Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Child Automata

LOAD "CHILDAUTOM", 8, 1
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LOADING
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No one knows where these strange machines originated, not even the machines themselves. Sages and scholars point to the significant differences between the Children and other automata on the Deadly Sands and say that they can't be from the same source, but what other explanation is there?

Each Child Automaton has a black or dark grey mechanical body that can only pass for human at a distance or if concealed. Their heads look human and are only revealed as artificial when touched, as their skin has the texture of strange, pliable metal.

Child Automata, as the name suggests, always have the appearance of children between 10 and 16, although some "younger" individuals have been reported. No "adults" have ever been seen, and the Automata do not appear to age or grow. Automata almost always have adult personalities, although if you want to play an actual child robot, that's okay too.

If your game uses forgeborn, warforged, robots, tick-tock men, or whatever, then use those to represent Child Automata, except you will probably want to reduce their size and movement speed; look at gnomes or halflings for pointers on how that works in your ruleset of choice.

If your game doesn't have artificial people as a character option, then use the following guidelines:

They are immune to disease and poison, and do not breathe, drink, or eat, although can mimic all three.

They heal like normal creatures, as internal systems knit together broken components, a process that baffles scholars. Healing magic works by overcharging these internal systems. Probably. Who knows?

Child Automata do need to sleep each day, just like their flesh-and-blood companions. All Child Automata have the same dream, one of a lush meadow full of tall grass and wild flowers, with bumblebees buzzing and butterflies flitting about. No living person has ever seen such things, so the source of these dreams is of considerable interest to these scholars I keep mentioning. How individual Automata react to these images is up to the player, and if you're running one of those trendy collaborative storytelling type games, maybe the origin of the dreams is also up to the player. Whatever works for you.

Some Child Automata display a sort of compulsive behaviour that may be the result of fragments of deep programming. A player of such an Automaton can roll on the following table.

GO$UB #1987 (d12):
  1. OBSERVE RECORD REPORT (to whom?)
  2. COLLECT X AND ANALYSE
  3. DESTROY X
  4. I WANT TO BE A REAL BOY/GIRL/WHATEVER
  5. PRESERVE LIFE
  6. LOCATE OTHER
  7. PROTECT X
  8. UPGRADE BASE UNIT
  9. LOCATE ORIGIN POINT
  10. CREATE ANOTHER
  11. WHAT IS FUN?
  12. BATHE IN THE BLOOD OF THE FLESHY THINGS

8 comments:

  1. This is fantastic. An easy, creepy drop into any sufficiently open-genre'ed game. If they're only NPCs, I'd be interested in playing with the notion that the dreams may not even be real experiences but cookie-cutter descriptions of experiences that they're programmed to give. (I like the idea of exploring whether artificial beings actually have what we experience as consciousness...)

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    1. Thank you! My intention with the Upon Deadly Sands project was to do something you could bolt on to your existing ruleset without having to add to much new stuff, or change too much of the game.

      With that in mind, I've tried for a light tough, and the shared dream is part of that. I leave the exact causes and origins of the dream to the individual GM. Perhaps it's a memory, not necessarily one that belongs to the Automaton. Or perhaps it's a representation of a shared connection to an AI. Or perhaps it's just a side-effect of some dodgy programming. It's up to you!

      Like you, I'm interested in the nature of consciousness, whether machines could experience it, and where exactly it comes from in us.

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    2. Consciousness has been a big part of my layperson's philosophizing over the past couple of years. Luckily I now have a coworker who likes to chat about it and has a fairly different perspective on it. If you are by any chance a fan OR skeptic of the "hard problem" argument, you might enjoy this article that he shared with me... https://bit.ly/3ilS2j8

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    3. Heh, that's a fun article!

      I studied philosophy at university, so this sort of thing is always bubbling away at the back of my, um, consciousness, and I enjoy dipping back into it now and then.

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  2. Just to try my luck, I rolled a d12 and got "BATHE IN THE BLOOD OF FLESHY THINGS," which I'm pretty sure is the best option. Although, does that mean my hypothetical character would need a party that didn't have flesh? Like an amorphous sentient ball of gas, or a Swamp Thing? Be like the Creature Commandos or something.

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    1. I suppose it depends on your GM. I would allow you to join a party of "fleshy things" just to see what happens. On the other hand, I also like the Creature Commandos idea!

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  3. These seem pretty creepy, with the whole uncanny valley thing going on.

    I really like the way you handled the "stats" by saying "Just use this from your system of choice, and adapt it." Even your comments on just basic stuff like "they're immune to disease..." etc. is very much in line with the types of games and gaming products I prefer these days. Too many get caught up on minutiae that ultimately gets in the way of actually gaming.

    Anyway, these are really fun.

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    1. Thank you!

      A few years ago, I tried to convert Dark Sun to Savage Worlds and it was a lot of work translating statistics and abilities over, when a simple "reskin" would have had the same end effect for far less hassle.

      That's part of why I've leaned more towards this approach as time has gone on. Use what's already in the system, and make additions and changes only where necessary, or if it's more fun.

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