Thursday, 20 April 2017

Deunan Parahuman.

“There are quite a few of the Deunans around here. You don’t really notice the bigger craniums since most of them have a good head of hair. They’re quite attractive once you get used to the big eyes. Funny thing is when I first saw them I had this nagging feeling of familiarity. Could not put my finger on why! It was Felix who eventually pointed it out. They look like animie characters!”

Like many parahuman designs the Deunans are intended to have increased intelligence and reduced susceptibility to many of the medical conditions baseline humans are prone to.

The most distinctive feature of the Deunans are their larger eyes. Their noses tend to be small and not particularly prominent. The cranium and forehead are larger but this is not particularly noticeable. Baldness is rare whilst females lack leg and axillary hair.
Skin shade is typically a golden brown, although there is considerable variation between individuals. Skin can tan to much darker shades of brown. Prolonged exposure to weaker sunlight and low vitamin D levels can cause skin tone to lighten.
Natural hair colours include various shades of blonde, grey, white, brown, red, orange and black. Eyes may be grey, blue, yellow, brown or green. Actual hair and eye colour may be different due to cosmetic procedures.
Like many parahumans the Deunan constitute a visibly distinct ethnic type. Deunans were designed as mukokuseki. While they closely resemble baseline humans they do not appear to belong to any of the distinct baseline human racial types. They are not particularly Oriental, African, Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern or European. They would most likely be mistaken for being of mixed race if it were not for the larger eyes.

Deunan Parahuman. +67 Points.
Attribute Modifiers: DX+1 [20]; HT +1 [10] IQ+1 [20].
Advantages: Acute Vision +1 [2]; Night Vision 2 [2]; Attractive [4]; Longevity [2]; Extended Lifespan 1 [2]; Resistant to Disease (+8) [5].
Features: Taboo Traits (Genetic Defects, Mental Instability, Myopia, Hyperopia, Astigmatism, Allergic reactions); No appendix; Light menses; Unlikely to sunburn.


Friday, 24 March 2017

Urban Combat: The Problem with Population.

Master Corporal Chen paused on Hoon Street. He was certain. Carefully he entered the relevant code phrase: “luv yu Ginnie; Hunni”

“That is the confirmation! No checkpoints on Hoon street! Tell first platoon to take route Baker. They have a clear run at the target!”

In the 1940s, at the height of World War Two the world population was 2,300 million. By the early part of the 21st century this had risen to 7,500 million. At the start of the 22nd century and in the era of Transhuman Space population is 11,000 million. Most of this is located on Earth and it is likely around 70% of this will be in urban areas. Unless you are Judge Dredd a “megacity” is defined as a city with a population of more than 10 million. In the 1950s there were just two megacities in the world. There were 22 by 2015. Some predictions suggest that this number will have increased to 50 by the 2050s. An alternate possibility is that the existing megacities will simply get even bigger. Whichever happens it seems certain that many military operations in the future will take place in areas with a high civilian population density.

Images from World War Two have accustomed us to the idea that urban combat will occur in relatively deserted areas. The depiction of Berlin in the video game “Sniper Elite” with its ruins, barricades and pavises is a good example. In future conflicts this may not be typical.

Evacuating a city of several million people poses numerous problems. Even if this can be achieved, what to do with the displaced population will be an even bigger problem. Each individual needs shelter, food, water, sanitation and many other things. It is more likely that a large number of civilians will remain in the conflict area and attempt to progress with their normal lives as best as they can. This tendency can be observed in some of the recent European and Middle Eastern conflicts.

A city with a large population needs considerable resources. In the past it has been a common strategy for combatants to attempt to control the movement of resources into a conflicted area. In the future humanitarian and less altruistic concerns may cause one or both sides to take measures to ensure that large local populations are kept relatively healthy, happy and fed.

Living cities have a circulation. They cannot function if people and resources are not being moved to where they are needed. This poses both problems and opportunities for a military force. Sheer volume of traffic may prevent the movement of large numbers of military vehicles. It is not possible to search every truck, every car boot nor frisk every train passenger. Infiltration will be a common strategy in future operations in densely populated large urban areas.

A populated city has thousands of eyes on every street, each pair with a communication device such as a phone or interface googles. In the past this blog has described sophisticated surveillance devices such as robo-bees, surveillance fluff and bird-bots. One of the most useful reconnaissance systems may be an unarmed individual with a phone. A seemingly innocent and everyday transmission may convey important information about the disposition and movement of enemy forces. Some such sources of information may indeed be innocent but no less useful. A girl posts a selfie with a police car visible in the background. A youth tweets “Just seen an old M113 and BTR. Cool!” From such tidbits military intelligence may be built. Potentially AI systems could monitor thousands of transmissions a minute, sifting them for anything that may be utilized.

In 2017 US Gen Mark Milley made some comments on fighting in large cities. These included the statement:

“We will have to have, what I think, is a lot of relatively small formations that are networked and can leverage Air Force and naval-delivered joint fires”

The US Army loves the concept of networking units but this may not be practical. Firstly, neither the Air Force nor the Navy in their current forms have weapons with sufficient accuracy and focus for use in highly populated urban areas.  Densely populated areas are likely to have many large buildings which will inhibit the radio communications necessary for networking. Infantry units may need to be operating inside these buildings, or in narrow alleys between them. Contrary to what you see in movies, radio reception within buildings can be very variable. Most large buildings have some areas where phone reception is poor or non-existent. The potential for civilian transmissions compromising military security may require blanket jamming, which may also inhibit a military unit’s communications network. In a previous post I noted that enemies may use electronic warfare to neutralize the superior resources of better equipped units.  

Thursday, 16 March 2017

CLAW Cybershell.

“Yeah. They are exactly the sort of thing you would expect the army to come up with. A lot of the guys call them CLODs rather than CLAWs. I’ve heard them called “pigs” or “doggies” too, but what they most resemble are pygmy hippopotamuses! Armored pygmy hippos! Heah, heah.

On the plus side, they are well armored! Like the Tiger tanks of ground cybershells! They’ve only got four legs but they are incredibly hard to disable. You can bathe the CLODs in lead and grenades and they won’t slow down, they just keep trudging forwards.

But they’re slow! Seldom do you see them moving faster than a brisk walk. Theoretically they can run, but it’s seldom done. With the shaking the joints get the maintenance afterwards is a nightmare. Don’t run them unless you do not expect to use them in the near future. They’re not too good at braking or changing direction if you run them, either! Seen ‘em plough through a brick wall. Seen them collide and trip each other up. That was a sight!

The gun is in the nose. Well, it’s in the body actually, but you know what I mean. They’ve a limited arc of fire and have to do that shuffle thing or change course to traverse. They have trouble tracking fast crossing targets. They can be flanked too. Use them in groups or use other forces to cover them.

They tend to get left behind during fast-moving operations. They’re best used to guard your flank or beef up a defensive position. Just like they used them at the town hall in Vancouver.

The first ones had that microcalibre minigun and a couple of grenade tubes. Most of those got replaced when the 7.5mm MG came in. That was much more practical. Quite a few of them now have those air-burst grenade launcher machine guns instead. [High-Tech 4e p.144 M307] Good thing is they all come with a big supply of ammo. You can mount a couple of smart anti-tank missiles on each side, but generally it is only done if there is an armor threat. Army thinks they are vulnerable there and might blow up the CLOD.

We used to like that rack thing they have on top. You can hang quite a few rucksacs on a CLOD, which beats having to carry them yourself. Not that that is a problem for me anymore since I got uploaded.

The first CLODs were fielded something like thirty years ago. They’ve been upgraded a few times so I expect they will be used for at least another decade. Army and marines have still got hundreds. State and National guards have quite a few and so do the air force. Even a few police forces.

They are not by any means the best combat systems out there, but they can be useful. They're tough! The world tends to mark what the US Army does, even their not so good ideas! The Chinese, the Iranians and the TSA have all copied the CLOD and fielded their own. A whole bunch got given away as military aid and have ended up all over the place. Chances are you are going to run into them sooner or later.”

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Batmen of Transhuman Space.

One of Luna City’s top tourist attractions is the 1,000 foot diameter “flying dome”. Here the low gravity allows unmodified humans to strap on plastic wings and fly like birds. The dome is also frequented by Luna City’s 1,600 strong population of Chiroptians. For six hours of every day the flying dome is exclusively for their use.

Chiroptian Parahuman.
67 points.
The Chiroptian (High Frontier p.78) is a type of parahuman originally created in response to wildly optimistic projections regarding Martian terraforming. Bat genes give them a number of radically nonhuman features, including wing membranes that enable them to fly given a combination of low gravity and an Earth-like atmosphere. Some now live in domed communities on Titan or in larger space colonies, but many remain in the “Flying Dome” in Luna City.

The arms of a Chiroptian double as wings, although they cannot be used as arms when they are flying.

Chiroptians are physically very light so weigh about half that of a typical human of the same height.

Attribute Modifiers: ST -1 [-10]; DX +1 [20] Date: 2077 Cost: $167,000 LC3

Flight (Requires Low Gravity,0.35 G, -30%; Temporary Disadvantage, No Fine Manipulators, -30%; Winged, -25%) [8]
Thin Frame [-1]
Acute Hearing +2 [4]
Unusual Biochemistry [-5]
Acute Taste and Smell +1 [2]
Unnatural Features 5 (Bat-like face and wings) [-5]
Doesn’t Breathe (Oxygen Storage x25, -50%) [10]*
Vulnerability (Crushing x2) [-30]
Extended Lifespan 1 [2]
Extra Arms 2 (Foot Manupulators, -30%) [14]
Immunity to Disease [10]
Longevity [2]
Radiation Tolerance 2 [5]
Sharp Claws  [5]
Sharp Teeth [1]
Fur [1]
Scanning Sense (Sonar : Reduced Range x ½ , -10%) [18]
3D Spatial Sense [10]
Ultra-hearing [5]
Early Maturation 1 [0]
No Degeneration in Zero-G [1]

Camazotz Parahumans.
            Camazotz were an earlier attempt at creating bat-humans and some of the lessons learnt were used in the creation of the Chiroptians.

While the number of Camazotz parahumans created was low, they may be encountered in various low gravity environments that have sufficient room to permit flight.

The arms of a Camazotz double as wings, although they cannot be used as arms when they are flying. They possess large, pointed, bat-like ears, fangs, and soft fur, as well as a modified voice box with natural sonar abilities. Aside from serving as a night-vision aid, this has security (peering inside packages) and medical (performing sonograms) uses.

            An early parahuman Camazotz would be 11 points. In 2077 some of the improvements developed for the Chiroptians were incorporated into the Camazotz line. This “later” model costs 23 points.

Camazotz are slightly weaker fliers than Chiroptians, needing 0.3 G rather than 0.35 G. The Chiroptians also have a better sonar sense developed sonar sense. Due to their hollow bones and slight build, weight is 50% of the norm for their height.

            The future of Camazotz is uncertain. Some parents opt for Chiroptian children while others insist their offspring should be Camazotz like them.

While Camazotz have never been numerous some of the older Camazotz have been around long enough to have acquired some influence and power and might potentially be patrons or employers.

Early Camazotz Parahuman.
11 points.
Attribute Modifiers: ST -2 [-20]; DX +1 [20] Date: 2071 Cost: $91,000 LC3

Flight (Winged, -25%; Requires Low Gravity: 0.3 G, -35%; Temporary Disadvantage,: No Fine Manipulators, -30%; Winged, -25% ) [8]
Thin Frame [-1]
Acute Hearing +2 [4]
Unusual Biochemistry [-5]
Acute Taste and Smell +1 [2]
Unnatural Features 5 (Bat-like face and wings)  [-5]
Sharp Claws  [5]
Vulnerability (Crushing x2) [-30]
Sharp Teeth [1]
Fur [1]
Scanning Sense (Sonar:Air; Reduced Range x1/5, -20%) [16]
3D Spatial Sense [10]
Ultra-hearing [5]

Late Model Camazotz Parahuman.
23 points.
Attribute Modifiers: ST -1 [-10]; DX +1 [20] Date: 2075 Cost: $123,000 LC3

Flight  (Winged, -25%; Requires Low Gravity: 0.3 G, -35%; Temporary Disadvantage,: No Fine Manipulators, -30%; Winged, -25% ) [8]
Thin Frame [-1]
Acute Hearing +2 [4]
Unusual Biochemistry [-5]
Acute Taste and Smell +1 [2]
Unnatural Features 5 (Bat-like face and wings) [-5]
Doesn’t Breathe (Oxygen Storage x25, -50%) [10]*
Vulnerability (Crushing x2) [-30]
Sharp Claws  [5]
Sharp Teeth [1]
Fur [1]
Scanning Sense (Sonar:Air; Reduced Range x1/5, -20%) [16]
3D Spatial Sense [10]
Ultra-hearing [5]

Chiroptian and Camazotz Fashions.
Chiroptians and Camazotz cannot wear conventional jackets, shirts or coats. A tabard-like garment may be worn instead. When not flying cloaks or shawls may be utilized.

Various forms of wing decoration are popular with some groups of Camazotz and Chiroptian parahumans and may serve to distinguish individuals. These may be permanent markings such as tattoos or may be temporary or semi-permanent markings such as body paints.

Chiroptian and Camazotz Sports.
Not surprisingly, most Chiroptian and Camazotz sports involve flying, with races and aerobatics being popular.

“Bat-Ball” is a passing game similar to basketball or rugby. The goals are vertical hoops set eight yards above the ground. After each goal the ball is replaced with another which is selected by a randomizer. Balls vary in size, shape and density. Some balls have a helium filling causing them to float to varying degrees. Some of the “balls” are actually Frisbees or rings.

TitanBat® Modification.
            Camazotz and Chiroptians can fly in low-gravity Earth-like environments such as inside space habitats or within the domes of Luna or Titan. To fly outdoors on Titan needs the TitanBat® Modification.

            The TitanBat® Modification involves cutting away the organic wing membranes and encasing the arms in an insulating polymer cladding. A synthetic wing membrane is then attached to this new framework. With wings that are now indifferent to the cold temperatures of the Titan outdoors the Camazotz or Chiroptian can fly outside. Obviously the Camazotz or Chiroptian still needs an oxygen supply and sufficient warm clothing for the rest of the body.

            An added bonus of this modification is that the new membrane is detachable and can be removed for repairs or even just when the owner wants to change their appearance. Many Camazotz or Chiroptian have membranes brightly decorated with designs and symbols. The more expensive membranes have the properties of varicloth or videocloth.

            Camazotz or Chiroptian prospectors and explorers often use wing membranes of high-visibility green colour which is easy to see in the Titan wilderness. Conversely, Camazotz or Chiroptian attempting to go unnoticed opt for a clear orange matt-finish membrane.

            The basic synthetic membrane or arm cladding is easily repaired using a small spray can of foam. The foam acts as a raw material for repairs and contains microbots. Repaired areas will be a basic grey and lack any decorative features the wing might have had. Restoring such decorations will require more extensive repairs. The more expensive wing modifications include a small repair cyberswarm hive in the cladding just behind each triceps.

            Synthetic wing membrane and arm cladding is DR 15 vs. burning or piercing damage, DR 5 vs. other types of damage.

            TitanBat® Modification can be applied to Camazotz or Chiroptian parahumans, bioroids or bioshells. It would be unusual but not unheard of to encounter a Camazotz with this modification away from Titan.

            There have been a number of sightings of armed Camazotz with low-visibility membranes in the in the wilds of Titan. These are assumed to be bioroids but their allegiance and intentions as yet remain uncertain.

Camazotz Bioroid
42 points
A number of bioroid lines have also been based on the Camazotz. A Camazotz bioroid might be grown as an unusual toy or courtesan but they are mainly intended for work in a microgravity habitats such as a hollow asteroid or domed lunar city.

A Camazotz bioroid worker might not have the Sharp Claws and Sharp Teeth attributes and may have the Workaholic [-5] attribute. Camazotz bioroids tend to be built on the small side to make them more flight efficient and this should be reflected by limiting final ST to 9 or less.

A bioroid’s skeleton is grown around a synthetic framework and in the case of Camazotz bioroids this gives them a very light but strong bones, ideal for a flyer. Bioroids are therefore somewhat more robust that Camazotz and Chiroptian parahumans. Camazotz bioroids obtained from less that reputable sources might have been subject to corner cutting. For -30 points the Camazotz bioroid is subject to double damage from crushing attacks. Vulnerability (Crushing x2) [-30]

Due to their hollow bones and slight build, weight is 50% of the norm for their height.

Attribute Modifiers: ST -2 [-20]; DX +1 [20] Date: 2082 Cost: $86,000 LC3

Flight  (Winged, -25%; Requires Low Gravity: 0.3 G, -35%; Temporary Disadvantage,: No Fine Manipulators, -30%; Winged, -25% )[8]
Thin Frame [-1]
Acute Hearing +2 [4]
Unusual Biochemistry [-5]
Acute Taste and Smell +1 [2]
Unnatural Features 5 (Bat-like face and wings)  [-5]
Sharp Claws  [5]
Sharp Teeth [1]
Fur [1]
Scanning Sense (Sonar:Air; Reduced Range x1/5, -20%) [16]
3D Spatial Sense [10]
Ultra-hearing [5]
Early Maturation 4 [0]
No Degeneration in Zero-G [1]
Sterile [0]

Camazotz Bioshells.
Camazotz bioshells are popular and can be rented in many low gravity locations. A Camazotz bioshell will usually be a modified bioroid but a clone of a parahuman is also possible. When occupied by an infomorph it has the following additional attributes:-


Absolute Direction (Requires Signal, -20%) [4];

Immunity to Metabolic Hazards (Partial, Skull hit locations only, -70%) [9];

Telecommunication (Cable Jack; Sensie, +80%) [9];

Telecommunication (Radio; Sensie, +80%) [18].

Perks: Accessory (Tiny or Small Compact Computer) [1].


Bioroid Body [-4];

Electrical (Partial, Skull hit locations only, -70%) [-6].

The infomorph may need additional software to effectively utilize the bioshell’s sonar and ultra-hearing abilities.

Costs an additional $35,000 plus cost of computer and software.



Thursday, 19 January 2017

Firefly and Caccolube for Car Wars

             In 1944 two German divisions were ordered to move from the south of France to oppose the landings in Normandy. Each division had several thousand vehicles so gasoline stations along the route were used to keep them fuelled. Many of the attendants of these stations were members of the French resistance who had been provided with devices codenamed “Firefly”.

             Firefly was a small device that could be surreptitiously introduced into the fuel tank of a vehicle via the filling port. Once immersed in fuel rubber components of the device would react with the gasoline. Depending on temperature, two to seven hours later the firefly would explode, rupturing the fuel tank and igniting the fuel. If the vehicle kept moving it would usually leave a trail of burning fuel. If, understandably, the drive braked to find out what had happened the vehicle was likely to catch fire. Vehicles such as tanks were likely to become blazing wrecks before the crew could escape. The consequences for the rider of a motorbike who had his fuel tank explode between his legs were unpleasant.

             The use of firefly prevented hundreds of tanks, trucks and other vehicles from reaching the forces opposing the allied landings.

             Each firefly weighed 3 ozs. A safety pin needed to be removed before it was placed in a fuel tank (a ready action). Firefly were shipped four to a can and required assembly before use. Detonation required a chemical reaction between the fuel and the rubber washers in the device so it had to be immersed for it to work.

             A modernized version of the firefly might become part of a Car Wars campaign. Sabotaging the enemy’s vehicles with fireflies may be a plot objective. Modern vehicles may have locked fuel caps, or more sophisticated defences and circumventing these by some means might be necessary.

             Firefly is entirely non-electronic so may avoid detection from sophisticated security systems. For obvious reasons it is of no use against electric vehicles, just those with gasoline and diesel engines.

             A possible drawback is that it is very difficult to predict when firefly will detonate. The user may want to ensure that his enemy is in the vehicle when the fuel tank explodes and it catches fire. An electronic or clockwork timing device could be added to the charge, providing it still allows the bomb to be slipped down the filling port. Alternately, a mechanical flow meter could be fitted to react to movements of the fuel as the vehicle accelerates or decelerates. The action of gasoline on rubber could be used to impart a delay in the mechanism become active. Radio command detonation is not really practical for a device floating in fuel in a metal container inside a metal car body.

             A field improvisation of firefly can be made by securing the safety lever of a grenade with a rubber band or electrician’s tape. The fuel eats away at the rubber or adhesive until the lever is released. The problem with using this on vehicles is finding a grenade of a diameter that can pass through the filling port! In the movie “Collateral Damage” Arnold Schwarzenegger creates a time delay by sprinkling fuel on a rubber band securing a grenade safety lever.

             A contemporary of firefly was “caccolube”. This was designed to be introduced into the engine oil rather than the fuel. Caccolube was simply a condom containing a gritty compound, so would be easy to fabricate. The oil acted on the rubber to release the compound into the oil supply. The compound then abraded the internal parts of the running engine until some component failed. An updated version of this might use some form of polymer flakes that does an even more effective job at clogging the engine. Other contents, such as nannobots are possible.

             Firefly and caccolube are of less use in Transhuman Space. Whilst vehicles that use gasoline or synthetic gasoline may be encountered electric vehicles or those using alcohol, hydrogen or liquid oxygen are more common, especially off-Earth.