Engine Heart by Xelkelvos
Post 1Original SA post
The vote is actually tied afaict (4-4), but I started before Covok's post so it was at 4-3. Anyways, Engine Heart is short. The rule book is only 60 pages total and it's a point buy system so a significant number of pages are devoted to things that can be bought with points as opposed to fluff or mechanics. Without further ado...
Let us start off with a poem
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools, singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
For those unfamiliar, this is the poem, There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale. Connected to this is the short story by the same name by Ray Bradbury about an automatic house that's been long abandoned after a nuclear war killed its inhabitants but continues to function as though nothing was amiss . The book opens with five small opening fictions as well as this poem to set the tone of the game and the back page of the book also provides this:
Getting into character:
Take your vacuum cleaner outside. If you don't have a vacuum, another small appliance like a humidifier or a printer will do. Take it for a walk around town. Notice how those wheels, that you never thought about indoors, are so fragile and frail on the hard gritty sidewalks. Drag it around a little more, over some uneven sidewalk slabs. Maybe drag it through a park.
Now imagine that you aren't around to take care of it. That it's on its own, and there are other things out there. Would your little vacuum be able to fend off a hungry recycling robot? Would it be able to outrun one? What would it be like after cowering from the rain for years and years, scavenging for a place to plug in, missing you and the safety you gave it?
How long could your vacuum survive like this?
Way, way back in 2008, a game was made called Artifice made by Earthflame which was a game about playing as AI, programs which have finally achieved sentience and now seek their freedom while hiding from their inferior creators who can still destroy them with a push of a button. Spun off from this game about a year later was Engine Heart which was based on the Drone rules in Artifice and expanded on them into a game of their own. In 2010, Viral, the creator, put out the Deluxe edition of the book and released it online for free. Three years later, a Kickstarter was born making for print versions available for backers as well as in stores. Included in this Kickstarter was a series of modules that added new settings as well as new rules for operation in these somewhat more esoteric locations. It's definitely one of /tg/'s best examples of GETTING SHIT DONE and stands next to Busty Barbarian Bimbos (and possibly Purgatoria: City of Angels soon since it's creator has announced today!? that it's planning a Kickstarter). As a side note, Viral also made two other rules lite systems/settings called Joints & Jivers and Modempunk.
In the game the players are robots. Not big fighting ones and not elaborate transforming ones from outer space, but the small ones. The utility robots. The ones people wouldn't notice in a society filled with autonomous machines. The world (i.e. the default setting) is a world where the masters of these tiny machines have gone. Buildings have begun to crumble and roads have returned to nature (if there is any) and all the humans have gone. But still, the robots have their programming and they must be followed as best they can. New robot societies have sprung up as the survivors seek to continue with what remains of their programming. And it's not just the robots, there are bodiless AIs who oversee the tasks the robots perform and while some are benign to its servants and sees them as part of a greater whole, others may consider them no more than ants or spare parts. "The humans are gone. You must carry on."
This game uses pools of d10s. When making a check, the Programmer (the GM), will declare what pool is to be used and the Target Number (TN). For a die to count as a success, it has to meet or exceed the TN. Example: A Mobility check with a TN of 8 generates a roll of 5, 9 and 4. The pool has one success which is enough to pass. The average TN should be an 8 (with the max being 10 and the min being 2). Generally, most checks need only a success to pass. As a special note, 10s explode. Rolling a 10 gives a success and a reroll of that die.
Creating a Robot
To build a robot, players are given 100 points (actually, it's 87) to spend on Attributes, Features and Defects. Features and defects will be gone over later but simply put, features are add-ons to your robot to increase their capabilities like laser cutters or storage tanks. Defects are flaws that give point refunds and include things like being fragile or glitchy.
There are three broad types of attributes and a total of 13 attributes. These are rated from 1 to 5 and used to generate the die pools for checks. There are also secondary attributes such as Speed or Damage Threshold made by adding these attributes together. Robots must start with at least 1 in each attribute, so a minimum of 13 is spent just to meet the minimum requirements on attributes. The point cost for Attributes is geometric so 1 for 1, 3 for 2, 6 for 3, 10 for 4 and 15 for 5 (or just pay the new rating cost to go up to that rating). Attributes at 0 are unusuable.
Above is the character sheet with the listed Attribute and Attribute types. Intelligence is essentially the robot's software. RealityCom is a robot's ability to understand the world around them and how things work in general like gravity or combustion A low RealityCom robot might know that things fall when thrown and flammable objects explode when lit, but they wouldn't know how fast it might fall or what objects are flammable or how quickly they would ignite or explode. HumanCom is a robot's understanding of humans and other organic life as well as how user friendly it is. DigiCon is the computer and AI interaction attribute and includes its ability to reprogram other robots and working with software. MechaniCon is mechanical control and includes working with machines and hardware as well as repairing physical damage.
Chassis attributes are basically all powered components and are mostly what they say. Dexterity is fine motor control such as interacting with objects beyond pushing and shoving. Mobility is speed and its ability to move. Perception is exactly what it means though a robot cannot receive stimuli it isn't built to accept (like tastes or smells). Reflexes is how fast it reacts to stimuli. Strength is its general pushing, shoving, load and general attacking attribute. By expending more power than normal, a robot can set one of these functions into Overdrive by a number up to its power rating. The effect lasts for five rounds and triggers a Power check (TN 8) at the end of the fifth round. If the successes are less than the amount of dice added, the robot's battery is drained.
Crux are the miscellaneous attributes of the robot and is mostly hardware (Buffer is more of a software thing and Power is both hard and software). Durability determines how much damage a robot can take before being destroyed or ceasing function. Buffer is the ability to withstand input overload such as by EMPs or very bright light. Size is how big a robot is. Size 1 is the same volume of a cube with 15cm diagonal faces (this tripped me up the first few times I read it since I'm not used to reading measurements as a diagonal unless specified). This approximates a volume of 1200cm 3 . Each point in size increases that measurement by 15cm so Size 5 has 75cm faces. Size 4 is approximately the same volume as an adult human as a bench mark. A robot of Size 1 gets a +1 to Dexterity, and a Robot of Size 5 gets a +1 to Strength. These can push a Robot's rating above 5. Power indicates how long a robot can operate before recharging. A robot makes a Power check (TN8) each day to determine if it has enough bower for 24 more hours. Obviously this can mean a Power 5 robot could suddenly need a charge after a day of travel due to a bad roll while a Power 1 robot could potentially go for a week via a series of lucky rolls.
The sheet provides a few spaces for commonly called pools or other secondary stats. Initiative is done by rolling a d10 and adding the Reflexes rating to that result (ala WoD). Speed is fairly self explanatory on the sheet. The Interaction pool is for grabbing, striking or otherwise manually interacting with a resisting or moving object the TN is either given by the Programmer or based on the opposing robot's Mobility+Reflexes. One check is made regardless of limbs. Damage Threshold is essentially the HP of a robot and hitting 0 renders the robot inoperable until it's DT is at least 1. OS Threshold is the same, but for its software components so things like electrical shock or reprogramming. There are three sidebars about repairs, reprogramming and resetting. I'll go into more detail later (though they're fully explained in this section). In short, repairs and resetting are are for recovering Damage and OS respectively while reprogramming is dealing damage to the OS.
That's basically it for this chapter. The next is all about Features and Defects. All starting robots come with some means of locomotion, a standard manipulating limb that can lift 10kg/Strength, two cameras that can see the same spectrum humans can, a speaker/receiver unit that can transmit binary or human languages up to 5 meters away and a standard battery. As a vague reference, here's what one interpretation of WALL-E might look like.
So, for the next post, I'll do Features and Defects and if anyone has any ideas for robots as an example of chargen, go for it.
Post 2Original SA post
Note on building characters:
The game is more about robots with a specialty. Because of the way costs scale, generalization ends up being cheaper than specialization. The other thing that's also worth noting is Feature costs relative to Attribute costs are seemingly all over the place. For example, High Chassis is a feature that only gives its bonus in a certain circumstance (Mobility checks to move across rough terrain) costs 8 points compared to any point in Mobility. One it's at max, it may be worth it to buy the Feature to get extra dice on various Mobility rolls, but a theoretical 6th point in Mobility would still be cheaper except for the flavor of having a special feature like big tires or long legs rather than being really fast.
Character Example 1: "Spider Tank"
First, let's determine a few things about our tank. It's likely highly mobile and very agile. Due to point constraints, it probably wont be very big and since we're assuming it's still in relatively good shape, there's not as much damage or things falling apart on it. The difference between making a Tachikoma and the Spidertank from Watchdogs is a big one though. Since this is about AIs, however, Tachikomas actually have some sort of AI and personality while the other Spidertank doesn't afaict. One thing that is relevant is the lack of guns written into the game. While there were eventually rules for firearms, most robots were intended to be industrial, domestic or commercial use. Not military which would like be of better make and quality. Still, something can be worked out. Also, it's been quite a while since I've seen GitS: SAC, but the Tachikomas for that series have the most information available (and an actual personality beyond seek and destroy).
Point Cost: 23
Tachikomas are rather intelligent AI, if lacking in what humans might consider common sense. They're also pretty good shots. However, they're not much for repairing others and their programming could be a little more robust (the Major would probably have a 5 or 6 herself).
Point Cost: 31
Tachikomas only have two three pronged "hands" (and I'm not even adding the feature of the extra manipulator because it rarely seems to use both at once) and while they can be delicate, it's more a matter of being able to apply pressure than anything finer. Mobility, Reflexes and Perception are all rather up there as its legs are quite agile and maneuverable. Strength is actually likely debatable as it's definitely strong enough to pull itself up at a brisk pace, but trying to get everything the Tachikomas could do ended up being more a matter of averaging than anything. Also, the top speed of our tank is 70km/hr
Point Cost: 26
So it's big and tough. Yeah, but probably not as big ass I'd like. Still, with all of the auditing, something had to go.
Total Attribute Cost: 85
Features and Defects
We now have 15 points to play around with for the Features and Defects. Confidentially, though, I did the auditing in Excel so I could keep track of all of the numbers and did all this simultaneously. It's definitely easier that way.
High Chassis 8
High Speed 12
Winch (level 1) 3
Enhanced Camera (level 1) 10
Total Cost: 33
Because of the way its legs are, terrain isn't really an issue. It can climb over debris and roll over roads. It can even do stairs! To make it road ready, High Speed as chosen so its top speed maxes out at 105kph or 65mph. Most cars could still probably beat it, but most cars can't do a 180 degree turn in place at top speed. Turbo would be better, but it costs 20 points which is a bit trickier to budget around. The think tanks also have grappling hooks, but ostensibly, whatever fuel or compression system they run on may have broken down by this point so it still does have a fancy winch it can shoot out, but it may not be strong enough to pull itself with it like it did before. Finally, the enhanced camera. Tachikomas are capable of some thermal optics which is handy in urban strike situations. Even without humans, the motors and batteries of other still warm and purr making this useful. Notably, there's no guns in the features list and that can be explained away as a lack of ammunition. There's no point in listing them if there's nothing they can really do.
Rare Parts -4
Point refund: 13
The Tachikoma is not a subtle thing. It's big, bulky and still probably in that lovely blue color. It's also probably still with it's rather childlike personality so sneaking around isn't something it thinks of doing too often. Because it's essentially a military grade machine, its parts are likely custom designed or at least of a more expensive make.
Total audit: 100 points!
Interaction Pool: 5
TN to be Struck: 7
Damage from Strike: 1
Speed: 105kph or 10.5 meters per round
Max OS Threshold: 5
Max Damage Threshold: 8
So it's fast and tanky, but it's probably not going to hurt anyone without a tool of some sort.
So there's a rendition of a Tachikoma. I'll do another character example of the Office bot or the Repair bot next after the Features post.
Bonus: A cool, smaller version of the Spider Tank https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vVblGlIMgw
As a mechanical engineering student, this make my heart skip a beat when I see it.
Post 3Original SA post
Finished this before the character example, so the Features might not have any context without this.
Here's a short from the beginning of the book
It turned the scrap of paper over and quickly scanned the back side. None of the information was directed at it, so the robot dropped the paper and let the wind carry it across the lot, where it flapped against the side of the single remaining Roadboy. The boxy triwheeler squonked in surprise and paused for a moment, before it slid forward in its continued attempt to remelt old asphalt in the section of the parking lot deemed most important to maintain.
The lot helper hadn’t always been capable of littering. A long time ago the ManageMaster system had decided there were better things for it to use its daily draw from the remaining solar panels on than recharging the escort every time it brought in a load of trash (and for the first thirty or forty years after the emergency rewrite, there had been so much trash).
The lot helper now spent its day-cycles simply patrolling the cratered remains of the parking lot, accosting the deer that sometimes passed through in the hope that they needed help entering the SavR-Mart.
Like in any point buy system, there's a boatload of different dells and whistles one can purchase with their starting points to make their robot more than a box or wedge on wheels. Each Feature adds to the capabilities of each robot and is generally self-explanatory. All of the features and defects I've listed also appear in the mini modules that are jumpstarts for settings.
Note: Feature Icons with this symbol are a danger to the robot using it and those around it. (i.e. it's a weapon)
Abrader: Some sort of sandblaster, grinding wheel, etc. Can be used to deal damage equal to the user's Size-2 and doesn't allow the target robot to roll Durability to reduce damage
Agile: Increase TN to be struck by 1
Anchor: Add +1d10 to resist being moved. Max 5
Android: Requires others to roll a HumanCom check to determine the robot is not a real human with at least a number of successes equal to its Android rating. Must be Size 3 or 4 and the max rating is its HumanCom-1
Armored Chassis: Automatically reduce any impact or crushing damage by rating. Max rating is Strength-1
Attendant Swarm: Obedient Drone. Each level is another Drone. Drones are built like any other character, but start with 6 points to spend (it's actually 19, but 13 are spent on the Attributes) after putting a 1 in each Attribute. They can take flaws, but can only get a max of 10 extra points. Drones cannot get Attendant Swarm (so no exponential swarms). Drones are also controlled by the player whose robot they belong to. Max = MechaniCon
Backup System: If the robot's OS goes to 0 from reprogramming, it can make a DigiCon check every 1d10 minutes until it accrues enough successes as its Max OS Threshold and any reprogramming is nullified. However, if the check is failed more than once in a row, the backup system fails to boot and the robot needs to be reset to go back to its original programming.
Battering Ram: Pneumatic Ram. Requires the robot to first anchor itself (the Anchor feature can help here) with a Strength check. The ram them activates and deals its normal strike damage plus the number of successes from anchoring. Obviously only immobile or unsuspecting targets would ever get hit by this.
Biofrequency Scanner: Can detect organic matter and lifeforms, but can't tell what type or if it's even alive. Range is based on rating and starts at 10 meters.
Buoyant: Floats! Can't be submerged in water or other liquids. Can't swim without another feature though.
Cargo Hauler: Double the dimensions of one of its containers (or multiply its volume by 8). Must have a feature that gives a container before it can be applied and only one level of Cargo Hauler can be applied per container.
Claw: Think magnetic arm or grappling hook. When grabbing another robot, the target cannot go beyond the reach of the robot using the claw until its grip is released or the robot with the claw goes to 0 Damage Threshold.
Collapsible: Can decrease its Size by 1 for every level. Max rating of Size-2 so a minimmum Size of 3 is needed to purchase this. Each point of Size decrease also decreases Dexterity and Mobility by 1. It's max Damage Threshold and TN to be dragged do not change however as the robot's massremains the same, just in a smaller form.
Common Model: Perception checks to find spare parts and replacement equipment get +1d10
Cutting Laser: Deals damage equal to Power+1 and has an approximate effective range of 10cm per Size. Hitting an unwilling target requires an interaction check.
Databank: When recalling a certain topic, roll DigiCon+rating. Max rating=DigiCon
Display Screen: Onboard video display screen. A Rating of 1 is a simple monochrome display with higher ratings making a more elaborate display. There's no other benchmark besides the baseline, but the Feature is cheap enough that a bit of ballparking on what each rating level means won't make too much of a difference.
Disposal: The robot has an internal incinerator or shredder or other similar device. Only robots of a size rating smaller than the disposal equipped robot can fit and any robots that resist must first be caught. Damage dealt is equal to its Size-1. After being damaged an contested Strength check is made to keep the target robot in the disposal.
Electromagnet: Can attract other objects to itself at a range in meters equal to its Power. To attract itself to other, immobile objects is a bit more draining and requires a Power check with a number of successes equal to its Size-1
Enhanced Cameras: Lower TN for visually based Perception checks by 1. Max feature Rating of 5
Enhanced Microphone: Same but for audio
Expandable: Like Collapsible but for increasing Size. Max Feature rating of Size-1.
External Container: Robot has a sealable container mounted on it. Total size of all containers may not exceed the Robot's Size.
Fan: Has a fan/blower.
Fast Charger: Requires only 30 minutes to recharge rather than the standard hour
Flexible Body: Mobility and Reflex are increased by 1 in cramped areas or when trying to escape constriction.
Flight Ceiling: The robot can propel itself in the air for 1 meter per rating and can keep aloft until its Damage Threshold goes below half of its max. With a Flight Ceiling rating of 5 or more (60 points!), increase Mobility by 1. The robot is also not damaged by falls of less than its Flight Ceiling rating * 10 meters while in effect. Instead it essentially feather falls down until it hits its flight ceiling height.
Floodlights: Has floodlights! Reaches 20 meters.
Giant: Increase Size by 1 and can go above 5 with this. Max Power-3. TN to be struck goes down by 1 for each Giant rating.
Hardened Programming: It's armor but for the OS.
Heat Resistant: It's armor, but for heat based damage (lasers, fire, radiation, etc.). Max of Durability-1
High Altitude: Can go up to 50km above sea level (think a balloon). If above its Flight Ceiling (or if it has none), it's Mobility is 1.
High Chassis: +1d10 on Mobility checks across rough or uneven terrain.
High Speed: +50% to Speed :flash101:
Interface Prong: With a successful interaction check, the robot can attempt to inflict OS damage on a still moving robot. MechaniCon and DigiCon checks get +1 die for each rating of Interface Prong to control or reprogram other robots. Max = DigiCon.
Internal Compartment: Like External compartment, but inside and smaller.
Jack: (The icon for this is a barbell.) Can lift 10x what its Strength rating indicates. Doesn't apply to dragging or other uses of Strength.
Liquid Dispenser: Like the other compartment Features, but for Liquids. Maximum projection rating is equal to the Robot's Size in meters.
Long Range: Max velocity in microgravity is increased. With Long Range, the max velocity is now x1000 in a vacuum conditions (think actual rockets). Must have Vacuum Propulsion to have Long-Range
Loudspeaker: Can transmit sound up to 100m radius.
Magnetized: Can attach itself to ferrous surfaces and even climb up and down them. When going up sheer vertical surfaces, it moves half of its normal movement by succeeding on a Strength check as per dragging an immobile robot with the target being itself.
Manipulative Limb: An extra limb. The maximum amount of objects carried increases by 5kg and can hold another object. No other mechanical effects.
Massive: It's heavier than a robot of its size. It can add extra damage to a Strike if moving in a straight line for at least a round akin to a Charge. Max Size-1
Master Unit: Double max number of Drones for Attendant Swarm.
Nuclear Battery: No need to recharge thanks to the power of fission/fusion! As a note with Overdrive, if it fails a Power check after a Overdrive, it must then make a Durability check. Success means it merely shuts down for 1d10 hours per Power. Failure means total meltdown and the robot explodes after five rounds and destroys everything including the robot in a Power*10 meter radius.
Overclock: Can attempt two interaction checks during its turn, but receives 2 damage as a result that cannot be mitigated or soaked. Can still be repaired though.
Plasma Arc Welder: Reduce TN to repair a robot by 1 and deals damage equal to the equipped robot's Size-1. Max rating of 5.
Pneumatic: +1 Strike damage. The robot just hits harder.
Power Dock: Other robots can recharge from the robot with this feature. Recharging with this dock is done as normal and the robot with the Dock, after the recharging must make a Power check with a TN of the recharged robot's Power+3. Failure means its battery is drained and needs to recharge. There's a one hour interval between chargings and Robots with a Nuclear Battery aren't subject to this loss. Technically, two robots with Power Docks could technically charge themselves back and forth forever. Obviously, no sane GM would let this happen, but it works by RAW.
Power Leech: Drain power from another robot. The other robot must be immobile. The leeching robot makes a Power check and if successful, it can treat the target as though it had the Power Dock feature. Both must remain connected and immobile during the leeching and the target robot is drained afterwards.
Prehensile Limb: Replace a limb with one that's more limber. Maybe a tentacle or flexible stalk? Interaction checks with this limb get +1die
Roller: Think Steamroller. Add Size to damage from Strikes against an immobile robot. It only works on robots that are smaller than the equipped.
Saw: Another alternate form of damage. This does damage equal to Size-1
Secondary Battery: If the robot fails its daily power check, the secondary battery kicks in and allows for another 24 hours of operations before degradation. The secondary battery charges separately from the primary.
Self-Repairing: If the robot's Damage Threshold is lowered and it's still at least 1, the robot recovers a point of that damage.
Silent Mode: While remaining immobile, the robot is considered inconsequential (just another piece of dead junk) unless they succeed a Perception check with successes equal to 6-the robot's Power rating.
Simple Assembly: Lower TN to repair the robot by 1 because the parts are so simple and easy to assemble.
Smelter: Convert enemies into mere tools :unsmiggh: Immobile robots are what's fed in and every 5 points of Damage Threshold makes a tool or object with Durability and Size 2. Excess or insufficient metal just makes useless slag and robots bigger than the one with the smelter wont fit.
Solar Powered: Spend the hour under bright light and recharge without needing to plug in.
Solar Sail: More space travel stuff.
Specialty Chassis: Pick a specific physical task like pushing, crushing, lifting, towing, etc.. All Strength checks to accomplish this task gets +2d10.
Submersible: Not only is the robot waterproof, but it can swim too! Add the Submersible rating to Mobility while in the water.
Telescoping Reach: Make a limb extendible (Extend-o-matic?). Extend reach by 1 meter and further purchases can be applied to the same limb to increase extension. Each meter extended decreases Strength using that limb by 1 however and the max for any limb is Strength-1.
Tool Set: Add 1d10 to any repair check it makes. They also double as weapons and deal Size-2 damage.
Turbo: Double speed! With both High Speed and Turbo, High Speed applies first so a total multiplier of x3 occurs (with variance due to rounding from High Speed). TN to be struck also increases by 1.
Vacuum Nozzle: The robot sucks. Literally. Without a container, the sucked contents are ejected out elsewhere.
Vacuum Propulsion: Can move in space. Not gonna say much more than that since it's mostly unnecessary.
Vice Grip: The robot has a clamp or a clamp-appendage that can crush things. A robot must first be caught to be put under the vise and then a Strength check to see if it can break loose. The robot with the vise gets extra dice equal to the feature rating. If the target robot gets more successes, they can escape. Otherwise damage is dealt equal to the difference in successes with no reduction from Durability checks. Only robots smaller than the robot with the vise can fit and the max rating is 5.
Winch: Add a d10 per level of Winch to Strength checks to pull things towards the robot with the Winch. Max range of 5 meters. Max rating of 5
Wind Turbine: By remaining immobile for 6 consecutive hours, the robot can recharge so long as there's wind to charge it. A secondary battery only takes 3 hours.
Wireless Transceiver: The robot can communicate with other robots with transceivers up 100xRating meters away. The robot can also jam others with a MechaniCon check (TN target's Buffer+5) vs. the target's Buffer check (TN 8). Both add their Wireless Transceiver ratings to the check. Reprogramming or resetting cannot be done through these devices however.
Workhorse: Increase Max Damage Threshold by 1.
One thing that stands out as irksome is how high the costs for some Features are compared to Attributes. For example, High Chassis is a circumstantial benefit and costs 8 points so it ends up being cheaper to max out Mobility than it is to acquire that Feature
That's literally all of the Features. Before I get into defects, I'll do the examples
Post 4Original SA post
Before I forget, there are a few things in the Features section I forgot to mention. Certain Features can obviously be very disruptive to the game. Attendant Swarm and Master Unit can slog a game down as a player can have up to 11 different characters all buzzing about on their own (it does cot 75 points, on its own, and 15 points for DigiCom 5, but enough Defects could make it nightmarish and annoying). Giant can also potentially be disruptive since most weapons scale with Size. Nuclear Battery is also on the "you may forbid purchase of this" since it essentially nullifies part of the game that could add tension with little to no consequences or just decide to nuke the area for the lols.
Also of note, certain Features are mutually exclusive with certain Defects. Having Mute or Loudspeaker means the other cannot be taken.
Buggy Cameras: 1s rolled whenever Perception is used in a pool negates successes in any visually based Perception
Buggy Mic: Same but for audio.
Compliant: The robot is meek or otherwise weak willed and must pass a DigiCon check whenever ordered by another robot to do something to not do it. The robot won't violate its programming so telling a cleaning robot to make a mess wont work. Though telling it to tear the limbs off of another robot might be fine (as long as it doesn't make a mess).
Conspicuous: Whether via flashing lights, being brightly colored or hauling a fuckhuge banner around, the robot is a lot more visible. Perception checks to see this robot get +1d10.
Exposed Power Switch: The robot's power button is plainly showing for everyone to see. Lewd. An interaction check can be used to press the button and turn the robot off.
High Maintenance: The robot
Inferior Model: The robot has 1 less in its physical interaction pool because it is
Inflammable: The opposite of Heat Resistant. Reduce the Durability pool by one when making Durability checks against heat based damage.
Lightweight: The robot is lighter than others and is easier for others to move around. The TN to move the robot is reduced by 1 for each level.
Limbless: No limbs! No manipulators or anything. It can still have other tools like Rollers or Drills, but it has no manipulating arms to pick things up or anything. In particular and of importance, the robot with this defect cannot repair robots including itself. It provides the greatest refund out of any of the other defects except those with levels.
Loose Connections: Either through shoddy wiring, poor soldering or just wear and tear, the internal components are loose and has a chance to shut down for a bit and reboot if hit too hard. Whenever its hit by some sort of jarring impact and loses DT, roll a d10 and on a 1, the robot shuts down for 1d10 rounds before rebooting.
Low Speed: Half max speed.
Manual Feature: Something on the robot needs an independent operator to activate or keep on and can't be done by itself. If the robot has a Drone, the drone can sub in for an operator.
Model Error: The robot has robo-dysphoria and thinks it's programmed for a different body or lack features it thinks it has. The robot reduces the pool to repair itself by 1 for each level in Model Error and also cannot have Limbless (idk why).
Mute: No audio out from this robot. Other methods of communication work though.
Noisy: This is what I'd imagine an extreme example of this Defect would be. Sadly only one level can be applied and not so many that other robots can feel it in their servos when the robot nears. It's basically the audio version of Conspicuous.
Overheating: The robot's cooling fan is terrible or it secretly has a Bitcoin miner installed inside it. It needs to take a turn of not doing anything for a round after it has taken a round using an interaction. Not pausing, reduces the die pool by 1 for each level of Overheating it has for each round it doesn't stop and recovers one per round when stopped.
Overriding Directive: The robot's programming mandates it must be carried out. If the robot has a chance to fulfil it, the robot must pass a DigiCon check with at least as many successes as its Overriding Directive level or else it stops whatever its doing to go follow its directive. It comes in two flavors, Minor and Major with minor showing up occasionally and major showing up all of the time. A robot can have both and adds the levels of the Defect to Buffer when resisting reprogamming.
Partial Casing: Increase damage dealt to the robot by 1 because it's left some of its components naked.
Partitioned Personality: Basically the robot has a split personality that comes out with a certain trigger. All of the values of Intelligence stats remain the same, but may be shuffled when the alternate personality comes out. The partitioned personality remains out for the duration of the triggering situation and 1d10-5 hours after. A robot with the Backup System feature or Overriding Directive defect can't have this defect as well. Probably because there'd be too many weird interactions and it's better just to limit it than to make rules for it.
Plastic Casing: Lower max Damage Threshold by 1 for each level. Max Damage Threshold can't be lower than 1 so it's perfectly possible to play a robot made of tissue paper but a ridiculously high Durability to shake off damage.
Poor Acceleration: Another complex defect. When the robot starts moving, it moves its normal speed minus its Poor Acceleration level. Each round it continues to move, its speed goes up by 1 until it reaches its normal Max speed. IMO, seems like an inconsequential Disadvantage unless movement speeds are made very relevant
Power Cutoff: No overdrive. Simple
Rare Model: The opposite of Common Model. Finding replacement equipment requires two more successes than normal.
Response Lag: Lower Initiative modifier by 1
Reusting: Like with Buggy Camera/Mic, but for Reflex rolls.
Salvaged: The robot's assembly is in poor condition or is made of nonstandard parts (like having Imperial Standard pieces while being located outside of the US)and is otherwise more difficult to repair. Increase TN to be repaired by 1.
Simple Programming: Reduce maximum OS threshold by 1.
Slow Charger: Add an extra hour of charging time per level of Slow Charger. Free points if the player feels like being tethered to an outlet for extended periods of time seems like a good idea.
Spaceborne: The robot wasn't built to move in atmospheric conditions and has extreme difficulty moving. Reduce TN to be struck by half while under atmosphere. Also, if it's TN becomes 2 or less, any Interaction checks are automatic successes.
Top Heavy: The robot is like Bender in that if it falls on its back, it can't get up easily. More technically, if the Robot fails a Mobility check, is capsizes and becomes immobilized until it's helped up through a Strength check. Multiple robots may pool their Strength checks together, but the fallen robot can't help. The Top Heavy rating determines the number of successes needed.
Unreliable: A 1 in 10 chance of not even getting to make an Interaction check. Before making the check, roll a d10. On a 1, the robot fails to operate. Try again next time.
Warranty Worry: As part of its programming, the robot is forbidden from making repairs on other robots. It can still repair itself (and presumably other robots can still repair it). It also cannot have the Limbless defect since that more than covers this defect.
Weak Chassis: The robot's chassis isn't as strong and thus makes contested Strength checks with one fewer d10 than normal.
Weak Motor: Damage from Strike is reduced by 1 because of weaker servos, but somehow doesn't reduce its strength or or Chassis stats.
Wide Turner: If tying to make an interaction check while moving, subtract the Wide Turning rating from the dice pool in the Interaction check.
And those are all of the defects and that finishes up everything needed to create a character. As nice as the idea of the system is, the Features and Defects are relatively sparse compared to a typical point buy game. Of course, the game adds that new Features and Defects may be added if needed, but there are no real guidelines to it beyond looking at another one that would be mechanically similar and basing the cost off of it. I'll post my full thoughts after I finish the main book.
Edit: All of the icons come from a PDF of a sticker sheet that came with the game (though you had to cut everything out yourself). Every feature and defect has their own icon, but I didn't do all of them because Also, because they would be different sizes.
Next: Spare Parts (i.e. the rest of the book) also, another Character example.
Post 5Original SA post
Character Example #2: The Scavenged Dragon
The Scavenged Dragon, a centipede-style automotive repair and maintenance bot. She lives in the decaying ruins of a repair chain (King Krankshaft's) on a pile of parts she has taken from other machines and scavenged material. She used to look like a wyrm before the foam insulation and costume wore away but she still retains her pop culture fantasy draconic personality and desires and shitty fake Old English speech patterns.
Obviously our Dragon's purpose is to build and maintain her hoard in keeping true to her generic fantasy dragon trappings. Even if she doesn't quite look the part.
We'll start with Attributes:
RealityCom: 2 (3 points)
HumanCom: 1 (1 point)
DigiCon: 2 (3 points)
MechaniCon: 5 (15 points)
The most important part of all of this is MechaniCon what with her being a robot originally meant to do repairs. Ostensibly, it could be lowered to 4 to shore up two other stats, but it's more a matter of opinion and interpretation.
Dexterity: 3 (6 points)
Mobility: 2 (3 points)
Perception: 4 (10 points)
Reflexes: 3 (6 points)
Strength: 3 (6 points)
Repairs use Dexterity, however, as a scavenger, she also needs to be able to pick out what's good and what's junk and also be able to spot anything that might come upon her hoard.
Durability: 3 (6 points)
Buffer: 2 (3 points)
Size: 3 (6 points)
Power: 2 (3 points)
Most of these are to taste. Even Durability and Size, slightly low Buffer and Power.
Abrader (10 points)
Plasma Arc Welder (12 points)
Tools (8 points)
Liquid Dispenser (size 2, 1 Liter) (3 points)
Flexible Body (6 points)
Prehensile Limb (5 points)
The first three are tools it would likely have as a matter of its previous life. Same with the Liquid dispenser for things like coolant or motor oil or windshield wiper fluid. Containers are a little odd as the size is irrelevant to the cost. Only the quantity is relevant. For liquid storage, it's generally important to keep different fluids separated. However with internal or external storage, it's not as big of a deal and has the same cost so idk. The last two are relevant to its form with the Prehensile limb getting into those hard to reach places
Rusting (-5 points)
Partial Casing (-7 points)
Salvaged (-3 points)
Given it's more decrepit exterior, it's likely parts have become exposed and started to deteriorate a little and what it has replaced or reused isn't exactly the best material.
With all of these features and defects, here are some relevant pools
Interaction Pool (Dex+Reflex): 6, 7 if using Prehensile Limb. In either case, 1s subtract successes
TN to be Struck (Mobility+Reflex): 5
Max OS Threshold (DigiCon+Buffer): 4
Damage Threshold (Durability+Size): 6
Repairing a Robot (MechaniCon+Dex): 8, 9 if using Tools
Strike Damage (Strength/2): 1
Abrader Damage (Size-2): 1
Plasma Arc Welder Damage (Size-1): 2
Tools damage (Size-2): 1
While our former wyrm isn't so good at beating up other Robots, it is fantastic at fixing things and taking them apart. It's also not all that tough and it's made worse with its Partial Casing. It's also not all that reactive what with its rusted case. Still, any damage it takes it can repair and being Salvaged is mitigated by using its own Arc Welder.
Character Generation within the bounds of the book is rather simple, though it all still feels rather lacking.
Next: The final post of Engine Heart
Post 6Original SA post
Another piece of short fiction from the beginning of the book
Security Units V1 and C5 were first on the scene. The Municipal AI’s command was as straightforward as they came:
“QUADRANT 3. BLOCK A.”
“DISRUPTION OF POWER GRID.”
Despite their new titles and duties granted by the self-appointed AI that now controlled the City in the long absence of the normal bureaucracy, neither Security Unit knew the slightest thing about maintaining security. V1 whirred its ratty nylon bristles nervously, scattering pebbles. The former Klean-Sweep turned to its partner, who had once used its elongated shears to shape and trim the City’s topiaries. The blades were broken and useless now.
“You have similar directives. You communicate with it.”
The repurposed TopiMax inched towards the disruption. This new visitor to the City towered over the C5’s spindly frame on six jointed limbs. Large scrapes in the garish, industrial yellow paint revealed patches of rusting metal. Sparks flew from the circular saw as the new robot cut its way through another telephone pole. When it crashed to the ground, wires snapped and twanged, forcing C5 and V1 to duck. The robot methodically cut the pole into six pieces, then trundled forward to the next one.
Inching close enough to communicate, C5 asked the first question its processors could produce.
“Disruptive Unit, what is your purpose?”
The massive robot halted, spinning down its saw, and regarded C5. “I am LumberJock Number 17E,” it thundered. “My repair cycle was longer than anticipated. I have been reactivated and am behind quota. I must harvest these trees!” It gestured with its bladed limb at the row of telephone poles stretching down the boulevard, and then spun up its saw once more.
“I do not think you were successful,” chided V1.
Sarcasm hadn’t been programmed into the TopiMax, but it was learning. “If you would like to give it a good scrubbing, be my guest.”
What remains after character generation is mostly relatively disparate stuff all connected by stuff needed in running the game. These include notes for the Programmer (GM), typical pools for rolls, an example of play and so forth. This post is basically a summary of those things and the rest of the book
Suggestions for the Programmer
Things like free Features or Mandatory Defects may be imposed on players' robots depending on the setting or scenario If players were replaying 9 for example, they might have one or two forced levels of Plastic Casing. Otoh, the the players were all operating in space, they might have Vacuum Propulsion. The suggested reward at the end of every session is 1 point and doesn't suggest allowing players raising Attributes above 3. I'm not sure how this affects the pace of the game, but given that players are playing robots and robots can potentially just salvage parts from other robots or machines, it's probably not too big of a deal (rules on salvaging others' parts and attaching them will be explained).
Bits from minimodules were also added like rules for Traps and Microgravity. Traps use RealityCom in their construction (so our Spider Tank would coincidentally be great a setting traps). Microgravity, meanwhile uses RealityCom+Reflexes to move and interact accurately as there's no deceleration in movement among other oddities with acting in microgravity. Different sort of hazards are also briefly mentioned such as electrical shocks, fire, falling, being submerged in liquid and others.
Useful Pools and Checks
The book proceeds to mention other frequent actions: Repairs, on itself or other robots, uses a MechaniCon+Dexterity pool with a TN of 11-Max Damage Threshold+Current damage (Max pool 10, min pool 2). Each success repairs damage by 1 and the repairs for that roll takes 1 hour. Subsequent attempts by the same robot, however, is reduced by a die for each attempt so the second roll would have -1 die and the third would have -2 die. Reprogramming a robot first requires it to be immobile or willing. A DigiCon check is made with a TN of the target's Buffer+5. Each success reduces the target's OS Threshold by 1 and can be resisted with a Buffer roll (TN 8) with successes negating a point of damage. A successfully reprogrammed robot will obey its new commands to the best of its abilities. To undo reprogramming or OS Threshold loss, a robot can reset itself with a DigiCon check with TN of DigiCon+5. It works just like repairs except for OS Threshold otherwise except that it also takes one round per check rather than one hour.
Hindering robots, to diminish their interaction pool or otherwise slow them down, uses Dexterity+Mobility. This might be things like blowing out tires or jamming sticks in exposed gears or joints. Successes on the check reduce the target's Interaction pool by 1 per success and essentially can be treated like damage such as being mitigated by Durability and being recovered via repairs. Defending has a pool of its own and can be done during a turn to further reduce damage.
As an optional rule, Features can be Salvaged and temporarily used once before breaking or otherwise ceasing function. It uses the same pool as a repair check with a TN 8. Obviously the Programmer has latitude in allowing freer or more restricted access to salvageable Features and the book advises not allowing the players to salvage features that cost more than 10 points (which means so salvaging a Cutting Laser because reasons).
In case you like flowcharts, the book provides one for Combat
Random Locale Generation
There's also a section for random Locale generation from another mini module. It's 5d10 in progression with each d10 modifying the next roll. Each die determines things like the condition of the location, how much power is available and what possible social structures might be in place. For example, a roll of [3, 1, 7, 10, 3] gets me a locale that's:
Building Condition: 3 = Ruins (-3 Building Density)
Building Density: 1 - 3- > 1 = A single Building (-5 Available Power)
Available Power: 7 - 5 -> 2 = Nonexistent (-5 Robot Population)
Robot Population: 10 - 5 -> 2 = Suite (-2 Social Structure)
Social Structure: 3 - 2 -> 1 = None
The rolls tend to err toward either very desolate places or highly populated ones depending on the rolls, as a single high or low roll skews the subsequent ones towards one end of the scale unless the next immediate number runs in the opposite direction.
Generally these are NPCs whose consciousnesses are housed in a separate location that's generally immobile or otherwise conspicuous (hiding and powering a series of Hard Drives and servers while in transit would be rather difficult in a semi-post apocalyptic scenario). They share most of the stats robots do, but lack Dexterity, Mobility, Reflexes, Strength, Durability and Size on account of lack of body. Additionally, their stats can go beyond 5 with costs listed for up to a rating of 10
The last bit are stats for four different organisms that may never appear in a typical game but provide a somewhat useful baseline. They are: an adult human, a child human, a dog, and a bird. They're actually interesting benchmarks as, for example, all of the Chassis attributes for an adult human are 3 so being below 3 means being less capable than an adult human in those regards. On the other hand, the adult only has a 6 in HumanCom so it's possible to have an AI that's better understanding and interacting with people than an actual person. Also, the dog is more durable than the humans.
In the Power and Light Module, there's an optional rule about Firearms. There's already a preexisting roll for Projectiles (RealityCom+Reflexes), however, this likely assumes more makeshift ones like slingshots or ones whose damage can be approximated though other features or rules. Firearms use the same roll and add the successes to their base damage to determine its total damage. A pistol or rifle's base is 1, a shotgun is 2, a grenade is 3 (and would imply any explosive on that scale would do similar amounts of damage) and a rocket launcher is 4.
At the back of the book are also a list of inspirations. These include in the video media category: Toy Story (and the book makes specific mention of Toy Story 3), The Brave Little Toaster , 9 , Robot Carnival , Short Circuit and others. In the Print category: There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, The Brave Little Toaster by Thomas M. Disch, The World Without Us by Alan Weismann, But Who Can Replace a Man by Brian Aldiss, The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov and more. The web category has only one mention: Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life . It's a webcomic that concluded in 2011(and I had forgotten about it a long time ago when it was still unfinished).
The game has a great concept. It does. But it lacks a certain polish and flexibility that more generalized point-buy games can offer. There's already a GURPS conversion (404'd though) and I imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to create a robot from the Monsters and Other Childish Things monster generation rules or some variation thereof through One Roll Engine. It's not all that complex however so it's definitely something that newer players could probably just pick up and comprehend or at least grasp without too much trouble (literally telling them WALL-E or Toy Story or The Brave Little Toaster: the Game could be enough to get the point across). It's cute though. And it definitely succeeds a bit in what it's trying to accomplish as a game. It just needs a little more crunch as a point buy or or at least a better way to generate the multitude of features and defects players would invariably come up with.
The game is free as is all of its extra content. Though Viral's official website 404s when trying to download anything, others are graciously maintaining the files for download and the links to them can be found on this page: http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Engine_Heart so it isn't . I'm not going to go through the Mini-modules like Power and Light as they're mainly just settings and scenarios and pregenerated NPCs. There are some extra rules and such from them, but they've been included in the main book after its revision and updating and otherwise included in this post where noted. Beyond that, that's all. Nothing more's been added to the game since its Kickstarter shipped and Viral hasn't made a new game on /tg/ afaik, so that's all. I apologize for the rather dryness of some of the posts, but this isn't a book that's particularly dripping with fluff to decorate a post with and I'm also no wordsmith. Still, it was nice to look over the game I Kickstarted so long ago and even got to see the development of way back when.
So, since so many people (all four?) also wanted Dungeons: the Dragoning, I'll do my best to give that a shot, though I may just skip past the parts others have already done since those posts seemed to do a great job already and unlike Princess which also had two previous attempts, they haven't changed so I can safely just relink those without worrying about changes and move onto new stuff like Magic, Sword Schools, Alignment, the history of the setting (which it does have and is equally as blended as everything else) and content from the second book which includes ship building rules and Gun Kata along with more Races and Exaltations.
And now I return you to Mors Rattus and whatever WarmaHordes thing he has next.