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Morph Variant Rules

Thanks to the capitalist inclinations of the hypercorp system, morphs are not only traded as valuable commodities, but as luxury goods for demanding consumers. While the majority of transhumanity has to settle for a stock splicer, flat, or case morph, many transhumans look for something that will help them stand out of the crowd. Knock-offs, variants, and limited edition models of popular morph lines thrive in the marketplace. The following optional rules introduce more variety into the game and can be used in any kind of campaign.

Knock-Offs

Knock-off morphs are designed to resemble the stock version of a popular morph brand, with just enough cosmetic changes (exotic coloration or other bits of cosmetic flair) to avoid legal challenges by the brand-name morph’s manufacturer. Their primary advantage is to undercut the price of the brand-name version, thus offering a cheaper alternative. The drawback is that they sometimes come with a social stigma attached and may be of inferior quality. Many knock-offs are not just equal quality, but essentially the same as the brand-name version, as they are constructed using the same minifactories, blueprints, or pirated genetics as the originals. In markets where the brand-name version cannot be sold or easily acquired (whether for cultural, legal, or political reasons), local entrepreneurs may introduce a knock-off to fill the demand at the brand-name’s market price.

In game terms, knock-offs are offered at a 10% cheaper Cost, but have the Social Stigma (Knock-off) trait. The knock-off version of a brand-name exalt, which normally retails at an Expensive Cost (20,000), would sell for 18,000. When a character acquires a new knock-off morph, the player rolls a Moxie x 10 Test and consults the Knock-off Test table:

Knock-Off Test

Result Modifications
Failure Social Stigma (Knock-off) and –5 to one randomly-selected aptitude
Severe Failure (MoF 30+) Social Stigma (Knock-off) and choose one: –10 to one aptitude, Aggressive GRM, Drug Fiend, Frail (Level 1), Genetic Defect (Level 1), Lemon, Neural Damage, Personality Artifact, Proprietary Tech, Severe Allergy (Level 1), Unattractive (Level 1), Uncontrollable Urge, Unfit (Level 1), Weak Immune System (Level 1), Zero-G Nausea
Critical Failure Social Stigma (Knock-off) and choose two from Severe Failure (above) or one from this list: Frail (Level 2), Genetic Defect (Level 2), Low Pain Tolerance, Severe Allergy (Level 2), Unattractive (Level 2), Unfit (Level 2), Weak Immune System (Level 2)
Success Social Stigma (Knock-off)
Excellent Success (MoS 30+) Social Stigma (Knock-off), but tests to determine the morph’s knock-off status suffer a –30 modifier.
Critical Success As Excellent Success (above) and choose one of the following traits: Drug Exception, Improved Immune System (Level 1), Limber (Level 1), Pain Tolerance (Level 1), Rapid Healer, Skill Artifact, Striking Looks (Level 1), or Tough (Level 1). Alternatively, one negative trait may be removed from this morph (but not the Social Stigma (Knock-Off) trait).
Note that some traits are only applicable to certain types of morphs (synthmorphs cannot take Rapid Healer, for example).

Analyzing a morph to determine if it is a knock-off requires an Excellent Success (MoS 30+) on a visual test (see Identifying Morphs, above), but can be more accurately ascertained with proper genetics or diagnostics tests as noted. Morph brokers who sell knock-offs do not like customers testing their product beforehand and will usually disallow or discourage it.

Knock-off morphs do not provide any social skill bonuses or penalties unique to that exact type of morph unless the viewer is fooled by the counterfeit. For example, a knock-off of a Futura morph would only provide modifiers based on its connection to the Lost Generation if the viewer thought it was an actual futura. Social modifiers based on the general morph type (biomorph, synthmorph, pod) still apply to the knock-off.

To make a Knock-Off test, make a Moxie x 10 Test and check the result on the Knock-Off Test table.

Variants

Variant morphs are modifications of existing stock morph lines to better suit certain market segments with specific needs. While individuals can add implants to fine tune their morph as needed, when a large enough class of customers all need the same traits, it is more efficient to create a variant morph that addresses their needs. For example, colonists of an exoplanet with an ecosystem filled with virulent alien diseases might need splicers with the Rapid Healer and Improved Immune System traits. Instead of manually adding the traits to each morph, the hypercorp would create a variant morph for all new colonists.

The cost of creating a variant morph is substantial, so it is not done lightly. Nor do variants stray too far from the stock version. Push a stock morph too far in one direction and it becomes an entirely new type of morph—and usually rapidly exceeds the project’s budget. Most variants are created by large organizations for internal use. Individual consumers typically prefer to customize stock morphs rather than buy variants with an unproven track record.

In game terms, a variant morph will have up to a total of 20 CP of modifications which are different from the original version’s traits and implants. A variant morph may shift up to 10 points of aptitude bonuses into any aptitude desired. Note that the difference in cost counts for both negative and positive modifications. For example, a variant morph with a 10 CP negative trait and a 10 CP positive trait can’t take any further modifications. For the purposes of variant morphs, an implant with a moderate or lower price costs 1 CP, high costs 5 CP, and expensive costs 20 CP.

Variant morphs are often unavailable on the open market. When they are, they usually cost 2–20% more than the stock version.

Example: Zen Pilot Variant Morph

Zen pilots are a variant of the hibernoid biomorph. They are designed to withstand high emotional distress from long periods of isolation in deep space. With the endocrine control and drug gland implants, zen pilots can survive being completely alone for years at a time.
Implants: Basic Biomods, Basic Mesh Inserts, Circadian Regulation, Cortical Stack, Hibernation, Endocrine Control, Drug Glands (Comfurt and Juice)
Aptitude Maximum: 25
Durability: 35
Wound Threshold: 7
Advantages: +10 WIL
CP Cost: 30
Credit Cost: Expensive (minimum 30,000)

Example: Martian Variants

Almost all of the common biomorphs have been adapted by one party or another for survival in Mars’s partially terraformed outdoors. Martian versions exist for exalts, furies, ghosts, mentons, neohominids, olympians, sylphs, and all of the varieties of pods, among others. These “red” variants have the following changes:
Implants: Add Enhanced Respiration and Temperature Tolerance.
CP Cost: Remains the same.
Credit Cost: Remains the same, but add 10,000 when not on Mars.

Example: Ruster Obsolescence

As a way of exerting economic control over Martian citizens, and particularly indentures, morphs sold via Martian hypercorps are often equipped with the Planned Obsolescence trait. In fact, as many as 70% of the biomorphs on Mars may have this negative trait. Using this rule, most ruster morphs also come equipped with the Planned Obsolescence trait. Ruster morphs that do not come with this trait are assumed to be from either an open source or “premium” model series that lack this trait. Gamemasters should remember to take this trait and any lost SOM from failure to apply GSPs into account if a character tries to trade in this morph.
Disadvantages: Planned Obsolescence trait
CP Cost: 20
Credit Cost: High

Limited-Edition Morphs

Limited-edition morphs are made to fulfill social needs rather than political or utilitarian needs. Hypercorp morph designers make most of their credits by selling limited-edition morphs to hyperelite customers with a burning desire to show off their taste and wealth. Autonomist morph designers create limited-edition morphs to commemorate great deeds or show off their artistic skills as a kind of living performance art. No matter what the political orientation of a particular morph designer, the basic motive remains the same—to signify that this particular group of morphs is special and unique in a post-scarcity society.

In game terms, limited-edition morphs all have the Unique Look trait. The cost of a limited-edition morph is vastly more expensive in hypercorp territory, depending on how unique the look is. The most expensive limited editions can cost up to 100 times the cost of a stock version of that morph, which has led to a speculative market for limited-edition morphs. Some hyperelite collect them like pre-Fall artwork. Autonomist-manufactured limited edition morphs will generally cost the same as a stock morph, but characters who want the morph must get the approval of the morph’s designer. Characters who make or modify their morph to resemble a limited edition typically suffer large rep loss when it is revealed.

The exact nature of the Unique Look trait is only limited by the imagination of the gamemaster. Hypercorp limited editions tend to use expensive and proprietary technology along with legal protection to create a look that can’t be replicated. Limited-edition morph designers in autonomist regions tend to use reputation and social awareness to keep the look of their product unique. Some examples are presented below.

The Pantheon

Hyperelite designer Venturi Ballard created the ultimate limited-edition line of morphs: a series of unique morphs, each themed after a different celestial object. Currently, there is one morph for every inhabited planet and heavily populated moon in the solar system. Furthermore, Ballard has gone to great lengths to build each morph on the planet it is meant to represent and tries to keep them on that planet, using both legal and technological safeguards to ensure the morph stays there. Rumors of secret contracts, ultimate mercenaries, and other extreme measures circulate freely through the mesh, something Ballard seems to encourage. This quirk has made the Pantheon even more famous, as transhumans throughout the solar system debate whether Ballard has the right to control a morph he designs to that extent.

The launch of the Pantheon line was a major media event, with gala balls, auctions, behind-the-scenes drama, and political protests from activists who decried the Pantheon morphs as a tremendous waste of resources. Since their unveiling, the morphs have become celebrities themselves, regardless of the ego sleeved in them. Bloggers, x-casters, and paparazzi follow the Pantheon morphs, keeping track of their movements and the egos sleeved in them. Even past owners of the Pantheon morphs attract stalkers, particular ones that fans hate or love. The Pantheon fan base argues endlessly about who deserves to be sleeved in one and who should be banned. Some fans stalk egos that used drugs or engaged in risky behavior that put the morph in danger. The most devoted fans believe the morphs have feelings independent of the ego and write elaborate stories about them.

Ballard has released a Pantheon morph for Mercury, Venus, Luna, Mars, Europa, Titan, Oberon, and Titania. Each is a biomorph suitable for its locale and each is worth at least 10 times the price of its stock version. The Luna, Venus, Mars, and Titan morphs are each worth millions. There is no Earth Pantheon morph, as Ballard has said it would only be right when the Earth can be inhabited again by transhumans. The Jovian Republic has prohibited Ballard from creating any Pantheon morphs for its territory. Ballard is rumored to be creating new Pantheon morphs for exoplanets like Sky Ark and Ascension.

Example: The Venus Pantheon morph is a modified female Venusian glider morph with the Striking Looks (Level 2) and Unique Look traits. The Venus morph is colored to resemble the skies of Venus, a brilliant combination of white, ochre, and yellow. The morph is tattooed with symbols from ancient depictions of Venus, including Mayan and Chinese star maps. The most striking feature is the Morning Star, which appears to be a small glowing star that orbits the Venus Morph. Most believe the Morning Star is a custom-built gnat bot, but others believe it is an alien artifact recovered from an exoplanet. The Venus morph is currently located on the Octavia aerostat, owned by the mayor, Halis Sapien, who loans the morph out to friends and visiting celebrities. Some popular socialites have traveled all the way from Titan, just for a chance to sleeve in the Venus morph.

Heirloom

A more common limited-edition morph, the Heirloom is a splicer morph created with genetic material from famous historical figures. They are typically priced as Expensive morphs, though some particular figures are cheaper or more expensive than others. Even before the Fall, highly eccentric and wellfunded grave robbers discreetly collected DNA samples from the remains of dead celebrities, royalty, famous artists and thinkers—whoever they could. Combined with samples from known relatives, these ghoulish collectors had the ability to clone some celebrities, though legal restrictions prevented them from doing so except in a few outlaw countries and off-world. After the Fall, things changed. Some collectors made it off Earth with their libraries of famous DNA intact, but in desperate need of money. They sold their collections to a group of unscrupulous morph brokers, who in turn created the Heirloom morph line. With the old governments shattered by the Fall, no one was in a position to oppose this, especially as they became an extremely profitable morph line. Many Fall survivors wanted to carry a bit of old Earth history with them. How better to do that than with a famous person?

Heirlooms promise 100% DNA authenticity, but in reality, most of the “clones” from the 20th century and earlier are only approximations—composites made from genetic fragments from grave remains from several generations of relatives. Some engineering and cosmetic surgery is done on the morph to make it look exactly like the person in question. Each Heirloom is implanted with a database about the person on which it is based, so the ego sleeved in it will be able to answer any trivia questions about the person.

Several morph brokers sell Heirlooms. In order to keep them profitable, they enforce a mutually agreed artificial scarcity. Each Heirloom dealer agrees to sell only a certain number of morphs based on person X per quarter. If a particular Heirloom is destroyed, the dealer can replace it. The most common Heirlooms are photogenic celebrities from the late 20th century and later, as they are the ones with the highest demand. Famous political figures, especially dictators and other prominent national leaders, are the second most popular. Intellectuals and artists have modest demand. Royalty is the least popular, as few transhumans care enough about Earth history to recognize old aristocrats on sight, but some hyperelites prefer them. A few libertine gerontocrats even commission Heirlooms with the genetic flaws of the original person left intact. At least one hunchbacked Richard III has been spotted in a Martian night club. Scum genetic engineers have created parody Heirlooms of madmen, killers, and Hitler. These are normal splicers altered by cosmetic surgery, and are usually found in scum or autonomist habitats. Hitler morphs are becoming quite common in scum swarms, including variations like female Hitlers, synth Hitlers, and even uplift Hitlers, which are usually just octomorphs with implanted mustaches.

TITAN Buster

A Barsoomian collective fights the good fight against the remnants of the TITAN presence in the TQZ on Mars. In order to bolster recruitment, the collective rewards fighters who survive six months of active service with a TITAN Buster morph—either a fury or reaper morph with specialized unit decals tattooed or etched on the skin of the morph, plus a notification throughout the autonomist social networks of the character’s achievement. TITAN Busters enjoy positive modifiers when making Social Skill Tests against autonomists or characters with a grudge against the TITANs. Characters that earn the TITAN Buster morph but have to egocast to another habitat may modify another fury or reaper morph to show the TITAN Buster unit decals (a Low cost bodysculpt). Any character that is caught posing as a TITAN Buster without putting in the time is likely to get a flood of negative pings from the @-rep network.