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Basic Information

Wetware represents that branch of technology designed for direct implantation into the human1 body, either for upgrade or prosthesis (although modern and pre-modern unintegrated prosthetics normally don't count).

This is normally divided into bioware2 and cyberware, depending on whether they are made using biotechnology/biothaumaturgy or electromechanical engineering/artifice.

Capability ranges from the congruent to the extremely silly, depending on the genre and may vary in appearance even within a given genre - again, with varying levels of credibility.

Full body replacements generally don't count as wetware, being a clone, cybershell or something similar. Wetware really needs to be implanted into or grafted to an existing body - a clone can certainly be fitted with wetware, but doesn't constitute one itself.

Those of us who grew up watching The Six Million Dollar Man know this as "bionics", although the actual term refers to more than just replacement body parts.


1. Wikipedia article: Wetware (brain) — chiefly talking about neurological interfaces
2. Wikipedia article: Bionics — a much broader term which includes some of what this page is about.

Game and Story Use

  • Where the necessary technology exists, most PCs will rush to have parts of their body removed and replaced with foreign matter. Few RPGs effectively address how aberrant this behaviour is - although some have tried to.
  • Prostheses are probably less controversial, but are known to have occasional psychological effects in real life.
  • Replacement internal organs are probably the safest bet, limbs much less so and a lot will depend how often the user is reminded that there's something artificial installed inside them.
  • There may, of course be cultures where this sort of thing is entirely normal - Ian M. Bank's Culture cycle novels describe a society where everyone has numerous bioware upgrades and thinks nothing of extensive self modification, including repeated changes of gender - PCs who belong to a similarly decadent society probably will have less of an issue.
  • Fitting these sort of things is almost certain to get you a great deal of attention from security details at airports, spaceports and similar public buildings. In a society where such installations are common there should also be appropriate ways of appraising them.
  • Many fictional treatments neglect small matters like structural strength, power supply, cooling or ammunition supply when designing wetware or have flesh/synthetic boundaries that would lead to horrific ulceration in real life.
  • Theft of wetware is a common trope in settings where such equipment is pervasive. This can result in varying levels of lethality from guaranteed (where killing the original owner is part of the plan) through likely (where it is traumatically removed and death then tends to result by consequence) to limited (where the theft is on a par with the modern "stolen kidney" trope).
    • In such contexts, stripping wetware from people you killed for other reasons may be a standard perk.
    • Likely to involve a black market doctor at some point.
    • This may make second hand wetware much less attractive on a variety of levels.
  • When installing this sort of thing, consider the risks of outside interference - currently, the main problem is with strong RF fields interfering with implanted cardiac pacemakers and similar things, but the risk of having more advanced cyberware hacked and remotely shut down or otherwise interfered with should worry users. Even more so if you have a whole body prosthesis (or at least body-wide augmentations with a cohesive management system) and/or a highly integrated AI assistant, either of which might transform you into what is essentially a high-tech zombie (or just a helpless heap) if hacked. Likewise, if you have had your eyes replaced with cybernetics, all it takes is someone to supply them a fake data feed…
    • cRPGs in the Deus Ex series examine these sort of problems on several occasions.
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