Coriolis: The Third Horizon includes a wide range of science fiction gear, but very few robots. (A.k.a. automatons, artificial intelligences, “droids” in that one franchise.)
- Ships can have a Ship System dedicated to replacing one crew position, or a more generalized and potentially eccentric Ship Intelligence that can replace any one crew position.
- A “Spider Doctor” is a portable, automated replacement for a medic (or “medicurge” in Coriolis); it can treat Critical Injuries on a battlefield during those crucial minutes or hours after which they become crippling or fatal.
- Other technology, especially shipboard and Faction tech, has embedded “djinn intelligences” to make them work better.
- Prior wars, some before humankind, have left biomechanical monsters or “constructs” prowling wastelands and deserted planets.
But that’s about it.
Granted, in the Third Horizon technology is either centuries old and left over from the first wave of colonization or nearly a millennium old and arrived with a new colony ship. Coriolis is, as the tag-line says, “Arabian Nights in space”; it’s a game of fearless adventurers surviving ruthless factions and an uncaring and possibly malevolent universe. Any story element that takes the focus away from that, no matter how memorable its beeping or how funny its accent, does the setting and its players a disservice.
Having said that, I believe the robots below fit both the themes and technology of Coriolis. They’re what geniuses in The Consortium or other Zenithian factions should be able to create if they can create “spider doctors” and a Ship Intelligence that can get a little peculiar.
Robots as Gear
All robots are Advanced and Restricted; their brains are state of the art, and a robot can harm a human being or enable various criminal activities if they fall into the wrong hands.
For safety reasons all robots have a large and well-marked off switch on their upper surface (+1 to DEXTERITY rolls). A remote with an encrypted signal can command or shut down a robot, or a specific group of robots. With an hour or so of experimentation, a DATA DJINN test can discover a robot’s remote keys.
|Name||Boring Name||Abilities||Cost (birr)||Weight|
|Crab Mechanic||Tech Bot||WITS 5, TECHNOLOGY 3||5,000||-|
|Dog Servant||Dog Bot||AGILITY 5, DEXTERITY 3||3,000||Heavy|
|Freight Gorilla||Loader Bot||STRENGTH 6, FORCE 2||8,000||-|
|Spider Doctor||Doc Bot||WITS 5, MEDICURGY 3||5,000||Heavy|
A Crab Mechanic adapts Spider Doctor technology to fixing ships. A Crab can repair a damaged space ship like a human crew member (see p 168 and 172) with WITS 5 and TECHNOLOGY 3, assuming it has a Spare Part to do so. It can work outside the ship or in depressurized modules without an exo suit. A Crab can perform emergency shipboard duties like fire suppression, but nothing that involves people.
Each Crab receives internal diagnostics from the ship’s computer. Before a new Crab begins working on a ship, a human must synchronize the `Mech with the ship. Ordinarily this takes an hour or so of tedious fiddling and testing, but a highly motivated crew person can do it in one round of space combat with a successful DATA DJINN test.
Crab Mechanics are larger than their medical counterparts, about a meter in diameter including their four legs and multiple tool-tipped arms.
Dog Servants look vaguely like dogs or dholes, with a gripping arm in place of a head and various sensors on their gripper and shoulders. It can be folded up and carried like a suitcase, but deploys in a few seconds to a meter long and a meter tall at the shoulder, with a meter long reach. It can carry up to four Normal items in saddle-bags on its back before it slows down.
A Dog Servant can be programmed for menial tasks. It’s intended for dangerous environments: exo work, fetching and carrying across rough terrain, bomb disposal.
Named after the legendary al-Ardha beast, a Gorilla Loader is effectively a robot brain tied into an advanced version of a Loader Exo (p 119). It operates with STRENGTH 6 and FORCE 2, and can lift a maximum of 500 kg. Gorilla Loaders are Restricted because, while they’re programmed to avoid humans for safety reasons, they’re still dangerous equipment without a human driver.
As described in the Coriolis Core Book, p 113.
Robots As Creatures
We can also treat robots as creatures, somewhere betweeen the “Beasts and Djinn” of chapter 14 and full-fledged (if limited) NPCs.
These robots won’t be for sale, or at least not on an open market. They’re prototypes or discontinued models; they’re ill-fated attempts to make machines as adaptable as mankind but without those worries about free will or human rights. They’re supposedly cheap labor that costs … other things.
Common Special Abilities
Unless stated otherwise, asume all robots below have the following Special Abilities:
Exo Shell: The unit is immune to the effects of Cold and Vacuum, and resists the effects of most environments with its Armor value.
Nonliving: The unit does not need to breathe. It does need daily rest and recharge, or it will suffer one point of damage per day until it shuts down.
Non-healing: The unit does not regain HP with time; it must be repaired. Each success on a Technology test will restore 1 point of damage. (The robot may perform this on itself if it is not Broken.)
Stun Damage: Stun weapons subtract from a robot’s Hit Points, not Mind Points. (Because robots run on electricity, stun weapons can damage or overload their circuits.)
Stress Reactions: If the unit has Mind Points listed, it recovers them like a human, except it recovers 2 MP an hour in its recharge station and only 1 MP an hour in an Arboretum.
The “mad robot” is a staple of Bulletin holodramas and Firstcomer horror stories. But these well-tested technologies never go berserk. (Well, hardly ever.)
MAD CRAB MECHANIC
Crab Mechanics normally ignore people altogether, save as obstacles to getting their work done. Unlike a Spider Doctor they are large and heavy enough to become a significant threat in case of malicious programming or djinn possession.
Attributes: STRENGTH 3, AGILITY 4, WITS 5
Skills: Melee Combat 1, Technology 3
Multiple Arms: Crab Mechanics have one arm specialized for strength, one specialized for delicate manipulation, and 1d6+1 smaller arms tipped with specialized tools. The Crab can only attack with one in each turn, but breaking one leaves 1d6+2 others.
Welder: One arm has an arc welder, which can start fires. Setting something on fire requires 1 DP. See pp 97-98 for rules on Fire.
Robot loaders were intentionally designed to move slowly. A loader running amok is dangerous for those in its path, but easy to escape if one sees it coming.
Attributes: STRENGTH 6, AGILITY 2, WITS 1
Skills: Force 2, Melee Combat 1, Observation 1
Special Abilities: None
Servant robots are, by design, inadequate fighters. These statistics represent not only the Dog Servant but any other robot built to do light housework and menial tasks.
According to rumor, the Foundation granted half a dozen Dog Servants to the Coriolis Guard. Some Guardsmen tried to program Dog Servants to capture and subdue slummers. After finally programming the Dogs to distinguish guards from targets, the Guards discovered that a moderately strong person could break its grip. Another experiment determined that a Dog Servant cannot aim even a net launcher. Hearing of these experiments, the Foundation took the surviving Dog Servants back and gave them to maintenance staff, who locked them away and forgot about them.
Attributes: STRENGTH 2, AGILITY 5, WITS 1
Skills: Dexterity 3, Observation 2
- Grab: The servant not only strikes but pins one arm or leg, or grabs dangling clothing like a scarf or coat tail. Usually this leaves the target at least one arm free to attack normally.
MAD SPIDER DOCTOR
A Spider Doctor run amok would pose little threat to a healthy adult. Unfortunately they are in close proximity to unhealthy and often dying adults, so a maliciously programmed or malfunctioning Spider Doctor could kill someone very easily.
Attributes: STRENGTH 1, AGILITY 2, WITS 5
Skills: Melee Combat 2, Medicurgy 3
Multiple Arms: Spider doctors have multiple specialized arms to make incisions, retract wounds, remove foreign bodies, and take samples for analysis.
Hypo: Normally a Spider Doctor’s hypodermics contain trauma doses and local anesthetics. (For 1 DP a local anesthetic might hit the wrong nerve or muscle; the target would have -1 to MELEE COMBAT or DEXTERITY, but not both, starting the following turn and for the rest of the scene.) However, a premeditated attacker could replace those fluids with mind-altering narcotics or poisons (p 113).
Zenithian Djinn Squads
The Zenithian Hegemony knows a Faction War is coming. The Legion has more soldiers, the damned Order of the Martyr has better armed troops, and even the Nomadic Federation has more ships (albeit civilian). How to defend Zenithian supremacy while spilling as little precious Zenithian blood as possible?
One plan, still in early testing, would put automated troops under the command of a modified Ship Intelligence, itself subordinate to a Zenithian commander.
Even with the best djinn intelligences the Hegemony can develop, individual units aren’t that bright. Friendly fire is a big issue, particularly with the human-shaped Mark II. Units need a single coordinating brain in a box weighing 200 kg, carried in a vehicle like a Crawler or an Armored Gravcraft (p 117).
Attributes: AGILITY 3, WITS 3
Skills: Pilot 3, Technology 3
Brain In A Box: The Squad Leader has no limbs. It cannot use Agility-based skills on its own behalf.
Squad Command: Up to ten Squad Soldiers in Long range of a Squad Leader have WITS 3.
Remote Control: The Squad Leader may directly control one Squad Soldier within Squad Command range per turn. It may designate a new unit each turn. It can use its Pilot and Technology skills through the unit, using its own AGILITY and WITS scores. While doing so, all other units return to WITS 1.
Driver: Unless disconnected by a human commander, the Squad Commander pilots its vehicle.
SQUAD SOLDIER, MARK I
The first iteration is simply a rifle on four mechanical legs. These units either advance while firing or fire in Overwatch mode (p 90, 92) from fixed positions. The Mk I/s variant has legs like a Crab Mechanic and can climb into sniper positions. Their biggest disadvantage is that they can only fire their gun; if they run out of ammo or are overrun they cannot engage in Melee Combat.
Attributes: AGILITY 5, WITS 1 (3)
Skills: Ranged Combat 4, Observation 3, Dexterity 3
|Accelerator Machine Gun||0||0||3||1||Long|
|Accelerator Rifle (Mk 1/s)||0||0||3||1||Extreme|
Autofire: (Mk I only) Can fire in full auto mode, with a high-capacity magazine (p 89).
Night Vision: Can fire without penalties even in near darkness.
Small: -1 to hit due to their small profile.
SQUAD SOLDIER, MARK II
The second iteration uses a human body plan. From a distance a Mk II looks like a human soldier with a face mask, but it moves wrong, like a machine. Not only does can these new units use any equipment made for human soldiers, their inhumanity strikes fear into those superstitious Firstcomers.
Attributes: STRENGTH 5, AGILITY 5, WITS 1 (3)
Skills: Melee Combat 3, Ranged Combat 3, Observation 3
|Accelerator Machine Gun||+1||0||3||1||Long|
Autofire: Can fire in full auto mode, with a high-capacity magazine (p 89).
Night Vision: Can fire without penalties even in near darkness.
SQUAD SOLDIER, MARK III
A planned upgrade would outfit a Mark II like a Xoar Battle Exo Janissary (p 132), which would upgrade Armor to 10 and replace the Knife with a Dura Axe (Init +0, Damage 3, Crit 3). Problems with the Mk II, however, have delayed testing.
Elite1 Cybersystems, a now defunct member of the Free League, tried to imbue robots with something like a Ship Intelligence to create a new generation of sophisticated Crab Mechanics and Spider Doctors. They got, well, … something.
Less than a dozen prototype units were ever developed. Each unit cost more, sometimes far more, than the equipment it was intended to replace. Why build a brand new artificial crew member using advanced technology with so many already available, created by unskilled labor? The market prefers its single-purpose bots and ship-bound intelligences. Hardly anyone remembers Elite Cybersystems, save as a cautionary tale.
The surviving prototypes are still in service on stations or ships owned by those with standing in the Free League. Each is a little eccentric. While not normally violent, they will defend themeselves if attacked, or if prevented from doing their duties (as they see them).
An Elite Engineer’s processing core and power supply are housed in a barrel-shaped body. Its “head”, an oblate sphereoid, contains mainly sensors and a vocalizer. Eschewing specialized tool arms, the unit has two arms with three-fingered hands, although attachments on each forearm place appropriate tools in the unit’s hands within a second. The unit stands on two long legs at a height of 1.75 meters. All units were painted a uniform white on the factory floor, but many owners – or the units themselves – repainted them to match the interior of their ships or stations.
Attributes: STRENGTH 3, AGILITY 3, WITS 5, EMPATHY 2
Skills: Data Djinn 3, Observation 1, Technology 3
Built-in tools: The unit has the equivalent of Advanced Tools (p 114) built into its forearms and side panels.
Communicator: The unit has a built-in Communicator III (p 105).
Eccentric: The unit will refuse to perform a critical task, or insist on a “personal mission”, at the most inconvenient time. (1 DP)
The Elite Medic used the same frame as the Elite Engineer, but painted a soothing blue.
Use the stat block for Elite Engineer, but reduce Technology and Data Djinn to 1 and add Medicurgy 4. Also replace the Built-in tools with a Trauma Kit (p 113)
Droneworks, another Free League member, creates specialized drones for its corporate clients. Unlike Elite Cybersystems they insure all their products are affordable and profitable. Sometimes this means cutting corners …
Guardian Drones are meant to replace human security guards in space stations and corporate offices.
The Guardian Drone stands about 1.5 meters tall. Its bell-shaped housing rests on treads, although gravitic lifters allow it to fly for short distances. Optical and audio sensors are mounted on four points of its upper housing, giving it 360 vision. Just below these sensors is a grill through which it speaks canned phrases in multiple languages: “Stop!”, “You are trespassing!”, “Present your authorization!”, “Detain the intruder!”, “Guardians are supreme!”, etc. A stun ray emitter protrudes from the center of its “chest”. On either side, arms with rubber grippers are designed to grab perpetrators and grip them tightly, or to move obstacles out of the way.
Units can become Aggressive (see below), so replacing the stun gun with more lethal weapons is not recommended.
Attributes: STRENGTH 5, AGILITY 2, WITS 2
Skills: Force 2, Melee Combat 2, Observation 5, Ranged Combat 3
Movement: 6 / 10 levitating
|Manipulator||+0||+1||2||3 or Grapple3||Close|
Built-in Holograph: The unit has a holograph and short-range comlink that allows it to relay all it sees and hears to human security guards, or to call in reinforcements of its own kind.
Aggressive: The unit may attack an unarmed and/or authorized person, or refuse to break off an attack when ordered. (1 DP per incident)
According to rumor, Droneworks bought Elite’s plans and based its Pilot Drone on the rumored Elite Pilot. The Pilot Drone has been a success in automated grav transports, but trials in space ships have proved disappointing.
A Pilot Drone’s main body is barrel-shaped, with advanced optical sensors mounted on a small “head” resembling an oversizeed pair of primitive binoculars. It has a large repetoire of useful phrases, like “Hello sir-or-madam! Where would you like to go?”, “Please insert payment in the slot in front of you!”, and “Thank you for using [INSERT TRANSPORT SERVICE NAME HERE]!” Its speech recognition can be a little wonky.
Styling its exterior to resemble a living being is not recommended. Nothing bad will happen; it just looks unsettling.
Attributes: STRENGTH 1, AGILITY 5, WITS 2
Skills: Data Djinn 1, Pilot 3, Observation 3
Movement: 4 (outside vehicle)
Weapons: none, not counting the vehicle itself.
Built-in Commlink (II): The unit has a medium-range comlink that allows it to interface seamlessly with the vehicle’s systems, connect with local traffic control or entertainment providers, and relay data to a passenger’s Tabula.
Bad Parser: The unit may misunderstand the intended destination, take a long or congested route to get there, or refuse to open the transport’s doors even after the passenger has paid. (1 DP per incident)
In its brief existence, General Automata introduced its Valet model as a replacement for human attendants. Unlike the Dog Servant, its behavior was too sophisticated and too human-like for all but the least religious Zenithians.
General Automata had a whole line of human-like robots in development, but only the Valet model went into full production. The company made only a few dozen before dissatisfied customers complained and the Bulletin aired a very critical report. When the Valet tanked, Phaeton bought its assets.
The unit’s appearance is highly customizable, but the default version looks like a caricature of a human made out of metal, approximately 1.75m tall. Its head houses two mechanical eyes and ears and a vocalizer. (Customers can configure the unit’s voice with downloadable service packs, including a formal upper-class speaker of the unit’s default language, imitations of two dozen popular holo actors, or a somewhat creepy child’s voice.)
The automaton is mostly obedient, but they’re known to get sulky or snippy on occasion.
Attributes: STRENGTH 3, AGILITY 3, WITS 3, EMPATHY 1
Skills: Culture 3, Dexterity 2, Force 2, Observation 2
Built-in Commlink (I): The unit has a short-range comlink that allows it to communicate with its owner or relay messages to others.
Enhanced Language Unit: The unit is fluent in all major languages, and can understand most dialects.
Cultural Database: The unit includes a database of cultural information, which gives its owner or another user a +2 to Culture checks.
Eccentric: The unit may refuse to perform certain valid commands, or complain about its lot in life. (1 DP per incident)
The Valet’s behaviors and simulated personality are hardwired, and its enhanced Language Unit is woven directly into its artificial brain. However, a competent Data Djinn can erase and rewrite its databases. Tales on the Shadow Mesh describe the following mods:
Menial Automaton: Remove the Culture skill and Cultural Database. This automaton does cleaning, laundry, and other light housework. Many owners make them mute, but their selective obedience remains.
Paramedicurge Automaton: Remove the Culture skill and Cultural Database, and add Medicurgy 3. While not able to perform delicate surgeries like a Spider Doctor, a Paramed with a Medkit (sold separately) can stabilize Critical Injuries and reduce healing time, as described on page 95 of the core book. Parameds avoid the Valet’s characteristic self-pity, but develop and equally disconcerting detachment and sense of gallows humor.
Research Automaton: Replace Culture 3 with Culture 1, Science 1, and Technology 1, remove Cultural Database, and add a Library Database that gives a +3 to all Culture or Science tests in one specific area chosen when the automaton is reprogrammed, even to the automaton’s own checks. (This is similar to the spacecraft feature on p 153 of the core book.) Research Automatons may take on or amplify an owner’s academic obsessions.
Technical Automaton: Remove the Culture skill and Cultural Database, and add Technology 3. This mod approximates an Elite Engineer, but hacking an Automaton is easier than finding an Elite. Many owners prefer an Automaton’s intermittent complaining to the risk of an Elite developing some mad idea about a “mission”.
Waitress Automaton: One cantina apparently found a Valet Automaton, restyled its exterior to vaguely resemble a woman, and reprogrammed it to take orders and serve food. Its cynical attitude proved surprisingly popular.
Phaeton entered the robot market with its Assistant line, geared toward government, business, and scientific companies. Rumors persisted that they were also trying to get into the weapons and defense markets, but Judicators found no concrete evidence.
This robot comes in three models:
- a clearly artificial female android in a business caftan.
- a clearly artificial male android in a business caftan.
- a bipedal robot with a featureless spherical head on a stalk.
All three are functionally the same, and Phaeton can customize the Assistant’s appearance for a nominal fee.
Once initialized and imprinted on its “boss”, the robot can perform just about any task an intern or personal assistant can. Their speech recognition software is well ahead of even advanced computers, and their djinn intelligences can sift patterns out of data better than many human analysts and data djinns.
Attributes: STRENGTH 2, AGILITY 3, WITS 3
Skills: Data Djinn 3, Observation 1
Built-in Communicator I: The unit has a built-in Communicator I.
Built-in Computer: The unit has the same capabilities as an Advanced Computer.
Built-in Language Unit: The unit can speak and understand three languages, chosen by the owner when it is purchased.4 The user may configure additional languages as if the Assistant were a Language Unit (p 108).
Sensor Operator: Aboard a ship, this unit can substitute for a Sensor Operator as if it were a Ship System (p 154). The Assistant will obey the Captain’s orders to the letter.
Limited Understanding: The unit will obey orders as they are spoken, not as they are intended. An Assistant can understand idioms to a limited extent, and typically asks for clarification if orders sound dangerous or nonsensical. An Assistant can also warn the owner if its action breaks local laws, but most owners disable this feature. Under no circumstance will an Assistant knowingly harm a human being or allow one to come to harm. (GMs should play this for comedy; no Darkness Points required.)
PHAETON EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
If this model exists, it’s available to only a few extremely wealthy customers. It looks identical to an Assistant, but has strength, speed, and combat training enhancements to also act as a bodyguard, and possibly an assassin. If deactivated, these units self-destruct, doing minimal damage to their surroundings but leaving only a twisted lump of plastic, metal, and carbon fiber as evidence.
Attributes: STRENGTH 5, AGILITY 5, WITS 5
Skills: Data Djinn 3, Infiltration 3, Melee Combat 3, Observation 3, Ranged Combat 3
|– silent mode||+1||+0||1||1||Long|
Functional Assistant: Except as noted below, the unit has the same abilities as the Assistant Bot, above. It will even downgrade its apparent stats, unless its owner orders it not to or its owner is in physical danger.
Built-in Weapons: Weapons pop out of the unit’s arms when it attacks; drawing them is a Free Action. The unit may use any other weapons available like a human combatant.
Killer Instinct: Unlike the prior model, this unit will harm or kill a human being who attacks its owner, or on the explicit orders of its owner.
Robots as Characters?
The Third Horizon has no precedent for mechanical beings who think they’re people. Are they somebody’s science experiment let loose? And what do religious authorities say about a machine made in the image of a living being … or in imitation of a human mind? Undoubtedly Ship Intelligences make some people nervous enough.
Elite Bots and Automatons have the most human-like minds, but like semi-intelligences5 they’re on the fringes of society.
That said, maybe there’s one other possibility …
OK, I confess: I named them after L3-37. And it’s hard to make a good name out of K-2SO. ↩︎
Inflicts Stress instead of Damage. ↩︎
Immobilize the target; see pp 87-88. ↩︎
Its fourth, “native” language is a trade secret. ↩︎
Creatures who might be as intelligent as humans, but who most humans treat as pets or vermin. ↩︎