What is a Delver?
Those brave souls going into the dark places and risking themselves are known as Delvers. They take risks and struggle in ways few can imagine. They all have their own reasons for going out there, whether is money, revenge or the betterment of humanity.
From a purely mechanical standpoint it is important to point out that Nutopia is at heart a classless set up. That said the archetypes below represent simple broad divisions of Delvers by capability. Within these categories there is a great deal of wiggle room, and they exist as basic guidelines. While blending between these categories is not unheard of, understand that a jack of all trades is a master of none, and that in some cases the detriments of one category would greatly impair the acquisition of abilities from another.
These guys are the workhorses of a Delver team. They specialize in combat, the kind of combat varies wildly from soldier to soldier. Snipers in light, agile stealth armor stand right next to brutal close range beasts in the heaviest of power armor totting rotary cannons in each hand. They have access to the widest array of combat modifications both cyber and bio, and access to a fair amount of nano mods as well.
A player who chooses to roll a Soldier has access to all the weapons and armors of the world, the Corps spent decades making a fortune in the various arms trades, and the Soldiers are the ones most qualified to take full advantage of the fruits of their former master's labor.
Outside of the many roles they fill on the front lines soldiers can serve a number of functions when the bullets aren't flying. Close combat claws and the inherent strength or their armors let soldiers get through barriers and overcome obstacles their fellow delvers cannot navigate, as well as allowing them to simply carry more than others. The less strength oriented delvers can bring maneuverability to the table, high speed and amazing manual dexterity second only to crackers are not uncommon, and exotic methods of mobility like flight, climbing claws or special adapted swimmers are not unheard of. Soldiers are also the most familiar with the direct mechanical actions of their gear, meaning they are often the go to individual if a railgun strip comes out of alignment or if a servo in your leg is on the fritz.
Soldiers come from a variety of backgrounds. Many were employees of the Corps low level security forces, others are immigrants from Unincorporated States' militaries. Motorpool sports a considerable community both special forces and technicians from both Corps and U States, while Babel has a large population of "Swimmers" soldiers cyber and/or biomodded for combat beneath the waves and in the deadly close quarters of battles aboard ship.
Among the Delvers, Hivers are often the most eccentric individuals. They are drawn from the ranks of musicians, artists and dancers, sculptors and poets, architects and engineers. These are individuals who for one reason or another decided to take a radical step to accentuate their chosen craft, and those that become Delvers are perhaps more eccentric still, as performance artist come combat engineer is a transition not often seen in earlier ages.
The decision for an individual to become a Hiver is not one to be taken lightly. The implants involved and the conditioning needed to control them are invasive and at first quite painful. The most common implant sites are in areas of dense muscle, limited capacity Maker blocks are implanted in the quadriceps, triceps, deltoids and latissimus dorsi beneath the skin. Some of the surrounding tissue is the bolstered and modified to provide energy for the Makers, while the skin covering the implants is biomodded to allow the pores to dilate far beyond their usual size, letting fresh batches of nanites come through the epidermis. Near the implant sites exterior plugs are introduced, allowing tubing from an external feedstock tank to be attached, as the Makers need material to do their work. The Makers are hardwired together via sub dermal cabling, as a wireless link might allow a malicious Cracker to hijack them and dissolve the Hiver with his own Nanites. All of this is then hardwired to a cortical sheath that allows the Hiver fine control over his new “organs”.
The cost of these implants is high, without further extensive implantation the lost muscle mass is difficult to compensate for, leaving the Hiver comparatively weak, especially next to a gene-bulked Soldier. The use of the surrounding tissue to supplement power to the Makers also gives Hivers a much higher metabolism than most, and the repeated ejection of nanites can be damaging to the flesh, so when not doing anything terribly pressing they can usually be found scarfing down whatever high carb/high protein food is available. The general weakness and the need for ejection ports for swarms greatly limits a Hiver’s ability to use most of the heavy weaponry their fellow Delvers wield and keeps them out of anything other than specially modified armors.
The upshot to all this is immense, however, Hivers are the most versatile class of the three, both in and out of combat, and can accomplish amazing things with the implants that cost them so much. In combat Hivers can act defensively and offensively, outside of battle they can build shelter and supply all manner of useful items and materials. Even more radical is the way Hivers can go about doing these tasks. For example, in combat an Offensive Hiver might create vicious swarms of macro nanites in the shapes of stinging insects to harass her opponents, while another could use the makers to expel a chemical mixture that ignites with air from their fingers or build up a large electrical field and discharge it at an enemy, still another might create and fling spikes and spines of diamond or create blades and wade into close combat. What a Hiver can do and how she does it is really only limited by the players imagination and the Signal Man’s ruling (Signal Man is what we’re calling the DM/GM/ST for now, until someone comes up with something better)
As stated above Hivers come from extremely diverse backgrounds and all walks of life. Nearly all Hivers were born CE, as in the current era the machinery needed to create the implants is difficult to come by. There are of course still some young hivers born ACE, but they are few and far between.
Edit: It seems worth noting that some of the inspiration for this class was a picture of Till Lindemann wearing a jockstrap with a flamethrower attached to it... Make of that what you will.
From young punks to wizened old code master, Crackers come in many varieties. Their skills range wildly and each has his own mix of abilities to bring to the table. On the combat scale they reside between Soldiers and Hivers in terms of firepower and survivability, while nowhere near as heavily protected as a Soldier can be they can still wear more armor and lug bigger guns than the physically weaker Hivers. They rest on an odd tipping point in terms of modification, some sport little more than wireless interfacing tools, while others are full hardshells comprised of hissing servos, synthetic muscle and whirring processor stacks.
The most unique ability of a Cracker is their mastery of VI and Forking. They can control more advanced Virtual Intelligences in greater quantities than other delvers. These software drones can be used to autonomously attempt many tasks while the Cracker themselves attacks a more pressing issue, or they can assist a Cracker in a particularly difficult task. For example a Cracker might allow a Fire Control VI to keep an enemy pinned down while they flit off into the infosphere to jam that same enemy's senses with scrapcode, or they could bring that same VI in line with their own attention and together pull off a highly improbable ricochet shot to bring the fight to an end.
Forking is a process deployed for when a VI just won't do. The Cracker creates a copy (of varying fidelity depending on the circumstances) of his own mind. This allows a Cracker to multitask with even greater alacrity, or to focus in even more extreme detail, but maintaining the split is stressful. The process is hardly without risk, and is never done on more than a temporary basis, but no one can do it like a well trained Cracker can. The most skilled of said group can even run multiple Forks and VIs at the same time, leveling a frightful amount of thinking power at any problem.
Amongst a delving team Crackers handle any obstacle pertaining to the infosphere. Their electronic warfare skills are unmatched, and given the right VI assistance they are no slouch in physical combat either, their parallel thought processes allowing them to accomplish great feats of acrobatics and marksmanship if they put their minds to it. They can control a wide variety of robotic minions for scouting or numerous other roles. Above all else the Crackers portable processing powerhouse represents a way to amplify the abilities of the other members of their team. A Soldier has turned target acquisition and neutralization into a science, teamed with a Cracker it becomes an art. A Hiver can create anything the mind can envision given enough time and material, with a Cracker's help these creations can be realized with great speed, and the reach of the Hiver's abilities extended.
This list of character backgrounds is hardly exhaustive, but seeks to give strong foundation for further development and provide what are the most common areas from which delvers spring. The development of more specialized or personal backgrounds is actively encouraged, and is a process that should occur between the SM and a given player to craft a background that fits the game, the setting and the feeling the player is aiming for.
Humans who, at one point or another, had to veritably jump ship from their current corporeal form, and now exist as one form or another of radical life. This is a small club of individuals from all over the world related by one unique experience: they have all at one point or another survived their own unexpected death. The methods by which they survived range from soldiers hooked up to CSC units in the nick of time to crackers who fled into the net as their body died or even hivers who fractured their consciousness across a foglet nanoswarm. The event was needless to say traumatic, but these individuals, along with their siblings in the military community, are natives to some truly extreme definitions of human being.
The vast majority of corporate citizens, and by extension the majority of delvers, fall into this category. Raised in a bipolar culture of leering paranoia and corporate ultra consumerism. The basic "Stock" mods serve as the slate upon which most trans-human modification takes place. The average corporate citizen is genefixed to be free of a number of diseases and hereditary conditions, and resistant to a number of others. Improved medical technology and simple genetic resilience extended the average human age to around 100 years old. Basic infosphere interfaces were mandatory implants in corporate society, and in some places tracking and health monitoring hardware were common as well.
The corporate upper class, raised in a culture of decadence, backstabbing and cut throat ambition. Often genefixed beyond the simple stock modifications Apex humans sport designer genetics, physical beauty and health ubiquitous among them. Although fed a steady diet of advanced pharmaceuticals during their formative years and commonly living unmodified to ages of 150 or more, they also carry with them the immense social stigma of their standing. After the fall, they have the crimes of corporate power quite literally written upon their faces. Delvers from this background are rarer even than Baseline Cis-Humans, but they do exist, searching for some kind of atonement, or just feeding their inculcated need to strive and overcome.
The lowest rung of corporate society, these citizens filled the most menial labor tasks within the corporate structure. Encompassing everything from wage laborers to outright slaves, these individuals come from a culture of bone breaking oppression, indoctrination and deplorable living conditions. Those who survived their upbringing and the fall carry with them a hard bitten resilience borne of the scars inflicted upon their bodies and minds. Many from this background used standard or somewhat below spec Stock modifications, but others were less fortunate. So called Labor Force Safety modifications could twist the human body into little more than a machine formed for a niche function or hazardous environment. Strength, endurance and resistances to certain conditional effects like radiation or chemical exposure weighed against intentionally decreased willpower, artificially capped age and often grotesque cybermods.
Freeborn is a term that applies to any child, typically from former corporate territories, born after the fall. The upbringing of these children can range from a sheltered world of tutors and nurses to something approaching being raised by wolves. The oldest of them now passing their 25th birthdays, Freeborns are the first generation of humans native to the After the Common Era world. Although born without modification, the only determining factor in the form they take as adults is their upbringing and personal will, so it will vary radically from one to another. Some remain Cis-Humans, others, raised in a time when extreme cybernetics and biomodifications are everyday sights, easily fit into Trans or even Post-Human formats. Of all the backgrounds Freeborns are the most internally variable, ranging from grizzled frontier rangers to wide eyed and curious city punks.
The world of Nutopia is a generally inhospitable place. Within the remaining U-States and some of the larger free settlements a good, safe standard of living can be had, but life in the smaller places of the world is only for the hardy. Delvers leave every day on the extreme edge of perseverance, fighting the deadliest threats this world has ever known, confronting crisis and trauma that would crush the wills of most. They live in a world that challenges the very viability of humanity as a species, in places increasingly inimical to their very existence. To that end many delvers are heavily modified, whether by cybernetic modification, biological manipulation or a combination of both. They push their forms to the extreme limit of performance in one area or another, becoming almost tangentially related to their species of origin, transhuman at least, outright posthuman in some. These extremes are what it takes to survive in the wastelands left by the fall, they provide the strength needed to drag humanity back from the brink.
And then there are those who think that these Delvers, for all their power, are taking the easy way out.
Cis-Human (as opposed to trans-humans or post-humans) is the blanket term that covers all largely unmodified humans after the fall, though a host of other names exist, ranging from honorifics to epithets depending on their context. Cis-Humans come from a huge variety of backgrounds, ranging from adults born after the fall whose parents elected to leave them unmodified to individuals hailing from low tech U-States or places passed over entirely by the technological revolutions that swept the world. Those that Delve choose a hard life.
To be a Cis-Human and delve requires titanic willpower, beyond that even of the already determined individuals who make up the majority of the professions constituents. It means pitting nothing more than your body, your equipment and your mind as best as you can prepare them against a world of nightmares. Where a cracker can use VIs and advanced implants, or even fracture their own mind to keep up with the blistering pace of modern infowar, a Cis-Human who wishes to keep up must regiment their mind to almost savant like levels of focus, and employ hordes of prepackaged defense and attack programs to level the playing field. Where a soldier might integrate himself with a number of weapon systems or radical implants, a Cis-Human takes the long, arduous route of honing his body to the apex of its capabilities. Where implants and combat drugs improve a soldier, a Cis-Human burns drills deep into his muscle memory, and practices techniques as old as warfare itself to manufacture his body's own natural combat drugs when he needs them most. Where a soldier is wired into his armor, or even assumes the form of a mighty vehicle of war, a Cis-Human makes do with what he can control with model a hands and mark one eyeballs.
The drawbacks are severe, and the journey hard, but electing to stay original baseline human does have its benefits. Without implants one is immune to all manner of malicious electronic attack, and as opposed to high maintenance bio and cybermods a Cis-Human is happy with the old staples of nutrition, sleep and shelter. As a rule they are also possessed of great personal drive, the single minded determination and slight superman complex that makes an olympic athlete, a devout martial artist, a mathematical genius or a musical prodigy more than their average contemporary is what allows a Cis-Human to persevere.
A player who elects to play a Cis-Human must understand that he has decided on a harrowing path. He will struggle for every inch, forced to make more with less than his teammates bring to the table. The rewards however are great. Within the free states, and indeed the world over, the names of those who take humanity to its peak, then push that apex in the most dangerous places, and emerge from the rubble triumphant are held with special reverence. They are hard men and women amongst a group already defined by their endurance and daring, and those that survive despite the hellish adversity are respected for it.