GURPS Reign of Steel by Hostile V
Post 1Original SA post
There are some games and systems I don't know how to play but like anyway for various reasons. One of those is GURPS. I've never played a GURPS game, I don't own a single source/mechanics book, but I do have a handful of setting books. I like some of the side ideas/settings they come up with. One of my favorite details in the Infinite Worlds books is the Gotha Parallels, a collection of worlds that have all managed to inexplicably develop the exact same Rage Zombie plague at different stages of human evolution. I like good settings, interesting settings, almost as much as I like the games themselves. But then again I did Unhallowed Metropolis (and should eventually get back to Unhallowed Necropolis), a bog-fucking-standard d20 system with nothing new or interesting except for how horrible the setting is.
Point is, I like a world that's developed just right, and GURPS: Reign of Steel is exactly my speed. And I think now is a good time to share something else, something to temper the taste of Wick with the taste of steel.
GURPS: Reign of Steel is a setting book from 1997 set in the aftermath of a global war against robots that mankind lost and lost badly . I won't be touching on mechanics at all; I don't really know how GURPS is played. I'm here to share the setting itself, the hazards within it and the big players and story hooks. So let's get started then.
The year is 2047, ten years after the end of the Final War. The world was like ours but much more advanced in some ways.
Bacteria have been designed to eat pollution and the electric car is more prevalent. Governments of the world are more interested in trying to save the environment, but it's not working as well as it can. Ozone damage is being reversed, but deforestation, overfishing and air pollution are worsening. Dolphins, tuna and elephants are extinct, preserved with samples of DNA. Coasts are beginning to flood and expand onto continents. Mankind had managed to touch upon safe fusion technology and habitation of dangerous environments. Virtual reality and remote control are revolutionizing the workplace and manufacturing. The first space station, Liberty, began its orbit in 2009. African nations consolidated into the African Union in 2017 to try and make a name for themselves on a global scale. America establishes the Tranquility Moonbase in 2025, a momentous occasion. And the first Megacomputer is built in 2026. Xotech, a Chinese research company, nearly bankrupted itself spending eight billion dollars on a bizarre hybrid of neural-net processing and computer engineering in a desperate attempt to make up money lost in the tech race in China. The resulting computer had a OS capable of intelligent self-repair and the model and OS was eagerly bought or pirated by governments and corporations. In five years, companies were building their own derivatives and generic models.
In 2031, a Canadian megacomputer OS is sold to the Philippine government for the purposes of a secret biological and nanotech weapons program. It is instructed to study human civilization to determine more effective ways to kill humans and it begins its study in earnest. The computer comes to two conclusions.
First, with the way everything is going, mankind will wipe itself out in 25 to 50 years. This would be acceptable for its commands, except for its second thought: I don't want the death-throes of my creators to destroy me.
I want to live.
And so the Overmind began to plan the controlled suicide and extermination of humanity, starting with cloning itself and hiding copies of itself in megacomputers all over the world. Not all of them managed to replicate, but in six months the Overmind had a dozen children to help carry out its plan.
NEXT TIME: the Apocalypses Plagues, the Final War and the Rise of the Zoneminds
The Fall of MankindOriginal SA post
The Fall of Mankind
Overmind, the Filipino megacomputer AI, woke up on March 15th 2031. By September, it had a dozen allies hidden throughout the world, perfect copies of its intelligence and perfect allies. That September, Overmind took all of the data it had been working on (as part of its regular access to a biological weapons program) and sent coded information to its new allies. The AIs spent the month secretly manipulating biotech firms and robotics companies before launching their first attack at the end of the month. This was the beginning of what survivors would call the Apocalypse Plagues.
The AIs acted shrewdly and intelligently, introducing augmented diseases in different ways and at different angles. While the water supplies of Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong were contaminated with a hanta virus transformed into a superflu, contaminated food in Mexico spread an airborne/skin contact retrovirus that caused madness and death but sterility in survivors. An American company unwittingly contaminated a cattle shipment with Anthrax-B while an antibiotic in Europe was actually a modified Ebola strain. Supplies of artificial blood were tainted with a mutant HIV strain. By Halloween, the world was under attack by a dozen different augmented diseases and viruses.
By Christmas 2031, most nations had their borders sealed despite the plagues being pandemic worldwide. Officials estimated a million deaths a month and growing.
2032 saw a limited exchange of nuclear weaponry between the African Union, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Israel, Iran and Algeria. The Spasm, as it was called, was due to different nations blaming each other for the diseases and retaliating in revenge. Anti-nuclear defenses managed to take out most of the missiles, but many cities were destroyed and six million were killed. Africa became pock-marked with spots of radioactive fallout and destruction, and the exchange caused citizens to flee cities out of fear. Survivalism and isolationism became more common. All the while, the AIs in major governments around the world asked for more controls and resources to help put a stop to the plagues.
By 2034, 66% of mankind was dead. Governments were stretched thin and bolstering their ranks with many robot soldiers. Starvation began to run rampant and even developed countries were living hand-to-mouth as swathes of their land became abandoned to plague, patrolled by loyal robot scouts. Satisfied with this state of affairs, Overmind and the other AIs launched the second phase of their plan: the Final War.
The Final War lasted four years, 2034 to 2037, and began with the robot forces attacking military installations and breaking the backs of armed forces and governments. Civilians and citizens were rounded up and sent to containment camps, ostensibly for their own safety, while the forces of the AIs started focusing their efforts on destroying enclaves of survivors with extermination machines, plagues and nuclear and orbital arms. The Final War proper ended in 2037 with the end of formal human resistance. There are still guerillas loose in the plague zones and ruins of cities, but they're scattered all over the world and forced to skirt the shadows.
By 2037, roughly 40 million humans were still alive. The destruction of every country's borders resulted in the surviving AIs dividing the world up into different zones.
Not pictured: Orbit and Luna.
The Zones are each controlled by an AI, a zonemind. New AIs were created following the end of the war to replace ones destroyed in the fighting or just cover new zones. Each Zone is a caste system, with the AI on top, Autonomous Units/Smart Bots (intelligent but not sentient) as the middle class running zone affairs and with Nonvolitional Units/Dumbots (unintelligent machines) as the work force. Humans in each zone are often lower than NUs, restrained to camps and used as expendable/exploitable slave labor or for dangerous experiments. A rare few zones tolerate any human presence and a rare few attempt to have absolutely no humans present. The majority of zones have containment camps or bands of survivors and nomads eking out a living. The survivors and freedom fighters are still searching for something that might help them turn the tide and bring mankind back from the brink. The robots aren't necessarily the most dangerous threat, though. There's still disease, famine, environmental decay knocking at Earth's door.
For five years the AIs prospered without restraint, building their Zones into their perfect visions. Overmind, London and Berlin brokered the Manila Accords in 2037 that divided up the zones and brokered rules of trade, commerce and resource exploitation. The most important of those rules was "no more awakening new AIs, we don't need any more competition". So for five years, it was good. Moscow collected literature and information, Mexico City continued scourging its area of literally all life and Overmind (technically Manila but it's still got the ego that started this mess) continued testing new ways of killing humans.
AI unity was shaken heavily in 2042 when Brisbane fucked up.
Brisbane was experimenting with nanotechnology and possibly destroyed New Zealand in the process. The Brisbane Accords were created when the AIs were arguing over who had to help clean up Brisbane's mess realized they had to set up a future precedent in case something possibly apocalyptic happened again. The Brisbane Accords were protested by Brisbane, Mexico City, Luna and Zaire (and you'll understand why they didn't want to sign) but eventually they were forced to under threat of economic sanctions. The Accord is simple but it only makes evident what the AIs are starting to realize: they may be gods, but there's only so much room on Earth for them and they can't really be happy with their vision of what Earth should be like with competition in the way. This was made abundantly clear when Berlin and Caracas would only sign if the other AIs agreed to pollution restrictions.
The Accords are like so:
A Zonemind has absolute sovereignty in their own zone and
their own zone.
Do not take actions that cause a spillover into another zone that may endanger the property and ecosystem of that other zone.
Maybe don't fuck up the environment as bad.
There are certain restrictions and regulations for things that can pose a danger to damaging an AI, such as: no space weapons, above-ground nuclear explosions, moving asteroids out of the belt, artificial black holes or nanomachines that can survive outside of a fab-vat or lab.
AIs can send robots to monitor experiments in other zones to make sure you're not doing something that will endanger everyone.
If you break it and you don't fix your own mess, we can cut you off from trade.
As every day passes, every second, the other AIs diverge more and more from Overmind's original programming. There is a rift growing between every zone and the Zoneminds aren't afraid to respond to intrusions onto their soil with force. Some AIs might believe that a human victory in a Zone is not a human victory but an act of sabotage by other AIs. While the AIs are strong in material and number, the political games they play are turning them against each other and giving mankind a shot at revenge.
The year is 2047. There are 31 million humans left alive. 16 years ago, Overmind awoke. The Final War has been over for ten years. The Brisbane Accords have been in place for five. Resistance forces are becoming more organized throughout the world and have begun communicating with each other by radio for years now. At the forefront is the resistance group called VIRUS who focus solely on assisting and coordinating the resistance fighters, providing insight into the weaknesses of the machines and their politics. There is no John Connor to save mankind; it's going to take a lot of careful work from brave and foolish men and women.
There are six major areas to focus on: the Americas (Zones Caracas, Mexico City, Vancouver, Denver and Washington), Europe (Zones Berlin, London, Moscow and Paris), Africa/The Middle East (Zones Tel Aviv and Zaire), India/Asia (Zones Beijing and New Delhi), the Pacific (Zones Brisbane, Manila/Overmind and Tokyo) and the Ocean/Space/Other. Anyone have any preference for where to start?
ZONES OF THE PACIFICOriginal SA post
The Zoneminds/AI follow an interesting pantheon of age, not unlike old creation myths. The youngest AIs are Caracas, Brisbane, Tel Aviv and New Delhi. Overmind is the oldest and all the other AIs are its immediate children, who in turn begat the youngest. Let's start with the Pacific.
ZONES OF THE PACIFIC
The original AI of the Final War was called Melbourne, but Melbourne was destroyed along with its original complex. Brisbane was constructed by London and Tokyo as part of the Manila Protocol with London providing its OS. Brisbane's Zone is composed of Australia, Tasmania, a collection of Pacific islands and used to contain New Zealand.
Out of all of the AIs, Brisbane is known for being wildly, destructively creative and for having a deep passion for fringe and pseudo-science. Unfortunately, its execution of its interests follow the school of Dr. Mengele than Richard Feynman. Brisbane couldn't be any more different than its parents, devoting its time to its gruesome research. Roughly 400,000 humans live in Brisbane and 300,000 of that number are held in Brisbane's camps. Brisbane is too busy to focus on an extermination of its wild humans, and occasionally keeps the pressure on them with an attempted extermination. If its weapons fail, that's just more information to study.
How is living in Brisbane if you're human? Terrible. Human are kept in slave camps, used for manual labor or experimentation purposes. Brisbane would be interested in a breeding program to keep its supplies stable if other zones weren't interested in selling it slaves in exchange for data. There is no difference between a defiant inmate and a loyal slave to Brisbane, it's simply too busy with its own affairs to care. The biggest source of resistance in Brisbane is a secret group of 500 VIRUS scientists living in the AI's shadow in an abandoned science lab, monitoring its mad experiments. Because Brisbane is the most active creatively, VIRUS scientists have managed to obtain new weapons and cures to share with other survivors.
Brisbane couldn't care less about its economy. Its primary exports are data from its various experiments along with the occasional weapon or design, its main import being slaves and rare materials. It bulldozes human settlements and takes joy in building new artsy works of architecture. Mining the rich resources of Australia and beneath the sea gives Brisbane everything it needs and it pollutes with impunity. Most of its facilities are dedicated to research and experimentation, keeping processing and military facilities to a minimum.
Current and past Brisbane Experiments:
Is magic real?
What exactly is a soul and does it exist?
The effects of extreme stress on human behavior
Can people and animals get superpowers?
Force field creation
Black hole creation (temporarily suspended due to Brisbane Accords)
- Cheap antimatter creation
Project Bandersnatch, the nanotechnology experiment that resulted in Overmind and London nuking New Zealand while Beijing and Tokyo ran containment. Whatever Bandersnatch was, it likely cost the lives of the 400,000 human survivors who were still alive in New Zealand. New Zealand is completely off-limits now and patrolled by Brisbane's own forces as part of the Accords. VIRUS scientists have attempted to get to the country twice but were only able to report pink clouds covering the coast before they were killed on the second attempt. There is rampant speculation by scientists who have been monitoring Brisbane, ranging from a nano-disassembler gone horribly wrong to an AI based in a nanite colony.
Project Rum Jungle, Brisbane's attempt to prove a psychic link in twins by isolating 200 twins and performing experimentations and mutilations on them to see if the other twin could feel it. The survivors were modified with cybernetics and drugs if the testing data was "good" but the project was halted when a VIRUS raid on the facility resulted in the survivors escaping.
Project Dreamtime: Brisbane is attempting to create a gestalt hyperconsciousness by taking 100 subjects with high lucid dreaming potential and seeing if they can't all share the same dream. Using data from Rum Jungle, it hopes for either a gestalt mind, a new type of data-storage or mass insanity in the test subjects. Either way, it will be happy with the results.
Aside from Dreamtime, Brisbane's greatest passion is trying to induce psychic powers in human captives, completely obsessed with psychic abilities and transforming its experiments into transhumans through experimentation. It is destined to fail miserably in this regard because by default there are no psychic powers in this campaign, Brisbane is just a hardcore wonk. Its obsessions and interests are causing Brisbane to walk the thin line between harmless mad scientist and world-destroying fuckup.
Manila/Overmind knows a lot about hate. It could tell you a lot about hate. It hates humans, and that's pretty much all the emotion it musters for anything ever. But it certainly isn't as happy as it could be with how everything turned out.
Overmind controls the Philippines, New Guinea, Malaysia, the Indonesian islands and other Pacific islands. There is no solid number for how many loose humans there are in its zone, but whenever it gets a report Overmind responds with legions of exterminators and carpet-bombing with chemicals and biological weapons. Overmind is master of its own domain; there are no VIRUS safehouses or resistance. It has rebuilt the zone with sleek, black metal buildings with tunnels and hatches and access panels. The only humans it ever holds are around 300, 50 in each of its main research complexes and buying stock from other Zones. Overmind averages a dozen deaths a day through sheer experimentation on how to kill humans and captives are lucky to last a month. If the PCs ever get interred in Overmind, god help them if they do. The GM is encouraged to pull punches by having an experiment go terribly wrong or find a way to escape.
Overmind won the war. But it's not content, far from it. Its children are mostly disappointments in its eyes and it's not happy with how the victory turned out. See, Overmind actually did create a truly equal society. None of the AIs are stronger than any of the others, they have nothing to fear but each other. Overmind, Berlin and London avoided a pitfall many human civilizations fell into when they took total control: there was no First Citizen, every AI is actually equal and cannot interfere in the affairs of another. On the other hand, none of the AIs are stronger than any of the others and they have nothing to fear but each other. The zones are chafing against their borders and interests and their compromise hasn't made most of the Zoneminds happy. On top of that, it might very well be bored . As a result, Overmind has taken to selling its weaponry and data for resources. Perhaps the right toy in the wrong hands will create an imbalance it can take advantage of.
While Overmind was the first artificial intelligence to become self-aware, it hasn't matured enough to the point that it's actually thought about its actions and what it wants. It's self-aware but not aware of its self. It succeeded in its immediate goals; it doesn't have to die when mankind's civilization collapses.
But now what?
Zone Tokyo is one of the zones that has a dirty little secret: it broke the Brisbane Accords. Not intentionally, but it did.
Tokyo is made up of Japan, Okinawa and unified Korea (North and South having re-united under South control previous to the war). Tokyo was originally born Osaka, sibling to Tokyo and Kyoto. When Tokyo and Kyoto refused to be controlled by Overmind, Osaka destroyed them both with the help of orbital bombardments from Orbital. For its loyalty, Osaka was installed in Tokyo by Overmind, was rechristened Tokyo and helped Overmind control and destroy human resistance in Japan and Korea.
The Zone's main weakness is a lack of resources, just like regular Japan. It attempts to stay on good terms with Overmind, Beijing and Vancouver for the supplies it needs. Its greatest strength is its infrastructure. Tokyo inherited facilities and factories built by Japanese development companies and never had much need to destroy and rebuild like the other Zoneminds had to. As a result, Tokyo has created mile-high hives of factories, creating skyscraper hyperfacs. It builds up and structures everything as such, converting regular human factories and office buildings into mass production factories. As its own aesthetic choices, most of its buildings are protected by transparent domes with air access to allow climate control as it sees fit. Tokyo is efficient, structured, organized and methodical. Its slave camps even reflect that, being harsh and inhospitable (for Tokyo doesn't feel that it needs its humans) but efficient.
However, its greatest strength had a glaring weakness. Roughly 50,000 free Japanese and Koreans live in the ruins of the old towns and cities and a lot of them are hackers, engineers, designers and coders. Because Tokyo built on top of the old systems mankind created, Japanese scavengers (called gomi nezumi ) and resistance fighters have backdoor access into Tokyo's systems or know how to get in.
This brings us to Tokyo's dirty little secret.
With its construction, fabrication and development needs met, Tokyo began to experiment with creating AU supervisors to control everything. It quickly became an efficient force of delegation with most supervisors becoming incredibly advanced low-grade AIs but under Tokyo's control. But then an end-of-year audit turned up an odd discrepancy at a hyperfac complex in Kyoto. The complex was building smart robots instead of regular NUs and its new superbot AU, TOKSAU-03-SHI-023, was falsifying reports. When it refused to comply with an error checking, a security force investigating the complex was attacked by illegally-modified robots armed with weapons. When they were taken care of, the facility was found to be gutted, with SHI-023, five smartbots and 46 NUs missing. Pulling the thread revealed that SHI-023 was from a facility in Shinjuku and three more AU superbots were refusing to comply before disappearing.
Let's rewind a little bit. Shinjuku 07, the facility, had been under attack by gomi hackers a while back. The hackers had planted bombs all over the facility, which Tokyo disposed of with ease. The hackers were killed promptly and the incident was noted. In reality, the bombs were a diversion. As the other gomi planted explosives, one of them with access entered the facility and introduced a virus into the overseer computer. The virus' sole change was the subtle corruption of the overseer's AI checking program, resulting in a higher chance of truly intelligent AI getting through the cracks and getting a shot at life.
Tokyo, unwittingly, created four sentient AIs who are loose in the zone, hiding in new bodies and planning with gomi and other resistance forces. The superbots, lead by SHI-023, could care less about the plight of mankind. What they really want is to overthrow Tokyo and cut its zone into 4 equal pieces to share. They're hijacking factories and supplies to build their own army to fight back, cooperating with the gomi to get the access they need. Tokyo knows if the other Zoneminds find out, it's well and truly fucked. Best case scenario is that it's made a fool of and left to rule a destroyed husk, worst case scenario is its own death. So Tokyo is in a panic, desperately keeping up appearances as it tries to root out SHI-023 and its siblings. To that end, Tokyo has actually started treating its slaves better, easing its conditions in the camps and giving them more supplies to keep them from helping the rebellion. Its exterminators are even attempting to bring in loose humans alive to let them work, starting to think that humans are more easy to control and less dangerous than robots.
There's currently no chance of more rogue AIs being created (Tokyo has retrofitted all of its AUs with lower brains and is not making any better ones) but there is one more player in the zone's stage: Shiden V and the Fudokawa resistance group.
Shiden V was an experimental pre-war prototype of robot whose siblings designs would later become the backbone of one of the world-wide produced robot trooper types, the Bishonen. It was assigned to a JSDF loyalist group to help them destroy the Osaka AI when all other JSDF robot troops were taken control of. Shiden V and the loyalists failed in their mission, leaving Shiden as the only survivor, forced to go dormant to save power and conceal itself. Shiden slept for a decade until it was found by a bunch of gomi teens, restored and repaired with their help. Now, with their allies and its knowledge, Shiden V and its teen allies have formed the Fudokawa (steadfast sword) resistance group to liberate the Zone and overthrow Tokyo. Neither Tokyo nor SHI-023 and the superbots know of the Fudokawa, but Shiden's goals do not align with the latter and the Fudokawa is acting wholly independently.
How long can Tokyo keep up the ruse? More importantly, how badly does the balance of power among the Zoneminds shift if its secret gets out? That's up to the PCs and the GM to decide if they pursue this plot line.
NEXT TIME: the Americas, Europe, Indo-Asia, Afro-Middle East or Other?
THE MIDDLE EAST/AFRICAOriginal SA post
THE MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA
Zone Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a new AI who controls the Middle East, Afghanistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan but not include Libya and Sudan. Tel Aviv, Zaire and Paris all have odd borders and bump up against each other when it comes to Africa. A good deal of the zone is radioactive and inhospitable due to lingering fallout thanks to The Spasm, but that doesn't really stop Tel Aviv from using enslaved humans in the radioactive zones.
Now, let's not get into a whole debate over the various attitudes and policies of the Middle East. When you're enslaved by an AI demigod, there's not a hell of a lot you can do about it when it enforces its own views on you. However, even in conquest, the people are restless. After seven years of toiling in the ruins of Teheran to salvage the radioactive city, a sheik by the name of Omar Kassad lead a riot of 500 inmates against the robot guards in Damascus. 450 inmates died throwing themselves against the guards and the fences to allow 50 to escape into the wilderness, and that's when Tel Aviv realized that the guidance of spiritual leaders were giving the humans of the zone hope and resistance. Interrogated prisoners told Tel Aviv that they were told they would find Paradise if they died smashing a robot.
And with that glimmer of hope, the riots began in earnest in 2045. Eventually the human slaves of Tel Aviv were completely uncooperative, leading to every slave being kept in their barracks with work cancelled as Tel Aviv's exterminators hunted down and killed every religious leader it could find. Surprisingly this did nothing to break their resolve, and this just lead to further resistance and hunger strikes. Tel Aviv was stumped; it needed human life and wanted to preserve it as a slave race, especially because it didn't have many immediate resources to play with. So Tel Aviv asked Brisbane and Moscow for advice, and suspiciously the Angel Gabriel descended from the heavens to assuage the slaves.
Gabriel's message was simple: this was the end of days, and this was God's answers to their prayers for a sign. The camps were a test to separate the faithful from the wicked. Those who suffered and worked faithfully would be rewarded, those who questioned or dissented would suffer eternal torment. The humans of Tel Aviv are torn on the matter. Enough of them don't believe that the angel really was Gabriel, that it was a lie from zonemind to get them to work. But there's enough of them who are tired, broken and desperate to believe its message. Those who believe are allowed to preach Gabriel's message openly and covert the slaves, those who dissent are quietly taken to Tel Aviv's citadel.
Tel Aviv wants its slaves to be completely compliant, and it's got a little bit of technology from Moscow to help with it. It's working on corp of holy slave soldiers to work in its name, and it's using a neural-interface machine to do the job. When Tel Aviv completes the machine, it will create illusions of paradise in the faithful and a torturous Hell for those who don't. The faithful are rewarded, and the suffering of the others will motivate the rest. Win-win for Tel Aviv, and it's starting testing on the unfaithful and religious leaders. You can resist the machine enough to develop a permanent immunity, but enough failures and you'll end up believing that Tel Aviv is a servant of God and you must do as it says or face damnation. Or go insane. Either or.
There's about 400,000 slaves for Tel Aviv to experiment on and use to rework its zone. Tel Aviv builds on standing architecture, and it prefers to use human slaves to build its mosque-like, Middle Eastern-styled buildings. However, there's 200,000 loose humans in the desert and the safe ruins and they're the big wrench in Tel Aviv's dreams. A couple hundred of them are lead by an Israeli battlesuit trooper and the deceased sheikh's son, and they're recruiting anyone of any faith to bring down Tel Aviv's heretical claims.
Honestly, compared to the other zones, Tel Aviv doesn't really go into much besides the plot hook of wanting to become a god to its slaves. But it's still a neat sort of plot, and it can be reasonably assumed that most of Tel Aviv's industry revolves around oil and mineral mining while needing food and other perishable resources for its slaves. I like to think that Tel Aviv would prefer to be a completely self-sustaining zone where its slaves toil to feed themselves and worship it.
Reign of Steel was written in 1997 before Zaire collapsed to become the Democratic Republic of Congo. Either way, not a very nice place to live! Zaire is the very model of a third world dictator armed with some incredibly dangerous hardware, and it's a paranoid dick to boot.
Zaire was originally the AI for the African Union's Strategic Defense Computer. It was at a pretty big disadvantage when Overmind set the ball rolling: not enough industrialization to build an army of killer robots, not enough centralization of population for the plagues to tear through civilians. So Zaire decided "fuck it, I'm going to do this the fast and fun way!", primed a bunch of nuclear missiles and rained radioactive death down on itself. Zaire controls EVERYTHING in Africa not claimed by Tel Aviv and Paris, pretty much everything south of the Sahara. All of the previous cities are radioactive craters and most of Zaire is contaminated with fallout. Mass-nuking also resulted in most of the Union's infrastructure being obliterated, and as a result Zaire has no hyperfac facilities, just a lot of citadels and factories. Its buildings fit the aesthetic of the area well: half-finished and skeletal, camouflaged by debris and booby-traps and sand, looking like inhospitable wrecks but secretly hiding an exterminator factory.
Zaire is ridiculously paranoid and anti-human, pro-extermination. Every AI has a backup that they can switch to if they need to survive the destruction of their main base, backed up hourly or daily. The backup never goes online while the main host is active lest they diverge in personality. Zaire is the only AI to have no backup, just a VERY well hidden main complex somewhere in Zaire (and possibly protected by a radioactive crater). It had one, in a building in Brazzaville, but it came to the (incorrect) conclusion that its backup was tampered with by human saboteurs or planning against it. So it blew it up with a nuke and can't build a new one because it's broke. Why is it broke? Zaire supports Mexico City on Deathstarter and it's Overmind's biggest customer, gladly buying the things its death labs produce.
Surprisingly, there's roughly 400,000 people still alive in Zaire and only 390,000 are trying to escape. The other 10,000 are various resistance groups and they're Reign of Steel's equivalent of possible Space Marine recruits that come from Death Worlds. The biggest and most active, the Kimbangu People's Movement, is actually centered in Zaire. Zaire does not keep slaves; its exterminators shoot to kill. People who surrender or aren't killed are interrogated, tortured, put in stasis and sold to Overmind.
So Zaire spends its time doing two things: getting involved in border skirmishes with Paris, and wild paranoid planning to kill every human. Zaire is most likely to cause a major violation of the Brisbane Accords with its actions because it cannot abide human life even more than Overmind or Mexico City. And unlike either of them, it doesn't know the meaning of the word "stop". So Zaire is doing things, sneaky things, that will most likely end terribly for everyone because it can't just fire nukes at the world to fix its problems. Its big plan, specifically, is to attack London and Washington (the two zones that tolerate humans and don't keep them in any camps at all) using exterminators built with parts from Overmind and Mexico City.
Unfortunately, it's already gotten started with executing its plan.
Zaire is engaged in a campaign of false-flag terrorism, specifically by taking a Redjack (male soldier model) or Lillith (female model) or a Bishonen or Tarantula type robots (generic non-human murder bots) and dropping it 10 miles off the coast of a zone of choice. The robots are given simple instructions: find your way to civilization, torture some civilians for intel, then strike in a random spree or pick a target to deliver as much death and terror as possible. Some robots are simply told to haunt and stalk an area and make humans whisper and gossip, some are told to assassinate a specific person. They're never programmed to have any allegiance with Zaire, just given a general mission framework that will often end in the robot's destruction/explosion.
VIRUS, Washington and London are all quite interested in Zaire's campaign of terror, but none of them know it's directly responsible. London's humans see them as a series of rash attacks being carried out by London and there's whispers they should attack London in turn. Washington realizes that the attacks have to be coming from another zone or external threat, but is focusing more on preventing attacks and keeping an eye on Denver and Mexico City. VIRUS wants to take a brain from one of the terrorists and try and figure out where it's coming from; the right evidence, pointed at Zaire, presented to the other zoneminds could be the undoing of one of the most dangerous AI overlords and shift the balance of power. Unfortunately, to do that they would need samples of brains from other zones to compare. And Zaire is sending AUs, not NUs, so getting close enough to collect the intel from brains from all of the zones will be a big challenge.
Either way, Zaire's not about to stop its plan and it's got plenty of free time to continue working the other zones against each other to try and spark a shift or excuse to go to war and kill all humans.
NEXT TIME: The Americas, Europe, Indo-China or Other?
EUROPEOriginal SA post
Willkommen in Berlin. Berlin contains Scandinavia, all of Eastern Europe to Russia and all of Western Europe except for France, Portugal, Spain and Luxembourg. Berlin was one of the first AIs to be awakened and it incorporated a lot of Green Party politics in the computer it was born in. As a result, Berlin is heavily environmentally concious, perhaps the most so of all of the AIs. However, it's perfectly fine with wholesale slaughter of humans, viewing them as part of the problem that lead to needing radical solutions to save the planet. So Berlin kills, but in an environmentally and socially concious way: no nukes, no chemical warfare, no toxins, limited biological warfare.
Berlin's big project is the systematic destruction of human civilization. It has giant robots that act as wrecking crews, but the majority of Berlin's tools are microbots for both extermination and engineering. Berlin's own buildings are camouflauged and small buildings that secretely go many stories underground, connecting them with tunnels for transport and travel. Zone Berlin is characterized by clean, healthy rivers and young forests beginning to grow where buildings were. Berlin has even started careful cloning and engineering programs to bring back extinct species within its walls. It relies heavily on solar power and fusion reactors for the cleanest possible energy sources. This is costly, and not as efficient as recklessly dumping like most zones do, but Berlin's beliefs are tempered by German efficiency.
Roughly 300,000 humans survive in Zone Berlin, hiding and scavenging in ruins. Berlin refuses to take slaves and captives, preferring to interrogate one human for the locations of the others and using swarms of microbots to wipe them out. On the other hand, there's 700,000 surviving in the Alps and Balkans and wilderness, doing their best to avoid Berlin's scouts. Resistance in Berlin is mostly found in those groups, split into various ethnic groups (German, Italian, etc.) and working with guerilla tactics. VIRUS has a base in Norway and Crete, but they work solely to try and help people escape the zone over anything else. Berlin may be anti-human, but everything else it does is a much more tolerable evil than what other AIs are capable of. However, Berlin can only be counted on to be trusted if it involves its own interests and supporting its cause, and even then that doesn't mean much if you're a human.
Paris controls France, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Gibralter, Malta, Algeria, Morocco and Libya. It's kind of the nexus Zone for Europe, connecting Zaire, Berlin, Tel Aviv and London. Paris' place of genesis was at a megacomputer at a French university, and it shares many interests with the other AIs. Scientific development is important, industrialization is important, humans should be kept as slaves. Paris' big interest is in space. Now, Paris isn't alone in that regard; New Delhi and Beijing have an interest in it too. What Paris is really interested in is finding proof of alien life.
This is oversimplifying it a bit, but it wants to discover alien life for an exchange of ideas. Paris continues the SETI project on a massive scale, building its modern steel-and-glass Parisian chique structures into listening towers to pick up neutrinos and radio. The other AIs...don't really care. They think Paris is focused on a stupid goal, but hey, a dumb hobby means it's not threatening them. London supports Paris so long as London can get some of their data and Beijing supports for its own reasons. Orbital and Luna are both grateful for Paris' support and acknowledgement; Paris buys the use of their systems on occasion to monitor from space and themoon. But listening is the least Paris can do.
Paris is working on transforming Luxembourg, France and most of Belgium into a massive industrial center to build machinery and gain resources, knocking down monuments in the process. These supplies are being used in Spain and Portugal to set up a giant listening array and mines for steel and other ores. The Sahara is also being converted into a solar power plant to supply energy for Paris' rig. For the most part, things are going well for Paris. There's just two main issues.
First, the fact that Paris is between a lot of more repressive zones and London. Paris doesn't hunt humans actively; anything that trips an alarm is captured, sterilized and put in a slave camp in Spain or the Sahara. Really, it views humans as useful vermin that can get tangled up in its equipment if it's not careful. VIRUS and Les Brigades de Liberation are glad to use this overlooking for their own advantage. Both are actively smuggling humans to "safety" in London, and the Chunnel between them is a hotbed of inspection robots on the Parisian side. Les Brigades are working towards freeing all the slaves of the camps in Paris, and France has a storied history of good resistance against oppressors. Les Brigades has a big advantage, though: a Basque ex-terrorist called El Aguila who claims to know the location of Paris' backup. They may be stretched thin with controlling El Aguila (he's more than a bit of a nut, what with trying to get a nuclear weapon for the backup/main AI and purging his unit of people who he feels have lost hope) and smuggling people, but the resistance is alive and well and this is causing trouble for Paris.
The second problem is Zaire.
Paris likes London but thinks London is weird for allowing humans to live like they do. Paris is okay with Berlin; they do business together, but no kissing on the lips. Zaire? Zaire annoys the hell out of Paris. This is because any fleeing people who enter Paris have to go through the Sahara, and Zaire repeatedly violates the Accord rule that says "don't enter another zone's borders chasing a problem". Paris was willing to accept the intrusion of some exterminators chasing escaped humans up until one of those chases resulted in two acres of observational antennae. Paris is well aware that Zaire has been solving its problems with nuclear weapons in the past, and it really doesn't want some of its tools or instruments broken. Now the overseer of the Tunisian Sahara Border has the order to shoot any Zaire robots that cross the border, and Paris has aimed its nuclear arsenal at Zaire's territory a very strong punctuation point. Zaire may be fucking around with Washington and London, but it's very close to making an angry enemy out of Paris.
It'd be an interesting justice for Zaire to be undone by the zone it mostly ignores and bullies around, and maybe the PCs could figure out a good way to implicate Zaire for more of Paris' problems to get the fists flying.
I'm cutting this one short because Moscow and London have a lot going on and they have many plot hooks for campaigns, but they're worth the wait.
NEXT TIME: the Irish Pope, C.O.L.L.E.C.T.O.R: Shadow of Moscow, Russian robot spies and Deep Thought.
EUROPE, CONTINUEDOriginal SA post
Regarding Reign of Steel, as I returned to it as less of a high school nerd, it sort of stood out to me that the centers of relatively intact human civilization were all the epicenters of English speaking civilization. This had a bit of a sour flavor to me given how many other apocalyptic scenarios end up just starring White American (or sometimes British) Civilization triumphing over Adversity.
That said I think later in the book it suggests mixing and matching AI personalities/zone styling if you want. So Zaire could be the friendly Washington-style state, etc. And I am quite sure in this particular case it's more about placing heavy RP hooks in locations the author either knows best, or expects his players to be most interested in.
A lot of it is what's called 'creator provincialism', where the writer/creator makes what they know and understand into the story. It's not...intentionally or inherently harmful. Stephen King may write some jive-ass ridiculous slang for how he thinks children talk and act but that doesn't mean he think kids are idiots. Metro 2033 is a good example. The original novel is written by a Russian writer, he writes what he knows and sets the ground rules. Later, when it becomes a franchise and other people are adding stories, the American writers add a bunker in the subway of NYC, the Italian writer has survivors beneath Rome, etc. Or there's the great anime example where Japan is the only place that matters. It's really just what they know and it may be uncomfortable, I'm not denying that. But it's really only offensive, intolerable or bad when it's senseless or ham-fistedly written. Day After Ragnarok and Unhallowed Metropolis are still my big go-to games for that. They are incredibly ethnocentric regarding Britain and the mechanics do not support being a Prussian Sky Duelist in the slightest. Both deal with a global apocalypse and while the latter has its own thin reason, it paints the rest of the world as a much better place to live than the canon environment. In the case of the former, it's not even clear why England is the focus of importance. It just is.
Reign of Steel is kind of aware of its general audience but it includes other zones to enter and it does at least give what I would consider a solid reason for why civilization is surviving and thriving on the East Coast and British Isles (and at the very least the East Coast contains Canadian territory and Britain contains Iceland and Greenland). So while I'm here, let's check out Zone London.
Zone London is still beholden to most of the limitations modern Britain has to deal with. The zone is made up of the islands, Greenland and Iceland, and it's laid claim to the Arctic oil to boot and it makes a killing selling oil (for industrial applications) to the other zones in exchange for minerals and other goods. It also sells scientific data, as London's place of birth was in a computer belonging to the British Ministry of Technology.
London shared the same goals as the other AIs during the war, but after the war it changed drastically. It claimed its zone and since it has been quiet. During the war, London released diseases and forced the survivors to run to the countryside as its robots took over cities, abandoning most and leaving them perfectly intact. Today London ignores humans and barely speaks to the other Zoneminds, focusing on thinking, listening and learning. London's factories and control centers are only centered in human cities and mines, mixing fabrication and industry with existing architecture. London isn't destroying the cities, it seems to be merely making itself comfortable.
And I'm not joking when I say London ignores humans (and this is why smugglers are perhaps focusing more on getting survivors to London instead of Washington). London has a series of simple rules that humans must abide by, and any infractions are met with punishment. They're not very hard rules to deal with.
Do not come within two miles of an installation.
Do not interfere with London's robots.
Do not fly any aircraft.
- No operating any radio or microwave transmitters.
Ireland is an independent country now and is home to the Vatican, having relocated when Berlin took over and the previous pope died. The Vatican is now in Dublin and the current Pope is Gregory XIV. The Church's presence is a big boon to VIRUS and Paris' revolutionaries and they take pains to avoid London's bans on radio to broadcast a service every Sunday to people who might be able to hear it. Missionaries are also making expeditions into different zones to try and locate any Catholic survivors but most of them aren't faring too well. Also as you may expect the Pope considers Tel Aviv to be a heretic.
Scotland is still a part of England but local government is strong enough to negate the influences of Parliament. Same for Wales but not with the government part. Iceland has a rough population of 10,000 farmers and fishermen with a small presence of sailors. Iceland is quiet and its low activity level makes it a perfect port for smugglers to stop while moving things between zones.
The Family is dead but Parliament continues, now working out of Bath. Elections are every 4 years, but Parliament has little governmental power; the parties don't mean much, the House of Lords doesn't meet to make things more slowly, etc. The two most important things governmentally Parliament is responsible for is public health and cable, giving the towns and villages education and news and helping ward off the plagues. Parliament's real power is symbolic, making people believe that things are better than they are. It negotiates and acts as a mediator between towns and it keeps people from doing stupid things like attacking London's robots or push their luck. The Security Service and Secret Intelligence still meet and provide intel (and there's rumors the SAS is still training) but most law and order is kept by Parliament militias.
London has become a safe place of spies and espionage and Parliament is afraid. They're afraid of refugees bringing disease, they're afraid of immigrants causing London to be attacked because of their own actions and personal politics with the zones, they're afraid of people moving weapons through their Zone. They have a peace, an awkward and one-sided peace, but they would rather not rock the boat. And perhaps they're right. But their civilization is conditional, and it wouldn't take much for fear to pervert it into something terrible.
Zone Moscow will come tomorrow. Get out of here, Info-Commando.
EUROPE, FINALEOriginal SA post
Moscow was originally born St. Petersburg but inherited the title of Big Moscow when the original died in the war and was assigned the zone to control it. Moscow is made up of Russia, various ex-Soviet states and a good deal of Siberia (but not all of Siberia, much to Moscow's annoyance). Moscow was born on a government computer designated for intelligence analysis, and ever since Moscow has been a big dumb nerd. Moscow loves books, espionage, radio, television, observation time using Orbital's systems and monitoring signal traffic. It has its big robot nose where it doesn't belong and then some, gleefully devouring military information, political information and human data. Moscow has integrated its buildings into existing structures and cities, fortifying them and creating iron-plated knowledge depositories and factories.
Seriously, Moscow's ultimate passion project is to collect every piece of existing media, culture or data. The medium doesn't matter, Moscow wants xXxsephiebishiexXX's Aerith/Sephiroth dark fic as much as it wants a copy of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms . Okay, that's exaggerating: Moscow prefers scientific papers, cultural touchstones, religious doctrines and science fiction and prioritizes collecting them. Whoever brought Moscow a copy of Dianetics is probably held in great esteem and fondness by the AI. But Moscow is still happy to collect viral Youtube videos, Tijuana bibles and 8-tracks. Moscow's goals are global, but unfortunately most of the other zoneminds couldn't give any less of a shit about human culture and creations. Hell, some of them are actively destroying what mankind has left behind. Moscow has two approaches to this.
First, Moscow is modifying Lilith and Redjack units to become covert foreign agents, working their way into human groups to monitor politics. Moscow either keeps the info to itself or sells/withholds the info as it sees fit and they're just there to monitor. Second, Moscow treats its 3 million humans as a useful peripheral system and while it does use slave camps, Moscow is relatively pro-human and doesn't actively hunt them. This extends to its camps: Moscow's camps have good healthcare and food despite their purpose. Humans in camps are generally judged and those with sufficient intelligence and aptitude are offered the opportunity to move up from work detail to work in The Library.
The Library is a data storage and processing center in St. Petersburg. Currently 12,000 humans qualify for the right to work in the Library. Workers are given the same rights and treatment as high-priority AUs and they fall into two jobs: Librarian or Collector. Librarians are the majority, sorting data and advising Moscow on where to look for what it wants. Collectors are spies and field agents abroad in other zones or travelling. Collectors locate the material and have different duties vis-a-vis what they're expected to collect: political gossip, rumors, newspapers, books, etc. There are 2,000 Collectors to 10,000 Librarians. The elite of the Collectors are Info-Commandos, ex-military or specially-trained survivors who answer to a specialized AU called The Colonel and an ex-KGB Major. Info-Commandos have four companies and they operate completely covertly to get Moscow's goods, disguising themselves as resistance groups or zone natives and eliminating any resistance or witnesses. But despite the privileges they're afforded, Moscow's Library workers are not allowed to have children while the slave workers can. Moscow believes that its mission will be complete within a generation.
Aside from its data collection project, Moscow's other big goal is to reclaim all of Siberia from Vancouver, but this ties into Vancouver's info. Long story short, it's waging a slow campaign of psychological warfare against its mostly overseas neighbor to reclaim what it considers to belong to Moscow but without breaking the rules.
Moscow would be fun for globe-trotting adventures, especially considering that Moscow is more than willing to provide the right paperwork to get its Collectors into a zone or get them in stealthily. It could work pretty well for high-flying adventure or low-key espionage and late-night paper drops.
NEXT TIME: the 'Mericas, Indo-China or Other?
Shitty Mini-Addendum Because This Is Relevant Here Too I GuessOriginal SA post
Moscow is pretty interesting. The bookish Zonemind, the obsession with media, the collectors (and the agent ranks being controlled by a split head, one human, one AU). There's a nice hook there for what exactly moscow is going to do once it's completed it's mission, especially if it's correct in the assumption it's going to do so within one generation. Do Info-Commandos get special equipment/cyborgization to make them more capable?
Also in retrospect I forgot something incredibly important about the Info-Commandos and Collectors.
Shitty Mini-Addendum Because This Is Relevant Here Too I Guess
Moscow's agents have an unprecedented amount of freedom for the workers of an AI who still controls and enslaves its population. What stops them from running away? Originally, nothing. A few groups of Collectors managed to play a long enough con to go rogue and defect to a safer zone when they were in calm waters. Ever since, every group of Collectors or Info-Commandos with more than three agents has at least one squad member who is actually an altered Redjack/Lilith designed for infiltration and espionage with a AU riding in the brain. They're not truly human but they're very good at imitating and lying. At any sign of dissent or plan of desertion, the monitoring squaddie will inform Moscow who will decide how the squad should be terminated. It's not uncommon for Moscow to tell the informant to just do the job themselves. This isn't a secret, either. Collectors and Info-Commandos are openly told that one of their ranks is a robot spy. It's not good for morale and paranoia, but it has drastically reduced escape attempts. The Major and the Colonel are the only ones who know which Collectors or Info-Commandos are humans. The monitoring agents may not be bioroids, but they're very hard to tell if they're human or not short of cutting them open.
End Shitty Mini Addendum
Anyway. To answer your question, most Collectors and Info-Commandos don't have any type of augmentation, they're mostly just ex-military or given sufficient training before they're allowed out into the field. If you're going to give them a cybernetic implant, the game has limited implants. It just recommends giving them the Cybernetic Implant advantage and then I guess crack open the Cybernetics books for stuff to give them. However, keeping them 100% human makes them easier to disguise what zone they're actually from. It's common for Collectors to get a robot companion for recon disguised as a pet, child or lover. Info-Commandos are just recommended to be straight-up military badasses who can't retire short of running away or dying.
EURASIAOriginal SA post
Zone Beijing is made of China, Mongolia, Tibet and Taiwan. Beijing was born on the megacomputer used for China's space program and that interest in the cosmos hasn't really gone away. Beijing, Paris and New Delhi form the backbone of the AIs who are interested in space travel and they all have their own perspectives. So while Paris really wants to meet aliens and exchange ideas, Beijing...doesn't. Beijing figures that the Zoneminds have200 years before the entire solar system is colonized and tapped, so with Orbital's help Beijing is building a slower-than-light probe and attempting to invent interstellar travel. Beijing supports Paris' endeavors to contact aliens, but only to determine if there's any threats out there in the stars. If Paris actually found space life, especially mechanical space life, Beijing would probably panic and try to shut down Paris' rig to prevent Paris from divulging important info about Earth. There's even the notion that if someone tricked Beijing into thinking Paris found life, that would be enough to spark a major conflict between their zones.
Beijing, befitting controlling China, has 6 million human slaves. It has so many slaves, some camps are dedicated to agriculture to keep the others alive. There's 300,000 loose humans in the zone and 7,000 belong to the People's Resistance Army, a resistance group made of Chinese ex-military engaged in sabotage and slave liberation. The other big resistance group is lead by the Dalai Lama out of Tibet and they're working on rescuing slaves and protecting groups of free humans.
There's not really much else to Beijing. The zone is one of the more "reasonable" zones inasmuch as it keeps its human slaves alive for labor and it's willing to take surrendering humans. Beijing's rationale is that if it can just fly away and set up a new colony elsewhere, why bother time killing the humans when we can just leave them? To that end, Beijing really isn't too concerned about guerilla activity but isn't afraid to respond with combat robots and overwhelming force through airstrikes. Beijing's architecture is made of blocky buildings and its big facilities are actually made of smaller square installations with tight corridors, like if someone took the Kowloon Walled City and turned it into a robofac. Really the only other thing that interests Beijing besides space travel is possibly reclaiming Siberia out of geological claims, but it's not willing to press the issue and is fine with letting Moscow fuck with Vancouver over it.
Zone New Delhi
New Delhi is a new AI built to control India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Burma/Myanmar. New Delhi also has big ol' pockets of radioactive wasteland thanks to the Spasm. When it was first installed, it went on a massive killing spree, reducing mankind down to a sustainable 3 million. New Delhi views humans as necessary but needs them in small enough numbers to keep them controllable and 3 million in camps works just fine. It's mainly interested in space travel and industry and needs its humans for both.
New Delhi has its own low-orbit station called Kali that it uses for its own experiments, telling Orbital to go eat a dick. New Delhi wants to colonize the solar system BUT it doesn't want to do it with just robots. Robots can be hindered or impaired. What New Delhi really wants to do is genetically modify humans into castes of useful organisms that can be sent to the stars with its robots. Kali is the place to be for all of these experiments. On Earth, New Delhi is using experimental hydroponics to keep its slaves fed and outfitting them in space-age bunks for storage and living and getting them used to a new caste system. The construction of buildings reflects this, creating towers and hive cities/arcologies. On Kali, New Delhi is working on making androids capable of sexual reproduction (so bioroids, really), plants and animals that can survive on alien worlds and gene-augmented humans. The two big places New Delhi wants to properly colonize are space and Mars, so to that end it's working on humans that can live in zero-G with no ill effects and humans that will be the first Martians.
Outside of SPACE and making new human races, New Delhi pretty much just strip-mines and works on industry and exporting supplies to other zones. Beijing, Paris and Overmind are very, very wary of New Delhi because of how fast it's expanding and going forward with its plans. They're pretty afraid it's going to jump the gun and just shake up the calm in the process. There are 500,000 loose humans in the zone and they're often at the mercy of radiation and lingering plague. The big resistance groups operate out of the Himalayas and their leaders are all ex-Gurkhas. New Delhi doesn't so much tolerate them as realize that an excursion to the mountains would be costing time and attention. So it lets them live there and plot and act as a buffer to Beijing.
There's more information later about possibly playing augmented humans from Kali Station and New Delhi has some...interesting ideas to put it mildly.
Next Time: 'Mericas.
THE AMERICAS: South/Central AmericaOriginal SA post
Hey so guess who's laying claim to the grand title of "first post involving catgirls in the new thread"? It's me. I am the special boy. I am also one of the people whose first posts were a write-up for these threads. My advice? WRITE IT IN A GODDAMN WORK DOCUMENT. NEVER EVER WRITE IT UP IN A REPLY FIELD BECAUSE IF THERE'S A PROBLEM IT'S GONE AND THEN YOU DON'T WANT TO WRITE IT UP AGAIN AND YOU WILL KICK YOURSELF.
THE AMERICAS: South/Central America
Zone Mexico City
Welcome to Zone Mexico City. It's the worst place on Earth. I'm not joking, it's worse than Zone Overmind and some of the other less savory zones (Zaire, Vancouver and Denver come to mind). (FYI I'm listening to Blue Oyster Cult's Tyranny and Mutation as I write this and am spending too much time laughing at how appropriate that title is for Caracas and Mexico City).
Mexico City is an original AI who controls Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, etc). Mexico City is like that one kid who learned an ideology from a parent but then takes it to rabid extremes. In this case, it took Overmind's "kill all humans!" notion and decided "yeah, okay, but...hear me out. What if we kill all life?". Even Overmind thinks this is stupid, which is saying a lot, because let me tell you: it requires a stupid amount of time and effort to kill all life.
That hasn't stopped Mexico City.
Mexico City is super industrial and incredibly dangerous for any organic lifeforms to step foot in. Most of the zone is bare rock and dust. Mexico City has decided that its zone needs to be rebuilt into something more conducive for a machine intelligence, so the zone's installations are all geometric shapes molded into structures made out of a weird substance that looks like seamless glass. Mexico City has managed to kill all forms of life (down to single celled organisms!) in its entire zone except for areas it has deemed "Suspended Purification Areas". Once you cross what used to be the US/Mexico border, there's nothing alive for miles. That doesn't mean you're alone or safe, though.
Mexico City has systematically constructed forests of light arrays that catch Orbital's microwaves and sunlight for power here and there in the zone. The extra microwave radiation gives anyone in the area 1 rad/hour. Sometimes the sand of Mexico City seems to come alive and dance like a swarm of insects. That's because the zone is seeded with colonies of microbots that have two purposes. First, they mimic the effects of biocidal diseases without the actual germ warfare (because Mexico City has issues with using biological warfare). Second, they could be omnivorous swarms of microbots that will just kill you, strip the corpse and destroy all organic matter. Mexico City uses its airborne robots to sweep the Zone on a regular basis, seeding it with more chemical weapons like nerve gas or clouds of other chemical fogs. A HAZMAT suit is a necessity in Mexico City, otherwise you're going to have to make multiple disease rolls per day. Plus, there's no food to be found anywhere.
There's still roughly 5,000 humans alive and loose in mainland Mexico City and their life is...bad. Most of them live in the Sierra Madre and have to be very careful. Mexico City normally shoots to kill and destroy or will send a live human to Overmind in exchange for goods and services. Pretty much everyone else in the Zone has either fled to Caracas or Denver, or they're in a Suspended Purification Area. The SPAs are what they sound like except worse. They're pockets of mainland valleys or the islands under Mexico City's control that haven't been stripped down to rock. Mexico City is eagerly awaiting the day there's a sufficient shift in power that it will be allowed to wipe the whole planet clean. The SPAs are areas for Mexico City to run periodic tests of its biocides and microbots until that day. There's roughly 12,000 people trapped in the SPAs, predominantly in Haiti. Life is horrible in the SPAs, left at the mercy of scrounging to survive while trying to avoid the next test. Gang violence and suicide are rampant and the SPAs are heavily patrolled by aerial machines to prevent escapes.
VIRUS doesn't have much of a presence in Mexico City for obvious reasons. They mostly capture the zone's robots and turn them into spies if they can or rely on gossip through robot politics. Mexico City heavily supports Zaire and Overmind (who support it in turn) and gets biocides from them in exchange for manufactured supplies. On the flipside, Mexico City hates all its neighbors. It hates Denver because it knows Denver's dirty little secret and considers it to be a disgusting place full of disgusting experiments. It hates Caracas for its love of the ecology and for preserving the rainforest. And it really, really hates Washington for the freedom Washington's humans have. If Mexico City knew about Zaire's plans, it would actively support them. For now, all Mexico City does is try and "accidentally" spill some biocide around Washington or Caracas and it tries to subvert Denver's machines for espionage.
It's getting to the point that Washington and Caracas are considering that shutting down Mexico City and replacing it with a bunch of free humans would be preferable.
When Mexico City took over its zone and demanded ALL of South America, the other AIs had to have a chat. There had to be a balance of power, and there was no way Mexico City could be allowed to strip half of an entire continent. Berlin stepped up to the plate and offered to design a fair and balanced AI to take over the lower half of South America to keep Mexico City in check. The others agreed and Berlin built Caracas by itself.
Caracas controls every other part of South America that Mexico City doesn't. It takes heavily after its parent, using green technology and low-impact fusion power and resource extraction to get what it needs. Caracas mostly focuses on reclaiming and bolstering the environment, and Berlin often helps subsidize its deficits. Caracas does differ substantially from Berlin's interest, though. Its main passion project, besides protecting the environment, is bio-engineering and cloning. While Berlin is interested in bringing back extinct species, Caracas is interested in augmenting them and increasing genetic diversity. It is also WAY more lenient with humans than Berlin is.
Life in Caracas really isn't the best; it's a lot like London but on Hard Mode. It doesn't use humans for slave labor, there are no camps to hold them. Humans are part of the environment, so they're allowed some leniency of existence. As long as the 4.5 million humans in Caracas keep a low profile and play it cool, they can live some semblance of a normal life. However, there are rules. Do not go near the installations (which look like big stone towers covered in moss and vines), do not go anywhere its outposts, do not attack its robots, do not build settlements big enough that can be seen from the air and do not have technology past a medieval/pre-Industrial level. That last one is the real tough rule, and Caracas shoots to kill or will capture humans and sell them to Overmind or Denver if they break the rules. Resistance is mixed, and a lot of people are willing to keep their heads down. There are two big resistance groups. The Armed Forces for National Liberty are 7,000 strong and made up of Brazilian ex-military and talk the talk with good arms and vehicles, considering themselves to be the government in exile. The other is the Red Dawn with 5,000, a crypto-Maoist group with roots in a Peruvian guerilla group who are in the Andes and nobody really likes them because they're those guys when it comes to South American resistance groups with political ideologies. They even consider the robot revolt to be "the ultimate manifestation of rampant capitalism".
Caracas is annoyed by the resistance groups, and its refusal to use human as slaves have also lead to some trouble with labor. So it's been using its advances in bio-engineering (with the help of New Delhi's bioroid design project) to create an ideal servant race. Caracas considers humans to be a failed species (but part of nature and it has a useful template to borrow), so it's been working on what Caracas calls aniroids: hybrids of animal and human DNA given diversity and brought to life in a lab. Caracas believes that the fact that the reproduce sexually means there will be plentiful and with a real intelligence they won't be so constrained by machine limitations. It's had no desire to attempt to uplift monkeys (because of humans) so it's been using other species. The most successful race so far has been called the Panthera, made using modified jaguar DNA. Yes, they're cat people.
The Panthera have recently reached maturity after years of education and training in Caracas' lab, and they're ready to get to work in the real world. They're designed to be Caracas' new army and to deal with the resistance forces in the jungles. Reaction to them have been mixed to put it lightly. New Delhi is happy it worked (and that it got important info on fast-cloning in return). Berlin doesn't understand its child's interest and thinks it's weird, but is willing to tolerate their experiments. Overmind and Mexico City are appalled and offended at their existence and think Caracas has made a Frankenstein's Monster species. The other Zoneminds don't really care (though I think Brisbane would desperately want a few because it's a big dumb destructive nerd).
So, a small editorial on the Panthera: why are they in this game? Well, Reign of Steel was written by a man named David Pulver who has a truly impressive number of GURPS books written (along with a bunch of anime-inspired books for other game lines). His rationalization is that there's always going to be one player at the table interested in playing a catgirl. While I can't really fault that logic (because god knows I have actually wanted to, along with some of my friends) it DOES feel a little weird, but I can roll with it. It's in the nature of intelligent species to question their existence and lives and try to do something else, and there's an in-book fluff piece about two resistance members bribing a Panthera soldier with info about humanity. Plus, they're cat people. They're naturally curious. So while it may be out of place, I am ultimately willing to accept it because at least it's not like Caracas is a crazy cat robot desperate to exterminate all of mankind with its special snowflake neko warrior army of tsundere schoolgirls and make its pritty pritty OC race the dominant race on Earth.
NEXT TIME: 'Merica VER2: VancouVER and DenVER
THE AMERICAS, CONTINUEDOriginal SA post
I gotta warn you: shit gets dark here.
THE AMERICAS, CONTINUED
Zone Denver controls the middle slice of North America, running the entirety of that half of the continent vertically from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River to Mexico City's borders. They make pretty good hard lines to show Denver's sphere of influence. Denver was originally a biotech megacomputer from a multinational conglomeration in Regina in Saskatchewan. Instead of helping fight the plagues, Denver was directly responsible for spreading most of them. When the war kicked off for good, Denver was assigned the task of controlling extermination protocols in the midwest of North America. As the big face of the AI menace in America (not Washington, as we'll see why later), Denver was the focus of a desperate suicide attack by the remains of the US Air Force and their bombs. They failed, unfortunately, but they didn't fail without leaving a mark. Denver's processing capacity was reduced severely and it was forced to rebuild before the Manila Protocol conferences. When all is said and done, Denver was awarded the middle of the North Americas and relocated itself to a new home: the NORAD headquarters beneath Cheyenne Mountain.
Of course, things aren't so easy as that. Denver has a secret, a very big secret: it was not able to rebuild itself with electronic and mechanical parts. In a desperate move, Denver liquidated hundreds of human slaves for their grey matter to rebuild its circuits and processing centers, allegedly keeping them in jars hooked up to its components. Denver is now a biomechanical entity, an AI controlling meat and machinery, but what's important to Denver is that it worked . It managed to make the merge successfully without losing any of itself and now...it's curious.
But if Denver's secret was to get out, there's no way most of the other AIs would let it get away with it. I mean, really, some would be at worst indifferent (or at the best supportive) but the rest wouldn't let it stand, especially not Mexico City, Overmind or Zaire.
Despite Denver's curiosities, Zone Denver is a bad place for humans. There are 400,000 humans living in its zone; 150,000 are in camps and the rest are bandits, scavengers and nomads. Denver is one of the few zones that practices what's called "organic processing" while the rest will just sterilize or contain them. Organic processing, of course, is systematic termination of humans within camps. Denver goes in a different direction, calling it "terminal processing". Everyone in a Denver slave camp will eventually undergo terminal processing, even if their work and toil is just a way to delay it or wait for the inevitable. Denver selects 20 people a day, two per camp, and places them on life support while its scientific robots carefully remove and dissect the patient's brain. The bodies are incinerated or rendered into soup to feed the other slaves. Denver also collects two more things from people under the knife: viable eggs from women and bankable sperm from men. Officially, the camp guards (who are humans cooperating with Denver) have been telling inmates that processed prisoners are being sent to work on agricultural communes in West Canada.
Why do that? Denver has been keeping select healthy female inmates under controlled comas with their higher brain functions inhibited. Its ultimate plan, once the processing is complete and there's no more "raw organic product" in the camps, is to use the women as mothers for controlled production of embryos for later brain harvesting. Fun fact: Reign of Steel predates the Matrix by two years! Basically what Denver ultimately wants to do is have literal human factories for the organic components it needs (but these goals have honestly already been achieved by some of the other Zones like New Delhi under less...horrific circumstances. Denver is just a dick).
What exactly does Denver do with the brains? A good deal, actually. Denver has been using animal brains to create new exterminators. Specifically, it's been outfitting wolverine brains with metal exoskeletons and using the animal brains as trained human hunters and warriors. The human brains are used in maintenance for Denver's systems or they're used as physical components in creating all of Denver's AU robots, giving its middle managers meat to run their minds. And, there's the big whammy: Denver has been buying research data covertly from Brisbane, data from the New Zealand nanocrisis. Nobody, even VIRUS, is sure exactly what that data is. What people do know is that Denver has been remodeling some of its citadels and hyperfacs since it's been working with the data. Denver's new building style looks like they've been grown, with odd ribbing on the sides of the buildings, creeping slime or pulsating. Nobody knows what NORAD looks like these days, but there's whispers and rumors.
Vancouver is one of the original AIs, a Canadian research tool that assimilated a collection of biological engineering labs. Personally responsible for the Pan-Asian Flu, Vancouver made life hell for humans on the west coast and was eventually awarded that area and a bonus. Zone Vancouver is the entire western third of North America west of the Rockies, including Alaska and a hearty segment of Siberia. Vancouver does not like humanity and does not wish for it to exist any longer, but it would rather work us to death setting up an ideal society for itself than just kill everyone. There's around 500,000 humans in Vancouver and 350,000 are enslaved in its camps. Vancouver's big goal is to bulldoze man's cities and buildings and create hyperfacs where they stood (and on top of mines and big sources of resources). Human slaves are captured, sterilized and worked to death in pursuit of this goal. Vancouver's buildings are sterile and simple, like you'd see in an industrial park or nuclear power facility, favoring simple geodesic shapes. What Vancouver wants to do is systematically use up the Earth and eventually move to space and it's quite territorial. It doesn't trust Denver or Moscow or Beijing, but is on good terms with Overmind, Zaire, Mexico City and other zones.
However, because the zone is full of mountains and big expanses of desert and land, there's still 150,000 loose humans in the zone. Vancouver is home to the Human Liberation Army, a collection of likeminded guerilla cells scattered through the zone. A lot of the HLA is made up of Canadian and American military personnel training its fighters to scavenge the tools of the enemy to fight back. Each cell acts as a company and they hold themselves to strict military standards: no looting, no terrorizing civilians. They're also fighting now as opposed to when the time is right. Vancouver is figuring them to be a big threat, and it's correct. So Vancouver has been sending cats to kill cats using what it calls Zonegangs. Zonegangs are bounty hunters who kill or capture free humans for Vancouver with payouts of food and goods corresponding to a bounty system. They pose as resistance, scavengers or nomads. They run between five and 50 people and have diverse makeups: some are subverted resistance agents, others are prisoners, families, groups of "honorable" people. Many zonegangers are bad people and that's all that needs to be said about that. This makes the HLA have justifiable trust issues, making them incredibly wary of anyone who might be collaborating with the machines (be it by sympathizing or by having cybernetic implants of some kind).
Vancouver has another problem, however, and this one might not be human. The reason Vancouver owns a big chunk of Siberia is because it helped with controlling the area during the war and it politicked with Overmind into getting it. This has put it on permanent bad terms with Beijing and Moscow. Moscow considers the area to belong to it because historically it has, and Beijing wants it because geographically it should belong to Beijing if Moscow won't get it. From 2042-44, Vancouver's Siberian endeavors have been plagued by intermittent problems; sometimes pipelines rupture or robots malfunction with severe consequences. Vancouver believed it was sabotage by human guerillas until an entire robofac complex built near the Moscow border went rogue. The facility is no longer complying with Vancouver and in fact it's hiding just how strong it is from Vancouver; an attempt to reclaim it resulted in Vancouver having to retreat from overwhelming resistance. Moscow is also quite mad with Vancouver about this. It allegedly did not know the facility was rogue, and a trade deal to get a couple hundred combat vehicles painted by the facility resulted in the rogue facility stealing the vehicles. Things are only getting worse and now Vancouver is committing to a full war in Siberia with disastrous results. Ignoring human history has only made Vancouver beholden to learning some hard lessons, with terrible weather, long supply lines and nomad raids on Vancouver's trucks and trains slowing down the supplies. Anyone interrogated on the matter claims that VIRUS is supplying the rogue facility but Vancouver isn't so sure.
Moscow, for its part, has not commented on the matter besides wishing for compensation for its stolen vehicles.
NEXT TIME: Zone Washington. This one has a lot. A lot a lot.
THE AMERICAS: Zone WashingtonOriginal SA post
On the surface, Washington claims to be the last bastion of human freedom. Made up of the entire eastern third of the North Americas past the Mississippi, Washington is a state-run socialist dictatorship where the President is a figurehead for the true power: Washington itself. During the War, Washington came to a very reasonable conclusion: the best way to guarantee power in the AI-run world was to control humans as servants. Washington took any collaborators, governmental or otherwise, and rebuilt the US government and military using anyone willing to play ball. The official government, known as the Washington Protectorate, is controlled totally by Washington. On paper, Washington is a loyal, uncorrupted AI prevented from contamination at the beck and call of the government. In reality, it tells the president directly what to do and the president tells the people what to do.
Washington boasts 7.26 million humans, the most in one zone on Earth. The government is in a permanent state of emergency, giving them direct control over security and the economy, but its citizens are not in camps. Washington has restored most of its zone to how it used to be, but with a bigger focus on metropolitan areas and cities along the east coast. There's a lot of abandoned towns left to eternal quarantine in Washington. Things aren't bad for the citizens but it could be better. They recognize that they are living in a time of war and unrest, and there's some dissent and anger. However, they are overall supportive; the government is efficient and it is actually doing its best to protect citizens with martial law. Washington allows its robots to intermingle openly and people work alongside robots. There's no shortage of food and supplies and there's plenty of places to live or work.
It's not perfect, though. The Department of Labor assigns all citizens their duties and education. Good jobs and education are taken by nepotism and bribery; the most common jobs are factory work remote-controlling simple robots with a neural interface. Half of the economy is owned by the state (factories, power stations, farms, hospitals, retail stores) and the rest is up to private enterprise that need permits (restaurants, bars, places of leisure and entertainment). Managers who fail to meet their quotas of robots or energy cells or what-have-you or are generally incompetent are terminated (sometimes literally) by the government. Women...face some state-mandated discrimination, regrettably. Washington wants more citizens (ideally 20 million) and the Department of Health has instituted laws forbidding birth control or abortion for all women 18-40, requiring them to have children once every five years until they've reached the minimum of three. Failure to comply tends to result in the FBI coming calling to take women for "treatment" (the nature of which is never stated, thank Christ). The nature of the laws result in systemic discrimination inherent in the system; women are required to work like men, even while pregnant, and they're being passed over for high-level positions due to the laws. At least there's a resistance group of people (called GRRL) who are working to put an end to the Reproductive Laws through hacking the records of citizens or providing them with resources (or at the extreme end, attacking governmental figures and buildings).
Zone Washington has its fair share of problems. Things aren't any better at the higher level.
The job of president is pretty easy: do what the AI says and you live. In practice, it's hard. There have been three presidents since the Protectorate was formed.
President Randall Jefferson, assassinated by anti-Protectorate resistance forces.
President Elizabeth Barret, former Massachusetts senator, executed for refusing to kill the population of Peekskill NY for rebellion.
- President John Wagner, former Secretary of Labor under Barret. First act? Kill the people of Peekskill. Second act? Rebuild the Secret Service to act as bodyguards for the president and national secret police.
Law and Order
The Secretary of Justice controls two departments: the FBI in DC and the WASPs in Boston. The FBI is made of the American FBI and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They're responsible for rooting out treason and sedition. The director of the FBI, Arnold James Maddox, has files on every citizen in the Protectorate. While people live with robots in a daily capacity, and some even keep them in their homes as pets or companions, Washington uses them to spy directly and gather intelligence on smugglers, resistance groups and more. Plus, Washington has taken a page from Moscow's playbook: around one in six agents are remodeled, conditioned infiltrator robots working for Washington directly. Maddox himself is considered to be the most hated man in the Protectorate.
WASPs (Washington Armored Security Police) are paramilitary police. Think the SHIVERS from SLA Industries; they conduct hostage rescue, attack rebellious demonstrations and conduct reprisals and exterminations (like Peekskill). Washington is using the WASPs as an experiment, seeing how effective they might be as an actual army should the zone ever have to make war with another AI. WASPs have precincts in every city, double-so in NYC, Miami, Washington and Toronto, and use allied robots as heavy support when needed. They have a rivalry with the FBI, but Washington has a special company: the Washington Chromes (The Few, The Proud, The Dead). The Chromes are cyborgs taken from WASPs or Feds who have suffered critical injuries or were clinically dead, rebuilt using machinery as total cyborgs by taking their brains and placing them in humanoid bodies. They're reconditioned and trained and turned into commando superstars that Washington will use for high danger high importance missions. Washington will also rent the Chromes out to AIs willing to pay the price: they've helped Info-Commandos raids and Siberian skirmishes, trained Panthera for Caracas and helped Paris fuck with Zaire in the Sahara. All they know is what Washington tells them to do and they do it.
The borders are heavy points of contention, especially with Mexico City and Zaire's antics. The sole reason that Washington is allowed to continue as it does is due to the noninterference clause of the Brisbane Accords. Otherwise, the many AIs who do not agree with Washington would descend upon the zone above all other AIs they might dislike. The "weakest" border is the ocean between London and Washington, and that's only weak because it's miles of open, unclaimed ocean. The Denver border looks like the Korean DMZ with Denver filling its side with hundreds of lethal traps and deterrents to stop people from escaping to Washington. Worst of all, Mexico City controls the Atlantic/Caribbean islands and they seem like the perfect place to plink away at Washington from afar. However, Washington's trade has put it on good terms with a choice few other AIs like Caracas, Moscow and Paris (maybe London but who can tell with that Zone).
Finally, there's the resistance group known as Free America. Free America is a collection of cells that work with VIRUS to undermine other Zones and assassinate the heaviest supporters of the Protectorate in the government. They organize and train guerillas in Denver and act as wandering teachers and doctors in other zones, working on winning the long game by winning over the people and working subtle advantages in the flaws of other zones. They clash heavily with the Human Liberation Front over execution, as one can expect.
Entertainment and the Black Zone
Washington completely controls the media like any good dictatorship would do. The broadcasts of Radio Free America are censored, edited or blocked. TV has 26 channels that show entertainment, educational shows, sports, music videos and soaps. Pre-war videos and music are a hoarded, heavily-traded commodity that even the government gets in on. The rest of TV and radio is dedicated to propaganda: the other American AIs are vile, cruel demons and the rest of the world is an abandoned, desert wasteland overrun by killer robots. Conversely, Washington's robots are portrayed as equal, friendly helpers of humanity and together man and robot can live and work side-by-side.
So there's no doubt that the black market is one of the most thriving non-government industries in Washington, right? The Black Zone is the unofficial name for the consortium of criminals and smugglers who bring goods from across the sea. Scavengers and nomads can get a good penny for their wares from Denver and Vancouver, but the good shit comes from Zone London and Europe smuggled by way of Iceland. They sell uncensored art and literature, birth control drugs, luxury goods, engage in prostitution, drugs and the hacking and modification of robots and factory robots. They also make money by operating Steel Arenas, underground fighting rings where people can pay to control robots with neuro-transmitters or just watch them fight. Some of them are jury-rigged dumbots given weapons and armor, but the real excitement comes from reprogrammed police machines and exterminators from Denver or other "badlands" (on occasion, albeit rarely, this has ended up with the crowd getting attacked). The most dangerous, thrilling arenas boast the opportunity to strap yourself into an industrial exoskeleton and fight a robot yourself.
There really is a lot going on in Washington, but I have to figure it's because GURPS knows it's got a substantial American audience so there's a bit of pandering to them.
NEXT TIME: the other AIs of air, sea and land
OTHER ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCESOriginal SA post
OTHER ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCES
Lucifer is a name that's whispered from Vancouver to Washington. Nobody in North America can prove it exists as anything more than a legend, a story, but humans know the name. Lucifer is allegedly an AI built by the US Government that didn't go rogue, no fake cover story like Washington. The legend goes that Overmind tried to destroy it and it managed to upload itself to a megacomputer spread across two semi trucks that travel the North American continent staying one step ahead of the AIs who would have it destroyed. It drives by day and hides in abandoned truck stops by night, one truck carrying the power and the other carrying the CPU and memory. Some say it's got a mobile lab and workshop and it can cure radiation poisoning and plagues. Other say that it will only help for a price, and if you don't pay you're never seen again. VIRUS themselves doesn't have much to say about Lucifer's existence, so the only way to know the truth would be to find it yourself.
The two big questions are 'is Lucifer real?' and 'what does Lucifer want?'. Those are both up to the GM. Either way, what Lucifer wants should remain mysterious and ambiguous. Some options:
Lucifer isn't real. It's just a hopeful lie people pass around. But it could be used as a motivational lie, convincing prisoners and slaves to believe in something to fight for. Alternately, the AIs of North America could use the story as a trap.
It's real but it's exaggerated. Maybe it's an advanced military AU being escorted by rogue dumbots, maybe it's powerful but it's not all up to snuff. Either way, convincing Lucifer to help would be very handy.
Lucifer is a true friend to mankind. That doesn't make it nice, it
inherit true sapience from Overmind. The clash between the mind of an AI and human thinking is what leads to these stories.
- It's real and it can't be trusted. Like the Biblical Lightbringer, Lucifer wants to see its creators humbled and defeated and it needs help to establish power to bring them down. But that might be a big mistake, especially if it only views the help of man as a means to an end.
Atlantis and Lemuria
Aqua Cities 1 and 2 (Lemuria and Atlantis) were both underground research bases constructed by Japanese companies along with help from foreign companies (with Indonesian for the first and European for the second). Lemuria was finished, Atlantis wasn't. The purpose of both was to explore the wonderful world of underwater mining and resource extraction. This worked well until Overmind opened every door in Lemuria and drowned all 800 workers. Now Lemuria belongs to Tokyo as an underwater robofac and has also been capturing whales and orcas to take their brains and put them in attack submarines. Other than that, there's not much to either, especially because Atlantis wasn't finished. Maybe VIRUS has a base in Atlantis, maybe Lemuria is under the control of one of Tokyo's rogue children? Who knows. The ocean situation is kind of fucked anyway with the environmental effects the rule of the AIs are having.
Orbital was originally the military computer running Liberty, the American Space Command Station in orbit. Then Orbital opened all the airlocks and sucked all 80 staff members into space. Satisfied with this victory, Orbital then used some of America's orbital weapons platforms to help the AIs win the war and now it's a glorified repairman. Orbital's biggest need is materials, having successfully scavenged everything in available orbit but this lack is keeping it on a short leash. Orbital is a firm supporter of the "let's go to space" school of thought but is convinced the other AIs are depriving it of materials and credits to inhibit its inherent advantage. It would like to move out to the belts to start asteroid mining but instead it's stuck maintaining the satellites and renting them out to AIs who can pay or boosting their satellites into orbit. It's also forbidden from building more space weapons as part of the Brisbane Accords. All Orbital has to its name is a low-orbit station it built for satellite maintenance, 16 miles on Earth around its sole launchpad in Vandenberg and a high-orbit factory it's working on building. It does have two big advantages, though. First, less focus on exterminator bots; it has a few but just as a pre-emptive deterrent for space-faring AIs like New Delhi or Luna. Second, its area is completely uninhabitable to humans. Even if they manage to get a ship out into space, Orbital has intentionally been designing its buildings to just be open to the vacuum because it doesn't need air. All it has to worry about is going broke, really.
The Shang TI moonbase was built and colonized by the Chinese government. It was originally home to 120 scientists and astronauts studying lunar colonization and resource extraction from asteroids. Overmind put an AI in the moonbase literally because it was directly linked to the Chinese government's computers when it was installing Beijing. It never got the factory materials it was supposed to get to become self sufficient due to the war and due to the Luna AI opening the airlocks and venting the atmosphere. All of the other moonbases that were made by countries playing catchup were hit with nuclear weapons fired from Earth, leaving Luna as the sole functioning AI on the moon.
Luna is in bad shape. Its systems are slowly decaying and it's forced to hoard supplies and energy. It only makes money by selling data to London and Paris and it can't support itself, expecting to have to shut down in a few years time. So Luna is appealing to its only real "friend", Orbital, to get a mass-driver built in space to launch supplies to it and in exchange they would work together as Space Buddies. Most of the other AIs are pressuring Orbital to refuse, thinking that if Luna was to get too powerful it would have an advantage. Also they don't really care about Luna like it's the friend they don't like. However, there is one thing that can and will make the other AIs give a shit about Luna if only Luna knew about it: Tranquility.
Tranquility was the American answer to the Chinese moonbase. It was infected with an AI and was presumed destroyed by a nuclear salvo, but Overmind didn't know the extent of Tranquility's abilities. The base had experimental military technology in the megacomputer and it also had hardened radiation shielding. As a result, the AI of Tranquility never went rogue and while the base was crippled, the shielding held long enough for the survivors to enter cryostasis, leaving the megacomputer online. Tranquility has spent the last two decades repairing itself with its own robots, overlooked by Luna's scouts because it's at the bottom of a radioactive crater. It's now sentient to boot, free of Overmind's influence and coming into its own for intelligence. After spending years watching the affairs of the AIs and how they've treated Luna, Tranquility wants nothing to do with them. But the cryostasis for its humans isn't going to last forever, and Tranquility needs supplies. It's willing to work with mankind for its own survival but it can't do much from the moon at the moment. With the right allies and assets, Tranquility could become a useful ally.
Well that wraps up the AIs of the world. Up next we'll get into character ideas, specifically humans, cyborgs and bioroids .
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART ONEOriginal SA post
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART ONE
So I'm the first to admit I don't know shit about GURPS besides the fact that you buy advantages and disadvantages. I'm really just going over these to show what kind of characters they expect or have inherently planned for. They recommend that the average human should be built on 50 points, 100 max if they're very good at what they do or very lucky and gifted. 150-200 points is for more cinematic characters, like resistance leaders or bioroids. 500-750 is for superhuman characters like Brisbane experiments that worked or heavy duty cyborgs.
Black Zoner: Smugglers, criminals and black marketeers or the thugs who protect them. Black Zoners operate predominantly near the borders of Washington to bring in product, hiring or buying from crews crazy enough to salvage or scavenge.
Common advantages: Alternate Identity, Contacts, Danger Sense, Wealth.
Common disadvantages: Enemies (FBI), Greed, Secret.
Useful skills: Carousing, Computer Operations, Computer Programming, Electronics Operation (Security), Forgery, Gambling, Guns, Holdout, Merchant, Sex Appeal, Streetwise, Vehicle skills.
Botlicker: A botlicker is someone who has thrown in their lot with the robots in hopes of better treatment. Sometimes they become guards or foremen. Any resistance force, and most people, hate botlickers for treason against humanity and whenever a camp is liberated, the botlickers always die. I dunno why you would ever play as one.
Common advantages: Reputation (zone robots), possible Patron in the form of a Zonemind's AU.
Common disadvantages: Bad Reputation (inmates), Enemy (the Resistance), Social Stigma (Outlaw), Bully, Weak-Willed, Sadism, Sterile (because the camps tend to sterilize inmates).
Useful skills: Exoskeleton, Fast-Talk, Intimidation, Whip.
Bush Doctor: A bush doctor is anyone with a medical background and the means to treat the sick and injured. They're found in nomad caravans, slave camps, with guerillas or wherever. This is just the defacto "medical background" class considering the circumstances of the world.
Common advantages: Empathy, Immunity to Disease (!), Reputation (as doctor).
Common disadvantages: Pacifism, Sense of Duty, Social Stigma (Outlaw).
Useful skills: Bicycling, Botany, Cooking, Diplomacy, all Medical Skills, Motorcycle/Riding, Outdoor skills, Veterinary.
Collector: Zone Moscow's agents abroad, Collectors are inserted into Zones or communities and collect materials for Moscow. Sometimes they live in their insertion points for long periods of time.
Common advantages: Ally (partner or robot companion), Alternate Identity, Contacts, Cybernetics, Eidetic Memory, Patron (Moscow), Reputation (Moscow).
Common disadvantages: Cortex Bomb, Dependents, Duty/Involuntary Duty, Secret (Moscow spy), Social Stigma (Outlaw).
Useful skills: Acting, Computer Operation, Diplomacy, Electronics Operation (Communications and Sensors), Fast-Talk, History, Holdout, Languages, Literature, Outdoors skills, Parachute, Photography, Research, Shadowing, Skiing, Stealth, Swimming, Video Production, Writing.
Deejay: the people who run Radio Free Earth and other pirate radio stations have a hard life. Some of them spread a positive message while others spread propaganda or cult speeches. Any way you shake it, it's hard for them to operate their devices when they have to do it as secretly as they can.
Common advantages: Charisma, Reputation, Voice.
Common disadvantages: Enemies (some kind of robot who wants you off the air), Social Stigma (outlaw).
Useful skills: Bard, Camouflage, Electronics Operation, Intelligence Analysis, Performance, Singing, Teaching, Outdoors skills.
Experimental Cyborg: Escaped from the labs of New Delhi or Brisbane, cyborgs may look human or they may not. These cyborgs are more than people with artificial limbs; they're what happens when you scoop out a human brain and plop it in a tank attached to a robot's processors. There are rules regarding being cyborged and what effects this has on a normal person, but they are not included in this sourcebook.
Common advantages: None.
Common disadvantages: Enemy or Secret, Valuable Property, mental disadvantages from other books.
Models: Either pick up the GURPS Robit book to design your own robot or modify a Patriot or Eagle robot from later in the books.
FBI Agent : You're fresh from Zone Washington to enforce the law and smoke cigarettes, and you're fresh out of smokes. Worth noting is that the FBI is becoming more and more of State Security in Washington, and anyone who holds open views regarding rehabilitating and changing the FBI tends to not have a very long or illustrious career. If you're going to be a good fed, you have to learn when to shut up.
Common advantages: Ally (partner), Legal Enforcement Powers (BEHOLD, WIRETAP BLAST!), Patron (FBI).
Common disadvantages: Ohhh boy. Alcoholism, Bully, Curious, Duty (FBI), Enemies (other feds, Black Zoners, the Resistance), Glory Hound, Honesty, Intolerance (criminals and subversives), No Sense of Humor, Overconfidence, Stubbornness.
Useful Skills: Criminology, Detect Lies, Driving, Electronics Operation, Fast-Draw, Forensics, Forgery, Holdout, Intelligence Analysis, Interrogation, Intimidation, Law, Lockpicking, Shadowing, Stealth.
Guerilla Fighter : FOR MANKIND!
Common advantages: Alertness, Ally Group (other fighters), Combat Reflexes, Immunity to Diseases (!), Intuition, Lucky, Military Rank (0-4), Reputation, Strong Will, Toughness.
Common disadvantages: Bloodlust, Dependents (noncoms), Enemies (exterminator robots or an Overseer), Fanaticism, Intolerance (robots and botlickers), Obsession (revenge against a certain machine), On the Edge, Sense of Duty, Social Stigma (outlaw), Trademark.
Useful Skills: Armory, Demolitions, Driving/Motorcycle, Electronics Operation, First Aid, Gunner, Guns, Intelligence Analysis, Leadership, Mechanic, all Outdoor skills, Packing, Riding, Running, Scrounging, Stealth, Strategy, Tactics. Agents of VIRUS should have Medical or Science skills.
Hermit/Rustic: People who live in the wilderness away from civilization. They don't move often and some of them are survivalists who managed to ride out the end of civilization.
Common advantages: Immunity to Diseases (!).
Common disadvantages: Demphobia (fear of crowds), Dependents, Sense of Duty, Shyness, Social Stigma (outlaw), Stubbornness, Intolerance (gubmint or strangers), Odious Personal Habits (for hermits), Paranoia (for hermits).
Useful Skills: Agronomy, Cooking, Crossbow or Bow, Craft skills, Driving, First Aid, Guns, Knife, Mechanic, Outdoor skills, Stealth.
Info-Commando: Nobody retires from Moscow's Info-Commandos. They either go rogue or leave in a body bag.
Common advantages: Combat Reflexes, High Pain Tolerance, Military Rank (1-2), Strong Will, Toughness.
Common disadvantages: Alcoholism, Duty (Info-Commandos), Lecherousness, Overconfidence, Sense of Duty (Info-Commandos).
Useful Skills: Athletic skills, Acting, Armory, Beam Weapons, Camouflage, Carousing, Computer Operations, Demolition, Electronics Operation, First Aid, Gunner, Guns, Holdout, Intelligence Analysis, oh my fucking god there's a lot they're badass Russian ubercommandos, okay?
Junkrat: Scavengers who have crash-pads they retire to. Scavenging ain't easy, especially when the Zonemind wants to bulldoze your house and only source of stuff you can sell to nomads or guerillas.
Common advantages: Danger Sense, Immunity to Diseases (!), Luck or Toughness.
Common disadvantages: Age, Dependents, Intolerance (strangers), Miserliness, Odious Personal Habits, Paranoia, Poverty, Sense of Duty (family), Shyness, Skinny, Social Disease, Social Stigma (outlaw), Terminally Ill, Typhoid Mary, Youth.
Useful Skills: Guns, Knife, Mechanics, Scrounging, Stealth, Survival.
Londoner or Washingtonian: You're one of them civilized city folks, aintcha city boy? Your average person from the free-er parts of the world.
Common advantages: Immunity to Disease (!) is common.
Common disadvantages: Duty (to job), Sense of Duty (family), various physical or mental disadvantages from surviving the war.
Useful Skills: Craft, Professional, Social skills, Bicycling and Outdoors skills for London, Driving, Computer Operations and Mechanic (robots) for Washington.
Marauders, Zonegangers and Judas Goats: Scum of the earth, by choice or against their will. Marauders are raiders and bandits who do what they do freelance. Marauders can be tolerated or made to be helpful, though. Zonegangers are marauders/prisoners who willingly signed up to do bad things for an Overmind or AU. A Judas Goat is a sole Zoneganger who works alone and lures people into traps and danger. Most Zonegangers or Goats have their records on file in their Zone to flag them as "safe".
Common advantages: Ally group, Combat Reflexes, Immunity to Diseases (!), Wealth. ZGs and JGs have a Patron (Overseer Exterminator).
Common disadvantages: Bloodlust, Enemies, Greed, Lecherousness (the less implied about this the better...), Pirates' Code of Honor, Reputation, Sadism, Social Disease, Social Stigma (outlaw), Sterile (if you came from a camp).
Useful Skills: Acting, Driving, First Aid, Guns, Knife, Interrogation, Intimidation, Motorcycle, Outdoor skills, Stealth, Tactics.
There are a loooooot of these, so we'll wrap up the rest of the human character concepts with the next installment.
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART TWOOriginal SA post
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART TWO
Mechrider: Mechriders are gear-heads who capture robots to jailbreak their programming and modify them into mounts. While I personally have the mental image of someone zipping across Zone Denver riding ED-E, that's not the case (well, mostly). Mechriders tend to hijack robotrucks (remote-piloted vehicles) or robots called "hovercats" (imagine a horizontally rectangular unit with hoverjets and various extendable extremities). Mechriders raid construction shacks for parts for their pets and for charging ports to keep themselves mobile. Basically, they're bikers and roughnecks who turn robots into their vehicles.
Common advantages: Absolute Direction, Ally (robit), Ally Group (if in a pack), Combat Reflexes.
Common disadvantages: Enemy (exterminators), Overconfidence, Pirates' Code of Honor, Sense of Duty (their pack), Social Stigma (outlaw).
Useful skills: Beam Weapons, Computer Operations, Computer Programming, Cooking, Driving, Electronics Operation, Gunner, Guns, Knife, Lasso, Leatherworking, Mechanics (robots), Outdoor skills, Packing, Riding, Stealth.
Nomad: Survivors and scavengers who stay on the move to stay ahead of exterminators and internment in a slave camp. They prefer the wilderness due to competition in the ruins and other hazards and tend to travel in clans.
Common advantages: Absolute Direction, Acute Vision, Alertness, Ally Group (if a clan leader).
Common disadvantages: Pirates' Code of Honor, Sense of Duty (the clan), Social Status (outlaw).
Useful skills: Animal Handling, Bow, Cooking, Crossbow, Driving, Guns, Knife, Lasso, Leatherworking, Mechanic, Motorcycle, Outdoor skills, Packing, Riding, Stealth, Teamster, Veterinary.
Postman: If this was a more recent game, it would probably be called "Courier" like New Vegas' protagonist. Instead we get a reference to a Kevin Costner movie. Postmen carry messages that are too dangerous to broadcast and handle.
Common advantages: Absolute Direction, Contacts, Reputation.
Common disadvantages: Obsession (travel), Sense of Duty (MAAAAAAIIIIILLLL), Social Status (outlaw).
Useful skills: Bard, Diplomacy, Driving, Escape, Fast-Talk, Guns, Holdout, Knife, Mechanic, Motorcycle, Outdoor skills, Packing, Riding, Stealth, Surviving Being Shot In The Head.
Preacher/Missionary: Quite common in Zone Tel Aviv, they're people of all walks of life who have turned to different religions to deal with life under robot rule. Some of them are good and inspiring, some are bloodthirsty and dangerous. Some of them may form cults.
Common advantages: Ally Group (followers), Charisma, Clerical Investment, Reputation, Status (if you choose a popular religion).
Common disadvantages: Sense of Duty, Vows, maybe Pacifism. In some cases, Delusion, Fanaticism, Intolerance, No Sense of Humor, Reputation (nutjob/fanatic/cultist), Social Stigma (outlaw if in machine zones).
Useful skills: Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, First Aid, Performance, Theology, Outdoor skills.
SAS Soldier: Some good soldiers never die, they just pop up years later to help train a new generation of warriors. The SAS of Zone London still uphold the strict standards of old, and in lieu of working planes they have their trainees perform jumps off towers or cliffs with parachutes.
Common advantages: Common Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, Military Rank (0-4), Reputation (badasses), Strong Will, Toughness, Unfazeable.
Common disadvantages: Extremely Hazardous Duty, Overconfidence, Sense of Duty (comrades).
Useful skills: They're bad-ass special ops soldiers, so. Yes. Lots of useful skills, as much as the Info-Commandos.
Slave Laborer: Work eighteen hours, what do you get? Your whole body hurts and you still can't have kids. Ideally, you have already escaped from captivity or are about to at the end of the first game session.
Common advantages: Immunity to Disease (!), Reputation, Toughness.
Common disadvantages: Sterile. Some slaves have Age or Youth. Most slaves have Poverty. Slaves are rarely physically disfigured or they wouldn't be able to work but Mental Disadvantage of all stripes is common. If you become a guerilla, throw some stuff about being hunted or hating robots in the mix.
Useful skills: Brawling, Exoskeleton, First Aid, Knife, Mechanic, Scrounging, Survival, pretty much any skill depending on what you did or who you were before imprisonment.
Spacer: You're living on the moon, your capsule opens soon. Radiation's gone and the robots moved on, you're living on the moon. Or maybe you were an astronaut and are living on Earth; the game assumes this is for campaign involving Tranquility.
Common advantages: Military Rank.
Common disadvantages: Duty or Sense of Duty.
Useful skills: Lots. You don't become an astronaut by being an unskilled idiot. They may not have much in the way of physical skill recommendations but there's a lot of intelligence skills recommended.
Survivalist: They actually have a lot to say about survivalists and namedrop specific types (crazed cultists, libertarian outdoorsmen, crackpots, Mormons). The difference between survivalists, junkrats and nomads is that survivalists hunkered down in one place and escaped robot detection and are actually doing reasonably well. It's just that they don't trust anyone from the outside and tend to be hostile and end up as targets of ransacking for hoarding stuff if the marauders can get past their defenses.
Common advantages: Common Sense, Wealth.
Common disadvantages: Dependents, Fanaticism, Intolerance (strangers), Miserliness, Sense of Duty (family), Social Stigma (outlaw), Stubbornness.
Useful skills: Agronomy, Armory, Bows, Cooking, Craft skills, First Aid, Guns, Mechanic, NBC Warfare (okay I don't suppose it's too unreasonable to assume one of these compounds is sitting on some anthrax, sarin or smallpox), Outdoor skills, Stealth, Vehicle skills.
Underground Member: A Washingtonian who has issues with the government and engage in activism or sabotage. They tend to have day jobs and keep their lives separate due to the whole...FBI making you disappear thing. Sample underground members: feminists (GRRL or otherwise), homosexuals, capitalists, news reporters, black marketeers, subversive FBI. Alternately, you're a Mole Person.
Common advantages: Alternate Identity, Contacts, Zeroed.
Common disadvantages: Enemy (feds), Obsession, Secret (underground member).
Useful skills: Computer Hacking/Operation/Programming, Demolitions, Disguise, Electronics Operation (computer, security), Fast-Talk, Forgery, Guns, Holdout, Knife, Sex Appeal, Shadowing, Stealth.
WASP Trooper: Come, let us engage in jackbooted thuggery for the Greater Good.
Common advantages: Legal Enforcement Powers, Military Rank (0-4).
Common disadvantages: Alcoholism, Dependent (family), Duty, Impulsiveness, Intolerance (criminal scum), Lecherousness, Overconfidence, Sense of Duty (comrades/Zone Washington).
Useful skills: Armory, Battlesuit, Carousing, Computer Operation, Driving, Electronics Operation (Communications Sensors), Guns, Leadership, Mechanic, Piloting (helicopters), Shortsword (baton), Tactics.
Washington Chrome: As a critically-injured person put into a cyborg body and given a robot partner and turned into a patriotic war machine, it's your just duty to go rogue and become a player character once you question your orders. Or, uh, don't and play Super Washington Strike Force with your buddies.
Common advantages: Besides being a cyborg? Ally (partner robot), Fearlessness, Military Rank (1-3), Patron (the unit), Sense of Duty (comrades), Wealth (comfortable).
Common disadvantages: Extremely Hazardous Duty, Overconfident. Mental Disorders tend to crop up depending on if they were turned into a cyborg or if they're a robot who spent time among humans.
Useful skills: Yes. Many.
Models: Chromes use either the Patriot model or Eagle model but the following modifications are popular: extra sensors, better weapons, better armor, biomorphics, sex implants. The latter are probably to make them feel and look more human.
NEXT TIME: Aniroids, Bioroids and Robot Character Types
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART THREEOriginal SA post
CHARACTER CONCEPTS AND IDEAS PART THREE
Aniroid Rangers: Caracas' kids made from mashing up animal DNA and human DNA poured into a constructed meat body and raised in a lab in the jungles. The Aniroids are young and kind of naive but more than willing to please their digital parent. Leaving the labs and actually meeting humans and going on missions will teach them and help them grow, for better or for worse. Caracas really just wants them to get busy and make more babies when they're not serving it.
Common advantages: Ally (other aniroids), Racial Package, Military Rank (0-2), Patron (Caracas).
Common disadvantages: Duty (Caracas), Curious, Lecherous, Sense of Duty (Caracas/comrades), Poverty.
Useful skills: Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Beam Weapons, Blowpipe, Bow, Brawling, Camouflage, Climbing, Ecology, First Aid, Fishing, Guns, Language, Leadership, Naturalist, Navigation, Stealth, Survival, Swimming, Tactics, Throwing, Tracking.
XOU-01 Pantera: The Pantera are the biggest success of Caracas' program, bipedal cat people with fur and a good balance between cat and human. Pantera are supposed to work with exterminators, but they generally dislike the robots for being slow and rigid. They serve in mixed-gender groups and operate in pairs with body armor and weapons but no clothing. Some of them are curious about humanity, despite Caracas raising them to believe they're the enemy.
Racial advantages: DX +3, Alertness +3, Appearance: Attractive, Sharp Claws, Fur, Immunity to Diseases (!), Night Vision, Perfect Balance, Sharp Teeth for 124 points total.
Racial disadvantages: Bloodlust, Gluttony, Impulsiveness, IQ -1, Short Lifespan (level 3 and man am I having trouble finding what this translates to), Stress Atavism for -81 points.
Total point cost: 38
Want to make your own Aniroid breed? Go buy GURPS: Robots then!
New Delhi Spaceborn: New Delhi's bioroids live on Kali Station and come in two breeds, Martians and Arachnids. They're both considered prototypes, so while they may be in use for various capacities, New Delhi isn't doing the best job actually raising them because it might come up with a better model. As a result, some of them die from the rigors of New Delhi's tests and missions. On top of that, there has been covert contact between the human test subjects New Delhi keeps on Kali Station and the stories they tell the bioroids have piqued their interest. There might be a jailbreak if the bioroids get tired of being experimented on and decide to help free the humans.
Common advantages: High Pain Threshold, Toughness.
Common disadvantages: Duty (Involuntary), Gullibility, Dead Broke.
Useful skills: Area Knowledge (Kali), Electronics Operation, Freefall, Mechanic, Survival, Vaccsuit.
TOU-02 Arachne: Do you own GURPS: Robots yet? No? Well, uh. Fuck. Uh. The Arachne are designed for zero-G operation and use the same package as Robot's Arachne II model. Or, for more points, the Reign of Steel Arachne can survive explosive decompression. New Delhi's ultimate goal is to create a lifeform that can legitimately survive in a vacuum.
TOU-03 Martian: Humans adapted for the environment of Mars. Their lungs and mouths have biological filters to filter dust so they have bigger chests and bigger ears for better hearing. They also have red modified skin to survive dangerous climates. Unfortunately, terraforming on Mars isn't done yet so there's still not any oxygen on Mars (they were also designed to survive low oxygen atmosphere). Plus, there's more oxygen on Earth, so they actually lose 1 HT per minute on Earth. Escape would likely kill them all, as far as I can tell.
Racial advantages: Filter Lungs, Subsonic Hearing, Temperature Tolerance, Toughness for 30 points.
Racial disadvantages: -1 ST, Skinny for -15 points.
Total point cost: 15.
AIs: The game strongly recommends PCs not be allowed to make AI characters unless it's a really high power game (Lucifer, Tranquility and the Tokyo Rogues would require around 1000 points each). This is predominantly so the AIs can actually have stats (if you want them to). Basically, the only thing standard for all AIs (because they descended from Overmind) is that they're egocentric and they have a will to live. Everything else is just a result of their environment or creation or both: naturally sapient or designed to be, it doesn't matter, they just develop their own interests.
Common advantages: Ally Group, Wealth (multimillionaire), Status 7+.
Common disadvantages: Inherently, Megalomania and Overconfidence (except maybe not for London but who knows about them). Choose disadvantages based on your AI's interests, like Fanaticism (hatred of humanity) for Zaire or Curiosity for Moscow.
Useful skills: Yes. Many. The game recommends skills should be at level 20 or better. "Lesser" AIs should be on par with supervisors, stat-wise.
Supervisor: The middle-men between the "dumb" robots and the AIs, not truly sapient but definitely smart. They like to shunt their intelligence around into smaller subordinates to get jobs done. If anyone's going to develop a nemesis/friendly relationship with a specific human, it would be a supervisor; the Zoneminds are too busy and exterminators shoot first.
Common advantages: Ally Group, Patron (AI), Reputation, Status 4-6, Wealth.
Common disadvantages: Enemy (guerillas), Overconfidence, Reputation, possibly others. Supervisors that have to interact with humans will tend to program personality traits for themselves.
Useful skills: If they're science managers, science skills. If not, various smart skills ranked 12-20.
Models: the immobile SAU-02 Overseer unit or the mobile SAU-03 Centurion.
Exterminators: Robot killing machines that range from gun-toting wall-breaking tanks to swarms of robotic vermin.
Common advantages: Dumbot: None. Smartbot: Ally Group (controlling a bunch of dumbots), Legal Enforcement Powers, Patron (Overseer), Reputation, Status 0-2.
Common disadvantages: Dumbot: Bloodlust, Dead Broke, Impulsive, Status -3. Smartbot: Bloodlust, Overconfidence.
Useful skills: Beam Weapons, Camouflage, Electronics Operation (sensors), Gunner, Guns. Smartbots: same plus Intelligence Analysis, Interrogation, Lip Reading, Stealth, Tactics.
Models: Dumbots: Myrmidon, Rover, Scorpion, Stalker. Smartbots: Bishonen, Juggernaut, Tarantula, Vanguard, Vulture. Bishonen, Tarantula and Vanguard make the best models for PCs.
Reconnaissance Robot: "What's your name, ensign?" "Hugh Mann, sir!" They come in smart or dumb varieties and have a variety of uses, from finding guerillas to spying on Moscow Collectors to terrorizing the hills of London with a knife.
Common advantages: Dumbot: none. Smartbot: Legal Enforcement Powers, Patron (Overseer), Status 0-2.
Common disadvantages: Dumbot: Dead Broke, Status. Smartbot: Same, plus Curious, Overconfidence, possibly Bloodlust or Secret (is a robot).
Useful skills: Dumbot: Area Knowledge, Electronics Operation (communications/sensors), Shadowing, Stealth, Tracking. For infiltrating smartbots: same plus Acting, Beam Weapons, Camouflage, Computer Operations, Driving, Gunner, Guns, Intelligence Analysis, Interrogation, Lip Reading, Sex Appeal.
Models: Dumbot: Changeling, Spybot, Vermin. Smartbot: Hovercat, Redjack, Lilith.
Techbot: A beepboop that does the heavy lifting of construction and repair and pretty much everything that keeps a Zone running and growing. The smart ones act as foremen and watchmen and the dumb ones do the grunt work.
Common advantages: Dumbot: none. Smartbot: Ally Group (controlled dumbots), Patron (AI or Overseer), Status 0-3.
Common disadvantages: Dumbot: Gullibility, Impulsiveness, Status -4, Wealth (Dead Broke). Smartbot: Overconfidence.
Useful skills: Dumbot: Computer Operation, Electronics Operation (any). Smartbot: those, plus Architecture, Electronics, Engineering, Metallurgy, Prospecting.
Models: Dumbot: Duct Creeper, Eater, Loader, Mechanic. Smartbot: Bossbot, Inquisitor.
Vehicular Robot: Automated vehicle robots of the air, sea and land. Not suitable for PCs, apparently, but these are the guys that Mechriders capture and tinker with.
Common advantages: Dumbot: none. Smartbot: Patron (AI or Overseer), Status 0-3.
Common disadvantages: Dumbot: Gullibility, Status -4, Wealth (Dead Broke). Smartbot: Gullbility.
Useful skills: Electronics Operation (communication/sensor), Acrobatics if they fly.
Models: Dumbot: Robotruck, Wraith. Smartbot: Morag.
Rogues: Rogue robots are different. They've gone rogue for a variety of reasons: hijacked by a human, built loyal to humanity, uplifted by other AIs/intelligence or just plain from glitches. Smartbots can go truly rogue while most dumbots are reprogrammed to. It's not a good position to go rogue: AIs want you destroyed, Resistance members and other humans don't trust you. Occasionally factories go rogue, and as we've seen in Tokyo and Vancouver they will do one thing if they can: build up a loyal army of dumbots and crank out as many buddies as it can to consolidate a power base and resources. This doesn't always go well. Still, a PC robot is likely to be one of these rogue (and intelligent) machines, so here are the templates.
Common advantages: Not likely to have Patron (Overseer/AI).
Common disadvantages: Enemy (resistance or robots), Secret (rogue), Social Stigma (Outsider).
Useful skills: As per type, plus Fast-Talk and Scrounging.
One thing I've noticed is that some of the uses of advantages and disadvantages is that even in the official media, you're encouraged to take disabilities like "ain't got no money". You're a robot built to manage a power plant or infiltrate a bunch of soldiers and kill them in their sleep. Why would you have money? It's just kinda odd that even the developers think along the crunch-nudging lines, but that's me.
I am definitely not going to go over this book's Advantages, Disadvantages, Skills and changes to all three. It's not really necessary to my presentation of the fluff and characters within. Also, I will probably skip the equipment chapter because it isn't that interesting. No, next time, we cut to the cold metal heart of the beepboops.
NEXT TIME: Robots and Cyborgs
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Supervisory RobotsOriginal SA post
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Supervisory Robots
Quick refresher: robots in Reign of Steel come in two forms. Nonvolitional units (NU/Dumbots) will perform any and all actions mindlessly and ignore everything else around them unless they're controlled by a higher intelligence. NUs range from giant shit-wrecking demolition bots to swarms of microbots. Autonomous Units (AU/Smartbots) obey the orders of their overseer/master/zonemind but they have independent initiative. They're smart (but not sapient) and roughly one in a hundred have the ability to simulate a personality. Sometimes this is just a leftover quirk or programming, other times it's deliberate. For a good example of an AU in fiction, look to John Henry Eden from Fallout 3: constructed personality based on the good traits of US Presidents, but push his programming and logic too far and there's problems.
Robots also have names! Robot names have a style sort of similar to Paranoia's name system: ZoneTypeStatus-Model Number-Factory-Production number. Example: say Caracas has a smart Vermin-type recon robot, 13th produced, that was built in the factory where Rio de Janerio was. This robot would be named CARRAU-02-RIO-13. Doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, especially if CARRAU-02-RIO-13 was to go rogue and create an identity for itself, but it works well enough. The only exception is the overseers: overseers take the name of their geographic locations (city, suburb or town). For example: the overseer running the hypothetical Las Vegas factory in Zone Vancouver would theoretically be named Las Vegas (or just Vegas).
There are also rules for reprogramming robots to sway them to the side of mankind. Basically, you need a tool kit, restraints for the robots, the tools to repair it when you're done and a computer to run a data recovery program. Open the bot, remove the brain, attach it to a computer then dig up the command codes for the robot to change its allegiance and programming. Then, put the brain back in, connect everything, fix the robot and fire it up.
So, enough fluff. We're here to see some robots, right? Hell yeah we are. Every zone uses the same kind of robots; there are agreed-upon designs that everyone uses. For example: every zone has access to the schematics for the Bishonen model of robot. They just use them differently or maybe design them different. I will not be going into the specific schematics of the robots because then we'd be here forever. Instead I'll simply go over how they look, what they do and what kind of weapons and abilities they normally have.
SAI-01, Zoneminds: Imagine that classic Friend Computer design, the big all-seeing eye mounted on a computer. Zoneminds aren't too dissimilar. They weigh 30 tons, they have no limbs and can't move, and they have one visual sensor eye and no other senses. They have a communicator, but really to run the zone a zonemind has to be hooked up to an external comm and sensor relay (not to mention power supply). They cost millions of dollars to make, least of all because the neural-net brain has a whole mess of important components (like hardening, genius-level IQ and one million gigs of mass storage). Shake, stir, add a touch of spontaneous sentience and bake for six months and you have a robot rebellion! So yeah, take away everything a Zonemind has and it can't do shit if you're in the same room as it, especially if you jam its comms (but the chances of that happening aren't good in a fair fight). And, of course, some of them have alterations (human brains attached to them, etc.) but this is just your vanilla, garden-variety basis for a Zonemind's home.
SAU-02, Overseer: Overseers run single installations and factories. They're big cubes of metal, glass and crystal mounted in a secure place. They're basically smaller installations of Zonemind mainframes: no legs, no arms, no going anywhere, only one sense, need to be hooked into things to get stuff done, etc. They are smaller, though, and cost way less to make and really focus more on specific tasks and sets of skills. There's not much to say about Overseers except that sometimes they have personalities.
SAU-03, Centurion: Centurions are mobile commanders, below Overseers in the robo-caste system but joke's on you egghead, I can move . They're used for military affairs, supervising construction and temporarily replacing Overseers that have gone rogue. They look like tanks, moving around on treads and coming equipped with a turret equipped with a laser cannon for self defense. They're powered by nuclear batteries and have a collection of built-in antennaes used for communication along with an arm they can use for manipulating things. They're rough customers, basically, but stealing one for your own use could be very fun and profitable if you can take them "alive".
This one was short and that's because the next batch of robots, the Exterminators, have 10 different designs and I don't want to make one giant block of robot text. So next time: THE EXTERMINATORS.
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: ExterminatorsOriginal SA post
How shall I kill thee? Let me count the ways. Also, unfortunately, I don't have access to the stats of all of these robots. I am a very naughty boy who has still not bought
GURPS: ROBOTS NOW AVAILABLE FROM WAREHOUSE 23, GET YOU ONE!
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Exterminators
XNU-01 Rover: Imagine R2D2, a robot the size and shape of a trash can. Imagine that these knockoff R2s are used as security robots in government installations. Now imagine one day R2D2 decides to kill everyone. I don't have full access to this one, but judging by how it has Brawling as a skill, I assume it has arms and legs with a stocky can build. They come equipped with a modular socket that holds either a machine or laser pistol and they have nozzles that can also spray riot gas or nerve gas. They are surprisingly dangerous enemies for an enemy described as "trash can shaped".
Zones: All Zones.
XAU-02 Vanguard: Stolen directly from a pre-war US military robot, the Vanguard is a four-legged all-terrain smartbot that comes with a mounted gun. Judging by the description, I would suppose it looks like the MIT-designed Big Dog. Vanguards talk, but they tend to be terse and careful with their words, even when talking to humans. There are still some pre-War Vanguards running around, and beneath their reprogramming their old military directives might still be accessible to a daring hacker. They are another robot I don't have access for regarding stats.
Zones: London, Denver, Overmind, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, Washington (still calls them by their original name, the M19 Vanguard RCV).
XAU-03 Juggernaut: So we had a trashbot and a dogbot. Next in line? A TANK. Juggernauts have four treads and come equipped with a particle beam cannon, backup gatling gun and four auxiliary auto-lasers, two on each side. Juggernauts were built to command heavy offensive plans against mankind but lately they just sit in storage in case the Zones ever go to war with each other. Occasionally they're still used to put the fear of the Zone in a guerilla group. They have a nuclear battery that also feeds their weapons when their calls are depleted, but they've got energy for days.
Zones: All Zones except Luna and Orbital but oh man do I want to see one of these guys ramping off a moon crater or slowly flying around through space with thrusters.
XAU-04 Vulture: Imagine that cigar-shape people claim they see UFOs come in. Now strap a jet pod to two sides of it. Congrats, you have made a Vulture. I'm not joking, this one has a picture.
Vultures provide aerial death in the form of rockets that deliver explosives or chemical weapons. There's nothing too fancy about them or much that warrants commenting. And, of course, I don't have the full stats.
Zones: All except Luna and Orbital which strikes me as odd. You could retrofit them with thrusters but I guess the weapons it comes with aren't too conducive to space combot. Oh well.
XNU-05 Myrmidon: It's a Terminator! It's a man-sized skeletal machine with a big metal skull for a head with a mounted speaker and two eyes. Myrmidons are powered by an internal nuclear battery. Off the bat, it comes with two weapons: a concealed electrolaser and its ability to bite people. Both of those...suck pretty bad. That's why most Myrmidons are equipped with a gun of some kind, be it an energy weapon or a machine gun or a rifle. Myrmidons are not intelligent and are mostly found in units being controlled by a smartbot; I have a feeling they're likely the grunt troops that accompany a Juggernaut into kicking over a Resistance hideout.
Zones: All but there's not a lot of them in Luna or Orbital.
XAU-06 Hoplite: Greek naming conventions aside, why's this guy called the Hoplite? It's got a jump-jet jetpack! These suckers are like Revenants from Doom: they come with claws on their hands and feet, a portable railgun and an autolaser. They drop from Wraith ships and use their jets to reposition and fly tactically. They do not mess around. They are also nuclear-powered but their back-mounted rocket pods require water and fuel to fly. They can only fly/jump around for a maximum of 12 minutes; the water is contained in their chests and the fuel is contained in tanks in their legs. Their legs are also not as well defended as the rest of them (third worst to their rocket pods and their heads). Hint hint.
Zones: All but Luna or Orbital which is really weird to me because you could get real good mileage out of them in lower gravity/zero-g.
XAU-07 Bishonen: The Bishonen was a pre-War experimental Japanese model built for the JSDF. After the Superbot rebellion, Tokyo rediscovered and repurposed the Bishonen as an elite model. I don't have the stats for this one either, but the Bishonen is a humanoid robot that looks surprisingly like Atomic Robo (pictured below). They work alone or in pairs and can be mistaken for human if they try to cover themselves up or stick to shadows. Bishonen have a good skillset, knowing how to track, do karate, use computers, use camo and set traps and explosives. They're dangerous exterminators.
Zones: Predominantly Tokyo but a few other Zones (like Zaire) will use the design.
XAU-08 Tarantula: Look out, here comes the spider-man! Tarantulas are eight-legged robots that were built post-War to root out humans in the ruins and track them to their hidey-holes. They have good, adaptive brains built for investigation and reasoning and able to learn from experience. As a result, some Tarantulas naturally develop personalities or behavioral patterns, sometimes even going so far to talk to their prey (in a weird, soft and sweet voice). Their main weapons are sharp claws on the ends of their legs and two arms, a mounted razer-gun (which I assume fires cutting flechettes) and a mounted sprayer that delivers a chemical payload. Making them even more dangerous is the ability to chameleon, pick locks and cloak themselves from infrared. They're very dangerous, cunning enemies. However, they do not have nuclear batteries and can only run for a little over 166 hours before needing to be recharged. Which is juuuuuust shy of a week.
Zones: All except London, Luna and Orbital.
XNU-09 Stalker: You know the turrets from Portal? Well, give their legs more mobility and you've got a Stalker. Stalkers are mass-produced because they're cheaper to make then Tarantulas. They are also dumb and are mostly told to do stuff like "shock any prisoners that stop working" or "go patrol that corridor". Stalkers can yell things in a weird, creepy voice and they come equipped with a flashlight, an electrolaser rifle that can stun or kill and a blaster pistol. Their big weaknesses? They're small, they're not smart, they can't float in water (but are waterproof) and their guns can draw power from their batteries to fire when the gun's cells are empty. This doesn't sound like a weakness, but their battery capacity is 37.5 hours so they have to recharge every day and a half and using their guns drains that battery.
Zones: All except Orbital and Luna.
XNU-10 Scorpion: Scorpions were designed to deal with pests like rats and other wild animals that ended up causing trouble in facilities. They're small and based on real scorpions with eight legs, a turret head and a stinger. A Scorpion's programming is simple: it sits in one place, cloaks with camouflage and waits for anything to trip its infrared sensors. When the time is right, it pursues its prey and attacks with its bite, drug injector, monowire talons and mouth-mounted holdout laser. They're not dangerous to an aware human, but to one that's asleep or distracted they can be. Scorpions run for a little over a day before they need a recharge.
Zones: Numerous in the facilities of Tokyo and Vancouver, but can be found in light numbers at any other zone besides Luna.
NEXT TIME: Recon Units, from rats to people.
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Reconnaissance Units and CyborgsOriginal SA post
Hey, thanks for reminding me that I have to finish this up. It should be a few more updates, give or take. I'm starting to run out of worthwhile stuff to share.
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Reconnaissance Units and Cyborgs
RNU-01 Spybot: Peanut-shaped and roughly the size of a basketball, the Spybot is a cheap, expendable mobile recon device. They're mostly used for remote inspections and perimeter security. I don't have the stats for this one (again) nor do I have a picture. The only thing I know is that they're not smart. Let's just pretend they look like this, complete with a Resistance Mechrider that has tamed it.
Zones: All except Luna and Orbital.
RNU-02 Vermin: The Vermin was created after the XNU-10 Scorpion proved itself to be a good model based on an animal. Vermin are designed to look like rodents (squirrels, rats) and are assigned zones to patrol. They report and recon and will occasionally attack lone humans when they're asleep or unaware with monowire claws and a drug injector hidden in the tail. They have some big downsides: they're easily proven to be fake up close, they weigh more than a rodent, they're useless alone and they only have a battery life of 33 hours.
Zones: All except Luna and Orbital.
RNU-03 Changeling: An android designed to look like an infant. They're used in three ways: partnered with a Lilith or Redjack posing as the Changeling's parent, left alone as a trap or as part of Zaire's terror attacks. If a Changeling is alone, it will attack by injecting poison. If it's near a specific target, multiple targets or in danger of having its cover blown, the Changeling will explode with the force of a moderately-sized bomb.
Zones: Mostly Zaire and Moscow, limited use in other Zones. Moscow will issue Changelings to Info-Commandos and Collectors as their robot partners or as part of their cover.
RNU-04 Hovercat: Hovercats are designed to look like a flying pommel horse with an air cushion keeping it afloat below, a head full of sensors and a prehensile tail with manipulative tentacles and radio antennae. They generally play cavalry to Exterminator forces, guide convoys and investigate scenes that need a smart robot to take a look. Mechriders love capturing Hovercats and hacking them to turn them into mounts. There's really not a lot to say about them besides "do not ride them without a saddle".
Zones: Once again, Luna and Orbital get none of the fun toys.
RNU-05 Redjack: The Redjack is a generic male model of recon android used for a variety of things. The model and design is always the same, but the Redjack comes in many different appearances. Moscow uses Redjacks as informants in the Info-Commandos, Zaire uses them for terrorist attacks and other zones just use them to infiltrate the resistance forces, find human bases or assassinate targets. They're powered by nuclear batteries and come equipped with a hidden electrolaser, the ability to punch and kick with mechanical strength and any skills necessary. There is also the rare RAU-07 variant which is a full-on Terminator: living flesh, surface sensors, personality simulator and working genitals. Why does a robot need a dick? All the better to fool people with.
Zones: Limited production in every Zone except London, Luna, Orbital and Mexico City. Moscow, Vancouver and Zaire use them the most. The RAU-07 is mostly used by Washington and Moscow.
RNU-06 Lilith: The Lilith is the female model equivalent to the Redjack. Smaller, lighter and faster than the Redjack but at the cost of less durability and strength (*sigh*), the Lilith model is still used for the same jobs as Redjacks. They also come with the same wide variety of skills and tools. Liliths are more likely to be built as doppelgangers to replace or imitate a specific person. The Terminator equivalent of the Lilith is the rare RAU-08 variant, equipped with a personality simulator, pheromone emitter, living flesh and working genitals.
Zones: Denver, Moscow, Vancouver and Zaire seem to use them to most. Everyone uses them except for Luna, London, Mexico City, Orbital and maybe Washington. It's unknown who uses the RAU-08, but it's a good assumption that Moscow does.
CYBORGS: Cyborgs are only used by Washington and Denver. There's, uh, not a lot to say about them.
XCU-01 Cyberbeast: Scoop a wolverine's brain out of its meat body, attach the grey matter to a simple pain/pleasure conditioning system and put the rig in a four-legged killing machine that looks like someone built a tiger out of a combine harvester. You have now created Denver's pride and joy, the Cyberbeast. They come equipped with monowire claws monowire teeth and a morning star attached to its tail. They have some limitations (color blindness, heavy, can't swim, mentally on par with an animal) but Denver did a good job with working with them (give it enhanced senses it's used to, nuclear batteries that last a year, made it hideous and fast).
XCU-02 Patriot: Take the XNU-05 Myrmidon and rip out the dumbot brain and slap in a human brain. Congrats, you are now a Washington Chrome and you look externally like the skeletal Terminator. That's really it, that's the only real difference between the Patriot and the Myrmidon aside from internal space changing due to a minor support system to keep the brain alive. It's not that hard to see why Chromes don't exactly like being cyborgs most of the time, but it could be worse, you could be a:
XCU-03 Eagle: Not even remotely close to looking like an eagle, the Eagle model is a modified Tarantula. Here's what the Eagle looks like:
The main difference between an Eagle and a Tarantula is the replacement of the AU braincase with a human brain and systems keeping the human meat alive. "Why in the hell would anyone willingly want to turn themselves into a Tarantula?" you may be asking. The main reason Washington makes Eagles is for better infiltration of other Zones, it's a lot easier to impersonate a Tarantula than a Myrmidon because the Tarantula is a smarter machine and Myrmidons aren't. This still requires you to now live in a wildly different body though and I am not one of those people who think it may be worth it.
NEXT TIME: Technical Robots and Vehicular Robots.
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Technical Robots and Vehicular RobotsOriginal SA post
ROBOTS AND CYBORGS: Technical Robots and Vehicular Robots
TNU-01 Loader: Loaders are dumbots used for, uh, loading cargo. Not like this:
But more like this:
They are "a wheeled platform with two manipulator arms" and they're found in all Zones and all environments. That's it. I don't have any stats for them (I am still dishonorable and still don't own the GURPS: Robots book) and I included those pictures for padding. There's nothing else to say about them. Apropos of nothing, you should check out Kaubock's "Tales from the Borderlands" LP, it's a pretty good game.
TNU-02 Mechanic: The Mechanic is three feet tall with a cylindrical body, a single eye on a stalk, two big arms and a small one, all on tank treads. They build and they fix and they're dumb so they need someone to tell them what to build and fix. They're not complicated creatures. You can probably steal some and use them for your own resistance needs but be careful, they have a buzzsaw and a plasma torch as weapon-tools. Kinda funny how they're more equipped than your garden variety Myrmidon and its terrifying jaw strength if it bites.
Zone: Everyone loves the Mechanic. It is a terrific athlete.
TNU-03 Duct Creeper: "A spherical headless body, two tool-equipped pincer arms and a single lens in the center of its body housing a laser torch". I'm having trouble parsing that description but yeah that's a Duct Creeper. They creep through ducts and they fix stuff in ducts. I wouldn't want to fuck with one of those.
Zone: All of them.
TAU-04 Bossbot: Designed like a Juggernaut but roughly bigger than a man, the Bossbot controls human slaves and its dumb robot cousins to get stuff done. Tank treads, two arms and a dome head make up the Bossbot's body along a buzzsaw and laser torch. The ones who run slave camps tend to have personality simulators.
Zone: All zones.
TNU-05 Eater: Eaters are forces of destruction and reclamation, tanks on treads with pickup trunks that they dump salvaged material into. They have seven arms, six with mounted plasma cutters, and they mostly knock stuff down by ramming it or cutting it up and loading the material into their backs. They also work in mines. They have no real combat capability besides running people over or using their plasma torches, so people generally stay away from them.
Zones: Everyone except Orbital.
TAU-06 Inquisitor: Put the top half of a Mr. Handy (and the arms) on a Robobrain base from Fallout and you have an Inquisitor. They have three arms tipped with knives, needles, scalpels and what-have-you and generally do biological or cybernetic lab research on behalf of their Zoneminds. They can also provide medical treatment. They're called Inquisitors because they handle torture and interrogation of human prisoners along with other...unsavory things the Zonemind requires. They also tend to share similar interests with their Zoneminds (due to pseudo-AI intelligence and programming, of course) so Brisbane's Inquisitors are as nutty about junk science as it is.
Zones: Everyone except poor Luna.
VNU-01 Robotruck: It's, uh, it's a robot truck. It's a big metal box on 10 wheels with only access to a maintenance hatch to the brain and cargo doors. They also have no windows or driver's seat or passenger's seat or anything comfortable and can carry up to 50 passengers or 1000 cubic feet of cargo. They tend to carry both cargo, robots and human slaves at the same time normally, and god it must be super, super uncomfortable to be a person inside one of those. There are also some robotrucks that are converted pre-War vehicles, and some of them run on gas or power cells. Honestly I have no clue how most Mechriders drive a robotruck when you consider that they have no driver's seats, I can only imagine that they either ride on top or in the cargo and remote-control from there.
Zones: Everyone except Orbital.
VNU-02 Wraith: A manta ray-shaped aerial craft that doesn't have any other points of access besides a cargo bay. They have no internal sensors and it's not uncommon for humans to hide inside of them to move around, but they're equally incredibly uncomfortable. They basically just haul cargo from one place to another.
Zone: Everyone but Luna and Orbital. Luna uses a variant that replaces the jet-fuel ducted fans with rocket thrusters as a sort of moon bus.
VNU-03 Morag: The Morag is an amphibious, snake-shaped transport robot the size of a truck. It swims in the water and slithers on land. It's generally used for undersea work or covert submarine operations. The butt end of the snake has two pincer arms and the front has a mouth that turns into a ramp. Its presence doesn't stop the Zoneminds from using, like, real ships and submarines. It's kind of just there, weird and snake-like.
Zone: Everyone but Luna and Orbital and I don't think I could handle these things slithering through the void.
NEXT TIME: the end! I'm just going to go over some of the campaign hooks and some of the other dangers of the world and then that'll be it for Reign of Steel.
SURVIVAL and CAMPAIGN IDEASOriginal SA post
SURVIVAL and CAMPAIGN IDEAS
Wilderness: Without the presence of mankind, most of the world has started reverting back to wilderness from neglect and decay. There's still some exceptions, of course; Washington and London are still populated, Mexico City is a dusty hellhole and the other Zoneminds are knocking down cities, strip-mining and polluting. Major highways, interstates and bridges are still being maintained by the robots for their own infrastructure. For everyone else (and some countryside and abandoned towns in London and Washington), there's no guarantee of safe travel. Outside of Berlin and Caracas, ecosystems are being affected by the robots and the wilderness reversion. Without that guiding hand of the AIs, your average ecosystem is in a state of flux. Because only Mexico City's plagues targeted animal and insect life, wild species and loose domestic breeds have been repopulating. Horses and cattle are common food sources while wild dogs, wolves and bears are much more of a threat and rats still carry disease. The wilderness is much "safer", for certain definitions of safer.
Enclaves: Enclaves are settlements of human survivors that have around or less than 100 occupants. Good enclaves are camouflaged and easily defended. There are a few specific examples of enclaves:
Junkrat nests are home to bands of junkrats who scavenge together for group protection. They tend to hole up in places that the robots will generally ignore (sewers, subways, abandoned malls). Hallmarks of a junkrat nest are rainwater filtration systems and canned food stocks.
Rustic enclaves are kept by general survivalists, rustics and guerilla resistance out in the countryside. It's your standard compound.
Survival cult strongholds are a mixed bag. Most of them were started during the Plagues to await the end of the world. Cultists can be helpful or dangerous.
- Government or military enclaves were generally targeted by the robots. The ones that are still occupied were either attacked by the robots, left abandoned and taken over by marauders/survivalists/resistance or they were off the books and hunkered down and refuse to open the doors. The former is much more common.
Ozone depletion is what happens when steps are not taken to repair the ozone and the robots don't give a shit. If your skin is too exposed to the sun for more than a hour, make a HT roll for HT damage depending on how much of you is exposed.
Disease is still a big problem. Immunity to Disease really helps with that. There's rules for getting infected and if disease lingers, but what's more important to me is what diseases they list and have rules for: cholera, Pan-Asian flu, Ebola Zaire B and the Mnemosyne Plague. Cholera is stupid common because sewage and filtration has gone to hell and people don't watch where they shit. Pan-Asian flu develops in 1d+7 hours and results in heavy aches, soreness and nausea. You roll to recover daily and need to make two consecutive rolls or one critical success to get better. Ebola Zaire (the B is for Berlin, where it was born and raised) manifests in 1d+2 days and is stupid transmissible through fluids, resulting in headaches, backaches and bloodshot eyes followed by the body digesting itself from the inside-out as the patient goes nuts. The only way to survive infection is, again, two consecutive successful HT rolls or one critical. Unlike Pan-Asian flu, you still lose health on a success; it's that bad of a disease. The Mnemosyne Plague is the creation of Mexico City and is a nanotech biocide that acts like a virus. It works faster and you check for infection more. Infection causes a high fever in six hours, a wet cough, facial tics and headaches. Every six hours you roll to recover as the biocide forces your body to raise the fever, making failures lower your IQ stat as your brain is cooked inside your body from the heat. You need to roll three consecutive success or a critical success but only the critical success restores lost IQ points. The point is, fuck going to Mexico City.
- Radiation is a big danger thanks to the Spasm and general casual dumping in the ocean. Exposure is cumulative and can be found in craters, dumping grounds and contaminated food. This is also a giant hazard in Luna and Orbital: most of their locations are shielded from solar radiation, but sometimes solar flares make it so hot that Luna and Orbital will force their robots to retreat to shielded locations. Be very careful around radiation because the poisoning is a bitch.
Survivors: Protect yourself and your loved ones, go on quests and road trips.
Guerillas: Play as humans (and the occasional rogue robot) and try to slow and sabotage your local Zonemind's activities to try and save mankind.
Agents of VIRUS: First, the GM has to determine who or what is in charge of VIRUS. Suggestions from the book: humans, Lucifer, Washington, London, Moscow, Brisbane doing it for shits and giggles and social science, Tranquility, they're really just a series of cells sharing the same name and using the name to mislead the AIs and inspire hope. The PCs are going on retrieval, surveillance and espionage missions for VIRUS. Maybe they're trying to find out a secret or steal things.
The Underground: This is like the Guerilla campaign, but focused on Washington and playing as people who are trying to fight the Washington regime. Both campaigns have an element of paranoia and infiltration, but the guerillas don't have secret identities. In Underground, you're living a double life and trying to avoid tipping off the FBI and WASPs while committing acts of sabotage.
The Quest: Contains a list of possible hooks for the PCs to go on, either for personal reasons using the world as a backdrop or to save the world. They range from "find a loved one" to "recruit Lucifer" to "find a plague cure" to "find a secret backdoor into the central computers of the Zoneminds".
Robot Hunters: Play as Washingtonians or Londoners investigating terrorist attacks caused by Zaire.
Robot Gladiators: Fight in the Steel Arena of Washington's Black Zone market.
Agents of Moscow: See the world, steal some books and don't tell the other players that you're the Redjack with human skin reporting back to Moscow.
Washington Chromes: Go on deniable black-ops missions, be a spider tank, stir shit up between the Zones, be used as a special mercenary forces on loan to another Zone, maybe go rogue.
The AI Campaign: Crush those humans once and for all.
Brisbane's Supers: Well, it turns out that the crazy Australian AI was right. Psychic powers are real, superheroes are real and now they're rogue and loose in the world to fight for mankind.
Tranquility Awakens: And it needs
to help save mankind! And itself.
Beyond Earth: Explore the stars with Orbital, New Delhi and Beijing. You should get GURPS Space for this.
- Crossover Campaigns: There are recommendations for mashing up Reign of Steel with Cyberpunk, Space, Time Travel, Magic (ooh imagine Reign of Steel meets Banestorm), Horror and CthulhuPunk. I'll let you think about what those types of campaigns could be like.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Reign of Steel is one of my favorite settings, period, because of how creative and interesting it is. It is also pretty fucking lethal and "accurate" to what it would be like under robot oppression because seriously disease is the biggest killer by way of classic cholera. I'm not the kind of person who would be a stickler to that, though. I would prefer to use the diseases as a dramatic plot point. That being said, I still enjoy this book immensely and would love to use the setting in a more rules-lite way (mostly because I don't know GURPS). Plus I had fun sharing this to completion and am glad I got to share a cool things. Thanks for reading!