Robots in Coriolis

2020-09-24

Modified 2020-10-07

(approx. 4400 words)

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.)

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

Crab Mechanic

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 Servant

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.

Freight Gorilla

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.

Spider Doctor

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:

Mad Robots

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

HP: 7

Movement: 10

Armor: 3

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Strong arm 0 +2 2 3 Close
Delicate arm +1 +2 1 3 Close
Tool arm 0 +1 2 2 Close
Welder +2 0 2 2 Close

Special Abilities:

MAD LOADER

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

HP: 8

Movement: 6

Armor: 4

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Strike 0 +2 3 3 Close

Special Abilities: None

MAD SERVANT

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

HP: 7

Movement: 10

Armor: 3

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Gripper Strike 0 +2 1 3 Close
Gripper Grab +2 +2 1 - Close

Special Abilities:

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

HP: 3

Movement: 4

Armor: 2

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Scalpel 0 +1 2 2 Close
Hypo 0 +1 special - Close

Special Abilities:

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.

SQUAD LEADER

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

HP: 1

Movement: None

Armor: 10

Weapons: None

Special Abilities:

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

HP: 5

Movement: 10

Armor: 4

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Accelerator Machine Gun 0 0 3 1 Long
Accelerator Rifle (Mk 1/s) 0 0 3 1 Extreme

Special Abilities:

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

HP: 10

Movement: 10

Armor: 6

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Accelerator Machine Gun +1 0 3 1 Long
Knife 0 +1 2 2 Close
Fist 0 +1 2 3 Close

Special Abilities:

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.

Elite Bots

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).

ELITE ENGINEER

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

HP: 6

MP: 7

Movement: 8

Armor: 3

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Manipulator +1 +2 1 3 Close
Stun Gun +1 +1 2 stun2 Short

Special Abilities:

ELITE MEDIC

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 Bots

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 DRONE

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

HP: 6

Movement: 6 / 10 levitating

Armor: 6

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Manipulator +0 +1 2 3 or Grapple3 Close
Stun Gun +1 +1 2 stun2 Short

Special Abilities:

PILOT DRONE

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

HP: 6

Movement: 4 (outside vehicle)

Armor: 3

Weapons: none, not counting the vehicle itself.

Special Abilities:

General Automata

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.

VALET AUTOMATON

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

HP: 6

MP: 4

Movement: 10

Armor: 3

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Manipulator +0 +0 1 3 Close

Special Abilities:

REPROGRAMMED AUTOMATONS

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:

Phaeton Assistants

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.

PHAETON ASSISTANT

This robot comes in three models:

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

HP: 5

Movement: 6

Armor: 3

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Unarmed +0 +0 1 3 Close

Special Abilities:

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

HP: 10

Movement: 12

Armor: 6

Weapons Bonus Init Damage Crit Range
Accelerator Pistol +1 +0 2 1 Long
– silent mode +1 +0 1 1 Long
Dura Knife +0 +1 2 1 Close
“Unarmed” +0 +2 2 3 Close

Special Abilities:

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

Expanded rules for Synthetics are on a new page.

  1. OK, I confess: I named them after L3-37. And it’s hard to make a good name out of K-2SO. ↩︎

  2. Inflicts Stress instead of Damage. ↩︎

  3. Immobilize the target; see pp 87-88. ↩︎

  4. Its fourth, “native” language is a trade secret. ↩︎

  5. Creatures who might be as intelligent as humans, but who most humans treat as pets or vermin. ↩︎