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Limb Boosters

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue.

Limb boosters were originally developed by Ling-Standard Products for the Imperial Army and Marines, but they were soon made available to the civilian market. The Scout service, in particular, includes boosters in the medical supplies of field personnel, especially in ships that can be flown by a single crewman. Similar technologies have been developed for local military, medical and rescue services.

Common medical procedure for a person who has suffered a broken bone, torn muscle or shattered joint is to immobilise the injured area by a splint or insta-cast, followed by transportation to the nearest trauma center. The injured person is supposed to use the limb in question as little as possible to avoid aggravating their injuries.

While this is certainly the best method in civilian, urbanised areas, and the least damaging to the patient, there are circumstances in which mobility is more important than the prevention of further damage. The military tends to see the most such situations, for example where injured soldiers need to keep up with their comrades or risk being killed or captured. Scouts, as well, are often injured while exploring in places where help or the next hospital may literally be light-years away. In these cases, a limb booster will get the soldier or scout moving again, and may well save xir life.

Use and Effect

Primitive limb boosters appear first at TL 10, as a thick, multi-part bandage stiffened with nanocarbon rods and studded on the inside with tiny metallic contacts. The middle layer consists of artificial muscle fibres that can be aligned by kneading them into position and activating them with a pencil-sized infrared laser included with the package. At TL10-11, boosters are very bulky and cannot be worn under clothing, but at TL12, they fit under moderately loose garments, and at TL14 lie nearly flush with the skin. Higher-tech boosters may also have a monitor readout that constantly analyses the wound and provides medical data.

Before use, a broken limb should be set as expertly as possible, requiring a Medic, INT roll with the difficulty depending on the severity of the injury. Otherwise, the booster may later move the fractured parts in ways that will cause further damage to bones, cartilage, muscles, and tendons.

To apply the booster, the bandage is wrapped tightly around the injured limb, and the rods and fibres aligned, which takes an AVERAGE, Medic, INT roll. Painkillers, stimulants and antiseptics may be applied as well, with some booster models having automated injectors built-in. The metallic receptors in the inner layer will pick up the wearer’s neural impulses and activate the middle layer’s muscle fibres to move the limb accordingly. The rods stabilise the fractured area and (hopefully) prevent further damage. In this way, the patient regains full mobility even with a broken arm or leg, for as long as the booster stays on.

In game terms, a character whose DEX or STR have been reduced by damage (but still at 1+) may function normally, as if these two attributes were at full strength, if fitted with a booster. Since a booster is somewhat clumsy, there is a DM –1 to all actions requiring fine movement by the injured limb(s).

Once a booster has been fitted, it prevents any treatment of the wound(s) by any means. To heal characteristic points via medical treatment, the booster must first be taken off. Only at TL 14+ are boosters reusable.

Difficulty Example of Activity
SIMPLE Walking slowly, without load
EASY Walking, carrying a moderate load
ROUTINE Running, without load
AVERAGE Running while loaded
DIFFICULT Carrying a heavy load or climbing
VERY DIFFICULT Climbing while loaded

Moving an injured limb is likely to aggravate the damage; if the patient does anything else but rest, xe must make a Survival, Athletics, or Medic roll (player’s choice) every hour of activity to avoid taking an additional point of damage. The difficulty depends on how strenuous the activity is.

The Referee may force additional rolls when engaging in sudden heavy activity, such as combat.

In addition, the character will take an automatic point of damage every hour of activity for each of the original Medic checks (to set the limb and to apply the booster) that was failed.

One-third of all damage by activity (rounded up) is permanent and can only be healed with transplantation, cybernetics or advanced surgery. Simply put, even with the support provided by what is basically a high-tech splint, it is never a good idea to put further strain on a damaged joint.

Power Requirements

TL10 boosters are usually charged via cables from a belt-pack or a battery carried in a hip pocket. A typical charge lasts for four to eight hours (depending on activity) before the pack needs to be replaced or recharged. At TL12, the booster stores its own energy in a flexible power lattice and can be recharged by solar energy or the wearer’s own movement, effectively making the booster autonomous from power sources.

Types of Boosters

Lower tech level boosters are single-purpose only: a booster intended for the left index finger of a human cannot be used on the right, or any other limb or digit. Consequently, the kit in a ship’s locker usually lacks the extensive set of twenty boosters for the digits. A typical kit holds five boosters, one each for right leg, left leg, right arm, left arm and torso/shoulders—the hip assembly being a problem that will first be solved at TL 12, when general-purpose booster patches become available. These patches can be configured (ROUTINE, Medic, EDU) for any joint of the body of a sophont of the correct species. (Special boosters are available for certain species of animals, most often riding or draught animals.)

At TL 14, boosters become generalised enough to be used on other broadly similar species in a pinch—a human-use booster could also be used on a chimpanzee, Aslan, Vargr, or Droyne, or a booster designed for Terran horses could (with some improvised modifications) be made to fit a K’kree.

  TL Mass Cost Required skill Notes
Limb booster (torso, arm or leg) 10 1.0 kg Cr750 Medic-1  
Limb booster (torso, hip, arm or leg) 12 0.5 kg Cr1000 Medic-0 May be incorporated into a vacc suit, combat armour or battledress (requires expert system with at least Medic-0)
Limb booster (torso, hip, arm or leg), reusable 14 0.2 kg Cr1500 Medic-0 May be incorporated into a vacc suit, combat armour or battledress (requires expert system with at least Medic-0)
Limb booster (finger or toe) 10 0.2 kg Cr300 Medic-1  
Limb booster (finger or toe) 12 neg. Cr500 Medic-0 May be incorporated into a vacc suit, combat armour or battledress (requires expert system with at least Medic-0)
Limb booster (finger or toe), reusable 14 neg. Cr700 Medic-0 May be incorporated into a vacc suit, combat armour or battledress (requires expert system with at least Medic-0)
Automated injectors 12 neg. Cr500 None May be incorporated into a vacc suit, combat armour or battledress

Boosters in the Military

Standard military doctrine in the Imperial service branches is for boosters to be applied only if the situation is such that the chances of the patient’s survival will be improved. The high command feels that otherwise officers and NCOs in the field would come to rely solely on boosters and drugs to keep their troops in fighting condition for a mission, and general reliance on med-evac would decrease sharply. The temptation is high to keep soldiers in the fighting line even after they have been wounded. This practice, it is felt, would lead to a much higher number of soldiers being maimed and leaving the service physically impaired.

Booster use where not strictly necessary violates various service codes which hold the commanding officer or NCO responsible for ensuring the well-being of their men to the best of their ability. As such, it may be construed as “criminal dereliction of duty”, punishable by court-martial. Technicalities such as the “dire requirements of the situation” are often cited in order to avoid prosecution, and it has often been argued that enabling a wounded soldier to fight increases the entire squad’s chances of survival and is therefore a legitimate action. The success of such arguments depends largely on the personal opinion of the debriefing officer.

The typical situation where booster use is considered appropriate is where a unit has to rely on its mobility to avoid contact with the enemy, where carrying a wounded man is not feasible and other transportation is not available. An example would be an infantry platoon in retreat trying to avoid or fight off a pursuing enemy.

A notable exception to this doctrine is with boarding teams and drop infantry, where TL12+ battledress is often liberally equipped with automated booster patches and a medical expert system to apply them. The reasoning is that in space, mobility is of prime importance—a Marine spinning out of control needs to have the full use of all limbs in order to repair their suit and use their grav-pack or grapple line to return to safety—where the alternative is a horrid and lonely death in a slowly failing suit. Similarly, a failed orbital insertion or atmospheric para-drop may leave a trooper marooned miles away from help, and is also fairly likely to result in sprains, fractures or other injuries that impede movement.

Local militaries may have less strict regulations concerning the use of limb boosters, and may in fact rely heavily on boosters or drugs to keep their soldiers fighting for as long as possible. This is especially true with oppressive governments that care little for the well-being of their individual citizens, with warrior cultures where retreat is considered cowardice—and, it must be noted, with desperate armies on the losing side of a war. Ethical concerns all too often give way to callous utilitarism in the face of imminent defeat.

Most Aslan clans place the application of boosters firmly in the province of female medics. The general sentiment is that males are too intent on gaining glory and may well overtax their health if they employ boosters in order to stay in combat. (Also, the necessary fine-tuning of a booster is seen as a technical, “female skill”.) This has not stopped military commanders overriding the females on the pretext of “urgent emergencies” in countless situations.

The (Aslan) Glorious Empire (of Trojan Reach) lacks the qualms of Hierate Aslan, and their glory-seeking warriors employ limb boosters with liberal abandon if wounded in battle. The practice may have its short-term benefits in a given tactical situation, but in the long term it has resulted in higher numbers of warriors impaired for life due to aggravated injuries. This more than offsets the tactical advantage—especially as the Glorious Empire lacks the resources and advanced science to provide adequate relief to its crippled veterans.