Saturday, August 31, 2013

243: Superkinesics

ENTRY 243: Superkinesics

The twitch of an eye, the number of blinks, the little calluses on the first two fingers of the right hand, the way she keeps her nails trimmed, the pulse visibly beating at her throat…people can be read, though not like a book. Every individual is different, but they are running the same wetware, and many fall into the same psychological traits. A good cold reader can walk into a crowded room and see who is nervous, and who wants to believe.

Augmented senses don’t make kinesics any easier—but they do open up the reader to a new level of information. Once they learn to interpret that data, a reader’s accuracy can be superhuman—the heat patterns from the flow of blood in their face, the smell as their pores open up and start to sweat under their clothing, the electromagnetic tingle as they access their implants. Even synthmorphs are not invulnerable; microscopic and nanoscopic vision in particular can tell a great deal about the ‘health’ of a case by the care taken in its repair, cleaning, and maintenance.

Of course, transhumans who live with augmented senses daily often pay as much attention to covering up some of their tell-tale giveaways as flats and splicers do with makeup. It’s a rare case or synth who does keep a couple small brush attachments for their fingers to clean those hard-to-reach slots, and learn to calibrate their speech synthesizers to disguise some of the unease in their voice when nervous. Many transhuman actors and public speakers make an effort to study superkinesics to help whoo their audience as well, to better emote their performance to an augmented audience.


Superkinesics is a specialization for the Kinesics skill that is applicable whenever the character’s augmented senses would give additional vital information that would help them judge another’s intent, or when they are dealing with a character with augmented senses, and functions identically to other skill specializations. The bonus from this specialization stacks with any bonus granted from the enhanced sense itself (i.e. a character with Enhanced Smell and the Superkinesics specialization would receive a total +30 bonus to Kinesics Tests).

Using Superkinesics

Superkinesics has a rather long run history in science fiction, though not under that name; a particularly good use was in Bruce Sterling’s “Twenty Evocations” set in his Shaper/Mechanist universe. As such, there are quite a lot of good examples out thereon how to use (and abuse) this trope, with both players and gamemasters coming up with arguments as to why a given augmented sense works or does not work in a particular situation. I would suggest not having those arguments; life is too short and at the end of the day +10 on a Kinesics roll really shouldn’t be a game over for your adventure. Now, this doesn’t mean a gamemaster can’t make life difficult on PCs that come to rely on their enhanced senses—enhanced smell doesn’t mean much if the characters are interacting through holograms, for example.

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