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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: Augmentation Update

By Pete Overton

Last Updated: 08/16/1998
I'm sure we're all aware that Kevin has not changed much since the early 1980s in regards to his game systems, and the systems show that. His augmentation rules, terms, and even some ideas are outdated now. This file will attempt to lay out a new set of augmentation terms and their meanings, objectives, and so forth. This I originally did in a huge file that brought together all of the augmentations from Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun, and Rifts. However, that file was lost in the great Crash of a few years ago, unfortunately, but even if I did have it I ripped off so much that there is no way I could post it legally. :)

One of the main books I borrowed from was Shadowrun's sourcebook Shadowtech. Even if you hate Shadowrun (I dislike it intensely, yes :) the book is a well-researched and very detailed treatise on the various augmentation possibilities and then goes into specific augmentations (cybernetics and such), but their crowning glory are the introductions to each of the augmentation types. They are fabulous, detailed, and extremely useful. I urge you to go out and get this book if you can, it should be pretty cheap ($17 Canadian I think I got it for a few years ago), it is worth the price of admission.

Anyways, these are the classifications I use in my own Rifts chatter, which is mainly why I post this so you don't get confused. I personally like this system better but you know I'm a little biased being the one who integrated it into Rifts, but DAMN it is good. Once more, I would like to cheerlead for the Shadowtech book, it really is good.


By the late 1960s, the first tentative experiments were being performed in the field of human augmentation, though they did not yet know it had a name. The first steps of this new field were with crude mechanical hearts and prosthetics. Yet it was when mankind broke the mystery of nanotechnology that the science of human augmentation took right off. Finally the limits imposed by nature were able to be surpassed or bypassed and mankind began a race in earnest for the ultimate human. It started off quietly enough with the medical advances and the artificial organs where rejection was down to less than 1% in cases. The field of nanotechnology allowed the manipulation of genetics and the dream of the disease free human was born.

However, the race soon turned ugly. Augmentation for war became the state of the day, and dreaded things were created in all fields for World War III (though few recognized it as such during it). Rumours of underground testing facilities for all sorts of nasty things had always floated about, but some of them soon came to light, including the Xien Shu Chemical Weapons Factory in Eastern China, the Amazon Juicer Complex, the Australian Genetic Cloning Facility, and the New Mexico Biological Warfare Compound. Shortly before the Cataclysm, the Amphib Scandal rocked the genetics world and it was soon becoming clear that people would not under any circumstances tolerate such violent breaches of simple human decency.

These outraged the public at the time and scandalized the nation, especially with the advent of the Clone Rebellion (NOTE: This is specific to my own Rifts Game. Details are given below under Genetics). However, the limit of humanity's darkness was not yet reached as many countries were put under martial law rather than have the governments and corporations deal with public. Winning was placed above all other concerns, and the world population was fragmented moreso than any other time in history.

Then came the Rifts.

With the nuclear war barely over, devestation unknown to Earth struck and claimed billions of lives. Humanity went from the pinnacle of its existence and took one giant leap back to the dark ages while retaining some knowledge, a truly dangerous mix. The war to reclaim Earth in the present is a combination of outright fighting and the search to reclaim lost technologies and use them to take back what is rightfully theirs.

Fields of Study

The areas I have subdivided everything into are my own, arbitrary divisions. Inevitably, overlaps will occur, so I placed things in the category more appropriate to the item in question. A few items were so unique that an additional section was needed (eg. Borgs and Chipware). They are in no particular order.

Please note that anything below supercedes any previously published Rifts data. In the rare chance I've actually missed something, your call on where it fits in. And if anyone has any problems with this, feel more than free to change it and improve it and send me a copy when you're done. I am hardly claiming to be the final word on augmentation. Except for physics I and quite terrible at all the fields below. ;)

Bionics is the field which deals with the replacement of organs and limbs with other organs and limbs. Typically, the victim's DNA is scanned and a clone body without a mind is grown and the bio-doctor harvests the needed organs/limbs. However, for those who cannot afford such exacting science, generic bionics are made in two types, and if all else fails, black clinics always have secondhand parts on hand for just such instances. Bionics is mostly a legitimate medical field, as the bionics have no special powers or enhancements, but are just a longer lease on life.

Cybernetics is the field which deals with the replacement and enhancement of organs and limbs using intricate cybernetic systems. It is here that the philosophy of "metal over meat" is practised and is currently the most popular field -- or at least the most notorious. The entire field pursues the enhancement of the flesh over the replacement of the flesh, and they firmly believe that while cybernetics can be dehumanizing, with treatment and support, cybernetics can eventually become a new step on the pathway of evolution.

Biotechnology is a relatively new field unknown in the Coalition and only dreamed about in the New German Republic. Only Japan has any advances in bioware and even then they are but children in the field. Biotechnology combines the previous two fields into a new field which believes that the human body can be improved upon without going "heavy metal". Enhancement comes through the use of augmenting current flesh parts by reinforcing or "reprogramming" them to work better, faster, stronger. Bioneticists dream of the day when humanity can have all the benefits of cyberware while retaining all the benefits of bionics.

Chemistry is an ancient field compared to the rest, but still retains a degree of importance. Chemists believe human augmentation comes not from adding metal or replacing organs, but from taking compounds which enhance the body as it is. Technically speaking, Juicer technology falls under a chemical advance, but has been usurped by other camps as successes. Further, chemists believe in the use of compounds to coat arrows and darts for the purpose of nonlethal kills, and are considered pansies by the scientific community at large despite having the greatest potential for growth.

Genetics is a field that dates back tentatively to the 1930s by in actuality to the 1960s. Genetics is actually a field which allows the rest of the fields to advance in leaps and bounds, for without the mapping of the human genome or the advance of nanite DNA splicing, many other wonders would not be possible. Genetics as a field still continues to believe that augmentation should come at the base level, in your genes and DNA, and that it is the most natural science given their lack of invasive surgery or radical side effects. Genetics also brought the advent of cloning, a three-edged sword at best, as Kosh would say.

Finally, Chipware is a field that also splintered from cybernetics some time ago. The renaissance of simsense and datajacks in most major civilization centers meant that the field went into overdrive and flooded the market with everything from the restricted "Security and Tactics" to "Splugorth Pastries". However, this field firmly believes that augmentation does not need to be updating the human body, but updating the human mind. They pursue neural advances while releasing a steady stream of datachips as the market will bear.


Okay, well, this comes nearly verbatim from the Cyberpunk 2020 book, so all due respect to it, but here goes anyways. :)

Palladium glazed over the simple fact that surgery takes time and is not easy. One cannot get up and go right after surgery -- healing time is required and the surgery itself is rather damaging. The following categories are used in this document to represent the various degrees of surgery necessary for implants.

Required: Walk-in clinic, standard legal clinic
Surgical Time: 1 hour
Surgical Damage: 1 S.D.C.
Surgical Costs: Included in augment price
Surgical Difficulty: Simple (20%)

Required: Medical center, standard illegal clinic
Surgical Time: 2 hours
Surgical Damage: 1D6+1 S.D.C.
Surgical Costs: 1,000 Credits
Surgical Difficulty: Easy (40%)

Required: Hospital, large illegal clinic
Surgical Time: 4 hours
Surgical Damage: 2D6+2 S.D.C.
Surgical Costs: 5,000 Credits
Surgical Difficulty: Medium (60%)

Required: Full Hospital, major illegal clinic
Surgical Time: 6 hours
Surgical Damage: 3D6+3 S.D.C.
Surgical Costs: 10,000 Credits (no one said life was cheap)
Surgical Difficulty: Hard (80%)

Required: Psychic or Magical surgery
Surgical Time, Damage, Costs, and Difficulties all vary by the nature of the case.
Required refers to the minimum facility needed for the surgical process.
Time refers to the minumum amount of time needed for the surgery; this can rise with failed medical rolls at a rate of 1 minute per percent beneath the target number that was rolled. Other complications may arise.
Damage refers to the minimum damage that is taken for the surgery. It may not seem like much, but check out Palladium's healing rates for SDC. Longer surgery causes more damage at the rate of 1D6 S.D.C. per hour.
Cost refers to the flat rate for the surgery, reflecting medical expenditures and the lack of subsidized health care (sorry Hillary). They may seem steep, but most organizations (armies, guilds, etc.) will pay some or all if the accident was work related. GMs, use your discretion.
Difficulty refers to the MINIMUM skill needed by a doctor to perform the surgery in question. As you advance up the ladder, it becomes increasingly hard outside of the military to find knowledgeable individuals, so the GM should feel free to levy a surcharge on the characters for trying to find Ph.D's -- and don't forget that the authorities are usually watching for such activities...

Also note that hospitals in all empires are required by law to report any suspicious wounds they take care of -- plasma burns, slug damage, unusual scorching, and so forth. Caveat!


The first area that needs to be considered is Bionics. Rifts defines Bionics as augmenting a human to create a super soldier. Well, that's nice and all, but it is also wrong. Bionics is the science of replacement of organs, for medical or pleasure purposes. Simply put, it is the legitimate field of study for implanting artificial organs for medical purposes. Some other medical procedures fall under this field as well, but are included under other fields for convenience. Should a character ever lose a lung and is unwilling to get a cybernetic replacement, the local bionics specialist will grow the character a new lung and implant it, all at a reasonable cost.

Organripping, the illegal removal of artifical organs for sale to black clinics, is a comparatively unprofitable business. Bionic organs are typically grown to custom specifications according to the victim's DNA for minimal chance of rejection. However, there are models of bionics that are made with the general consumer in mind that are cheaper and may only need anti-rejection drug therapy to live happily. Of course, the organ might also send their system into shock and cause them an agonizing death. Black clinic bionics are almost uniformly noted for their notorious rejection rates, but desperate people need new organs all the time.

The process is fairly simple, if wasteful. The patient allows himself to be DNA scanned by anything from a hand scanner (black clinics) to a room-sized walk-in scanner (the best clinics). Armed with this data, the bio-doctor (hopefully with a B.Sc in Bionics at least) then grows a clone from the data supplied, but never giving it a brain, so it isn't truly alive except by what the vat gives it to ensure its parts remain viable. The procedure is simply extracting the cloned organ and placing it in the patient's body. Observation for two weeks follows for any signs of rejection, and if found, is hopefully treated.

Many critics have noted that this leaves the clinic with a full-grown clone minus a brain and possibly other organs. What the clinics do with these is a point of professional secrecy, although I'm sure the rumours of childish doctors having organfights after work are grossly exaggerated. Of course, have you ever met a normal bio-doctor?

Bionics have no special powers or abilities -- they are just literally a new lease on life for one or more organs. Have a heart problem? Not for long -- just put in a new heart and artery trunks. Liver falling apart? Pop in a new one and keep on drinking! While the fact that none give superhuman powers may indicate that this field is a dying one, but to the contrary, it is more popular than ever.

This is because of two main points. First, the naturalist movement is growing in most places removed from the main centers. People hear stories of the horrors wrought by these technologies and being able to get a liver which does its job and nothing more while remaining very much flesh and blood is an appealing one. Second, generally speaking, the prices for bionic replacements are more reasonable than their cybernetic counterparts, and most normal humans are not adventurers and don't need a SuperHeart which can take the strain of a forced march with ease. In fact, of all the technologies, bionics is seen as the most user-friendly and productive because of its mostly naturalistic origin and availability to the common joe.

Degrees in bionics are widely available at learning institutions, even in North America. It of all the technologies has come to be accepted as beneficial to humanity at large. However, degrees can be denied to those considered not to be "True Citizens" of the empire.

Resale of the organs is bound to come up when the characters are consistently short on cash. Black clinics will purchase used bionics as the market will bear (ie. GM's discretion) and usually at a sorry rate indeed compared to the original price. The very desperate or very cheap tend to purchase such organs, and in the worst case scenario, the bio-doc patches it up a little and resells it as a secondhand bionic organ. Caveat! A cloned bionic organ will fetch almost nothing since it is very tailored for the specific character -- however, about half of the bio-docs out there can use nanites to reset the DNA coding and revert it to a secondhand bionic organ with a 50% compatibility rate which will be put aside for special clients and not sold to the general public.

After the resale (all sales are final, incidentally) the character will get a cheap plastic organ which will function (not necessarily work) most of the time to tide him over until he can get a new one. Of course, cunning bio-docs offer to put in a secondhand bionic organ at a cut rate price (sort of like trading in a new car for a used one) which will at least be better than a plastic one. It depends on which organ and how much the character needs it (the spleen can be lived without, as can you live with only one lung, but you need a heart :).

All organ replacement surgeries are Critical surgeries. If the GM feels kind, he may allow smaller organs (Spleen and Intestine) to be only Major surgery, but keep in mind where the character is getting it done. Use common sense. However, replacing an organ is NEVER an easy thing, and it should be treated as at least Major surgery at the worst of times. Taking the organ out for resale is the same as putting it in.

All bionics are legal everywhere. They are simple new organs that work to replace old organs that do not. Again, however, hospitals are by law required to report to authorities suspicious wounding, like that vibrosword that pierced your liver, much like the ones Dog Boys carry. :) Some clinics (mostly the legitimate ones) offer a deal to consistent clients (such as Coalition Officers). For 500,000 credits flat, they will keep one cloned body on hand at all times (in storage vats underground) for that person. This has the advantage of not waiting for the growth time and reduces the cost of surgery by half (that's the cost of SURGERY, not of the PART). Further, the patient can walk in and demand surgery at any time instead of making an appointment. This is actually quite cheap if you want to sit there and add up the individual costs of cloned parts for a whole body. Clients get a BodyCard Number and present it at the front desk and get VIP treatment.

The drawback to this is that once you use a heart from the clone body, should you lose another heart a week later you need to pay another 500,000 credits for the service. This service is usually only effective for individuals who lose a wide range of organs or limbs rather than one consistently (like ol' One Handed Johann). However, it is a useful service for the adventurer who might lose something he needs at any given time and needs a quick replacement.

The Permanent Agreement Clone cannot be sold for parts if unused, so clients who must pay another 500,000 credits for a new body tend to dump as many organs into themselves as possible before wasting that investment. Needless to say I won't even dignify the rumours of the two dozen Prosek clones on a lower level of Chi-Town. Keeping a clone is a consuming process, especially one which is without a mind.

Note this only happens in major civilization centers. Don't go to Tijuana, Mexico and expect your BodyCard to work. Similiar centers in the NGR accept Coalition-originated cards with a nominal fee.

Bionics is a field which is accepted by most everyone and is rendered pretty much necessary and a good thing. Mothers love it when their sons go into Bionic Medicine, although most come out of school a little bent. It is a good field to integrate into the game and Palladium, while screwing up the definition, should have stressed it more as an alternative to cybering up. Plus it has the advantage of being human-friendly, that is, not suffering from the usual malaise at the loss of an organ and replacement by a cybernetic -- no, this is a part, technically speaking, of you that you get back.


The field of cybernetics is one that stresses the superiority of machine over man. Cyberware is designed for one purpose, and that is to replace inferior flesh parts and enhance humanity as a whole. Unlike in the Rifts manual, however, cybernetics covers *ALL* metal replacements rather than just sensory enhancement.

What cyberware makes up for in augmentation, however, it loses in subtlety. No matter how one disguises and hides a cybernetic attachment, there are always some hints that it is there -- a motion that is TOO fluid to be human, the blasting away of fake skin to reveal chrome, and so forth. It is also, and this cannot be emphasized enough, a dehumanizing experience. While people acknowledge this, no one actually PLAYS this that I've ever seen. Have their tactile (touch) sensors cut out and see how they handle that important dinner. Have the character crush things as he gets used to his new strength. Two words -- NO SEX. :) It is an isolating and empty feeling to have your arm cut off and replaced with a hunk of chrome that, while useful, is not your arm. It would be like somebody coming into your bedroom and putting up a giant Barney poster -- it is still your room, but it doesn't feel RIGHT.

Cyberware also gives up plain old human adaptability. Human evolution is tuned towards making us adaptable to a number of situations, and while using a wrench to tighten a bolt is superior to the hand, it is good for little else, unlike the hand. While you might claim that the options available for a cyberhand make up for this pitfall, consider that you never have exactly what you need at any given time, and replacing that hand with a weapon makes it a fairly one dimensional limb.

However, the chrome is more durable, using much stronger materials than the flesh did. Inorganic material allows for forces to be applied that would crush a flesh arm. The tasks the cyberware is designed to do they DO well, and millions of people across Rifts Earth swear by them. A good reliable interface makes the cyberware appear to fit right in (despite that sense of "wrongness") and you will be faster, smarter, or stronger than the average bear.

A reliable interface system is the key component to cyberware. It is absolutely essential that patients get the appropriate interface system which will turn the electrical impulses into chemical and altered electrical impulses that the brain can understand. A single piece of cyberware installed needs this interface system and is typically thrown in for a barely-noticeable fee upon the first cyberware installed. However, the interface system is split into two distinct subsystems:

Bodyware: Bodyware is where the stuff of cybernetic legend comes from. This interface covers everything from wired reflexes to dermal armor. However, the weak link of bodyware is the frailty of the human form -- a cyberarm may well be able to withstand the immense pressure of grabbing a SAMAS that is flying by at high speed, but it will rip the cyberarm right out of the flesh and blood body. The interface will convert and control impulses from the body and take them and change them into an understandable form.

Headware: Headware focuses mainly on calculation and data perception and processing. It can take over repetitive and heavy computational tasks leaving the creative process in the domain of the biological. This is the most delicate of the interface systems because of the hardwiring into the network of the brain. Headware also augments the current senses and adds new ones, because any information gathering device can be wired into the human brain. Seeing into the infrared and ultraviolet spectrums and hearing super and subsonics are just the tip of the iceberg for headware. The interface converts the normally unreadable signals into ones the brain can understand and allows perception of the world at new levels.

The process of cyberware implantation is a delicate process indeed, such that it falls back onto the field of nanotechnology to do most of the work. While the surgery places the equipment in the body at the right points, the nanites do the true merging of man and machine. Two types of nanites are used -- threaders and coaters. Threaders are designed to be attracted to beta-galactose, a sugar derivative, and then produce toxins that kill it when its work is done. Beta-galactose is introduced into the blood and guided to the cyberware with Nuclear Magnetic Resonance devices where they dissolve leaving behind a layer that when treated with an enzyme, leaves behind a surface-bonded layer of gold or platnium conductive material. Then coaters are introduced and are attracted to the conductive material left by threaders and attach themselves to it before dying, leaving a protein-sheath.

This sounds more complicated than it actually is for the cyberdocs of Rifts Earth. After implanting the cyberware, it is a matter of waiting while the nanites do their job. This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days depending on the cyberware installed, and so can add to total time above and beyond surgery. The patient is then watched for signs of rejection and if necessary, anti-rejection drugs are administered, and then the patient is cautioned to go easy on the cyberware for a few weeks while it adjusts in and sent on his way.

CyberPsychosis must be mentioned because it is too fun. CyberPsychosis is the stories you hear about people going psychotic when realizing they are more machine than human, and this process can sneak up on you, especially if you install lots of little pieces. It is fully explained under Cyborg Technologies, but the more metal a character gets without consideration of his humanity, the more likely it is that he will flip out and find a "special" team after him. The generally agreed upon legal point between some guy with cyberware and a cyborg is 73% -- that is, he has more than 73% of his body in cybernetic systems.

The huge variety of cyberware out there shows a thriving cybernetic industry. First among all the augmentation types considered or known is the field of cybernetics. Depending how much of a humanist you are, your opinion on cybernetics will vary greatly, but in general people don't mind a little cyberware but begin to get uncomfortable with vast amounts put in. There is quite a variety of legal cyberware and in general cyberdocs are respected if not always loved, but the Black Market ends up getting a whole pile of cyberdocs who want to work unfettered by law or anything but their own ethics (if even that). This is where the image of the disturbed cyberdoc in the illegal black clinic came from.

Cyberjacking, the usually involuntary removal of cybernetic systems from another person for the purposes of resale, tends to be far more profitable than organripping. Because cybernetics are in general not tailored to the person in question, they can be resold at standard face value and black clinics will usually polish them up and offer them as brand new. It is highly illegal however and most civilized states crack down on the crime like gangbusters, having a very zero tolerance view of the crime.


Biotechnology, or just Biotech, is a field which is purports to wield the results of cybernetics without any of the invasiveness or discomfort. The field is based on the idea of augmenting the human body on the macrobiological scale using organics, which is to say, augmenting the body's systems and subsystems in order to produce a more efficient human. The effects of these augmentations are very different from cybernetics but indeed can cause the body to perform beyond its reasonable limits and is far for subtle than cyberware while retaining the infinite flexibility of the human form.

Bioware as a rule is quite undetectable except under the most intense of X-Ray scans. However, a more tuned machine will show itself to be tuned, and urology or blood screening can also show the presence of bioware in the body by the substantially altered biological systems. Bioware by its very nature is less invasive being organic, and its effects can be quite astounding.

As with cybernetics, there is a limit to what the human body can take with bioware, however. Bioware is fundamentally designed with one system of the body in mind, and enough of these single-minded little devils can pile onto the metabolism in a hurry. The metabolism, knowing only that it is far out of typical balance, will react accordingly and attempt to fight what is causing the imbalances.

Typically what will happen is that the purchaser will approach a biotech clinic and inform them of what he would like implanted. There are two basic types of biotech to implant, cultured or generic. The process of culturing the bioware involves protein matching the implant against the subject's own proteins, leading to a far better and easier implantation process. Culturing also reduces the chances of rejection and reduces the possibility of metabolic attack, allowing more bioware into the body. The surgery itself takes place and after successful implantation, the waiting begins as the bioware integrates itself into the biology of the subject. This can be a long process, often tripling recovery time, although cultured bioware only doubles the recovery time. All of this time is spent in rest alone -- anything more strenuous will count against the recovery time and lengthen it.

One of the most unique and useful attributes of bioware is the fact that once it is integrated into the biology of the subject, it can call upon the body to repair itself. This means that while it may take some time, damaged bioware will repair itself if at all possible. This is often augmented with the use of nanites in medical capacities (IRMSS and such). Another of its more desirable attributes is that it requires no sort of processor or inferface to run (like cybernetics do), but rather they integrate into the body itself as just another process.

Resale is technically possible but the buyback price for bioware is nowhere near what was paid for it, and that usually tends to be a gross amount. Biotechnology is still a field in its comparative infancy and so prices still remain high, although bioware users claim that it is a small price to pay for the benefits they receive. A fledgling market for seconhand bioware exists as it tends to be cheaper and works more or less the exact same. The chance of rejection increases with secondhand bioware, but many who want this "organic cyberware" are willing to take that chance.

The biggest problem aside from the cost involved with bioware is that it is still a fairly untested field. It never really reached widespread use in the days before the Cataclysm because all the rage was towards cybernetics as a rule, and only now in the more naturalist present is it being given a fair chance. However, as it is typically new, it has some bugs left in it that need to be ironed out. As mentioned earlier, each bioware piece is designed for a specific purpose, but often different biowares can conflict or work overly well together, resulting in unforeseen side effects.

Biotechnology is seen either as a pointless diversion of attention or as the future of humanity. Naturalists put it up there with Bionics as the future of all mankind, with it basically duplicating many effects of cybernetics without any of the drawbacks. However, as good as it is, there are still limits, as it works within the framework of the human body. It is able to increase the healing factor easily, for instance, but unable to duplicate something as simple as subdermal armor. By its critics, it is lumped in with genetics as a curiousity but essentially useless on the mass scale. Doctors of Biotech stand firmly against this and work daily to continue their research for the day when biotechnology will put cybernetics out of business.


Chemistry is at its heart the study of matter, the composition, properties, and reactions with other forms of matter. Being able to create, control, and manipulate matter helps raise the general quality of life in almost unperceivable ways and it often goes as the unspoken hero of technology. It is not overly expensive, it does not require surgery or investment of money, and there is probably a chemical for every need, and if not, it can be designed easily enough.

There are two primary applications of Chemistry: industrial and pharmaceutical. Pharmaceutical Chemistry deals with medicines and compounds that affect the body chemistry, while Industrial Chemistry covers pretty much everything else. The nature of it is such that it is extremely market-oriented, which is to say, demand causes supply in the chemical field.

Pharmaceuticals work by acting on specialized proteins that form part of the surface membrane of cells, the receptor. Typically this falls into one of stimulating, reducing, inhibiting, or initiating. Equally, they may be subcategorized into one of the following: stimulants, depressants/tranquilizers, hallucinogens, and utility compounds. All medicine and drugs fall into one or more of these categories. Stimulants are usually defined as any substance that quickens the pace of physical or mental processes. Depressants/Tranquilizers are substances which reduce the pace of physical or mental processes. Hallucinogens alter the mental or emotional state of the user. Utility Compounds cover pretty much everything not covered by one of the first three classifications.

Industrial chemistry works at an almost everyday level, responsible for such feats as superconducting and optical chip technology. Treating substances has led to such wonders as polymers and so forth. The creation of stronger substances typically emerge from such industrial chemical ventures, including the famous Glitter Boy armor structure.

As far as augmentation goes, the most common form is in the form of drugs, typically stimulants. The finest example of this is the Juicer, who is a chemical warrior maxed out for total ability at such a terrible cost. By marrying a drug harness system with an advanced biological monitoring computer and some nanotechnology, the result is a super-warrior of almost unparalleled speed and strength without any of the drawbacks of cybernetics. Of course, the radical alteration of the body's chemistry resulted in a radically reduced lifespan as the body literally burns out from exhaustion at being so stimulated for so long. The prolonged use of depressants and tranquilizers has been shown to be a direct contributor to the longer lifespan of some Juicers, who take some time out on occasion to "rest."

However, other performance-enhancing drugs do exist, at less cost and equal performance. The durations vary and the quality of the drugs vary, but the US Army had long experimented with drugs to enhance combat performance while the Air Force attempted to find drugs that would make pilots more resistant to gravity and other maladies. While chemicals are comparatively cheap and plentiful, the supply of volunteers is no longer assured. The use of hallucinogens and such substances have long been in the arsenal of all interrogators on the planet. Depressants are used all the time to calm fears and nerves. All of these and other drugs, illegal ones designed for self-gratification, are all out there in the world.

By altering the internal chemistry of the body, even for a short time, unexpected side effects can occur. Much as too much bioware results in a sort of metabolic backlash, drugs can and are often released without extensive testing, leaving side effects generally undocumented. For instance, a drug which boosts natural adrenalin output could also cause a nervous affective disorder to develop or at its worst cause a heart attack. While most chemists are very careful people as a rule, they still need to produce to continue their survival.

Of course, it goes without saying that the biggest drawback involving any prolonged use of drugs of any sort is addiction. The dependance of the body on the drugs it got acclimitized to taking is the biggest concern of all drug-takers and the psychological addiction can be just as bad, although both together is a full-blown Greek tragedy waiting to happen. While I will not sit here and give you rules for this, people who take drugs should be aware of this danger. It is often a slow and subtle process that sneaks up on someone and yet rarely is known to them until someone else points it out. The withdrawl process is predictably agonizing and a terrible affair and if not handled properly potentially lethal. Although far more painful, the rapid detoxification method can cut the recovery time by a huge margin, but practically doubles or triples the agony. The other big concern with taking drugs is overdosing on them, which is a very real concern in the literacy-deficient Rifts Earth. Often death isn't the worst possible result, either -- often taking the wrong amount can damage the stomach lining, burn the throat away, sear the lungs, eat away at the intestines, or other biological reactions, and this isn't even including the possibility of brain damage.

There are a whole variety of other applications, however. Two of the more obvious that could see some game time are poisons and microbiologicals. Poisons have long been a staple of medicine although in tiny doses, but the overdose of such compounds inevitable leads to death. Some of] the poisons and other compounds available before the Cataclysm were so very horrifying that the current generation of people are glad they are long lost to the fires of oblivion. Chemical compounds are always a comparatively cheap way to augment material. Coating armor and bullets in resistant or offensive compounds is an age-old tactic.

Ironically, while Chemistry itself is evident in nearly every facet of life, its adherents are often disparaged and given little respect. This apparent contradiction has no real explanation, although chemists have long since tried to shake their ancient image of the lab rat playing with liquids until they explode. However, it has a long and honest pedigree to it and chemists will continue to produce what the market demands.


Genetics is best described as the study of genesand DNA which carry the genes, and of late, the manipulation of genes. To avoid turning this section into a biology lesson, I will gloss over the specifics, but the essentials I will cover, specifically the manipulation of genes to a specific end for augmentation purposes. Changing the DNA sequence is the basis of genetic engineering. By altering the commands for the proteins that create an organism, that organism will change also, and this is the ultimate end of genetic engineering, the manipulation of living organisms.

Genetic rearrangement is done primarily by nanites. There are two primary types, the cleaver and the fixer. The cleaver finds a specific site in the DNA and opens the DNA at that spot, allowing the fixers to come in and make their necessary changes. These changes are instituted in one cell and slowly spread throughout the organism. This is a slow process in and of itself and the entire genetic component of an organism must be converted to the new sequence in order for it to take effect. The larger and more complex the organism, the longer it takes, which is why Lone Star researchers often manipulate genetics during the extremely early gestation phases of experiments, where changes can be done quickly. This sort of macrobiological manipulation is virtually unknown except by the Gene Splicers, although some does exist under the heading of gene therapy.

The essentials of gene therapy are more to correct than to radically redefine the being. Because the organism has already had its genetics and chemistry "set," such a radical change would kill or horribly disable the organism in question. Therefore, gene therapy must fall within standard parameters for the species in question. After an initial genetic probe, faulty sites can be flagged and tagged for nanite operation later, replacing the defective sequences with normal ones and can fix cellular anomalies such as cancer. Depending on the extent of the change required compared to the basic genetic map of the organism, gene therapy can be incredibly long, torturous and expensive, which is why corrections are more preferable to radical changes.

Perhaps as much as Chemistry, Genetics touches the everyday life of most people on Rifts Earth although the vast majority do not know it. Legacies of the old empires exist in the relative rarity of genetic defects, the corrective work on livestock and other animals, and so forth.

The most notorious application, of course, came with the production of clones. Before the Cataclysm, the clones issue was a hot one as they were produced, becoming a war as people's fears and dreams collided into one lumpy mass. While the clones are a whole other file, they were the products of the genetics division of some long lost company. Following that there were requests for specific traits in children, traits to remove, and so forth, which resulted in the first major Genetics Bill being passed into law which essentially stated that there was to be no playing with genetics except for medical reasons. Of course, they could not defuse the bomb after it had gone off.

Presently, clones are grown only for Bionic applications, and at that they are grown without a mind, seen primarily for parts. People of Rifts Earth face enough perils and issues daily without their governments opening up that old Pandora's Box again. Prosek was wisely raised on the Clone Riots of the late 21st Century and while the theories of the supersoldier of genetic origin fascinate him, he doesn't feel the tradeoff is worth it at all. Apparently he felt differently about the Dog Boys since they exist in spades, although his faith in them has been rewarded to date.

As far as augmentation goes, genetics tend to produce stunning results but are in progress terribly unsexy compared to a Juicer drug harness or cyberarm. Genetics are primarily meant for long-term change and changes at the most basic level of our existence, our DNA. Under the guidance of Desmond Bradford in Lone Star, Genetics is manipulated for the next generation of Coalition citizens and used to build knowledge databases of other species and so forth. In the Lone Star Complex, the ideal of massive genetic change for one individual on the macrobiological scale is possible, although it is still a very long process. Fixing flaws, adding flaws, adding desirable traits, removing them, manipulating existing genes, creating new ones to add, all of this is possible. Prosek has very strict laws against gengineering, however, on humans.

The advent of the Golden Age of technology also brought with it the darker side, microbiologicals, designed and tailored specifically to wipe out the population of the other side by plague. Germ warfare, no matter how light or deadly the type, is 110% frowned upon by every rational being and even Bradford in Lone Star doesn't play with the stuff much. But it is a reality that tailored viruses and other such nasty things can be created with ease, perhaps too much ease. Some of the microbiologicals lost in the Cataclysm were so powerfully lethal that their mere existence was deemed too dangerous. A total worldwide ban was in effect at the time of the Cataclysm on such things and that ban is maintained by all civilized nations with the technology, including the CS and NGR. The ironic thing is that both adhere to this ban, which you wouldn't expect, but the stuff is so messy and dangerous that they don't want anything to do with it. There but by the grace of God...

As you can imagine, in general the populace views genetic engineering very dimly indeed, their collective racial memories recalling the ancient fears of the supersoldier who would take over the planet or other such things, which is why the Coalition has such a low-key and quiet genetic research institute. Among their successes however has been the Xiticix Killer, which while unoriginally named, proved very effective against the insectoids. Genetics is not an immediate, gratifying science but rather a methodical, long-term science, but one that will eventually liberate humanity from its own frailties.


Chipware is a subset of Cybernetics that recently broke away from that field and went off on its own. With a cybernetic implant, chipware allows a user to slot a software chip into a port usually behind the ear and access the knowledge on that chip as if it were his own memory. Despite this very simple description, the industry for it is absolutely huge. Supporters say that it's not the body that needs augmenting, but the mind, and so by allowing access to a literally infinite number of possible memory and skill softwares, the human is augmented with knowledge which is the true power in life.

There are a few components necessary to use this technology. The first is a neural processor, which allows interface between the mind and the software. The caliber of the processor is of extreme important given the typical lag between accessing knowledge on the software and actually retrieving it. Next, a chipjack is needed, which is a port behind the ear typically where the software is actually put in. Those are the necessities. Beyond that, any kind of physical skill would best have a skillwire system which is an external or internal fibreoptical line which makes it far easier to "act out" physical skills by hooking it into the neural processor and letting the software take over. Finally, there are the chipsofts themselves.

Given the plethora of skills in Rifts, chipware makes itself useful in almost no time at all. As it is essentially a recorded memory, using the skill actively will override any personal knowledge of the skill, which is to say, if you know a little Splugorth Pastry Cooking and you get a chipsoft with a lot of it, the chipsoft will override your own skill in it. Obviously the higher the rating in the skill and the availability of the skill will affect both the cost and availability of the chipsoft.

This being said, chipware lets the user with essentially no experience in a skill act up to the skill rating on the chipsoft itself. The advantages of this should be obvious indeed, and not only for combat but for knowledge skills and other general data even. The disadvantages should also be obvious. Chipsofts are hot items and it is hard to find the one you want if it isn't a common, legal one (like Cooking). There are a whole pile of illegal chipsofts, mostly military skills, paralegal skills and criminal skills (including Literacy). The neural processor is a key step in the process, and if it is substandard, rather substantial lag can occur when you need it and you may literally forget your tactics in the middle of a battle. The chipjack is limited to typically three chipsofts at any time, although models with up to six are available.

It tends to be a fair trade for instant knowledge, however. The other problem which tends to occur with chipsofts is that they are not your own experience. This means that you are limited to what is on the chipsoft. This means that you will literally be stuck with the textbook on the chip and probably won't be able to improvise overly much with it and the learning from it will be inflexible at best. Languages spoken will have a clipped, artificial tone and any sort of creative skills (writing, drawing, etc.) will be equally technical.

All of this being said, the usefulness of chipware is amazing. Despite the expense, often knowledge skills are slotted and noncombat ones such as chemistry or biology or other ones that would be needed but may not be able to be learned. A thriving legal and illegal market exists for chipsofts and trade with the NGR has opened up a whole new market for them as both sides trade their chipsofts back and forth. Whether it is just a novelty or a long-term, possibly permanent addition to the human body is unknown, but it is here to stay for the moment at least.


Augmentation in the world of Rifts is a constantly evolving ordeal. With the advent of Techno-Wizards and their augmentations, Bio-Wizardry, Symbiotes, and hosts of other ways to augment mankind, this file will always be woefully outdated. However, given Palladium's rather understandable confusion on the topic, I felt it was time to sort it out once and for all. All the augmentation, all the enhancements and technology, it's all completely secondary to the most powerful force of all, the indomitable human spirit.

I again wish to reiterate that pretty much everything from this file was borrowed liberally from Shadowtech and there's A LOT in that book which I didn't get into. You really should go pick it up, especially if you have augmentation-hungry players, because it sheds a whole lot of light onto the whole thing and gives some examples to boot and it just a really perfect book overall.

Eesh, this is long. Until next time kids. :)

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