The ORWA campaign recently had its first character death. Umquat, of blessed memory, had her neck melted through by the Righteous Gaze of the Children of God. She fell to the ground a mere 15′ from the rest of the party. Even if there had been hope that she might be saved, there was no way for Umquat’s fellows to step out from their cover without sharing her fate. The dice foretold that she would gurgle and cough for 4 rounds before she was able to die, and all the party could do was watch. It was a death beautiful in its tragedy.
However, beautiful as it was, it occurred to me that there’s no reason for death to be the end of Umquat. After all, ORWA has long since moved beyond the technological limitations of its medieval beginnings. The setting has a very “Saturday Morning Sci-Fi” vibe, and characters already have the option of cybernetically enhancing themselves. Why not allow dead characters to be ‘resurrected’ through cybernetics? If fits the themes of the game perfectly.
The body of the character to be cybernetically resurrected must first be recovered. Your friends need to get your corpse back to the safety of a haven with Internet access. (By which I mean, a haven where the party can make contact with agents of the shadowy organization known as “The Internet.”) If the majority of your body is unrecoverable for whatever reason, then there is no hope for you.
Cybernetic resurrection is also expensive. It costs all the money of the person being reincarnated. All of it. They’re able to hold on to any material goods they might own, but any liquid wealth is confiscated by The Internet to pay for the procedure. If you didn’t have very much money, or no money at all, well then you lucked out. The Internet is feeling generous that day.
Cybernetics are great for enhancing the natural function of your body, but they’re shit at actually replacing those functions whole cloth. And unfortunately, you’re dead, which means some part of your body is so damaged that it could no longer function at all. That part of your body had to be completely replaced with cybernetics, and those cybernetics are gonna be a whole lot worse than your original home-grown human parts were.
I use Courtney Campbell’s Table for Avoiding Death. It is a very good table. One of its many benefits is that when a character dies, the table describes precisely what their means of death was. In Umquat’s case, her neck was melted through. Other deaths include a bone shard puncturing your femoral artery, the front of your face becoming frozen enough to shatter, and dozens upon dozens more. Like I said, it’s a very good table.
When a dead character is cybernetically resurrected, the part of their body that was destroyed during the death process must be replaced by a mechanical facsimile. The drawbacks of this are entirely at the discretion of the referee. They should be significant, but not so debilitating that the player wants to retire the character. For example, this is what Umquat will have to deal with:
Umquat’s new neck is good at allowing her to breathe, speak, and control her body with electrical impulses from her brain. However, it can’t handle food or drink. Umquat must now feed herself through a tube in her stomach, using special liquid rations which cost 3x the normal rate for rations. Even in dire circumstances, she cannot eat normal food.
Also, she has to talk in a robot voice from now on.
As a corollary to this first point: since vital life functions are now managed by machines, the cyborg is vulnerable to EMP attacks. If all electronics would be shut down for any reason, then the cyborg is immediately reduced to 0 hit points until the effect is ended. (If they already were at 0 hit points, they gain 2 pain, as per the Table for Avoiding Death).
The second major drawback to being a cyborg is the consequences of brain death. In the real world, resuscitation has to occur within minutes of death, lest the patient’s brain be irreparably damaged. In the game, even ignoring the time it takes to recover, the actual process of being cybernetically reanimated takes nearly a month to complete. It is hardly surprising that cyborgs suffer from a variety of mental derangement. Roll on the table below to determine the way in which the cyborg’s brain is damaged.
- The cyborg is sexually attracted to spherical objects. They are a sphere-sexual.
- One of the many technicians who worked on resuscitating the cyborg has added secret instructions into their brain. The referee should write these down on a piece of paper, and place that piece of paper in an envelope. When the instructions become relevant, the player should be allowed to open and read the instructions.
- The cyborg becomes obsessed with a religion–either one that they already professed, or a new one determined by whatever means seem most expedient. The cyborg follows an arcane set of rules based on their extremist interpretation of the religion, and will find some way to bring every single conversation back to their faith.
- The cyborg is utterly disgusted by children. Any human that has not yet gone through puberty is profoundly offensive to the cyborg.
- The cyborg loses impulse control. Any time that the player mentions a possible course of action, jokes about something ludicrous that their character does, or even expresses a desire for something, the cyborg will do that thing.
- The cyborg becomes an absolute coward. Roll 3d6 to determine a morale score using the same chart hireling loyalty is generated with. Any time a hireling’s loyalty would need to be checked, the cyborg’s morale must be checked. On failure, they have to flee for their lives.
- The cyborg just doesn’t see why they would ever pass up a good time. If some pleasurable activity is available, they must agree to participate. There’s no way to keep the cyborg on task during a party, or in a red light district.
- The pleasure center of the cyborg’s brain has withered, and they are incapable of having a good time. Worldly pleasures just hold no draw for the cyborg, and they look down on any pursuit of pleasure they witness in others.
- The mood of the cyborg is completely disassociated from the events occurring around them. Rather, it’s a randomly determined fact established at the start of a game session. Roll: 1. Angry, 2. Cheerful, 3. Morose, 4. Silly, 5. Lethargic, 6. Anxious
- The cyborg becomes incredibly miserly, and will never spend more than 10% of their total net worth in a single game session or haven turn.
- The cyborg finds clothing incredibly uncomfortable against their skin, and refuses ever to wear it. They must be completely naked at all time, with the exception of jewelry. Jewelry is nice.
- Only one hand is ever available, because the other is constantly masturbating. Constantly.
- The cyborg develops a kind of narcolepsy. This usually isn’t too much of a problem, as companions are around to nudge them awake. If the cyborg is ever alone, however, then one of the results on the encounter die should indicate that they have fallen asleep, and will remain asleep for 1d4 turns or until awakened. Due to the adrenaline kick, the cyborg will never fall asleep in combat.
- The cyborg is given to passionate, flighty affections. Anytime a new NPC is encountered and engaged in discussion, the cyborg must make a 2d6 reaction roll for themselves. If they roll a 12, then they fall desperately in love, completely forgetting whoever they were in love with previously.
- The cyborg believes that they are more cybernetic than they actually are. Despite any evidence to the contrary, they do not believe anything remains of their human selves. As far as they’re concerned, they don’t have anything but circuits and disks in their heads. They will often attempt to “interface” with machines, which of course never works.
- The cyborg’s reality is almost entirely different than our own. Everything they see appears more colorful and simplistic than it actually is. Instead of people they see anthropomorphic animals, instead of blood and death they see silly slapstick comedy.
- The cyborg believes they are trapped at a certain age. They have all of the adult faculties and experience of their true age, but will act as though they’re doing an impression of a person of a different age. Roll to determine what age they think they are: 1. Four, 2. Nine, 3. Sixteen, 4. Ninety
- The cyborg becomes a serial doodler of graphic vulgarities. Any time the cyborg has a few free minutes, they scrawl dicks and tits and profanities on the walls. If they ever spend any length of time waiting somewhere, it will be clear to everyone that someone was there.
- The cyborg suffers from a literally paralyzing fear of the dark. If they ever find themselves in an area where they cannot see their surroundings, then they freeze in place. They are completely trapped until something illuminates their surroundings.
- The cyborg’s internal balance is messed up. They can usually walk okay (though they do stumble more often than most people). However, any time their balance would be in question, they fail automatically.
- The cyborg can’t quite control their eating, and they become immensely fat as a result. The added pudge requires that any armor be specially fitted for them. Their own fat takes up a full encumbrance worth of inventory space.
- The cyborg develops a depraved sexual fetish that even the most tolerant individuals are disgusted by. The cyborg must make a saving throw versus Poison during each haven turn. On a failure, they spend 1d6 x 100 money pursuing their strange fetish with a wild abandon, and they lose out on any opportunity to use their haven turn more productively. They will become well known in their community for their depravity, which will affect their reputation accordingly. (If the cyborg was in the middle of training, this does not interrupt that training. The training is merely delayed).
- The cyborg feels disassociated from their own flesh, and begins self-mutilating as a nervous habit. Any time that is not actively spent in some task requires a save versus Paralyzation. On a failure, the cyborg deals 1 point of damage to themselves.
- The cyborg becomes unbearably prudish about sex. Even something as simple as casual flirtation happening within earshot will prompt the cyborg to launch into a lecture about sexual morality. The cyborg is even uncomfortable around anyone who is a parent, because they know that such a person must have had sex at some point.
- The cyborg loves animals, and lacks impulse control. Anytime they see an animal they will run over to pet it and coo at it, without thought to their safety or any task they were previously performing.
- The cyborg refuses to ever bathe again. Their stench will make parley difficult, at least with any creature that has a human sense of smell.
- A new skill is created for the cyborg. It doesn’t matter what, so long as it is pretty much useless. Something like whittling, guitar hero, or macramé. The cyborg becomes obsessed with this new hobby, and cannot spend their haven turns doing anything other than training in this hobby until they reach the max level of skill.
- The cyborg refuses to acknowledge that they are affected by weather. Heat, cold, rain, or hail, it doesn’t matter. They will not make any attempt to protect or prepare themselves for dealing with environmental conditions. This will certainly end badly anytime they have to deal with these factors.
- Loud noises cause the cyborg to soil themselves.
- The cyborg is completely incapable of ‘negative’ emotions, such as anger, sadness, resentment, jealousy, suspicion, etcetera. They are dangerously naive because of this, and are absolutely convinced that everyone and everything they meet is a good friend to them.