The Effects of Cyberware on Humanity

Large amounts of cyberware are supposed to make people seem less human, somehow creepy. Implanting too much will just kill someone (unless cybermancy— even more creepy!— intervenes). Riding the fine line near 0.0 Essence is known to cause cyberpsychosis. And even just a little of the right cyberware will make a big difference in a person. Keep these ideas in mind when developing the personalities of your characters with cyberware.


One problem with having a low Essence is the tendency toward cyberpsychosis. People with too much ’ware packed into them tend to get disconnected from humanity, losing the ability to empathize with others, and often become psychotic. Part of it is biochemical and is caused by overly much artificial interfacing to the physical body, placing a strain on the system and wearing at a person’s nerves. (Alpha, beta, and delta-grade cyberware have better interfaces, and thus cost less Essence.) Part of it is psychological, as their divergence from normal humans in their capabilities causes a divergence from normal humans in their mentality.

Some other articles on the topic include James Hudson’s treatise (which addresses only the physiological aspect of the problem) and Keith Ammann’s system (which suggests that the average human pedestrian is mildly neurotic and that the average Troll pedestrian is a disturbed individual who has trouble getting along in society— not necessarily inaccurate for the world of Shadowrun, though a worrisome prospect).


Learning to live with cyberware, adapting to fully take advantage of its enhanced capabilities, will lead someone away from from the normal path of humanity. Some may embrace it, some may reject it, but everyone will be affected in some way.


One of the most subtle types of cyberware is headware. It’s invisible (unless someone has evident jacks in their head), but has its effect on behavior. People with encephalons and cerebral boosters get a considerable increase in their mental processing power, and can actually multi-task their minds, thinking deeply about one subject while doing something like driving or holding a conversation. This manifests outwardly in apparent non-sequiturs popping into the conversation as one person’s thoughts race ahead of the other’s, sudden jumps back to a previous thread in a conversation, or a tendency to hold a conversation in depth while their attention is on a completely different activity. (This, in addition to the general factor of someone being a great deal smarter than an unaugmented human.) Their clarity of understanding often leads them to see others as short-sighted, and many become impatient with the slowness of mind that the unaugmented possess. A high-rating mnemonic enhancer will boost a person’s memory to a truly frightening degree, and they will often use complex language without a second thought, with their speaking vocabulary expanding to the size of their reading vocabulary. (To them, it’s merely appropriate word choice.)

The math SPU is one of the more subtle and powerful pieces of work. It enables a person to deal with complex math problems in the background of their mind, and gives them an incredible time sense. People with math SPUs will often volunteer startlingly accurate information in an offhand way; someone with a math SPU, an encephalon, and a cybereye rangefinder can idly compute velocities, angles, and all manner of interesting engineering calculations without getting distracted from a conversation. People with math SPUs have strong tendency to find mathematical solutions to problems whenever possible, simply because the math is so easy for them.


Expanded senses make the world a different place for the augmented and the Awakened. Orkish and Elvish neighborhoods often stint on street lighting, since they need very little light to see clearly, and thus seem dark and spooky places to humans. Trolls and Dwarfs can see clearly by body heat, and seldom wear makeup because almost all of it will be glaringly evidenced in the infrared; their rainbow has three more colors than Newton’s. Folk with flare compensation stand out in a crowd when there are bright lights: they can gaze into the sun without squinting, and do not flinch from sudden flashes. People with olfactory boosters keep unusually tidy houses, because they can smell mildew long before anyone else could see it.

Handrazors and Cyberspurs

Personal weapons are popular among street samurai, and cheap enough to be accessible to many gang members, with a price near that of a simple datajack. (Gangs in the Barrens aren’t going to be able to afford them, but relatively well-to-do ones that can afford automatic weapons will often acquire such implants.) The snick of blades extending and the tendency of such individuals to use them for utilitarian purposes (such as eating) contribute greatly to uneasiness in the average citizen.


The world changes pace when your Reaction and Quickness go beyond the range of unaugmented humans. Ordinary folk can be creeped out by the suddenness of reactions, especially with the twitchiness of wired systems (as opposed to neural or magical boosts). The ability of wired individuals to nonchalantly pluck falling objects out of the air is downright uncanny, and this uncanniness tends to leave mundanes ill at ease.


Built-in body armor has its disadvantages. Dermal plating stands out at the pool and the gym, and makes an embrace an unusual experience. Orthoskin detracts from one’s tactile senses, taking away part of the experience of being human, and probably contributing to cyberpsychosis out of proportion to its effectiveness. Many of the armor options will detract from a character’s ability to get a date or carry on a physical relationship, which will in turn exacerbate any feelings of detachment from humanity.

Vehicle Control Rigs

“Faster and faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

—Hunter S. Thompson

The vehicle control rig’s effect on the personality is highly underrated. A person with a vehicle control rig is accustomed to such highly mystical activities as bilocation and shapeshifting, enough to get you sainted or burned as a heretic in older times. But because the bilocation is handled by switching between radio-controlled drones and the shapeshifting is nothing more than switching your awareness between machines, everyone thinks nothing of it.

A rigger becomes the machine they are rigging: it becomes their body. Someone jacking into a vehicle might get a forward view, but a vehicle control rig lets a rigger expand their sensorium to actually see in 360°, radar and sonar mapping into their kinesthetic and tactile senses. Rigging multiple drones at the same time accustoms them to assembling their view of the world from multiple locations. All of this makes them a great deal more likely to do many things at once: it’s not impolite by rigger lights to carry on a meaningful conversation with you while playing video games or watching TV, because they’re accustomed to multi-tasking. Their radically different way of seeing the world often leads to non-sequitur insights and bizarre analogies, and they may suddenly change the tack of a conversation from the same instinct that has them pop up a drone over on the other side of the battlefield to assemble a better view.

People undergoing full-’borg conversions are further distanced from humanity. Those who pay the high price for a spare social body survive the best, since they have a full range of human senses available to them and can socialize normally. The rest of the ’borgs have to make do with virtual environments, where they can become addicted to instant wish-fulfillment and lose interest in external reality, treating their ’borg body as just another drone.