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Let me start with a caveat: I am not nearly an expert on the existing fluff on BTL's, particularly regarding what each type of chip IS, so there may be some confusion. I expect it will be managable, however, as to my knowledge BTL's, despite being the OG of the drug world for Shadowrun, have never really been covered in extreme detail.

Further, this is not entirely my own, some of this came from a recent coversation in the Down in the Gutter threads. As I so often do I've taken the kernal of an idea and will now proceed to run the everloving frag out of it.

What is a BTL (a Beetle, a Beady, a Chip, Hottie, hot movie....) anyway? In simplest of terms, a BTL is a program, often burned on a limited use chip that contains Hot SIM feed. They are illegal in the UCAS, the CAS, the NAN, the Tirs and most of Europe, most Corps enforce anti-BTL laws of various strength on their own territory as well. A notable exception is Aztechnology, the corp and the large swath of land that makes up the nation.

Aside from the Man keeping people down (hardly...) why exactly are they illegal? SOme of it is the danger. Hot SIM feed can be used to kill, the same code that makes Black Ice lethal to Hot SIM hackers can be used very easily (much easier than programming IC, actually) to send lethal biofeedback into a Chippies brain and fry them good. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Overuse of Hot SIM, particularly BTL hot SIM (rather than say, Hacking or Rigging) tends to depress the brains ability to think or feel on its own. Worst of all, some BTL dealers have found that they can make the Hot SIM expirence addictive, just like regular drugs... its all in the programming. Not all BTL's are inherently addictive, mind you, but many users of BTLs would find the entire 'better than life' experince implied by the name addictive on its own merits.

I believe that officially there are four types of BTL's that are typically covered. Mood, Dream, Trip and P-Fixes. I'm going to seperate 'SIM movies', to include porn, into a fifth catagory on general principle.

The actual process of making a BTL is dead simple. There are two ways to do it: modify a SIM recorder to amplify the gains or take an existing track and boost it. One is a hardware modification, the other purely software. Most 'pros' use a mix of both techniques. Either way, you'll have do a little hacking. Some of the filters on SIM technology are built right into the basic encoding programs, others into the feedback software, still others are coded into the chips that are designed to hold SIM tracks. You don't have to worry about the chip players, that's entirely up to the Chippie if he wants his fix, and any good Chippie knows how to break that filter, just like regular druggies know how to mainline or roll a joint or chop their blow.

Shadowrun's rules don't discuss specific types of chips, but rest assured, its there. SIM quality chips are distinct, and a cracked chip can be spotted on the street without any special equipment 9 times out of 10. Now, if its Aztechnology brand, its a little less obvious. Some chips are made to be sold legally and have all the encoding, some are meant for use where BTL is illegal and don't, and the only way tell is to slot it and check the feeds... or play the chip and hope your brain don't melt. Azzie chips are best, and even home movie BTL's sell better if they're printed on Azzie chips.

In and of itself, a BTL is good forever. Most Chippies crave new expirences, so they'll build quite a collection regardless of any other factors. But you want to make money by selling the same product over and over again, don't you? Good thing most people are essentially clueless about software. Most SIM sellers (legit ones too) like the idea of selling you the same chip over and over again too, there is a whole line of industy standard chips with built in playback limiters you can get with connections, though if you're getting Azzie blanks, its a lot easier, or you can design your own purely software based limiter that you plug into every file you make automatically. Most of the big shops do both to keep their customers coming back for more. Then they can sell 'unlimited playback' chips for big money and trust that the chippie burnout syndrome will keep them coming back for more anyway. Of course, a Chippie with technical skills can crack his own to make unlimited chips, but thats a marginal case at best. Its already illegal to own them so there is no law against cracking the illegal copy protection on the illegal chips.

The easiest BTLs to make, and really to buy, are 'Movie SIMs' of one sort or another. Most commercial SIM releases can be found on the black market in BTL form within days of release. Users and fans of BTL's will keep an eye out for 'studios', knowing that one group or another do better jobs, while casual users will pick up just about anything and get just about any quality. 'Studio' BTL's sell for more, while a home job can go to your buddies for beer money, or sold in bulk from a street vendor.

The basic principle is to crack the copy protection, crack the filters to access the higher feeds. Thats strictly the beginning however, as any feeds of BTL strength never make it to the factory floor, much less the chip, but it does give you a better 'expirence' than the straight SIM would. This is the gateway to BTL use right there.

But to be a BTL you have to ramp up the gains. Home jobs just use software on the existing feeds to make what you do feel more 'intense'. This is the BTL equivilent of tossing more salt on your steak. Its more flavorful, but can you really say it tastes better? Don't get me wrong, the 'Studios' do this too, but thats just to cover up the rest of the job. Studio's have libraries of Hot SIM tracks they've recorded or collected, but we'll assume you work from home so you can follow along easier. What you do is you pay your buddy and a hooker to wear high gain SIM modules to recreate the sex scene from the porn SIM you're cracking. You strip out as much 'identifier' data as you have to and put the high gain feeds in alongside the boosted feed from the original actors. The better the recreation, the smoother it plays, the more tracks you can recreate/fake, the better the chip. The better quality your SIM actors, and their recorders the better it plays... every thing you do here matters.

Note that this sort of editing is not at all limited to the BTL market. Many, if not Most commercial releases will actually have several actors involved for any given role. One notable example is the Infamous Neal the Ork Barbarian, a franchise entering it's 23rd year in 2070. In that time over a dozen young ork actors have played Neal, but only two have provided the SIM from the characters perspective (specifically the emotional and internal monologue tracks) including the originating actor after he got too old for the physical parts. Younger actors are there for visuals from other characters POVs, the sensations of moving, swinging the ax and so forth. Some fans insist that 'Indy' productions, or certain Autuer Directors who insist on single actor performances are much better, while others, particularly more casual fans, like the expirence of the edited releases...

Now, the best 'swap tracks' are lifted from Azzie BTLs, where everything is as professional as any commercial release. Of course, they also have damn good copy protection, and many long term users will recognize the feel of popular actors from Azzie BTLs, which is a limiting factor.

Home movies are easiest of all. Hire a bunch of punks to wear hot modded, high gain SIMrigs as they go about their lives. Think of Strange Days and you're on track here. Now, these tend to sell like crap, but many Chippies, particularly high end (suits with addictions) tend to actually prefer them, and they'll pay top dollar for 'real life' chips that are unique or simply a very good match for what they want. Having a good library, knowing your customer and controlling your stock can all increase your margin on this otherwise low rent, but very very easy, sector of the industry. This is where many Snuff films come from, and some particularly bad off Chippies get addicted to the death expirence (where the user dies) while many would be serial killers get off on the high of vicarious murder. Its grim, but highly profitable. Most 'death Chippies' will eventually die from feedback, their body finally totally mimicking the doom of the original victim, and its possible, if slightly pointless, to boost the death feed even higher to ensure this happens. There are too schools of thought on Deathchips: Those who say the best death is a surprise to the victim and the viewer, and those who say that the best deaths are lingering affairs, bleeding out in an alleyway, for example. Always the extreme sells better than the mundane (being devoured alive by Devil Rats on one notable recording is still a hot seller ten years later...). No one wants to get in the business of deliberately creating death chips, though many come from the same makers of snuff chips... why not record the victim's death from both angles, eh? It happens, though. Bad business. Aztechnology does release, deathchips... usually when there was an accident on set, but more than one Azzie BTL release has involved 'actors' whose sole qualification is that no one cared if they were really killed during production of a horror film. Not that anyone claims the Corp is responsible, just some sickos taking advantage of lax BTL laws south of the border... thats all.

Mood Chips are the next simplest to make, and like their cousins the SIM Movie chips, they exist in a legal form as well. There is a difference, no one tries to crack a legal mood sim to make a BTL... not for sale anyway. Kids do it all the time, like sniffing paint. Its generally pointles. Mood Chippers are conossuiers of a sort. Unlike any other BTL a dedicated Moodie wants... needs... a clean original recording. The purity of the recording is what really matters to them.

As always, the bulk of Mood Chips come from existing recordings. Be they Home Movie BTL's or Azzie pro-jobs, someone goes into a full spectrum BTL recording and finds just that one track that is a perfect lift of a given mood and presto! new product. Not that I recommend you necessarily start lifting from Azzie chips, all the best tracks are known by name, and compared and debated by functional mood chippers already. Sure, you can make some money that way, but no one will come to you when they want something 'new'.

Hacking regular SIMs is right out. A Moodie (not a chippie who slots moods from time to time) can tell a boosted signal from a recording in microseconds. That's like drinking Mad Dog 20/20 to them. Sure, it works. But really, if you have a choice would you?

So to be a professional Mood maker, you need actors or a huge library of home movies that haven't been stripped yet, sifting for gold.
Actors, be the professional SIM actors or BTL Mood actors are people who, for whatever reason, just read better from SIMs. Mood Actors, more than pro actors, also tend to have really clear emotional states. There's a standing offer of two million Nuyen for a Calm Mood taken off the Dalai Lama, good luck getting it though. Most 'mood studios' have specific actors for specific moods, and they burn out fast... not because the work is so hard, though that can be a factor for certain moods (rage, depression, despair...), but because the market gets tired of them. After two or three recordings you've pretty much tapped that mood for that actor, and any further recordings will be more of the same: cheaper to make a copy of an existing record. Sometimes an old 'Mood Actor' resurfaces and revitalizes his 'career' with a comeback performance, but those are almost always 'one offs'. As you can imagine, the Mood Market will happily label their chips with the actor and the date of the record to help move chips. Is a 'Watanabe '65 ' better than the "Watanabe '63'? Buy both and see.

Moods are big movers even outside the gourmand crowd. Kids love 'em, wear 'em to clubs and parties, swap them out like jewelry, just like the legal versions. Moods are never equipped with a RAS override (excepting, maybe, the Rage chips...).

The problem with Moods is for long term use the user becomes barely able to feel without the chip. Old Moodies talk of grey worlds, chipping in to feel anything at all, fumbling for the right chip for the right moment. Got a hot date? Slip in the Romantic Mood chip, the action moves to the bedroom? Slip in the Lust chip and hope she doesn't notice. Eventually, even the chips barely work, and a few people have turned to extreme behaviors in an attempt to regain their lost emotional states.

Oh, and if you ever get lucky enough to become a SIM star? Stay away from Moodies, of all the BTL's. They ruin you for recordings faster than any other BTL. Most SIM stars never use SIM at all, just to preserve their precious ability, and avoid BTL like the plague. Stars in trouble are often very obvious to their fans, as the quality of the recordings drop drastically, particularly, again, if they start chiping Mood chips. In one notable instance a Starlet's performances degraded badly, then recovered for one breif moment when she took to secretly wearing her Mood chip while recording. The ensuing scandal chased her into trid porn before she disappeared completely.

Dream Chips are only slightly different than regular Movie BTL. This is the first type of chip without a legal counterpart. As you might imagine it is also the one with the least popularity outside of dedicated chippies. Not that there aren't a few people with a taste for the bizarre that seek them out independently. As the name suggests, many times the BTL tracks are recorded while the 'actor' is asleep. Thats only the tip of the iceberg, but the surreal expirence tends to provide the foundation for what follows.

The original 'Dream Chips' came from a BTL 'Studio' that had some left over stock recordings from its latest edit job and started mixing them together. Combine a fortitous accident and they got an experience unlike any other. Surreal snippits of various unrelated tracks, visual and audio and emotional, sensorium feeds all over the map... originally it was supposed to be a 'loop', bits of various recordings, one after the other, but they had a new guy who screwed up and mixed everything. The first dream chips were almost nightmarishly garbled until the market stabilized and a distinct method of creating them came about. Dream Chips are surrealist performance peices, mixing legitimate recordings with BTL recordings without concern to make them fit. The effect can be like watching a movie on rewind with sound from another movie all together. As the entire process is the domain of the surrealists and afficionados of the bizarre, its rules are harder to figure out. If it interests you, try making some and see how they sell. Maybe they'll do good, maybe they won't. An eye for artistic flair and a good sense of ironic juxtaposition are handy. Above all else, Dream chips are the domain of editors.

Trip Chips are pure art. Purely illegal art, but art. The guy making it? He's a DJ, and the consumers, as you might expect, are club kids or ex club kids. The best way to describe the role of Trip chips is to tell you its just like Trance Music. Either you get it, or you don't. What appear to be random samples, repeated endlessly, are actually carefully constructed patterns designed to enhance 'the Trip'. While Moodies may swap chips with one another, each moodie will run his own private chip. Trippers however, love to share. See a dozen kids sprawled around a single modified chip player? Probably sharing a Trip. Trip Chips tend to have the shortest playback on average, rarely over ten minutes, and especially for shared events, Mixes are popular, where several Trips are slotted in a specific order to be expirenced back to back. Trip Mixes are sold along side individual tracks, and a subcatagory of Mix-masters springs up where Trippers are common. Some Mixers get bold enough to remix existing Trips, and often a Trip track might have three different artists (or more...) attached to it so the Trippers know it's heritage. "DJ Hez-Hex "Angel Song", Saracidal Jazz mix, Gunny Bootleg mix" could be a Track name. You could find half a dozen or more Saracidal mix Angel songs on one table, each with a different final mix, you could head down the block and find a table with no final mixes, but instead of Saracidal mixes, you've got 'Mixmaster Mike take' and 'TR-88 beatdown Mix', each with their own remix versions after.

If you use the wireless without work related filters, many Trip tracks can be found for free as DJ's and Mixers each try to get their name out there, get popular enough to start selling... if they even worry about money. DJs and Mixers are mini celebrities in this illegal community, and sometimes that fame is all they need. Some even turn their BTL days into legitimate careers in the commercial SIM industry as producers and editors, particularly of shorts. That's the dream, anyway. More often than not the just disappear back to whatever shadows they scuttled from without even a single offer.

Persona Fix chips are almost entirely a seperate beast. Without a doubt this sort of thing you do not cook up in your basement on a hacked SIM Module.

First of all, they don't even work exactly like other SIM recordings on any level. Its a marginal use of the technology, amost a seperate branch of the technology tree that gave us BTLs and SIM in the first place. Second of all, even producing a 'persona' suitable for a chip requires far more than a simple recording. Most programmers of P-Fixes have multiple degrees in psychology, clinical psychotherapy and the like. On the off chance they use a recording as the basis, they strap a subject to a table and record them for days under all sorts of stressors and simulated situations, they run them through SIM mazes like rats and record every moment. Its almost easier, if less effective, to just build a persona from scratch. Scratch built persona's have much less fidelity, but are not only easier to create, but have fewer bugs. Of course the average man on the street can tell the difference: you can tell someone is slotting a P-Fix chip that was scratch built by how flat their interactions are. You can't tell a quality recorded P-fix, unless the guy turning the recording into a chip is a quack.

P-Fixers, by nature, tend to brutalize the mind on a level few other BTL's can match. The good ones do it methodically and with a purpose, the bad ones.... well the bad ones tend to turn the wearer into a freakin' zombie. A really bad one will eventually destroy the mind so throughly that even slotting a P-Fix won't do anything.

Their original purpose was to correct anti-social behaviors, and for the most part they work wonders while slotted. But you don't release a cure so dependent upon a single, loseable bit of tech. As therapy they are still very potent tools in the arsenal.

On the street they are used to overcome deficencies (real or percieved). Fighting with your girl? Slot a P-fix to become the perfect boyfriend, or slot her one to shut up that nagging. Get a bit scared before your big game? Slot a P-Fix and watch your fear melt away. Wether legitimate or quack jobs, these P-Fixes are stripped down from the original recording to 'correct' a single behavior. Full persona overlays are rarer, and have virtually no legitmate purpose, and few illegal ones. Still, unscrupulous psychotherapists working with the worst scum (serial killers, say) have found that they can sell P-Fixs of the worst evil to very disturbed individuals who really want to get into the mind of a killer. Very big money there, for a very select clientel. Of course, when a chip like that gets on the open market, bad shit starts to go down... really bad shit. You think one 'Tacoma turbo-killer' is bad? Imagine if twenty or thirty of them start roaming the streets...

I'm tempted to whip up some house rules to support this (and some of my other toolbox efforts) but that hasn't been my focus really so I'll leave it be.
Too long, didn't read.

No really though, the current Dalai Lama[1] says that if technology could allow people to transcend inner turmoil it should be allowed. He actually said this in the context of a question on human genetic engineering(!) but pointed out that since in order to get to that point you'd have to do a lot of unpredictable and awful shit to a lot of animals and people, that he would not approve of that.

Also, he's surprisingly funny in person. His English is so-so (although way better than my Tibetan), and he says that his translator (a guy) sounds too feminine. Or rather, he makes his translator say that. I swear it was like a comedy routine, those guys.

[1] I suppose the future Dalai Lama is the same Avalokitesvara. I mean, if there's Great Dragons and Ancestor Spirits and Dikoted Immortal Elves, why not?
I imagine that the Dalai Lama MIGHT consent to being recorded for Moodchips, but I doubt that Shadowrunners would be the ones to collect. And all things being equal, I suspect that whomever the 2070 DL is, you ain't gonna sit on him and slap a trodeset on him without someone bad ass turning you into red mush. Of course, there is every chance that the DL is a 'pornomancer' style adept, so you'll wind up chatting him up and forget all about that silly SIM thing until its too late... and he didn't even mean to distract you, but you have such a facinating life that he just needed to hear all about....
The other thing is that the comedown from moodchips is "feeling the opposite way" -- so after you're done feeling totally at peace and filled with compassion for all living beings, BAM, you're an agitated dickwad for six hours.

I remember one of Gibson's characters had a thing where if he woke up during the night (due to a power outage or something) he would be shunted directly into a sim of some healthy athletic kid meditating on a beach, and the only glitch was that at one point you could sort of see the security fence. But that was regular sim, not BTL, which really should be enough. I mean, reaching a totally serene meditative state is pretty much the opposite of turning it up to eleven, innit.
Mona Lisa Overdrive, I think... though to be honest its been... agh... 20 years since I read it? 18?

I glossed over the side effects, partly because I'm not an expert on BTLs, as I said. I do imagine most true Moodies never really go without chips, not long enough to notice anyway. They're constantly swapping out chips to match the mood they think they're supposed to have, or want to have for a given situation. Also, I personally think that particular side effect only makes sense if you don't look at it too hard. does your car suddenly need to be driven in reverse after you run Nitrous into the engine in on the quarter mile?

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