with composite armor, it goes over the armor and will be torn away in chunks by any hits, whether or not the ’borg takes any damage. Pseudoskin adds +1 to the target numbers of Perception tests to determine that the character is a ’borg; clothing can add an additional +3 when appropriate (see Cybertechnology p30).
A pseudoskin face, built to order, with a full set of artifical muscles. This is necessary for a ’borg to have a full range of human expression. It includes the necessary hardware for an articulated jaw, teeth, and tongue. With a pseudoskin-covered body, it adds an additional +1 to the target numbers to determine that a character is a ’borg.
The next step up from a cyberface, this model includes a complete vocal tract, producing sounds through an artificial set of vocal cords and modulating them with the usual set of lips, teeth, tongue, throat, and sinuses. It adds +2 to target numbers to visually determine that a character is a ’borg, and the base target number to figure out that the voice is artificial is 9.
For pseudoskin-covered anthroforms only. Includes a fluid pump mechanism under the pseudoskin, articulated rib cage, and false lungs with heaters and humidifiers. The “autonomic simulation processor” operates the pump and lungs automatically to simulate appropriate levels of pulse and respiration to go with current degrees of exertion, and can be overridden by the rigger. Simulife adds +3 to the target numbers of Perception tests to determine a character is a ’borg.
Increasing overall strength on an anthroform is slightly cheaper than doing it limb by limb. Increasing the Strength by more than 3 points makes it impossible to conceal that the character is a ’borg, due to the adjustments necessary to the frame for hooking up the more powerful “muscles” (either hydraulics or contractile polymers).
These ’borgs are commercially available. Custom ’borgs are quite rare, as there is only a limited market for them. Only a few deranged individuals (like shadowrunners) who can actually afford to go ’borg are going to do so themselves; conversions usually take place with the assistance of a corporation (who want the increased productivity) or a bank (who think the subject is good for a cyberware loan and will be able to pay it back with their improved effectiveness). Thus, markets only exist for ’borgs if there is a substantial productivity increase associated with them, and that productivity increase is not available by spending less money on augmenting a person. This may be due to hostile environment work, where a person in a protective suit may be clumsy and in constant fear of a leak, or for efficiency reasons.
The Ajax is a Troll-sized ’borg designed for heavy lifting and construction. It is equipped with an integrated arc welder and more tools in the hands than a deluxe Swiss Army Knife, and includes radiation shielding and a geiger counter for toxic waste handling. Its heavy armor can stand up to industrial accidents that would kill a human being instantly. 900,000¥.
|Massive chassis ’borg (Str 9)||1820dp|
|Composite armor, 8 points||5400dp|
|Level 2 sensors with flare compensation, 0CF||320dp|
The Argus ’borg is a walking rigger control center, with an excellent set of sensors, a remote control deck, and signal warfare hardware. The body is equipped with a variety of data ports in the fingers, head, and chest for rerouting telemetry data, hooking in to vehicles, or attaching to a closed circuit simsense system. A rigger installed into Argus is ready to command a fleet of drones from the security of their own personal vehicle. 855,000¥.
|Advanced sensors (level 3), 0 CF||1250dp|
|Hardwired remote control deck 8||400dp|
|Remote control encryption module 10||500dp|
|Remote control ECCM 6||900dp|
|Rigger Protocol Emulation Module 10||500dp|
|Rigger decryption module 8||600dp|
|Miniaturized power amplifiers, rating 8, 0CF||200dp|
|Composite armor, 6 points||1800dp|
The Galatea model is designed for full human functionality, with a full set of human senses, a true vocal tract with “lungs”, micropore irrigation systems for “sweating”, and a small pouch for storing food when taking part in meals. (It cannot actually digest food, but allows the pilot to take part in social situations.) The cost includes a customized body and face design. These ’borgs are generally bought as “second bodies” by wealthy full conversions in modular biopods, and the primary body sometimes carries a bumper sticker: “My other body is a Galatea.” The base target number to detect a Galatea as artificial is 9 when the ’borg is “naked”, and 12 if it is clothed. 675,000¥.
|Pseudoskin covering (+1 to detect)||600dp|
|Touch sense (+1 to detect)||1000dp|
|Olfactory Analysis Package||100dp|
|Cyberface with vocal tract (+2 to detect)||1250dp|
|Simulife (+3 to detect)||1500dp|
The Orion is a military ’borg designed for stealth and combat. The ruthenium polymer surface over the hard shell adds +4 to the target numbers of people trying to spot it. This ’borg can handle both hand-to-hand and ranged combat; the operator can choose from four level II smartlinks (via induction pads in the palms and hookups on the external mounts) for weapons targeting. (While on p45 of Rigger 2, it states “Mechanical arms can sport any accessory or feature available on cyberarms except for the limb enhancements described in the Cybertechnology sourcebook,” it only makes sense that even Cybertechnology options can be installed on an anthroform.)
|Composite armor, 8 points||2400dp|
|Retractable external weapon mounts, one on each arm||256dp|
|Ruthenium polymer surface (4m2 + scanners)||450dp|
|Smartlink II connections on weapon mounts and palms||50dp|
|Spurs at wrists, elbows, and knees||420dp|
|Hydraulic jacks, level 6||300dp|
|Security I sensors, 0 CF||1250dp|
|Contingency Maneuver Controls, rating 9 (25kg?, 0CF)||1350dp|
|Olfactory Analysis Package||100dp|
|Fingertip chemical analyzer 6||75dp|
This ’borg is designed to be easy to retrofit for a variety of purposes using conventional cybertechnology. 655,000¥.
|Level 2 sensors with flare compensation, 0CF||320dp|
|Olfactory Analysis Package||100dp|
|Composite armor, 6 points||1800dp|
I hate this show. People are clamoring to have their bodies amputated so they can live the rest of their lives as a brain in a tank, and the show is encouraging it. I have nightmares of being a contestant.
—Barry, Troll Physical Adept
Go ’Borg! is a popular game show— a descendent of Jeopardy, Let’s Make a Deal, and Wheel of Fortune— where contestants engage in a variety of trials to win cyberware, often new and experimental creations by the megacorps. The studio that runs the game show (along with several others) has a very good management team that makes a point of being fair to all the different cyberware producers, and has thus far avoided acquisition.
A session of Go ’Borg! has three contestants working with the perennial five categories: headware, bodyware, sportsware, senseware, and combatware. One contestant gets to pick a category, and then chooses the test: trial by contest, trial by feat, or trial by chance. A trial by contest can be anything from duking it out in the ring to answering trivia questions on a timer; a trial by feat can involve heavy lifting, heavy eating, or precision work of some sort, often stealing from carnival games; a trial by chance usually involves a variety of gambling. The trials are all related to the appropriate category. Here are some examples:
|Headware||Word problems, Academic trivia||Memorization, Calculation||Gambling|
|Bodyware||Armwrestling, Medical trivia||Eat This!|
|Sportsware||Sports trivia, Ball game||Heavy lifting||Pick a Winner|
|Senseware||Where’s Jetblack?, Sensory trivia||Needle in a Haystack|
|Combatware||Desert Wars trivia, Duking it out||Marksmanship||Russian Roulette|
Trials by contest and chance automatically involve the other players; trials by feat give the first person a crack at the feat and if they fail, the other players can step forward. Eat This! is a matter of eating a given percentage of your body weight in food in a given amount of time, or consuming something disgusting. Where’s Jetblack? is like Where’s Waldo, with the first person to spot Jetblack winning. Pick a Winner lets people bet on a short exhibition of skill by someone else. Needle in a Haystack is a timed search through something (pit of sand, barrel of fish) to find a special object. Russian Roulette is like the classic game, but not fatal (the shot— a paintpak— just stings a lot). All trials are picked to give contestants a decent chance— it’s no fun for the audience to see someone get crushed without one.
On the order of once a session, a contestant gets a chance to forfeit everything they’ve won for a chance to “go ’borg!”, usually with the audience screaming at them to do so. If you win, you get to become a full-cyborg conversion.
Prizes cannot be redeemed for cash— you get the ’ware and cybersurgery and hospital stay paid for, but if you don’t want it installed, you lose it. They do pay your taxes on ’ware if it looks like you can’t afford to yourself.