Automated Defences... Yawn

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The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Automated Defences... Yawn

Am I alone in being completely uninspired whenever reading the phrase 'automated defences'? They seem to crop up a few times in Gatecrashing, serving as nominal barriers to the exploration of some tremendously interesting and profitable places (namely Penrose and Olaf) and I'm having trouble imagining how such defences --the specific workings of which are seldom described-- could so thoroughly deter any and all transhuman investigation.

Maybe it's because my limited imagination serves up only a scene in which a gun turret of some sort pops out of a secret wall-hatch to hose unwary investigators with flak or laser fire; surely not a wildly unexpected eventuality for a veteran first-in team exploring a deserted space hab of a vanished K-II alien civilisation. Surely the minds that built a habitat on the cusp of a black hole's event horizon, not to mention a fecking dyson sphere, would devise some pretty novel ways of deterring intruders.

It just strikes me that the 'automated defences' phrase is a somewhat lazy pretext for an otherwise wonderfully-conceived alien locale to remain unexplored. Why make the barrier to exploration be dull, characterless robo-hazards where there could instead be threats of genuine intrigue and weirdness?

If these systems are indeed as boring as gun turrets in the walls, what are some more interesting alternatives that could bolster the mystery of such dangerous exoworlds?


Time will perfect matter.

Yerameyahu Yerameyahu's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

It's possible that they're so swift and overwhelming that nobody really knows the nature and workings of them. :) I dunno, I haven't read it.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

So make them interesting.

Parts of walls can extrude monofiliament manipulators as sensors, cutting whips, or fractal manipulators. Most of the time they stay inside the walls (where they are protected, as well as extended if needed), but they shoot out if something not sending the correct alien recognition signals, image it, and then strike at the weakest points. Characters going down the hallway find themselves suddenly speared and held from all directions by a thousand ultra-thin strands, which then quickly dissect them alive.

Guardbots that appear to have psi. They know where you will look and shoot, so they just go out of the way.

Nanohives that build iridescent swarms that fill an installation. Most of the time they are harmless... except when they decide that someone should be stopped and suddenly act as an omnidrectional phased array laser. They have a particular aggression against anything carrying nuclear batteries.

Defences that systematically evolve, borrowing ideas from the equipment characters have. Sure, they have never seen a plasma gun before and it breaches most defences initially. Half an hour later it tries to spread out magnetic fields that make the plasma miss. A bit later the defence bots (alien creatures looking like velvet worms covered with diamond hair) start shooting back with plasma weapons, as well as distribute little "mines" that can move bolts a bit - suddenly your accuracy goes down, while the enemy can shoot around corners. Meanwhile it has also been monitoring how quickly certain chemicals affect lost skin cells, figuring out a really good poison...

Alien defenses should be alien. A good start is to look at all the weird things in biology - why not have them spit smart slime, do suicide explosions, jam certain kinds of equipment using chemical, ultrasound or electrical discharges, change temperatures drastically, imitate 'safe' objects until a sudden attack, control the bodies of transhumans, hide inside porous walls, be nearly perfectly transparent, be covered with ablative scales that themselves are small attack-bots, change between solid, liquid and gas freely, mimic the explorers perfectly, attack as a big swarm, play dead when suitable, make up a sizeable fraction of the structure that is being explored...

Extropian

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

In defense of the authors, bear in mind they have a VERY tight word count. For those entries, imagine every word about the defenses being at the expense of a word about Olaf or Rorty.

You're right though, that's a fantastic space for making up your own, ranging from germane to horrifying to downright wacky.

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Just to add to the idea pile:

Floors made of nanites or smart foam. You are detected to be an enemy and suddenly find yourself pulled through the floor and put into a form of suspended animation until a security team can come and detain you... Which will never happen because they left long ago (or perhaps, more interestingly, they will?).

A sound burst is played that is debilitating to anyone who hears it... Or was to the alien species that built the place. As it stands, people with enhanced hearing just hear a kind of soft buzzing. Or perhaps it's not so harmless and forms resonance with important organs or components, and suddenly the PCs are hacking up blood or literally falling to pieces.

Perhaps a sudden temperature increase that just keeps going until the inside of the area is approximately 1000 C, as an attempt to prevent contamination.

There's lots of nasty ways, really. My personal favourite is monofilament wires that suddenly leave people falling into chunks.




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The Green Slime The Green Slime's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Very inspiring stuff. For some reason I just hit a wall when trying to conceive of these systems - I tend to only think of the most practical/staid means of intruder deterrence, e.g. shooting the shit out of them from a concealed location. The ridiculous breadth of destructive technologies in EP sometimes leaves my brain stalled out.

Personally though as a GM I would try to avoid using automated defences, no matter how crazy and unexpected, for more than a couple of encounters without providing some kind of information about the personality operating them. They're basically just dungeon traps, and I seem to remember there being no better way to extinguish player interest in your awesome dungeon than to have it kill them by sheer dumb happenstance.


Time will perfect matter.

mickykitsune mickykitsune's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Start with a heavy EM pulse and dampening to shut down the electonic systems of the entire group - including synthmorphs, communications systems, nanoswarms and all unshielded equipment (even mesh inserts maybe?).

Follow this up with mechanical devices that emit liquids or gasses to subdue or even kill whoever is left active.

Thats a painfully mundane and unimaginative example, but reasonably effective i should think.


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Gaming Location: Brisbane, Australia

mickykitsune mickykitsune's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

The Green Slime wrote:

Personally though as a GM I would try to avoid using automated defences, no matter how crazy and unexpected, for more than a couple of encounters without providing some kind of information about the personality operating them. They're basically just dungeon traps, and I seem to remember there being no better way to extinguish player interest in your awesome dungeon than to have it kill them by sheer dumb happenstance.

Don't forget that there's also a huge variety of environmental effects that might be possible on alien worlds - rather than extinguishing interest, they can potentially add to the flavour and drama of the situation.


===============================
Gaming Location: Brisbane, Australia

sjmcc13 sjmcc13's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

The Green Slime wrote:
They're basically just dungeon traps, and I seem to remember there being no better way to extinguish player interest in your awesome dungeon than to have it kill them by sheer dumb happenstance.

Explain Tomb of Horrors popularity....
Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

A dungeon crawl usually has the weird assumption that the threats stay in place - the traps in the Room of Puzzling Doom and the monsters in the Pit of Bloodsuckers do not go wandering off or follow the PCs. They also have the implicit assurance that the threats are commensurable with the team ability. A place that breaks these rules can be very frightening.

You might say that there is an implicit compact between GM and players that all challenges should be solvable. But this is not true. Some challenges are simply not intended to be solved by the PCs, yet look like they could in principle be overcome. Bringing down the Nine Lives cartel or Jovian Junta, reforming the politics of the solar system, reclaiming the Earth - these are challenges that might be achievable in principle, but in practice for a group of people they are not. The interesting adventure stories deal with people overcoming hard challenges against bad odds, while the interesting psychological stories deal with people destroying themselves against something, despite being physically able to walk away at any time.

I am reminded by the classic novel "Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys. It is very appropriate to EP: an alien artefact has been found on the moon, and there is a way of exploring it by duplicating an explorer on Earth onto the moon using a matter duplicator. For a while both versions are in telepathic contact and act as one person. This allows exploration of the deadly labyrinth - most explorer copies are killed nearly instantly by various "traps". Slowly the protagonist (who is singularly unperturbed by dying all the time) advances into the labyrinth. The novel is more about the psychology of the thing than the actual artefact. I was disappointed by it when I read it as a kid, expecting a cool alien artefact story, now I suspect I would find it far better.

In EP you can do the same. Send in a fork, send back XP of their experiences and learn from it. Just a few SV each time it dies, nothing to it... except of course that it turns you into a hardened freak. Who knows if whatever lies beyond is worth that?

Extropian

OneTrikPony OneTrikPony's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Wow, these are awesome Ideas.

How does everyone else get around the other part of the Yawn?
I'm talking about the Yawn that is produced when you realize that by EP definition "Automated" means the Attack number is maxed at 40.

Mea Culpa: My mode of speech can make others feel uninvited to argue or participate. This is the EXACT opposite of what I intend when I post.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

OneTrikPony wrote:
How does everyone else get around the other part of the Yawn?
I'm talking about the Yawn that is produced when you realize that by EP definition "Automated" means the Attack number is maxed at 40.

Yes, this makes sentrybots somewhat crappy. However, there is nothing stopping them from getting nice bonuses for tactical locations, having specializations, autofire weapons and, of course, using a whole bunch of them. With two bots there is 60% chance of a hit, with three 78%.

Extropian

OneTrikPony OneTrikPony's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

That's true.
Small size makes em hard to hit and I suppose Aiming actions would apply to boost the Hit number a bit if they're a ranged weapon.

It does suck some of the tension out of the game when a player says;
"Pfeh. They've only got a skill of 40." :rolleyes
and I have to say;
"Fine then."
"You're character gets Space Herpies. No one really knows what it is and there is no cure but it's got an Initiative score so, Roll for Surprise!" :[

Mea Culpa: My mode of speech can make others feel uninvited to argue or participate. This is the EXACT opposite of what I intend when I post.

mickykitsune mickykitsune's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

To be honest, i think the only reason I would ever have for installing automated gun or rocket traps would be as a way to lull the players into a false sense of security :)

Either that or make them highly highly concealed.


===============================
Gaming Location: Brisbane, Australia

InsidiousAlgorythm InsidiousAlgorythm's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Arenamontanus wrote:

I am reminded by the classic novel "Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys. It is very appropriate to EP: an alien artefact has been found on the moon, and there is a way of exploring it by duplicating an explorer on Earth onto the moon using a matter duplicator. For a while both versions are in telepathic contact and act as one person. This allows exploration of the deadly labyrinth - most explorer copies are killed nearly instantly by various "traps". Slowly the protagonist (who is singularly unperturbed by dying all the time) advances into the labyrinth. The novel is more about the psychology of the thing than the actual artefact.

Which reminds me of Reynolds' Diamond Dogs story in which two rival scientists seek to master an alien artifact/Labyrinth only to come out completely inhuman.

sjmcc13 sjmcc13's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

OneTrikPony wrote:
I'm talking about the Yawn that is produced when you realize that by EP definition "Automated" means the Attack number is maxed at 40.
Where does it say that? I seem to have missed that rule.

Though I doubt it applies to alien sites using different levels of technology anyway, as the only possible reasons for such a limit would be due to Trans-humanity's tech level.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Alien sentrybots (and perhaps high quality human ones too) can of course be much better than current AI tech. Not just skill-wise, but perhaps also speed-wise. Sure, the skill 40 bot misses in 60% of all shots, but it does have speed 4 so it will get 1.6 hits per turn anyway.

Of course, when players expect a mere AI with the Stormtrooper Marksmanship 1.0 software they might get a beta fork of that particularly keen sniper who doesn't just have Kinetic Weapons 60 with a suitable specialization (bringing the hit chance up to 70), but also Tactics 60 (knows who or what to shoot to do real damage - like that big oxygen tank) and a tacnet that allows it to bring in reinforcements, set up crossfires... or open the airlock behind the intruders.

Game-wise it is more fun to have a few highly skilled enemies rather than a horde of koboldbots. But hordes can be deadly.

Extropian

Yerameyahu Yerameyahu's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Besides, they could just be AGIs. This seems like a really tangential point. :D

delroland delroland's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Someone should totally do a "Pandora's Gate of Horrors" conversion adventure, with either a TITAN fork or alien intelligence at the end.

A.C.E.R.E.R.A.K. could make for an awesome acronym.

Decivre Decivre's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

OneTrikPony wrote:
Wow, these are awesome Ideas.

How does everyone else get around the other part of the Yawn?
I'm talking about the Yawn that is produced when you realize that by EP definition "Automated" means the Attack number is maxed at 40.

I would take it to mean "while human-created narrow artificial intelligence is limited to 40 points in any skill within the confines of the setting, this does not dictate the computational capacity of AI created by more advanced alien civilizations". I'd even go so far as to encourage that people do just that to illustrate just how infantile the human race is in comparison to other life that has lived and died in the setting. Narrow AI with high scores, synthetic beings with psi, utility fogs capable of forming extremely strong macro-structures... the sky is the limit when you are dealing with alien tech. Most limitations set on technology in the game only concerns human tech or things accessible to the PCs (as perhaps powerful hypercorps might have access to things beyond the limitations of the setting, in hidden laboratories).

Transhumans will one day be the Luddites of the posthuman age.

Help me get my gaming fix, if you want.

OneTrikPony OneTrikPony's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

[I realize I've hijacked this thread, Sorry]

Decivre;
You've put some thought into the mechanics of the game. If you wanted to represent the accelerating state of technology in EP how would you represent the next step in robotics into the game mechanics?

At this point, as I understand the setting, strong AI is strictly limited. Humanity can make AGI and has produced a singularity (twice LOL). No one writes code for AGI now because they're worried about producing another singularity. But how does that apply to the 40 skill cap on narrow AI?

In my game I have a character with Navigation 80. That's cool but it seems kinda silly that her ship has a skill of Navigation 40. I'd love to be able to come up with some fluff rationalization for why a "Nav. Computer" only has a Navigation skill of 40. I'd also like to have some framework for introducing 'the next step' of technology into my game via the rules.

Mea Culpa: My mode of speech can make others feel uninvited to argue or participate. This is the EXACT opposite of what I intend when I post.

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Isn't one easy way of getting tech advance to have the cap increase year by year?

In 10 AF AIs can only reach 40. In 11 AF they can reach 45. In 12 AF they can reach 50. In 14 AF 60 (and now most people are out of a job).

Choose a rate that suits your campaign (and how imminent the next singularity/Fall is).

Extropian

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

I think a given AI is competent at performing any manoever, and their ability to respond to threats is there, to a limited degree. They just can't think creatively (very well, at least), too far ahead, or outside their field of direction, which make them like very clever animals trained to do tricks.

The more competent you want an AI to be, the better it has to be at all these things, and the better it is at these things, the less it is a simple AI and the more it is an intelligent, self-aware AGI.

So in that sense, the tech already exists; it's just a trade-off between capability and ease of control.




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icekatze icekatze's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

hi hi

There's so many different ways to make automated defenses, you could probably write an entire source book about them. Some of my favorites:

• Suddenly the room is filled with microwaves.
• For synthmorphs: Weird tall room is actually giant coilgun.
• For everyone else: Weird spherical room is actually giant fusion reactor.
• Modular labyrinth re-arranges itself so that the door the team came through leads to hard vacuum instead.
• Antimatter suspended in invisible field explodes on contact.
• Holograms with the mind of Wile E Coyote.
• Cutting through wall? Suddenly 1.21 gigawatts.

Tachi Tachi's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

icekatze wrote:

• Suddenly the room is filled with microwaves.

That gave me a quasi Tomb of Horrors flashback consisting of "microwave ovens fall, everyone dies."

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I don't shoot a man for being incompetent in the Devil's work. I shoot him for being c

Lilith Lilith's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

icekatze wrote:
• Modular labyrinth re-arranges itself so that the door the team came through leads to hard vacuum instead.

• Cutting through wall? Suddenly 1.21 gigawatts.

This just makes me think of The Cube, only designed by Emmett Brown.

Fund it.

nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

icekatze wrote:
• Cutting through wall? Suddenly 1.21 gigawatts.

I believe the word you are looking for is 'Jigawatts!', with a 'J' and followed by an exclamation mark.

Regarding the AIs, remember that as our AI technology advances, so does our training technology. Skills cap at 100 because 100 is a nice, round number. I fully expect by 15BF we'll be craking it up to 11 (or 110, as the case may be).

Lilith Lilith's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

nezumi.hebereke wrote:
I fully expect by 15BF we'll be craking it up to 11 (or 110, as the case may be).

I think you meant "AF" there, unless you're implying some time travel of some sort. ;)

Arenamontanus Arenamontanus's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Well, it was that cranking up to 11 that led to the Fall... :-)

Extropian

Lilith Lilith's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Touché.

The Doctor The Doctor's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Arenamontanus wrote:
Well, it was that cranking up to 11 that led to the Fall... :-)

Well played, sir. Well played.



thelabmonkey thelabmonkey's picture
Re: Automated Defences... Yawn

Let's not forget that "automated" means "Hackable", and everyone loves turning a weapon on it's creator! Vanilla floating-death-driod squadron suddenly becomes potential tool, rather than annoying obstacle...