Interface 0.4:

The Dark Future of RMSS

Copyright Michael A. Bott, 1999


Making it Happen:

MACs, Smartguns, and You

"smartgun – n. A firearm that can be integrated with specific computer systems and cybernetic implants to provide increased accuracy and speed."

-Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, 2096 Edition

Smartguns have never been described in any great detail, and the detail is what draws techies (like myself) into a good cyberpunk game. Unfortunately, there are gamers who aren't big on technical details and the option should ALWAYS be provided for "off-the-shelf" equipment.

For example, a typical Armsman player will probably pay a great deal of attention to his smartgun systems. He will want to be able to tweak processors here, memory here, and software there. He'll have a custom "white-box" system that was installed by corporate doctors and/or back alley chop-docs.

The typical corporate Administrator may want a smartgun product for self-defense, but would probably go with a whole kit—a name-brand product such as the Heckler & Koch RiteFire 550. This, of course, is OEM product with parts manufactured by IBM, Kodak, Xerox, and CyberOptik, Gmbh.

How it works

Normally, in a firefight, if you have the luxury of picking your targets, you aim your gun at the selected target. When you decide that the shot looks good, you pull the trigger. Smartguns work in a similar fashion, except that the process is almost automatic.

Picture this: You look at a target with your smartgun-enhanced cyberoptics. When the cyberoptic crosshair is on target, you use the assigned cybernetic trigger to engage the smartgun system (usually a somatic trigger pull with the hand holding the gun). Your Muscular Activity Controller works on the larger muscles of your arm to bring the firearm in line with the target. As the gun gets close to "on target," it emits its own signal (usually an IR laser) and the signal bounce is received by a sensor mounted in the cyberoptic. Fine tuning (normally with the wrist) is done by the MAC. When the signals of both the gun and the cyberoptic emitter tell their respective receivers that the aim is perfect, the gun fires.

This process can take less than a second, depending on how quickly the user selects shots and how close the user is to "on-target" in the first place. It can be split up into five phases for most smartgun systems:

  1. Acquisition
  2. Shot Selection
  3. Crude Adjustment
  4. Fine Tuning
  5. Fire!


I use a special progression of 0-1-1-1/2-1/2-1/4 for software AND hardware, and it keeps things relatively under control. Example: Darrin the Type I Alterant Replicant Armsman has invested heavily in his black market military grade hardware, and is using a 5th level processor in his machine pistol, and has a 10th level neural activity controller. Total of the levels is 15, and against the special progression that yields a +15 to First Strike! Don't worry, it gets worse. Darrin also is blessed with a 10th level program in the software, and a 40th level 'soft in his NAC. On top of that, he has a +10 targeting unit on the pistol, and a +20 targeting unit in his cyberoptics. A total of 50 levels gives Darrin a bonus of +32.5, plus the average of the targeting units (+15), adds a grand total of +48 to his Offensive Bonus!

Bear in mind that 'ware can quickly inflate a characters First Strike and Offensive Bonus well into the realm of what appears to be ridiculous. A good gamer (and a good GM) will probably end up using that OB like it should be used: to reduce the percentage action and take three accurate shots per round. GMs should be sure to treat the military-grade hardware like one would a Most Potent Item in a fantasy campaign.



Game Effect

Firearm Sensor Array

The firearm sensor array is the actual processing center mounted on the smartgun itself.

Provides a fixed bonus to OB based on quality.

Targeting Unit (Laser, Radar, Bio-Radar, IR)

Emits and receives signals.


Image Capture

Captures images for purposes of operative debriefing or for use in "cookie cutter" programs.


Firearm Processor

The firearm processor communicates with the controller to create the total smartgun package. In budget kits, the controller can replace the function of the firearm processor entirely.

The hardware improves speed, providing a bonus to First Strike based on quality.

The software improves accuracy providing a bonus to OB.

Note that these bonuses are cumulative with those from the activity controller.

Embedded Processor

Photonic processors are typically used due to superior speed and size. Older models were silicon or copper.


Image Recognition Software

Used in "cookie cutter" programs.


Sensor Driver Software

Used to communicate with the sensor array.



The communication link between the brain, the controller, and the firearm processor.



High-bandwidth, low-latency fiber cabling that is very "Meat-friendly." Comes in varying grades, from "Cheap Clone" to "Top-Secret Military Blackware."



Interface ports. Mounted on the processor and again somewhere on the "host." Common host-interface sites include wrists, neck, or temples.


Trigger (Somatic, thought, physical)

These handle the activation of the smartgun system. Somatic triggers are set to a particular gesture—the most common is the pull of the index finger. Physical triggers are more obvious, like a button or a switch. Thought triggers are extremely subtle and require interface with a Neurological Activity Controller. More on these in a later issue.



The controller acts as the interface between the metal and the meat connected to the host. As such, it is easily the most complex piece of cybernetic wizardry, featuring electrical connections directly to nerves and sometimes even brain matter. This sort of hardware is required for MANY high-tech jobs in the late 21st century, so controllers are rarely included in smartgun kits.

Cumulative with the firearm controller, the NAC or MAC provides a bonus to OB from software, and a bonus to First Strike based on hardware.

Neurological Activity Controller

Muscular Activity Controller

A neurological activity controller is capable of output direct to the five senses in addition to the standard muscular control functions. In either case, the muscular control is what is required to function with a smartgun.



Typical Cyberoptics will replace every part of the eye up to the optic nerve interface. Ocular muscle may or may not be replaced. They are used for a variety of purposes, from medical to decorative, and are quite common by the end of the 21st century.

The targeting unit will provide a fixed bonus. This bonus should be averaged with the bonus assigned to the targeting unit on the gun.

Targeting Unit (Laser, Radar, Bio-Radar, IR)

Emits and receives signals. The counterpart to the targeting unit on the firearm. In addition, when activated, the targeting unit will normally illuminate a crosshair on the cyberoptic, apparent to ONLY the user (a la Terminator).


Image Capture (Threat ID, Friend or Foe ID)

This is used in "cookie cutter" arrays, operative debreifing, real-time tactical operations coordination software, and tactical visual target acquisition software.



Adding it All Up

Totals of one's First Strike and Offensive Bonus are therefore as follows:

First Strike Number: (1) Quickness Bonus plus (2) Total Hardware bonus.

Offensive Bonus: (1) Appropriate Weapon Skill Bonus plus (2) CyberOptic targeting unit bonus plus (3) Firearm targeting unit bonus plus (4) Total Software Bonus.

GM's Note

Keep the level of cyberwear in your campaigns under control, at a level that will be comfortable for you. Cyberspace is far more prone to "Bonus stacking" than a typical fantasy campaign. Smartguns allow for some really nice Offensive Bonuses and First Strike numbers, but it can get out of control if not watched closely.

Of course, "high-power" does not mean "out of control." The character I mentioned above, Darrin, actually existed in my cyberspace campaign as one of the most memorable characters I have ever GMed.


Making it Happen:

Coming Soon

The above information, coupled with previous Interface articles and Weapons Law: Firearms, should provide for a basic "Executive and Bodyguard" scenario. On the agenda for future issues are Drugs, Computers, and Cyberspace itself. I also have a few more professions, and some adolescent backgrounds waiting in the wings. If you have any contributions, questions, or suggestions, shoot me an e-mail, no stamp required, at I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time.

Editor's Note

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