Roleplayer #26, October 1991

Building a Better 'Borg

Advanced Bionics Rules

by C.J. Carella

The bionic rules from GURPS Ultra-Tech and Cyberpunk give an adequate overview for basic bionics at TL8. Those rules, however, result in rather fragile cyborgs that do not seem to improve at higher tech levels. Players who wish to create high-powered cyborgs like the Ly'Bahr from the Wild Cards universe or the cinematic bionic characters from movies like Robocop and Terminator may be forced to drop both books and turn to GURPS Supers. This may not be satisfying to gamers who want to use technology to build their cyborgs much as they would use GURPS Vehicles to design a car.

Below are some suggested rules and modifications to existing rules found in Cyberpunk and Ultra-Tech. They include expansions on the capabilities of cyborgs and improvements at higher tech levels. Ideas for introducing advanced cyborgs in a campaign are also provided.

The rules below take into account advances in technology that will affect the power and durability of cyborgs. They also deal with the issues of cybernetic strength and dexterity and alien cyborgs.

Note that page references to CY mean GURPS Cyberpunk, SU refers to GURPS Supers, A is GURPS Aliens and UT is Ultra-Tech.

New Cyborging Rules

Availability of Cybernetics

Some of the modifications below will make cyborgs much more powerful than mere mortals. The rules below assume that these modifications will be costly and/or restricted. Super-cyborgs will only be built if there is a need for them (constant warfare, travel to hazardous areas, etc.), and they will be controlled by the government or corporation that created them. In a military or paramilitary campaign where the enemy will be heavily armed, cyborgs will not unbalance to the game.

At Tech Levels above 8, cyborgs would be built only if there is a need for people to have the durability and abilities of machines. Bionics will cease to be needed for prosthetics beyond TL9, or if they are they will roughly have the same capabilities as TL8 equipment, which does a good job in replacing human limbs and organs.

Point Cost

The GM can use the Cyberpunk method – one point buys $5,000 worth of equipment. Alternatively, the finished cyborg can be compared with GURPS Supers and charged points as per a gadget. If all PCs are cyborgs, or if non-cyborg PCs have access to technology that nullifies the advantages of cyborgs (for instance, a military campaign where the cyborgs are scouts and the other PCs wear battlesuits or pilot mecha), then assess only the money cost, which can be eliminated if a Patron (such as the military) is providing the funds.

Damage to Bionic Parts

Bionics become more durable at higher TLs. The values given on p. CY31 and UT46 are for TL8. Double the DR and HT values for every TL after that; PD remains the same. A bionic arm at TL9 will have DR 6 and 12 hits; at TL10 the values will be DR 12 and 24 hits, and so on. At TL13, a Full Cyborg Body (p. CY32 and UT46) will have DR 96 and will take 480 hits before being disabled (of course, at TL13 the only full cyborgs allowed would be put in very dangerous situations)! Cyborgs will thus be able to keep up with the increased lethality of weapons at high TLs.

All bionic parts can be strengthened beyond their original DR and HT. For every 10% increase in HT or DR (or extra point if HT is less than 10) increase cost by 20%, up to double the original score of the bionic part.

Bionic Hit Points and Armor

The Extra Hit Points and DR gained through the cyborg modifications on p. CY34 (including Bionic Reconstruction, Full Metal Jacket and Extra Hit Points) are also doubled with every TL. At TL12, for instance, $20,000 worth of Full Metal Jacket will provide 1 PD (up to 6 PD) and 16 DR. Extra DR for cyberlimbs (see p. CY32) also increases in this way.

Bionic Strength

Bionic limbs can be stronger than those made of flesh and blood. However, the power of those limbs is limited by the frailty of the human body and the technology producing them.

Strength Limits

Bionic limbs attached to a human body cannot exceed ST 25, regardless of the TL. Lifting power is limited by the body's ST; if a cyborg tries to lift more than 25 times the human body's ST or make a hand-to-hand attack employing full cyborg ST, roll against HT, at -1 per ST point difference between the body and the bionic limb. The character then takes 1 point of damage for every point by which he missed his roll. Someone with Bionic Reconstruction or Full Cyborg Body can reach far beyond this limit, as limited by TL. The potential ST of full cyborgs increases dramatically at higher TLs, representing advances in artificial tissue technology. Use the table below:

TLBionic ReconstructionFull Cyborg Body

If the ST of the cyborg is over 2/3 of the maximum ST on the Bionic Reconstruction Table, the body will automatically have the Unnatural limitation: exoskeleton parts will be needed to reinforce the internal structure, giving the cyborg thick limbs and inhuman size (7-9 feet tall). No cost reduction for these looks is allowed, however.

The cost of cyborg ST is halved at TL9, divided by 10 at TL11, and divided by 100 at TL13 +.

Lifting and Extra Effort

Anyone whose body is partly, but not completely, bionic will have two ST values: one for his normal body and another for his limbs. If extra effort is required (see p. B89) use the human's ST. Full cyborgs have one ST value; maximum lift is ordinarily 25 x ST. Unlike biologicals, a cyborg' s maximum lift cannot be increased without putting a strain on the machinery. If more weight needs to be lifted, roll against TL2, -1 for every 10% increase in weight. A failed roll does 1 point of damage to each limb involved and the cyborg body. In general, a cyborg will not be as powerful as a super of the same ST when it comes to lifting (see p. SU83), but this is realistic: SF cyborgs cannot toss tanks around, but they can dish out a lot of damage and carry a lot of equipment.

Cyborgs and Body Armor

Cyborgs with the Unnatural limitation (p. CY31) and Full Cyborg Body or inhuman ST (see above) cannot wear normal body armor. Tailor-made suits will cost twice as much as equivalent armor in a normal size.

Cybernetic DX

The maximum DX most cyborg limbs can attain at any TL is 20. Higher DX values are possible, but dangerous; human reflexes simply cannot cope with such speeds, and an intimation of danger can initiate a lethal response before the cyborg's conscious mind can even realize what is going on. For this reason, most societies will outlaw cyberlimbs with superhuman DX.

A cyborg with a DX of 20 or higher can have his body react involuntarily: any time the cyborg is startled or surprised (an engine backfiring behind him, or a child yelling "Boo!" for instance), roll 3d, +1 for every DX point over 19. On a roll of 14 or higher, the cyborg's body or limb reacts involuntarily in a manner appropriate to a danger situation; this might consist of fast-drawing a weapon, jumping to the ground, or lashing out. On a modified roll of 16 or higher, or on a critical failure, the cyborg's body reacts dangerously to anyone around him (if the character is a walking arsenal, the potential for death and destruction is limited only by the GM's mercy).

Cybernetic Aliens

Alien physiology will affect the construction of cyborgs. Some alien races may be more culturally inclined to use cybernetics than humans; those civilizations might actually be one or two TLs above the norm when it comes to bionic technology. Others may reject all implants for ethical or biological reasons.

ST and DX

An alien's racial ST will determine how much power his basic frame can withstand. For every +1 bonus to ST, increase the maximum ST allowed to cyberlimbs with a human body by the same amount, and increase the maximum increase at each TL by 10%. Every level of Increased ST (see p. A14) increases the maximum ST of cyberlimbs by 10 and the total ST per TL by 100%. The limits on DX are also increased by the same amount. ST and DX penalties will reduce the maximums. DX is reduced the same amount. ST penalties are doubled to calculate the maximum ST of a cyberlimb; for cyborg bodies, use a -10% penalty for every -l ST.

Example: the Jarils from GURPS Aliens have one level of Increased ST and +1 ST, for a total average ST of 22. The maximum ST of a cyberlimb attached to a Jaril body is 36; the maximum ST of a Full Cyborg Body is increased by 110%, so at TL8 it would rise from 40 to 84! On the other hand, the rodent-like Cidi have ST-6; the maximum ST of a Cidi cyberlimb would be 13, and a fully-'borged Cidi, all 10 inches of it, could not have a ST greater than 16 – still a mighty mite!

New Accessories

Bioplastic Components (TL10) . . . . . Variable

For 50% increase to its cost, a bionic limb can have some of its parts built with bioplastic (see p. UT71). A bionic part with bioplastic components can regenerate up to 20% of its HT at the rate of 1 HT per every 6 hours. The other 80% is made of metal parts and must be repaired normally.

Mindswitch System (Psionic TL10) . . . . . Variable

A Mind-Transfer Machine (see GURPS Psionics, p. 67) can be used to allow a person to have two bodies, a normal one and a cybernetic one, and to switch his mind back and forth between them. This would in effect turn the cybernetic body into a special form of battlesuit – a temporary convenience that doesn't require the user to sacrifice his humanity (unless something goes wrong, of course). The cybernetic body is built around a blank clone of the subject ($10,000 for a clone body). The Mind-Transfer Machine will impose the personality of the subject on the cyborg body, and transfer it back whenever necessary. The process requires 5 minutes and a successful Electronics Operations (Psychotronics) roll by the operator. A mind transfer machine weighs ½ ton and takes up .5 cy. It costs $10,000,000.

This system lets governments use ultra-powerful cyborg warriors without worrying about what to do with those cyborgs when they are not needed. The cyborgs can enjoy a normal life when not on duty (some may become too enamored of the power of their metal bodies, which may result in interesting mental disadvantages). Perhaps most importantly, GMs will be able to dictate when the cyborg bodies will be used.

Living Metal Components (TL13) . . . . . Variable

For double the normal costs, bionic parts can be completely made up of living metal (see p. UT104). Living metal regenerates at a rate of 10% the hit points of the component per hour.

Monomolecular Claws (TL9) . . . . . $3,000

The bionic claws described on p. CY32 can be given monomolecular edges at TL9. This adds 1d to cutting damage, and armor protects with only half DR. If claws are illegal or restricted, these will be even more so.

Hyperdense Claws (TL12) . . . . . $6,000

These claws are made of synthetic diamond molecules, collapsed through gravitronics to acquire extra hardness and a molecule-splitting edge. The combination allows hyperdense weapons to cut through most materials like a hot knife through butter. Hyperdense claws add 2d to all damage rolls, and armor protects with 1/5 DR.

Motion Amplifiers (TL13) . . . . . $250,000

Motion Amplifiers, also known as H-fields (for "Hercules Field") combine gravitic and force screen technology to greatly increase the force of any motion made by the wearer. Sensors implanted throughout the cyborg's body detect any motion (jumping or throwing a punch, for instance), and increase the power behind that motion ten-fold. A cyborg with ST 22, for instance, would do 20d instead of 2d damage with a punch, or could jump 170 feet instead of 17 feet. The Motion Amplifier is neurally inter-faced (see p. UT79) to the cyborg, who can decide when to use the H-field. The Motion Amplifier will not help in lifting, which requires a constant effort, but can be used for pushing, throwing or hammering at objects. Using an H-field for any one action drains one charge from the field; a D-cell provides 100 charges. For the round during which an H-field is activated for an action, it provides DR 50 to its wearer, which is cumulative with the DR of any other Force Screen or armor. The generator is built inside the body, and has a HT of 60.

Pressure Resistance . . . . . $5,000 per level

Cyborgs can be designed to withstand the pressure of great ocean depths or planets with dense atmospheres. The numbers given below assume Earth ocean depths. This modification is only available as a feature of a Full Cyborg Body.

The maximum depth the cyborg can reach will depend on the thickness of its armor (minimum 3 at TL8). Each level of Pressure Resistance allows the cyborg to resist 5 atmospheres per point of DR. For instance, a TL10 Full Cyborg (DR 12) and three levels of Pressure Resistance can withstand 180 atmospheres of pressure.

Weapon Arm . . . . . $500 per pound of weapon

This is a heavy weapon installed in a Full Cyborg Body where an arm would go. The barrel of the weapon is installed on the arm socket; the power source is usually mounted on the back. The weight of the weapon cannot exceed Light Encumbrance. Only beam weapons, gauss guns and light rockets can be installed in this way; an autocannon or artillery piece would generate too much recoil. The most common Weapon Arms are Gatling Lasers, but the stronger cyborgs can mount light vehicular weapons. These weapons must have HUD sights or the SS number will be increased by 4. The Accuracy of weapons mounted on a cyborg is reduced to 2/3 their normal value, rounded down.

The weapon arm is basically a stiff tube that cannot bend at the elbow, which may cause problems in narrow or confined spaces. A cyborg can strike with it in hand-to-hand combat, at A DX, doing swing damage, or parry with it at 1/2 (not 2/3) Brawling, Judo or Karate skill, or 1/3 DX if no unarmed combat skill is known. If the cyborg does more damage in an attack than the DR of the arm, the weapon takes damage.

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