Modular Cyberware: Neuralware

   Cyberware in Shadowrun tends to be awfully standardized. Despite hundreds of companies, and thousands of individual physicians and tinkerers, there really aren’t very many items available. That never seemed especially satisfactory somehow – so we broke the stuff down into subsystems and let people design their own cyberware, mixing and matching as needed to produce just the system they wanted. In this case we’re covering Basic Neuralware – the items designed to interface directly with the central nervous system. Computerized augmentations – intelligence boosters, biofeedback enhancers, and so on – are basically simply programs, and can run on either dedicated special-purpose processors or on dedicated systems. In either case, they are add-ons to basic Neuralware systems.


System Elements


Function At A Glance



Allows limited Activesoft use.



Suppresses selected brain centers.

Direct Neural Interface


Allows mental control of devices



Stimulates selected brain centers.

Knowsoft Link


Allows use of Knowsofts.



Allows use of ActiveSofts

  -Mark 40 Rating 1-3


Allows use of (1x Rating) total skills

  -Mark 40 Rating 4-6


Allows use of (1x Rating) total skills

  -Mark 50 Rating 1-4


Allows the use of (2x Max Rating) total skills

  -Mark 50 Rating 5-8


Allows the use of (2x Max Rating) total skills

  -Mark 60 Rating 1-12


Allows unlimited skillsoft use



Converts thoughts to computer data


   Actlinks relay activesoft directives to the user’s motor centers. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well; the effective rating of the `soft is halved – and is still limited to the user’s (Unaugmented “related” attribute)/2 (Round down in both cases). This is why skillwires were invented; Actlinks didn’t work at all well for anyone lacking exceptional natural talent, and had severe limits even then. There is one exception; Riggers need not divide either the rating or the base attribute by two as long as they’re using a skillsoft to direct something through a VCR. They are, however, still limited to a maximum effective skillsoft rating equal to the base attribute.

   Coldwire; See “Hotwire”.

   Direct Neural Interfaces translate neural commands into electronic ones and transmit them to other devices via a basic fiber-optic network. Operated in reverse, the system can relay electronic impulses to the brain – although it can usually only interpert simsense and/or biofeedback signals properly. Thanks to the immense data-transmission capacity of fiber optic systems, it is a simple matter to connect additional systems; one simply uses a standard tap. For those with a lot of cybersystems to link up, it may be advisable to add a dedicated microcomputer (.1 Ess) to keep the signal routing straight. A few people use a secondary system so that they can isolate some items from the primary.

   Hotwires and Coldwires either stimulate (Hotwire) or suppress (Coldwire) specific brain centers located in the Hind- (Level I. Responsible for body regulation, pleasure, pain, fight-or-flight responses and so on), Mid- (Level II. Responsible for complex emotions, the voluntary motor centers, switching between sleeping and waking states, most sexual responses, and instinctive behavior), and Fore- (Level III. Conscious memory and thought, mathematics, music, language, imagination, and most “higher” functions) Brain. As a general rule, an appropriate wire stimulus provides a bonus/penalty of up to +/-2 (Dice or target number) on “relevant” acts OR will induce/enhance a particular behavior pattern/ physiological mechanism. Unfortunately, while neural centers can safely be suppressed almost indefinitely, stimulating them will fatigue them fairly quickly. If the tactic is overused, neural damage may result. (While the information on the brain’s divisions is not entirely accurate, it’ll do for game purposes. It must also be noted that some behavior patterns – such as “berserker rage” – can have drastic effects on the character’s capabilities).

   Knowsoft Links are described in the basic book.

   Skillwires come in a variety of styles. Old 2040’s systems (Mark-40’s), the 2050’s Skillwire Plus system (Mark-50’s) – and current 2060’s systems (Mark-60’s). They have, not unexpectedly, become more effective as time passes and improvements are made.

   Skillwires are a problem. For non-mages, skills are one of the primary ways to individualize a character. They’re also one of two basic “sinks” for good karma. Seeking out and interacting with an instructor offers many interesting roleplaying opportunities.
   Skillwires ruin all of that. Nobody likes it much when some bozo with `wires and a pocket full of chips demonstrates that learning skills was a waste of time and karma. While someone with a very high skill will still outshine said bozo, they’re far less versatile.
   On the other hand, skillwires have been part of SR since the beginning. Given the technology level they seem like a reasonable item. This leaves the GM with something of a dilemma. Possible solutions include:

  1. Forbidding skillwires. This may be accomplished thru GM fiat, raising NY/Essence costs to prohibitive levels, or simply by vetoing characters designed with them. Simple, if not entirely satisfactory.
  2. Reducing their effectiveness. The rules already provide for this in one form by forbidding the use of dice pools in conjunction with `soft-derived skills.
  3. Making them difficult to find. The easiest way to do so is to set their “availability” at 2x(Rating) rather then (Rating). This is a recommended solution. It leaves them available and versatile – but unlikely to overshadow the other characters, since their users won’t be able to start out with high level `wires and will have a difficult time getting them later.

   Transducers “convert” higher-order brain functions into computer data formats. At L1 they can convert the relatively simple patterns of the speech centers – an effect close to pure telepathy. At L2 it can generate visual images as the user envisions them – and at L3+ it can convert memories, dreams, and even patterns of neuromuscular responses, into usable formats, such as “Skillsofts” (Maximum rating equals the system rating minus two, the process requires at least a week).

4 Responses

  1. A quick question about hot/cold wires: are these universal or specific? as in if I buy hot wires for one purpose, do I have to buy them again for another aplication in the same level of the brain?


    if I buy rank 3 hot wires, do I need to buy any more hot wires ever again?

  2. Unfortunately, they’re specific to particular brain centers. For example, you can buy Hotwires that induce berserker rage (an unsophisticated L1 neural function, .05 essence and very effective for it – and also very dangerous to use), andone that enhances your ability with mathemetics and computations (a handy function, costing .15 essence). Coldwires are a little more involved to install, since shutting down a neural center is more complicated than stimulating it, but are just as specific. Nevertheless, the ability to shut down pain on command can be quite useful – or lead to the user ignoring the fact that they’re dying.

  3. […] Neuralware: Prices in newyen? Are they different than similar items in the […]

  4. For some questions…

    (1) Prices in newyen? Are they different than similar items in the books? I am mostly sure hot and coldwires are not in any of them.

    -Considering that getting it involves delicate brain surgery, Neuralware is astonishingly cheap. Apparently getting someone to interface a computer with your brain costs about the same as getting your ears bobbed, and less than a fingertip compartment, a pocket secretary, or an electric scooter.

    Actlink: 5000 NY.

    Coldwire: Neural Level (one to three) x 2000 NY

    Direct Neural Interface: 500 NY (Listed in the sourcebooks, but not at all the same thing or the same price. This version is basically a component of a standard datajack; the one in the books is a pointless add-on to various pieces of equipment; if you want a data-translator get a central microprocessor for it).

    Hotwire: Neural Level (one to three) x 1000 NY

    Knowsoft Link: 1000 NY (From the basic book).

    Skillwires: In first and second edition the cost was R1-3 x10 KNY, R4-6 x 100 KNY, and R7+ x 1 MNY. The rules were drastically revised – essentially making high-end wires unavailable and low-end ones much cheaper – in third edition. I’m using the older structures, since they’re simpler and scale better. I’m also using the Availability = 2x Rating rule, so if you want to start with Skillwires above R3 you’ll need to take an appropriate advantage. Since we’re starting in the mid-2050’s, Mark-60 skillwires are not available at all, but the prices on Mark-40 systems are currently down about 25% and their availability rating is reduced by 2.

    Transducer: Rating x 2000 NY (Rating-1 Transducers are found in the sourcebooks, but these are drastically revised).

    (2) Spells on plants: do normal spells work on plants? (heal, nutrition, Increase attribute for ones they have…)

    -Normal spells do, indeed, work on plants just fine. As of yet, no one has publicly reported an experiments with using boosting spells to give them attributes they don’t normally have. Most people who want to do that use transformation spells instead.

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