Reexamining the Exoskeleton

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 2:44pm

Exoskeletons get short shrift in the Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn rules.

The only mention of them is in the Equipment section with some very succinct, though limited use rules. It appears that the only exoskeletons allowed are those that are custom-made so they can be “specially fitted to the character that will wear it, and cannot be worn by anyone else.”

Although a character wearing such an outfit can move “twice as fast as a normal character, can jump 5 meters straight up (in 1g), gains a bonus of +20 to hit in melee and does +10 points of damage in melee,” this thing is no Iron Man™ suit and it’s a power hog.

The exoskeleton only weighs five kilograms, though it is a mechanical and metal frame worn on the outside of a character’s body and uses 1 SEU per minute while in operation.

Contemplate that for a moment.

A Star Frontiers robot, with a standard body, can be equipped with a Type I parabattery which provides 600 SEUs, allowing it to operate for 100 hours or a range of 1,000 kilometers.[1] Such robots include security and combat models.

But, if you equip a player character with an exoskeleton and strap on that very same parabattery, it will only allow the unit to operate for 600 minutes or 10 hours of operation. More likely a character is going to use a beltpack or power backpack, so you can either operate one for 50 or 100 minutes.

What gives with this statistic? Although it’s lightweight, the exoskeleton has pretty limited range.

Most likely, the TSR rules makers were trying to provide some sort of “game balance.” After all, imagine all your characters running around all the time in exoskeletons and causing mayhem and destruction… but would that necessarily be a horrible thing?

One fairly recent movies was “Elysium” (2013), starring Mark Damon. His character was outfitted with an exoskeleton that supplies superhuman strength, but it required the outfit it to be plugged into the user’s brain. The basic Star Frontiers contraption is a bit different than either of this example, but “Eysium” offers a visual display of what these devices can do.  



[1] That figure comes from “Mutiny on the Eleanor Moraes.”

Joe Cabadas
Comments:

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 2:47pm

A New (Old) Look at Exoskeletons

An old forum discussion on the Star Frontiers website (http://www.starfrontiers.us/node/4014) was started in 2010 by the member Georgie and had a number of interesting ideas contributed to it. Most of the discussions centered around presenting alternative exoskeletons – such as one for laborers (think of the cargo lifter that the character Ripley used in “Aliens,” another for explorers, and combat versions.

Another part of that discussion was designing mecha, probably like the powered armor suits seen in the movie “Avatar,” all the way up to the Robotech and BattleTech mechs. Powered armor definitely has its place in the Star Frontiers universe.

One needs to go no further than the illustration on the cover of Zebulon’s Guide to the Frontier to see combat armor, though no rules or statistics were provide on how to use such a suit. Fortunately, contributors to Star Frontiersman magazine have helped fill in that gap. One such story is “Powered Battle Suits” by Chris Harper in issue 9.

But with Harper’s awesome suits only use 10 SEUs per hour to run, not 1 SEU per minute.

One of the neat things about the Alpha Dawn exoskeletons are their lightweight – five kilograms – but what gives them mass and power to increase a character’s speed, melee “to hit” and damage numbers? This piece of equipment definitely deserves some revisions.

Also, why does it always take 10 + 1d10 minutes to slip a five kilogram exoskeleton on?

Imagine Ellen Ripley telling the alien queen to wait while she got into the load lifter. Ripley would be dead in an instant. Or have some of your player characters excusing themselves to get into one of these things just before a fire fight starts? With experience, a character should be able to dress themselves in this five kilogram device a lot faster.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 2:47pm

Today’s Exoskeletons

Work is being done today on a range of exoskeletons ranging from medicinal purposes – allowing those with spinal injuries or the elderly to be able to move around – to devices with combat potential, such as models being constructed by Raytheon. A story on Army-Technology.com noted that Raytheon’s XOS 2 was a second-generation robotics suit that uses high-pressure hydraulics that increases the user’s strength by a ratio of 17:1.

Essentially,” the wearer can lift about 200 pounds of weight for long periods of time without feeling the strain,” Army-Technology noted. Able to punch through three inches of wood, the wearer can also walk, run, climb stairs, punch a punching back and even kick a football.

David Biello, the science curator for the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conferences, wrote in a story for Scientific American that Today’s exoskeletons are rather primitive, but the Raytheon model will allow a “person to lift 500 pounds of weight as if it felt like 10 pounds.”[1]

Some of the drawbacks is that the Raytheon exoskeleton moves slow. But within the next 20 to 30 years, as the technology of neuroprosthetics progresses, exoskeletons could replace wheelchairs by allowing individuals to walk.

“Another problem with the exoskeleton is power,” Biello wrote. “When we walk we use very little power—we just fall from step to step and the Achilles tendon picks up some of that force and pushes us forward. We can walk for miles and miles.

“The Raytheon exoskeleton has this big tether coming off the back of it because it consumes a tremendous amount of energy. The battery technology is not there yet,” Biello noted.

Not to be outdone, Lockheed Martin and Ekso Bionics has its HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) that allows a soldier to easily carry 150 pounds (68 kilograms) while walking at speeds of 3 miles per hour or running at 10 mph. it has even developed non-powered exoskeletons, one called MANTIS to allow workers to more easily carry objects.

“Any object which is attached to the MANTIS will feel weightless due to the fact that the load of the object will be transferred to the ground through the exo-skeleton,” noted a 2013 report from the Naval Surface Warfare Center. “When worn by a human, the MANTIS has minimal impact on the mobility of the human.

“An individual can still perform tasks such as walk up and down stairs, jog, perform lunges, walk up and down ladders etc. It is also adjustable to fit the majority of humans,” the NSWC report continued.

Consisting of leg and back braces, the HULC exoskeleton has motors at the knees and hips.

“Scanners in the HULC monitor the wearer’s movements so that the device compliments the wearer’s action,” according to a story in the Washington Post. “The HULC’s leg motors have to move fast enough that they don’t impede the wearer’s stride. But if the suit moves too fast, it could overextend the wearer’s limbs and cause serious injury.” [2]



[1] Biello, David. “Elysium’s superhuman exoskeleton’s aren’t science fiction,” Salon.com, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 2 pm. EDT. (Reprinted from Scientific American).

[2] Live Science. “In ‘Elysium,’ Matt Damon is fitted with an exoskeleton that’s not all sci-fi,” The Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2013.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 2:47pm

Redefining the SF Exoskeleton

There should be a variety of exoskeletons available for purchase in the Frontier, not just the Alpha Dawn’s one style for all. Some would be powered and others would be non-powered and their uses would range from simply overcoming the effects of higher gravity planets, increasing a worker’s lifting ability, for medical purposes and, yes, combat outfits.

The power usage should also be greatly reduced, as these models should be rather power efficient  

 

 

 

Let’s redefine the exoskeleton presented in the AD rulebook as one type, which is an ultra-light weight, custom-fit model. It will be made to be a bit more expensive, more power efficient, but not quite so powerful.

Custom-Fit Exoskeleton

Cost: 3,500 Credits

Weight: 5 kilograms

Power: 20 SEU battery, though it can be plugged into a 50 SEU Beltpack or 100 SEU Backpack (sold separately)

Power Useage: 2 SEU per hour

Truly a marvel of Frontier engineering, combining robotics and bionic technology, the custom-fit exoskeleton is a mechanical/metal frame that is worn on the outside of a character's body. It follows the body's movements and increases the strength of its wearer as each joint has its own miniature motor.

The custom-fit unit must be specially fitted to the character that will wear it, and cannot be worn by anyone else unless it is modified by a technician. Such modifications would take 1d10+5 hours, but the altered outfit can only be worn by someone of the same race – i.e. an exoskeleton designed for a Dralasite can only be worn by another Dralasite.

Initially getting in or out of an exoskeleton takes 1d10+10 turns. A character can speed up the time it takes to “suit up” by expending experience points. For each experience point used, the character can trim 1 turn off of the time it takes to put on or take off the exoskeleton; the maximum reduction is 10 turns so then it would take a highly experienced user only 1d10 turns.

A character in an exoskeleton can move twice as fast as normal, can jump five meters straight up (in a 1G environment), gains a bonus of +20 to hit in melee and does an extra +1d10 points of damage in melee. An exoskeleton provides no protection to the wearer, but it can be worn along with a powerscreen and defensive suit.

Another benefit, because it is so lightweight and slim, a character wearing a custom-fit exoskeleton can easily get in and out of vehicles without needing to modify the vehicle’s door openings or seats.

Low-Cost, Nonpowered Exoskeleton (LoCo Exo)

Alternative names: Jumping Jacks (Laco, Dixon’s Star), Bonus Drive (Exodus, Pan Gal), Tri Jack (Triad, Cassidine), Rubber Jack (Groth, Fromeltar), Equalizer (Hargut, Gruna Garu), Moon Walker (Moonworld, Lynchpin), Taloob – Take a load off one’s back (Morgaine’s World, Prenglar), Leg Ups (Ringar, Solar Major), Leg Ups (Kir’-Kut, Solar Minor), High Jack (Minotaur, Theseus), or Jumpin’ Jak (New Pale, Truane’s Star)

Cost: 300 Credits

Weight: 10 kilograms

Power: N/A

The LoCo Exo is a mostly mechanical exoskeleton that allows the user to overcome many of the negative effects of higher gravity worlds (those with more than 1 G gravity). Specifically, when a character wears one of these exoskeletons, he will not suffer a decrease in normal carrying capacity, can leap and vault normally and safely jump the same distance as a character in a standard 1 G environment. However, it will not eliminate any additional damage taken in a fall (+2 points per 0.1 increase in gravity).

When used in a 1 G environment, it would allow a character to carry 2 extra kilograms without being encumbered. For every tenth of a gravity less than 1 G, a character can carry an extra 2 kilograms above and beyond the level stated in the Alpha Dawn rules under “Movement: Gravity, Weight and Mass.”

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 2:48pm
more to come, but comments/feedback welcome
Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 4:11pm

More on the LoCo Exo:

When worn, the unit does not count against a character’s carrying capacity.

The low-cost exoskeleton is adjustable, but it can only be used by someone of the same racial type – i.e. a Vrusk can only wear an outfit made for a Vrusk, a Yazarian must wear a Yazarian model, not one for a Human or a Dralasite, etc.

Initially getting in or out of s LoCo Exo takes 1d10+15 turns. A character can speed up the time it takes to “suit up” by expending experience points. For each experience point used, the character can trim 1 turn off of the time it takes to put on or take off the exoskeleton; the maximum reduction is 15 turns so then it would take a highly experienced user only 1d10 turns.

The outfit provides no protection to the wearer, but it can be worn along with a powerscreen and defensive suit. Like the custom-fit models, the Loco Exo is slim enough where a character can operate most vehicles without needing to modify any door openings or seats.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 4:27pm

Adjustable Powered Exoskeleton

Cost: 1,500 Credits

Weight: 8 kilograms

Power: 20 SEU battery, though it can be plugged into a 50 SEU Beltpack or 100 SEU Backpack (sold separately)

Power Useage: 2 SEU per hour

This type of powered exoskeleton sacrifices strength for decreasing the amount of time it takes to put on and take off while being adjustable so it will fit others of the same race. Slightly heavier than the custom-fit models, it is a blend of robotics and bionic technology. Its mechanical/metal frame has miniature motors at each joint to follow the wearer’s movements while amplifying strength.

Initially getting in or out of an exoskeleton takes 1d5+5 turns. A character can speed up the time it takes to “suit up” by expending experience points. For each experience point used, the character can trim 1 turn off of the time it takes to put on or take off the exoskeleton; the maximum reduction is 5 turns so then it would take a highly experienced user only 1d5 turns.

A character in this type of exoskeleton can move twice as fast as normal, can jump five meters straight up (in a 1G environment), gains a bonus of +5 to hit in melee and does an extra +1d5 points of damage in melee. An exoskeleton provides no protection to the wearer, but it can be worn along with a powerscreen and defensive suit.

Another benefit, because it is so lightweight and slim, a character wearing a custom-fit exoskeleton can easily operate vehicles without needing to modify any door openings or seats.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 6:20pm

Custom-fit exoskeleton: a characer can lift an extra 40 kilograms without being encumbered

Adjustable powered exoskeleton: the wearer can lift an extra 15 kilograms without being encumbered.

Joe Cabadas

jedion357's picture
jedion357
February 6, 2017 - 6:21pm
We certainly need the aliens power loader that Ripley used, real world example seen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC1uihkZbyU
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 8:03pm

Labor Rig

Cost: 2,000 Credits

Weight: 80 kilograms

Power: 100 SEU Backpack

Power Usage: 4 SEU per hour (6 SEU per hour if lifting more than 250 kg)

This this exoskeleton is used for pure strength. It is bulkier and heavier than the standard models, hence a reduction in reaction speed. Commonly used for lifting, pushing and carrying heavy loads, the labor rig is typically used in warehouses or on planets with high gravity. It provides a +25 bonus to Strength (STR) but cuts Reaction Speed (RS) by -15 RS. The wearer can lift up to 250 kilograms without being encumbered or up to a maximum of 1,500 kilograms.

While this may appear to be an ideal suit for mounting heavy weapons, wearers suffer a -20 percent modifier to hit while using ranged or melee weapons because it is not made for combat. But, a successful melee strike will cause 4d10 points of damage!

It takes a character 1d5+5 turns to suit up or properly exit the rig.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 8:55pm

Humans, Yazarians and Dralasites can use the same type of labor exoskeleton, but Vrusk need their own purpose built unit (no extra cost). The rig does not provide any additional to a character but they can wear defense suits. Defense screens will not work with this type of exoskeleton unless it is purposely mounted on it (with a 10 percent extra charge).

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 8:57pm
Oh, and just to make clear, any batteries, power packs, etc. are sold separately! They are not included in any of the exoskeleton's purchase price or weight statistics.
Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 9:08pm

Because of its size and bulk, a character cannot wear a labor rig and use or even ride in many vehicles (cycles, cars, etc.), but they could be carried in a ground, hover or air transport and other larger craft.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 9:46pm

Explorer/Enforcer Rig

Cost: 3,500 Credits

Weight: 25 kilograms

Power: 100 SEU Backpack (sold separately)

Power Usage: 4 SEU per hour

The EE Rig, also called the poor man’s powered armor, is a robust exoskeleton designed for speed, melee power but not necessarily for a lot of extra carrying capacity. Basically a scaled down robot for a character, it is made to mount all sorts of equipment and is compatible with a defense field. In its stripped-down form, it will not provide any additional protection but a character could wear a defensive suit.

A character in an EE Rig can move twice as fast as normal, receives a +1 Initiative Modifier, can jump five meters straight up (in a 1 G environment), gains a +20 to hit modifier in melee and does does an extra +1d10 points of damage in melee. It comes with many pockets and attachments to hold additional powerclips and equipment.

This rig can be pared with partial and full polyplate armor (see the Alpha Dawn remastered rules under Optional Equipment). If so, a character cannot wear any other defensive suit and the polyplate armor is actually plates that are mounted over the exoskeleton. The installation charge is 10 percent of the normal price. Characters will not suffer any Dexterity or Reaction Speed penalties.

Other equipment can be mounted to the EE Rig such as a toxirad gauge, chronocom, trace-tags, etc. for an additional 10 percent installation charge. For an additional 5 percent charge, such equipment can also be made to be removed and used by a character when they are not wearing the outfit. Characters can double their normal carrying capacity (unencumbered and encumbered).

It takes a character 1d10+10 turns to suit up or properly exit the rig; a character can spend experience points to reduce this time (1 XP to reduce 1 turn to a maximum reduction of 8 turns). Humans, Yazarians and Dralasites can use the same type of labor exoskeleton, but Vrusk need their own purpose built unit (no extra cost).

Because of its size and bulk, a character cannot wear an EE Rig and operate  or even ride in many vehicles (cycles, cars, etc.), but they could be carried in an explorer or ground, hover or air transport and other larger craft.

Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 6, 2017 - 9:47pm
There, I think this salvages much of the information from the earlier exoskeleton discussion.

Feedback is welcome!
Joe Cabadas

Shadow Shack's picture
Shadow Shack
February 6, 2017 - 10:49pm
Technically the vrusk version would have to be renamed "exo-exoskeleton".

Quote:
 this thing is no Iron Man™ suit and it’s a power hog.

That's because Stark Industries (parent company to WarTech) hasn't perfected the Arc Reactor yet...

No, I'm not overly fond of Zeb's Guide. Nor do I have any qualms in stating why. Tongue out

My SF website

jedion357's picture
jedion357
February 7, 2017 - 7:07am
Just a thought: what do you think about giving a PC an ability check to shave time of the # of turns to suit up? For example the labor rig takes 1d5+5 turns to suit up. That's 6-10 combat rounds which is a lot. So what about about a DEX check for half that time which on a successful ability check means 3-5 combat rounds.
I might not be a dralasite, vrusk or yazirian but I do play one in Star Frontiers!

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 7, 2017 - 7:26am
jedion357 wrote:
Just a thought: what do you think about giving a PC an ability check to shave time of the # of turns to suit up? For example the labor rig takes 1d5+5 turns to suit up. That's 6-10 combat rounds which is a lot. So what about about a DEX check for half that time which on a successful ability check means 3-5 combat rounds.

I did suggest allow a character to spend experience points to shave time off -- this should apply to putting on any exoskeleton outfit, not a one-time only expenditure. I suppose I didn't make that clear, but a DEX check could be used too.

I guess if one wanted to adapt the powered armor skill from Zebs for Alpha Dawn, then buying that ability would allow one to cut the mount up time too. Someone may have suggested that for powered armor in one of the Star Frontiersman magazine issues. I will need to check that.
Joe Cabadas

JCab747's picture
JCab747
February 7, 2017 - 7:28am
And, I think Chris Donovan's earlier post about bionics in the Star Frontiers universe http://www.starfrontiers.us/node/9315#comment-45314 could make a good sidebar story to this, though I wonder if the prices he provides are too high.
Joe Cabadas