Ashtaar started up a new HSD campaign, and our first official session was Friday last. Much fun. I’m playing—and here’s me breaking my rule of “no talking about characters”—a hacker dog with a bit of a past, such that the 10 pounds of metal in his head has been disabled by the authorities, and he’s got a behavioral adjuster chip. I love me some dark characters.
That’s an unpleasant little widget on page 216. The mechanics are pretty simple. It’s a chip that can be slapped onto someone quickly and rapidly: “This deceptively small implant is embedded in the base of the neck with a simple, quick and low-impact device that buries it deep below the tissue…” Which to me sounds like it can be implanted as easily as any injection, or maybe a staple gun. “Struggling with IRPF, the rebel agent feels a sharp sting, and over the course of minutes, slowly becomes to accept Big Brother into his heart…”
The implant’s effect is…Hmm. Is it subtle? Mechanically, it swaps your Motivation. For my character, his slightly bonkers “Sensualist” motivation is replaced with Duty. A religious cult might overwrite its members’ free will by implanting them with Spiritualist, Zealot, or even technically—this could be weird—Legacy Memory. Imagine an implant that feeds someone false images of humanity’s fall. Very “Battlestar Galactica” season one.
There’s reasons why a character might want one of these things implanted. A Motivation is a powerful game effect: a +1 dice bonus to all noncombat proficiency checks related to your Motivation. Now I imagine most PCs have Motivations with a high freak factor: power, discovery, suspicion. But the ability to swap into “duty” when you need a bunch of bonuses for routine activities, and then “power” for social situations? Useful. It adds a substantial bonus to an entire set of skill rolls.
But doing that willingly has a cost. You get hooked, becoming much more about “Power,” much more about “Duty”, whatever aspect of the moon is ascending. It’s more long-term behavior therapy than a simple on-off switch, and regardless of whether the effect is willing or unwilling, it will in the long term transform its owner.
Some other interesting game possibilities with this one: A specific implant isn’t necessarily tied to a specific Motivation, and they can be controlled remotely. I could see a Star Trek-type scenario of a decadent court lead by a crazed 2000th-generation grandclone of Julius Ceasar, whose scepter shifts implants to “Zealot” in his presence, whose court is set to some strange admixture of Duty and Wealth, and the arena that he oversees, continually broadcasts “Power” and “Notoriety.”
Why am I rambling about this? My character’s thinking of not fighting his implant so that he can work for a week on repetitive tasks, instead of being distracted by the internet and the stars drifting past. And I’m wondering if he’ll be the same dog when he comes back.