troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Tabletop Game: Transhuman Space
The Main Book Cover. See the note on Art-Style Dissonance.
In the last decade of the 21st century, humanity faced two of its greatest challenges. The first was the transformation from a single, evolved species to a multitude of artificial races. The second was the settlement of the vast reaches of the solar system. Away from the prying eyes of Earth, space-going transnationals developed technologies that governments feared to investigate but could not ignore, while bizarre posthuman cultures bloomed like exotic flowers. It was a time of wealth and adventure, of transformation and terror. It was the age of Transhuman Space.
from the Introduction to Transhuman Space.

Transhuman Space is a Hard Science Fiction role-playing game setting for GURPS, published by Steve Jackson Games. It features a lot of advanced biotech, "wet" (biologically-based) nanotech, the colonisation of the Solar System (including the terraforming of Mars), human personalities uploaded to computers, advanced artificial intelligence, and a politically multi-polar world.


This RPG setting provides examples of:

  • Animal Wrongs Group: Many Preservationist organizations such as the anti-gengineering terrorist group Blue Shadow and anti-terraforming Europa Defense Front.
  • Arm Cannon: Present in a realistic version of the mundane type, in the form of "weapon pods"; forearm-mounted modules, usually with two different guns integrated into them. (In fact, these appear in the game because one or two discussions of possible future infantry equipment at the time of its publication actually included the idea.)
  • Artificial Gravity: Scrupulously averted. The only way to get (pseudo-)gravity in (Transhuman) space is by the appropriately hard SF means of acceleration or spin — and although a few spacecraft have "spin pods", most space travellers have to get used to not having gravity. Advanced biotech and nanotech are used to negate the negative medical effects, where necessary.
  • Artificial Human: Bioroids — biological androids.
  • Artificial Zombie:
    • "Necromorph bioshells" are brain-dead but otherwise functional or repairable corpses (sometimes deliberately created by killing unfortunate victims in a controlled manner) with the brain replaced by a computer, usually then operated by a compliant AI. The trope is usually averted in the sense that the AI is usually as reliable as any in the setting, giving the "zombie" no particular reason to misbehave — unless it's programmed malevolently, perhaps to use the necromorph as a terror weapon.
    • Certainly, necromorphs, and indeed most human-looking AI-controlled bioshells, are regarded with suspicion in parts of the setting, being more or less regarded as horrific zombies.
    • The one exception, in some places, is a bioshell body controlled by the digital ghost of the formerly-organic-living person on whom it was based. Of course, if the ghost proves defective, you may have something of a scientifically-created zombie on your hands.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: Many of the setting's fans consider that it suffered from this problem, as the art in early books in the line seemed to imply a much higher level of Body Horror than the writers intended.
  • Asteroid Miners: There are some around, though this aspect of Solar System development is less emphasised than in some settings.
  • Attack Drone: With robotics this advanced, a lot of warfare is inevitably conducted by automated systems of one sort or another. Some, such as spacefaring Autonomous Kill Vehicles (AKVs), can also ram if required, making them into Recursive Ammo.
  • Balkanize Me: There are many "free cities", and Canada has become a patchwork of countries, some of which are EU members. The US hasn't splintered, but many states have; there are now 60, some of which are free cities within the union. (Most of Washington, conversely, is now part of Maryland; the District of Columbia barely extends beyond the White House.)
  • Big Red Button: The "C-Brown" cybershell (robot body) is designed for perfectly innocuous purposes — as a gardening tool. However, this means that it mounts a faintly scary array of clippers and shears. Rather than spending too much effort trying to convince the public that this is an entirely safe piece of machinery, the manufacturers install big red off buttons on the front and back of the cybershell.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Biomods.
  • Boarding Pod: "Microgravity Assault Vehicles" exist in the setting, although they're not expected to be used in every space battle — and boarding actions are noted as being tricky and dangerous.
  • Body Horror: Evoked by the art in some of the early books, which appears to have been created by someone with a more negative view of the setting than many of the writers. That said, there are incidental details throughout the books that show that some biotechnologists in the setting take their work into more or less squicky territory.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Pretty much the only cybernetics still in common use.
  • Brain Uploading: Two kinds; "Ghosts" where the brain is destroyed in the process, and "Shadows", where the brain survives but the AI simulation is an unreliable model at best.
  • Cat Girl:
    • See the Felicia-model bodyguard bioroid (sort of an organic robot built out of flesh and nanotech systems, as opposed to a grown organism with its own genome). Though they don't necessarily have to be girls; catboys are an option as well.
    • There are also other catgirl bioroid models, built purely as sex toys rather than for combat. Getting them confused is a great way to annoy a Felicia.
    • Author David Pulver seems to put catgirls into every GURPS setting he writes for. His excuse is that there's a large subset of GURPS players who always want to be a catgirl, regardless of setting.
  • China Takes Over the World: It's the main military power, with the EU as generally the most advanced technological power. America is a close second for both. China's most frequent and direct antagonist on Earth, though, is the "Transpacific Socialist Alliance". (It gets complicated there.) Also, China has taken over half of Mars.
  • Cloning Body Parts: Cybernetics are considered obsolete. Nearly everyone waits a couple of weeks for a cloned body part instead of just printing off a prosthesis.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Polyhymnia, from the published scenario of the same name, is so exclusive that it doesn't have a Wannabe Line, because the Wannabes never know where it is. It's constantly moving, and constantly changing who it's aimed at, but clever memetics ensure that the "right" people get drawn to it, seemingly by coincidence.
  • Cult Colony: A few eccentric cults have orbital or asteroid communities, although these tend to look more like bases (resembling monasteries or mansions) than full-scale colonies.
  • Dateline: "Teralogos News" is a major news corporation in the setting, and a collection of Teralogos News reports is available for free online as support material for the game line. These come complete with classic-style datelines, and include the occasional Human Interest Story, drama reviews, and so on, as well as actual news stories.
  • Death Is Cheap: Infomorphs get the "Extra Life" trait to represent backups, and even flesh and blood humans have a chance of surviving things that would kill them in most settings — albeit possibly only as software.
  • Decade Dissonance: One of the core themes of the game is that, while technology has advanced at lightning speed, much of the world has been left behind and the technology in many areas hasn't advanced much from today's. So while one country might be an advanced Fifth Wave utopia, its neighbor might be a poverty-ridden hellhole.
  • DRM: DRM in Transhuman Space is, in contrast to Real Life, pretty uniformly ahead of the crackers for several reasons (mainly because if it were easy to steal technology, the Transpacific Socialist Alliance wouldn't be the backwater that it is).
  • Drop Ship: A few such vehicles exist, although the dangers of attempting a landing in the face of hostile fire on planets such as Earth are generally overwhelming. Funnily enough, perhaps the most noted users of drop ships, specifically called such, are a humanitarian rescue organisation, who don't usually have to worry about being shot at on the way down.
  • Easy Sex Change: Explicitly a feature of the setting, thanks to the general level of advanced biotechnology, and quite a few people are said to take advantage, permanently or temporarily. However, it doesn't seem to come up much in the game beyond the initial mention.
  • Fantastic Racism: Against bioroids, artificial intelligences, ghosts, animal uplifts... although each society tends to have different biases.
  • Five-Man Band: The line of Personnel Files supplements, providing ready-made PC groups, include a number some that fit this trope fairly well:
    • Personnel Files 2: Leader, Rachel Patel; Lancer, Professor Lawson; Big Guy, Steven Smith; Smart Guy, ASTRAKAHN-Delta; Chick, Sally Westerham.
    • Personnel Files 4: Leader, Diego Hughes; Lancer, Paul Chung; Big Guy, Charlie Mallinson; Smart Guy, OVERSIGHT; Chick, Paz Ramirez.
    • Personnel Files 5: Leader, Mike Harris; Lancer, Denise Walsh; Big Guy, Dave Sheckley (or rather, perhaps, his Robot Buddy Charlie); Smart Guy, Ian Chakrabarti; Chick, Catherine Moltby.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Bigger military spacecraft often mount "spinal" particle accelerator weapons. (A particle accelerator has to be a long straight tube, and the rules permit these to be between 50 and 400 feet long, so more flexible mounts are infeasible.) Smaller fighters and the like also usually have fixed weapons, for much the same reasons as they do today.
  • That Future Food Is Artificial is probably inevitable in a high-biotech future, at least in places.
  • Girl Next Door: Among the various designs of companion/sex-toy bioroids, one type is specifically designed to match this stereotype. Some customers in the setting want that.
  • Good Is Boring: Somewhat averted, in that this sets out to be a fairly psychologically realistic setting with no moustache-twirling villains; the implicit assumption is that stories can be interesting without the presence of blatant evil. However, there are still some quite horrible or merely weird things going on. Wings of the Rising Sun, a supplement about a Rescue organisation, makes a definite effort to avert the trope; the organisation is so sincere it's almost worrying.
  • Homing Projectile: With advanced computing and widespread microtechnology, even handgun bullets can have some homing capability.
  • Human Subspecies: Several, ranging from "upgrades" that have slight improvements and are still interfertile with ordinary humans, to "parahumans" that are effectively different species and include adaptations to life underwater, microgravity, or a semi-terraformed Mars.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Infomorph characters (artificial intelligences and ghosts) are able to store backups of themselves on secure servers — so if their current incarnations die, they can easily be restored (though they do lose their memories of everything that happened since the last backup).
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The trope is front and centre here. Personal laser weapons suffer from power supply problems, whereas bullets still work just fine. However, vehicles can carry their own power plants, which can be sufficient to power useful energy weapons — and spacecraft especially don't have to worry with problems about beam weapons in atmosphere. So the trope is enforced less at that scale.
  • Laser Sight: The settings's advanced firearms tend to include all sorts of aids as standard, including this.
  • Lens Flare shows up in some of the art, notably in Spacecraft of the Solar System. This has sometimes irritated some fans, who feel that it doesn't suit the hard SF style of the setting.
  • Libertarians In Space: The "Duncanite" communities of the Asteroid Belt are trying to live this trope. Governments elsewhere in the setting mostly seem to regard them as a negligible nuisance at worst, and are expanding into space vigorously enough that the Duncanites will probably have either to compromise their ideals or withdraw to the outer solar system quite soon.
  • Living Toys: With the advanced AI, robotics, and microbot technology, this trope is trivial to instantiate. However, small toys don't generally have the computer capacity to run self-aware AI.
  • Longevity Treatment: There are a couple of nanosymbionts that extend life expectancy by ten years or so each. Rejuvenation is expensive and unreliable, but actually reverses aging.
  • Made of Iron: Submissa series bioroids are canonically intended for BDSM play; they're actually tougher than the Spartan series Super Soldier bioroids. The effect is less pronounced in Fourth Edition (due to Hit Points being calculated from Strength, not Health).
  • Magnetic Weapons: Railguns and coilguns show up in the setting as vehicular weapons. Personal firearms can't incorporate big enough batteries to make them more useful than chemical-propellent slugthrowers, but vehicle power plants are up to the job.
  • Middle Eastern Coalition: The Islamic Caliphate.
  • Neo-Africa: Most of the world is preppy Post-Cyberpunk, but bits of Africa are still fairly straight Cyberpunk.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Largely averted, though various societies ban some transhumanist technologies — the Islamic Caliphate bans ghosts, the European Union bans radical human genetic engineering, and so on.
  • One-Gender Race: Hyppolyta parahumans, created for a female-separatist space station. Ironically, gender identities have become a lot more fluid since the station was founded, and it's now very easy to switch sex with modern technology, making sexual separatism increasingly meaningless.
  • Post Cyber Punk: This is a game setting from the turn of the millennium.
  • Power Trio: The Personnel Files supplement, which provides a number of pregenerated PC groups, includes several trios that can fit various sub-tropes in interesting ways:
  • Ramming Always Works: Occasionally invoked in-setting, as "Autonomous Kill Vehicles", essentially miniature robot space fighters, are often deployed from larger military ships — and although they carry weapons of their own, they can be instructed to ram if their target has sufficiently high value.
  • Remote Body: A central component of the setting. People, especially AIs, rent (rarely purchase) cybershells designed for their environment or the job they're doing at the moment.
  • Rescue: The supplement Wings of the Rising Sun details the NKKC (Japan Emergency Rescue Agency), with a view to it being the centerpiece of a campaign. In such games, some scenarios at least would involve no antagonists other than natural disasters or accidents.
  • Robot Buddy: Virtually everyone who isn't flat broke or weird has one or more AI assistants, sometimes running on portable or implanted computers but sometimes installed in autonomous robot bodies — so there are a lot of robot buddies around.
  • Robot Dog: At least one of the many "cybershell" body types available to run AI software on is the "Cyberdog."
  • Robot Girl: The thousand-and-one varieties of "cybershell" inevitably include some made to look like attractive female humans — sometimes for relatively innocent reasons, sometimes not.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: Present as the result of genetic engineering and biotechnology. Unmodified cetaceans are treated reasonably realistically, by current knowledge.
  • Sewer Gator: The urban legend has developed into the Lurker Below, a huge alligator-like creature with writhing tentacles along its back, supposedly created by experimental biotech being flushed into the sewers and altering whatever's already down there.
  • Sleeper Starship: "Nanostasis" is routinely used to save on life support during interplanetary voyages, although nobody has attempted manned interstellar flight yet.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: We have non-sapient AI (NAI), low-sapient AI (LAI), and Sapient AI (SAI). Also, baseline AI template IQ is dependent on program complexity.
  • Space Elevator: One on Mars, and another being built on Earth.
  • Space Base: A few of the space stations in the setting, especially out in the asteroid belt, are occupied by people who would rate as villainous enough to move them into this category. Many people in-setting would rate all "Red Duncanite" stations as villain bases. However, any weapons mounted on such bases tend to be for defensive purposes.
  • Space Fighter: Present in the unusual form of "Autonomous Kill Vehicles" (AKVs) — essentially miniature robot fighters which can double as kinetic-kill missiles when circumstances demand it. Hence, any ace space fighter pilots in the setting must be computer programs.
  • Space Marine: Present and correct, mostly for raids on asteroid bases and space stations. Hence, Transhuman Space Marines may end up seeing much more combat in police actions than in full-scale warfare — but they are still tough characters in power armour.
  • Space Navy: Most significant nations have some kind of space force in the setting; some of these see themselves as more naval than others. For example, the U.S. Air Force has kept the Navy out of space operations, and won't let anyone forget it, whereas Britain's Royal Navy has carried its traditions out in the Solar System. China has the People's Liberation Army Navy Space Force, or "PLAN-SF" (allowing a geeky in-joke in the setting books).
  • Space Plane: Technology in this setting doesn't really favour horizontal take-off, single-stage-to-orbit operations, but there are a few hypersonic sub-orbital "Transatmospheric Vehicles" ("TAVs") used for passenger transport between locations on Earth, and military forces have "Transatmospheric Combat Air Vehicles" ("TCAVs") — essentially hypersonic in-atmosphere fighters, some of which can just about reach low Earth orbit.
  • Space Station: There are a large number, of varying sizes, in Earth orbit, and a few elsewhere.
  • Stealth in Space: Averted, in that the problems with space stealth are generally fully acknowledged in the setting material. This in turn leads to a roleplaying setting with space travel but limited scope for space piracy, as law enforcement can track pirates from the other side of the Solar System (though there's a little of it going on, using trickery and keeping a low profile), which some gamers seem to find frustrating.
  • Straw Feminist: A trope that is played with in the depiction of "Margaret", a space station founded by radical feminists which only permits female biological visitors or residents. It's generally accepted in-setting that, in a solar system where people can and do change sex temporarily for fairly trivial reasons, and the big civil rights debates involve artificial intelligences and biological androids, the Margaretians are still fighting the last century's battles. They aren't depicted as wildly stupid, just stubbornly out of date. They are respected for their women's self-defense classes, which produce some of the most formidable human martial artists in the solar system.
  • Technically Living Zombie: In the "Orbital Decay" scenario, this is caused by a combination of three nanoviruses. One causes living flesh to rot, one is intended to create shock troops, and a third decreases intelligence and makes the infected go berserk.
  • Terraform: The Duncanites were driven off Mars for starting this without the permission of any of the colonizing countries; the Green Duncanites are now attempting to terraform Europa and are at war with a group of environmentalists. By 2100 Mars is not quite Earth-like, but specially adapted parahumans or people with the appropriate biomods can survive without an environment suit.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Kazakhstan is ruled by the terrifying Sergei Zarubayev, who uses a vaguely plausible but very totalitarian philosophy to justify the creation of a surveillance state in which the secret police use advanced technology to play with the minds and perceptions of anyone they choose.
  • Transhumanism: Half the title, and at least half the point of the setting.
  • Underwater Base: Various groups with various policies have underwater bases of various sizes in the setting; the most exotic are deep in the ice-covered oceans of Europa, a moon of Jupiter, where a miniature war is being fought for the future of the moon.
  • Underwater City: Elandra, an Australian-founded "free city" under the Pacific, is more of a town, but a respectably-sized one.
  • Unwanted False Faith:
    • Singularitism, which began as a joke; about half the congregation actually buys it. The other half is trying very hard to let them down easy.
    • The Church of Sol is a similar but smaller case that started as a harmless legal dodge.
  • Uplifted Animal: Aplenty. Cats, dogs, dolphins, apes, octopodes...
  • Uranus Is Showing: The early development chats featured a great deal of amusement at the concept of the gas mines of Uranus; said mines (which provide helium-3 for fusion reactors) made it into the finished product, but thankfully none of the giggling did.
  • Urban Legends: The game assumes that urban legends not only endure in 2100, but in a world of high-speed, all-pervasive computer networks with occasional prankster "memetic engineers" on the loose, the phenomenon can be even stronger than in the present day. The Toxic Memes supplement describes some widespread or interesting examples.
  • Used Future: A lot of the tech is new and shiny, but where it's used and shabby, the fact is acknowledged. The Broken Dreams supplement discusses the topic in detail.
  • Walking the Earth: ''Personnel Files 3'' provides a group of four pregenerated player characters who are basically walking the earth of East Africa in 2100, albeit with an eventual goal. Depending how games went, the one human in the group could be regarded as a low-end Knight Errant or as The Drifter.
  • Wetware Body: Bioshells.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Legal attitudes vary greatly by country. Usually, AIs and uplifts are property and bioroids are treated as more or less permanent minors, while ghosts and parahumans are full citizens, but there are numerous exceptions and variations. For example the EU gives full citizenship to bioroids and SAIs, while the Caliphate treats SAIs as people and ghosts as abominations, for theological reasons discussed in Broken Dreams.
  • Whodunnit to Me is always a possible scenario plot in a setting where recently dead people with intact brains can be uploaded to computer, and digital intelligences can be restored from backup. For example, the scenario "In The Walls", in the supplement Cities on the Edge, is about a "ghost" (uploaded intelligence) who was murdered but restored. He's annoyed about that, but livid that his backups have been tampered with, meaning he has no memories of the past six months.

GURPS SupersTabletopGame/GURPS SettingsBook of the New Sun
GURPS SupersTabletop GamesHackmaster

alternative title(s): Transhuman Space
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
48117
31