New Humanite Talent: Hardened Epidermis

“it would look like the character was drawn by Mike Mignola” (but not actually like Hellboy)

We were generating characters for Coriolis, and Andy wanted to be a Humanite. I think what attracted him was the idea of having a low reputation, rather than the extra talent Humanites get, but of course getting to chose an extra, humanite specific talent was quite exciting. As the character took shape, Andy’s hopes for a low reputation where realized. He started off as plebian (reputation 2), and saw that halved because he was a humanite, making it just one, then, because he chose the Soldier concept, he lost even that last point, giving him a reputation of zero.

Which I love, by the way, the idea of a cloned soldier having literally NO value in society, bred only for war seems very fitting. That he chose to come from Zalos even more so.

But we hit a stumbling block with the talents. The three Humanite Talents on offer in the book are Pheromones (a +2 to Manipulation, once per session); Water Breathing; or Resistant. Of the three, its that last Resistant which seemed most suitable for a cloned soldier (Andy wasn’t making a SBS commando or Navy SEAL). Lets see what it says in the book about that:

Your body can endure extreme weather and other natural hazards. The talent counts as “armor” with an Armour Rating of 6 against natural damage. You can combine Resistant with Rugged, for a total Armour Rating of 9 against natural damage.

That all sounds cool. It has a Rogue Trooper vibe, that fits perfectly with the idea of a cloned warrior. But it wasn’t what Andy was looking for. We left the character unfinished so we could think about it. We thought about some sort of berserker talent – but he had already drawn the Lady of Tears as his Icon, and her Talent is pretty much what I’d create for a berserker. I thought back to when we first read the description of Resistant, and our initial excitement at the word “armor” before we realised it actually described using the armor mechanic to reduce the effects of environmental damage. There is of course the Cybernetic Talent, Body Armor, and I began to wonder if there could be a biosculpted equivalent of that for Humanites.

Lets pause here to address a possible area of confusion. The description of Humanites on page 22 says “Some groups of people are biosculpted. These “humanites,” as they are called are often found in…” and so on.  But “biosculpt” also is a term used for Bionic (not Cybernetic) body modifications, that player characters can pay for, later in the campaign (or during character creation in some Concepts). You can’t buy Humanite biosculpt talents though. Humanites are clearly “born that way”, genetically modified, sometimes generations ago. I wish Free League had kept a more consistent distinction between inherited “biosculpts” and after-market Bionic sculpts, but they didn’t. Watch out for that.

Back to Andy’s talent. How was I going to write up an biosculpted armor talent to offer him? Well, lets start by looking at the Cybernetic version:

Body Armor
You are cybernetically armored, giving you an extra Armor Rating on 3 (page 92). The implant’s rating is added to any other armor you may wear as well. The implants give you a -1 to DEXTERITY for acrobatic maneuvers. Cost: 6,000 Birr

Lets address the cost first. Cybernetic talents cost XP and Birr to acquire, or a Talent slot and a Gear slot at character creation. So do Bionic Talents. But Humanite talents are free, and indeed extra to the three that most characters get at the start. So my starting point was that Humanite armor should not be quite as good as Cybernetic armor. That’s easy, lets make the armor rating two instead of three.

Then lets look at that Dexterity modifier. Putting myself into the role of a Zalosian biosculpter for a moment, I wonder why I’d go to the trouble of biosculpting armor, when we know that the Zalosians are very capable producers of cybernetics. That biosculpted soldiers are cheaper (in every sense) than an investment in cybernetics might be reason enough, but I decided that Humanite armor would not come with the same Dexterity penalty as Cybernetics. After all, the humanites will have grown up with this armor, they would be perfectly adapted to moving around in it.

But I liked the idea of a penalty of some sort. And while humanites might be used to moving around in their skins, medicurgs might not be used to working with them. So a one dice penalty on medicurgy rolls when treating an armored humanite seems appropriate. And following along that train of thought, I also decided that while humanites could wear other layers of armor over their hardened skin, cybercurgs would find it impossible to fit Cybernetic armor on top of it. So you can’t have both talents.

Finally I thought I should add a description of what it looked like. In my head I has decided that it would look like the character was drawn by Mike Mignola, but that’s more difficult than I thought to describe. Anyhow, here’s what I ended up with. Our first “Talent of the Month”:

Humanite Talent: HARDENED EPIDERMIS: The humanite’s skin acts as +2 Armour Rating (in addition to any worn armour). It does not give you any negative Dexerity modifiers but does give a -1 Medicurgy modifier to anyone trying to treat the Humanite. Cybernetic body armour can not be fitted to humanites with a hardened epidermis. It has the appearance of cracked and discoloured skin.

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