The computational capacity of the human brain is enormous — it is the capacity of the senses to assimilate and transmit data that is lacking. And thus, by continually reinventing ourselves to overcome the limitations of our senses, we postpone human obsolescence for another year.
The technical wizards of the Elderworlds alliance, the Operators represent the quintessential link between man and machine in a world where that line wears ever thinner. Mutilating cybernetic enhancements are only half of what make the stereotypical Operator; most live lives entirely consumed by the machine. They represent the utmost extension of the user — simultaneously the master and the slave of high technology. They are often detached from the affairs of the masses of humanity, absorbed into the artificial world over which they rule. Operators also enjoy a somewhat grayed mortality: Death to them is little more than a liberation from the body, upon which the essence of the being simply slips away into the machine.
Even before birth, the physiology of an Operator has undergone extensive cybernetic augmentation and alteration. Many of these enhancements are made without the choice or knowledge of the Operator receiving them — many times the process of artificial enhancement it begun while the Operator is only a small clump of cells in her mother’s womb.
An Operator’s birth-enhancements give her an at-birth bonus of 15 points to spend on any Mental, Physical or Psychological attribute her player wishes, with the notable restriction that no fewer than 5 points and no more than 10 may be spent on any single attribute. Social attributes may also be enhanced, but at double the expense of the other attributes (i.e. two bonus points need be spent to raise the attribute rating by one point.) The expenditure of these points may place the operator’s attributes at ratings higher than 30. Furthermore, the application of these enhancements does not subtract from the character’s adaptability rating.
The points spent above must be ascribed to specific kinds of augmentations. For example, to enhance dexterity, the player may elect to supply his character with prehensile finger extensions; to enhance perceptiveness, the player may choose to give his character artificial eyes or ears; to enhance appearance, the player may give his character form- modifying implants (which, as a side effect, may also allow the character to change her superficial appearance on the fly.) Refer to the section on augmentation for specific types of implants that may be used. Note, also that the use of augmentations here does not diminish the possibility of gaining further augmentations in the future. Operators are not only born with certain enhancements — they tend to continue developing these enhancements throughout their lives, as well as submitting frequently to the grafting of additional implants.
Operators have the neuro-cybernetic equipment to download skills and memories on their own, without the aid of a neurosurgeon or an “installation technician.” Though failure to physically install the downloaded skill is not possible (this check always succeeds), it is still possible to the operator to fail to integrate the new information into her psyche. When downloading, the Operator acts as her own technician and makes her own installation rolls. She can also remove downloaded information from her psyche at will, simply by making a removal check. The operator is still succeptible to identity dissolution, and still must be careful about obtaining “clean” skill snapshots to download.
Operators are capable not only of accepting downloaded skills, but of providing them as well. An Operator may choose to “upload” a skill or memory to a downloadable snapshot, making this information then available for others to download. More than this, an Operator may upload his or her entire consciousness into a machine. Once uploaded, there is virtually no end to what can be done with such a complete snapshot of the Operator’s psyche. It can be reembodied in a human form, much like a Changeling is reembodied. It may be placed in an artificial body, or it may be “run” by a capable machine. In any case, as the uploading process is nondestructive, the original Operator continues to live and function as normal. In effect, this ability allows the Operator to duplicate herself and exist in two or more places at once.
Once an Operator has “duped” one or more independent copies of herself, she may wish to reintegrate these copies into herself. This can be done in one of two ways. The Operator can destructively scan and upload the “target” copy of herself, thereby removing it from whatever embodiment or machine simulator it was “running” in, and download it into herself to integrate its memories with her own. Alternatively, the Operator may have her twin produce a complete upload of itself which she can then download and reintegrate, thereby obtaining all of her copy’s experiences and memories. She can even do the same for her counterpart, effectively “synchronizing” the experience of the two copies. Though in either case the downloading process is the same as though the Operator were downloading another person’s memory or skill, she does not need to spend any will to maintain the information one it is installed. Ordinarily, she is in no danger of suffering identity dissolution.
Each copy produced by an uploading can operate as independent individuals. Unless there is a constant synchronization between the original and the copy, the two now self-contained beings will begin to adapt independently to their own separate experiences. The end result could be two individuals who, though they share a common psychological origin, think nothing alike due to their experiences. If either the copy or the original Operator has altered her attributes or skill ratings at all during the separation, the two cannot be reintegrated seamlessly and the Operator immediately receives one point of identity dissolution upon downloading the snapshot of her twin. This is automatic. As before, no will expenditure is needed to maintain the information. It has become a permanent part of the Operator, for better or for worse.
When dealing with characters who have “split” themselves into multiple components, you should handle each “copy” as though it were a character in its own right. Track all attributes and skills, including fixed ratings, backlash and experience, separately for each character. Upon reintegration, average all attribute ratings including those just mentioned and use these attributes as the attributes of the reintegrated individual. The Moderator may wish to make exceptions for physical attributes and attributes that pertain primarily to whatever substrate (body, machine, etc.) a copy is running on.
When dealing with an artificial intelligence or other computer system “big enough” to contain the sum of an Operator’s psyche, an Operator may temporarily “leave” her body to experience life from the point of view of the machine. She effectively transfers her consciousness into the processing networks of the machine. If there is a resident intelligence already there, she has a couple of options. She may:
- destroy it (which takes work, and may be bad for the Operator if she fails)
- she may push it into the background (if the machine’s capacity is big enough to store a dormant copy, and if the resident intelligence lets her or she can overpower it)
- she may coexists with the resident intelligence (again, if the machine’s capacity is big enough to hold two active psyches and if the resident intelligence is in agreement, coerced or otherwise)
- or she may bounce the resident intelligence into her vacant body (if her brain can hold it, and if it lets her)
Any resistance offered by the machine is resolved using the rules for virtual combat. Once in the machine, the Operator acts as the machine. No built in safeguards or security systems that are part of the machine can stop her, as it has effectively become her body, over which she has ultimate control. She can not perform any task that exceeds the capacity of the machine, however, and she does not have the capacity to operate more than one “body” (be it that of a machine or her own) simultaneously. On the upshot, if her original body is destroyed while she is “jacked in,” the Operator will not die, nor will she necessarily evenbe aware of her loss until she goes to return to her original state. When “ghosting,” an Operator takes on a mixture of her own attributes and those of the host, depending on whichever attributes are lower. While in a host body, she can not exceed the capabilities of the host, and at any rate cannot exceed her own abilities, regardless of what the host may be able to do with itself.
With the proper equipment, this ability may be used to “jump” onto biological substrates as well as artificial ones. As long as an Operator has an appropriate interface to the substrate she wishes to jump onto, there is nothing limiting her ability to do so beyond the capacity of the target system.
When used in conjunction with the uploading ability above, an Operator who has ghosted into a host may “merge” with the resident psyche of that host, assuming the host is willing. Identity dissolution is almost certain under these circumstances, though. The Operator takes one point of it per every ten points of combined difference between the attributes and skills of herself and her host. Unwilling psyches may be beaten into submission and merged, as well, but in this case the identity dissolution doubles. Bits and pieces of the foreign psyche may be temporarily downloaded and maintained as downloaded skills, but this follows the same rules and conditions as skill downloading. Refer to that section for details.
While “ghosting,” an Operator’s psyche may be “hacked” by an ordinary character who has a skill in AI hacking or programming. The Operator may or may not be aware of such an attack until it is too late. How the hacker proceeds and how the Operator may defend herself is determined by the rules for virtual combat. If the hacker wins, he may deal critical damage to the Operator’s mental or psychological attributes. Furthermore, he may implant commands, experienced by the Operator as post-hypnotic suggestions, to be carried out immediately or upon the Operator’s return to her original body. These commands may even be keyed off a period of elapsed time or some other condition to be triggered at the moment of the hacker’s choosing. When setting up the suggestion, the hacker must roll checks to give it a strength and a duration. Each time it is triggered, the suggestion loses a point of duration and must make an opposed check against the Operator’s will. If this check is successful, the Operator has no choice but to obey. When a planted suggestion has exhausted its duration points, it is rendered inert and flushed from the Operator’s mind. Depending on the sophistication of the attack, the Operator may not even be aware that her behavior is out of the ordinary. Additional implanted suggestions may convince her that everything she is doing is justified.
If an Operator leaves her body for a period longer than a day, the higher cognitive centers of her brain will begin to break down as a result of disuse. The Operator’s body receives 1 point of damage to each of her mental attributes every day that she is continually out of her body. Only when she returns will this damage begin to recover. If the modifiers resulting from this damage reduce her variable attributes to zero while the Operator is away from herself, subsequent days out of her body will degrade the fixed ratings her her mental attributes by one point per day. Though her body will not die if supported (starvation and thirst rules do apply if some kind of support system is not provided to keep the body healthy during its “vacancy”) there come a point where it has degraded so much the Operator has little incentive to return at all. At this point, it’s usually best just to pull the plug and let the body die.
Note that the damage done her and the degredation suffers affects only the body, and not the Operator’s essence in the machine. These attributes must be tracked separately. Only when the Operator returns to her body will she feel the effects of this damage. If the body’s fixed attribute ratings have been degraded, upon returning the Operator will assume these fixed ratings as her own. In the process of transfering back onto a damaged substrate, she effectively “loses” part of herself, never to find it again.