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Only very few people (or entities) who survived the diaspora from Earth know of the true reasons and the catalyst that culminated in the Fall. The alien exsurgent virus—as those aware of its existence within Firewall call it—is something beyond transhumanity’s understanding. Set in place by the ETI to infect emerging seed AIs, it is far more complex than just a computer virus.

Though some strains of the exsurgent virus have been identified and various types of infected exsurgents have been encountered, it is widely assumed that these are creations of the TITANs. Largely defeated and eradicated from off-Earth transhuman networks thanks to the efforts of the Prometheans, occasional breakouts of the exsurgent virus still occur, primarily due to scavengers or others becoming infected when messing with old relics from the Fall.

Plethora of Strains

The exsurgent virus is unlike anything that transhumanity has ever encountered. While it bears similarities to both computer and biological viruses in regards to infection of hosts and propagation, it is not bound by many limits of form or transmission vector.

The exsurgent virus is amazingly effective and infectious. As an information virus, it is highly intelligent and adaptive, able to mutate into new forms. Much like certain viruses are able to cross species boundaries or change their vector from contact to airborne, it is also a self-morphing omnivirus, capable of altering itself and its transmission vectors to bypass infection safeguards. Like a retrovirus that incorporates genetic information into the genome of the target cell to subvert the cell to do its bidding, the exsurgent virus does the same but on a more complex level. It is also known to rewrite a host’s neural code in a similar manner, in effect restructuring the target’s mind and personality.

While it began as a digital computer virus—the manner in which it infected the TITANs—it has transformed to be communicable via at least three other forms: biological nanovirus, nanoplague, and basilisk hack. Each is described below, along with rules for infection and defense.

Biological Nanovirus

Exploiting the infected TITANs’ understanding of Earth-based biology and their access to bio- and nanotechnology, the exsurgent virus appeared in several biological forms not long into the Fall. These virulent strains infected biomorph transhumans and sometimes other living creatures as well. The biological nanobots spreading this strain act much like other biological viruses, though they radically modify the victim’s biological and mental states. Some versions invade and restructure the target’s genetic code, transforming them into the horrible abominations known as exsurgents. While first-hand reports relate lurid tales of victims metamorphing into hostile monsters, such reports are rare and considered unreliable due to the mental state of the witnesses (and any recordings that can verify such claims have a strange habit of disappearing). Other variants of this strain are known only to alter the target’s neural code, subverting them to the will of the virus (and often, by extension, the TITANs) and affecting their mental structure in order to give them psi ability.

Biological Infection

Nanovirus

Biological versions are spread much like other pathogens. People usually become infected by proximity to another infected entity. Vectors may be dermal (touching someone with bio-nanobots excreted through the skin), inhalation (breathing exhaled bio-nanobots), injection, or oral (see Application Methods). Exsurgent bio-nanobots can live outside of a body for extended periods, so infection is possible merely by occupying the space where an infected victim was hours or even days before.

If a biomorph only has a chance of exposure to the virus (e.g., they walk through a room in which they might have breathed in exhaled bio-nanobots), have them make a MOX × 10 Test (use their Moxie stat, not their current Moxie score). Failure means they were exposed. In other circumstances, exposure may be automatic, such as extended physical contact or exchange of bodily fluids with an infected person. A biomorph exposed to this infection must make a DUR × 2 Test to determine if the infection takes hold. Basic biomods and nanophages do not offer any protection, though toxin filters and medichines each give a +30 bonus (though it is likely only a matter of time before a mutant exsurgent strain learns to bypass them). If the test fails, the victim is infected. See the strain descriptions for specific details.

Within 12 hours of infection, biomorphs become contagious to others. (Note that for the Watts-MacLeod strain, they only remain contagious for 12 hours after that.)

Digital Virus

Digital strains are purely information- or code-based versions of the virus. They resemble advanced computer viruses, worms, and trojans. They spread throughout the mesh, exploit holes, mimic protocols, and bypass security measures just like a skilled hacker.

Digital versions of the exsurgent virus are treated as intelligent programs, using the same rules as infomorphs, with the following stats:

COG COO INT REF SAV SOM WIL MOX
40 10 40 40 40 40 40 --
INIT SPD LUC TT IR DUR WT DR
16 3 -- -- -- -- -- --

Skills: Hardware: Electronics 50, Infosec 70, Interfacing 60, Investigation 50, Perception 60, Programming 50 Software: Exploit, Firewall, Sniffer, Spoof, Track, plus any others the gamemaster considers appropriate

Digital Infection

As a matter of course, this exsurgent virus will seek to access any new systems it comes into contact with, hacking in and copying a version of itself.

AI and Infomorph Subversion

An exsurgent virus may take a Complex Action to initiate an “attack” against any other intelligent program (AI, AGI, or infomorph) that is running on the same system. If it encounters such programs as they are accessing a system it is on, it will attempt to locate and hack their home system where they are running so as to attack them directly.

The attack is handled as an Opposed Test, each rolling COG + INT. If the exsurgent virus wins, the target is infected and will be corrupted by the virus in 10 Action Turns, minus 1 turn per 10 full points of MoS. If the target succeeded but rolled lower than the virus, they are aware that they are slowly being taken over. This immediately causes them 1d10 points of mental stress. An infected program has only one option for defending itself before the virus takes over—shutdown and reboot. It takes the AI or infomorph 1 full Action Turn to shut down. Restarting takes 3 full Action Turns (possibly longer if the gamemaster so decides), upon which the AI or infomorph must make another Opposed COG + INT Test against the virus. If this test also fails, then the virus has already embedded itself in the AI or infomorph’s code and will continue its infection.

One the infection is complete, the AI/infomorph becomes an exsurgent NPC.

Cyberbrain Hacking

Exsurgent viruses that manage to infiltrate the cyberbrains of pods and synthmorphs may also target the digital egos within, using the same rules as given for AI and infomorph subversion above. Alternately, the virus may conduct a traditional brainhacking attack, or unleash a basilisk hack.

Nanoplague

While the abundance of nanotechnology has been a blessing for transhumanity’s journey to the stars, it has also been a curse. Via the TITANs and mesh-connected nanofabrication machines, the exsurgent virus manufactured nanobot swarms equipped with variants of the virus. These nanobot plagues are capable of targeting all types of morphs and sometimes other machinery as well. Unlike the biological nanovirus, which uses biological mechanisms to rewrite biological/neural structures, these nanoplagues physically restructure both people and things at the molecular level.

Nanoplague Infection

Exsurgent nanoswarms follow all of the rules given for nanoswarms. Unlike transhuman nanoswarms, though, exsurgent nanoplagues may penetrate a biomorph internally, affecting the body within as well as without.

Any morph that comes into contact with a nanoplague is considered infected. The only defenses are guardian nanobots and nanophages (which work the same as guardian nanobots in this situation), though these are less effective against exsurgent nanobots, inflicting –2 damage to the swarm each Action Turn. Some exsurgent nanoplagues have developed countermeasures against such systems, inflicting (1d10 ÷ 2, round up) damage to such defenses each Action Turn. Note that nanoplague-infected characters are not contagious themselves…usually. See the strain descriptions for specific infection details.

Basilisk Hacks

Thanks to the vast databanks of knowledge the TITANs had absorbed from transhumanity, the exsurgent virus was able to thoroughly analyze the biology and functioning of transhuman minds. In a few short months of accessing all of the research at their disposal, the exsurgent and TITAN intelligences made several cognitive leaps in their understanding of transhuman brain functions—breakthroughs that will take transhumanity decades to reach. One of these discoveries was a method of applying sensory input as a weapon, exploiting weaknesses in the brain’s neurocerebral wiring.

Known as “basilisk hacks,” these attacks take advantage of the way biological transhuman brains interpret and process sensory input in the cerebral cortex. Just as epileptics are susceptible to visualizations that strobe at certain frequencies, basilisk hacks employ special visual and auditory patterns that trigger glitches in the brain’s neuronal wiring to inflict nausea, vertigo, disorientation, and even seizures, often mistaken as a stroke or cerebrovascular incident. Some basilisk hacks go farther than simply causing the brain to seize up and crash, however, enabling a mechanism to rewrite the neural code in victims who view or listen to the wrong thing. This unknown reprogramming mechanism enables the virus to infect even a biological brain with one of its strains. Similar attacks are used against both synthmorphs and pods, taking advantage of the methods in which cyberbrains mimic biological minds with a virtual brain state, and thus also manipulating them via the information encoded in sensory input.

In a nutshell, basilisk hacks are a way of hacking transhuman brains merely by feeding them a specific sample of sensory input, usually images or sounds. The widespread use of augmented reality makes deployment of such hacks an easy matter; the exsurgent virus just hacks into the target’s ecto or mesh inserts and engages the sensory feed. More traditional methods may also be used, including standard interactive video, holograms, audio, subsonics, or even VR. Since so many records of the years surrounding the Fall were lost, most people do not know if the basilisk hack is anything other than a legend. Various official groups know that this technology was, in fact, used by the TITANs, but they keep this knowledge to themselves, in large part to help reduce the number of people attempting to duplicate it.

Incapacitating Inputs

When a character experiences a basilisk hack, they must make a COG + INT + SAV Test. If this test fails, their brain is susceptible to the hack, and they immediately suffer 1d10 mental stress. Additionally, one of the following effects applies. The duration for each effect listed below is 1 minute plus 1 additional minute per 10 full points of MoF. Each effect is also numbered 1–10, in case the gamemaster wants to roll 1d10 and randomize the effects rather than choose:

  • (1) Cataplexy: The victim loses control of their body and immediately collapses. For the duration their body will be non-responsive but they will be aware and capable of mental actions. Mesh actions and implant controls are also disabled, however.
  • (2) Catatonic Stupor: The character becomes immobile and non-responsive. Though conscious, they are mentally “not there”—the basilisk hack has effectively crashed their brain functions. They will do absolutely nothing for the duration and will not respond even if moved or attacked.
  • (3) Disorientation: The character becomes disoriented and severely confused. They are incapable of making decisions, understanding communication, understanding what is going on around them, or acting in any sort of determined way for the duration.
  • (4–5) Grand Mal Seizures: The subject immediately falls to the ground and begins convulsing, suffering 1d10 damage. They may do nothing else for the duration and will suffer an equal duration period of confusion and weakness (–30 to all actions) afterwards.
  • (6–7) Hallucinations: The character immediately goes off on a mental trip, leaving them completely disconnected from reality and their physical body. For the duration, the character should only respond to the hallucinated reality the gamemaster describes to them or else the character should be treated as an NPC, run by the gamemaster.
  • (8) Impaired Cognition: The character’s mental capabilities bottom out, turning them into a disabled vegetable. COG, INT, SAV, and WIL all drop to 1, and the character should act accordingly to environmental stimuli.
  • (9) Nausea/Vertigo: The character is overcome with head-spinning and vomiting and is effectively incapacitated for the duration.
  • (10) Sleep: The character passes out for the duration and cannot be woken short of medical intervention.

In rare cases, a character may be able to “dodge” a basilisk hack they know is coming, assuming they have some sort of warning (such as their buddy falling prey to it moments before). The character must of course be aware of what basilisk hacks are to even consider this idea. If they immediately attempt to take action to block out the sensory input when it strikes—closing their eyes, plugging their ears, turning off their AR, etc.—allow them a REF × 3 Test to see if they do so in time.

Sensory Reprogramming

In some cases, the exsurgent virus can actually reprogram the target’s mind via dedicated sensory input. This is a trickier affair, however, requiring uninterrupted programming time. As with incapacitating inputs, the target character(s) experiencing the basilisk hack must make a COG + INT + SAV Test. If this fails, they become catatonic and paralyzed for a period of 10 minutes, minus 1 minute per 10 full points of MoF. At the end of this period, they are mentally reprogrammed and “infected” with one of the strains of the exsurgent virus (see below).

If the character is somehow removed from exposure to the basilisk hack through the actions of another party before the full duration, the reprogramming immediately fails. In this case, the victim still suffers 1d10 mental stress +1 per minute they were exposed, and they remain mentally shaken, suffering a –30 modifier to all actions. This modifier reduces at the rate of 10 per minute.

YGBM Attacks

Rather than completely reprogramming a victim, some exsurgent attacks simply plant subconscious commands in the target’s mind, similar to posthypnotic suggestions. Nicknamed “You gotta believe me” attacks, YGBMs are a sort of remote digital brainwashing attempt used to create sleeper terrorists and unknowing collaborators, often by targeting them via the mesh. Unlike the mind manipulation techniques of psychosurgery, YGBM attacks use shotgun techniques to open the mind, utilizing some kind of backdoor the exsurgents discovered in the transhuman brain, and altering the mind by brute force. A character experiencing a YGBM basilisk hack must make a COG + INT + SAV Test. If this fails, a single suggestion is implanted in the character’s mind, without their knowledge. This subliminal command will be triggered at some later point, either at some predesignated time or according to certain pre-set conditions. Once triggered, the character will carry out the action with all of the conviction that it is their own idea. The implanted suggestion may be something as simple as “kill the Firewall agent” to something as complex as “manufacture an explosive device and plant it in the cargo hold of any ship heading to Mars, set to explode one day after they disembark.”

Since YGBM attacks are not intended to completely convert the target, but instead to simply convert them into a temporary tool or weapon, implanted commands are not designed to last long. The duration the suggestion will last equals 3 days +1 day per 10 points of MoF on the resistance test. If the command has not been triggered by this point, it dissipates, and the character is none the wiser.

Recording Basilisk Hacks

Enterprising characters may seek to record a basilisk hack input for their own uses. While basilisk hacks may be recorded like any other sensory input, keep in mind that the exsurgents and TITANs likely take measures to keep such tools out of the hands of transhumanity, lest they construct some sort of defense. Basilisk hack sources may be self-erasing or contain coding or countermeasures that would hinder recording, such as white noise to defeat audio recording or lens-blinding flashes to defeat video recording. Conversely, basilisk hacks are considered extremely dangerous by almost all factions of transhumanity and universally feared. An individual or group known to possess them is likely to be treated much like a terrorist with a suitcase nuke. Though Firewall has a standard interest in evaluating and enabling some sort of defense against basilisk hacks, most Firewall personnel consider it foolish to handle such toys and would rather destroy such recordings outright.

Exsurgent Strains

Four variants of the exsurgent virus are described here—gamemasters are encouraged to develop their own to keep players on their toes.

Haunting Virus

This strain is the most insidious of the exsurgent viruses. Over time, it rewrites the target’s personality and motivations, slowly but surely subverting and taking control of the victim’s mind. At first the character is unlikely to even be aware of the infection, and as it progresses the changes the virus makes to the target will at first seem natural, as if some new aspect of their personality was simply manifesting itself. As the effects grow more pronounced, however, the victim becomes aware that they are being methodically altered but is in most cases unable to act against it. In the end, they are completely transformed into a pawn of the ETI. Their mind is no longer transhuman, but alien.

The exact rate of progression is up to the gamemaster, though guidelines are provided below. Each victim is affected differently, so the process may be accelerated or slowed down as the gamemaster sees fit.

  • Stage 1 (initial infection to 3 months): Upon initial infection, the character suffers 1d10 mental stress and gains the Psi trait at Level 1 (also meaning they pick up the Mental Disorder trait). They also gain one free psi-chi sleight, chosen randomly or by the gamemaster. If a player character has become infected, they may still be played as normal (see Roleplaying Exsurgents) and may purchase new psi-chi sleights with Rez Points. NPCs acquire 1 new sleight per 2–4 weeks.

At this stage, the infection is usually hidden, though the character will suffer from occasional haunting effects (see below). As each week passes, the character’s personality should shift a minute amount, slowly becoming more callous and conniving and changing in other ways as well. If possible, the player should be kept in the dark about what is happening, but the gamemaster should provide them with roleplaying advice to reflect their condition. Likewise, the discovery and initial use of psi sleights should be played out, providing some interesting roleplaying opportunities. Characters and players who know of the exsurgent virus and Watts-MacLeod strains should not know at this point which strain they are infected with—make them sweat.

  • Stage 2 (3 months to 6 months): The target suffers another 1d10 ÷ 2 (round up) mental stress and acquires the Psi trait at Level 2 (also picking up another disorder). Player characters may still be played as normal and may purchase psi-gamma slights with Rez Points. NPCs acquire 1 new sleight per 2–4 weeks.

Once three months have passed, the character should be aware they are under the influence of something, but this awareness likely comes too late. Haunting effects (below) should occur regularly. At this point a character is likely to consider seeking help, actively encouraging others to interfere, or offing themselves and resorting to an uninfected backup. The infection will actively block and hinder such thoughts and actions, however. To actively overcome this mental control, the character must succeed in a WIL Test. At the gamemaster’s discretion, failure may result in 1d10 ÷ 2 (round up) mental stress as the character realizes they are no longer fully in control of their own thoughts and actions.

  • Stage 3 (6 months+): The victim suffers another 1d10 ÷ 2 (round up) mental stress and acquires the Psi trait at Level 3 (see Psi-Epsilon Sleights). The character is now considered an exsurgent and becomes an NPC. It may no longer be played as a player character. The victim also gains a permanent +5 bonus to COG and WIL and acquires 1 new sleight every 1–2 months.

As noted above, characters infected with this strain suffer from different haunting effects—changes to their personality or mental state. A few ideas for haunting effects are noted here, but gamemasters are encouraged to be creative when inventing their own to apply:

  • Altered Perceptions: The victim’s perceptions are changed in disturbing and unusual ways. They may see things that aren’t there, feel a presence behind or watching them, inexplicably smell blood, hear voices, suffer synaesthesia, or suddenly perceive the people around them as nothing but outlandish, blabbering sacks of meat.
  • Behavioral Modification: Treat as behavioral control or personality editing psychosurgery. This is typically applied to shape the character closer to being a pawn of the ETI.
  • Dream Manipulation: The character’s dreams become lucid, weird, and surreal. They may find themselves dreaming of life as an alien on some exotic exoplanet, as a robotic probe soaring through the vast emptiness of space, or fantasizing different methods of inflicting mass destruction and death.
  • Emotional Manipulation: Treat as emotional control psychosurgery.
  • Inexplicable Urges: The character will be flushed with strange alien urges and may sometimes find themselves doing highly unusual things without realizing at all they are doing it. These may include taking devices apart to understand how they work, testing the limits on programming a nanofabricator, cutting a living thing apart to see how it is put together biologically, testing weapons, eating things that are only barely edible, promiscuous and unusual sexual activity, lying just to see what they can get away with, and so on.

Mindstealer Virus

Very similar to the haunting virus, the mindstealer strain is much quicker acting. Instead of slowly subverting the target’s mind over the course of months, the mindstealer virus rapidly recodes the victim’s brain in a matter of minutes. This infection is much more invasive and brute-force, often causing significant side effects to the target’s mental state as a result. This strain is only spread as a digital virus, nanoplague, or basilisk hack (not as a biological nanovirus).

Once the victim is infected, it takes the virus a number of Action Turns equal to COG + INT + SAV to completely take over their mind (20 Action Turns = 1 minute). During this time, the target is actively aware that their mind is under attack and undergoing massive changes against their will. This process is confusing, frightening, and painful, inflicting a –30 modifier to all of the character’s actions for the duration. Many victims are reduced to whimpering, drooling, or convulsing for the duration.

This mental transformation inflicts 2d10 mental stress to the target. Once complete, the victim is an exsurgent NPC, under the gamemaster’s control.

Watts-McLeod Virus

The Watts-MacLeod strain is a strangely benevolent version of the exsurgent virus, seeming to imbue its victims with psi abilities without any of the other transformative elements typical of other strains. Perhaps created as an accidental mutation of the exsurgent virus, there are many who wonder if the true detrimental effects of this strain simply have yet to reveal themselves.

As noted in the Mind Hacks chapter section on Psi, characters infected with this strain gain the Psi trait at either Level 1 or 2. If a character is infected during game play, this trait must be purchased with Rez Points (if the character does not have any points currently available, they pay out of the points they earn until the debt is paid off). All of the other side effects of Watts-MacLeod infection also apply.

Though infection with this strain does provide some benefits to the character, the gamemaster should make sure to play up the creepy and unsettling nature of this virus. The character should never be certain that they haven’t in fact been subtly influenced by the virus in ways they can’t immediately pinpoint—they should always feel like the axe may fall at any moment.

Xenomorph Virus

Xenomorph virus

The xenomorph strain transforms the target’s body in addition to their mind. It is only spread as a biological nanovirus or nanoplague (not as a digital virus or basilisk hack). Over time, the victim’s morph physically transmogrifies into some sort of alien life form. Different variants of this strain produce different xenomorphs. It is not known where these different alien templates originated, meaning they may be copies of (once) existing alien species or simply neogenetic creatures created from scratch. The one trait they have in common is that they are universally dangerous. Some speculation in Firewall circles suggests that the exsurgent virus may in fact have a “library” of creature types to deploy, under the assumption that at least some will be more effective than others for exterminating whatever victim species they are fielded against.

This strain follows the same rules as the haunting virus (above), but with the following changes. The timeframe is typically much quicker, though the gamemaster may adjust this as they see fit.

  • Stage 1: The effects from Stage 1 of the haunting virus apply. Additionally, the character begins to suffer minor physical changes that are definitely unusual but are not impeding in any way and are easily hidden from others. Example biomorph alterations might be: unusual hair or fibrous growth, some skin discoloration or translucence, severe rashes, dermal thickening, weakened or enhanced sensory organs, strong body odor, hair loss, teeth gain or loss, vestigial tail or other limb growth, minor dietary changes, and so on. Synthmorphs might experience minor system glitches, malfunctioning or improved components, and spots of material stress or transfiguration. Gamemasters are encouraged to be creative. This stage typically lasts from initial infection to 1 week for biological nanovirus strains, or from infection to just 1 hour for nanoplague strains.
  • Stage 2: As with haunting virus Stage 2, plus the character begins to seriously transmogrify in ways that are difficult to hide from others, becoming more and more monstrous as the stage progresses. Example biomorph transformations include: growing scales or feathers, partial modification of limb structure, partial new limb growth, vestigial sensory organ growth, sensory loss, extension of claws or spines, severe dietary changes, etc. Synthmorphs might experience radical system and shape alterations, limited or enhanced sensor functions, or even conversion of their robotic shell to smart materials. These physical changes weaken the victim, inflicting 1d10 physical damage. This stage typically lasts 1 week for biological nanovirus strains or just 1 hour for nanoplague strains.
  • Stage 3: As with haunting virus Stage 3, a character reaching this stage becomes an NPC. Additionally, the victim completely undergoes a transformation into some sort of creature that is no longer even remotely human. Example exsurgents of this nature are detailed elsewhere.

Using the Exsurgent Virus

The frightening thing about the exsurgent virus is its adaptability. It was written by a near omnipotent ETI with the intent of corrupting any alien seed AIs or similar singularities it encountered, and it is very good at it. This means it has the capability to analyze, understand, and mimic almost any alien digital protocols and communication methods it comes into contact with, no matter how diverse the alien mindset that constructed what it encounters. It then has a cunning ability to circumvent any safeguards and infect such systems. From there, it rapidly assimilates any data it can about the target species/civilization and does it best to mutate into other forms that can attack this target from other vectors.

Given its constant morphing nature, the exsurgent virus is likely to continue to mutate in new and interesting ways. Some of these mutations may be effective, many not. This does, however, afford the gamemaster an opportunity to invent new variants of their own to deploy against unsuspecting characters.

Roleplaying Exsurgents

The primary thing for gamemasters to keep in mind when roleplaying entities that have been taken over by the exsurgent virus is that exsurgents are following an alien agenda. The specific goals and actions of each exsurgent may differ, but they are generally concerned with two things: spreading the exsurgent virus and destroying anything that isn’t affected. In some cases, this may mean immediate and enraged hostile action against anything non-exsurgent around them. In others, the exsurgent approach is more methodical, hatching long-term plots to infiltrate positions of power and authority, setting the stage for acts of mass destruction, and so on. In other words, they may be handled both as hostile monsters or as nefarious long-term opponents that are subverting transhumanity from within or weaving complicated plans to bring about devastation on a planetary scale.

If the gamemaster wishes, exsurgents may also pursue other goals, tangential to the ones above. These may range from accumulating knowledge and expertise on how transhumanity functions as a species to forcibly uploading mass numbers of minds or more esoteric goals such as manufacturing a halfnium bomb or converting the solar system’s mass to computronium. The exsurgent virus is potent and intelligent, and while its methods and goals may sometimes be opaque to transhumanity, it acts with direction and purpose. There may also be occasions—likely due to the mutating and morphing nature of the virus and the way in which it transforms transhuman minds, perhaps not always in the manner intended—where the exsurgent goals become strange or simply horrific, such as running experiments on transhuman responses to extreme conditions or converting an entire colony to cannibalism.

Exsurgent-Infected PCs

It is possible for player characters infected with some strains of the exsurgent virus to continue on under their own volition, even as the virus slowly consumes them. This process is, quite naturally, horrifying in the extreme, though there is little they can do about it. Despite the best efforts of transhuman science, there is no known method to save an infected person—the virus is simply too potent and adaptive. As a result, Firewall policy is to terminate the infected with extreme prejudice. Most Firewall operatives are aware of this, a fact that pushes some who become infected to keep their status a secret from their comrades.

Both the haunting and xenomorph strains usually transform a subject over time, meaning that the character may initially not be aware of the infection. This is a prime opportunity for the gamemaster to mess with the character ruthlessly, starting slowly with little haunting effects and building up as the infection progresses. The character should slowly become aware that they are under the influence of something—something intelligent. Characters aware of the exsurgent virus and its effects will likely pick up on this sooner, but the virus may prevent them from doing anything about it. In effect, the character becomes a prisoner within their own body, a body they now share with a cold and malevolent presence that is methodically taking them over. Such characters may respond in a number of ways depending on their personality, ranging from despair, withdrawal, and suicidal tendencies to complete hysteria or calm acceptance. Most importantly, however, their personality should begin to change as the virus continues to transform them. Players should be encouraged to take on new demeanors and motivations, reflecting the alien component of their changing personality, with some guidance from the gamemaster. This presents some intriguing roleplaying opportunities that the players will hopefully embrace. If the gamemaster feels that the player is not adequately representing the changing mindset, however, the transformation can simply be accelerated and the character converted into a gamemaster-operated NPC.

Exsurgents

Detailed statistics on several known exsurgent organisms can be found here.