A ways back, you may have caught that I mentioned bio technology a few times, how would that fit in?
Well, with cybernetics, we have access to many potentially big things - powerful muscle upgrades, armoured skeletons, subdermal body-armour.... Yet with metal rusts; the body simply does not regenerate it, actively damages it in some cases....
Bio tech offers another path to self-improvement, from something as subtle as an improved efficiency stomach, to something as obvious as an extra limb, such as:
- Efficient organs - Not so extreme as a cybernetic replacement, merely efficient hearts and muscles would operate similarly to cybernetic equivalents, only as a less valuable, less potent, alternative. An efficient digestive system would increase the sustenance gained from a meal (or reduce the rate at which hunger builds). A hyper efficient nervous system would increase REF and SPD in a way that cybernetics couldn't, and a hyper immune system would provide bonuses to Resistance.
- Limbs - A rather extreme case, but cloned and implanted limbs serve to both replace destroyed limbs (this could lead on to there being no more "oh, you get those destroyed body parts back by a trip to the doctor for $20", if a limb is destroyed, it's gone, along with any expensive cyberware/organs in it). Not enough? Add some more. A tail would carry with it an inherent balance bonus (acrobatics), more arms either another set of hands or a new set of natural weapons, or even martial arts compatible super-enhanced limbs to flat out replace the originals, or wings to give your character a stamina sapping flight movement option.
- Traditional bio-weapons - All those biolaser toting monsters will be surprised when you open fire in kind. Everything and anything a bioweapon could conceivably bring to the party, so could a dedicated bioknight, just as assuredly, bring their own arsenal of biological weapons and power sources. Venom sacs, acid sprays, ink clouds, sharpened replacement teeth.... The possibilities are endless.
Much like cyberware, these traits could also have associated tiers, allowing would-be bioknights to flourish from day 0.
Why would you necessarily pick biological over cybernetic?
They're weaker, but biotech implants would have specific advantages and features to differentiate them from biotech:
1: Weight; an enhanced muscle would have essentially no added weight compared to a regular muscle. Intersperse the muscle fibers with silico-carbonate powered contraction rods and you're going to be looking at an increase on your natural body mass; and like a mecha, increasing body mass would give them penalties to movement, speed, and accuracy. This would be a major difference to current cybernetics, where as soon as something is installed, it weighs nothing. Even dense bone armour plating would be, though less durable than the metal, far, far lighter.
2: Maintenance; as a biological organ, likely as not cloned from your own DNA (I'll go into the suggested mechanism for this next section), a biotech implant would not decay, nor would it necessarily even need any particular maintenance with biotech (for replacement limbs and organs at very least).
3: Unique effects; Limbs, unique bio weapons, organs that give boosts in ways that cybernetics can't quite manage...
4: Optional extras: Unlike inorganic cyberware, biological organs can be implanted to secondary locations. A second heart in place, or a backup brain in your stomach, and suddenly losing the head is no longer instantly fatal. A third eye would negate any penalty losing one might bring, and might even give an additional perception bonus.
However, there's also one major disadvantage of bio tech organs - permanence and exclusivity. You might replace a cyber heart with a newer, better model and pass it on (ew?), but a heart outside of a body dies, the investment is lost.
Going one or the other would work to differing degrees, mixing and matching would require more skill investment, but end up with the best available tools of both.
The spread and transfer of biotech.
Since Gearhead is not a game that would lend itself to making a custom organ from scratch (Well, at least not in-game), how would bio-tech function?
This is actually fairly simple - unlike Cybernetics, where specific organs and parts are sold, bio tech sells portable cloning vats, each keyed to take a part of the user's DNA and clone it into the desired organ through careful manipulation during the growth process.
In game terms, these organ modules would be, except for the most basic, like a generic replacement organ (with at most a minor improvement), highly rare, illegal goods locatable in black markets and chop shops (where the mad doctors who would be the ones to implant the most invasive biotech organs and repair them hang out).
Installation would be a case of an apply skill - biotech to the item, which would give a brand spanking new "X". A bad roll, the organ starts out damaged, or even worse, at a lower tier than the original product intended, a particularly good roll, the organ might even gain a tier (and certainly, the highest tier should be exclusive to a high grade organ kit and an amazing roll). When the item is thusly made, it would take a Medicine roll to implant it (you or the doctor, and here with an extra skill to maintain is another balance between cyber and biotech), and, optionally, a medicine roll to remove any additional limbs (with the potential for damage on a bad roll once again on all levels).
One of the main methods in place to prevent a character from going all the way into cybernetics currently is trauma, the more bodyparts, the more mods, the more you're going to suffer. With this, notionally with resources and time, especially with biotech, a character could add a great deal of stuff to themselves. In a way, great, this is intended to make personal combat broader, increasing the potential of enemies and heroes alike (cybernetics at very least would become rather simple to apply as a template to random cyborg compatible NPCs, such as, say, police officers, or mercenaries, or cyberdocs etc).
On another level however, let pseudo realism reign with Frankenstein syndrome. The more extreme, the more obviously abnormal, and generally the more outlandish a character is, the less favourably normal folks are inclined towards them, the more likely guardians are to open fire on sight... Each additional limb, particularly obvious cyberware and other obvious features from either skill discipline increases their Frankensteinium level decreasing charm and applying heavy social modifiers to all things, to the degree it becomes awkward to even progress in the core story until you stop being silly and go take some of those things out.
Likewise, certain features, potentially those even specifically designed for such purposes - pretty face, pretty flourescent tattoos, luxurious hair implants et cetera, would reduce Frank levels and increase charm/social benefits.
Another, more mundane limitter to improvement is sheer body mass. By applying similar rules concerning speed, maneuverability and accuracy as those found in mecha (starting at 0, and being determined as a function of body stat, rather than some constant). Not only will this inherently manage some of the changes that are currently brought about by stat boosts, but this could potentially, with only minor tweaking replace the speed and reflex penalty of being overloaded. If I'm not mistaken, these penalties do not reduce accuracy with heavy weapons or martial arts, only small arms and armed combat.
If, when entering a mecha, the mecha's bonuses/penalties in this area could override those of the character, then only those traits which would actually impact on mecha pilotting need make a difference to mecha piloting (those which actively improve/interfere with how fast someone's brain and body can react), because only those that actively changed those traits would increase or decrease Speed/reflex, an armoured spine might carry a maneuverability penalty, but it would have no impact on how you piloted a mecha. Likewise, weight could give massive penalties to movement speed, targetting, and evasion, but in a mecha, with your junk all laid next to you, your ability to fly the mecha is not impeded by your own personal scale problems.
In the end, in my opinion (and I'm open to discussion on it), a true personal scale expert with the best weapons and armour they can buy, and the best combination of cyberware and biotech possible, and the bulk of their talents dedicated to perfecting this should not necessarily be compared with personal scale monsters (unless similarly focused around the same tenets); they should be compared to targets that match their PV (after all, that's how Exp is granted isn't it?), and that is, by that level, small mecha.
I wouldn't mind much if you had to try harder, pay more, work longer to achieve those kinds of end for personal scale individuals, or if mecha could simply reach a point where they surpassed anything a human could conceivably reach (I'd rather expect it to be that way), but that would be the balance I'd love to see realised in GH2.
In fact, I would love to see slanted combat in both directions, taking my mecha against actual armies of infantry (a la LAPD Future Cop). In fact, I'd love to face off against just one guy who was so tough I needed a mecha to fight him on even terms. And in a mecha versus me - where other characters might try to evade the mech, or use their skills to repair some abandoned mech they found, lure them into a hidden lava pit et cetera, I'd like to run up dodging explosions and machine gun fire, and flat out bust its sensor array with my high power hand cannon (Grey Fox, Metal Gear solid, or let's face it, pretty much any other Metal Gear), and of course, vice versa.
I've babbled long enough I'm sure, thanks to anyone who actually read all this. I hope if you didn't find the ideas good, you'll at least find them interesting or thought provoking.