Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Freezing Foam Grenade

The Freezer (p. 341 EP) is a pretty common weapon platform for crowd control, less-lethal action and generally trying to make sure people don't bother you. Their main drawbacks are that they are somewhat bulky, being two-handed, and they have a somewhat limited range of effect, at best working at up to 50 yards. But, the quick-hardening foam they use is a relatively in-expensive chemical compound, and can be re-packaged into other delivery systems with relative ease for additional options.

Freezing Foam Grenade: A type of grenade or seeker loaded with an aerosolized variant of the same quick-hardening foam used in a Freezer. When it detonates, it sprays the foam in a wide area, causing all in that area to need to make REF x3 tests or become trapped and unable to move, and makes this at a -30 if the attacker scored an Excellent Success. Like normal, the foam is permeable and allows those stuck to breathe if covered, but will block vision. Similar to a regular freezer, the grenade may also be laced with a contact toxin or drug to affect the targets, though many find Splash or Gas grenades more effective in that regard. Unlike a Freezer however, the grenade is too haphazard and short-lived to use to construct barricades or cover using the foam. The foam degrades over a period of 12 hours like normal. [Low]

Freezing Foam Grenades see a lot of use loaded as anti-riot rounds in large seeker weapons on vehicles, or occasionally as an alternate for Ego Hunters or cops to other methods of suppressing groups. They also make handy booby traps with various grenade triggers, and have the advantage of keeping the target around to examine or interrogate later. They might also be scaled appropriately and used from significant range to trap and disable armored vehicles which resist conventional projectiles, but paralyze their weapon and mobility systems. Due to their non-lethal nature, they're fairly easy to procure in most polities. Some people do not necessarily understand the nature of the grenade - and people have mistaken them for fire suppressants at inopportune times. The fact that the foam is not air tight means it does little to stifle most fires.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fly-By Wires

"Fly-by-wire" is an old term referring to the replacing of manual, mechanical controls to an aircraft with electronic ones attached to a computer via electrical lines (hence "by wire"). These can also be attached to flight computers in order to digitally manage various elements very precisely, improving performance. Depending on the medium, this can also be referred to as "fly-by-wireless" or "fly-by-optics", which are generally how aerospace craft handle things in Eclipse Phase. However, the terminology for Fly-By-Wire stuck in another field; cybernetic implants.

Fly-By Wires: Also called "skillwires", this system predates modern Skillware/Skillsofts. Using an embedded microcomputer (or more commonly these days, direct link to a cyberbrain or mesh insert library) this implant runs synthetic nerves to the limbs which on command perform rote actions instantly, without conscious input from the user and overriding their own natural movements. This means that the user can perform a particular action with computerized precision every time on command, and these actions can be simple or complex, but they are rote - they do not allow for improvisation or adjustment by the user. Using a skillwire to bullseye a pistol shot into a target's head at 10 meters will replicate that headshot every time - unless the target happens to be dramatically shorter or taller than where the Fly-By Wire is set to. When purchased, the user should designate a single Skill which the wire is keyed for - they gain a +20 to all Task Actions with that skill, so long as that action involves routine, repeatable movements. At the GM's discretion, once per Action Turn the user may perform a Simple Action as a Free Action or a Complex Action as a Simple if it is related to that skill if they think it can be shortened by executing on-demand (e.g. a Fly-By for Kinetic Weapons might allow a user to reload for free). More advanced and expensive versions are available which are linked to computers with broader command libraries and heuristics - these designate a single type of skill (Combat, Technical, etc) instead, but are more expensive. [Low], [Moderate] for Advanced.

Fly-By Wires were envisioned by authors and wannabe-badasses as a way to "git gud" quick at things such as combat, but in reality, there's not always a practical use to rote performance of actions in a fight - it makes one very predictable and doesn't handle complex situations well. Instead, Fly-By systems were popularized as hardware installs for AIs and later even indentures in the decades prior to the Fall, allowing routine tasks to be performed with mechanical precision but still leaving an "observer" to interpret possible anomalies and work around any problems with a minimal amount of job training. This has since fallen off as Skillsofts are very easy to distribute and install directly in AIs and Infomorphs to give them a more flexible "graft" of knowledge, and sub-AI Expert Systems can generally be trusted to operate themselves with external transhuman oversight. This doesn't mean that hypercorps or other organizations don't occasionally decide to cut corners to get around high costs. Additionally, highly trained experts have picked up on the occasional use of Fly-By Wires to perform certain actions they need on a regular basis instantly, and let their own skills pick up the slack.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Wolf's Ears

Wolf's Ears: Trade name for a personal acoustic awareness enhancer. Used in the past by hunters, military shooters and surveillance personnel, this sort of system has become highly refined by AF 10. They take the form of small inserts into the ears worn like contoured earbuds. Inside is embedded fiberoptic microphones and a small computer. It's first function has the system help to pick up and boost ambient audio which is low, making it easier for the user to hear. This grants a +10 on Hearing related Perception tests, which does not stack with Enhanced Hearing. However, the computer can also detect harmfully loud audio and reduce it's strength to protect the hearing of the user. Normally loud noises which might cause harm like gunshots and explosions will be reduced to manageable levels, removing any penalties one might take to Perception or some other skills for them. Some noises are likely to be too loud to reduce completely, but still will cause reduced harm to the user. The GM may offer a +10-+30 bonus on tests to resist certain effects or allow their penalties to also be ignored if they feel it appropriate, such as when dealing with a Concussion or Overload grenade. [Low]

Most users do not bother with this system, as it is technically out-dated by modern bioware, and rarely do users require the hearing protection (which modern nanomedicine fixes very easily) but special tactics or military units in bioconservative circles may utilize them in place of invasive cyberware alternatives. People who need hearing enhancement in a pinch might also want to avoid a lengthy install time.

More importantly however, Firewall operatives utilize Wolf's Ears in a roundabout way, hacking the internal systems to block certain types of sound signatures which could be harmful, such as Basilisk Hacks, while also retaining their situational awareness. While not as surefire as something like Analog Tools or a Faraday Suit, it can be helpful, applying its resistance bonus in this case. However, in order to program in the proper sound block, the Firewall Sentinel must be aware of the nature of the aural Basilisk Hack in the first place.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Bleeder Rounds

As discussed earlier what amounts to a "War Crime" is a bit more of a dubious era in AF10. This has led to the popularizing of a lot of technology of a military (and often, specifically anti-personnel) nature which would at the very least have raised eyebrows before The Fall if not been outright illegal. And in many habs with laws and formal governments, they remain illegal for private citizens to use. They may even be restricted from being used by the police. But, when things get bad these governments may often find they have a few of these tools in their back pocket. And, for members of technically illegal conspiracies who will stop at nothing to prevent a second Fall, fines and simulspace jail time for owning the "wrong" spec of ammunition seem like a small risk to take. Here's an example:

Bleeder Rounds: Related to Biter and Flayer (p. 338 EP) Smart Ammunition, the Bleeder round also alters it's shape and profile as it passes through a target. It can also alter its trajectory both in and outside the target when paired with a smartlink. However, the purpose of the Bleeder round is not just to cause more physical damage to the target, it is to specifically cause painful, incapacitating damage. The round shapes itself to make wounds more difficult to close up and prone to bleeding. It will adjust its trajectory to find joins, major organs or arteries, and nerve centers. If it passes through a region of vital anatomy it can fold, shape or sharpen to cut maximum numbers of blood vessels or sever nerves and ligaments. Or, if approached with a bone, it might harden, scrape or dig into the structure to cause more painful and inhibiting breaks. This means it causes +2 DV, and the target's Wound Threshold is considered 1 lower against the weapon using this ammo. Like Biter and Flayer, Bleeder rounds cannot be combined with other ammunition types. [Moderate]

Despite the name, Bleeders are just as effective against synthmorphs, targeting core mechanisms and internal components, though naturally the ability to filter pain makes synthetics more resilient. The primary saving grace against Bleeder rounds is that their high speed means they often have little time to adjust their trajectory or make dramatic repositions. They also have considerably less usefulness if something were to jam the Smartlink. The microcomputers on the Bleeder round when paired with a smartlink can make assumptions about the anatomy of the target and may even be linked with sensors to confirm - but against exotic morphologies such as aliens or entirely neogenetic creatures they may lack effectiveness. At their discretion the GM may decide that Bleeders have no additional effect on such a target. Luckily for Firewall operatives using them, that only includes some exsurgent types.

Bleeders were developed prior to the Fall, and almost immediately banned everywhere, and got a lot of media attention when they were illegally used, much like stories of "cop killer" bullets in the late 20th century. This did mean they were not thoroughly tested against the horrors of the Fall, and while many users swear by them, a single bullet can still only do so much on it's own. Even so, pop culture remembers the round a little, and restrictions on civilian and even law enforcement deployment exist in many polities. Even if not verboten, one can expect to get many angry messages and negative rep hits accidentally slinging the bullets around to hit an unintended target in a vital organ.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Undetectable Shrapnel

(Author's Note: So, I actually wanted to start posting H-Rep again earlier in the month, but was delayed by a lengthy loss in utilities for most of it. This did, however, give me some time to collect my thoughts and figure out more entry ideas, so look forward to regular updates [in some form] over the coming weeks)

"War crimes" is a fuzzy area in the Transhuman Future. For something to be a crime, there must be laws against it. And for those laws to matter, somebody has to be enforcing them. As there is no form of "international" governing body in the greater Solar System, nor do a majority of the powerful governments in that solar system wish to enter into any kind of treaties or agreements with most of the other, this means that since many of the Old Earth nation-states have folded there are not a lot of key regulations in how remaining polities conduct warfare. The UN attempted to remain together and positive in the exodus of the Fall and the immediate Post-Fall era, but rather quickly disbanded and either joined the Planetary Consortium or folded into their cultural groups. Since pandora's box of WMDs and other such things was opened to fight the TITANs, when there are serious security threats quite a few governments no longer hold back. This can lead to some fairly insidious and dangerous weapons.

Undetectable Shrapnel is a concept actually originating from the region of the 20th and 21st Centuries. While verboten in a proper war, some governments utilized them in counter-terror and anti-insurgency operations. Originally made of hardened plastics, in AF 10 these can be made from carbon fibers or other nanomaterials, transparent alumina or hardened, frangible ceramics. The idea is that these fragments still embedded deep in the body, but are not detectable by metal detectors and have a minimal cross-section on X-rays, T-rays, Ultrasound or many other sensor systems, only easily detected by a pervasive internal sensor network (i.e. Medichines). Since the shrapnel is hard to detect, it can linger in the body, preventing injuries from fully healing and causing further damage. Some may be keyed with a certain chemical "tracer", so that if they are discovered removed or in-situ they act as an ID on the person hit with the weapon. The most insidious types are made of smart materials or other embedded nanotech, and may administer nanotoxins or make more serious injuries - though many types of these materials are too fragile to use. Officially, you see these in place in minefields around the TQZ or certain spots on the surface of Luna, and unofficially, you may see them used by criminals to guard hideouts and caches, or by Hypercorps on planetary bodies to fend of Barsoomians or other Anarchist Guerrillas. Most governments have restrictions about using such materials on civilians, but these can easily be circumvented by their placement on private territory, or high-security locations.

Mechanics:
Other than just an insidious and thought-provoking concept, there are a couple of ways to handle "Undetectable Shrapnel" in play. The easiest is to impose a penalty to First Aid or Surgery rolls to the subject of -10 to -30, counteracted by using certain tools like Nanoscopic Vision or a Utilitool. This reflect the difficulty in treating the subject. For a more lasting effect, possibly on player characters, try out an effect like when a Wound is inflicted (indicating lasting or serious injuries), the character heals at half the normal rate unless healing by some form of nanomedicine, or imposing appropriate SOM or even DUR penalties until the shrapnel is removed. This encourages victims to resleeve to be rid of them fast, making a very draining injury in a game where physical harm is usually very quickly reversed. For PCs who want to utilize such things, the Shrapnel can be applied in the manufacture of any fragmentation weapon. This may require a difficult programming test to re-write blueprints to use new materials, upgrade the cost category or just make otherwise legal gear become Restricted or Illegal.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Battlecruiser

The Destroyer (p. 348 EP) is the most common military spacecraft in the solar system - a medium tonnage, fast and maneuverable ship designed for long endurance and escort duty which defends against attacks at short range. Because of their flexible armament, high-speed designs and very efficient power supply in the form of an antimatter drive, Destroyers are typically all that is needed by a space navy force to defend territory or patrol vectors used as trading routes. But, they are not the entirety of the design. Smaller ships, from fighters carried on destroyers and larger vessels, to armed shuttles which act as patrol boats, interception satellites and even "light cruisers" or "corvette" designs exist as small, fast attack and defense or long-term independant operation ships. There are, however, also larger designs - these take three primary forms:

  • Command Carriers are rare, large ships which are mostly armed with defensive weapons and almost always require escorts - their purpose is to launch and coordinate large amounts of smaller ships. Their mass harms their maneuverability and top speed, so these sluggish ships do not often leave their home ports but would be vital in an actual space war to force projection.
  • The fabled "Dreadnoughts" are even more rare, seen as an outdated return to military tactics of the past. Heavily armed and armored these large ship designs are much more popular in fiction than in actual military engagements. Almost designed to show off the material wealth and engineering prowess of their builders, these ships can easily be overwhelmed by smaller, more maneuverable craft which cost much less time and effort to build in large numbers. No new Dreadnoughts are listed as under construction, and the majority left in commission are in the Jovian Republic or LLA.
The third common large ship class is increasingly popular, and is the Battlecruiser. Battlecruisers are larger ships designed along the same lines as the destroyer. They sacrifice armor capability of their larger size to maintain speed, but are still heavily armed - the intent is to be able to chase down and outgun ships with lesser armament, but evade or outmaneuver heavier and more powerful ships. Modern, spaceborne battlecruiser designs first appeared in the era of conflict immediately prior to the Fall, as a countermeasure to prospects of Dreadnought warfare. Several constructed Battlecruisers did well in the limited space warfare during the Fall itself, both against human forces and even TITAN ones. Comparable speed and defenses but greater power make them a good match for small numbers of Destroyers, and better agility and similar power mean they are more cost-effective against Dreadnoughts. 

In the modern period, every faction with a major space force owns one or more Battlecruiser-type designs, and some of them own several and are constructing more. The main drawback of the Battlecruiser is its greater expense and logistics - they take more material to build and to fuel, and more mental resources to run, either in form of AIs or Egos. The fact that open space conflict is not generally a popular or advisable position also means in some polities (such as the Titanian Commonwealth) with high transparency or citizen influence that Battlecruiser expenses are often frowned upon or judged harshly as opposed to less expensive Destroyers for defensive purposes. On the other hand, the Jovian Republic is proud of it's fleet composition and energy resources of Jupiter to fuel them - and plans on having the largest set of Battlecruisers in the Solar System by AF 15. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Web Grenade

Area denial is an interesting area in AF10. While landmines are still made (and due to less issue of lasting injury, slightly less stigmatized) they can present issues in tight spaces of transhuman construction, and risk infrastructure or even depressurization in enclosed habs. A mantrap can block a door or other route - but only covers a single surface. To this end, there is some desire for a device which can offer an expanded area of coverage to block doors and halls and hopefully cause less destruction than explosive traps. Luckily, materials science has solutions.

Web Grenade: While coming in grenade form, this device is more like a container for spools of carbon nanomaterial fibers, which end in grip head micro-anchors. When detonated (ideally in an airburst) the coils fly out in all directions to a maximum length of about 1.5 meters and anchor to surfaces, creating a web of black coils. These strands impede visibility, and are strong enough to be impossible for a morph to break under their own strength - they have to be cut with a tool, or the core grenade found and dismantled so the webs lose their anchor. Such a process can take several minutes, buying valuable time in a pursuit or security situation. Anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius of a Web Grenade takes 2d10 DV with an AP of -5, and will effectively be grappled to the web grenade until they can extract themselves. This can be done as a Complex Action with a SOMx3 test, but causes 1d10/2 DV which ignores armor as the anchors are ripped out - or can be done as a more delicate proceedure over about 5 minutes (possibly requiring some form of Medicine test). This is available both as a minimissile and a grenade, but not as micromissiles, standard missiles or minigrenades. [Moderate]

Web Grenades are often used by scavengers and zone runners to keep away hostile exsurgents, TITAN bots or just fellow scavs by blocking narrow access points and delay long enough to escape. Some criminal operations (especially smugglers) also occasionally use them to delay rivals or law enforcement so they can get away. Military and security forces are also known to carry them, however, should they need to improvise security on a location with methods less permanent.

Addendum 2E: If converting to the 2E playtest, count the Web Grenade as Moderate Complexity. It still inflicts 2d10 DV, and applies Grappled status to anyone hit with it, and inflicts a d6 of DV which ignores armor if ripped out. They probably shouldn't be restricted, and also note the lack of the "Armor Piercing" trait. Any other aspects of Seekers and Grenades normally applies.