Saturday, May 9, 2020

Robots as Spaceships: Common Chassis

In spaceships, the certain basic builds come up again and again. This is especially true of robots as spaceships. A lot of robots will want to use the minimal wheeled system, and basic humanoid robots will show up again and again. In this article, we will name these combinations, and list their statistics, so we don't have to specify "1 wheeled drivetrain, 1 power cell, 3 miniaturized armor systems, and a control system" every time we want to talk about the minimum wheeled robot. We'll just say "The wheel bot", and possibly link to this article.

Most of these robot will consist of a control room, 3 miniature light alloy armor systems, and a number of power and drive systems. The power plants used will be "Fuel Cells", also known as "batteries" when not over-engineered for NASA. We'll be talking about Chassis and Base Costs a lot. "Chassis" means the part of the robot built using the spaceships system, as explored in this article. Base Costs were introduced in this article. Base costs are a way to do all the converting in the spaceships table once rather than once for each system. The summary of base costs is to build an SM+10 ship, divide the cost by 1 Million $, and multiply the cost by the number for the size of spaceship you want.

this article has the possibility of changing as more common chassis are added.

Table of Bots

Chassismotive typestandard movedownshifted
Load remainingCost FactorSystems
Wheel botwheeled2/282880%31/35* 1 wheel, 1 power
Road botwheeled6/404070%41/45*1 wheel, 3 power
Turbo botwheeled12/505050%57/65*2 wheel, 6 power
Rovertracked1/101080%451 track, 1 power
Track bottracked3/303070%551 track, 3 power
Tank bottracked6/555550%852 track, 6 power
simple copterquadcopter5/5-85%151 quad-rotor, 1 power ***
power-copterquadcopter7/10-75%252 quad-rotor, 2 power ***
Helicopterhelicopter25/10015/6080%501 rotor, 1 power
Boat-botscrew.5/15**-80%321 screw, 1 power
Speed Boatscrew2/30**-60%492 screw, 4 power
Dive-botwater.5/8**-75%361 screw, 1 ballast tank, 1 power
Speed Diverwater2/13**-55%532 screws, 1 ballast tank, 4 power
Fish-Botflexibody2/8-60%1293 flexibody, 2 power, 1 ballast

* standard cost/ normalized cost
** For a streamlined SM+4 craft. See pyramid 3/34 page 6 or Robots as Spaceships: Swimmers for the speed of the size you are interested in.
*** Quadcopters don't come with built-in control systems, they are often flown remotely from the ground, or have cameras as their primary payload.
Table of legged robots at bottom of article

Wheels and Tracks

A very common set of transport mechanisms, most realistic terrestrial robots will use these. 


The simplest possible motive system: one power cell, and one wheeled drivetrain. Wheel bots are normally made to run on roads, sidewalks, and other dedicated road and walkways, though off-road versions exist. Modern versions might be comparable to an electric wheelchair, forklift, or roomba. If a robot spends most of its time indoors, its often a wheel bot. Even with their minimal expenditure, wheelbots can reach fairly high speeds if responsive movement is not applied. They also slow down quite a bit if designed for off-road use (by 5).


While Wheel bots move fast enough to make bystanders nervous, they can't keep up with automobiles on modern roads. Robots with the speed of a cars are Roadbots. They are still using a single drive train, but have three times the power input. Roadbots can imitate motorcycles and go-carts as well as cars, and off-road versions function as ATV's or Tractors. Roadbots have plenty of cargo space to carry a payload or an arm to perform tasks with. You can easily include a bed for cargo, or mount an arm.


To matching a sports car, you need a Turbo Bot. These chassis's have powerful drives letting them cruise through the modern world. While roadbots tend towards practical directions, Turbobots generally care about speed, and they excel at it. Turbobots that go off-road probably need extra armor to handle tumbles, though they may be more structural like a dunebuggy's roll bars.

Track Crawlers

Track Crawler chassi uses a minimal track system to keep moving in all terrain. Track crawlers can move faster than people, but only once they get up to speed, and that should only apply in good terrain! While sluggish, track crawlers can overcome a variety of obstacles. Such track systems are not often seen in the modern world: most tracked systems use a bit more power. They are fairly likely to be seen indoors, and to have responsive movement applied to them.


The Trackbot uses a serious tracked drive train to move in very rough terrain. It takes quite an obstacle to stop a trackbot. Tanks are the most famous vehicle to move this way, though modern ones tend to be a bit faster than a trackbot. Construction equipment often runs on tracks, and occasionally tractors do to. And while snow-mobiles are often built for speed, a lot of them should be considered trackbots. A lot of military equipment that isn't a tank also uses tracks. Much like the roadbot, the trackbot has a load of excess weight for arms, passengers, and cargo. Construction equipment is usually built with the rules for arms.


The fastest tracked chassis presented here is the Turbotrack. These vehicles are high performance, even over rough terrain. Protective gear, either in the form of increased armor or a helmet and full clothing, is advised. Modern turbotracks are probably limited to snowmobiles and the fastest of tracked military vehicles.


Helicopter blades are a cool way to get around, and hover bot and helicopter chassis's employ this method of movement. quadcopters are a way to make something fly even today, and are the most popular type of commercial drone.


Represented in toys and in aerial photography products that care more about capacity than speed, the simple-copter is a remarkably accessible chassis for the average consumer, even in modern times. It doesn't move fast, and it doesn't need to.


For when speed does matter, power-copters tend to range farther simple copters, and often focus more on carrying a load or stealthy surveillance than simple-copters.


Helicopters are expensive fliers, but they are also among the most flexible, and have seen use under their iconic name in emergencies, in war, and in the name of luxury. They are a staple of action movies, and the current go-to vehicle for convenient flight.


A large portion of the earth's surface is covered with water, and while we don't live on most of that, we do try to live near it. Boats are essential for dealing with the water, and unmanned craft can reach some of the most inaccessible places on earth.


A simple boat designed to travel around a body of water. Its not fast, but it is powered, and it can get where it needs to go. This is likely to be some sort of work boat, and probably not one designed for the open ocean. But its good enough for a lot of uses.


A boat is a boat, regardless of what's on it. And when the boat is designed to go fast, this is extra true. Some robots just have jobs that make them into boats. Fast boats. Boat Bots are powerful machines that rule the waves, though their nature depends a lot on their size: jet-skis feel different than cruisers because of the way they interact with the water.


Robots are not constrained by oxygen requirements the same way humans are, and this opens up a vast array of environments to them. Including under the water. The standard dive-bot, with a single system worth of armor, is limited in its dive depth. Most bots with our minimum armor can only dive about 16 yards down before its in danger of being crushed. That's if they rely on keeping air inside though, and they don't have to. Being a robot can be very convenient! These chassis are ideal for underwater workers, scientific divers, and scuba sleds.

Speed Diver

There is diving, and there is long distance diving. Speed divers are built to cross distances quickly, and are more typical of vehicles designed for transportation than of work bots.


Some Robots are capable of mimicking nature in a way that modern vehicles do not. Fish bots swim through the water in the same way as an animal, though not necessarily a fish. Fish bots are able to more both on the ground and in the water, and can be designed to not only look like an animal, but to move like one. Fish bots can move through muddy, shallow, and vegetation clogged waters in a way a screw-powered chassis cannot, and can handle moving between rough land terrain and water quite well. Fish-bots have their water move and ground move swapped from the normal flexibody speed distribution.


Walking is the iconic way for robots to get around. Mecha are a staple in fiction, and android robots are perhaps the most common kind. Beyond Humanoid forms, four-legged or more-models are also possible. This is rather complex, as we've added a few switches, and so legged robots get their own table.

We're really managing three things here: the number of systems, the speed setting of the systems, and the cost of the systems. While evocative names for all of the systems are possible, like "shuffle-bot", It will be clearer to give descriptive names based on the way the chassis was built and its performance

ChassisMove Settingspeedstandard cost factorcheap legs cost factorcinematically cheap legs cost factorLoad RemainingSystems
DD-1double downshifted1125453080%1 Leg, 1 Power
DD-3double downshifted3225653575%2 Leg, 1 Power
DD-5double downshifted5325854070%3 Leg, 1 Power
DD-10double downshifted104251054565%4 Leg, 1 Power
Dw-3 downshifted3125453080%1 Leg, 1 Power
Dw-5 downshifted5225653575%2 Leg, 1 Power
Dw-10 downshifted10325854070%3 Leg, 1 Power
SL-5Standard5125453080%1 Leg, 1 Power
SL-10Standard10225653575%2 Leg, 1 Power
SL-15Standard10/15325854070%3 Leg, 1 Power
This may come off as rather bland, but I found that being clear was more helpful than being description. The first two letters refer to the speed setting of the chassis's legs, and the number refers to its speed. DD stands for Double Downshifted, Dw stands for Downshifted, and SL for Standard Legs. 

Its worth noting that the number of systems will not be the number of legs for our robots. We can use any number of legs, and use the handling and stability scores defined here.

In the Campaign

There we have them: the common chassis. We can scale them up or down as we wish, add arms, place on more armor, and load them up with weapons. Most chassis we want will be on this list, and I expect to link to this article a lot. I hope you find it as useful as I will!

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