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Incorporating Cortical Stacks Into Your RPG Campaign

Updated on January 10, 2012
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The purpose of the cortical stack, as it exists in the Takeshi Kovacs novels by Richard K. Morgan, is to essentially store the entire mind, the entire personality, collection of memories, etc. in a sort of "backup" unit, like an extra hard drive on your computer. Why? Because in that vision of the future, life is cheap, genetically engineered bodies are treated like luxury sportscars, and the man with the most money can effectively cheat death over and over again, wear tailored bodies out one at a time, swapping into new ones as soon as the current one starts to get a little over the hill or beat up.

Personally, I've found this is a great element to introduce into a campaign. It makes deadly situations just a little more reasonable (if a player's buddies cut the stack out of his corpse and slap it into a new body, he gets to keep his character, and might even end up with a better body in the end.) It gives your game that element of walking the knife edge that can be so exhilarating, but even if a character's brains get splattered all over a wall, the player knows there's still a chance he might be able to get back into the game without rolling up some wholly new character. It allows players to get attached to the people they play, without ripping that rug out from under them when death finally does come knocking (unless the stack gets destroyed.)

An optional rule you can use with this sheet is putting in a Resleeve limit. In Richard K. Morgan's novels, there is this fear of becoming a "patchwork man", a man who has been killed so many times, who has jumped through so many different bodies, male and female, that he no longer truly knows who he is. These patchwork men are effectively insane, and on the whole tend to become merciless killers in one form or another. When your players are swapping into new bodies, keep track of their deaths. How many deaths can they tolerate before they go insane? That's up to you, but what I've put on the table during my games is a number of deaths equal to an average of the character's intelligence and wisdom halved. (round up.) After that, there's a five percent chance per death (Cumulative) that the character will go insane (DM's discretion on how that's worked out) with a new roll on the percentile die happening with every death.

A fun adventure idea using Cortical Stacks:
Consider starting your entire party out as prisoners or laborers in some form of really basic body that you could pick up on the open market for a couple thousand dollars. Nothing special, straight out low end of average, strong enough to work, but not strong enough to rebel-- or so they believe. As the characters move up in the world, use the carrot of better bodies, remote wireless backup facilities and even stack copies to keep them going, keep them wanting more.


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      8 years ago

      Interesting, I just might find a way to introduce this into shadowrun. But we hardly ever die, and someone might have something negative to say about it. But still interesting.


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