Roleplayer
Roleplayer #28, April 1992

Organic is for Wimps!

Robots in GURPS Supers

by J.C. Connors

Ever since the dawn of science fiction, man has dreamed of robots and androids that think and act like humans. Of course, the robots of most science fiction are nothing like the robots of reality. Sci-fi robots are larger than life, extremely powerful, and usually knock each other through buildings as mere humans stand and watch helplessly. Comic-book robots are even more caricatured: helpful metal allies, or evil tyrants determined to take over the mortal world.

Robots can make great Supers characters – good, evil, or confused. This article will give new advantages and suggestions for building a robot that will fit into your super-campaign. Robots may not be appropriate for every Supers or Space campaign. It's the GM's decision.

(Editor's note: This article has nothing to do with the GURPS Vehicles or GURPS Robots books now in the pipeline . . . but it looks like fun. Consider it optional and enjoy it!)

Background and Origin

Some robots are created on Earth, either accidentally or as a top-secret ultra-tech project; many of these are military in origin, and heavily armed. Others are visitors from the future or from outer space. Many of these got to Earth by accident – perhaps their starship crashed as they were chasing an evil robot renegade through the cosmos.

Some robots are able to conceal their appearance and pass as human. In a world where most robots are dangerous, any robot is likely to have a Reputation disadvantage – maybe a severe one – unless it can disguise itself. And a disguised robot would have a significant Secret.

The Robot Body

For game purposes, robots are treated basically the same way as humans. Though they don't have arteries and veins, a cutting blow or deep stab might still sever vital processors, and does the same extra damage. Robots might not breathe oxygen, but perhaps they need an atmosphere to cool their systems. Robots can't catch diseases, but they can catch computer viruses that will have the same effect. Whenever in doubt, the GM's call is final.

A robot may have one of three bodies – Body of Metal, Body of Plastic, or Body of Ceramic.

Body of Metal . . . . . 8 points/level

See GURPS Supers, p. 36.

Your body is composed of metal. You get PD 1 for every 3 levels (maximum PD 6) and DR 1 per level. Damage from your punches and kicks is raised by +2, but your Move score is reduced by 20%. Sonic and vibratory attacks automatically bypass 25% of your DR. You are considered ferrous when affected by magnetism. Each level of Body of Metal increases your weight by 20%.

Special Enhancement: Your body is non-ferrous. +10%.

Special Enhancement: Your body's metal is amorphous rather than crystalline, and does not suffer any extra effect from sonic or vibratory attacks. +30%.

Special Enhancement: Your body's metal is laser-reflective, and takes half damage from all laser weapons. +50%.

Body of Plastic . . . . . 5 points/level

Your body is made of a strong, ultra-tech, resilient plastic. You get PD 1 for every 4 levels (maximum PD 6), and DR 1 per 2 levels. Damage from punches and kicks is raised by +1, but your Move is reduced by 10%. Each level of Body of Plastic increases your weight by 10%.

Body of Ceramic . . . . . 5 points/level

Your body is made of durable ceramic. You get PD 1 for every 4 levels (maximum PD 6), and DR 2 per 3 levels. Damage from punches and kicks is raised by + 1, but your Move is reduced by 10%. Each level of Ceramic Body increases your weight by 10%. Any electric attacks, however, automatically bypass 25% of your DR.

Metal Reinforcement . . . . . 25 points

This may be bought for any of the three basic body types. Your body is reinforced internally with a strong metal skeleton, giving you an additional 5 hit points. Basic HT is unchanged, but you will have a split health score.

Robot Giant . . . . . 15 points/level

Many robots are larger than ordinary humans. This advantage (at any level) will increase your ST and hit points by 50% and your Move by 1. The first level of this advantage doubles your height; the second level triples it, and so on. Weight increases as the cube of your height!

Other Modifications

Most of the advantages, disadvantages, and powers in GURPS Supers are appropriate to robots. Players may not claim any advantage "automatically because I'm a robot." While robots don't need food, a robot in a Supers game doesn't automatically get the Doesn't Eat or Drink advantage. It must pay for the advantage, or refuel three times a day. And so on . . .

There are, however, a few advantages that are unique to robots.

Hoverjets . . . . . 5 points/level

A limited form of Flight, Hoverjets are used to keep a robot stationary in the air. The robot may stay at his current altitude for as many seconds as he has Hoverjet levels.

When falling, Hoverjets will slow down the fall. Subtract 2 yards from the effective distance of the fall for every level of Hoverjet the robot has.

Passenger Spaces 5 . . . . . points/space

Some robots can fit people inside of them. Evil robots will use this to capture prisoners, while good robots may use this advantage to protect innocent humans. A normal-sized robot may only hold a single passenger. Each level of Robot Giant, increases the potential number of passenger spaces by 1. If the passenger will stay inside the robot for any prolonged period of time, Oxygen Tanks (see GURPS Cyberpunk) may be bought for 5 points/hour.

Robot Jump . . . . . 10 points/level

This advantage adds powerful electronic muscles, jump jets, or maybe enormous springs . . . Each level of this advantage will increase your ST for jumping purposes. Double ST and multiply it times the number of levels purchased!

Example: Insectoid has ST 15 and 10 levels of Jump. His effective ST for jumping will be 300! If he takes a full running leap, he can jump 198 hexes – over 500 feet!

Rocket Boosters . . . . . 15 points/level

You are equipped with special rockets that allow you to shoot straight into the air! Each level of this ability allows you to fly 5 yards into the air. Every 5 yards of altitude takes 1 second to reach. It takes 1 turn of concentration to activate Rocket Boosters.

If someone is attacking you on the turn that the Rocket Boosters go off, you defend at +2. Once you reach your maximum height, you had better have a good way to get down!

Special Enhancement: You gain altitude incredibly fast. You reach full altitude in a single second! +100%.

Weapon Mount . . . . . 5 points

You have a weapon physically mounted on your body. It cannot be dropped, though it can be broken. Only you, or a mechanic trained to service robots, may remove it.

Special Enhancement: The weapon is concealed. +100%.

Transformations

A staple of robot science fiction, especially in Japanese animation, is their ability to transform. Robots can transform into anything – jet fighters, cars, tanks, metallic lions, cities . . . Some robots have more than one transformed shape.

A robot may only transform into an object that is roughly equal to his own size. In borderline cases, the GM's word is final.

Buying Transformations

Each shape the robot can take costs a flat 25 points.

Robots may purchase any advantages, powers, or disadvantages appropriate to their transformed state. Advantages, disadvantages, and powers' Costs are halved when they work only for the transformed state, simply because the robot character will only use those abilities part of the time.

As a general rule, any advantages of the "normal" robot will automatically transfer to the transformed version. Thus, if Bombwing has DR 10, his bomber mode will also have DR 10. If he purchases extra DR for the bomber mode, at half price, the DR will add on to his existing DR. So, if Bombwing bought an additional 15 DR for bomber mode, he would have a combined DR of 25 when transformed.

Handling Transformations

Most transformation modes will be of the vehicular variety, although some are bound to be stranger.

No matter what the transformation, it takes 3 seconds to perform. If the robot has the Robot Giant advantage, then another 3 seconds is added per level.

Certain advantages would be obvious choices for some types of vehicles. A submarine transformer would probably have Pressure Support, Doesn't Breathe, Swimming, and probably some extra DR. A car would have Super Running (not really running, but rolling), and some DR. The exact choices are up to the player and GM.

Any robot that transforms into a vehicle must have the skill required to drive that vehicle, albeit at +5 because of his inherent link to the vehicle. Whenever a crisis comes up involving driving, piloting, etc., the robot should make a roll to keep control of himself. Realistic GMs may want to throw in speed modifiers, hazard modifiers, and so on.

A failed roll may indicate a swerve, stall, or even a full-fledged crash. Crash damage is 1d for every 5 mph of speed. After 100 mph, this is reduced to 1d per 10 mph.

Weapons and Damage

Upon character creation, the player must specify where each of his weapons and personal powers will go upon transformation.

Whenever a transformed robot takes damage, he must make a skill roll to keep control of himself. If a transformed robot takes more than HT points of damage in a single turn, he must make a Will roll to stay transformed.

Transforming Advantages

These advantages are only available to robots in vehicle form.

Acceleration . . . . . 10 points/level

Each level allows you to accelerate up to 5 mph per turn. Every robot-vehicle automatically starts out with an acceleration equal to 5% of its top speed. Top speed is determined by whatever Movement advantages the robot may have.

Deceleration . . . . . 10 points/level

Each level allows you to decelerate an extra 5 mph per turn. A normal robot vehicle can decelerate safely up to 20% of its top speed per turn.

Driver Controls . . . . . 15 points

This allows a passenger to drive the vehicle normally. This may be useful when the robot is unconscious or stunned.

Fast Transformation . . . . . 5 points/level

Each level will shave 1 second off the time it takes to transform to this shape. Buy it separately for each shape; the 5-point cost is not halved.

Handling . . . . . 5 points/level

Each level of this advantage will give you a +1 to the skill used to drive yourself.

Turret . . . . . 10 points

This allows you to mount any one of your powers or weapons to a turret on your transformed mode. The turret will give you a 360-degree arc of fire.

Animal Transformed Advantages

These advantages are especially appropriate to any robot that transforms into some sort of metallic animal or creature.

Crushing Damage . . . . . -10 points

This allows the animal to do crushing damage based on the ST chart on p. B 140. Usually, such animals have hooves or blunt paws.

Cutting Damage . . . . . 0 points

This is the default. Most animals do cutting damage based on the ST chart on p. B140. This would include claws, teeth, and some antlers and horns.

Impaling Damage . . . . . 15 points

This allows the animal to do impaling damage, based on ST. It would include most horns and tusks.

Combinations

Some robots have the ability to combine with others to form a single giant robot or vehicle. The cost for this is equal to half the point value of the big robot, divided by the number of smaller ones. So if five robots can combine into a 1,000-point super-robot, they must each spend 100 points.

Planning the Combined Robot

The combined robot must be at least double the height of the tallest robot involved in the combination. The player(s) designing the combined robot should create a sketch, showing which robots link to which others to form the super-robot. There are many possibilities, such as:

2 robots: Legs/Body, Arms/Head
3 robots: Legs/Lower Body, Arms/Upper Body, Head
4 robots: Right Leg, Left Leg, Body/Arms, Head
5 robots: Right Leg, Left Leg, Right Arm, Left Arm, Body/Head

And so on . . . Each robot must have at least one linkage defined.

The combined shape does not have to be humanoid, though that is simplest. It can be any shape the creator wants. Just define the locations and linkups of the component robots so that they can be individually targeted if a foe wants to do so.

Point Costs

Create the super-robot like a regular character; IQ and DX need not be bought – they are automatically equal to the lowest score of any of the component single robot. Likewise, ST and HT depend on the robot involved in that part. If Bombwing is an arm, and has ST 35, then that arm has ST 35. But if the super robot paid the points for ST 20, then that arm has ST 55.

DR and PD stays at least the same for each robot. If Blitz is an arm on the monstrous Megabot, and normally has PD 4, DR 15, that arm has DR 4, PD 15. Of course, DR and PD may be increased normally. If the giant robot paid for DR 20, each participating robot would have an additional DR of 20!

Linking Up

When robots combine, each link-up takes a second. Thus, it might take two seconds to assemble a 4-part combination, assuming the robots were all next to each other. On the first second, A and B combine, and C and D co-bine. On the next second, C and D combine. On the following second, the super-robot can act.

Two robots must be within a yard of each other to combine. Each must then make a DX roll. If the robots were not standing still at the beginning of the turn, the roll to combine is at a penalty equal to their combined speeds, as per the Speed/Range Table, p. B201.

If either fails his roll, the combination doesn't take place. If two robots have already combined, and they are trying to join a third robot (or another combination), the combined robots roll at the lowest DX in the combination. (Example: Axis and Megablast want to combine. Axis has DX 15; Megablast has DX 13. Both make their roll, so they combine. A second later, Trickshot tries to join them. He rolls against his own DX. The Axis/Megablast combination rolls against a 13 – the lowest score in their combination.)

A critical failure will topple everyone involved, breaking all existing links, and everyone will take falling damage.

Example: Axis, Megablast, and Trickshot have assembled. Rotorblade, the fourth member, comes speeding in at 100 mph. Their enemies laugh at Rotorblade's foolishness as they open fire on him. Rotorblade enters the hex of the other three robots and must make a DX roll at -8 for his ridiculous speed (they roll normally). Unbeknownst to his enemies, Rotorblade has an amazing DX of 22; he makes the roll, and on the next turn the foes will face the awesome might of Pulverizer!

Partial Combinations

Until all the component robots are in place, a combination robot has none of its special advantages (or disadvantages, for that matter). Whether it can do anything at all depends on which robots are in place. If it's only missing an arm, for instance, it could walk. But if a leg is missing, it cannot walk, and if the head is gone, it can't do anything at all.

Separating

It takes one second for each linkage to break apart. Again, DX rolls are required, and a critical failure will result in a fall. If a robot wants to try to move on the same turn it unlinks, apply the Speed/Range Table penalty for the speed it will try to move.

Roleplaying Robots

In the average cinematic campaign, many super robots will act just like their flesh and blood counterparts. Other robots are totally different, their personality as complicated as that of an alien race. Some robots will get along with humans, while others will despise them as "inferior" beings. With robots, as with other elements in a cinematic campaign, the important thing is to pick a role that can be played broadly, whether hero, villain or Inscrutable Metal Thing . . . and have fun!

(Back to Roleplayer #28 Table of Contents)


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