Constructs in BRP (2011 version)

2020-03-19

I wrote this article in 2011 for an irregular Basic Roleplaying fanzine that ended before the article could run. Except for formatting -- the original was an RTF file -- it's exactly as I wrote it back then. It's not really playtested, not that organized, and very out of date. I present it here mostly for historical interest, and in case it sparks ideas in readers.

From the bronze giant Talos in Greek myth and Rabbi Loew’s clay golem to Terminators, droids, and Major Kusanagi, speculative fiction abounds with animate artificial beings.  That Other Game calls man-made creatures “constructs”, a name as good as any.

Basic Roleplaying, a.k.a. the Big Gold Book, contains a few sample robots, written up much like other, more organic creatures: STR, CON, SIZ, INT, POW, DEX.  In contrast, look at some of the undead: Skeletons lack CON, Ghouls lack POW, and Vampires lack permanent POW but feed on Power Points.  The chapter on Equipment states that objects with CON are “extraordinarily rare”.

This article will outline rules to differentiate Constructs from living beings.

General Rules for Constructs

Like inanimate objects, Constructs do not have CON. Hit Points are equal to SIZ.  Reducing a construct to 0 HP immediately deactivates it; damage below 0 makes it harder, and eventually impossible, to repair.

Constructs that can only follow orders have Fixed INT (BRP 322); most constructs have INT 8 or more to reflect their understanding of speech and capacity for logic. Sapient constructs have regular INT.

Constructs lack POW, unless they have “souls” or a presence on the Spirit Plane.  Constructs automatically fail Luck rolls, but they ignore powers that affect POW or MP, having no spiritual presence and no animal instincts to cloud their reason.  (At the GMs discretion, Constructs may also ignore mind control, telepathy, and similar powers.)

Constructs without POW may only use powers with a zero Power Point cost, which draw Power Points from a built-in “battery” (similar to the ones in Equipment), or which have another limitation like “Always On” or charges.

A Construct will typically lack an APP statistic, unless it can impersonate a human being.  In a world where constructs and humans mix freely and openly, constructs may have an APP score to reflect body styling.

Constructs generally require no food, sleep, or air, and are immune to poisons, diseases, and fatigue.  It cannot heal on its own, and healing spells do not work; appropriate powers or technical skills will repair damage.  Technological constructs have optional rules for running on batteries.

Constructs never suffer effects on the Major Wounds table, although at the GM’s discretion the construct may lose a limb.  Bleeding and impaling attacks do no extra damage on a special success unless otherwise noted.  Other forms of attack may or may not affect constructs; see group or individual descriptions.

If using hit locations, the construct’s total HP is irrelevant; track only damage to specific locations.  Damage to a location has the following effects:

Abdomen: At 0 HP or less the construct loses use of its legs, but suffers no other effects unless noted.

Arm, Leg, Treads, etc: At 0 HP or less, the attack disables the limb. If it’s a leg, reduce MOV by the fraction of legs remaining; if “treads”, the construct is immobilized. At -HP or less, the limb is severed or destroyed. Damage to an extremity has no other effects.

Chest: Bringing a construct’s chest location bell 0 HP disables it, unless otherwise noted. At -HP or less, the construct can no longer move any extremity, and is most likely destroyed.

Head: If the head contains the construct’s brain or equivalent, the construct is disabled at 0 HP, and irretrievably destroyed at -HP. Constructs with their brain in their torsos may have only a “sensor head”; at 0 HP or less the construct loses sight or hearing (flip a coin), and at -HP it is totally blind and deaf.

Golems

Golems are animated clay statues approximately 2m high, constructed through magical or alchemical means.  After constructing the statue to very exacting specifications, its builder gives it pseudo-life through a scroll placed in its head.  Removing the scroll, or the head, deactivates the golem.  (Occasionally the scroll resides in the chest.  Some traditions inscribe holy words or symbols on the forehead, which when erased or defaced deactivate the golem.)

Golems are not only clay (or stone, or metal), they’re solid clay (etc.), without joints, organs, or blood.  Bleeding and Impaling attacks do no extra damage on a special or critical success.  Fire only affects golems of wood, gold, lead, and other flammable or easily melted materials.

Bleeding and impaling weapons used against a golem receive the same damage as that stopped by the golem’s armor.  For example, a spear strikes a golem doing 5 points of damage; it also receives 5 points of damage.  A Great Sword strikes the same golem for 12 points of damage; the golem suffers 2 points of damage, and the sword takes 10.

Because golems are solid, they have high AP.  Damaging a golem requires big blunt instruments like a war hammer or sledgehammer; swords lose their edge and arrows bounce off.

STR2D6+2835
SIZ2D6+1421
INT88
DEX2D6+310

Move: 8

Hit Points: 21

Damage Bonus: +2D6

Armor: 10 AP of solid clay (Construct and Golem damage rules)

Attacks:

Skills: Dodge 20%, Listen 75%, Parry (Arm) 35%, Spot 75%

Powers: Golems can see even in complete darkness.  They can also parry weapons bare-handed, at a reduced percentage.

Variations

Larger Golems: Each additional meter of height adds +10 STR, +14 SIZ, and +2 MOV.

Smaller Golems: A 1.5m golem has STR 2D6+21 and SIZ 2D6+6.  A 1m golem has STR 2D6+14 STR and 2D6+3 SIZ.  Smaller golems are not possible.

Materials other than Clay: Other materials are more dense than clay.  The following chart provides adjustments to the statistics above: Armor Points, a multiplier for SIZ, and a modifier for Movement.  Calculate HP and Damage Bonus based on the new SIZ.  The creature’s apparent volume and reach matches its unmodified size.

Material AP SIZ Multiplier MOV Bonus/Penalty
Bronze 15 x 2 -2
Gold 6 x 10 -4
Iron 20 x 2 -2
Stone 15 x 1 0
Wood on Metal Frame 6 x 1 +2

Sapient Golems: INT becomes 2D6+6, DEX 3D6. If magically active, add POW 3D6.

Humanlike Golems: add 3D6 and sapience (see above), and the golem can impersonate a human to some degree (perhaps with concealing clothing and a disguise).

Specialized Golems: Some golems, especially sapient golems, might be built for specific tasks. For example:  

Robots

Robots are automatons which follow pre-set programming – which may be complex – and/or orders from authorized users given verbally or remotely. In high-tech societies, robots carry out a wide range of duties, such as manual labor, cleaning, repair, maintenance, warfare, assassination, disposal of hazardous materials.  More sophisticated robots serve as butlers, personal assistants, and companions.

Robots tend to concentrate on the task at hand to the exclusion of all else.  If a robot is concentrating on one task, most civilian models must make a Spot or Listen skill roll to notice even the most obvious threats, and an Idea roll to react sensibly to events outside their experience.   Robots usually need regular maintenance, even if they incur no damage. Each month without maintenance, and each Fumble, causes a -5% cumulative penalty on all skills until a technician performs proper maintenance.   Unlike most other creatures, a robot’s head typically contains only sensors and associated circuitry; most of their “brains” reside in their torsos.  Thus, a Head hit typically only blinds a robot, and does not disable it.  Excessive damage to the Chest or Abdomen will deactivate the creature, possibly beyond repair.

Impaling damage to a robot’s power source (typically in the Abdomen) may cause a discharge of electricity or radiation.  The robot’s attacker (if in direct contact) suffers the robot’s Damage Bonus in electricity or radiation burns.  Radiation may have longer-term effects.  

Cargo Robot

Cargo Robots load and unload ships, with two powerful claws and four powerful legs.  Their extreme strength is matched by a surprising delicacy of touch.

STR9D6+18100
SIZ9D6+1850
INT88
DEX2D6+613

Move: 10

Hit Points: 50

Damage Bonus: +8D6

Armor: 6-points metal chassis (brain not in head, Construct damage rules)

Attack: Slam 35%, 1D6+db (crushing)

Skills: Listen 30%, Spot 30%

Hit Locations: Four Legged Humanoid (BRP p. 368)

Repair Robot

Repair Robots perform necessary maintenance and repairs in a high-tech installation.  Their ability to learn from experience can, over time, begin to resemble sapience.   One configuration resembles a six-armed starfish, with a dorsal sensor-head.  It’s made to operate in free-fall; under gravity, it needs at least three manipulators to walk.  The other, a barrel-shaped body with treads, is more common on terrestrial installations.

STR2D6+613
SIZ1D6+610
INT1717
DEX2D6+1421

Move: 8

Hit Points: 10

Damage Bonus: +0

Armor: 6-points metal chassis (brain not in head, Construct damage rules)

Attacks: Brawl 30%, 1D3+db (crushing); Power Tools 50%, 1D6 (cutting or fire)

Skills: Fine Manipulation 95%, Heavy Machine (Loader Drone) 95%, Hide 35%, Language (Lingua Nueva) 50%, Language (Standard Cybernetic Communication Protocol) 100%, Listen 75%, Repair (Electronic) 95%, Repair (Gravitic) 75%, Repair (Mechanical) 95%, Spot 75%, Technical Skill (Computer Use) 100%

Powers: Repair robots typically have the following abilities:

Hit Locations:

Starfish-shaped
D20LocationsHP Formula
1-6 Body 2/5 total HP
7-8 Arm/Leg #1 1/4 total HP
9-10Arm/Leg #2 1/4 total HP
11-12Arm/Leg #3 1/4 total HP
13-14Arm/Leg #4 1/4 total HP
15-16Arm/Leg #5 1/4 total HP
17-18Arm/Leg #6 1/4 total HP
19-20Sensor-Head1/5 total HP

Barrel-shaped
D20LocationsHP Formula
1-4 Treads 1/3 total HP
5-7 Abdomen 1/3 total HP
8-10Chest 2/5 total HP
11-12Arm #1 1/4 total HP
13-14Arm #2 1/4 total HP
15-16Arm #3 1/4 total HP
17-18Arm #4 1/4 total HP
19-20Sensor-Head1/5 total HP

Servitor Robot

Servitor Robots perform the services of butlers, translators, personal assistants, and other staff demanded by the rich and famous.  

STR2D6+613
SIZ2D6+613
INT1212
DEX2D6+613

Move: 8

Hit Points: 13

Damage Bonus: +1D4

Armor: 6-points metal chassis (Construct damage rules)

Attack: Brawl 30%, 1D3+db (crushing)

Skills: Appraise 85%, Bargain 55%, Etiquette (High Society) 95%, Fast Talk 75%, Hide 25%, Insight 35%, Knowledge (Other Cultures) 75%, Knowledge (Linguistics) 100%, Language (all known) 95%, Listen 55%, Persuade 45%, Teach 60%.

Powers: Owners sometimes install the following options:

Hit Locations: Humanoid (BRP p. 368)

Infiltration Robot

Infiltration Robots masquerade as organic beings to spy upon, assassinate, or slaughter a group of humans.  A few have been reprogrammed as bodyguards.  

STR9D6+1850
SIZ2D6+1017
INT1212
DEX3D6+1425
APP1010

Move: 10

Hit Points: 17

Damage Bonus: +3D6

Armor: 12-points titanium alloy endoskeleton and Living Flesh (Construct damage rules)

Attacks: Brawl 90%, 1D6+db (crushing); Sawed-Off Shotgun 85%, 4D6 (impaling)

Skills: Climb 85%, Command 40%, Demolition 40%, Disguise 60%, Dodge 90%, Drive (Car) 50%, Drive (Motorcycle) 75%, Energy Weapon (all) 85%, Fine Manipulation 60%, Firearm (all) 85%, Heavy Machine (Bulldozer) 40%, Heavy Weapon (all) 85%, Hide 60%, Jump 60%, Language (English) 50%, Listen 50%, Melee Weapon (all) 85%, Missile Weapon (all) 85%, Persuasion 75%, Repair (self) 25%, Spot 75%, Stealth 60%, Track 60%, Throw 85%

Powers: Infiltration robots have the following abilities:

Hit Locations: Humanoid (BRP p. 368)

Synthetics

“Synthetics” cover a wide range of artificial life forms: sapient minds without bodies, sapient minds with bodies, and even full-replacement cyborgs.  All have free will, and humanlike INT instead of fixed INT.   Synthetics can effect their own repairs, if the synthetic has the required skills, proper tools, and the ability to reach an affected area.   Like robots, synthetics usually need regular maintenance, even if they incur no damage.  Each month without maintenance, and each Fumble, causes a -5% cumulative penalty on all skills until a technician performs proper maintenance.   Impaling damage to a synthetic’s power source (typically in the Abdomen) may cause a discharge of electricity or radiation.  The synthetic’s attacker (if in direct contact) suffers the synthetic’s Damage Bonus in electricity or radiation burns.  Radiation may have longer-term effects.   Synthetics fall into one of three categories:

Advanced Synthoid (Artificial Person)

An Advanced Synthoid augments a standard infiltration unit chassis with a sapient mind, among other improvements.  An Artificial Person can also serve as crew replacement.  Unfortunately, synthoids literally have a mind of their own, and frequently deviate from orders.  

STR2D6+2431
SIZ2D6+613
INT2D6+1017
DEX2D6+1421
APP4D614

Move: 12

Hit Points: 13

Damage Bonus: +2D6

Armor: 12-points titanium/ceramic frame and subdermal carbon fiber (Construct damage rules)

Attacks: Brawl 90%, 1D6+db (crushing); Stun Pistol 80%, 2D6 stun (knockback)

Skills: Drive (Hover-car) 75%, Listen 80%, Navigate 70%, Pilot (any) 85%, Repair (Electrical) 65%, Spot 80%, Science (Physics) 55%, Science (Astronomy) 65%, Technical (Computer Use) 85%

Powers: A few owners, or the synthoid itself, may upgrade to give themselves Superpowers, or one of the following options:

Hit Locations: Humanoid (BRP p. 368)

Cybernetic Daemon (Synthetic Mind)

A Cybernetic Daemon exists in a world that blurs the distinction between science and magic.  Its POW score reflects its ability to dominate lesser systems, including environmental controls and drones.  While it resides somewhere in the physical substrate of its digital reality, it keeps that place – and the sites of its numerous backups – a carefully guarded secret.

INT6D621
POW5D6+623

Power Points: 21

Skills: Command 75%, Fast Talk 85%, Persuade 75%, Gaming 100%, Insight 60%, Knowledge (Cyberspace) 100%, Science (Cryptography) 100%, Science (Mathematics) 100%, Science (Psychology) 60%, Strategy 85%, Technical (Computer Use) 100%, Technical (Computer Abuse) 100%, Technical (Electronic Security) 100%, Technical (Robotics) 90%, Research 100%

Powers: If the line between science and magic are especially blurry, a Cybernetic Daemon’s tricks may resemble Magic, Sorcery, or Super Powers.

Full Replacement Cyborg (FRC)

Unlike other synthetics, FRCs have one biological component: a human brain, kept alive through biotechnology.  Therefore, a cyborg always has a POW score and a Luck roll.

Other differences:

Below is a typical pattern for an FRC which looks human but hides augmented STR and DEX.  

STR2D6+1421
SIZ2D6+613
INT2D6+613
POW3D611
DEX2D6+1421
APP3D611

Move: 12

Hit Points: 13

Power Points: 11

Damage Bonus: +1D6

Armor: 6-points titanium/ceramic frame (Construct damage rules)

Attacks: Brawl 90%, 1D6+db (crushing); Heavy Pistol 75%, 1D10+2 (impaling)

Skills: Brawl 60%, Dodge 80%, Fast Talk 60%, Drive 75%, Firearms (Pistol) 75%, Grapple 40%, Insight 55%, Knowledge (Law) 65%, Listen 60%, Martial Arts 30%, Spot 60%, Technical (Computer Use) 90%

Powers: Occupants sometimes upgrade their bodies with technology that mimics Superpowers.  A few cyborgs may possess Psychic Powers, although brain trauma and an artificial body may hamper them at the GM’s discretion.  Cyborgs may learn Magic or Sorcery if they find themselves in a world that permits it, with worse complications than Psychic Powers.

Depending on available technology, funds, and personal preference, cyborgs may also possess some or all of the following:

Hit Locations: Humanoid (BRP p. 368)

Battery Power (Optional Rule)

For simplicity, these rules assume high-tech constructs have enough power for all their systems.  Alternatively, the player or GM can track power as a number of days of operation.  Units deployed in the field for long periods might store 28 days of power, while smaller

Certain activities shorten (or extend) this time by a factor of time spent in the activity:

Complete Shutdown ("sleep")x0.01, or x0.5 for cyborgs
Routine duties, light loads, normal movementx1
Hard labor, heavy loads, moving at speed, more computation than normalx2
Combat, maximum effort, using all available resources to solve a problemx5
Direct Recharge and Maintenanceadd 4 hours per hour
Alternative refueling (e.g. simulated digestion)add 8 hours per meal

  When the construct reaches the end of its operating time, the construct will suffer the following effects until its next recharge.

5% remainingSkill tests at -10%
1% remainingSkill tests at -30%, -10% movement
15 minutes remainingAverage skill tests are Hard, -50% movement
5 minutes remainingAll skill tests are Hard, reduced to MOV 1
0 minutes remainingTotal shutdown, possible death of personality

  Skill penalties do not affect mental skills of a Full Replacement Cyborg; life support takes priority over other systems. Penalties do apply to skills requiring speech, perception, and movement.