Original SA post
This has been a long time coming...
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: '90s As Fuck
But, first off, who is Ray Winniger and why does he have a big fuck 'all title for this game?
(Winniger in 2008)
Ray Winninger is (was) a game designer for a wide variety of games. He worked for TSR on the Dungeons & Dragons and Marvel Super Heroes lines; wrote many articles and reviews and became a contributing editor for the TSR house organ Dragon Magazine; developed games titles for West End Games and Mayfair Games. The last is a bit important since he was largely responsible for Mayfair's license for DC Heroes role-playing game. He's likely most famous for writing, along with Alan Moore, the Watchmen books for the DC Heroes line, Watchmen: Taking Out The Trash and the Watchmen Sourcebook.
The Watchmen books allowed for Mayfair to explore darker and more mature concepts. In 1993, Winninger wanted to write a cyberpunk game in which, unlike many at the time, the players had a quantative effect on the game world. Using his experience from working on DC Heroes, he created an evolution of the Mayfair Exponential Game System (MEGS) to power this game world. Taking some inspiration from current comics about the exploration of the superhero genre at the time, namely Pat Mills' "Marshall Law" and Moore's "Miracleman" as well as "Watchmen", he created the world setting of Underground.
(if you need to know, Winninger's still in the game, although today he's more of a booster through stuff like the Lovecraft-themed The Unspeakable Oath quarterly. He's actually fairly busy nowadays, being a vice-president for Microsoft Live, so, obviously, gaming is more of a hobby these days instead of a career. Also, he's probably the most successful of any of the game developers mentioned in this thread, so don't cry for him.)
Enough of the background, to the book...
PART 1: Opening Shots
The Geoff Darrow cover of the book has a garishly-adorned, heavily-armed dude, who looks like he's mowed through a brothel full of johns that came off of work from Spacely's Sprockets. The guys in the background, they could be bystanders, fellow gang members, or potential targets. I think this piece sells what Underground is about : it's about being a 'roided-out, tattooed dude, in a world of bizarre mutants, with something like 9 guns strapped to his body, a powered harness to help support his primary weapon (which is actually two guns mated together) and feed belts of ammo to it, and a shoulder full of blades to cut up anyone who comes up on his blindside.
The first words we see in the book are from William Burroughs, from "A Thanksgiving Prayer". I recall that it had been made into a video by Gus Van Zant a few years prior to Underground's publication, so it's likely that influenced Winninger.
In addition to the intro by Burroughs, we also have this horrifying mental image...
This immediately tells us that something has gone horribly wrong in this country if LAPD commissioner
, the '90s poster child of excessive police force, can be elected on a "law and order" campaign. It's even worse, when you find out, later in the book, that Rush Limbaugh is his vice president.
In between this, we have some world-building. Admist a pile of guns and money, we have the Constitution of the United States, along with some new amendments.
Among the new amendments are that there should be no law inhibiting corporations from forming treaties with foreign nations and to grant letters of marque and reprisal to said corporations (allowing for private armies to operate without government oversight); privatizing state lands; while not abridging free speech, providing ways to regulate it; and considering human beings as sentient creatures in possession of 46 chromosomes.
Next, we get a credits page. The various titles are redone in this kinda "oh so cool" hipster tone. Instead of "lead author", it's "Unconscionable Acts of Sedition". The graphic artists are described as "The Flex" and "Knee-Jerk Anti-Right Rhetoric Courtesy of". It comes off a bit off-putting.
Jennifer Santana; the Gitelmans of Skokie; Bill Karh [thanks for the years !]; Rob McLees and
family ["will a fin cover 'dat?"]; Lauren Nystul; Corey [the Funky Bilingual] Barba; the Cabardo
family [you can have her back now!]; Juan [Edgar Allen Polecat] Ramirez; Peter Chung; Ed Lee;
Geof Darrow; Industry Folks-Greg Gorden, Chris Kubasik, Nigel Findley, Jonathan Tweet,
Mark "the Mustang" Rein-Hagen [look rna, no " . " !], Stewart Wieck, Fitzroy Bonterre; comics
gurus no longer worth a mention; all myoid music crews [especially the B-Boys- "rockin' dem
rhymes all the way to Hell's Bate!"]; Joe Pesci in Goodfellas; David Lynch, Mark Frost, and the Man
From Another Place ["wow, Bob, wow!"]; 808s; Charles Burns and El Borbah, mom and dad;
Chuck Jones; Lynda Barry; Iceberg Slim; Dark Brothers; SPY magazine; Mike's grandma; KT's
parents (glug, glug!); the folks at The Comics Journal; the staffs at Profile and Tommy Boy;
Robert Rodriguez; Quentin Tarantino; John Woo; Ape Sex; La Llorona, and everyone I forgot.
This book is dedicated to the true masters of the Underground:
Oshea Jackson, Chris Parker, Carl Ridenhour, and [especially] Lenny Bruce.
Okay, following the first third of that, who are the standard family and friends thanks, the credits page essentially is a list of "who's who" of early '90s gaming and pop culture that was cool at the time. In the second third, we have Greg Gorden of WEG; Nigel Findley of Shadowrun fame; Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen of Ars Magica and White Wolf. The last third has call outs to Twin Peaks; the directors of the porno
New Wave Hookers
' Dark Brothers; the defunct SPY magazine. Robert Rodriguez had just made
, so this is way before his career became mostly Spy Kids movies.
had just come out, but QT has at least been somewhat consistent. John Woo before Hollywood killed whatever cool he had.
The last line are the given names for Ice Cube (when he was a NWA and not the family movie mogul), KRS-One, and Chuck D. If you don't know who fucking Lenny Bruce is, then I can't help you.
Next: even more world-building
What Kind Of God Would Make A World This Shitty?
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 2: What Kind Of God Would Make A World This Shitty?
The one thing you can't accuse UNDERGROUND of is a lack of worldbuilding.
(I'm going to break this down into two sections, for reasons that will become soon apparent)
I'll let Mr. Winninger introduce us to UNDERGROUND...
The American dream died a slow, wheezing death - roughly 150 years of
vigor, followed by 50 years of twilight, followed by a long 30 years of invalidity.
That's why no one saw the end coming and why so few Americans
have accepted the demise of their cherished ideals to this day. Americans
are naive. They were trained long ago to believe in Hollywood, and
Hollywood told them the end would come swiftly - a giant meteor, an inordinately
sturdy virus, or a Red Chinese invasion.
Noticed or not, the death of something so subtle as a dream had a surprisingly
profound impact upon the Earth and its inhabitants, both inside and
outside the United States. To the alert observer, the world of 2021 is clearly
a cold and dreary rat trap dominated by violent men and women who shoot
or foreclose first and ask questions later. The death of the dream gave birth
to a nightmare.
In 1996, two alien lobsters bail out of their crashing space craft into the Everglades. Unfortunately for the escaping aliens, they both die on impact. Their ejection pod and bodies are recovered by the U.S. government, who analyze the craft and its deceased occupants. In their examination, they find that the alien pod is actually organic, constructed by the aliens through manipulation of genetic material produced by "soups" they excreted, allowing them to "'grow' complex organic constructs capable of fulfilling just about an imaginable function". Through reverse engineering the aliens' pod and autopsying the alien's manipulation organs, the researchers discovered breakthroughs in genetic engineering, unified fields, and quantum mechanics.
However, unlike your typical alien contact conspiracy, the aliens' crash landing is the worst-kept secret in history. Most foreign governments know of the aliens through unofficial channels within months. After a private contractor leaks technology to a consumer electronics firm, the American government comes forward about the aliens and their attempts to reverse-engineer their technology and share their findings to the international community. However, they do not release all of the technology, which ends up becoming the casus belli for a Second Cold War between the United States, the European Community and China.
The technology gained from the crashed alien pod and the political situation brought on by the Second Cold War begins to reshape the world. The United States becomes more expansionistic than usual, adding ten more states by annexing Cuba and most of Canada, save Quebec. The Cold War between the ECM and China's Far East Collective forces the United States to begin monitoring citizens. Economic warfare is the order of the day, with fighting for markets with proxy forces supplied from corporations. Politically, the conservative, business end of the Republican Party divorces itself from the GOP, forming the Plutocratic Party, which begins to dominate American politics. The Democratic and what's left of the Republicans merge to form the Republocrats, which are just little less conservative and business-oriented than the Plutocrats.
The fast food hamburger chain McDonald's...I mean, MacRaney's, after failing to produce cost-effective clones of cattle livestock, realize that they could make more money producing cloned workers, who could then be genetically-predispositioned to eat their hamburgers. They create mentally- and genetically-deficient clones, termed Pre-Frontals, that are incapable of intuition, focus, and the ability to discern fantasy from reality. Also, because they have 45 chromosomes instead of 46, they can be treated legally as non-citizens and paid extremely low wages and perform dangerous tasks in unsafe environments. The Pre-Frontals are essentially the new "takin' our jerbs" minority. But hey, MacRaney's needs all the help they can get, considering that the big culinary craze in the '20s is...
Yep. Cannibalism is pretty much in vogue.
Cannibalism is a pervasive element in UNDERGROUND. A surface reading on the UNDERGROUND's use of cannibalism can be just seen as another "over the top" background element that differentiates this dark future from our present. Another reading is that cannibalism is probably the ultimate way to dehumanize a person, by turning them into food, and its popularity emphasizes the horrific nature of being a human being in this future. One way you can read it as a criticism of the body banks of many cyberpunk-themed games, in which PCs are encouraged to collect bodies of their dead (or go organlegging themselves) and sell them to donor centers for quick cash. Another reading, in association with a power ability available to the boosted, is that the popularity may have to do with the superhuman's relationship with humanity: the Regeneration ability, allowing a boosted soldier to heal quickly and regenerate lost limbs, can be bought with a limitation that requires the consumption of human tissues for it continue functioning. In addition, there are many superhumans, looking at humans from their high genetically-enhanced pedestals, advocating eugenics. An even deeper reading could be seen as "the rich eating the poor": cannibalism starts off as a taboo, but rich people begin to practice it in secret. They write the laws to legalize the consumption of human flesh, then write further laws for the supply to keep up the demand. Soon, there's cannibals on every corner, because the mainstream public desires what the rich have and can do and eating food made from human beings is the thing that rich people like to do (or did).
Also, it sucks being the part-timer that has to clean up after the lunch rush...
In addition to omnipresent cannibalism, human beings are frequently used in other ghoulish ways. Bio-drives, which are cloned brains in vats networked to a computer, are so popular method of data storage. In addition, most robots, which have also replaced most blue collar manufacturing jobs, use harvested cerebral cortexes. The demand for central nervous system tissue strips the ability for the cloning vats to supply them. To fill the gap, brainjacking is pretty common on the streets...
To prevent brainjacking, some corporations offer "upgrades" to a-brains, artificial brains. Unlike the cyberbrains of Ghost In The Shell, a-brains are low quality, have limited memory (in one instance, it's said that the memory for an a-brain is around 64K), and they are also prone to malfunctioning...
The only boon to having an a-brain is that the many models are programmed to keep their owners happy and that feature has been so effective that most entertainment has been produced specifically-designed to cater to a-brains (as well as Pre-Frontals). As a result, television programs in this 4,000 channel universe are at the rock-bottom of the lowest common denominator. The most popular shows are Combat, Combat, Combat!, which is just combat footage edited together with commentary from a cryogenically-preserved, cybernetically-revived George Hamilton (more on this later in the supersoldier chapter); and The Tortinis, a futuristic sitcom...
Like I said, the lowest of the lowest common denominator.
Meanwhile, around the rest of the world:
The Islamic theocracy in Iran is overthrown by the Americans in the not-subtly-named "Operation Overthrow the Fundamentalists". Iran becomes a Western-friendly economic partner who ends up dominating the world auto industry in 2021. Sorry, Detroit.
Scientology becomes powerful in Europe, especially in reunified Neo-Deutschland (Germany), where the ARC party dominates politics. Controlled politically and religiously by the Ministers of Having, Being, and Loving, Neo-Deutschland is a totalitarian, theocratic semi-dictatorship that economically dominates the European Common Market, although Neo-Deutschland makes great pains at trying to be more Weimar Republic than Nazi Germany. Not that it helps...
With the rise of Scientology in Europe, the Catholic Church flee Italy to Nicaragua, creating a new papal enclave. Four years after relocating the Holy See, the Pope overthrows the Coca-Cola...I mean Candy Cola-backed Sandanistacrats with his 1st Airmobile Crusaders in Operation Archangel, becoming El Presidente of Nicaragua, to be renamed Neo-Vatican.
Tiring of the aging apartheid system, South Africa sells itself to the Avant-Garbage Corporation, becoming New Providence, a giant vacation resort.
Throughout all this, the economic divide grows wider and the corporations become more ubiquitous and powerful. The private military corporation, called here in UNDERGROUND "conflict firms", rises in prominence, overshadowing and supplanting the need for standing national armies, along with their lynchpin creation, the genetically-engineered "boosted" soldier.
But that is a story for another time...
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 2.5: Even More Worldbuilding
In reality, thanks to 1500% inflation of the 2021 U.S. dollar, that's only worth $666
Since people asked for it, here's more world building elements from UNDERGROUND.
In addition to entertainment catered toward the lowest of the lowest denominators, much of it as well channels nationalistic, propagandistic subcurrents. The thing is that this is not the result of any conspiracy, but merely a synergy of corporate and political messages. In addition to Combat, Combat, Combat!, which glamorizes superhuman, genetically-engineered warfare through the gun cameras of its participants, the Cracker Brothers are also popular form of patriotic jingoism...
The Cracker Brothers: a band of country-and-western musicians that record pop songs juxtaposing traditional American symbols (apple pie, baseball, domestic violence) with the trappings of Cold War combat in the Third World.
Thanks the advances in organic chemistry in the aftermath of the aliens' crash, hormonal additives are a common occurrence...
Of course, Estro-Gin's major side-effect from overuse is the suppression of male hormones, resulting in male addicts, well, you know...
One of the major forms of both corruption and government interference is the proliferation of special crime and anti-terrorism units. The rise in conservative political strength and the behind-the-scenes nature of the Second Cold War foster the creations of elite government crime fighting organizations to stem the tide of rising street violence that makes America appear "weak". One these organizations, the Shadow Team, was a NSA-supervised covert operations unit formed in 2010 with the mission to destroy weapon caches belonging to America's third world allies, in an effort to create demand for more U.S.-made weapons. In 2011, after the president attempted to dismantle the military-industrial complex, he was assassinated by this group. Even after they assassinated the president, the Shadow Team continued to exist until 2016, when their hand in the assassination was officially revealed.
Another special group is the Anti-Sedition Squad (ASS), that monitors the media for defamation against the government, politicians, and its contractors. Many states require a "free speech" license and any criticism against the United States government requires the use of a 1077 form. If the form isn't filled out or somebody without a license , ASS sends their names off to the FBI and/or state agencies to sanction the violators.
Of course, in these bloody times, many people turn to violence as their form of speaking out, and this is often legally protected as free speech by the Constitution under the same amendments that regulate it, so long as they "do not endanger the rights or property of American citizens or guest of the United States on American territory". Since large portions of the United States have been bought up by corporations, who can be granted the right to extraterritoriality by the same Constitution, it means that almost everywhere . Just as long as the terrorist group receives a license.
(The in-between the lines interpretation I can read into this is that it also gives corporations the right to wage war against one another using "terrorist" proxies and the possibility to use "terrorists" against critics)
Needless to say, with all the crime and terrorism abounding, things look pretty bleak for the average citizen. The police exist, but are always outgunned by the new boosted criminals and disturbed individuals coming straight out of the corporate military service. And only the really rich can protect themselves with security robots, boosted bodyguards, and the like. Instead, most people choose to defend themselves. Gun ownership abounds in UNDERGROUND In fact, the game, especially the weapons supplement, Fully Strapped, Always Packed, takes the same view of guns, gun control, etc. as the movie
Shoot 'Em Up
, having a very gun-control message while at the same time reveling in gun use. Gun and ammunition companies are seen diversifying their markets, catering to both old (light pistols are the preferred weapon of choice for the 70+ crowd) and young (a typical promo is giving away ammo in Tastee Ghoul "happy meals"). The boosted demobilized veteran is seen as both a reliable niche market and the stick that can be used to force others to buy guns: a popular series of weapons is are very-large-caliber, disposable, recoilless guns that can be carried and used by housewives in case a boosted home invader blows down the wall of the family home with a rocket launcher to steal their belongings. Like seen here..
The NRA has gotten so large that it splintered into factions catering to their own families of weapons, with a National Pistol Association and the National Assault Rifle Association in (occasionally armed) confrontation with its parent organization.
The NRA even has their own bible...
The National Rifle Association Holy Bible, published by the National Rifle Association, with narration by Charleton Heston posted:
I once spoke to the Lord, after a lunch date with Ava Gardner. I found him on my private range in San Fernando. He was happy with the way the filming was going, though He was concerned about DeMille’s ability to capture the scale and wonder of the Red Sea parting. We chatted for several minutes, and as He popped off a few rounds, he said, “Chuck, . . . with one of these .30-.06’s you’ll never want...”
Then again, everyone has their own version of the Good Book in 2021...
The Gangbanger’s Guide To God, (published by NasteePress Inc. posted:
The Lord is one fly-ass, hustler, gangster, OG, pimp, mutha. Yo, check it out, G! He created the crazy freaks to give me play. He gives me schoolyards and playgrounds to bust caps in. He bails me out when my backs to the mat. . .
The MacRaney’s Family Fun Bible, published by MacRaney's Inc. posted:
Mayor Fat Mac has made MacRaneyland fun for all to enjoy! He allows us to play in the forest of Hot Pies
, and splash in the gurgling fountain of Icee-Frostees
. He redeems my coupons. . .
Bible, published by Upscale
Everything God made is mine for the taking! He’s given me high yield money market funds for the short term and tax free investments to roll over into IRAs. He provides me junkets. . .
The circle of life, according to Tastee Ghoul
The Good News E-Z Reader (hologram edition), published by E-Z Reader Inc. posted:
God helps me.
Next: Conflict firms, Slumberland, and you.
We was Blackwater before there was a Blackwater.
Original SA post
Man, it's been awhile since I continued this, but, here we go...
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 3: We was Blackwater before there was a Blackwater.
In the Undergound, "the conflict resolution business ranks a close second behind fast food as the largest employer of unskilled labor". But, I think that there's still room to move as a fry clerk, unlike a boosted soldier who has millions of dollars pumped into his (or her) veins. The turn-over for a veteran is absurdly high, for reasons that will become clear shortly. In the lead-up to
following the enlistment, genetic-modification, combat experience and demobilization of one such soldier, we first must find out how did this come to be?
About a decade following the alien crash landing and the subsequent new cold war beginning to heat up, the United States releases some information to Allied Mayhem Incorporated, a "militant corporation" or "conflict firm" or what we would call today a "private military corporation". This revealed information allows AMI scientists to modify human genetics, allowing for the creation of super soldiers that will allow AMI, and thus the United States, dominate against the European Economic Community and the Far-East Collective blocs.
At first, the genetic enhancement process has some stumbling. An early issue is that the enhancement process required a living subject with an impaired ability to regenerate lost cells in order to stabilize against unwanted mutations. AMI resolved this setback by acquiring the cryogenically-preserved clients of a failed cryonics firm who had ridden a fad of cryo-freezing celebrities only to be undone by a scandal that revealed the process left their clients brain-dead. These brain-dead Cryo-Dawn celebrities, after being thawed, genetically enhanced, and implanted with an a-brain to restore lost cognitive functions, end up becoming the first genetically-enhanced super soldiers. In later years, a few will muster out and continue their fame-hogging celebrity lives, such as "Meat Substitute", the host of Combat, Combat, Combat!, who was formerly perpetually-tanned actor George Hamilton.
The super-soldiers have an immediate impact on the battlefield, causing a panic amongst AMI's competitors and other economic blocs, starting off a genetic arms race which AMI remains on top of due to access to the leaked data. Despite being a military game-changer, these first super-soldiers still need improvement, as their artificial brains are easily outsmarted and incapable of following complex orders. Eventually, AMI resolves their issues with stabilizing cellular regeneration in the enhancement process, allowing for the enhancement process to be performed on live human subjects.
However, a new obstacle is revealed when the next generation of super-soldiers hits the battlefield. When the subjects come out of the procedure, they go mad from metagenic feedback trauma. Their minds are incapable of resolving their new abilities and many become psychotic. Even those that reach the battlefield with a seemingly lack of mental issues develop them in eventually. AMI is ready to abandon this new process when a revelation comes.
Much like Dr. Gargunza in Alan Moore's backstory for Miracleman, the head AMI researcher, Dr. Bushmiller, has an ephiphany while reading a comic book,
DC Comics' Justice League
IC Communications' Freedom League Quarterly: make the enhanced soldiers into comic-book superheroes. Bushmiller has a virtual reality simulation constructed and AMI's human subjects placed into sensory deprivation tanks and plugged into this "Slumberland" as they are being enhanced, reliving their lives as if they were in a four-color comic book, eventually gaining their powers, in simulation, from the bite of a radioactive spider, exposure to cosmic rays, and other comic book backstory scenarios. The virtual reality "Slumberland" allows for a subject to psychologically accept their augmentations. However, Bushmiller's "Slumberland" is not fool-proof...
While "Slumberland" reduces the metagenic feedback trauma to a somewhat manageable level, it does not completely remove them. Few subjects exit the simulation and enter the battlefield without developing neuroses or emotional instabilities. In addition, the "four-color morality" pervades the subject's subconscious mind and begin to see things in a binary "comic book" worldview of heroes and villains. This sometimes leads into boosted veterans to see the U.S. government and the corporations as secret super-villain masters conspiring to conquer the world.
Who are the major players?
Allied Mayhem Inc. (AMI)
is the premier conflict firm in the world of Underground. Heavily allied to U.S. interests and the ones who developed the enhancement process and Slumberland first, AMI. With their motto "All That You Can Be" mirroring the Army's then-current motto, AMI is heavily implied to be descendents of the old military industrial complex. I'm pretty sure if "Underground" came out today, their motto would be "An Army of You".
Trans-World Devastation (TWD)
are the flashy competitors in the "conflict firm" field. Owned by Avant-Garbage, TWD has a heavy connection into the military-entertainment-industrial complex, creating television programs and films based off their exploits. TWD is largely responsible for most of the Combat, Combat, Combat! footage aired.
Disposable Heroes Inc. (DHI)
are in a downward spiral after losing much of their market share following AMI's domination of the conflict resolution business. DHI has been downsized into a "budget" conflict firm, whose rates are lower than its competitors but its service is far more inferior. Most of the boosts that DHI put on the market don't compare to the genetic monstrosities that come out of AMI and TWD Slumberlands...
See those guys in the foreground. They're DHI.
Simmons Global Management (SGM)
, a new conflict firm that has exploded onto the scene a few years before. SGM is relatively secretive about their business and is consider the more discretionary and professional of the conflict firms. There's a belief that SGM is a front for another organization, such as a political activism group, maybe even the Underground.
Next up, Paraguay!
Paraguay! And the World.
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 3.5: Paraguay! And the World.
Paraguay is the most recent major conflict of the Underground universe. Involving all major North American conflict firms as well as militant corporations from Neo-Deutschland and the Far East Collective, from indicative of what warfare has become, with all sides fielding boosted soldiers, with the outmatched Paraguayan military and civilians caught between the rapid-fire and large-caliber guns of genetically-modified, airmobile warfare.
Like most wars, the Paraguayan conflict started largely for bullshit reasons, although Paraguay is even more bullshit than usual: the war is started following the rejection of a subsidy that would have benefited
MacRaney's fast food business. When lobbyists begin targeting the congresscritters who opposed it, one of them, who happens to be the Chairman of the House Foreign Affair Committee, launches a scheme that would help eliminate tariffs from beef-producing Paraguay, which is besieged by anti-government guerillas. By first secretly hiring Trans-World Devastation to aid the rebels then bringing in Allied Mayhem Inc. in exchange for tariff-free cattle, the U.S. government hopes to play both sides against the middle and get MacRaney's off their back. However, things don't work as plan, as Far East Collective, in an effort to make their own foray into the fast food industry, hires Henkata, a Japanese conflict firm, to continue aiding the rebels when TWD's contract sunsets and the Neo-Deutschlanders bring in their mercenaries from Weisjaeger to stalemate the Chinese and the Americans.
The war is brief, lasting less than nine months between major operations between the for-hire armies of the three economic blocs to when the negotiators ended the war, pulling all forces from the region and declaring a stalemate. In its aftermath, property damage caused by the war is around $14 trillion dollars with the body count being around 2 million dead, the large bulk of which is civilians, with untold numbers of wounded and homeless. In the end, no side gained any real benefits from the struggle.
As with any major conflict, the militaries involved downsize their surplus forces. Since both the physically- and mentally-scarred inside their ranks eats away at their profit margins and even six year veterans seeing up to twelve conflicts within their careers, the conflict firms regularly demobilize their veterans and Paraguay was no exception, with many getting sent back home, or as veterans of past wars called "the World".
As a reward for their service, the conflict firms have propped up perennial kicked-dog government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, even in this heavily-privatized era of bought-out government, to provide eligible veterans with free medical care, free housing, education, and job placement. However, it's not out of the kindness of their hearts, but mostly because it's cheaper placing the costs onto the government than provide company benefits. Unfortunately, these veterans programs are all so overburdened that many veterans fail to receive the care and counseling they need. As well, many of these programs have ulterior motives: the Veterans' Affairs and HUD have conspired to concentrate the veteran population by building a bulk of their boosted housing projects into a single region, the Los Angeles-San Francisco metroplex, in order to police and control them, in addition to isolating them from most American citizens.
And with good reason. Veterans are feared and envied by most of the population. Many of the enhancements given to veterans are awe-inspiring when seen on
but are relatively unusable in day-to-day life and make them frightening to most people when seen off the video screen: common enhancements provided by the conflict firms are boosts to strength and endurance, which adds so much muscle mass and weight that a majority of boosted veterans are over 7-feet tall. Many veterans are discharged due to mental complications from both the metagenic stress caused by their enhancements or the high-intensity of modern combat. And, with the VA being overtaxed and most unable to reliably receive the medication needed, many just plain self-medicate. Few religions favorably view the boosted, with many considering them abominations before God. With the stereotype that a boosted veteran is a 'roided-out, shellshocked, affront to God that is edging on a murder rampage, many veterans are unable to find decent work or life back in "the World". Many go homeless or turn to crime and terrorism. A few find jobs in the police force, keeping their former comrades in line or down, or in the corporate security/raiding racket, where their enhancements do prove beneficial in the various cyberpunk-ish activities of murdering corporate rivals and stealing their shit. And there are a few successful boosts that have transitioned into politics or entertainment, but for most...
This is where the players come in.
Next up, we play a "personnel planner" for a major conflict firm and recruit and design our very own boosted veteran.
All That You Can Be
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 4 - All That You Can Be.
Character generation in Underground is relatively simple yet intentionally complex, as if Winninger wanted players to be frustrated. Chargen is a mix of point-buy and randomness, with spending more points being used to reduce the negative impact that comes up with the randomness. Actual character generation is a ten step process:
- The character's basic concept is developed. Essentially, how did they come into service, what they did there, how did they get out, what genetic enhancements did they get, what their primary skills are, etc.
- Each character has a $20,000,000 budget for developing the character, from recruitment to enhancement to reconditioning. Recruitment and Enhancement are separated into two different pools, while Genetic Surgery and Reconditioning are purchased separately. Both these are random, but have three different levels at increased cost. Genetic Surgery allows a character to get the level of power that they want (or above), while Reconditioning lessens the metagenic stress.
The way it works out is that each point is worth $100,000 dollars, so the budget is mostly window dressing for a point-buy system: the way recruitment and enhancement points work, the budget is really 200 recruit/enhance points.
- The aspects and principles of your character's personality. Depending on these hindering or dangerous to the character or being generally neutral aspects or behaviors, they provide extra points back to the character. By following them, the character can earn more reward points (experience) per session. A
is a basic aspect of your character's personality.
is a rule or principle your character lives by. A
Limiting Trait or Code
is something that has the potential to place the character in great danger or frequently prevent the character from accomplish her goals. Non-Limiting Traits cost 3 points or $300,000 each; Non-Limiting Codes cost 5 points or $500K each; Limiting Traits cost 5 points of $500K each as well; Limiting Codes are worth 10 points or $1,000,000. A character may start off with none of these or may have up to five Traits and up to two Codes.
- Attributes are handled through a logarithmic progression, with every three points doubling in effectiveness. Average characters are considered to have an attribute rating of 0, while the unmodified peak human effort is rating 6. The attributes are as follows...
When buying attributes, it goes in similar logarithmic fashion as 1=3pts, 2=6pts., 3=10pts., 4=14pts., 5=19pts., and 6=24pts. Getting two attributes at rating 6 can cost nearly a quarter of your budget.
- Physical power generated by the character. STR 0 character is considered average, being able to lift 100lbs. A STR 6 character is the equivalent of an Olympic powerlifter, capable of lifting around 400lbs. over their head.
- Agility and accuracy of the character.
- Movement and reaction time. A SPD 0 character can sprint 40ft. in a 4 second turn, while a SPD 6 can run a mile under 2 and 1/2 minutes.
- The ability to withstand physical damage and endurance.
- Intelligence of the character.
- Ability to withstand emotional and psychic trauma.
- the character's charisma and force of personality.
- Skills go from +1 to +6. Some skills can be used unskilled, like Gun Combat, while others, like science-related skills, can only be used if purchased. Skill costs are also logarithmic, start off with a +1=1pt. to +4=6pts. to +6=12pts. Characters' can also specialize skills in one or more areas (but not all), which increases their skill ratings (only to +6) at no additional cost.
Design Enhancement Program
- Planning out the powers and abilities and buying their potential ratings. I'll cover this in more depth when we get there.
Conduct Enhancement Surgery
- There's three levels of surgery, with more expensive surgeons capable of meeting the power's purchased potential and exceeding it, with the best result being a +3 bonus to the power's rating. Failure means that the power's rating is subtracted by 2. For $200,000, their potential can be reached about 2/3 of the time; with $700,000, it about 75% of the time; at $1,000,0000, failure is almost non-existent, and surgery will boost the power rating by +2 50% of the time.
Reconditioning and Readjustment
- The other side of the coin. The rehabilitation costs are greater and have less success than surgery. First, we calculate how much stress the character has accumulated from their implants, then roll for the difficulty versus the quality of reconditioning counseling purchased. The lowest level costs $500,000, and the odds are somewhere between 1/10 to 1/6 of reducing a beginning character's stress from their implants by a single point. The mid-level range is at $1,000,000, and has only a 25% of reducing beginning stress. At $5,000,000, they have a 50% chance of reducing stress.
Generate Military Career
- An optional rule set, but allows the character to find out what they did in service to their respective conflict firm. Things like war trophies, rivals, awards, and all sorts of things like that.
Choose Character Archetype
- Archetypes are really a template for finished characters, although it's suggested for characters to look over them to get ideas for their characters. Each has their bonuses. In the core book, there's 8:
A veteran who has become a neighborhood vigilante, in-costume or out. Many of these are veterans who took very well to the Slumberland's "comic book" brainwashing and now see themselves as comic book heroes.
The political hardcore recognizes there is something wrong with America and is aimed to do something about it.
These veterans have sold out to corporate America, fighting other vets who have gone rogue and being "exploited as walking, talking, news-making PR machines". They are viewed much more favorably by the general population than other vets. Others are more secretive, being "corporate raiders" that assault and raid their employer's competitors.
Remember all those early '90s celebrities that got flash-frozen in the cryogenic fad craze and they wound up brain-damaged and got used by the AMI as the first boosted soldiers? Neither do I, but they're still around, attempting to live their formerly-glamorous lives.
These modern times, with their pre-Frontals, robots, and genetically-engineered death machines have forced a lot of people to check out into a idealized Noble Savage lifestyle. These include veterans, who find the concept a lot more peaceful than their lives as boosted mercenaries. Primitivists live together in communal tribes. And, while they still use advanced technology, they still mistrust it.
Say what you like about the tenets of primitivism, at least it's an ethos. Warzones like Paraguay has dimmed many a vet's outlook on humanity and the future, with many becoming nihilistic punks that roam around the city, looking to keep themselves entertained.
The Criminal has given up working with the system and now works for themselves. The game can be pretty lucrative, whether or not you're a street hustler or an inside trader (same difference).
Much like the Political Hardcore above, the Bureaucrat recognizes the wrongs of the system but sets out to right them from the inside.
Ten more archetypes are included in the Underground Player's Handbook, which gives us Bounty Hunters, Bimbos, Clergypersons, Spies, and Homeless People. If character generation lends itself more into that book, I may post more on these archetypes.
Create Background and Finish the Character
- Smooth out, flesh out, and reinterpret the character based off the finished statistics.
Now, one of the more unique concepts of Underground's chargen is to pull the generation out of the player's hands and put it in another's, by having the other player temporarily roleplay as a "personnel planner":
Ray Winninger posted:
The planners (PPs for short) are responsible for drawing up t he blueprint for each new soldier that is created. They decide how to recruit, what sorts of enhancements to install, who will install the enhancements, and how the soldier will be psychologically reconditioned. Every major conflict firm that makes use of boosted operatives employs PPs.
The plan is that the player will give the personnel planner her/his idea for their character and the planner to fit to that goal, with alterations that may or may not have been intended. Sometimes, the PP will replace a desired ability with a cheaper one so that the character can still fulfil that role: for example, Flight Control us too costly and requires a jetpack, but Leaping gives the player similar abilities and is cheaper. Other times, you might have to sacrifice an ability: "Sorry, but Not-Wolverine will have to drop his Claws so he can have his Regeneration ability". Or you might have to cut corners: "I can get Not-Wolverine's Claws back, but you'll have to eat people for your Regeneration power to work properly, as well as I'm cutting your reconditioning costs". And there's times where the PP might have a completely different idea for your character than you do: "Well, the group already has a sniper savant, so, instead of making another one for you, I'm making your character as an assault marksman".
The only thing stopping the personnel planner from completely screwing over the player for whom they are creating a character for is that the PP's character is also out of their hands and subject to the same dicking over.
Character generation can tell a lot about a game before even playing it. In D&D, the ability scores determine your chance of future success in your class, which builds into the might-makes-right, strong-triumphs-over-the-weak power fantasy. In Call of Cthulhu, the random character generation and ease of min-maxing ultimately are meaningless to the Mythos. The same is true for Dark Heresy, but the other WH40KRPG games are different: in Rogue Trader, you are almost destined to pursue the role you play by following their path generation, while Deathwatch, it's your role and who your chapter factors heavily into who you are. By giving the player input in the creation of their character, but giving the responsibility to another, it defers expectations for your character. In Underground, the expectations are almost never met, much in the same way how the system has betrayed your character.
So, this is what I'd like to see before we really get into character generation: I would like for the thread readers and posters to submit their own ideas for an Underground character. Since I've brought up the deferment of expectations and the personnel planner, I want you, the reader of this thread, to submit your idea for What I want is to take a recruit from Someplace, U.S.A. and
irreparably scar them for life
have the conflict firms make a man or woman out of them. I'd like for the submissions to give them a
they're recruiting into, their
(could be all 0s, but please, no characters with all 6s) and
a basic idea of skills and their level
(granted I haven't told you them all, but I can interpret them), a
to describe some reason for them to have these stats and skills (teenage farmhand, gymnast, boy/girl scout), as well as
their personality traits and codes
. The sappier and more cliched their background, the better.
Also, I need to bone up on my art skills so I will draw the character's progression through the process.
You have until Friday, the 27th. Get crackin'.
The Ballad of Eva Sieglinde
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 5 - The Ballad of Eva Sieglinde
Eva Sieglinde is 19 and is facing an uncertain future. Standing 5'6 and weighing 150 lbs., Eva could have been a national-level high school athlete. She has the body to compete against male athletes in wrestling and weightlifting. She's reasonably intelligent, at least enough to know when she's about to get scammed or when to fight unfairly. She lets her gaze radiate her intentions from under her shaggy blunt cut.
STR: 5, DEX: 3, SPD: 3, RES: 5, INT: 3, WILL: 3, AURA: 3
However, Eva has problems with society at large. She would respond to perceived slights with balled fist and escalate things from there. And that's when she at least told her victims why she was beating them up. While intelligent and clever, Eva was an educational underachiever, mostly because the multiple school system she attended failed to challenge her in a meaningful way. Whenever a school attempted exerted its authority over her, she resisted as hard as she possibly could, which often required multiple police officers to rein her in. She could have been a national-level high school athlete, if she wasn't such a raging asshole.
Likes to pick fights -
Hates authority figures -
Likes to prove herself superior in all situations -
Never backs down from a challenge -
Responds to slights with extreme prejudice -
Despite her educational instabilities, Eva was attracted to the possibilities of chemistry, like many disaffected youths her age. At least, the field of chemistry that makes things go boom. Shop classes allowed her to produce all sorts of vicious implements, some of which got used in back alleys and parking lots. Dark and brooding, her demeanor earned her the reputation being a bully. In her off-time, she had a deep fascination with firearms, plinking at squirrels, strays, and the occasional hobo with pellet rifles. In short, Eva is that morbid, brooding girl who stands in the corner, glaring at the teacher, making the entire class uncomfortable.
Weaponry: 6, Gun Combat (Pistols & Rifle/SMG): +4(+1), Military Science (Demolitions): +2(+2), Intimidation/Interrogation (Intimidation): +2(+2)
Eva's employment prospects are pretty slim. Her constant shuffling around the school system leaves Eva with very unmarketable skills. Her problems with authority will pretty much keep her from any gainful employment outside of temporary work. While she would initially fit in with a gang, her authority issues and need to be right would make things would quickly come to a head and someone would lose theirs. Even prostitution would be out of the question, as Eva would be more likely to cave in a john's face or shatter a pimp's vertebrae than be a hooker.
However, Eva's outbursts were brought to the attention of a personnel planner at Trans-World Devastation. A smooth talker, he told Eva that her attitude and aptitude for physical violence would do wonders for their business. Her skill set in close-combat weapons would need improvement, but that's what the time in the tank would help with. She can get all her attitude issues will sorted out in this new-fangled virtual reality called Slumberland. He laid it on thick: G.I. Bill. Free housing. Bonuses. But it was the prospect of being the biggest badass to walk the Earth that finally sold Eva on TWD.
TWD's Total Recruitment Budget for Eva Sieglinde:
Eva is reasonably intelligent, at least enough to know when she's being scammed. But sometimes, it's not enough.
Next: The freakshow that is genetic augmentation
I Didn't Ask For This
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 6 - I Didn't Ask For This
So, Eva has been thoroughly recruited, inducted, examined, and processed by Trans-World Devastation. After attending a short boot camp that evens out her skills, having her mop-top shaved off, and being prepped for Slumberland, she's ready to go into the tube.
But, what does our personnel planner have in mind for Eva's augmentations? Her aggressiveness would be suited for fast-moving, high-intensity assaults, such as airmobile forces. Her natural brawn would be a good basis for developing a "line animal" or fire support specialists, the mobile artillery platforms that wield backmounted ballistic missiles and man-portable howitizers. Her background suggests close-combat, which can be enhanced and specialized into commando work.
The personnel planner decides on a conservative approach: heavy infantryman/woman/person. But, before proceeding with budgeting out the abilities, our planner schedules time with a mid-level genetic surgeon who will install the enhancements.
In Underground, there's three levels of surgery and, later, reconditioning. As stated earlier, the quality of surgery can enhance or impair the potential of the power. At $1,000,000, the level of surgery is considered a skill level of 12 and will often exceed expectations. $700,000 is considered mid-range surgery, at skill level of 9, with a good chance of success of installation. $500,000 is the lowest rung, with a skill of 7, meaning there's a decent chance of getting impaired enhancements.
Special note: Since I've failed to mention it before, Underground uses an opposed die roll challenge, with the player and GM rolling 2D10 + attributes, bonuses, penalties, and difficulties, rerolling doubles and adding them to the sum. Whoever has the higher sum wins. But, Underground also uses an A,B,C,D measurement for success: since most people know how ABCDF grading system works since elementary school it's easy to understand not making the roll is a F, simply making the roll is a D result, and the best result is A.
Since the Difficulty for installation test is a flat 4, we can automatically see that, even without rolling, that the mid-range value will get C results and the highest value will receive B results. A successful installation of an enhancement with a C result will add 1 to its power level, B adds 2, with A results adding 3. This is helpful since modified power levels do not incur stress. Just the power levels paid for incur stress. A surgeon's failure to install an enhancement correctly causes a reduction in power level by 2, so it's important to budget at least mid-range for the company to get their money's worth out of enhancements.
Powers are purchased by paying a
then cross-referencing the power's
with the desired
. You can't just have Power Level 1, you have to purchase that level. Power Levels have a curve to them, with powers becoming more exponentially more expensive at higher levels. Potency flattens or increased that curve, so a Potency 1 power at Power Level 10 costs 11 points, while Potency 2 is worth 18 points, and Potency 3 costs 24 points for the same level. However, it's possible to change Potency levels, thus reducing the cost of a power, by adding a
For example, Regeneration is a Potency 3 and is pretty expensive, but you can heal quickly and regenerate lost limbs. However, Regeneration can be bought at Potency 2, making its enhancement cheaper on the stipulation that its required that you eat human organs in order for your power to work.
Likewise, adding a Bonus to the power increases its Potency.
For example, Danger Sense, the enhancement that boosts senses to be attuned to dangerous situations, has a Potency of 2. By taking Potency 3 for the Bonus, Danger Sense stops giving you vague hints and flat out tells you the exact nature of the threat that is endangering your person.
The cheapest enhancements and most common enhancements are the boosted attributes, which can boost all individual stats save AURA (since AURA has less to do with genetics). One of the big problems I have with how Underground does boosting attributes is that the Power Level only indirectly enhances an attribute. So, Boosted Strength 10 doesn't add +10 to your base strength, but really just +3. The logarithmic curve pops up here again but what's interesting this time is that the boost's Power Level is inversely proportional to its output. Boosted Strength 4 might only give you a +1 boost, but around level 20, the curve flattens out to a direct +1 Power Level to +1 boost. If someone were to buy Boosted Strength at its Max Rating of 35, the end result would be a +21 to strength.
Since I haven't brought up the Unit System before either, I'll post the chart.
Everything in Underground uses Units, which is a logarithmic rating. Every three points on the Unit chart doubles it's actual effect. Incidentally, I found that this is really the result of the opposed die rolls: any bonus or penalty to an opposed die roll usually has a logarithmic progression in probability. What's cool about the Units system is that, once you've translated out what a Unit is with the chart, it makes math simple. Adding or subtracting Units is like multiply and dividing their real numbers.
Ray Winninger posted:
Because time, distance, and speed are all measured in Units, the following useful equations hold true:
Distance = Speed + Time
Time = Distance - Speed
This works for almost everything. Need to find out how far you can throw that 200lbs. guy or 2 ton car? Take your STR value, subtract it by the weight in Units and you'll find how many Units you can throw. BTW, with her STR 5, Eva can lift about 300lbs. over her head. With her SPD 3, she can walk about 20 feet in a 4 sec. turn. An Olympic weightlifter would be around STR 6 (although, with some world record holders would be more like STR 7), while Usain Bolt and other Olympic runners would be STR 6.
Since we got that out of the way, let's get back to Eva's boosts. Our personnel planner has decided on giving Eva Boosted Strength and Boosted Resilience to enhance her already formidable strength, both at Power Level 15. In addition, our planner wants to increase her ability to score hits, both in close-combat and with firearms, as well as avoid damage, so he schedules Boosted Dexterity 6. These powers will cost the company $6,000,000, but will increase Eva's STR and RES by +4 and her DEX by +3.
, SPD: 3, RES:
, INT: 3, WILL: 3, AURA: 3
However, boosted attributes, for their low cost, have a downside. Boosts generate continual metagenic Stress, since there's no real way to turn them off. In addition, they all have special drawbacks. Boosted Intellect warps the skull until you start looking like something out of a '50s sci-fi movie. A veteran with Boosted Speed or Boosted Dexterity can have their reaction times so jacked up (typically if either stat goes over 7) that they perceive the world as stationary and any slow-moving objects appear blurred or distorted, a phenomenon called the Blivitz Effect.
Boosted Strength and Boosted Resilience add muscle mass, increase cardiovascular health, and spur bone growth to such an extent that it's highly noticeable. When both are combined, the resulting growth spurt is astronomical. Whenever determining the intensity of such growth, we have a handy chart.
Before surgery, Eva's prospective height is now 7 feet tall, and she now weighs around 300lbs. She can snatch lift around 800lbs. without breaking a sweat, and do so with a ballerina's grace. But, TWD isn't finished with her yet.
Adrenal Surge is like an alternative to boosted attributes. By "boosting the output of the recipient's adrenal glands" when triggered by anxiety or hazardous situations, the adrenal surge raises Eva's STR and SPD by a single Unit each turn up to the Power Level, with each attribute receiving the bonus on alternating turns. The effect dissipates once the stressful situation has ended or removed. What this means is that, at Power Level 6, after 12 turns of combat or anxiety, Eva's STR has been boosted to 15 and her SPD up to 9. It means that Eva can now hulk out to the point she can start picking up and throwing VW Beetles around. Unlike the attribute boosts, Adrenal Surge only adds Stress when triggered and, fortunately for Eva, TWD sees no point in choosing the limitation for this power.
Ray Winninger posted:
The subject suffers a Light Wound if and when she Surges her STR and SPD to their maximum values
Well, our personnel planner has gotten everything in order, who now sends things to the genetic surgeon who installs Eva's augmentations.
Boosted Strength - 23 vs. 21 - D - No Change.
Boosted Resilience - 19 vs. 9 - A - +3 Power Level.
Adrenal Surge - 20 vs. 18 - D - No Change.
Boosted Dexterity - 24 vs. 10 - A - +3 Power Level.
The surgeon installed everything successfully and then some. Boosted RES and Boosted DEX came out to be a little better than expected. Eva's dexterity is now more like an Olympic gymnast than a ballerina and her RES
STR: 9[, DEX:
, SPD: 3, RES:
, INT: 3, WILL: 3, AURA: 3
14 months later, Eva climbs out of her tank in Slumberland, believing for a moment before she had been bitten by a gamma-irradiated spider, turning her into some amalgamation of the Incredible Spectacular She-Spider-Hulk and fighting various costumed super-villains and terrorists. She pulls off her shower cap, revealing she's regrown her shaggy bangs back, gets the tube fluid out of her eyes and looks down...
...and finds her two feet taller than she started out as. Eva now stands at 7'6" and weighs 380lbs., most of which is muscle. Well, Eva chuckles, knocking her head back. "I got through this process relatively unscathed. I don't see anything wrong with this whole procedure. I'm bigger, that's pretty expected. Didn't think I get this huge, but it's only 6 inches.TWD did me right, they didn't fuck around with me like I thought they might do."
"Wait a moment."
TWD, at the last minute, added an enhancement that they believe would be beneficial for Eva's close combat capabilities...
Ray Winninger posted:
Characters with this Enhancement are engineered to grow an extra limb not possessed by normal humans. The Unit Rating of the Power is the STR that may be exerted through the new limb. The exact nature of the new limb is selected at the time the Enhancement is purchased (extra arms and tails are common). Characters with at least one Extra Limb receive a special -1 bonus to the Difficulty of any hand-to-hand attacks they make.
Extra Limb 6. Total Cost $1,700,000. Surgery roll 26 vs. 14, A result, +3 Power Level.
Boosted STR 15, Boosted RES 18, Adrenal Surge 6, Boosted DEX 9, Extra Limb (Arm) 9
Nope, Eva, they screwed you.
Next: Eva gets her brain rebuilt by TWD psychologist and we find out the depths of metagenic stress-induced insanity. Can't wait!
Homicidal Mania is not a bug, it's a feature.
Original SA post
Ray Winninger's UNDERGROUND: Part 7 - Homicidal Mania is not a bug, it's a feature.
As we've learned, genetic enhancements cause metagenic stress to their recipients. While Slumberland has reduced a number of these, the doctors and scientists in UNDERGROUND have continuing to find neurological causes from their genetic meddling. While billions of dollars have been poured into researching an elimination of these causes, the reality is that any significant breakthrough will be at least several years off.
The role of stress and psychoses is determined by three factors: the boosted character's Tolerance to stress, the Psychosis of their most powerful enhancement, and Stress currently endured by the boosted character.
When generating a character, Enhancement's Power Ratings are usually divided to determine the amount of stress that innately causes the character (for instance, Continuing Stress Enhancements like Boosted Attributes) or when that Enhancement is activated (like Adrenal Surge). The good news is that you round down this number, so it's possible to start off with a power that generates no stress. In addition, reconditioning can reduce the amount of stress.
Stress can come from external factors as well: Boosted characters receive a stress point whenever a Wound injury is inflicted on them; whenever they are in combat for more than 20 seconds (end of the 5th turn), they take a stress point, and again at the 40 second mark (end of 10th turn); and Flashbacks triggered by outside events.
A character's Tolerance is calculated by taking the total of their Continuing Stress and subtracting that from 10. However, Cybercelebs get a bonus, due to their near-dead status when implanting their Enhancements, with a starting Tolerance of 12. Whenever a character's Stress is greater than or equal to their Tolerance, they must roll a WILL save vs. the GM's roll. If they fail, their Psychosis manifests. If they've successfully fought off their Psychosis, from that point, any time they generate Stress until their Stress goes below their Tolerance, they must make WILL saves to avoid their Psychosis manifesting.
The good news here is that medication can increase ones' tolerance to Stress. However, you must roll to determine the effectiveness of the medication that day and it's suggested that there be some uncertainty to medication, so players might not know whenever they've passed their Tolerance level until they manifest a Psychosis.
Stress can be reduced by making WILL Challenges every 12 hours. However, strenuous activities or being in an "anxiety-filled settings (Los Angeles, on a battlefield)" will reduce your chances of alleviating Stress.
A character's Psychosis is determined by the Enhancement with the highest Power Rating purchased. Every Enhancement has a different Psychosis, typically related in some way to the Enhancement. Many Psychotic episodes have a randomly-generated length by rolling a 2d10+WILL (rerolling doubles, thankfully) then subtracting that from a time frame of 45 Units (32 hours). On average, a character with a WILL 3 will like have a 40 minute-long episode (31 Units or 600 turns). The Psychoses are:
- The character freezes and is committed to flee the battlefield, being incapable of speech and taking only defensive actions. Catatonia is pretty bad, since it takes a character with a Psychology/Therapy specialty to recover from a catatonic episode.
- The most common psychosis, homicidal maniacs will attack any target within close range, having to take WILL challenges to prevent attacking friendlies. Homicidal Mania is the only psychosis that doesn't require generating a time frame, since recovery from manic episodes can be performed by the Psychotic, since the difficulty vs. WILL challenge to break the episode is reduce the longer the episode goes on.
A character with Psychology/Therapy making a recovery roll can also break the episode. That's if they can get close enough.
- The character enters into a depressive episode. The time frame is generated in the same way as Catatonia, however, the character only receives a +2 difficulty modifier to all actions and the character "makes a lot of disparaging remarks, sulks, acts disinterested".
Multiple Personality Disorder
- Character becomes an entirely new character during their psychotic bout. The secondary character remains dominant, except that they can't be shaken out of it by a Psychology/Therapy-skilled character.
- The character panics and loses confidence. In order to do anything, the character must make a very difficult WILL challenge to do anything for the duration of the panic attack.
- The character becomes obsessed with a specific object or character, making attempts to either escape from its presence or destroy it. Every time the Paranoia manifests itself, a new target for the player's paranoid obsession must be chosen.
- During a Sociopathic attack, the character becomes a sulking loner, having to make checks to remain near people. Also, any challenges or meetings with authority figures (see police) must be resisted through a WILL check or else they will attack.
- Character goes schizo, suffering from delusions and hallucinations that breaks their concentration. Characters having a schizophrenic episode suffer a +4 difficulty until the episode lapses.
Whenever a bout of Psychosis plays itself out, a character's Stress is reset to being a point shy of their Tolerance, so it's very easy to go into a psychotic episode again.
Now, let's get back to Eva. The personnel planner decided to spend a bit extra on Eva, so he upped the quality of her reconditioning to a mid-level range by budgeting $1 million toward it. Quality reconditioning is much more expensive ($5 million) but much better at increasing starting tolerance. However, the planner blew most of his budget recruiting her, choosing her enhancements, and budgeting her surgery. She should be thankful she got what she got.
Boosted STR - 15 - Homicidal Mania - 3(c) Stress
Boosted RES - 15 - Homicidal Mania - 3(c) Stress
Boosted DEX - 6 - Catatonia - 1(c) Stress
Adrenal Surge - 6 - Homicidal Mania - 2 Stress
Extra Arm - 6 - MPD - 1(c) Stress
Already we can see that Eva has at least 8 points in Continuing Stress. That would give her a starting Tolerance of 2. If her Adrenal Surge triggered, she would quickly go over her Tolerance and manifest a Psychosis. Luckily, we got a good psychologist to rebuild Eva's shattered psyche.
Boosted STR - 16 vs. 19 - F - No change.
Boosted RES - 24 vs. 17 - C - -1 Stress.
Boosted DEX - 23 vs. 19 - C - -1 Stress.
Adrenal Surge - 26 vs. 19 - C - -1 Stress.
Extra Arm - 19 vs. 13 - C - -1 Stress.
So, after reconditioning, Eva's stress now looks like this.
Boosted STR - 15 - Homicidal Mania - 3(c) Stress
Boosted RES - 15 - Homicidal Mania -
Boosted DEX - 6 - Catatonia -
Adrenal Surge - 6 - Homicidal Mania -
Extra Arm - 6 - MPD -
Eva's Continuous Stress now is 5 and her Adrenal Surge gives her 1 point of Stress when triggered. Eva's starting Tolerance is now a 5 instead of a 2. She's considerably lucky that her planner was a mini-maxer.
Next: Eva's varied military career