Thursday, September 8, 2016

Power Armor, Powered Up!

From the grand daddy of amplifying armor used by E.E "Doc" Smiths Galactic Patrol to the standard setting powered suits of Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers to the super powered sleekness of Marvels Iron Man, power armor has long been a staple of of military science fiction. At lest in comic and novels that is. I think that classically it's been a combination of special effects consideration, actors not wanting to potentially have their face covered by armor for most the movie as well as dealing with the difficulty of acting through a bulky costumes and directors having World War II stuck in their head when envisioning future wars is what has kept power armor out the movies for the most part. But besides that, over all it's simple to see why. It turns man into super man without needing the evoke gods or magic. It lets a normal man wield weapons that normally only a vehicle can, shrug off small arms fire, fight war machines on equal footing. It lets your heroes be grander and greater or it gives your heroes mighty villains to overcome. It also carries an air of romance with them letting writers invoke the knights of old.

Needles to say for these very same reasons power armor has also become a staple in RPGs and tabletop wargaming.

GURPS, of course, is one of those RPGs (Hell, it's practically in its DNA; just look at GURPS creator and RPG wunderkind Steve Jackson's earlier works like Ogre) and GURPS Ultra-Tech came packing with five kinds of unarmored full body exoskeletons, two partial coverage exoskeletons and sixteen examples of full armored power armor including variants. Now, this is some pretty good coverage but the problem here is the same one that plagues a lot of the gear in the book. Namely the lack of customization. While 23 types of exoskeletons might seem like a lot, a lot of those are just slight variations of each other and are split across four tech levels. Only the TL9 Powered Combat Armor and the TL10 Heavy Battlesuit get higher TL version.The book also makes assumptions about what suits will be viable or obsolete at a given tech level which works for a setting book.... but not for a generic tech book. What if you wanted a TL11 version of the combat walker? What if you wanted a suit of power armor with heavier or lighter armor? Sadly GURPS doesn't have an answer for you, at lest not yet.... or does it?

While not covered in Ultra-Tech for whatever reason, if all you want is a higher tech level version of a given suit of power armor the Basic Set has you covered. Well, at lest if you want higher TL version of the basic power that is. If you look at pg. 285 of the Basic Set (remember this one again heh?) you will see it has the rules for updating the generic TL9 Battlesuit it has listed there and if you paid attention to the TL9 Powered Combat Armor and the TL10 Commando Battlesuit you'll see that they're are just more detailed write ups of the Basic Sets TL9 Battlesuit both as is and with the listed TL10 upgrades. So that makes TL11 and TL12 battlesuits pretty easy... well almost easy... it doesn't cover how to upgrade climate control (since the basic set version doesn't cover that) and what about the other examples of power armor?

Well, some of TL upgrades, like armor and endurance (well kinda, more on that below), work regardless of armor type, armors that give you super jump go up by 1 per TL and things like sensors, air supply and other equipment can just be figured by using the examples in Ultra-Tech. How to upgrade the ST bonuses on the other hand isn't so clear cut at first but it's not to hard to work out if you compare how strong the base line battlesuit makes a ST10 Joe Average guy per TL and look at their basic lifts.

At  TL9 the battlesuit gives Joe a +10ST bonus for a ST 20 or basic lift (BL) of 80. At TL10 the suit gives him a +15 for ST 25 or BL 125, at TL 11 it becomes a +20 for ST 30 and BL 180 and finally he gets a +25 at TL112 for a ST 35 and BL 245. Taking a look at those basic lifts,  you'll see that they go up by about 1.5 times per TL increase which is pretty much THE standard progression multiplier in GURPS. So all you have to do to upgrade any other suit of power armor is to take the basic lift a given suit would give a ST 10 person and then multiply the modified BL by 1.5 per TL increase.

Endurance is also a bit of a hard one since not all of the suits listed lined up with the formula on Pg. 285 of the Basic Set. While at this point I can't be 100% sure, but it does seem like if you tweak the formula a bit it lines up with the listed stats. I list the formula I used to figure the higher TL version of the suits in their write ups below. However note that as I mentioned in Plasma Weapons, Re-Energized! the base line formula used in the Basic Set is a bit outdated. By the time Ultra-Tech came out David settled on a 4× increase per TL for power cells so as an optional rule, assume that the listed endurance for a suit is right for its base TL and multiply its endurance by 2.7 per TL increase (that's the 4× increase divided by the 1.5× a suits output goes up by). And for one last note on endurance, I'm retconning the Powered Combat Armor/Commando Battlesuits power cell down from a E cell to a D cell and the Light Exoskeleton from a base 12hrs endurance at TL9 to 18. The reason for changing the E cell to a D is two fold. First off take a look at the Combat Walker, it's a much bigger and stronger suit then the Powered Combat Armor. It also uses a E cell and gets 24hrs off of it.... the Power Armor however only gets 18 off of the same cell! Secondly I'm pretty sure that the base exoskeleton frame for the Powered Combat Armor is a militarized version of the Light Exoskeleton (more on this later), this is also why I'm upping the Light Exoskeleton's endurance-they're pretty much the same thing. 

For a suits Climate Control, it seems that it doubles per TL increase.  

Now at this point I could just go and say, "Well you all have what you need to upgrade any battlesuit you want." but what kind of person would I be if I made you do all the work your self? Below I'm going to go over every exoskeleton and battlesuit in Ultra-Tech and stat out the higher TL versions for you. For each suits endurance, I'm using my adjusted RAW numbers just to keep things in line with what's published. I'm also going to count the Dreadnought and Warsuit battlesuits as the TL11 and TL12 versions of the heavy battlesuit since that's pretty much what they are though I will show upgrades for the command and scout versions. I'm also not covering the Zero-G Worksuit since it's not really power armor. Lastly, for obvious reason, I'm also not going to cover suits that are either already TL12 or already cover upgraded version that go up to TL12.

Heavy Exoskeleton
ST bonus is +6 to lifting ST and +8 to striking ST per TL. Power is (TL-5)×6 for a E cell.

TL10: Lifting ST +18/Striking ST +12. DR30/0, Power E/30hrs

TL11: Lifting ST +24/Striking ST +16. DR40/0, Power E/36hrs

TL12: Lifting ST +30/Striking ST +20. DR60/0, Power E/42hrs

Light Exoskeleton 
ST bonus is +5 to lifting ST and +3 to striking ST per TL. Power is (TL-6)×6 for a D cell.

TL10: Lifting ST +15/Striking ST +9. DR15/0, Power D/24hrs

TL11: Lifting ST +20/Striking ST +12. DR20/0, Power D/30hrs

TL12: Lifting ST +25/Striking ST +15. DR30/0, Power D/36hrs

Ranger Exoskeleton
ST bonus is +5 per TL. Power is (TL-8)×6 for a D cell.

TL11: ST +17 and Super Jump 3. DR30/0, Power D/16hrs

TL12: ST +22 and Super Jump 4. DR40/0, Power D/24hrs

Stealth Exoskeleton
ST bonus is +3 per TL.Power is (TL-9)×4 for a C cell.

TL11: ST +7. DR18/0, Power 2C/10hrs

TL12: ST +10. DR24/0, Power 2C/12hrs

Lower Body Exoskeleton
Power is (TL-6)×4 for a D cell. 

TL10:  105lbs of payload. DR12/0, Power 2D/32hrs

TL11: 236lbs of payload. DR16/0, Power 2D/40hrs

TL12: 354lbs of payload. DR24/0, Power 2D/48hrs

Power Sleeve
ST bonus is +3 per TL. Power is (TL-7)×6 for a C cell.

TL10: ST +9. DR12/0, Power C/18hrs

TL11: ST +12. DR16/0, Power C/24hrs

TL12: ST +15. DR24/0, Power C/30hrs
Combat Walker
ST bonus is +7 per TL. Power is (TL-5)×6 for a E cell.

TL10: ST +27. DR300/180, Power E/30hrs, Climate Control (-40°F to 280°F Base model/
-40°F to 300°F marine/absolute zero to 600°F)

TL11: ST +34. DR400/240, Power E/36hrs, Climate Control (-80°F to 560°F Base model/
-80°F to 600°F marine/absolute zero to 1,200°F)

TL12: ST +41. DR600/360, Power E/42hrs, Climate Control (-160°F to 1,220°F Base model/
-40°F to 300°F marine/absolute zero to 2.400°F)

Powered Combat Armor/Commando Battlesuit
ST bonus is +5 to lifting ST per TL. Power is (TL-6)×6 for a D cell. Note: As I said above, I'm retconning the power cells used by the Powered Combat Armor/Commando Battlesuit from the listed E cell to a smaller D cell.

TL11: ST +20 and Super Jump 3. DR150/100, Power D/30hrs, Climate Control (absolute zero to 1,000

TL12: ST +25 and Super Jump 4. DR225/150, Power D/36hrs, Climate Control (absolute zero to 2,000

Command/Scout Battlesuit
The Command Battlesuit and Scout Battlesuit ST bonus is +6 per TL. Power, DR and Climate Control upgrades as are for Dreadnought Battlesuit at TL11 and as for Warsuit at TL12.

TL11:  Command Battlesuit has ST +24 and Super Jump 3. Command Battlesuit has ST +22 and Super Jump 4.

TL12: Command Battlesuit has ST +30 and Super Jump 4. Command Battlesuit has ST +28 and Super Jump 5.

HEX Suit 
ST bonus is +4 to lifting ST and +3 to striking ST per TL. Power is (TL-6)×21 for a E cell.

TL11: Lifting ST +12/Striking ST +7. DR210, Power 2E/1.25 weeks, Climate Control (absolute zero to 1,600°F)

TL12: Lifting ST +16/Striking ST +10. DR280, Power 2E/1.5 weeks, Climate Control (absolute zero to 3,200°F)
Military  Cybersuit
ST bonus is +5 to lifting ST per TL. Since it's powered by a radiothermal generator its endurance isn't going to go up at TL12 since there's probably no realistic way to improve efficiency past TL9 for these things. "Upgrading" to fusion or antimatter would actually be a downgrade!

TL12: ST +15 and Super Jump 2. DR120*, Power 10yrs, Climate Control (absolute zero to 2,000°F)

 Ok, now having versions of each suit across higher tech levels is good and all but what if you want a little more customization? What if you want a suit that's a little bigger or smaller? What if you want a suit that has heavier armor? 

Well I have some good news for you.

While it's clear that the suits stated up for Ultra-Tech weren't built with a design system, David did at lest seem to do some back of the envelope calculations for them to give them some kind of consistency. How do I know this? Well... I don't, not 100% anyway... but given that I can crunch the numbers and get results that are within the right ballpark I think I might be on to something. 

How did I come to this? Well Powered Combat Armor is 150lbs sans helmet and wearer, is described as having metal-matrix composite armor and makes the wearer about 7ft tall. 

Now given that, we also know that:
  • Metal-Matrix Composite has a WM of  around 0.1 on average.
  • The default ST10 human in GURPS is about 5'10'' and 150lbs (which matches the global average pretty well) and has 18.55ft^2 of surface area sans head and neck. 
  • The Powered Combat Armor has DR 50.
  • Now as a bit of reasonable conjecture it seems that the reason that the frontal armor of the Powered Combat Armor has a higher DR is do to shaping, it' more slanted or rounded, rather then do to the front having thicker armor.
Given this a 7ft human would have 1.13× the surface area of a five foot ten one, making their surface 20.9ft^2 sans head and neck. That means that suits armor is going to weigh DR50 × 20.9ft^2 × 0.1 or 104lbs. This goes down to 84lbs if we assume that armor follows the 0.8 multiplier for being optimized. That just leaves about 66lbs left. Now if we just look over at the light exoskeleton, we find that it's 50lbs loaded with a D cell. All we have to do here is assume that the Powered Combat Armor uses a militarized version that has full striking ST. This just leaves 16lbs left over and if you add up the the suits air tanks, infrared cloaking, waste relief and bio-medical sensor you get a 15.2lbs total.

At 149.2lbs, I think that whether on purposes or not, there is some sense to how it was stated. David more then likely then just took this base and used it to stat up of the other suits. 

To give you two examples to further show my case, scaling up a TL10 version of this suit up to the size of a Heavy Battlesuit gives it ST+20, DR 100 a frame that weighs about 107lbs and ups the weight of the armor to 199lbs. Adding in the weight of D cell used to power it's electromagnetic armor, SM+1 stealth systems and other gear adds another about another 41lbs for a total of 346lbs. Now that does leave it 100lbs short but taking a look at most of the portable power generators on pg. 20 of Ultra-Teach so them to weigh in at a 100lbs so I'm gonna guess the Heavy battlesuits radiothermal generator takes up the remaining weight. On the smaller end of the scale the TL12 Nanosuit comes in at 3lbs for the frame, 9lbs for the armor and 5lbs for the power cell for a total of 17lbs, pretty close to me. 

Based on this I was able to throw together a simple power armor creation system which I will detail below. Note that while this will get you close to RAW, this being based on Ultra-Tech however... not everything is going to line up 100% in all cases. One thing that I've changed from RAW though is that I based the suits endurance on the way power cells are currently handled so suits designed with this system may have different endurance from the ones in Ultra-Tech. Also keep in mind that since it's a simple system it's designed around producing power armor designed to fit human shaped characters though I you guys want I can expanded the system later on. 

Note that I use the terms "suit", "battlesuit", "power armor" and "powered suit" rather interchangeably and loosly below. When I capitalized a type of suit (for instance, Battlesuit rather then battlesuit) I'm speaking in the specific but if it's lower case I'm speaking generically. 

Suit Type
First pick the type of suit you want to build from the options below. All suit types give a bonus to Striking and Lifting ST, for simplicity sake if a suit gives an equal bonus to both types they are just referred to as a ST bonus in these rules. See Ultra-Tech pg. 181 for the full rules concerning exoskeletons and Battlesuits.
  • Exoskeleton: This just the frame without the armor. It can not be made sealed and it only protects against swinging melee attacks, falls and collisions. When designing a Exoskeleton at TL9 and 10 you must specify a max and minimum user weight the suit was designed to fit. The max weight can any amount you choose (though 10× the suits Basic Lift at TL9 and 15× the suits Basic Lift at TL10 are good upper limits) but the minimum weight can be no lower then ×0.8 max weight at TL9 and 0.5× at TL10. 
  • Battlesuit: A exoskeleton covered with armor. It is sealed, vacuum rated and has climate control for free. They have a limit on how much armor they can have and still be usable by a human shaped pilot. Has the same max/min size user limits as Exoskeletons.
  • Combat Walker: A large suit of power armor that boarders on being a mini mecha. Its body blends into its head and it has not waist or neck articulation. The wearer must rely on sensors to see behind them. Combat Walkers are sealed, vacuumed rated and have climate control for free but don't need helmets (though all the sensors and equipment normally carried by a helmet needs to be added to the suit) and can fit a pilot of any weight (with in reason now). They are bulky adding +1 to the suits base SM but because of this they have no limits on how heavy their armor can be. At TL9 they have bad grip 2 and can not crawl or get up from a prone position, they have bad grip 1 but can crawl and can get up from prone at TL10 and have no issues at TL11+.
  • Cybersuit: A light "muscle suit" type power armor. Only available at TL11+. Cybersuits can set to only apply enough force to counter its own weight, in this mode it does not need the battlesuit skill to operate. They also have a built in responsive clothes feature (see Ultra-Tech pg. 39) and so are "one size fits all" and take only 3 second to put on or take off, retracting into a small backpack when not in use. At TL12 they need a neural interface to use but grant a +2 equipment bonus to the BattlesuitTL12 skill and can be given smart suit options (Ultra-Tech pg. 189).  They are sealed, vacuum rated and has climate control for free (but have a smaller system then full sized suit). They have a limit on how much armor they can have and still be usable by a human shaped pilot. Any armor they have must be flexible.
Example: Let's make a companion to the Powered Combat Armor meaning this will be a battlesuit. It will be slightly heavier  and stronger then the Combat Armor and act a heavy support variant. Let's call it the Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support.

Tech Level
This one is simple, just think of what TL you want your Ultra-Tech campaign to be. The suit can be 1 TL higher then the baseline for 5× the cost or 2 TL higher for 20× the cost.

As an optional rule, if your suit has a higher TL you can give it a few quirks to represent the fact it's untested technology. If you're not sure how many quirks to give them try this:

  • If 1TL higher roll 1d. If it comes up 1-3 then the suit has no quirks. If a 4, it has 1 quirk, if a 5 then it has 2 quirks and if you roll a 6 it either has 4 regular quirks or 1 major disadvantage level problem (such as it tend to have a 1 in 6 chance of shutting down in combat, it burns through its power 4 times as fast as it should and so on). 
  • If 2 TL higher roll 1d. If it comes up 1 then the suit has no quirks. If a 2 it has 1 quirk, if a 3 it has 2 quirks, if a 4 it has 3 quirks, if a 5 it has either 4 quirks or 1 major disadvantage or if a 6 it has either 8 quirks or 2 major disadvantages or 4 quirks and 1 major disadvantage. 
This quirks should not effect price, its the down side of using cutting edge tech. 

Example: Since the Powered Combat Armor it TL9, this battlesuit will be too. 

Suits ST Bonus
To get your suits ST bonus think of how Strong you want an normal man to be in the suit and then subtract 10 from that. Civilian suits normally have limiters in place on how much it can boost someone's striking ST, their striking ST bonus is normally 2/3rd of the suits normal ST bonus.

For those who don't mind a little more math in play and want more realism skip the giving the suit a ST bonus, instead just add the suits Frames Basic Lift to the characters Basic Lift and recalculate their encumbrance levels for that and then use their new Basic Lift to recalculate their new Striking (That is take this new Basic Lift, times it by 5 and then take the square root of that).

Example: We want the Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support to make a character stronger then the base Powered Combat Armor but not too much stronger. So let's make it boost a normal mans strength by a factor of 5 meaning that ST10 person would have ST22 in the suit. This means the suit gives a bonus of 22-10 or +12 to the users Lifting and Striking ST. A civilian version would would give +12 to lifting ST but only 2/3rds as much or +8 to Striking ST. 

If you'd like a little more detail then instead of giving +12 to Lifting and Striking ST, add the Frames Basic Lift of 77lbs to the characters Basic Lift and recalculate the characters ST from that. If the wearer had a ST of 11 and a normal Basic Lift of 24lbs, in the Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support his new Basic Lift would be 101lbs and he would have a Striking ST of square root of (101×5) or 22.47 which we'll round down to 22. If this was a civilian suit you would use the suits fulls Frames Basic Lift to calculate encumbrance levels but it's reduced Frame's Basic Lift of 45 to figure Striking ST.

Frames Basic Lift
To figure the suits basic lift, take its ST Bonus and add 10 to it (or just think of how strong it would make a ST10 character if using the more detailed Basic Lift rules) and figure what the Basic Lift would be and subtract 20 from it, that is the frames Basic Lift.

Example: A ST10 person would have the suit ST bonus of  12+10 or  ST22 in the suit. This gives us a BL of 97lbs. Subtracting 20 from that gives us a Frame Basic Lift of 77. 

If you're using the more detailed Basic Lift Rules and designing a civilian suit you're going to have to figuring a separate Basic Lift for the suits Striking ST bonus. Just take the normal Frames Basic Lift and multiply it by 0.58.  The civilian version of the Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support would have a Striking ST Frame's Basic Lift of 77×0.58 or 44.66lbs which we'll round up to 45lbs. 


Frames Weight
A suits frame weight, in lbs, is (0.75×BL)/TL

BL is the suits  Frame Basic Lift.
TL is 1 at TL9, 1.5 at TL10, 2 at TL11 and 3 at TL12. 

Example: Our suit is TL9 and has a Frame Basic Lift of 77lb. This gives it a weight of  (0.75×77)/1 or 57.75lbs which we round up to 58lbs. A TL10 version would weigh (0.75×77)/1.5 or 38.5lbs which we'll round up to 39lbs. 

Maximum and Minimum User's Weight
For Battlesuits and Exoskeletons there is a practical limit to how big or small of a person they can hold. This 4 times the frames weight and no less then 2.4 the frames weight at TL9, 6×/1.8 × at TL10 and any weight at TL11+.

Example: Since the suits frame weights 58lbs and is TL9 the max weight its wearer can be is 58×4 or 232lbs and the lightest they can be is 58×2.4 or 139lbs. 

Frames Cost
Cost is Frames weight×1,047

Example: The Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support Frame costs 58×1,047 or $60,726.

Choose if your suit is going to be powered by power cells or an power generator.

If powered by power cells, a single D cell will power it for  (18×(60/BL))×TL hour.

BL is the suits Frame Basic Lift.
TL is 1 at TL9, 4 at TL10, 16 at TL11 and 64 at TL12. 

See Ultra-Tech for other power cell sizes and costs. 

Example: A single D cell will power our TL9 suit for (18×(60/77)×1 or 14hrs. While this is slightly less endurance then the standard Powered Combat Armor, it's still good enough for typical operations. According to Ultra Tech this will cost $100and weight 5lbs. 

If you choose a power generator then one that can power your suit needs to be (37.5×(BL/60))/TL pounds. For TL10+ only.

  •  At TL10 this is a radiothermal generator which lasts 10years. 
  • At TL11 this is a fusion generator that lasts 10 years. Note that while the reactor is running any thermal stealth systems are nullified, be sure to install a back power cell to run the suit if stealth is a factor. I takes 1hr to cool down the suit after the reactor is turned off. 
  • At TL12 this is a matter/antimatter reactor which lasts 5 years. As with the fusion reactor, while the reactor is running any thermal stealth systems are nullified, be sure to install a back power cell to run the suit if stealth is a factor. I takes 1hr to cool down the suit after the reactor is turned off.

BL is the suits Basic Lift.
TL is 1 at TL10, 2 at TL11 and 10 at TL12. 

Generator Cost
Cost is the Generators Weight×TL

TL is $50 at TL10, $200 at TL11 and $1,000 at TL12. 

Example: A TL10 version of our suit that had a generator would need a radiothermal one that weights (37.5×(77/60))/1 or 48 lbs which in turn will cost $2,400 and will last the suit 10 years.

Here you got two options, the simple option that will give you results close to the books and the advanced option which is just some guidelines on how to adjust the options given in the articles Cutting Edge Armor Design from Pyramid 3/85 Cutting Edge and to a lesser degree Low-Tech Armor Design from Pyramid 3/52 Low-Tech II to fit battlesuits.

But first a few notes.

TL 9, 10 and 11 armor is counted as laminate but the armor needs a minimum thickness for its effects to work. TL9 needs at lest DR 88, TL10 needs at lest DR 110 and TL11 needs at lest DR 124. 

TL12 armor is a little odd, the write up for the Warsuit gives it 3 levels of harden rather then laminate... but this is the only place hyper dense armor gets any harden so I have to wonder if this was just some early installment weirdness. So make a choice, either give TL12 armor 3 levels of hardness no matter the thickness (though if you do, be sure to do the same for all hyper dense armor) or just make it laminate were it needs at lest DR 490 to be counted as such.

A battlesuit should have  a DR of around (50×square root of (BL/60))×TL. Half that for civilian battlesuits or cybersuits, quarter that for civilian cybersuits. 

The frontal armor of combat suits is usually slanted or curved giving them 1.5× the DR against attacks from the front. 

BL is the suits Frame Basic Lift. 
TL is 1 at TL9, 1.5 at TL10, 2 at TL11 and 3 at TL12. 

Battlesuits and cybersuits should have a DR no higher then TL×square root of (BL/60)

TL is 57 at TL9, 64 at TL10, 80 at TL11 and 627 at TL12. 
BL is the suits Frame Basic Lift.

Simple System

Armors Weight
The suits armor weight is (DR×1.68×(BL/60)^(2/3))/TL pound.

DR is how many points of DR you give the suit.
BL is the suits Basic Lift.
TL is 1 at TL9, 1.5 at TL10, 2 at TL11 and 3 at TL12. 

Example: We want our heavy support suit to have heavier armor then the regular suit but not too much so. Do to it's size it should have a DR of at lest (50×square root of (77/60)))×1 or DR 57 but no more then 57×square root of (77/60)  or DR 65 so a DR of 60 seems about right which will weigh (60×1.68×(77/60)^(2/3))/1 or 100.8lbs which we'll round up to 101lbs. Its frontal armor will have 1.5× more DR or DR 90.
Armor Cost
Armors Weight×300 dollars. 

Note that while it seems that 0.8 multiplier for optimized armor existed at the time Ultra-Tech but the 5× cost modifier didn't so the armor on the suits in Ultra-Tech cost the same amount as simple slab of armor. 

Example: The suits armor weighs 101lbs so therefore it costs 101×300 or $30,300.

Advanced System
If you want a little more detail for doing thing such as adding more armor to just the front of giving the arm, legs and torso different levels of protection or even armored with different materials all together then this option is for you.  

For this system you will need the coverage table from either  pg. 18 of Pyramid 3/85 Cutting Edge or pg. 16 of Pyramid 3/52 Low-Tech II.  Figure the armor material you want to use or just use one you made specific your games setting, you will need to know it's WM, DR per inch and CM. Ignore any listed maximum DR.   

  • Metal armor has a maximum DR of DR/inch×0.35.
  • Ceramic armor has a maximum DR of DR/inch ×0.7.
  • Flexible armor has a maximum DR of DR/inch×0.86.   

Next you have to figure out how much surface area a suits frame has. This is figured by takes the desired base surface area from the coverage charts and multiplying them by (1.13×(BL/60)^(2/3)).

BL is the suits Basic Lift.

Example:  A normal human torso has a surface area of about 7ft^2 but since our suit has a Basic Lift of 77 its torso surface area with cover 7×(1.13×(77/60)^(2/3)) or 9.3ft^2.

Then you just multiply the needed surface area by how much DR is going to cover it and then by the armor materials WM and then by whatever construction type modifier you choose (not that more suits are going to use the plate option). For the armors cost just multiply its weight by its CM and then by any construction table cost multiplier. Once again note that battlesuits and the like don't seem to use the 5 × cost multiplier for optimized plate armor in the book so your choice if you use them with this system.

Armor Gaps
Realistically, in order to limit restricted mobility,  power armor covered in no flexible armor is going to have the same kind of gaps as the armor worn by nights of old had so to bring Ultra-Tech's battlesuit rules in line with this you should look over the more detailed treatment of armor gaps featured in the GURPS Low-Tech series of books. There should be some form of flexible armor covering these gaps on Battlesuits and Combat Walkers however. 

For simplicity's sake assume that:

  • The gaps are covered by DR12/4* at TL9.
  • The gaps are covered by DR18/6* at TL10.
  • The gaps are covered by DR24/8* at TL11. 
  • And by DR30* at TL12.
In all cases the larger number before the slash is against piecing and cutting damage only and the second lower number after the slash is against every other type of damage.  

Exoskeleton Armor
Exoskeletons have some innate, built in protection. This only protects the user against falls, impacts, collisions and swung melee attacks. 

The amount of innate DR a Exoskeleton gets is TL×square root of (BL/60).

BL is the suits Frame Basic Lift. 

If you want to use the more detailed armor system to give an Exoskeleton some more protection, uses only half frames surface area when computing the armors weight. 

I'm not including rules for electromagnetic armor since from my noddling around I can't seem to find a weight or cost associated with it! A while back I PM'ed David about the stuff and he sadly didn't remember what his thoughts on it were at the time so right now I got nothing solid. If you really want to add it to your suit then just  hand wave and do so, it's avible at TL10+ and seems a D cell will provided suit with 1,500/DR "shots". This should go up by 4 at TL11 and by 16 at TL12 but in the book it seems to follow the outdated power cell progression form the Basic Set which means that TL11 gets only ~1.25× more ad TL12 gets 1.5× more. 

Environmental Controls
I can find no cost or weight for this and there's not enough data points to see if there's there some kind of design system behind the choices that were made or if they were just pulled from a hat.

So I'm just going to have to give you some rough guidelines for now.

  • All armored suits are sealed, vacuumed rated and assumed to have some form of climate control for free. 
  • It provides Temperature Tolerance (absolute zero to 250°F) at TL9. Not sure why some of the entries say absolute zero while others show -459°F which is the same thing.
  • Double the high end of the tolerance per TL past 9.
  • Suits meant for hostile environments have their high end increased by 20%. 
  • Civilian suits are treated as having 1 TL lower climate control. For TL9 suits, I'd just give them the same climate control as the Combat Walker. 
  •  Cyber Suits have simpler climate control. Treat them as having TL9 climate control at TL11. 
  • This still leaves leaves out the Combat Walker, all variants but the space one has a really primitive climate control compared to the other TL9 examples. I'd peg it as either being a very early borderline TL8 design or that it just uses a "cheaper" system, your choice.

  • Example: Since our suit is an armored TL9 military suit it is sealed, is vacuumed rated and has a climate control that grants Temperature Tolerance (absolute zero to 250°F).

At some point I'll see if I can find more information based on this forum post and do a proper write up of environmental systems. 

Go through Ultra-Tech and add in basics like waste management and bio-medical sensor along with any stealth systems and other gear you want to add. Total their weight and cost and add them to the suits. Oh, and don't forget to add a computer like the ones in Ultra-Tech did!

Then pick a helmet of your choice unless you are building a combat walker. For a combat walker pick out the sensors, comms gear, filter mask and other things you want and just add their weight and cost to the suits running total.

Example: Since this suit is meant as a companion piece to the Powered Combat Armor it should include all of the same feature. It will come equipped with Biomedical sensor ($200, 0.2lbs), waste-relief system ($1,000, 2lbs), infrared cloaking ($1,500, 3lbs for SM+0), fast, harden, high-capacity, small computer ($6,000, 1lbs), a tactical ESM ($1,000, 2lbs) and a large air tank ($200, 10lbs). This adds a total of $9,900 to the suits cost and 18.2lbs to its weight. Though optional, it will normally be equipped with the same helmet as the Powered Combat Armor ($10,000, 15lbs).

Perks and Quirks
Don't be afraid to add some extra flavor to your suits by using the ideas and options I outlined in my post Brand Loyalty.

Here's a few extra Perks and Quirks to use

Quick Swap: Do to a well thought out internal lay out and higher quality parts, this piece of gear can be repaired or maintenance 10% quicker then normal.

Red Ones Go Fasta! (Vehicles and battlesuits only): Do to some lucky break with either settings or power ratios your vehicles goes a little faster (about 10%) or if its a battlsuit your basic lift in it is 10% greater.

Hanger Queen: This piece of gear internals are a hot mess or it just has high out put components with lower tolerances which means it needs more down time during repairs or maintenance . Increase time needed by 10.


Just add up the weight of the frame, armor and all accessories that will be built into the suit.

Example: The suits frame weighs 58lbs, it armor is 101lbs, it carries a 5lbs D cell and has 18.2lbs of gear built in for a total suit weight of 182.2lbs round down to 182lbs.

Add up the cost of the frame, the armor and all accessories that will be built into it.

Example: The suits frame costs $60,726, its armor costs $30,300 and it has $9,900 worth of gear built in it for a total cost of $100,926.

Size Modifier
To find out a suits Size Modifier first we need to figure its height.

A suits Height is 6.5×square root of((BL/TL)/60)!

BL is the suits basic lift
TL is 1 for TL9, 1.5 for TL10, 2 for TL11 and 3 for TL12.

 If this brings the suits height to lower then 6ft then treat the suits height as being 6ft. This just means that the over all motors and support equipment are smaller then a man sized object on there, the suits frame will space them out enough to fit. 

Example: Since our suit has a Basic Lift of 77lbs it should stand 6.5×square root of ((77/1)/60) or 7.4ft. This is well above the minimum 6ft height limit.

From that we just need to to a little scary base 10 logarithmic math to get its SM.

Size Modifier is 6×log10(Height/3)-2, round off towards the nearest whole number. Since Combat Walker are bulkier then normal suit they get +1 to their Size modifier.

A suit can be no larger then SM+2 (or SM+3 for Combat Walkers) if it is to fit a human sized pilot. Any bigger and it's piloted and not worn.

Example: Being as out shit is 7.4ft tall it has a SM of 6×log10(7.4/3)-2 or 0.3 which we round down to SM+0. This is well under the maximum Size Modifier of SM+2.

Basic Move Modifier
Since Basic Move is effectively a function of stride length for creatures with legs, a suit should only increase it if its large enough to increase the effective length of your legs. Instead any increment to your mobility do to the suit giving you a greater strength to weight ratio is covered by giving you levels of Super Jump.

Cybersuits for some reason go against this and give wearers a bonus to their basic move without any explanation as to how. You can either just ignore this and give them the same restriction as normal suits or you can just handwave it as it being given that the Cybersuits can change shape, perhaps the suits legs are stretching as you you run, increasing your stride. 

To figure a suits Basic Move bonus take (Square root of (the suits height/6)×SS)-5. If the difference is less then one then the suit isn't large enough to increase your Basic Move, if it is larger then one then round the number off and take it as the suits bonus. 

SS is 5 for Exoskeletons, Battlesuits and Combat Walkers and 6 for Cybersuits.

Example: Since our suit is 7.9ft tall its Basic Move Modifier is (square root of (7.9/6)×5)-5 or 0.7. Since this is less then one the suit does not give a bonus to Basic Move.

Super Jump Level
Since powered suits amplify your strength you get faster. This should mean that your Basic Move gets higher but what actually ends up once the amount of force you exert starts to exceed your weight is that you end up moving in a series of long hops. This is better modeled by giving your character levels of Super Jump. Of course the levels of Super Jump that some of these suits give doesn't quite make sense for their strength to weight ratio but I think that's more do to the fact that for some odd reason Super Jump doesn't have half levels like Enhanced Move does. That being said for this right up I'm assuming that Battlesuits, Exoskeletons and Cybersuits have some kind of mechanism to boost their jumps so that things line up better with the books.

To figure how many levels of Super Jump your suit gives, log2((( BL+20)×JB)/SW)+1, round off. If (BL+20)×JB is less less then SW then suit cannot jump. Yes, I know, more scary logs.

BL is the suits Frame Basic Lift.
JB is 1.15 for Battlesuits, Exoskeletons and Cybersuits and 1 for Combat Walkers.
SW is the total loaded weight of the suit and helmet plus 150lbs to stand in for the average pilot divided by 5.

Example: The suit weights a total of 337lbs with a 15lbs helmet and the 150lbs human stand in and has a SW of 67.4 so it gets log2(((77+20)×1.15)/67.4)+1 or 1.4 levels of Super Jump which we round down to 1. 

For those who want more realism try (( BL+20)×JB)/SW and just multiply the jumping distance by this formula, rounded to one decimal place.

Example: Using this options, the justs jumping distance is multiplied by ((77+20)×1.115)/67.4 or 2.7 times. 

Pressure Support
Being made of harden armor, Battlesuits, Combat Walkers and Cybersuits over some protection for crushing pressure.

How this seems to be figured for the suits in the book is this: Maximum safe atmospheric pressure is equal to (10×TL)/SM.

TL is 1 at TL9, 2 at TL10, 10 at TL11 and 100 at TL12.
SM is 1 for SM+0 suits and 2 for SM+1 or larger suits.

Example: Since our suit is TL9 and SM+0 it has a Pressure Support of (10×1)/1 or 10 atmospheres.

Of course there are exceptions to this like the Nanosuit which has more DR then the Military Cybersuit, they are both flexible but some how has a lower Pressure Support then the Military Cybersuit. The Combat Walker also seems to be an exception as well.

This is of course a bit simplistic (and of course I might be wrong as well) so here a slightly more detailed way of figuring how many atmospheres the suit can handle.

Pressure Support is figured as (((DR×50)/SH)/SM)/33

DR is the suits DR. Use the lower number for Battlesuits and Combat Walkers. For armor built using the more detailed options use the average of the highest and lowest DR.

SH is the suits height in feet.

SM is 1 for SM+0 suits and 2 for SM+1 or larger suits.

Example: Use this option the suit has a Pressure Support of (((60×50)/7.9)/33 or  11.5 atmospheres.

This formula doesn't 100% match the book but it seems to give better results.

Radiation Protection Factor
This one seems all over the place in the books and it's hard to tell where the actual figures begins and the outright errors and early version weirdness ends. For example, the 150lbs Commando Battlesuit has PF(10) but the 480lbs Heavy Battesuit has only PF(5)!

That being said, 20×log10(suits weight/40) seems to get close results. TL12 suits (made from Hyper Dense armor) seems to get around 5× the PF. Round numbers off to the nearest multiple of 5 to match the book.

Example: Since our suit weighs 172lbs it has a PF of 20×log10(172/40) or 12.7 which we round down 10 since it's the closest multiple of 5.

Wrapping it all up
Once you got everything finished up, total up the cost, do a write up detailing your suits functions and then do it's stat line and you're all ready to suit up and kick some ass. 

Titan International M4 Powered Combat Armor, Heavy Support (TL9)
 Designed as a companion to the companies successful M3 series of  Powered Combat Armor, the Powered Combat Armor Heavy Support was designed to be slightly larger and stronger then the base line suit as to fulfill the roll of heavy weapons support. It is based on a enlarged version of the M3's frame and have 80% compatibility in parts. This not only makes logistics and repairs for the suit easier but means the soldiers can quickly learn to adapted between them (familiarity penalties are only -1 for solders going between the two suits as well as mechanics working on them and logistic officers used to supping them). The suit stands 7ft 11in tall (SM+0) and weighs 182lbs. While the suit is activated its weight does not count as encumbrance.

The suits gives the wearer Lifting and Striking ST +12 and Super Jump 1. The suit also has an integrated biomedical sensor (Ultra-Tech pg. 187), waste relief system (Ultra-Tech pg. 187), infrared cloaking (Ultra-Tech pg. 99), a fast, harden, high-capacity small computer ( Ultra-Tech pg. 22-23) and tactical EMS (Ultra-Tech pg. 62).

With a Helmet on the suit is sealed and vacuum rated. It provides climate Control (absolute zero to  250°F), pressure support (10 atm.), radiation protection (PF10). It has a large air tank with 24hrs of air at TL9.

The suit can hold a wearer who weights now more then 232lbs and no less then 139lbs.

The suits normally uses the Power Combat Armors Helmet. 

Battlesuit Table   
TL   Armor                                Location    DR          Cost           Weight        Power           LC
9    Powered Combat Armor,        all           90/60        $100,926    182lbs         D/14hrs         1           
                     Heavy Support

Use the higher DR value against hits to the front torso; the lower value protects all other locations

Fixed two major mistakes I made! The formula for figuring the battlesuits height was flawed and I omitted major information on how to figure Super Jump level!

Edit 2:
A major thank you to CTA for taking the time out of his life to give this battlesuit design system a thorough checking out!

Going over them he found that that both my min/max user size and suit height rules were off. Thankfully they were easy fixes.

For minimum and maximum suit user sizes I changed the rules to be no longer tied to the suits own size and weight. In stead for the max size you just choose whatever weight limit you want with the suggestion it be no more then 10× the suits BL at TL9 and 15× at TL10+ -but that is just what it is, a suggestion. The minimum weight a user can have is 80% the max weight at TL9 and half of it at TL10.

For the suit's height I added a note that stated that if the suits height ends up being less the 6ft, treat the suit as being 6ft.

Over all I'm happy that only two relatively minor flaws have been found so far and I once again want to thank CTA for his help. I really do appreciate feed back! If you see anything I messed up on don't be afraid to let me know so I can fix it!


  1. Good stuff; my target settings for the near future don't directly involve power armor, but some of this still applies to mechs for sure; I'll keep it in mind when I start doing those.

    1. While I can see power armor not being appropriate, lower body exoskeletons are already becoming a thing.

      I was saving this for an offshoot article but what the hey....

      To make a Exoskeleton a Lower Body Exoskeleton, build it as normal but multiply its weight be 0.6. Instead of giving your a ST bonus it gives you a payload equal to the suits Basic Lift×1.2.

      Now for mecha, I do have a version of these rules optimized for making them. It was on my to do list for the blog but I might try upgrading to full Pyramid article but I got no problem giving you hand with stating some the C&C mechs.

    2. Roger roger; I'm intending to do some eventually. I thought about waiting until I was going to need them, but there is one I've had on the near tern TO DO for a bit.

  2. What about some kind of cleverly engineered sliding or interlocking plate systems (like armadillos) instead of just using flexible armor at the joints? I totally get where you are coming from, but it just...kills my idea of powered armor when you have to use reflex cloth at your joints.

    1. Oh, then go right for it! At the end of the day, these posts are just my suggestions. There is zero official backing behind them heh.

      And even if there were... GURPS is a rule zero game. Power armor works how YOU want it to work in YOUR game.

      That being said, to bring in the why I did what I did; while to a degree your ideas could work for some joints, and in fact similar ideas were implemented in knight armor, for areas like the neck, fold of the arms, inner thigh and back of the knee... there would be some issues.

      Fold your arm a few times really quick and try imagining a folding set of interlocked plates trying to slide open and closed each time you did that. Now imagine how complex that system would be and how much weight and cost it would add. Then there's reliability issues. That much sliding is going to add wear and tear and what happens if a plate slips out of place? Can you imagine being in of combat and finding your arm locked in place?

      But do not let this be a deterrent to your idea! Roleplaying is about having fun, not being a reality simulator.

  3. Doing a deconstruction of powered armour like this is something I've been meaning to do for a while, but you seem to have done it really well! Looking forward to when I have the time to read this in full and digest it properly.

    1. Thanks! Knowing that people find this stuff useful means I'm doing my job.

      But yeah, take your time. It is a full plate to try and digest in one go since it's pretty much two articles in one heh.

    2. So I've finally remembered to come back to this to read through and work along and there are one or two sections which are wonky. First is the section for min/max user weight. It works great in the +10 ST to +25 ST range but totally breaks down at lower ST. A TL10 exoskeleton that adds +5 ST has a min/max user weight of 22.5lbs/75lbs. Since the Stealth Exoskeleton is in this kind of range, it seems important. I'm not really convinced why a limit on the user's weight is necessary. Was there a reason for including it?

      The other section is the height. I continued with the same calculations despite the 75lbs maximum to make a sort of superlight battlesuit. I slapped on DR 50 (slightly above the minimum of 48) and the suit came out to... 3 feet 5 inches tall. To be fair that might well suit a species that weighed between 22.5-75lbs but given I was designing for a normal human that's come out a bit weird.

      Everything else came out pretty nicely, including total weight and cost. I'm totally capable of ignoring those two wonky formulae but I'm wondering whether they might be showing some oddities with your maths.

    3. Thanks for taking the time to do some play testing! By all means, if feel that you see a flaw I made and have the time, let me know!

      I'll take a look at these issues once I get back from work later tonight.

      Now the min weight things was do to the fact that there has to be a limit on how big someone can be and still fit in the thing. Here the users weight is being used as a short hand for their volume.

      But yeah, I'll get on this first chance I get.

    4. Ok, made my fixes. Thankfully they were pretty easy to update since the mistakes I made were more me not fully thinking things out then my underlining reasoning.

      For minimum and maximum suit user sizes I changed the rules to be no longer tied to the suits own size and weight. In stead for the max size you just choose whatever weight limit you want with the suggestion it be no more then 10× the suits BL at TL9 and 15× at TL10+ -but that is just what it is, a suggestion. The minimum weight a user can have is 80% the max weight at TL9 and half of it at TL10.

      The mistake I made here was forcing it to be based on suits size. While there is some logic to this, there is also no reason they can't just adjust the size of the frame everything is attached to as needed.

      For the suit's height I added a note that stated that if the suits height ends up being less the 6ft, treat the suit as being 6ft.

      When I made the rules I was thinking about how big the motors and support equipment had to be and if a you could a human in there but like with the min/max size thing there's no reason that they can't just space the components out on a larger frame if needed.

    5. Good to know it wasn't just me getting my maths wrong! I'm intending to do a few battlesuits and exoskeletons with this, too, and will post them for consideration/critique on my own blog.

    6. Cool stuff man. Can't wait to check them out!