|Behold my slightly higher resolution graphics console peasants!|
So if goes without saying that if you have a tech Savoy PC in your game then you're gonna want to give them some sweet upgrade options to play with.
Follow me after the jump to see how far you can upgrade your Ultra-Tech computing experience as you climb that computing ladder to join the ranks of the glorious PC master race.
For the most part, the RAW options given for upgrading computers in GURPS is more then enough for most campaigns were computers are going to be treated no more as just another piece of gear. You can give them modifiers that let you run more programs, upgrade them one or two Complexity Levels higher, make them smaller and so on. But these options can be a little limiting in a campaign were upgrading you computer to get the most out of it is a key feature since there's no middle ground from going from a baseline Complexity for a given computer and jumping up to a full Complexity Level higher (this is a ten fold increase in power!) and then capping out at two Complexity Levels. This doesn't really let you get a nice, satisfying incremental upgrade effect to let you spread tricking out a PC's rig over a full campaign. After all, what would be a cyberpunk setting if your netrunner was scrambling to get that smoking hot 8 megs of RAM to upgrade their deck?
Well, we almost got the expanded options we wanted when the ever glorious Pyramid 3/37 Tech and Toys II dropped. Not only did it give us the Blaster and Laser Design System (which, let's face it, the article pretty much gave this blog life) but just below it, we got another gem. Thinking Machines by Thomas Weigel fully revamped the Complexity system and gave us vastly improved range of upgrade options to play with. Now you might of noticed that I said we almost got the expanded options we wanted... Well that's because by revamping how Complexity was rated, it moved the system away from the benchmarks that RAW used. This in turn meant that none of the programs stated out in Ultra and High-Tech lined up with the articles suggestions and it gave no advice on how to rectify that. In other words, if you used the Thinking Machines article to stat out you computers, you were going to have to figure out how programs interacted with your computers on your own which could be a bit of an issue.
Despite this limitation, it did present some interesting ideas. Notably that a computer that is a full Complexity higher then one it's competing with then it gets a +6 bonus to hack it. It also let you make a computer that was step up in power or a step down from a the baseline Complexity of a given computer size which in turn gave it a +2 or a -2 respectively to hack another computer. This did help add some granularity to upgrading a computer but I think we can go one better.
By giving a computer that is one Complexity Level higher, that is ten times more powerful, a +6 bonus Thomas lined up this bonus with the Speed/Size/Range Table and from that I was able to create and upgrade tier system that gave you 5 upgrade steps between giving your computer a full +1 increase in Complexity giving you a little more wiggle room.
So below I give you two options on how to upgrade your computing needs.
Advanced Upgrade Option
The way most people get a more powerful computer is to either outright buy a higher tier system or upgrade your current one with higher end processors, RAM and graphics cards.
Of course this begs the question, "How advanced of a computer can I realistically get?"
That's a big fat, "it depends". Currently you can get processors that are about one Complexity Level higher then what are in a stock grade desk top PC, the problem is these more high end units tend to be geared towards server or other specialized uses. This of course could change in the future if there's a real market for such "power PCs".
So, how high you can go while have to depend on how high as a GM you want it to go though the max of +2 Complexity levels is probably a realistic, if generously so, limit.
If running a game were upgrading a computer is important (and if you are using these rules there's a good chance that it is heh) it's probably best to break down the most power upgrades the players can get into three tiers.
The first tier is the basic consume level, this the level of upgrades that anyone with a decent mother board can reach and should max out at maybe three or four Upgrade Levels from a base line computer of a given size (that is one three to five times more powerful).
The second tier is for what you think max level of upgrades that someone with a processional workstation set up could get. Since chips at this level aren't mass market and sell in smaller batch numbers their prices should be at a premium around twice or five times expensive as normal. Also given that even were it's legal for anyone to buy computers this high end there's someone somewhere probably noting who is buying such high power gear, getting parts at this level should involve some careful roleplaying to keep the player buying said parts off of that list. This should be up to as lest 6 upgrade levels level higher then a base computer (+1 Complexity) and maybe up to nine upgrade levels higher.
The final tier should be for computers more powerful then can be simply bought and paid for and should require either the player funding a super advanced prototype or seeking one out as an adventure hook. This tier can go as high as you like but 12 Upgrade Levels higher then a baseline computer (+2 Complexity) is a good end point.
So you might be wondering, what exactly does upgrading your computer get you, in real game effects, if you upgrade to a fractional Complexity level? Well, fist off it's important to note that unless you want to get into complexity of reworking how programs work in GURPS (and in which case, might as well as use the Thinking Machines article) then you should use the computers base Complexity to determine the programs it can run. However if you want to go off of the Thinking Machines article treat an Upgrade Level of 4 or 5 as being able to run programs one Complexity Level higher (but more on this in a second).
One the other hand you should be able to run more programs, multiply the number of programs your computer can run by the Power Level modifier listed under the Upgrade Level you picked for it. For example, a Complexity C5×2 computer could run 4 C5 programs, 40 C4 programs, 400 C3 programs and so on.
Also the amount of data your computers storage system can hold goes up by the listed Power Level modifier times 100. That is a Complexity C5×2 computers storage would go up from 100TB to 20 petabytes (20,000TB).
Lastly if you are trying to use you computer to intrude into another you get +1 to all rolls against the computer you are trying to hack for every step up on the Upgrade Level table your computer is compared to it.
Now there should also be some smaller, roleplaying effects as well that might warrant a small bonus in very limited situations. For example high impact programs like video games can be run at higher settings making them smooth and more immersive maybe giving +1 to reaction rolls to impresses people watching you play if they're graphic whores. And example would be to using editing programs, the greater power of an upgraded computer might make some tasks easier and could justify negating up to -1 in penalties from trying to do editing jobs faster then normal.
Of course the reverse should be true if you lets players run +1 Complexity programs on Upgrade Level 4 or 5 computers. Video games should run only in the lowest settings which in turn will give a -1 penalty (or more!) to impress a graphics hog and doing higher end editing should come with a -1 penalty or take longer.
Using the Advanced Upgrade Option Table
In order to make upgrading computers easier I designed a table with everything you need to know on it. First think of how many times more powerful you want the computer to be over the base line and then look up which Upgrade Levels Power Level comes closet to what you want.
Example: Let's say you want a TL9 Personal Computer that's normally C5, has 100TB of storage and costs $1,000 to be upgraded to at lest six times more powerful then the baseline model. Looking on the table below we see that a computer that's six times more powerful is between Upgrade Level 4 (a computer that is five times more powerful) and Upgrade Level 5 (seven times more powerful) and decide to round up to a computer that's seven times more power or Upgrade Level 5.
You than take your computers base cost and multiply it by the Upgrade Cost Modifier for your given Upgrade Level.
Example: An Upgrade Level 5 computer has a Upgrade Cost Modifier of ×17 with we multiply by the base cost of $1,000 which makes this computer a bit pricey at $17,000!
Next you increase computers storage by 100 times the modifier listed under the Power Level for the chosen Upgrade Level.
Example: Since the Power Level modifier for Upgrade Level 5 is 7 we multiply the base 100TB base storage by 700 which gives us 70,000TB or 70 petabytes.
And then you look up the given Upgrade Levels Upgrade Bonus, though for ease of remembrance this is equal to your computers Upgrade Level. That is an Upgrade Level 3 computer is going to have an Upgrade Bonus of +3. This bonus comes in handy any time your computer is in competition with another computer. If the computer you are going against is higher then the base line Complexity then subtract their Upgrade Bonus from yours. If the computer is more powerful then yours, you lose you bonus but their bonus over you is reduced by the difference.
Example: Since our computer is going to be Upgrade Level 5, it's Upgrade Bonus is also +5. If you try to hack into a baseline C5 Personal Computer then you are at +5 against it. If the computer was C5×3 though your bonus would be reduced by 3 and you would only have a +2 against it. If you go against a more powerful computer, say a C6 one then you lose any Upgrade Bonus but their Upgrade Bonus of +6 would be reduced by your +5 so they would only have +1 against you compared to the +6 it would have against a baseline C5 computer.
And finally you just jot down your computers Complexity, storage cost and write its Upgrade Bonus in its notes and Voilà! you're G go G.
Example: We note that our computer is C5×7, has 20PB of storage and costs $17,000. In its notes we state it has an Upgrade Bonus of +5.
Advanced Option Upgrade Summery
Upgrade Level: This arranges how much you can upgrade a computer into tangible tears. Each step up this follows the Speed/Size/Range Tables (Basic Set pg. 550) 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10 pattern. Note that every 6 Upgrade Levels equates to plus one Complexity Level.
Complexity: This is your computers effective Complexity Level. Replace the N with your computers actual complexity, for example if you are upgrading your base C5 computer up to N×3 then your computers Complexity becomes C5×3.
Power Level: This just shows you how many time more powerful this upgrade level will make your computer. A 7× Power Level will make your computer seven times more powerful then a computer with the base line Complexity. Multiply your storage by 100 times the Power Level Modifier.
Upgrade Bonus: This is how much of a bonus you would get if you use a computer with this level of power against a computer with the base line Complexity for its size. For example a C5×5 computer would give you +4 if used it to brute for a base line C5 one. If you are going against a computer more powerful then the baseline then subtract its bonus from yours, for example if your C5×5 computer goes against a C5×2 one then their +2 bonus would reduce your +4 bonus down to a only a +2.
Upgrade Cost Modifier: This is how much it will cost to upgrade the computer. Just multiply the computers base price by this modifier. If you are upgrading your computer from one Upgrade Level to a higher one then take the Cost Modifier of the Upgrade Level you are upgrading to and then divide it by the Cost modifier of your computers starting Upgrade Level and then multiply the computers cost by that.
Advanced Option Upgrade Table
Upgrade Level Complexity Power Level Upgrade Bonus Cost Modifier
0 N 1× +/-0 ×1
1 N×1.5 1.5× +1 ×3
2 N×2 2× +2 ×7
3 N×3 3× +3 ×10
4 N×5 5× +4 ×13
5 N×7 7× +5 ×17
6 N+1 10× +6 ×20
7 N+1×1.5 15× +7 ×80
8 N+1×2 20× +8 ×170
9 N+1×3 30× +9 ×250
10 N+1×5 50× +10 ×330
11 N+1×7 70× +11 ×420
12 N+2 100× +12 ×500
Further progression is possible. An Upgrade Level 18 computer (N+3) would have be a 1,000× more powerful, have an +18 Upgrade Bonus and have a Upgrade Cost Modifier of ×2,000. An Upgrade Level 24 computer (N+4) would by 10,000× more powerful, have a +24 bonus and cost 50,000 more and so on which each further +6 Upgrade Levels following this 20/500 pattern.
You can also upgrade your computer by simply making it larger. This is a much cheaper option then buying a more advanced computer but has the downside of making your computer bigger and much heavier.
How big you can make your computer once again depends on a couple of factors including, once again, if you are just buying a larger computer outright or upgrading and existing one to be larger.
If the computer is simply out of the box, larger unit then the sky is the limit. The sizes available should only be limited to what you think would make sense for your campaign.
If you are upgrading an existing computer to be larger then how much you can upgrade to once again falls heavily into "it depends". If the computers in your setting are not that far removed from modern day ones then your only real options is to boost performance is through overclocking which means the extra weight is do to the larger cooling units you need to stably use that extra power. Now for modern computers you might only be able to really justify one Upgrade Level of advancement. This however is do to the fact that for modern day CPUs and RAM, overclocking is an happy accident. Do to the fact its almost impossible to ensure that every chip comes out perfect when mass producing them, when a chip is sold as having X speed, what they are actually say is that it has at lest X speed and there's actually some wiggle room there. However how much wiggle room there is varies on a chip by chip basses and even then a 50% increase in real world performance is generous. In the future it is entirely possible that chips might be made so they can be overclocked on purpose (perhaps at the trade off of more parts of attrition) in which case as much as three Upgrade Levels might be possible if you are feeling generous.
If you are ok with making your Ultra-Tech computers a bit odder then by TL10+ you definitely can get away with having computers being made out of modular pieces that let you snap them together to create more and more powerful computers. In this case then the only limit would be how big of a computer you can actually fit in your room.
Using this upgrade option works like the one above with only a few changes.
Power Level: The storage increase using this option is equal to the Power Level, NOT the Power Level times 10. That is a Power Level modifier of 3× will give you only 3 times the storage, not 300.
Weight and Upgrade Cost Modifier: Multiply both the base cost AND weight of the computer by this modifier. If you are upgrading your computer from one Upgrade Level to a higher one then take the Weight and Cost Modifier of the Upgrade Level you are upgrading to and then divide it by the Weight and Cost modifier of your computers starting Upgrade Level and then multiply the computers cost and weight by that.
Note that often when upgrading an existing computer in this manner, the storage is not upgrade in lock step. If you are simply upgrading your computers power and not storage then multiply the computers base weight by 0.75 and base cost by 0.9 before applying these modifiers.
Size Option Upgrade Table
Upgrade Level Complexity Power Level Upgrade Bonus Weight & Cost Modifier
0 N 1× +/-0 ×1
1 N×1.5 1.5× +1 ×1.5
2 N×2 2× +2 ×2
3 N×3 3× +3 ×3
4 N×5 5× +4 ×5
5 N×7 7× +5 ×7
6 N+1 10× +6 ×10
7 N+1×1.5 15× +7 ×15
8 N+1×2 20× +8 ×20
9 N+1×3 30× +9 ×30
10 N+1×5 50× +10 ×50
11 N+1×7 70× +11 ×70
12 N+2 100× +12 ×100
A Side Note: Multiple Core and Extra Programs
One interesting aspect of the Thinking Machine article is its use of cores. Rather then all computers only being able to run two programs of equal complexity unless you add the High-Capacity option (Ultra-Tech pg. 23) which lets you run one more program, all computers start out being able to only run one program of equal complexity and then you can buy more "cores" that you run one more program per core. This also increased the computers weight but both the cost and weight increase was offset by the fact that each core weighed and cost half of what a computer of a given size costed an weighed in Ultra-Tech so if you built a two cored computer it would would end up with one the weighed and cost the same as the ones in Ultra-Tech did.
If you want to emulate this, just take the computer you want from Ultra-Tech, subtract the weight of any power cells it might have and half its cost and weight. This is how much each core costs and weighs. Then just think of how many cores you want and multiply the cost and weight of one core by this amount.
As with making your computer more powerful, adding more cores should also reduce your computers "battery life". If you add this complication then half how many power cells it takes to run a computer for 10hrs when you figure the cost and weight of a single core for a given size computer and then just multiply how many power cells you will end up needing by the number of cores you choose.
Using cores does mean some thought should be given to whether or not you want to use the High-Capacity option. While it might be tempting to just not allow it, it can be used to model modern tricks like hyper threading which allows a computer to act like it has more cores then it really has. Essentially a computer with a given number of cores that use hyper threading for the most part have an advantage over computers with a given numbers of cores that lacks it. They also tend to be more expensive then computers with the same number of cores that don't have it but cheaper then computers with more actual cores which matches the High-Capacity option pretty well. On the other hand, this also can lead computers being able to run so many programs at such a relatively cheap price that it makes needing to upgrade pointless and take some strategy out of a cinematic cyberpunk game where how many programs you run act as a form of resource management.
A Side Note II: How Many Programs Can I Cram Into This Thing?
While GURPS does a pretty good job of listing how much storage various data base items should take up but is pretty silent on just how much space actual programs take up. Now in most games, this isn't going to be an issue and the answer should be, however is needed but if you're running one where more detailed upgrade rules are needed knowing how many external drives your players are going to have to stock up on is probably going to be a thing.
Of course realistically, how much space a given program needs is annoyingly heavily in the "it depends" category of life but we can at lest get a good rule of thumb on how much space a given program takes up on average.
In reality there does tend to be a paring between how many resources a program needs to run and how much space it takes up so it wouldn't be totally unrealistic to equate how many programs a computer can store with how many programs of a given complexity it run, at lest of of the stock storage device that computer of a given size comes with in Ultra-Tech. So effectively since a TL9 Personal Computer is C5 and has a 100TB drive, a TL9 C5 program should take up around 50TB of space.
Wait?! You might ask. But doesn't this mean that how much space a program takes up is going to increase as Tech Level goes? Well.... yes. This actually seems to be the trend in real life. As storage space and processing power becomes more and more abundant, the more programs are bloating to take advantage of this power.
The blow table shows how much storage it takes to store a program of a given Complexity. At TL9 these are terabytes, at TL10 they are petabytes, at TL11 they exabytes and at TL12 there are zettabytes.
Now these should only be taken as baselines, programs that need tons of super HD 3D images are going to take up enough date to perhaps be counted as needing ten times more storage while a program with very little graphical overhead like a simple text editing program could get away as needing around ten times less.