Sunday, April 29, 2012

Transhumanism in Psi-punk

Over on the Fudge RPG Yahoo Group, I was asked about whether or not transhumanism would play a big part in the Psi-punk setting.  The answer isn't cut-and-dry, but I thought it would make an interesting topic for discussion here on the Dev Blog.

First of all, what is transhumanism?  According to our old friend Wikipedia:

"Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities."
By that definition, it would be easy to say that, by nature, just about any cyberpunk game would focus heavily on transhumanism; after all, what good would a cyberpunk RPG be without  cyberware?  We have, of course, already touched on the topic of cybernetics (for a refresher, read "You Didn't Think We Were Serious?") but isn't it more than that?

One common thematic element, arguably a defining element of the cyberpunk genre is this very topic.  Man vs. Machine; Artificial Intelligence; Cyborgs and Simulacrums.  Whether it's attempting to make sense of the implications of mankind outfitting their own bodies with chrome and microchips or debating the "human rights" of artificial intelligence, you'll find it in cyberpunk.

Psi-punk, however, attempts to do something a little bit different.  Our primary objective with the setting is to explore the implications of what a psychically-charged population would mean to the evolution of mankind.  We step back a bit from the Man vs. Machine dilemma and refocus our attentions on Psychics vs. Non-Psychics.

Psi-punk is set in the year 2096 and psychics have been at large since around 2017, so the world has had almost 80 years to grapple with their existence.  Some normals tried to fight back, and even succeeded for a while, but ultimately the powerful mental elite clawed, fought, and mind controlled their way back to the top.

Cyberware has helped to level the playing field somewhat, but it's available to both psychics and normals alike, so it doesn't make a huge impact on its own.  Instead, one company in particular has developed a technology to recreate nearly any psychic phenomenon, once again giving normals (at least those who can afford it) a way to combat the advantages that psychics  possess.

We go into detail with how certain types of psionic powers have been able to benefit humanity as a whole, how they interact with technology, and much more.  In many cases psychic technology -- dubbed "magic" by its creators -- is applied as to cyberware, weapons, armor, and other gear in much the same way that other forms of electronics are.  Mankind has managed to replicate a wide variety of phenomena not previously known outside of the Fantasy or Science Fiction genres.

We'll see a wide range of examples throughout the book in regards to all of this.  We talk about "ghosting," the ability to project one's essence *into* the 'Net using electrokinesis, as well as the implications that being able to control electricity and temperature might have on the world (can we say "unlimited, free, clean energy"?

In Psi-punk, psionics aren't just an afterthought to the system, present only to add some kind of "magic" subsystem to the game.  Rather, we have built the setting and system from the ground up to fully support a very heavy dose of psychic abilities, and we've focused on how they interact with the world, technology, and people in general.

We hope not to alienate fans of the cyberpunk genre who are interested in the myriad ways of describing transhumanism and the "human condition."  We understand that it's a popular and very interesting philosophical debate and one that no genre does better than cyberpunk.  However, our goal was to create a game that gives people reason to re-think the genre; something different than the norm and something we think you'll really enjoy.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to start or join the discussion!  We look forward to talking more about the game and revealing more as we progress toward our upcoming Kickstarter launch.  Stay tuned!