“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ~ Aristotle, Metaphysics
The mind is an emergent property of the nervous system; one can analyze, dissect, model or attempt to replicate the brain at great length and come no closer to understanding how it produces our minds. For that matter, with all our advances in neurology we still struggle answer the question, “What does it mean to have consciousness?” So it is with the Augmented – even those who experience the process still wrestle with the question, “What does it mean to be Augmented?”
The creation of a mind-machine interface is called integration, and it is just that – the full mixing of consciousness with technology, an indelible mark on one’s physical and mental reality. The first moment of realization is like no other sensation, and each cyborg responds to it differently. Some speak of a moment of clarity that tears down all previous understanding. Others describe a deeply spiritual experience, enlightening, humbling and frightening all at once. It has been called both rebirth and a kind of death, a reawakening and a heightened dream state, a deep connection to the universe and a severing from the rest of the world. Opinions vary, to put it mildly.
The Interface and Augmentation
To be clear, integration with a symbiotic strain is only the first step down the pat. It does not rule an Interface’s future; it influences the way she understands her new existence, certainly, but does not limit that understanding.
In game terms, each strain makes some Augments easier to learn than others but does not limit what Augments may be obtained (though other factors can). While some are downright dogmatic about the Augments they choose, many if not most take a broader approach to augmentation.
Integration is only the beginning of the process commonly called Synergy. Though in recent years the term has become a boardroom buzzword, this is synergy in its truest sense – a cooperation of systems that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Over time a cyborg can learn to feel this connection on a greater level, increasing her Synergy.
Benefits of Synergy
Increased Synergy grants greater control over Augments. The player adds a character’s Synergy rating to most Augment rolls as well as for certain others. As Synergy increases, so does a cyborg’s ability to store and spend Serum. Higher Synergy increases how many “points” of Mods one’s body can easily withstand; this threshold can be exceeded, but doing so is a Breaking Point (rolled at a penalty), and even if every roll is successful, there is a second limit at which Morality loss is automatic (also lowering one’s max Morality until Synergy is increased or the additional Mods removed).
|Rating||Max Serum||per turn||Threshold||Morality Loss|
States of Being
The interconnection between organism and symbiote is strong but not absolute. Great physical or mental stress can cause the link to be lost for a time. This is known as Fugue; during its effects the human host loses control of her systems. It is as though the host is sleepwalking; she behaves automatically, reacting to stimuli unpredictably. She may attack anyone who so much as touches her or sit perfectly still while under attack herself. Most in this state do not speak, though some make repetitive sounds – either nonverbal noises (a forced cough, a monotone hum, clicking the tongue) or a single word or phrase repeated at length. The symbiote controls the body but does not fully understand the world without the host, so it will “guess” what action to take at any given time. It will not directly harm itself but may suffer harm because of its ignorance of the correct course of action. A cyborg won’t stab herself with the knife she’s holding but she may wave it around carelessly and be shot by the policeman who told her to freeze.
Senses and faculties hampered – so too can the abilities of the Augmented. Exposure to electromagnetic pulse (EMP), power depletion, or “disengaging the safeties” can cause shutdown. Because shutdown has some benefits, some cyborgs enter it willingly.
- System: If the character fails the Stamina+Resolve roll to overcome the effects of an EMP, if her Serum level drops to zero and she is prevented from generating more serum for TIMEFRAME TBD, if she “disengages the safeties” and stores/uses Serum above her normal limit, or if she willingly enters shutdown as a standard action (no roll required), she gains the Shutdown Condition.
The character cannot generate or spend Serum. All active Augments and some passive effects are inoperative; extended actions using these Augments are almost always terminated. The character’s systems cannot be hacked; to restart a hacking attempt begun before the shutdown requires a re-roll at a penalty; failure means the hack is disengaged. The character cannot be detected as Augmented by passive scans and active scans suffer a penalty.
Resolution: After DETERMINE HOW LONG THIS SHOULD LAST BASED ON REASON FOR SHUTDOWN the character may “reboot” as a free action. If the character did not initiate shutdown, she takes one level of Bashing damage to “hard reboot”.
Beat: The character suffers a “hard reboot”. The character maintains a purposeful shutdown rather than “reboot” and take the opportunity to accomplish a goal by Augmented might.
Regardless of kind, all Interfaces have a few traits in common.
All living system require fuel. Early versions of strains were powered exclusively via the electrical grid, which was impractical in many situations. Early VNE research discovered that the parasite runs on its host’s own metabolism, siphoning chemical energy for its own use. Cybernetics now run similarly; a power conversion matrix consumes a certain percentage of the body’s food energy.
This passive system requires only that the individual continue to eat; certain nutrient-dense foodstuffs have been devised to allow the Augmented to live on the same volume of food each day. There exist Augments that improve upon this system to allow a cyborg to store, conduct and even transform energy.
Improved immune function
The VNE vaccine alters the immune system, which allows the body to accept augmentation without harmful side effects. Integration strengthens this system by an order of magnitude. With few exceptions, cyborgs simply do not fall ill. Pathogens are destroyed and cellular damage is repaired near flawlessly – even cancers are reversed. As a result, it is believed that average lifespan will increase dramatically once enough time has passed to show such long-term benefits. Some strains and Augments take this ability even further, allowing for preternatural healing and even regeneration of lost tissue.
Under certain circumstances, symbiotic systems generate a kind of "purified” symbiotic material, rather like undifferentiated stem cells, that can be put to multiple purposes. It takes its name, serum, from the fact that it is found in blood serum and is carried throughout the body by the circulatory system to do its work.
~ Because of its rarity, it is valuable to those who are aware of it. It can be extracted from the blood. Who does it? Why?
Benefits of Serum
Synergy determines how much Serum the body can hold and how efficiently it can use it; in gameplay terms, how many points of Serum can be spent in a turn. There are exceptions to this rule; the most common way is to “disengage the safeties”, which greatly increases both Serum limit and throughput for a short time, after which the Augmented will go into shutdown. Additionally, certain Augments can temporarily increase one’s Serum limit or expenditure rate.