Enhancing your body and mind with technology is all the rage in the dark future. People go out of their way to shed their mortal limitations and embrace a smarter, faster, stronger version of their former self. Fortunately, there is enough technology in dark future to make this possible, practical and affordable. Unfortunately the only cost of transcending your meat body is not money, you also have to pay a price in lost humanity.
An upgrade is a combination of an aspect and an effect, and optionally some constraints.
The aspect part of the upgrade, which is also its description, is treated like a character aspect in the game, and subject to all kinds of rules that apply to character aspects; invokes, compels or being subject to modification during a refresh or after the character is taken out. As in other character aspects, try to make these unique, versatile and colorful, so that they contribute to the game.
The effect is the way the upgrade provides a boost to the character. The strength of the boost provided also determines the level of humanity stress the character will be subject to.
Constraints limit the scope of the upgrade to certain applications, as described below. They also reduce the humanity stess level.
Keep in mind that constraints only limit the boost provided. The aspect part of the upgrade can be used for anything without limits, just as a normal aspect.
Upgrades come in many different guises. Bionics is using implanted robotic and electronic devices to augment the body and the mind, while Biotech refers to lab-grown, genetically engineered tissues and organs transplanted (or ingrown) to enhance physiological functions. Nanotech involves using microscopic machines to either improve metabolical mechanisms at the cellular level, or just augmenting cells themselves. Also, DNA manipulation can be used to change the inner workings of a human body at the very fundamental level. Also of note is the special training a person may have, and maybe even psychological conditioning that allows you to do better than you would normally allow yourself. And don’t forget Pharmaceuticals, which are just temporary ways of boosting your body and mind using chemicals. Even special tools and equipment may be defined as upgrades. Also not to forget are the “social” upgrades a character may have, such as positions of authority, power or influence. And never limit yourself with the options presented here. Use your imagination.
Not everything that may be in one of the above categories is an upgrade though. An upgrade is something that provides a clear and consistent advantage to the character. Nanotech toothpaste is not an upgrade, so is an artificial hip joint, or being the shift overseer at the local bottling plant.
In Edgerunner, we define upgrades based on what they do, not what they are. Put effects before causes (as everywhere else in the game). Do not try to figure out how a bionic leg would affect your running. Instead, note how much of a boost for running you would like, and then describe what combination of devices lets you get that boost.
In an age where mass customization is the norm, no two upgrades look the same. The players should be able to define their own upgrades when creating their characters. There should be no hard limits on what’s possible, as the humanity risk imposes a soft limit on how much a player can cram into her character and survive the ordeal.
Every upgrade provides a tangible, clearly defined effect that modifies an action the character may take during the game. Most of these effects have an associated numeric value, called the boost, usually a number that is added to a roll or another value. Every effect also has a base stress value used to determine how much humanity stress it causes when used. Below is a list of the core upgrade effects in Edgerunner.
Boost a skill
The simplest upgrade there is. Choose a skill to boost, and a number between +1 and +4 to boost it by. You can choose as high as you like, just remember that the more you boost, the more risk you take, because the base stress value is equal to the boost you choose.
You may boost one of the stress track skills with this effect. Just keep in mind that those skills are considered in use when the associated stress track takes a hit. The only exception is if you choose to boost your own Humanity, the upgrade causes Cool or Reputation stress instead when used, choose which when defining your upgrade.
Boost a consequence
You may boost an existing consequence slot by up to +4, increasing its capacity to absorb shifts. You may even create a new consequence slot. The base stress is equal to the boost. It is considered in use whenever the upgraded consequence slot is filled.
If you use an upgraded stress slot for something that falls outside the constraints of the upgrade, it doesn’t come into effect. No boost, no stress, and the slot absorbs shifts at its original value, not the boosted value. A consequence slot created from scratch does not work at all outside its constraints.
Accelerate consequence recovery
The upgraded consequence slot recovers as if it is one step smaller. An upgraded severe consequence recovers after a refresh like a moderate consequence. An upgraded moderate consequence clears after single scene like a mild one. A mild consequence clears when the scene it was inflicted ends, just like stress. The base stress level is equal to the extra shifts the consequence provides.
Replace a skill
You may choose to use an existing skill in place of another that you don’t have. The base stress value is 0, and it can even go lower with constraints. You can choose to replace stress track skills with regular ones or vice versa.
The upgrade is considered “in use” only when you use the replacing skill in place of the one being replaced. You can use the replacing skill for its original purpose without any stress or limitation.
You get an extra action with the specified skill for every exchange in a conflict. You may choose not to use it at all, avoiding the complications entirely but if you do, remember that it has a very high base stress value of 4. You may perform this extra action before or after your regular action but when it is your turn, you must perform both your actions consecutively. Once you take such an action, you may use the extra action to continue the original in the subsequent exchanges.
This effect has no use outside a conflict. Just assume that its aspect implies some kind of “doing without thinking” attitude when you are telling stories involving this upgrade.
Control another entity
You may have another entity under your control, one that would normally be played by the referee. Make yourself a sidekick, subordinate, ally, mentor, brother, gang, company etc. Your character takes humanity stress whenever the entity takes a scene action under your control, or when it is first brought into a conflict. The base stress threshold depends on the entity type as shown in the sidebar.
When creating this upgrade, consider the relationship your main character has with this entity, and include it in the aspect-description of the upgrade.
You may want to define other kinds of upgrade effects for your game, and you are welcome to do so. Just make sure that your effect is consistent across different use cases, fair in its balance of risk versus benefit, and everyone at your table is on the same page about how it works.
Constraints limit the application of upgrade effects to clearly defined game mechanics, and they also reduce the stress level of the upgrade to more manageable levels. When playing the game, an upgrade has no effect at all if the action falls outside the scope defined by constraints. An unconstrained upgrade is possible, but it is either very weak or very dangerous.
Every constraint placed on an upgrade reduces its stress level by one
The upgrade is only effective for a single action type. Choose one scene action or conflict action. It is useless for other action types.
Single opposing skill
Choose an opposing skill, the upgrade is only effective when your opponent is using the said skill.
Voice stress analyzer: +3 to Empathy vs. Deception Stress 2
Single stress track
Choose one of the cool, humanity or reputation stress tracks. This upgrade is good only for actions that affect the said track.
Determine a range where this upgrade has its effect. It becomes unusable if the target is closer or farther.
The upgrade is usable only for actions targeting either the character himself, or another character. Choose which.
This upgrade is only active when the chosen stress track has the chosen stress level. Choose one of the stress tracks and one of no stress or overstressed. No stress means that the upgrade is active only when the selected track has no marked boxes. Overstressed tracks have at least one marked box above the current stress threshold.
The upgrade helps another character’s actions. The player of that character must be willing to receive the effect. Your character still takes the resulting humanity stress.
You may choose to boost the skill-equivalent characteristics of other types of entities. Faction competencies, tech capabilities, skill categories for goons and mooks are all fair game.
If it is an opponent’s turn, then this upgrade comes into effect only if the opponent is continuing his action. For scene actions, it comes into effect only if no shifts are used to quicken the results.
Every time you or someone else makes a skill roll that is somehow affected by an upgrade on your character, he is subject to some Humanity stress. When you are rolling, take the raw value on the dice and add the stress value of the upgrade. That is the Humanity stress your character will have to absorb. Use any combination of invokes and consequences to reduce it, and mark the remaining shifts off your character’s Humanity stress track.
If your opponent is rolling the dice, subtract the raw value on the dice from the stress value of your upgrade. That means the better your opponent rolls, the less humanity stress you suffer.