Friday, May 17, 2019

Ultra-Tech Ultra-Gear: (Semi) Passive Support

In many ways the age of robotic exoskeletons is starting to become a reality. Powered exoskeletons are starting to come on the market for the medical field being used to assist in physical rehabilitation and to help nursing staff lift patients  as well as trails for ones to aid search and rescue and emergency response teams.

Sadly the one area that development is seemingly starting to drop off with many projects being canceled in the last three years is exoskeletons for military use and the reason is simple; inadequate power sources. Battery power just isn't there yet. While a hospital bound suit can get away with maybe two hours of operation on a single charge or can just be plugged into the wall, military suits can't be tethered in the field and are going to need to work for at lest 24hrs if not more to be practical. Even further some powered exoskeleton development teams worry about the more explosive properties of lithium-ion batteries being a danger on the battle field. On the other hand while internal combustion engines that can power a suit for a day can be made small enough to be practical,the noise they make along with their IR signature (if not an outright fire hazard) make it them hard to use without compromising a units position in ways that non-powered infantry would not be.

Powered exoskeletons are also very expensive do to their complexity so that's not helping things either.

Now that's not to saw that powered exoskeletons are never going to happen and in fact hybrid designs that use upcoming fairly quite micro-turbine engines to recharge a suits batteries when stealth isn't needed are being looked into at the technology matures and might renew interest in the near future. But for now, powered exo's are no longer as around the corner as we might have hoped. That's not to say that these limitations have not spurred some rather interesting work around, adversity is the mother of all innovation after all!

One area that has seen some innovation is the concept do to these limitations are in the concept of a passive exoskeleton. These don't let you carry more, move faster, or make you super human, in fact you're just as slow lugging around 100lbs in a passive exoskeleton as you are without one, in fact you might be slower as you have to lug the weight of the exoskeleton as well! What they do is through the use of smart load redistribution and shunting of the force of the weight towards the ground, they greatly reduce the metabolic impact of carrying said load by around a third. In other words you can carry a given load with greater comfort, for long and with less chance of injury! And all without needing a single double A battery! I think anyone reading this who has had to lug a full combat load across bad country can see the benefits of such a system! This of course potentially makes them much cheaper do to not needing on board computers to keep the suit from killing it's user and motors to power it.

Of course being a passive system there is a limit to how much such a suit can help out so some engineers decided to split the difference between a powered and passive exoskeleton and developed the concept of the quasi or semi-passive exoskeleton. A semi-passive exoskeleton uses the same basic concept of a full passive one but uses a limited power assist to help reduce the effects of carrying a heavy load much further then a passive suit could with current prototypes have the metabolic impact of lifting loads reduced by up to 80%! This of course is going to make them more complex and expensive then full passive exo's and they are gong to need a power source but they are going to be nowhere as expensive as a full powered exoskeleton and the power drain for exo's that can support a roughly 40kg load has been brought down to a little as two watts meaning that even modern batteries can power one for the better part of a day. 

All in all given the benefits I see semi-passive exoskeletons making for a good stop-gap till we can get a power source that can make powered ones more viable and given their price and low power needs. In fact do to their low cost and power needs I even see them being used to equip most military forces even well into TL 10 with powered suits still being limited to specialist roles (though still more common then in TL 9, TL 11's nano-suit might be the point where I can see cheaper down rated version being used as the stand issue military suit).

Ok, that's enough talking about them, let's see how mature TL 9+ version might work.

Semi-Passive Exoskeletons (TL 9)
Semi-passive exoskeletons use along with a effective load redistribution utilizing a rigged frame work to shunt some of the load into the ground that is further enhanced by a limited power assist. All this helps lower the metabolic impact of lugging around heavy loads by a large degree. In game terms, treat any load supported by the exoskeletons frame along with the weight of the exoskeleton as weighing 80% less when determining FP lost do to carrying said load. For example someone wearing a medium semi-passive exoskeleton while hauling a hundred pound load would be no more exhausted then if they were carrying a 24lbs load the same distane. Semi-passive exoskeletons also act as basic Load-bearing equipment (See High-Tech pg. 54).

Like the lower-body exoskeleton (Ultra-Tech pg. 181) a semi-passive exoskeleton consists of load-bearing back frame attached to a exoskeleton that goes around the hips and legs.

The full weight of both the exoskeleton and the carried load is till used to determine the other normal effects of encumbrance (Basic Set pg. 17) such as being slowed in movement speed, having a penalty to dodge, and any relevant skill penalties.

The Battlesuit skill limits both DX and DX-based skills (Basic Set pg. 192), as well as is used to don the exoskeleton which takes 18 seconds (or 3 at TL 11+ do to smart bio-plas straps). One a failed roll, the exoskeleton is still securely attached, just not in a optimum way and the metabolic effects of the load is only reduced by 2/3rds, on a failure by 5 or more or a critical failure the frame is so poorly fitted that FP lost is actually doubled instead of being reduced!

Semi-passive exoskeletons do require power to use to their full effect though they drain so little power that the often last several days on a signal power cell. They can be used unpowered but at reduced effectiveness, reduce the effective load by only 2/3rds (on a failed donning roll an unpowered frame simply acts a basic load-bearing equipment).

If attacked, semi-passive exoskeletons have HP based on their weight (see Basic Set pg. 558), HT 10 and DR 4. If rugged they have HT 12 and DR 8. Increase DR for normal semi-passive exoskeletons to 5 and the DR for rugged semi-passive exoskeletons to 10 at TL 10+.

Semi-Passive Exoskeleton, Light (TL 9): A light semi-passive exoskeleton designed for the to be used by industrial workers as well as the civilian outdoors market. Holds 30lbs. $1,500, 6.3lbs, 1B/35hrs. LC 4.

Semi-Passive Exoskeleton, Medium (TL 9): A heavier and ruggedized (see Ultra-Tech pg. 15) version of the light exoskeleton designed for heavy industrial, search and rescue, and fire fighting use. Holds 80lbs. $4,800, 20lbs, 1C/130hrs. LC 4. 

Semi-Passive Exoskeleton, Heavy (TL 9): Designed for military use (counts as being rugged,Ultra-Tech pg. 15), this heavy semi-passive exoskeleton can support a typical soldiers full loadout. Holds 150lbs. $9,100, 38lbs, 1C/70hrs. LC 3.

Multiply the weight and cost of a semi-passive exoskeleton by 2/3rds at TL 10, 0.5 at TL11, and by 1/3rd at TL 12. Increase power cell duration by 4 at TL 10, 8 at TL 11, and by 16 at TL 12.


  1. That's not about exoskeletons, but I'm for some reasons afraid of posting comments in year-old posts. )
    I find GURPS books a surprisingly nice tool to "test" various fictional weapons. (And I'm not alone I suppose). So I was pondering with idea of advanced traditional weaponry.
    High-Tech book itself acknowedges, that TL8-built guns can be significantly improved over original versions simply due to newer materials and machining. I would add to this, that modern .45-70 cartridges almost twce as powerful, as 19-century .45-70 was.

    So, I was trying to write up TL9 version of such typical TL7 battle rifle as FN FAL. I came up with idea of carbon fiber furniture instead of usual plastic one, titanium for reciever and muzzle brake etc. Then barrel itself can be carbon fiber, like one from Proof Research. That would count for heavy barrel for sustained fire purpose, but would weigh as normal steel barrel.
    There is still no quad-stack .308 magazines, but for TL9 purposes 40-rounds and 60-rounds mags looks like realistic option. As well as plastic cased-ammo.
    So. it would looks like this.
    Dmg 7d pi Acc 6+2 Range 1,000/4,200 Wt. 8.5/1.7 RoF 11 Shots 40+1(3) ST10† Bulk -6 Rcl 2
    I drop recoil from 3 to 2, deciding, that modern muzzle brake would count as this.
    Damage remains the same, but with propellants like Hornady Superperformance (assume this as TL9 gunpowder) and heavier bullet it would be abou 8d with ball ammo, I think. And I don't remember what I count for scope, probably stock Ultra-Tech CTS.

    Interesting, how TL9 gun care products would improve reliability...

  2. Tactical Shooting: Tomorrow from Pyramid 3/55 Military Sci-Fi does cover some of these points would be handled at TL 9.

    Now for carbon fiber furniture, I can see it being cheap enough to compete with modern composite plastics at TL 9 with Reflex being used for high end gun like carbon fiber is used now.

    The weight of your TL9 FN FAL seems about right and a quad stack seems to about double a mags capacity so 40 rounds is about right. A mag costs $24.34 empty, Ammo should weight about 0.039 lbs and cost about the same as a modern 7.62×51 round (I don't see TL9 plastic rounds costing more then caseless ammo). The gun would cost around $1,700, ST should only be 8† (Rcl has an impact on weapon ST).

    Bumping the weight of a 7.62 round from 147 grain to 150 grain and adding about 200 fps as the superperformance claims gets me around 8d-1 so I can see TL 9 stuff getting up to 8d. Range would be 1,100/4,700.

    1. Thanks, I'll check it out.
      Maybe, at TL9 ultra low-drag bullets would add even more range. Basically, here they said that with such bullets .308 almost match .300 WinMag so god knows what would be results for WinMag itself. :)

      And there is one more detail. Ultra-Tech offers APHC and APDS rounds which are basically carryover from earlier TLs, but only APEP with AD 3. So why not add enhanced penetrators (ie AD 3) to APHC and APHEX rounds?

    2. Low drag bullets are another topic I need to do research into, though I can see this just becoming common place as it gets cheaper to integrate.

      APEP rounds are an example of "early episode weirdness". Basically they are APFSDS-DU rounds that use a high density dart made of bulk amorphous tungsten instead of depleted uranium. The use AD (3) is a holdover of how these rounds worked in 3rd ed. They should be retconned to this:

      Armor-Piercing Enhanced Penetratior (APEP) (TL9)
      This is an APDS round that uses a long-rod penetratior made of tungsten reinforced bulk amorphous metal that has equal to or superior then performance to depleted uranium.
      Add an armor divisor of (2). Multiply damage by 1.7. If the caliber is under 40 mm, reduce damge type: pi++ becomes pi+, pi+ becomes pi, pi become pi-, there is no change if the round is already pi-. Double Range. Multiply CPS by 7. LC1.

    3. So, that would mean that "non-saboted APEP" would work as TL8 APDU too.

      And speaking of muzzle brakes, I believe that they should came with same Hearing/Vision penalties as other compensators, some designs already claims to reduce flash too. So, is it safe to assume, that at TL9 only louder bang should stay?

    4. Yeah, in fact I use a bulk amorphous tungsten version of the APDU called Armor Piercing Deep Penetrator (APDP) round in my notes. They word the same as APDU minus the nasty side effects and the incendiary effect.

      Yeah, there's not much you can about the loudness part but I can see that smarter design can shunt the flare in such as way it's less likely to bling you. I wouldn't drop it entirely but at lest drop it to -1 for most guns. Better recoil control is also possible and might already be the reason that some higher power Ultra-Tech guns have much lower recoil.

    5. Looks like basic idea, hat even with legacy design one can get formidable weapon seems to work. )

      But I don't think that better muzzle device design can lower Rcl for small-caliber assault rifles from 2 to 1, that's a bit over the top.

      One thing that itches me is representation of TL9 HP rounds, which appears to became less useful. Maybe, solid bullet which would expand only in
      fluid-based medium like flesh can count as HP withou any armor divisor?
      Or bullet, where hard penetrator backed by malleable core slug (like in M80A1) would act as AP without damage reduction?

    6. I think Doug messed around with something like this. I'll have to see if I can find that post on his Gaming Ballistic blog.

  3. On subject of Ultra-Tech rifle ammo, I would say, that while 10mmCL looks like offspring of rounds like .50 Beowulf, 10mmCLR looks like large caliber .308-based ammo. .45 Raptor can deliver about 5000J of energy, so with TL9 propellants it can be raised tp 9d, I suppose.

  4. Well 5kj impacting across a 10mm cross section is ~8d. With TL 9 improvements though I see it getting bumped to 8d+2 at most unless ETC is used.

    1. Yep, for 9d it should launch 300gr slug with about 2800fps. But it delivers 5kj form 16-inch barrel, so few inches of length would help a bit too?
      Anyway, that's a closest one to 10mm battle rifle ammo.

      ETC is whole another story. I rally like yor concept of ETC-enhanced Vulcan cannon, but I don't know if it would be such easy for snmall arms.

  5. So, I finally put my hands on "Tactical Shooting:Tomorrow", and...
    Well, what I don't really like, is that article is leaning towards TL9-designed guns and ignoring retrofitted old ones. And while at TL10, maybe, there will be no value in such guns at all.. I would not say so about TL9.
    Actually, I just dislike idea, that stoppages and malfunctions, which can be cured with cleaning and good maitenance overall are replaced by software glitches, which wouldn't be so easy to fixed. Especially deep in the outland.
    But low-friction moving parts and advanced springs surely would add reliability to any gun.

    Unfortunately electrical cagnition can be installed on older gun. )

    1. Yeah, there's no free ride it seems heh. It's all about what you are willing to give up for an at lest perceived advantage.

      As for upgrading old guns, GURPS lists $500 as the cost to give a gun smartgun electronics so I would assume that upgrading a TL8 gun to TL9 standards will cost at lest that much.

    2. That's why I believe, that metallic cartridge was the one of the greaters firearm technologies. It was so much better than previous systems, but also allowed older guns to be converted. )

      It would be interesting to see how TL12 technologies can affect performance. Suppose than pressor/gravity beam generator at TL12 can be reasonably small to be placed instead of rifle bolt carrier. And while grac guns supposed to fire tiny shard with near-c velocity, why not make output and size of projectile variable?
      As there is no need in moving bolt carrier, ejection port would be closed and whole magazine length would be used for projectile.
      Living metal parts and nanobot-based lubricants would probably help too.)

      Anyways I finished description of mentioned TL9 FAL modification. This is ver alternative history an may be not pretty.
      "In late 2015, after RENAMO took power in Mozambique and after military coup in South Africa, series of events was ended. Paramilitary group, previously posing as private military company, invaded Zimbabwe and overthrew black government. In subsequent years, in an effort to combine legacy with new technology, highly modernized variant of FN FAL, based on a on-off custom built gun, became premier battle rifle of Rhodesian Security Forces. At first, usual TL8 ammo in 20-round plastic magazines and 50-round drums were used. Later, as new technologies became more affordable, plastic-cased ammo in quad-stack magazines became standart. Ammo itself switched to newer propellants and heavier bullets to increase power and range" (inserts statistics here).