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> SR4 and the definition of Essence, Puting right the oversights of M&M
RunnerPaul
post Mar 27 2005, 09:01 PM
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Let's talk about the definition of Essence. When Man & Machine was released one of it's selling points was that it would spell out exactly what essence and essence loss represented.

But then we all got to read the Developers Say and it turned out that this concrete definition of essence loss was something along the lines of "Cyberware interfaces with the nervous system, and this interface forces the body to adjust itself to be out of attunement with mana; heavy trauma (including deliberate trauma such as surgery), and certain drugs can also force the nervous system to become out of attunement with mana."

I know that many people looked at that and said that it was no better than SR1's statement that Essence was "a measure of the soundness of the Central Nervous System and Spirit".

For instance, there's all sorts of cyberware implants that would have no significant ties to the nervous system: Non-retractable cyberspurs and hand razors, radio-controlled one-shot auto injectors, and bone lacing, to name a few, and yet these pieces of ware do have a listed essence cost. Then there's variable essence costs for some pieces of ware that come in variable ratings, such as the Data Compactor even though the increased rating should require no extra neural interfacing. Man & Machine's definition does little to answer these questions.

Invariably, we all know the metagame reason behind Essence loss: Game Balance. However, I still think that it should be possible to come up with an in-game definition of what Essence is that can answer all the questions. I think some of the later SR2 products were on the right track when they were talking about implants that grant abilities that deviate from a being's Astral Template. With a little refinement of that explanation, to account for Bioware and other implants that consist of living matter, I think we'd have an in game definition that dovetails neatly with the metagame reasoning of "It's to maintain game balance".

Just something I wanted to throw out there in case anyone involved with SR4 happens to be looking.
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Dizzo Dizzman
post Mar 27 2005, 09:08 PM
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I always viewed it in a different way. The body and the spirit are a intertwinned system that can regulate and heal itself. Damage done to the system (i.e. essence loss) degrades both the body and the spirit, but the system will adapt and survive. However, if the system takes on too much damage, it becomes unstable and begins to break down (i.e. cyberzomies and cancer).

You see the same thing happen with severely damaged ecosystems or really elder folks at the end of life. There is no one thing wrong with them, just a bunch minor things that degrade the system to the point where it can no longer survive.

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mintcar
post Mar 27 2005, 09:18 PM
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I donīt want a definition, really. The real reason you canīt put however much cyberware you want in a person should be so complex the worldīs top scientists wouldnīt have the answer. Why would the pcīs? A simple "Just the way it is" has always been my answer when the players have been curious.
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Ancient History
post Mar 27 2005, 09:12 PM
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Well, to be most accurate, in first edition it started out with the very simple and ambiguous statement that Essence was "a measure of the soundness of the central nervous system and spirit." 2nd edition brought forth a much more mystical approach to essence, especially the Essence integrity theory, an approach you can see in Shadowtech, Cybertechnology, and Tír na nÓg. 3rd edition's Man and Machine brought the definition back in line to a measure of impact on the nervous system, and drew a logical reasoning for this impacting magical ability as well.
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Kagetenshi
post Mar 27 2005, 09:23 PM
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QUOTE (Dizzo Dizzman)
I always viewed it in a different way. The body and the spirit are a intertwinned system that can regulate and heal itself. Damage done to the system (i.e. essence loss) degrades both the body and the spirit, but the system will adapt and survive. However, if the system takes on too much damage, it becomes unstable and begins to break down (i.e. cyberzomies and cancer).

The body barely heals itself as it is. Anything but the most minor of injuries has effects lasting for years, and may never go away at all.

~J
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mintcar
post Mar 27 2005, 09:49 PM
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QUOTE
The body barely heals itself as it is.

Thatīs not true. People can recover from some amazing injuries.

You feel rather disapointed and weak when you have a small injury thatīs hard to shake off, like a dislocated knee that just wont work properly for a year afterwards, thatīs for sure though. The body doesnīt heal as fast as you would like it to, but itīs still a miracle. :)
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Thanos007
post Mar 27 2005, 10:08 PM
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How about this? Cyber and bioware put stress on the original components and too much of either just wares them out. Why not replace those you ask? Well... how about too much crap that doesn't really belong in your body has adverse effects on your brain. The one thing you can't replace. Yet.

What effects? Chemical imbalances. psychosis. Jeez I'm no Dr. but I bet there are a lot of draw back to large amounts of both cyber and bioware. Who need mystic mumbo jumbo. Pretty sure if we had that kinda tech now it would pan out like that.

Thanos
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RunnerPaul
post Mar 27 2005, 10:12 PM
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QUOTE (Ancient History)
3rd edition's Man and Machine brought the definition back in line to a measure of impact on the nervous system, and drew a logical reasoning for this impacting magical ability as well.

And in doing so, leaves a lot of unanswered questions for something that's supposed to be a basic design principle.
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Eyeless Blond
post Mar 28 2005, 12:22 AM
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QUOTE (RunnerPaul @ Mar 27 2005, 05:12 PM)
QUOTE (Ancient History @ Mar 27 2005, 04:12 PM)
3rd edition's Man and Machine brought the definition back in line to a measure of impact on the nervous system, and drew a logical reasoning for this impacting magical ability as well.

And in doing so, leaves a lot of unanswered questions for something that's supposed to be a basic design principle.

What's your point? So it's mysterious, and scientists can't really come up with a good explainnation for what's going on. It's the same with UGE, "metagenes", Magic, and well basically half of everything that's happenned since the Awakening.

Hell, it's the same today with the inherently non-mathmatical methods by which quantum systems "choose" between different probabilistic states as well; we know it's a completely random Poisson distribution, but we certainly have no idea *why* or *how*, not yet; our vaunted Copenhagen interpretation for Quantum Mechanics is nothing more than the greatest minds of the last century waving their hands and saying, "Meh, I dunno, it just works, doesn't it?" And it's the interpretation we're still using, 80 years later, and drawing some important and useful conclusions from as well.

There will always be things that scientists can't explain, and because of this there will always be scientists touting imperfect explainnations that don't *really* fit every observable, but do have enough truth in them to be useful and so are accepted despite several big and important objections (the aforementioned Copenhagen interpretation, evolutionary biology, etc). I don't really see the problem with scientists giving an imperfect explainnation, and when pressed just sorta waving their hands and saying, "Meh, I dunno," but then I got my bachelor's degree in chemistry so I'm kinda used to hearing that. :D
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RunnerPaul
post Mar 28 2005, 12:56 AM
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QUOTE (Eyeless Blond)
What's your point? So it's mysterious, and scientists can't really come up with a good explainnation for what's going on.

My point is, an in-game basic principle behind a mechanic that leaves unanswerable questions leaves the door open to rules that aren't internally consistent with each other. A lack of internal consistency can interfere with suspension of disbelief on the part of players, hindering buy-in into the game setting. Also, in some cases, an inconsistent in-game rationale can lead to problems on the metagame side, where the rules are supposed to promote balance.

One example in the form of a rhetorical question: Is a character who pays the higher essence cost for a top-of-the-line cranial cyberdeck balanced against another character who pays the nuyen cost to get a deck with the same stats as an internal device on their cyberarm?

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Ancient History
post Mar 28 2005, 01:06 AM
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If balance is the issue, than the reasons we have Essence are:

a) Prevent magicians from going hog-wild on cyber and becoming cybermantic gods.

b) Keep the 'ware on sammies down to a (relatively) reasonable level.

c) Provide a handy mechanic for healing spells, critter powers, and the like.
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Sandoval Smith
post Mar 28 2005, 03:04 AM
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I've never played Earthdawn, but I thought explaining Essence as representing the integrity of the metahuman 'pattern' as having a nice ring to it. Cyberware invasively alters the metehuman body to such an extent that it causes divergence from the astral pattern. That's why losing an arm in a car accident doesn't cause Essence loss, but getting a cyber replacement does.
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kloked1
post Mar 28 2005, 04:00 AM
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I have always considered it the taint of impurities, the closer to pure human tissue the lower the essence cost, but since it is always crafted by human hands it will always taint the system.
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RunnerPaul
post Mar 28 2005, 07:39 AM
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QUOTE (Ancient History)
If balance is the issue

Balance is the metagame concern. I just would like to see an unambiguous in-game rationale that points in the same direction.

Now I suppose that if they hadn't done such a decent job on the basic in-game assumptions for SR3's Magic System, or if SR2's Essence Integrity Theory wasn't so tantilizingly close to being unabiguous and supportive of the metagame, I wouldn't have been so disapointed with SR3's in-game definition of Essence.

Is wanting an in-game definiton of essence that I can look at and not think "but what about..." and then list over a half-dozen implants that make me question that in-game definiton so wrong of me?

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DrJest
post Mar 28 2005, 10:09 AM
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I just go with the SR2 definition myself. It just fits nicely with the worldview.
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mfb
post Mar 28 2005, 05:18 PM
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i'm with mintcar. i don't want a concrete explanation for Essence, mainly because bone lacing breaks the hell out of all of them. the SR3 one is especially painful.
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Siege
post Mar 28 2005, 05:38 PM
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Define it the same way you define Charisma - vaguely and evasively. :grinbig:

-Siege
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Garland
post Mar 28 2005, 06:52 PM
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QUOTE (Sandoval Smith)
I've never played Earthdawn, but I thought explaining Essence as representing the integrity of the metahuman 'pattern' as having a nice ring to it. Cyberware invasively alters the metehuman body to such an extent that it causes divergence from the astral pattern. That's why losing an arm in a car accident doesn't cause Essence loss, but getting a cyber replacement does.

Whether you play ED or not, this is the least painful way of I know of to explain Essence and still have an explanation.
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BitBasher
post Mar 28 2005, 11:42 PM
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QUOTE (mfb)
i'm with mintcar. i don't want a concrete explanation for Essence, mainly because bone lacing breaks the hell out of all of them. the SR3 one is especially painful.

Bone lacing works perfectly fine with the astral paperdoll theory.
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psykotisk_overle...
post Mar 28 2005, 11:52 PM
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Except of course that the different types of bonelacing should cost equal amounts of essence, unless you somehow lace more bones with titan than with plastic.
Edit:that's where it doesnt work with the astral paperdoll
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Sandoval Smith
post Mar 29 2005, 07:07 AM
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At that point you can start getting all mincey with statements like, "plastic bonelacing uses a mixture of bio-organic polymers that reduce the negative impact of introduction into metahuman system." Whereas titanium is a dense metal that is extraordinarily difficult to alter in any manner to convince the body that it actually belongs in there.

Or it very well could be that you do get more titanium than plastic when you bone lace it. Plastic is used to reinforce only certain joints and strutures, the ones that will most benefit from the extra support. Whereas with a dense substance like titanium, in order to maintain the integrity of the entire skeletal structure, you have to install a much more comprehensive latticework, so that the titanium laced bones are fully supported and not putting undue pressure on any part of the skeleton.

Although rather than say all that, I'm willing to agree with 'just because.'
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mfb
post Mar 29 2005, 07:24 AM
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QUOTE (BitBasher)
Bone lacing works perfectly fine with the astral paperdoll theory.

how? is titanium more astrally "bad" than plastic, for some reason?
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Sandoval Smith
post Mar 29 2005, 08:27 AM
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*points to above post*
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Kremlin KOA
post Mar 29 2005, 04:07 PM
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remember people that plastics are long carbon strings... same as flesh

and aluminium occurs in the body to a far greater extent than titanium
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mfb
post Mar 29 2005, 06:20 PM
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that's a very dangerous slope to start down on. what do you tell your player when he starts asking about the composition of his other cyberware? do you really want to get into a debate about what cyberlimbs are made of, and whether or not they can be made out of, say, stainless steel (our blood is colored by its iron content!) instead, for lowered essence costs?
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