Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2010

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 136th issue of The Guild Companion and our monthly progress report.

Ongoing Work on HARP SF

Rick Hansen handed in the last handful of interior illustrations with a week or more to spare. Yup, we have fifty, yes fifty, original and excellent illustrations to bring the first volume of HARP SF to life. Rick has put a few of these illustrations up on his website for you all to admire - see http://sites.google.com/site/theartofrickhansen/home and have a rummage in the black&white section of his gallery. You'll not be disappointed.

Ongoing Work on HARP SF Xtreme

Meanwhile all of the feedback for HARP SF Xtreme arrived from Marc Rosen, who I appointed as my editor for HARP SF Xtreme. I've been continuing to work my way through the comments.

Let's have a look at the fourth chapter in HARP SF Xtreme, for which all the changes have already been incorporated. This is the chapter known as "Cybertech" in the beta test versions. It covers the creation of electronic characters, i.e. virtual persons, pure Artificial Intelligences, and robots.

The first change is the renaming of the chapter to "Electronic Characters" to distinguish it from the "Cyberware" chapter.

The second change is more substantial and concerns the number of Development Points awarded to virtual characters and AIs at each level advancement. According to the beta test rules, such infomorph characters only received Development Points from their mental stats because they lacked the physical body for physical stats. A fundamental improvement made in the finalised text for HARP SF was to make Flat DPs per Level route the preferred option in character creation, thus giving all biological characters 100 DPs at first level and 50 DPs at levels thereafter, making character advancement more equitable and eliminating the virtuous spiral of paying DPs to increase stats to get more DPs. This change reinforces Development Points as being more of a meta-game concept than an in-game reality and levels as shorthands for comparing the "power" of characters. As such, restricting infomorph characters to half the usual Development Points became less tenable, particularly since they could always access physical DPs through downloading into some physical form. Thus virtual characters and AIs now get their full quota of DPs.

The third change is additional material to clarify such issues as how long it takes to download an infomorph (whether it be an AI or a virtual) into a robot body or even a biological shell. Rules are also given to handle the extreme case where an infomorph is broadcast, say by radio, from point A to point B. A risky procedure given that radio broadcasts can be intercepted or interfered with.

The fourth change takes us into the territory of the other major electronic characters - the Robots. Part of this has been to reduce the number of "species" abilities that Robots automatically receive. Their immunities to poisons and diseases have been replaced with a single Biological Immunities ability, which covers traditional poisons and diseases, but does not give immunity to extremophile life forms that live on metals and plastics, nanites, software viruses, etc. Their heightened tolerance to temperature, to vacuum, to water, and to zero-gravity as well as ambidexterity have been forfeited. Robots who want such capabilities can purchase them through new Robotic Talents. The second part of this has been to allow Robots to develop "Resistance: Stamina" at initial robotic body construction, just as they are permitted to develop Endurance. Providing robots with Resistance: Stamina will ensure that they have some defense against non-traditional poisons and diseases.

The fifth change is to charge credits for Endurance and Resistance: Stamina skill ranks as they have to be factored into the physical construction.

The sixth change is in the Robotic Talents. In addition to new Talents to cover the forfeited species abilities, two new Talents have been added to permit robotic characters to more easily upgrade their bodies. "Future Improvement" enables a robot to increase its physical stats, Endurance, and Resistance: Stamina. "Future Upgrade" allows for significant bodily upgrades like vacuum proofing at higher levels. Both of these Talents must be purchased at the starting level for the robot body and represent designing in the capabilities to be modified, just as biological characters who want the option of psionics in the future need to purchase Latent Psionic Field at first level.

The seventh change also relates to Robotic Talents and in particular their Development Points cost. Previously Robotic Talents that gave numeric bonuses cost the same number of Development Points regardless of the bonus. Now such Talents increase in Development Points and price as their bonuses increase. As robot characters will be more able to upgrade their existing bodies, characters can develop more gradually and PC robot characters will be better balanced versus their biological colleagues. (A similar change is being pursued for Cyberware).

The eighth change is to describe the effects of low gravity, vacuum, and immersion in liquids on robots that lack the relevant capabilities, so this is more additional material for consistency with the preceding rules changes.

The ninth change was to amend all of the example robots so that they are once again consistent with the rules.

I expect to discuss the changes to the other chapters of HARP SF Xtreme in next month's issue.

Shadow World Player's Guide

Shadow World Player's Guide remains in advanced layout with Craig John. I have seen a draft layout for the first 25 pages or so and it is simply fantastic. I am not going to spoil the surprise or the impact by giving out a sneak preview. You will be patient until Craig has finished his efforts. But prepare to be astonished..

Farewell for now ...

More feedback to incorporate on HARP SF Xtreme, so I'll leave you to enjoy the rest of the issue. We'll be back in July with issue 137, but until then ...

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion