Using GURPS Bio-Tech 4e in Transhuman Space

Phil Masters
25 April 2007

Table of Contents

I've decided to go through the new edition of GURPS Bio-Tech, looking at how it fits with Transhuman Space and what questions it raises about canon and rules treatments. This will involve a series of posts. Everything that follows is just my opinion, and is wide open to debate.

The Tech Level

Officially, in the the categories used in GURPS 4th edition, the Transhuman Space setting is TL10 with a bit of TL11 biotechnology, and a look through this book supports that view. In fact, the TL11 stuff is pretty marginal; most things in the setting seem fit within TL10. The exceptions would be a few explicitly experimental or bleeding-edge items, and maybe a few features built into mainstream production bioroids - and it's going to be easier to install radical tweaks in them than in other biological entities, so arguably many of those features might drop a TL for this purpose anyway.

However, there's enough pretty overtly TL11 stuff around that the setting can be considered to be advancing into that TL for these purposes. What I would suggest, in game-mechanical terms, is that characters who have access to the most advanced Fifth Wave biotech labs and early-release products should be able to buy +1 TL with a -60% limitation, "Early-Model Biotech Only", for a whole 2 points. This permits them to buy biotech-related skills at TL11, and also to acquire some TL11 biotech products for the usual double cost (for them being at +1 TL). However, whether or not they can get hold of a given TL11 item at any given time will depend on the precise level of development in the setting (as the GM sees it), and the traditional GM's Iron Whim. In general, this advantage will be limited to postgraduate research scientists and agents of major governments and corporations; it might be tied up with Patrons, Contacts, Security Clearance, Duties, and so on.

I wouldn't usually require this advantage for a character who starts play with some TL11 biomod installed, or for bioroids who were created using TL11 techniques - unless they also had access to more bleeding-edge training and gear. That's just a character feature. Access to just a single bit of TL11 tech might represent a -80% limitation on the advantage (or a Perk - same thing, in practise).

Chapter 1

An always-handy overview of the topic. The stuff flagged here as superscience is exactly the sort of thing which shows how TS isn't a superscience setting...

Some other details:

Chapter 2

Note also that, for some of these effects, it's going to be easier to implant someone with a permanent biomod than to modify their genes in the womb - which may retard research in areas which are likely to be a bit controversial anyway.

One general detail to note; TS bioroids have a perk giving them immunity to bone degeneration in zero-G, which makes their "Bioroid Body" meta-trait 1 point more expensive than the otherwise very similar "Bioroid" meta-trait in Changing Times. I'd leave this in - it's a bit of relevant TS chrome - and simply tweak the (points and cash) cost of any bioroid templates borrowed from Bio-Tech accordingly.

(Though I don't see why Self-Destruct is considered so cool; it just depresses your bioroid workers and means that you lose experienced staff at arbitrary moments when they could at least be training up their successors. If you're ruthless enough to commission something this nasty, you're ruthless enough to kill off your excess ageing bioroids the old-fashioned way. For the record, I'd also recommend deleting it from the bioroid templates in Fifth Wave, even in 3e games; it's a bit of an oddity there.)

Chapter 3

I'd recommend that all Transhuman Space GMs review this chapter at some point. It may not affect PCs or even major NPCs very much, but consideration of what high-TL10 biotechnology can do to and for a society should have some interesting consequences for campaigns.

Chapter 4

Another good "stuff to bear in mind for a biotech world" chapter, but with fewer templates this time (hurrah)...

Chapter 5

And on, we hit the "saving (meatbag) PCs from the consequences of their own actions" chapter (which is also the most universally useful one in the book).

Chapter 6

I'd regard much of the (very interesting) material in this chapter as more detailed descriptions of the sort of stuff that turns up in a TL10/11 medikit, or an explanation of why TL10 First Aid does so much, so quickly. I'd also think of a lot of the drugs listed as being replaced by nanomods and nanodrugs in the TS world.

Chapter 7

Aaaand... Here we have a chapter that sort of fits with the more cyberpunk-ish side of TS. There's stuff here that isn't, so far as I recall, mentioned much in TS anywhere (e.g. Complete Sex Change), but which is certainly quite plausible for the setting - if only in Red Duncanite territory in some cases, maybe.

Chapter 8

The stuff in this chapter could actually be quite handy for TS games involving a lot of medical or biotech themes - which itself is an idea worth pursuing. Anyway, it's certainly worth a read.