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GURPS Bio-Tech – Cover

Excerpts from GURPS Bio-Tech

Germline Gengineering for Species Modification (TL9)

"Yesterday, the Mokoto twins started laughing and teasing me 'bout my genemods again, calling me Girl Dracula and stuff. I bit one of them, but she beat me up – ain't no room to fly in the ship; it's hard to fight back proper when your bones aren't strong as theirs. I can't wait for planetfall on Darktree. Soon we parahuman kids be gliding from tree to tree, while them crew-brats be stumbling around in the groundfogs in their chillsuits and respirators. Then we see who's laughing."
– Tizbeth Sung-Morton (age 9), Darktree Colonization Fleet

Species modification involves gengineering for complex traits that never existed within the human genome, such as gene sequences that produce modifications to human anatomy. Some changes may be internal, like a modified liver that's better able to filter toxins. Others might be obvious, like a coat of fur or a pair of functional extra arms. Again, the main difficulties lie in predicting how the effects of a specific genetic change will cascade over the entire genome, and in making major changes in hundreds or thousands of genes at once. The tools to do this become available at TL9 - megacomputers for running extremely complex genetic simulations, and bio-nanotech, such as highly-sophisticated, tailored retroviruses or nanoviruses.

Gengineers might synthesize genes for totally new abilities, but it may be easier to enhance existing human traits, or design non-human abilities by basing them on the genes of terrestrial animals. This can be background information ("I'm part bat?") or imply colorful physical features (someone whose bat DNA sequences give them sonar and wings may have other chiropteran features, such as fangs and pointed ears). These may be the unintended results of cross-linked genes, or necessary for a given trait (e.g., pointed ears for ultrasonic hearing).

This sort of transgenic gengineering is already in the experimental stage at TL7, with single human genes having been inserted into "pharm animals" so that their metabolisms produce necessary proteins. Once the human genome and several nonhuman genomes are mapped and sequenced, complex human transgengineering could become a reality, limited mainly by ethical considerations.

Adding traits from very different species – like insects, plants or aliens – probably requires high technology (TL11+), unless the genetic sequences are extremely simple. The guidelines under Designing Variant Human Templates suggest TLs at which various advantages and disadvantages can be produced by gengineering.


Bodysculpting (also called "biosculpting") includes cosmetic surgery, muscle grafting and sex-change operations. While some changes may shock the traditional, bodysculpting is usually available and legal in all but the most conservative societies. TL7 cosmetic modifications rely on surgery, tissue grafts taken from other parts of the patient's body and injections or implants of inorganic material. TL8+ bodysculpt is more precise, with computer axial tomography scans to produce 3-D "before and after" models, laser scalpels and vat-grown collagen implants.

Altered Appearance (TL7/8)

"My parents were both neo-goths, and they had me gengineered to fit the ideal – you know, pale and thin, with these huge, dead-poet eyes and ink-black hair. It was just so tacky. The day I turned sixteen, I went down to the Novabody and got it changed."
– Gabrielle Ravenwood

"When I was back in LA, we'd run into poser gangs where everyone looks like Nixon or Cthulhu or whatever – or almost look, this being street medicine. I helped shut down this black clinic that was kidnapping street people and turning them into doubles of famous grid stars, then renting or selling them as toys."
– Detective Cody Chase, Nevada PD

Statistics: Select any level of Appearance, as well as facial looks, hair color, eye color and ethnic features. Point cost is the difference between the original and new Appearance. Appearance can't be increased above Very Handsome/Beautiful.

Operation: To decrease Appearance by any number of levels, or to change features so that an acquaintance needs an IQ roll to recognize you, costs $500 (and takes one week to recover from).

To increase Appearance by one level costs $1,000 (and takes 2 weeks). Two levels cost $5,000 (and 3 weeks), and the same degree of surgery can alter appearance to make someone unrecognizable, or give him a recognizable but inexact copy of another's face ("You look sort of like Elvis."). However, if a person naturally looks like another person (excluding hair and eyes), he may be modified to look exactly like his near-double for the price and time quoted above.

At TL8+ only, to increase Appearance by three levels takes $25,000 (and 3 weeks). The same effort can also turn someone into an exact duplicate of another person (as much as height and build permit), including that person's level of Appearance. Removing a person's finger-, palm- or footprints (TL7) takes $2,000 and 2 weeks; changing them (TL8) costs 10 times as much.

All changes are LC 6 (except changing prints, which is LC 3). However, making exact copies of a famous person may be a copyright or trademark violation!

Altered Bulk (TL7/8)

"When I told the doc I wanted to gain weight, he was shocked. I told him it was for a movie – well, I wasn't going to admit I needed some extra room to hide my flesh holster, was I?"
– Detective Cody Chase, Nevada PD

Fatty tissue can be removed surgically through techniques such as liposuction, or it can be grafted onto the body.

Statistics: Bulk can be safely altered up or down by one step. The steps range from a maximum of Very Fat (-20 points), to Fat (-10 points), Overweight (-5 points) and normal weight, down to a minimum of Skinny (-5 points), in that order. After the operation, adjust weight accordingly.

Operation: $5,000 (and one week). LC 6.

Extreme Sexual Dimorphism (TL7/8)

Would you like to make onlookers pant with lust or moan with envy? Come to Novabody, where we can turn you or your partner into the stuff of fantasy. Our fast, safe biosculpt procedures exaggerate primary male and secondary female sexual attributes, with striking results achieved in hours!
– Novabody: Nirvana is Now

"Yes, you too can be stacked like a pleasure bioroid. No thanks. I've heard rumors that the majority of Novabody's clients work for, quote, escort services, unquote, and that some of the surgery is a little less than elective, if you take my meaning. Custom cuties, anyone?"
– Detective Cody Chase, Nevada PD

Statistics: Sex Appeal +3 (3 points) plus Unnatural Feature (exaggerated sexual features, -5 points). -2 points.

Operation: $5,000 (and one week). It is usually preceded or followed by surgery to increase Appearance. LC 5.

Sample Gengineered Animals

These Earth animals have been biomodified in ways that make them more useful to people. Animals may be purchased from a biotech company as embryos, as young or as adults. If a breeding pair (or herd) is acquired, they can be bred normally, provided they aren't sterile. Sterile versions of otherwise-fertile biomodified animals can usually be purchased at half cost or less.

A list of the changes (in game terms) that each animal has undergone has been appended to the description, so that GMs can alter the templates to create other versions of the same species.

Pharm Goat (TL8)

ST: 10  Speed/Dodge: 9/6        Size: 1
DX: 13  PD/DR: 1/0      Weight: 50-300 lbs.
IQ: 4   Damage: -       Habitat: M, P
HT: 13/8        Reach: -

A nanny goat, modified to produce components that can be used to make a single TL8 compound, such as infant formula, a cancer vaccine, super steroids, an enzyme blocker or maybe a wonder drug (like the super clotting agent Hypercoagulin, p. UT97). Modifications were Drug Factory (requires processing: must be milked, -75%, 5 points). Unintended side effects were -2 HT (not hit points) and Unusual Biochemistry (compared to an average goat).

Neo-Vampire Bat (TL9)

ST: 2   Speed/Dodge: 12/6       Size: <1
DX: 13  PD/DR: 0/0      Weight: Neg.
IQ: 4   Damage: 1 hit   Habitat: J
HT: 13/2        Reach: C

An example of an exotic bioweapon that might come out of an underground cyberpunk biolab, this transgenic vampire bat has been gengineered with poison sacs (Venom; p. CI71) and a bloodhound's sense of smell (Discriminatory Smell; p. CI52). Capable of identifying and tracking down a specific target by scent and sonar, it is an exotic "black ops" weapon.

Jagrilla Hound (TL10) 37 points

I'd heard the government was using cloned warbeasts against the insurgents, but I'd never seen one until the general brought his bodyguard to the cease-fire talks. It was like a 7-foot-tall gorilla, but with a jaguar's pelt, a canine muzzle and long, pointed ears. The eyes were the worst: glittering with intelligence not quite human. It wore combat webbing and cradled an M-22 assault cannon in its clawed hands. As I approached them, the warbeast sniffed the air and growled something to its master. I was afraid it could smell my fear.
– "War in the Andes," by Captain Dana Martello, Stars and Stripes, Oct. '53

ST +4 (45 points), DX +2 (20 points), IQ -2 (-15 points), HT +2 (20 points).

Racial Advantages: Acute Hearing +2 (4 points), Combat Reflexes (15 points), Discriminatory Smell (works as Empathy within 2 hexes, +50%, 23 points), Extra Hit Points +2 (10 points), Fearlessness +3 (6 points), Fur (4 points), High Pain Threshold (10 points), Night Vision (10 points), Sharp Claws (25 points), Sharp Teeth (5 points), Single-Minded (5 points), Super Jump 1 (10 points).

Racial Disadvantages: Appearance: Monstrous (-25 points), Bloodlust (-10 points),Hidebound (-5 points), Innumerate (-5 points), Poor Grip (-5 points), Semi-Literacy (-5 points), Semi-Upright (-5 points), Sense of Duty (master, -5 points), Short Lifespan 3 (-30 points), Sleepy (50% of time, -10 points), Sterile (-3 points), Stress Atavism (mild, common, linked to Bad Temper, -17 points), Stuttering (-10 points), Subjugation (-20 points), Unusual Biochemistry (-5 points).

This is a cross-species fusion of gorilla and jaguar, modified for +2 IQ (to IQ 8), a near-human voice box that reduces Mute to Stuttering, and canine genes that give it a dog's Discriminatory Smell. Unintended defects are Monstrous, Sterile, Stress Atavism and Unusual Biochemistry.

K-10 (TL10) -1 point

These are semi-sentient, domesticated canines. They resemble large dogs or wolves, but their skulls are somewhat larger, with a higher cranium. Their voice boxes are modified to allow them to speak, although words have a strong, growling "canine accent."

Likely owners include rich people, police, customs agents, hunters, security agencies, farmers and exploration teams. A K-10 would also make a good seeing-eye dog, but the technology base needed to create them can probably cure most forms of blindness. The armed forces might find neo-dogs useful for military police or rangers, often with added cybernetic or biomod enhancements.

DX +3 (30 points), IQ -3 (-20 points), HT +2 (20 points).

Racial Advantages: Alertness +7 (35 points), Discriminatory Smell (works as Empathy within 2 hexes, +50%, 23 points), Enhanced Move (Running) 1 (10 points), Extra Legs (four legs, 5 points), Fur (4 points), Sharp Teeth (5 points), Ultrahearing (5 points).

Racial Disadvantages: Chummy (-5 points), Color Blindness (-10 points), Horizontal (-10 points), Innumerate (-5 points), No Fine Manipulators (-30 points), Proud (-1 point), Responsive (-1 point), Semi-Literacy (-5 points), Sense of Duty (master, -5 points), Short Lifespan 2 (-20 points), Sleepy (50% of time, -10 points), Stress Atavism (mild, uncommon, -6 points), Stuttering (-10 points).

The K-10 is produced by TL10 germline gengineering of canine stock. Modifications are increased IQ +2 (to IQ 7), the removal of Dull and Staid, and an enhanced voice box that reduces Mute to Stuttering (37 points of changes). The only unintended defect was Stress Atavism. All the other advantages and disadvantages are native to canines

Larger or smaller K-10 breeds are also possible, although further gengineering may lead to more disadvantages as well. A trained "attack dog" might have Bad Temper or even Bloodlust.

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