The Transhuman ideal is to use science and engineering – nanotechnology, genetic engineering, bioengineering, computers, space-time manipulation, and technologies as yet undreamed – of – to transcend the physical and mental limitations of humanity.
First up comes prevention and repair – cures for diseases and disabilities, including aging and “natural death”. Then comes physical and mental augmentations – enhanced durability, the ability to survive in a wider range of environments, improved immune and self-repair abilities, mind-computer interfaces, all the “cybernetic implants” so beloved of science-fiction writers and – in most projections – a post-scarcity moneyless economy* based on programmable nanites that can build almost anything you want and near-limitless energy sources.
*There may well be some method or organizing an economy that works better than “money”. The concept of “money” was, after all, just an invention – and led to other inventions, such as compound interest and credit cards. What might that method be? If I knew that I’d be something (and I’ve no idea what) BETTER than rich. That is sort of the point of inventions: you can’t tell what they’re going to be or how they’re going to work before the fact.
After, or alongside of, all that comes superhuman intelligence, artificial intelligence, mind-recording and duplication, the ability to discard old bodies in favor of new ones designed for specific purposes, and the fruits of applied superhuman intellects – the elimination of involuntary death, the uplifting of other species to full sapience and participation in society, the ability to do multiple things at once and consider multiple points of view, and (let us hope) the elimination of most suffering – although even the most ardent proponents of Transhumanism agree that the old human problems will probably give way to new post-human problems that we cannot yet comprehend. Ultimately, of course, the goal is immortality, near-infinite intellect, and godlike power.
Is all of this possible? Well, it certainly looks like at least some of the first two steps – prevention and repair, and at least some degree of physical and mental augmentation, are practical enough. On the other hand, it might not be possible to go much beyond that. There may well be hard limits to science and technology built into the way the universe operates; the laws of nature may not have any major surprises left even now. A sufficiently great intellect might really be able to comprehend the ultimate futility of existence, and thus be inherently too depressed to do anything but self-destruct. Perhaps transhumans would develop vices and emotional instabilities beyond anything that we can currently comprehend, and destroy us all. Perhaps there’s some reason why minds cannot be duplicated. Perhaps it’s just bad luck; as technology advances further and further, it becomes more and more possible for a simple error to destroy the entire species – and EVENTUALLY those odds come up (the Fermi Paradox has to get it’s shot in there somehow).
There’s no way to know; the entire point of the idea is that we – as unimproved humans – are unable to comprehend the things an augmented intellect might come up with.
For our purposes, there’s no point in trying to game in a genuine trans-human setting. Gaming really doesn’t work when no one at the table – including the game master – comprehends what’s going on or what the issues are.
What we can do is extrapolate just a bit. It’s kind of hard to play someone who’s supposed to be smarter than you are, but who’s actual intelligence varies with the hardware that’s currently supporting their mind – but in a game we can just fall back on ignoring actual intelligence in favor of die-roll modifiers. Similarly, being nigh-immortal, stronger, faster, and tougher are easy enough to handle. Having a character be inhumanly calm and fast-thinking is easy when the player isn’t actually involved in a dangerous situation and has minutes rather than seconds to think in. We can ignore the overly-complex “facts” in favor of symbols representing them and we can ignore complex problems in favor of relatively simple menaces. After all, we’re interested in an exciting game, not in a detailed analysis of complex social and scientific problems.
So; we want a setting suspended on the edge of a true transhuman future; advanced enough to let us justify a bit of wish-fulfillment, but still close enough to the current human race to understand what’s going on. We need challenges large enough to challenge our low-grade superhumans, but not strong enough to simply sweep them aside. In such a world what defines being human, and how can you know when you’ve left it behind?
We want attribute enhancements, access to cyberware or genetic enhancements of choice, the ability for well-prepared characters to return from death and to swap bodies for others with varying physical abilities, and a partially post-cash economy based on favors. Some sort of vague “wealth” or “reputation” rating is usually assumed, along with a massive and near omni-present computer network – but that isn’t part of the personal template. We’ll either have to presume that our setting is transient or that there are limiting factors which pretty much bring “progress” to a halt in this setting.
As a note, this should sound pretty familiar to those playing in the Federation-Apocalypse setting. It’s a lot wider than most transhuman settings – since it covers an entire multiverse – but most of this is dealt with there. Of course, it’s not quite as general as we’re looking for here: we want a template that can be carried over into a basic d20 campaign, and some of the Federation-Apocalypse details are in the world template.
Anyway, I’ve been asked to make a Transhuman Template that will work in a general d20 game. Given that the entire notion revolves around external technologies, rather than any form of innate power, that’s going to be a little awkward. It’s also going to be even more awkward because such visions of the future vary enormously, ergo most of the abilities are going to have to be generic. Oh well, here it is. Like most Eclipse templates, it’s usable either as a race (at +1 ECL) or as an acquired template (at +2 ECL).
All attributes are considered Corrupted multiplying their base values by 1.5. Unfortunately, they are limited by the current body – and getting one that can handle a transhuman character’s full potential is very expensive. In fact, Transhumans will often have to settle for an available body that can’t even handle their basic pre-multiplier attributes. Worse, bodies can come with flaws, weird chemical dependencies, and awkward implants (0 CP).
Unique Returning, Corrupted/character may lose memories acquired since his or her last backup if his or her neural network is not recovered and may have trouble adjusting to a new body – requiring a Will save with a DC based on how exotic the body is to avoid taking 1d4 Wisdom damage when placed in a new body (12 CP).
Minor Favors with a particular group (3 CP).
Major Favors with the characters favored group (6 CP)
Major Favors Specialized for Increased Effect/only usable once every three months (6 CP).
Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, for 2 SP/Level (6 CP).
Enthusiast: Corrupted and Specialized/the points can only be re-allocated when the character gets a new body, they can only be spent on physically-based augmentations such as cyberware, bio-enhancements, and similar abilities, and the number of points which can be spent are limited by the characters current resources or by whatever body he or she is issued. 30 CP worth of abilities (30 CP).
And there you are: with that package you can keep coming back in a wildly different body – sometimes with superhuman attributes in various areas, sometimes with inferior ones, sometimes with physical problems, and sometimes in multiple versions…