Thursday, December 2, 2021

Robots as Spaceships: Paver-Guard Battlesuits

On the rim of civilized space, there are monsters. Alien beasts of every description imaginable. Some are hostile and irritable. Some are fearless and stealthy predators. Some are driven by strange hive-mind bent on destroying human habitation. Don't rely on exterminators to keep you safe. They will avenge you, but if you want to stay safe, you'll need Armor. Armor like PaverGaurd. 

I've talked about creating power suits and walkers in earlier posts, but I really only made one. Here I present a spectrum of TL 10 battlesuits of all sizes.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Robots as Spaceships: Battlesuits Revisited

Earlier, I wrote a simple method for making custom sized powered armor in Gurps:

After you build the armor with the right DR, add 50% more weight to the armor, and you have a suit of powered armor. Look up the strength based on its weight here

Basing the cost of the system on the additional weight is fine for most of the armors given in those pyramid articles. The "true" cost is $70 per pound of added weight with no leg or arm cost reductions.

The problem is... this system doesn't scale properly. Armor up to about 150 lbs worked out right, but once that was passed, the battlesuits got better and better for their weight class, and posted incredible DR's, like a half ton suit of armor giving almost 450 DR at TL10!

I noticed that this weight of 150 lbs was the point at which the weight of the armor began to be larger than the weight of the wearer, and calculated a new formula for battlesuits weighing 150 lbs or more (which to be fair, is most of them). 

DR = Weight^(1/3) x 3.5 x TL DR Factor

The TL DR Factor is 3 DR at TL 9, 5 DR at TL 10, and 7 DR at TL 11*. Cost per pound of the armor is $1 times its base cost. 

*This is the same number as for 7.5 lbs of armor talked about in the article being updated.

With this new system, the battlesuits outperform the walkers in terms of DR until about the 1.5 ton mark... which is perhaps a bit higher than we wanted, but isn't a bad number.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: Tribal Lands Map

Here is the map of the overgrown secrets setting:

  • Each color of Green is its own Tribe.
  • Each shape is the territory of a single clan
  • Each circle is a village. Its name is in white text. The names are rather literal: frog bend is known for having a lot of frogs.
  • Each Square is a ruin
  • Tribes with Red borders and villages colored grey are controlled by shapeshifters
  • There are ruins and villages you can't see away from the river
  • The "Central" Clan in the campaign was the one touching both Frog Bend and Four Rocks

This is my GM map, with the extra villages and ruins marked

  • Yellow Squares are ruins with Pyramid Provosts
  • Red Squares each have a single Crypt Spirit
  • Grey Squares are just empty ruins
  • The white text marks the five crypt spirits that work together, labeled by their personality. "Relic Tomb" marks the tomb of the crypt spirit who taught the other four how to become crypt spirits.

this is pretty much for people who want the run the adventure, which is coming soon, or people wanting a bit more insight on how the clans, tribes, villages, and ruins were set up. The map was consulted fairly often by the players, and I think it really helped run the adventure.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: Magic

I've mentioned the magic system from Overgrown Secrets before. This is what I gave my players:

Everyday practical magic is tied to magical artifacts made of precious metals and inscribed with the inscrutable designs of the ancients. The artifact usually takes the form of a ring, bracelet, necklace, or other piece of jewelry fitting around the body. Only one item can be used at a time.

Effects consist of motion, light, body, or mind. Each item produces an effect worth from [1] to [10] points. It is not known how to reproduce many effects, but a few, such as the soul protection circuit and the simple light ring, can be produced by modern smiths. Those that aren’t must be bought as signature gear. The cost of the item is $100 per point. Some complex effects require a magic operation skill to use.

Here are some examples of magic items:

  • Soul Protection Circuit: $350, Worn around the neck: gives +3 to will saves against mental attacks and attempts to consume one’s soul. Can be manufactured. 
  • Candle Ring: $60, provides the light of a single candle. Can be manufactured
  • Motion Bracers: $1000, provide [10] points of Telekinesis. Requires Magical Operation (Telekinesis)
  • Running Ring: $500, provides +1 move
  • Weapons Circuit: $500, provides +1 striking ST.
  • Necklace of Disguise: $1000, allows changing how you look. Changing is only a few seconds, but matching a look requires at least a minute to get right. Requires Magical Operation (Illusion) and Disguise.

Skills for Magic: 

The ability to work with the metals is the jeweler skill. 

Knowing how to construct or analyze the constructions is Hidden Lore (Metalcraft)

Individual items may require the Magical Operation Skill. Generally this is only needed to perform complex tasks.

Fine Workings of Magic:

The Magic items are made out of 10 strands of bronze, sliver, or gold, connected in a complex pattern. They must be looped around the user's body. Bronze is connected to mind effects, silver to motion and light effects, and gold to body effects.  

Effects that can be reproduced by local smiths are 30% to 40% cheaper than the expected price of $100 per character point.

The non-reproducible magic the crypt spirits and pyramid provosts have access to is essentially a tool to observe the flows of the effect. At the GM's option, they might also have powers worth more than 10 points, but that feed off of the soul of the user, which will effect the user's mind. I didn't have to work that out in the campaign.

Magic in the Campaign:

My players almost universally chose to wear the soul protection circuits and to forgo other magic items. This is because it served as armor against both the default foe of shapeshifters and was even more effective against the crypt spirits. 

The Crypt spirits had access to the ability to make some of the currently non-reproduceable magic items, though they didn't have access to any at first. This could have been an incentive to the Players, and some of their NPC allies were anxious to get it, but the players weren't that tempted by the secrets, finding that as they needed their amulets, the rest of the magic was less interesting. 

The magic system was created as an afterthought to the campaign: I wanted magical monsters but heroes with limited access to magic. I think it filled its role very well. The players with Lore (metalcraft) were constantly rolling against it analyzing what their enemies were doing, but they mostly just used the amulets to prevent the monsters from killing them with a single will roll. 

The cost of the items is quite cheap. I have a few more thoughts about that here.

I liked this magic system, and I may use it again. I hope you find it useful!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: The Forest People

Map of Overgrown Secrets
By default, the heroes of Overgrown Secrets are from the forest people. The forest people live in the depths of the jungle, where the shapeshifters cannot follow except at an extreme disadvantage. In the jungle, they hunt, they sleep, they craft, and they hide. The Forest people can make some goods, but they prefer to trade animal products like skins, feathers, sinew, and fresh meat to nearby villages for their clothing, tools, and weapons.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: The Pyramid Provosts

 The last "Monster Type" in Overgrown Secrets is perhaps the most abstract: the Provosts. These were magically created beings powered by a large magic device in the center of cities (ruins, in the case of overgrown ruins). The Provosts had Illusions, Clairvoyance, and Telekinesis, but these powers were confined to the area immediately around their device.  Provosts were dedicated to upholding the interests of a kingdom that died out a long time ago. The result looked a lot like a science fiction AI, complete with holograms and wonky programming directives. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: The Anhui

Surrounded by monsters that thrive on human souls, the forest tribes of Overgrown Secrets have a secret weapon: the Anhui. Anhui are six-limbed monsters of green chitin and bone. Their parasitic larva  transform its host into a powerful warrior for a short time before killing them. The forest tribes intentionally raise and keep these monsters to produce powerful warriors in times of distress, known as "Bearers". Each tribe has a "Keeper" that tends to its dormant and caged Anhui until they are needed.

Anhui didn't actually see much screen time in Overgrown Secrets, but they easily could have, and they had a strong effect on the setting.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: Shape Shifter

Known by the ever-descriptive title of "Shapeshifters", the shapeshifters filled the role of the "Devil We Know" in overgrown secrets, providing a stable but hostile community nearby that gave the PC's purpose to exist in the first place. So what is this new monster, and what role did they play in the setting?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Overgrown Secrets: Crypt Spirits

My most recently GURPS game, "Overgrown Secrets", revolved around a single monster type: the crypt spirit. Mysterious Glowing undead with a voracious appetite for souls. We had fun short game, and I'm sharing this monster now so you can use it. I'm hoping to share more "Overgrown Secrets" material so you run the game with minimal preparation. But the core of the game was the crypt spirits, and I'm sharing them first.

Crypt spirits are humans who have preserved their soul using a magical metal apparatus whose secrets have been lost to time. They can survive indefinitely in this apparatus, but can do very little while inside. In order to act they must take over someone else's body and burn their host's soul as fuel. While possessing that body, they have great power, but they will need to consume a new body and soul within 40 days. Thus they are driven by their constant need for hosts to be anything more than a powerless consciousness in a crypt.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Rank for Free

In my recent games, I've started to give out rank, and occasionally status and social regard for free. There are a few caveats to watch for, but in general, it has worked out very well. 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Estimating Animal Template Costs

Having made the Generic Beast Template, I wondered how useful it would be for quickly estimating animal costs, especially for advantages like morph and allies.

When estimating, we'll be looking at the ballpark cost, simply picking the appropriate lenses, the correct strength, and possibly adding one or two extras for animals with really unique traits. Ideally, our estimate will be just a few points over the actual cost.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Robots as Spaceships: Walkers and Power Armor

So what is the difference between a combat walker and power armor? They seem to be a simple continuum starting with simple armor that strengthens the user and ending with giant mecha. Its not that simple though, and the more I've worked on making power armor and walkers work in Robots as Spaceships, the more distinct the two things become.

  • Power armor is worn, Walkers are piloted. 
  •  Power Armor only needs to bear its own weight and not get in its bearer's way. Walkers need to bear the weight of the pilot.
  • Power Armor must have its knees, elbows, shoulders, and hips in the same location as its wearer. Walkers can have these locations in the same places, but often do not.

Of course, art breaking that last rule is not exactly uncommon, but we can call that cinematic, and judge if it is a walker or power armor on a case by case basis.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Generic Beast Template

Sometimes in Gurps, the point value of an animal matters. The most common culprits are allies and alternate forms, but other situations may need point estimations as well. Estimating animal template costs can be hard, especially on the fly. So here we present the generic beast template, for help mostly in estimating animal costs.

This template isn't meant to represent any individual animal. Instead, its meant to represent a starting point from which to estimate and calculate other animal costs. We are focusing on costs here. Ideally, you should already have a stat block in mind. Gurps Campaigns has some, and Gurps Animalia has more. (Gurps Animalia is an top notch resource, and there is more Gurps stuff on that site). If we don't have an existing stat block, we can still use this template as a decent base, but it will take a bit more work.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mounted Combat: Taking a Step

A while back I ran an old west sample combat that involved a lot of horses, and a lot of shooting from horseback while moving. One rule we noticed is that "If you are controlling a vehicle or riding a mount, take a move maneuver to spend the turn actively controlling it". But what if you aren't actively controlling your mount? what happens then? A trained warhorse has a lot more initiative than a motorcycle, and is both able and willing to make its own decisions. And they don't exactly stop moving just because their rider is no longer spending all of their energy moving them forward. We ended up allowing players to use their "Steps" to send subtle adjustments to their mounts.  Here is our system:

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Robots as Spaceships: Winches

The whole robots as spaceships line was started by my first attempt at cyberpunk, which learned very much on "cyber" and didn't do much with the "punk". The game had a heavy focus on machine combat in very urban environments. When I was designing different robots, I had this image come to mind of a robot firing a gun through a skyscraper window while suspended from a cable.

The cable and grappling hook are somewhat cinematic, with the most famous user of them being Batman, but robots that go up and down sky-scrapers exist today, primarily to wash windows. They typically are hung on the skyscrapers by some other means and then start moving around. 

This is a spaceship system to do that...

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Metatronic Generators In Low Tech Settings

Historically, I've always looked at Metatronic generators funny. They provide a direct translation from points to cash, and that often gives funny numbers. The base version also has this weird assumption that you will be using electricity baked into it, and they're generally based off of Psychotronics, which are intentionally an area of weirdness. 

 I just realized that I'm using them for a TL1 fantasy game.

Not intentionally, but the more I look at the "Magic System" the players have access to, the more I'm convinced that it can be usefully expressed in terms of Metatronic generators. So what's the system, and what settings do I use to make Metatronic generators useful at TL1?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Robot Brains: The Skill Budget Model

In Gurps, perhaps the simplest way to give AI's skills to give them skills for being functioning minds. Which is to say, just like any other character. The skills are an intrinsic part of who they are. They can learn new skills the same way any other mind does, by studying, practicing, and through hands on experience. They can no more download a new skill than a human can purchase one in the form of a book. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Robot Brains: Skills as Software

In our last post, we talked about limiting the ability of AI's to buy skills. Now that we've done that, we still need to know how much those skills will cost. There are two basic approaches: Buying skill levels, and buying skill points.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Robot Brains: The Limits of Purchased Skills

Artificial intelligence links two mostly unrelated parts of Gurps: Character points and Wealth. While skills can often justify wealth, and fancy tools can give a few mild bonuses or cancel enormous penalties, Artificial Intelligence almost demands that we stick a price tag on specific skill levels.  Without additional limits purchasing skill with money can warp a game very quickly. 
Fortunately, in most settings, such additional limits exist. Software doesn't just pop into being out of nowhere, and not all software works for all hardware or all operating systems, and installation of new software isn't instant and painless. 
Placing these sorts of limitations has a few welcome effects. They reduce the power of wealth and set a social baseline for what the players can expect. If most robots can only get riffle-14, but such robots are cheap, Players know what to prepare for, and establish their skill of 13 as workable but nothing special. These limits also make space for the exceptional. When the PC's run across a robot with riffle-16 instead of riffle-14, they will take note and at least wonder why this robot is special. It will let them know why they are considered elite, and what they need to accomplish to become elite in something else.