Wireheading, Spinrad-Style for Cyberpunk 2020

Wireheading, Spinrad-Style

Author: Lucifer
WIREHEADING – Hardware devices which link into and continually stimulate the pleasure centers of a person’s brain. Very addictive.

Technical specs:

A typical headset consists of a trode set and a breadbox, a small gadget about the size of a flattened egg, containing a battery-pack and the neuralware which provides brain stimulation.

Wireheading is strictly illegal! All prices listed here are, therefore, black-market ones. Battery-packs come in two varieties: a rechargable one, which costs 50eb and can sustain up to 72 hours of continual use before it needs tobe plugged into a 110v socket for a 12 hour recharge, or a disposable one, which costs 20eb. Direct-connect versions, called walljacks, are available for 100eb; they plug straight into a wall socket and run off house current with about the same drain as a small CD player. Trode sets are the standard ones found in CP2020, p. 68, and cost 20eb.

Breadbox neuralware costs anywhere from 100 to 500eb, depending on the sophistication and size of the package. Note that this doesn’t include the power source or trode set; cost for an entire headset starts at 140eb and covers trodes, the crudest neuralware, and an inexpensive disposeable battery. A cheap, clunky headset of this type would have a fist-size breadbox and can provide only the crudest pleasure-center stimulation.

Wireheading is not usually run through a jack, since it is geared toward the street-level, unenhanced market (the ones who use trodes to braindance, for instance). It could concievably be run into a jack, with a bit of effort: the user would need an expensive unit (500+ eb, as above) and some kind of jury-rigged link, possibly resembling those used for braindance recording. Exact effects of the neuralware on the brain are up to the individual GM. Crude versions simply stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, providing a continuous, extremely powerful orgasm for as long as the current runs. However, almost any effect can be produced with the right wiring.


Examples noted in Norman Spinrad’s Little Heroes include the Blue Max, which drowned the user in alpha-wave euphoria, and the Prong, which stimulated physical (not mental) sexual arousal and endurance in its male wearers (see below).

Since the addiction to the stimulation is so high, the addict may suffer from dehydration and/or starvation before the battery runs down. Walljackers, or wireheads who run their flash from a wall current, may literally die from thirst before jacking out.

Suggested game effects for the Blue Max: +2 COOL and EMP, -2 INT and REF for duration. The user is in a blissed out state of euphoria for as long as the flash lasts — happy, calm, and serene. Nothing can hurt him, and he loves everybody. However, he’s also a bit slow on the uptake, both mentally and physically. Prolonged use of the Max can make the negative effects permanent; every failed addiction save means the user loses a permanent point of either INT, REF, or BOD (the BOD loss is due to muscle atrophy… Maxers don’t want to do much more than sit around). Should BOD drop to zero, the user dies.

Suggested game effects for the Prong: +3 to Endurance for purposes of sexual function. The wearer’s physically aroused for as long as the Prong is worn; this persists despite wounds, exhaustion, orgasm and/or ejaculation. The psychological effects of arousal are not produced (ever heard of priapism?), and overuse of this device can cause genital injury.