Saturday, 27 September 2014

Power Dressing! Linear Frames Revisited

Linear Frames. Metal Gear. Power Armour. Powered Spacesuits. Powered Sportsuits! Deep Sea Pressure Suits. Articulated Smartgun Harnesses. Iron Man...

We might not have our flying cars yet, but Cyberpunk 2020's linear frames are just around the corner - there's Lockheed Martin's HULC, the Japanese Hybrid Assistive Limb, the Raytheon Sarcos, to name a few. These things have so many potential uses, I imagine they'll be fairly common within a decade. I imagine them serving dockworkers, construction workers, search and rescue crews, line infantry soldiers, fire fighters, EMTs...

I've been intermittently engaged in a sisyphean task to expand and update the CP2020 equipment lists whenever I have the time and inclination (which isn't often, to be fair!). Powered suits of one sort or other keep coming up - linear frames, but also space suits, environment suits, "metal gear" and others. Each of these systems seemed to require separate rules, so I've decided to condense them. I'm always in favour of reducing everything down to a short statline! 

The rules below cover everything from Vasquez's smartgun harness in Aliens to the Knight Saber suits in Bubblegum Crisis to the deep sea hardsuits in Blue Planet. Personally, I intend to use them as a much simpler alternative to the ACPA rules in Maximum Metal, treating PA suits as Shells with massive SP values and lots of internal option slots. 

In general, I've erred on the side of simplicity. I absolutely did not want to apply any kind of technology assumptions to the rules - they should be able to handle anything from vanilla CP2020 technology through Crysis through Starcraft - or change the rules according to the designed function of the suit. That last decision is down to ideology: as far as I'm concerned, the street finds its own use for things, and that "sports" harness could become an "assault" harness in the hands of a techie very quickly!

It's for all of those reasons that I've decided to ignore the "power question" altogether. The technological variables determining how long a frame's internal batteries should last make my head hurt, frankly. There's an argument for adding an extra segment to the statline - "Power," a number indicating how long a frame will run on a full charge. If you want to, add that with my blessing. As far I'm concerned, a PA's internal batteries last as long as necessary, or until an exciting narrative demands otherwise!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the prototype rules below (and in this googledoc)! I've included a few sample suits at the bottom, and might just manage to create a follow-up post with more in the next few days...
Name | Chassis | EV | Stat bonus | SP | Underlay/Overlay Slots | Reliability

Name: the name of the frame.

Chassis: the frame’s meta type and the locations covered. This is indicated by an aspect indicating the any special type of frame, and letters indicating the damage locations covered.

A complete list of aspects is given below the stat definitions. The locations are indicated by the following letters: H (head), T (torso), A (arms), L (legs).

  • Craig puts on a spacesuit in preparation for his EVA mission. The spacesuit is a Shell, Vacuum Sealed, TAL. This indicates that the suit is fully sealed against a vacuum, and covers the torso, arms and legs. “Shell” indicates that it an articulated exo-suit. A frame cannot be fully sealed unless all locations are sealed to the same degree, and so Craig will need to find and put on a vacuum sealed helmet before heading for the airlock.


Shells are articulated exo-suits sometimes referred to as Hardsuits, Hardshells, Sabres or Gears (along with a hundred other names). A general rule of thumb for identifying a shell is that they would remain standing if the user were to clamber out. Shells include the deep sea mining hardshells, military “metal gear,” the suits worn by the Knight Sabres in Bubblegum Crisis and the various kinds of power armour deployed by Space Marines in Warhammer 40k and Starcraft.

Avatar frames can move under their own power, if ordered to by remote or an onboard computer system. They might even have specific programming to protect the user if she falls unconscious. They use the physical statistics indicated in their stat line. Where a stat would be augmenting that of the user (see below), assume the a baseline of 0.

Sealed frames are protected against pressure, atmosphere, vacuum or NBC weapons. The rules for broken seals described in Deep Space and Stormfront apply to sealed frames here.

Encumbrance Value: How the item affects the user’s movement. Subtract the number indicated from the user’s REF while using the system.

Statistical Bonus: many articulated systems either augment or replace one or more of a user’s physical attributes.
  • A + sign indicates an augmentation to a stat.
  • A number alone represents a replacement stat.
  • For instance: REF+2 / BOD 12 indicates that a user wearing the articulated frame would receive a +2 bonus to REF while the suit would grant him a 12 BOD, replacing his BOD statistic.
When an articulated frame replaces a stat, the articulated frame’s stat is always used, regardless of whether the user’s normal stats are higher.

  • During a particularly bizarre infiltration mission, Gemma (REF 8) tries to make an athletics check while wearing a clunky REF 5 mobility assistance frame (designed for the morbidly obese). Because the cheap frame restricts her movement, she can only make her athletics roll at REF 5.

Stopping Power: Articulated frames often possess substantial armour, while larger frames may simply be very solid. SP works as described in the combat rules.

SP locations are indicated with a letter - H (head), T (torso), A (arms), L (legs). If no location is indicated, the SP will apply to all locations not specifically mentioned.

  • Craig’s spacesuit covers the legs, arms and torso. It is rated SP20/T25, indicating that the torso has SP25 and all other locations have SP20. This indicates that the torso is rated SP25 while the more flexible arms and legs are rated SP20.

Underlay/Overlay Slots: Many frames are designed to be modular and easily adaptable. The equipment list contains a number of generic underlays and overlays. These can be added to the suit either at the point of sale or with an hour’s work and a successful DV15 Basic Tech roll.

  • Gemma decides she needs to upgrade her stolen mobility assistance frame. The MAF possesses 1/1 slots - indicating one underlay slot and one overlay slot. She chooses a drug dispensing underlay and extra armour inserts for an overlay, and installs them in two hours.

Reliability: The advantage of a powered system is that they can augment the user’s capabilities or provide a sealed, safe atmosphere in hostile conditions. The disadvantage is that the suit can fail, leaving the user trapped inside a suddenly insert, claustrophobic suit. If a suit sustains damage, the risk of a failure drastically increases.

A reliability check is made on a D10. There are four grades of suit reliability:
Unreliable (UR): Failure on 8 or lower.
Standard (ST): Failure on 5 or lower.
Very Reliable (VR): Failure on 3 or lower.

A reliability check is triggered by a few different circumstances:
  • The frame’s occupant takes damage (of any kind) after SP is applied.
  • The frame is the subject of a successful EMP attack.
  • The user of a frame fumbles a strength feat or athletics check.
  • The frame is exposed to an environment it is not suited for. In this case it will need to make a reliability check every three turns - for instance, a desert environment frame submerged in salt water may suffer serious equipment malfunctions if it remains immersed for too long.
  • The frame is infected with some kind of computer virus or biological parasite (roll as determined by the GM or specific impediment type).
  • The frame is poorly maintained (rolls determined by the GM).

In the event that a frame fails a reliability check, roll a D10.

Naturally, these names can’t possibly account for every sort of frame out there. Some frames might not have an onboard system of any kind… but they might suffer equivalent issues such as power glitches. The referee is advised to innovate as required...

1-2: System Error! the frame’s onboard system suffers an error and immobilises itself for 1d6 turns while it works through the problem.

3-4: System Crash! the system suffers an error and is forced to reboot. This takes 1d6 turns, during which time the system is immobile and the HUD is non functional. In some cases, myomar muscles may shut down, causing the suit to drop heavy objects.

5: HUD Error! the system’s HUD suffers a BSOD error. In a sealed helmet, the resulting bursts of noise, blinding lights and/or failure alarms disorientate the user, providing a -5 to all actions. The suit is immobile, the HUD is non-functional, and other systems may fail at the GMs discretion. Initiating a reboot requires a DV10 Computer Use check (the negatives apply!). The reboot takes 1d6 turns, but at least the electronic screaming has stopped…

6: Motion Failsafe Error! the systems designed to prevent the suit moving outside of natural limits of motion fail. Roll a D6:

1-2: the suit damages itself. Roll on the hit locations table and apply damage as if the user had inflicted an unarmed attack on herself.
3-4: an actuator breaks. The limb is now hanging loose on the frame, forcing the pilot to handle any load.
5-6: the pilot’s limb is wrenched along with the mechanical system. Limbs are wrenched out of sockets, torsos are crushed, necks are snapped… apply 2d6 damage to a random hit location.

7-8: Stress Fracture! something breaks. Roll a D6 then roll on the combat hit locations table. This part of the frame has broken:

1-2: motor functions are impaired, immobilising an affected limb or neck.
2-4: the section breaks cleanly and is now non-functional. Any subsystems in that section of the frame cease to function.
5-6: the frame section breaks catastrophically, causing 2d6 damage to the meat below.

Any NBC, pressure or environment seals are automatically broken in the event of a stress fracture. A torso fracture or head fracture is also likely to cause venting of stored oxygen, etc.

9: Total Power Failure! primary power systems fail. Fixing the fault will require that someone outside the suit locate the problem and fix it, a process taking a minimum of ten minutes. Alternatively, a Techie who locates the fault using one of a number of applicable skills (DV20, in any case) can spend another turn using Jury Rig to create a quick fix (DV20). Whatever the suit’s reliability was before, it becomes Unreliable until it gets a full maintenance check!

10: Catastrophic Error! something horrific happens. A sealed helmet begins filling with the wrong mixture of environmental gases. Stored water leaks into the helmet, drowning the user in his own piss. A catheter system “back flows” (think about it… or don’t!). The electrical systems burst into flame.

In the event of a catastrophic error, the referee either devises something hideous, requiring multiple potentially lethal skill checks, or defaults to “take 2d6 damage to every hit location covered by the frame.”

Getting into and out of a frame

It takes one minute to get into a frame and power it up. It is possible to throw off a frame in d6 rounds - if the suit is non-functional, add another 1d6 rounds to that total.

In the event of a System Failure, Power Failure or Catastrophic Error, it is very possible that a Shell user might become trapped in her suit. Getting out of a shell suffering from one of those errors requires a DV20 Basic Tech/Frame Tech/Strength Feat roll to be completed before attempting to exit the vehicle. This can be a critical issue if the sealed helmet is filling up with Carbon Monoxide!

A quick release system can allow a use to drop the frame in a single turn, or remove herself from a nonfunctional frame in D3 turns.


Colonist’s Frame | TA | 0 | BOD+2, REF+1 | SP T15 | 1/1 | VR
Lots of pockets, quick release system

This frame is the future’s equivalent of overalls. Ubiquitous, simple, made by a variety of manufacturers in a variety of styles. Designed to make engineering in hostile environments simple. Economies of scale mean these things can be picked up for $70 or less on the street, particularly in frontier zones. Or you can buy one second hand, if you want it covered in sown patches and beer stains!

Smartgun Harness | T | 1 | NA | NA | NA | ST
Quick release system

These systems provide a stable firing platform for automatic weapons. Using a smartgun harness allows a user to fire a weapon while walking as if they were stationary. A weapon must have a jack (like those used for any smartlink system) to make use of this system.

The reliability of these things varies wildly; specifically, it depends on whether the local warlord printed them using pirated plans and substandard feedstock! A legitimately acquired system costs about $200.

Smartgun Harness | TAL | MA+2 REF+2 14 BOD | SP10 | NA | ST

A heavy duty work frame can be a fearsome weapon in the hands of a bald psychopath. No frills. Requires a smartlink to make use of the REF bonus.($2-4000)

Fire Rescue Frame | NBC Sealed HTAL | 1 | BOD+4 | SP20/H20 | 1/1 | VR

45 minute Onboard Air Supply, Gas Mask with Air Scrubber, HUD (with Thermograph, IR, AntiDazzle, Colour Shift, Camera, Timesquare Marquee), Cyberaudio with Active Noise Suppression and Recorder, Onboard Comms, Quick Release System, Temperature Control, Fire Retardant Cloth Outer Armour (fire does half damage vs SP)

Fire Rescue Frames are heavily armoured suits designed to carry firefighters through blazing infernos. They are relatively complicated to put on, consisting of myomar assistance systems underneath an armoured cowling and cooling system. More recent models account for the fact that firefighters wear them all the time while on duty, and come with fragrance absorbers!   

Line Infantry Armour | NBC Sealed TAL | 1 | BOD+2, MA+2 | SP20 T25 | 2/2 | ST

The first generation of effective linear frames were military. This is an example of the second generation - refined and simplified, prioritising comfort and movement over sheer power. Most of the extra power from the compact augmented musculature goes into hefting heavy armour.

Diver’s Hardsuit | Pressure Sealed Shell HTAL | 2 | 14 BOD, 8 MA (Underwater) | SP20 | 2/2 | VR

HUD (with thermograph, sonar, IR, Ultraviolet, camera, times square marquee), Audio with Level Damping, Recording and Sound Editing, Underwater Comms system, 2x toolarms with 3x cyberfinger options each, Sonic wildlife protection system, watersealed smartlink plugs

Designed for deep pressure diving, these are common among mining prospectors and scientists. They are essentially immobile on land.

Punkknight | Shell HTAL | 3 | 14 BOD, 6 MA | SP30 | 2/2 | UR
Mounted Flamethrower, Smartlink, Massive Speakers

The Punkknight is a massive articulated power suit designed for storming gang holdfasts or police lines, or the pub. Consisting of massive armour plates welded to a buckling linear frame, it’s about as safe as it looks (and sounds).