Shadowgrounds is a 2006 Finnish video game. It is a top-down shooter – so the battling ballistic action is seen as if hovering above the main character. But is otherwise quite reminiscent of DooM.
It has the general “space cyberpunk ” aesthetics. So think Aliens or perhaps Outland, to stick with the older fare.
It’s a fun shooter, but all the narrative aspects (plot, visuals, characterisation, voice acting, weapons selection, world information, enemies…) are generic and forgettable. Presumably, it was felt that people would just want to shoot the things.
Therefore, Shadowgrounds holds little character profile potential at first glance.
Suit up, fictionauts !
However, whilst playing I kept wondering how the action portrayed in the game would work in a non-video-game context. This is something we frequently do on writeups.org – see the FAQ for a full discussion of this. How does the hero carry so many guns, why is he so tough, why can he see the area around him…
So this profile is almost wholly original. It uses all elements of the game, but almost everything is derived from the answers to “how would this bit make sense in a less stylised reality ?”. Since the game has little background or narrative and a super-bland Generic Game Bloke.
- This profile features tabletop RPG mechanics about the video game’s gameplay. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
- This profile features non-canon hypotheses (lots and lots of them) about in-game events and mechanics. See our video games writeups FAQ for more.
- Real Name: Wesley Tyler.
- Marital Status: Widowed.
- Known Relatives: Quan Li Jun a.k.a. “June” Tyler (wife, deceased).
- Group Affiliation: Former IGTO officer.
- Base of Operations: Repair Base Echo, Ganymede.
- Height: 5’8″ Weight: 140 lbs.
- Eyes: Blue Hair: Brown
Powers & Abilities
Tyler is a solid but not that exceptional mechanical engineer. He’s specialised in light vehicular weapon systems and squad support weapons. A lot of his work involves ammunition feeding systems, motorised and stabilised mounts, gun cams and optics, etc..
He’s a trained and experienced frontline infantryman. Wesley served with the airborne commando component of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry . Though his MOS was that of an embedded combat engineer, he was one of the best shock troopers among the Patricias.
Tyler is also fully trained in operating the ITHACA (Infantry Team Heavy Armament CArrier) unit. He might be the only such person alive now.
The ITHACA suit
This is an exoskeleton worn around the limbs and back. It has a heavy frame on the back (from below the buttocks to above the head). But it’s not a “power loader” configuration like in Aliens, or power armour . At first glance, it looks more like something that’d be used by a person with crippled but not destroyed limbs to regain their mobility.
Still, it’s heavier and more enveloping than the exoskeletons in the movie Elysium .
The primary goal of the ITHACA is to allow an infantryman to carry a heavy load (primarily ammunition) in any terrain or conditions where infantry might tread. It can enter mountains, forests, dense urban terrain, underground infrastructures, etc. as easily as any soldier on foot. The frame on the back can carry almost a ton, and a trained operator can keep going as long as any fit soldier.
The prototype has thick sneaker-like soles slotted in, but these can be pulled out and replaced with combat boots-style soles. It also has an array of directional microphones (which is why it needs not to make too much noise) to help locate the enemy. These turned out to be difficult to use in practice, but Tyler has an uncommon knack for using these.
The ITHACA suit can also be equipped with squad-support weapons, and deliver stable and accurate fire using those. This is the part Tyler was project lead on. The weapons come as modules that can be installed within 15 minutes. In the field, a given ITHACA suit is expected to carry any combination of two modules.
Being a test suit, Tyler’s ITHACA has *all* the modules installed instead.
ITHACA weapon modules
Right shoulder – machinegun
A 5.8mm triple-barrelled affair. It is a modified version of a machinegun commonly used on light attack vehicles. It has a cybernetic selector with four positions – safe, semi-auto, 900 RPM, 2700 RPM. The second and third positions only use one barrel, though the weapon will automatically rotate to a fresh barrel if the current one is heating too much.
The shoulder mount is articulated, motorised and slaved to an in-helmet target acquisition system and HUD. This is a scaled-down system similar to those used in gunships. In practice it can be used as a personal defense weapon, assault rifle, squad automatic weapon or high-RPM light machinegun.
The machinegun has an autonomous mode where the mount rises further up. The gun then engages moving targets on its own, with decent accuracy and reaction time. But at this point the system is quite likely to commit friendly fire, and should only be used by an isolated operator.
The ITHACA operator can focus on another task (including wielding another weapon) while the autonomous mode is engaged. On the other hand, the autonomous mode eats through ammunition at a remarkable pace. That’s how it maintains its accuracy.
Left shoulder – grenade launcher
A high-pressure piston system capable of launching 45mm grenades (usually cluster anti-personnel charges) or 45mm rocket-propelled grenades (intended to engage light vehicles and clear obstacles). This is intended for high-intensity urban combat.
There exists 45mm fuel-air explosive warheads, intended to indiscriminately clear the inside of buildings. These are rare, but the ITHACA’s launcher can use them if they’re available.
The mount is similar to the right shoulder’s, but there’s no autonomous mode. On the other hand it had a small motorised autoloader and a laser designator.
Right forearm – railgun
A linear magnetic accelerator launching conductive projectiles at a very high speed. It has integral optics, feeding the suit’s HUD. The railgun can fire different types of projectiles :
- Sub-gram sliver. A tiny tiny bit of metal, but the velocity from the railgun means that it hits as hard as a rifle bullet. It is semi-automatic fire only, but the figurative trigger can be pressed multiple times per second without loss of accuracy. This is a pretty good weapon for short-range combat assuming a calm, accurate gunman.
- Tungsten fléchette . A much heavier, fin-stabilised, saboted, high-velocity dart. This turns the railgun into the tactical equivalent of an anti-materiel rifle. This sort of ammunition is rare though. Anti-materiel infantry railguns do exist, but few are in service.
- Disintegrating stack. This metallic puck explosively disintegrates into a stack of sharp discs as soon as it leaves the barrel. This results in a short-range cannister shot or, if you prefer, a powerful video-game style shotgun effect. The blast shreds soft targets, but the effective range is low as the discs disperse enthusiastically.
It is possible to stack multiple pucks to form a disintegrating rod, up to the length of the longest fléchette round the weapon can handle. This is a hack, and the pucks must be magnetised together. This is complicated and must be done beforehand.
Shooting this remains a short-range attack. However it’s going to redmist an elephant as hundreds of micro-disks get fired in a long burst.
The railgun is fed by a four-chambers cylinder. However, one chamber can hold up to 12 disintegrating stacks, or about 1,500 properly packaged slivers. Which is also good because reloading the chambers is, in the current prototype, less than handy.
Between the semi-auto mode on the machinegun and the sub-gram slivers on the railgun, Tyler’s ITHACA suit can deliver solid, rapid semi-auto fire thousands of times.
Left forearm – flamethrower
Infantry flamethrowers aren’t an ideal weapon. But the idea here is that an ITHACA frame allows for carrying a large, armoured fuel tank. This compensates for most shortcomings of flamethrowers. It can be taken close to the target, yet it can spray for much longer than an infantry model.
This weapon is chiefly useful for combat engineers and when taking on fortified emplacements.
Left thigh – laser rifle
A modified infantry weapon with replaced optics, no trigger guard and a modified handle. It is held in a thigh holster, and is operated by hand like a regular rifle. It is compatible with the gauntlets of the ITHACA suit.
The suit can carry high-density batteries for the rifle, which would be too heavy for a soldier. This in turn allows for using an “overclocked” beam mode, which is essentially an industrial-strength laser cutting torch with a 20+ metres range. This beam both has a tremendous heat output and a staggering power consumption.
In a pinch, it can use the baseline infantry laser burst fire mode, with a much lower power. There’s seldom a need to, though.
Right thigh – electric gun
A prototype close-range infantry weapon, with a very similar arrangement to the laser rifle. It looks more like a very heavy riot gun, though. This weapon literally shoots lightning, and in CQB it can paralyse, overwhelm and electrocute multiple targets.
Every aspect of this weapon is classified, and it is clearly a prototype. It recharges from thin air through a ions collector, which is impossible with conventional tech.
Reaching a useful charge in this way takes hours. But once past a certain charge threshold the weapon recharges quickly enough to be used repeatedly in combat and regain charge between skirmishes.
ITHACA suit force field
The ITHACA suit isn’t armoured, which makes it much easier to design, build, operate, etc.. However, it is protected… by a force field. This is what Mrs. Tyler was project lead on.
Wesley fully realises that this technology is well beyond normal technology. But all the components for this are sealed and Jun couldn’t talk about it.
This tight force field is a bit more than one centimetre removed from the body. In theory, it can be maintained indefinitely and can block any amount of matter and/or energy. However, impacts drain energy from the generators in direct proportion with their severity.
The fields are kept up by battery with a manifestly impossible output and endurance. This is another technology walled off by an NDA. But even with these, there’s only so much damage that can be absorbed.
On the other hand, if the suit can be recharged (using an electrical power source suitable for industrial equipment, which isn’t rare on Ganymede) it will be entirely fresh for the next engagement. It is thus well-suited to series of brief skirmishes occurring at the ITHACA operator’s initiative.
From cannons to canon
Again, all the material about the ITHACA suit is original. It simply stem from the usual “how does he carry all this stuff, how do the weapons and tactics work, how do medkits work, what’s up with the multiple lives, etc.” pondering.
In-game, Tyler wears a simple jumpsuit, medikits magically heal damage, all the weapons are hand-held and magically appear and disappear, the character has several video game lives for each chapter, etc.
Likewise, everything in the biography below that is about the ITHACA project and/or Mrs. Tyler is original material. The character backstory is mentioned in-games within seconds.
Intending to join the Canadian military as an officer, Wesley Tyler studied at the University of Toronto’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering . This is where he met his future wife, Jun.
After graduation he joined the ranks for two successive five-year tours. He followed the revised “bottom up” promotion track in the Canadian military.
Get your head to Ganymede
Back in 2050, the ISEU (International Space Exploration Union) had launched a controversial project to terraform Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Three automated spaceships were launched, seeding automated chemical factories that triggered planetwide chain reactions.
The process took remarkably little time, and Ganymede had become habitable by 2072.
As Tyler was leaving the military, Jun got an offer to join the IGTO military corporation. The position was a research high-energy physicist in New Atlantis, the capital of the Ganymede colony. Both Tyler spouses were eventually hired, to work on the ITHACA suit development project.
By 2091, they were on Ganymede.
Project Ithaca was a spin-off of a top-secret skunkwork, Project Techyon. As such, it involved access to some oddly advanced technologies. Jun was deeply involved in the main two of these – force fields and impossibly-high-performance batteries. However, she was under a Draconian NDA and couldn’t tell Tyler anything about these technologies.
Unlike Project Techyon, which aimed for a full-on power armour solution, Ithaca was a relatively short-term one with less radical objectives. It thus eventually produced pretty good prototypes.
By 2093, both Tyler spouses were running field tests of ITHACA suits. They were deployed along with IGTO security teams in actual situations on Ganymede.
However, Jun was increasingly uncomfortable with aspects of IGTO policies she couldn’t talk about. This reached a peak when Ithaca and related projects were abruptly shut down. The teams were redeployed on a critical, top-secret project.
Explosion in New Atlantis
Since Wesley was no longer needed with the new priorities, he was fired. Then, he was rehired, with a stark pay cut, as a senior security officer with IGTO in New Atlantis. By that point, Jun wanted to leave IGTO. She wanted to use her own ideas about force fields to create a startup back on Earth.
Therefore, she obtained that two ITHACA suits remain in use with New Atlantis’ security. Howbeit, she and Wesley were on their own to keep those running.
The actual point was to keep experimenting with the tech, and make sure that Jun’s generators were sufficiently distinct from IGTO property. As part of this, the Tylers arranged for completely off-the-record, additional access rights to the workshop with the two ITHACA prototypes.
The Tylers and their suits were deployed during a major fire in an IGTO power generation building in New Atlantis. Thanks to their modular nature, the suits could be repurposed into fire-fighting suits carrying a heavy duty foam sprayer with large feed canisters for staying power.
However, the building was blatantly substandard. It was an all-too typical example of shoddy IGTO procurement. As a catastrophic explosion was looming, Jun ordered everyone out. Meanwhile, she tried a last-ditch rerouting of the subpar power system.
That proved unworkable and the explosion killed dozens, including Quan Li Jun.
IGTO did the usual when catastrophically cheap equipment fails – blame human errors. The bereaved Tyler was a perfect scapegoat who likely wouldn’t fight back. Other security higher-ups went along with that plan, to stay clear of the damage.
Tyler was discharged and transferred to a small site as a maintenance mechanic. He and his tiny team did vehicular mechanics and general technical maintenance on bases in the area. Meanwhile, the one remaining ITHACA suit gathered dust in a minor IGTO storage site, due to the lack of trained operator.
Stuck on Ganymede, Tyler was at IGTO’s mercy. He preferred not to raise any stink, lest that lead to discovering Jun’s secret entrepreneurial projects. Even though it was all mostly legal, IGTO would no doubt besmirch her as a traitor and industrial spy to further “explain” the explosion.
The stakes were high. The ISEU marketing positioning for Ganymede’s colony was that of a perfect Star Trek society of highly skilled, highly educated best-of-humanity types. Entirely preventable accidents such as this one would be terrible for the #brand.
In fact, ISEU’s PR folks made multiple, dramatic announcements about revising and stepping up all security measures. This was mostly theatre. Worse, it was also used to step up the security and secrecy around IGTO projects that didn’t abide by ISEU regulations. Such as the presence of nuclear missiles on Ganymede.
Emotionally numb, Tyler took up to his new role in maintenance. Compounding his woes, his new boss was a former underling among the security services. This man had always resented him and believed Wesley was responsible for the explosion.
A mere dozen days after Tyler had been reassigned, he and his two-person team were ordered to fix a backup power generator site. The place seemed deserted. Tyler stayed behind to repair transmitters so his mechanics would have power within the building to make their way to the control room. He then lost contact with his team.
Tyler saw skittering little creatures in dark corners, and hints that his crew had just been slain. Puzzled, Tyler fixed the generator by himself, but was then attacked by the odd crab-spider things that had killed the other two.
Fortuitously discovering that these creatures shunned his flashlight’s beam, Tyler got out. He even found a spare pistol on his way.
Water. Water never changes.
As he neared his car, Tyler received a radio message from one Corporal Jane Arwyn. She was stuck deep into Ganymede’s original water processing plant. Arwyn was protecting a wounded man and had no way out. The same creatures had attacked, and the security measures had gone awry and shut the doors.
Tyler had never actually met Arwyn, but knew about her from Jun. The two had been good friends.
By this point, the more reasonable assumption was that something had gone seriously screwy with the terraforming process. Having large life forms evolve out of the blue seemed highly improbable, but that still was the simplest explanation.
However, as Arwyn briefed him over the radio, Tyler realised that :
- The strike on the power grid had been deliberate, aiming for both mains and backups.
- The water at the water facility had been poisoned.
- The security measures had not quite gone awry. Instead, there was some sort of large-scale computer attack degrading the computer grid moonwide, and hindering telecommunications.
- CPL Arwyn also mentioned creatures much larger and fiercer than the ones Tyler had encountered.
Since neither Tyler nor Arwyn could reach more distant sites, Tyler got into his car. He rushed toward the water processing facility. But on his way he made a quick detour by a small, isolated and nearly mothballed technical workshop.
Using his less-than-official card, Tyler got in and reached the storage cradle.
He then had it raise into standing position, unveiling the last ITHACA suit.
Since the force field doesn’t let any light in, an active ITHACA suit looks integrally black. The various weapons, optics and small bits protrude from the blackness.
There are two faint green discs of light corresponding to the goggles, and a white one corresponding to the business end of the flashlight.
Wesley is far from recovered from Jun’s death. He’s distant, evasive and laconic, playing a vague movie tough guy role. This keeps other people at bay as he deals with his grief.
This may not be necessary though. Ever since he was made the fall guy for the explosion in New Atlantis, people avoid him.
He’s comparatively friendly toward Corporal Jane Arwyn, who was a good friend of his wife. Jane is in turn very popular among IGTO personnel.
DC Universe History
A secret Luthorcorp project on Ganymede would be believable. Though of course the moon wouldn’t have been terraformed.
However, it might be simpler for the project to actually take place in another dimension. Say, a breach opened to a different timeline for Earth, which is smaller and has little life yet but can be mined for ore.
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03||Motivation: Responsibility|
|Int: 04||Wil: 04||Min: 04||Occupation: Maintenance tech|
|Inf: 03||Aur: 02||Spi: 03||Wealth: 003|
|Init: 010||HP: 025|
Directional hearing: 02
Bonuses and Limitations:
Directional hearing is a Skilled Power.
Gadgetry: 05, Medicine (First aid): 03, Military science (Camouflage, cartography, leadership): 03, Scientist: 03, Vehicles (Land, air): 03, Weaponry (Firearms, heavy weapons): 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Gadgetry is Specialised in Mechanical Engineering.
- Gadgetry follows realistic Genre rules.
Familiarity (Military equipment and protocols), Rank (Private).
Misc.: Tyler is not popular on Ganymede, though that doesn’t reach Mistrust proportions.
- IGTO service pistol [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 05, Ammo: 12, R#03]. Wesley briefly uses the powerful IGTO pistol before he secures his ITHACA suit.
- Tyler also carries a multi-tool and other useful repair tools and supplies.
The ITHACA SUIT
STR 06 /STR/ 03 /BODY/ 04.
The non-italicised STR is vehicular strength, representing the carrying capacity (and enhanced endurance, since the vehicle is carrying the operator).
Blunting: 04, Damage Capacity: 06, Enhance (Directional Hearing): 02 (cap is 04), Flash (Steady illumination only): 04
Bonuses and Limitations:
Damage Capacity has the Full Recovery With Infrastructure Bonus – namely a strong source of electrical current.
Conditional Soaking (Claws and bites, energy attacks).
All ammunition are IGTO standard rounds, so they can be resupplied in the field (including off fallen soldiers).
Right shoulder gun
- Single shot: Projectile weapon: 05, Ammo is effectively unlimited.
- Pulse burst: Projectile weapon: 07, Ammo: 24.
- Minigun mode: Projectile weapon (Autofire): 08, each use eats 3 Ammo from the previous mode.
Left shoulder launcher
- Cluster grenades: Bomb: 07, Ammo: 12.
- Rocket-propelled grenades: Projectile weapons (Area of effect 0 APs): 08, Ammo: 12.
- FAE warheads: Bomb: 12, rare and must be procured individually.
All these have No Range, but use the launcher’s Range of 05.
Right forearm railgun
- Single shot: Projectile weapon: 05, Ammo is effectively unlimited.
- Fléchette: Projectile weapon: 08, Telescopic vision: 03, Ammo: 02, Long Reload Time. Has Multi-Attack 1, but only for non-hardened targets that are well lined up.
- Shotgun: Shotgun blast (Range: 03): 07, Ammo: 12, Long Reload Time.
- Stacked shotgun burst: Shotgun blast (Range: 03): 09, Ammo: 1, Very Long Reload Time. Rare ammunition type.
Left forearm flamer
Flame project: 07, Range is but 2 APs, Ammo: 20.
Overclocked laser rifle
- Laser beam: 09, Ammo: 06, Multi-Attack 1.
- Alternatively can do Energy blast: 07 (Autofire). Every full 15 uses drains one Ammo from the Laser beam Power above.
Lightning: 07, Stagger: 06. Lightning and Stagger are Combined, but both have a Range of 02. OTOH they have Multi-Attack 2.
Stagger’s opposition is Lightning Immunity, Force Field, Force Shield.
The gun has Ammo: 08, but slowly self-reloads.
Monsters do more damage than in many shooter video games, so the durability of the suit isn’t ginormous. But as long as the Damage Capacity holds, it can be recharged.
The Conditional Soaking makes the force field significantly more durable for Grizzled Space Soldier Protagonist than for a stock NPC. Which is *probably* how it should work.
Source of Character: Shadowgrounds video game.
Writeup completed on the 2nd of April, 2017.