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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 103 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: TSoY Steampunk thoughts  (Read 7390 times)
Doyce
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« on: January 26, 2007, 07:09:32 AM »

Hi all; quick question before I run off to the airport.

I've started up a tsoy steampunk game set in a sort of Italian city state in roughly the era of musketeers and private duels.  Details here: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/HomePage

Specifically, I'd draw your attention to the
Abilities: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/AbilityList
Secrets: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/KeysList
Keys: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/SecretsList

That we've added for the game, especially the Secret of the Automaton: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/SecretsList#Automaton

I'd welcome your thoughts and input on any aspects of this -- some of it comes from an older thread on Steampunk TSoY, but I tossed out the bits I thought didn't add anything or were redundant, and wanted to add a bit more Girl Genuis-level invention to it... though not full-on at that power level.

Right... that's feedback, here's my question.

One of my new players writes:
"May I play an animatron of some kind?"

And I love this idea... the basic automaton's aren't sentient, or even close -- they follow basic instructions well, and some can get pretty complicated, but they don't *think*.  I love the idea of there being some amazing, near-legendary/mythic rumors of automatons that are so complex and refined that they're practically alive... and then have someone playing one. Smiley

My challenge: how would I reflect that in the game?  I looked to the rules for the summoned spirits in the Qek section, but didn't love that it initially depended on another character's skill check (though I like the idea that a poor repair later in the game might limit the player's functionality, as a plot point, that is) -- so I guess I'm looking for you genius people to propose some Secrets or Keys that might work as the starting requisite for playing an animatron as a PC.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
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Steve Segedy
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2007, 11:06:43 AM »

Hey Doyce,

This sounds like a fun game to run.  I'd say that playing an intelligent automaton shouldn't be very different than playing any other character- he should have wants and needs and limitations that drive play.  A classic pinocchio-like storyline would be that the automaton wants to be as "human" as possible ("Key of the Real Boy");  Alternately, the player could run with the "Kill all Humans" line and play an automaton who sees itself as the first example of an evolutionary change.  Perhaps the automaton is special because it's creator imbued it with aspects of a real person (memories, a soul, etc.) that gives it drive and character.  There are lots of examples of these kinds of robot character motivations, but you get the idea.

For rules purposes, I'd be tempted to construct the character by defining a "culture" with a required secret (like many of the cultural secrets from the book) such as "Secret of the Automata".  This might give some basic advantages ("-1 Harm from physical attacks", "doesn't sleep", whatever) but mostly it acts as an entry point for other specialty secrets and keys that you create.  Perhaps he has a secret of refreshing pools differently (getting a tune up), or a kind of Secret of Imbuement that lets the player define his body as armor and weapons.

I've been toying with these ideas a bit for a vampire hunting game- how do you construct a vampire?  I started with a "Secret of the Vampire" gateway, which defines some basic characteristics- they can only be killed by conflict stakes (hah) that involve sunlight, wood, etc.  In addition, I added the requirement that to take on this secret, one or more existing keys had to be bought off (essentially, all "buy off" conditions became getting bitten by a vampire).  The points gained from this could be used for new vampire-like secrets ("addiction to blood") and keys, as well as larger pools.
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Doyce
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2007, 04:13:56 PM »

Hi Steve,

A classic pinocchio-like storyline would be that the automaton wants to be as "human" as possible ("Key of the Real Boy");  Alternately, the player could run with the "Kill all Humans" line and play an automaton who sees itself as the first example of an evolutionary change.  Perhaps the automaton is special because it's creator imbued it with aspects of a real person (memories, a soul, etc.) that gives it drive and character.  There are lots of examples of these kinds of robot character motivations, but you get the idea.
I like these ideas a lot -- they make for great Keys for a character like the one we're talking about.

Quote
For rules purposes, I'd be tempted to construct the character by defining a "culture" with a required secret (like many of the cultural secrets from the book) such as "Secret of the Automata".  This might give some basic advantages ("-1 Harm from physical attacks", "doesn't sleep", whatever) but mostly it acts as an entry point for other specialty secrets and keys that you create.  Perhaps he has a secret of refreshing pools differently (getting a tune up), or a kind of Secret of Imbuement that lets the player define his body as armor and weapons.

That exactly what I was thinking -- the hang up there is that I'm a bit stumped on the specifics of what those secrets would look like -- I'm hoping for some of the genius input that we're seeing in the Shadowrun of Yesterday thread, with regard to playing an automata.

Obviously, what I need to nail down is what is involved in that "Secret of the Animatron" that would be the "racial" required starting secret, and what kind of additional secrets would cascade out from there.  I like the combatty ones, but knowing the player, she's going to be heading for something more like the Nine Van Rijn Muses from Girl Genius, so more subtle stuff is going to be necessary. Smiley
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2007, 07:52:17 PM »

Hmm... as my own work isn't progressing, I might as well proof-check this material...

Secret of the Sharpshooter: should have mention of how it stacks with equipment bonuses; when I've done this kind of stuff, I've added a standard disclaimer: "The maximum harm bonus with equipment included is +3."

Secret of Heart's Betrayal: should not prescribe the opposing Ability. Phrase like "A successful Discern Truth check allows..." is sufficient, because all checks can be implicitly made resisted or unresisted, depending on whether the opposition can or wants to resist. If you want to, you can name Abilities that can't be used to resist: "This check cannot be resisted with passive Abilities", for example. Also: the actual effect of enforcing Key buying is rather heavy-handed, considering how cheap and unassuming the Secret is.

Secret of the Black Bag: interesting idea. Could rephrase in generic terms while you're at it. Add phrase: "If the item is permanently lost, regain the Advance."

Secret of Skepticism: the forced Resistance roll seems a tad heavy. Could simply do this: "If the character does not Resist the effect, its originator rolls a penalty die instead." This way it's still harder to affect the willing target without it being insanely difficult.

Abilities: some of these seem a bit wide. Guard and Infantry apparently both provide full martial prowess - this'd be too much for Near, but might work for a less martially focused setting.

Key of the Hippocratic Oath: the conditions are negative, leaving a player hanging while waiting for the adventure to end. Better to make them active, so he can score repeatedly:

Key of the Hippocratic Oath
1xp: each time the character forgoes violence as a solution.
2xp: when the character puts value at risk by forgoing the violent solution.
5xp: when the character refuses violence at great cost to himself.
Buyoff: Purposefully harm another sentient creature.

Key of Rationality: this'd be better as a motivation Key, and perhaps more clearly thought out:

Key of Rationality
1xp: Make the rational choice or insist that another do so.
3xp: Choose the rational course of action over feelings.
Buyoff: Give reign to your feelings.

Anyways, that's what caught my eye. Next, some animatron ideas:

Heavy Metal, Iron Maidens

Fuel pool
An "animatron" (a mechanical character) has a Fuel pool, which represents the energy reserves of the machine. Low Fuel signifies a small machine, or one with inefficient wood-burning systems with few or no batteries. High Fuel signifies more energy-efficient workings, larger furnaces, electricity and significant batteries, allowing longer ranges and utility. Fuel is reneved by maintenance done by another character, with the animatron partially shut down and helpless. (The animatron may advice the maintainer on what to do, should he be ignorant.) A Fuel pool is, like usual, required for a character to be able to learn Abilities associated with it. Fuel is improved like other Pools, including incrementally rising improvement costs.

Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man
This character only has one Pool, Fuel. A player character starts at Fuel 3, but has five additional Advances to use on Fuel or other things in addition to normal free Advances. Note that the character cannot learn Abilities based on Vigor, Instinct or Reason. This character cannot learn Keys or Abilities due to his mechanical nature (except at character creation, representing things he was built with). The character cannot learn any Keys that are not Protocols or Functions. The character is not considered a character for purposes of human pool refilling. This Secret is mandatory for any Animatrons.

Abilities

Adaptation (Fuel)
The ability to change the mechanical body, and to therefore learn Abilities, subvert other mechanical constructs, live in a strangely formed body and such. Ultimately, the ability to sustain sentience in a machine. The animatron can assign Advances to Abilities only with a successful check, and only up to the success level at once. The speed of the process in a steampunk setting is nothing like you'd get in a scifi environment - we're talking days and weeks for anything complex, and months for large-scale workings. Adaptation could be used to change/attack another animatron, but only if the character manages to be intimate with the other for hours (such as in Fuel maintenance).

Craftmanship (Fuel)
A passive ability connected to Fuel. How large the automaton is, how high quality his materials, how efficient processor gears are and how strong he is. Craftmanship is is used to resist damage, to move in a purposeful manner, to survive low energy conditions, to resist outside programming and to impress others, for example. Basicly, anything having to do with passively surviving and resisting outside interference.

Martial tools (Fuel)
An ability for violence, including motion detectors, weapons, tactical and strategic databases and most of all, the ability to anticipate actions of organic individuals by comparing with known behavior patterns. This is very limited compared to human abilities, because the animatron has great difficulty against inventive tactics or unknown opponents.

Analytical tools (Fuel)
An ability for computing, including databases, punch card feeders and other necessities. Computing is useful for any mental tasks where the character has to deduct a solution from an existing and available mass of premises. This is very limited compared to human abilities, because no creative thought is involved in any systematic manner.

Craft tools (Fuel)
An ability for crafting with various materials, including high energy tools for shaping the material, as well as structural knowledge. This is very limited compared to human abilities, because no purposeful planning is involved.

Interface tools (Fuel)
An ability for interacting with humans, including human-understandable language, human-like form and some rudimentary psychology. This is very limited compared to human abilities, because any human can do this better.

Secrets

Secret of tool use (human ability, tools ability)
The character can learn to replicate a human ability with one of his tool sets. A human ability is one connected to Vigor, Instinct or Reason. Usually the tool sets are a poor second to functional human abilities (they can only do pretty simple things), but with this Secret the character can use the selected tool set to replace the chosen ability in all ways. The GM makes the call as to which tool sets can replicate which abilities, but in principle any human ability should be possible (inventing new tool abilities if necessary). The same tool can be overloaded with multiple human Abilities, but this increases the cost of using the tool set, which now takes more energy to operate. Requirement: Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man. Cost: 1 Fuel per Ability check for each Secret of tool use using the same tool ability after the first one.

Secret of Adaptation
The character may use the Adaptation Ability to remove tool Abilities or Fuel and to regain Advances. May remove Advances equal to ability check level at once. Requirement: Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man.

Secret of Animatron construction
The character is a skilled craftsman, able to create and change animatrons. The character may assign Advances to Abilities or Secrets for an animatron in his workshop with a successful Craftsman ability check, replacing the Adaptation check otherwise required. (He can do this against the will of the animatron, should his resisted degree of success suffice.) He can also create new animatrons: this works exactly like creating automatons with Secret of the Automaton: the new animatron has a Fuel pool at zero, success x3 Advances and Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man as a bonus. (Note that this is a different from how a starting player character is created.) A character cannot construct himself. Requirement: Secret of the Automaton Cost: 2 Reason.

Secret of the Protocols
The character is a skilled programmer, able to work even with sentient animatrons. A successful Craftsman ability check allows the character to force the target animatron (usually restrained or compliant, depending on available tools) to buy any one Protocol or Function Key, even one previously bought off. If the animatron does not have enough experience, he simply goes to debt. Furthermore, the programmer's ability check level is noted down as the strength of the program - the animatron has to beat this check to act against the Protocol or Function (defined as acting in a manner that does not gain experience available from the Key; penalty dice for ignoring the Key alltogether) each time until and unless it's bought off. The same Protocol or Function can be programmed multiple times, but the Key is only bought if the character does not already have it. A character with conflicting Protocols is paralyzed and unable to act as long as the condition persists. Protocols always override Functions in this regard. The stronger Function (programming check -wise) overrides the weaker Function. Equally strong Functions cancel each other (insofar as forcing character to act is concerned; they still act as Keys). A character can program himself. Requirement: Secret of the Automaton Cost: 2 Reason.

Secret of going from man to machine
The character loses the pool of Vigor, Instinct or Reason. He gains a Fuel pool equal to the lost pool. He loses all abilities associated with the lost pool. If the character takes this Secret a second time, he loses another pool, gets Fuel equal to higher of his Fuel or the lost pool, plus one, and again loses abilities. The character is also considered to have Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man after taking this Secret twice, but does not lose any Keys for it. Requirement: Heavy-duty biotech, obviously, or magic. Also, can't have Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man.

Secret of going from machine to man
The animatron with this Secret gains one pool of Vigor, Instinct or Reason at zero. He is able to learn Abilities related to these like a human, as well as develop and refill the pools in a normal manner. he can refill his "human" pools with both animatrons and humans. The animatron may gain this Secret several times. Requirement: Heavy-duty biotech, obviously, or magic. Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man

Secret of Soul
This character can learn Keys (Protocols, Functions and others) and Abilities normally and cannot be programmed with Secret of the Protocols. The character is considered a character for purposes of human pool fulfillment. Requirement: Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man. All players at the table agree unanonymously that the character does, in fact, have a soul.

Keys

Key of the Asimov Protocols
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character survives a dangerous situation.
2xp: each time the character obeys a human.
5xp: each time the character prevents harm behalling a human being.
Buyoff: Kill a human being.

Key of the Cylon Protocols
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character proves he is better than humans.
2xp: each time the character slays a human.
5xp: each time the character manages to come closer to God.
Buyoff: Kill a human being.

Key of the Frankenstein Protocols
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character tries to connect with humanity.
2xp: each time the character escapes human contact.
5xp: each time the character manages to befriend a person.
Buyoff: Find an animatron mate.

Key of the Fight/Flee Function
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character fights a threat.
3xp: each time the character flees a threat.
Buyoff: Find another solution to a situation.

Key of the Flee/Fight Function
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character flees a threat.
3xp: each time the character fights a threat.
Buyoff: Find another solution to a situation.

Key of the Propagation Function
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character recognizes a propagation opportunity.
3xp: each time the character propagates his Keys, Abilities or Secrets.
Buyoff: Destroy your kin.

Key of the Pleasurebot Function
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character pleases a human.
3xp: each time the character mates with a willing human.
Buyoff: Learn self-respect.

--
Hmm... hey, I apparently ended up recreating Prometheus, that WW game about machines looking to become human. Weird. I kinda like how this version doesn't care about GM-set goalposts in gaining humanity; rather, the onus of proof is on the player wanting to play a machine, he has to prove that the character does, in fact, have a soul. Cool. Also, I'm, like, 100x as edgy as WW ever. Haw haw.
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Doyce
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« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2007, 12:32:24 AM »

Hi Eero,

Thanks a ton for the feedback -- I didn't actually come up with any of those Abilities and Secrets that you had tweaks for, an no one's using any of them yet, so I'll definitely take a long look at them.

I really like what you came up with there for the Animatronic character -- before I use it, however, I need to get with the player and discuss what it is they want to get out of the character -- as you said, you've set up a system that revolves really powerfully around a machine's search to become something that is like a human... sentient, whatever.  It's very cool, and will totally facilitate that, but if that's NOT what she's looking for, I probably won't use (all of) the ideas, simple because it would kind of get in the way of any OTHER kind of story for that character.   That said, the Keys are good no matter what, and I think I can use the Protocol-setting stuff with the Inventor character that one of the players is playing anyway.  Heck, for that matter, the Man-becoming-Machine thing makes for a good story for a bad guy.

Very very interesting.  Definitely not the extreme end of the spectrum -- practically a whole new system.  Very interesting and kind of old-school d6 star wars droid's system -- cool, for that reason and several others.

I'll definitely let you know what we end up doing.
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Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2007, 10:32:32 AM »

Hmm... found a mistake in the Protocols...

Key of the Cylon Protocols
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one.
1xp: each time the character proves he is better than humans.
2xp: each time the character slays a human.
5xp: each time the character manages to come closer to God.
Buyoff: Fall in love with a human.

As for themes, I wouldn't expect too many problems with ignoring the humanity/inhumanity angle. TSOY is like that, it tends towards the permissive in what themes it faciliates. Just like, say, Goblins in Near, these animatrons can be used simply as a colorful chassis for a completely different kind of story. You just need to desist from fucking with the character's programming as the GM, and the matter of free will should never come up.

More generally, for those reading along at home: I've noticed some small tendency for people playing outside Near to expect and faciliate a complete customization of the crunch environment for their characters. In other words, the character is made first, and then crunch is invented to fit the concept. I find this a somewhat debased form of playing TSOY, because it often becomes a one-man's show, or the GM ends up servicing the player's wishes, instead of the crunch being shared equally between all. That's why I generally make the point of having at least some little basic structure on top of which the players make their characters - the basics probably won't be 100% supportive and affirmative of the role the player is thinking for his character, but that's exactly the whole point of playing in a defined setting in the first place.

What I'm trying to say above is that whatever animatron rules you end up with, I recommend not looking to reflect the player's character concept too closely. It's more important to make the animatrons rhyme with the rest of the setting, as it's the players job to fit (or not) into the setting, not the other way around. Just make animatrons the group in general is happy with, and let the player fit his character concept in there. Even if the animatrons have angles or resources the player isn't interested in, that's just swell - it's a sign of an appropriately supported TSOY crunch set when the crunch doesn't fit a single character like a glove, but rather has room for several different approaches.

Oh, that reminds me: I was supposed to give an offensive Secret for programming animatrons, just to enable some challenges for animatron characters who think to avoid their mechanical nature:

Secret of the Aether Radio
This character/item can receive and transmit data instantly through the Aether. All animatrons are naturally able to receive such messages (aether likes gears), as well as anybody with the Aether Radio. The radio can be used to override many functions in animatrons and automatons, thus enabling different hacking attacks remotely. Cost: 1 Fuel per scene.

Secret of the Firewall
The character gains a bonus die when resisting any programming attempts. Requirements: Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man.

Secret of Aether Blindness
This animatron lacks the necessary equipment for receiving aether waves. He is therefore immune to the Aether Radio in both good and bad. Requirements: Secret of the Metal that Walks Like a Man, no Secret of the Aether Radio.

Secret of the Battery
This character/item has a Fuel battery, which can be recharged by spending Fuel pool. The battery size starts at one, but can be increased like the Fuel pool, with Advances. The Fuel pool and battery are summed together for the purposes of Advancement cost, should the same character end up with both.

A Battery
A simple battery that has 1 Fuel per use. Usable for powering other items that need external power. The Secret of Imbuement refills the battery between uses.
Composition: Secret of Imbuement, Secret of the Battery.

The White Wand
A standard-built tool for controlling animatrons in urban centers where use of animatron workers is rampant. The wand has a dull metal sheen and a programming interface (for punch cards, perhaps) at one end. When pointed in the general direction of an animatron, the interface picks up a connection like a wireless network (range in the whereabouts of half a mile, perhaps). The wand can be used to communicate with any animatron it picks up, as well programming them. The wand turns completely white when it is successful in installing a Protocol or Function in an animatron. Usually the programmer turns the animatron off (a resisted ability check, perhaps) before starting the program installation. The programmer may suffer environmental penalty dice for distance or bad aether. Cost: 2 Reason per installed program. (Secret of Imbuement takes care of the Fuel cost of the radio.)
Composition: Secret of Imbuement, Secret of the Aether Radio, Secret of the Protocols.

Hmm... yeah, I'm pretty happy with that. Now I'll just have to start a cyborg game myself and populate the relationship map with evil taskmasters wielding White Wands. Angst, here we come!
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2007, 10:47:49 AM »

That's some great stuff, Eero.  I feel I should clarify that everyone in the game is pretty much working together to add to the setting as we go, so there is a *bit* of that 'built to suit the concept" going on, if only because we're doing that with everything.  I DO like the structure in there, and that it's not a perfect match to the player, because that means we get the challenge of working and around it.

And tweaking it -- the player is talking about having a big wind-up key that only certainly people are allowed to use to wind her back up (a la El Hazard or that Charles Vess Sandman issue with the ballerina doll) -- that process would essentially become the re-Fuel-ing scene.  I like that alot, and it it helps ties the character into the relationship map, so it's all good.

I'll Save all the aether radio stuff until later -- I do like it quite a lot, but I'm not sure if we're at that level of technology. Smiley
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2007, 11:50:54 AM »

I'll Save all the aether radio stuff until later -- I do like it quite a lot, but I'm not sure if we're at that level of technology. Smiley

Yeah, I kinda agree. I'd just like to have some credible leverage for controlling and enslaving the animatrons (mostly because I'm fascinated by the story possibilities of programming player characters against their will). Bashing them in the head and tying them down to reprogram seems like too much work, and you could do that to any human (the bashing in the head and tying down part, anyway), so it doesn't really feel like the animatron is more vulnerable. Perhaps use a giant magnet to EMP them when they get rowdy? I guess I should satisfy myself with working on a Cyberpunk setting...

And the wind-up key is excellent. He could hide it somewhere when he's out in the world to keep it out of the way. And if it's a special key with specific notches and all, then he can't be winded with just any old piece of metal. I like that kind of vulnerability as a concept. Could even make it a literal Key:

Key of the Maintenance Function
The character has to be an animatron to be programmed with this one. The animatron has a special maintenance sequence he does not dare to tinker with. Specify the sequence in general terms.
1xp: Make sure your maintenance sequence is safe and unhindered, or work out contingencies to keep it safe.
3xp: Sacrifice other considerations to your need to keep refueling in the future.
Buyoff: Refute your maintainer or lose your maintenance capability.

(Note that a given character could have a given Function or Protocol with or without accompanying programming from the Secret of the Protocols, depending on character background. Without the programming the Function works exactly like a normal Key. Either way, it should become interesting when the interests of the maintainer clash with those of the animatron.)
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Doyce
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« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2007, 07:38:38 PM »

Chargen went swimmingly -- I'll post what that player came up with using these rules, but the short version is:  Very high Craftsmanship (Master level), 1 level in Combat, everything else is untrained.  Key of the Asimov Protocols, Key of the Nanny Function (cf. Key of the Guardian) for the Duke's adult son that she's been assigned to since he was a boy, and the base three points in her Fuel pool -- he has to rewind her often.  Should be quite a lot of fun.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2007, 09:49:17 PM »

Wow, gratifying that you actually used that to create a character. Interesting choices in character generation, too. It's notable for the GM that Craftsmanship, just like other passive abilities, actually doesn't do anything... damn, I just realized that I didn't account for the assignation of passive ability levels in my write-up. Hmm... well, in theory that means that the character is out an Advance or two compared to what I was thinking when writing that, but I don't expect it to cause any imbalance. I already penalized the animatron a couple of Advances at chargen for simply being so powerful, so one more isn't going to do any harm. TSOY is so robust at all power levels that it's near impossible to unbalance it just by giving a character too many or too few Advances, as long the actual crunch is solid.

Hmm... it's interesting that the nannybot didn't take any social abilities (that is, Interface tools). Fiction-wise you could interpret this as a relative lack of enduser-operable interface; perhaps it can't speak, for example? I'm imagining the basic animatron without any Abilities pretty much as a toaster, as far as capabilities go. They only have the capabilities built into them by their creator, after all. But just like in normal TSOY, you'll of course define the non-mechanical baseline of fiction with your group; if you're not interested in figuring out all implied limitations of being a machine body, it's easy to ignore.

However, it seems that you're starting with fever than normal Advances, and are not using the rest of chargen structures. Is this intentional, or did I confuse you with my Secret description? A run-down of used Advances:
6 <- Craftsmanship at Master
1 <- Combat tools
1 <- Asimov Protocols
1 <- Nanny Function
1 <- Mandatory Secret of Metal that Walks Like Man
3 <- Fuel pool
= 13 Advances. A normal animatron, according to what I wrote, would have:
3 <- Ability at Adept
3 <- Three Abilities at Practiced (what's the name of that level, I forget)
3 <- Fuel pool
1 <- Free Secret
1 <- Free Key
5 <- Free Advances
5 <- Bonus Advances from Secret of Metal that Walks Like Man
= 21 Advances, eight more than you actually assigned. (Which is already seven less than a human character gets.) So perhaps you should get some more Abilities, so that the character won't be overshadowed by others in the group? Seven Advances... the character could get some interpersonal skills, like a face, speech and understanding of human language (Interface tools, in other words). If it's really supposed to be a specialized bodyguard/nannybot from a high-end manufacturer (as the Craftsmanship seems to indicate), then Secret of tool use (Childcare, Interface tools) and Secret of tool use (Bodyguard, Martial tools) would make sense as well: with those the character would, by definition, be equal to a human of corresponding Ability level in Childcare and Bodyguarding. That's important, because without the Secret of tool use the GM has unlimited opportunities for complicating life for the poor robot, whose tool Abilities are stilted, specialized and without rational context compared to what humans have. The character might have steel claws or a chainsaw from Martial tools, but that doesn't mean she's worth shit as a bodyguard, when she lacks such human capabilities as threat evaluation (an unarmed assassing gets past Martial tools without a blink), understanding of the client (Martial tools won't tell her that her ward might need to, say, breathe when she manages to hide him in a swimming pool) or simply hiding (Martial tools wouldn't help in getting the client into a safe place, it's all about hacking and slashing recognized threats into pieces).

Or overload the Secret of tool use by connecting both Bodyguard and Childcare to Interface tools. Bodyguarding is largely about understanding humans, after all, so it makes sense enough. Then the character could cover both roles with one Ability, albeit at a higher Fuel cost. We haven't (at least yet) defined anything more powerful than the overloading trick for animatrons, so I'm keen to see it used...

Of course TSOY doesn't require equally powerful characters, so starting the character with less Advances than others shouldn't be much of a problem. Just thought to make sure you aren't hurting for Advances.

(I'm not critiquing your game or trying to tell you how to play here, by the by. I'm just thinking aloud to demonstrate how I meant those tool Abilities to be used when I wrote them. The balancing factor for the synergy of having just one pool is that those tool Abilities really, genuinely have the capabilities of a toaster as a baseline: having Martial tools is supposed to be a poor replacement for actual human ability. Yes, you are able to weld your way through a steel wall or you can lift ten tons, but you're still so stupid that a thrown rock will distract you long enough for the human to surprise you. That's one of the interesting bits in playing these animatrons, when they end up in situations where their programming is nowhere near adequate. Autofailure FTW. The tool abilities will fail the animatron whenever he has to act outside their predetermined, mechanical boundaries. Secret of tool use will correct this deficit for a specialized animatron, allowing it to use it's Ability at human level, as equal of the specified human Ability.)

(Now that I'm looking at what I made broken up like that, perhaps I should up the bonus Advances to seven to recompensate for losing the free passive Abilities. Annoying that dropping the pool triad takes away so much structure from the character generation steps; I'm not satisfied with the high number of free Advances the player has to assign to make a competitive animatron, that kind of stuff is tiring. Perhaps should just suggest dumbing most into Fuel, as that'll be needed for any character wanting to put overloaded tools to use.)
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Doyce
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« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2007, 07:44:19 AM »

Wow, gratifying that you actually used that to create a character. Interesting choices in character generation, too. It's notable for the GM that Craftsmanship, just like other passive abilities, actually doesn't do anything... damn, I just realized that I didn't account for the assignation of passive ability levels in my write-up.

The player wanted to have Craftsmanship as high as was logical -- both because she's been functioning without any real maintenance for two decades, and because, to her, there didn't seem to be any logical way to explain that particular Ability getting *better* during the game, so she wanted it to start high.

Given your comment, I think I'll give a starting PC Animatron Craftsmanship and Adaptability at 1 (Competent) for free -- logically, the animatron has to have SOME level of Craftsmanship (it *is* created, after all), and SOME mutability, as it's a machine that CAN be changed, even if it's difficult.

That, plus the free Abilities levels (1 @ level 2, and 3 and level 1, which we did in fact forget) means that the Animatron is only 5 advances "low" compared to other characters.  I might keep those in reserve to adjust her if it's clearly underpowered.

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However, it seems that you're starting with fever than normal Advances, and are not using the rest of chargen structures. Is this intentional, or did I confuse you with my Secret description?

That's exactly what happened.  I'll correct it with the player today in an email, per the modifications I'm mentioning above.

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That's important, because without the Secret of tool use the GM has unlimited opportunities for complicating life for the poor robot, whose tool Abilities are stilted, specialized and without rational context compared to what humans have. The character might have steel claws or a chainsaw from Martial tools, but that doesn't mean she's worth shit as a bodyguard, when she lacks such human capabilities as threat evaluation (an unarmed assassin gets past Martial tools without a blink), understanding of the client (Martial tools won't tell her that her ward might need to, say, breathe when she manages to hide him in a swimming pool) or simply hiding (Martial tools wouldn't help in getting the client into a safe place, it's all about hacking and slashing recognized threats into pieces).

I'm curious how you could would work that in play:  let's say you have a non-typical threat to the animatron's ward -- a unarmed assassin or something -- the animatron still HAS Analysis, it's just untrained/incompetent.  Per the normal rules, it's possible to role that untrained to detect the assassin's intent -- are you thinking that 'untrained' animatron skills can't be used at all?

Further, and more importantly, what about using broad "Fuel-based" Abilities that HAVE ranks, but no Secret of Tool Use Secret with it.  Given your comments here, it seems that what you're thinking is something along the lines of assigning penalty-dice to the character's rolls for any use of the skill that simulates a human skill that they DON'T have that "Secret of Tool Use" for.  One Penalty Die? Two?  I'm just curious what you're envisioning there.

Personally, I'm a fan of Secret of Tool Use as well (though I renamed it, as well as a couple of the abilities), so I hope they use it.
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
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Doyce
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« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2007, 08:14:09 AM »

Aribella the Animatron is (partially) completed here: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/Aribella -- I've spoken with the player and she's going to go in and add the stuff we mistakenly skipped -- we both agree that this clarification is going to make a much more playable character.

My version of the brilliant stuff Eero wrote up is compiled here: http://random.average-bear.com/Petrana/Animatron
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2007, 03:41:20 PM »

I'm curious how you could would work that in play:  let's say you have a non-typical threat to the animatron's ward -- a unarmed assassin or something -- the animatron still HAS Analysis, it's just untrained/incompetent.  Per the normal rules, it's possible to role that untrained to detect the assassin's intent -- are you thinking that 'untrained' animatron skills can't be used at all?

Nah, they can be used just as well as trained abilities, no rules changes in that regard. Still, the question to ask is if the animatron in question does actually have the necessary data for recognizing Assassins in his memory banks? Who'd have put it in there? Considering that the person would have to be a master bodyguard (who'd have such knowledge in the first place) as well as an automaton programmer. If he does, then he can well use his Analytical tools to compare and contrast, as that's what those tools do. Or perhaps he could use his Interface tools to recognize signs of agression and edginess - assuming he has the necessary sensors for that. Whether an "untrained" animatron has these capabilities is up to the local interpretation of what a baseline animatron is like. Does a player have to buy the lie detector separately, or can his animatron detect lies without? I don't know. If a player thinks that his character has the means to, say, climb cliffs, then why hasn't he bought any ranks in the corresponding tool set?

If this situation came up in practice in my own steampunk game... I wouldn't allow Analytical tools, as I have trouble imagining the Victorian society where such instinctual knowledge as a bodyguard's ability to recognize murderous intent would be put to numbers in a databank. You could use Analytical tools to answer common encyclopedia questions or to perform mathematical operations, but evaluating humans would be an impossibility. I might allow Interface tools for any common human behavior, but even then anything outside routine would fly past the animatron. Say, the assassin is a literal Assassin from Persia, all cooked up on fanaticism and drugs - the animatron's programmers wouldn't have even heard of something like that, so no roll for him. Or the assassin loves the target, but attacks because he's being blackmailed - the animatron would again be out of his depth when trying to judge the person's intent.

Quote
Further, and more importantly, what about using broad "Fuel-based" Abilities that HAVE ranks, but no Secret of Tool Use Secret with it.  Given your comments here, it seems that what you're thinking is something along the lines of assigning penalty-dice to the character's rolls for any use of the skill that simulates a human skill that they DON'T have that "Secret of Tool Use" for.  One Penalty Die? Two?  I'm just curious what you're envisioning there.

Yeah, penalty dice would be much more prevalent for animatrons having to face human situations, in my thinking. Like, you have this chainsaw installed on your arm, which we represent as Martial tools. You can do just fine with it as long as you just have to saw things - people, other animatrons, even logs. But when it comes to guessing where the ambush lies your ability is not relevant. It's just a chainsaw which you know how to use, not a fully-rounded human skill-set for warcraft. A human with, say, Chainsaw warfare could use the chainsaw just like you do, but he could also make the judgement calls necessary for using the saw in a reasoned manner - to wound or threaten, for example, instead of killing. Assuming that he had a chainsaw, that is, and the strength to use it; this difference in Abilities could swing both ways when it comes to things that machines are good at: imagine an animatron and a human trying to survive being thrown into a campfire without harm. The human would definitely take penalty dice to his roll. For the animatron, on the other hand, it'd be a pretty routine Craftsmanship roll.

(A couple of words about penalty dice: as we know, you can only assign one or two penalty dice for using an Ability in extreme circumstances. The third step after that is important, too: if an Ability is taken into such extreme circumstances that it's really outside its purview, the Ability is not used at all. The player has to pick another Ability, or if he doesn't have a suitable one, the opponent rolls an unresisted check to have his way. The way I envision the difficulties of being a bucket of bolts is that the latter happens much more often than for a human - if you don't have a speech syntetisator, for example, then you simply can't roll any Ability for defending yourself in a human court of law.)

So yeah... I'm not saying that the GM would have to be out to specifically screw animatrons, it's just my personal judgement that if the game centers around human issues, there'll be plenty of opportunities to simply set up situations for which a given animatron doesn't have adequate means to act. This is the balance to being a mechanical wonder of engineering: your resource structure with one big pool might be simple, but you have to invest plenty in old-fashioned human experience (Secret of tool use, as we're calling it) before you can really act at human level. Without that experience you'd better make sure you don't go outside your comfort zone of preprogrammed parameters. The Secret of tool use is really there for players to flag those situations where they don't want the GM to start hassling them with their mechanical nature.

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Hmm... this all might be a tad too bothersome in practice. I guess it depends on the goals of the game. Well, my main point really is that the tool Abilities should never be allowed to completely cover any one human ability. The incentive for taking Secret of tool use should always be there. And... of course, the incentive is easy to create:

Procedural Logic (Reason)
The character is good at handling animatrons and automatons. The Ability can be used to order them around (assuming communication is possible in the first place), but more incidiously: you can predict their behaviour with a successful Ability check. (Thus: state your target time-frame and situation, a successful check forces the player of the target animatron to define his action in the situation. To act in a different manner when the situation actually comes around requires a successful roll against the result of the prediction, like it was a Function or Protocol.) Procedural Logic checks used to influence animatron action interact with both Protocols and Functions, but at -1 check level to Functions and -2 to Protocols. Procedural Logic can also replace Craftsman for any animatron programming tasks. Procedural Logic does not work on an animatron with the Secret of the Soul or any animatron using a human ability (the latter are based on multivariable human logic not prone to messing with).

Secret of the Mechacerebral Assassin
The character can use a Procedural Logic check to cause Harm to the afflicted animatron(s) by forcing them into endless evaluation loops or such. He can affect all animatrons in communications range possessing one Protocol (chosen before the roll) with one activation; the assassin trick depends on inputting hidden inconsistencies from the Protocol in question. The level of Harm is equal to the level of the check, resisted or not. Alternatively, the character may forego the damage and instead cause the animatron(s) to freeze in the manner of Protocol conflict for one scene per rank of success. Cost: 2 Reason

Ok, that should take off some of the pressure to gimp animatrons in routine actions, because any human can try some Procedural Logic to hamper animatrons without Secret of tool use. Still, I recommend keeping your eyes open for situations where the animatron is simply unable to act with his limited tools. That's good drama, and keeps up the pressure on the question of humanity.
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