ENTRY 193: Plasmamorphs
There are no food pills in the science fiction future. Pure carbohydrates are 4 Calories per gram, and no foreseeable technology is going distil an entire turkey dinner into a conventional-sized tablet. A couple crystal spires do exist, but most habitat building codes prefer reinforced concrete over a skeleton of smart materials. Togas are entirely optional, but most transhumans prefer something with pockets and better thermal layering. It is unquestionably the future, but not the future imagined by men and women that dreamed of far-flung stellar empires managed by pen-and-paper calculations and room-sized tape computers.
Still, there remains something of that iconic early science-fiction imagery lodged in the transhuman consciousness—the idea that somehow, someway, the achievement of the marvels dreamed of by that repressed society just beginning to imagine the exploration of space is something worth working towards. And if food pills aren’t possible in anything smaller than suppository form and you need several permits to build a crystal spire which you can’t get insurance for, there is at least one ancient sci-fi marvel that many transhuman scientists, engineers, and technologists are diligently working towards: becoming a being of pure energy. Or, something close enough.
The leading developments in this field of endeavor center on quasi-perpetual vortices of plasma. Generated in controlled environments by a high-temperature vortex generator, scientists believe that these vortices can be made sufficiently complex that they can emulate a transhuman ego, and that under the right conditions may even be self-sustaining by drawing in and ejecting plasma from the environment. Of course, that is some time in the future, and it remains to be seen if the resulting “plasmamorphs” would be stable enough to sustain themselves in a natural environment like the surface of the sun.
The cutting edge of plasma vortex technology is amazing, but extremely impractical. Currently generated in fireballs (see entry 047), a plasmamorph is essentially a constantly twisting knot of ionized gas above a plasma vortex generator, which monitors and maintains the vortex-form while constantly saving data from the ego in real-time to the equivalent of a cortical stack. The ego inside the plasmamorph perceives the environment through electromagnetic senses, which give them a basic awareness of the temperature of surrounding plasma and the presence and movement of charged bodies, with enough sensitivity that a plasmamorph can discern sunspotting (see Eclipse Phase, 86), and respond in kind by manipulating plasma flow on its outer layer. That said, plasmamorphs are extremely fragile; any substantial disruption of their form (like, say, a surya or salamander moving through it) will destroy the plasma vortex, though they find movement in the direction of their principle rotation along the edges very pleasurable. If the vortex generator that keeps creates and maintains the form of the plasmamorph stops operating, the plasmamorph suffers gradual and irreversible dissipation, usually within thirty minutes.
At this point, it’s established that plasmamorphs are incredibly fragile, mostly powerless bodies of ionized gas that can only exist in highly limited environments and dare not interact with anything too closely or else that incarnation of the ego inhabiting the plasmamorph is doomed to speedy disintegration. Given these restrictions, no sane player is likely going to want to be a plasmamorph even for a session, and even if they did it would be highly disruptive of the game since the PC couldn’t really go anywhere or do anything; the solution then is for the gamemaster to give the PC those things. An experimental plasmamorph may be the only way for the PCs to contact and interact with a potential alien species of natural plasmamorphs, for example. Scientists might give the PCs a significant rep boost if they participate in plasmamorph resleeving experiments, and the gamemaster might design a session or part of a session to the PCs discovering the limits of what they can and cannot do in such an environment and in such alien forms. Fireballs in particular make good settings for an old-fashioned locked-room mystery given the dangers of damage to a plasmamorph’s vortex generator, and the PCs might need to venture into one to try and get some information out of the plasmamorph of the victim before it dissipates permanently, comforting the ego as it begins its final collapse. And of course, plasmamorphs make suitably exotic forms for very strange and cerebral exhumans, striving for the old-fashioned future.