Copyright 10/1982© Andy Slack
'We don't serve his kind.'
Anonymous bartender, Star Wars.
Dedicated Vehicle Droid
Also known as the crewbot, this is properly a family of units built at a variety of Tech Levels for a variety of purposes. However, all units have the following properties in common: The unit weighs 50kg, and is armoured to battle dress standards to resist impromptu reprogramming by boarders. It has 25 hit points. The unit is directly interfaced to the relevant controls in the ship or vehicle it is to serve, generally displacing one crew couch or seat, but occasionally occupying cargo space. It has sensors as per the Mechanical Droid. A single-frequency radio allows longer distance communication without reducing the capacity of the ship's or vehicle's commo circuits, and the droid may examine the external environment through telescopic visual sensors, with enhanced night vision provisions, active infrared detectors and a small infrared searchlight, or any sensors fitted to the vehicle or ship to which it is attached. A remote master unit allows the direction of medical rescue servos for reconnaissance or rescue purposes. The price and skill of a unit depends on its task and tech level:
Tech Level: 12. Cost: Cr 117,000. Weight: 200kg. Speed: 75km/h on road; 30-40km on other terrain. Propelled by tracks, it has two light and one medium work arms. Sensors are equivalent to human senses in capability, and a voder/vocoder enables the droid to converse with its masters. It carries a set of mechanical tools and has a parts bin capable of holding up to 35kg of spares. Its skill level is Mechanical 6. It is treated as cloth armour for combat purposes, and has 65 hit points.
An identical droid is produced for cargo handling, but instead of Mechanical 6, this variety is programmed to load and unload cargo into and off ships or vehicles, and report unusual circumstances such as unexpected visitors, fires, etc. This variant costs Cr 116,500.
Heavy Mechanical Droid
Tech Level: 12. Cost: Cr122,520. Weight: one ton. Speed: up to 40km/h on good roads, 5-20km/h cross-country. In all other respects it is the same as the Mechanical droid except that it can carry spares and parts weighing up to 425kg,and has 135 hit points.
Medical Rescue Servo
This robot is designed to operate in conjunction with a Robodoc (see below). Tech Level: 12. Cost: Cr109,300. Weight: 100kg. One light and one medium work arm allow it to carry unconscious humans or similar objects, administer first aid, etc. Sensors are as per Mechanical Droid, and a remote slave unit allows it to be radio-controlled by a robodoc and feed data about the patients' condition to the robodoc. A padded storage tray can carry up to 3kg of drugs and medicines, while a comprehensive set of basic medical instruments is also carried. While its main purpose is to function as a mobile remote drone for a robodoc, the droid has a certain amount of 'initiative', so that it is able to fight fires and rescue injured persons from dangerous situations without supervision.
In combat, the droid is considered to be wearing cloth armour, and has 50 hits.
This droid is for the repair and manufacture of electrical or electronic devices. Tech Level: 12. Costs: Cr117,050. Weight 100kg. Speed: up to 200km/h on integral antigravity units. Has two light work arms, similar to human arms and hands. Sensors as per Mechanical Droid. It has internal compartments containing electronic tools and up to 10kg of spaces or parts, and an expertise of Electronic 6. In combat it is treated as wearing cloth armour, and has 50 hit points.
This is a large unit, normally fitted in ships or vehicles, and less frequently in buildings. Six light work arms with multi-purpose manipulators make use of three sets of medical instruments to allow for treatment of up to three injured beings simultaneously. Human equivalent sensors are supplemented by microscopie visual pickups, low-level audio pickups, a single-frequency radio for communication with other robots or persons, a voder/vocoder for verbal communication, and a remote-control master unit which may control up to six medical rescue servos. An ultraviolet steriliser is fitted to deal with bacterial contamination. The robodoc may be interfaced directly to the ship's internal scanners and lifesupport monitors, so that it can observe crew members and despatch servos to bring them in for treatment as necessary. It may also interface into the ship's commo units so that similar coverage is extended to crew members outside, if they carry communicators to act as homing beacons. Integral storage trays carry up to 175kg of medicines, prosthetics etc as required. The robodoc has its own internal power source and is not dependent on ship or vehicle power supplies except to power the three integral couches in their low berth mode; for while the robodoc can deal with most circumstances, it occasionally finds damage or disease beyond its ability, in which case the injured individual is put into suspended animation until better facilities can be reached.
The robodoc can treat persons if one or two of their physical characteristics (strength, dexterity, or endurance) have been reduced to zero. If the character has sustained enough damage to reduce strength, dexterity and endurance to zero, and no more additional damage points than the sum of his endurance and the robodoc's Medical expertise, he may be resuscitated as long as he is placed in the robodoc within a number of combat rounds equal to his endurance. His endurance is raised to one, and the robodoc will place him in suspended animation pending full medical treatment at a comprehensively-equipped hospital of Tech Level 8 or higher. If the character has suffered more damage than this, he is dead.
Example: Shel Meldol has a UPP of 797AC8 and has thoughtfully fitted a Tech 15 robodoc in the hold of his scoutship (reducing cargo capacity by 2 tons), with a couple of medical rescue servos. While adventuring, he is grievously injured, taking 32 points of damage. The robodoc promptly dispatches a medical rescue servo to pick up the smoking boot which is yelling 'Medic!'; it has 7 combat rounds to get the dying adventurer into its low berths. It succeeds; we now examine the overkill. Shel's strength, dexterity and endurance sum up to 23 points; his endurance and the robodoc's Medical expertise sum to 14 (7 + 7), so if he has taken less than (14 + 23) 37 damage points in total, he can be revived. Fortunately, he has taken only 9 more hit points than he actually has; examining the storage trays, the robodoc decides he can be saved. It raises his UPP to 001 AC8 and places him in suspended animation to await medical treatment at a fully-equipped base hospital. Meanwhile, the Vogons approach the defenceless starship, blasters ready... The referee may opt to allow human medics a similar revival ability.
This droid is for the repair and maintenance of starship drives and similar heavy machinery. A medium arm enables it to carry heavy objects up to 100kg in weight; two light work arms are fitted for manipulation of tools and equipment. It carries sets of electrical, mechanical and metalwork tools to aid it. Sensors as per Mechanical Droid.
The valet droid is constructed at Tech Level: 12. Weight: 75kg. Cost: Cr111,540. Speed: up to 200km/h on integral antigrav units. Sensors as per Mechanical Droid. It has two light work arms. It may function as a Steward-1, and in addition may serve as a personal valet, cleaning and caring for clothes, doing housework, making minor repairs and so on. It is treated in combat as if wearing cloth armour, and may carry refreshments etc weighing up to 4kg in an integral tray. It has 45 hits.
Not actually an Android, this robot is similar to the valet droid, but is much more anthropomorphic and in poor light can be mistaken for a human being. It has legs and two light work arms, and in general is capable of movement and manipulation to much the same degree as humans. Sensors are as per the Mechanical Droid. Extensive social programming enables the robot to make appropriate comments on the weather, politics etc, unlike the other droids who are entirely concerned with their normal duties and unable to 'think' along other lines. The valet android is treated as if wearing cloth armour, and has 50 hit points. All such droids are programmed for valet duties - housework and the care of clothes, etc - and in addition, as Stewards.
Tech Level: 14-15. Weight: one ton. Cost: Cr2,000,000. Speed: 200km/h. It is, in fact, too large to be used in urban or shipboard operations; its normal use is to man bases on isolated worlds. For most purposes, human beings are cheaper to set up and maintain, and less easily damaged; they are also quicker and easier to replace, given a large population.
The warbot is armoured to battle dress standards with 260 hit points. Its size and power output render it quite vulnerable to tac missiles, however. Sensors far exceed the capability of human senses; vision is telescopic in all but the lowest levels of lighting, and infrared detectors allow the unit to 'see' heat emissions. Low level audio is fitted, which can pick up heartbeats at several tens of metres in standard atmosphere (greater range in denser atmospheres, less range in thin atmospheres). The droid communicated by a voder/vocoder or a multi-frequency radio with integral anti-jamming circuits, and has a TV camera for transmitting pictures of battlefield conditions back to base. It may carry objects up to 78kg in weight, without loss of performance, or one unencumbered person. Four light and two medium work arms are fitted; two have handlike attachments for field repairs, changing magazines and so on, while the remainder carry an FGMP-15, while two of the light arms carry an auto rifle and auto grenade launcher respectively.
The droid may be ordered to stand watch, in which case it will patrol an area at random intervals and report any intruders or disturbances. It may handle any standard infantry weapon with the two general-purpose arms, and may perform all tasks expected of a modern infantryman, even in zero-gravity.
The guardbot, security droid, or 'biffo' weighs 75kg and is capable of moving at up to 200km/h on its built-in antigrav units. Armoured to cloth standards and having 45 hit points, the biffo has one light work arm which may carry any standard human weapon of up to 8kg in weight (including ammunition); sensors surpass human senses, being able to see in very low levels of light perfectly, and into the near infrared to detect body heat. Its audio pickups are quite capable of tracking persons by their heartbeats up to medium range. Voder/vocoders and a single-frequency radio allow it to communicate with other robots, a central command post, or humans.
The price and abilities of the biffo vary with tech level; at T L12 for Cr105,890, it will patrol a specified area at random intervals and report any unauthorised personnel or accidents such as fires, then await further orders while observing the disturbance.
At TL14, for Cr505,990, the biffo will make random patrols and report any intruders or accidents; unless ordered otherwise, it will then attempt to detain any intruders using the minimum necessary force.
At TL15, for Cr1,006,190, the droid will make random patrols and report intruders or accidents; unless ordered otherwise, it will then attack the intruders (if any) with a view to causing death, or at least grievous bodily harm. It may also fight without penalty in zero-G combat.
Naturally, the ownership of guardbots is strictly controlled, and the least violent possible is always used. Guardbots are capable of handling any normal weapons like a human character, but gain no pluses for dexterity, strength or skill; likewise, they suffer no penalties.
Robots normally function under Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which they must obey. Despite their common usage, I shall restate them:
Alert readers will note these are not the usual forms in which the laws are quoted; but for game purposes, they are more accurate. Robots believe whatever they are told, and obey orders precisely. In this respect the referee's handling of them should resemble handling D&D wishes; if he can legally misinterpret a player's orders to a robot he should do so. This partially compensates for the robots' high skill levels. Robots have no initiative or common sense whatsoever in most circumstances. However, for their own protection, if presented with a logical paradox they will clear their input circuits and behave as if they had not heard it, or alternatively ask for it to be explained to them, depending on circumstances. If given imprecise, impossible, or contradictory orders they will point out the situation politely and ask for the orders to be restated until they can be carried out.
Robots never lie, but nor will they volunteer information which is not specifically requested of them. Security droids or warbots are often not programmed with the first law so that they may carry out their duties; these will not answer questions which they have been instructed are secret unless given the correct passwords and identification, nor will they obey orders from unauthorised personnel. Other robots will obey orders from anyone and answer any question as truthfully as possible.
In combat, any natural roll of 12 to hit will hit the robot's brain and disable it completely, provided the modified roll would have hit and penetrated armour anyway. A robot so disabled is junk. Damage reduces a machine's ability to function; exactly how is up to the referee if he hasn't got the relevant article from the Journal.
Robots not specified as capable of functioning in zero-gravity cannot be used in the icy vacuum of space, where lubrication is a problem and some of their metallic components may become brittle. Robots are affected by explosive decompression as are human beings; those armoured to battle dress standards can be exposed to space without ill effect.
As a final note, so far as robots are concerned (except biffos or warbots) all intelligent beings have an equal right to go anywhere or do anything they please, so long as violence is eschewed.
This unit is perhaps too conscientious, for example, it has a penchant for seizing people who are, say, fighting fires and dragging them off so that they will be safe, leaving the fire raging unchecked. The servo is generally not moved by pleas to release its charges until they are safely out of danger, and may decide even then that they don't know what's good for them or have been deranged by shock. Servos also indulge in such activities as stealing cigarettes because they're bad for you, reminding you to dress warmly every time you venture outside, and so on; one particularly annoying habit they have is to follow people around since they never know when they might be needed, often getting in the way at critical moments.
The robodoc shares some of the medical rescue servo's faults, though it is more intelligent and immobile and therefore more bearable. It thus tends to restrict itself to pompous lectures about the necessity of a balanced diet and regular exercise, and upon occasion will ask a character if he would like his appearance improved by plastic surgery while he is under the anaesthetic. If connected to medical rescue servos, it will also try to help wounded in battles impartially, and may ignore a player for an enemy who is more drastically wounded if left to its own devices. In times when its facilities are overloaded, the robodoc will divide injured into three categories; those who will live regardless of treatment, those who will die regardless of treatment, and those who will only survive if treated. It then treats only those in the third category.
At higher Tech Levels, these become increasingly contemptuous of human crew members who do not match up to their own high standards. The gunnery versions are not prone to this, but are very enthusiastic and will continuously interrupt with pleas to be allowed to shoot something, estimates of the ship or vehicle's chance of destroying anything in sight, and so on.
The main problem with these droids is their humility and attempts to ingratiate themselves, especially at higher Tech Levels. The Tech 15 android in particular is always finding a way to fetch attempting sweetmeat (which naturally brings it into conflict with robodocs), polish boots (often at the most inconvenient moment), embroider floral patterns on combat fatigues, and generally be so helpful that it is acutely annoying. It is much given to heaping praise upon its masters and being servile and apologetic without real cause. On the plus side, it will leap into the path of an incoming missile even faster than the other droids - but will then make lengthy dying speeches about how grateful it is that the termination of its own worthless existence has saved the life of a Master.
Note that only the Tech 15 biffo is capable of actually injuring someone in the course of duty; the others will threaten occasionally, but if it comes to the crunch they will shy away from actually harming anyone. Since the types are externally similar, it is difficult to tell which sort you are facing, and they will take advantage of this. If faced with a more squeamish biffo, it could be diverted by for example threatening to shoot yourself unless it went away.
The second fault is not apparent until captured by a biffo; it will then spout unending saccharine morality, platitudes about the immoral nature of a life of crime, and the inevitable bad end awaiting all who stray from the straight and narrow.
I would like to thank Graham Liddiard and John Dongray for their help and ideas concerning robots of all kinds.