Cybernetic Abilities in GUMSHOE

Icon of a push pin. abilities, GUMSHOE, cyberpunk

One of the key ways to differentiate a new GUMSHOE setting is to adjust the list of abilities, both Investigative and General, and possibly create new abilities that work in special ways. A fantasy game might include magic abilities of some kind. A game of wuxia magistrates should have martial arts and enlightened chi abilities. And near-future cyberpunk or technothriller setting simply must include cybernetics.

A simple way to create a new “system” of superhuman abilities in a GUMSHOE game is to allow players to “upgrade” the existing abilities by paying a premium, either at character creation or even during play. Cybernetics are one type of such upgrades that should be available at any point in the campaign, simply by undergoing surgery to implant a new device.

The default premium cost to upgrade an ability to a cybernetic ability is 5 build points. This gets you the first rating point for that ability. Additional points be purchased as normal. The premium “super-charges” the ability. Any ability that has been so upgraded can simply do things that an unaugmented human cannot. The benefits of the upgrade can be further expanded in the case of Investigative abilities by appropriate spends.

There is one downside to using a cybernetic Investigative ability, however. If you spend the last point from such an ability, the Director may decide that your cybernetic implant has shorted out, run out of power, or is otherwise deactivated. It no longer grants its extraordinary functions for the remainder of the scenario, but as a consolation, you refresh 1 point in the pool, which can be used for the ability’s mundane functions.


Each of the examples below includes the name of the cybernetics, the ability it upgrades, a description of the extraordinary nature of the upgrade, and a suggestion for additional effects on a spend (in the case of Investigative abilities).

Extended Chemoreceptors (Chemistry): You can detect trace amounts of known compounds and perform chemical analyses without sending samples to a lab. Spend: (1 point) Your implant is keyed to explosive, toxic, or corrosive compounds, alerting you to danger. Reduce the Difficulty of all Sense Trouble rolls related to chemicals by 1 for the remainder of the scene for you and any ally in the scene with you.

Cryptographic Co-Processor (Cryptography): You are able to crack electronic encryption on signals you are able to intercept either wirelessly or through a hardline connection. Spend: (1 point) You can encrypt your team’s communications in a way that prevents any useful eavesdropping. Your team gains a 4-point pool that can be used for any General ability when encountering opposition that relies on signal intercepts.

Wireless Traffic Sniffer (Electronic Surveillance): You are constantly monitoring wireless traffic around you, and do not need to set up any detection gear to gather clues. Spend: (2 points) Cybernetic implants give off electromagnetic signals of their own, constantly, even if they don’t have wireless data connections. If you open yourself up to these signals, you can track enemies and even predict their movements. Lower the Hit Threshold of any enemy with cybernetic implants that you attack by 1 for the remainder of the scene.

Leg Actuators (Athletics): You can keep pace with a typical automobile on foot. With a Difficulty 5 test, you can high jump three stories or perform similarly impressive physical feats.

Flesh Pocket (Conceal): You can hide an object up to the size of your fist in a cavity in your abdomen. Objects hidden in this way cannot be detected by normal security scans. Lower the difficulty of all Conceal tests against extraordinary searches by 1.

Smart Targeting System (Shooting): Your implant processes imaging data from smartgun electronics in your firearms and calculates optimal firing patterns. When making Called Shots, ignore the first point of increased Hit Threshold.

Hacker with AR Displays

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