Icky, slimey, gooey technology - biotech in Gamemasters Corner, Adventures & Plots
derek_holland Sep 1 2006, 00:48 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
There is a thread on enworld about making magical items via giving birth. Myself and others have taken the idea to several extremes and one thing I found absolutely hillarious is the squeemish people who have posted. So as much as I would like to see something similar here, I am giving warning now that some of the material here will be of an icky nature- people with weak stomachs might not want to read it. Also note I placed it here and not in the tech forum since I am not looking for examples, but rather peoples' view on the subject and possible alternate descriptions and themes.

Examples and misc:
The klicks from S*D are the only species in Alternity canon that describes the method of creating specific biotech items- they use tree-like organisms. The kadarans and ravan/n'sss also produce biotech, but with a very few exceptions (like magus and kroath), there is no given method of growing it. A Babylon 5 novel describes how the shadows used living things (mostly sapients) to grow their ships and other technology. The X-files movie has a rather interesting visual of a human host to an alien. The New Jedi Order series introduced an alien species that using living weapons and technology that isn't very analogous to the hard tech of the SW universe. Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs, a Dark Sun book, has biotech similar to that in the NJO. The MM IV has a species that alters others and itself into weapons (the zern). The only serious sci-fi source I know of is GURPS Bio-Tech (soon there will be a 4th ed version).

Of biotech itself, I see two major divisions. The first is a replacement of hardtech. This is how B5 and Windriders did it. The second is sentient things that may act on their own. This is the style the vong from SW did it (mostly). Both have their advantages and disadvantages- the first is rather dull, but easy to do as one just has to change the description of items frome hardtech to biotech. The latter is harder as item niches must be filled, but allows for much greater creativity for the GM. Is there anything I missed here?

So, who has used biotech in more than a quick visual?
uncle_jimbo Sep 1 2006, 02:17 Group: Grid Cop, 5éme Corbin Quote Post
I think that looking at biotech as a replacement for hardtech somewhat misses the point of this field of technology: its potential to infect and transform users (or subjects), breaking down any clear distinction between technology and the user. It's not so much about grafting on kewl new organs (though that has potential, if taken far enough) or making animals that do the same things machines can do, but altering and invading fundamentals of our understanding of life such as reproduction, lifespan, life-support needs, living environment, physical abilities and senses. In this sense, it very much overlaps with cybertech.

Some useful sources:
Bruce Stirling, Schismatrix
Greg Bear, Blood Music and Vitals
Gwyneth Jones, North Wind series
Octavia Butler
Neal Asher, The Engineer collection

There's a small novel, whose name and author I don't recall, that makes a striking parallel with a Southeast Asian country's history (Cambodia, I think it was), just swapping biotech for 20th century weaponry.

The idea of human subjects voluntarily birthing useful creatures or growing useful cultures in their bodies (particularly weapons) is a nice detail to drive home the transgressive implications of a heavy use of biotech.

This post has been edited by uncle_jimbo on Sep 1 2006, 02:18
derek_holland Sep 1 2006, 16:31 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
First- I was wrong about the klicks. The trees belong to the kadarans and the klicks make little, if any of their own technology.

Author

I think that looking at biotech as a replacement for hardtech somewhat misses the point of this field of technology: its potential to infect and transform users (or subjects), breaking down any clear distinction between technology and the user.


That still fits within the 2 subcatagories I mentioned before- replacement of cyberwear with non-sapient biotech versions or cyberwear with a mind of its own. What happens when the battleklaw says it doesn't want anymore food (blood and guts) today? Or what if the replacement eyes fall asleep and act cranky when awakened by jiggling the head?

Author

The idea of human subjects voluntarily birthing useful creatures or growing useful cultures in their bodies (particularly weapons) is a nice detail to drive home the transgressive implications of a heavy use of biotech.


I personally love the idea in both its physical and sociological implications. Humanity might become casted with those who are created specifically to produce useful items. Of course the other way, though not as interesting, is described in the Aliens comics- the idea of pithed (brainless) clones produced for alien reproduction.

I hope someone remembers the title and author of that book you mentioned, Jim. It sounds interesting.
Starbrat Sep 1 2006, 17:55 Group: Grid Cop, Moderator AI Quote Post
Other examples include Buyur technology (Mulc-spiders, rewq, polisher bees, privacy wasps, etc) from the second Uplift trilogy and the Mummy-cows from Stephen Baxter's Xeelee sequence.

They're examples of heavily-designed lifeforms that have their own existence but work to serve humans or other sapients. Humans have been very proficient at creating new symbiotic relationships; it's one of our earliest technologies in fact. I can see that being expanded upon providing that certain ethical standards are met (or our own change sufficiently).

Grafting biological cybertechnology into existing bodies would certainly be a lot easier than grafting "hard" cybertech on many counts. The grafts themselves would be more hygienic, there are far fewer power problems, at least for low-power items.

I myself use biotech a fair bit in my games; usually in the form of useful animal/device and as custom or replacement organs.

As to growing such devices within our bodies, well, that would take something of a shift in our perspectives, I think. Birthing such devices would require a very different state of mind than the one we have now; one potential pitfall is the reduction of women to "walking uterus" status which has been so calamitous for womankind in the past, and still is across the globe.

Still, that said, surrogate gestation of human infants has proven to be pretty successful, and with appropriate safeguards in place it's certainly a good way to earn some extra money on the side!

Derek, you did it again. My mind is afizz* with possibilities, both noble and dire.

*Is that really a word, do you think?
derek_holland Sep 1 2006, 20:04 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
And then there is the octospiders from the later books in the Rama series. They use starfish like critters to produce electricity, fly-spies and I forgot the others.

Author

Humans have been very proficient at creating new symbiotic relationships; it's one of our earliest technologies in fact.


Even before we were sapient- we would die without some of them (like our instestinal fauna). The current problem with technology right now is that much of the genetic engineering is it aims towards more profit in sales (plants resistant to herbicides mostly).

Author

one potential pitfall is the reduction of women to "walking uterus" status


At the point where we can grow technology in people, I doubt it will be just women who can be hosts. In fact I doubt that sex and gender will be anything like it is today.

Author

Derek, you did it again. My mind is afizz with possibilities, both noble and dire.


Not I; babomb was the one who started this with a dream. Though your statement reminds me of one by Kamikaze Midget:

Author

This has a lot of cool zygotic ideas floating around in it...I'ma bust out a straw and have a sip.
derek_holland Sep 2 2006, 11:40 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
I just thought of a varient of the cloudeater from Machines and Mutants (a bot that converts air pollution to useful items): a giant snail that consumes Ancient material (inc broken artifacts) and leaves the new items in mucus sacks along its slimy path. The Restorationists would try to control every snail they could find. Wars would start over these critters since they are much more accessible than the cloudeaters.

I wonder how much behavior control can be done genetically. Could dogs be made to fear humans they don't know (excluding police attack dogs)? What about submissive human slaves used for physical labor and things that need medium levels of thought (like controllers at airports and warehouse managers)?
TerroX Sep 2 2006, 11:50 Group: A.Net Staff, Admin of Doom Quote Post
I used some bio-tech in the first PL7 campaign I ran, example http://alternityrpg.net/viewonline.php?rid...g-example1.html - although I never statted out any objects but made them up on the fly as they were uncovered as relics. Easier and more mysterious, or maybe have some rought stats ready but try not to nail anything down too much until it is needed.
derek_holland Sep 2 2006, 14:23 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
I was looking at rpg.net for biotech stuff and found this for a totally different look on the subject:

http://wiki.rpg.net/index.php/ATHANATOS:_Main_Page
derek_holland Sep 5 2006, 21:41 Group: Heroes, Master of Mutant Creation Quote Post
Author (uncle_jimbo @ Aug 31 2006, 22:17)
...its potential to infect and transform users (or subjects), breaking down any clear distinction between technology and the user.

I was thinking of this and there are some interesting aspects for terraforming- convert the local biochemistry into the colonizers'.

If behavior can be strongly affected by genetics, why not cow a rebellious or enemy planet or population? Or turn them into livestock if their species is distasteful?

The method of introducing the virus or nanites that cause the changes doesn't have to be a spray or dumped in the local water supply. Facehuggers, wasps that introduce the virus via the venom sack, vines that form galls around the target species, robot orbs that roll around shooting darts, bioroids (talk about a STD) or even new pet breeds. Any other ideas?
Starbrat Sep 5 2006, 22:35 Group: Grid Cop, Moderator AI Quote Post
Don't forget the side-effects, as well as occasional immunities, sensitivities and occasional unforeseen reactions, Also, don't forget mutation, which will affect both viruses and nanites. Your agent will only be reliable for a couple of generations. After that it'll get very interesting.
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