Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Robots as Spaceships: Chassis and Cargo

Chassis by Pause08 from the Noun Project
Chassis. It rhymes with "Grassy". Blame the French.
In a previous post, we decided that rather than making up a bunch of new weapons for our robots to use, we would use the excellent and well play-tested gear lists in high tech to outfit our gunbot and other robots. This seems to be a simple idea, but it requires using both the spaceships systems and the traditional gear system. In fact, we've already done this, when we added the "Custom System" providing the AI to the robot.

We are going to systematize this, and get comfortable with swapping back and forth between the two paradigms.

Its all about the Weight

Spaceships is all about the weight of a system. This is never explicitly stated, but all its maneuvering, pricing, and optional rules use weight as the defining feature of a space-craft's size. This gives us a currency to work with. If you have extra weight on your robot, you can add on more items.

Building the Chassis

When building a robot using the spaceship's system,we purchase only a control room, motive and power systems, and arms (of the manipulative type, not weapons) and armor. We will want to do some complex things with arms, but for now, we'll just note that an arm configuration should be purchased using spaceships .This combination of systems is known as a robot's chassis .The Chassis represents  the things that make a vehicle a vehicle. Its also what you need to determine the shape and most of the physical stats of a robot.  using our relative cost system we can easily scale a chassis up and down.

Once the Chassis is built, the stats for the vehicle can be determined. Determine vehicle stats: ST, HP, DR, move, top speed, handling, and acceleration.  Character stats, such as  IQ, DX, and perception, are determined by the pilot, be that an AI or cigar-chomping driver.

Weapon Mounts

We don't plan to use the spaceships weapons system to build these robots, but it hardly feels fair to let them add a weapon for no additional cost especially if it can be aimed without aiming the whole vehicle. We'll make a"quasi-system named "Weapon Mount" that weighs 20% of a normal system, and costs 20% what a robot arm for the same size robot would cost (relative cost 20). It allows a robot to aim, fire, and load one weapon of the appropriate size. It does not allow any other kind of manipulation, and changing the weapon requires a mechanic. A robot with arms may use a weapon normally (if designed to do so). A robot without arms or weapons mounts may have weapons incorporated into their body. Such weapons are generally much harder to install, and aiming them requires aiming the entire vehicle.


After building a chassis, we have a number of systems left. This is known as "Cargo". To find out how much cargo you have, multiply the number of empty systems by the (robots weight)/20. You may then hook up as much gear to the robot as you have Cargo for.

Most equipment only needs the chassis to have a control room system to be incorporated into the vehicle. The control room includes sensors feeds, computer ports, and the general engineering that turns a collection of parts into a system. The major exceptions to this is gear that requires extensive movement.  A tool or a weapon requires an arm or weapon mount to be used. Arms are capable of fine movement, while weapon mounts really only point the gear in the proper direction.

We already built the brain, using Ultratech book. We're not going treat it as a system anymore, but as cargo. At TL10 a complexity 7 computer weighs 5 lbs. We don't have to buy that computer either: we can get a much larger one for more power, or use a smaller one and drive our drone remotely.


Passengers are a special kind of cargo. At the sizes we'll be using, every pound will count. Passengers will be included as part of the robot weight. A universal walker should have at least 250 lbs be set aside for a passenger and his possessions, and 300 or more is ideal. A seat or padded interior should be provided. A basic padded interior likely weights about 20 lbs, though versions that trade additional weight for comfort or economy are possible. The lightest seats are simple stools made with advanced materials weighing 2 lbs or less, much like a bicycle seat,  and true comfort is likely to weigh between 40 and 80 lbs, in an expansive captain's seat.

A simple stool can cost as low as $10, though when pushing for the absolute lightest options price goes up again. Heavy seating will likely cost $200 to $500 per seat. Fancier seats that reach for that last ounce of comfort or display your impeccable taste will cost much more, of course. A padded chamber is also likely to cost $200 or more.

In Summary

So first we build the chassis using Spaceships: we purchase a control room, power system, modes of movement, armor, and limbs. Then we add weapons, gear and passengers, making sure that we stay under the weight limit for the vehicle. This gives us a very flexible system for building robots, and we will return to this again and again to solve problems that we find.

Lets build some robots!

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