Powered Exoskeletons , revised building and use rules in Equipment, Cybertech and Weapons
cobalt_phoenix Sep 4 2018, 16:43 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
Thanks to Derek mentioning recently what powered armor can and cannot do, I decided to work up a supplement that expands on powered exoskeletons and related equipment. I know there are already supplements in resources around here (Kwyndig's is a good one, as is Liberiton's), but it seems like we have a lot more fictional and real-world resources to tap than what I see.

It seems like too often these systems get built up to be Iron Man's armor, when there are a huge variety of options.

Okay, so a quick breakdown of how I'm imagining this. All exoskeletons consist of the following components: an exoskeletal frame, a power source, actuators, armor plating, weapons, electronics, and accessories.

An exoskeletal frame, as the name implies, is the actual skeleton of the machine. It determines general shape for the suit, carrying capacity (which determines how much stuff can be mounted on it, as well as how much it can actually carry), how hard it is to climb into, the rough size of the suit, and what kind of armor can be mounted on it (more on that later).

Available frames come in a range of varieties, including robotic frames like those seen in the films Aliens (the power loader) and Edge of Tomorrow (combat jackets). This is not the only type, just the most basic, and others will be included. I already have plans for a cyberframe (literally Iron Man armor) and nanoframe (the Mjolnir armor of Halo, especially GEN 2).

To put it simply, every frame will have some benefits and some problems. For example, the robotic frame is the easiest to climb into and has the highest carrying capacity (the suit's frame takes the full brunt of the work, and the user is just directing it). However, it is bulky (not slow, but you can't get through doors and hallways easily) and, because the frame is not wrapped around the user, it makes it much harder to add armor plating (which means it can't be used to protect against an environment). By contrast, the nanoframe (derived from Halo's Mjolnir series) is slim and tight fitting, and very comfortable to wear (no problems getting through doors or hallways), and can be fully sealed against environments. However, because the frame fully wraps around the wearer, it takes a considerable amount of time and equipment to get it on, and the wearer bares more of the effort in work. Every frame will have a benefit that keeps it viable regardless of new frame types, but every frame will also have drawbacks that keep it from being the "best".

The power sources used by exoskeletons are also going to be expanded. Rather than "batteries at PL6, mass reactors at PL8", how about something like an internal combustion engine? I'm thinking of the BerTek Portable Generator from page 25 of the S*D AEG. It has a mass of 25 kg (of which 20 kg is the 10 liter fuel tank), lasts 20 hours when full, and can power a building/outpost of about 10 people (it also says one average-sized piece of equipment, but that isn't explained). Yes, it requires fuel, which can be dangerous, but I don't see why it wouldn't work for cargo loaders and other non-combat roles, and it would last longer than the power cells on the General Industries Walker (8 hours of heavy work, 16 hours of light work, page 28 of the AEG).

Let me say as well that mass reactors will be viable for powered exoskeletons at PL7. The reason why is because of Dataware. On page 69, it says that "at PL7 and higher, robots over 50 cm tall depend on internal mass reactors..." So if a robot half a meter tall can have a mass reactor installed, I'm going to say that a 2 meter tall powered exoskeleton can have one. Now, that isn't to say that it is perfect. It will be big, it will be heavy, and it will be expensive. I'm thinking it would only provide power for a week or so (great for front-line combat suits). Again, it isn't the best option, but it should be good for specific applications. At PL8, mass reactors are going to be better, making them the most likely, but I also want to see other power systems, such as fusion, quantum cells, maybe even antimatter (scary as that is).

Actuators will also be updated, but based on Dataware. In the real world, they have come up with a lot of interesting new materials and artificial muscle concepts, such as polymer-based muscles that are dramatically stronger and lighter than human muscles, making them perfect for powered exoskeletons.

Armor plating is pretty straight forward, but there are going to be some new additions. Not only will polymeric, cerametal, and alloy plating be added, there will also be some with additional thicknesses, such as sheet metal and heavy cerametal.

There are also three coverage levels: trauma plating (roughly 25% protection), half plating (roughly 50% protection), and full plating (90% and above). In effect, trauma plating protects the wearer's head and parts of the torso, and is good for rear-echelon and normal working environments. Half plating is light, flexible, and protects the head, torso, and parts of the arms and legs; however, there are gaps, such as at the joints, and this armor can't be sealed against environments, limiting it to habitable environments, scouting, and similar limited roles. Full plating is for front-line suits, the literal body tanks and armored e-suits, and fully protects the head, torso, limbs, and joints. Obviously, as the armor plating gets more extensive, it is costlier, heavier, and harder to move around in.

Exoskeletal weapons will consist of not only mounted suit weapons (using hardpoints and armatures), but also a new type of heavy weapon I'm terming "assault guns". These aren't battle rifles or sniper rifles, these are modified heavy weapons that are designed for use with the larger types of suits. These are quantum miniguns that look like over-sized quantum rifles, laser cannons dressed as the big brothers of laser rifles, and machine guns that look like assault rifles. They can be used by non-boosted personnel with the heavy weapons skill, but a user in an over-sized exoskeleton can use them with a normal Modern Ranged Weapons skill check.

Exoskeletal electronics consists of the suits sensors, computers, and control systems. This includes cybernetic links, radar units, thermal imagers, AI copilots, etc.

Finally, the accessories area is going to include anything that doesn't fit above. This includes medical systems, life support, and additional propulsion units.

However, here is a fun one: how about modifying the boots into jumping stilts? I've never been a fan of armor that increases the speed without a reason (the ABM-5 Paladin from the S*D AEG, page 73, is an example). However, using heavier-duty materials and gyro-based stabalizers, you can have a suit of armor that can run incredibly fast and jump far higher than a normal human, while also having an interesting appearance (almost dog-like or cat-like legs).

So is there any interest or comments? I'm going to post more when I have some details worked out.
derek_holland Sep 4 2018, 18:13 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
I am interested but only with industrial, science, exploration and alien exoskeletons. Things that really expand upon the advantages of using such technology far beyond its military applications.
cobalt_phoenix Sep 4 2018, 19:56 Group: Heroes, Beyond Level 20 Quote Post
Hopefully you''ll like this, Derek. I am trying to make sure this system provides the ability to create custom e-suits for exploration, medical walking aids, cargo loaders, construction suits, etc, as well as actual battlefield machines.

For example, one item I'm including is polyceramic armor. This is relatively light, being similar to cerametal, but not as effective at stopping attacks. However, it is more common and quite effective at shrugging off hostile environments. It is perfect for e-suits, both in space and on hostile worlds.

Oh, and I'm revising the way that powered exoskeletons function in Alternity. Originally, they gave the wearer an effective strength that was normally above average at least and took the place of the wearer's normal Strength score for the purposes of lifting or breaking objects. Personally, I don't like this set up, since most modern exoskeletons really don't function this way, and even fictional ones don't behave like this.

So, instead, effective Strength isn't a prefixed number, it is an addition to the wearer's own Strength (so a +4 to their score of 12 rather than a straight effective 16), which means that stronger characters can get a better bonus out of their suits. Additionally, effective Strength only applies to breaking objects (unarmed attack damage). For lifting and carrying, there are two new groups, dictated by the armor. First, the frame (which supports all the weight) has a limit, which is not a hard limit (it uses the same rules as encumbrance). Second, the actuators reduce the mass of objects lifted by a set percent (based on the type).

So as an example, a character is wearing a suit that has a frame with a capacity of 150 kg, actuators that are rated at 25%, and a total mass of 150 kg (the suit's capacity always includes its own mass, so it is possible to build a suit with so much crap that it is always encumbered). The character grabs a container with a mass of 100 kg and hoists it up. The character feels like they are hoisting 25 kg, not the actual 100 kg, and the suit is now at 250 kg (the rules for encumbrance say that you can carry up to 2 times your Strength in kilograms without any ill effect, which is replaced by the frame capacity for this), so the suit is not encumbered until it hits 300 kg. In other words, the character feels like it is a heavy load, but it isn't back breaking, and the suit can still move without issue.

Now, those are not real numbers in the system right now (that would probably be a pretty hefty robotic frame), I just created them as an example. Hopefully, you see some potential in that.

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