Full Body Scanner
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Basic Information

A full-body scanner is an electronic security device that that creates an image of what a person looks like under their clothes. Such machines are being used at airports and other mass transit facilities, as well as government buildings such as courthouses, to screen and detect concealed weapons. They are used in situations where a metal detector might not be effective enough, and a strip search would consume too much time and effort.

There are currently two main forms of Full Body Scanner:

Both create extremely detailed images of the naked body, making hard substances very noticeable. No pun or double entendre intended - I swear I was talking about guns and electronics. Now that you mention it, though, they do also expose the genitals of the target, and can reveal birth defects or health issues people would rather keep to themselves. To say there are some privacy concerns would be an understatement. In the United States such scanners can be argued to violate Constitutional provisions against unlawful searches, and in the United Kingdom they technically violate child pornography laws. All sorts of controversy has followed the installation of these devices, and some communities have outlawed them.

In addition to privacy violations, there's also concern about health. The long-term effects of frequent exposure to these devices has yet to be studied extensively. The machines are capable of high-powered energy production, so a malfunctioning machine could theoretically blast a person with a much higher dose of radiation than is typical.

That controversy hasn't stopped development of such technology. See Van-mounted body scanners coming to a street near you?



Game and Story Use

  • In a setting with Body Horror, these scanners might expose mutants, aliens, demons or undead. Some forms of Possession could be detected with such devices.
    • If the mutations are caused by something like a the yellow sign, this may backfire or spread the illness. Simply seeing the secret symbol of transformation may start the scanner operator mutating. These are things that man was not meant to know.
      • The PCs are investigating a string of workplace shootings or mental breakdowns by people who operate such devices. What horrible hidden truths do the full body scanners cause them to glimpse?
  • Even without such terrifying things to uncover, a PC techie may well want the latest best security device guarding their Headquarters or secret base.
  • The machines are not infallible, nor are the people using them. Camouflage is a possibility. If the item being smuggled is dissasembled or uniquely misshapen, it may fool the operator of the device. The scans do not go beyond the surface of the scanned person, so things hidden inside body cavities will not be detected. So it's not like this is the end of smuggling or concealed weapons as a plot device. Characters manning such machines probably have to make some sort of die roll for the search, with the machine giving them some sort of bonus on the roll.
  • A megacorp or government conspiracy might secretly program the devices to be slow-acting assassination machines. Facial Recognition Software identifies targets as they pass through airport security and the full body scanner automatically blasts them with harder radiation.
    • In small enough doses, it could take weeks or months to kill, or may simply cause hair-loss or illness. Heck, if the CIA tried to make Fidel Castro's beard fall out on TV, then you can't rule out the idea that they (or they gaming equivalent) might be willing to be a similar nuisance to political dissidents or suspected terrorists.
    • A scenario could involve the PCs investigating the death of a suspected terrorist. At first, their radiation death seems to confirm that the person was working on a dirty bomb and suggests there may be a whole terrorist cell out there somewhere. But instead it turns out the suspect was actually covertly assassinated by some other government agency.
  • Technically, air travelers have the right to 'opt out' of being body scanned. There's all sorts of legitimate reasons, ranging from modesty, to privacy (not yet comfortable revealing that you wear adult diapers), to health concerns over X-rays. Regardless over what legitimate reasons their may be, no doubt the TSA at the checkpoint will be concerned that maybe you're refusing because you're a terrorist or smuggler.
    • A recent New York Times article ("Opt Out of a Body scan? Then Brace Yourself") describes the likely scenario of what happens when you choose to Opt Out. GMs seeking realism may find it useful.
    • There's plenty of times where the typical adventuring party wouldn't want the level of scrutiny a scanner directs on them. In most of those situations, they don't want the attention they'll get for refusing it, either. Sounds to me like a good "rock and a hard place" situation to throw at them.
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